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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 2

And this is the history of Xailoun


Now there was in that neighbourhood a poor woodcutter named Xailoun--deformed, and not much more than half-witted, but amiable--who had taken a great fancy to the kardouon as being a beautiful beast, and likely to make a charming friend. But the kardouon, after the manner of shy lizards, had by no means reciprocated this affection, and took shelter behind stones and tree-stumps when advances were made to him. So that the children, and even his own family, including his mother, used to jeer at Xailoun and tell him to go to his friend. On this particular occasion, the day after the kardouon's _trouvaille_, Xailoun actually found the usually wide-awake animal sleeping. And as the place, with the moss and the great tree-shadow and a running stream close by, was very attractive, Xailoun lay down by the lizard to wait till he should wake. But as he himself might go to sleep, and the animal, accustomed to the sun, might get a chill in the shade, Xailoun put his own coat over him. And he too slept, after thinking how nice the kardouon's friendship would be when they _both_ woke. And this is the history of Xailoun.

Next day again there came a fakir named Abhoc, who was on a pretended pilgrimage, but really on the look-out for what he might get. He saw a windfall at once, was sure that neither of its sleeping guardians could keep it from him, and very piously thanked the Almighty for rewarding his past devotion and self-sacrifice by opening a merry and splendid life to him. But as, with such custodians, the treasure could be "lifted" without the slightest difficulty, he too lay down by it, and went to sleep, dreaming of Schiraz wine in golden cups and a harem peopled with mortal houris. And this is the history of the fakir Abhoc.

A day and a night passed, and the morrow came. Again there passed a wise doctor of laws, Abhac by name, who was editing a text to which a hundred and thirty-two different interpretations had been given by Eastern Cokes and Littletons. He had just hit upon the hundred and thirty-third--of course the true one--when the sight described already struck him and put the discovery quite out of his head, to be lost for ever. As became a jurist, he was rather a more practical person than the woodcutter or the fakir, if not than the lizard. His human predecessors were, evidently, thieves, and must be brought to justice, but it would be well to secure "pieces of conviction." So he began to wrap up the coins in his turban and carry them away. But there were so many, and it was so heavy, that he grew very weary. So he too laid him down and slept. And this is the history of the doctor Abhac.

But on the fifth day there appeared a much more formidable person than the others, and also a much more criminous. This was the "King of the Desert"--bandit and blackmailer of caravans. Being apparently a bandit of letters, he reflected that, though lizards, being, after all, miniature dragons, were immemorial guardians of treasure, they could not have any right in it, but were most inconveniently likely to wake if any noise were made. The others were three to one--too heavy odds by daylight. But if he sat down by them till night came he could stab them one by one while they were asleep, and perhaps breakfast on the kardouon--said to be quite good meat. And he went to sleep himself. And this is the history of the King of the Desert.


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