318 WALI DAD THE SIMPLE-HEARTED
who was clearly the fittest person to possess such beautiful animals.
The merchant departed, laughing. But, true to his old friend's request, he took the horses with him on his next journey, and eventually presented them safely to the princess. This time the princess sent for the merchant, and questioned him about the giver. Now, the merchant was usually a most honest man, but he did not quite like to describe Wali Dad in his true light as an old man whose income was five halfpence a day, and who had hardly clothes to cover him. So he told her that his friend had heard stories of her beauty and goodness, and had longed to lay the best he had at her feet. The princess then took her father into her confidence, and begged him to advise her what courtesy she might return to one who persisted in making her such presents.
' Well,' said the king, ' you cannot refuse them ; so the best thing you can do is to send this unknown friend at once a present so magnificent that he is not likely to be able to send you anything better, and so will be ashamed to send anything at all! ' Then he ordered that, in place of each of the ten horses, two mules laden with silver should be returned by her.
Thus, in a few hours, the merchant found himself in charge of a splendid caravan ; and he had to hire a number of armed men to defend it on the road against the robbers, and he was glad indeed to find himself back again in Wali Dad's hut.
' Well, now,' cried Wali Dad, as he viewed all the wealth laid at his door, ' I can well repay that kind prince for his magnificent present of horses ; but to be sure you have been put to great expense ! Still, if you will accept six mules and their loads, and will take the rest straight to Nekabad, I shall thank you heartily.'
The merchant felt handsomely repaid for his trouble, and wondered greatly how the matter would turn out. So he made no difficulty about it; and as soon as he could get