256 THE NUNDA, EATER OF PEOPLE
' Is it true, head-man ?'
' Oh yes, it is true, but let him sleep till each man has brought forth a present. He who has fowls, let him take fowls; he who has a goat, let him take a goat; he who has rice, let him take rice.' And the people did as he had said.
Then they took the drum, and went to the tree where the boy lay sleeping.
And they picked him up, and carried him away, with horns and clarionets and drums, with clappings of hands and shrieks of joy, straight to his father's house.
When his father heard the noise and saw the baskets made of green leaves, brimming over with dates, and his son borne high on the necks of slaves, his heart leaped, and he said to himself ' To-day at last I shall eat dates.' And he called his wife to see what her son had done, and ordered his soldiers to take the boy and bring him to his father.
' What news, my son ? ' said he.
' News? I have no news, except that if you will open your mouth you shall see what dates taste like.' And he plucked a date, and put it into his father's mouth.
' Ah! You are indeed my son,' cried the sultan. ' You do not take after those fools, those good-for-nothings. But, tell me, what did you do with the bird, for it was you, and you only who watched for it? '
' Yes, it was I who watched for it and who saw it. And it will not come again, neither for its life, nor for your life, nor for the lives of your children.'
' Oh, once I had six sons, and now I have only one. It is you, whom I called a fool, who have given me the dates : as for the others, I want none of them.'
But his wife rose up and went to him, and said, ' Master, do not, I pray you, reject them,' and she entreated long, till the sultan granted her prayer, for she loved the six elder ones more than her last one.
So they all lived quietly at home, till the sultan's cat went and caught a calf. And the owner of the calf went