THE NUNDA, EATER OF PEOPLE 251
The sultan was silent for a moment: then he asked, ' Where were you when the bird came?'
The lad answered: ' I watched the date tree till the cocks were crowing and it was getting light; then I lay down for a little, and I slept. When I woke a slave was standing over me, and he said, "There is not one date left on the tree ! " And I went to the date tree, and saw it was true; and that is what I have to tell you.'
And the sultan replied, ' A son like you is only good for eating and sleeping. I have no use for you. Go your way, and when my date tree bears again, I will send another son ; perhaps he will watch better.'
So he waited many months, till the tree was covered with more dates than any tree had ever borne before. When they were near ripening he sent one of his sons to the garden : saying, ' My son, I am longing to taste those dates : go and watch over them, for to-day's sun will bring them to perfection.'
And the lad answered: ' My father, I am going now, and to-morrow, when the sun has passed the hour of seven, bid a slave come and gather the dates.'
' Good,' said the sultan.
The youth went to the tree, and lay down and slept. And about midnight he arose to look at the tree, and the dates were all there — beautiful dates, swinging in bunches.
'Ah, my father will have a feast, indeed,' thought he. ' What a fool my brother was not to take more heed! Now he is in disgrace, and we know him no more. Well, I will watch till the bird comes. I should like to see what manner of bird it is.'
And he sat and read till the cocks crew and it grew light, and the dates were still on the tree.
' Oh my father will have his dates; they are all safe now,' he thought to himself. ' I will make myself comfortable against this tree,' and he leaned against the