chapter  23
20 Pages

The Turk

Once upon a time, beyond seven times seven lands and even farther, there was once a young couple. They had been married for three years and were still without child. They yearned for God to give them at least one, but it was no use-they had to accept that if God didn’t wish to grant them a child, there was nothing they could do. This made the young man very sad.He said to his wife: “Wife, if God doesn’t give us an offspring, I’ll leave you. I’ll

go off into the wide world.”“Oh, you wouldn’t do that, you wouldn’t leave me here, would you? We love each other and it is no fault of mine that God won’t let us have a child.”“Look,” he said, “I go out in the evening to have a good time, I go to the neigh­bors, and everywhere there are children. They rejoice in them, they play with them while I have no pleasure at all. So be prepared,” he said, “come tomorrow, I am leaving.” The woman thought he was only joking, but sure enough, the next day he said: “Wife, get me some provisions for the road. I am going.”“Well,” she said, “if that’s what you want, if you are not sorry to leave me, go. But you may want to come back some time, and there won’t be anyone to come back to!” They rose the next day. The woman baked and assembled some food. They were not well-to-do farmers, but whatever they had by the grace of God, she packed for him. He took leave of his wife and set out. The woman wept bitterly. She accompanied him to the gate, hoping that he would think better of it and turn around. But he did no such thing; he left. It was toward evening when he took off, an hour and a half or so to sundown. His wife retired to bed crying.But then she thought about it, why should she go on crying? If her husband wasn’t sorry for her, why should she feel sorry for him? She woke in the morning, but there was no sign of him, so she went over to the neighbor to complain that her hus­band had left her.Suddenly she overheard people talking in the street, saying that the night be­fore wolves had torn a man to pieces at the end of the village. They didn’t know who he was, he was so torn up that they couldn’t recognize him. Then the news spread in the village that a man had left his home; it must have been that man the wolves had torn apart. The woman wept bitterly-her heart nearly broke at the thought that she had driven her husband to his death, and that he knew what was facing him. Everyone was so convinced that it was he who was killed that they issued a death certificate for him. The poor woman was grief-stricken, she was in tears more often than not. The neigh­bors came to see her, they comforted her so that she wouldn’t cry for the good Lord would help her somehow, and they’d stand by her, too. Whoever had a little more would share with her, she mustn’t cry for she’ll manage one way or another. So the woman stopped weeping-she couldn’t make him come back to life anyway, she thought; shedding all those tears wouldn’t achieve anything.When about six weeks had passed from the time her husband had left, she realized that she was no longer by herself. She was expecting. Then she began to weep again. “Dear God,” she lamented, “this is why my husband went away, for this very reason. Had he known, he wouldn’t have left me.” But she didn’t know it at the time either-the woman didn’t know it herself. She went and told her neighbors about her condition, about the way she felt. They comforted her, said that she mustn’t cry for God

would be at her side. (Now, let’s leave the woman and let her carry her child in peace.)When her husband left, the wolves didn’t attack him-they tore another man to pieces. He went and went until he came to Turkey and there he continued until he reached the capital city. In the capital city he went straight to the prime minister and entered into his service; he made an agreement to work for him.Said the prime minister: “What would you like, to be hired for months or foryears?” “For years, so I can earn a little more money,” he answered.“As for me,” said the prime minister, “the only way I hire servants is that I give them a pair of boots, and they stay until the boots wear out. They report to me when they are tom, not before.”The poor man thought to himself: How long can a pair of boots last? Even if made of buffalo hide, they can’t last more than three years. They get used all the time, they tear, they wear out.“All right,” he said, “I’ll serve until the boots wear out. Then I’ll come and report it to you.”