2.The Folly of Woman is Better Than the Wisdom of Man

There lived in Constantinople an old Hodja, a learned man, who had a son. The boy followed in his father’s footsteps and went every day to the Mosque, seated himself in a secluded spot and engaged in the study of the Koran. Every day he could be seen seated, swaying his body to and fro, and reciting to himself the verses of the Holy Book.

The dearest wish of a student is to be able to recite the entire Koran by heart. Many years are spent in memorizing the Holy Book.

When Abdul turned nineteen he had, by the most diligent study, finally succeeded in mastering three-fourths of the Koran. At this achievement his pride rose, his ambition was fired, and he was determined to become a great man.

The day that he reached this decision he did not go to the Mosque, but stopped at home, in his father’s house, and sat staring at the fire burning in the grate. Several times the father asked, “My son, what do you see in the fire?”

And each time the son answered, “Nothing, father.”

He was very young; he could not see.

Finally, the young man picked up courage and said what was on his mind.

“Father,” he said, “I wish to become a great man.”

“That is very easy,” said the father.

“And to be a great man,” continued the son, “I must first go to Mecca.” For no Muslim has fulfilled all of the obligations of his faith unless he has made the pilgrimage to the Holy City.

The father simply replied, “It is very easy to go to Mecca.”

“How, easy?” asked the son. “On the contrary, it is very difficult; for the journey is costly, and I have no money.”

“Listen, my son,” said the father. “You must become a scribe, the writer of the thoughts of other people, and your fortune will be made.”

“But I do not have the implements necessary for a scribe,” said the son.

“All that can be easily arranged,” said the father; “your grandfather had an ink-horn; I will give it to you. I will buy you some writing-paper, and we will get you a box to sit in. All that you need to do is to sit still, look wise and your fortune will be made.”

And indeed the advice was good. For letter-writing is an art which only a few possess. Abdul was thrilled at the advice that he had been given , and lost no time in carrying out the plan. He took his grandfather’s ink-horn, the paper his father bought, got himself a box and began his career as a scribe.

Abdul was young, he lacked experience, but believing himself wise he tried to surpass the advice of his father.

“To look wise,” he said, “is not sufficient; I must have some other attraction.”

And after much thought he hit upon the following idea. Over his box he painted a sign: “The wisdom of man is greater than the wisdom of woman.” People thought the sign was very clever, customers came, the young Hodja took in much money and he was happy.

This sign one day attracted the attention of a Turkish lady. Seeing that Abdul was a handsome youth, she went to him and said, “Hodja, I have a difficult letter to write. I have heard that you are very wise, so I have come to you. To write the letter you will need all your wit. Moreover, the letter is a long one, and I cannot stand here while it is being written. Come to my house at three this afternoon, and we will write the letter.”

The Hodja was overcome with admiration for his fair client, and surprised at the invitation. He was enchanted, his heart beat wildly.

He had never talked with a woman outside of his own family circle. To be admitted to a lady’s house was in itself an adventure.

Long before the appointed time, the young Hodja gathered together his reeds, ink, and sand. With excited steps he made his way to the house. Lattices covered the windows, a high wall surrounded the garden, and a gate barred the entrance. Three times he raised the massive knocker.

“Who is there?” called a voice from within.

“The scribe,” was the reply.

The gate was unbarred, and the Hodja permitted to enter. He was ushered into the apartment of his fair client.

The lady welcomed him cordially.

“Ah! Hodja I am glad to see you; please sit down.”

The Hodja nervously pulled out his writing-implements.

“Do not be in such a hurry,” said the lady. “Refresh yourself; take a cup of coffee, smoke a cigarette, and we will write the letter afterwards.”

So he lit a cigarette, drank a cup of coffee, and they fell to talking. Time flew; the minutes seemed like seconds, and the hours were as minutes. While they were thus enjoying themselves there suddenly came a heavy knock at the gate.

“It is my husband, ” cried the lady. “What shall I do? If he finds you here, he will kill you! I am so frightened.”

The Hodja was frightened too. Again there came a knock at the gate.

“I know what to do,” and taking Abdul by the arm, she said, “You must get into the box,” indicating a large chest in the room. “Quick, quick, if you value your life utter not a word, and I will save you.”

Abdul now, too late, saw his foolishness. It was his lack of experience; but driven by the sense of danger, he entered the chest; the lady locked it and took the key.

A moment afterwards the husband came in.

“I am very tired,” he said; “bring me coffee and a pipe.”

“Good evening, husband,” said the lady. “Sit down. I have something to tell you.”

“Bah!” said the husband; “I want none of your woman’s talk; ‘the hair of woman is long, and her wits are short,’ says the proverb. Bring me my pipe.”

“But, husband,” said the lady, “I have had an adventure today.”

“Bah!” said the husband; “what adventure can a woman have—forgot to paint your eyebrows or color your nails, I suppose.”

“No, husband. Be patient, and I will tell you. I went out today to write a letter.”

“A letter?” said the husband; “to whom would you write a letter?”

“Be patient,” she said, “and I will tell you my story. So I came to the box of a young scribe with beautiful eyes.”

“A young man with beautiful eyes,” shouted the Husband. “Where is he? I’ll kill him!” and he drew his sword.

The Hodja in the chest heard every word and trembled.

“Be patient, husband. I said I had an adventure, and you did not believe me. I told the young man that the letter was long, and I could not stand in the street to write it. So I asked him to come and see me this afternoon.”

“Here? To this house?” thundered the husband.

“Yes, husband,” said the lady. “So the Hodja came here, and I gave him coffee and a cigarette, and we talked, and the minutes seemed like seconds, and the hours were as minutes. All at once came your knock at the gate, and I said to the Hodja, ‘That is my husband; and if he finds you here, he will kill you.'”

“And I will kill him,” screamed the husband, “where is he?”

“Be patient, husband,” said the lady, “and I will tell you. When you knocked a second time, I suddenly thought of the chest, and I put the Hodja in.”

“Let me at him!” screamed the husband. “I’ll cut off his head!”

“O husband,” she said, “what a hurry you are in to slay this handsome youth. He is your prey. He cannot escape you. The youth is not only in the box, but it is locked, and the key is in my pocket. Here it is.”

The lady walked over to the husband, stretched out her hand and gave him the key.

As he took it, she said:

“Fooled you!”

“Bah!” said the husband, in disgust. He threw the key on the floor and left the room, slamming the door behind him.

After he had gone, the lady took up the key, unlocked the door, and let out the trembling Hodja.

“Go now, Hodja, to your box,” she said. “Take down your sign and write instead: ‘The wit of woman is twice the wit of man,’ for I am a woman, and in one day I have fooled two men.”