THE PORTER AND THE THREE LADIES OF BAGHDAD.
There was once a porter of Baghdad who was a bachelor. One day, as he stood in the market, leant upon his basket, there came to him a lady, swathed in a wrapper of gold embroidered muslin, fringed with gold lace, and wearing embroidered boots and floating tresses plaited with silk and gold. She stopped before him and raising her kerchief, showed a pair of languishing black eyes of perfect beauty, bordered with long drooping lashes. Then she turned to the porter and said, in a clear sweet voice, 'Take thy basket and follow me.' No sooner had she spoken than he took up his basket in haste, saying, 'O day of good luck! O day of God's grace!' and followed her till she stopped and knocked at the door of a house, when there came out a Nazarene, to whom she gave a dinar, and he gave her in return an olive-green bottle, full of wine, which she put into the basket, saying to the porter, 'Hoist up and follow me.' Said he, 'By Allah, this is indeed a happy and fortunate day!' And shouldering the basket, followed her till she came to a fruiterer's, where she bought Syrian apples and Turkish quinces and Arabian peaches and autumn cucumbers and Sultani oranges and citrons, beside jessamine of Aleppo and Damascus water-lilies and myrtle and basil and henna-blossoms and blood-red anemones and violets and sweet-briar and narcissus and camomile and pomegranate flowers, all of which she put into the porter's basket, saying, 'Hoist up!' So he shouldered the basket and followed her, till she stopped at a butcher's shop and said to him, 'Cut me off ten pounds of meat.' He gave her the meat, wrapped in a banana leaf, and she put it in the basket, saying, 'Hoist up, O porter!' and went on to a grocer's, of whom she took pistachio kernels and shelled almonds and hazel-nuts and walnuts and sugar cane and parched peas and Mecca raisins and all else that pertains to dessert. Thence to a pastry-cook's, where she bought a covered dish and put therein open-work tarts and honey-fritters and tri-coloured jelly and march-pane, flavoured with lemon and melon, and Zeyneb's combs and ladies' fingers and Cadi's mouthfuls and widow's bread and meat-and-drink (25) and some of every kind of sweetmeat in the shop and laid the dish in the basket of the porter, who said to her, 'Thou shouldst have told me, that I might have brought a mule or a camel to carry all these good things.' She smiled and gave him a tap on the nape, saying, 'Make haste and leave chattering and God willing, thou shalt have a good wage.' She stopped next at the shop of a druggist, where she bought rose-water and water-lily water and orange-flower water and willow-flower water and six other kinds of sweet waters and a casting bottle of rose-water mingled with musk, besides two loaves of sugar and frankincense and aloes-wood and ambergris and musk and saffron and candles of Alexandrian wax, all of which she put into the basket. Then she went on to a greengrocer's, of whom she bought pickled safflower and olives, in brine and fresh, and tarragon and juncates and Syrian cheese and put them all into the basket and said to the porter, 'Take up thy basket and follow me.' So he shouldered his load and followed her till she came to a tall handsome house, with a spacious court before it and a two-leaved door of ebony, inlaid with plates of glittering gold. The lady went up to the door and throwing back her kerchief, knocked softly, whilst the porter stood behind her, musing upon her beauty and grace. After awhile the door opened and both the leaves swung back; whereupon he looked to see who opened it, and behold, it was a damsel of dazzling beauty and symmetry, high-bosomed, with flower-white forehead and rosy cheeks, eyes like those of gazelles or wild oxen and eyebrows like the crescent of the new moon of Ramazan, (26) cheeks like blood-red anemones, mouth like Solomon's seal, lips red as coral and teeth like clustered pearls or camomile-petals, neck like an antelope's and bosom like a fountain, breasts like double pomegranates, belly like brocade and navel holding an ounce of benzoin ointment, even as says of her the poet:Look at her, with her slender shape and radiant beauty! this Is she who is at once the sun and moon of palaces!
When the porter saw her, his mind and heart were taken by storm, so that he well-nigh let fall the basket and exclaimed, 'Never in all my life saw I a more blessed day than this!' Then said the portress to the cateress, 'O my Sister, why tarriest thou? Come in from the gate and ease this poor man of his burden.' So the cateress entered, followed by the portress and the porter, and went on before them to a spacious saloon, elegantly built and handsomely decorated with all manner of colours and carvings and geometrical figures, with balconies and galleries and cupboards and benches and closets with curtains drawn before them. In the midst was a great basin of water, from which rose a fountain, and at the upper end stood a couch of juniper wood, inlaid with precious stones and surmounted by a canopy of red satin, looped up with pearls as big as hazel-nuts or bigger. Thereon sat a lady of radiant countenance and gentle and demure aspect, moonlike in face, with eyes of Babylonian witchcraft and arched eyebrows, sugared lips like cornelian and a shape like the letter I. The radiance of her countenance would have shamed the rising sun, and she resembled one of the chief stars of heaven or a pavilion of gold or a high-born Arabian bride on the night of her unveiling, even as says of her the poet:Her teeth, when she smiles, like pearls in a cluster show, Or shredded camomile-petals or flakes of snow:
Then she rose and coming with a stately gait to meet her sisters in the middle of the saloon, said to them, 'Why stand ye still? Relieve this poor porter of his burden.' So the cateress came and stood before and the portress behind him and with the help of the third damsel, lifted the basket from his head and emptying it, laid everything in its place. Then they gave him two dinars, saying, 'Go, O porter!' But he stood, looking at the ladies and admiring, their beauty and pleasant manners, never had he seen goodlier, and wondering greatly at the profusion of wine and meat and fruits and flowers and so forth that they had provided and to see no man with them, and made no movement to go. So the eldest lady said to him, 'What ails thee that thou dost not go away? Belike, thou grudgest at thy pay?' And she turned to the cateress and said to her, 'Give him another dinar.' 'No, by Allah, O lady!' answered the porter. 'I do not indeed grudge at my pay, for my right hire is scarce two dirhems; but of a truth my heart and soul are taken up with you and how it is that ye are alone and have no man with you and no one to divert you, although ye know that women's sport is little worth without men, nor is an entertainment complete without four at the table, and ye have no fourth. What says the poet?Dost thou not see that for pleasure four several things combine, Instruments four, harp, hautboy and gittern and psaltery?
And ye are three and need a fourth, who should be a man, witty, sensible and discreet, one who can keep counsel.' When they heard what he said, it amused them and they laughed at him and replied, 'What have we to do with that, we who are girls and fear to entrust our secrets to those who will not keep them? For we have read, in such and such a history, what says Ibn eth Thumam:Tell not thy secrets: keep them with all thy might. A secret revealed is a secret lost outright.
Or, as well says Abou Nuwas on the same subject:The fool, that to men doth his secrets avow, Deserves to be marked with a brand on the brow.'
'By your lives,' rejoined the porter, 'I am a man of sense and discretion, well read in books and chronicles. I make known what is fair and conceal what is foul, and as says the poet:None keeps a secret but the man who's trusty and discreet. A secret's ever safely placed with honest folk and leal;
When the girls heard this, the eldest one said to him, 'Thou knowest that we have laid out much money in preparing this entertainment: hast thou aught to offer us in return? For we will not let thee sit with us and be our boon companion and gaze on our bright fair faces, except thou pay down thy share of the cost. Dost thou not know the saying:Love without money
'If thou have aught, my friend,' added the portress, 'then art thou something: but if thou have nothing, be off without anything.' Here the cateress interposed, saying, 'O sisters, let him be: for by Allah, he has not failed us to-day: another had not been so patient with us. I will pay his share for him.' Whereupon the porter, overjoyed, kissed the earth and thanked her, saying, 'By Allah, it was thou didst handsel me this day! Here are the two dinars I had of you: take them and admit me to your company, not as a guest, but as a servant.' 'Sit down,' answered they; 'thou art welcome.' But the eldest lady said, 'By Allah, we will not admit thee to our society but on one condition; and it is that thou enquire not of what does not concern thee; and if thou meddle, thou shalt be beaten.' Said the porter, 'I agree to this, O my lady, on my head and eyes! Henceforth I am dumb.' Then arose the cateress and girding her middle, laid the table by the fountain and set out the cups and flagons, with flowers and sweet herbs and all the requisites for drinking. Moreover, she strained the wine and set it on; and they sat down, she and her sisters, with the porter, who fancied himself in a dream. The cateress took the flagon of wine and filled a cup and drank it off. Then she filled again and gave it to one of her sisters, who drank and filled another cup and gave it to her other sister: then she filled a fourth time and gave it to the porter, saying:Drink and fare well and health attend thee still. This drink indeed's a cure for every ill.
He took the cup in his hand and bowed and returned thanks, reciting the following verses:Quaff not the cup except with one who is of trusty stuff, One who is true of thought and deed and eke of good descent.
And again:Drink not of wine except at the hands of a maiden fair, Who, like unto thee and it, is joyous and debonair.
Then he kissed their hands and drank and was merry with wine and swayed from side to side and recited the following verses:Hither, by Allah, I conjure thee! Goblets that full of the grape juice be!
Then the cateress filled the cup and gave it to the portress, who took it from her hand and thanked her and drank. Then she filled again and gave it to the eldest, who filled another cup and handed it to the porter. He gave thanks and drank and recited the following verses:It is forbidden us to drink of any blood Except it be of that which gushes from the vine.
Then he turned to the eldest lady, who was the mistress of the house, and said to her, 'O my lady, I am thy slave and thy servant and thy bondman!' And repeated the following verses:There is a slave of all thy caves now standing at thy gate Who ceases not thy bounties all to sing and celebrate.
And she said to him, 'Drink, and health and prosperity attend thee!' So he took the cup and kissed her hand and sang the following verses:I brought my love old wine and pure, the likeness of her cheeks, Whose glowing brightness called to mind a brazier's heart of red.
And she answered him with the following verse:If, O my friend, thou hast indeed wept tears of blood for me, I prithee, give them me to drink, upon thine eyes and head!
Then she took the cup and drank it off to her sisters' health; and they continued to drink and make merry, dancing and laughing and singing and reciting verses and ballads. The porter fell to toying and kissing and biting and handling and groping and dallying and taking liberties with them: whilst one put a morsel into his mouth and another thumped him, and this one gave him a cuff and that pelted him with flowers; and he led the most delightful life with them, as if he sat in paradise among the houris. They ceased not to drink and carouse thus, till the wine sported in their heads and got the better of their senses, when the portress, arose, and putting off her clothes, let down her hair over her naked body, for a veil. Then she threw herself into the basin and sported in the water and swam about and dived like a duck and took water in her mouth and spurted it at the porter and washed her limbs and the inside of her thighs. Then she came up out of the water and throwing herself into the porter's lap, pointed to her commodity and said to him, 'O my lord O my friend, what is the name of this?' 'Thy kaze,' answered he; but she said, 'Fie! art thou not ashamed!' And cuffed him on the nape of the neck. Quoth he, 'Thy catso.' And she dealt him a second cuff, saying, 'Fie! what an ugly word! Art thou not ashamed?' 'Thy commodity,' said he; and she, 'Fie! is there no shame in thee?' And thumped him and beat him. Then said he, 'Thy coney.' Whereupon the eldest fell on him and beat him, saying, 'Thou shalt not say that.' And whatever he said, they beat him more and more, till his neck ached again; and they made a laughing-stock of him amongst them, till he said at last, 'Well, what is its name amongst you women?' 'The sweet basil of the dykes,' answered they. 'Praised be God for safety!' cried he. 'Good, O sweet basil of the dikes!' Then they passed round the cup and presently the cateress rose and throwing herself into the porter's lap, pointed to her kaze and said to him, 'O light of mine eyes, what is the name of this?' 'Thy commodity,' answered he. 'Art thou not ashamed?' said she, and dealt him a buffet that made the place ring again, repeating, 'Fie! Fie! art thou not ashamed?' Quoth he, 'The sweet basil of the dykes.' 'No! No!' answered she, and beat him and cuffed him on the nape. Then said he, 'Thy kaze, thy tout, thy catso, thy coney.' But they replied, 'No! No!' And he said again, 'The sweet basil of the dykes.' Whereupon they laughed till they fell backward and cuffed him on the neck, saying, 'No; that is not its name.' At last he said, 'O my sisters, what is its name?' And they answered, 'What sayest thou to the peeled barleycorn?' Then the cateress put on her clothes and they sat down again to carouse, whilst the porter lamented over his neck and shoulders. The cup passed round among them awhile, and presently the eldest and handsomest of the ladies rose and put off her clothes; whereupon the porter took his neck in his hand and said, 'My neck and shoulders are in the way of God!' Then she threw herself into the basin and plunged and sported and washed; whilst the porter looked at her, naked, as she were a piece of the moon or the full moon when she waxes or the dawn at its brightest, and noted her shape and breasts and her heavy quivering buttocks, for she was naked as God created her. And he said, 'Alack!' Alack!' and repeated the following verses:If to the newly-budded branch thy figure I compare, I lay upon my heart a load of wrong too great to bear;
When she heard this, she came up out of the water and sitting down on his knees, pointed to her kaze and said, 'O my little lord, what is the name of this?' 'The sweet basil of the dykes,' answered he; but she said, 'No! No!' Quoth he, 'The peeled barleycorn.' And she said, 'Pshaw!' Then said he, 'Thy kaze.' Fie! Fie!' cried she. 'Art thou not ashamed?' And cuffed him on the nape of the neck. And whatever name he said, they beat him, saying, 'No! No!' till at last he said, 'O my sisters, what is its name?' 'The khan (27) of Abou Mensour,' answered they. And he said, 'Praised be God for safety! Bravo! Bravo! O khan of Abou Mensour!' Then the damsel rose and put on her clothes and they returned to their carousing and the cup passed round awhile. Presently, the porter rose and putting off his clothes, plunged into the pool and swam about and washed under his chin and armpits, even as they had done. Then he came out and threw himself into the eldest lady's lap and putting his arms into the portress's lap and his feet into that of the cateress pointed to his codpiece and said, 'O my mistresses, what is the name of this?' They laughed till they fell backward and one of them answered, 'Thy yard.' 'Art thou not ashamed?' said he. 'A forfeit!' and took of each a kiss. Quoth another, 'Thy pintle.' But he replied, 'No,' and gave each of them a bite in play. Then said they, 'Thy pizzle.' 'No,' answered he, and gave each of them a hug; and they kept saying, 'Thy yard, thy pintle, thy pizzle, thy codpiece!' whilst he kissed and hugged and fondled them to his heart's content, and they laughed till they were well nigh dead. At last they said, 'O our brother, and what is its name?' 'Don't you know?' asked he; and they said, 'No.' Quoth he, 'This is the mule Break-all, that browses on the basil of the dykes and gobbles up the peeled barleycorn and lies by night in the khan of Abou Mensour.' And they laughed till they fell backward. Then they fell again to drinking and continued after this fashion till the night came upon them, when they said to the porter, 'In the name of God, put on thy sandals and be off and let us see the breadth of thy shoulders!' Quoth he, 'By Allah, the leaving life were easier to me than the leaving you! Let us join the night to the day, and to-morrow we will each go our own way.' 'My life on you!' said the cateress, 'let him pass the night with us, that we may laugh at him, for he is a pleasant rogue; and we may never again chance upon the like of him.' So the mistress of the house said to the porter, 'Thou shalt pass the night with us on condition that thou submit to our authority and that, whatever thou seest, thou ask no questions about it nor enquire the reason of it.' 'It is well,' answered he; and they said, 'Go and read what is written over the door.' So he went to the door and found the following words written thereon in letters of gold, 'He who speaks of what concerns him not, shall hear what will not please him.' And he said, 'Be ye witness against me that I will not speak of what concerns me not.' Then rose the cateress and prepared food, and they ate: after which they lighted the lamps and candles and strewed on the latter ambergris and aloes-wood; then changed the service and set on fresh fruits and flowers and wine and so forth and sat down again to drink. They ceased not to eat and drink and make merry, hobnobbing and laughing and talking and frolicking, till there came a knocking at the door: whereupon one of them rose and went to the door, without disturbing the party, and presently returned, saying, 'Verily, our pleasure is to be complete to-night.' 'How so?' asked the others, and she replied, 'There are three foreign Calenders (28) at the door, with shaven heads and chins and eyebrows and every one blind of the right eye, which is a most extraordinary coincidence. Apparently they are fresh from a journey and indeed the traces of travel are evident on them; and the reason of their knocking at the door is this. They are strangers to Baghdad and this is their first coming to our city: the night surprised them and they could not find a lodging in the city and know no one with whom to take shelter: so they said to each other, "Perhaps the owner of this house will give us the key of a stable or outhouse and let us sleep there." And, O my sisters, each of them is a laughing-stock after his own fashion; and if we let them in, they will make us sport this night, and on the morrow each shall go his own way.' And she ceased not to persuade them, till they said, 'Let them come in, on condition that they ask no questions of what does not concern them, on pain of hearing what will not please them.' So she rejoiced and going to the door, returned with the three Calenders, who saluted and bowed low and held back; but the ladies rose to them and welcomed them and gave them joy of their safety and made them sit down. The Calenders looked about them and seeing a pleasant place and a table elegantly spread with flowers and fruits and green herbs and dessert and wine, with candles burning and perfumes smoking, and the three maidens, with their faces unveiled, said with one voice ''Fore Allah, it is good!' Then they turned to the porter and saw that he was tipsy and jaded with drinking and dalliance. So they took him for one of themselves and said, 'He is a Calender like ourselves, either an Arab or a foreigner.' When the porter heard this, he rose and fixing his eyes on them, said, 'Sit still and do not meddle. Have you not read what is written on the door? It befits not folk, like yourselves, who come to us as mendicants, to loose your tongues on us.' 'We ask pardon of God, O fakir!' answered they. 'Our heads are before thee.' The ladies laughed and making peace between them, set food before the Calenders. When they had eaten, they all sat down again to carouse, the portress serving the new comers, and the cup passed round awhile, till the porter said to the Calenders, 'O brothers, have ye no story or rare trait to divert us withal?' The Calenders, being warm with wine, called for musical instruments; so the portress brought them a tambourine and a lute and a Persian harp; and each Calender took one and tuned it and played and sang; and the girls joined in lustily and made a great noise. Whilst they were thus engaged, some one knocked at the gate and the portress rose and went to see who it was. Now the cause of this knocking was that, that very night, the Khalif Haroun er Reshid had gone down into the City, as was his wont, every now and then, to walk about for his diversion and hear what news was stirring, attended by his Vizier Jaafer and Mesrour his headsman, all three, as usual, disguised as merchants. Their way brought them to the house of the three ladies, where they heard the noise of musical instruments and of singing and merriment, and the Khalif said to Jaafer, 'I have a mind to enter this house and listen to this music and see the singers.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' answered Jaafer, 'these people are certainly drunk, and I fear lest some mischief betide us at their hands.' 'It matters not,' rejoined the Khalif; 'I must and will go in and I desire that thou contrive some pretext to that end.' 'I hear and obey,' replied the Vizier and going up to the gate, knocked, whereupon the portress came down and opened. Jaafer came forward and kissing the earth before her, said, 'O lady, we are merchants from Tiberias: we reached Baghdad ten days ago and sold our merchandise and took up our lodging at the khan of the merchants. Now we were bidden to-night to an entertainment at the house of a certain merchant, who set food before us and we ate and caroused with him awhile, till he gave us leave to depart and we went out, intending for our lodging; but being strangers in Baghdad, we lost ourselves and could not find our way back to our khan: so we hope, of your courtesy, that you will admit us to pass the night with you, and God will requite you.' The portress looked at them and saw that they were dressed like merchants and appeared respectable; so she returned to her sisters and repeated to them Jaafer's story, and they took compassion on the supposed strangers and bade her admit them. So she resumed and opened the gate to them, and they said, 'Have we thy leave to enter?' 'Enter,' answered she; whereupon the Khalif and Jaafer and Mesrour entered; and when the girls saw them, they rose and welcomed them and made them sit down and served them, saying, 'Ye are welcome as our guests, but on one condition.' 'What is that?' asked they; and the mistress of the house answered, 'It is that you be eyes without tongues and that, whatever you see, you enquire not thereof nor speak of that which concerns you not, lest you hear what will not please you.' 'Good,' answered they: 'we are no meddlers.' Then they sat down to carouse; whilst the Khalif looked at the three Calenders and marvelled for that they were all blind of the right eye, and gazed upon the ladies and was amazed at their beauty and goodliness. They fell to drinking and talking and said to the Khalif, 'Drink.' But he answered, 'Excuse me, for I am vowed to the pilgrimage.' (29) Whereupon the portress rose and spreading a gold-embroidered cloth before him, set thereon a china bowl, into which she poured willow-flower water, with a spoonful of snow and some pounded sugar-candy. The Khalif thanked her and said to himself, 'By Allah, I will reward her to-morrow for her kind office!' Then they addressed themselves to carousel, till the wine began to work upon them, when the eldest lady rose and making an obeisance to her guests, took the cateress by the hand and said, 'Come, sisters, let us do our duty.' And they answered, 'It is well.' So the portress rose and cleared the middle of the saloon, after she had removed the table service and thrown away the remains of the banquet. Then she renewed the perfumes in the censers and made the Calenders sit down on a sofa by the dais and the Khalif and his companions on a sofa at the other end; after which she called to the porter, saying, 'How dull and slothful thou art! Come and help us: thou art no stranger, but one of the household!' So he rose and girt his middle and said, 'What would you have me do?' And she answered, 'Stay where thou art.' Then the cateress rose and setting a chair in the middle of the room, went to a closet, which she opened, saying to the porter, 'Come and help me.' So he went to her and she brought out two black bitches, with chains round their necks, and gave them to him, saying, 'Take them.' So he took them and carried them to the middle of the saloon; whereupon the mistress of the house tucked up her sleeves and taking a whip, said to the porter, 'Bring me one of the bitches.' So he brought it to her by the chain; and the bitch wept and shook its head at the damsel, who brought the whip down on it, whilst the porter held it by the chain. The bitch howled and whined, but the lady ceased not to beat it till her arm was tired; when she threw away the whip and pressing the bitch to her bosom, kissed it on the head and wiped away its tears. Then she said to the porter, 'Take it back and bring the other.' He did as she bade him, and she did with the second bitch as she had done with the first. The Khalif's mind was troubled at her doings and his breast contracted and he could not restrain his impatience to know the meaning of all this. So he winked to Jaafer to ask, but the latter turned and signed to him as who should say, 'Be silent: this is no time for impertinent curiosity.' Then said the portress to the mistress of the house, 'O my lady, rise and go up to thy place, that I in turn may do my part.' 'It is well,' answered she and went up and sat down on the couch of juniper-wood, at the upper end of the dais; whilst the portress sat down on a chair and said to the cateress, 'Do what thou hast to do.' So the latter rose and going to a closet, brought out a bag of yellow satin, with cords of green silk and tassels of gold, and came and sat down before the portress. Then she opened the bag and took out a lute, which she tuned, and sang the following verses, accompanying herself on the lute:Thou art my wish, thou art my end; And in thy presence, O my friend,
When the portress heard this foursome song, she cried out, 'Alas! Alas! Alas!' and tore her clothes and fell down in a swoon; and the Khalif saw on her body the marks of beating with rods and whips, and wondered greatly. Then the cateress rose and sprinkled water upon her and brought her a fresh dress and put it on her. When the company saw this, their minds were troubled, for they understood not the reason of these things. And the Khalif said to Jaafer, 'Didst thou not see the marks of beating with rods upon the girl's body! I cannot keep silence nor be at rest, except I come at the truth of all this and know the story of this damsel and the two bitches.' 'O my lord,' answered Jaafer, 'they made it a condition with us that we should not speak of what concerns us not, under pain of hearing what should not please us.' Then said the portress 'By Allah! O my sister, come and complete thy service to me.' 'With all my heart!' answered the cateress and took the lute and leant it against her breasts. Then she swept the strings with her finger-tips and sang the following verses:If we complain of absence, what alas! shall we say? Or if longing assail us, where shall we take our way?
When the portress heard this second song, she gave a loud scream and exclaimed, 'By Allah! it is good!' and putting her hand to her clothes, tore them as before and fell down in a swoon. Whereupon the cateress rose and brought her another dress, after she had sprinkled water on her. Then she sat up again and said to the cateress 'To it again and help me to do the rest of my duty; for there remains but one more song.' So the cateress took the lute and sang the following verses:How long, ah me! shall this rigour last and this inhumanity? Are not the tears that I have shed enough to soften thee?
When the portress heard this third song, she screamed out and putting forth her hand, tore her clothes even to the skirt and fell down in a swoon for the third time, and there appeared once more on her body the marks of beat ing with rods. Then said the three Calenders, 'Would God we had never entered this house, but had slept on the rubbish-heaps! for verily our entertainment hath been troubled by things that rend the heart.' The Khalif turned to them and said, 'How so?' And they answered, 'Indeed, our minds are troubled about this matter.' Quoth he, 'Are you not then of the household?' 'No,' replied they; 'nor did we ever see the place till now.' Said the Khalif, 'There is the man by you: he will surely know the meaning of all this.' And he winked at the porter. So they questioned the latter and he replied, 'By the Almighty, we are all in one boat! I was brought up at Baghdad, but never in my life did I enter this house till to-day, and the manner of my coming in company with them was curious.' 'By Allah,' said they, 'we thought thee one of them, and now we see thou art but as one of ourselves.' Then said the Khalif, 'We are here seven men, and they are but three women: so let us question them of their case, and if they do not answer willingly, they shall do so by force.' They all agreed to this, except Jaafer, who said, 'This is not well-advised: let them be, for we are their guests, and as ye know, they imposed on us a condition, to which we all agreed. Wherefore it is better that we keep silence concerning this affair, for but a little remains of the night, and each go about his business.' And he winked to the Khalif and whispered to him, 'There is but a little longer to wait, and to-morrow I will bring them before thee and thou canst then question them of their story.' But the Khalif lifted his head and cried out angrily, 'I have not patience to wait till then: let the Calenders ask them.' And Jaafer said, 'This is not well-advised.' Then they consulted together, and there was much talk and dispute between them, who should put the question, before they fixed upon the porter. The noise drew the notice of the lady of the house, who said to them, 'O guests, what is the matter and what are you talking about?' Then the porter came forward and said to her, 'O lady, the company desire that thou acquaint them with the history of the two bitches and why thou didst beat them and after fellest to kissing and weeping over them and also concerning thy sister and why she has been beaten with rods, like a man. This is what they charge me to ask thee, and peace be on thee.' When she heard this, she turned to the others and said to them 'Is this true that he says of you?' And they all replied 'Yes;' except Jaafer, who held his peace. Then said she, 'By Allah! O guests, ye have done us a grievous wrong, for we made it a previous condition with you that whoso spoke of what concerned him not, should hear what should not please him. Is it not enough that we have taken you into our house and fed you with our victual! But the fault is not so much yours as that of her who brought you in to us.' Then she tucked up her sleeves and smote three times on the floor, saying, 'Come quickly!' Whereupon the door of a closet opened and out came seven black slaves, with drawn swords in their hands, to whom said the lady, 'Bind these babblers' hands behind them and tie them one with another.' The slaves did as she bade, and said, 'O noble lady, is it thy will that we strike off their heads?' 'Hold your hands awhile,' answered she, 'till I question them of their condition, before ye strike off their heads.' 'By Allah, O my lady,' exclaimed the porter 'do not slay me for another's fault, for all have erred and offended save myself. And by Allah, our night would have been a pleasant one, had we not been afflicted with these Calenders, whose presence is enough to lay a flourishing city in ruins.' And he repeated the following verses:How fair a thing is mercy to the great! And how much more to those of low estate!
When the lady heard this, she laughed, in spite of her anger, and coming up to the guests, said to them, 'Tell me who you are, for ye have but a little while to live, and were you not men of rank and consideration, you had never dared to act thus.' Then the Khalif said to Jaafer, 'Out on thee! Tell her who we are, or we shall be slain in a mistake, and speak her fair, ere an abomination befall us.' 'It were only a part of thy deserts,' replied Jaafer. Whereupon the Khalif cried out at him in anger and said, 'There is a time to jest and a time to be serious.' Then the lady said to the Calenders, 'Are ye brothers?' 'Not so,' answered they; 'we are only poor men and strangers.' And she said to one of them, 'Wast thou born blind of one eye?' 'No, by Allah!' replied he; 'but there hangs a rare story by the loss of my eye, a story which, were it graven with needles on the corners of the eye, would serve as a lesson to those that can profit by example.' She questioned the two other Calenders, and they made a like reply, saying, 'By Allah! O our mistress, each one of us comes from a different country and is the son of a king and a sovereign prince ruling over lands and subjects.' Then she turned to the others and said to them, 'Let each of you come forward in turn and tell us his history and the manner of his coming hither and after go about his business; but whoso refuses, I will cut off his head.' The first to come forward was the porter, who said, 'O my lady, I am a porter. This lady, the cateress, hired me and took me first to the vintner's, then to the butcher's, from the butcher's to the fruiterer's, from the fruiterer's to the grocer's, from the grocer's to the greengrocer's, from the greengrocer's to the confectioner's and the druggist's, and thence to this place, where there happened to me with you what happened. This is my story; and peace be on thee!' At this the lady laughed and said to him, 'Begone about thy business.' But he said, 'By Allah, I will not budge 'till I hear the others' stories.' Then came forward the first Calender and said, 'Know, O lady, that
The First Calender's Story
My father was a king, and he had a brother, who was also a king over another city. The latter had a son and a daughter, and it chanced that I and the son of my uncle were both born on the same day. In due time we grew up to man's estate and there was a great affection between us. Now it was my wont every now and then to visit my uncle and abide with him several months at a time. One day, I went to visit him as usual and found him absent a-hunting; but my cousin received me with the utmost courtesy and slaughtered sheep and strained wine for me and we sat down to drink. When the wine had got the mastery of us, my cousin said to me, "O son of my uncle I have a great service to ask of thee, and I beg of thee not to baulk me in what I mean to do." "With all my heart," answered I; and he made me swear by the most solemn oaths to do his will. Then he went away and returning in a little, with a lady veiled and perfumed and very richly clad, said to me, "Take this lady and go before me to the burial-ground and enter such and such a sepulchre," and he described it to me and I knew it, "and wait till I come." I could not gainsay him, by reason of the oath I had sworn to him; so I took the lady and carried her to the cemetery, and entering the tomb sat down to await my cousin, who soon rejoined us, carrying a vessel of water, a bag containing plaster and an adze. He went up to the tomb in the midst of the sepulchre and loosening its stones with the adze, laid them on one side after which he fell to digging with the adze in the earth till he uncovered a trap of iron, as big as a small door, and raised it, when there appeared beneath it a winding stair. Then he turned to the lady and said to her, "Up and make thy choice." So she descended the stair and was lost to sight; and he said to me, "O my cousin, when I have descended, complete thy kindness to me by replacing the trap-door and throwing back the earth on it: then mix the plaster in the bag with the water in this vessel and build up the tomb again with the stones and plaster it over as before, lest any see it and say, 'This tomb has been newly opened, albeit it is an old one;' for I have been at work here a whole year, unknown to any save God. This then is the service I had to ask of thee, and may God never bereave thy friends of thee, O my cousin!" Then he descended the stair; and when he was out of sight, I replaced the trap-door and did as he had bidden me, till the tomb was restored to its original condition, and I the while in a state of intoxication; after which I returned to the palace, and found my uncle still absent. Next morning I called to mind what had happened and repented of having obeyed my cousin, when repentance was of no avail, but thought that it must have been a dream. So I fell to enquiring after my cousin; but none could give me any news of him; and I went out to the burial-ground and sought for the tomb where I had left him, but could not find it, and ceased not to go from sepulchre to sepulchre and from tomb to tomb, without success, till nightfall. Then I returned to the palace and could neither eat nor drink, for my heart was troubled about my cousin, seeing I knew not what was come of him; and I was extremely chagrined and slept not that night, but lay awake for anxiety till morning. As soon as it was day, I repaired again to the cemetery, pondering what my cousin had done and repenting me of having hearkened to him, and vent round among all the tombs, but could not find the one I sought. Thus I did for the space of seven days, but with no better success, and my trouble and anxiety increased till I was well-nigh mad and could find nothing for it but to return to my father. So I set out and journeyed till I reached his capital; but as I entered the gate of the city, a number of men sprang out on me and tied my hands behind me. At this I was beyond measure amazed, seeing that I was the son of the Sultan and that they were his servants and my own; and great fear fell on me, and I said to myself, "I wonder what has befallen my father!" Then I questioned my captors; but they returned me no answer. However, after awhile, one of them, who had been my servant, said to me, "Fortune has played thy father false; and the troops deserted him. So the Vizier slew him and seized on his throne; and we laid wait for thee by his command." Then they took me and carried me before the Vizier, well-nigh distraught for this news of my father. Now between me and this Vizier was an old feud, the cause of which was as follows. I was fond of shooting with a pellet-bow, and one day, as I was standing on the terrace of my palace, a bird lighted on the terrace of the Vizier's house, where the latter chanced to be standing at the time. I let fly at the bird, but, as fate and destiny would have it, the pellet swerved and striking the Vizier on the eye, put it out. As says the poet:Our footsteps follow on in their predestined way, Nor from the ordered track can any mortal stray:
The Vizier dared say nothing, at the time, because I was the Sultan's son of the city, but thenceforward he nourished a deadly hatred against me. So when they brought me bound before him, he commanded my head to be smitten off; and I said, "For what crime wilt thou put me to death?" "What crime could be greater than this?" answered he, and pointed to his ruined eye. Quoth I, "That I did by misadventure." And he replied, "If thou didst it by misadventure, I will do the like with intent." Then said he, "Bring him to me." So they brought me up to him, and he put his finger into my right eye and pulled it out; and thenceforward I became one-eyed as ye see me. Then he caused me to be bound hand and foot and put in a chest and said to the headsman, "Take this fellow and carry him forth of the city and slay him and leave him for the beasts and birds to eat." So the headsman carried me without the city to the midst of the desert, where he took me out of the chest, bound hand and foot as I was, and would have bandaged my eyes, that he might slay me. But I wept sore till I made him weep, and looking at him, repeated the following verses:I counted on you as a coat of dart-proof mail toward The foeman's arrows from my breast. Alas! ye are his sword!
And these also:How many of my friends, methought, were coats of mail! And so they were, indeed, but on my foeman's part.
When the headsman heard this (now he had been my father's headsman and I had done him kindness) he said, "O my lord what can I do, being but a slave commanded?" Then he said, "Fly for thy life and never return to this country, or thou art lost and I with thee." As says one of the poets:Escape with thy life, if oppression betide thee, And let the house tell of its builder's fate!
I kissed his hands, hardly crediting my escape; and recked little of the loss of my eye, in consideration of my deliverance from death. Then I repaired to my uncle's capital and going in to him, told him what had befallen my father and myself; whereat he wept sore and said, "Verily, thou addest affliction to my affliction and sorrow to my sorrow; for thy cousin has been missing these many days; I know not what is become of him, and none can give me any news of him." Then he wept till he swooned away, and my heart was sore for him. When he revived, he would have medicined my eye, but found there was but the socket left and said, "O my son, it is well that it was thine eye and not thy life!" I could not keep silence about my cousin; so I told him all that had passed, and he rejoiced greatly at hearing news of his son and said, "Come, show me the tomb." "By Allah, O my uncle," answered I, "I know it not, for I went after many times to seek for it, but could not find it." However, we went out to the burial-ground and looked right and left, till at last I discovered the tomb. At this we both rejoiced greatly and entering, removed the earth, raised the trapdoor and descended fifty steps, till we came to the foot of the stair, where we were met by a great smoke that blinded our eyes: and my uncle pronounced the words, which whoso says shall never be confounded, that is to say, "There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme!" Then we went on and found ourselves in a saloon, raised upon columns, drawing air and light from openings communicating with the surface of the ground and having a cistern in its midst. The place was full of crates and sacks of flour and grain and other victual; and at the upper end stood a couch with a canopy over it. My uncle went up to the bed and drawing the curtains, found his son and the lady in each other's arms; but they were become black coal, as they had been cast into a well of fire. When he saw this, he spat in his son's face and taking off his shoe, smote him with it, exclaiming, "Swine that thou art, thou hast thy deserts! This is thy punishment in this world, but there awaits thee a far sorer and more terrible punishment in the world to come!" His behaviour amazed me, and I mourned for my cousin, for that he was become a black coal, and said to the king, "O my uncle, is not that which hath befallen him enough, but thou must beat him with thy shoe?" "O son of my brother," answered my uncle, "this my son was from his earliest youth madly enamoured of his sister, and I forbade him from her, saying in myself, 'They are but children.' But, when they grew up, sin befell between them, notwithstanding that his attendants warned him to abstain from so foul a thing, which none had done before nor would do after him, lest the news of it should be carried abroad by the caravans and he become dishonoured and unvalued among kings to the end of time. I heard of this and believed it not, but took him and upbraided him severely, saying, 'Have a care lest this thing happen to thee; for I will surely curse thee and put thee to death.' Then I shut her up and kept them apart, but this accursed girl loved him passionately, and Satan got the upper hand of them and made their deeds to seem good in their eyes. So when my son saw that I had separated them, he made this place under ground and transported victual hither, as thou seest, and taking advantage of my absence a-hunting, came here with his sister, thinking to enjoy her a long while. But the wrath of God descended on them and consumed them; and there awaits them in the world to come a still sorer and more terrible punishment." Then he wept and I with him, and he looked at me and said, "Henceforth thou art my son in his stead." Then I bethought me awhile of the world and its chances and how the Vizier had slain my father and usurped his throne and put out my eye and of the strange events that had befallen my cousin and wept again, and my uncle wept with me. Presently we ascended, and replacing the trap-door, restored the tomb to its former condition. Then we resumed to the palace, but hardly had we sat down when we heard a noise of drums and trumpets and cymbals and galloping of cavalry and clamour of men and clash of arms and clank of bridles and neighing of horses, and the world was filled with clouds of dust raised by the horses' hoofs. At this we were amazed and knew not what could be the matter so we enquired and were told that the Vizier, who had usurped my father's throne, had levied troops and hired the wild Arabs and was come with an army like the sands of the sea, none could tell their number nor could any avail against them. They assaulted the city unawares, and the people, being unable to withstand them, surrendered the place to them. My uncle was slain and I took refuge in the suburbs, knowing that, if I fell into the Vizier's hands, he would put me to death. Wherefore trouble was sore upon me and I bethought me of all that had befallen me and my father and uncle and knew not what to do, for if I showed myself, the people of the city and my father's troops would know me and hasten to win the usurpers favour by putting me to death; and I could find no means of escape but by shaving my face. So I shaved off my beard and eyebrows and donning a Calender's habit, left the town, without being known of any, and made for this city, in the hope that perhaps some one would bring me to the presence of the Commander of the Faithful and Vicar of the Lord of the Two Worlds, that I might relate to him my story and lay my case before him. I arrived here today and was standing, perplexed where I should go, when I saw this second Calender; so I saluted him, saying "I am a stranger," and he replied, "And I also am a stranger." Presently up came our comrade, this other Calender, and saluted us, saying, "I am a stranger." "We also are strangers," answered we; and we walked on together, till darkness overtook us, and destiny led us to your house. This, then, is my history and the manner of the loss of my right eye and the shaving of my beard and eyebrows.' They all marvelled at his story, and the Khalif said to Jaafer, 'By Allah, I never heard or saw the like of what happened to this Calender.' Then the mistress of the house said to the Calender, 'Begone about thy business.' But he answered, 'I will not budge till I hear the others' stories.' Then came forth the second Calender and kissing the earth, said, 'O my lady, I was not born blind of one eye, and my story is a marvellous one; were it graven with needles on the corners of the eye, it would serve as a warning to those that can profit by example.
The Second Calender's Story.
I am a king, son of a king. My father taught me to read and write, and I got the Koran by heart, according to the seven readings, and read all manner of books under the guidance of learned professors; I studied the science of the stars and the sayings of poets and applied myself to all branches of knowledge, till I surpassed all the folk of my time. In particular, my skill in handwriting excelled that of all the scribes, and my fame was noised abroad in all countries and at the courts of all the kings. Amongst others, the King of Ind heard of me and sent to my father to seek me, with gifts and presents such as befit kings. So my father fitted out six ships for me, and we put to sea and sailed for a whole month, till we reached the land. Then we brought out the horses that were with us in the ships, together with ten camels laden with presents for the King of Ind. and set out inland, but had not gone far, before there arose a great dust, that grew till it covered the whole country. After awhile it lifted and discovered fifty steel-clad horsemen, as they were fierce lions, whom we soon found to be Arab highwaymen. When they saw that we were but a small company and had with us ten laden camels, they drove at us with levelled spears. We signed to them with our fingers to do us no hindrance, for that we were ambassadors to the mighty King of Ind; but they replied (in the same manner) that they were not in his dominions nor under his rule. Then they set on us and slew some of my attendants and put the rest to flight; and I also fled, after I had gotten a sore wound whilst the Arabs were taken up with the baggage. I knew not whither to turn, being reduced from high to low estate; so I fled forth at a venture till I came to the top of a mountain, where I took shelter for the night in a cavern. On the morrow, I continued my journey and fared on thus for a whole month, till I reached a safe and pleasant city. The winter had passed away from it with its cold and the spring was come with its roses; its flowers were blowing and its streams welling and its birds warbling. As says the poet, describing the city in question:A town, wherein who dwells is free from all affray; Security and peace are masters there alway.
I was both glad and sorry to reach the city, glad for that I was weary with my journey and pale for weakness and anxiety, and grieved to enter it in such sorry case. However, I went in, knowing not whither to betake me, and fared on till I came to a tailor sitting in his shop. I saluted him, and he returned my salute and bade me a kindly welcome, and seeing me to be a stranger and noting marks of gentle breeding on me, enquired how I came thither. I told him all that had befallen me; and he was concerned for me and said, "O my son, do not discover thyself to any, for the King of this city is the chief of thy father's foes and hath a mortal feud against him."Then he set meat and drink before me, and I ate and he with me, and we talked together till nightfall, when he lodged me in a chamber beside his own, and brought me a bed and coverlet. I abode with him three days, at the end of which time he said to me, "Dost thou know any craft by which thou mayst earn thy living?" I replied, "I am a doctor of the law and a man of learning, a scribe, a grammarian, a poet, a mathematician and a skilled penman." Quoth he, "Thy trade is not in demand in this country nor are there in this city any who understand science or writing or aught but money-getting." "By Allah," said I, "I know nought but what I have told thee!" And he said, "Gird thy middle and take axe and cord and go and cut firewood in the desert for thy living, till God send thee relief, and tell none who thou art, or they will kill thee." Then he bought me an axe and a cord and gave me in charge to certain woodcutters; with whom I went out into the desert and cut wood all day and carried home a load on my head. I sold it for half a dinar, with part of which I bought victual and laid up the rest. On this wise I lived a whole year, at the end of which time I went out one day into the desert, according to my wont, and straying from my companions, happened on a tract full of trees and running streams, in which there was abundance of firewood; so I entered and coming on the gnarled stump of a great tree, dug round it with my axe and cleared the earth away from it. Presently, the axe struck upon a ring of brass; so I cleared away the earth, till I uncovered a wooden trap-door, which I raised and there appeared beneath it a stair I descended the stair, till I came to a door, which I opened and found myself in a vaulted hall of goodly structure, wherein was a damsel like a pearl of great price, whose aspect banished pain and care and anxiety from the heart and whose speech healed the troubled soul and captivated the wise and the intelligent. She was slender of shape and swelling-breasted, delicate-cheeked and bright of colour and fair of form; and indeed her face shone like the sun through the night of her tresses, and her teeth glittered above the snows of her bosom. As says the poet of her:Slender of waist, with streaming hair the hue of night, is she, With hips like hills of sand and shape straight as the balsam-tree.
And as says another:There are four things that ne'er unite, except it be To shed my heart's best blood and take my soul by storm.
When I looked on her, I prostrated myself before her Maker, for the grace and beauty He had created in her and she looked at me and said, "Art thou a man or a genie?" "I am a man," answered I; and she said, "And who brought thee to this place, where I have dwelt five-and-twenty years without seeing man?" Quoth I (and indeed her speech was sweet to me), "O my lady, my good star brought me hither for the dispelling of my grief and anxiety." And I told her all that had befallen me from first to last. My case was grievous to her and she wept: then she said, "I will tell thee my story in turn. I am the daughter of a King of Farther India, by name Efitamous, Lord of the Ebony Islands, who married me to my cousin, but on my wedding-night an Afrit called Jerjis ben Rejmous, the mother's sister's son of Iblis, carried me off and flying away with me, set me down in this place whither he transported all that I needed of clothes and ornaments and furniture and meat and drink and so forth. Once in every ten days he comes to me and lies the night here, then goes his way; for he took me without the consent of his family: and he has agreed with me that, in case I should ever have occasion for him in the interval between his visits, whether by night or by day, I have only to touch these two lines engraved upon the alcove, and he will be with me before I take away my hand. It is now four days since he was here, and there remain six before he comes again. Wilt thou therefore spend five days with me and depart the day before his coming?" "I will well," answered I. "O rare! if it be not all a dream." At this she rejoiced and taking me by the hand, led me through a vaulted doorway into a small but elegant bath-room, where we put off our clothes and she washed me. Then she clad me in a new suit and seated me by her side on a high divan and gave me to drink of sherbet of sugar flavoured with musk. Then she brought food, and we ate and conversed. After awhile, she said to me, "Lie down and rest, for thou art weary." So I lay down and slept and forgot all that had befallen me. When I awoke, I found her rubbing my feet: (30) so I thanked her and blessed her, and we sat talking awhile. Quoth she, "By Allah, I was sad at heart, for that I have dwelt alone under ground these five-and-twenty years, without any to talk withal. So praised be God who hath sent thee to me!" Then she said, "O youth, art thou for wine?" And I answered, "As thou wilt." Whereupon she went to the cupboard and took out a sealed flask of old wine and decked the table with flowers and green herbs. Then she recited the following verses:Had we thy coming known, we would for sacrifice Have poured thee forth heart's blood and blackness of the eyes:
I thanked her, for indeed love of her had taken hold of me, and my grief and anxiety left me. We sat carousing till nightfall, and I passed the night with her, never knew I such a night. On the morrow, delight succeeded delight till the middle of the day, when I drank wine, till I lost my senses and rose, staggering from side to side, and said to her, "Come, O fair one! I will carry thee up from under the earth and rid thee of this genie." She laughed and replied, "Be content and hold thy peace. One day in every ten is the genie's, and the other nine shall be thine." Quoth I (and indeed drunkenness had got the better of me), "This very moment will I break the alcove, on which is graven the talisman, and summon the Afrit hither, that I may kill him, for I am used to kill Afrits ten at a time." When she heard this, she conjured me by Allah to refrain and repeated the following verses:This is a thing wherein thine own destruction lies: I rede thee keep thyself therefrom, if thou be wise.
And also these:O thou that seek'st to hasten on the feet Of parting's steeds, the matchless swift of flight,
I paid no heed to her words, but kicked the alcove with all my might, and immediately the place grew dark, it thundered and lightened, the earth trembled and the world was wrapped in gloom. When I saw this, the fumes of the wine left my head and I said to the lady, "What is the matter?" "The Afrit is upon us," answered she "Did I not warn thee of this! By Allah, thou hast ruined me! But fly for thy life and return whence thou camest." So I ascended the stair, but, in the excess of my fear I forgot my sandals and hatchet. When I had mounted two steps, I turned to look, and behold, the ground clove in sunder and out came an Afrit of hideous aspect, who said to the lady, "What is this commotion with which thou disturbest me? What misfortune has befallen thee?" "Nothing has befallen me," answered she, "except that I was heavy at heart and drank a little wine to hearten myself. Then I rose to do an occasion, but my head became heavy and I fell against the alcove." "Thou liest, O harlot!" said he, and looked right and left, till he caught sight of the axe and the sandals and said, "These are some man's gear. Who has been with thee?" Quoth she, "I never set eyes on them till this moment; they must have clung to thee as thou camest hither." But he said, "This talk is absurd and will not impose on me, O strumpet!" Then he stripped her naked and stretching her on the ground, tied her hands and feet to four stakes and proceeded to torture her to make her confess. I could not bear to hear her weeping; so I ascended the stair, quaking for fear. When I reached the top, I replaced the trap-door and covered it over with earth; and I thought of the lady and her beauty and what had befallen her through my folly and repented me sore of what I had done. Then I bethought me of my father and his kingdom and how I had become a woodcutter, and how, after my life had been awhile serene, it had again become troubled, and I wept and repeated the following verse:What time the cruelties of Fate o'erwhelm thee with distress, Think that one day must bring thee ease, another day duresse.
Then I went on till I reached the house of my friend, whom I found awaiting me, as he were on coals of fire on my account. When he saw me, he rejoiced and said, "O my brother, where didst thou pass the night? My heart has been full of anxiety on thine account, fearing for thee from the wild beasts or other peril: but praised be God for thy safety!" I thanked him for his solicitude, and retiring to my chamber, fell a-musing on what had passed and reproached myself grievously for my meddlesomeness in kicking the alcove. Presently the tailor came in to me and said, "O my son, there is without an old man, a foreigner, who seeks thee. He has thine axe and sandals and came to the woodcutters and said to them, 'I went out at the hour of the call to morning prayer and happened on these and know not whose they are: direct me to their owner.' They knew thine axe and sent him to thee; and he is now sitting in my shop. So do thou go out to him and thank him and take thy gear." When I heard this, my colour changed and I was sick for terror but before I could think, the floor clove asunder and up came the stranger, and lo, it was the Afrit! Now he had tortured the lady in the most barbarous manner, without being able to make her confess: so he took the axe and sandals, saying, "As sure as I am Jerjis of the lineage of Iblis, I will bring back the owner of this axe and these sandals!" So he went to the woodcutters with the tale aforesaid, and they directed him to me. He snatched me up without parley and flew high into the air, but presently descended and plunged into the ground with me, and I the while unconscious. Then he came up with me in the underground palace, where I saw the lady stretched out naked, with the blood running from her sides. At this sight, my eyes ran over with tears; but the Afrit unbound her and veiling her, said to her, "O wanton, is not this thy lover?" She looked at me and said, "I know not this man, nor have I ever seen him till now." Quoth he, Wilt thou not confess after all this torture?" And she answered, "I never saw him in my life, and God forbid that I should lie against him and thou kill him." "Then," said he, "if thou know him not, take this sword and cut off his head." She took the sword and came and stood at my head; and I made signs to her with my eyebrows whilst the tears ran down my cheeks. She understood me and signed to me with her eyes as who should say, "Thou hast brought all this upon us." And I answered her, in the same fashion, that it was a time for forgiveness; and the tongue of the case spoke (31) the words of the poet:My looks interpret for my tongue and tell of what I feel: And all the love appears that I within my heart conceal.
Then she threw down the sword and said, "How shall I strike off the head of one whom I know not and who has done me no hurt? My religion will not allow of this." Quoth the Afrit, "It is grievous to thee to kill thy lover. Because he hath lain a night with thee, thou endurest this torture and wilt not confess upon him. It is only like that pities like." Then he turned to me and said, "O mortal, dost thou not know this woman?" "Who is she?" answered I. "I never saw her till now." "Then," said he "take this sword and strike off her head and I will believe that thou knowest her not and will let thee go and do thee no hurt." Quoth I, "It is well;" and taking the sword, went up to her briskly and raised my hand. But she signed to me with her eyebrows, as who should say, "What hurt have I done thee? Is it thus thou requitest me?" I understood what she would say and replied in the same manner, "I will ransom thee with my life." And the tongue of the case repeated the following verses:How many a lover with his eyelids speaks And doth his thought unto his mistress tell
Then my eyes ran over with tears and I said, "O mighty Afrit and doughty hero! if a woman, lacking sense and religion, deem it unlawful to strike off my head, how can I, who am a man, bring myself to slay her whom I never saw in my life? Never will I do it, though I drink the cup of death and ruin!" And I threw the sword from my hand. Quoth the Afrit, "Ye show the good understanding between you, but I will let you see the issue of your doings." Then he took the sword and cut off the lady's hands and feet at four strokes; whilst I looked on and made sure of death; and she signed me a farewell with her eyes. Quoth he, "Thou cuckoldest me with thine eyes!" And struck off her head with a blow of his sword. Then he turned to me and said, "O mortal, by our law; when our wives commit adultery, it is lawful to us to put them to death. As for this woman, I stole her away on her wedding-night, when she was a girl of twelve, and she has known no one but myself. I used to come to her once in every ten days in the habit of a man, a foreigner, and pass one night with her; and when I was assured that she had played me false, I slew her. But as for thee, I am not sure that thou west her accomplice: nevertheless, I must not let thee go unharmed; but I will grant thee a favour." At this I rejoiced greatly and said, "What favour wilt thou grant me?" "I will give thee thy choice," replied he, "whether I shall change thee into a dog, an ass or an ape." Quoth I (and indeed I had hoped that he would pardon me), "By Allah, spare me, and God will reward thee for sparing a true believer, who hath done thee no harm." And I humbled myself before him to the utmost and wept, saying, "Indeed, thou dost me injustice." "Do not multiply words on me," answered he; "it is in my power to kill thee: but I give thee thy choice." "O Afrit," rejoined I, "it would best become thee to pardon me, even as the envied pardoned the envier." Quoth he, "And how was that?" "They say, O Afrit," answered I, "that
Story of the Envier and the Envied.
There dwelt once in a certain city two men, who occupied adjoining houses, having a common party-wall; and one of them envied the other and looked on him with an evil eye and did his utmost endeavour to work him ill; and his envy grew on him till he could hardly eat or enjoy the delight of sleep for it. But the envied man did nought but prosper, and the more the other strove to do him hurt, the more he increased and throve and flourished. At last the hatred his neighbour bore him and his constant endeavour to do him hurt came to his knowledge and he said, 'By Allah, I will renounce the world on his account!' So he left his native place and settled in a distant city, where he bought a piece of land, in which was a dried-up well, that had once been used for watering the fields. Here he built him an oratory, which he fitted up with all that he required, and took up his abode therein, devoting himself with a sincere heart to the service of God the Most High. Fakirs (32) and poor folk soon flocked to him from all sides, and his fame spread abroad in the city, so that the notables resorted to him. After awhile, the news reached the envious man of the good fortune that had befallen his old neighbour and the high consideration in which he was held: so he set out for the town in which the latter dwelt and repaired to the hermitage, where the envied man welcomed him and received him with the utmost honour. Quoth the envier, 'I have journeyed hither on purpose to tell thee a piece of good news. So order thy fakirs to retire to their cells and go with me apart, for I will not say what I have to tell thee, except privately where none may overhear us.' Accordingly the envied man ordered the fakirs to retire to their cells; and they did so. Then he took the other by the hand and walked on with him a little way, till they came to the deserted well, when the envious man gave the other a push and cast him into the well, unseen of any; after which, he went out and went his way thinking that he had killed him. Now this well was haunted by Jinn, who bore up the envied man and let him down little by little, so that he reached the bottom unhurt, and they seated him on a stone. Then said one of the Jinn to the others, 'Know ye who this is?' And they answered, 'No.' Quoth he, 'This is the envied man who fled from him who envied him and settled in our city, where he built him this oratory and entertains us with his litanies and recitations of the Koran. But the envious man set out and journeyed till he rejoined him and contrived to throw him into this well. Now the news of him hath this very night come to the Sultan of the city and he purposes to visit him to-morrow, on account of his daughter. 'And what ails his daughter?' asked another. 'She is possessed of an evil spirit,' replied the first, 'for the genie Meimoun ben Demdem has fallen in love with her; but if the pious man knew the remedy, he could cure her; and it is the easiest of things.' 'And what is the remedy?' asked the other. Quoth the first speaker 'The black cat that is with him in the oratory has a white spot, the size of a dirhem, at the end of her tail: he should take seven white hairs from this spot and fumigate the princess therewith; whereupon the Marid will leave her and never return, and she will be cured immediately.' And the envied man heard all this. When the day broke and the morning appeared and shone, the fakirs came to seek their chief and found him rising from the well, wherefore he was magnified in their eyes; and he took the black cat and plucking seven white hairs from the spot at the end of her tail, laid them aside. The sun had hardly risen when the King arrived and entered the hermitage, attended by his chief officers, leaving the rest of his suite without. The envied man bade him welcome and drawing near to him, said, 'Shall I tell thee the object of thy visit?' 'Yes,' answered the King. And he said, 'Thou comest to consult me concerning thy daughter.' Quoth the King, 'Thou sayst truly, O virtuous elder!' Then said the envied man, 'Send and fetch her, and (God willing) I trust to cure her at once.' The King rejoiced and sent for his daughter; and they brought her bound hand and foot. The envied man made her sit down behind a curtain and taking out the hairs, fumigated her with them; whereupon the Afrit that was in her roared out and departed from her. And she was restored to her right mind and veiled her face, saying, 'What has happened and who brought me hither?' At this, the Sultan rejoiced beyond measure and kissed her on the eyes and kissed the envied man's hand. Then he turned to his officers and said, 'How say you? What reward doth he deserve who cured my daughter?' They answered, 'He deserves to have her to wife;' and the King, 'Ye say well.' So he married him to her, and the envied man became the King's son-in-law. After awhile, the Vizier died, and the King said, 'Whom shall we make Vizier in his stead?' 'Thy son-in-law,' answered the courtiers. So the envied man was made Vizier. Presently the Sultan also died, and the grandees determined to appoint the Vizier King in his place. So they made him Sultan, and he became King regnant. One day, as he was riding forth in his royal state, surrounded by his Viziers and Amirs and grandees, his eyes fell on his old neighbour, the envious man; so he turned to one of his viziers and said to him, 'Bring me yonder man and frighten him not.' So the Vizier went and returned with the envious man: and the King said, 'Give him a thousand dinars from my treasury and twenty loads of merchandise and send him under an escort to his own city.' Then he bade him farewell and sent him away and forbore to punish him for what he had done with him See, O Afrit, how the envied man forgave his envier, who had always hated him and borne him malice and had journeyed to him and made shift to throw him into the well: yet did he not requite him his ill-doing, but on the contrary was bountiful to him and forgave him." Then I wept before him exceeding sore, and repeated the following verses:I prithee, pardon mine offence: for men of prudent mind To pardon unto those that sin their sins are still inclined.
Quoth the Afrit, "I will neither kill thee nor let thee go free, but I will assuredly enchant thee." Then he tore me from the ground and flew up with me into the air, till I saw the earth as it were a platter midmost the water. Presently he set me down on a mountain and took a little earth, over which he muttered some magical words, then sprinkled me with it, saying, "Quit this shape for that of an ape." And immediately I became an ape, a hundred years old. Then he went away and left me; and when I saw myself in this ugly shape, I wept, but resigned myself to the tyranny of fate, knowing that fortune is constant to no one, and descended to the foot of the mountain, where found a wide plain. I fared on for the space of a month till my course brought me to the shore of the salt sea: where I stood awhile and presently caught sight of a ship in the midst of the sea, making for the land with a fair wind. I hid myself behind a rock on the beach and waited till the ship drew near, when I sprang on board. Quoth one of the passengers, "Turn this unlucky brute out from amongst us!" And the captain said, "Let us kill him." And a third, "I will kill him with this sword." But I laid hold of the captain's skirts and wept, and the tears ran down my face. The captain took pity on me and said, "O merchants, this ape appeals to me for protection, and I will protect him: henceforth he is under my safeguard, and none shall molest or annoy him." Then he entreated me kindly and whatever he said I understood and ministered to all his wants and waited on him, so that he loved me. The ship sailed on with a fair wind for the space of fifty days, at the end of which time we cast anchor over against a great city, wherein were much people, none could tell their number save God. No sooner had we come to an anchor, than we were boarded by officers from the King of the city; who said to the merchants, "Our King gives you joy of your safety and sends you this scroll of paper, on which each one of you is to write a line. For know that the King's Vizier, who was an excellent penman, is dead and the King has sworn a solemn oath that he will make none Vizier in his stead who cannot write like him." Then they gave them a scroll, ten cubits long by one wide, and each of the merchants, who could write, wrote a line therein: after which I rose and snatched the scroll from their hands, and they cried out at me and rated me, fearing that I would tear it or throw it into the sea. But I made signs that I would write; whereat they marvelled, saying, "We never saw an ape write!" And the captain said to them, "Let him alone; if he scrabble, we will drive him away and kill him; but if he write well, I will adopt him as my son, for I never saw so intelligent and well-mannered an ape; and would God my son had his sense and good breeding!" So I took the pen and dipping it in the inkhorn, wrote in an epistolary hand the following verses:Time hath recorded the virtues of the great: But thine have remained unchronicled till now.
Then I wrote the following in a running hand:Thou hast a pen whose use confers good gifts on every clime; Upon all creatures of the world its happy favours fall.
And in an engrossing hand the following:There is no writer but he shall pass away: Yet what he writes shall last for ever and aye.
And in a transcribing hand the following:When separation is to us by destiny decreed And 'gainst the cruel chance of Fate our efforts are in vain,
And in a large formal hand the following:The regal state endureth not to any mortal man. If thou deny this. where is he who first on earth held sway?
And in a court hand the following:When thou the inkhorn op'st of power and lordship over men, Make thou thine ink of noble thoughts and generous purpose; then
Then I gave the scroll to the officers, who took it and returned with it to the King. When he saw it, no writing pleased him but mine; so he said to his officers, "Go to the writer of these lines and dress him in a splendid robe; then mount him on a mule and bring him to me with a band of music before him." At this they smiled, and the King was wroth with them and said, "O accursed ones, I give you an order, and ye laugh at me!" "O King," answered they, "we have good cause to laugh." Quoth he, "What is it?" And they replied, "O King, thou orderest us to bring thee the man who wrote these lines: now he who wrote them is no man, but an ape. belonging to the captain of the ship." "Can this be true?" asked he; and they said, "Yea, by thy munificence!" The King was astonished at their report and shook with mirth and said, "I have a mind to buy this ape of the captain." Then he sent messengers to the ship and said to them, "Dress him none the less in the robe and mount him on the mule and bring him hither in state, with the band of music before him." So they came to the ship and took me and clad me in the robe and mounted me on the mule and carried me in procession through the city; whilst the people were astounded and crowded to gaze upon me, and the place was all astir on my account. When I reached the King's presence, I kissed the earth before him three times, and he bade me be seated; so I sat down on my heels; and all the bystanders marvelled at my good manners, and the King most of all. After awhile the King dismissed his courtiers, and there remained but myself, his highness the King, an eunuch and a little white slave. Then the King gave orders and they brought the table of food, containing all kinds of birds that hop and fly and couple in the nests, such as grouse and quails and so forth. He signed to me to eat with him; so I rose and kissed the earth before him then sat down and ate with him. When we had done eating, the table was removed, and I washed my hands seven times. Then I took pen and ink and wrote the following verses:Weep for the cranes that erst within the porringers did lie, And for the stews and partridges evanished heave a sigh!
Then I rose and seated myself at a distance, whilst the King read what I had written and marvelled and said "Strange that an ape should be gifted with such fluency and skill in penmanship! By Allah, this is a wonder of wonders!" Then they set choice wine before the King in flagons of glass; and he drank, then passed the cup to me; and I kissed the earth and drank and wrote the following verses:They burnt me (33) with fire, to make me speak, And found me patient and debonair.
And these also:Morn struggles through the dusk; so pour me out, I pray, Of wine, such wine as makes the saddest-hearted gay!
The King read them and said, with a sigh, "If a man had this quickness of wit, he would excel all the folk of his age and time." Then he called for a chess-board and said to me, "Wilt thou play with me?" I signed with my head as who should say, "Yes," and came forward and placed the men and played two games with him, each of which I won, much to his amazement. Then I took the pen and wrote the following verses:Two hosts throughout the live-long day contend in deadly fight, That waxes ever till the shades of night upon them creep;
These verses filled the King with wonder and delight, and he said to the eunuch, "Go to thy mistress, the Lady of Beauty, and bid her come and amuse herself with the sight of this wonderful ape." So the eunuch went out and presently returned with the lady, who, when she saw me, veiled her face, and said, "O my father, how comes it that thou art pleased to send for me and show me to strange men?" "O my daughter," said he, "there is none here save the little slave and the eunuch who reared thee and myself, thy father. From whom then dost thou veil thy face?" Quoth she, "This that thou deemest an ape is a wise and learned man, the son of a king; the Afrit Jerjis of the lineage of Iblis enchanted him thus, after putting to death his own wife, the daughter of King Efitamous, Lord of the Ebony Islands." At this the King wondered and turning to me, said, "Is this true that she says of thee?" And I signed with my head, as who should say, "Yes;" and wept. Then said he to his daughter, "Whence knewest thou that he was enchanted?" "O my father," answered she, "there was with me, in my childhood, an old woman who was skilled in magic and taught me its rules and practice; and I became skilled therein and committed to memory a hundred and seventy magical formulas, by the least of which I could transport the stones of thy?? behind the mountain Caf and make its site an abyss of the sea and its people fishes swimming in its midst." "O my daughter," said her father, "I conjure thee, by my life, to disenchant this young man, that I may make him my Vizier, for he is a right pleasant and ingenious youth." "With all my heart," replied she, and taking a knife, on which were engraved Hebrew characters, drew therewith a circle in the midst of the hall and wrote there in names and talismans and muttered words and charms, some of which we understood and others not. Presently the world darkened upon us, and the Afrit presented himself before us in his own shape and aspect, with hands like pitchforks legs like masts and eyes like flames of fire. We were affrighted at him, but the princess said to him, "An ill welcome to thee, O dog!" Whereupon he took the form of a lion and said to her, "O traitress, thou hast broken thy compact with me! Did we not swear that neither of us should molest the other?" "O accursed one," answered she, "how could there be a compact between me and the like of thee?" "Then," said he, "take what thou hast brought on thyself." And opening his mouth, rushed upon her: but she made haste and plucked a hair from her head and waved it in the air, muttering the while; and it at once became a sharp sword, with which she smote the lion and cut him in two. His head became a scorpion, whereupon the princess transformed herself into a great serpent and fell upon the scorpion and there befell a sore battle between them. Presently the scorpion changed to an eagle, and the serpent at once became a griffin, which pursued the eagle a long while, till the latter became a black cat. Thereupon the griffin became a piebald wolf and they fought long and sore, till the cat finding itself beaten, changed into a worm and crept into a pomegranate which lay beside the fountain in the midst of the hall whereupon the pomegranate swelled till it was as big as a watermelon. The wolf ran to seize it, but it rose into the air and falling on the pavement, broke in pieces, and all the seeds fell out and rolled hither and thither, till the floor was covered with them. Then the wolf shook itself and became a cock, which fell to picking up the seeds, till they were all gone, except one that, by the decree of Fate, had rolled to the side of the basin and lay hidden there. The cock began to crow and clap its wings and signed to us with his beak, as who should say, "Are there any grains left?" But we understood him not; and he gave such a cry that we thought the palace would fall on us. Then he ran about all over the hall, till he saw the remaining pomegranate-seed, and rushed to pick it up, but it sprang into the midst of the water and became a fish, which sank to the bottom of the basin. Thereupon the cock became big fish and plunged in after the other; and we saw nothing of them for a time, but heard a loud crying and screaming and trembled. Presently the Afrit rose out of the water, as he were one great flame, with fire and smoke issuing from his mouth and eyes and nostrils. Immediately after, the princess rose also, like a great coal of fire, and they fought till they were wrapped in flames and the hall was filled with smoke. As for us, we were well-nigh suffocated and hid ourselves and would have plunged into the water, fearing lest we be burnt up and destroyed: and the King said, "There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme! We are God's and to Him we return! Would God I had not urged my daughter to attempt the delivery of this ape, whereby I have imposed on her this fearful labour with yonder accursed Afrit, against whom all the other Afrits in the world could not prevail! And would we had never seen this ape, may God's blessing not be on him nor on the hour of his coming! We thought to do him a kindness for the love of God, by freeing him from this enchantment, and lo, we have brought this terrible travail upon ourselves!" But my tongue was tied and I could not say a word to him. Suddenly, the Afrit roared out from under the flames and coming up to us, as we stood on the dais, blew fire in our faces. The princess pursued him and blew flames at him, and the sparks from them both fell upon us; her sparks did us no hurt, but of his one lighted on my right eye and destroyed it; another fell on the King's face and scorched the lower part, burning away half his beard and making his under teeth drop out, and a third lighted on the eunuch's breast and set him on fire, so that he was consumed and died forthright. So we despaired of life and looked for nothing but death; but presently we heard a voice exclaiming, "God is most great! He giveth aid and victory to the true believer and abandoneth him who denieth the religion of Mohammed, the Moon of the Faith!" And lo, the King's daughter had burnt up the Afrit and he was become a heap of ashes! Then she came up to us and said, "Bring me a cup of water." They did so: and she spoke over the water words we understood not and sprinkled me with it, saying, "By the virtue of the Truth and of the Most Great Name of God, return to thine original shape!" And immediately I shook and became a man as before, save that I had lost my right eye. Then she cried out, "The fire! The fire! O my father, I have but an instant to live, for I am not used to fight with Jinn: had he been a man, I had slain him long ago. I had no travail till the time when the pomegranate burst asunder and I overlooked the seed in which was the genie's life. Had I picked it up, he would have died at once; but as fate and destiny would have it, I knew not of this, so that he came upon me unawares and there befell between us a sore strife under the earth and in the air and in the water: and as often as I opened on him a gate (34) (of magic), he opened on me another, till at last he opened on me the gate of fire, and seldom does he on whom the gate of fire is opened escape alive. But Providence aided me against him, so that I consumed him first, after I had summoned him to embrace the faith of Islam. As for me, I am a dead woman and may God supply my place to you!" Then she called upon God for help and ceased not to implore relief from the fire, till presently a tongue of fierce flame broke out from her clothes and shot up to her breast and thence to her face. When it reached her face, she wept and said, "I testify that there is no god but God and that Mohammed is the apostle of God!" And we looked at her and behold, she was a heap of ashes beside those of the genie. We mourned for her and I wished I had been in her place, so had I not seen the fair-faced one who had done me this good office reduced to ashes; but there is no averting the decree of God. When the King saw what had befallen his daughter, he plucked out the rest of his beard and buffeted his face and rent his clothes; and I did the like, and we both wept for her. Then came in the chamberlains and grandees and were amazed to find two heaps of ashes and the Sultan in a swoon. So they stood round him till he revived and told them what had happened, whereat they were sore afflicted and the women and slave-girls shrieked aloud and kept up their lamentation for the space of seven days. Moreover, the King bade build a great dome over his daughter's ashes and burn therein candles and lamps: but the Afrit's ashes they scattered to the winds, committing them to the malediction of God. The King was sick, well-nigh unto death, for a month's space, after which health returned to him and His beard grew again. Then he sent for me and said to me, "O youth, verily we led the happiest of lives, safe from the vicissitudes of fortune, till thou camest to us, when troubles flocked upon us. O that we had never seen thee nor the ugly face of thee! For through our taking pity on thee, we are come to this state of bereavement. I have lost, on thine account, first, my daughter, who was worth a hundred men; secondly, I have suffered what befell me by the fire and the loss of my teeth, and my eunuch also is dead. I do not indeed blame thee for aught of this; for all was decreed of God to us and to thee; and praised be He that my daughter delivered thee, though at the cost of her own life! But now, O my son, depart from my city and let what has befallen us on thine account suffice. Depart in peace, and if I see thee again I will kill thee." And he cried out at me. So I went forth from his presence, knowing not whither I should go, and hardly believing in my escape. And I recalled all that had befallen me from first to last and thanked God that it was my eye that I had lost and not my life. Before I left the town, I entered the bath and shaved my head and put on a hair-cloth garment. Then I fared forth at a venture, and every day I recalled all the misfortunes that had befallen me and wept and repeated the following verses:By the Compassionate, I'm dazed and know not where I go. Griefs flock on me from every side, I know not whence they grow.
Then I journeyed through many lands and cities, intending for the Abode of Peace, (37) Baghdad, in the hope that I might get speech of the Commander of the Faithful and tell him all that had befallen me. I arrived here this night and found my brother, this first Calender, standing perplexed; so I saluted him and entered into converse with him. Presently up came our brother, this third Calender, and said to us, "Peace be on you! I am a stranger." "We also are strangers," answered we, "and have come hither this blessed night." So we all three walked on together, none of us knowing the others' story, till chance brought us to this door and we came in to you. This, then, is my story and the manner of the shaving of my face and the loss of my eye.' Quoth the mistress of the house, 'Thy story is indeed a rare one: and now begone about thy business.' But he replied, 'I will not stir till I hear the others' stories.' Then came forward the third Calender and said, 'O illustrious lady, my history is not like that of these my comrades, but still stranger and more marvellous, in that, whilst destiny and fore-ordained fate overcame them unawares, I with mine own hand drew fate and affliction upon myself, as thou shalt presently hear. Know that
Story of the Third Calender.
I also am a king, the son of a king, and my name is Agib, son of Khesib. My father died, and I took the kingdom after him and ruled my subjects with justice and beneficence. My capital city stood on the shore of a wide spreading sea, on which I had fifty merchant ships and fifty smaller vessels for pleasure and a hundred and fifty cruisers equipped for war; and near at hand were many great islands in the midst of the ocean. Now I loved to sail the sea and had a mind to visit the islands aforesaid so I took ship with a month's victual and set out and took my pleasure in the islands and returned to my capital Then, being minded to make a longer voyage upon the ocean, I fitted out half a score ships with provision for two months and sailed twenty days, till one night the wind blew contrary and the sea rose against us with great billows; the waves clashed together and there fell on us a great darkness. So we gave ourselves up for lost and I said, "He who perils himself is not to be commended, though he come off safe." Then we prayed to God and besought Him, but the wind ceased not to rage and the waves to clash together, till daybreak, when the wind fell, the sea became calm and the sun shone out. Presently we sighted an island, where we landed and cooked food and ate and rested two days. Then we set out again and sailed other twenty days, without seeing land; but the currents carried us out of our true course, so that the captain lost his reckoning and finding himself in strange waters, bade the watch go up to the mast-head and look out. So he climbed the mast and looked out and said "O captain, I see nothing to right and left save sky and water, but ahead I see something looming afar off in the midst of the sea, now black and now white." When the captain heard the look-out's words, he cast his turban on the deck and plucked out his beard and buffeted his face and said, "O King, we are all dead men, not one of us can be saved." We all wept for his weeping and I said to him, "O captain, tell us what it is the look-out saw." "O my lord," answered he, "know that we lost our way on the night of the storm and since then we have gone astray one-and-twenty days and there is no wind to bring us back to our true course. To-morrow, by the end of the day, we shall come to a mountain of black stone, called loadstone, for thither the currents bear us perforce. As soon as we come within a certain distance, all the nails in the ships will fly out and fasten to the mountain, and the ships will open and fall to pieces, for that God the Most High has gifted the loadstone with a secret virtue, by reason whereof all iron is attracted to it; and on this mountain is much iron, how much God only knows, from the many ships that have been wrecked there from old time. On its summit there stands a dome of brass, raised on ten columns and on the top of the dome are a horse and horseman of the same metal. The latter holds in his hand a brazen lance and on his breast is a tablet of lead, graven with names and talismans: and, O King, it is nought but this horseman that causeth the folk to perish, nor will the charm be broken till he fall from his horse." Then he wept sore and we all made sure of death and each took leave of his comrade and charged him with his last wishes, in case he should be saved. That night we slept not, and in the morning, we sighted the loadstone mountain, towards which the currents carried us with irresistible force. When the ships came within a certain distance, they opened and the nails started out and all the iron in them sought the loadstone and clove to it; so that by the end of the day, we were all struggling in the sea round the mountain. Some of us were saved, but the most part drowned, and even those who escaped knew not one of the other, being stupefied by the raging wind and the buffeting of the waves. As for me, God preserved me that I might suffer that which He willed to me of trouble and torment and affliction, for I got on a plank from one of the ships and, the wind driving it ashore, I happened on a pathway leading to the top, as it were a stair hewn out of the rock. So I called upon the name of God the Most High and besought His succour and clinging to the steps, addressed myself to climb up little by little. And God stilled the wind and aided me in my ascent, so that I reached the summit in safety. There I found nothing but the dome; so I entered, mightily rejoiced at my escape, and made my ablutions and prayed a two-bow prayer (38) in gratitude to God for my preservation. Then I fell asleep under the dome and saw in a dream one who said to me, "O son of Khesib, when thou awakest, dig under thy feet and thou wilt find a bow of brass and three leaden arrows, inscribed with talismanic characters. Take the bow and shoot the arrows at the horseman on the top of the dome and rid mankind of this great calamity. When thou shootest at him, he will fall into the sea and the horse will drop at thy feet: take it and bury it in the place of the bow. This done, the sea will swell and rise till it is level with the top of the mountain, and there will appear on it a boat containing a man of brass (other than he whom thou shalt have thrown down), with an oar in his hands. He will come to thee, and do thou embark with him, but beware of naming God. He will row with thee for the space of ten days, till he brings thee to a port of safety, where thou shalt find those who will carry thee to thine own country: and all this shall be fulfilled to thee, so thou pronounce not the name of God." I started up from my sleep and hastening to do the bidding of the mysterious voice, found the bow and arrows and shot at the horseman and overthrew him; whereupon he fell into the sea, whilst the horse dropped at my feet and I took it and buried it. Then the sea grew troubled and rose till it reached the top of the mountain; nor had I long to wait before I saw a boat in the midst of the sea coming towards me. So I gave thanks to God: and when the boat came up to me, I saw in it a man of brass, with a tablet of lead on his breast, inscribed with names and talismans; and I embarked without saying a word. The boatman rowed on with me for ten whole days, till I caught sight of islands and mountains and signs of safety; whereat I was beyond measure rejoiced and in the excess of my gladness, I called upon the name of the Almighty and exclaimed, "There is no god but God! God is most great!" When behold, the boat turned over and cast me out into the sea, then righted and sank beneath the water. Now, I knew how to swim, so I swam the whole day till nightfall, when my arms and shoulders failed me for fatigue, and I abode in mortal peril and made the profession of the Faith, (39) looking for nothing but death. Presently, the sea rose, for the greatness of the wind, and a wave like a great rampart took me and bearing me forward, cast me up on the land, that the will of God might be done. I clambered up the beach and, putting off my clothes, wrung them and spread them out to dry, then lay down and slept all night. As soon as it was day, I put on my clothes and rose to look about me. Presently I came to a grove of trees and making a circuit round it, found that I was on a little island, surrounded on all sides by the sea; whereupon I said to myself, "No sooner do I escape from one peril than I fall into a worse." But as I was pondering my case and wishing for death, I spied a ship afar off making towards me; so I climbed up into a tree and hid myself among the branches. Presently the ship came to an anchor, and ten slaves landed, bearing spades, and made for the middle of the island, where they dug till they uncovered a trapdoor and raised it. Then they returned to the ship and brought thence bread and flour and oil and honey and meat and carpets and all else that was needed to furnish one dwelling there; nor did they leave going back and forth till they had transferred to the underground dwelling all that was in the ship: after which they again repaired to the vessel and returned, laden with wearing apparel of the finest kind and in their midst a very old man, whom time had mauled till he was wasted and worn, as he were a bone wrapped in a rag of blue cloth, through which the winds blew East and West. As says the poet of him:Time makes us tremble ah, how piteously! For full of violence and might is he.
He held by the hand a youth cast in the mould of symmetry and perfection, so fair that his beauty might well be the subject of proverbs; for he was like a tender sapling, ravishing every heart with his beauty and seducing every wit with his amorous grace. It was of him the poet spoke, when he said:Beauty they brought to liken it with him: But Beauty hung its head for shame and fear.
They proceeded to the underground, where they descended all and did not reappear for an hour or more, at the end of which time the old man and the slaves came up, without the youth, and replacing the trap-door, covered it again with earth; then returned to the ship and set sail. As soon as they were out of sight, I came down from the tree and going to the place I had seen them fill up, made shift to clear away the earth, till I came to the trap-door, which was of wood, the shape and bigness of a mill-stone, and raised it, when there appeared underneath a winding stair of stone. At this I wondered and descending, came to a fair chamber, spread with various kinds of carpets and hung with silken stuffs, where I saw the youth sitting alone upon a raised couch and leant upon a cushion, with a fan in his hand and sweet-scented flowers and herbs and fruits before him. When he saw me, he turned pale; but I saluted him, saying, "Calm thyself and put away fear; no harm shall come to thee: I am a man like unto thee and a king's son, whom Providence hath sent to bear thee company in thy solitude. But now tell me thy history and why thou dwellest underground by thyself." When he was assured that I was of his kind, he was glad and his colour returned; then he made me draw near to him and said, "O my brother, my story is a strange one, and it is as follows. My father is a merchant jeweller, possessed of great wealth and having black and white slaves, who make trading voyages, on his account, in ships and on camels, to the most distant countries; and he has dealings with kings. Until my birth, he had never been blessed with a child, but one night he dreamt that a son had been born to him, who lived but a short time, and awoke weeping and crying out. The following night my mother conceived and he took note of the date of her conception. The days of her pregnancy were accomplished and she gave birth to myself, whereupon my father rejoiced and made banquets and fed the poor and the needy for that I had been vouchsafed to him in his old age. Then he assembled the astrologers and mathematicians of the day and those learned in nativities and horoscopes; and they drew my horoscope and said to my father, 'Thy son will live till the age of fifteen, at which date there is a break (40) in his line of life, which if he tide over in safety, he shall live long. The danger with which he is threatened is as follows. In the Sea of Peril stands a mountain called the Loadstone Mountain, on whose summit is a horseman of brass, seated on a horse of the same metal, with a tablet of lead on his breast. Fifty days after this horseman falls from his horse, thy son will die, and his slayer will be he who overthrows the statue, a king called Agib, son of Khesib.' My father was sore concerned at this prediction; but he brought me up and gave me a good education, till I attained my fifteenth year. Ten days ago, news came to him that the horseman had fallen into the sea and that he who overthrew him was Agib, son of King Khesib; whereat he was as one distraught and feared for my life. So he built me this place under the earth and stocking it with all that I need during the forty days that yet remain of the period of danger, transported me hither, that I might be safe from King Agib's hands. When the forty days are past, he will come back and fetch me; and this is my story and why thou findest me here alone." When I heard his story, I marvelled and said to myself, "I am that King Agib of whom he speaks; but, by Allah, I will assuredly not kill him!" And I said to him, "O my lord, God willing, thou shalt be spared suffering and death, nor shalt thou see trouble or sorrow or disquiet, for I will abide with thee and serve thee; and when I have borne thee company during the appointed days, I will go with thee to thy dwelling-place and thou shalt bring me to some of thy father's servants, with whom I may journey to my own country; and God shall requite thee for me." He rejoiced in my words and we sat conversing till nightfall when I rose and lighted a great wax candle and fed the lamps and set on meat and drink and sweetmeats. We ate and drank and sat talking till late into the night, when he lay down to sleep and I covered him up and went to sleep myself. Next morning, I rose and heated a little water, then woke him gently and brought him the warm water, with which he washed his face and thanked me, saying, "God requite thee with good, O youth! By Allah, if I escape from this my danger and from him they call Agib ben Khesib, I will make my father reward thee!" "May the day never come on which evil shall befall thee," answered I, "and may God appoint my last day before thine!" Then I set on food and we ate, and I made ready perfumes with which he scented himself. Moreover, I made him a backgammon board, (41) and we played and ate sweetmeats and played again till nightfall when I rose and lighting the lamps, set on food; and we ate and sat talking till the night was far spent. Then he lay down to sleep and I covered him up and went to sleep myself. Thus I did with him, day and night, and the love of him got hold upon my heart and I forgot my troubles and said to myself, "The astrologers lied; by Allah, I will not kill him!" I ceased not to serve him and bear him company and entertain him thus, till nine-and-thirty days were passed and we came to the morning of the fortieth day, when he rejoiced and said to me, "O my brother, the forty days are up to-day, praised be God who hath preserved me from death, and this by thy blessing and the blessing of thy coming to me, and I pray Him to restore thee to thy country! But now, O my brother, I prithee heat me some water, that I may wash my body and change my clothes. "With all my heart," answered I; and heated water in plenty and carrying it in to him, washed his body well with lupin-meal (42) and rubbed him down and changed his clothes and spread him a high bed, on which he lay down to rest after the bath. Then said he, "O my brother, cut me a melon and sweeten it with sugar-candy." So I went to the closet and bringing a fine melon I found there on a platter, said to him, "O my lord, hast thou no knife?" "Here it is," answered he, "on the high shelf at my head." So I got up hurriedly and taking the knife, drew it from its sheath; but in stepping down backward, my foot slipped and I fell heavily on the youth, holding in my hand the knife, which hastened to fulfil that which was ordained and entered his heart, and he died forthright. When I saw that he was no more and that I had indeed killed him, I cried out grievously and buffeted my face and tore my clothes, saying, "We are God's and to Him we return! There remained for this youth but one day of the period of danger that the astrologers had foretold for him, and the death of this fair one was to be at my hand! Verily, my life is nought but disasters and afflictions! Would he had not asked me to cut the melon or would I had died before him! But what God decrees cometh to pass." When I was certain that there was no life left in him, I rose and ascending the stair, replaced the trap-door and covered it with earth. Then I looked out to sea and saw the ship cleaving the waters in the direction of the island. Whereat I was afeared and said, "They will be here anon and will find their son dead and know 'twas I killed him and will slay me without fail." So I climbed up into a high tree and hid myself among the leaves. Hardly had I done so, when the vessel came to an anchor and the slaves landed with the old man and made direct for the place, where they cleared away the earth and were surprised to find it soft. (43) Then they raised the trap-door and going down, found the boy lying dead, clad in clean clothes, with his face shining from the bath and the knife sticking in his breast. At this sight, they shrieked aloud and wept and buffeted their faces and cried out, "Alas! woe worth the day!" whilst the old man swooned away and remained so long insensible, that the slaves thought he would not survive his son. So they wrapped the dead youth in his clothes and carried him up and laid him on the ground, covering him with a shroud of silk. Then they addressed themselves to transport all that was in the place to the ship, and presently the old man revived and coming up after them, saw his son laid out, whereupon he fell on the ground and strewed dust on his head and buffeted his face and tore his beard; and his weeping redoubled, as he hung over his dead son, till he swooned away again. After awhile the slaves came back, with a silken carpet, and laying the old man thereon, sat down at his head. All this time I was in the tree above them, watching them; and indeed my heart became hoary before my head, for all the grief and affliction I had undergone. The old man ceased not from his swoon till nigh upon sundown, when he came to himself and looking upon his dead son, recalled what had happened and how what he had feared had come to pass: and he buffeted his face and head and recited the following verses:My heart is cleft in twain for severance of loves; The burning tears pour down in torrents from my eye.
Then he sobbed once and gave up the ghost; whereupon the slaves cried out, "Alas, our master!" and strewed dust on their heads and wept sore. Then they carried the two bodies to the ship and set sail. As soon as they were out of sight, I came down from the tree and raising the trap-door, went down into the underground dwelling, where the sight of some of the youth's gear recalled him to my mind, and I repeated the following verses:I see their traces and pine for longing pain; My tears rain down on the empty dwelling-place!
Then I went up again and spent the day in walking about the island, returning to the underground dwelling for the night. Thus I lived for a month, during which time I became aware that the sea was gradually receding day by day from the western side of the island, till by the end of the month, I found that the water was become low enough to afford a passage to the mainland. At this I rejoiced, making sure of delivery, and fording the little water that remained, made shift to reach the mainland, where I found great heaps of sand, in which even a camel would sink up to the knees. However, I took heart and making my way through the sand, espied something shining afar off, as it were a bright-blazing fire. So I made towards it, thinking to find succour and repeating the following verses:It may be Fate at last shall draw its bridle-rein And bring me happy chance; for Fortune changes still;
When I drew near the supposed fire, behold, it was a palace, with a gate of brass, whereon, when the sun shone, it gleamed and glistened and showed from afar, as it were a fire. I rejoiced at the sight and sat down before the palace gate; but hardly had I done so, when there came up ten young men, sumptuously clad and all blind of the right eye. They were accompanied by an old man; and I marvelled at their appearance and at their being all blind of the same eye. They saluted me and questioned me of my condition, whereupon I told them all that had befallen me. They wondered at my story and carried me into the palace, where I saw ten couches, with beds and coverlets of blue stuff, ranged in a circle, with a like couch of smaller size in the midst. As we entered, each of the young men went up to his own couch, and the old man seated himself on the smaller one in the middle. Then said they unto me, "O youth, sit down on the ground and enquire not of our doings nor of the loss of our right eyes." Presently the old man rose and brought each one of the young men and myself his portion of meat and drink in separate vessels; and we sat talking, they questioning me of my adventures and I replying, till the night was far spent. Then said they to the old man, "O elder, wilt thou not bring us our ordinary? The time is come." "Willingly," answered he, and rose and entering a closet, disappeared and presently returned, bearing on his head ten dishes, each covered with a piece of blue stuff. He set a dish before each youth and lighting ten wax-candles, set one upon each dish; after which he uncovered the dishes, and lo, they were full of ashes and powdered charcoal and soot. Then all the young men tucked up their sleeves and fell to weeping and lamenting; and they blackened their faces and rent their clothes and buffeted their cheeks and beat their breasts, exclaiming "We were seated at our ease, but our impertinent curiosity would not let us be!" They ceased not to do thus till near daybreak, when the old man rose and heated water for them, and they washed their faces and put on fresh clothes. When I saw this, my senses left me for wonderment and my heart was troubled and my mind perplexed, for their strange behaviour, till I forgot what had befallen me and could not refrain from questioning them; so I said to them, "What makes you do thus, after our sport and merry-making together? Praised be God, ye are whole of wit, yet these are the doings of madmen! I conjure you, by all that is most precious to you, tell me why you behave thus and how ye came to lose each an eye!" At this, they turned to me and said, "O young man, let not thy youth beguile thee, but leave thy questioning." Then they slept and I with them, and when we awoke, the old man served up food; and after we had eaten and the vessels had been removed, we sat conversing till nightfall, when the old man rose and lit the candles and lamps and set meat and drink before us. We ate and sat talking and carousing till midnight, when they said to the old man, "Bring us our ordinary, for the hour of sleep is at hand." So he rose and brought them the dishes of soot and ashes, and they did as they had done on the preceding night. I abode with them on this wise for a month, during which time they blackened their faces every night, then washed them and changed their clothes and my trouble and amazement increased upon me till I could neither eat nor drink. At last, I lost patience and said to them, "O young men, if ye will not relieve my concern and acquaint me with the reason of your blackening your faces and the meaning of your words, 'We were seated at our ease, but our impertinent curiosity would not let us be,' let me leave you and return to my own people and be at rest from seeing these things, for as says the proverb,'Twere wiser and better your presence to leave, For when the eye sees not, the heart does not grieve."
"O youth," answered they, "we have not concealed this thing from thee but in our concern for thee, lest what befell us before thee and thou become like unto us." "It avails not," said I; "you must tell me." "We give thee good advice," rejoined they; "do thou take it and leave questioning us of our case, or thou wilt become one-eyed like unto us." But I still persisted in my demand and they said, "O youth, if this thing befall thee, we warn thee that we will never again receive thee into our company nor let thee abide with us." Then they took a ram and slaughtering it, skinned it and gave me a knife, saying, "Lie down on the skin and we will sew thee up in it and leave thee and go away. Presently there will come to thee a bird called the roc, (44) that will catch thee up in its claws and fly away with thee and set thee down on a mountain. As soon as thou feelest it alight with thee, slit the skin with the knife and come forth; whereupon the bird will take fright at thee and fly away and leave thee. Then rise and fare on half a day's journey, till thou comest to a palace rising high into the air, builded of khelenj (45) and aloes and sandal-wood and plated with red gold, inlaid with all manner emeralds and other jewels. There enter and thou wilt attain thy desire. We all have been in that place, and this is the cause of the loss of our right eyes and the reason why we blacken our faces. Were we to tell thee our stories, it would take too much time, for each lost his eye by a separate adventure." They then sewed me up in the skin and left me on the ground outside the palace; and the roc carried me off and set me down on the mountain. I cut open the skin and came out, whereupon the bird flew away and I walked on till I reached the palace. The door stood open; so I entered and found myself in a very wide and goodly hall, as big as a tilting-ground, round which were a hundred doors of sandal and aloes-wood, plated with red gold and furnished with rings of silver. At the upper end of the hall, I saw forty young ladies, sumptuously clad and adorned, as they were moons, one could never tire of gazing on them: and they all came up to me, saying, "Welcome and fair welcome, O my lord! This month past have we been expecting the like of thee; and praised be God who hath sent us one who is worthy of us and we of him!" Then they made me sit down on a high divan and said to me, "From to-day thou art our lord and master, and we are thy handmaids; so order us as thou wilt." And I marvelled at their case. Presently one of them arose and set food before me, and I ate, whilst others heated water and washed my hands and feet and changed my clothes, and yet others made ready sherbets and gave me to drink; and they were all full of joy and delight at my coming. Then they sat down and conversed with me till nightfall, when five of them arose and spreading a mat, covered it with flowers and fruits and confections in profusion and set on wine; and we sat down to drink, while some of them sang and others played the lute and psaltery and recorders and other instruments. So the cup went round amongst us and such gladness possessed me that I forgot all the cares of the world and said, "This is indeed life, but that it is fleeting." We ceased not to drink and make merry till the night was far spent and we were warm with wine, when they said to me, "O our lord, choose from amongst us one who shall be thy bedfellow this night and not lie with thee again till forty days be past." So I chose a girl fair of face, with liquid black eyes and jetty hair, slightly parted teeth (46) and joining eyebrows, perfect in shape and form, as she were a palm-sapling or a stalk of sweet basil; such an one as troubles the heart and bewilders the wit, even as saith of her the poet:'Twere vain to liken her unto the tender branch, And out on who compares her form to the gazelle!
And I repeated to her the following verses:My eyes to gaze on aught but thy grace disdain And none but thou in my thought shall ever reign.
So I lay with her that night, never knew I a fairer, and when it was morning, the ladies carried me to the bath and washed me and clad me in rich clothes. Then they served up food and we ate and drank, and the cup went round amongst us till the night, when I chose from among them one who was fair to look upon and soft of sides, such an one as the poet describes, when he says:I saw upon her breast two caskets snowy-white, Musk-sealed; she doth forbid to lovers their delight.
I passed a most delightful night with her; and to make a long story short, I led the goodliest life with them, eating and drinking and carousing and every night taking one or other of them to my bed, for a whole year, at the end of which time they came in to me in tears and fell to bidding me farewell and clinging to me, weeping and crying out; whereat I marvelled and said to them, "What ails you? Indeed you break my heart." "Would we had never known thee!" answered they. "We have companied with many men, but never saw we a pleasanter or more courteous than thou: and now we must part from thee. Yet it rests with thee to see us again, and if thou hearken to us, we need never be parted: but our hearts forebode us that thou will not hearken to us; and this is the cause of our weeping" "Tell me how the case stands," said I; and they answered, "Know that we are the daughters of kings, who have lived here together for years past, and once in every year we are absent for forty days; then we return and abide here for the rest of the year, eating and drinking and making merry. We are now about to depart according to our custom, and we fear lest thou disobey our injunctions in our absence, in which case we shall never see thee again; but if thou do as we bid thee, all will yet be well. Take these keys: they are those of the hundred apartments of the palace, each of which contains what will suffice thee for a day's entertainment. Ninety-and-nine of these thou mayst open and take thy pleasure therein, but beware lest thou open the hundredth, that which has a door of red gold; for therein is that which will bring about a separation between us and thee." Quoth I, "I will assuredly not open the hundredth door, if therein be separation from you." Then one of them came up to me and embraced me and repeated the following verses:If but the days once more our severed loves unite, If but my eyes once more be gladdened by thy sight,
And I repeated the following:When she drew near to bid farewell, upon our parting day, Whilst on her heart the double stroke of love and longing smote,
When I saw her weeping, I said, "By Allah, I will never open the hundredth door!" Then they bade me farewell and departed, leaving me alone in the palace. When the evening drew near, I opened the first door and found myself in an orchard, full of blooming trees, laden with ripe fruit, and the air resounded with the loud singing of birds and the ripple of running waters. The sight brought solace to my soul, and I entered and walked among the trees, inhaling the odours of the flowers and listening to the warble of the birds, that sang the praises of God the One, the Almighty. I looked upon the apple, whose colour is parcel red and parcel yellow, as says the poet:The apple in itself two colours doth unite, The loved one's cheek of red, and yellow of despite.
Then I looked upon the quince and inhaled its fragrance that puts musk and ambergris to shame, even as says the poet:The quince contains all pleasant things that can delight mankind, Wherefore above all fruits that be its virtues are renowned.
Thence I passed to the pear, whose taste surpasses rose-water and sugar, and the plum, whose beauty delights the eye, as it were a polished ruby. When I had taken my fill of looking on the place, I went and locked the door again. Next day, I opened the second door and found myself in a great pleasaunce, set with many palm-trees and watered by a running stream, whose borders were decked with bushes of rose and jessamine and henna (47) and camomile and marjoram and sweetbriar and carpeted with narcissus and ox-eye and violets and lilies and gillyflowers. The breeze fluttered over all these sweet-smelling plants and scattered their scents right and left, possessing me with complete delight. I took my pleasure in the place awhile, and my chagrin was somewhat lightened. Then I went out and locked the door and opening the third door, found therein a great hall paved with vari-coloured marbles and other precious stones and hung with cages of sandal and aloes wood, full of singing-birds, such as the thousand-voiced nightingale (48) and the cushat and the blackbird and the turtle-dove and the Nubian warbler. My heart was ravished by the song of the birds and I forgot my cares and slept in the aviary till the morning. Then I opened the fourth door and saw a great hall, with forty cabinets ranged on either side. The doors of the latter stood open; so I entered and found them full of pearls and rubies and chrysolites and beryls and emeralds and corals and carbuncles and all manner of precious stones and jewels of gold and silver, such as the tongue fails to describe. I was amazed at what I saw and said in myself "Methinks, if all the kings of the earth joined together they could not produce the like of these treasures!" And my heart dilated and I exclaimed, "Now am I king of my time, for all these riches are mine by the favour of God, and I have forty young ladies under my hand, nor is there any with them but myself!" In short, I passed nine-and-thirty days after this fashion, exploring the riches of the place, till I had opened all the doors, except that which the princesses had charged me not to open, but my thoughts ran ever on this latter and Satan urged me, for my ruin, to open it, nor had I patience to forbear; though there remained but one day of the appointed time. So I opened the hundredth door, that which was plated with red gold, and was met by a perfume, whose like I had never before smelt and which was of so subtle and penetrating a quality, that it invaded my head and I fell down, as if intoxicated, and lay awhile unconscious. Then I revived and took heart and entering, found myself in a place strewn with saffron and blazing with light shed by lamps of gold and candles, that diffused a scent of musk and aloes. In the midst stood two great censers, full of burning aloes wood and ambergris and other perfumes, and the place was full of their fragrance. Presently I espied a horse, black as night at its darkest, girt and bridled and saddled with red gold, standing before two mangers of white crystal, one full of winnowed sesame and the other of rose-water flavoured with musk. When I saw this, I was amazed and said to myself, "Surely this horse must be of extraordinary value!" and the devil tempted me, so that I took him out and mounted him, but he would not stir. So I spurred him with my heel, but he did not move; and I took a. switch and struck him with it. When he felt the blow, he gave a neigh like the roaring thunder, and spreading a pair of wings flew up with me high into the air. After awhile, he descended and set me down on the terrace of a palace; then, shaking me off his back, he smote me on the face with his tail and struck out my right eye and flew away, leaving me there. I went down into the palace and found myself again among the ten one-eyed youths, who exclaimed, when they saw me, "An ill welcome to thee!" Quoth I, "Behold, I am become like unto you, and now I would have you give me a dish of soot, that I may blacken my face and admit me to your company." "By Allah," answered they, "thou shalt not abide with us! Depart hence!" And they drove me away. I was grieved at their rejection of me and went out from them, mourning-hearted and tearful-eyed, saying to myself, "Of a truth, I was sitting at my ease, but my impertinent curiosity would not let me be." Then I shaved my beard and eyebrows and renouncing the world, became a Calender and wandered about God's earth, till by His blessing, I arrived at Baghdad in safety this evening and met with these two other Calenders standing bewildered. So I saluted them, saying, "I am a stranger;" to which they replied, "We also are strangers." And, as it chanced, we were all Calenders and each blind of the right eye. This, then, O my lady, is my story and the manner of the shaving of my face and the loss of my eye.' Quoth the mistress of the house, 'Begone about thy business.' But he said, 'By Allah, I will not go, till I hear the others' stories!' Then she turned to the Khalif and his companions and said, 'Give me an account of yourselves.' So Jaafer came forward and repeated the story he had told the portress; whereupon the lady said, 'I pardon you all: go your ways.' So they all went out; and when they reached the street the Khalif said to the Calenders, 'O folk, whither are you bound now, seeing that it is not yet day?' 'By Allah, O my lord,' answered they, 'we know not where to go!' 'Then come and pass the rest of the night with us,' said the Khalif, and turning to Jaafer, said to him, 'Take them home with thee and to-morrow bring them before me, that we may cause their adventures to be recorded.' Jaafer did as the Khalif bade him, and the latter returned to his palace. Sleep did not visit him that night, but he lay awake, pondering the adventures of the three Calenders and full of impatience to know the history of the two ladies and the black bitches; and no sooner had the day dawned than he went out and sat down on his chair of estate. Then his courtiers presented themselves and withdrew, whereupon he turned to Jaafer and said to him, 'Bring me the three ladies and the bitches and the Calenders, and make haste.' So Jaafer went out and brought them all before him and seated the ladies behind a curtain; then turned to them and said, speaking for the Khalif, 'O women, we pardon you your rough usage of us, in consideration of your previous kindness and for that ye knew us not: and now I would have you to know that you are in the presence of the fifth of the sons of Abbas, the Commander of the Faithful Haroun er Reshid, son of El Mehdi Mohammed, son of Abou Jaafer el Mensour. So do ye acquaint him with your stories and tell him nothing but the truth.' When the ladies heard Jaafer's speech, the eldest came forward and said, 'O Commander of the Faithful, my story is one which, were it graven with needles on the corners of the eye, would serve for an example to those who can profit by example and a warning to those who can take warning. And it is that
The Eldest Lady's Story.
These two bitches are my elder sisters by the same mother and father, and these two others, she on whom are the marks of blows and the cateress, are my sisters by another mother. When my father died, each took her portion of the heritage, and after awhile my mother died also and left me and my sisters-german a thousand dinars each. After awhile my two sisters married and lived with their husbands for a time; then the latter bought merchandise with their wives' money and set out on their travels, and I heard no more of them for five years: for their husbands spent their wives' fortunes and became bankrupt and deserted them in a foreign land. Presently, my eldest sister came back to me in the guise of a beggar, with tattered clothes and a dirty old veil, and altogether in so sorry a plight, that at first I knew her not; but when I recognised her, I asked her how she came in such a state. "O my sister," answered she, "talking profits not now: the pen (49) hath written what was decreed." Then I sent her to the bath and clothed her in a suit of my own and entreated her kindly and said to her, "O my sister, thou standest to me in the stead of my father and mother; and God has blessed me in the share of the inheritance that fell to me and prospered it to me, so that I am now in flourishing case; and thou shalt share with me in my increase." So she abode with me a whole year, during which time we were much concerned to know what was become of our other sister. At last, she too came back to me, in a worse plight than the other, and I dealt still more kindly by her than by the first, and each of them had a share of my substance. After awhile, they said to me, "O sister, we desire to marry again, for we can no longer endure to live without husbands." "O my dear ones (50)," answered I, "there is no good in marriage, for now-a-days good men are rare to find; nor do I see the advantage of marrying again, since ye have already made trial of matrimony and it has profited you nothing." They would not listen to me, but married without my consent; nevertheless I equipped them and portioned them with my own money and they went away with their husbands. After a little, the latter cheated them of all they had and went away and left them. Then they came to me, in abject case, and made their excuses to me, saying, "Do not reproach us; thou art younger than we, but riper of wit, so take us as thy handmaids, that we may eat our mouthful; and we will never again speak of marriage." Quoth I, "Ye are welcome, O my sisters: there is nothing dearer to me than you." And I took them in and redoubled in kindness to them. We lived thus for a whole year, at the end of which time I was minded to travel. So I fitted out a great ship at Bassora and loaded her with merchandise and victual and other necessaries for a voyage, and said to my sisters, "Will you come with me or abide at home till I return?" "We will go with thee," answered they, "for we cannot endure to be parted from thee." So I took them and set sail, after dividing my money into two parts, one of which I deposited with a trusty person, saying, "Maybe ill-hap shall betide the ship and yet we remain alive; but now, if we return, we shall find what will be of service to us." We sailed days and nights, till the captain missed the true course and the ship went astray with us and entered a sea other than that we aimed at. We knew not of this awhile and the wind blew fair for us ten days, at the end of which time, the watch went up to the mast-head, to look out, and cried, "Good news!" Then he came down, rejoicing, and said to us, "I see a city in the distance as it were a dove." At this we rejoiced and before an hour of the day was past, the city appeared to us afar off: and we said to the captain, "What is the name of yonder city?" "By Allah!" replied he, "I know not, for I never saw it before nor have I ever sailed this sea in my life; but since the affair has issued in safety, ye have nought to do but to land your goods, and if ye find a market, sell and buy and barter, as the occasion serves; if not, we will rest here two days, re-victual and depart." So we entered the harbour and the captain landed and was absent awhile, after which he returned and said to us, "Arise, go up into the city and marvel at God's dealings with His creatures and seek to be preserved from His wrath." So we landed and going up to the city, saw at the gate men with staves in their hands; but when we drew near them, behold, they had been stricken by the wrath of God and were become stones. Then we entered the city and found all its in habitants changed into black stones: there was not a living soul therein, no, not a blower of the fire. At this we were amazed and passed on through the bazaars, where we found all the goods and gold and silver left lying in their places, and rejoiced and said, "Doubtless, there is some mystery in all this." Then we dispersed about the streets of the city and each busied himself with making prize of the wealth and stuffs lying about and took no heed of his comrades, whilst I went up to the citadel and found it goodly of fashion. I entered the king's palace and saw all the vessels of gold and silver and the king himself seated in the midst of his officers and grandees, clad in raiment such as confounded the wit. The throne on which he sat was encrusted with pearls and jewels and his robes were of cloth of gold, adorned with all manner jewels, that shone like stars. Around him stood fifty white slaves, with drawn swords in their hands and clad in divers sorts of silken stuffs; but when I drew near to them, behold, they were all black stones. My understanding was confounded at the sight, but I went on and came to the saloon of the harem, which I found hung with tapestries of gold-striped silk and spread with carpets of the same, embroidered with flowers of gold. Here I saw the queen lying, arrayed in a robe covered with fresh pearls as big as hazel-nuts and crowned with a diadem set with all manner jewels. Her neck was covered with collars and necklaces and all her clothes and ornaments were unchanged, but she herself had been smitten of God and was become black stone. Presently I spied an open door, with seven steps leading to it, and going up, found myself in a place paved with marble and hung and carpeted with gold-embroidered stuffs. At the upper end stood an alcove with drawn curtains and I saw a light issuing thence. So I went up to the alcove and found therein a couch of juniper wood, inlaid with pearls and diamonds and set with bosses of emeralds, with silken coverings of bewildering richness and curtains of the same, looped up with pearls. At the head of the bed stood two lighted candles and in the midst of the alcove was a little stool, on which lay a jewel, the size of a goose's egg, that shone like a lamp and lighted the whole place; but there was no one to be seen. When I saw these things, I wondered and said, "Some one must have lighted these candles." Then I went out and came to the kitchen and thence to the buttery and the king's treasuries and continued to explore the palace and to go from place to place; and for wonderment at what I saw, I forgot myself and wandered on, lost in thought, till the night overtook me. Then I would have gone out, but lost my way and could not find the gate; so I returned to the alcove, where I lay down on the bed and covering myself with a quilt, repeated somewhat of the Koran and would have slept, but could not, for restlessness possessed me. In the middle of the night, I heard a low sweet voice reciting the Koran, whereat I rejoiced and rising, followed the sound, till it led me to a chamber with the door ajar. I looked through the chink of the door and saw an oratory, wherein was a prayer-niche, (51) with candles burning and lamps hanging from the ceiling. In the midst was spread a prayer-carpet, on which sat a handsome youth, with a copy of the Koran open before him, from which he was reading. I wondered to see him alone alive of all the people of the city and entered and saluted him; whereupon he raised his eyes and returned my salutation. Then said I, "I implore thee, by the truth of that thou readest from the book of God, to answer me my questions." He looked at me with a smile and said, "O handmaid of God, tell me first how thou camest hither, and I will tell thee what has befallen me and the people of this city and the manner of my preservation." So I told him my story, at which he marvelled, and questioned him of the people of the city. Quoth he, "Have patience with me a little, O my sister!" and shutting the Koran, laid it in a bag of satin. Then he made me sit down by his side, and I looked at him and behold, he was like the moon at its full, bright-faced, soft-sided, well-shaped and fair to look upon, as he were a figure of sugar, (52) even as says the poet of the like of him:A seer of the stars one night was reading the book of the skies, When lo, in his scroll he saw a lovely youth arise.
I stole a look at him, which cost me a thousand sighs, for my heart was taken with his love, and I said to him, "O my lord, tell me what I asked thee." "I hear and obey," answered he. "Know, O handmaid of God, that this city was the capital of my father, who is the king thou sawest on the throne, changed to a black stone, and as for the queen on the bed, she was my mother; and they and all the people of the city were Magians, worshipping the fire, instead of the All-powerful King, and swearing by the fire and the light and the shade and the heat and the revolving sphere. My father had no child, till I was vouchsafed to him in his old age, and he reared me and I grew up and flourished. Now, as my good star would have it, there was with us an old woman stricken in years, who was at heart a Muslim, believing in God and His prophet, but conforming outwardly to the religion of my people. My father had confidence in her, supposing her to be of his own belief, and showed her exceeding favour, for that he knew her to be trusty and virtuous; so when I grew to a fitting age, he committed me to her charge, saying, 'Take him and do thy best to give him a good education and teach him the things of our faith.' So she took me and taught me the tenets of Islam and the ordinances of ablution and prayer and made me learn the Koran by heart, bidding me worship none but God the Most High and charging me to keep my faith secret from my father, lest he should kill me. So I hid it from him, and I abode thus till, in a little while, the old woman died and the people of the city redoubled in their impiety and frowardness and in the error of their ways. One day, they heard a voice from on high, proclaiming aloud, with a noise like the resounding thunder, so that all heard it far and near, and saying, 'O people of the city, turn from your worship of the fire and serve God the Compassionate King!' At this, fear fell on the people of the city and they crowded to my father and said to him; 'What is this awful voice that we have heard and that has confounded us with the excess of its terror?' But he said, 'Let not a voice fright you nor turn you from your faith.' Their hearts inclined to his word and they ceased not to worship the fire, but redoubled in their frowardness, till the anniversary of the day on which they had heard the supernatural voice. When they heard it anew, and so again a third time at the end of the second year. Still they persisted in their evil ways, till one day, at break of dawn, judgment descended on them and wrath from heaven, and they were all turned into black stones, they and their beasts and cattle; and none was spared, save myself. From that day to this, I have remained as thou seest me, occupying myself with prayer and fasting and reading the Koran aloud; and indeed I am grown weary of solitude, having none to bear me company." Then said I to him (and indeed he had won my heart), "O youth, wilt thou go with me to the city of Baghdad and foregather with men of learning and theologians and grow in wisdom and understanding and knowledge of the Law? If so, I will be thy handmaid, albeit I am head of my family and mistress over men and slaves and servants. I have here a ship laden with merchandise; and indeed it was providence drove us to this city, that I might come to the knowledge of these things, for it was fated that we should meet." And I ceased not to speak him fair and persuade him, till he consented to go with me, and I passed the night at his feet, beside myself for joy. When it was day, we repaired to the treasuries and took thence what was little of weight and great of value; then went down into the town, where we met the slaves and the captain seeking for me. When they saw me, they rejoiced and I told them all I had seen and related to them the story of the young man and of the curse that had fallen on the people of the city. At this they wondered: but when my sisters saw me with the prince, they envied me on his account and were enraged and plotted mischief against me in their hearts. Then we took ship again, beside ourselves for joy in the booty we had gotten, though the most of my joy was in the prince, and waited till the wind blew fair for us, when we set sail and departed. As we sat talking, my sisters said to me, "O sister, what wilt thou do with this handsome young man?" "I purpose to make him my husband," answered I; and I turned to the prince and said, "O my lord, I have that to propose to thee, in which I will not have thee cross me: and it is that, when we reach Baghdad, I will give myself to thee as a handmaid in the way of marriage, and thou shalt be my husband and I thy wife." Quoth he, "I hear and obey; thou art my lady and my mistress, and whatever thou dost, I will not cross thee." Then I turned to my sisters and said to them, "This young man suffices me; and those who have gotten aught, it is theirs." "Thou sayest well," replied they; but in their hearts they purposed me evil. We sailed on with a fair wind, till we left the sea of peril and came into safe waters, and in a few days, we came in sight of the walls of Bassora, even as night overtook us. My sisters waited till the prince and I were asleep, when they took us up, bed and all, and threw us into the sea. The prince, who could not swim, was drowned and God wrote him of the company of the martyrs. As for me, would I had been drowned with him! But God decreed that I should be of the saved; so He threw in my way a piece of wood and I got astride of it, and the waters tossed me about till they cast me up on an island. I landed and walked about the island the rest of the night, and when the day broke, I saw a footway, leading to the mainland. By this time, the sun had risen; so I dried my clothes in its rays and ate of the fruits of the island and drank of its waters. Then I set out and fared on till I reached the mainland and found myself but two hours' distant from the city. So I sat down to rest and presently I saw a great serpent, the bigness of a palm-tree, come fleeing towards me, with all her might, whilst her tongue for weariness hung from her mouth a span's length and swept the dust as she went. She was pursued by a dragon, as long and thin as a spear, which presently overtook her and seized her by the tail whereat the tears streamed from her eyes and she wriggled from side to side. I took pity on her and catching up a stone, threw it at the dragon's head and killed him on the spot. Then the serpent spread a pair of wings and flew away out of sight, leaving me wondering. Now I was tired and drowsiness overcoming me, I slept where I was for awhile. When I awoke, I found a damsel sitting at my feet, rubbing them, and with her, two black bitches, and I was ashamed before her; so I sat up and said to her, "O my sister, who art thou?" "How quickly thou hast forgotten me!" answered she. "I am the serpent, whom thou didst deliver from my enemy by killing him, for I am a Jinniyeh (54) and the dragon was a genie; and I was only saved from him by thy kindness. As soon as thou hadst done me this service, I flew on the wind to your ship and transported all that was therein to thy house. Then I sank the vessel and changed thy sisters into two black bitches, for I know all that has passed between thee and them: but as for the young man, he is drowned." So saying, she flew up with me and the two bitches and presently set us down on the roof of my house, where I found all the goods that were in my ship, nor was aught missing. Then she said to me, "By that which is written on the seal of our lord Solomon (on whom be peace!) except thou give each of these bitches three hundred lashes every day, I will come and make thee like unto them." "I hear and obey," answered I; and since then I have never failed to beat them thus, O Commander of the Faithful, pitying them the while; and they know it is no fault of mine that they are beaten and accept my excuse. And this is my story.' The Khalif marvelled at her story and said to the portress, 'And thou, how camest thou by the weals on thy body?' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' answered she:
Story of the Portress.
'My father died and left me great wealth, and soon after his death I married one of the richest men of Baghdad. At the end of a year he too died and I inherited from him fourscore thousand dinars, being my lawful share of his property; so that I became passing rich and the report of my wealth spread abroad, for I got me half a score suits of clothes, each worth a thousand dinars. One day, as I was sitting alone, there came in to me an old woman with sunken cheeks and worn eyebrows, bleared eyes and broken teeth, blotched face and bald head, grizzled hair and bent and mangy body, running nose and sallow complexion, even as says the poet of the like of her:A right pernicious hag! Unshriven be her sins, Nor let her mercy find what time she comes to die!
She saluted me and kissing the ground before me, said, "I have an orphan daughter whose wedding and unveiling (55) I celebrate to-night. We are strangers in the city and know none of its inhabitants, and verily our hearts are broken so do thou earn through us a recompense and reward in the world to come by being present at her unveiling. When the ladies of the city hear that thou art to be present, they also will attend, and so wilt thou bring healing to her spirit, for now she is broken-hearted and has none to look to but God the Most High." Then she wept and kissed my feet, repeating the following verses:Thy presence honoureth us, and we Confess thy magnanimity:
I was moved to pity for her and said, "I hear and obey; and God willing, I will do more than this for her, for she shall not be unveiled but in my clothes and ornaments and jewellery." At this the old woman rejoiced and fell at my feet and kissed them, saying, "God requite thee with good and gladden thy heart as thou hast gladdened mine! But, O my lady, do not trouble thyself now, but be ready against the evening, when I will come and fetch thee." So saying, she kissed my hand and went away, whilst I attired myself and made my preparations. At the appointed time, the old woman returned, smiling, and kissed my hand, saying, "O my mistress, the most part of the ladies of the city are assembled; and I told them that thou hadst promised to be present, whereat they rejoiced and they are now awaiting thee and are looking eagerly for thy coming."So I veiled myself and taking my serving-maids with me, followed the old woman, till we came to a street swept and watered, through which blew a pleasant breeze. Here she stopped at a handsome portico vaulted with marble and leading to a palace that rose from the ground and took hold upon the clouds. The gateway was hung with a black curtain and lighted by a lamp of gold curiously wrought; and on the door were written the following verses:I am a dwelling, builded for delight; My time is still for joyance day and night.
The old woman knocked at the gate, which opened; and we entered a carpeted vestibule hung with lighted lamps and candles and adorned with pendants of precious stones and minerals. Through this we passed into a saloon, whose like is not to be found in the world, hung and carpeted with silken stuffs and lighted by hanging lamps and wax candles in rows. At the upper end stood a couch of juniper-wood, set with pearls and jewels and canopied with curtains of satin, looped up with pearls. Hardly had I taken note of all this, when there came out from the alcove a young lady more perfect than the moon at its full, with a forehead brilliant as the morning, when it shines forth, even as says the poet:Upon the imperial necks she walks, a loveling bright, For bride-chambers of kings and emperors bedight.
She came down from the dais and said to me, "Welcome, a thousand times welcome to the dear and illustrious sister!" and she recited the following verses:If the house knew who visits it, it would indeed rejoice And stoop to kiss the happy place whereon her feet have stood;
Then she sat down and said to me, "O my sister, I have a brother, who is handsomer than I; and he saw thee at certain festivals and assemblies and fell passionately in love with thee, for that thou art possessed of beauty and grace beyond thy share. He heard that thou wast thine own mistress, even as he also is the head of his family, and wished to make thine acquaintance; wherefore he used this device to bring thee in company with me; for he desires to marry thee according to the law of God and His prophet, and there is no shame in what is lawful." When I heard what she said, I bethought me that I was fairly entrapped and answered, "I hear and obey." At this she was glad and clapped her hands, whereupon a door opened and out came the handsomest of young men, elegantly dressed and perfect in beauty and symmetry and winning grace, with eyebrows like a bended bow and eyes that ravished hearts with lawful enchantments, even as says a poet, describing the like of him:His face is like unto the new moon's face With signs, (56) like pearls, of fortune and of grace.
And God bless him who said:He hath indeed been blest with beauty and with grace, And blest be He who shaped and fashioned forth his face!
When I looked at him, my heart inclined to him and I loved him; and he sat down by me and talked with me awhile. Presently the young lady clapped her hands a second time, and behold, a side door opened and there came out a Cadi and four witnesses, who saluted and sitting down, drew up the contract of marriage between me and the young man and retired. Then he turned to me and said, "May our night be blessed! O my mistress, I have a condition to lay on thee." Quoth I, "O my lord, what is it?" Whereupon he rose and fetching a copy of the Koran, said to me, "Swear to me that thou wilt never look upon another man than myself, nor incline to him." I did as he wished and he rejoiced with an exceeding joy and embraced me and my whole heart was taken with love of him. Presently they set food before us and we ate and drank, till we were satisfied and night closed in upon us. Then he took me and went to bed with me and ceased not to kiss and embrace me till the morning. I lived with him in all delight and happiness for a month, at the end of which time I asked his leave to go to the bazaar to buy certain stuffs that I wanted, and he gave me leave. So I veiled myself and taking with me the old woman and a serving-maid, went to the bazaar, where I sat down in the shop of a young merchant, whom the old woman knew and had recommended to me, saying, "The father of this young man died, when he was a boy, and left him great wealth: he has great store of goods, and thou wilt find what thou seekest with him, for none in the bazaar has finer stuffs than he." So she said to him, "Show this lady thy finest stuffs." And he answered, "I hear and obey." Then she began to sound his praises; but I said, "I have no concern with thy praises of him; all I want is to buy what I need of him and return home." So he brought me what I sought, and I offered him the price, but he refused to take it, saying, "It is a guest-gift to thee on the occasion of thy visit to me this day." Then I said to the old woman, "If he will not take the money, give him back the stuff." "By Allah!" said he, "I will take nothing from thee! I make thee a present of it all, in return for one kiss; for that is more precious to me than all that is in my shop." Quoth the old woman, "What will a kiss profit thee?" Then she said to me, "O my daughter, thou hearest what this young man says. What harm will it do thee, if he take from thee a kiss and thou get the stuffs for nothing?" "Dost thou not know," answered I, "that I am bound by an oath?" But she said, "Hold thy tongue and let him kiss thee, and thou shalt keep thy money and no harm shall betide thee." And she ceased not to persuade me till I put my head into the noose and consented. So I veiled my eyes and held up the edge of my veil between me and the street, that the passers-by might not see me; and he put his mouth to my cheek under the veil. But, instead of kissing me, he bit me so hard that he tore the flesh of my cheek, and I swooned away. The old woman took me in her arms and when I came to myself, I found the shop shut up and her lamenting over me and saying, "Thank God it was no worse!" Then she said to me, "Come, take courage and let us go home, lest the thing get wind and thou be disgraced. When thou returnest, do thou feign sickness and lie down and cover thyself up, and I will bring thee a remedy that will soon heal the wound." So, after awhile, I arose, full of fear and anxiety, and went little by little, till I came to the house, where I lay down and gave out that I was ill. When it was night, my husband came in to me and said, "O my lady, what has befallen thee in this excursion?" Quoth I, "I am not well: I have a pain in my head." Then he lighted a candle and drew near and looked at me and said, "What is that wound on thy cheek, in the soft part?" Said I, "When I went out to-day to buy stuffs, with thy leave, a camel laden with firewood jostled me and the end of one of the pieces of wood tore my veil and wounded my cheek, as thou seest; for indeed the ways are strait in this city." "To-morrow," rejoined he, "I will go to the governor and speak to him, that he may hang every firewood-seller in the city." "God on thee," cried I, "do not burden thy conscience with such a sin against any one! The truth is that I was riding on an ass, and it stumbled and threw me down, and my cheek fell on a piece of glass, which wounded it." "Then," said he, "to morrow I will go to Jaafer the Barmecide and tell him the case, and he will kill every ass in the city." "Wilt thou ruin all the folk on my account," said I, "when this that befell me was decreed of God?" "There is no help for it," answered he, and springing to his feet, plied me with questions and pressed me, till I was frightened and stammered in my speech, so that he guessed how the case stood and exclaimed, "Thou hast been false to thine oath!" Then he gave a great cry, whereupon a door opened and in came seven black slaves, whom he commanded to drag me from my bed and throw me down in the middle of the room. Moreover, he made one take me by the shoulders and sit upon my head and another sit on my knees and hold my feet and giving a third a naked sword, said to him, "Strike her, O Saad, and cut her in twain and let each take half and throw it into the Tigris) that the fish may eat her, for this is the reward of her who breaks her oath and is unfaithful to her love." And he redoubled in wrath and repeated the following verses:If any other share with me in her whom I adore, I'll root out passion from my heart, though longing me destroy;
Then he said to the slave, "Smite her, O Saad!" Whereupon the latter bent down to me and said, "O my lady, repeat the profession of the faith and tell us if there be aught thou wouldst have done, for thy last hour is come. "O good slave," said I, "grant me a little respite, that I may give thee my last injunctions." Then I raised my head and considered my case and how I had fallen from high estate into abjection; wherefore the tears streamed from my eyes and I wept passing sore. He looked at me with angry eyes and repeated the followingSay unto her who wronged us, on whom our kisses tire, Her that hath chosen another for darling of desire, Lo, we will spurn thee from us, before thou cast us off! That which is past between us suffices to our ire.
When I heard this, I wept and looked at him and repeated the following verses:You doom my banishment from love and all unmoved remain; You rob my wounded lids of rest and sleep whilst I complain.
Then I wept; and when he heard what I said and saw my tears, his anger redoubled, and he repeated the following verses:I left the darling of my heart, not from satiety; But she had sinned a sin that called aloud for punishment.
Then I wept again and implored him, saying to myself, "I will work on him with words; so haply he may spare my life, though he take all I have." So I complained to him of my sufferings and repeated the following verses:If thou indeed wert just to me, thou wouldst not take my life. Alas! against the law of Death no arbiter is there!
Then I wept again, and he looked at me and reviled and reproached me, repeating the following verses:Thou hast forgotten my love in the arms of another than me; Thou shew'st me estrangement, though I was never unfaithful to thee.
Then he called to the slave with the sword, saying "Cut her in half and rid us of her, for we have no profit of her." So the slave drew near to me and I gave myself up for lost and committed my affair to God the Most High; but, at this moment, in came the old woman and threw herself at my husband's feet and kissed them, saying, "O my son, for the sake of my fosterage of thee and my service to thee, spare this young lady, for indeed she has done nothing deserving of death. Thou art a very young man, and I fear lest her death be laid to thy count, for it is said, 'He who kills shall be killed.' As for this wretched woman, put her away from thee and from thy thought and heart." And she ceased not to weep and implore him, till he relented and said, "I pardon her, but I will set a mark on her that shall stay with her all her life." Then he made the slaves strip off my clothes and hold me down, and taking a rod of quince-wood beat me with it on the back and sides. till I lost my senses for excess of pain and despaired of life. Then he commanded slaves, as soon as it was dark, to carry me back to the house in which I had lived before my marriage with him, taking the old woman with them to guide them. They did as he bade them and cast me down in my house and went away. I did not recover from my swoon till the morning, when I applied myself to the dressing of my wounds, and medicined myself and kept my bed for four months, at the end of which time my body healed and I was restored to health; but my sides still bore the marks of the blows, as thou hast seen. As soon as I could walk, I went to the house where all this had happened, but found the whole street pulled down and nothing but heaps of rubbish where the house had stood, nor could I learn how this had come about. Then I betook myself to this my half-sister and found with her these two black bitches. I saluted her and told her what had befallen me; and she said, "O my sister, who is safe from the vicissitudes of fortune? Praised be God, who hath brought thee off with thy life!" And she repeated the following verse:Fortune indeed was ever thus: endure it patiently, Whether thou suffer loss of wealth or friends depart from thee.
Then she told me her own story, and we abode together, she and I, never mentioning the name of marriage. After awhile there came to live with us this our other sister the cateress, who goes out every day and buys what we require for the day and night. We led this life till yesterday, when our sister went out as usual and fell in with the porter. Presently we were joined by these three Calenders and later on by three respectable merchants from Tiberias, all of whom we admitted to our company on certain conditions, which they infringed. But we forgave them their breach of faith, on condition that they should give us an account of themselves; so they told us their stories and went away; and we heard nothing more till this morning, when we were summoned to appear before thee; and this is our story.' The Khalif wondered at her story, and ordered it and those of her sister and the Calenders to be recorded in the archives of his reign and laid up in the royal treasury. Then he said to the eldest lady, 'Knowst thou where to find the Afriteh who enchanted thy sisters?' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' answered she, 'she gave me some of her hair, saying, "When thou wouldst see me, burn one or two of these hairs, and I will be with thee presently, though I be behind the mountain Caf."' Quoth the Khalif, 'Bring me the hair.' So she fetched it and he threw the whole lock into the fire, whereupon the palace shook and they heard a rumbling sound of thunder, and presently the Jinniyeh appeared and saluted the Khalif, saying, 'Peace be upon thee, O vicar of God!' 'And on thee be peace,' answered he, 'and the mercy of God and His blessing!' Quoth she, 'Know that this lady did me a service for which I cannot enough requite her, in that she saved me from death and slew my enemy. Now I had seen how her sisters dealt with her and felt bound to avenge her on them. At first, I was minded to kill them, but I feared it would be grievous to her, so I turned them into bitches; and now, O Commander of the Faithful, if thou wouldst have me release them, I will do so, out of respect to thee and to her, for I am of the true believers.' 'Release them,' said the Khalif; 'and after we will proceed to look into the affair of the beaten lady, and if her account prove true, we will avenge her on him who wronged her.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' replied she, 'I will release them forthwith and bring thee to the knowledge of him who maltreated this lady and took her property; and he is the nearest of all men to thee.' So saying, she took a cup of water and muttered over it and spoke words that might not be understood. Then she threw some of the water in the faces of the bitches, saying, 'Return to your former human shape;' whereupon they were restored to their original form, and the Afriteh said to the Khalif, 'O Commander of the Faithful, he who beat this lady is thy son El Amin, brother of El Mamoun, (58) who heard of her beauty and grace and laid a trap for her and married her; and indeed he is not to blame for beating her, for he laid a condition on her and took of her a solemn oath that she would not do a certain thing; but she was false to her vow; and he was minded to kill her, but was restrained by the fear of God the Most High and contented himself with beating her, as thou hast seen, and sending her back to her own place.' When the Khalif heard this, he wondered greatly and said, 'Glory be to God the Most High, the Supreme, who hath vouchsafed me the delivery of these two damsels from enchantment and torment and hath granted me to know the secret of this lady's history! By Allah, I will do a thing that shall be chronicled after me!' Then he summoned his son El Amin and questioned him of the story of the portress, and he told him the truth; whereupon the Khalif sent for Cadis and witnesses and married the eldest lady and her two sisters-german to the three Calenders, whom he made his chamberlains, appointing them stipends and all that they needed and lodging them in his palace at Baghdad. Moreover, he returned the beaten girl to her husband, his son El Amin, renewing the marriage contract between them, and gave her great wealth and bade rebuild the house more handsomely than before. As for himself, he took to wife the cateress and lay with her that night; and on the morrow he assigned her a separate lodging in his seraglio, with a fixed allowance and serving-maids to wait on her; and the people marvelled at his equity and magnificence and generosity.
When Shehrzad had made an end of her story, Dunyazad said to her, "By Allah, this is indeed a pleasant and delightful story, never was heard its like! But now, O my sister, tell us another story, to beguile the rest of the waking hours of our night." "With all my heart," answered Shehrzad, "if the King give me leave." And he said, "Tell thy story, and that quickly." Then said she, "They say, O King of the age and lord of the time and the day, that