THE MERCHANT AND HIS IRON
A MERCHANT, who was about to set out on a journey, went to the house
of a Friend, taking with him two hundred tons of iron.
"I beg of you," he said to his Friend, that you will
kindly keep this iron for me. I am about to set out on a
long journey, and it may be that ill luck will befall me.
If so, then I can return home and sell this iron for a large
The Friend took the iron, and even as the Merchant
feared, it came to pass. Misfortune overtook him on
the way, and he was obliged to return home.Straightway
he went to the house of his Friend and demanded the iron.
In the meantime the Friend had sold the iron to pay his own
debts, for he believed that the Merchant would never return
home. However, he put on a bold face and replied:—
"Truly, Friend, I have sad news for you. I locked the iron
in a room, thinking that it was as safe there as is my own
gold. But, unknown to me, there was a rat-hole in the wall,
and the rats have stolen into the room and eaten all of the
The Merchant, pretending that he believed this untruth,
"That is, indeed, sad news for me, for the iron was all
that I had left. Still, I know of old that rats delight
in chewing upon iron bars. I have lost much iron in this
same way before, so I shall know how to bear my present
This answer was very pleasing to the Friend, who now was
sure that the Merchant believed that the rats had eaten his
iron. To avoid any further suspicion, he invited the Merchant
to dine with him on the morrow. The Merchant accepted and
went his way. As he was passing through the city, he met
one of his Friend's sons, whom he quietly took home and
locked up in a room.
The next day he went to his. Friend's to dine. His friend
came to the door with tears streaming down his face. "You
must pardon me my distress," he said to the Merchant, "but
yesterday one of my children disappeared, and nothing has
been heard of him since. The town-crier has been through the
streets, but no trace of the child is to be found."
"I am, indeed, sorry to hear this news," replied the
Merchant, "for last evening I saw a sparrow hawk flying
over the city with a child in its claws. The child certainly
looked very much like one of your children."
"You senseless fellow," retorted the friend, "why do you
mock me in my trouble! How could a sparrow hawk carry off
a child weighing fifty pounds?"
"Ah," replied the Merchant, "you must not be surprised
that a sparrow hawk should carry off a child of fifty
pounds in our city where rats eat up two hundred tons of
iron. My friend, give me back my iron, and I will gladly
restore your boy."