322 WALI DAD THE SIMPLE-HEARTED
few paces, took a little run, and at the very edge of that dreadful black gulf he stopped short! He could not do it!
From below, unseen in the blackness of the deep night shadows, the water roared and boiled round the jagged rocks—he could picture the place as he knew it, only ten times more pitiless and forbidding in the visionless darkness ; the wind soughed through the gorge with fearsome sighs, and rustlings and whisperings, and the bushes and grasses that grew in the ledges of the cliffs seemed to him like living creatures that danced and beckoned, shadowy and indistinct. An owl laughed ' Hoo ! hoo !' almost in his face, as he peered over the edge of the gulf, and the old man threw himself back in a perspiration of horror. He was afraid ! He drew back shuddering, and covering his face in his hands he wept aloud.
Presently he was aware of a gentle radiance that shed itself before him. Surely morning was not already coming to hasten and reveal his disgrace! He took his hands from before his face, and saw before him two lovely beings whom his instinct told him were not mortal, but were Peris from Paradise.
' Why do you weep, old man ?' said one, in a voice as clear and musical as that of the bulbul.
' I weep for shame,' replied he.
' What do you here ? ' questioned the other.
' I came here to die,' said Wali Dad. And as they questioned him, he confessed all his story.
Then the first stepped forward and laid a hand upon his shoulder, and Wali Dad began to feel that something strange—what, he did not know—was happening to him. His old cotton rags of clothes were changed to beautiful linen and embroidered cloth ; on his hard, bare feet were warm, soft shoes, and on his head a great jewelled turban. Pound his neck there lay a heavy golden chain, and the little old bent sickle, which he cut grass with, and which hung in his waistband, had turned into a gorgeous