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Story Of Wali Dad The Simple-hearted

from The Brown Fairy Book





Once upon a time there lived a poor old man whose name was Wali Dad
Gunjay, or Wali Dad the Bald. He had no relations, but lived all by
himself in a little mud hut some distance from any town, and made his
living by cutting grass in the jungle, and selling it as fodder for
horses. He only earned by this five halfpence a day; but he was a simple
old man, and needed so little out of it, that he saved up one halfpenny
daily, and spent the rest upon such food and clothing as he required.

In this way he lived for many years until, one night, he thought that he
would count the money he had hidden away in the great earthen pot under
the floor of his hut. So he set to work, and with much trouble he pulled
the bag out on to the floor, and sat gazing in astonishment at the heap
of coins which tumbled out of it. What should he do with them all? he
wondered. But he never thought of spending the money on himself, because
he was content to pass the rest of his days as he had been doing for
ever so long, and he really had no desire for any greater comfort or
luxury.

At last he threw all the money into an old sack, which he pushed under
his bead, and then, rolled in his ragged old blanket, he went off to
sleep.

Early next morning he staggered off with his sack of money to the shop
of a jeweller, whom he knew in the town, and bargained with him for a
beautiful little gold bracelet. With this carefully wrapped up in
his cotton waistband he went to the house of a rich friend, who was
a travelling merchant, and used to wander about with his camels and
merchandise through many countries. Wali Dad was lucky enough to find
him at home, so he sat down, and after a little talk he asked the
merchant who was the most virtuous and beautiful lady he had ever met
with. The merchant replied that the princess of Khaistan was renowned
everywhere as well for the beauty of her person as for the kindness and
generosity of her disposition.

'Then,' said Wali Dad, 'next time you go that way, give her this little
bracelet, with the respectful compliments of one who admires virtue far
more than he desires wealth.'

With that he pulled the bracelet from his waistband, and handed it
to his friend. The merchant was naturally much astonished, but said
nothing, and made no objection to carrying out his friend's plan.

Time passed by, and at length the merchant arrived in the course of his
travels at the capital of Khaistan. As soon as he had opportunity he
presented himself at the palace, and sent in the bracelet, neatly packed
in a little perfumed box provided by himself, giving at the same time
the message entrusted to him by Wali Dad.

The princess could not think who could have bestowed this present on
her, but she bade her servant to tell the merchant that if he would
return, after he had finished his business in the city, she would give
him her reply. In a few days, therefore, the merchant came back, and
received from the princess a return present in the shape of a camel-load
or rich silks, besides a present of money for himself. With these he set
out on his journey.

Some months later he got home again from his journeyings, and proceeded
to take Wali Dad the princess's present. Great was the perplexity of the
good man to find a camel-load of silks tumbled at his door! What was he
to do with these costly things? But, presently, after much thought, he
begged the merchant to consider whether he did not know of some young
prince to whom such treasures might be useful.

'Of course,' cried the merchant, greatly amused; 'from Delhi to Baghdad,
and from Constantinople to Lucknow, I know them all; and there lives
none worthier than the gallant and wealthy young prince of Nekabad.'

'Very well, then, take the silks to him, with the blessing of an old
man,' said Wali Dad, much relieved to be rid of them.

So, the next time that the merchant journeyed that way he carried the
silks with him, and in due course arrived at Nekabad, and sought an
audience of the prince. When he was shown into his presence he produced
the beautiful gift of silks that Wali Dad had sent, and begged the young
man to accept them as a humble tribute to his worth and greatness. The
prince was much touched by the generosity of the giver, and ordered,
as a return present, twelve of the finest breed of horses for which his
country was famous to be delivered over to the merchant, to whom also,
before he took his leave, he gave a munificent reward for his services.

As before, the merchant at last arrived at home; and next day, he set
out for Wali Dad's house with the twelve horses. When the old man saw
them coming in the distance he said to himself: 'Here's luck! a troop
of horses coming! They are sure to want quantities of grass, and I
shall sell all I have without having to drag it to market.' Thereupon
he rushed off and cut grass as fast he could. When he got back, with
as much grass as he could possibly carry, he was greatly discomfited to
find that the horses were all for himself. At first he could not think
what to do with them, but, after a little, a brilliant idea struck him!
He gave two to the merchant, and begged him to take the rest to the
princess of Khaistan, who was clearly the fittest person to possess such
beautiful animals.

The merchant departed, laughing. But, true to his old friend's request,
he took the horses with him on his next journey, and eventually
presented them safely to the princess. This time the princess sent for
the merchant, and questioned him about the giver. Now, the merchant was
usually a most honest man, but he did not quite like to describe Wali
Dad in his true light as an old man whose income was five halfpence a
day, and who had hardly clothes to cover him. So he told her that his
friend had heard stories of her beauty and goodness, and had longed to
lay the best he had at her feet. The princess then took her father into
her confidence, and begged him to advise her what courtesy she might
return to one who persisted in making her such presents.

'Well,' said the king, 'you cannot refuse them; so the best thing you
can do is to send this unknown friend at once a present so magnificent
that he is not likely to be able to send you anything better, and so
will be ashamed to send anything at all!' Then he ordered that, in
place of each of the ten horses, two mules laden with silver should be
returned by her.

Thus, in a few hours, the merchant found himself in charge of a splendid
caravan; and he had to hire a number of armed men to defend it on the
road against the robbers, and he was glad indeed to find himself back
again in Wali Dad's hut.

'Well, now,' cried Wali Dad, as he viewed all the wealth laid at his
door, 'I can well repay that kind prince for his magnificent present of
horses; but to be sure you have been put to great expenses! Still,
if you will accept six mules and their loads, and will take the rest
straight to Nekabad, I shall thank you heartily.'

The merchant felt handsomely repaid for his trouble, and wondered
greatly how the matter would turn out. So he made no difficulty about
it; and as soon as he could get things ready, he set out for Nekabad
with this new and princely gift.

This time the prince, too, was embarrassed, and questioned the merchant
closely. The merchant felt that his credit was at stake, and whilst
inwardly determining that he would not carry the joke any further, could
not help describing Wali Dad in such glowing terms that the old man
would never have known himself had he heard them. The prince, like the
king of Khaistan, determined that he would send in return a gift that
would be truly royal, and which would perhaps prevent the unknown giver
sending him anything more. So he made up a caravan on twenty splendid
horses caparisoned in gold embroidered cloths, with fine morocco saddles
and silver bridles and stirrups, also twenty camels of the best breed,
which had the speed of race-horses, and could swing along at a trot
all day without getting tired; and, lastly, twenty elephants, with
magnificent silver howdahs and coverings of silk embroidered with
pearls. To take care of these animals the merchant hired a little army
of men; and the troop made a great show as they travelled along.

When Wali Dad from a distance saw the cloud of dust which the caravan
made, and the glitter of its appointments, he said to himself: 'By
Allah! here's a grand crowd coming! Elephants, too! Grass will be
selling well to-day!' And with that he hurried off to the jungle and cut
grass as fast as he could. As soon as he got back he found the caravan
had stopped at his door, and the merchant was waiting, a little
anxiously, to tell him the news and to congratulate him upon his riches.

'Riches!' cried Wali Dad, 'what has an old man like me with one foot in
the grave to do with riches? That beautiful young princess, now! She'd
be the one to enjoy all these fine things! Do you take for yourself two
horses, two camels, and two elephants, with all their trappings, and
present the rest to her.'

The merchant at first objected to these remarks, and pointed out to Wali
Dad that he was beginning to feel these embassies a little awkward. Of
course he was himself richly repaid, so far as expenses went; but still
he did not like going so often, and he was getting nervous. At length,
however he consented to go once more, but he promised himself never to
embark on another such enterprise.

So, after a few days' rest, the caravan started off once more for
Khaistan.

The moment the king of Khaistan saw the gorgeous train of men and beasts
entering his palace courtyard, he was so amazed that he hurried down
in person to inquire about it, and became dumb when he heard that
these also were a present from the princely Wali Dad, and were for the
princess, his daughter. He went hastily off to her apartments, and said
to her: 'I tell you what it is, my dear, this man wants to marry you;
that is the meaning of all these presents! There is nothing for it but
that we go and pay him a visit in person. He must be a man of immense
wealth, and as he is so devoted to you, perhaps you might do worse than
marry him!'

The princess agreed with all that her father said, and orders were
issued for vast numbers of elephants and camels, and gorgeous tents
and flags, and litters for the ladies, and horses for the men, to be
prepared without delay, as the king and princess were going to pay a
visit to the great and munificent prince Wali Dad. The merchant, the
king declared, was to guide the party.

The feelings of the poor merchant in this sore dilemma can hardly be
imagined. Willingly would he have run away; but he was treated with so
much hospitality as Wali Dad's representative, that he hardly got an
instant's real peace, and never any opportunity of slipping away. In
fact, after a few days, despair possessed him to such a degree that he
made up his mind that all that happened was fate, and that escape was
impossible; but he hoped devoutly some turn of fortune would reveal
to him a way out of the difficulties which he had, with the best
intentions, drawn upon himself.

On the seventh day they all started, amidst thunderous salutes from
the ramparts of the city, and much dust, and cheering, and blaring of
trumpets.


Day after day they moved on, and every day the poor merchant felt more
ill and miserable. He wondered what kind of death the king would invent
for him, and went through almost as much torture, as he lay awake nearly
the whole of every night thinking over the situation, as he would have
suffered if the king's executioners were already setting to work upon
his neck.

At last they were only one day's march from Wali Dad's little mud home.
Here a great encampment was made, and the merchant was sent on to tell
Wali Dad that the King and Princess of Khaistan had arrived and were
seeking an interview. When the merchant arrived he found the poor old
man eating his evening meal of onions and dry bread, and when he told
him of all that had happened he had not the heart to proceed to load
him with the reproaches which rose to his tongue. For Wali Dad was
overwhelmed with grief and shame for himself, for his friend, and for
the name and honour of the princess; and he wept and plucked at his
beard, and groaned most piteously. With tears he begged the merchant to
detain them for one day by any kind of excuse he could think of, and to
come in the morning to discuss what they should do.

As soon as the merchant was gone Wali Dad made up his mind that there
was only one honourable way out of the shame and distress that he had
created by his foolishness, and that was--to kill himself. So, without
stopping to ask any one's advice, he went off in the middle of the night
to a place where the river wound along at the base of steep rocky cliffs
of great height, and determined to throw himself down and put an end
to his life. When he got to the place he drew back a few paces, took a
little run, and at the very edge of that dreadful black gulf he stopped
short! He COULD not do it!

From below, unseen in the blackness of the deep night shadows, the water
roared and boiled round the jagged rocks--he could picture the place
as he knew it, only ten times more pitiless and forbidding in the
visionless darkness; the wind soughed through the gorge with fearsome
sighs, and rustlings and whisperings, and the bushes and grasses that
grew in the ledges of the cliffs seemed to him like living creatures
that danced and beckoned, shadowy and indistinct. An owl laughed 'Hoo!
hoo!' almost in his face, as he peered over the edge of the gulf, and
the old man threw himself back in a perspiration of horror. He was
afraid! He drew back shuddering, and covering his face in his hands he
wept aloud.

Presently he was aware of a gentle radiance that shed itself before him.
Surely morning was not already coming to hasten and reveal his disgrace!
He took his hands from before his face, and saw before him two lovely
beings whom his instinct told him were not mortal, but were Peris from
Paradise.

'Why do you weep, old man?' said one, in a voice as clear and musical as
that of the bulbul.

'I weep for shame,' replied he.

'What do you here?' questioned the other.

'I came here to die,' said Wali Dad. And as they questioned him, he
confessed all his story.

Then the first stepped forward and laid a hand upon his shoulder,
and Wali Dad began to feel that something strange--what, he did not
know--was happening to him. His old cotton rags of clothes were changed
to beautiful linen and embroidered cloth; on his hard, bare feet were
warm, soft shoes, and on his head a great jewelled turban. Round his
neck there lay a heavy golden chain, and the little old bent sickle,
which he cut grass with, and which hung in his waistband, had turned
into a gorgeous scimetar, whose ivory hilt gleamed in the pale light
like snow in moonlight. As he stood wondering, like a man in a dream,
the other peri waved her hand and bade him turn and see; and, lo! before
him a noble gateway stood open. And up an avenue of giant place trees
the peris led him, dumb with amazement. At the end of the avenue, on the
very spot where his hut had stood, a gorgeous palace appeared, ablaze
with myriads of lights. Its great porticoes and verandahs were occupied
by hurrying servants, and guards paced to and fro and saluted him
respectfully as he drew near, along mossy walks and through sweeping
grassy lawns where fountains were playing and flowers scented the air.
Wali Dad stood stunned and helpless.

'Fear not,' said one of the peris; 'go to your house, and learn that God
rewards the simple-hearted.'

With these words they both disappeared and left him. He walked on,
thinking still that he must be dreaming. Very soon he retired to rest in
a splendid room, far grander than anything he had ever dreamed of.

When morning dawned he woke, and found that the palace, and himself, and
his servants were all real, and that he was not dreaming after all!

If he was dumbfounded, the merchant, who was ushered into his presence
soon after sunrise, was much more so. He told Wali Dad that he had not
slept all night, and by the first streak of daylight had started to seek
out his friend. And what a search he had had! A great stretch of wild
jungle country had, in the night, been changed into parks and gardens;
and if it had not been for some of Wali Dad's new servants, who found
him and brought him to the palace, he would have fled away under the
impression that his trouble had sent him crazy, and that all he saw was
only imagination.

Then Wali Dad told the merchant all that had happened. By his advice he
sent an invitation to the king and princess of Khaistan to come and be
his guests, together with all their retinue and servants, down to the
very humblest in the camp.

For three nights and days a great feast was held in honour of the royal
guests. Every evening the king and his nobles were served on golden
plates and from golden cups; and the smaller people on silver plates and
from silver cups; and each evening each guest was requested to keep the
places and cups that they had used as a remembrance of the occasion.
Never had anything so splendid been seen. Besides the great dinners,
there were sports and hunting, and dances, and amusements of all sorts.

On the fourth day the king of Khaistan took his host aside, and asked
him whether it was true, as he had suspected, that he wished to marry
his daughter. But Wali Dad, after thanking him very much for the
compliment, said that he had never dreamed of so great an honour, and
that he was far too old and ugly for so fair a lady; but he begged the
king to stay with him until he could send for the Prince of Nekabad, who
was a most excellent, brave, and honourable young man, and would surely
be delighted to try to win the hand of the beautiful princess.

To this the king agreed, and Wali Dad sent the merchant to Nekabad, with
a number of attendants, and with such handsome presents that the prince
came at once, fell head over ears in love with the princess, and married
her at Wali Dad's palace amidst a fresh outburst of rejoicings.

And now the King of Khaistan and the Prince and Princess of Nekabad,
each went back to their own country; and Wali Dad lived to a good
old age, befriending all who were in trouble and preserving, in his
prosperity, the simple-hearted and generous nature that he had when he
was only Wali Dad Gunjay, the grass cutter.





Next: Tale Of A Tortoise And Of A Mischievous Monkey

Previous: Story Of The King Who Would Be Stronger Than Fate



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