WAS there ever, I wonder, another Shoayb besides the hapless fellow of this story? Not only did good fortune actually run after him and he all the while flee from it, as if the pestilence were behind him, but his very presence anywhere was the cause of manifold disasters! If there be not, however, amidst the multitude of the world's folk-tales an exact parallel to the Story of Shoayb, there is one near akin to it, from Western India, related by M. Putlibai D. H. Wadia, in the Indian Antiquary, 1886, p. 221, as follows:

Once upon a time there lived in a certain country a merchant, who was formerly very prosperous, but having suffered great losses in trade, he came to be in such poor circumstances that starvation stared him in the face. As the king of the country knew him well, his wife advised him to go to court, feeling sure that the king would do something for him. The merchant, however, felt reluctant to go to the king as a suitor, but after suffering great privations for a long time, when he saw that there was nothing left for his family but starvation, he made up his mind to follow his wife's advice, and one morning presented himself at the court, which he found crowded with many persons, who had come there on the same errand as himself. This sight rather unnerved him, and he devoutly hoped the king would not recognise him. When his turn came, however, to be ushered into the royal presence, the king recognised him at once, and asked him what he could do for him. The merchant with great hesitation related his case, and the king, being a very thoughtful man, feared that he would hurt the dignity of one so respectable as the merchant if he gave him pecuniary assist­ance before so many people. So he requested him to wait till all had left the court, and then going into his private apartments he ordered a water-melon to be brought to him, in which he made a hole, and pouring out its contents, he filled it with gold coins. Then summoning the merchant before him, he gave him the melon and said: “Take this to your family, it is a refreshing fruit, and you will all enjoy it this hot day.” The merchant thanked the king and returned homeward very much grieved at receiving only a water-melon when he expected something more substantial. As he was walking along on his way home, he met two travellers, who were very thirsty and looked wistfully at the melon he was carrying, and, being of a very generous disposition and thinking that they needed the melon more than he did, he gave it to them and walked quickly home empty-handed.

After passing many months of privation and misery, he was persuaded by his wife to go to the king a second time, in the hope of better luck. The king was, however, much surprised at the merchant's paying him a second visit so soon after the first; but when he heard that he was as poor as before, he thought he had invested in trade the money he had given him and lost it. He therefore filled a water-melon once more with gold coins and presented it to him. The merchant was again disappointed at being sent away with such a trifle, but he nevertheless made his obeisance to the king and returned homewards. This time, however, he resolved not to part with the fruit, knowing that it would be welcome to his starving children. He had not gone very far, however, when he met a beggar who asked alms of him, saying that he was very hungry. The merchant could not resist this appeal, and, having no money, gave the melon to the beggar.

When he reached home his wife was sorely vexed at his bad luck, and wondered very much why the king, who was reputed to be very charitable, should treat her husband so shabbily as to send him away with a melon every time he went into his presence. Being, however, of a persevering nature, she once more persuaded him to go to court and ask the king for help. He accordingly went there and stood in presence of the king as before. But this time the king first asked him to explain what use he had made of the two water-melons he had given him. The merchant related how he had given the first to two travellers who were very thirsty, and the second to a hungry beggar who asked him for alms. The king laughed at the merchant for what he considered his folly, and told him what the two melons contained. He then filled another water-melon with jewels in the merchant's presence, and gave it to him, admonishing him to be very careful of it. The merchant went away rejoicing, full of hope that the contents of the fruit would enable him to start in life anew. Now it happened that as his house was situated on the other side of the river which passed through the town he had to cross it, and in doing so his foot slipped and the fruit fell into the water and was carried away by the flood. The poor mer­chant wept over this misfortune, and returned home, cursing his evil star.

He was now fully persuaded that it was the will of Iswara* that he should remain poor; and, thinking it useless, therefore, to struggle against Destiny, he resolved never to ask anybody for help again, but to live as best he could till it should please Iswara that he should see better days.

To the same class, also, belongs No. 104 of the selection of monkish Latin Stories edited by Thomas Wright for the Percy Society, of which this is a translation:

There were two blind men in the Roman state. One of them daily cried through the town: “He is well helped whom the Lord wills to help.” The other exclaimed: “He is well helped whom the emperor wills to help.” When they had said this very often, daily, and the emperor had frequently heard it, he caused a cake to be made and many talents to be put into it, and ordered this cake filled with talents to be given to the blind man [who said that he was well helped whom the emperor helped]. Having received it, and feeling the cake heavy, and meeting the other blind man, he sold him the cake for his children. He who bought the cake, coming home and breaking it, finding it full of money, gave thanks to God, and for the rest of his life ceased to beg. But the other continued to be as formerly, and the emperor called him, and said to him: “Where is the cake which I ordered to be given you yesterday?” He replied: “I sold it for a trifle to my companion, because I thought it was raw.” “Truly,” said the emperor, “he is well helped whom God helps!” And he turned away and refused to aid the blind beggar.

A similar story is told by Gower in his Confessio Amantis, Book v, only here the emperor causes two pasties to be made, into one of which he puts some florins and into the other a capon, and the beggars exchange pasties. Another analogue is found in Past Days in India (London: 1874), pp. 169-171, where two fakírs (Hindú religious mendicants) are among the crowd at a grand royal festival, one of whom, to flatter the king, bawls out: “Kings have all sublunary power, and they give to whom they please; what, then, can the Ruler of Destiny do?” The other, an honest fellow, rebuked him, saying: “When the Ruler of Destiny gives, what can the greatest king do?” With limes in place of pasties, the result is the same as in Gower's story.*