In Cairo once there dwelt a worthy man,
Toilsome and frugal, but extremely poor;
"Howe'er," he grumbled, "I may toil and plan,
The wolf is ever howling at my door,
While arrant rascals thrive and prosper; hence
I much misdoubt the ways of Providence.
"Allah is Allah; and, we all agree,
Mohammed is his Prophet. Be it so;
But what's Mohammed ever done for me,
To boil my kettle, I should like to know?
The thieves fare better--and I much incline
From this day forth to make their calling mine."
"Dog of an Arab!" cried his pious spouse,
"So, you would steal to better your estate,
And hasten Allah's vengeance!--Shame! arouse!
Why sit you there repining at your fate?
Pray to the Prophet--sinner that you are--
Then wash your face and go to the Bazaar.
Take with your pen and paper and a book,
And, sitting in a corner, gravely make
Some mystic scrawls; put on a solemn look,
As if you were a wise and learned sheik;
And, mark my word, the people in a trice
Will come in throngs to purchase your advice."
"'Tis worth a trial, woman, I confess;
Things can't be worse," the moody Arab said;
"But then, alas! I have no proper dress,
Not e'en a turban to adorn my head."
"Allah be praised!"--Just here the woman spied
A hollow pumpkin lying at her side.
"See! this will do!" and, cutting it in twain,
She placed the half upon her husband's pate;
"'Tis quaint and grave, and well befits thy brain,
Most reverent master," cried the dame, elate;
"Now to thy labor hasten thee away,
And thou shalt prosper from this very day!"
And so, obedient to his wife's command,
The anxious sheik procured a little nook
In the Bazaar, where, sitting by a stand,
With much grimace he pored upon his book,
Peering around, at intervals, to spy
A customer, if such a thing were nigh.
And soon, indeed, a customer appeared,
A peasant pale and sweating with distress.
"Good Father Pumpkin! may your mighty beard"
(Bowing in reverence) "be never less!
I come to crave your counsel; for, alas!
Most learnéd Father, I have lost my ass."
"Now, curse the donkey!" cried the puzzled man,
Unto himself, "and curse Fatima too,
Who sent me here! for, do the best I can,
And that's the best that anyone can do,
I'm sure to blunder." So, in sheer despair,
He named the graveyard; "Seek your donkey there!"
It chanced the ass that very moment grazed
Within the graveyard, as the sheik had told;
And so the peasant, joyful and amazed,
Gave thanks and money; nor could he withhold
His pious prayers, but, bowing to the ground,
Cried, "Great is Allah!--for my ass is found!"
"Allah is Allah!" said the grateful sheik,
Returning homeward with his precious fee;
"I much rejoice for dear Fatima's sake;
Few men, in sooth, have such a mate as she;
Most wives are bosh, or worse than bosh, but mine
In wit and beauty is almost divine!"
Next day he hastened early to his post,
But found some clients had arrived before;
One eager dame a skein of silk had lost;
Another money; and a dozen more,
Of either sex, were waiting to recover
A fickle mistress or a truant lover.
With solemn face the sheik replied to each
Whate'er his whim might move his tongue to say;
And all turned out according to his speech;
And so it chanced for many a lucky day,
Till "Father Pumpkin" grew a famous seer,
Whose praise had even reached the Sultan's ear.
"Allah is Allah!" cried the happy sheik;
"And nevermore, Fatima, will I doubt
Mohammed is his prophet; let us take
Our ease henceforward--" Here a sudden shout
Announced the Sultan's janizaries, sent,
They said, to seize him,--but with kind intent.
"The Grand Seraglio has been robbed by knaves
Of all the royal jewels; and the Porte,
To get them back again, your presence craves
In Stamboul; he will pay you richly for't,
If you succeed; if not--why then, instead
Of getting money, you will lose your head."
"My curse upon thee!" cried the angry man
Unto Fatima; "see what thou hast done!
O woman, woman! since the world began
All direct mischiefs underneath the sun
Are woman's doing--" Here the Sultan's throng
Of janizaries bade him, "Come along!"
The seer's arrival being now proclaimed
Throughout the capital, the robbers quake
With very fear; while, trembling and ashamed,
In deeper terror sits the wretched sheik,
Cursing Fatima for a wicked wife
Whose rash ambition has betrayed his life.
"But seven short days my sands have yet to run,
And then, alas! I lose my foolish head;
These seven white beans I'll swallow, one by one,
To mark each passing day ere I am dead.
Alas! alas! the Sultan's hard decree!
The sun is setting: there goes one!" said he.
Just then a thief (the leader of the band
Who stole the Sultan's jewels) passing by,
Heard the remark, and saw the lifted hand,
And ran away as fast as he could fly,
To tell his comrades that, beyond a doubt,
The cunning seer had fairly found him out!
Next day another, ere the hour was dark,
Passed by the casement where the sheik was seen;
His hand was lifted warningly, and hark!
"There goes a second!" (swallowing the bean.)
The robber fled, amazed, and told the crew
'T was time to counsel what were best to do!
But still--as if the faintest doubt to cure--
The following eve the robbers sent a third;
And so till six had made the matter sure,
(For unto each the same event occurred),
When, taking counsel, they at once agreed
To seek the wizard and confess the deed!
"Most reverend Father!" thus the chief began,
"Thy thoughts are just; thy spoken words are true;
To hide from thee surpasses mortal man;
Our evil works henceforward we eschew,
For now we know that sinning never thrives;
Here, take the jewels, but O, spare our lives!"
"The law enjoins," the joyful sheik replied,
"That bloody Death shall end the robber's days;
But, that your sudden virtue may be tried,
Swear on the Koran you will mend your ways,
And then depart." The robbers roundly swore,
In Allah's name, that they would rob no more.
"Allah is Allah!" cried the grateful sheik,
Holding the jewels in the vizier's face.
The vizier answered, "Sir, be pleased to take
The casket to the Sultan." "No, your Grace,"
The sheik replied, "the gems are here, you see;
Pray, tell the Sultan he may come to me!"
The Sultan came, and, ravished to behold
The precious jewels to his hand restored,
He made the finder rich in thanks and gold,
And on the instant pledged his royal word,
And straight confirmed it in the Prophet's name,
To grant whatever he might choose to claim!
"Sire of the Faithful! publish a decree"
(The sheik made answer) "and proclaim to all
That none henceforth shall ever question me
Of any matter either great or small;
I ask no more. So shall my labors cease;
My waning life I fain would spend in peace."
The Sultan answered: "Be it even so;
And may your house with children overflow!"
And so the sheik, o'erwhelmed with praise and gold,
Returned unto the city whence he came,
Blessing Mohammed's and Fatima's name!