THE MERCHANT AND THE GENIUS 11
them he began to weep so bitterly that they soon guessed that something terrible was the matter.
' Tell us, I pray you,' said his wife, ' what has happened.'
' Alas !' answered her husband, ' I have only a year to live.'
Then he told them what had passed between him and the genius, and how he had given his word to return at the end of a year to be killed. When they heard this sad news they were in despair, and wept much.
The next day the merchant began to settle his affairs, and first of all to pay his debts. He gave presents to his friends, and large alms to the poor. He set his slaves at liberty, and provided for his wife and children. The year soon passed away, and he was obliged to depart. When he tried to say good-bye he was quite overcome with grief, and with difficulty tore himself away. At length he reached the place where he had first seen the genius, on the very day that he had appointed. He dismounted, and sat down at the edge of the fountain, where he awaited the genius in terrible suspense.
Whilst he was thus waiting an old man leading a hind came towards him. They greeted one another, and then the old man said to him, ' May I ask, brother, what brought you to this desert place, where there are so many evil genii about? To see these beautiful trees one would imagine it was inhabited, but it is a dangerous place to stop long in.'
The merchant told the old man why he was obliged to come there. He listened in astonishment.
' This is a most marvellous affair. I should like to be a witness of your interview with the genius.' So saying he sat down by the merchant.
While they were talking another old man came up, followed by two black dogs. He greeted them, and asked what they were doing in this place. The old man who was leading the hind told him the adven-