3.2 The Magic Herb

‘Knock! Knock! Knock!’ Someone was knocking on the door of the inn. It was already getting dark outside. “Who’s there ?” the innkeeper called from within. “I am a poor, tired merchant. I want to spend the night at the inn,” said the man outside.

The innkeeper was not pleased to hear that the man was poor. But all the same, he opened the door and brought him inside. The merchant wore simple garments and carried only a simple cloth bag on his back. “I have spent a long, tiring day at the market. I don’t have the energy to walk back to my village. Please prepare a simple dinner for me,” requested the merchant.

The innkeeper just nodded and went back to the kitchen.

“Ugh ! What’s the point in serving such beggarly customers ! He calls himself a merchant, but look at his clothes! Look at his bag! His shoes are all worn out. He has to carry his merchandise himself. Cannot afford a servant! Cannot afford even a good meal !” He began to complain to his wife. “You are right!” said his wife. She was as greedy and unkind as her husband.

“We cook a meal for him, give him a place to sleep, and what is he going to pay in return ? Just a couple of coins maybe ! Why did you take him in ? Drive him out.”

“No, no!” said the innkeeper. “That is not good for our reputation. But I have an idea – a very clever idea ! I have this magic herb. I bought it long ago. Whoever eats this herb forgets something. We will cook a good meal for this fellow and add the magic herb to it. Then he is sure to forget some of his merchandise here tomorrow.”

“How clever you are !” exclaimed the wife. “Yes, what else can he forget ? He has just his merchandise with him. Maybe he will forget all of it and leave it behind here. It will surely be ours tomorrow!”

So that’s what the greedy couple did. They cooked a tasty meal for their customer and added the magic herb to it. The poor merchant did not suspect anything. He thanked the innkeeper for the good meal and went to bed. The next morning, as soon as the innkeeper and his wife woke up, they went to the merchant’s room! But alas! The merchant was not there. The room was empty

“What’s this ? There’s no one here. And where’s the bag of merchandise ? That, too, is gone!” “Let’s check. The magic of the herb is quite strong. He must have forgotten something. He must have left something behind!”

The innkeeper searched in every nook and corner of the room but he couldn’t find anything. “How come he forgot nothing? I can’t believe it!” said he.

Suddenly the wife slapped herself on the forehead. “We were so foolish! He has certainly forgotten something ! HE HAS FORGOTTEN TO PAY US !”

The innkeeper never used the magic herb again!