Long ago there lived a king. Writers, poets, and musicians came from many places to see him. The king liked to hear their stories, poems, and music. But there was one man whom the king liked better than the others. His name was Mahboul. He knew many tricks, sang funny songs, and danced well. He could make the king laugh, and the people called Mahboul the King’s Fool.
There was one thing that the king did not like in Mahboul: he ate too much. This little man ate from morning til night.
The king thought: “My poor Mahboul will die soon if he eats so much.” Then he called together all his ministers and servants and said: “Listen to me. For one day you must not give Mahboul anything to eat. Do not give him wine, nor fruit, nor meat. Do not give him even a piece of bread! He must not sit at my table. He must not have anything to eat the whole day.”
“Oh, yes my King, that is right. He is too fat,” said one of the ministers.
So the next day there was no place for Mahboul at the king’s table. He went to the wall and stood there. He thought: “I shall wait. Soon the servants will bring me food and drink.”
But the servants did not bring him anything. He did not ask for food because he was afraid of the king.
“If a man makes the king angry, that man will die,” he thought.
Poor Mahboul was very hungry. Then one of the servants dropped a little piece of bread. Mahboul quickly picked it up.
“Now I have something to eat,” he thought. “I shall eat it when the king is not looking at me.”
When dinner was over, the poets read their poems, the musicians played, and the dancing girls began their beautiful dances.
“Now the king is watching the dancing girls,” thought Mahboul. “I shall eat my piece of bread.”
But the king was watching Mahboul all the time. He asked the musicians to stop, called Mahboul to
come to him and asked: “I hear the you have a donkey. Where did you get it?”
“I bought it in Tipoli, my King!” answered Mahboul.
“Oh, I see,” said the king.
So the musicians were playing and the girls were dancing. Then Mahboul wanted to eat his piece of bread. But the king asked him to come nearer and said: “How much did you pay for your donkey in Tripoli?”
Mahboul put the bread in his pocket quickly and answered: “Sixteen gold coins, my King.”
The king went on like this all the afternoon. When Mahboul tried to eat his piece of bread, the king always asked him a question.
At last evening came. Mahboul could not stand, he was so hungry and tired. When the feast was over, Mahboul ran to the kitchen, but the kitchen was locked, and Mahboul had only his small piece of bread to eat. He ate it up and went to his room, but he could not sleep. He was very hungry.
Then he went to the king’s room. He knocked at the door.
The king asked angrily: “Who is knocking at my door so late?”
“Oh, my King,” said Mahboul. “I am sorry, but I must tell you that I did not buy my donkey in Tripoli, but in Benghazi.”
The king thanked him and told him to go away.
A few minutes later Mahboul knocked at the door again.
“Oh, my King, but I told you a lie this afternoon. I did not pay sixteen gold coins for the donkey, I paid twenty gold coins for it.”
“Oh, you dog,” cried the angry king. “I shall cut off your head for your silly tales about donkeys and give your body to the jackals!”
Mahboul listened to the king and smiled: “Oh, yes, I know that. But before I die may I say my last wish? Only one wish!”
“What is your last wish?” asked the king.
“My last wish is to have a good supper,”
The king understood everything.