HE WINS WHO WAITS 293
stooping down, he was about to drink, when a huge Arab appeared before him, saying in a loud voice:
' Come with me ! '
The young man rose, never doubting that his last hour had come ; but as he could do nothing, he followed the Arab into a brilliantly lighted hall, on the further side of the little river. There his guide sat down, and drawing towards him two boys, one black and the other white, he said to the stranger:
' I have a question to ask you. If you answer it right, your life shall be spared. If not, your head will be forfeit, as the head of many another has been before you. Tell me : which of my two children do I think the handsomer ? '
The question did not seem a hard one, for while the white boy was as beautiful a child as ever was seen, his brother was ugly even for a negro. But, just as the youth was going to speak, the old man's counsel flashed into the youth's mind, and he replied hastily: ' The one whom we love best is always the handsomest.'
' You have saved me ! ' cried the Arab, rising quickly from his seat, and pressing the young man in his arms. ' Ah! if you could only guess what I have suffered from the stupidity of all the people to whom I have put that question, and I was condemned by a wicked genius to remain here until it was answered! But what brought you to this place, and how can I reward you for what you have done for me ?'
' By helping me to draw enough water for my caravan of eighty merchants and their camels, who are dying for want of it,' replied the youth.
' That is easily done,' said the Arab. ' Take these three apples, and when you have filled your skin, and are ready to be drawn up, lay one of them on the ground. Half-way to the earth, let fall another, and at the top, drop the third. If you follow my directions no harm will happen to you. And take, besides, these three