| Jataka Tales|
|by Ellen C. Babbitt|
|Eighteen fables from the Jatakas of India, skillfully retold and attractively illustrated. Includes The Monkey and the Crocodile, The Merchant of Seri, The Turtle Who Wouldn’t Stop Talking, The Foolish Timid Rabbit, The Banyan Deer, and others. Ages 7-10 |
THE MERCHANT OF SERI
HERE was once a merchant of Seri who sold brass and
tinware. He went from town to town, in company with another
man, who also sold brass and tinware. This second man was
greedy, getting all he could for nothing, and giving as
little as he could for what he bought.
When they went into a town, they divided the streets between
them. Each man went up and down the streets he had chosen,
calling, "Tinware for sale. Brass for sale." People came out
to their door-steps, and bought, or traded, with them.
In one house there lived a poor old woman and her
granddaughter. The family had once been rich, but now the
only thing they had left of all their riches was a golden
bowl. The grandmother did not know it was a golden bowl, but
she had kept this because her husband used to eat out of it
in the old days. It
 stood on a shelf among the other pots and pans, and was not
He threw the bowl on the ground.
The greedy merchant passed this house, calling, "Buy my
water-jars! Buy my pans!" The granddaughter said: "Oh,
Grandmother, do buy something for me!"
"My dear," said the old woman, "we are too poor to buy
anything. I have not anything to trade, even."
"Grandmother, see what the merchant will give for the old
bowl. We do not use that, and perhaps he
 will take it and give us something we want for it."
woman called the merchant and showed him the bowl, saying,
"Will you take this, sir, and give the little girl here
something for it?"
The greedy man took the bowl and scratched its side with a
needle. Thus he found that it was a golden bowl. He hoped he
could get it for nothing, so he said: "What is this worth?
Not even a halfpenny." He threw the bowl on the ground, and
By and by the other merchant passed the house. For it was
agreed that either merchant might go through any street
which the other had left. He called: "Buy my water-jars! Buy
my tinware! Buy my brass!"
The little girl heard him, and begged her grandmother to
see what he would give for the bowl.
"My child," said the
grandmother, "the merchant who was just here threw the bowl
on the ground and went away. I have nothing else to offer in
"But, Grandmother," said the girl, "that was a cross man.
This one looks pleasant. Ask him. Perhaps
he'll give some
little tin dish."
 "Call him, then, and show it to him," said the old woman.
As soon as the merchant took the bowl in his hands, he knew
it was of gold. He said: "All that I have here is not
worth so much as this bowl. It is a golden
bowl. I am not rich enough to buy it."
"But, sir, a merchant who passed here a few moments ago,
threw it on the ground, saying it was not worth a
halfpenny, and he went away," said the grandmother. "It was
worth nothing to him. If you value it, take it, giving the
little girl some dish she likes for it."
But the merchant would not have it so. He gave the woman
all the money he had, and all his wares. "Give me but eight
pennies," he said.
So he took the pennies, and left. Going quickly to the
river, he paid the boatman the eight pennies to take him
across the river.
Soon the greedy merchant went back to the house where he
had seen the golden bowl, and said: "Bring that bowl to me,
and I will give you something for it."
"No," said the grandmother. "You said the bowl was
worthless, but another merchant has paid a great price for
it, and taken it away."
"It is a golden bowl."
 Then the greedy merchant was angry, crying out, "Through
this other man I have lost a small fortune. That bowl was
He ran down to the riverside, and, seeing the other merchant
in the boat out in the river, he called: "Hallo, Boatman!
Stop your boat!"
But the man in the boat said: "Don't stop!" So he
reached the city on the other side of the river, and lived
well for a time on the money the bowl brought him.
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