The Blind Man's Story.

IN former times I was a skilful geomancer,* and one day I visited a tradesman in the town with whom I had some business, on the conclusion of which he requested me to cast his horoscope. I complied, and it appeared that he was to find a treasure. I informed him of this, but he smiled incredulously and said: “I am too well acquainted with my own destitute condition. What you say is impossible, and I cannot permit you to jest at my expense.” I repeated the operation, and the result being the same, I swore that there was no joke at all in the matter. Quoth he: “Where, then, is this treasure?” Said I: “In this very house.” The door was then locked and we both began to dig with great energy until we came upon a large stone, which having removed, we found that it had covered a well. After consultation it was agreed that he should go down and I was to remain above to receive the treasure. Accordingly, my friend having provided himself with a basket, I let him down by a rope, and when he had filled the basket with gold, I drew it up, and thus we continued until an immense heap of gold and gems lay beside me. Then I thought to myself: “It is possible that if I pull him up again he may try to get rid of me, and so deprive me of my life as well as of a share of this treasure. I had better leave him in the well, remove these riches privily, and pass the rest of my life in comfort.” When my friend found that I did not again lower the basket he began to suspect my design, and cried to me from the bottom of the well: “Brother, do not harbour any evil thoughts about me, for I shall never forget your kindness, and we shall make an equal division of the whole treasure. Draw me up, I beseech you.” But I would not comply, because I considered that a secret in the possession of two persons is soon divulged, and both are disappointed. I therefore took no notice of his lamentations, and was thinking how I might remove the treasure without the know­ledge of any one, and concluded that the first thing to be done was to cover up the well so that I should be freed from any apprehensions concerning my partner, and then carry off the gold and silver by piecemeal. With these ideas I walked about the house and considered that it would be advisable to wait till nightfall, when I should cover the well and take away a portion of the treasure. But when the night set in it occurred to me that I might be attacked by robbers or that some other mishap might befal me, so I thought it would be more prudent to wait for the break of day, and then with a quiet mind carry off my wealth, and thus thinking, I fell asleep.

Now my friend happened to have a mortal enemy who was waiting for an opportunity to kill him, and being desirous that night of giving effect to his purpose he came to the house, fastened a rope to the wall, and by means of it climbed to the roof, from which he descended into the apartment where I was sleeping. The sound of the man's footsteps awoke me, and I leapt up affrighted, crying: “Who is there?” The man, mistaking me for the owner of the house, caught hold of me and threw me violently on the floor. “Friend,” said I, “if you want gold and silver, take it, but spare my life.” “Do you wish to deceive me,” said the ruffian, “and escape by such a subterfuge? You are as poor as a beggar, and I shall make you walk the streets as one.” Thereupon he took an awl and piercing both my eyes with it blinded me for ever, he being in the hand of Providence the instru­ment of punishing me for my covetousness. After having thus avenged himself on his enemy, as he thought, the man wished to leave the house, but in the darkness he tumbled into the well and broke his leg. The tradesman, supposing it was myself who had thus fallen into the well, exclaimed: “Friend, you are wonderfully covetous, and thereby have not only brought me to this misery but have yourself now become my partner in misfortune.” But his enemy, mistaking him for some one whom the tradesman had thus confined, said to him: “I have punished the man who has imprisoned you in this well.” Presently, however, he began to cry out from the pain occasioned by his broken leg, when the tradesman at once dis­covered it was not I who had become his fellow-prisoner. I need hardly say that I passed the night in great pain from my blinded eyes.

Next day the tradesman's son returned home from a journey to foreign lands, where he had gained much wealth. On entering the house he was astonished to find me holding both my hands to my eyes and a heap of treasure by the side of the open well, and to hear me exclaiming: “I was comfortable without this treasure, but my covetousness has for ever de­prived me of my sight,” and the lamentations of the two men at the bottom of the well. He ordered a slave to draw them up, and to his surprise and joy the first to appear was the young man's father, who told him all that had occurred, and when the other man had also been pulled out, he discovered that his enemy was uninjured and that it was I whom he had blinded. The tradesman forgave us both, but his enemy died soon after these occurrences.

I was conveyed to this cave, and every day, morn­ing and evening, two small loaves are thrown in to me. I have been in this place many years, but have never ceased to repent of my covetousness.

Hatim, having thus ascertained the histories of those three men, at once returned to the bountiful lady and related them to her, after which she told him her own story, as she had promised: