The Merchant of Jewels
A man who had travelled to distant lands returned to his village with a sack full of precious stones.
They were so beautiful he decided he would turn them into jewels for the local women.
Night and day he laboured in his workshop: he created necklaces and bracelets, earrings and brooches of unatterable beauty.
The women, who were poor, looked through the window of his workshop wide-eyed, for looking cost them but their dreams.
Yet, the man had put no price tags on his jewels.
Of course, they assumed, they must be very expensive.
One day the man created the most magnificent ring ever seen in the village -- with opals and rubies and a golden band -- and set it in a wooden casket for everybody to behold.
The women sighed, but they were too proud even to inquire about its price.
The merchant's heart sank, for he thought that nobody was ever going to ask, when a tiny hand stretched out in the midst of the crowd and a child, accompanied by a veiled woman, asked:
"Merchant, how much does that ring cost?"
The merchant smiled and opened his arms.
"It's all free for you," he said. And he gave the child the ring and many more jewels besides.
Seeing that scene, the women came forward and asked for their dues, but the merchant said that there was nothing left for them. Then he disappeared in the crowd.
The morning after, the village women went to his workshop, intending to reclaim their gifts, but they were bewildered to see a huge plank across the door and the dark, shut windows.
When the Council of the Village Elders gave them permission to break inside, the workshop was empty and the merchant had vanished.