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Scribe's Dream

2006-07-13 23:03

  There was once a poor scribe in the city of Agra. He copied other people's writings and books. He earned barely enough to support his family. But no matter how difficult it was, he and his wife always managed to feed themselves and their children. The scribe was proud of the fact that he had never borrowed a single copper coin. “We must never fall into the hands of the moneylender”, he often told his wife. “For if we do, we will surely bee ruined.”

  The scribe worried so much about his lack of money and his fear to borrowing that his worries even found a place in his dreams. One night he dreamt that he had borrowed one hundred gold coins from the moneylender. He woke up in terror, thinking, “One hundred gold coins! Where, oh where will I ever find such wealth!” Still trembling from his nightmare, he woke his wife and told her all about it. They talked quitly for a while and soon the scribe began to feel better. He was able to lie down again and was soon asleep once more.

  The next day, as the scribe's wife drew water from the well at the end of the street on which they lived, she told her friends of her husband's dream. “Imagine!” she exclaimed. “He dreamt that we had borrowed not one or two, but one hudred gold coins from the moneylender!” Her friends laughed with her. A few of them thought it was a very good story and repeated it to their husbands when they got home. The story spread and a few days later, it reached the moneylender's ears. He laughed when he heard it but his eyes begin to glitter greedily. That evening, he put on his turban and, picking up his walking stick, strolled over to the scribe's small house.

  “I've come”, he announced to the nervous and worried scribe, “to remind you of the money you owe me.”

  “Money?” squeaked the scribe in a panic. “I owe you?”

  “Yes bhai”, answered the moneylender firmly. “One hundred gold coins. Surely you can not have forgotten?”

  “One-one-one h-h-hundred gold coins……” gasped the scribe in a failing voice, tottering to the nearest chair.

  The scribe's wife, who had been listening from an inner room, came hurrying out. “But it was only a dream!” she cried. “You cannot ask us to return money that has only been borrowed in a dream!”

  “Money is money”, the moneylender said, unmoved. “And money borrowed must be returned. You will have to start tomorrow. I am a kind man, a good-hearted man, and so I shall not demand it all back at once.

  One gold coin a month will do. And then there will be the interest above that as well.“ And these words, he stood up and left.

  The scribe began to moan softly. His wife sat down suddenly, her knees giving way beneath her. They sat is silent despair. Suddenly, from the depths of her misery, the wife had an idea. “Husband”, she said, sitting up straight. “We must beg Raja Birble to help us. Only he can save us from utter ruin”。 At this, the scribe sat up. Strength and energy seemed to flow into his limbs. “I shall go to his house at once”, he said “If anyone can save us it is he.”

  Birbal listened to the poor scribe's tale of woe. Then he brought out a bag of gold coins and emptied them on to a table. He counted out a hundred and put the rest away. they he placed a large mirror in front of the coins.

  “Huzoor, huzoor!” the scribe said in a distressed voice. “I did not come here to beg or to ask you to pay the moneylender. Surely there is another way!”

  “There is another”, Birbal answered with a smile. “Compose yourself and go and call the moneylender to my haveli. Tell him his debt is about to be paid.”

  Full of doubts, the scribe hurried to the moneylender's house with Birbal's message. The moneylender smiled when he heard and got up at once to accompany him.

  When they arrived at Birbal's house and were shown in, the moneylender spotted the pile of gold coins on the table. He smiled and smiled, unable to take his eyes of them. The mirror behind the coins made the pile look larger and more glittering.

  “So the scribe borrowed a hundred gold coins from you in his dream, did he?”

  “That is so”, replied the moneylender, never taking his eyes off the coins on the table.

  “Well”, said Birbal. “You may take all the coins in the mirror,” said Birbal. The real coins belong to me, but all those in the reflection are yours in return for the dream loan!“

  The moneylender knew he had met his match. Without a word, he turned and left the house. Never again did he try to bully the scribe or anyone else in the city of Agra.

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