THE MALICE OF WOMEN.
There was once, of old days and in bygone ages and times, a rich and powerful king, who ruled over many men of war and vassals, and he had grown old without being blessed with a son. At last, when he began to despair of male issue, he sought the intercession of the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve!) with the Most High and implored Him, by the glory of His saints and prophets and martyrs and others of the Faithful that were dear to Him, to grant him a son, to be the solace of his eyes and inherit the kingdom after him. Then he rose forthright and withdrawing to his sitting-chamber, sent for the daughter of his uncle (69) and lay with her. By God's grace, she conceived by him, and when the months of her pregnancy were accomplished, she bore a male child, whose face was as the round of the moon on its fourteenth night. When the boy reached the age of five, he was committed to the charge of a sage of the sages, a very learned man, by name Es Sindibad, who taught him science and polite letters, till, by the time he was ten years old, there was none of his time could vie with him in knowledge and good breeding and understanding. Then his father delivered him to a company of Arabian cavaliers, who instructed him in horsemanship and martial exercises, till he became proficient therein and came and went in the listed field and excelled all his peers and all the folk of his day.
One day, his governor, being engaged in observing the stars, drew the youth's horoscope and discovered that, if he spoke one word during the seven following days, he would be a dead man. So he went in straightway to the old King and informed him of this, and he said, 'What shall we do, O sage?' 'O King,' answered the other, 'it is my counsel that he be kept in a place of pleasance, where he may divert himself with hearing music, until the seven days be past.' So the King sent for the fairest of his favourites and committed the prince to her, saying, 'Take thy lord into the palace with thee and let him not leave thee till after seven days.' The damsel accordingly took the prince by the hand and carried him to the palace in question, which was compassed about by a running stream, whose banks were planted with all manner fruit-trees and sweet-scented flowers. Moreover, in this palace were forty apartments and in every apartment ten slave-girls, each skilled in some instrument of music, so that, when she played, the palace danced to her melodious strains; and here the prince passed one night.
Now he was handsome and graceful beyond description, and when the King's favourite looked at him, love gat hold upon her heart and she was ravished with him. So she went up to him and offered herself to him, but he made her no answer; whereupon, being confounded by his beauty, she cried out to him and required him of himself and importuned him. Moreover, she threw herself upon him and strained him to her bosom, kissing him and saying, 'O king's son, grant me thy favours and I will set thee in thy father's stead; yea, I will give him to drink of poison, so he may die and thou enjoy his wealth and kingship.' When the prince heard this, he was sore enraged against her and said to her [by signs], 'O accursed one, so it please God the Most High, I will assuredly requite thee this thy deed, whenas I can speak; for I will go out to my father and tell him, and he will kill thee.' So saying, he arose, in a rage, and went out from her; whereat she feared for herself. So she buffeted her face and rent her clothes and tore her hair and uncovered her head, then went in to the King and threw herself at his feet, weeping and lamenting. When he saw her in this plight, he was sore concerned and said to her, 'What ails thee, O damsel? How is it with thy lord [my son]? Is he not well?' 'O King,' answered she, 'this thy son, whom thy counsellors avouch to be dumb, required me of myself and I repelled him, whereupon he did with me as thou seest and would have slain me; so I fled from him, nor will I ever again return to him nor to the palace.'
When the King heard this, he was beyond measure wroth and calling his Viziers, bade them put the prince to death. However, they said to each other, 'If we do the King's commandment, he will surely repent of having ordered his son's death, for he is passing dear to him and came to him after he had despaired of an heir; and he will turn on us and blame us, saying, "Why did ye not dissuade me from slaying my son?"' So they took counsel together, to turn him from his purpose, and the chief Vizier said, 'I will warrant you from his mischief this day.' Then he went in to the King and prostrating himself before him, craved leave to speak. The King gave him leave, and he said, 'O King, though thou hadst a thousand sons, yet were it no light matter to thee to put one of them to death, on the report of a woman, speak she truth or falsehood; and belike this is a lie and a trick of her against thy son; for indeed, O King, I have heard tell great plenty of stories of the craft and perfidy of women.' Quoth the King, 'Tell me somewhat of that which hath come to thy knowledge thereof.' And the Vizier answered, saying, 'It hath reached me, O King, that
The King and His Vizier's Wife.
There was once a king, who was given to the love of women, and one day, being alone in his palace, he espied a beautiful woman on the roof of her house and could not contain himself from falling in love with her. He asked [his servants] to whom the house belonged and they said, "To thy vizier such an one." So he called the vizier in question and despatched him on an errand to a distant part of the kingdom; then, as soon as he was gone, he made an excuse to gain access to his house. When the vizier's wife saw him, she knew him and springing up, kissed his hands and feet and welcomed him. Then she stood afar off busying herself in his service, and said to him "O our lord, what is the cause of thy gracious visit? Such an honour is not for the like of me." Quoth he, "Love of thee and desire to thee hath moved me to this." Whereupon she kissed the earth before him a second time and said, "O our lord, indeed I am not worthy to be the handmaid of one of the king's servants; whence then have I the great good fortune to be in such favour with thee?" Then the king put out his hand to her, but she said. "This thing shall not escape us; but take patience, O king, and abide with me all this day, that I may make ready for thee somewhat of victual." So the king sat down on his vizier's couch and the lady brought him a book wherein he might read, whilst she made ready the food. He took the book and beginning to read, found therein moral instances and exhortations, such as restrained him from adultery and broke his intent to commit sin.
After awhile, she returned and set before him a collation of ninety dishes of different kinds and colours, and he ate a spoonful of each and found that the taste of them was one. At this, he marvelled exceedingly and said to the lady, "O damsel, I see these meats to be many [and various of hue], but the taste of them is one." "God prosper the king!" replied she. "This is a parable I have set for thee, that thou mayst be admonished thereby." "And what is its meaning?" asked he. "May God amend the case of our lord the king!" answered she. "In thy palace are ninety concubines of various colours, but their taste is one." When the king heard this, he was ashamed and rising hastily, went out and returned to his palace, without offering her any affront; but, in his haste and confusion, he forgot his signet-ring and left it under the cushion where he had been sitting.
Presently the vizier returned and presenting himself before the king, kissed the earth and made his report to him of the state of the province in question. Then he repaired to his own house and sat down on his couch, and chancing to put his hand under the cushion, found the king's seal-ring. So he looked at it and knew it and taking the matter to heart, held aloof from his wife nor spoke with her for a whole year, while she knew not the reason of his anger. At last, being weary of estrangement, she sent for her father and told him the case, whereupon quoth he, "I will complain of him to the king, some day when he is in presence."
So, one day, he went in to the king and finding the vizier and the cadi of the army before him, made his complaint in the following words. "May God the Most High amend the king's case! I had a fair garden, which I planted with my own hand and spent my substance thereon, till it bore fruit and its fruit was ripe, when I gave it to this thy vizier, who ate of it what seemed good to him, then forsook it and watered it not, so that its flowers withered and its beauty departed and it became waste." Then said the vizier, "O king, what this man says is true. I did indeed care for the garden and ate thereof, till, one day, going thither, I saw the track of the lion there, wherefore I feared him and withdrew from the garden." The king understood the parable and knew that, by the track of the lion, he meant his own seal-ring, which he had forgotten in his house; so he said, "Return to thy garden, O vizier, and fear nothing, for the lion came not near it. It hath been told me that he went thither, but by the honour of my fathers and forefathers, he offered it no hurt." "I hear and obey," answered the vizier, and returning home, made his peace with his wife and thenceforth put faith in her chastity.
And I have heard also, O King,' continued the Vizier, 'that
The Merchant's Wife and the Parrot.
There was once a merchant who travelled much, and had a fair wife, whom he loved, and was jealous over her, by reason of the greatness of his love. So he bought her for a hundred dinars a green parrot, which talked like a man and used to tell him all that passed in his absence. Whilst he was abroad on one of his voyages, his wife fell in love with a young Turk, who used to visit her, and she entertained him and lay with him whilst her husband was away. When the latter returned, the parrot told him what had happened, whereat he was sore enraged and offered to kill his wife; but she said, "O man, fear God and return to thy wits. How can a bird have sense or understanding? If thou wilt that I make this manifest to thee, so thou mayst know its truth from its leasing, go this night and lie with one of thy friends, and in the morning come back and question the parrot [of what passed during the night,] and thou wilt see if it speak truth or not."
The husband accordingly went forth and passed the night with one of his friends, whilst, as soon as it was dark, the wife covered the parrot's cage with a piece of leather and fell to sprinkling water on it from above. Moreover, she fanned it sharply with a fan and flashed light on it from the lantern, as it were the glancing lightning, grinding the while at the hand-mill. Thus she did, without ceasing, till daybreak; and the parrot thought that the sprinkling of the water on its cage was rain and the fanning a stormy wind and the flashing of the lantern lightning and the noise of the hand-mill thunder. When her husband returned, she bade him question the parrot; so he went up to the cage and began to talk with the bird and question it of the past night. Quoth it, "O my lord, who could see or hear aught last night?" "And why so?" asked he. "Because," replied it, "of the much rain and wind and thunder and lightning." "Thou liest," said the merchant. "There was nothing of all this last night." Quoth the bird, "I tell thee but what I saw and heard." Then was he certified that the parrot had lied in all it had told him of his wife and would have made his peace with the latter; but she said, "By Allah, I will not be friends with thee, till thou kill this parrot that lied to thee of me." So he rose and killed the parrot; but, a few days after, he saw the young Turk come forth of his house and knew that the parrot had spoken the truth and repented of having slain it. Then he went in at once to his wife and cut her throat and casting her into the river, vowed never to take another wife. This,' said the Vizier, 'I tell thee, O King, that thou mayst know how great is the craft of women and that haste begetteth repentance.'
So the King turned from putting his son to death, but, next day, the favourite came in to him and kissing the ground before him, said, 'O King, why dost thou delay to do me justice? Indeed, the kings have heard that thou commandest a thing and thy Vizier countermandeth it. Now the obedience of kings is in the fulfilment of their commandments, and every one knows thy justice and equity: so do thou me justice on thy son. I have heard tell that
The Fuller and His Son.
There was once a fuller, who used every day to go forth to the bank of the Tigris, to clean clothes; and his son was wont to go with him and swim about in the river, whilst his father was fulling, nor did the latter forbid him from this. One day, as the boy was swimming, he was taken with cramp in the arms and sank, whereupon the fuller plunged into the water and caught hold of him; but the boy clung about him and pulled him down and so father and son were both drowned. Thus is it with thee, O King. Except thou prevent thy son and do me justice on him, I fear lest both of you sink together, thou and he. Moreover,' continued she, 'for an instance of the malice of men, I have heard tell that
The Lover's Trick Against the Chaste Wife.
A certain man loved a beautiful and graceful woman, married to a man whom she loved and who loved her. Moreover, she was chaste and virtuous, like unto me, and her lover found no way to her; so, when his patience was at an end, he bethought him of a device to get his will. Now the husband had a young man, whom he had brought up in his house and who was in high trust with him. So the lover addressed himself to the youth and insinuated himself into his favour by presents and fair words, till he became more obedient to him than the hand to the mouth and did whatever he bade him. One day, he said to him, "Harkye, such an one; wilt thou not bring me into thy dwelling some time when thy lady is gone out?" "Yes," answered the steward; so, when his master was at the shop and his mistress gone forth to the bath, he took his friend and bringing him into the house, showed him all that was therein.
Now the lover was minded to play a trick upon the lady; so he took white of egg, that he had brought with him in a vessel, and sprinkled it on the merchant's bed, unseen of the young man, after which he left the house and went his way. Presently, the merchant came home and going to the bed, to rest himself, found thereon something wet. So he took it up in his hand and looked at it and deemed it human sperm; whereat he looked at the young man with angry eyes and said to him, "Where is thy mistress?" "She is gone forth to the bath and will return forthright," replied he. When the man heard this, his suspicion was confirmed and he said, "Go and bring her back at once." The steward accordingly fetched her and when she came before her husband, the latter sprang upon her and beat her grievously, then, binding her hands behind her, offered to kill her; but she cried out to the neighbours, who came to her, and she said to them, "My husband has beaten me without cause and is minded to kill me, though I know not what I have done." So they said to him, "Why hast thou dealt thus by her?" And he answered, saying, "She is divorced." Said they, "Thou hast no right to maltreat her; either divorce her or use her kindly, for we know her chastity. Indeed, she hath been our neighbour this long time and we know no evil of her." Quoth he, "When I came home, I found on my bed human sperm, and I know not the meaning of this." Upon this, one of those present came forward and said, "Show it to me." When he saw it, he smelt it and calling for fire and a frying-pan, fried the white of egg. Then he made the husband and the others taste of it, and they were certified that it was white of egg. So the husband was convinced of his wife's innocence and the neighbours made peace between them; and so the lover's wicked trick came to nought. And know, O King, that this is an instance of the malice of men and their perfidy.'
When the King heard this, he bade put his son to death; but the second vizier came forward and kissing the earth before him, said, 'O King, hasten not to slay thy son, tor he was not vouchsafed to his mother but after she had despaired, and we trust that he will live to become a treasure to thy realm and a guardian of thy good. Wherefore, have patience, O King; belike he will speak and excuse himself; and if thou make haste to slay him, thou wilt surely repent, even as the merchant repented.' Quoth the King, 'And how was it with the merchant, O vizier?' 'O King,' answered the vizier, 'I have heard that
The Niggard and the Loaves of Bread.
There was once a merchant, who was niggardly in his eating and drinking. One day, he went on a journey to a certain town and as lie walked in the market streets, he came upon an old woman with two cakes of bread. He asked her if they were for sale, and she said, "Yes." So he chaffered with her and bought them at a low price and took them home to his lodging, where he ate them that day. On the morrow, he returned to the same place and finding the old woman there with other two cakes, bought these also; and thus he did twenty days' space, at the end of which time the old woman disappeared. He made enquiry for her, but could hear nothing of her, till, one day, as he was walking about the streets, he chanced upon her; so he accosted her and asked why she had ceased to attend the market and bring him the two cakes of bread. At first, she evaded giving him a reply; but he conjured her to tell him; so she said, "Know, O my lord, that I was attending upon a certain man, who had an ulcer on his spine, and his doctor used to knead flour with butter into a plaster and lay it on the place of the pain, where it abode all night. In the morning, I used to take the flour and make it into two cakes, which I sold to thee or another; but presently the man died and I was cut off from making the cakes." When the merchant heard this, he repented, whenas repentance availed nothing, saying, "Verily, we are God's and to Him we return! There is no power and no virtue but in Him, the Most High, the Supreme!" And he repeated the saying of the Most High, "Whatsoever betideth thee of good, it is from God, and whatsoever betideth thee of ill, it is from thyself," (70) and vomited till he fell sick.
Moreover, O King,' continued the second vizier, 'I have heard tell, of the malice of women, that
The Lady and Her Two Lovers.
There was once a man, who was swordbearer to one of the kings, and he loved a certain woman of the common people. One day, he sent his page to her with a message, as of wont between them, and the latter sat down with her and toyed with her. She inclined to him and pressed him to her bosom, whereupon he sought to lie with her and she consented unto him; but, as they were thus, the sword bearer knocked at the door. So she clapped the young man into an underground chamber there and opened the door to his master, who came in, sword in hand, and sat down on her bed. Then she came to him and sported and toyed with him, kissing him and pressing him to her bosom, and he took her and lay with her.
Presently her husband knocked at the door and he said to her, "Who is that?" "My husband," replied she. Quoth he, "How shall I do?" And she, "Draw thy sword and stand in the vestibule and rail at me and revile me; and when my husband comes in to thee, do thou go forth and go thy ways." He did as she bade him, and when the husband entered, he saw the king's swordbearer standing with his drawn sword in his hand, reviling and threatening his wife; but, when the other saw him, he was ashamed and sheathing his sword, went forth the house. Quoth the man to his wife, "What means this?" And she answered, saying, "O man, how blessed is the hour of thy coming! Thou hast saved a true believer from death; and it was on this wise. I was on the housetop, spinning, when there came up to me a youth, panting and distracted for fear of death, fleeing from yonder man, who followed hard upon him with his drawn sword. The young man fell down before me, and kissed my hands and feet, saying, 'O my lady, save me from him who would kill me without just cause!' So I hid him in the underground chamber there and presently in came yonder man to me with his naked sword in his hand, demanding the youth. But I denied him to him, whereupon he fell to reviling and threatening me as thou sawest. And praised be God who sent thee to me, for I was at my wits' end and had none to deliver me!"
"Well hast thou done, O woman!" answered the husband. "Thy reward is with God and may He abundantly requite thee!" Then he went to the trapdoor and called to the page, saying, "Come forth and fear not; no harm shall befall thee." So he came out, trembling for fear, and the husband condoled with him on what had befallen him, saying, "Be of good cheer: none shall hurt thee;" whilst the page called down blessings on his head. Then they both went forth, nor was either aware of that which the woman had contrived. This, then, O King,' said the vizier, 'is one of the tricks of women; so beware lest thou put faith in their speech.'
The King was persuaded and turned from putting his son to death, but, next day, the favourite came in to him and kissing the earth before him, said, 'O King, do me justice on thy son and be not turned from thy purpose by thy Vizier's prate, for there is no good in wicked viziers, and be not as the king, who relied on the word of a certain wicked vizier of his.' 'And how was that? asked the King. Quoth she, 'It hath been told me, O august and well-advised King, that
The King's Son and the Ogress.
A certain king had a son, whom he loved and favoured over all his other children; and this son said to him one day, "O my father, I have a mind to go a-hunting." So the king bade furnish him and commanded one of his viziers to bear him company and do all he needed during his absence. The vizier accordingly took all that was necessary for the journey and they set out with a retinue of slaves and servants and officers, and fared on till they came to a green and well-watered champaign abounding in pasture and game. Here the prince called a halt and they loosed the hawks and lynxes and dogs and caught great plenty of game, whereat they rejoiced and abode there some days, in all pleasance and delight of life. Then the prince gave the signal for departure, but, as they went along, a beautiful gazelle, as if the sun shone from her forehead, that had strayed from the herd, sprang up before the prince, whereupon his soul longed to make prize of her and he coveted her. So he said to the vizier, "I have a mind to follow yonder gazelle." "Do what seemeth good to thee," said the vizier. So the prince rode after the gazelle, till he lost sight of his companions, and chased her all that day till dusk, when she took refuge in the mountains and the darkness closed in upon him. Then he would have turned back, but knew not the way; whereat he was sore concerned and said, "There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme!"
He rode on all night, in quest of relief, but found none, and when the day appeared, he fared on at hazard, fearful and exhausted with hunger and thirst and the heat of the sun, until midday, when he came in sight of a great city, with massive walls and lofty turrets; but it was ruined and desolate, nor was there any live thing therein save the owl and the raven. As he stood among the ruins, marvelling at their ordinance, his eyes fell on a young and beautiful damsel sitting weeping, under one of the city walls. So he went up to her and said, "Who art thou and who brought thee hither?" "I am called Bint et Temimeh, daughter of Et Tiyakh, King of the Gray Country," answered she. "I went out one day on an occasion, when an Afrit of the Jinn snatched me up and soared with me between heaven and earth; but as he flew, there fell on him a flame of fire and consumed him, and I dropped here, where I have hungered and thirsted these three days; but, when I saw thee, I coveted life."
The prince was smitten with compassion for her and took her up behind him, saying, "Take heart and be of good cheer; for, if God (blessed and exalted be He!)restore me to my people and family, I will send thee back to thine own people." Then he rode on, praying to God for deliverance, and presently she said to him, "O King's son, put me down, that I may do an occasion under yonder wall." So he drew bridle and she alighted and hid herself behind the wall. He waited for her a long while and she came back, with the foulest of favours; which when he saw, he quaked for fear of her and his hair stood on end and he turned pale. Then she sprang up behind him, wearing the most hideous of aspects, and presently she said to him, "O King's son, what ails thee that I see thee troubled and thy favour changed?" Quoth he, "I have bethought me of somewhat that troubles me." And she, '' Seek aid against it of thy father's troops and warriors." "He whom I fear," answered the prince, "cares nothing for troops, neither can warriors affright him." "Then," rejoined she, "aid thyself against him with thy father's wealth and treasures." Quoth he, "He whom I fear will not be satisfied with wealth and treasures." And she, "Ye pretend that ye have in heaven a God who sees and is not seen and who can do all things." "Yes," answered he; "we have none but Him." "Then," said she, "pray thou to Him; haply He will deliver thee from thine enemy." So he raised his eyes to heaven and began to pray with his whole heart, saying, "O my God, I implore Thee to succour me against that which troubles me." Then he pointed to her with his hand, and she fell to the ground, burnt and black as a coal. Therewith he thanked God and praised Him and fared onward. And God (blessed and exalted be He!) of His grace made the way easy to him and guided him into the right road, so that he reached his father's capital, after he had despaired of life. Now all this befell by the contrivance of the vizier, who travelled with him to the end that he might cause him to perish by the way; but God the Most High succoured him. 'And this,' said the damsel, 'have I told thee, O King, that thou mayst know that wicked viziers deal not honestly by their kings neither counsel them with sincere intent, wherefore be thou ware of them in this matter.'
The King gave ear to her speech and commanded to put his son to death; but the third vizier said [to his brother viziers,] 'I will warrant you from the King's mischief this day;' and going in to him, kissed the earth before him and said, 'O King, I am thy loyal counsellor and affectionately solicitous for thee arid thine estate, and indeed, I give thee a true counsel; it is that thou hasten not to slay thy son, the solace of thine eyes and the fruit of thine entrails. Belike his offence is but a slight matter, which this damsel hath made great to thee; and indeed I have heard tell that the people of two villages once destroyed each other, because of a drop of honey.' 'How was that?' asked the King, and the Vizier answered, saying, 'Know, O King, that
The Drop of Honey.
A certain man used to hunt the wild beasts in the desert, and one day he came upon a grotto in the mountains, where he found a hollow full of bees' honey. So he took somewhat thereof in a water-skin he had with him and throwing it over his shoulder, carried it to the city, followed by a hunting dog which was dear to him. He stopped at the shop of an oilman and offered him the honey for sale and he bought it. Then he emptied it out of the skin that he might see it, and in the act a drop fell to the ground, whereupon the flies flocked to it and a bird swooped down upon the flies. Now the oilman had a cat, which pounced upon the bird, and the huntsman's dog, seeing the cat, sprang upon it and killed it; whereupon the oilman ran at the dog and killed it and the huntsman in turn leapt upon the oilman and killed him. Now the oilman was of one village and the huntsman of another; and when the people of the two places heard what had passed, they took up arms and rose on one another in anger, and there befell a sore battle; nor did the sword leave to play amongst them, till there died of them much people, none knoweth their number save God the Most High. And amongst other stories of the malice of women,' continued the Vizier, 'I have heard tell, O King, that
The Woman Who Made Her Husband Sift Dust.
A man once gave his wife a dirhem to buy rice; so she went to the rice-seller, who gave her the rice and began to jest with her and ogle her, for she was fair and graceful, saying, "Rice is not good but with sugar, which if thou wilt have, come in with me awhile." So she went in with him into his shop and he did his will of her and said to his slave, "Weigh her out a dirhem's worth of sugar." But he made the slave a privy sign, and the latter, taking the napkin, in which was the rice, emptied it out and put in its place earth, and for the sugar stones, after which he knotted the napkin up again and left it by her. Now the man's object, in doing this, was that she should come to him a second time; so, when she went forth of the shop, he gave her the napkin and she took it, thinking to have in it rice and sugar, and went her way; but when she returned home and set it before her husband, he found in it earth and stones. So, when she came back with the cooking-pot, he said to her, "Did I tell thee that I had aught to build, that thou bringest me earth and stones? When she saw this, she knew that the rice-seller's slave had tricked her; so she said to her husband, "O man, in my trouble of mind for what hath befallen me, I went to fetch the sieve and brought the cooking-pot." "What hath troubled thee?" asked he; and she said, "I dropped the dirhem thou gayest me in the market and was ashamed to search for it before the folk; yet I grudged to lose the money, so I gathered up the earth from the place where it fell and brought it away, thinking to sift it [when I came home]. Wherefore I went to fetch the sieve, but brought the cooking-pot instead." Then she fetched the sieve and gave it to her husband, saying, "Do thou sift it; for thine eyes are better than mine." So he sat, sifting the earth, till his face and beard were covered with dust; and he discovered not her trick, neither knew what had befallen her. This then, O King, 'said the Vizier, 'is an instance of the malice of women, and consider the saying of God the Most High, "Verily, the malice of you [women] is great!" (71) And again, "Indeed, the malice of Satan is weak [in comparison with that of women]."' (72)
The King gave ear to his Vizier's speech and was persuaded thereby and by what he cited to him of the sayings of God and the lights of good counsel arose and shone in the firmament of his understanding and he turned from his purpose of putting his son to death. But, on the fourth day, the favourite came in to him and kissing the earth before him, said, 'O august King and lord of good counsel, I have made plainly manifest to thee my grievance and thou bast dealt unjustly by me and hast forborne to avenge me on him who hath wronged me, for that he is thy son and the darling of thy heart; but God (blessed and exalted be He!) will succour me against him, even as he succoured the king's son against his father's vizier.' 'And how was that?' asked the King. 'I have heard tell., O King,' replied she, 'that
The Enchanted Springs.
There was once a king who had an only son; and when the latter grew up to man's estate, he contracted him in marriage to another king's daughter. Now she was beautiful and graceful and her cousin had sought her in marriage of her father, but she would none of him. So, when he knew that she was to be married to another, despite and jealousy gat hold on him and he bethought himself and sent a rich present to the vizier of the bride-groom's father, desiring him to use craft to make an end of the prince or go about with him, to bring him to leave his intent of marrying the princess and adding that he was the lady's cousin and that it was jealousy of her that moved him to this. The vizier accepted the present and sent an answer, saying, "Be of good cheer, for I will do all that thou wishest."
Presently, the bride's father wrote to the prince, bidding him to his capital, that he might go in to his daughter, whereupon the king his father despatched him thither, sending with him the vizier aforesaid and a thousand horse, besides presents and litters and tents and pavilions. The vizier set out with the prince, plotting the while in his heart to do him a mischief; and when they came into the desert, he called to mind a certain spring of running water in the mountains there, called Ez Zehra, whereof what man soever drank became a woman. So he called a halt near the place and presently mounting again, said to the prince, "Hast thou a mind to go with me and look upon a spring of water nigh at hand?" The prince assented, knowing not what should befall him in the future, and they rode on, unattended, till they came to the spring. The prince alighted and washed his hands and drank, whereupon he straightway became a woman. When he knew what had befallen him, he cried out and wept till he swooned away, and the vizier came up to him and said, "What ails thee?" So he told him what had happened, and the vizier feigned to condole with him and weep for his affliction, saying, "God the Most High succour thee in thine affliction! How came this grievous calamity upon thee, and we carrying thee, rejoicing, that thou mightest go in to the king's daughter? Verily, now I know not whether we shall go to her or not; but it is thine to decide. What dost thou hid me do?" Quoth the prince, "Go back to my father and tell him what hath befallen me, for I will not stir hence till this affliction be removed from me or I die in my grief." So he wrote a letter to his father, telling him what had happened, and the vizier took it and set out to return, leaving the troops with the prince and glad at heart for the success of his plot. As soon as he reached the king's capital, he went in to him and telling him what had passed, delivered to him the prince's letter. The king mourned sore for his son and sent for the wise men and masters of hidden arts, that they might discover to him this thing that had happened to the prince, but none could give him an answer. As for the vizier, he sent to the lady's cousin, giving him the glad news of the prince's misfortune, which when he heard, he rejoiced greatly and thought to marry the princess and wrote to the vizier, thanking him exceedingly and sending him rich presents and great store of treasure.
Meanwhile, the prince abode by the stream three days and nights, eating not nor drinking and committing himself, in his strait, unto God (blessed and exalted be He!) who disappointeth not whoso putteth his trust in Him. On the fourth night, there came to him a cavalier with a crown on his head, as he were of the Sons of the kings, and said to him, "O youth, who brought thee hither?" The prince told him his story, in a voice broken with tears, and the horseman pitied his case and said to him, "It was thy father's vizier who brought this thing upon thee, for he is the only man alive that knows of this spring: but mount thou behind me and come with me to my dwelling, for thou art my guest this night." "Tell me first who thou art," said the prince; and the other answered, saying, "I am a king's son of the Jinn, as thou a king's son of mankind; so take heart and be of good courage, for I will surely do away thy grief and trouble; and this is an easy thing unto me."
So the prince mounted behind the stranger, and they rode on, leaving the troops, from the first of the day till midnight, when the King's son of the Jinn said to the prince, "Knowest thou how many days' travel we have accomplished in this time?" "Not I," answered the prince, and the other, "We have a come a full year's journey for a swift horseman." The prince marvelled at this and said, "How shall I do to return to my people?" "That is not thine affair, but mine," replied the genie. "As soon as thou art quit of thy trouble, thou shalt be with thy people in less than the twinkling of an eye; for that is an easy matter to me." When the prince heard this, he well-nigh lost his wits for excess of joy; it seemed to him as he were in the mazes of a dream, and he exclaimed, "Glory be to Him who can restore the wretched to happiness!" They fared on all that night, and on the morrow they found themselves in a green and smiling country, full of towering trees and warbling birds and excellent fair gardens and splendid palaces and running waters and odoriferous flowers. Here the King's son of the Jinn alighted and bidding the prince do the like, took him by the hand and carried him into one of the palaces, where he found a great and puissant king and abode with him all that day, eating and drinking.
As soon as it was night, the King's son of the Jinn mounted his courser and taking the prince up behind him, fared on swiftly till morning, when they found themselves in a black and desert country, full of black rocks and stones, as it were a piece of hell; and the prince said to the genie, "What is the name of this land?" "It is called the Black Country," answered the other, "and belongs to one of the Kings of the Jinn, by name Dhoul Jenahain, against whom none of the other kings may prevail, neither may any enter his dominions without his leave; so abide thou here, whilst I go ask it. So saying, he went away and returning after awhile, they fared on again, till they came to a spring of water welling forth of a black rock, and the King's son of the Jinn bade the prince alight and drink. So he lighted down and drank of the spring, and no sooner had he done so than, by God's grace, he became a man as before. At this he was beyond measure rejoiced and said to the genie, "O my brother, how is this spring called?"Quoth the other, "It is called the Women's Spring, for that no woman drinks thereof but she becomes a man: wherefore do thou praise God the Most High and thank Him for thy restoration and mount." So the prince prostrated himself in gratitude to God the Most High, after which he mounted again and they fared on diligently all that day, till they came to the genie's palace, where the prince passed the night in all delight and solace of life.
They spent the next day in eating and drinking till nightfall, when the genie said to the prince, "Hast thou a mind to return to thy people?" "Yes," replied he; "for indeed I long for them." Then the king's son of the Jinn called one of his father's slaves, Rajiz by name, and said to him, "Take this young man on thy shoulders and let not the day dawn ere he be with his wife and father-in-law." "I hear and obey," answered the slave, and withdrawing awhile, reappeared in the form of an Afrit. When the prince saw this, he lost his senses for affright, but the genie said to him, "Fear not; no harm shall befall thee. Mount thy horse and leap him on to the Afrit's shoulders." " Nay," answered he ; " I will leave my horse with thee and bestride his shoulders myself." So he bestrode the Afrit's shoulders and shut his eyes, as the genie bade him; whereupon the Afrit rose with him into the air and ceased not to fly between earth and heaven, whilst the prince was unconscious, nor was the last third of the night come before he lighted down with him on the roof of his father-in-law's palace. Then said the Afrit, "Alight and open thine eyes; for this is the palace of thy father-in-law and his daughter." So he alighted and the Afrit flew away and left him on the roof of the palace.
When the day broke and the prince recovered from his trouble, he went down into the palace and his father-in-law, espying him, came to meet him and marvelled to see him descend from the roof of the palace, saying, "We see folk enter by the doors; but thou comest from the skies." Quoth the prince, "What God (may He be hallowed and glorified!) wills, cometh to pass." And he told him all that had befallen him, from first to last, whereat the king marvelled and rejoiced in his safety and bade his vizier make ready splendid bride-feasts. So did he and they held the marriage festival, after which the prince went in to his bride and abode with her two months, then departed with her for his father's capital: but, as for the lady's cousin, he died of jealousy and despite. When the prince and his bride drew near his father's city, the king came out to meet them with his troops and viziers, and so God (blessed and exalted be He!) aided the prince against his bride's cousin and his father's vizier. And I pray God the Most High,' added the damsel, 'to aid thee against thy viziers, O King, and I beseech thee to do me justice on thy son!'
When the King heard this (it being the fourth day), he bade put his son to death; but the fourth vizier entered and kissing the ground before him, said, 'May God stablish and protect the King! O King, be deliberate in doing this thou art resolved upon, for the wise man doth nothing till he have considered the issue thereof, and the proverb says, "He who looks not to the issue of his actions, fortune is no friend to him ;" and whoso acteth without consideration, there befalleth him what befell the bath-keeper with his wife.' 'And what was that?' asked the King. 'I have heard tell, O King,' answered the vizier, 'that
The Vizier's Son and the Bathkeeper's Wife.
There was once a bathkeeper, to whom resorted the notables and chiefs of the folk, and one day there came in to him a handsome young man of the sons of the viziers, who was fat and stout of body. So he stood to serve him and when the young man put off his clothes, he saw not his yard, for that it was hidden between his thighs, by reason of the excess of his fat, and there appeared thereof but what was like unto a filbert. At this, the bathkeeper fell a-lamenting and smiting hand upon hand, which when the youth saw, he said to him, "O bathkeeper, what ails thee to lament thus?" And he answered, saying, "O my lord, my lamentation is for thee, because thou art in sore straits, for all thy fair fortune and goodliness and exceeding grace, seeing thou hast nought wherewithal to do delight, like unto other men." Quoth the young man, "Thou sayst sooth, but thou mindest me of somewhat I had forgotten." "What is that?" asked the bathkeeper, and the youth said, "Take this dinar and fetch me a handsome woman, that I may prove myself on her." So he took the money and betaking himself to his wife, said to her, "O woman, there is come in to me in the bath a young man of the sons of the viziers, as he were the moon on the night of her full; but he hath no yard like other men, for that which he hath is but some small matter like unto a filbert. I lamented over his youth and he gave me this dinar and begged me to fetch him a woman, on whom he might approve himself. Now thou art worthier of the money than another, and no harm shall betide us from this, for I will protect thee. So do thou sit with him awhile and laugh at him and take this dinar from him." So she took the dinar and rising, adorned herself and donned the richest of her clothes. (Now she was the fairest woman of her time.) Then she went out with her husband, and he carried her in to the young man in a privy place. When she came in to him, she looked at him and finding him a handsome youth, fair of favour, as he were the moon at its full, was confounded at his beauty and grace; and on like wise his heart and wit were amazed at sight of her. So he rose forthright and locking the door, took the damsel in his arms and pressed her to his bosom and they embraced, whereupon the young man's yard rose on end, as it were that of an ass, and he mounted her breast and swived her, whilst she sobbed and sighed and writhed and wriggled under him. Now the bathkeeper was standing behind the door, awaiting what should betide between them, and he began to call her, saying, "O Umm Abdal-lah, enough! Come out, for the day is long upon thy sucking child." Quoth the youth, "Go forth to thy child and come back;" but she said, "If I go forth from thee, my soul will depart my body; so I must either leave the child to die of weeping or let him be reared an orphan, without a mother." So she ceased not to abide with him, till he had done his desire of her half a score times, what while her husband stood at the door, calling her and crying out and weeping and imploring succour. But none came to him and he ceased not to do thus, saying, "I will kill myself!" till at last, finding no way of access to his wife and being distraught with rage and jealousy he went up to the top of the bath and casting himself down therefrom, died.
Moreover, O King,' continued the Vizier, 'there hath reached me another story of the malice of women.' 'What is that?' asked the King, and the Vizier said, 'Know, O King, that
The Wife's Device to Cheat Her Husband.
There was once a woman, who had no equal in her day for beauty and grace and perfection; and a certain lewd fellow, setting eyes on her, fell passionately in love with her, but she was chaste and inclined not to adultery. It chanced one day that her husband went on a journey to a certain town, whereupon the young man fell to sending to her many times a day; but she made him no reply. At last, he resorted to an old woman, who dwelt hard by, and complained to her of his suffering for love of the woman and his longing to enjoy her. Quoth she, "I will warrant thee this; no harm shall befall thee, for I will surely bring thee to thy desire, if it please God the Most High." So he gave her a dinar and went his way. Next day she went in to the woman and clapping up an acquaintance with her, fell to visiting her daily, eating the morning with her and the evening meal and carrying away food for her children. Moreover, she used to sport and jest with her, till the wife became corrupted and could not endure an hour without her company.
Now she was wont, when she left the lady's house, to feed a bitch, that was in that quarter, with the fragments that remained over, and thus she did day by day, till the bitch became fond of her and followed her wherever she went. One day she took a cake of dough and putting therein much pepper and butter, gave it to the bitch to eat, whereupon the animal's eyes began to water, for the heat of the pepper, and she followed the old woman, weeping. When the lady saw this, she was amazed and said to the old woman, "O my mother, what ails this bitch to weep?" "O my daughter," answered she, "hers is a strange story. Know that she was once a most lovely and accomplished young lady and a close friend of mine. A young man of the quarter fell in love with her and his passion increased on him, till he took to his pillow, and he sent to her many times, begging her to have compassion on him, but she refused, albeit I gave her good counsel, saying, 'O my daughter, have pity on him and consent to that which he wishes.' She gave no heed to my advice, until, at last, the young man's patience failing him, he complained to one of his friends, who cast an enchantment on her and changed her into a bitch. When she saw what had befallen her and that there was none to pity her save myself, she came to my house and began to fawn on me and lick my hands and feet and whine and shed tears, till I recognized her and said to her, 'How often did I not warn thee? But my advice profited thee nothing.' However, I had compassion on her case and kept her by me; and as often as she bethinks herself of her former estate, she weeps thus."
When the lady heard this, she was taken with great fear and said, "By Allah, O my mother, thou affrightest me with this thy story." "Why so?" asked the old woman. "Because," answered the lady, "a certain handsome young man fell in love with me and hath sent many times to me, but hitherto I have repelled him; and now I fear lest there befall me the like of what befell this bitch." "O my daughter," rejoined the old woman, "look thou to what I counsel thee and beware of crossing me, for I am in great fear for thee. If thou know not his abiding-place, describe him to me, that I may fetch him to thee, and let not any one's heart be angered against thee." So the lady described him to her, and she feigned not to know him and said, "When I go out, I will ask after him." But when she left the lady, she went straight to the young man and said to him, "Be of good cheer, for I have played with the girl's wits, [so that she hath consented;] so come thou to-morrow at noonday and wait at the end of the street, till I come and carry thee to her house, where thou shalt take thine ease with her the rest of the day and all night long." At this the young man rejoiced greatly and gave her half a score dinars, saying, "When I have gotten my desire [of her,] I will give thee other ten dinars."
Then she returned to the lady and said to her, "I have seen him and spoken with him on the matter. I found him exceeding wroth with thee and minded to do thee hurt, but I plied him with fair words till he agreed to come to-morrow at the time of the call to midday prayer. When the lady heard this, she rejoiced exceedingly and said, "O my mother, if he keep his promise, I will give thee ten dinars." Quoth the old woman, "Look to none but me to bring him to thee." When the next day came, she said to the lady, "Make ready the morning meal and adorn thyself and don thy richest clothes and ornaments, whilst I go and fetch him to thee." Accordingly, she clad herself in her richest apparel and made ready food, whilst the old woman went out to look for the young man. The latter came not and she went round looking for him, but could come by no news of him; so she said to herself, "What is to be done? Shall the food she has made ready be wasted and I lose the reward she promised me? Indeed, I will not lose my pains thus, but will look her out another man and carry him to her." So she walked about the streets till her eye fell on a handsome and elegant young man, who bore on his face the traces of travel.
Now this was the lady's husband; but she knew it not; so she went up to him and saluted him, saying, "Hast thou a mind to meat and drink and a girl adorned and ready?" "Where is this to be had?" asked he. "At home, in my house," answered she and carrying him to his own house, knocked at the door. The lady opened to them and hastened in again, to make an end of her dressing and perfuming; whilst the old woman brought the husband into the saloon and made him sit down. Presently, in came the lady, who no sooner set eyes on her husband than she knew him and guessed how the case stood; nevertheless, she was not taken aback and forthwith bethought her of a device to hoodwink him. "Is this how thou keepest our contract?" cried she. "Hou canst thou betray me and deal thus with me? Know that, when I heard of thy coming, I sent this old woman to try thee and she hath made thee fall into that against which I warned thee: so now I am certified of thine affair and that thou hast broken faith with me. I thought thee chaste till now, till I saw thee, with my own eyes, in this old woman's company and knew that thou didst frequent loose women."
So saying, she pulled off her slipper and fell to beating him about the head, whilst he excused himself and swore to her by God the Most High that he had never in his life been untrue to her nor had done aught of that whereof she suspected him. But she stinted not to weep and scream and beat him, crying out and saying, "Come to my help, O Muslims!" till he laid hold of her mouth with his hand and she bit it. Moreover, he humbled himself to her and kissed her hands and feet, whilst she continued to cuff him and would not be appeased. At last, she made a privy sign to the old woman to come and hold her hand from him. So she came up to her and kissed her hands and feet, till she made peace between them and they sat down together; whereupon the husband began to kiss her hands, saying, "God requite thee with all good, for that thou hast delivered me from her!" And the old woman marvelled at the wife's cunning and ready wit. This, then, O King,' said the vizier, 'is one of many instances of the craft and malice and perfidy of women.'
When the King heard this story, he was persuaded by it and turned from his purpose to kill his son; but, on the fifth day, the damsel came in to him with a cup of poison in her hand, calling aloud for help and buffeting her cheeks and face, and said to him, 'O King, either thou shalt do me justice and avenge me on thy son, or I will drink this cup of poison and die, and my blood will be on thy head at the Day of Resurrection. Thy viziers accuse me of malice and perfidy, but there be none in the world more perfidious than men. Hast thou not heard the story of the goldsmith and the Cashmere singing-girl?' 'What befell them, O damsel?' asked the King; and she answered, saying, 'It hath come to my knowledge, O august King, that
The Goldsmith and the Cashmere Singing-girl
There lived once, in a city of Persia, a goldsmith who delighted in women and in drinking wine. One day, being in the house of one of his friends, he saw painted on the wall the figure of a beautiful damsel, never beheld eyes a fairer or a more pleasant. He looked at the picture again and again, marvelling at its beauty, and fell so desperately in love with it, that lie sickened for passion and came near to die. It chanced that one of his friends came to visit him and sitting down by him, enquired how he did and what ailed him. "O my brother," replied the goldsmith, "that which ails me is love, and it befell on this wise. I saw the figure of a woman painted on the wall of my brother such an one's house and became enamoured of it." Quoth the other, "This was of thy lack of wit; how couldst thou fall in love with a painted figure on a wall, a thing that can neither harm nor profit, that seeth not neither heareth, that neither taketh nor withholdeth." "Surely," said the sick man, "he who painted yonder picture must have limned it after the likeness of some beautiful woman." "Belike," rejoined his friend, "he painted it from imagination." "In any case," replied the goldsmith, "I am dying for love of the picture, and if there live the original thereof in the world, I pray God to keep me in life, till I see her."
When those who were present went out, they enquired for the painter of the picture and finding that he had departed to another town, wrote him a letter, complaining of their friend's case and asking whether he had drawn the figure of his own invention or copied it from a living model; to which he replied that he had painted it after a certain singing girl belonging to one of the viziers in the city of Cashmere in the land of Hind. When the goldsmith heard this, he set out for Cashmere, where he arrived, after much travail, and tarried awhile. There he clapped up an acquaintance with a certain druggist, a fellow of a keen and sprightly wit, and being one day in company with him, questioned him of their king and his polity; to which the other answered, saying, "Our king is just and righteous in his governance, equitable and beneficent to his subjects, and misliketh nothing in the world save sorcerers; but, whenever a sorcerer or sorceress falls into his hands, he casts them into a pit without the city and there leaves them to die of hunger." Then he questioned him of the king's viziers, and the druggist told him of each vizier, his fashion and condition, till the talk came round to the singing-girl and he told him that she belonged to such a vizier.
The goldsmith took note of the latter's abiding-place and waited some days, till he had devised a scheme to his mind; and one night of rain and thunder and stormy winds, he provided himself with thieves' tackle and repaired to the house of the vizier in question, where he grappled a rope ladder with grappling irons to the battlements and climbed up to the roof of the palace. Thence he descended to the inner court and making his way into the harem, found all the slave-girls lying asleep, each on her own couch and amongst them a damsel, as she were the moon on its fourteenth night, lying on a couch of alabaster and covered with a coverlet of cloth of gold. At her head stood a candle of ambergris, and at her feet another, each in a candlestick of glittering gold, and under her pillow lay a casket of silver, in which were her jewels. He raised the coverlet and drawing near her, considered her straitly, and behold, it was she whom he desired and of whom he was come in quest. So he took out a knife and wounded her in the hinder parts, a manifest [but superficial] wound, whereupon she awoke in terror; but, when she saw him, she was afraid to cry out, thinking he came to steal her jewels; so she said to him, "Take the box and what is therein, but slay me not, for it will profit thee nothing." So he took the box and went away.
On the morrow, he donned clothes after the fashion of men of learning and doctors of the law and taking the casket, went in therewith to the king of the city, before whom he kissed the earth and said to him, "O king, I am a loyal well-wisher to thee and come hither, a pilgrim to thy court from the land of Khorassan, attracted by the report of thy just governance and righteous dealing with thy subjects and minded to be under thy standard. I reached this city yestereve and finding the gate shut, lay down to sleep without: but, as I lay betwixt sleep and wake, I saw four women come up, one riding on a broom, another on a wine-jar, a third on an oven-peel and a fourth on a black bitch, and knew that they were witches making for the city. One of them came up to me and kicked me with her foot and beat me grievously with a fox's tail she had in her hand, whereat I was wroth and smote her with a knife I had with me, wounding her in the hinder parts, as she turned to flee from me. When she felt the wound, she fled before me and in her flight let drop this casket, which I picked up and opening, found therein these costly jewels. Wherefore do thou take it, for I have no need of it, being a wanderer in the mountains, who have put away the world from my heart and renounced it and all that is in it, seeking [only] the favour of God the Most High." Then he set the casket before the king and went away. The king opened the box and emptying out all the trinkets it contained, fell to turning them over, till he chanced upon a necklace of which he had made gift to the vizier to whom the girl belonged. So he called the vizier in question and said to him, "This is the necklace I gave thee?" He knew it and answered, "It is; and I gave it to a singing-girl of mine." Quoth the king, "Fetch her to me forthwith." So he fetched her to him, and he said, "Uncover her hinder parts and see if there be a wound therein or no." The vizier accordingly bared her backside and finding a knife wound there, said, "Yes, O my lord, there is a wound." Then said the king, "Doubtless, this is the witch of whom the devotee told me," and bade cast her into the witches' well. So they carried her thither forthwith.
As soon as it was night and the goldsmith knew that his plot had succeeded, he repaired to the pit, taking with him a purse of a thousand dinars, and entering into converse with the warder, sat talking with him till a third part of the night was past, when he broached the matter to him, saying, "Know, O my brother, that this girl is innocent of that they lay to her charge and that it was I brought this calamity upon her." Then he told him the whole story, adding, "Take this purse of a thousand dinars and give me the damsel, that I may carry her to my own land, for the money will profit thee more than keeping her in prison; moreover God will requite thee for us, and we will both offer up prayers for thy safety and prosperity." When the warder heard this story, he marvelled exceedingly at this device and taking the money, delivered the girl to the goldsmith, on condition that he should not abide one hour with her in the city. So the goldsmith took the girl and fared on with her, without ceasing, till he reached his own country, and so he attained his desire. See then, O King,' said the damsel, 'the malice of men and their wiles. Now thy viziers hinder thee from doing me justice [on thy son], but to-morrow both thou and I will stand before the Just Judge, and He shall do me justice on thee, O King.'
When the King heard this, he commanded to put his son to death, but the fifth vizier came in to him and kissing the earth before him, said, 'O mighty King, delay and hasten not to slay thy son, for oftentimes haste engendereth repentance; and I fear for thee lest thou repent, even as did the man who never laughed again.' 'And how was that, O Vizier?' asked the King. 'I have heard tell, O King,' answered the Vizier, 'that
The Man Who Never Laughed Again.
There was once a man who was rich in lands and houses and goods and slaves, and he died and went to the mercy of God the Most High, leaving a young son, who, when he grew up, gave himself to feasting and hearing music and singing and wasted his substance in gifts and prodigality, till he had squandered all the money his father left him. Then he betook himself to selling his slaves and lands and houses and spent the proceeds on like wise, till he was reduced to beggary and must needs labour for his living. He abode thus a year's space, at the end of which time he was sitting one day under a wall, awaiting who should hire him, when there came up to him a man of comely aspect and apparel and saluted him. "O uncle," said the young man, "hast thou known me aforetime?" "Not so, O my son," replied the other, "I know thee not at all; but I see the trace of gentle breeding on thee, despite thy present case." "O uncle," rejoined the poor man, "needs must Fate and fore-ordained fortune be accomplished; but, O uncle, bright of face, hast thou any occasion wherein thou wouldst employ me?" "Yes," said the other, "I wish to employ thee in an easy matter." "What is it?" asked the young man, and the stranger, "I have with me ten old men in one house, but we have none to serve us; so, if thou wilt take service with us, thou shalt have food and clothing to thy heart's content, besides what cometh to thee of money and other goods, and haply God will restore thee thy fortune by our means." "With all my heart," replied the youth. " But," said the other, "I have a condition to impose on thee." Quoth he, "What is that?" And the old man said, "O my son, it is that thou keep our secret in what thou seest us do, and if thou see us weep, that thou question us not of the cause of our weeping." "It is well, O uncle," replied the young man; whereupon the other bade him, "Come with me, O my son, with the blessing of God the Most High!"
So he followed him to the bath, where he caused cleanse his body of the crusted dirt, after which he sent for a handsome garment of linen and clad him therein. Then he carried him to a lofty and spacious house, wherein were sitting-chambers facing one another and saloons, in each a fountain of water, with the birds warbling over it, and windows on every side, giving upon a fair garden within the house. The old man brought him into one of the sitting-chambers, which was paved and lined with vari coloured marble and spread with silken carpets, and the roof thereof decorated with ultramarine and glittering gold; and here he found ten old men in mourning apparel, seated opposite one another, weeping and wailing. He marvelled at their case and was about to ask the reason, when he remembered the condition and held his peace. Then he who had brought him delivered to him a chest containing thirty thousand dinars and said to him, "O my son, spend from this chest what is fitting for our entertainment and thine own; and be thou faithful and remember that wherewith I charged thee as to secrecy." "I hear and obey," answered he and served them days and nights, till one of them died, whereupon his fellows washed him and shrouded him and buried him in a garden behind the house; nor did death cease to take them, one after another, till there remained but he who had hired the youth.
Then the two dwelt together alone for years and years, nor was there with them a third save God the Most High, till the old man fell sick; and when the other despaired of his life, he went up to him and condoling with him, said, "O uncle, I have served you twelve years and have not failed of your service a single hour, but have been loyal and faithful to you and served you with my might." "Yes, O my son," answered the old man, "thou hast served us [well; but now] my comrades are gone to the mercy of God (to whom belong might and majesty) and needs must I die also." "O my lord," said the other, "thou art in danger of death and I would fain have thee acquaint me with the cause of your weeping and wailing and of your unceasing mourning and lamentation." "O my son," answered the old man, "it concerns thee not to know this, so importune me not of what I may not do: for I have vowed to God the Most High that I would acquaint none of His creatures with this, lest he be afflicted with what befell me and my comrades. If, then, thou desire to be delivered from that into which we fell, look thou open not yonder door," and pointed to a certain part of the house; "but, if thou have a mind to suffer what we have suffered, then open it and thou shalt learn the cause of that which thou hast seen us do; and whenas thou knowest it, thou wilt repent, what time repentance will avail thee not." Then his sickness increased on him and he accomplished his term [of life] and departed to the presence of his Lord; and the young man washed him with his own hands and shrouded him and buried him with his comrades; after which he abode alone in the house and took possession of all that was therein.
Yet he was uneasy and troubled concerning the case of the old man, till, one day, as he sat pondering the words of his dead master and his injunction not to open the door, he suddenly bethought himself to go and look for it. So he repaired to the part whither the dead man had pointed and sought till, in a dark and unfrequented corner, he found a little door, over which the spider had spun its webs and which was fastened with four locks of steel. Then he recalled the old man's warning and restrained himself and went away; and he held aloof from it seven days, whilst all the time his heart would have him open it. On the eighth day his curiosity got the better of him and he said, "Come what will, I must open the door and see what will happen to me. Nothing can avert what is decreed and fore-ordained of God the Most High nor doth aught befall but by His will." So saying, he rose and broke the locks and opening the door, found himself in a narrow passage, which he followed for three hours, at the end of which time he came out on the shore of a vast ocean and fared on along the beach, marvelling at this sea, [of which he had no knowledge] and turning right and left, till, presently, a great eagle swooped down upon him and seizing him in its talons, flew away with him betwixt heaven and earth, till it came to an island in the midst of the sea, where it cast him down and flew away, leaving him dazed and knowing not whither he should go.
After awhile, as he sat pondering his case, he caught sight of the sails of a ship in the midst of the sea, as it were a star in the mid-heaven; and his heart clave to it, so haply his deliverance might be therein. He continued gazing at the ship, till it drew near, when he saw that it was a galley builded all of ivory and ebony, inlaid with glittering gold, with oars of sandal and aloes-wood. In it were ten damsels, high-bosomed maids, as they were moons, who, when they saw him, came ashore to him and kissed his hands, saying, "Thou art the king, the bride-groom!" Then there came to him a young lady, as she were the sun shining in the cloudless sky, bearing a silken napkin, wherein were a royal robe and a crown of gold set with all manner rubies and pearls. She threw the robe over him and set the crown on his head, after which the damsels bore him in their arms to the galley, where he found all kinds of silken carpets and hangings of various colours. Then they spread the sails and stretched out into mid-ocean.
[Quoth the young man] Indeed, when they put to sea with me, meseemed it was a dream and I knew not whither they went with me. Presently, we drew near to land, and I saw the shore full of troops magnificently arrayed and clad in complete steel, none knoweth their number save God (blessed and exalted be He!) As soon as the galley had made fast to the land, they brought me five horses of noble breeds, housed and saddled with gold, inlaid with all manner pearls and precious stones. I chose out one of them and mounted it, whilst they led the four others before me. Then they raised the banners and the standards over my head, whilst the troops ranged themselves right and left, and we set out, with drums beating and cymbals clashing, and rode on,-- whilst I debated in myself whether I were on sleep or on wake, believing not in that my estate, but taking all this for the pageant of a dream,--till we drew near to a green champaign, full of palaces and gardens and trees and streams and flowers and birds chanting the praises of God, the One, the Victorious. At our approach, an army poured out from amid the palaces and gardens, as it were the torrent, when it pours down [from the mountains,] and overflowed the plain. The troops halted at a little distance from me and there rode forth from amongst them a king, preceded by some of his chief officers on foot.
He came up to the young man and dismounted, whereupon the latter dismounted also, and they saluted each other after the goodliest fashion. Then said the King, "Come with us, for thou art my guest." So they took horse again and rode on in great state, conversing as they went, till they came to the royal palace, where they alighted and the king taking the young man by the hand, led him into the palace, followed by his suite, and making him sit down on a throne of gold, seated himself beside him. Then he unbound the chinband from his face; and behold, the king was a young lady, like the sun shining in the cloudless sky, accomplished in beauty and elegance and amorous grace and all perfection. Quoth she to the young man, who was lost in wonder at her beauty and grace and at the splendour and affluence he saw about him, "Know, O King, that I am the queen of this country and that all the troops thou hast seen, whether horse or foot, are women, there is no man amongst them; for in this our state the men delve and sow and reap and occupy themselves with the tillage of the earth and other mechanical crafts and arts, whilst the women govern and fill the great offices of state and bear arms."
At this he marvelled past measure and as they were in discourse, in came a tall gray-haired old woman of venerable and majestic aspect, and it was told him that this was the vizieress. Quoth the queen to her, "Bring me the Cadi and the witnesses." So she went out to do this, and the queen, turning to him, conversed with him in friendly fashion and enforced herself to reassure him and do away his shamefastness with speech blander than the zephyr, saying, "Art thou content to take me to wife? Thereupon he arose and would have kissed the earth before her; but she forbade him and he replied, saying, " O my lady, I am the least of thy servants." "Seest thou all these servants and soldiers and riches and treasures?" asked she; and he answered, "Yes." Quoth she, "All these are at thy commandment; dispose of them and give and bestow as seemeth good to thee." Then she pointed to a closed door and said, "All these things are at thy disposal, save yonder door; that shalt thou not open, else wilt thou repent, when repentance will avail thee not." Hardly had she made an end of speaking when the vizieress entered, followed by the Cadi and the witnesses, all old women of reverend and majestic aspect, with their hair streaming over their shoulders; and the queen bade them draw up the contract of marriage between herself and the young man. So they performed the marriage-ceremony and the queen made a great bride-feast, to which she bade all the troops; and after they had eaten and drunken, he went in to his bride and found her a clean maid.
So he did away her maidenhead and abode with her seven years in all delight and solace of life, till, one day, he bethought himself of the forbidden door and said in himself; "Except there were therein treasures greater and finer than any I have seen, she had not forbidden me therefrom." So he rose and opened the door, when, lo, behind it was the very bird that had brought him to the island, and it said to him, "An ill welcome to a face that shall never prosper!,' When he saw it and heard what it said, he fled from it; but it followed him and seizing him in its talons, flew with him an hour's journey betwixt heaven and earth, till it set him down in the place whence it had first carried him off and flew away. When he came to his senses, he called to mind his late great and glorious estate and all the honour and fair fortune he had lost and fell to weeping and wailing.
He abode two months on the sea-shore, where the bird had set him down, hoping yet to return to his wife, till, as he sat one night wakeful, mourning and musing, he heard one speaking and saying, "How great were the delights! Far, far from thee is the return of that which is past!" When he heard this, he redoubled in his regrets and despaired of recovering his wife and his late fair estate; so he returned, weary and broken-hearted, to the house where he had dwelt with the old men and knew that they had fared even as he and that this was the cause of their weeping and mourning; wherefore he held them excused. Then, being overcome with chagrin and regret, he took to his chamber and gave himself up to mourning and lamentation; and he ceased not to weep and lament and left eating and drinking and pleasant scents and laughter, till he died and they buried him beside the old men. See, then, O King,' continued the Vizier, 'what cometh of haste; verily, it is unpraiseworthy and begetteth repentance; and in this I give thee true and loyal counsel.'
When the King heard the Vizier's story, he turned from slaying his son; but, on the sixth day, the favourite came in to him with a naked knife in her hand and said to him,'Know, O my lord, that, except thou hearken to my complaint and protect thy right and thine honour against these thy viziers, who are banded together against me, to do me wrong, I will kill myself with this knife, [and my blood will testify against thee on the Day of Judgment]. Indeed, they pretend that women are full of tricks and malice and perfidy and design by this to defeat me of my right and hinder the King from doing me justice; but, behold, I will prove to thee that men are more perfidious than women by the story of a king of the kings and how he gained access to the wife of a certain merchant.' 'And what passed between them?' asked the King. 'I have heard tell, O august King,' replied she, 'that
The King's Son and the Merchant's Wife.
A certain jealous merchant had a beautiful wife; and of the excess of his fearfulness and jealousy of her, he would not abide with her in any town, but built her a pavilion without the city, apart from all other buildings, and fortified it with high walls and strong doors, secured with curious locks; and when he had occasion to go into the city, he locked the doors and hung the keys about his neck. One day, when the merchant was abroad, the king's son of the city came forth, to take his pleasure in the open country without the walls, and coming to the solitary pavilion, stood still to examine it. Presently, he caught sight of a lovely lady looking out of one of the windows and being smitten with amazement at her grace and beauty, cast about for a means of getting to her, but could find none. So he called to one of his attendants, who brought him pen and paper anti inkhorn, and wrote her a letter, setting forth his case for love of her. Then he set it on the point of an arrow and shot it at the pavilion, and it fell in the garden, where the lady was then walking with her maidens. She bade one of the latter hasten and bring her the letter, for she could read writing; and when she had read it and saw what he said in it of his love and passion and longing, she wrote him a reply, to the effect that she was smitten with a yet fiercer passion for him and threw the letter down to him from one of the windows of the pavilion. When he saw her, he picked up the reply and after reading it, came under the window and said to her, "Let me down a string, that I may send thee this key, which do thou take and keep by thee." So she let down a string and he tied the key to it.
Then he went away and repairing to one of his father's viziers, complained to him of his passion for the lady and that he could not live without her; and the vizier said, "And how dost thou bid me contrive?" Quoth the prince, "I would have thee lay me in a chest and commit it to the merchant, feigning to him that it is thine and desiring him to keep it for thee in his country-house some days, that I may have my will of her; then do thou demand it back from him." The vizier answered, "With all my heart." So the prince returned to his palace and fixing the padlock, the key whereof he had given the lady, on a chest he had by him, entered the latter, whereupon the vizier locked it upon him and setting it on a mule, carried it to the pavilion of the merchant. The latter, seeing the vizier, came forth to him and kissed his hands, saying, "Belike our lord the vizier hath some need or business which we may have the pleasure of accomplishing for him?" "Yes," answered the vizier; "I would have thee set this chest in the priviest place in thy house and keep it till I seek it of thee." So the merchant made the porter carry it in and set it down in one of his store-houses, after which he went out upon some occasion of his. As soon as he was gone, his wife went up to the chest and unlocked it with the key the prince had given her, whereupon there came forth a youth like the moon. When she saw him, she donned her richest apparel and carried him to her sitting-chamber, where they abode seven days, eating and drinking and making merry; and as often as her husband came home, she put the prince back into the chest and locked it upon him.
One day, the king asked for his son and the vizier hurried off to the merchant's [town] house and sought of him the chest. The merchant accordingly repaired in haste to his pavilion, at a time other than of his wont, and knocked at the door. When his wife was ware of him, she hurried the prince back into the chest, but, in her confusion, forgot to lock it. The merchant bade the porters take it up and carry it to his house in the town. So they took up the box by the lid, whereupon it flew open and discovered the prince lying within. When the merchant saw him and knew him for the king's son, he went out to the vizier and said to him, "Go in, thou, and take the King's son; for none of us may lay hands on him." So the vizier went in and taking the prince, went away with him. As soon as they were gone, the merchant put away his wife and swore that he would never marry again. And I have heard tell also, O King,' continued the damsel, 'that
The Page Who Feigned to Know the Speech of Birds.
A certain man of condition once entered the slave-market and saw a page put up for sale; so he bought him and carrying him home, gave him in charge to his wife, with whom he abode awhile. One day the man said to his wife, "Go forth to-morrow to the garden and take thy pleasure therein." And she replied, "With all my heart." When the page heard this, he made ready in secret meat and drink and fruits and dessert and sallied forth with them privily that night to the garden, where he laid the meat under one tree, the drink under another and the fruits and conserves under a third, in the way his mistress should pass. Next morning, the husband bade him accompany the lady to the garden; so she took horse and riding thither with him, dismounted and entered.
Presently, as they were walking about, a crow croaked, and the page said, "Thou sayst truly," whereupon his mistress said to him, "Dost thou know what the crow said?" "Yes, O my lady," answered he; "he said, 'Under yonder tree is meat; go and eat it.'" So she went up to the tree and finding a dish of meat ready dressed, was assured that the youth understood the speech of birds and marvelled exceedingly. They ate of the meat and walked about awhile, taking their pleasure in the garden, till the crow croaked a second time, and the page again replied, "Thou sayst well." "What said he?" asked the lady, and the page, "O my lady, he says that under such a tree is a pitcher of old wine and a gugglet of water flavoured with musk." So she went up to the tree and finding the wine and water there, redoubled in wonderment and the page was magnified in her eyes. They sat down and drank, then arose and walked in another part of the garden. Presently, the crow croaked again and the page said, " Right." Quoth the lady, "What says he now?" and the page, "He says that under yonder tree are fruits and confections." So they went thither and found all as he said and sat down and ate. Then they walked about again till the crow croaked a fourth time, whereupon the page took up a stone and cast it at him. Quoth she, "What said he, that thou shouldst stone him?" ' O my lady," answered he, "he said what I cannot tell thee." "Say on," rejoined she, "and be not abashed, for there is nought between me and thee." But he ceased not to say, "No," and she to press him to speak, till at last she conjured him to tell her, and he answered, "The crow said to me, 'Do with thy mistress even as doth her husband."'
When she heard this, she laughed till she fell backward and said, "This is a light matter, and I may not cross thee therein." So saying, she went up to a tree and spreading the carpet under it, [lay down and] called to him to come and do her need, when, behold, her husband, who had followed them unawares and saw this, called out to the page, saying, "Harkye, boy! What ails thy mistress to lie there, weeping?" "O my lord," answered the page, "she fell off the tree and was [all but] killed; and none but God (may He be exalted and glorified!) restored her to thee. Wherefore she lay down awhile to recover herself" When the lady saw her husband standing by her, she rose and made a show of weakness and pain, saying, "O my back! O my sides! Come to my help, O my friends! I shall never survive this." So her husband was deceived and sending the page for the horse, set her thereon and carried her home, the boy holding one stirrup and the man the other and saying, "God vouchsafe thee ease and recovery!"
These then, O King,' said the damsel, 'are some instances of the craft and perfidy of men; wherefore let not thy viziers turn thee from succouring me and doing me justice. Then she wept, and when the King saw her weeping, (for she was the dearest to him of all his slave-girls,) he once more commanded to put his son to death; but the sixth vizier entered and kissing the earth before him, said, 'May God the Most High advance the King! Verily I am a loyal counsellor to thee, in that I counsel thee to deal deliberately in the matter of thy son; for falsehood is as smoke and truth is a strongly stablished [fortress]; yea, and the light thereof dispels the darkness of falsehood. Know that the perfidy of women is great, even as saith God the Most High in His Holy Book, "Verily, the malice of you [women] is great." And indeed I have heard tell of a certain woman who befooled the chiefs of the state on such wise as never did any before her.' 'And how was that?' asked the King. 'I have heard tell, O King,' answered the vizier, 'that
The Lady and Her Five Suitors.
A certain woman of the daughters of the merchants was married to a man who was a great traveller. It chanced once that he set out for a far country and was absent so long that his wife, for pure weariness, fell in love with a handsome young man of the sons of the merchants, who returned her passion, and they loved each other with an exceeding love. One day, the youth fell out with another man, who lodged a complaint against him with the chief of the police, and he cast him into prison. When the news came to his mistress, she well-nigh lost her wits and rising, donned her richest clothes and repaired to the house of the chief of the police, whom she saluted and presented with a petition to the effect that the prisoner was her brother, who had been unjustly accused and condemned on false witness, and that she had none other to come in to her nor to provide for her support and beseeching him of his grace to release him. When the magistrate had read the petition, he cast his eyes on her and fell in love with her; so he said to her, "Go into the house, till I bring him before me; then will I send for thee and thou shalt take him." "O my lord," answered she, "I have none save God the Most High. Indeed, I am a stranger and may not enter any one's house." Quoth the chief of the police, "I will not let him go, except thou enter my house and I take my will of thee." "If it must be so," rejoined she, "thou must come to my house and sit and sleep and rest the whole day there." "And where is thy house?" asked he. "In such a place," answered she and appointed him for such a time.
Then she went out from him, leaving his heart taken with love of her, and repaired to the Cadi of the city, to whom said she, "O my lord the Cadi, look into my case, and thy reward be with God the Most High!" Quoth he, "Who hath wronged thee?" and she answered, saying, "O my lord, I have a brother and I have none but him, and it is on his account that I come to thee; for that the chief of the police hath imprisoned him for a wrong-doer, on the evidence of false witnesses. [Indeed, he is wronged] and I beseech thee to intercede for him with the chief of the police." When the Cadi looked on her, he fell in love with her and said to her, "Enter the house and rest awhile with my women, whilst I send to the chief of the police to release thy brother. If I knew the forfeit that is upon him, I would pay it out of my own monies, so I may have my desire of thee, for thou pleasest me with thy sweet speech." Quoth she, "If thou, O my lord, do thus, we must not blame others." But the Cadi answered, saying, "An thou wilt not come in, go thy ways." Then said she, "If thou wilt have it so, O my lord, it will be safer and better in my house than in thine, for here are slave-girls and servants and goers-in and corners-out, and indeed I am a woman who knows nought of this fashion; but necessity compels." "And where is thy house?" asked the Cadi. "In such a place," answered she and appointed him for the same time as the chief of the police.
Then she went to the Vizier, to whom she preferred her petition for the release of her [pretended] brother from prison: but he also required her of herself, saying, " Suffer me to have my desire of thee and I will set thy brother free." Quoth she, "If thou wilt have it so, be it in my House, for there it will be safer both for me and for thee. It is not far distant and thou knowest that which behoveth us [women] of cleanliness and elegance." "Where is thy house?" asked he. "In such a place," answered she and appointed him for the same time as the two others.
Then she went out from him to the King of the city and told him her story and sought of him her brother's release. "Who imprisoned him?" asked he; and she replied, "The chief of the police." When the King heard her speech, it transfixed his heart with the arrows of love and he bade her enter the palace with him, that he might send to the Cadi and release her brother. "O King," answered she, "this thing is easy to thee, whether I will or not; and if the King will indeed have this of me, it is of my good fortune; but, if he will come to my house, he will do me the more honour, even as saith the poet:Friends, have ye seen or heard o' the visit of a wight Whose virtues are indeed illustrious in my sight?"
Quoth the King, "We will not cross thee in this." So she told him where her house was and appointed him for the same time as the three others.
Then she left him and betaking herself to a carpenter, said to him, "I would have thee make me a cabinet with four compartments, one above another, each with its door to lock up. Let me know thy hire and I will give it thee." "My hire will be four dinars," replied the man; "but, O noble lady, if thou wilt vouchsafe me thy favours, I will ask nothing else of thee." "If thou wilt have it so," rejoined she, "then make the cabinet with five compartments, each to lock up." "It is well," said he; "sit down, O my lady, and I will make it for thee forthright, and after I will come to thee at my leisure." So she sat down, whilst he fell to work on the cabinet, and when he had made an end of it, she carried it home and set it up in the sitting-chamber. Then she took four gowns and carried them to the dyer, who dyed them each of a different colour; after which she busied herself in making ready meat and drink and fruits and flowers and perfumes.
When it was the appointed time, she donned her costliest apparel and scented and adorned herself, then spread the room with various kinds of rich carpets and sat down to await who should come. The Cadi was the first to appear, and when she saw him, she rose and kissed the earth before him, then made him sit down by her on the couch and fell to jesting and toying with him. By and by, he would have her do his desire, but she said, "O my lord, put off thy clothes and turban and don this yellow cassock and this kerchief, whilst I bring thee meat and drink; and after thou shalt do thy desire." So saying, she took his clothes and turban and clad him in the yellow cassock and the kerchief; but hardly had she done this, when there came a knocking at the door. Quoth he, "Who is that at the door?" And she answered, "My husband." "What to be done?" said the Cadi; "and where shall I go?" "Fear nothing," replied she; "I will hide thee in this cabinet." Quoth he,"Do as seemeth good to thee." So she took him by the hand and pushing him into the lowest compartment, locked the door on him.
Then she went to the door, where she found the chief of the police; so she kissed the earth before him and brought him into the saloon, where she made him sit down and said to him, "O my lord, this is thy house and I am thy handmaid, and thou shalt pass all this day with me; wherefore do thou doff thy clothes and don this red gown, for it is a sleeping gown." So she took away his clothes and made him don the red gown and set on his head an old patched rag she had by her; after which she sat down by him on the couch and they sported awhile, till he put out his hand to her; but she said to him, "O my lord, this day is thine, all of it, and none shall share it with thee; but first, of thy favour and grace, write me an order for my brother's release, that my heart may be at ease." "I hear and obey," answered he; "on my head and eyes be it;" and wrote a letter to his treasurer, to the following effect: "As soon as this letter reaches thee, do thou, without delay and without fail, set such an one free, neither answer the bearer a word." Then he sealed it and she took it from him, after which she began again to toy with him on the couch, when, behold, some one knocked at the door. Quoth he, "Who is that?" "My husband," answered she. "What shall I do?" asked he, and she said, "Enter this cabinet. till I send him away and return to thee." So she clapped him into the second compartment and locked the door on him; and all this time the Cadi heard what they said and did.
Then she went to the door and opened it, whereupon the Vizier entered. She kissed the earth before him and received him with all worship, saying, "O my lord, thou honourest us by thy coming to our house; may God never deprive us of the light of thy countenance!" Then she seated him on the couch and said to him, "O my lord, these thy clothes and turban are the apparel of the vizierate; so leave them to their own time and don this light gown, which is better fitted for carousing and making merry and sleep." So he put off his clothes and turban and she dressed him in a blue cassock and a tall red cap, after which she began to toy with him and he with her, and he would have done his desire of her; but she put him off saying, "O my lord, this shall not escape us." Presently there came a knocking at the door, and the Vizier said to her, "Who is that?" "My husband," answered she. Quoth he, "What is to be done?" "Fear nothing," said she; "but enter this cabinet, till I get rid of him and come back to thee." So she put him in the third compartment and locked the door on him, after which she went out and opened the door and in came the King.
When she saw him, she kissed the earth before him, and taking him by the hand, led him into the saloon and seated him on the couch at the upper end. Then said she to him, "Verily, O King, thou dost us honour, and if we brought thee the whole world and all that therein is as a gift, it would not equal a single one of thy steps towards us: but give me leave to speak one word." "Say what thou wilt," answered he, and she said, "O my lord, take thine ease and put off thy clothes and turban." So he put off his clothes, which were worth a thousand dinars, and she clad him in a patched gown, not worth ten dirhems, and fell to talking and jesting with him, whilst the folk in the cabinet heard all that passed, but dared not say a word. Presently, the King put his hand to her neck and sought to do his desire of her; but she said, "This thing shall not escape us; but, first, I had promised myself to entertain thee in this sitting-chamber, and I have that which shall content thee." At that moment, some one knocked at the door and he said to her, "Who is that?" "My husband," answered she, and he, "Make him go away of his own accord, or I will go forth to him and send him away perforce." "Nay, O my lord," replied she; "have patience till I send him away by my skilful contrivance "And how shall I do?" asked the King; whereupon she took him by the hand and making him enter the fourth compartment of the cabinet, locked it upon him.
Then she went out and opened the door, when the carpenter entered and saluted her. Quoth she, "What manner of thing is this cabinet thou hast made me?" "What ails it, O my lady?" asked he, and she said, "The [top] compartment is too strait." "Not so," answered he; and she, "Go in thyself and see; it is not wide enough for thee." Quoth he, "It is wide enough for four," and entered the fifth compartment, whereupon she locked the door on him. Then she took the letter of the chief of the police and carried it to the treasurer, who kissed it and delivered her lover to her. She told him all that had passed and he said, "And how shall we do now?" Quoth she, "We will remove hence to another city, for there is no tarrying for us here after this." So they packed up their goods and loading them on camels, set out forthright for another city.
Meanwhile, the five abode in the cabinet three whole days, without eating or drinking, until at last the carpenter could retain his water no longer; so he made water on the King's head, and the King made water on the Vizier's head, and the Vizier on the Chief of the Police, who did the like with the Cadi; whereupon the latter cried out and said, "What filth is this? Doth not this strait that we are in suffice us, but you must make water upon us?" The Chief of the Police recognized the Cadi's voice and answered, saying, "God increase thy reward, O Cadi!" And when the Cadi heard him, he knew him for the Chief of the Police. Then the latter lifted up his voice and said, "What means this nastiness?" and the Vizier answered, saying, "God increase thy reward, O Chief of the Police!" whereupon he knew him to be the Vizier. Then the Vizier lifted up his voice and said, "What means this nastiness?" But when the King heard his Vizier's voice, he held his peace and concealed his affair. Then said the Vizier, "May God curse the woman for her dealing with us! She hath brought hither all the chiefs of the state, except the King." Quoth the King, "Hold thy peace, for I was the first to fall into the toils of this lewd baggage." "And I," cried the carpenter, "what have I done? I made her a cabinet for four dinars, and when I came to seek my hire, she tricked me into entering this compartment and locked the door on me." And they fell to talking with one another, to divert the King and do away his chagrin.
Presently the neighbours came up to the house and seeing it deserted, said to one another, "But yesterday our neighbour the wife of such an one was in it; but now there is no sound to be heard therein nor soul to be seen. Let us break open the doors and see how the case stands, lest it come to the ears of the King or the Chief of the Police and we be cast into prison and regret that we did not this thing before." So they broke open the doors and entered the saloon, where they saw the cabinet and heard the men within groaning for hunger and thirst. Then said one of them, "Is there a genie in the cabinet?" "Let us heap faggots about it," quoth another, "and burn it with fire." When the Cadi heard this, he cried out at them, saying, "Do it not!" And they said to one another, "Verily, the Jinn make believe to be mortals and speak with men's voices." Thereupon the Cadi repeated some verses of the sublime Koran and said to the neighbours, "Draw near to the cabinet." So they drew near, and he said, "I am so and so the Cadi, and ye are such an one and such an one, and we are here a company." Quoth the neighbours, "And how came ye here?" And he told them the whole case from beginning to end.
Then they fetched a carpenter, who opened the five doors and let out the Cadi and the Vizier and the Chief of the Police and the King and the Carpenter; and when they saw how they were accoutred, each fell a-laughing at the others. Now she had taken away all their clothes; so each of them sent to his people for fresh clothes and put them on and went out, covering himself therewith from the sight of the folk. See, therefore, O our lord the King,' said the vizier, 'what a trick this woman played off upon the folk! And I have heard tell also that
The Man Who Saw the Night of Power.
A certain man had longed all his life to look upon the Night of Power, (73) and it befell that, one night, he looked up at the sky and saw the angels and Heaven's gates opened and beheld all things in the act of prostration before their Lord, each in its several room. So he said to his wife, "Harkye, such an one, God hath shown me the Night of Power, and it hath been proclaimed to me, from the invisible world, that three prayers will be granted unto me; so do thou counsel me what I shall ask." Quoth she, "O man, the perfection of man and his delight is in his yard; so do thou pray God to greaten thy yard and magnify it." So he lifted up his hands to heaven and said, "O my God, greaten my yard and magnify it." Hardly had he spoken when his yard became as big as a calabash and he could neither sit nor stand nor move; and when he would have lain with his wife, she fled before him from place to place. So he said to her, "O accursed woman, what is to be done? This is thy wish, by reason of thy lust." "Nay, by Allah," answered she; "I did not ask for this huge bulk, for which the gate of a street were too strait. Pray God to make it less." So he raised his eyes to heaven and said, "O my God, rid me of this thing and deliver me therefrom." And immediately his yard disappeared altogether and he became smooth [like a woman]. When his wife saw this, she said, 'I have no occasion for thee, now thou art become yardless;" and he answered her, saying, "All this comes of thine own ill-omened counsel and the infirmity of thy judgment. I had three prayers accepted of God, wherewith I might have gotten me my good, both in this world and the next, and now two are gone in pure waste, by thy lewd wish, and there remaineth but one." Quoth she, "Pray God the Most High to restore thee thy yard as it was." So he prayed to his Lord and his yard was restored to its first case. Thus the man lost his three wishes by the ill counsel and lack of sense of the woman; and this, O King,' said the vizier, 'have I told thee, that thou mightest be certified of the thoughtlessness of women and their little wit and silliness and see what comes of hearkening to their counsel. Wherefore be not persuaded by them to slay thy son, the darling of thy heart, and thus blot out thy remembrance after thee.'
The King gave ear to his vizier's words and forbore to put his son to death; but, on the seventh day, the damsel came in, shrieking, and lighting a great fire in the King's presence, made as she would cast herself therein; whereupon they laid hands on her and brought her before him. Quoth he, 'Why hast thou done this?' And she answered, saying, 'Except thou do me justice on thy son, I will cast myself into the fire and accuse thee of this on the Day of Resurrection, for I am weary of life and before coming hither, I wrote my last dispositions and gave alms of my goods and resolved upon death. And thou wilt repent with all repentance, even as did the King of having punished the pious woman.' 'How was that?' asked the King. 'I have heard tell, O King,' replied she, 'that
The Stolen Necklace.
There was once a devout woman, who had renounced the world and devoted herself to the service of God. Now she used to resort to a certain king's palace, the dwellers wherein looked for a blessing by reason of her presence, and she was held of them in high honour. One day, she entered the palace, according to her wont, and sat down beside the queen. Presently the latter gave her a necklace, worth a thousand dinars, saying, "Keep this for me, whilst I go to the bath." So she entered the bath, which was in the palace, and the pious woman laid the necklace on the prayer-carpet and stood up to pray. As she was thus engaged, there came a magpie, which snatched up the necklace, [unseen of her,] and carrying it off, hid it in a crevice in one of the palace-walls. When the queen came out of the bath, she sought the necklace of the recluse, and the latter searched for it, but found it not nor could light on any trace of it; so she said to the queen, "By Allah, O my daughter, none has been with me. When thou gavest me the necklace, I laid it on the prayer-carpet, and I know not if one of the servants saw it and took it without my heed, whilst I was engaged in prayer. God only knows what is come of it!" When the King heard what had happened, he bade his consort put the woman to the question by fire and beating; so they tortured her with all manner tortures, but could not bring her to confess or to accuse any. Then he commanded to lay her in irons and cast her into prison, and they did as he bade.
One day, after this, as the King sat in the inner court of his palace, with the queen by his side aud water flowing around him, he saw the magpie fly into a crevice of the wall and pull out the lost necklace, whereupon he cried out to a damsel who was with him, and she caught the bird and took the necklace from it. By this the King knew that the pious woman had been wronged and repented of that he had done with her. So he sent for her and fell to kissing her head and sought pardon of her-weeping. Moreover, he commanded great treasure to be given to her, but she would none of it. However, she forgave him and went away, vowing never again to enter any one's house. So she betook herself to wandering in the mountains and valleys and worshipped God the Most High till she died. And for an instance of the malice of the male sex,' continued the damsel, 'I have heard tell that
The Two Pigeons
A pair of pigeons once stored up wheat and barley in their nests in the winter, and when the summer came, the grain shrivelled and became less; so the male pigeon said to his mate, "Thou hast eaten of this grain." "No, by Allah," replied she; "I have not touched it!" But he believed her not and beat her with his wings and pecked her with his bill, till he killed her. When the cold season returned, the corn swelled out and became as before, whereupon he knew that he had slain his mate unjustly and wickedly and repented, when repentance availed him not. Then he lay down by her side, mourning over her and weeping for grief, and left eating and drinking, till he fell sick and died.
But,' added the damsel, 'I know a story of the malice of men more extraordinary than either of these.' 'Let us hear it,' said the King; and she said, 'I have heard tell, O King, that
Story of Prince Behram of Persia and the Princess Ed Detma.
There was once a king's daughter, by name Ed Detma, who had no equal in her time for beauty and elegance and symmetry and amorous grace and the art of ravishing men's wits, nor was there one more accomplished than she in horsemanship and martial exercises and all that behoveth a cavalier, and all the king's sons sought her in marriage; but she would none of them, saying, "None shall marry me except he overcome me at push of pike and stroke of sword in the open field. If any can do this, I will willingly wed him; but, if I overcome him, I will take his horse and clothes and arms and write with fire upon his forehead, 'This is the freedman of Ed Detma.'" So the eons of the kings flocked to her from far and near, and she overcame them and put them to shame, stripping them of their arms and branding them with fire.
At last, the son of a king of the kings of the Persians, by name Behram, heard of her and journeyed from afar to her father's court, bringing with him men and horses and great store of wealth and royal treasures. When he drew near the city, he sent her father a rich present and the king came out to meet him and received him with the utmost honour. Then the prince sent a message to him by his vizier, demanding his daughter's hand in marriage; but the king answered, saying, "O my son, I have no power over my daughter Ed Detma, for she hath sworn by her soul to marry none except he overcome her in the listed field." Quoth the prince, "It was to this intent that I journeyed hither from my father's court." And the king said, "Thou shalt meet her to-morrow." Accordingly, on the morrow, he sent to bid his daughter, who donned her harness of war, and the folk, hearing of the coming encounter, flocked from all sides to the field. Presently the princess rode into the lists, armed cap-a-pie and vizor down, and the prince pricked out to meet her, equipped at all points after the goodliest fashion. Then they drove at each other and fought a great while, wheeling and feinting and advancing and retreating, till the princess, finding in him such valour and horsemanship as she had seen in none else, began to fear lest he should put her to shame before the bystanders and knew that he would assuredly overcome her, unless she could contrive to trick him. So she raised her vizor and discovered her face, more brilliant than the full moon, which when he saw, he was confounded by her beauty and his strength failed and his heart faltered. When she knew this, she fell upon him at unawares and tore him from his saddle, and he became in her hands as he were a sparrow in the clutches of an eagle, knowing not what was done with him for amazement and confusion. So she took his horse and cIothes and armour and branding him with fire, let him go.
When he recovered from his stupor, he abode several days without eating or drinking, for despite and love of the princess that had taken hold upon his heart. Then he sent a letter by certain of his slaves to his father, advising him that he could not return home, till he had gotten his will of the princess or died for lack of her. When his father read the letter, he was sore concerned for his son and would have succoured him with troops and soldiers; but his viziers dissuaded him from this and exhorted him to patience; so he committed his affair to God the Most High.
Meanwhile, the prince cast about for a means of coming to his desire and disguising himself as a decrepit old man, repaired to a garden, in which the princess used to walk most of her days. Here he sought out the gardener and said to him, "I am a stranger from a far country and from my youth upward I have been a gardener, and none is more skilled than I in the care of trees and the culture of fruits and flowers and so forth." When the gardener heard this, he rejoiced in him with an exceeding joy and carried him into the garden, where he commended him to his underlings, and the prince betook himself to the service of the garden and the tending of the trees and the bettering of their fruits.
One day, as he was thus employed, he saw some slaves enter the garden, leading mules laden with carpets and vessels, and asked them the meaning of this, to which they replied that the princess was minded to take her pleasure. When he heard this, he hastened to his lodging and fetching some of the jewels and raiment he had brought with him from Persia, sat down in the garden and spread them out before him, shaking and trembling, as if for decrepitude, and making a show of extreme old age. Presently a company of damsels and eunuchs entered, with the princess in their midst, as she were the moon among stars, and dispersed about the garden, plucking the fruits and diverting themselves. By and by they espied the prince sitting under one of the trees and making towards him, found him, [as it seemed,] a very old man, whose hands and feet trembled for decrepitude, and before him store of precious jewels and splendid ornaments. So they marvelled at his case and asked him what he did there with the jewels. Quoth he, "I would fain buy me one of you to wife therewith." They laughed at him and said, "If one of us marry thee, what wilt thou do with her?" "I will give her one kiss," answered he, "and let her go." Then said the princess, "I give thee this damsel to wife." So he rose and coming up to her, trembling and staggering and leaning on a staff; kissed her and gave her the jewels and ornaments; whereat she rejoiced and they went away, laughing at him. Next day, they came again to the garden and finding him seated in the same place, with more jewels and ornaments than before, said to him, "O old man, what wilt thou do with these jewels?" And he answered, saying, "I wish to take one of you to wife with them, even as yesterday." So the princess said, "I marry thee to this damsel ;" and he came up to her and kissed her and gave her the jewels, and they went away.
But the princess said in herself; "I have more right to all these fine things than my waiting-women, and no harm can betide me." So, on the morrow, she went down privily into the garden, in the habit of one of her damsels, and presenting herself before the prince, said to him, "O old man, the king's daughter hath sent me to thee, that thou mayst marry me." He looked at her and knew her; so he answered, "With all my heart," and gave her jewels and ornaments of the costliest. Then he rose to kiss her, and she off her guard and fearing nothing; but, when he came up to her, he suddenly laid hold of her with a strong hand and throwing her down, did away her maidenhead. Then he pulled the beard from his face and said to her, "Dost thou not know me?" "Who art thou?" asked she, and he answered, "I am Behram, the king's son of Persia, who have changed my favour and am become a stranger to my people and estate for thy sake and have lavished my treasures for thy love."
So she rose from under him in silence and spoke not a word of reply to him, being dazed for what had befallen her and seeing nothing for it but to be silent, for fear of disgrace; and she bethought herself and said "If I kill him, it will profit me nothing, and nought will serve me but that I flee with him to his own country." Then she gathered together her wealth and treasures and sent to him, acquainting him with her resolve, to the intent that he also might equip himself; and they agreed upon a night on which to depart. So, at the appointed time, they mounted swift horses and set out under cover of the night, nor did day break till they had traversed a great distance; and they fared on till they drew near his father's capital in the land of the Persians. When the king heard of his son s coming, he came out to meet him with his troops and rejoiced in him with an exceeding joy. Then, after a few days, he sent the princess's father a splendid present, with a letter to the effect that his daughter was with him and demanding her wedding equipage. Ed Detma's father received the messengers with exceeding joy, (for that he had deemed his daughter lost and had grieved sore for her loss,) and invested them with robes of honour; after which he made bride-feasts and summoning the Cadi and the witnesses, let draw up the marriage contract between his daughter and the prince of Persia. Then he made ready her equipage and despatched it to her, and Prince Behram abode with her till death sundered them.
See, therefore, O King,' continued the favourite, 'the malice of men in their dealing with women. As for me, I will not go back from my due till I die.' So the King once more commanded to put his son to death; but the seventh vizier came in to him and kissing the earth before him, said, 'O King, have patience with me whilst I speak words of good counsel to thee; for he who is patient and acteth deliberately attaineth unto his hope aud enjoyeth his desire, but whoso acteth hastily, repentance overtaketh him. Now I have seen how this damsel hath profligately striven to abuse the King and incite him to unnatural cruelties; but I his slave, whom he hath overwhelmed with his favours and bounties, do proffer him true and loyal counsel; for that I, O King, know of the malice of women that which none knoweth but myself; and [in particular] there hath come to my knowledge, on this subject, the story of the old woman and the son of the merchant.' 'And what fell out between them, O vizier?' asked the King. 'I have heard tell, O King,' answered the seventh vizier, 'that
The House with the Belvedere.
There was once a wealthy merchant, who had a son who was very dear to him, and the latter said to him one day, "O my father, I have a boon to ask of thee." Quoth the merchant, "O my son, what is it, that I may give it thee and bring thee to thy desire, though it were the light of mine eyes." "Give me money," rejoined the youth, "that I may journey with the merchants to the city of Baghdad and see its sights and look upon the palace of the Khalifs; for the sons of the merchants have described these things to me and I long to see them for myself." "O my child, O my little son," answered his father, "how can I endure to part from thee?" But the youth said, "I have said my say and needs must I journey to Baghdad with or without thy consent; for such a longing for its sight hath fallen upon me as can only be assuaged by the going thither."
When the merchant saw that there was no help for it, he provided his son with goods to the value of thirty thousand dinars and gave him in charge to certain merchants in whom he trusted. Then he took leave of the youth, who journeyed with his friends the merchants till they reached Baghdad, the Abode of Peace, where he entered the market and wishing to hire a house, was shown one so handsome and spacious and elegant that he well-nigh lost his wits for admiration; for therein were gardens and fountains and running waters and pavilions facing one another, with floors of coloured marbles and ceilings inlaid with gold and lapis lazuli, and its gardens were full of warbling birds. So he asked the porter what was its rent, and he replied, "Ten dinars a month." Quoth the young man, "Speakest thou truly or dost thou jest with me?" "By Allah," answered the porter, "I speak nought but the truth, for none who taketh up his abode in this house lodgeth in it more than a week or two." "And how is that?" asked the other. "O my son," replied the porter, "whoso taketh this house cometh not forth of it, except sick or dead, wherefore it is known among the folk of Baghdad, so that none offereth to take it, and thus cometh it that its rent is fallen so low." At this the young merchant marvelled exceedingly, saying, "Needs must there be some reason for this." However, after considering awhile and seeking refuge with God from Satan the Stoned, he rented the house and took up his abode there. Then he put away apprehension from his thought and busied himself with selling and buying; and some time passed over him without any ill case befalling him.
One day, as he sat at the door, there came up a grizzled old woman, as she were a speckled snake, calling aloud on the name of God and magnifying Him at a great rate and at the same time putting away the stones and other obstacles from the path. Seeing the youth sitting there, she looked at him and marvelled at his case; (74) whereupon quoth he to her, "O old woman, dost thou know me or am I like any thou knowest?" When she heard him speak, she hastened up to him and saluting him, said, "How long hast thou dwelt in this house?" "Two months, O my mother," answered he. And she said, "O my son, it was at this that I marvelled; for I know thee not, neither dost thou know me, nor yet are thou like unto any one I know; but I marvelled for that none other than thou hath taken up his abode in this house but hath gone forth from it, dead or sick, saving thee alone. Doubtless thou hast not gone up to the upper story neither looked out from the belvedere there." So saying, she went her way and he fell a-pondering her words and said, "I have not gone up to the top of the house; nor did I know that there was a belvedere there."
Then he arose forthright and going in, searched the house, till he espied, in a corner among the trees, a narrow door, over which the spider had spun its webs, and said in himself "Belike the spider hath not spread its web over the door, but because death is within." However, he heartened himself with the saying of God the Most High, "Say, nought shall befall us save what God hath prescribed unto us;" (75) and opening the door, ascended a narrow flight of stairs, till he came to the top, where he found a belvedere, in which he sat down to rest and enjoy the view. Presently, he caught sight of an elegant house hard by, surmounted by a lofty belvedere, overlooking the whole of Baghdad, in which sat a damsel fair as a houri. No sooner had he set eyes on her, than her beauty took possession of his whole heart and made away with his reason, afflicting him with the pains of Job and the grief of Jacob. Fire was lighted in his entrails and he said, "They say that whoever takes up his abode in this house dies or falls sick. If this be so, this damsel is assuredly the cause. Would I knew how I shall win free of this affair, for my senses are gone!"
Then he descended from the turret, pondering his case, and sat down in the house, but could not rest. So, after awhile, he went out and sat at the door, absorbed in melancholy thought, and presently up came the old woman, praising and magnifying God [aloud], as she went. When he saw her, he rose and accosting her courteously, said to her, "O my mother, I was in health and well-being, till thou madest mention to me of the belvedere; so I found the door and ascending to the top of the house, saw thence what took away my senses; and now methinks I am a lost man, and I know no physician for me but thyself." When she heard this, she laughed and said, "No harm shall befall thee, so God please." Whereupon he went into the house and coming back with a hundred dinars in his sleeve, said to her, "Take this, O my mother, and deal with me as lords with slaves and succour me quickly; for, if I die, my blood will be laid to thy charge at the Day of Resurrection." "With all my heart," answered she; "but, O my son, thou must lend me thine aid in some small matter, whereby hangs the accomplishment of thy desire." Quoth he, "What would thou have me do, O my mother?" "Go to the silk-market," said she, "and enquire for the shop of Aboul Feth ben Caidam. Sit down by him and salute him and say to him, 'Give me the face-veil thou hast by thee, figured with gold:' for he hath none handsomer in his shop. Then buy it of him at his own price and keep it till I come to thee to-morrow, God willing." So saying, she went away and he passed the night [as] upon coals of tamarisk wood.
Next morning, he took a thousand dinars in his pocket and repairing to the silk-market, sought cut the shop of Aboul Feth, whom he found a man of dignified aspect, surrounded by servants and attendants; for he was a merchant of great wealth and consideration, and of the goods that God the Most High had bestowed upon him was the damsel who had ravished the young man's heart. She was his wife and had not her match for beauty, nor was her like to be found with any of the sons of the kings. So he saluted him and Aboul Feth returned his salute and bade him be seated. Accordingly, he sat down by him and said to him, "O merchant, I wish to look at such a face-veil." So he bade his servants bring him a parcel of silk from the inner shop and opening it, brought out a number of veils, whose beauty amazed the youth. Among them was the veil he sought; so he bought it for fifty dinars and bore it home, well pleased.
Hardly had he reached his house when up came the old woman, to whom he gave the veil. She bade him bring a live coal, with which she burnt one of the corners of the veil, then folded it up as before and repairing to Aboul Feth's house, knocked at the door. Quoth the damsel, "Who is there?" And she answered, "I, such an one." Now the damsel knew her for a friend of her mother, so, when she heard her voice, she came out and opening the door to her, said, "What dost thou want, O my mother? My mother has left me and gone to her own house." "O my daughter," answered the old woman, "I know thy mother is not with thee, for I have been with her in her house, and I come not to thee, but because I fear to miss the hour of prayer; wherefore I desire to make my ablutions with thee, for I know thou art clean and thy house pure." (76) The damsel admitted her and she saluted her and called down blessings upon her. Then she took the ewer and went into the lavatory, where she made her ablutions and prayed in a place there. Presently, she came out again and said to the damsel, "O my daughter, I doubt thy servants have been in yonder place and defiled it; so do thou show me another place where I may pray, for the prayer I have prayed I account void." Thereupon the damsel took her by the hand and said to he; " O my mother, come and pray on my carpet, where my husband sits." So she stood there and prayed and worshipped and bowed and prostrated herself; and presently, she took the damsel unawares and made shift to slip the veil under the cushion, unseen of her. Then she prayed for her and went away.
At nightfall, Aboul Feth came home and sat down upon the carpet, whilst his wife brought him food and he ate what sufficed him and washed his hands; after which he leant back upon the cushion. Presently, he caught sight of a corner of the veil protruding from under the cushion; so he pulled it out and knowing it for that he had sold to the young man, at once suspected his wife of unchastity. So he called her and said, "Whence hadst thou this veil?" And she swore an oath to him [that she knew not whence it came,] saying, "None hath come to me but thou." Then he was silent for fear of scandal, and said in himself; "If I open up this chapter, I shall be put to shame before all Baghdad;" for he was one of the intimates of the Khalif and had nothing for it but to hold his peace. So he asked no questions, but said to his wife, whose name was Muhziyeh, "I hear that thy mother lies ill of heart-ache and all the women are with her, weeping over her; so do thou go to her." Accordingly, she repaired to her mother's house and found her well, ailing nothing; and the latter said to her, "What brings thee here at this hour?" So she told her what her husband had said and sat with her awhile; but, presently, up came porters, who brought all her clothes and paraphernalia and what not else belonged to her of goods and vessels from her husband's house and deposited them in that of her mother. When the latter saw this, she said to her daughter, "Tell me what hath passed between thee and thy husband, to bring about this." But she swore to her that she knew not the cause thereof and that there had befallen nothing between them, to call for this conduct. Quoth her mother, "Needs must there be a cause for this." And she answered, saying, "I know of none, and after this, with God the Most High be it to make provision!", Whereupon her mother fell a-weeping and lamented her daughter's separation from the like of this man, by reason of his sufficiency and fortune and the greatness of his rank and estate.
On this wise, things abode some days, after which the old woman paid a visit to Muhziyeh in her mother's house and saluted her affectionately, saying, "What ails thee, O my daughter, O my beloved one? Indeed, thou hast troubled my mind." Then she went in to her mother and said to her, "O my sister, what is this about thy daughter and her husband? I hear he has put her away. What hath she done to call for this?" Quoth the mother, "Peradventure her husband will return to her by the virtue of thy prayers; so do thou pray for her, for thou art a constant faster and a stander up by night to pray." Then the three women fell to talking and the old woman said to the damsel, "O my daughter, have no care, for, God willing, I will make peace between thee and thy husband before many days." Then she left them and going to the young merchant, said to him, "Make ready a handsome entertainment for us, for I will bring her to thee this very night." So he rose and provided all that was fitting of meat and drink and so forth and sat down to await them; whilst the old woman returned to the girl's mother and said to her, "O my sister, we make a splendid bride-feast to-night; so let thy daughter go with me, that she may divert herself and make merry with us and forget her troubles; and I will bring her back to thee even as I took her away." So the mother dressed her daughter in her finest clothes and jewels and accompanied her to the door, where she commended her to the old woman's care, saying, "Look thou let none of the creatures of God the Most High see her, for thou knowest her husband's rank with the Khalif; and do not tarry, but bring her back to me as soon as possible."
The old woman carried the girl to the young man's house, and she entered, thinking it the place where the wedding was to be held: but, when she came into the saloon, the youth sprang up to her and embraced her and kissed her hands and feet. She was confounded at his beauty, as well as at the elegance of the place and the profusion of meat and drink and flowers and perfumes that she saw therein, and deemed all this but a dream. When the old woman saw her amazement, she said to her, "The name of God be upon thee, O my daughter! Fear not; I am here with thee and will not leave thee for a moment. Thou art worthy of him and he of thee." So the damsel sat down, in great confusion; but the young man jested and toyed with her and entertained her with stories and verses, till her breast dilated and she became at her ease. Then she ate and drank and growing warm with wine, took the lute and sang and inclined to the youth's beauty. When he saw this, he was drunken without wine and his life was a light matter to him [compared with her love].
Presently the old woman went out and left them alone together till the next morning, when she went in to them and gave them good morrow and said to the damsel, "How hast thou passed the night, O my lady?" "Well," answered the girl, "thanks to thine adroitness and the excellence of thine intermediation." Then said the old woman, "Come, let us go back to thy mother." But the young man pulled out a hundred dinars and gave them to her, saying, "Take this and leave her with me to-night." So she left them and repaired to the girl's mother, to whom quoth she, "Thy daughter salutes thee, and the bride's mother is instant with her to abide with her this night." "O my sister," replied the mother, "bear her my greeting, and if it please the girl, there is no harm in her staying the night; so let her do this and divert herself and come back to me at her leisure, for all I fear for her is chagrin on account of her husband."
The old woman ceased not to make excuse after excuse and to put off cheat upon cheat upon the girl's mother, till Muhziyeh had tarried seven days with the young man, of whom she took a hundred dinars each day for herself; but at the end of this time, the girl's mother said to her, "Bring my daughter back to me forthright; for I am uneasy about her, because she has been so long absent, and I misdoubt me of this." So the old woman went out, angered at her words, and going to the young man's house, took the girl by the hand and carried her away, leaving him lying asleep on his bed, for he was heavy with wine. Her mother received her with joy and gladness and rejoiced in her with an exceeding joy, saying, "O my daughter, my heart was troubled about thee, and in my uneasiness I offended against this my sister with an injurious speech, that wounded her." "Rise and kiss her hands and feet," replied Muhziyeh; "else art thou no mother of mine; for she hath been to me as a servant in doing all I needed." So the mother went up to the old woman and made her peace with her.
Meanwhile, the young man recovered from his drunkenness and missed the damsel, but was content to have enjoyed his desire. Presently, the old woman came in to him and saluted him, saying, "What thinkest thou of my fashion?" Quoth he, "It was excellently well contrived of thee." Then said she, "Come, let us mend what we have marred and restore the girl to her husband, for we have been the cause of their separation." "How shall I do?" asked he, and she answered, "Go to Aboul Feth's shop and salute him and sit down by him, till thou seest me pass by, when do thou rise in haste and catch hold of my dress and revile me and rail at me, demanding of me the veil. And do thou say to the merchant, 'O my lord, thou knowest the face-veil I bought of thee for fifty dinars? I gave it to a slave-girl of mine, who burnt a corner of it by accident; so she gave it to this old woman, who took it, promising to get it darned and return it, and went away, nor have I seen her from that day to this.'" "With all my heart," replied the young man and rising forthrtght, repaired to the shop of the silk merchant, with whom he sat till he saw the old woman pass, telling her beads on a rosary she held in her hand; whereupon he sprang up and laying hold of her clothes, began to revile and rail at her, whilst she answered him with fair words, saying, "Indeed, my son, thou art excusable."
The people of the bazaar flocked round them, saying, "What is to do?" and he replied, "Know, O folk, that I bought a veil of this merchant for fifty dinars and gave it to my slave-girl, who wore it awhile, then sat down to fumigate it. (77) Presently, a spark flew out of the chafing dish and lighting on the edge of the veil, burnt a hole in it. So we committed it to this pestilent old woman, that she might give it to who should darn it and return it to us, and we have never set eyes on her again till this day." "This young man speaks the truth," answered the old woman. "I did indeed have the veil of him, but I took it with me into one of the houses where I used to visit and forgot it there, nor do I know where I left it; and being a poor woman, I feared its owner and dared not face him."
Now the girl's husband was listening to all they said and when he heard the tale that the crafty old woman had contrived with the young man, he rose to his feet and said, "God is Most Great! I crave pardon of the Almighty for my offences and what my heart suspected!" And he praised God who had discovered to him the truth. Then he accosted the old woman and said to her, "Dost thou use to visit us?" "O my son," replied she, "I visit you and other than you, for the sake of alms; but from that day to this, none hath given me any news of the veil." Quoth the merchant, "Hast thou asked at my house?" "O my lord," answered she, "I did indeed go to thy house and ask; but they told me that the lady of the house had been divorced by her husband; so I asked no farther." With this, the merchant turned to the young man and said, "Let the old woman go her way; for the veil is with me." So saying, he brought it out from the shop and gave it to the darner before all the folk. Then he betook himself to the damsel and giving her some money, took her again to wife, after making abundance of excuses to her and asking pardon of God, because he knew not what the old woman had done. This then, O King,' said the Vizier, 'is an instance of the malice of women, and for another to the same purport, I have heard tell that
The King's Son and the Afrits Mistress.
A certain king's son was once walking alone for his pleasure, when he came to a green meadow, abounding in trees laden with fruit and birds singing on the branches, and a river running through it. The place pleased him; so he sat down there and taking out some conserves he had brought with him, began to eat. Presently, he espied a great smoke rising up to heaven and taking fright, climbed up into a tree and hid himself among the branches. Thence he saw an Afrit rise out of the midst of the stream, with a chest of marble, secured by a padlock, on his head. He set down the chest on the sward and opened it, and there came forth a damsel like the sun shining in the cloudless sky. He gazed on her awhile, then laid his head in her lap and fell asleep, whereupon she lifted up his head and laying it on the chest, rose and walked about.
Presently, she chanced to raise her eyes to the tree in which was the prince, and seeing him, signed to him to come down. He refused, but she swore to him that, except he came down and did as she bade him, she would wake the Afrit and point him out to him, when he would straightway kill him. The prince, fearing she would do as she said, came down, whereupon she kissed his hands and feet and conjured him to do her occasion, to which he consented; and when he had satisfied her desires, she said to him, "Give me the seal-ring on thy finger." So he gave it to her and she laid it in a silken handkerchief she had with her, wherein were more than fourscore others. When the prince saw this, he asked her what she did with all these rings and she answered, saying, "Know that this Afrit carried me off from my father's palace and shut me in this box, which he carries about on his head wherever he goes; and he hardly leaves me a moment, of the excess of his jealousy over me, and hinders me from what I desire. When I saw this, I swore that I would deny my favours to no one, and these rings thou seest are after the tale of the men who have had to do with me; for I took from each a ring and laid it in this handkerchief. And now go thy ways, that I may look for another than thee, for the Afrit will not awake yet awhile."
So the prince returned to his father's palace, hardly crediting what he had heard, and when the King heard that his son had lost his ring, he bade put him to death, knowing not how the damsel had beguiled him. (Now she feared this not, neither took any account thereof.) Then he rose and entered his palace; but his Viziers came in to him and prevailed with him to abandon his purpose. The same night, the King sent for them and thanked them for having dissuaded him from slaying his son; and the latter also thanked them, saying, "It was well done of you to counsel my father to let me live, and God willing, I will abundantly requite you." Then he related to them how he had lost the ring, and they offered up prayers for his long life and advancement and withdrew. See then, O King,' said the Vizier, 'the malice of women and what they do unto men.'
The King hearkened to the Vizier's counsel and again countermanded his order to slay his son. Next morning, it being the eighth day, as the King sat in his audience-chamber in the midst of his grandees and amirs and officers and men of learning, the prince entered, with his hand in that of his governor, Es Sindibad, and praised his father and his Viziers and grandees in the most eloquent words and thanked them; so that all who were present wondered at his eloquence and fluency and the excellence of his speech. His father rejoiced in him with an exceeding joy and calling him to him, kissed him between the eyes. Then he called Es Sindibad and asked him why his son had kept silence these seven days, to which he replied, 'O my lord, it was I who enjoined him to this, in my fear for him of death; for, when I took his nativity, I found it written in the stars that, if he should speak during this period, he would surely die; but now the danger is over, by the King's fortune.'
At this the King rejoiced and said to his Viziers, 'If I had killed my son would the fault have fallen on me or the damsel or Es Sindibad?' But they refrained from answering and Es Sindibad said to the prince, 'Answer thou, O my son.' Quoth he, 'I have heard tell that certain guests once alighted at a merchant's house, and he sent his slave-girl to the market, to buy a jar of milk. So she bought it and set out on her return; but, on her way home, there passed over her a kite, holding a serpent in its claws, and a drop of the serpent's venom fell into the jar of milk, unknown of the girl. So, when she came back, the merchant took the milk from her and drank of it, he and his guests; but hardly had it settled in their stomachs when they all died. Now tell me, O King, whose was the fault in this case?' Some said, 'It was the fault of the company, who drank the milk, without examining it.' And other some, 'That of the girl, who left the jar uncovered.' But Es Sindibad said to the prince, 'What sayest thou, O my son?' 'I say,' answered the prince, 'that the folk err; it was neither the fault of the damsel nor of the company, for their appointed hour was come, with the exhaustion of their divinely-decreed provision, and God had fore-ordained them to die thus.'
When the courtiers heard this, they marvelled greatly and lifted up their voices, calling down blessings on the prince and saying, 'O our lord, thou hast made a peerless answer, and thou art the wisest man of thy time.' 'Indeed, I am no sage,' answered the prince; 'the blind sheikh and the three-year-old child and the five-year-old were wiser than I.' 'O youth,' said the bystanders, 'tell us the stories of these three who were wiser than thou.' 'With all my heart,' answered he, 'I have heard tell that
The Sandal-wood Merchant and the Sharpers.
There was once a rich merchant, who was a great traveller. One day, being minded to journey to a certain city, he asked those who came thence what kind of goods brought most profit there, "Sandal-wood," answered they; "for it sells at a high price." So he laid out all his money in sandal-wood and set out for the city in question. When he arrived there, it was the close of the day, and he met an old woman driving her sheep. Quoth she to him, "Who art thou, O man?" and he answered, saying, "I am a stranger, a merchant." "Beware of the townsfolk," said she, "for they are cheats and robbers, who impose on strangers that they may get the better of them and devour their substance. Indeed, I give thee good counsel."
Then she left him and on the morrow there met him a man, who saluted him and said to him, "O my lord, whence comest thou?" "From such a place," answered the merchant. "And what merchandise hast thou brought with thee?" asked the other. "Sandal-wood," replied he; "for I hear it is high of price with you." Quoth the townsman, "He erred who told thee that; for we burn nothing but sandal-wood under our cooking-pots, and its value with us is but that of firewood." When the merchant heard this, he sighed and repented and knew not whether to believe him or not. Then he alighted at one of the khans of the city and when it was night, he saw a merchant make a fire of sandal-wood under his cooking-pot. Now this was the man who had spoken with him and this was a trick of his. When the townsman saw the merchant [looking at him,] he said to him, "Wilt thou sell me thy sandal-wood for a measure of whatever thy soul shall desire?" "I sell it to thee," answered the merchant, purposing to take gold, and the buyer transported all the wood to his own house and stored it up there.
Next morning, the merchant, who was a blue-eyed man, went out to walk in the city; but, as he went along, one of the townsfolk, who was also blue-eyed and had but one eye, caught hold of him, saying, "Thou art he who stole my eye and I will never let thee go [till thou restore it to me]." The merchant denied this, saying, "I never stole [thine eye]: the thing is impossible." Whereupon the folk collected round them and besought the one-eyed man to grant him till the morrow, that he might give him the price of his eye. So the merchant procured one to be surety for him, and they let him go. Now his shoe had been rent in the struggle with the one-eyed man; so he stopped at a cobbler's stall and bade him mend it, and he should have of him what would content him. Then be went on, till he came to some people sitting playing at forfeits and sat down with them, to divert his grief and anxiety. They invited him to play with them and he did so; but they practised on him and overcoming him, offered him his choice, either to drink up the sea or disburse all be had. "Have patience with me till to-morrow," said he, and they granted him the delay he sought; whereupon he went away, sore concerned for what had betided him and knowing not how he should do, and sat down in a place [apart], heavy at heart and full of melancholy thought.
Presently, the old woman passed by and seeing him thus, said to him, "Meseems the townsfolk have gotten the better of thee, for I see thee troubled and heavy of heart. Tell me what ails thee." So he told her all that had passed and she said. "As for him who cheated thee in the matter of the sandal-wood, thou must know that with us it is worth ten dinars a pound. But I will give thee a counsel, whereby I trust thou shalt deliver thyself; and it is this. By such and such a gate lives a blind sheikh, a cripple, who is knowing, wise and experienced, and all resort to him and ask him what they will, and he counsels them what will be for their advantage; for he is versed in craft and magic and trickery. Now he is a sharper and the sharpers resort to him by night [and recount to him the tricks they have played during the day], and he [passes judgment upon them and] tells them which got the better and which was bettered. So go thou to his lodging and hide thyself from thine adversaries, so thou mayst hear what they say, unseen of them; and haply thou shalt learn from the sheikh some subterfuge that may avail to deliver thee from them."
So he went to the place in question and hid himself near the blind man. Before long, up came the latter's company who were wont to take him as their judge, and amongst them the merchant's four adversaries. They saluted the sheikh and each other and sat down round him, whereupon he set food before them and they ate. Then each began to tell what had befallen him that day, and amongst the rest came forward he of the sandal-wood and told how he had bought of one sandal-wood, below its price, and had agreed to pay for it a measure of whatever the seller should desire. Quoth the old man, "Thine opponent hath the better of thee." " How can that be," asked the other, "seeing that, if he say, 'I will take the measure full of gold or silver,' I will give it him and still be the gainer?" And the sheikh answered, "And if he say, 'I will take the measure full of fleas, half male and half female,' what wilt thou do?" So the sharper knew that he was beaten.
Then came forward the one-eyed man and said, "O Sheikh, I met a blue-eyed man to-day, a stranger to the town; so I picked a quarrel with him and caught hold of him, saying, 'It was thou robbedst me of my eye;' nor did I let him go, till some became surety for him that he should return to me to-morrow and satisfy me for my eye." Quoth the sheikh, "If he will, he may have the better of thee." "How so?" asked the sharper; and the sheikh said, "He may say to thee, 'Pluck out thine eye, and I will pluck out one of mine; then will we weigh them both, and if thine eye be of the same weight as mine, thou speakest truth in what thou avouchest.' So wilt thou owe him the price of his eye and be stone blind, whilst he will still see with his other eye." So the sharper knew that the merchant might baffle him with this subterfuge.
Then came the cobbler and said, "O Sheikh, a man brought me his shoe to-day, saying, 'Mend this shoe and thou shalt have of me what will content thee.' Now nothing will content me but all he hath." Quoth the sheikh, "If he will, he may take his shoe from thee and give thee nothing." "How so?" asked the cobbler, and the sheikh, "He has but to say to thee, 'The sultan's enemies are put to the rout; his foes are become weak and his children and helpers are multiplied. Art thou content or no?'" "If thou say, 'I am content,' he will take his shoe and go away; and if thou say, 'I am not content,' he will take his shoe and beat thee therewith over the face and neck." So the cobbler owned himself beaten.
Then came forward the gamester and said, "O Sheikh, I played at forfeits with a man to-day and beat him and adjudged him to drink up the sea or give up to me all his wealth." "If he will," replied the sheikh, "he may baffle thee." "How so?" asked the sharper, and the sheikh, "He has but to say, 'Take the mouth of the sea in thine hand and give it me and I will drink it.' But thou wilt not be able to do this; so he will baffle thee with this subterfuge." When the merchant heard this, he knew how it behoved him to deal with his adversaries. Then the sharpers went their way and the merchant returned to his lodging.
On the morrow, the gamester came to him and summoned him to redeem his forfeit; so he said to him, "Give me the mouth of the sea and I will drink it up." Whereupon he confessed himself beaten and redeemed his forfeit by paying a hundred dinars. Then came the cobbler and sought of him what should content him. Quoth the merchant, "Our lord the Sultan hath overcome his foes and put his enemies to nought and his children are multiplied. Art thou content or no?" "I am content," replied the cobbler aud giving up the shoe without payment, went away. Next came the one-eyed man and demanded the price of his eye. "Pluck out thine eye," said the merchant, "and I will pluck out one of mine. Then will we weigh them, and if they are equal in weight, I will acknowledge the truth of thine avouchment and pay thee the price ot thine eye; but, if they differ, thou liest and I will sue thee for the price of my eye." Quoth the one-eyed man, "Grant me time;" but the merchant answered, saying, "I am a stranger and grant time to none, nor will I part from thee, [till thou satisfy me]." So the sharper ransomed his eye by paying him a hundred dinars and went away. Last of all came the buyer of the sandal-wood and said, "Take the price of thy ware." "What wilt thou give me?" asked the merchant, and the other, "We agreed for a measure of whatever thou shouldst desire; so, if thou wilt, take it full of gold and silver." "Not I," answered the merchant. "Nothing will serve me but I must have it full of fleas, half male and half female." "This is a thing none may avail unto," said the sharper, and confessing himself beaten, returned him his sandal-wood and redeemed himself from him with a hundred dinars, to be off his bargain. Then the merchant sold the sandal-wood at his own price and returned to his own country.
As for the three-year-old child,' continued the prince, 'I have heard tell that
The Debauchee and the Three-year-old Child.
A certain profligate man, who was addicted to women, once heard of a beautiful and graceful woman who dwelt in a town other than his own. So he journeyed thither, taking with him a gift, and wrote her a letter, seeking access to her and setting out all that he suffered for longing and desire for her and how the love of her had driven him to forsake his native land and come to her. She gave him leave to visit her and received him with all honour and worship, kissing his hands and entertaining him with the best of meat and drink. Now she had a little three-year-old son, whom she left and busied herself in cooking rice. Presently the man said to her, "Come, let us go to bed;" and she, "My son is sitting looking at us." Quoth the man, "He is a little child, understanding not neither knowing how to speak." "Thou wouldst not say thus," answered the woman, "if thou knewest his intelligence." When the boy saw that the rice was done, he fell to weeping bitterly, and his mother said to him, "What ails thee to weep, O my son?" "Give me some rice," answered he, "and put butter in it." So she ladled him out somewhat of rice and put butter therein; and he ate a little, then began to weep again. Quoth she, "What ails thee now?" and he answered, saying, "O my mother, I want same sugar with my rice." At this the man was angered and said to him, "Thou art none other than a curst child." "It is thou who art curst," answered the boy, "seeing thou weariest thyself and journeyest from city to city, in quest of lewdness. As for me, I wept because I had somewhat in my eye, and my weeping brought it out; and now I have eaten rice with butter and sugar and am content; so which is the curst of us twain?" The man was confounded at this rebuke from a little child and grace entered him and he repented. Wherefore he laid not a finger on the woman, but went out from her forthright and returned to his own country, where he lived a contrite life till he died.
As for the story of the five-year-old child,' continued the prince, 'I have heard tell, O King, that
The Stolen Purse.
Four merchants once owned a thousand dinars is common; so they laid them in one purse and set out to buy goods therewith. On their way, they happened on a beautiful garden; so they left the purse with a woman who kept the garden and entered. After they had walked about awhile and eaten and drunken and made merry, one of them said to the others, "I have with me scented fuller's earth; come, let us wash our heads therewith in this running water." Quoth another, "We lack a comb;" and a third, "Let us ask the keeper; belike she hath a comb." Thereupon one of them arose and accosting the keeper, whereas his comrades could see him, but not hear what he said, maid to her, "Give me the purse." Quoth she, "I will not give it up, except ye be all present or thy fellows bid me give it thee." Then he called to his companions, saying, "She will not give it me." And they said to her, "Give it him," thinking he meant the comb. So she gave him the purse and he took it and made off.
When the three others were weary of waiting, they went to the keeper and said to her, "Why wilt thou not give him the comb?" "He asked me for nought but the purse," answered she, "and I gave it not but with your consent, and he went his way with it." When they heard this, they buffeted their faces and said to her, "We authorized thee only to give him the comb." And she, "He named not a comb to me." Then they laid hands on her and haled her before the Cadi, to whom they made their complaint, and he condemned her to make good the purse and bound a number of her debtors surety for her. So she went forth, confounded and knowing not what she should do.
Presently, she met a five-year-old boy, who, seeing her troubled, said to her, "What ails thee, O my mother?" But she gave him no answer, making no account of him, because of his tender age, and he repeated his question a second and a third time, till, at last, she told him all that had passed. "Give me a dirhem, to buy sweetmeats withal," said the boy; "and I will tell thee how thou mayst acquit thyself." So she gave him a dirhem and said to him, "What hast thou to say?" "Return to the Cadi," quoth he, "and say to him, 'It was agreed between myself and them that I should not give them, back the purse, except all four of them were present. Let them all four come and I will give them the purse, as was agreed."' So she went back to the Cadi and said to him as the boy had counselled; and he said to the merchants, "Was it thus agreed between you?" "Yes," answered they. "Then bring me your fellow," said the Cadi, "and take the purse." So they went in quest of their fellow, whilst the keeper came off scot free and went her way without hindrance.'
When the King's viziers and those who were present in the assembly heard the prince's words, they said to his father, 'O our Lord the King, of a truth thy son is the most accomplished man of his time,' and they called down blessings upon the King and the prince. Then the King strained his son to his bosom and kissed him between the eyes and questioned him of what had passed between the favourite and himself; and the prince swore to him, by God the Supreme and by His Holy Prophet, that it was she who had required him of love and he refused. 'Moreover,' said he, 'she promised me that she would give thee poison to drink and kill thee, so should the kingship be mine; whereupon I waxed wroth and said to her, [by signs] "O accursed one, when I can speak, I will requite thee." So, in her fear of me, she did as thou hast seen.' The King believed his words and sending for the damsel, said to those present, 'How shall we put this damsel to death?' Some counselled to cut out her tongue and other some to burn it with fire; but, when she came before the King, she said to him, 'My case with thee is like unto the story of the fox and the folk.' 'How so?' asked he; and she said, 'I have heard tell, O King, that
Story of the Fox and the Folk.
A fox once made his way into a city by the wall and entering a currier's storehouse, played havoc with what was therein and spoiled the skins for the owner. One day, the currier set a trap for him and taking him, beat him with the hides, till he fell down senseless, whereupon the man, deeming him to be dead, cast him out into the road by the city-gate. Presently, an old woman came up and seeing the fox, said, "A fox's eye, hung about a child's neck, is salutary against weeping." So she pulled out his right eye and went away. Then came a boy, who said, "What does this tail on this fox?" and cut off his brush. After awhile, up came a man and saying, "A fox's gall clears away dimness from the eyes, if they be anointed therewith," [took out his knife and made to slit the fox's paunch]; but the latter said in himself; "We bore with the pulling out of the eye and the cutting off of the tail; but, as for the slitting of the paunch, there is no putting up with that." So saying, he sprang up and made off through the gate of the city.'
Quoth the King, 'I excuse her, and in my son's hands be her doom. If he will, let him torture her, and if he will, let him put her to death.' Quoth the prince, 'Forgiveness is better than vengeance and it is of the fashion of the noble;' and the King repeated, 'It is for thee to decide, O my son.' So the prince set her free, saying, 'Depart from our neighbourhood and may God pardon what is past!'
Therewith the King rose from his couch of estate and seating his son thereon, crowned him with his crown and bade the grandees of his realm swear fealty and do homage to him. And he said, 'O folk, indeed, I am stricken in years and desire to withdraw apart and give myself up to the service of my Lord, and I call you to witness that divest myself of the royal dignity, even as I have divested myself of my crown, and set it on my son's head.' So the troops and officers swore fealty to the prince, and his father gave himself up to the worship of his Lord nor stinted from this, whilst his son abode in his kingship, doing justice and righteousness; and his power was magnified and his dominion strengthened and he abode in all delight and solace of life, till there came to him the Destroyer of Delights and the Sunderer of Companies.
End of Vol. 5.