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Why the fish laughed.
A tale from India. Junior Classics Vol.1 by Joseph Jacob.
Start of Story
"Oh! of course," replied the farmer. "I see. Well perhaps you can
help me to solve some of his other mysteries. While we were walking
together he asked whether he should carry me or I should carry him, as
he thought that would be a pleasanter mode of proceeding."
"Most assuredly," said the girl. "He meant that one of you should tell
a story to beguile the time."
"Oh, yes. Well, we were passing through a cornfield, when he asked me
whether it was eaten or not."
"And didn't you know the meaning of this, father? He simply wished to
know if the man was in debt or not; because if the owner of the field
was in debt, then the produce of the field was as good as eaten to him;
that is, it would have to go to his creditors."
"Yes, yes, yes; of course! Then, on entering a certain village, he
bade me take his clasp knife and get two horses with it, and bring back
the knife again to him."
"Are not two stout sticks as good as two horses for helping one along
on the road? He only asked you to cut a couple of sticks and be
careful not to lose his knife."
"I see," said the farmer. "While we were walking over the city we did
not see anybody that we knew, and not a soul gave us a scrap of
anything to eat, till we were passing the cemetery; but there some
people called to us and put into our hands some chupatties and kulchas;
so my companion called the city a cemetery, and the cemetery a city."
"This also is to be understood, father, if one thinks of the city as
the place where everything is to be obtained, and of inhospitable
people as worse than the dead. The city, though crowded with people,
was as if dead, as far as you were concerned; while, in the cemetery,
which is crowded with the dead, you were saluted by kind friends and
provided with bread."
"True, true!" said the astonished farmer. "Then, just now, when we
were crossing the stream, he waded through it without taking off his
shoes and pajamas.''
"I admire his wisdom," replied the girl. "I have often thought how
stupid people were to venture into that swiftly flowing stream and over
those sharp stones with bare feet. The slightest stumble and they
would fall, and be wetted from head to foot. This friend of yours is a
most wise man. I should like to see him and speak to him."
"Very well," said the farmer; "I will go and find him, and bring him
"Tell him, father, that our beams are strong enough, and then he will
come in. I'll send on ahead a present to the man, to show him that we
can afford to have him for our guest."
Accordingly she called a servant and sent him to the young man with a
present of a basin of ghee, twelve chupatties, and a jar of milk, and
the following message: "O friend, the moon is full; twelve months make
a year, and the sea is overflowing with water."
Half-way the bearer of this present and message met his little son,
who, seeing what was in the basket, begged his father to give him some
of the food. His father foolishly complied. Presently he saw the
young man, and gave him the rest of the present and the message.
"Give your mistress my salaam," he replied, "and tell her that the moon
is new, and that I can only find eleven mouths in the year, and the sea
is by no means full."
Not understanding the meaning of these words, the servant repeated them
word for word, as he had heard them, to his mistress; and thus his
theft was discovered, and he was severely punished. After a little
while the young man appeared with the old farmer. Great attention was
shown to him, and he was treated in every way as it he were the son of
a great man, although his humble host knew nothing of his origin. At
length be told them everything-about the laughing of the fish, his
father's threatened execution, and his own banishment-and asked their
advice as to what he should do.
"The laughing of the fish,'' said the girl "which seems to have been
the cause of all this trouble, indicates that there is a man in the
palace who is plotting against the king's life."
"Joy, joy!" exclaimed the vizier's son. "There is yet time for me to
return and save my father from an ignominious and unjust death, and the
king from danger."
The following day he hastened back to his own country, taking with him
the farmer's daughter. Immediately on arrival he ran to the palace and
informed his father of what he had heard. The poor vizier, now almost
dead from the expectation of death, was at once carried to the king, to
whom he repeated the news that his son had just brought.
"Never!" said the king.
"But it must be so, Your Majesty," replied the vizier; "and in order to
prove the truth of what I have heard, I pray you call together all the
maids in your palace, and order them to jump over a pit, which must be
dug. We'll soon find out whether there is any man there."
The king had the pit dug, and commanded all the maids belonging to the
palace to try to jump it. All of them tried, but only one succeeded.
That one was found to be a man!
Thus was the queen satisfied, and the faithful old vizier saved.
Afterward, as soon as could be, the vizier's son married the old
farmer's daughter; and a most happy marriage it was.