Bedtime Stories in English - A Dangerous Place

A Dangerous Place 

Yusuf was a successful merchant of Bagdad, but he always looked forward to adventures, more than success. To the farthest west of the land was a hilly region. The senior and experienced merchants told the young ones, "Never visit that hilly region. Only unfortunate ones go there." Yusuf did not understand why they should be afraid of visiting any place. He nursed a desire to see the forbidden place. One day a temptation took a grip of him. It was when he met an old lady who had come from the hilly region. She bought a piece of sandalwood and told Yusuf that blocks of sandalwood were as costly in her area as gold! But the old lady hastened to say, "But, my son, never visit our place. Don't ask me why. I tell you that you will repent if you travel there." Yusuf grew more and more curious. At last, one day, he loaded blocks of quality sandalwood on the back of his camel and proceeded towards the forbidden region. It was a winter evening when he reached the other side of the hills. He saw an inn and decided to spend his night in it. He took a room and stored his ware there. After taking some rest he came out of the inn. What should he see but some people sitting around a fire to warm themselves and burning sandalwood! "I heard that sandalwood is very costly here. How is it that you are burning such a precious thing for warming yourselves?" he asked. His listeners laughed. "Who is the joker who told you that sandalwood is costly here? It is available in such plenty that we make bonfires of it as many times as we please!" they said. 

Yusuf sighed, "What a pity that I brought a stack of sandalwood to sell here. Can't I ever sell them?" he asked. "You can sell them to us. But we cannot pay you any money for that. We can give you things of the same weight, things for which we have no use, say clods or frogs or flies.." they said laughing. "I see. All right. We will finalize the deal tomorrow," said Yusuf. Then he went out to see the town. Suddenly a one-eyed man stopped him and asked him. "Where do you come from?" "Bagdad," Yusuf replied. "Are you.." the stranger waited for Yusuf to say his own name. "Yusuf." "Right! So, you are Yusuf of Bagdad! At last, I have caught you. What about my eye?" "Your eye? What do you mean?" asked Yusuf with surprise. "Have you forgotten taking away one of my eyes, promising that you will repair it and bring it back?" A number of people gathered and they supported the one-eyed man, saying that Yusuf was the man who took away the fellow's eye. "Give me sufficient money as compensation or give me one of your eyes!" the fellow demanded. "All right. Let us wait till tomorrow," said Yusuf. He saw that one of his sandals needed a little stitching. He went to a cobbler and asked him to do the needful. "How much will you pay?" asked the cobbler. "I will satisfy you!" said Yusuf, under the impression that the cobbler would demand the usual fee he pays for such jobs in his own town.

"Very good. Come and take your sandals tomorrow, after satisfying me," said the cobbler. Yusuf was soon accosted by two gamblers. "Come and see how we gamble," they proposed. Yusuf entered their den to satisfy his curiosity. Soon he was tempted to gamble for a while. "You have lost everything," shouted those two fellows. "Give us all you have or drink all the water of the sea!" "We will decide about it tomorrow," said Yusuf. He came out a sad man. He wondered if he can go back to Bagdad at all, after meeting the demands of all these cheats. "What are you doing here, my son?" Yusuf was pleasantly surprised to see the old woman who put this question to him. Yusuf was in tears. "Mother! I am paying the price for ignoring your advice!" he said. He then reported to her his experiences within the short time he had been there. The old woman said, "My son, it is a moonlit night. Find your way to the eastern end of the town. There is a rock. The leader of all the rogues of the town will soon appear there. The rogues will report to him their day's activities and seek his advice. Hear them from hiding. Maybe you will find clues to come out of the situation. Yusuf went and hid behind the rock. After some rogues had reported on their activities to their leader, the turn came for those who had met Yusuf. Those who were planning to buy his sandalwood said, "We will cheat him with some useless things." "Don't think yourselves very intelligent. What if he asks you to give him flies matching the weight of his sandalwood stack? Can you give him?" The one-eyed man came forward and said, "I am sure, instead of sacrificing one of his eyes, he will pay me money." 

"You think yourself clever, do you? What if he asks you for your remaining eye, saying that he will match it with many eyes he has in his home in Bagdad and find out which one is yours?" said the leader. The cobbler came forward and said, "He then said that he will satisfy me. I will say nothing less than a hundred pieces will satisfy me." "Suppose he says that our Sultan is a great ruler and asks you whether his statement satisfies you or not, Can you say no? If you say so, the Sultan will smash your bones!" quipped the leader. The gamblers claimed that since Yusuf cannot drink up all the water of the sea, he will be obliged to part with all he has! "Is Yusuf that fool? He may ask you to bring all the water of the sea in a glass for him to drink!" said the leader. Yusuf slipped away quietly and had a peaceful night. In the morning he put the clues he had got from the leader of the rogues to best use. The sandalwood buyers could not produce flies equal in weight to his sandalwood stack. They had to pay the proper price for it. The one-eyed man was not prepared to part with his remaining eye and hence withdrew his claim. The cobbler could not say "No" to Yusuf's statement and kept quiet. The gamblers could not offer him all the water of the sea in a glass and went away. Yusuf returned home with good profit but paid a reward to the old lady before leaving the hilly region and decided not to return again ever.

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