ONCE upon a time there lived a man called Omari and his wife, and they had a very fine fat black ox. So fat was this ox that all the young men in the village wanted to eat it, but Omari would not part with it.
Till one day he went away on a journey; then they thought, "Now we will be able to get that ox and have a feast, for his wife is a great fool."
So twenty men set out and came to the house of that woman, Omari's wife, and they knocked on the door.
And she replied, "Come near."
So they went in and told that woman, "We have had a vision, and in that vision we saw that you were going to have a child, a beautiful boy, who will be rich and clever, and will marry the daughter of the Wazir."
Now when the woman heard this she was wondrously pleased, for she had no child.
Then these men said, "There was, in our dream, the sacrifice of a black ox, before this came to pass."
So she said, "Take my ox and sacrifice him, that the vision may come true."
They replied, "Shall we kill him, though, while your husband is away?"
She said, "Take him, yes, take him, for my husband will be only too pleased when he knows for what purpose the ox has been slain; and he, too, desires a son."
So the youths took away the ox and killed it and feasted and made merry.
After three days the husband returned, and when he did not see his ox in its stall he asked his wife, "Where is the ox?"
She said to him, "It has been slaughtered."
She replied, "Men came who had dreamed a dream that we should have a beautiful male child of great good fortune, and as the sacrifice of a black ox was necessary to bring it true, I gave ours to them."
Omari then said to his wife, "You are a fool. Now I am going out to search for as great a fool as you are. If I cannot find any one who is your equal in folly, I shall leave you; you will cease to be my wife."
So Omari took his donkey and rode away till he came to the house of a certain rich man, and this house had a verandah beneath it. Omari got off his donkey, and as he stood there, a woman, one of the slaves of the household, passed in, and said to him, "Master, where do you come from?"
Omari replied, "I come from the next world."
Then was that slave very astonished, and she went upstairs to her mistress and said to her, "There, below in the verandah, is a man who comes from the next world."
"Is that indeed so?" asked the mistress.
"It is indeed true, and if you doubt me ask him yourself, for he is there below," said the slave.
So the mistress sent her slave down to call Omari up into the house, and she came to him and said, "The mistress asks you to come upstairs."
Omari replied, "I cannot come upstairs; I am afraid, because it is a stranger's house."
When the slave brought these words to her mistress, she herself came down and called to Omari, "Do not be afraid; come upstairs; there is no danger."
So Omari went upstairs, and that woman asked him, "Master, where do you come from?"
Omari replied, "I come from the next world."
"See," said the slave; "were not my words true?"
Then was that mistress very amazed, and she asked him, "Why have you left the next world?"
"I have come to see my father," answered Omari.
"My father, who is dead," said the woman; "have you met him there in the next world?"
"What is he called, and what is he like?" said Omari.
"He is called so-and-so, son of so-and-so," said the woman, and she described to him his appearance.
Omari replied, "I have seen him."
"And how is he?"
At that Omari put on an air of grief and shook his head and sighed.
"Oh, tell me, what is the matter with my father?" asked the woman.
Omari replied, "He is in great trouble. He has no money or clothes or food. Oh, his state is very bad!"
When that woman heard these words she wept. Then she asked Omari, "When do you return to the next world?"
"I return to-morrow. First, I must see my father, who is still alive, and then I go back."
"Will you see my father when you return?"
"Most certainly," said Omari. "Do I not live next door to him?"
"Then," said that woman, "you must take him a present from me."
So she went into an inner room and took out a bag of a thousand dollars, and clothes, and a robe, and turbans, and came and gave them to Omari, and said, "Take these and give them to my father, and say that they are from his daughter, Binti Fatima."
Then she went in and brought out another bag and said, "Take these hundred dollars; they are a present for you, as you are taking these things for my father."
So Omari gathered up the bags of money and the clothes and left that woman, and mounted his donkey and rode away.
He had only just left when the husband of that woman in the house returned home. He noticed that his wife was very joyful, so he asked her, "My wife, why are you so glad to-day?"
She said to him, "A man has just been here who has come from the next world, and he has met my father there in great trouble. So I have given him a thousand dollars and clothes to take to my father. That is why I am so happy; for now the spirit of my father will be very pleased with us, and it will bring us great good fortune."
Now that man saw that his wife had been fooled, but he feared to say so, in case his wife should tell him no more, and he wished to follow that man and get the money back.
So he said to her, "You are not a good wife, for when a man came from the next world to tell you about your father you gave him an offering to take back to him, but you never asked him about my father, or gave him anything to take to him."
Then the wife said, "Oh, forgive me, my husband, but as he has only just left you may overtake him. He was riding a donkey, and he left by that road."
Then she described him. So the husband called for his horse, and the wife ran in and brought out another bag of a thousand dollars, and as he mounted she gave it to him, saying, "Take this, my husband, and give it to him for your father, and if you gallop after him down that road you will surely overtake him."
Now Omari had ridden away on his donkey till he came to a plantation, then he turned his head and saw, in the distance, the dust made by a galloping horse. There was no one on that plantation except one male slave, and so Omari said to him, "Do you see that dust? It is made by a man of great violence. I am going to hide from him, and I advise you to climb up into a coco-nut tree, lest he do you some harm. If he speaks to you do not answer him, for it will only make him more angry."
So that slave scrambled up a coco-nut palm as fast as he could, whilst Omari hid himself and his donkey in a thicket close by.
Presently the husband of the woman galloped up, and saw the slave clambering up to the top of a tall coco-nut tree.
He stopped and called out, "Have you seen a man riding a donkey pass here?"
The slave did not answer, but continued climbing higher and higher. He asked him again and again, and the slave did not reply, but only made more haste to get well out of reach.
Then was that man very angry, and he got down from his horse and divested himself of all his robes, except only an under-garment, and placing them and the money on the ground, started climbing up after the slave.
Omari watched him from behind the thicket, and, when he had got well up the tree, he came out and seized that man's money and clothes, as well as those he already had, and then mounted his horse and galloped off.
When that man came down from the tree he found all his clothes and his money and his horse gone, and he was very ashamed. So he had to return home wearing only a loin-cloth.
When he came in his wife asked him, "My husband, why do you return naked like that?"
He was ashamed to tell her that he also had been fooled by that man, so he said, "I met the man from the next world, who told me that my father was in a very distressed condition, that he had no clothes, and was dressed in rags. So when I heard that, I took off all my clothes and gave them to that man to take to my father."
Now Omari took all that money, and the clothes, and the horse, and came back to his wife and told her, "I said that I would seek for a fool like unto yourself, and if I did not find one that you would cease to be my wife. Well, now I am content, for I have found two fools, each one more foolish than you."
So they lived together, Omari and his wife, and they spent the money and were happy together.
Here ends the story of the fools, the fool-wife, and the husband and wife who were fooled.