Story of the Old Man who sent his Young Wife
to the Market to buy Rice

[THERE was a righteous man in Qandahār, simple and pure of heart, upright, gracious, and exceeding clement. In origin and race he was the leader of men. He was very God-fearing and abstemious; at times standing all night at prayer, and at times fasting. He had a wife, fair-spoken and sweet of speech, who would have carried off the palm amongst a hundred marvels of beauty. She was very young; the good-man was very old: I will not say she was without plans and resources. When the good-man is old, and the wife young, what sayest thou, and seest thou, then, O youth? The youthful wife loved the youthful.

One day the old man took a piece of gold out of his purse, gave it to the woman, and said: “Buy some husked rice* with this.” Having adorned her person with Chinese brocade, she went out veiled. She pro­ceeded to the bazaar, where she saw a handsome youth, decked in loveliness from head to foot. A balance was hung up in his shop; candy and sugar were poured out. When the woman saw this loveling from afar, she writhed and heaved a sigh from her liver.* She brought out the piece of gold and laid it down, saying: “Give me husked rice for this gold.” The youth said: “There is no need of the gold; I will give thee presently rice with sugar on the top: do thou rest thyself a moment.”—As he was young, and she was young, the (recollection of the) old man could find no room between them. He brought the rice and put it before her; he also put some sugar on the top of it. The woman took off her veil and wrapped both of them therein; then she went into an inner apartment, which had a private way out on that side, and sat down.

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A leaf, fol. 57, is wanting here; but from other versions we may suppose that the story went on to relate that, the grocer having given his servant a secret signal, while he and the lady were conversing together, the lad substituted sand in place of the rice and sugar; that she took up her parcel and returned home; and the old man, on discovering its strange contents, naturally inquired what this meant. Perceiving the trick of the grocer, she readily replied (fol. 58):

“When I was making for the bazaar from the street, at that narrow place at the head of the market, a young camel, that had broken away from the rope attached to its nose-ring, had got loose from the file (of camels), like a mountain suddenly sprang to foot, like a rock suddenly moved from its place, roared and so terrified me, that my breath was taken away. In that place where I turned and fled, the piece of gold fell from my hand into the dust.* I looked much for it, but could not find it; and as it was drawing late, I took away some of the dust of the road in my veil.” The good-man, out of his simplicity of heart, believed her tale, and said: “Who wert thou, to be without fear? Thou knowest gold and dust to be one in my sight.” He then gave her another piece of gold, saying: “Buy husked rice at that place thou knowest.” So she took the gold, again put on her veil, and re­turned to the shop of her lover.]*