The little dog
A long time ago, there was a city, far away in the Orient. At the city centre, there was a large market. Once a month, the market was dedicated to the sale of dogs.
The dog merchants came from all over the world, bringing with them dogs of all sorts, all races and all colours. There were tall dogs, small dogs, some were fat, and some were lean. There were beautiful dogs and there were those that were not at all beautiful. Some had a high pitch staccato bark, others a double-base. Some looked sweet-tempered, others looked aggressive. Dog lovers came from all over to buy their dogs at the city market.
During that time, there lived in the city an old man who was very poor. He was a beggar. He had always dreamed of having a dog of his own. Often, he would go to the dog market to look longingly at the dogs. But these dogs were all pure breeds and much too expensive.
One day he had stayed longer than usual in the marketplace, admiring the dogs. He saw a trader who was counting up his money and the day's sales. It had been a good day's market; he had sold all his dogs except one.
"Didn't you sell that one then?" asked the beggar.
"No," replied the dogtrader. "I couldn't sell this one. I'll never be able to sell this one."
"Why?" asked the beggar.
"Simply because this dog smells bad. In fact, he stinks. I've tried everything. I've given him scented baths; I've washed him, brushed him, and combed him. There's no way to get rid of his stink."
"How much are you asking for him?"
"Not a lot. I'd be happy to get rid of him for a few euros."
"I have a few cents in my pocket," said the beggar, full of hope. "Is it enough?"
The dog trader took his money.
"The dog is yours."
The beggar left the market. Under his arm, he held a little dog that smelt bad. He really did smell very bad, but he had such beautiful eyes.
They went together down a grand avenue that led out of the city walls. Luxurious residences stood majestically along both sides of the avenue.
"You know, little dog..." (He hadn't yet given him a name) "I won't be able to give you good meals like the dogs that live inside these gracious homes. I am but a poor beggar, look."
He pulled out a crust of bread from his pocket.
"We will share it, half for you and half for me. Eat it slowly because it's all we will get for a while."
"You should also know, little dog, that you won't be living in a big house or luxurious palace like the ones we see on this avenue. I don't even have a hut. We will sleep over there, under the tree next to the bridge."
The old beggar lay down in a ditch covered with high weeds. He held his little dog tightly in his arms.
Suddenly, a violent storm blew up. Lightening illuminated the black sky above the city. With a violent crack, lightening struck the tree under which the beggar and his dog were trying to rest. They leaped up, shocked by the violence of the explosion.
Then, the storm blew away as suddenly as it had arrived.
The old beggar saw some men dressed as house servants running towards him.
"Master, Master, you mustn't stay here out in the storm. You are wet. You will catch cold. Come and warm yourself in your home."
They led the beggar towards the most beautiful palace he had ever seen. It was made from rose coloured marble. It was entirely lit and the light reflected on the plants of a luxuriant garden. The house servants led the old man to a sumptuous entrance hall.
"We will prepare you a hot bath to warm you up. After that, your dinner will be served."
The beggar found himself and his little dog in a gold bath. Young girls poured scented perfumes into the bath and then dressed him like a prince.
After his bath, he went to the dining room. The table was laid with the best possible foods. He sat down and ate to his fill. Of course, he shared his food with his little dog.
Then, the house servants asked if he would like to retire to his chamber-a bedroom more beautiful than he had ever imagined. Very surprised by all these events, the beggar fell asleep in a bed so comfortable it exceeded his wildest dreams.
"When the master of the house returns," he said to himself, "he will throw me out. But at least I have lived like a king for a few hours."
When he awoke the next morning, he thought at first that he had had a beautiful dream. But it wasn't a dream. The house servants were still there, informing him that breakfast was ready and asking him what his plans were for the day.
He explored the sumptuous palace and its luxuriant gardens with his little dog, which was happy to run amongst the flowers.
Suddenly a carriage stopped in front of the palace gates. A man got out. The beggar went to meet him nervously and recognised the king of the country.
"Good morning," greeted the king. "I often drive down this avenue where I have many friends. This is the first time I have noticed your residence. I am delighted to make your acquaintance, dear friend. I hope I may call you dear friend? This is the way I greet all the wealthy people in the city."
"Please come in," invited the beggar.
"With pleasure. I will come this evening if I may, accompanied by some of my ministers and other personalities. If you would be so kind to welcome us for dinner?"
"Excellent idea," stammered the beggar. "Come to dinner this evening with your counsellors."
"Until this evening then, dear friend!"
The king's carriage disappeared.
The old beggar returned to his palace. He called his house servants and explained that he had invited the king and his counsellors to dinner that evening.
"Very good, Master. We will take care of everything. This evening you will enjoy the best of feasts. The dining room will be magnificently decorated and we will prepare only the very finest culinary delights for you and your guests."
A little while before the king was due to arrive, the old beggar got dressed in the finest clothes in his closet. His house servants had prepared a sumptuous dining table, laid with gold plates, crystal glasses and perfectly prepared food, harmoniously arranged on dishes of silver and gold.
It was then that he said to himself that he should really do something about the odour of his little dog. Now that he counted the king among his friends, it was time to part with this smelly little canine. The animal was a worthy companion to a ragged beggar, but not the rich and important man that he had become.
He took the little dog down to the cellars and locked him up in a small, dark room with no window and no way out apart from the thick and heavy door which he himself locked with three enormous iron locks.
Reassured that the king would not be able to smell the dog's stench now, he returned to the salon to await his guests.
The king had just arrived. The beggar welcomed him into the dining room. Everyone sat down to dinner. During the meal, the ministers flattered the beggar, the bankers smiled at him and the king's advisors treated him like a close friend.
"Your food is absolutely delicious," said the King at the end of the meal. "Your palace is sumptuous and your house servants attentive, but what is that terrible stench that is suddenly upon us from under the table?"
The beggar looked under the table and saw his little dog.
The beggar made his excuses to the king:
"Oh, forgive me, Your Majesty, a dirty little dog has found his way into my palace. I will remove him immediately."
The beggar grabbed the little dog and returned back down to the cellars. The three padlocks were still tightly shut. He opened each one in turn. He pushed open the door and peered into the gaol-like room. The dog was not there, but how did he escape?
"You, nasty animal! I will deal with you as soon as the king has left."
He pushed the heavy door shut and carefully locked all three locks. The remainder of the dinner passed well.
Close to midnight, the king and his advisors left the beggars palace. They thanked him profusely for his delicious feast and kind hospitality. The king climbed into his royal carriage and promised to invite the beggar to his palace in the very near future.
"In fact," confided the king, placing his hand on the beggar's shoulder, "I am in need of a new minister and counsellor. Let us discuss it tomorrow, dear friend."
The old beggar dismissed all his house servants.
When he was sure he was completely alone, he went into the kitchens and chose a long and very sharp knife. He descended the stairs into the cellars. He opened the three locks one after the other and opened the door. He grabbed his little dog and left the palace. He crossed his luxuriant gardens. With one hand he held the little dog against the ground in a corner next to some hedges. The other hand held the kitchen knife.
"You came to disturb me during my feast with the king. I will soon become his minister. Now I am and important and rich man. I am ashamed to befriend a stinking dog like you. What will everyone think? I no longer need a dirty dog. You must die. I will cut your throat."
The old beggar lifted his weapon, ready to strike. At that precise moment a flash of lightening lit up the black sky. The lightning struck the knife and the old beggar was instantly thunderstruck. In an instant he found himself back under the tree by the bridge, dressed in rags. His little dog ran towards him and jumped into his arms.
The storm blew away. The old beggar looked towards the spot where the palace had been with its delicious food, magnificent clothes, attentive servants and innumerable riches. All that was left was a weed covered field.
It was then that the old man realised that it was the little dog that had brought him all those riches and that he, the beggar man, had not been worthy of the dog's friendship. He realised that his little dog was magic, yet he had chased him from his table and locked him in the cellar. He had wanted to kill him because he was ashamed of his smelly fury friend in front of his rich guests.
The little dog did not give the beggar man any more gifts. There would be no more kings, courtiers, bankers or fine houses. The magic was gone. But the old beggar remained loyal to his little dog. He kept him always at his side and shared everything he had.
Often, when someone asked why he kept such a smelly little dog, he answered that friendship is the most important thing in the world and one must never, ever, be ashamed of one's friends: whoever they are.
Translation : Andrew Gordon Middleton