FablesOthersPanchatantra

Merchant Strong-Tooth

There is a city called Growing City on the earth’s surface. In it lived a merchant named Strong-Tooth who directed the whole administration. So long as he handled city business and royal business, all the inhabitants were satisfied. Why spin it out? Nobody ever saw or heard of his like for cleverness.

While he occupied this position, he once had a daughter married. To the wedding he invited all the townspeople and the king’s entourage, paid them much honour, feasted them, and regaled them with gifts of garments and the like. And when the wedding was over, he conducted the king home with his ladies and showed him reverence.

Now the king had a house-cleaning drudge named Bull, who took a seat that did not belong to him – this in the very palace, and in the presence of the king’s professor. So Strong-Tooth administered a cuffing and drove him out. From that moment the humiliation so rankled in Bull’s inner soul that he had no rest even at night. Yet he thought: “After all, why should I grow thin? It does me no good. For I cannot possibly hurt him.

Now one morning, as he was sweeping near the bed where the king lay half awake, he said: “What impudence! Strong-Tooth kisses the queen.” When the king heard this, he jumped up in a hurry, crying: “Come, come, Bull! Is that thing true that you were muttering? Has the queen been kissed by Strong-Tooth?”

“O King,” answered Bull, “I was awake all night because I am passionately fond of gambling. So sleep overpowered me even when I was busy with my sweeping. I do not know what I said.”

But the jealous king thought: “Yes, he has free entrance to my palace. So has Strong-Tooth. Perhaps he actually saw the fellow hugging the queen. After all this lamentation, he withdrew his favour forthwith from Strong-Tooth. Not to make a long story of it, he forbade his entrance at court.

When Strong-Tooth saw that the monarch’s favour was suddenly withdrawn, he thought: “Ah me!

And yet I never committed an unfriendly act against the king – or anyone else – not even in a dream, not even by mere words. So why does the king withdraw his favour from me?”

Now one day Bull, the sweeper, saw Strong-Tooth stopped at the palace gate, and he laughed aloud, saying to the doorkeepers: “Be careful, doorkeepers! This fellow Strong-Tooth’s temper has been spoiled by the king’s favour and he dispenses arrests and releases. If you stop him, you will get a cuffing, just like me.”

After this lamentation he went home, abashed and deeply stirred. Then he summoned Bull in the evening, gave him two garments as an honourable present, and said: “My good fellow, I did not drive you out by order of the king. It was because I saw you, in the chaplain’s presence, sitting where you did not belong, that I humiliated you.”

Now Bull received the two garments as if they were the Kingdom of Heaven, and feeling intense satisfaction, he said: “Friend merchant, I forgive you. You will soon see the reward of the honour shown me in the king’s favour and such things.” With this he departed in high glee. On the next day Bull entered the palace, and did his sweeping. And while the king lay half awake, he said: “What intelligence! When our king sits at stool, he eats a cucumber.”

Now the king, hearing this, rose in amazement and said: “Come, come, Bull! What twaddle is this? But I remember that you are a house-servant and do not kill you. Did you ever see me engaged in that occupation?”

“O King,” said Bull, “I was awake all night because I am passionately fond of gambling. So drowsiness overcame me in the very act of doing my sweeping. I do not know what I was muttering. Pardon me, master. I was really asleep.”

Then the king thought: “Why, from the day of my birth I never ate a cucumber while engaged in that occupation. And since this blockhead has talked unimaginable nonsense about me, it must be the same with Strong-Tooth. This being so, I made a mistake in taking the poor man’s honours from him. Nothing of the sort is conceivable with such men. And in his absence all the king’s business and city business is at loose ends.”

After thus considering the matter from every point of view, he summoned Strong-Tooth, presented him with gems from his own person and with garments, and reinstated him.

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