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Payne: The Boy and the Thieves

[Go back to The Foolish Fisherman]

Seven thieves once went out to steal, according to their wont, and fell in with a poor orphan boy, who besought them for somewhat to eat. Quoth one of them to him, "Wilt go with us, O boy, and we will feed thee and clothe thee and entreat thee kindly?" And he answered, saying, "Needs must I go with you whithersoever ye will and ye are as my own people." So they took him and fared on with him till they came to a garden, and entering, went round about therein, till they found a walnut-tree laden with ripe fruit and said one to another, "Look which is the lightest and smallest of us and make him climb the tree." And they said, "None of us is smaller than this boy." So they sent him up into the tree and said to him, "O boy, touch not aught of the fruit, lest some one see thee and do thee a mischief." "How then shall I do?" asked he, and they said, "Sit among the boughs and shake them with thy might, so that which is thereon may fall, and we will pick it up. Then, when thou hast made an end of shaking down the fruit, come down and take thy share of that which we have gathered." So he began to shake every bunch at which he could come, so that the nuts fell and the thieves picked them up and ate [some] and hid [other some] till they were all full, except the boy, who had eaten nought.

As they were thus engaged, up came the owner of the garden and said to them, "What do ye with this tree?" "We have taken nought thereof," answered they; "but we were passing by and seeing yonder boy on the tree, concluded that he was the owner thereof and besought him to give us to eat of the fruit. So he fell to shaking the branches, that the nuts dropped down, and we are not at fault." Quoth the master to the boy, "What sayst thou?" And he answered, "These men lie; but I will tell thee the truth. It is that we all came hither together and they bade me climb the tree and shake its branches, that the nuts might fall down to them, and I obeyed them." "Verily," said the master, "thou hast brought thyself into parlous case; but hast thou profited to eat aught of the fruit?" And he said, "I have eaten nought thereof." "Now know I thy stupidity and folly," rejoined the owner of the garden, "in that thou hast wroughten to ruin thyself and advantage others." Then said he to the thieves, "Go your ways: I have no resort against you." But he laid hands on the boy and punished him. On like wise,' added the favourite, 'thy viziers and officers of state would sacrifice thee to their interests and do with thee as did the thieves with the boy.' 'Thou sayst sooth,' answered the king, 'and I will not go forth to them nor leave my pleasures.'

Then he passed the night with his wife in all delight till the morning, when the chief vizier arose and assembling the officers of state, together with those of the folk who were present with them, repaired with them to the palace, glad and rejoicing [in the anticipation of good]. But the door opened not nor did the king come forth unto them nor give them leave to go in to him. So, when they despaired of him, they said to Shimas, 'O excellent vizier and accomplished sage, seest thou not the behaviour of this boy, young of years and little of wit, how he addeth falsehood to his offences? See how he hath broken his promise to us and hath failed of that for which he engaged unto us, and this it behoveth thee join to his other sins; but we beseech thee go in to him yet again and see what is the cause of his holding back and refusal to come forth; for we doubt not but that the like of this fashion cometh of his depraved nature, and indeed he hath reached the utmost pitch of stiffneckedness.'

Accordingly, Shimas went in to the king and bespoke him, saying, 'Peace be upon thee, O king! How cometh it that I see thee give thyself up to paltry pleasures and neglect the great affair whereto it behoveth thee apply thyself? Thou art like unto a man, who had a milch- camel and coming one day to milk her, the goodness of her milk caused him forget to hold fast her halter; which whenas she felt she pulled herself free and made of into the desert. Thus he lost both milk and camel and the mischief that betided him overpassed his profit. Wherefore do thou look unto that wherein is thy welfare and that of thy subjects; for, even as it behoveth not a man to sit for ever at the kitchen door, because he needeth food, so should he not company overmuch with women, by reason of his inclination to them. A man should eat but as much food as will stay his hunger and drink but what will ward of the pangs of thirst; and in like manner it behoveth the man of understanding to content himself with passing two of the four-and-twenty hours of his day with women and spend the rest in ordering his own affairs and those of his people. For to be longer than this in company with women is hatful both to mind and body, seeing that they command not unto good neither direct thereto: wherefore it behoveth a man to accept from them neither speech nor deed, for indeed I have heard tell that many men have come to ruin through their women, and amongst others [I have heard tell of] a certain man who perished, for that he obeyed his wife's commandment and had to do with her [at an unseasonable time].' 'How was that?' asked the king, and Shimas answered, saying, 'They tell that...

[Go to The Man and His Wilful Wife]

Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.

1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM

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