Not A Pin To Choose by Howard Pyle

Story type: Literature

Once upon a time, in a country in the far East, a merchant was travelling towards the city with three horses loaded with rich goods, and a purse containing a hundred pieces of gold money. The day was very hot, and the road dusty and dry, so that, by-and-by, when he reached a spot where a cool, clear spring of water came bubbling out from under a rock beneath the shade of a wide-spreading wayside tree, he was glad enough to stop and refresh himself with a draught of the clear coolness and rest awhile. But while he stooped to drink at the fountain the purse of gold fell from his girdle into the tall grass, and he, not seeing it, let it lie there, and went his way.

Now it chanced that two fagot-makers–the elder by name Ali, the younger Abdallah–who had been in the woods all day chopping fagots, came also travelling the same way, and stopped at the same fountain to drink. There the younger of the two spied the purse lying in the grass, and picked it up. But when he opened it and found it full of gold money, he was like one bereft of wits; he flung his arms, he danced, he shouted, he laughed, he acted like a madman; for never had he seen so much wealth in all of his life before–a hundred pieces of gold money!

Now the older of the two was by nature a merry wag, and though he had never had the chance to taste of pleasure, he thought that nothing in the world could be better worth spending money for than wine and music and dancing. So, when the evening had come, he proposed that they two should go and squander it all at the Inn. But the younger fellow–Abdallah–was by nature just as thrifty as the other was spendthrift, and would not consent to waste what he had found. Nevertheless, he was generous and open-hearted, and grudged his friend nothing; so, though he did not care for a wild life himself, he gave Ali a piece of gold to spend as he chose.

By morning every copper of what had been given to the elder fagot-maker was gone, and he had never had such a good time in his life before. All that day and for a week the head of Ali was so full of the memory of the merry night that he had enjoyed that he could think of nothing else. At last, one evening, he asked Abdallah for another piece of gold, and Abdallah gave it to him, and by the next morning it had vanished in the same way that the other had flown. By-and-by Ali borrowed a third piece of money, and then a fourth and then a fifth, so that by the time that six months had passed and gone he had spent thirty of the hundred pieces that had been found, and in all that time Abdallah had used not so much as a pistareen.

But when Ali came for the thirty-and-first loan, Abdallah refused to let him have any more money. It was in vain that the elder begged and implored–the younger abided by what he had said.

Then Ali began to put on a threatening front. “You will not let me have the money?” he said.

“No, I will not.”

“You will not?”


“Then you shall!” cried Ali; and, so saying, caught the younger fagot-maker by the throat, and began shaking him and shouting, “Help! Help! I am robbed! I am robbed!” He made such an uproar that half a hundred men, women, and children were gathered around them in less than a minute. “Here is ingratitude for you!” cried Ali. “Here is wickedness and thievery! Look at this wretch, all good men, and then turn away your eyes! For twelve years have I lived with this young man as a father might live with a son, and now how does he repay me? He has stolen all that I have in the world–a purse of seventy sequins of gold.”

All this while poor Abdallah had been so amazed that he could do nothing but stand and stare like one stricken dumb; whereupon all the people, thinking him guilty, dragged him off to the judge, reviling him and heaping words of abuse upon him.

Now the judge of that town was known far and near as the “Wise Judge”; but never had he had such a knotty question as this brought up before him, for by this time Abdallah had found his speech, and swore with a great outcry that the money belonged to him.

But at last a gleam of light came to the Wise Judge in his perplexity. “Can any one tell me,” said he, “which of these fellows has had money of late, and which has had none?”

His question was one easily enough answered; a score of people were there to testify that the elder of the two had been living well and spending money freely for six months and more, and a score were also there to swear that Abdallah had lived all the while in penury. “Then that decides the matter,” said the Wise Judge. “The money belongs to the elder fagot-maker.”

“But listen, oh my lord judge!” cried Abdallah. “All that this man has spent I have given to him–I, who found the money. Yes, my lord, I have given it to him, and myself have spent not so much as single mite.”

All who were present shouted with laughter at Abdallah’s speech, for who would believe that any one would be so generous as to spend all upon another and none upon himself?

So poor Abdallah was beaten with rods until he confessed where he had hidden his money; then the Wise Judge handed fifty sequins to Ali and kept twenty himself for his decision, and all went their way praising his justice and judgment.

That is to say, all but poor Abdallah; he went to his home weeping and wailing, and with every one pointing the finger of scorn at him. He was just as poor as ever, and his back was sore with the beating that he had suffered. All that night he continued to weep and wail, and when the morning had come he was weeping and wailing still.

Now it chanced that a wise man passed that way, and hearing his lamentation, stopped to inquire the cause of his trouble. Abdallah told the other of his sorrow, and the wise man listened, smiling, till he was done, and then he laughed outright. “My son,” said he, “if every one in your case should shed tears as abundantly as you have done, the world would have been drowned in salt water by this time. As for your friend, think not ill of him; no man loveth another who is always giving.”

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“Nay,” said the young fagot-maker, “I believe not a word of what you say. Had I been in his place I would have been grateful for the benefits, and not have hated the giver.”

But the wise man only laughed louder than ever. “Maybe you will have the chance to prove what you say some day,” said he, and went his way, still shaking with his merriment.

“All this,” said Ali Baba, “is only the beginning of my story; and now if the damsel will fill up my pot of ale, I will begin in earnest and tell about the cave of the Genie.”

He watched Little Brown Betty until she had filled his mug, and the froth ran over the top. Then he took a deep draught and began again.

Though Abdallah had affirmed that he did not believe what the wise man had said, nevertheless the words of the other were a comfort, for it makes one feel easier in trouble to be told that others have been in a like case with one’s self.

So, by-and-by, Abdallah plucked up some spirit, and, saddling his ass and shouldering his axe, started off to the woods for a bundle of fagots.

Misfortunes, they say, never come single, and so it seemed to be with the fagot-maker that day; for that happened that had never happened to him before–he lost his way in the woods. On he went, deeper and deeper into the thickets, driving his ass before him, bewailing himself and rapping his head with his knuckles. But all his sorrowing helped him nothing, and by the time that night fell he found himself deep in the midst of a great forest full of wild beasts, the very thought of which curdled his blood. He had had nothing to eat all day long, and now the only resting-place left him was the branches of some tree. So, unsaddling his ass and leaving it to shift for itself, he climbed to and roosted himself in the crotch of a great limb.

In spite of his hunger he presently fell asleep, for trouble breeds weariness as it breeds grief.

About the dawning of the day he was awakened by the sound of voices and the glaring of lights. He craned his neck and looked down, and there he saw a sight that filled him with amazement: three old men riding each upon a milk-white horse and each bearing a lighted torch in his hand, to light the way through the dark forest.

When they had come just below where Abdallah sat, they dismounted and fastened their several horses to as many trees. Then he who rode first of the three, and who wore a red cap and who seemed to be the chief of them, walked solemnly up to a great rock that stood in the hillside, and, breaking a switch from a shrub that grew in a cleft, struck the face of the stone, crying in a loud voice, “I command thee to open, in the name of the red Aldebaran!”

Instantly, creaking and groaning, the face of the rock opened like a door, gaping blackly. Then, one after another, the three old men entered, and nothing was left but the dull light of their torches, shining on the walls of the passage-way.

What happened inside the cavern the fagot-maker could neither see nor hear, but minute after minute passed while he sat as in a maze at all that had happened. Then presently he heard a deep thundering voice and a voice as of one of the old men in answer. Then there came a sound swelling louder and louder, as though a great crowd of people were gathering together, and with the voices came the noise of the neighing of horses and the trampling of hoofs. Then at last there came pouring from out the rock a great crowd of horses laden with bales and bundles of rich stuffs and chests and caskets of gold and silver and jewels, and each horse was led by a slave clad in a dress of cloth-of-gold, sparkling and glistening with precious gems. When all these had come out from the cavern, other horses followed, upon each of which sat a beautiful damsel, more lovely than the fancy of man could picture. Beside the damsels marched a guard, each man clad in silver armor, and each bearing a drawn sword that flashed in the brightening day more keenly than the lightning. So they all came pouring forth from the cavern until it seemed as though the whole woods below were filled with the wealth and the beauty of King Solomon’s day–and then, last of all, came the three old men.

“In the name of the red Aldebaran,” said he who had bidden the rock to open, “I command thee to become closed.” Again, creaking and groaning, the rock shut as it had opened–like a door–and the three old men, mounting their horses, led the way from the woods, the others following. The noise and confusion of the many voices shouting and calling, the trample and stamp of horses, grew fainter and fainter, until at last all was once more hushed and still, and only the fagot-maker was left behind, still staring like one dumb and bereft of wits.

But so soon as he was quite sure that all were really gone, he clambered down as quickly as might be. He waited for a while to make doubly sure that no one was left behind, and then he walked straight up to the rock, just as he had seen the old man do. He plucked a switch from the bush, just as he had seen the old man pluck one, and struck the stone, just as the old man had struck it. “I command thee to open,” said he, “in the name of the red Aldebaran!”

Instantly, as it had done in answer to the old man’s command, there came a creaking and a groaning, and the rock slowly opened like a door, and there was the passageway yawning before him. For a moment or two the fagot-maker hesitated to enter; but all was as still as death, and finally he plucked up courage and went within.

By this time the day was brightening and the sun rising, and by the gray light the fagot-maker could see about him pretty clearly. Not a sign was to be seen of horses or of treasure or of people–nothing but a square block of marble, and upon it a black casket, and upon that again a gold ring, in which was set a blood-red stone. Beyond these things there was nothing; the walls were bare, the roof was bare, the floor was bare–all was bare and naked stone.

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“Well,” said the wood-chopper, “as the old men have taken everything else, I might as well take these things. The ring is certainly worth something, and maybe I shall be able to sell the casket for a trifle into the bargain.” So he slipped the ring upon his finger, and, taking up the casket, left the place. “I command thee to be closed,” said he, “in the name of the red Aldebaran!” And thereupon the door closed, creaking and groaning.

After a little while he found his ass, saddled it and bridled it, and loaded it with the bundle of fagots that he had chopped the day before, and then set off again to try to find his way out of the thick woods. But still his luck was against him, and the farther he wandered the deeper he found himself in the thickets. In the meantime he was like to die of hunger, for he had not a bite to eat for more than a whole day.

“Perhaps,” said he to himself, “there may be something in the casket to stay my stomach;” and, so saying, he sat him down, unlocked the casket, and raised the lid.

Such a yell as the poor wretch uttered ears never heard before. Over he rolled upon his back and there lay staring with wide eyes, and away scampered the jackass, kicking up his heels and braying so that the leaves of the trees trembled and shook. For no sooner had he lifted the lid than out leaped a great hideous Genie, as black as a coal, with one fiery-red eye in the middle of his forehead that glared and rolled most horribly, and with his hands and feet set with claws, sharp and hooked like the talons of a hawk. Poor Abdallah the fagot-maker lay upon his back staring at the monster with a face as white as wax.

“What are thy commands?” said the Genie in a terrible voice, that rumbled like the sound of thunder.

“I–I do not know,” said Abdallah, trembling and shaking as with an ague. “I–I have forgotten.”

“Ask what thou wilt,” said the Genie, “for I must ever obey whomsoever hast the ring that thou wearest upon thy finger. Hath my lord nothing to command wherein I may serve him?”

Abdallah shook his head. “No,” said he, “there is nothing–unless–unless you will bring me something to eat.”

“To hear is to obey,” said the Genie. “What will my lord be pleased to have?”

“Just a little bread and cheese,” said Abdallah.

The Genie waved his hand, and in an instant a fine damask napkin lay spread upon the ground, and upon it a loaf of bread as white as snow and a piece of cheese such as the king would have been glad to taste. But Abdallah could do nothing but sit staring at the Genie, for the sight of the monster quite took away his appetite.

“What more can I do to serve thee?” asked the Genie.

“I think,” said Abdallah, “that I could eat more comfortably if you were away.”

“To hear is to obey,” said the Genie. “Whither shall I go? Shall I enter the casket again?”

“I do not know,” said the fagot-maker; “how did you come to be there?”

“I am a great Genie,” answered the monster, “and was conjured thither by the great King Solomon, whose seal it is that thou wearest upon thy finger. For a certain fault that I committed I was confined in the box and hidden in the cavern where thou didst find me to-day. There I lay for thousands of years until one day three old magicians discovered the secret of where I lay hidden. It was they who only this morning compelled me to give them that vast treasure which thou sawest them take away from the cavern not long since.”

“But why did they not take you and the box and the ring away also?” asked Abdallah.

“Because,” answered the Genie, “they are three brothers, and neither two care to trust the other one with such power as the ring has to give, so they made a solemn compact among themselves that I should remain in the cavern, and that no one of the three should visit it without the other two in his company. Now, my lord, if it is thy will that I shall enter the casket again I must even obey thy command in that as in all things; but, if it please thee, I would fain rejoin my own kind again–they from whom I have been parted for so long. Shouldst thou permit me to do so I will still be thy slave, for thou hast only to press the red stone in the ring and repeat these words: By the red Aldebaran, I command thee to come,’ and I will be with thee instantly. But if I have my freedom I shall serve thee from gratitude and love, and not from compulsion and with fear.”

“So be it!” said Abdallah. “I have no choice in the matter, and thou mayest go whither it pleases thee.”

No sooner had the words left his lips than the Genie gave a great cry of rejoicing, so piercing that it made Abdallah’s flesh creep, and then, fetching the black casket a kick that sent it flying over the tree tops, vanished instantly.

“Well,” quote Abdallah, when he had caught his breath from his amazement, “these are the most wonderful things that have happened to me in all of my life.” And thereupon he fell to at the bread and cheese, and ate as only a hungry man can eat. When he had finished the last crumb he wiped his mouth with the napkin, and, stretching his arms, felt within him that he was like a new man.

Nevertheless, he was still lost in the woods, and now not even with his ass for comradeship.

He had wandered for quite a little while before he bethought himself of the Genie. “What a fool am I,” said he, “not to have asked him to help me while he was here.” He pressed his finger upon the ring, and cried in a loud voice, “By the red Aldebaran, I command thee to come!”

Instantly the Genie stood before him–big, black, ugly, and grim. “What are my lord’s commands?” said he.

“I command thee,” said Abdallah the fagot-maker, who was not half so frightened at the sight of the monster this time as he had been before–“I command thee to help me out of this woods.”

Hardly were the words out of his mouth when the Genie snatched Abdallah up, and, flying swifter than the lightning, set him down in the middle of the highway on the outskirts of the forest before he had fairly caught his breath.

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When he did gather his wits and looked about him, he knew very well where he was, and that he was upon the road that led to the city. At the sight his heart grew light within him, and off he stepped briskly for home again.

But the sun shone hot and the way was warm and dusty, and before Abdallah had gone very far the sweat was running down his face in streams. After a while he met a rich husband-man riding easily along on an ambling nag, and when Abdallah saw him he rapped his head with his knuckles. “Why did I not think to ask the Genie for a horse?” said he. “I might just as well have ridden as to have walked, and that upon a horse a hundred times more beautiful than the one that that fellow rides.”

He stepped into the thicket beside the way, where he might be out of sight, and there pressed the stone in his ring, and at his bidding the Genie stood before him.

“What are my lord’s commands?” said he.

“I would like to have a noble horse to ride upon,” said Abdallah–“a horse such as a king might use.”

“To hear is to obey,” said the Genie; and, stretching out his hand, there stood before Abdallah a magnificent Arab horse, with a saddle and bridle studded with precious stones, and with housings of gold. “Can I do aught to serve my lord further?” said the Genie.

“Not just now,” said Abdallah; “if I have further use for you I will call you.”

The Genie bowed his head and was gone like a flash, and Abdallah mounted his horse and rode off upon his way. But he had not gone far before he drew rein suddenly. “How foolish must I look,” said he, “to be thus riding along the high-road upon this noble steed, and I myself clad in fagot-maker’s rags.” Thereupon he turned his horse into the thicket, and again summoned the Genie. “I should like,” said he, “to have a suit of clothes fit for a king to wear.”

“My lord shall have that which he desires,” said the Genie. He stretched out his hand, and in an instant there lay across his arm raiment such as the eyes of man never saw before–stiff with pearls, and blazing with diamonds and rubies and emeralds and sapphires. The Genie himself aided Abdallah to dress, and when he looked down he felt, for the time, quite satisfied.

He rode a little farther. Then suddenly he bethought himself, “What a silly spectacle shall I cut in the town with no money in my purse and with such fine clothes upon my back.” Once more the Genie was summoned. “I should like,” said the fagot-maker, “to have a box full of money.”

The Genie stretched out his hand, and in it was a casket of mother-of-pearl inlaid with gold and full of money. “Has my lord any further commands for his servant?” asked he.

“No,” answered Abdallah. “Stop–I have, too,” he added. “Yes; I would like to have a young man to carry my money for me.”

“He is here,” said the Genie. And there stood a beautiful youth clad in clothes of silver tissue, and holding a milk-white horse by the bridle.

“Stay, Genie,” said Abdallah. “Whilst thou art here thou mayest as well give me enough at once to last me a long time to come. Let me have eleven more caskets of money like this one, and eleven more slaves to carry the same.”

“They are here,” said the Genie; and as he spoke there stood eleven more youths before Abdallah, as like the first as so many pictures of the same person, and each youth bore in his hands a box like the one that the monster had given Abdallah. “Will my lord have anything further?” asked the Genie.

“Let me think,” said Abdallah. “Yes; I know the town well, and that should one so rich as I ride into it without guards he would be certain to be robbed before he had travelled a hundred paces. Let me have an escort of a hundred armed men.”

“It shall be done,” said the Genie, and, waving his hand, the road where they stood was instantly filled with armed men, with swords and helmets gleaming and flashing in the sun, and all seated upon magnificently caparisoned horses. “Can I serve my lord further?” asked the Genie.

“No,” said Abdallah the fagot-maker, in admiration, “I have nothing more to wish for in this world. Thou mayest go, Genie, and it will be long ere I will have to call thee again,” and thereupon the Genie was gone like a flash.

The captain of Abdallah’s troop–a bearded warrior clad in a superb suit of armor–rode up to the fagot-maker, and, leaping from his horse and bowing before him so that his forehead touched the dust, said, “Whither shall we ride, my lord?”

Abdallah smote his forehead with vexation. “If I live a thousand years,” said he, “I will never learn wisdom.” Thereupon, dismounting again, he pressed the ring and summoned the Genie. “I was mistaken,” said he, “as to not wanting thee so soon. I would have thee build me in the city a magnificent palace, such as man never looked upon before, and let it be full from top to bottom with rich stuffs and treasures of all sorts. And let it have gardens and fountains and terraces fitting for such a place, and let it be meetly served with slaves, both men and women, the most beautiful that are to be found in all the world.”

“Is there aught else that thou wouldst have?” asked the Genie.

The fagot-maker meditated a long time. “I can bethink myself of nothing more just now,” said he.

The Genie turned to the captain of the troop and said some words to him in a strange tongue, and then in a moment was gone. The captain gave the order to march, and away they all rode with Abdallah in the midst. “Who would have thought,” said he, looking around him, with the heart within him swelling with pride as though it would burst–“who would have thought that only this morning I was a poor fagot-maker, lost in the woods and half starved to death? Surely there is nothing left for me to wish for in this world!”

Abdallah was talking of something he knew nothing of.

Never before was such a sight seen in that country, as Abdallah and his troop rode through the gates and into the streets of the city. But dazzling and beautiful as were those who rode attendant upon him, Abdallah the fagot-maker surpassed them all as the moon dims the lustre of the stars. The people crowded around shouting with wonder, and Abdallah, in the fulness of his delight, gave orders to the slaves who bore the caskets of money to open them and to throw the gold to the people. So, with those in the streets scrambling and fighting for the money and shouting and cheering, and others gazing down at the spectacle from the windows and house-tops, the fagot-maker and his troop rode slowly along through the town.

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Now it chanced that their way led along past the royal palace, and the princess, hearing all the shouting and the hubbub, looked over the edge of the balcony and down into the street. At the same moment Abdallah chanced to look up, and their eyes met. Thereupon the fagot-maker’s heart crumbled away within him, for she was the most beautiful princess in all the world. Her eyes were as black as night, her hair like threads of fine silk, her neck like alabaster, and her lips and her cheeks as soft and as red as rose-leaves. When she saw that Abdallah was looking at her she dropped the curtain of the balcony and was gone, and the fagot-maker rode away, sighing like a furnace.

So, by-and-by, he came to his palace, which was built all of marble as white as snow, and which was surrounded with gardens, shaded by flowering trees, and cooled by the plashing of fountains. From the gateway to the door of the palace a carpet of cloth-of-gold had been spread for him to walk upon, and crowds of slaves stood waiting to receive him. But for all these glories Abdallah cared nothing; he hardly looked about him, but, going straight to his room, pressed his ring and summoned the Genie.

“What is it that my lord would have?” asked the monster.

“Oh, Genie!” said poor Abdallah, “I would have the princess for my wife, for without her I am like to die.”

“My lord’s commands,” said the Genie, “shall be executed if I have to tear down the city to do so. But perhaps this behest is not so hard to fulfil. First of all, my lord will have to have an ambassador to send to the king.”

“Very well,” said Abdallah with a sigh; “let me have an ambassador or whatever may be necessary. Only make haste, Genie, in thy doings.”

“I shall lose no time,” said the Genie; and in a moment was gone.

The king was sitting in council with all of the greatest lords of the land gathered about him, for the Emperor of India had declared war against him, and he and they were in debate, discussing how the country was to be saved. Just then Abdallah’s ambassador arrived, and when he and his train entered the council-chamber all stood up to receive him, for the least of those attendant upon him was more magnificently attired than the king himself, and was bedecked with such jewels as the royal treasury could not match.

Kneeling before the king, the ambassador touched the ground with his forehead. Then, still kneeling, he unrolled a scroll, written in letters of gold, and from it read the message asking for the princess to wife for the Lord Abdallah.

When he had ended, the king sat for a while stroking his beard and meditating. But before he spoke the oldest lord of the council arose and said: “O sire! If this Lord Abdallah who asks for the princess for his wife can send such a magnificent company in the train of his ambassador, may it not be that he may be able also to help you in your war against the Emperor of India?”

“True!” said the king. Then turning to the ambassador: “Tell your master,” said he, “that if he will furnish me with an army of one hundred thousand men, to aid me in the war against the Emperor of India, he shall have my daughter for his wife.”

“Sire,” said the ambassador, “I will answer now for my master, and the answer shall be this: That he will help you with an army, not of one hundred thousand, but of two hundred thousand men. And if to-morrow you will be pleased to ride forth to the plain that lieth to the south of the city, my Lord Abdallah will meet you there with his army.” Then, once more bowing, he withdrew from the council-chamber, leaving all them that were there amazed at what had happened.

So the next day the king and all his court rode out to the place appointed. As they drew near they saw that the whole face of the plain was covered with a mighty host, drawn up in troops and squadrons. As the king rode towards this vast army, Abdallah met him, surrounded by his generals. He dismounted and would have kneeled, but the king would not permit him, but, raising him, kissed him upon the cheek, calling him son. Then the king and Abdallah rode down before the ranks and the whole army waved their swords, and the flashing of the sunlight on the blades was like lightning, and they shouted, and the noise was like the pealing of thunder.

Before Abdallah marched off to the wars he and the princess were married, and for a whole fortnight nothing was heard but the sound of rejoicing. The city was illuminated from end to end, and all of the fountains ran with wine instead of water. And of all those who rejoiced, none was so happy as the princess, for never had she seen one whom she thought so grand and noble and handsome as her husband. After the fortnight had passed and gone, the army marched away to the wars with Abdallah at its head.

Victory after victory followed, for in every engagement the Emperor of India’s troops were driven from the field. In two months’ time the war was over and Abdallah marched back again–the greatest general in the world. But it was no longer as Abdallah that he was known, but as the Emperor of India, for the former emperor had been killed in the war, and Abdallah had set the crown upon his own head.

The little taste that he had had of conquest had given him an appetite for more, so that with the armies the Genie provided him he conquered all the neighboring countries and brought them under his rule. So he became the greatest emperor in all the world; kings and princes kneeled before him, and he, Abdallah, the fagot-maker, looking about him, could say: “No one in all the world is so great as I!”

Could he desire anything more?

Yes; he did! He desired to be rid of the Genie!

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When he thought of how all that he was in power and might–he, the Emperor of the World–how all his riches and all his glory had come as gifts from a hideous black monster with only one eye, his heart was filled with bitterness. “I cannot forget,” said he to himself, “that as he has given me all these things, he may take them all away again. Suppose that I should lose my ring and that some one else should find it; who knows but that they might become as great as I, and strip me of everything, as I have stripped others. Yes; I wish he was out of the way!”

Once, when such thoughts as these were passing through his mind, he was paying a visit to his father-in-law, the king. He was walking up and down the terrace of the garden meditating on these matters, when, leaning over a wall and looking down into the street, he saw a fagot-maker–just such a fagot-maker as he himself had one time been–driving an ass–just such an ass as he had one time driven. The fagot-maker carried something under his arm, and what should it be but the very casket in which the Genie had once been imprisoned, and which he–the one-time fagot-maker–had seen the Genie kick over the tree-tops.

The sight of the casket put a sudden thought into his mind. He shouted to his attendants, and bade them haste and bring the fagot-maker to him. Off they ran, and in a little while came dragging the poor wretch, trembling and as white as death; for he thought nothing less than that his end had certainly come. As soon as those who had seized him had loosened their hold, he flung himself prostrate at the feet of the Emperor Abdallah, and there lay like one dead.

“Where didst thou get yonder casket?” asked the emperor.

“Oh, my lord!” croaked the poor fagot-maker, “I found it out yonder in the woods.”

“Give it to me,” said the emperor, “and my treasurer shall count thee out a thousand pieces of gold in exchange.”

So soon as he had the casket safe in his hands he hurried away to his privy chamber, and there pressed the red stone in his ring. “In the name of the red Aldebaran, I command thee to appear!” said he, and in a moment the Genie stood before him.

“What are my lord’s commands?” said he.

“I would have thee enter this casket again,” said the Emperor Abdallah.

“Enter the casket!” cried the Genie, aghast.

“Enter the casket.”

“In what have I done anything to offend my lord?” said the Genie.

“In nothing,” said the emperor; “only I would have thee enter the casket again as thou wert when I first found thee.”

It was in vain that the Genie begged and implored for mercy, it was in vain that he reminded Abdallah of all that he had done to benefit him; the great emperor stood as hard as a rock–into the casket the Genie must and should go. So at last into the casket the monster went, bellowing most lamentably.

The Emperor Abdallah shut the lid of the casket, and locked it and sealed it with his seal. Then, hiding it under his cloak, he bore it out into the garden and to a deep well, and, first making sure that nobody was by to see, dropped casket and Genie and all into the water.

Now had that wise man been by–the wise man who had laughed so when the poor young fagot-maker wept and wailed at the ingratitude of his friend–the wise man who had laughed still louder when the young fagot-maker vowed that in another case he would not have been so ungrateful to one who had benefited him–how that wise man would have roared when he heard the casket plump into the waters of the well! For, upon my word of honor, betwixt Ali the fagot-maker and Abdallah the Emperor of the World there was not a pin to choose, except in degree.

Old Ali Baba’s pipe had nearly gone out, and he fell a puffing at it until the spark grew to life again, and until great clouds of smoke rolled out around his head and up through the rafters above.

“I liked thy story, friend,” said old Bidpai–“I liked it mightily much. I liked more especially the way in which thy emperor got rid of his demon, or Genie.”

Fortunatus took a long pull at his mug of ale. “I know not,” said he, “about the demon, but there was one part that I liked much, and that was about the treasures of silver and gold and the palace that the Genie built and all the fine things that the poor fagot-maker enjoyed.” Then he who had once carried the magic purse in his pocket fell a clattering with the bottom of his quart cup upon the table. “Hey! My pretty lass,” cried he, “come hither and fetch me another stoup of ale.”

Little Brown Betty came at his call, stumbling and tumbling into the room, just as she had stumbled and tumbled in the Mother Goose book, only this time she did not crack her crown, but gathered herself up laughing.

“You may fill my canican while you are about it,” said St. George, “for, by my faith, tis dry work telling a story.”

“And mine, too,” piped the little Tailor who killed seven flies at a blow.

“And whose turn is it now to tell a story?” said Doctor Faustus.

“Tis his,” said the Lad who fiddled for the Jew, and he pointed to Hans who traded and traded until he had traded his lump of gold for an empty churn.

Hans grinned sheepishly. “Well,” said he, “I never did have luck at anything, and why, then, d’ye think I should have luck at telling a story?”

“Nay, never mind that,” said Aladdin, “tell thy story, friend, as best thou mayst.”

“Very well,” said Hans, “if ye will have it, I will tell it to you; but, after all, it is not better than my own story, and the poor man in the end gets no more than I did in my bargains.”

“And what is your story about, my friend?” said Cinderella.

“Tis,” said Hans, “about how–“

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