Giaffar reflected: “In appearance this man is a beggar, it is true; but all sorts of things happen. Why should not I try the experiment?”—and he answered: “Good, my father, I will go.”
The old man looked him in the eye and went away.
On the following morning, just as day was breaking, Giaffar set out for the bazaar. The old man was already waiting for him, with his elbows leaning on the marble basin of the fountain.
Silently he took Giaffar by the hand and led him to a small garden, surrounded on all sides by high walls.
In the very centre of this garden, on a green lawn, grew a tree of extraordinary aspect.
It resembled a cypress; only its foliage was of azure hue.
Three fruits—three apples—hung on the slender up-curving branches. One of medium size was oblong in shape, of a milky-white hue; another was large, round, and bright red; the third was small, wrinkled and yellowish.
The whole tree was rustling faintly, although there was no wind. It tinkled delicately and plaintively, as though it were made of glass; it seemed to feel the approach of Giaffar.
“Youth!”—said the old man, “pluck whichever of these fruits thou wilt, and know that if thou shalt pluck and eat the white one, thou shalt become more wise than all men; if thou shalt pluck and eat the red one, thou shalt become as rich as the Hebrew Rothschild; if thou shalt pluck and eat the yellow one, thou shalt please old women. Decide! ... and delay not. In an hour the fruits will fade, and the tree itself will sink into the dumb depths of the earth!”
Giaffar bowed his head and thought.—“What am I to do?” he articulated in a low tone, as though arguing with himself.—“If one becomes too wise, he will not wish to live, probably; if he becomes richer than all men, all will hate him; I would do better to pluck and eat the third, the shrivelled apple!”
And so he did; and the old man laughed a toothless laugh and said: “Oh, most wise youth! Thou hast chosen the good part!—What use hast thou for the white apple? Thou art wiser than Solomon as thou art.—And neither dost thou need the red apple.... Even without it thou shalt be rich. Only no one will be envious of thy wealth.”
“Inform me, old man,” said Giaffar, with a start, “where the respected mother of our God-saved Caliph dwelleth?”
The old man bowed to the earth, and pointed out the road to the youth.
Who in Bagdad doth not know the sun of the universe, the great, the celebrated Giaffar?
TWO FOUR-LINE STANZAS
There existed once a city whose inhabitants were so passionately fond of poetry that if several weeks passed and no beautiful new verses had made their appearance they regarded that poetical dearth as a public calamity.
At such times they donned their worst garments, sprinkled ashes on their heads, and gathering in throngs on the public squares, they shed tears, and murmured bitterly against the Muse for having abandoned them.