The Golden Wastes
Samedi and the Camel Driver
One day Samedi and his friend were walking over a deserted dune and came upon a farmer slowly leading his camel by the harness. Because the farmer looked rather simpleminded Samedi decided to play a trick on him.
“I’m going to steal that camel!” he declared.
“What! In broad daylight?” Exclaimed his companion. “How can you?”
Very quietly, while the farmer jogged along half asleep, completely unaware of what was happening, Samedi crept up to the camel, disconnected the harness, and put it on his own head. Then he mentioned his friend to hide the camel on the other side of a dune.
After the animal was safely hidden, Samedi suddenly stopped in his tracks. The farmer, still in a dreamy state, did not look up but merely yanked on the harness to get the beast going. When nothing happened, he yanked harder. Still nothing happened. Furious, his eyes flew open and he turned to beat the camel when he discovered with astonishment a man inside his animal’s harness.
“Who . . . who . . . are you?” stammered the farmer.
“Why, I am the camel,” replied Samedi.
“But . . . But . . .”
Raising a hand, Samedi attempted to calm the trembling man. “Please,” he said, “let me explain.” Lifting the harness from his head, he settles himself comfortably upon the sand and begged the farmer to do the same.
“Several years ago I was human – just as you. But I became very lazy and would not do my chores. My mother grew extremely cross with me, and rightfully so. One day she discovered that with all my other bad habits I had turned into a thief. She became so angry she had a wizard put a hex on me, transforming me into a camel for seven years. But today the curse is over and I am free to be human once again.”
Astounded by the story, the farmer reproached himself for having worked the camel so hard.
“Please allow me to congratulate you on your freedom, and to apologize for any bad behavior on my part. If I had known . . . But what is done, is done. Here,” offered the farmer earnestly, “let me give you some money. It will give you a new start.”
Samedi thanked the farmer, and then bade him a pleasant goodbye. A little later he rejoined with his companion, who was hiding behind the dunes with the camel. He complemented his friend on his fine performance, and the two scoundrels laughed heartily for some time over the ridiculous episode. Afterward, since they had no need of him, they sold the camel in the nearest town.
A few days later the farmer came to town to buy a new beast. While examining the animals for sale, he suddenly came across one that looked strangely familiar.
“It is . . . No! Can it be . . . ?” Carefully studying the beast, he abruptly recognized his own brand mark burnished on its back.
“Good heavens!” shouted the farmer. “You scoundrel! Just a few days as a human being and you’re at it again. No wonder your mother transformed you! When will you give up stealing and conniving?”
The camel lifted its head and bared its teeth with a merry grunt and spit.
“That does it!” the farmer exclaimed. “You know perfectly well you understand every word I say. Well!” he cried, backing away in triumph, “I’ll show you. This time I won’t buy you. I’ll leave the likes of you to another master.”
Quite pleased with himself, the stupid farmer walked away.