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The Clever Wife
by [?]

In a country there was a merchant who traded in all kinds of merchandise, and used to make journeys from country to country in his boat to buy and sell his goods. He one day said to his wife, “I cannot stay at home any more, for I must go on a year’s journey to carry on my business.” And he added, laughing, “When I return I expect to find you have built me a grand well; and also, as you are such a clever wife, to see a little son.” Then he got into his boat and went away.

When he was gone his wife set to work, and she spun four hanks of beautiful thread with her own hands. Then she dressed herself in her prettiest clothes, and put on her finest jewels. “I am going to the bazar,” she said to her ayahs, “to sell this thread.” “That is not right,” said one of the ayahs. “You must not sell your thread yourself, but let me sell it for you. What will your husband say if he hears you have been selling thread in the bazar?” “I will sell my thread myself,” answered the merchant’s wife. “You could never sell it for me.”

So off she set to the bazar, and every one in it said, “What a beautiful woman that is!” At last the kotwál saw her, and came to her at once.

“What beautiful thread!” he said. “Is it for sale?” “Yes,” she said. “How much a hank?” said the kotwál. “Fifty rupees,” she answered. “Fifty rupees! Who will ever give you fifty rupees for it?” “I will not sell it for less,” said the woman. “I shall get fifty rupees for it.” “Well,” said the kotwál, “I will give you the fifty rupees. Can I dine with you at your house?” “Yes,” she answered, “to-night at ten o’clock.” Then he took the thread and gave her fifty rupees.

Then she went away to another bazar, and there the king’s wazír saw her trying to sell her thread. “What lovely thread! Is it for sale?” he said. “Yes, at one hundred rupees the hank,” she answered. “Well, I will give you one hundred rupees. Can I dine with you at your house?” said the wazír. “Yes,” she answered, “to-night at eleven o’clock.” “Good,” said the wazír; “here are the hundred rupees.” And he took the thread and went away.

The merchant’s wife now went to a third bazar, and there the king’s kází saw her. “Is that beautiful thread for sale?” he asked. “Yes,” she answered, “for one hundred and fifty rupees.” “I will give you the hundred and fifty rupees. Can I dine with you at your house?” “Yes,” she said, “to-night at twelve o’clock.” “I will come,” said the kází. “Here are one hundred and fifty rupees.” So she took the rupees and gave him the thread.

She set off with the fourth hank to the fourth bazar, and in this bazar was the king’s palace. The king saw her, and asked if the thread was for sale. “Yes,” she said, “for five hundred rupees.” “Give me the thread,” said the king; “here are your five hundred rupees. Can I dine with you at your house?” “Yes,” she said, “to-night at two o’clock.”

Then she went home and sent one of her servants to the bazar to buy her four large chests; and she told her other servants that they were to get ready four very good dinners for her. Each dinner was to be served in a different room; and one was to be ready at ten o’clock that night, one at eleven, one at twelve, and one at two in the morning. The servant brought her four large chests, and she had them placed in four different rooms.

At ten o’clock the kotwál arrived. The merchant’s wife greeted him graciously, and they sat down and dined. After dinner she said to him, “Can you play at cards?” “Yes,” he answered. She brought some cards, and they sat and played till the clock struck eleven, when the doorkeeper came in to say, “The wazír is here, and wishes to see you.” The kotwál was in a dreadful fright. “Do hide me somewhere,” he said to her. “I have no place where you can hide in this room,” she answered; “but in another room I have a big chest. I will shut you up in that if you like, and when the wazír is gone, I will let you out of it.” So she took him into the next room, and he got into one of the four big chests, and she shut down the lid and locked it.