Folk-lore of the Holy Land, Moslem, Christian and Jewish, by J. E. Hanauer , at sacred-texts.com
A WEALTHY merchant had three sons. He himself was growing old and felt in doubt how to arrange for the management of the property after his death; because, although his sons were grown-up men,
industrious and dutiful, he feared that they were too good-natured, and, having from their childhood been brought up in comfort, might not have sufficiently realised the value of money. He therefore tried by a trick, to find out which of his sons was gifted with most common-sense.
He feigned to be very ill, and sent word to his sons, employed in different branches of his extensive business, that they must take turns in nursing, for his days were numbered.
The eldest came at once. When he reached his father's bedside the old man complained that his feet were very cold. Noticing that they were uncovered the young man drew the "ilhaf" or quilted cotton coverlet, which in the East takes the place of blankets, over them. A few minutes later, the father complained that his shoulders were cold, so the son drew the ilhaf upwards, and observing that it was too short to cover both feet and shoulders at the same time, wanted to fetch a longer quilt, of which there were plenty in the house. The old fellow, however, angrily refused to let him do this, and said that he could not bear a heavier weight of covering, and preferred the quilt he had to all others. Unwilling either to disobey or to provoke his father, the eldest son dutifully spent a whole day and night in drawing the scanty covering now over his shoulders, now over his bare feet. He was quite worn out, when the second brother came to relieve him. The second son endured the same experiences. In spite of coaxing and remonstrance, the old merchant refused to let a longer quilt be
brought to cover him, and yet was constantly crying out, now that his shoulders, now his feet, were cold. It came to the turn of the third and youngest son. He also tried in vain to persuade his father to let him fetch a longer quilt. Then on a thoughtful observation of his parent, seeing him enjoy his meals, and troubled with no special pain, he suspected a game of some kind. He left the bedside for a minute, cut a good and supple rod from a pomegranate-tree in the garden, and straight returned to the sick room where he was greeted with the usual complaint of cold in the extremities. He suddenly brought down the stick within an inch of the ancient's feet, saying, "Very well, father! Stretch your legs according to your coverlet."
The effect was magical. The old man jumped out of bed, completely cured. He made arrangements that at his death the supervision and management of the estate should devolve on his youngest son, who, without failing in duty, had proved himself too shrewd to let himself be imposed on even by his own father. This incident is said to have given rise to the proverb: "Stretch your legs according to the length of your coverlet."
An "afrìt," who had grown old, feeling that his term of existence was drawing to a close, resolved by way of turning over a new leaf to go on a pilgrimage. He therefore called his friends together, informed them of his conversion, and bade them farewell. Now, among them was a couple who
had a son for whose future they were anxious. They considered that it would be of the greatest advantage to their young devil, to travel under the wing of one so good and venerable. They therefore begged leave for their son to accompany him. He at first objected, but finally yielded to the solicitations of his friends, only stipulating that his companion should swear by the seal of Solomon, that while travelling he would do no harm to man, beast, bird, or creeping thing. To this condition the young devil and his parents very readily agreed.
The penitent then set forth with his young disciple, but the latter soon began to find the journey intolerable without the recreation of a little mischief. The "afârìt" 1 always journey by night and sleep in the day. One dark, moonless night, the couple reached a large encampment of Bedû. 2 Everything was silent, and it was clear that the whole tribe was asleep. The two devils passed through the camp without disturbing a soul; but a little later the young one begged leave to return and walk once more through the camp, declaring that he wanted to go from pure curiosity and without any mischievous intention.
He was gone but a minute, and they proceeded on their way. But they had not made many steps, before there arose a din to wake the dead in the camp behind them--horses neighing, dogs barking, women shrieking, men shouting. The elder " afrìt " turned fiercely on his pupil, crying,
[paragraph continues] "Perjurer! You have broken your solemn oath!" "You lie," replied the youngster, "I have done no harm to any living thing." "What, then is the meaning of that noise." "I cannot think; unless it be that the Sheykh's stallion has got loose. He was tethered to a tent-peg, and I thought I would see if he was securely fastened. Perhaps I loosened the peg a little." From this answer comes the saying, when someone does much mischief indirectly: "He only moved the tent-peg."
Karakoz and ’Iweyz were two rogues who had long lived on terms of the closest amity, sharing the toils and dangers, as well as the fruits, of rascality. But a time came when they spoke no more to one another.
’Iweyz was sitting one day in his dwelling, cudgelling his brains for some new trick by which to fill his empty purse when there came to him one of his acquaintance, a youth whose father had just died. After the usual salutations, the visitor told Iweyz that his father had left him one thousand dinârs, but that he had not yet made up his mind what to do with them. Meanwhile he was anxious to find some honest person who would take charge of them for him, till he, the owner, could decide upon a line of business; and he asked ’Iweyz whether he would do him the favour. Though inwardly delighted at the offer, the rogue assumed the greatest aversion, crying, " No! no! no! go and find someone else to take charge of your money, I cannot
be troubled with so great a responsibility." On hearing this emphatic refusal the young man became more importunate. "My father told me on his dying bed," said he, "not to trust any one who showed an eagerness to accept the offer of having the money given into his charge, but, on the other hand, to leave it with full confidence in the hands of any one who showed a dislike of the responsibility. As you are such a person, I beseech you to take it from me." "No! no! no!" repeated ’Iweyz, with yet greater vehemence, "do what you like with your money, bury it, throw it in a well, but do not leave it in my keeping." "I shall leave it here," said the youth, producing a bag of money. And though ’Iweyz yelled at him to take it away, he placed the bag on the diwân, without having taken receipt or summoned witness. When the young man was gone, ’Iweyz took the bag, locked it up safely, and felt very happy. An hour later, Karakoz came in, and, struck, with his friend's unusual gaiety, enquired its cause. "I have secured uncontrolled possession of a thousand dinârs," said ’Iweyz, and related what had happened. "That is very fine," remarked Karakoz, "but you cannot 'eat up' the money, even though it has been placed. in your hands without either receipt or witnesses, for you may be forced to take your oath concerning it at the 'mazâr' or shrine of some saint, who will torment you in case you swear falsely. What will you give me if I show you a way out of the difficulty?"
"My dear friend," answered ’Iweyz with some
warmth, "you know that we are comrades and share equally in all that 'En Nusìb' 1 sends us. I shall, of course, let you have half the money, that is, five hundred dinârs."
"Very well," said Karakoz, "the expedient I would recommend is a simple one. Whoever asks you about the money, whether the fool who left it with you, or the Kadi, or anyone, be sure in every case, to answer: 'Shûrûlûb.'"
"Your advice is good, and I shall follow it," said ’Iweyz.
Several months passed, and at last one day, the young man to whom the money belonged came to ’Iweyz and asked him for it, as he had the intention of starting business.
"Pth, tth, th," said the rascal ’Iweyz, stammering and spluttering, "pth, tth, th, sh, th, shûrûlûb."
His visitor was surprised, but explained again that he wanted the money.
"Pth, tth, th, sh, th, shûrûlûb," answered ’Iweyz gravely.
"My money, give me back my money!" shouted the youth.
"Pth, tth, th, sh, th, shûrûlûb," replied the hypocrite with a look of surprise and deprecation.
"If you do not give me back my money at once," angrily said the owner, "I shall accuse you to the Kadi."
"Pth, tth, th, sh, th, shûrûlûb," retorted ’Iweyz assuming an air of the greatest indifference.
Finding that all entreaties, expostulations, and
threats were useless, and that the only answer he could get was the spluttering and stammering, ending with the meaningless expletive "shûrûlûb," the injured youth went and complained to the Kadi.
’Iweyz, on being summoned, appeared promptly and in silence; but the only answer he gave to all questions and cross-questionings, even when they were emphasised by a severe flogging, which he bore without flinching, was "pth, tth, th, sh, th, shûrûlûb."
So absurd did the case become that at last the Kadi and his court were in fits of laughter, and dismissed the accused, after severely blaming the plaintiff for having neglected the simple precaution of depositing the money in the presence of witnesses, if, as he confessed he had done, he insisted on leaving it with a man who refused all responsibility.
’Iweyz went home and was chuckling over his success, when Karakoz came and asked for his share of the booty.
"Pth, tth, th, sh, th, shûrûlûb," said ’Iweyz.
"Now, ’Iweyz," pleaded Karakoz in surprise, "don't play the fool with me after I have shown you the way to secure this great fortune. You surely are not going to cheat an old friend and comrade!"
"Pth, tth, th, sh, th, shûrûlûb," replied ’Iweyz with a mocking gesture.
The common expression "to swallow trust-money shûrûlûb " is said to be derived from this incident.
156:1 Afârìt (pl. of afrìt)=a sort of devils.
156:2 Bedû (pl. of Bedawi)= the desert Arabs.--ED.
159:1 i.e. luck.