The Lucky Jars of Pickles

Once there was a man who went to Mecca every year at the tune of the pilgrimage. He used to take things with him to sell to the pilgrims and so he would make a profitable pilgrimage and return. One year he embarked on a ship with his luggage, and he carried in him arms three small earthen jars of pickles which he took along to share with friends on the voyage. He put the three jars in a row in a sheltered place on deck.

Another traveller, a Jew, got on the boat and put beside the first three jars of pickles three more jars, but his jars were cheap, old, dirty, and not like the merchant"s jars which were pretty, new, and decorated. However, what difference did that make? Then there were six jars.

The Jew was taken ill on board ship. He trembled violently and died. The sailors came to collect all his belongings and they took away three jars of pickles, but, by mistake, they. took the merchant"s jars, ¬the clean, pretty ones.

When the merchant noticed the mistake he said, These old jars aren"t mine. The ones you have taken away are mine. The sailors said, We"ve thrown the jars overboard. so take the other three instead.

The merchant said to himself. I can"t eat the food of a Jew. I"ll go and empty the jars down the drain. He took the jars and went to the toilet. When he started to empty the jars he found pickles at the top of each jar and underneath them gold coins. He took the three jars to his cabin and poured out the gold coins and wrapped them up with the rest of his luggage.

As he was walking toward Mecca he saw a young man with a very yellow face who approached him and said, I am hungry.

The merchant said, You have such a yellow face that I am afraid you are ill.

No, the young man said, I am only hungry.

The merchant said, Go to the market over there where they sell food and have lunch. Eat as much as you want. Eat until you are no longer hungry and I will pay for it.

When the young man was satisfied, the merchant paid for his food, gave him a new shirt and a gold coin, and continued walking toward Mecca.

The merchant did not try to sell his merchandise to the pilgrims that year because he had plenty of money and thought he would have a rest from buying and selling. When he left Mecca he went to Egypt. But when he entered Egypt he had trouble with his unsold merchandise which was held by the customs officials. So he left his goods in the customs warehouse and went on into the city. He took a room in a hotel and settled there.

He went walking one day in the market and came to a very large shop which he entered to look around. The owner of the shop came to him and give him most cordial and profuse greetings saying, Wel¬come, welcome. How are you? How have you been? I"ve been long¬ing to see you. He sent out for a cold, sweet drink, and he sent out for tea. The Egyptian merchant seemed to know him, but the Iraqi merchant did not know the Egyptian.

After a while the Iraqi merchant said, You seem to know me, but I don"t know you. Who are you? I must ask.

The Egyptian merchant said, Tonight you will sleep at my house.

The Iraqi merchant said, I have a room in the hotel. How can I accept your invitation if I don"t know you?

Soon I"ll tell you who I am, but first we will go to my house. When they reached the Egyptian"s house he said, Haji, don"t you know me yet?

No, I don"t know you.

Haji, I was the one with a very yellow face whom you met on the way to Mecca and you asked if I was ill, and I said, No, but I am hungry, And you gave me a gold coin and a shirt and you told the string-bean seller to give me all I could eat and you paid for my food.

The merchant was surprised and said, How have you become so well-to-do? How did it happen?

I’ll tell you how. Didn"t you give me a lira? Well, I went and stood near a boat with the intention of sailing to Syria. A man came along with two boxes. He said, Will you carry these two boxes on board for a rial (coin)? I said, Yes, and I carried them on board the ship and he gave me a rial. Then he said, I"ll pay your passage on the boat and take you with me to Sidon if you will carry the boxes for me. I agreed and I was very pleased with the arrangement. So I went with him from Mecca to Sidon and I carried the boxes for him because they were very heavy.

When we reached Sidon we walked and walked and walked. The man said, You seem tired. Yes, by Allah I am tired. We were near a wall surrounding a vacant lot. He said, Put the boxes here on this wall and you can rest while I go into this vacant lot to relieve my¬self. I rested the boxes on the wall and he went into the vacant lot. I waited and waited and waited and the man did not come back. I went into the vacant lot and found him lying face down and dead.

I took the boxes to a hotel and took a room, carried the boxes there, and on opening them, found them full of money of all kinds. I took out some coins and went to the market and bought myself a com¬plete outfit of new clothes so that I could change everything I had on from head to heel. I went to the bath, shaved, put on the new clothes, and returned to the room, took the boxes and journeyed to Egypt after destroying everything that could identify the owner of the money.

I came to Egypt and found this shop for sale because the owner had recently died leaving no son. When I bought the shop, people said, Where are your goods? Why do you need such a large shop if you have no goods? But I said, I buy and sell for cash. You will soon see, the shop full of things bought with cash and not credit.

The other merchants were impressed by this speech and showed me much respect. Then they said, The merchant"s wife is left with no children and she is very wealthy. Why don"t you take her as well as the shop? You would make a good couple. They went to the widow and said, This merchant can more than take the place of your dead husband. She agreed and we were married. I sent for my mother and we are living very comfortably. My good fortune began on the day you were so generous to me on the way to Mecca.

Blessings and congratulations! Now perhaps you can help me. The goods which I didn"t sell in Mecca are being held by the Egypt¬ian customs and I"d like to clear them and sell them before returning to Baghdad.

Everything was arranged and that year the merchant had the most profitable pilgrimage of his whole life.