The Clever Dhobi

Many years ago, there was a king who was as foolish as he was cruel and hasty.

One morning as the King was being shaved, he was suddenly startled by a loud noise outside, and although the barber did his best, he could not avoid making a small cut on the royal chin. In fear for his life, the King raved in his temper, and the trembling barber quickly gathered up his implements and scuttled out of the chamber.

That same afternoon the King was told that his favourite horse had collapsed and died. Then in the evening, a courier arrived with the disastrous news that one of the King’s ships, carrying valuable treasure, had been lost at sea.

The King was in a black mood that he should be beset with such ill fortune and started to think about how he had begun such a terrible day. Then he remembered that the first per- son to greet him on rising was his dhobi. Ah! that must be the one responsible for this day of misfortune, so the King ordered the dhobi to be hanged immediately for owning such a face of ill omen.

The gallows were ready, and a seething, murmuring crowd soon gathered to see the unfortunate dhobi hanged. As the noose was put around the dhobi’s neck, the magistrate told him he could make one last wish before being turned.

“Let me have the honour of seeing his Majesty for the last time,” begged the dhobi.

This seemed a simple wish to grant, so the guards quickly took the dhobi to the King’s palace.

In the presence of the King, the dhobi knelt and, in a sad voice, begged permission to say a few last words.

“Speak up,” ordered the King. “Then we can get this hanging done before the moon rises.”

In a surprisingly firm voice, the dhobi looked up at the King and said, “Your Majesty, I am told that today you have suffered much ill fortune, and all because mine was the first face your Majesty saw this morning. But your face happened to be the first face I saw this morning. I am not afraid of losing my life at your command, but great King, let it not be said that because the King’s face was the first face the dhobi saw, he had to forfeit his life.”

The King quickly realised that the dhobi had turned the tables on him, and scared of the finger of scorn, he reluctantly ordered the dhobi to be set free.

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