[Notes by LKG]
This story is part of the Turkish Fairy Tales unit. Story source: Forty-four Turkish Fairy Tales by Ignacz Kunos, with illustrations by Willy Pogany (1913).
One day on going to the bath, his wife saw a great crowd of people. She was informed by the other women who, like herself, had come to bathe, that on that day the chief soothsayer's wife was coming to the establishment; that was why there was so much confusion and excitement.
While they were speaking, the sound of song and music betokened the approach of the wife of the chief soothsayer, and as her husband was a great favourite of the Padishah, she had a numerous escort. The bath-woman, in the hope of receiving a valuable present, paid the lady great honour and respect and begged her to choose her place.
Our poor woman, an eye witness of all this favouritism, took her bath and returned home. Chafing at the slight which she, in common with the other women, had experienced, she sought out her husband and said to him: "Either thou must become a soothsayer or I will leave thee!"
The man replied: "Woman, it is as much as I can do to procure our daily bread; I have no time to study the soothsayer's art. How could I carry out thy wish?"
But the woman repeated her resolve — either he must become a soothsayer or she should leave him.
His wife being of exceptional beauty, he did not like the thought of losing her, so he began to consider whether anything could be done. He went to a coffeehouse, and while he was absorbed in thought over the difficulty, a friend came up and asked what was the matter. Our man related his trouble.
Now the friend was intimate with the bath-woman, and he answered: "Be consoled, brother; I will help thee." With these words he went straight to the bath-woman and put the situation clearly before her.
The woman rejoined: "Tomorrow let the man post himself at the gate of the bath, armed with paper, pen, and inkpot, and scribble away like a soothsayer. The rest shall be my affair."
Our man, though he could neither read nor write, went to the stationer's and bought all the necessary materials, after which he took up his stand at the gate of the bath, where everyone who passed mistook him for a hodja. The chief soothsayer's wife came as usual to the bath. While the attendants were occupied with her, they, on the instructions of the bath-woman, took a costly ring secretly from the lady's finger, and this the bath-woman hid in the mud collected in the gutter, advising the man at the gate of what had taken place.
Soon the chief-soothsayer's wife raised a great clamour over her lost ring. The bathers ran hither and thither in confusion, and while the uproar was at its height, the bath-woman said: "A hodja is at the gate who is skilled in revealing the whereabouts of missing articles."
Immediately the hodja was fetched in and informed of what was required. Looking very wise and with knitted brows reflecting, he presently said: "The ring will be found buried in the mud in the narrow part of the gutter." The place indicated was searched and behold! there the ring was indeed. The lady, now happy in the recovery of her treasure, gave the hodja much baksheesh, and he went home highly satisfied with his first success as a soothsayer.
A few days later it was re ported that the Sultana had lost her ring in the serai. It was believed one of the slaves had stolen it. Everybody and everywhere were searched, but the missing jewel could not be found. When it came to the ears of the Chief soothsayer's wife, she mentioned the hodja as the most likely person to be of use in the matter.
He was accordingly sent for, and when he came into the Sultana's presence, she said: "Hodja, thou must discover my ring wherever it be. I give thee until tomorrow morning; if by then it is not forthcoming, thy head falls." They led him away and locked him up in a room by himself, where he flung himself on the floor crying in the agony of despair: "O Allah, who knowest all things, tomorrow my soul will be in thy hands!"
Now it happened that the slave who had stolen the ring was also suffering indescribable agony at the fear of her crime coming to light. She could not sleep, and at length resolved to risk consequences and make confession to the hodja. In the dead of night she got up and went to the room in which the hodja was confined. Hearing the sound of the key turning in the lock, his fear increased, for he thought it must already be morning. One may imagine his surprise then when the slave fell at his feet and implored: "O best of hodjas, I have the ring; if it becomes known I am a dead woman. O save me! Save me!"
Now thought the happy hodja to himself: "As Allah has delivered me, I must also help this poor creature in her distress."
The slave told him everything; then said he to the woman: "Go, my daughter, and without any person seeing thee, let a goose swallow the ring and afterwards break its leg. Do as I command thee and fear not."
When morning broke, the hodja was brought before the Padishah, to whom he said: "My Shah, all night I have pondered this thing. Animals are visible in sand. Let all the poultry, cocks, hens, geese, turkeys, and other fowls be gathered together in the garden."
The monarch ordered this to be done without delay, and the hodja followed by the whole court proceeded to the garden. Surveying the assembled fowls and scribbling the while, the hodja espied a goose which limped. Pointing it out, he announced triumphantly: "O King, kill this goose and the lost ring will be found inside." The goose was quickly killed, and to the astonishment of everyone, there was the ring in its stomach, just as the learned hodja had predicted.
He was promoted to be chief soothsayer, besides receiving several konaks [palatial residences] as presents. Thus the poor artisan became a very famous hodja.
Next: The Wizard and his Pupil