Told in the Coffee House: Turkish Tales | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in July 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Paradise Sold by the Yard

THE chief Imam of the Vilayet of Broussa owed to a Jew money-lender the sum of two hundred piasters. The Jew wanted his money and would give no rest to the Imam. Daily he came to ask for it, but without success. The Jew was becoming very anxious and determined to make a great effort. Not being able to take the Imam to court, he decided to try and shame him into paying the sum due; and to effect this, he came, sat on his debtor's doorstep and bewailed his sad fate in having fallen into the hands of a tyrant. The Imam saw that if this continued, his reputation as a man of justice would be considerably impaired, so he thought of a plan by which to pay off his creditor. Calling the Jew into his house, he said:

               "Friend, what wilt thou do with the money if I pay thee?"

               "Get food, clothe my children, and advance in my business," answered the Jew.

               "My friend," said the Imam, "thy pitiful position awakens my compassion. Thou art gathering wealth in this world at the cost of thy soul and peace in the world to come; and I wish I could help thee. I will tell thee what I will do for thee. I would not do the same thing for any other Jew in the world, but thou hast awakened my commiseration. For the debt I owe thee, I will sell thee two hundred yards of Paradise, and being owner of this incomparable possession in the world to come, thou canst fearlessly go forth and earn as much as possible in this world, having already made ample provision for the next."

               What could the Jew do but take what the Imam was willing to give him? So he accepted the deed for the two hundred yards of Paradise. A happy thought now struck the Jew. He set off and found the tithe-collector of the revenues of the mosque, and made friends with him. He then explained to him, when the intimacy had developed, how he was the possessor of a deed entitling him to two hundred yards of Paradise, and offered the collector a handsome commission if he would help him in disposing of it. When the money had been gathered for the quarter, the collector came and discounted the Imam's document, returning it to him as two hundred piasters of the tithes collected, with the statement that this document had been given to him by a peasant, and that bearing his holy seal, he dared not refuse it.

               The Imam was completely deceived, and thought that the Jew had sold the deed at a discount to some of his subjects who were in arrears, and of course had to receive it as being as good as gold. Nevertheless the Jew was not forgotten, and the Imam determined to have him taken into court and sentenced if possible. His charge against the Jew was that he, the chief priest of the province, had taken pity on this Jew, thinking what a terrible thing it was to know no future, and as the man hitherto had an irreproachable character, in consideration of a small debt he had against the church, which it was desirable to balance, he thought he would give this Jew two hundred yards of Paradise, which he did.

               "Now, gentlemen, this ungrateful dog sold this valuable document, and it was brought back to me as payment of taxes in arrears due to the church. Therefore, I say that this Jew has committed a great sin and ought to be punished accordingly."

               The Cadis now turned to hear the Jew, who, the personification of meekness, stood as if awaiting his death sentence. With the most innocent look possible, the Jew replied, when the Cadis asked him what he had to say for himself:

               "Effendim, it is needless to say how I appreciate the kindness of our Imam, but the reason that I disposed of that valuable document was this: When I went to Paradise I found a seat, and measured out my two hundred yards, and took possession of the further inside end of the bench. I had not been there long when a Turk came and sat beside me. I showed him my document and protested against his taking part of my seat; but, gentlemen, I assure you it was altogether useless; the Turks came and came, one after the other, till, to make a long story short, I fell off at the other end of the seat, and here I am. The Turks in Paradise will take no heed of your document, and either will not recognize the authority of the Imam, or will not let the Jews enter therein.

               "Effendim, what could I do but come back and sell the document to men who could enter Paradise, and this I did."

               The Cadis, after consulting, gave judgment as follows:

               "We note that you could not have done anything else but sell the two hundred yards of Paradise, and the fact that you cannot enter there is ample punishment for the wrong committed; but there is still a grievous charge against you, which, if you can clear to our satisfaction, you will at once be dismissed. How much did the document cost you and what did you sell it for?"

               "Effendim, it cost me two hundred piasters, and I sold it for two hundred piasters."

               This statement having been proved by producing the deed in question, and the tithe-collector who had given it to the Imam for two hundred piasters, the Jew was acquitted.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Paradise Sold by the Yard
Tale Author/Editor: Adler, Cyrus & Ramsay, Allan
Book Title: Told in the Coffee House: Turkish Tales
Book Author/Editor: Adler, Cyrus & Ramsay, Allan
Publisher: Macmillan & Co.
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1898
Country of Origin: Turkey
Classification: unclassified

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