Swahili Tales/An Indian Tale


There was once an Indian sultan who had one son, and he loved him much. And when he was dying, he directed his vizirs, "Give the kingdom to my son, and love him much, even as myself;" and he died.

And they ended their mourning, and the lad governed. And the vizir had a son of his own, and those youths were very fond of one another, and they went on spending their property many days, and they spent the kingdom too.

Till one day the sultan's son said to the vizir's son, "Let us travel and see various towns." And he said: "Let us go." And they got ready a ship, and put in it provisions, and money, and soldiers, and set out on their journey.

While at sea they were wrecked, and many of the people died. The vizir's son was eaten by a shark, and one of his slaves carried away by the water. The sultan's son and one of his slaves were saved. And they fell in with a strange city.

When they reached the town, they stopped in the fields, and the sultan's son said to his slave: "Go into the town and look for food, and let us come and eat."

When he arrived in the town there were games going on, and many people were collected. The Sultan of the town had died, and they were looking for another Sultan to put in his place. They used to throw a lime, and whoever it struck three times he was the Sultan.

It was thrown the first time, and it struck that slave lad. And they looked at him and said, "It is of no use, throw a second time." And they threw, and it struck that slave lad. And they made him go away from where he was, and set him in a place at a distance. And they threw again the third time, and it struck him. And they said: "So then it is he who is to be our sultan."

And the vizirs took the slave lad, and went with him through the city, with rejoicing and games, and many cannons were fired. And they made him rule over the kingdom, and he remained in enjoyment.

There was in that city a Bedouin, who slaughtered animals and sold goats' flesh. And he used to slaughter people, and mix their flesh with his meat. This was his employment, and those who were in the town knew nothing of it.

The sultan's son came into the town and passed by the Bedouin's door, and he took hold of him, and put him inside, and fastened him in the stocks. And he saw many people bound along with the goats. Now in the morning, one person and a goat were taken and killed, and their flesh was mixed together, and he went and sold it on the seat at his door. And every day this was what he did. The sultan's son was very thin through grief, and he called a slave of the Bedouin's and gave him a small coin. And he gave it to him and said, "Buy me some thread and a little bit of cloth." And he bought it, and brought it to him. And he stitched a beautiful cap, and wrote verses inside the cap, and he wrote—

Ajabtu rangadida na kitun hiraja Illahi
Eke kordenai, eke kordeshire,
Raja bondekana, gulam batashahi;

Ajabtu rangadida, kitun hiraja Illahi.

And he gave it to the Bedouin, and he was very glad. And he said to him: "Go and sell this cap at the sultan's house; it is there where you will get its price." And he went and sold it.

And when the sultan saw it, he knew that the work of that cap was his master's. And he read the verses, too, and knew their meaning, and their meaning was this:

"A Wonder from God,
One was taken by the water,
One was taken by the shark,
I, a free man, am bound,
My slave has got a kingdom,

A Wonder from God."

And he asked the Bedouin, "Where did you get this cap?" And he said, "It was my wife who made it." And he gave him fifty dollars, and said, "Tell your wife to make me another." And the Bedouin went his way.

And he chose out soldiers, and told them, "Follow after him, and when you see the house he goes into, return and come and tell me." And they followed him home. And he went inside. The soldiers returned and told the sultan, and said, "We have seen his house."

And a hundred soldiers were chosen out to go to his house. And he told them, "Seize him and bind him, and bring all the people that are in his house, that you may come with them."

And they went and seized him, and bound him, and came with him, and with all the people that were in his house. And he was asked, "Is this your employment, to seize people and bind them in your house, to kill them, and give them to people to eat?" And he could not deny it. And the people were asked, and they said, "This is what he does." And he was imprisoned in the fort.

And he took his master and ordered some people to give him a bath, and he gave him clothes, and he dressed. And he gave him food, and he ate and was satisfied. And he asked what had happened to him, and he told him all. "And I am sultan here in the town, but to-morrow I will resign it and give it to you, my master. I dare not be sultan before you." And he said, "Very good."

In the morning he gathered all the people in the town, and they went to the sultan. And he adorned his master bravely, and clothed him with the royal robes. And when he came out, the people wondered—what sort of news is this? And he said, "I have called you to say, 'Have you given me this kingship in truth, or in jest?'" And the vizirs said, "We have given it you in truth." And he asked, "What pleases me, does it please you also?" And they answered, "It pleases us."

And he said, "It pleases me that this man should be our sultan." And they answered, "We consent." And they asked, "Who is this man?" And he said, "This is my rightful master and sultan there at home, but this is God's ordering."

And those that were in the town had great joy. And that Bedouin was drowned, and all his property was given to the poor. And they lived in peace and enjoyment till the end.