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The father of twelve children

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The father of twelve children

Excerpt From the future book The King and the Widow

There was a man, father of twelve children, who couldn't pay his rent anymore and owed two years rent to the landlord.  One day the landlord went with his tenant to the Caliph to complain.  On their way they encountered a stubborn donkey which didn't want to move from its place.  The donkey was carrying a precious load.  The owner of the donkey begged the passers-by for help.  The tenant responded immediately to the request and tried to pull the donkey by its tail.  He pulled so strongly that the tail of the donkey came apart.  The owner of the donkey was in distress and wanted to hit the poor tenant, when the landlord stopped him and said to him:

- "Don't beat him, I am bringing him to the Caliph, come with me, he will have two cases instead of one."  The owner of the donkey agreed and went with them holding the donkey by the rope in one hand and the tail in the other hand.  The poor tenant was troubled to find himself with two cases on his head.  He walked without looking in front of him and as he walked in despair, he stepped on a baby whom his parents had laid down on the grass to enjoy the sunshine.  The baby died instantly.  The parents were furious and they wanted to kill the poor tenant.  The landlord intervened again and told the young couple:

- "Do not commit a crime, we are going to the Caliph to judge him, join us, he will have to answer for three cases instead of one, he is already a dead man.  The couple joined the landlord and the owner of the donkey.  The poor tenant was going listlessly and he was stumbling on every stone.  After a while he tripped over a big stone and tumbled down from a high rock.  Deep under him was an old man surrounded by his five sons, sleeping in the shade of this high rock.  The poor tenant fell on the old man's head and killed him instantly.  The five sons were furious and wanted to kill him.  Again the landlord intervened and told the five sons the same story.  The poor tenant didn't have the chance to come out of this mess. 
- "His death is certain," said the landlord to the other plaintiffs.  When they entered the palace court the Caliph saw the tenant and recognized him.  The tenant was an old friend of his and he was the  man who had given his son two hundred camels at the time when Bousid needed them.  At that time the tenant, who used to be a rich man, had said to Mokhtar, Bousid's son:

- "Tell your father: ‘God is generous!'  One day Bousid should return me a favor if I need it."  Bousid did not want to judge him immediately and waited until everyone was out of the court.  It was almost night when the Caliph called them to approach the bench.  The landlord took the lead and told the judge:
- "Your Majesty, this man was a landlord himself, many years ago, and he should know what it means if a tenant does not pay his rent." 
- "To the point," interrupted the Caliph. Then the landlord continued:
- "Two years ago he has stopped paying me rent for no reason whatsoever." The Caliph said:
- "Ok, the next."
The owner of the donkey approached the bench, he said while crying :
-"I have only this one donkey to work with and this stupid man, instead of helping me, pulled the tail from my donkey.  I asked him to push the donkey and not to pull."
- "Next" said the Caliph."
The couple approached the bench and the husband said:
- "My King, for many years my wife didn't have any children and this year God blessed us with a boy.  We were very happy, then this crazy man stepped on the baby and killed him."  The Caliph looked at the tenant with a faint smile and said:
- "Next! Now what are you five guys doing here?"  The oldest son approached the bench and his four brothers stood behind him.  He said:
- "My King, you know how precious our parents are, we were sitting around our old father who was sleeping, and comes this heavy man from nowhere and falls on our father's head.  Our poor and dear father died instantly."  The Caliph asked them:
- "How old was your father?"  The five men answered together:
- "Only one hundred years, Your Majesty!"  The Caliph looked at everyone and said:
- "I will return in an hour, let me think about all your small cases."
Everyone waited patiently and everyone hoped that the Caliph would hang the tenant.  Suddenly the door opened wide and the Caliph entered again with a severe expression on his face.  The tenant's stomach turned around and he felt that his death was near.  Then the Caliph ordered the guard to bring them before him, case by case.  And now for the sentences:

SENTENCE NR 1 Case number one: the judge said to  the landlord:  

- "Give him another five years to pay his rent and if he does not pay you, bring him back to me!"  When he heard the sentence, the landlord said:
- "Your Majesty, I pardon him, we will settle this case together. He is a good person after all."

SENTENCE NR 2  the donkey owner:
- "Your case is a very simple one, give your donkey to the tenant and he shall bring it back to you when the tail grows back.  When the donkey owner heard the sentence he said:
- "Your Majesty, I pardon him too, as the landlord said, he is a good man after all."

SENTENCE NR 3 The third case: the couple and the baby:
- "Your case is more than simple.  Give him your wife and he shall return her to you only if she will be pregnant and will give birth to a baby boy."  The couple responded together:
- "Your Majesty we too pardon him, as everyone testified that he is a good man.

SENTENCE NR 4 The fourth case: the five men and the father:
- "Your case is an easy one."
The five men approached the bench, the judge ordered:
- "Your father was not so young and his moment arrived while you were all surrounding him.  That is a beautiful death.  Now if you want to punish this man then you should all jump on him from the top of the same rock until he is punished"  The five men were scared as the top of the rock was high enough and they did not want to risk their lives, so together they responded:
- "Your Majesty, we pardon him too, as we heard from all the plaintiffs before us that this man is a good man, therefore he should not die so young."  The plaintiffs  left the palace court one by one, smiling as if they had just won the case.  The brothers who for the first time saw the king, were very happy with this encounter and left the court smiling and praising the king's wisdom.
The court which just a few minutes ago was full of people, was empty now, except for the tenant who was retained by the guard upon the Caliph's instructions.  The guard took him to the palace's bath  and gave him fresh and rich looking clothes.  After a while, the tenant with his new clothes on, appeared like a prince and couldn't believe the lucky day he had.  He was full of joy and gratitude towards God.  As he was about to leave the palace, the guard stopped him and told him that the Caliph wanted to see him.  The poor tenant was scared again that the Caliph may have changed his mind.  He followed the guard with a heavy heart.  When he reached the Caliph's room he looked like a king himself.  In fact the clothes were regal.  At the end of the majestic room, the Caliph was waiting for him with many dignitaries.  The king gave a great reception.  The poor tenant was completely overwhelmed and could not realize what was going on.  Then he addressed the king and said:
- "Your Majesty, there must be an innocent error, I am a poor man and do not belong to this beautiful place."  Then the king smiled and asked the poor tenant:
- "Do you recognize me ?"  The poor man, intimidated and with a scared voice responded:
- "No, Your Majesty!"  The Caliph approached him closer and said:
- "Take a good look at me and tell me if you recognize me?" The poor tenant looked at the Caliph again and again, then he responded:
- "Your Majesty, I wish I knew you."  The Caliph responded swiftly:
- "Of course you know me, my friend Jamil, the generous one, and the noble one."  Jamil, the tenant, responded with a laugh and continued:
- "The miserable one, and the naked one." Then the Caliph said to him:
- "You remember my son Mokhtar, to whom you gave two hundred camels?" When the Caliph mentioned Mokhtar and the camels the poor Jamil responded:
- "Your Majesty, you mean my friend Bousid's son?  Do you know him?"  Jamil was a little confused as he could not put together the camels, Bousid who lived in another place and now the Caliph.  It was too much for one single day and especially after a tiring trip! The Caliph answered:
- "Yes Jamil, your friend Bousid."  The tenant answered:
- "I wish I could find my friend Bousid, he is the only man I can trust." The Caliph smiled and said:
- "My friend Jamil!  I am Bousid and my son Mokhtar whom you know will arrive soon"  The tenant completely seized with emotion, burst into tears.  The Caliph kissed him and hugged him and said :
- "Do you remember, Jamil, the message you sent me through my son?"  Jamil remembered and said :
- "Tell your father: ‘God is generous and you shall return me a favor if I need it!'"  Then the Caliph said to him:
- "You recognized yourself, that God is generous and I should return you a favor if you needed it".  Then he stopped for a moment and continued: "Could you choose a better day for a favor?" Jamil answered:
- "No!  This was the most important day in my life. I thank Our Lord for his generosity and justice.  If I had been judged by another king, my head would not be on my shoulders by now!"  After the short reception the Caliph took Jamil by his hand and entered another room where dinner was to be served.  This time, in front of Queen Soraya who was present, the Caliph told him:
- "My friend Jamil, herewith I proclaim you the mayor of the city of Moraz." Then he turned to his wife Soraya and said:
- "My dear Soraya do you agree with my decision?" Soraya who had listened to the entire story and was herself indirectly involved in it, said:
- "Of course, my King, let him bring his wife and his children here." The Caliph, with a smile:
- "You heard what the Queen just said, go and bring your wife and your children here! 

Emile Tubiana

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