The King and the Apple
The king died and was buried in the manner he had wished. The prince fell into a state of grief and would not go outside the door. At last the ministers of state came to the new king and proposed to him that he should go out hunting. The king was delighted with the idea and set out for the chase with his suite.
They went eastwards and killed a great quantity of game. On their way home, the young monarch saw a tower near the road and wished to know what was in it. He asked one of his viziers to go and try to find out about it. He obeyed, but first said: 'I hope to return in three days, and if I do not I shall be dead.'
Three days passed, and the vizier did not return. The king sent a second, a third, a fourth, but not one of them came back. Then he rose and went himself. When he arrived, he saw written over the door: 'Enter and thou wilt repent; enter not and thou wilt repent.'
'I must do one or the other,' said the king to himself, 'so I shall go in.'
He opened the door and went in. Behold! There stood twelve men with drawn swords. They took his hand and led him into twelve rooms. When he was come into the twelfth, he saw a golden couch on which was stretched a boy of eight or nine years of age. His eyes were closed, and he did not utter a word.
The king was told: 'Thou mayst ask him three questions, but if he does not understand and answer all of them, thou must lose thy head.'
The king became very sad, but at last remembered the coffer his father had given him.
'What greater misfortune can I have than to lose my head?' said he to himself. He took out the coffer and opened it; from it there fell out an apple, which rolled towards the couch.
'What help can this be to me?' said the king.
But the apple began to speak and told the following tale to the boy:
'A certain man was travelling with his wife and brother when night fell, and they had no food. The woman's brother-in-law went into a neighbouring village to buy bread; on the way he met brigands, who robbed him and cut off his head. When his brother did not return, the man went to look for him; he met the same fate. The next day the unhappy woman went to seek them, and there she saw her husband and brother-in-law lying in one place with their heads cut off; around was a pool of blood. The woman sat down, tore her hair, and began to weep bitterly. At that moment there jumped out a little mouse. It began to lick the blood, but the woman took a stone, threw it at the mouse, and killed it. Then the mouse's mother came out and said: "Look at me, I can bring my child back to life, but what canst thou do for thy husband and his brother?" She pulled up an herb, applied it to the little mouse, and it was restored to life. Then they both disappeared in their hole. The woman rejoiced greatly when she saw this; she also plucked of the same herb, put the heads on the bodies, and applied it to them. Her husband and brother-in-law both came back to life, but alas! She had put the wrong heads on the bodies. Now, my sage youth! Tell me, which was the woman's husband?' concluded the apple.
He opened his eyes, and said: 'Certainly it was he who had the right head.'
The king was very glad.
'A joiner, a tailor, and a priest were travelling together at one time,' began the apple. 'Night came on when they were in a wood; they lighted a huge fire, had their supper, and then said: "Do not let us be deprived of employment; each of us shall in turn watch and do something in his trade." The joiner's turn came first. He cut down a tree, and out of it he fashioned a man. Then he lay down and went to sleep, while the tailor mounted guard. When he saw the wooden man, he took off his clothes and put them on it. Last of all, the priest acted as sentinel. When he saw the man he said: "I will pray to God that He may give this man a soul." He prayed, and his wish was granted. Now, my boy, canst thou tell me who made the man?'
'He who gave him the soul.'
The king was pleased and said to himself: 'That is two.'
The apple again went on: 'There were a diviner, a physician, and a swift runner. The diviner said: "There is a certain prince who is ill with such and such a disease." The physician said: "I know a cure for it." "I will run with it," said the swift runner. The physician prepared the medicine, and the man ran with it. Now tell me who cured the king's son?' said the apple.
'He who made the medicine,' replied the boy.
When he had given the three answers, the apple rolled back into the casket, and the king put it in his pocket.
The boy arose, embraced the king, and kissed him: 'Many men have been here, but I have not been able to speak before: now tell me what thou wishest, and I will do it.' The king asked that his viziers might be restored to life, and they all went away with rich presents.
Next: The Three Precepts