THE CALIPH AND THE GARDENER
There was once a caliph of Cordova whose name was Al Mansour. One day
a strange merchant came to him with some diamonds and pearls which he
had brought from beyond the sea. The caliph was so well pleased with
these jewels that he bought them and paid the merchant a large
sum of money. The merchant put the gold in a bag of purple silk which
he tied to his belt underneath his long cloak. Then he set out on foot
to walk to another city.
It was midsummer, and the day was very hot. As the merchant was walking
along, he came to a river that flowed gently between green and shady
He was hot and covered with dust. No one was near. Very few people
ever came that way. Why should he not cool himself in the refreshing
water? He took off his clothes and laid them on the bank. He put the
bag of money on top of them and then leaped into the water. How cool
and delicious it was!
Suddenly he heard a rustling noise behind him. He turned quickly and
saw an eagle rising into the air with his moneybag in its claws. No
doubt the bird had mistaken the purple silk for something good to eat.
The merchant shouted. He jumped out of the water and shouted again.
But it was no use. The great bird was high in the air and flying
towards the far-off mountains with all his money.
The poor man could do nothing but dress himself and go sorrowing on
A year passed by and then the merchant appeared once more before Al
Mansour. "O Caliph," he said, "here are a few jewels which I had
reserved as a present for my wife. But I have met with such bad luck
that I am forced to sell them. I pray that you will look at them and
take them at your own price."
Al Mansour noticed that the merchant was very sad and downcast. "Why,
what has happened to you?" he asked. "Have you been sick?"
Then the merchant told him how the eagle had flown away with his money.
"Why didn't you come to us before?" he asked. "We might have done
something to help you. Toward what place was the eagle flying when you
last saw it?"
"It was flying toward the Black Mountains," answered the merchant.
The next morning the caliph called ten of his officers before him.
"Ride at once to the Black Mountains," he said. "Find all the old men
that live on the mountains or in the flat country around, and command
them to appear before me one week from to-day."
The officers did as they were bidden. On the day appointed, forty gray-
bearded, honest old men stood before the caliph. All were asked the
same question. "Do you know of any person who was once poor but who
has lately and suddenly become well-to-do?"
Most of the old men answered that they did not know of any such person.
A few said that there was one man in their neighborhood who seemed to
have had some sort of good luck.
This man was a gardener. A year ago he was so poor that he had scarcely
clothes for his back. His children were crying for food. But lately
everything had changed for him. Both he and his family dressed well;
they had plenty to eat; he had even bought a horse to help him carry
his produce to market.
The caliph at once gave orders for the gardener to be brought before
him the next day. He also ordered that the merchant should come at the
Before noon the next day the gardener was admitted to the palace. As
soon as he entered the hall the caliph went to meet him. "Good friend,"
he said, "if you should find something that we have lost, what would
you do with it?"
The gardener put his hand under his cloak and drew out the very bag
that the merchant had lost.
"Here it is, my lord," he said.
At sight of his lost treasure, the merchant began to dance and shout
"Tell us," said Al Mansour to the gardener, "tell us how you came to
find that bag."
The gardener answered: "A year ago, as I was spading in my garden, I
saw something fall at the foot of a palm tree. I ran to pick it up and
was surprised to find that it was a bag full of bright gold pieces.
I said to myself, 'This money must belong to our master, Al Mansour.
Some large bird has stolen it from his palace.'"
"Well, then," said the caliph, "why did you not return it to us at
once?" "It was this way," said the gardener: "I looked at the gold
pieces, and then thought of my own great necessities. My wife and
children were suffering from the want of food and clothing. I had no
shoes for my feet, no coat for my back. So I said to myself, 'My lord
Al Mansour is famous for his kindness to the poor. He will not care.'
So I took ten gold pieces from the many that were in the bag.
"I meant only to borrow them. And I put the bag in a safe place, saying
that as soon as I could replace the ten pieces, I would return all to
my lord Al Mansour. With much hard labor and careful management I have
saved only five little silver pieces. But, as I came to your palace
this morning, I kept saying to myself, 'When our lord Al Mansour learns
just how it was that I borrowed the gold, I have no doubt that in his
kindness of heart he will forgive me the debt.'"
Great was the caliph's surprise when he heard the poor man's story.
He took the bag of money and handed it to the merchant. "Take the bag
and count the money that is in it," he said. "If anything is lacking,
I will pay it to you."
The merchant did as he was told. "There is nothing lacking," he said,
"but the ten pieces he has told you about; and I will give him these
as a reward."
"No," said Al Mansour, "it is for me to reward the man as he deserves."
Saying this, he ordered that ten gold pieces be given to the merchant
in place of those that were lacking. Then he rewarded the gardener
with ten more pieces for his honesty.
"Your debt is paid. Think no more about it," he said.