THE WATER-CARRIER AND THE GOLDSMITH'S WIFE

There was once, in the city of Bokhara, a water-carrier, who used to carry water to the house of a goldsmith and had done thus thirty years. Now the goldsmith had a wife of exceeding beauty and elegance and withal renowned for modesty, chastity and piety. One day, the water-carrier came, as of wont, and poured the water into the cisterns. Now the woman was standing in the midst of the court; so he went up to her and taking her hand, stroked it and pressed it, then went away and left her. When her husband came home from the bazaar, she said to him, 'I would have thee tell me what thou hast done in the bazaar, today, to anger God the Most High.' Quoth he, 'I have done nothing.' 'Nay,' rejoined she, 'but, by Allah, thou hast indeed done something to anger God; and except thou tell me the truth, I will not abide in thy house, and thou shalt not see me, nor will I see thee.' 'I will tell thee the truth,' answered he. 'As I was sitting in my shop this day, a woman came up to me and bade me make her a bracelet. Then she went away and I wrought her a bracelet of gold and laid it aside. Presently, she returned and I brought her out the bracelet. She put out her hand and I clasped the bracelet on her wrist; and I wondered at the whiteness of her hand and the beauty of her wrist and recalled what the poet says:

      Bracelets, upon her wrists, of glittering virgin gold She hath, like fire ablaze on running water cold.
      It is as if the wrists and bracelets thereabout Were water girt with fire, right wondrous to behold.

So I took her hand and pressed it and squeezed it.' 'God is Most Great!' exclaimed the woman. 'Why didst thou this ill thing? Know that the water-carrier, who has come to our house these thirty years, nor sawst thou ever any treason in him, took my hand to day and pressed and squeezed it.' Quoth her husband, 'O woman, let us crave pardon of God! Verily, I repent of what I did, and do thou ask forgiveness of God for me.' 'God pardon me and thee,' said she, 'and vouchsafe to make good the issue of our affair!'

Next day, the water-carrier came in to the jeweller's wife and throwing himself at her feet, grovelled in the dust and besought pardon of her, saying, 'O my lady, acquit me of that which Satan deluded me to do; for it was he that seduced me and led me astray.' 'Go thy ways,' answered she; 'the fault was not in thee, but in my husband, for that he did what he did in his shop, and God hath retaliated upon him in this world.' And it is related that the goldsmith, when his wife told him how the water-carrier had used her, said, 'Tit for tat! If I had done more, the water-carrier had done more.' And this became a current byword among the folk.

So it behoveth a wife to be both outward and inward with her husband, contenting herself with little from him, if he cannot give her much, and taking pattern by Aaisheh (114) the Truthful and Fatimeh (115) the Clean Maid, (may God the Most High accept of them), that she may be of the company of the righteous. (116)




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