23. The Bribe
There once lived in Stamboul a man and wife who were so well matched that though married for a number of years their life was one of ideal harmony. This troubled the devil very much. He had destroyed the peace of home after home; he had successfully created, between husband and wife, father and son and brothers, the chasm of envy wide and deep. In this one little home alone he failed in spite of his greatest efforts. One day the devil was talking to an old woman, when the man who had thus far baffled him passed by. The devil groaned at the thought of his repeated failures. Turning to the old woman he said, “I will give you as a reward a pair of yellow slippers if you make that man quarrel with his wife.”
The old woman was delighted, and at once began to scheme and work for the desired slippers. At a time when she was sure to find the lady alone, she went and begged for food, weeping at her sad fate at being a lonely old woman whose husband was long since dead. She appealed to the lady for compassion. The lady was very generous to the old woman, each day giving her something; so much so, that the thought that her good husband might think her extravagant often gave her some uneasiness.
One day the old woman looked into the shop-door of the good woman’s husband and planted the first evil seed by calling out, “Ah! If men only knew where the money they work for from morning till night goes, or knew what their wives did when they were away, some homes would not be so happy.”
The evil woman then went on her way, and the good shopkeeper wondered why she had said these words to him. A passing thought suggested that it was strange that recently his wife had asked him several times for a few extra piasters. The next day, the old woman as usual begged from her victim. She hugged the good woman before departing, taking care to leave the imprint of her blackened hand on her the good woman’s back. The old woman then again went to the shop, looked at her victim’s husband, and said, “Oh! How blind men are! They only look in a woman’s face for truth and loyalty; they forget to look at the back where the stamp of the lover’s hand is to be seen.”
As before, the old woman disappeared. But the mind of the shopkeeper was troubled and his heart was heavy. In this oppressed state he went home, and as soon as he could he looked at his wife’s back, and was horrified to see there the impression of a hand. He got up and left his home, a broken-hearted man.
The devil was deeply impressed at the success of the old woman, and hurried to keep his promise. He took a long pole, tied the pair of slippers at the end, and hurried off to the old woman. Arriving at her house he called out to her to open the window. When she did this, he thrust in the pair of yellow slippers, begging her to take them, but not to come near him; they were hard-earned slippers, he said; she had succeeded where he had failed; so that he was afraid of her and was anxious to keep out of her way.