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The Fakir Nanaksa Saves The Merchant’s Life
by [?]

In a country there was a grain merchant who was a very good man. Now a fakír named Nánaksá, who was also a very good man, came constantly to talk with him.

One day he came as usual, and the merchant and his wife were very glad to see him. As they were all sitting together, they saw a goat led away to be killed. The goat escaped from the man who was leading him and hid behind the merchant, but he was caught and marched off to death.

At this the merchant said nothing, but the fakír laughed.

A little later they saw an old woman who had done something wrong, and, therefore, the king had ordered her to be taken to the jungle and there put to death. The old woman escaped from the men who were leading her and took refuge behind the merchant, but she was seized and led away to die.

The merchant said nothing; the fakír laughed, and the merchant’s wife saw him laugh.

At this moment the merchant’s little daughter woke and began to scream. Her mother took her in her arms; the child was cross and pulled her mother’s clothes all awry.

The fakír laughed.

The mother put her dress straight and held her child in her arms and stopped her crying. She then took a knife and went up to the fakír, saying, “Why did you laugh three times? Tell me the truth. What made you laugh three times?” Nánaksá answered, “What does it signify whether I cry or laugh? Ask me no questions, for I am a fakír, and it does not matter in the least whether I laugh or cry.” However, the merchant’s wife insisted on knowing why he laughed, and she said, “If you do not tell me, I will kill you with my knife.” “Good,” said Nánaksá; “if you really do wish to know, I will tell you.” “I really do wish to know,” she answered.

“Well,” said Nánaksá, “you remember the goat took refuge behind your husband? That goat in his former life was your husband’s father, and your husband would have saved him from death had he given the man who was taking him to be killed four rupees, for the man would then have gone away contentedly without the goat.”

“Good,” said the woman. “Why did you laugh the second time?”

“Well,” said Nánaksá, “that old woman who hid herself behind your husband was his grandmother in her former life. Had your husband given the men who were taking her to the jungle twenty rupees, they would have given her up to him, and he would have saved her from death. Should a wild beast or a man ever take refuge behind us, it is our duty to save his life.”

“Well,” said the merchant’s wife, “you have told me why you laughed the first two times. Now tell me why you laughed the third time.”

“Listen,” said Nánaksá. “You remember your husband’s sister whom you tormented so much? She died, but then God caused her to be born again as your daughter, that she might torment you and punish you for having been so unkind to her in her former life when she was your sister-in-law.”

“Is that true?” said the woman.

“Quite true,” answered the fakír, “and that is why I laughed the third time. But now would you like to hear something I wish to tell you? If you promise not to cry, I will tell it you.”

“I promise not to cry, so tell me,” she said.

“Then listen,” said Nánaksá. “God has decreed that your husband shall die to-morrow morning at ten o’clock. He will send four angels to fetch him.”

At this the poor woman began to cry bitterly.

“Do not cry,” said the fakír. “I will tell you something more. Listen to me. To-morrow morning at four o’clock you must get up, and make your house quite clean and neat. Then buy new dishes and make all the nicest and most delicious sweetmeats you can.”