THE SCHOOLMASTER WHO FELL IN LOVE BY REPORT

(Quoth one of the erudite), I passed once by a [school, in which a] schoolmaster, comely of aspect and well dressed, was teaching children; so I entered, and he rose and made me sit with him. Then I examined him in the Koran and in syntax and poetry and lexicography, and found him perfect in all that was required of him and said to him, "God strengthen thy purpose! Thou art indeed versed in all that is sought of thee." So I frequented him awhile, discovering daily some new excellence in him, and said to myself, "This is indeed a wonder in a schoolmaster; for the understanding are agreed upon the lack of wit of those that teach children." Then I separated myself from him and sought him out and visited him [only] every few days, till, one day, coming to see him as of wont, I found the school shut and made enquiry of the neighbours, who said, "Some one is dead in his house." So I said to myself, "It behoves me to pay him a visit of condolence," and going to his house, knocked at the door. A slave-girl came out to me and said, "What dost thou want?" "I want thy master," answered I. Quoth she, "He is sitting alone, mourning. "Tell him," rejoined I, "that his friend so and so seeks to condole with him." She went in and told him; and he said, "Admit him." So she brought me in to him, and I found him seated alone and his head bound [with the fillets of mourning]. "May God amply requite thee!" said I. "This is a road all must perforce travel, and it behoves thee to take patience. But who is dead unto thee?" "One who was dearest and best beloved of the folk to me," answered he. Quoth I, "Perhaps thy father?" He replied, "No;" and I said, "Thy mother?" "No," answered he. "Thy brother?" "No." "One of thy kindred?" "No." "Then," asked I, "what relation was the dead to thee?" "My mistress," answered he. Quoth I to myself, "This is the first sign of his lack of wit." Then I said to him, "There are others than she and fairer;" and he answered, "I never saw her, that I might judge whether or no there be others fairer than she." Quoth I to myself, "This is another sign" Then I said to him, "And how couldst thou fall in love with one thou hast never seen?" Quoth he, "I was sitting one day at the window, when there passed by a man, singing the following verse:

      Umm Amri, (136) God requite thee thy generosity! Give back my heart, prithee, wherever it may be!

When I heard this, I said to myself, 'Except this Umm Amri were without equal in the world, the poets had not celebrated her in amorous verse.' So I fell in love with her; but, two days after, the same man passed, singing the following verse:

VThe jackass with Umm Amri departed; but, alas, Umm Amri! She returned not again, nor did the ass.

Thereupon I knew that she was dead and mourned for her. This was three days ago, and I have been mourning ever since." So I left him and went away, having assured myself of the feebleness of his wit.




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