to himself when he heard these words, and, hastening home, he said to his mother: ' If messengers from the sultan should come here and ask for me, be sure you answer that it is a long while since I went away, and that you cannot tell where I may be, but that if they will give you money enough for your journey, as you are very poor, you will do your best to find me.' Then he hid himself in the loft above, so that he could listen to all that passed.
The next minute someone knocked loudly at the door, and the old woman jumped up and opened it.
' Is your bald-headed son here ?' asked the man outside. ' If so, let him come with me, as the sultan wishes to speak with him directly.'
' Alas ! sir,' replied the woman, putting a corner of her veil to her eyes, ' he left me long since, and since that day no news of him has reached me.'
' Oh ! good lady, can you not guess where he may be? The sultan intends to bestow on him the hand of his daughter, and he is certain to give a large reward to the man who brings him back.'
' He never told me whither he was going,' answered the crone, shaking her head. ' But it is a great honour that the sultan does him, and well worth some trouble. There are places where, perhaps, he may be found, but they are known to me only, and I am a poor woman and have no money for the journey.'
' Oh ! that will not stand in the way,' cried the man. ' In this purse are a thousand gold pieces ; spend them freely. Tell me where I can find him and you shall have as many more.'
' Very well,' said she, ' it is a bargain ; and now farewell, for I must make some preparations; but in a few days at furthest you shall hear from me.'
For nearly a week both the old woman and her son were careful not to leave the house till it was dark, lest they should be seen by any of the neighbours, and as they did not even kindle a fire or light a lantern, every-