THE MERCHANT AND THE GENIE.
There was formerly a merchant who possessed much property in lands, goods, and money, and had a great number of clerks, factors, and slaves. He was obliged from time to time to visit his correspondents on business; and one day being under the necessity of going a long journey on an affair of importance, he took horse, and carried with him a wallet containing biscuits and dates, because he had a great desert to pass over, where he could procure no sort of provisions. He arrived without any accident at the end of his journey; and having dispatched his affairs, took horse again, in order to return home.
The fourth day of his journey, he was so much incommoded by the heat of the sun, and the reflection of that heat from the earth, that he turned out of the road, to refresh himself under some trees. He found at the root of a large tree a fountain of very clear running water. Having alighted, he tied his horse to a branch, and sitting down by the fountain, took some biscuits and dates out of his wallet. As he ate his dates, he threw the shells carelessly in different directions. When he had finished his repast, being a good Moosulmaun, he washed his hands, face, and feet, and said his prayers. Before he had finished, and while he was yet on his knees, he saw a genie, white with age, and of a monstrous bulk, advancing towards him with a cimeter in his hand. The genie spoke to him in a terrible voice: "Rise, that I may kill thee with this cimeter, as thou hast killed my son;" and accompanied these words with a frightful cry. The merchant being as much alarmed at the hideous shape of the monster as at his threatening language, answered him, trembling, "Alas! my good lord, of what crime can I be guilty towards you, that you should take away my life?" "I will," replied the genie, "kill thee, as thou hast killed my son." "Heavens," exclaimed the merchant, "how could I kill your son? I never knew, never saw him." "Did not you sit down when you came hither?" demanded the genie: "did you not take dates out of your wallet, and as you ate them, did not you throw the shells about in different directions?" "I did all that you say," answered the merchant, "I cannot deny it." "If it be so," resumed the genie, "I tell thee that thou hast killed my son; and in this manner: When thou wert throwing the shells about, my son was passing by, and thou didst throw one into his eye, which killed him; therefore I must kill thee." "Ah! my lord! pardon me!" cried the merchant. "No pardon," exclaimed the genie, "no mercy. Is it not just to kill him that has killed another?" "I agree it is," replied the merchant, "but certainly I never killed your son; and if I have, it was unknown to me, and I did it innocently; I beg you therefore to pardon me, and suffer me to live." "No, no," returned the genie, persisting in his resolution, "I must kill thee, since thou hast killed my son." Then taking the merchant by the arm, he threw him with his face on the ground, and lifted up his cimeter to cut off his head.
The merchant, with tears, protested he was innocent, bewailed his wife and children, and supplicated the genie, in the most moving expressions. The genie, with his cimeter still lifted up, had the patience to hear his unfortunate victims to the end of his lamentations, but would not relent. "All this whining," said the monster, "is to no purpose; though you should shed tears of blood, they should not hinder me from killing thee, as thou hast killed my son." "What!" exclaimed the merchant, "can nothing prevail with you? Will you absolutely take away the life of a poor innocent?" "Yes," replied the genie, "I am resolved."
As soon as she had spoken these words, perceiving it was day, and knowing that the sultan rose early in the morning to say his prayers, and hold his council, Scheherazade discontinued her story. "Dear sister," said Dinarzade, "what a wonderful story is this!" "The remainder of it," replied Scheherazade "is more surprising, and you will be of this opinion, if the sultan will but permit me to live over this day, and allow me to proceed with the relation the ensuing night." Shier-ear, who had listened to Scheherazade with much interest, said to himself, "I will wait till to-morrow, for I can at any time put her to death when she has concluded her story." Having thus resolved not to put Scheherazade to death that day, he rose and went to his prayers, and to attend his council.
During this time the grand vizier was in the utmost distress. Instead of sleeping, he spent the night in sighs and groans, bewailing the lot of his daughter, of whom he believed he should himself shortly be the executioner. As, with this melancholy prospect before him, he dreaded to meet the sultan, he was agreeably surprised when he found the prince entered the council chamber without giving him the fatal orders he expected.
The sultan, according to his custom, spent the day in regulating his affairs; and when the night had closed in, retired with Scheherazade. The next morning before day, Dinarzade failed not to call to her sister: "My dear sister, if you be not asleep, I pray you till day-break, which is very near, to go on with the story you began last night." The sultan, without waiting for Scheherazade to ask his permission, bade her proceed with the story of the genie and the merchant; upon which Scheherazade continued her relation as follows. [FN: In the original work Scheherazade continually breaks off to ask the sultan to spare her life for another day, that she may finish the story she is relating. As these interruptions considerably interfere with the continued interest of the stories, it has been deemed advisable to omit them.]
When the merchant saw that the genie was going to cut off his head, he cried out aloud to him, "For heaven's sake hold your hand! Allow me one word. Have the goodness to grant me some respite, to bid my wife and children adieu, and to divide my estate among them by will, that they may not go to law after my death. When I have done this, I will come back and submit to whatever you shall please to command." "But," said the genie, "if I grant you the time you ask, I doubt you will never return?" "If you will believe my oath," answered the merchant, "I swear by all that is sacred, that I will come and meet you here without fail." "What time do you require then?" demanded the genie. "I ask a year," said the merchant; "I cannot in less settle my affairs, and prepare myself to die without regret. But I promise you, that this day twelve months I will return under these trees, to put myself into your hands." "Do you take heaven to be witness to this promise?" said the genie. "I do," answered the merchant, "and you may rely on my oath." Upon this the genie left him near the fountain, and disappeared.
The merchant being recovered from his terror, mounted his horse, and proceeded on his journey, glad on the one hand that he had escaped so great a danger, but grieved on the other, when he reflected on his fatal oath. When he reached home, his wife and children received him with all the demonstrations of perfect joy. But he, instead of returning their caresses, wept so bitterly, that his family apprehended something calamitous had befallen him. His wife enquire reason of his excessive grief and tears; "We are all overjoyed," said she, "at your return; but you alarm us by your lamentations; pray tell us the cause of your sorrow." "Alas!" replied the husband, "I have but a year to live." He then related what had passed betwixt him and the genie, and informed her that he had given him his oath to return at the end of the year, to receive death from his hands.
When they heard this afflicting intelligence, they all began to lament in the most distressing manner. His wife uttered the most piteous cries, beat her face, and tore her hair. The children, all in tears, made the house resound with their groans; and the father, not being able to resist the impulse of nature, mingled his tears with theirs: so that, in a word, they exhibited the most affecting spectacle possible.
On the following morning the merchant applied himself to put his affairs in order; and first of all to pay his debts. He made presents to his friends, gave liberal alms to the poor, set his slaves of both sexes at liberty, divided his property among his children, appointed guardians for such of them as were not of age; and after restoring to his wife all that was due to her by their marriage contract, he gave her in addition as much as the law would allow him.
At last the year expired, and he was obliged to depart. He put his burial clothes in his wallet; but when he came to bid his wife and children adieu, their grief surpassed description. They could not reconcile their minds to the separation, but resolved to go and die with him. When, however, it became necessary for him to tear himself from these dear objects, he addressed them in the following terms: " My dear wife and children, I obey the will of heaven in quitting you. Follow my example, submit with fortitude to this necessity, and consider that it is the destiny of man to die." Having thus spoken, he went out of the hearing of the cries of his family; and pursuing his journey, arrived on the day appointed at the place where he had promised to meet the genie. He alighted, and seating himself down by the fountain, waited the coming of the genie, with all the sorrow imaginable. Whilst he languished under this painful expectation, an old man leading a hind appeared and drew near him. After they had saluted one another, the old man said to him, "Brother, may I ask why you are come into this desert place, which is possessed solely by evil spirits, and where consequently you cannot be safe? From the beautiful trees which are seen here, one might indeed suppose the place inhabited; but it is in reality a wilderness, where it is dangerous to remain long."
The merchant satisfied his curiosity, and related to him the adventure which obliged him to be there. The old man listened with astonishment, and when he had done, exclaimed, "This is the most surprising thing in the world! and you are bound by the most inviolable oath. However, I will be witness of your interview with the genie." He then seated himself by the merchant, and they entered into conversation.
"But I see day," said Scheherazade, "and must leave off; yet the best of the story is to come." The sultan resolving to hear the end of it, suffered her to live that day also.
The next morning Dinarzade made the same request to her sister as before: "My dear sister," said she, "if you be not asleep, tell me one of those pleasant stories that you have read." But the sultan, wishing to learn what followed betwixt the merchant and the genie, bade her proceed with that, which she did as follows.
Sir, while the merchant and the old man who led the hind were conversing, they saw another old man coming towards them, followed by two black dogs; after they had saluted one another, he asked them what they did in that place? The old man with the hind told him the adventure of the merchant and genie, with all that had passed between them, particularly the merchant's oath. He added, that it was the day agreed on, and that he was resolved to stay and see the issue.
The second old man thinking it also worth his curiosity, resolved to do the same, and took his seat by them. They had scarcely begun to converse together, when there arrived a third old man leading a mule. He addressed himself to the two former, and asked why the merchant who sat with them looked so melancholy? They told him the reason, which appeared to him so extraordinary, that he also resolved to witness the result; and for that purpose sat down with them.
In a short time they perceived a thick vapour, like a cloud of dust raised by a whirlwind, advancing towards them. When it had come up to them it suddenly vanished, and the genie appeared; who, without saluting them, went to the merchant with a drawn cimeter, and taking him by the arm, said, "Get thee up, that I may kill thee, as thou didst my son." The merchant and the three old men began to lament and fill the air with their cries.
When the old man who led the hind saw the genie lay hold of the merchant, and about to kill him, he threw himself at the feet of the monster, and kissing them, said to him, "Prince of genies, I most humbly request you to suspend your anger, and do me the favour to hear me. I will tell you the history of my life, and of the hind you see; and if you think it more wonderful and surprising than the adventure of the merchant, I hope you will pardon the unfortunate man a third of his offence." The genie took some time to deliberate on this proposal, but answered at last, "Well then, I agree."
The Story of the First Old Man and the Hind.
I shall begin my story then; listen to me, I pray you, with attention. This hind you see is my cousin; nay, what is more, my wife. She was only twelve years of age when I married her, so that I may justly say, she ought to regard me equally as her father, her kinsman, and her husband.
We lived together twenty years, without any children. Her barrenness did not effect any change in my love; I still treated her with much kindness and affection. My desire of having children only induced me to purchase a slave, by whom I had a son, who was extremely promising. My wife being jealous, cherished a hatred for both mother and child, but concealed her aversion so well, that I knew nothing of it till it was too late.
Mean time my son grew up, and was ten years old, when I was obliged to undertake a long journey. Before I went, I recommended to my wife, of whom I had no mistrust, the slave and her son, and prayed her to take care of them during my absence, which was to be for a whole year. She however employed that time to satisfy her hatred. She applied herself to magic, and when she had learnt enough of that diabolical art to execute her horrible design, the wretch carried my son to a desolate place, where, by her enchantments, she changed him into a calf, and gave him to my farmer to fatten, pretending she had bought him. Her enmity did not stop at this abominable action, but she likewise changed the slave into a cow, and gave her also to my farmer.
At my return, I enquired for the mother and child. "Your slave," said she, "is dead; and as for your son, I know not what is become of him, I have not seen him this two months." I was afflicted at the death of the slave, but as she informed me my son had only disappeared, I was in hopes he would shortly return. However, eight months passed, and I heard nothing of him. When the festival of the great Bairam was to be celebrated, I sent to my farmer for one of the fattest cows to sacrifice. He accordingly sent me one, and the cow which was brought me proved to be my slave, the unfortunate mother of my son. I bound her, but as I was going to sacrifice her, she bellowed piteously, and I could perceive tears streaming from her eyes. This seemed to me very extraordinary, and finding myself moved with compassion, I could not find in my heart to give her a blow, but ordered my farmer to get me another.
My wife, who was present, was enraged at my tenderness, and resisting an order which disappointed her malice, she cried out, "What are you doing, husband? Sacrifice that cow; your farmer has not a finer, nor one fitter for the festival." Out of deference to my wife, I came again to the cow, and combating my compassion, which suspended the sacrifice, was going to give her the fatal blow, when the victim redoubling her tears, and bellowing, disarmed me a second time. I then put the mallet into the farmer's hands, and desired him to take it and sacrifice her himself, for her tears and bellowing pierced my heart.
The farmer, less compassionate than myself; sacrificed her; but when he flayed her, found her to be nothing except bones, though to she seemed very fat. "Take her yourself," said I to him, "dispose of her in alms, or any way you please: and if you have a very fat calf, bring it me in her stead." I did not enquire what he did with the cow, but soon after he had taken her away, he returned with a fat calf. Though I knew not the calf was my son, yet I could not forbear being moved at the sight of him. On his part, as soon as he beheld me, he made so great an effort to come near me, that he broke his cord, threw himself at my feet, with his head against the ground, as if he meant to excite my compassion, conjuring me not to be so cruel as to take his life; and did as much as was possible for him, to signify that he was my son.
I was more surprised and affected with this action, than with the tears of the cow. I felt a tender pity, which interested me on his behalf, or rather, nature did its duty. "Go," said I to the farmer, "carry home that calf, take great care of him, and bring me another in his stead immediately."
As soon as my wife heard me give this order, she exclaimed, "What are you about, husband? Take my advice, sacrifice no other calf but that." "Wife," I replied, "I will not sacrifice him, I will spare him, and pray do not you oppose me." The wicked woman had no regard to my wishes; she hated my son too much to consent that I should save him. I tied the poor creature, and taking up the fatal knife, was going to plunge it into my son's throat, when turning his eyes bathed with tears, in a languishing manner, towards me, he affected me so much that I had not strength to kill him. I let the knife fall, and told my wife positively that I would have another calf to sacrifice, and not that. She used all her endeavours to persuade me to change my resolution; but I continued firm, and pacified her a little, by promising that I would sacrifice him against the Bairam of the following year.
The next morning my farmer desired to speak with me alone. "I come," said he, "to communicate to you a piece of intelligence, for which I hope you will return me thanks. I have a daughter that has some skill in magic. Yesterday, as I carried back the calf which you would not sacrifice, I perceived she laughed when she saw him, and in a moment after fell a weeping. I asked her why she acted two such opposite parts at one and the same time. ' rather,' replied she, ' the calf you bring back is our landlord's son; I laughed for joy to see him still alive, and wept at the remembrance of the sacrifice that was made the other day of his mother, who was changed into a cow. These two metamorphoses were made by the enchantments of our master's wife, who hated both the mother and son.' This is what my daughter told me," said the farmer, "and I come to acquaint you with it."
I leave you to judge how much I was surprised. I went immediately to my farmer, to speak to his daughter myself. As soon as I arrived, I went forthwith to the stall where my son was kept; he could not return my embraces, but received them in such a manner, as fully satisfied me he was my son.
The farmer's daughter then came to us: "My good maid," said I, "can you restore my son to his former shape?" "Yes," she replied, "I can." "Ah!" said I, "if you do, I will make you mistress of all my fortune." She answered me, smiling, "You are our master, and I well know what I owe to you; but I cannot restore your son to his former shape, except on two conditions: the first is, that you give him to me for my husband; and the second, that you allow me to punish the person who changed him into a calf." "As to the first," I replied, "I agree with all my heart: nay, I promise you more, a considerable fortune for yourself, independently of what I design for my son: in a word, you shall see how I will reward the great service I expect from you. As to what relates to my wife, I also agree; a person who has been capable of committing such a criminal action, justly deserves to be punished. I leave her to your disposal, only I must pray you not to take her life." "I am going then," answered she, "to treat her as she treated your son." "To this I consent," said I, "provided you first of all restore to me my son."
The damsel then took a vessel full of water, pronounced over it words that I did not understand, and addressing herself to the calf, "O calf, if thou west created by the almighty and sovereign master of the world such as thou appearest at this time, continue in that form; but if thou be a man, and art changed into a calf by enchantment, return to thy natural shape, by the permission of the sovereign Creator." As she spoke, she threw water upon him, and in an instant he recovered his natural form.
"My son, my dear son," cried I, immediately embracing him with such a transport of joy that I knew not what I was doing, "it is heaven that hath sent us this young maid, to remove the horrible charm by which you were enchanted, and to avenge the injury done to you and your mother. I doubt not but in acknowledgment you will make your deliverer your wife, as I have promised." He joyfully consented; but before they married, she changed my wife into a hind; and this is she whom you see here. I desired she might have this shape, rather than another less agreeable, that we might see her in the family without horror.
Since that time, my son is become a widower, and gone to travel. It being now several years since I heard of him, I am come abroad to inquire after him; and not being willing to trust anybody with my wife, till I should return home, I thought fit to take her everywhere with me.
"This is the history of myself and this hind: is it not one of the most wonderful and surprising?" "I admit it is," said the genie, "and on that account forgive the merchant one third of his crime."
When the first old man had finished his story, the second, who led the two black dogs, addressed the genie, and said: "I am going to tell you what happened to me, and these two black dogs you see by me; and I am certain you will say, that my story is yet more surprising than that which you have just heard. But when I have done this, I hope you will be pleased to pardon the merchant another third of his offence." "I will," replied the genie, "provided your story surpass that of the hind." Then the second old man began in this manner--
The Story of the Second old Man and the Two Black Dogs.
Great prince of genies, you must know that we are three brothers, the two black dogs and myself. Our father, when he died, left each of us one thousand sequins. With that sum, we all became merchants. A little time after we had opened shop, my eldest brother, one of these two dogs, resolved to travel and trade in foreign countries. With this view, he sold his estate, and bought goods suited to the trade intended to follow.
He went away, and was absent a whole year. At the expiration of this time, a poor man, who I thought had come to ask alms, presented himself before me in my shop. I said to him, "God help you." He returned my salutation, and continued, "Is it possible you do not know me?" Upon this I looked at him narrowly, and recognised him: "Ah, brother," cried I, embracing him, "how could I know you in this condition?" I made him come into my house, and asked him concerning his health and the success of his travels. "Do not ask me that question," said he; "when you see me, you see all: it would only renew my grief, to relate to you the particulars of the misfortunes I have experienced since I left you, which have reduced me to my present condition."
I immediately shut up my shop, and taking him to a bath, gave him the best clothes I had. Finding on examining my books, that I had doubled my stock, that is to say, that I was worth two thousand sequins, I gave him one half; "With that," said I, "brother, you may make up your loss." He joyfully accepted the present, and having repaired his fortunes, we lived together, as before.
Some time after, my second brother, who is the other of these two dogs, would also sell his estate. His elder brother and myself did all we could to divert him from his purpose, but without effect. He disposed of it, and with the money bought such goods as were suitable to the trade which he designed to follow. He joined a caravan, and departed. At the end of the year he returned in the same condition as my other brother. Having myself by this time gained another thousand sequins, I made him a present of them. With this sum he furnished his shop, and continued his trade.
Some time after, one of my brothers came to me to propose that I should join them in a trading voyage; I immediately declined. "You have travelled," said I, "and what have you gained by it? Who can assure me, that I shall be more successful than you have been?" It was in vain that they urged open me all the considerations they thought likely to gain me over to their design, for I constantly refused; but after having resisted their solicitations five whole years, they importuned me so much, that at last they overcame my resolution. When, however, the time arrived that we were to make preparations for our voyage, to buy the goods necessary to the undertaking, I found they had spent all, and had not one dirrim left of the thousand sequins I had given to each of them. I did not, on this account, upbraid them. On the contrary, my stock being still six thousand sequins, I shared the half of it with them, telling them, "My brothers, we must venture these three thousand sequins, and hide the rest in some secure place: that in case our voyage be not more successful than yours was formerly, we may have wherewith to assist us, and to enable us to follow our ancient way of living." I gave each of them a thousand sequins, and keeping as much for myself, I buried the other three thousand in a corner of my house. We purchased goods, and having embarked them on board a vessel, which we freighted betwixt us, we put to sea with a favourable wind.
After two months sail, we arrived happily at port, where we landed, and had a very good market for our goods. I, especially, sold mine so well, that I gained ten to one. With the produce we bought commodities of that country, to carry back with us for sale.
When we were ready to embark on our return, I met on the sea-shore a lady, handsome enough, but poorly clad. She walked up to me gracefully, kissed my hand, besought me with the greatest earnestness imaginable to marry her, and take her along with me. I made some difficulty to agree to this proposal; but she urged so many things to persuade me that I ought not to object to her on account of her poverty, and that I should have all the reason in the world to be satisfied with her conduct, that at last I yielded. I ordered proper apparel to be made for her; and after having married her, according to form, I took her on board, and we set sail. I found my wife possessed so many good qualities, that my love to her every day increased. In the mean time my two brothers, who had not managed their affairs as successfully as I had mine, envied my prosperity; and suffered their feelings to carry them so far, that they conspired against my life; and one night, when my wife and I were asleep, threw us both into the sea.
My wife proved to be a fairy, and, by consequence, a genie, so that she could not be drowned; but for me, it is certain I must have perished, without her help. I had scarcely fallen into the water, when she took me up, and carried me to an island. When day appeared, she said to me, "You see, husband, that by saving your life, I have not rewarded you ill for your kindness to me. You must know, that I am a fairy, and being upon the sea-shore, when you were going to embark, I felt a strong desire to have you for my husband; I had a mind to try your goodness, and presented myself before you in disguise. You have dealt generously by me, and I am glad of an opportunity of returning my acknowledgment. But I am incensed against your brothers, and nothing will satisfy me but their lives."
I listened to this discourse with admiration; I thanked the fairy the best way I could, for the great kindness she had done me; "But, Madam," said I, "as for my brothers, I beg you to pardon them; whatever cause of resentment they have given me, I am not cruel enough to desire their death." I then informed her what I had done for them, but this increased her indignation; and she exclaimed, "I must immediately pursue those ungrateful traitors, and take speedy vengeance on them. I will destroy their vessel, and sink them into the bottom of the sea." "My good lady," replied I, "for heaven's sake forbear; moderate your anger, consider that they are my brothers, and that we ought to return good for evil."
I pacified her by these words; and as soon as I had concluded, she transported me in a moment from the island to the roof of my own house, which was terraced, and instantly disappeared. I descended, opened the doors, and dug up the three thousand sequins I had formerly secreted. I went afterwards to my shop, which I also opened; and was complimented by the merchants, my neighbours, upon my return. When I went back to my house, I perceived there two black dogs, which came up to me in a very submissive manner: I could not divine the meaning of this circumstance, which greatly astonished me. But the fairy, who immediately appeared, said, "Husband, be not surprised to see these dogs, they are your brothers." I was troubled at this declaration, and asked her by what power they were so transformed. "I did it," said she, "or at least authorised one of my sisters to do it, who at the same time sunk their ship. You have lost the goods you had on board, but I will compensate you another way. As to your two brothers, I have condemned them to remain five years in that shape. Their perfidiousness too well deserves such a penance." Having thus spoken and told me where I might hear of her, she disappeared.
The five years being now nearly expired, I am travelling in quest of her; and as I passed this way, I met this merchant, and the good old man who led the hind, and sat down by them. This is my history, O prince of genies! do not you think it very extraordinary?" "I own it is," replied the genie, "and on that account I remit the merchant the second third of the crime which he has committed against me."
As soon as the second old man had finished, the third began his story, after repeating the request of the two former, that the genie would pardon the merchant the other third of his crime, provided what he should relate surpassed in singularity of incidents the narratives he had already heard. The genie made him the same promise as he had given the others.
The third old man related his story to the genie; and it exceeded the two former stories so much, in the variety of wonderful adventures, that the genie was astonished; and no sooner heard the conclusion, than he said to the old man, "I remit the other third of the merchant's crime on account of your story. He is greatly obliged to all of you, for having delivered him out of his danger by what you have related, for to this he owes his life." Having spoken thus he disappeared, to the great contentment of the company.
The merchant failed not to make due acknowledgment to his deliverers. They rejoiced to see him out of danger; and bidding him adieu, each of them proceeded on his way. The merchant returned to his wife and children, and passed the rest of his days with them in peace.