The Grey Fairy Book
Mohammed with the Magic Finger
Once upon a time, there lived a woman who had a son and a daughter. One morning she
said to them: 'I have heard of a town where there is no such thing as death: let us go and
dwell there.' So she broke up her house, and went away with her son and daughter.
When she reached the city, the first thing she did was to look about and see if there was
any churchyard, and when she found none, she exclaimed, 'This is a delightful spot. We
will stay here for ever.'
By-and-by, her son grew to be a man, and he took for a wife a girl who had been born in
the town. But after a little while he grew restless, and went away on his travels, leaving
his mother, his wife, and his sister behind him.
He had not been gone many weeks when one evening his mother said, 'I am not well, my
head aches dreadfully.'
'What did you say?' inquired her daughter-in-law.
'My head feels ready to split,' replied the old woman.
The daughter-in-law asked no more questions, but left the house, and went in haste to
some butchers in the next street.
'I have got a woman to sell; what will you give me for her?' said she.
The butchers answered that they must see the woman first, and they all returned together.
Then the butchers took the woman and told her they must kill her.
'But why?' she asked.
'Because,' they said, 'it is always our custom that when persons are ill and complain of
their head they should be killed at once. It is a much better way than leaving them to die a
'Very well,' replied the woman. 'But leave, I pray you, my lungs and my liver untouched,
till my son comes back. Then give both to him.'
But the men took them out at once, and gave them to the daughter-in-law, saying: 'Put
away these things till your husband returns.' And the daughter-in-law took them, and hid
them in a secret place.