The Story Of A Gazelle

: The Violet Fairy Book

Once upon a time there lived a man who wasted all his money, and

grew so poor that his only food was a few grains of corn, which

he scratched like a fowl from out of a dust-heap.

One day he was scratching as usual among a dust-heap in the

street, hoping to find something for breakfast, when his eye fell

upon a small silver coin, called an eighth, which he greedily

snatched up. 'Now I can have a proper me
l,' he thought, and

after drinking some water at a well he lay down and slept so long

that it was sunrise before he woke again. Then he jumped up and

returned to the dust-heap. 'For who knows,' he said to himself,

'whether I may not have some good luck again.'

As he was walking down the road, he saw a man coming towards him,

carrying a cage made of twigs. 'Hi! you fellow!' called he,

'what have you got inside there?'

'Gazelles,' replied the man.

'Bring them here, for I should like to see them.'

As he spoke, some men who were standing by began to laugh, saying

to the man with the cage: 'You had better take care how you

bargain with him, for he has nothing at all except what he picks

up from a dust-heap, and if he can't feed himself, will he be

able to feed a gazelle?'

But the man with the cage made answer: 'Since I started from my

home in the country, fifty people at the least have called me to

show them my gazelles, and was there one among them who cared to

buy? It is the custom for a trader in merchandise to be summoned

hither and thither, and who knows where one may find a buyer?'

And he took up his cage and went towards the scratcher of

dust-heaps, and the men went with him.

'What do you ask for your gazelles?' said the beggar. 'Will you

let me have one for an eighth?'

And the man with the cage took out a gazelle, and held it out,

saying, 'Take this one, master!'

And the beggar took it and carried it to the dust-heap, where he

scratched carefully till he found a few grains of corn, which he

divided with his gazelle. This he did night and morning, till

five days went by.

Then, as he slept, the gazelle woke him, saying, 'Master.'

And the man answered, 'How is it that I see a wonder?'

'What wonder?' asked the gazelle.

'Why, that you, a gazelle, should be able to speak, for, from the

beginning, my father and mother and all the people that are in

the world have never told me of a talking gazelle.'

'Never mind that,' said the gazelle, 'but listen to what I say!

First, I took you for my master. Second, you gave for me all you

had in the world. I cannot run away from you, but give me, I

pray you, leave to go every morning and seek food for myself, and

every evening I will come back to you. What you find in the

dust-heaps is not enough for both of us.'

'Go, then,' answered the master; and the gazelle went.

When the sun had set, the gazelle came back, and the poor man was

very glad, and they lay down and slept side by side.

In the morning it said to him, 'I am going away to feed.'

And the man replied, 'Go, my son,' but he felt very lonely

without his gazelle, and set out sooner than usual for the

dust-heap where he generally found most corn. And glad he was

when the evening came, and he could return home. He lay on the

grass chewing tobacco, when the gazelle trotted up.

'Good evening, my master; how have you fared all day? I have

been resting in the shade in a place where there is sweet grass

when I am hungry, and fresh water when I am thirsty, and a soft

breeze to fan me in the heat. It is far away in the forest, and

no one knows of it but me, and to-morrow I shall go again.'

So for five days the gazelle set off at daybreak for this cool

spot, but on the fifth day it came to a place where the grass was

bitter, and it did not like it, and scratched, hoping to tear

away the bad blades. But, instead, it saw something lying in the

earth, which turned out to be a diamond, very large and bright.

'Oh, ho!' said the gazelle to itself, 'perhaps now I can do

something for my master who bought me with all the money he had;

but I must be careful or they will say he has stolen it. I had

better take it myself to some great rich man, and see what it

will do for me.'

Directly the gazelle had come to this conclusion, it picked up

the diamond in its mouth, and went on and on and on through the

forest, but found no place where a rich man was likely to dwell.

For two more days it ran, from dawn to dark, till at last early

one morning it caught sight of a large town, which gave it fresh


The people were standing about the streets doing their marketing,

when the gazelle bounded past, the diamond flashing as it ran.

They called after it, but it took no notice till it reached the

palace, where the sultan was sitting, enjoying the cool air. And

the gazelle galloped up to him, and laid the diamond at his feet.

The sultan looked first at the diamond and next at the gazelle;

then he ordered his attendants to bring cushions and a carpet,

that the gazelle might rest itself after its long journey. And

he likewise ordered milk to be brought, and rice, that it might

eat and drink and be refreshed.

And when the gazelle was rested, the sultan said to it: 'Give me

the news you have come with.'

And the gazelle answered: 'I am come with this diamond, which is

a pledge from my master the Sultan Darai. He has heard you have

a daughter, and sends you this small token, and begs you will

give her to him to wife.'

And the sultan said: 'I am content. The wife is his wife, the

family is his family, the slave is his slave. Let him come to me

empty-handed, I am content.'

When the sultan had ended, the gazelle rose, and said: 'Master,

farewell; I go back to our town, and in eight days, or it may be

in eleven days, we shall arrive as your guests.'

And the sultan answered: 'So let it be.'

All this time the poor man far away had been mourning and weeping

for his gazelle, which he thought had run away from him for ever.

And when it came in at the door he rushed to embrace it with such

joy that he would not allow it a chance to speak.

'Be still, master, and don't cry,' said the gazelle at last; 'let

us sleep now, and in the morning, when I go, follow me.'

With the first ray of dawn they got up and went into the forest,

and on the fifth day, as they were resting near a stream, the

gazelle gave its master a sound beating, and then bade him stay

where he was till it returned. And the gazelle ran off, and

about ten o'clock it came near the sultan's palace, where the

road was all lined with soldiers who were there to do honour to

Sultan Darai. And directly they caught sight of the gazelle in

the distance one of the soldiers ran on and said, 'Sultan Darai

is coming: I have seen the gazelle.'

Then the sultan rose up, and called his whole court to follow

him, and went out to meet the gazelle, who, bounding up to him,

gave him greeting. The sultan answered politely, and inquired

where it had left its master, whom it had promised to bring back.

'Alas!' replied the gazelle, 'he is lying in the forest, for on

our way here we were met by robbers, who, after beating and

robbing him, took away all his clothes. And he is now hiding

under a bush, lest a passing stranger might see him.'

The sultan, on hearing what had happened to his future

son-in-law, turned his horse and rode to the palace, and bade a

groom to harness the best horse in the stable and order a woman

slave to bring a bag of clothes, such as a man might want, out of

the chest; and he chose out a tunic and a turban and a sash for

the waist, and fetched himself a gold-hilted sword, and a dagger

and a pair of sandals, and a stick of sweet-smelling wood.

'Now,' said he to the gazelle, 'take these things with the

soldiers to the sultan, that he may be able to come.'

And the gazelle answered: 'Can I take those soldiers to go and

put my master to shame as he lies there naked? I am enough by

myself, my lord.'

'How will you be enough,' asked the sultan, 'to manage this horse

and all these clothes?'

'Oh, that is easily done,' replied the gazelle. 'Fasten the

horse to my neck and tie the clothes to the back of the horse,

and be sure they are fixed firmly, as I shall go faster than he


Everything was carried out as the gazelle had ordered, and when

all was ready it said to the sultan: 'Farewell, my lord, I am


'Farewell, gazelle,' answered the sultan; 'when shall we see you


'To-morrow about five,' replied the gazelle, and, giving a tug to

the horse's rein, they set off at a gallop.

The sultan watched them till they were out of sight: then he

said to his attendants, 'That gazelle comes from gentle hands,

from the house of a sultan, and that is what makes it so

different from other gazelles.' And in the eyes of the sultan

the gazelle became a person of consequence.

Meanwhile the gazelle ran on till it came to the place where its

master was seated, and his heart laughed when he saw the gazelle.

And the gazelle said to him, 'Get up, my master, and bathe in the

stream!' and when the man had bathed it said again, 'Now rub

yourself well with earth, and rub your teeth well with sand to

make them bright and shining.' And when this was done it said,

'The sun has gone down behind the hills; it is time for us to

go': so it went and brought the clothes from the back of the

horse, and the man put them on and was well pleased.

'Master!' said the gazelle when the man was ready, 'be sure that

where we are going you keep silence, except for giving greetings

and asking for news. Leave all the talking to me. I have

provided you with a wife, and have made her presents of clothes

and turbans and rare and precious things, so it is needless for

you to speak.'

'Very good, I will be silent,' replied the man as he mounted the

horse. 'You have given all this; it is you who are the master,

and I who am the slave, and I will obey you in all things.'

'So they went their way, and they went and went till the gazelle

saw in the distance the palace of the sultan. Then it said,

'Master, that is the house we are going to, and you are not a

poor man any longer: even your name is new.'

'What IS my name, eh, my father?' asked the man.

'Sultan Darai,' said the gazelle.

Very soon some soldiers came to meet them, while others ran off

to tell the sultan of their approach. And the sultan set off at

once, and the viziers and the emirs, and the judges, and the rich

men of the city, all followed him.

Directly the gazelle saw them coming, it said to its master:

'Your father-in-law is coming to meet you; that is he in the

middle, wearing a mantle of sky-blue. Get off your horse and go

to greet him.'

And Sultan Darai leapt from his horse, and so did the other

sultan, and they gave their hands to one another and kissed each

other, and went together into the palace.

The next morning the gazelle went to the rooms of the sultan, and

said to him: 'My lord, we want you to marry us our wife, for the

soul of Sultan Darai is eager.'

'The wife is ready, so call the priest,' answered he, and when

the ceremony was over a cannon was fired and music was played,

and within the palace there was feasting.

'Master,' said the gazelle the following morning, 'I am setting

out on a journey, and I shall not be back for seven days, and

perhaps not then. But be careful not to leave the house till I


And the master answered, 'I will not leave the house.'

And it went to the sultan of the country and said to him: 'My

lord, Sultan Darai has sent me to his town to get the house in

order. It will take me seven days, and if I am not back in seven

days he will not leave the palace till I return.'

'Very good,' said the sultan.

And it went and it went through the forest and wilderness, till

it arrived at a town full of fine houses. At the end of the

chief road was a great house, beautiful exceedingly, built of

sapphire and turquoise and marbles. 'That,' thought the gazelle,

'is the house for my master, and I will call up my courage and go

and look at the people who are in it, if any people there are.

For in this town have I as yet seen no people. If I die, I die,

and if I live, I live. Here can I think of no plan, so if

anything is to kill me, it will kill me.'

Then it knocked twice at the door, and cried 'Open,' but no one

answered. And it cried again, and a voice replied:

'Who are you that are crying "Open"?'

And the gazelle said, 'It is I, great mistress, your grandchild.'

'If you are my grandchild,' returned the voice, 'go back whence

you came. Don't come and die here, and bring me to my death as


'Open, mistress, I entreat, I have something to say to you.'

'Grandchild,' replied she, 'I fear to put your life in danger,

and my own too.'

'Oh, mistress, my life will not be lost, nor yours either; open,

I pray you.' So she opened the door.

'What is the news where you come from, my grandson,' asked she.

'Great lady, where I come from it is well, and with you it is


'Ah, my son, here it is not well at all. If you seek a way to

die, or if you have not yet seen death, then is to-day the day

for you to know what dying is.'

'If I am to know it, I shall know it,' replied the gazelle; 'but

tell me, who is the lord of this house?'

And she said: 'Ah, father! in this house is much wealth, and

much people, and much food, and many horses. And the lord of it

all is an exceeding great and wonderful snake.'

'Oh!' cried the gazelle when he heard this; 'tell me how I can

get at the snake to kill him?'

'My son,' returned the old woman, 'do not say words like these;

you risk both our lives. He has put me here all by myself, and I

have to cook his food. When the great snake is coming there

springs up a wind, and blows the dust about, and this goes on

till the great snake glides into the courtyard and calls for his

dinner, which must always be ready for him in those big pots. He

eats till he has had enough, and then drinks a whole tankful of

water. After that he goes away. Every second day he comes, when

the sun is over the house. And he has seven heads. How then can

you be a match for him, my son?'

'Mind your own business, mother,' answered the gazelle, 'and

don't mind other people's! Has this snake a sword?'

'He has a sword, and a sharp one too. It cuts like a dash of


'Give it to me, mother!' said the gazelle, and she unhooked the

sword from the wall, as she was bidden. 'You must be quick,' she

said, 'for he may be here at any moment. Hark! is not that the

wind rising? He has come!'

They were silent, but the old woman peeped from behind a curtain,

and saw the snake busy at the pots which she had placed ready for

him in the courtyard. And after he had done eating and drinking

he came to the door:

'You old body!' he cried; 'what smell is that I smell inside that

is not the smell of every day?'

'Oh, master!' answered she, 'I am alone, as I always am! But

to-day, after many days, I have sprinkled fresh scent all over

me, and it is that which you smell. What else could it be,


All this time the gazelle had been standing close to the door,

holding the sword in one of its front paws. And as the snake put

one of his heads through the hole that he had made so as to get

in and out comfortably, it cut it of so clean that the snake

really did not feel it. The second blow was not quite so

straight, for the snake said to himself, 'Who is that who is

trying to scratch me?' and stretched out his third head to see;

but no sooner was the neck through the hole than the head went

rolling to join the rest.

When six of his heads were gone the snake lashed his tail with

such fury that the gazelle and the old woman could not see each

other for the dust he made. And the gazelle said to him, 'You

have climbed all sorts of trees, but this you can't climb,' and

as the seventh head came darting through it went rolling to join

the rest.

Then the sword fell rattling on the ground, for the gazelle had


The old woman shrieked with delight when she saw her enemy was

dead, and ran to bring water to the gazelle, and fanned it, and

put it where the wind could blow on it, till it grew better and

gave a sneeze. And the heart of the old woman was glad, and she

gave it more water, till by-and-by the gazelle got up.

'Show me this house,' it said, 'from beginning to end, from top

to bottom, from inside to out.'

So she arose and showed the gazelle rooms full of gold and

precious things, and other rooms full of slaves. 'They are all

yours, goods and slaves,' said she.

But the gazelle answered, 'You must keep them safe till I call my


For two days it lay and rested in the house, and fed on milk and

rice, and on the third day it bade the old woman farewell and

started back to its master.

And when he heard that the gazelle was at the door he felt like a

man who has found the time when all prayers are granted, and he

rose and kissed it, saying: 'My father, you have been a long

time; you have left sorrow with me. I cannot eat, I cannot

drink, I cannot laugh; my heart felt no smile at anything,

because of thinking of you.'

And the gazelle answered: 'I am well, and where I come from it

is well, and I wish that after four days you would take your wife

and go home.'

And he said: 'It is for you to speak. Where you go, I will


'Then I shall go to your father-in-law and tell him this news.'

'Go, my son.'

So the gazelle went to the father-in-law and said: 'I am sent by

my master to come and tell you that after four days he will go

away with his wife to his own home.'

'Must he really go so quickly? We have not yet sat much

together, I and Sultan Darai, nor have we yet talked much

together, nor have we yet ridden out together, nor have we eaten

together; yet it is fourteen days since he came.'

But the gazelle replied: 'My lord, you cannot help it, for he

wishes to go home, and nothing will stop him.'

'Very good,' said the sultan, and he called all the people who

were in the town, and commanded that the day his daughter left

the palace ladies and guards were to attend her on her way.

And at the end of four days a great company of ladies and slaves

and horses went forth to escort the wife of Sultan Darai to her

new home. They rode all day, and when the sun sank behind the

hills they rested, and ate of the food the gazelle gave them, and

lay down to sleep. And they journeyed on for many days, and they

all, nobles and slaves, loved the gazelle with a great love--

more than they loved the Sultan Darai.

At last one day signs of houses appeared, far, far off. And

those who saw cried out, 'Gazelle!'

And it answered, 'Ah, my mistresses, that is the house of Sultan


At this news the women rejoiced much, and the slaves rejoiced

much, and in the space of two hours they came to the gates, and

the gazelle bade them all stay behind, and it went on to the

house with Sultan Darai.

When the old woman saw them coming through the courtyard she

jumped and shouted for joy, and as the gazelle drew near she

seized it in her arms, and kissed it. The gazelle did not like

this, and said to her: 'Old woman, leave me alone; the one to be

carried is my master, and the one to be kissed is my master.'

And she answered, 'Forgive me, my son. I did not know this was

our master,' and she threw open all the doors so that the master

might see everything that the rooms and storehouses contained.

Sultan Darai looked about him, and at length he said:

'Unfasten those horses that are tied up, and let loose those

people that are bound. And let some sweep, and some spread the

beds, and some cook, and some draw water, and some come out and

receive the mistress.'

And when the sultana and her ladies and her slaves entered the

house, and saw the rich stuffs it was hung with, and the

beautiful rice that was prepared for them to eat, they cried:

'Ah, you gazelle, we have seen great houses, we have seen people,

we have heard of things. But this house, and you, such as you

are, we have never seen or heard of.'

After a few days, the ladies said they wished to go home again.

The gazelle begged them hard to stay, but finding they would not,

it brought many gifts, and gave some to the ladies and some to

their slaves. And they all thought the gazelle greater a

thousand times than its master, Sultan Darai.

The gazelle and its master remained in the house many weeks, and

one day it said to the old woman, 'I came with my master to this

place, and I have done many things for my master, good things,

and till to-day he has never asked me: "Well, my gazelle, how

did you get this house? Who is the owner of it? And this town,

were there no people in it?" All good things I have done for the

master, and he has not one day done me any good thing. But

people say, "If you want to do any one good, don't do him good

only, do him evil also, and there will be peace between you."

So, mother, I have done: I want to see the favours I have done

to my master, that he may do me the like.'

'Good,' replied the old woman, and they went to bed.

In the morning, when light came, the gazelle was sick in its

stomach and feverish, and its legs ached. And it said 'Mother!'

And she answered, 'Here, my son?'

And it said, 'Go and tell my master upstairs the gazelle is very


'Very good, my son; and if he should ask me what is the matter,

what am I to say?'

'Tell him all my body aches badly; I have no single part without


The old woman went upstairs, and she found the mistress and

master sitting on a couch of marble spread with soft cushions,

and they asked her, 'Well, old woman, what do you want?'

'To tell the master the gazelle is ill,' said she.

'What is the matter?' asked the wife.

'All its body pains; there is no part without pain.'

'Well, what can I do? Make some gruel of red millet, and give to


But his wife stared and said: 'Oh, master, do you tell her to

make the gazelle gruel out of red millet, which a horse would not

eat? Eh, master, that is not well.'

But he answered, 'Oh, you are mad! Rice is only kept for


'Eh, master, this is not like a gazelle. It is the apple of your

eye. If sand got into that, it would trouble you.'

'My wife, your tongue is long,' and he left the room.

The old woman saw she had spoken vainly, and went back weeping to

the gazelle. And when the gazelle saw her it said, 'Mother, what

is it, and why do you cry? If it be good, give me the answer;

and if it be bad, give me the answer.'

But still the old woman would not speak, and the gazelle prayed

her to let it know the words of the master. At last she said:

'I went upstairs and found the mistress and the master sitting on

a couch, and he asked me what I wanted, and I told him that you,

his slave, were ill. And his wife asked what was the matter, and

I told her that there was not a part of your body without pain.

And the master told me to take some red millet and make you

gruel, but the mistress said, 'Eh, master, the gazelle is the

apple of your eye; you have no child, this gazelle is like your

child; so this gazelle is not one to be done evil to. This is a

gazelle in form, but not a gazelle in heart; he is in all things

better than a gentleman, be he who he may.'

And he answered her, 'Silly chatterer, your words are many. I

know its price; I bought it for an eighth. What loss will it be

to me?'

The gazelle kept silence for a few moments. Then it said, 'The

elders said, "One that does good like a mother," and I have done

him good, and I have got this that the elders said. But go up

again to the master, and tell him the gazelle is very ill, and it

has not drunk the gruel of red millet.'

So the old woman returned, and found the master and the mistress

drinking coffee. And when he heard what the gazelle had said, he

cried: 'Hold your peace, old woman, and stay your feet and close

your eyes, and stop your ears with wax; and if the gazelle bids

you come to me, say your legs are bent, and you cannot walk; and

if it begs you to listen, say your ears are stopped with wax; and

if it wishes to talk, reply that your tongue has got a hook in


The heart of the old woman wept as she heard such words, because

she saw that when the gazelle first came to that town it was

ready to sell its life to buy wealth for its master. Then it

happened to get both life and wealth, but now it had no honour

with its master.

And tears sprung likewise to the eyes of the sultan's wife, and

she said, 'I am sorry for you, my husband, that you should deal

so wickedly with that gazelle'; but he only answered, 'Old woman,

pay no heed to the talk of the mistress: tell it to perish out

of the way. I cannot sleep, I cannot eat, I cannot drink, for

the worry of that gazelle. Shall a creature that I bought for an

eighth trouble me from morning till night? Not so, old woman!'

The old woman went downstairs, and there lay the gazelle, blood

flowing from its nostrils. And she took it in her arms and said,

'My son, the good you did is lost; there remains only patience.'

And it said, 'Mother, I shall die, for my soul is full of anger

and bitterness. My face is ashamed, that I should have done good

to my master, and that he should repay me with evil.' It paused

for a moment, and then went on, 'Mother, of the goods that are in

this house, what do I eat? I might have every day half a

basinful, and would my master be any the poorer? But did not the

elders say, "He that does good like a mother!" '

And it said, 'Go and tell my master that the gazelle is nearer

death than life.'

So she went, and spoke as the gazelle had bidden her; but he

answered, 'I have told you to trouble me no more.'

But his wife's heart was sore, and she said to him: 'Ah, master,

what has the gazelle done to you? How has he failed you? The

things you do to him are not good, and you will draw on yourself

the hatred of the people. For this gazelle is loved by all, by

small and great, by women and men. Ah, my husband! I thought

you had great wisdom, and you have not even a little!'

But he answered, 'You are mad, my wife.'

The old woman stayed no longer, and went back to the gazelle,

followed secretly by the mistress, who called a maidservant and

bade her take some milk and rice and cook it for the gazelle.

'Take also this cloth,' she said, 'to cover it with, and this

pillow for its head. And if the gazelle wants more, let it ask

me, and not its master. And if it will, I will send it in a

litter to my father, and he will nurse it till it is well.'

And the maidservant did as her mistress bade her, and said what

her mistress had told her to say, but the gazelle made no answer,

but turned over on its side and died quietly.

When the news spread abroad, there was much weeping among the

people, and Sultan Darai arose in wrath, and cried, 'You weep for

that gazelle as if you wept for me! And, after all, what is it

but a gazelle, that I bought for an eighth?'

But his wife answered, 'Master, we looked upon that gazelle as we

looked upon you. It was the gazelle who came to ask me of my

father, it was the gazelle who brought me from my father, and I

was given in charge to the gazelle by my father.'

And when the people heard her they lifted up their voices and


'We never saw you, we saw the gazelle. It was the gazelle who

met with trouble here, it was the gazelle who met with rest here.

So, then, when such an one departs from this world we weep for

ourselves, we do not weep for the gazelle.'

And they said furthermore:

'The gazelle did you much good, and if anyone says he could have

done more for you he is a liar! Therefore, to us who have done

you no good, what treatment will you give? The gazelle has died

from bitterness of soul, and you ordered your slaves to throw it

into the well. Ah! leave us alone that we may weep.'

But Sultan Darai would not heed their words, and the dead gazelle

was thrown into the well.

When the mistress heard of it, she sent three slaves, mounted on

donkeys, with a letter to her father the sultan, and when the

sultan had read the letter he bowed his head and wept, like a man

who had lost his mother. And he commanded horses to be saddled,

and called the governor and the judges and all the rich men, and


'Come now with me; let us go and bury it.'

Night and day they travelled, till the sultan came to the well

where the gazelle had been thrown. And it was a large well,

built round a rock, with room for many people; and the sultan

entered, and the judges and the rich men followed him. And when

he saw the gazelle lying there he wept afresh, and took it in his

arms and carried it away.

When the three slaves went and told their mistress what the

sultan had done, and how all the people were weeping, she


'I too have eaten no food, neither have I drunk water, since the

day the gazelle died. I have not spoken, and I have not


The sultan took the gazelle and buried it, and ordered the people

to wear mourning for it, so there was great mourning throughout

the city.

Now after the days of mourning were at an end, the wife was

sleeping at her husband's side, and in her sleep she dreamed that

she was once more in her father's house, and when she woke up it

was no dream.

And the man dreamed that he was on the dust-heap, scratching.

And when he woke, behold! that also was no dream, but the truth.

[Swahili Tales.]