252 THE NUNDA, EATER OF PEOPLE
trunk, and sleep came on him, and the bird flew down and ate all the dates.
When the sun rose, the head-man came and looked for the dates, and there where no dates. And he woke the young man, and said to him, ' Look at the tree.'
And the young man looked, and there were no dates. And his ears were stopped, and his legs trembled, and his tongue grew heavy at the thought of the sultan. His slave became frightened as he looked at him, and asked, ' My master, what is it?'
He answered, ' I have no pain anywhere, but I am ill everywhere. My whole body is well, and my whole body is sick. I fear my father, for did I not say to him, " Tomorrow at seven you shall taste the dates" ? And he will drive me away, as he drove away my brother! I will go away myself, before he sends me.'
Then he got up and took a road that led straight past the palace, but he had not walked many steps before he met a man carrying a large silver dish, covered with a white cloth to cover the dates. And the young man said, ' The dates are not ripe yet; you must return to-morrow.'
And the slave went with him to the palace, where the sultan was sitting with his four sons.
' Good greeting, master!' said the youth.
And the sultan answered, ' Have you seen the man I sent?'
'I have, master; but the dates are not yet ripe.'
But the sultan did not believe his words, and said: ' This second year I have eaten no dates, because of my sons. Go your ways, you are my son no longer! '
And the sultan looked at the four sons that were left him, and promised rich gifts to whichever of them would bring him the dates from the tree. But year by year passed, and he never got them. One son tried to keep himself awake with playing cards; another mounted a horse and rode round and round the tree, while the two