292 BE WINS WHO WAITS
Thus it happened that at sunrise the young man was aroused from his sleep by a herald making his round of the camp, proclaiming that every merchant present would give a thousand piastres to the man who would risk his life to bring water for themselves and their camels.
The youth hesitated for a little while when he heard the proclamation. The story of the well had spread far and wide, and long ago had reached his ears. The danger was great, he knew; but then, if he came back alive, he would be the possessor of eighty thousand piastres. He turned to the herald who was passing the tent:
' I will go,' said he.
' "What madness! ' cried his master, who happened to be standing near. ' You are too young to throw away your life like that. Eun after the herald and tell him you take back your offer.' But the young man shook his head, and the merchant saw that it was useless to try and persuade him.
' Well, it is your own affair,' he observed at last. ' If you must go, you must. Only, if you ever return, I will give you a camel's load of goods and my best mule besides.' And touching his turban in token of farewell, he entered the tent.
Hardly had he done so than a crowd of men were seen pouring out of the camp.
' How can we thank you ! ' they exclaimed, pressing round the youth. ' Our camels as well as ourselves are almost dead of thirst. See! here is the rope we have brought to let you down.'
' Come then,' answered the youth. And they all set out.
On reaching the well, the rope was knotted securely under his arms, a big goat-skin bottle was given him, and he was gently lowered to the bottom of the pit. Here a clear stream was bubbling over the rocks, and,