STORY OF THE THREE CALENDERS, SONS OF SULTANS; AND OF THE FIVE LADIES OF BAGDAD.
In the reign of Caliph Haroon al Rusheed, there was at Bagdad, a porter, who, notwithstanding his mean and laborious business, was a fellow of wit and good humour. One morning as he was at the place where he usually plyed, with a great basket, waiting for employment, a handsome young lady, covered with a great muslin veil, accosted him, and said with a pleasant air, "Hark you, porter, take your basket and follow me." The porter, charmed with these words, pronounced in so agreeable a manner, took his basket immediately, set it on his head, and followed the lady, exclaiming, "O happy day, O day of good luck!"
In a short time the lady stopped before a gate that was shut, and knocked: a Christian, with a venerable long white beard, opened it; and she put money into his hand, without speaking; but the Christian, who knew what she wanted, went in, and in a little time, brought a large jug of excellent wine. "Take this jug," said the lady to the porter, "and put it in your basket." This being done, she commanded him to follow her; and as she proceeded, the porter continued his exclamation, "O happy day! This is a day of agreeable surprise and joy."
The lady stopped at a fruit-shop, where she bought several sorts of apples, apricots, peaches, quinces, lemons, citrons, oranges; myrtles, sweet basil, lilies, jessamin, and some other flowers and fragrant plants; she bid the porter put all into his basket, and follow her. As she went by a butcher's stall, she made him weigh her twenty five pounds of his best meat, which she ordered the porter to put also into his basket. At another shop, she took capers, tarragon, cucumbers, sassafras, and other herbs, preserved in vinegar: at another, she bought pistachios, walnuts, filberts, almonds, kernels of pine-apples, and such other fruits; and at another, all sorts of confectionery. When the porter had put all these things into his basket, and perceived that it grew full, "My good lady," said he, "you ought to have given me notice that you had so much provision to carry, and then I would have brought a horse, or rather a camel, for the purpose; for if you buy ever so little more, I shall not be able to bear it." The lady laughed at the fellow's pleasant humour, and ordered him still to follow her.
She then went to a druggist, where she furnished herself with all manner of sweet-scented waters, cloves, musk, pepper, ginger, and a great piece of ambergris, and several other Indian spices; this quite filled the porter's basket, and she ordered him to follow her. They walked till they came to a magnificent house, whose front was adorned with fine columns, and had a gate of ivory. There they stopped, and the lady knocked softly.
While the young lady and the porter waited for the opening of the gate, the porter made a thousand reflections. He wondered that such a fine lady should come abroad to buy provisions; he concluded she could not be a slave, her air was too noble, and therefore he thought she must needs be a woman of quality. Just as he was about to ask her some questions upon this head, another lady came to open the gate, and appeared to him so beautiful, that he was perfectly surprised, or rather so much struck with her charms, that he had nearly suffered his basket to fall, for he had never seen any beauty that equalled her.
The lady who brought the porter with her, perceiving his disorder, and knowing the cause, was greatly diverted, and took so much pleasure in watching his looks, that she forgot the gate was opened. "Pray, Sister," said the beautiful portress, "come in, what do you stay for? Do not you see this poor man so heavy laden, that he is scarcely able to stand,"
When she entered with the porter, the lady who had opened the gate shut it, and all three, after having passed through a splendid vestibule, entered a spacious court, encompassed with an open gallery, which had a communication with several apartments of extraordinary magnificence. At the farther end of the court there was a platform, richly furnished, with a throne of amber in the middle, supported by four columns of ebony, enriched with diamonds and pearls of an extraordinary size, and covered with red satin embroidered with Indian gold of admirable workmanship. In the middle of the court there was a fountain, faced with white marble, and full of clear water, which was copiously supplied out of the mouth of a lion of brass.
The porter, though heavy laden, could not but admire the magnificence of this house, and the excellent order in which every thing was placed; but what particularly captivated his attention, was a third lady, who seemed to be more beautiful than the second, and was seated upon the throne just mentioned; she descended as soon as she saw the two others, and advanced towards them: he judged by the respect which the other ladies showed her, that she was the chief, in which he was not mistaken. This lady was called Zobeide, she who opened the gate Safie, and she who went to buy the provisions was named Amene.
Zobeide said to the two ladies, when she came to them, "Sisters, do not you see that this honest man is ready to sink under his burden, why do not you ease him of it?" Then Amene and Safie took the basket, the one before and the other behind; Zobeide also assisted, and all three together set it on the ground; then emptied it; and when they had done, the beautiful Amene took out money, and paid the porter liberally.
The porter was well satisfied with the money he had received; but when he ought to have departed, he could not summon sufficient resolution for the purpose. He was chained to the spot by the pleasure of beholding three such beauties, who appeared to him equally charming; for Amene having now laid aside her veil, proved to be as handsome as either of the others. What surprised him most was, that he saw no man about the house, yet most of the provisions he had brought in, as the dry fruits, and the several sorts of cakes and confections, were adapted chiefly for those who could drink and make merry.
Zobeide thought at first, that the porter staid only to take breath, but perceiving that he remained too long, "What do you wait for," said she, "are you not sufficiently paid?" And turning to Amene. she continued, "Sister, give him something more, that he may depart satisfied." "Madam," replied the porter, "it is not that which detains me, I am already more than paid for my services; I am sensible that I act rudely in staying longer than I ought, but I hope you will the goodness to pardon me, when I tell you, that I am astonished not to see a man with three ladies of such extraordinary beauty: and you know that a company of women without men is as melancholy as a company of men without women." To this he added several other pleasant things, to prove what he said, and did not forget the Bagdad proverb, "That the table is not completely furnished, except there be four in company:" and so concluded, that since they were but three, they wanted another.
The ladies fell a laughing at the porter's reasoning; after which Zobeide gravely addressed him, "Friend, you presume rather too much; and though you do not deserve that I should enter into any explanation with you, I have no objection to inform you that we are three sisters, who transact our affairs with so much secrecy that no one knows any thing of them. We have but too much reason to be cautious of acquainting indiscreet persons with our counsel; and a good author that we have read, says, 'Keep thy own secret, and do not reveal it to any one. He that makes his secret known it no longer its master. If thy own breast cannot keep thy counsel, how canst thou expect the breast of another to be more faithful?'"
"My ladies," replied the porter, "by your very air, I judged at first that you were persons of extraordinary merit, and I conceive that I am not mistaken. Though fortune has not given me wealth enough to raise me above my mean profession, yet I have not omitted to cultivate my mind as much as I could, by reading books of science and history; and allow me, I beseech you, to say, that I have also read in another author a maxim which I have always happily followed: 'We conceal our secret from such persons only as are known to all the world to want discretion, and would abuse our confidence; but we hesitate not to discover it to the prudent, because we know that with them it is safe.' A secret in my keeping is as secure as if it were locked up in a cabinet, the key of which is lost, and the door sealed up."
Zobeide perceiving that the porter was not deficient in wit, but thinking he wished to share in their festivity, answered him, smiling, "You know that we have been making preparations to regale ourselves, and that, as you have seen, at a considerable expense; it is not just that you should now partake of the entertainment without contributing to the cost." The beautiful Safie seconded her sister, and said to the porter, "Friend. have you never heard the common saying, 'If you bring something with you, you shall carry something away, but if you bring nothing, you shall depart empty?'"
The porter, notwithstanding his rhetoric, must, in all probability, have retired in confusion, if Amene had not taken his part, and said to Zobeide and Safie, "My dear sisters, I conjure you to let him remain; I need not tell you that he will afford us some diversion, of this you perceive he is capable: I assure you, had it not been for his readiness, his alacrity, and courage to follow me, I could not have done so much business, in so short a time; besides, where I to repeat to you all the obliging expressions he addressed to me by the way, you would not feel surprised at my taking his part."
At these words of Amene, the porter was so transported with joy, that he fell on his knees, kissed the ground at her feet, and raising himself up, said, "Most beautiful lady, you began my good fortune to-day, and now you complete it by this generous conduct; I cannot adequately express my acknowledgments. As to the rest, ladies," said he, addressing himself to all the three sisters, "since you do me so great an honour, do not think that I will abuse it, or look upon myself as deserving of the distinction. No, I shall always look upon myself as one of your most humble slaves." When he had spoken these words he would have returned the money he had received, but Zobeide ordered him to keep it. "What we have once given," said she, "to reward those who have served us, we never take back. My friend, in consenting to your staying with us, I must forewarn you, that it is not the only condition we impose upon you that you keep inviolable the secret we may entrust to you, but we also require you to attend to the strictest rules of good manners." During this address, the charming Amene put off the apparel she went abroad with, and fastened her robe to her girdle that she might act with the greater freedom; she then brought in several sorts of meat, wine, and cups of gold. Soon after, the ladies took their places, and made the porter sit down by them, who was overjoyed to see himself seated with three such admirable beauties. After they had eaten a little, Amene took a cup, poured some wine into it, and drank first herself; she then filled the cup to her sisters, who drank in course as they sat; and at last she filled it the fourth time for the porter, who, as he received it, kissed Amene's hand; and before he drank, sung a song to this purpose. That as the wind bears with it the sweet scents of the purfumed places over which it passes, so the wine he was going to drink, coming from her fair hands, received a more exquisite flavour than it naturally possessed. The song pleased the ladies much, and each of them afterwards sung one in her turn. In short, they were all very pleasant during the repast, which lasted a considerable time, and nothing was wanting that could serve to render it agreeable. The day drawing to a close, Safie spoke in the name of the three ladies, and said to the porter, "Arise, it is time for you to depart." But the porter, not willing to leave good company, cried, "Alas! ladies, whither do you command me to go in my present condition? What with drinking and your society, I am quite beside myself. I shall never find the way home; allow me this night to recover myself, in any place you please, but go when I will, I shall leave the best part of myself behind."
Amene pleaded the second time for the porter, saying, "Sisters, he is right, I am pleased with the request, he having already diverted us so well; and, if you will take my advice, or if you love me as much as I think you do, let us keep him for the remainder of the night." "Sister," answered Zobeide, "we can refuse you nothing;" and then turning to the porter, said, "We are willing once more to grant your request, but upon this new condition, that, whatever we do in your presence relating either to ourselves or any thing else, you do not so much as open your mouth to ask the reason; for if you put any questions respecting what does not concern you, you may chance to hear what you will not like; beware therefore, and be not too inquisitive to pry into the motives of our actions.
"Madam," replied the porter, "I promise to abide by this condition, that you shall have no cause to complain, and far less to punish my indiscretion; my tongue shall be immovable on this occasion, and my eye like a looking-glass, which retains nothing of the objets that is set before it." "To shew you," said Zobeide with a serious countenance, "that what we demand of you is not a new thing among us, read what is written over our gate on the inside."
The porter went and read these words, written in large characters of gold: "He who speaks of things that do not concern him, shall hear things that will not please him." Returning again to the three sisters, "Ladies," said he, "I swear to you that you shall never hear me utter a word respecting what does not relate to me, or wherein you may have any concern."
These preliminaries being settled, Amene brought in supper, and after she had lighted up the room with tapers, made of aloe-wood and ambergris, which yield a most agreeable perfume, as well as a delicate light, she sat down with her sisters and the porter. They began again to eat and drink, to sing, and repeat verses. The ladies diverted themselves in intoxicating the porter, under pretext of making him drink their healths, and the repast was enlivened by reciprocal flashes of wit. When they were all in the best humour possible, they heard a knocking at the gate.
When the ladies heard the knocking, they all three got up to open the gate; but Safie was the nimblest; which her sisters perceiving, they resumed their seats. Safie returning, said, "Sisters, we have a very fine opportunity of passing a good part of the night pleasantly, and if you agree with me, you will not suffer it to go by. There are three calenders at our gate, at least they appear to be such by their habit; but what will surprise you is, they are all three blind of the right eye, and have their heads, beards, and eye-brows shaved. They say, they are but just come to Bagdad, where they never were before; it being night, and not knowing where to find a lodging, they happened by chance to knock at this gate, and pray us, for the love of heaven, to have compassion on them, and receive them into the house. They care not what place we put them in, provided they may be under shelter; they would be satisfied with a stable. They are young and handsome, and seem not to want spirit. But I cannot without laughing think of their amusing and uniform figure." Here Safie laughed so heartily, that the two sisters and the porter could not refrain from laughing also. "My dear sisters," said she, "you will permit them to come in; it is impossible but that with such persons as I have described them to be, we shall finish the day better than we began it; they will afford us diversion enough, and put us to no charge, because they desire shelter only for this night, and resolve to leave us as soon as day appears."
Zobeide and Amene made some difficulty to grant Safie's request, for reasons which she herself well knew. But being very desirous to obtain this favour, they could not refuse her; "Go then," said Zobeide, "and bring them in, but do not forget to acquaint them that they must not speak of any thing which does not concern them, and cause them to read what is written over the gate." Safie ran out with joy, and in a little time after returned with the three calenders.
At their entrance they made a profound obeisance to the ladies, who rose up to receive them, and told them courteously that they were welcome, that they were glad of the opportunity to oblige them, and to contribute towards relieving the fatigues of their journey, and at last invited them to sit down with them.
The magnificence of the place, and the civility they received, inspired the calenders with high respect for the ladies: but, before they sat down, having by chance cast their eyes upon the porter, whom they saw clad almost like those devotees with whom they have continual disputes respecting several points of discipline, because they never shave their beards nor eye-brows; one of them said, "I believe we have got here one of our revolted Arabian brethren."
The porter having his head warm with wine, took offence and with a fierce look, without stirring from his place, answered, "Sit you down, and do not meddle with what does not concern you: have you not read the inscription over the gate? Do not pretend to make people live after your fashion, but follow ours."
"Honest man," said the calender, "do not put yourself in a passion; we should be sorry to give you the least occasion; on the contrary, we are ready to receive your commands." Upon which, to put an end to the dispute, the ladies interposed, and pacified them. When the calenders were seated, the ladies served them with meat; and Safie, being highly pleased with them, did not let them want for wine.
After the calenders had eaten and drunk liberally, they signified to the ladies, that they wished to entertain them with a concert of music, if they had any instruments in the house, and would cause them to be brought: they willingly accepted the proposal, and fair Safie going to fetch them, returned again in a moment, and presented them with a flute of her own country fashion, another of the Persian, and a tabor. Each man took the instrument he liked, and all three together began to play a tune The ladies, who knew the words of a merry song that suited the air, joined the concert with their voices; but the words of the song made them now and then stop, and fall into excessive laughter.
In the height of this diversion, when the company were in the midst of their jollity, a knocking was heard at the gate; Safie left off singing, and went to see who it was. The caliph Haroon al Rusheed was frequently in the habit of walking abroad in disguise by night, that he might discover if every thing was quiet in the city, and see that no disorders were committed.
This night the caliph went out on his rambles, accompanied by Jaaffier his grand vizier, and Mesrour the chief of the eunuchs of his palace, all disguised in merchants' habits; and passing through the street where the three ladies dwelt, he heard the sound of music and fits of loud laughter; upon which he commanded the vizier, to knock, as he wished to enter to ascertain the reason. The vizier, in vain represented to him that the noise proceeded from some women who were merry-making, that without question their heads were warm with wine, and that it would not be proper he should expose himself to be affronted by them: besides, it was not yet an unlawful hour, and therefore he ought not to disturb them in their mirth. "No matter," said the caliph, "I command you to knock." Jaaffier complied; Safie opened the gate, and the vizier, perceiving by the light in her hand, that she was an incomparable beauty, with a very low salutation said, "We are three merchants of Mossoul, who arrived here about ten days ago with rich merchandise, which we have in a warehouse at a caravan-serai, where we have also our lodging. We happened this evening to be with a merchant of this city, who invited us to his house, where we had a splendid entertainment: and the wine having put us in good humour, he sent for a company of dancers. Night being come on, and the music and dancers making a great noise, the watch, passing by, caused the gate to be opened and some of the company to be taken up; but we had the good fortune to escape by getting over the wall. Being strangers, and somewhat overcome with wine, we are afraid of meeting that or some other watch, before we get home to our khan. Besides, before we can arrive there the gates will be shut, and will not be opened till morning: wherefore, hearing, as we passed by this way, the sound of music, we supposed you were not yet going to rest, and made bold to knock at your gate, to beg the favour of lodging ourselves in the house till morning; and if you think us worthy of your good company, we will endeavour to contribute to your diversion to the best of our power, to make some amends for the interruption we have given you; if not, we only beg the favour of staying this night in your vestibule."
Whilst Jaaffier was speaking, Safie had time to observe the vizier, and his two companions, who were said to be merchants like himself, and told them that she was not mistress of the house; but if they would have a minute's patience, she would return with an answer.
Safie made the business known to her sisters, who considered for some time what to do: but being naturally of a good disposition, and having granted the same favour to the three calenders, they at last consented to let them in.
The caliph, his grand vizier, and the chief of the eunuchs, being introduced by the fair Safie, very courteously saluted the ladies and the calenders. The ladies returned their salutations, supposing them to be merchants. Zobeide, as the chief, addressed them with a grave and serious countenance, which was natural to her, and said, "You are welcome. But before I proceed farther, I hope you will not take it ill if we desire one favour of you." "Alas!" said the vizier, "what favour? We can refuse nothing to such fair ladies." Zobeide continued, "It is that, while here, you would have eyes, but no tongues; that you question us not for the reason of any thing you may see, and speak not of any thing that does not concern you, lest you hear what will by no means please you."
"Madam," replied the vizier, "you shall be obeyed. We are not censorious, nor impertinently curious; it is enough for us to notice affairs that concern us, without meddling with what does not belong to us." Upon this they all sat down, and the company being united, they drank to the health of the new-comers.
While the vizier, entertained the ladies in conversation, the caliph could not forbear admiring their extraordinary beauty, graceful behaviour, pleasant humour, and ready wit; on the other hand, nothing struck him with more surprise than the calenders being all three blind of the right eye. He would gladly have learnt the cause of this singularity; but the conditions so lately imposed upon himself and his companions would not allow him to speak. These circumstances, with the richness of the furniture, the exact order of every thing, and the neatness of the house, made him think they were in some enchanted place.
Their conversation happening to turn upon diversions, and the different ways of making merry; the calenders arose, and danced after their fashion, which augmented the good opinion the ladies had conceived of them, and procured them the esteem of the caliph and his companions.
When the three calenders had finished their dance, Zobeide arose, and taking Amene by the hand, said, "Pray, sister, arise, for the company will not be offended if we use our freedom, and their presence need not hinder the performance of our customary exercise." Amene understanding her sister's meaning, rose from her seat, carried away the dishes, the flasks and cups, together with the instruments which the calenders had played upon.
Safie was not idle, but swept the room, put every thing again in its place, trimmed the lamps, and put fresh aloes and ambergris to them; this being done, she requested the three calenders to sit down upon the sofa at one side, and the caliph with his companions on the other: then addressing herself to the porter, she said, "Get up, and prepare yourself to assist us in what we are going to do; a man like you, who is one of the family, ought not to be idle." The porter, being somewhat recovered from his wine, arose immediately, and having tied the sleeve of his gown to his belt, answered, "Here am I, ready to obey your commands." "Very well," replied Safie, "stay till you are spoken to; and you shall not be idle long." A little time after, Amene came in with a chair, which she placed in the middle of the room; and then went towards a closet. Having opened the door, she beckoned to the porter, and said, "Come hither and assist me." He obeyed, and entered the closet, and returned immediately, leading two black bitches, each of them secured by a collar and chain; they appeared as if they had been severely whipped with rods, and he brought them into the middle of the apartment.
Zobeide, rising from her seat between the calenders and the caliph, moved very gravely towards the porter; "Come," said she, heaving a deep sigh, "let us perform our duty:" she then tucked up her sleeves above her elbows, and receiving a rod from Safie, "Porter," said she, "deliver one of the bitches to my sister Amene, and bring the other to me."
The porter did as he was commanded. Upon this the bitch that he held in his hand began to howl, and turning towards Zobeide, held her head up in a supplicating posture; but Zobeide, having no regard to the sad countenance of the animal, which would have moved pity, nor to her cries that resounded through the house, whipped her with the rod till she was out of breath; and having spent her strength, threw down the rod, and taking the chain from the porter, lifted up the bitch by her paws, and looking upon her with a sad and pitiful countenance, they both wept: after which, Zobeide, with her handkerchief, wiped the tears from the bitch's eye, kissed her, returned the chain to the porter, desired him to carry her to the place whence he took her, and bring her the other. The porter led back the whipped bitch to the closet, and receiving the other from Amene, presented her to Zobeide, who requested him to hold her as he had done the first, took up the rod, and treated her after the same manner; and when she had wept over her, she dried her eyes, kissed her, and returned her to the porter: but Amene spared him the trouble of leading her back into the closet, and did it herself. The three calenders, with the caliph and his companions, were extremely surprised at this exhibition, and could not comprehend why Zobeide, after having so furiously beaten those two bitches, that by the moosulman religion are reckoned unclean animals, should weep with them, wipe off their tears, and kiss them. They muttered among themselves, and the caliph, who, being more impatient than the rest, longed exceedingly to be informed of the cause of so strange a proceeding, could not forbear making signs to the vizier to ask the question: the vizier turned his head another way; but being pressed by repeated signs, he answered by others, that it was not yet time for the caliph to satisfy his curiosity.
Zobeide sat still some time in the middle of the room, where she had whipped the two bitches, to recover herself of her fatigue; and Safie called to her, "Dear sister, will you not be pleased to return to your place, that I may also aft my part?" "Yes, sister," replied Zobeide; and then went, and sat down upon the sofa, having the caliph, Jaaffier, and Mesrour, on her right hand, and the three calenders, with the porter, on her left.
After Zobeide had taken her seat, the whole company remained silent for some time; at last, Safie, sitting on a chair in the middle of the room, spoke to her sister Amene, "Dear sister, I conjure you to rise; you know what I would say." Amene rose, and went into another closet, near to that where the bitches were, and brought out a case covered with yellow satin, richly embroidered with gold and green silk. She went towards Safie and opened the case, from whence she took a lute, and presented it to her: and after some time spent in tuning it, Safie began to play, and accompanying the instrument with her voice, sung a song about the torments that absence creates to lovers, with so much sweetness, that it charmed the caliph and all the company. Having sung with much passion and action, she said to Amene, "Pray take it, sister, for my voice fails me; oblige the company with a tune, and a song in my stead." "Very willingly," replied Amene, who, taking the lute from her sister Safie, sat down in her place.
Amene played and sung almost as long upon the same subject, but with so much vehemence, and was so much affected, or rather transported, by the words of the song, that her strength failed her as she finished.
Zobeide, desirous of testifying her satisfaction, said, "Sister, you have done wonders, and we may easily see that you feel the grief you have expressed in so lively a manner." Amene was prevented from answering this civility, her heart being so sensibly touched at the moment, that she was obliged, for air, to uncover her neck and bosom, which did not appear so fair as might have been expected; but, on the contrary, were black and full of scars, which surprised and affected all the spectators. However, this gave her no ease, for she fell into a fit.
When Zobeide and Safie had run to help their sister, one of the calenders could not forbear saying, "We had better have slept in the streets than have come hither to behold such spectacles." The caliph, who heard this, came to him and the other calenders, and asked them what might be the meaning of all this? They answered, "We know no more than you do." "What," said the caliph, "are you not of the family? Can you not resolve us concerning the two black bitches and the lady that fainted away, who appears to have been so basely abused?" "Sir," said the calenders, "this is the first time of our being in the house; we came in but a few minutes before you."
This increased the caliph's astonishment: "Probably," said he, "this man who is with you may know something of the matter." One of the calenders beckoned the porter to come near; and asked him, whether he knew why those two black bitches had been whipped, and why Amene's bosom was so scarred. "Sir," said the porter, "I can swear by heaven, that if you know nothing of all this, I know as little as you do. It is true, I live in this city, but I never was in the house until now, and if you are surprised to see me I am as much so to find myself in your company; and that which increases my wonder is, that I have not seen one man with these ladies."
The caliph and his company, as well as the calenders, had supposed the porter to be one of the family, and hoped he would have been able to give them the information they sought; but finding he could not, and resolving to satisfy his curiosity, the caliph said to the rest, "We are seven men, and have but three women to deal with; let us try if we can oblige them to explain what we have seen, and if they refuse by fair means, we are in a condition to compel them by force."
The grand vizier Jaaffier objected to this, and shewed the caliph what might be the consequence. Without discovering the prince to the calenders, he addressed him as if he had been a merchant, and said, "Consider, I pray you, that our reputation is at stake. You know the conditions on which these ladies consented to receive us, and which we agreed to observe; what will they say of us if we break them? We shall be still more to blame, if any mischief befall us; for it is not likely that they would have extorted such a promise from us, without knowing themselves to be in a condition to punish us for its violation."
Here the vizier took the caliph aside, and whispered to him, "The night will soon be at an end, and if your majesty will only be pleased to have so much patience, I will to-morrow morning bring these ladies before your throne, where you may be informed of all that you desire to know." Though this advice was very judicious, the caliph rejected it, desired the vizier to hold his tongue, and said, he would not wait so long, but would immediately have his curiosity satisfied.
The next business was to settle who should carry the message. The caliph endeavoured to prevail with the calenders to speak first; but they excused themselves, and at last they agreed that the porter should be the man: as they were consulting how to word this fatal question, Zobeide returned from her sister Amene, who was recovered of her fit. She drew near them, and having overheard them speaking pretty loud, said, "Gentlemen, what is the subject of your conversation? What are you disputing about?"
The porter answered immediately, "Madam, these gentlemen beseech you to inform them why you wept over your two bitches after you had whipped them so severely, and how the bosom of that lady who lately fainted away came to be so full of scars? These are the questions I am ordered to ask in their name."
At these words, Zobeide put on a stern countenance, and turning towards the caliph and the rest of the company, "Is it true, gentlemen," said she, "that you desired him to ask me these questions?" All of them, except the vizier Jaaffier, who spoke not a word, answered, "Yes." On which she exclaimed, in a tone that sufficiently expressed her resentment, "Before we granted you the favour of receiving you into our house, and to prevent all occasion of trouble from you, because we are alone, we imposed the condition that you should not speak of any thing that did not concern you, lest you might hear that which would not please you; and yet after having received and entertained you, you make no scruple to break your promise. It is true that our easy temper has occasioned this, but that shall not excuse your rudeness." As she spoke these words, she gave three stamps with her foot, and clapping her hands as often together, cried, "Come quickly:" upon this, a door flew open, and seven black slaves rushed in; every one seized a man, threw him on the ground, and dragged him into the middle of the room, brandishing a cimeter over his head.
We may easily conceive the caliph then repented, but too late, that he had not taken the advice of his vizier, who, with Mesrour, the calenders and porter, was from his ill-timed curiosity on the point of forfeiting his life. Before they would strike the fatal blow, one of the slaves said to Zobeide, and her sisters: "High, mighty, and adorable mistresses, do you command us to strike off their heads?" "Stay," said Zobeide, "I must examine them first." The frightened porter interrupted her thus: "In the name of heaven, do not put me to death for another man's crime. I am innocent; they are to blame." "Alas!" said he, weeping, "how pleasantly did we pass our time! those blind calenders are the cause of this misfortune; there is no town in the world but suffers wherever these inauspicious fellows come. Madam, I beg you not to destroy the innocent with the guilty, and consider, that it is more glorious to pardon such a wretch as I am, who have no way to help myself, than to sacrifice me to your resentment."
Zobeide, notwithstanding her anger, could not but laugh within herself at the porter's lamentation: but without replying to him, she spoke a second time to the rest; "Answer me, and say who you are, otherwise you shall not live one moment longer: I cannot believe you to be honest men, or persons of authority or distinction in your own countries; for if you were, you would have been more modest and more respectful to us."
The caliph, naturally warm, was infinitely more indignant than the rest, to find his life depending upon the command of a woman: but he began to conceive some hopes, when he found she wished to know who they all were; for he imagined she would not put him to death, when informed of his quality; therefore he spoke with a low voice to the vizier, who was near him, to declare it speedily: but the vizier, more prudent, resolved to save his master's honour, and not let the world know the affront he had brought upon himself by his own imprudence; and therefore answered, "We have what we deserve." But if he had intended to speak as the caliph commanded him, Zobeide would not have allowed him time: for having turned to the calenders, and seeing them all blind with one eye, she asked if they were brothers. One of them answered, "No, madam, no otherwise than as we are calenders; that is to say, as we observe the same rules." "Were you born blind of the right eye," continued she? "No, madam," answered he; "I lost my eye in such a surprising adventure, that it would be instructive to every body were it in writing: after that misfortune I shaved my beard and eyebrows, and took the habit of a calender which I now wear."
Zobeide asked the other two calenders the same question, and had the same answers; but the last who spoke added, "Madam, to shew you that we are no common fellows, and that you may have some consideration for us, be pleased to know, that we are all three sons of sultans; and though we never met together till this evening, yet we have had time enough to make that known to one another; and I assure you that the sultans from whom we derive our being were famous in the world."
At this discourse Zobeide suppressed her anger, and said to the slaves, "Give them their liberty a while, but remain where you are. Those who tell us their history, and the occasion of their coming, do them no hurt, let them go where they please; but do not spare those who refuse to give us that satisfaction."
The three calendars, the caliph, the grand vizier, Jaaffier, the eunuch Mesrour, and the porter, were all in the middle of the hall, seated upon a carpet in the presence of the three ladies, who reclined upon a sofa, and the slaves stood ready to do whatever their mistresses should command.
The porter, understanding that he might extricate himself from danger by telling his history, spoke first, and said, "Madam, you know my history already, and the occasion of my coming hither; so that what I have to say will be very short. My lady, your sister, called me this morning at the place where I plyed as porter to see if any body would employ me, that I might get my bread; I followed her to a vintner's, then to a herb-shop, then to one where oranges, lemons, and citrons were sold, then to a grocer's, next to a confectioner's, and a druggist's, with my basket upon my head as full as I was able to carry it; then I came hither, where you had the goodness to suffer me to continue till now, a favour that I shall never forget. This, madam, is my history."
When the porter had done, Zobeide said to him, "Depart, let us see you here no more." "Madam," replied the porter, "I beg you to let me stay; it would not be just, after the rest have had the pleasure to hear my history, that I should not also have the satisfaction of hearing theirs." And having spoken thus, he sat down at the end of the sofa, glad at heart to have escaped the danger that had frightened him so much. After him, one of the three calenders directing his speech to Zobeide, as the principal of the three ladies, began thus:
The History of the First Calender.
Madam, in order to inform you how I lost my right eye, and why I was obliged to put myself into a calender's habit, I must tell you, that I am a sultan's son born: my father had a brother who reigned over a neighbouring kingdom; and the prince his son and I were nearly of the same age.
After I had learned my exercises, the sultan my father granted me such liberty as suited my dignity. I went regularly every year to see my uncle, at whose court I amused myself for a month or two, and then returned again to my father's. These journeys cemented a firm and intimate friendship between the prince my cousin and myself. The last time I saw him, he received me with greater demonstrations of tenderness than he had done at any time before; and resolving one day to give me a treat, he made great preparations for that purpose. We continued a long time at table, and after we had both supped; "Cousin," said he, "you will hardly be able to guess how I have been employed since your last departure from hence, about a year past. I have had a great many men at work to perfect a design I have formed; I have caused an edifice to be built, which is now finished so as to be habitable: you will not be displeased if I shew it you. But first you are to promise me upon oath, that you will keep my secret, according to the confidence I repose in you."
The affection and familiarity that subsisted between us would not allow me to refuse him any thing. I very readily took the oath required of me: upon which he said to me, "Stay here till I return, I will be with you in a moment; and accordingly he came with a lady in his hand, of singular beauty, and magnificently apparelled: he did not intimate who she was, neither did I think it would be polite to enquire. We sat down again with this lady at table, where we continued some time, conversing upon indifferent subjects; and now and then filling a glass to each other's health. After which the prince said, "Cousin, we must lose no time; therefore pray oblige me by taking this lady along with you, and conducting her to such a place, where you will see a tomb newly built in form of a dome: you will easily know it; the gate is open; enter it together, and tarry till I come, which will be very speedily."
Being true to my oath, I made no farther enquiry, but took the lady by the hand, and by the directions which the prince my cousin had given me, I brought her to the place. We were scarcely got thither, when we saw the prince following us, carrying a pitcher of water, a hatchet, and a little bag of mortar.
The hatchet served him to break down the empty sepulchre in the middle of the tomb; he took away the stones one after another, and laid them in a corner; he then dug up the ground, where I saw a trap-door under the sepulchre, which he lifted up, and underneath perceived the head of a staircase leading into a vault. Then my cousin, speaking to the lady, said, "Madam, it is by this way that we are to go to the place I told you of:" upon which the lady advanced, and went down, and the prince began to follow; but first turning to me, said, "My dear cousin, I am infinitely obliged to you for the trouble you have taken; I thank you. Adieu." "Dear cousin," I cried, "what is the meaning of this?" "Be content," replied he; "you may return the way you came."
I could get nothing farther from him, but was obliged to take my leave. As I returned to my uncle's palace, the vapours of the wine got up into my head; however, I reached my apartment, and went to bed. Next morning, when I awoke, I began to reflect upon what had happened, and after recollecting all the circumstances of such a singular adventure, I fancied it was nothing but a dream. Full of these thoughts, I sent to enquire if the prince my cousin was ready to receive a visit from me; but when they brought word back that he did not lie in his own lodgings that night, that they knew not what was become of him, and were in much trouble in consequence, I conceived that the strange event of the tomb was too true. I was sensibly afflicted, and went to the public burying-place, where there were several tombs like that which I had seen: I spent the day in viewing them one after another, but could not find that I sought for, and thus I spent four days successively in vain.
You must know, that all this while the sultan my uncle was absent, and had been hunting for several days; I grew weary of waiting for him, and having prayed his ministers to make my apology at his return, left his palace, and set out towards my father's court. I left the ministers of the sultan my uncle in great trouble, surmising what was become of the prince: but because of my oath to keep his secret, I durst not tell them what I had seen.
I arrived at my father's capital, where, contrary to custom, I found a numerous guard at the gate of the palace, who surrounded me as I entered. I asked the reason, and the commanding officer replied, "Prince, the army has proclaimed the grand vizier, instead of your father, who is dead, and I take you prisoner in the name of the new sultan." At these words the guards laid hold of me, and carried me before the tyrant: I leave you to judge, madam, how much I was surprised and grieved.
This rebel vizier, had long entertained a mortal hatred against me; for this reason. When I was a stripling, I loved to shoot with a cross-bow; and being one day upon the terrace of the palace with my bow, a bird happening to come by, I shot but missed him, and the ball by misfortune hit the vizier, who was taking the air upon the terrace of his own house, and put out one of his eyes. As soon as I understood this, I not only sent to make my excuse to him, but did it in person: yet he never forgave me, and, as opportunity offered, made me sensible of his resentment. But now that he had me in his power, he expressed his feelings; for he came to me like a madman, as soon as he saw me, and thrusting his finger into my right eye, pulled it out, and thus I became blind of one eye.
But the usurper's cruelty did not stop here; he ordered me to be shut up in a machine, and commanded the executioner to carry me into the country, to cut off my head, and leave me to be devoured by birds of prey. The executioner conveyed me thus shut up into the country, in order to execute the barbarous sentence; but by my prayers and tears, I moved the man's compassion: "Go," said he to me, "get you speedily out of the kingdom, and take heed of returning, or you will certainly meet your own ruin, and be the cause of mine." I thanked him for the favour he did me; and as soon as I was left alone, comforted myself for the loss of my eye, by considering that I had very narrowly escaped a much greater evil.
Being in such a condition, I could not travel far at a time; I retired to remote places during the day, and travelled as far by night as my strength would allow me. At last I arrived in the dominions of the sultan my uncle, and came to his capital.
I gave him a long detail of the tragical cause of my return, and of the sad condition he saw me in. "Alas!" cried he, "was it not enough for me to have lost my son, but must I have also news of the death of a brother I loved so dearly, and see you reduced to this deplorable condition?" He told me how uneasy he was that he could hear nothing of his son, notwithstanding all the enquiry he could make. At these words, the unfortunate father burst into tears, and was so much afflicted, that pitying his grief, it was impossible for me to keep the secret any longer; so that, notwithstanding my oath to the prince my cousin, I told the sultan all that I knew.
His majesty listened to me with some sort of comfort, and when I had done, "Nephew," said he, "what you tell me gives me some hope. I knew that my son ordered that tomb to be built, and I can guess pretty nearly the place; and with the idea you still have of it, I fancy we shall find it: but since he ordered it to be built privately, and you took your oath to keep his secret, I am of opinion, that we ought to go in quest of it without other attendants." But he had another reason for keeping the matter secret, which he did not then tell me, and an important one it was, as you will perceive by the sequel of my story.
We disguised ourselves and went out by a door of the garden which opened into the fields, and soon found what we sought for. I knew the tomb, and was the more rejoiced, because I had formerly sought it a long time in vain. We entered, and found the iron trap pulled down at the head of the staircase; we had great difficulty in raising it, because the prince had fastened it inside with the water and mortar formerly mentioned, but at last we succeeded.
The sultan my uncle descended first, I followed, and we went down about fifty steps. When we came to the foot of the stairs, we found a sort of antechamber, full of thick smoke of an ill scent, which obscured the lamp, that gave a very faint light.
From this antechamber we came into another, very large, supported by columns, and lighted by several branched candlesticks. There was a cistern in the middle, and provisions of several sorts stood on one side of it; but we were much surprised not to see any person. Before us there appeared a high estrade, which we mounted by several steps, and upon this there was a large bed, with curtains drawn. The sultan went up, and opening the curtains, perceived the prince his son and the lady in bed together, but burnt and changed to cinder, as if they had been thrown into a fire, and taken out before they were consumed.
But what surprised me most was, that though this spectacle filled me with horror, the sultan my uncle, instead of testifying his sorrow to see the prince his son in such a condition, spat on his face, and exclaimed, with a disdainful air, "This is the punishment of this world, but that of the other will last to eternity;" and not content with this, he pulled off his sandal, and gave the corpse of his son a blow on the cheek.
I cannot adequately express how much I was astonished when I saw the sultan my uncle abuse his son thus after he was dead. "Sir," said I, "whatever grief this dismal sight has impressed upon me, I am forced to suspend it, to enquire of your majesty what crime the prince my cousin may have committed, that his corpse should deserve such indignant treatment?" "Nephew," replied the sultan, "I must tell you, that my son (who is unworthy of that name) loved his sister from his infancy, as she did him: I did not check their growing fondness, because I did not foresee its pernicious consequence. This tenderness increased as they grew in years, and to such a height, that I dreaded the end of it. At last, I applied such remedies as were in my power: I not only gave my son a severe reprimand in private, laying before him the horrible nature of the passion he entertained, and the eternal disgrace he would bring upon my family, if he persisted; but I also represented the same to my daughter, and shut her up so close that she could have no conversation with her brother. But that unfortunate creature had swallowed so much of the poison, that all the obstacles which by my prudence I could lay in the way served only to inflame her love.
"My son being persuaded of his sister's constancy, on presence of building a tomb, caused this subterraneous habitation to be made, in hopes of finding one day or other an opportunity to possess himself of that objets which was the cause of his flame, and to bring her hither. He took advantage of my absence, to enter by force into the place of his sister's confinement; but this was a circumstance which my honour would not suffer me to make public. And after so damnable an action, he came and shut himself up with her in this place, which he has supplied, as you see, with all sorts of provisions, that he might enjoy detestable pleasures, which ought to be a subject of horror to all the world; but God, who would not suffer such an abomination, has justly punished them both." At these words, he melted into tears, and I joined mine with his.
After a while, casting his eyes upon me, "Dear nephew," cried he, embracing me, "if I have lost that unworthy son, I shall happily find in you what will better supply his place." The reflections he made on the doleful end of the prince and princess his daughter made us both weep afresh.
We ascended the stairs again, and departed at last from that dismal place. We let down the trap door, and covered it with earth, and such other materials as the tomb was built of, on purpose to hide, as much as lay in our power, so terrible an effect of the wrath of God.
We had not been long returned to the palace, unperceived by any one, but we heard a confused noise of trumpets, drums, and other instruments of war. We soon understood by the thick cloud of dust, which almost darkened the air, that it was the arrival of a formidable army: and it proved to be the same vizier that had dethroned my father, and usurped his place, who with a vast number of troops was come to possess himself of that also of the sultan my uncle.
My uncle, who then had only his usual guards about him, could not resist so numerous an enemy; they invested the city, and the gates being opened to them without any resistance, soon became masters of it, and broke into the palace where my uncle defended himself, and sold his life at a dear rate. I fought as valiantly for a while; but seeing we were forced to submit to a superior power, I thought on my retreat, which I had the good fortune to effect by some back ways, and got to one of the sultan's servants on whose fidelity I could depend.
Being thus surrounded with sorrows and persecuted by fortune, I had recourse to a stratagem, which was the only means left me to save my life: I caused my beard and eye-brows to be shaved, and putting on a calender's habit, I passed, unknown by any, out of the city; after that, by degrees, I found it easy to quit my uncle's kingdom, by taking the bye-roads.
I avoided passing through towns, until I had reached the empire of the mighty governor of the Moosulmauns, the glorious and renowned caliph Haroon al Rusheed, when I thought myself out of danger; and considering what I was to do, I resolved to come to Bagdad, intending to throw myself at the feet of that monarch, whose generosity is renowned throughout the world. "I shall move him to compassion," said I to myself, "by the relation of my uncommon misfortunes, and without doubt he will take pity on a persecuted prince, and not suffer me to implore his assistance in vain."
In short, after a journey of several months, I arrived yesterday at the gate of this city, into which I entered about the dusk of evening ; and stopping a little while to consider which way I was to turn, another calender came up; he saluted me, and I him: "You appear," said I, "to be a stranger, as I am." "You are not mistaken," replied he. He had no sooner returned this answer, than a third calender overtook us. He saluted us, and told us he was a stranger newly come to Bagdad; so that as brethren we joined together, resolving not to separate from one another.
It was now late, and we knew not where to seek a lodging in the city, where we had never been before. But good fortune having brought us to your gate, we made bold to knock, when you received us with so much kindness, that we are incapable of rendering suitable thanks. "This, madam," said he, "is, in obedience to your commands, the account I was to give how I lost my right eye, wherefore my beard and eye-brows are shaved, and how I came to be with you at this time."
"It is enough," said Zobeide; "you may retire to what place you think fit." The calender begged the ladies' permission to stay till he had heard the relations of his two comrades, "Whom I cannot," said he, "leave with honour;" and that he might also hear those of the three other persons in company.
The story of the first calender seemed wonderful to the whole company, but especially to the caliph, who, notwithstanding the slaves stood by with their cimeters drawn, could not forbear whispering to the vizier "Many stories have I heard, but never any that equalled in surprising incident that of the calender." Whilst he was saying this, the second calender began, addressing himself to Zobeide.
The Story of the Second Calender.
Madam, to obey your commands, and to shew you by what strange accident I became blind of the right eye, I must of necessity give you the account of my life.
I was scarcely past my infancy, when the sultan my father (for you must know I am a prince by birth) perceived that I was endowed with good natural ability, and spared nothing proper for improving it.
No sooner was I able to read and write, but I learned the Koraun from beginning to end by heart, that admirable book, which contains the foundation, the precepts, and the rules of our religion; and that I might be thoroughly instructed in it, I read the works of the most approved divines, by whose commentaries it had been explained. I added to this study, that of all the traditions collected from the mouth of our prophet, by the great men that were contemporary with him. I was not satisfied with the knowledge of all that had any relation to our religion, but made also a particular search into our histories. I made myself perfect in polite learning, in the works of poets, and versification. I applied myself to geography, chronology, and to speak the Arabian language in its purity; not forgetting in the meantime all such exercises as were proper for a prince to understand. But one thing which I was fond of, and succeeded in, was penmanship; wherein I surpassed all the celebrated scribes of our kingdom.
Fame did me more honour than I deserved, for she not only spread the renown of my talents through all the dominions of the sultan my father, but carried it as far as the empire of Hindoostan, whose potent monarch, desirous to see me, sent an ambassador with rich presents: my father, who rejoiced at this embassy for several reasons, was persuaded, that nothing could be more improving to a prince of my age than to travel and visit foreign courts; and he wished to gain the friendship of the Indian monarch. I departed with the ambassador, but with no great retinue.
When we had travelled about a month, we discovered at a distance a cloud of dust, and under that we saw very soon fifty horsemen well armed, who were robbers, advancing towards us at full speed.
As we had ten horses laden with baggage, and presents to the sultan of Hindoostan, from my father, and my retinue was but small, you may easily judge that these robbers came boldly up to us; and not being in a posture to make any opposition, we told them, that we were ambassadors, and hoped they would attempt nothing contrary to the respect due to such sacred characters, thinking by this means to save our equipage and our lives: but the robbers most insolently replied, "For what reason would you have us shew any respect to the sultan your master? We are none of his subjects, nor are we upon his territories:" having spoken thus, they surrounded and fell upon us: I defended myself as long as I could; but finding myself wounded, and seeing the ambassador with his attendants and mine lying on the ground, I made use of what strength was yet remaining in my horse, who was also very much wounded, and rode away as fast as he could carry me; but he shortly after, from weariness and the loss of blood, fell down dead. I cleared myself from him unhurt, and finding that I was not pursued, judged the robbers were not willing to quit the booty they had obtained.
Here you see me, alone, wounded, destitute of help, and in a strange country. I durst not take the high road, fearing I might fall again into the hands of these robbers. When I had bound up my wound, which was not dangerous, I walked on the rest of the day, and arrived at the foot of
mountain, where I perceived a passage into a cave; I went in, and staid there that night with little satisfaction, after I had eaten some fruits that I had gathered by the way.
I continued my journey for several days following, without finding any place of abode: but after a month's time, I came to a large town well inhabited, and situated so much the more advantageously, as it was surrounded by several streams, so that it enjoyed perpetual spring.
The pleasant objects which then presented themselves to my view afforded me some joy, and suspended for a time the sorrow with which I was overwhelmed. My face, hands, and feet were black and sun-burnt; and, by my long journey, my boots were quite worn out, so that I was forced to walk bare-footed; and besides, my clothes were all in rags I entered the town to inform myself where I was, and addressed myself to a tailor that was at work in his shop; who, perceiving by my air that I was a person of more note than my outward appearance bespoke, made me sit down by him, and asked me who I was, from whence I came, and what had brought me thither? I did not conceal anything that had befallen me, nor made I any scruple to discover my quality.
The tailor listened to me with attention; but after had done speaking, instead of giving me any consolation, he augmented my sorrow: "Take heed," said he, "how you discover to any person what you have related to me; for the prince of this country is the greatest enemy your father has, and he will certainly do you some mischief, should he hear of your being in this city." I made no doubt of the tailor's sincerity, when he named the prince: but since that enmity which is between my father and him has no relation to my adventures, I pass it over in silence.
I returned the tailor thanks for his advice, expressed himself disposed to follow his counsel, and assured him that his favours should never be forgotten. He ordered something to be brought for me to eat, and offered me at the same time a lodging in his house, which I accepted. Some days after, finding me tolerably well recovered of the fatigue I had endured by a long and tedious journey, and reflecting that most princes of our religion applied themselves to some art or calling that might be serviceable to them upon occasion, he asked me, if I had learned any whereby I might get a livelihood, and not be burdensome to others? I told him that I understood the laws, both divine and human; that I was a grammarian and poet; and above all, that I could write with great perfection. "By all this," said he, "you will not be able, in this country, to purchase yourself one morsel of bread; nothing is of less use here than those sciences; but if you will be advised by me, dress yourself in a labourer's habit; and since you appear to be strong, and of a good constitution, you shall go into the next forest and cut fire-wood, which you may bring to the market to be sold; and I can assure you this employment will turn to so good an account that you may live by it, without dependence upon any man; and by this means you will be in a condition to wait for the favourable minute, when heaven shall think fit to dispel those clouds of misfortune that thwart your happiness, and oblige you to conceal your birth; I will take care to supply you with a rope and a hatchet."
The fear of being known, and the necessity I was under of getting a livelihood, made me agree to this proposal, notwithstanding the meanness and hardships that attended it. The day following the tailor brought me a rope. a hatchet, and a short coat, and recommended me to some poor people who gained their bread after the same manner, that they might take me into their company. They conducted me to the wood, and the first day I brought in as much upon my head as procured me half a piece of gold, of the money of that country; for though the wood was not far distant from the town, yet it was very scarce, by reason that few would be at the trouble of fetching it for themselves. I gained a good sum of money in a short time, and repaid my tailor what he had advanced to me
I continued this way of living for a whole year. One day, having by chance penetrated farther into the wood than usual, I happened to light on a pleasant spot, where I began to cut; and in pulling up the root of a tree, I espied an iron ring, fastened to a trap door of the same metal. I took away the earth that covered it, and having lifted it up, discovered a flight of stairs, which I descended with my axe in my hand.
When I had reached the bottom, I found myself in a palace, and felt great consternation, on account of a great light which appeared as clear in it as if it had been above ground in the open air. I went forward along a gallery, supported by pillars of jasper, the base and capitals of messy gold: but seeing a lady of a noble and graceful air, extremely beautiful, coming towards me, my eyes were taken off from every other objets.
Being desirous to spare the lady the trouble of coming to me, I hastened to meet her; and as I was saluting her with a low obeisance, she asked me, "What are you, a man or a genie?" "A man, madam," said I; "I have no correspondence with genies." "By what adventure," said she, fetching a deep sigh, "are you come hither? I have lived here twenty-five years, and you are the: first man I have beheld in that time."
Her great beauty, which had already smitten me, and the sweetness and civility wherewith she received me, emboldened me to say, "Madam, before I have the honour to satisfy your curiosity, give me leave to tell you, that I am infinitely gratified with this unexpected meeting, which offers me an occasion of consolation in the midst of my affliction; and perhaps it may give me an opportunity of making you also more happy than you are." I related to her by what strange accident she beheld me, the son of a sultan, in such a condition as I appeared in her presence; and how fortune had directed that I should discover the entrance into that magnificent prison where I had found her, according to appearance, in an unpleasant situation.
"Alas! prince," said she, sighing once more, "you have just cause to believe this rich and pompous prison cannot be otherwise than a most wearisome abode: the most charming place in the world being no way delightful when we are detained there contrary to our will. It is not possible but you have heard of the sultan of the isle of Ebene, so called from that precious wood which it produces in abundance; I am the princess his daughter.
"The sultan, my father, had chosen for me a husband, a prince who was my cousin; but on my wedding-night, in the midst of the rejoicings of the court and capital, before I was conducted to my husband, a genie took me away. I fainted with alarm, and when I recovered, found myself in this place. I was long inconsolable, but time and necessity have accustomed me to see and receive the genie. Twenty-five years I have continued in this place, where, I must confess, I have all that I can wish for necessary to life, and also every thing that can satisfy a princess fond of dress and splendour.
"Every ten days," continued the princess, "the genie comes hither, and remains with me one night, which he never exceeds; and the excuse he makes for it is, that he is married to another wife, who would grow jealous if she should know his infidelity. Meanwhile, if I have occasion for him by day or night, as soon as I touch a talisman, which is at the entrance into my chamber, the genie appears. It is now the fourth day since he was here, and I do not expect him before the end of six more; so, if you please, you may stay five days, and I will endeavour to entertain you according to your quality and merit." I thought myself too fortunate, to have obtained so great a favour without asking, to refuse so obliging an offer. The princess made me go into a bath, the most commodious, and the most sumptuous imaginable; and when I came forth, instead of my own clothes I found another very costly suit, which I did not esteem so much for its richness, as because it made me appear worthy to be in her company. We sat down on a sofa covered with rich tapestry, with cushions of the rarest Indian brocade; and some time after she covered a table with several dishes of delicate meats. We ate, and passed the remaining part of the day with much satisfaction, as also the evening, together.
The next day, as she contrived every means to please me, she brought in, at dinner, a bottle of old wine, the most excellent that ever was tasted, and out of complaisance drank some part of it with me. When my head grew warm with the agreeable liquor, "Fair princess," said I, "you have been too long thus buried alive; follow me, enjoy the real day, of which you have been deprived so many years, and abandon this artificial though brilliant glare." "Prince," replied she, with a smile, "leave this discourse; if you out of ten days will grant me nine, and resign the last to the genie, the fairest day would be nothing in my esteem." "Princess," said I, "it is the fear of the genie that makes you speak thus; for my part, I value him so little, that I will break in pieces his talisman, with the conjuration that is written about it. Let him come, I will expect him; and how brave or redoubtable soever he be, I will make him feel the weight of my arm: I swear solemnly that I will extirpate all the genies in the world, and him first." The princess, who knew the consequence, conjured me not to touch the talisman. "For that would be the means," said she, "of ruining both you and me; I know what belongs to genies better than you." The fumes of the wine did not suffer me to hearken to her reasons; but I gave the talisman a kick with my foot, and broke it in several pieces.
The talisman was no sooner broken than the palace began to shake, and seemed ready to fall, with a hideous noise like thunder, accompanied with flashes of lightning, and alternate darkness. This terrible noise in a moment dispelled the fumes of my wine, and made me sensible, but too late, of the folly I had committed. "Princess," cried I, "what means all this?" She answered, without any concern for her own misfortune, "Alas! you are undone, if you do not fly immediately."
I followed her advice, but my fears were so great, that I forgot my hatchet and cords. I had scarcely reached the stairs by which I had descended, when the enchanted palace opened at once, and made a passage for the genie: he asked the princess in great anger, "What has happened to you, and why did you call me?" "A violent spasm," said the princess, "made me fetch this bottle which you see here, out of which I drank twice or thrice, and by mischance made a false step, and fell upon the talisman, which is broken, and that is all."
At this answer, the furious genie told her, "You are a false woman, and speak not the truth; how came that axe and those cords there?" "I never saw them till this moment," said the princess. "Your coming in such an impetuous manner has, it may be, forced them up in some place as you came along, and so brought them hither without your knowing it."
The genie made no other answer but what was accompanied with reproaches and blows, of which I heard the noise. I could not endure to hear the pitiful cries of the princess so cruelly abused. I had already taken off the suit she had presented to me, and put on my own, which I had laid on the stairs the day before, when I came out of the bagnio: I made haste upstairs, the more distracted with sorrow and compassion, as I had been the cause of so great a misfortune; and by sacrificing the fairest princess on earth to the barbarity of a merciless genie, I was becoming the most criminal and ungrateful of mankind. "It is true," said I, "she has been a prisoner these twenty-five years; but, liberty excepted she wanted nothing that could make her happy. My folly has put an end to her happiness, and brought upon her the cruelty of an unmerciful devil." I let down the trap-door, covered it again with earth, and returned to the city with a burden of wood, which I bound up without knowing what I did, so great was my trouble and sorrow.
My landlord, the tailor, was very much rejoiced to see me: "Your absence," said he, "has disquieted me much, as you had entrusted me with the secret of your birth, and I knew not what to think; I was afraid somebody had discovered you; God be praised for your return." I thanked him for his zeal and affection, but not a word durst I say of what had passed, nor of the reason why I came back without my hatchet and cords.
I retired to my chamber, where I reproached myself a thousand times for my excessive imprudence: "Nothing," said I, "could have paralleled the princess's good fortune and mine, had I forborne to break the talisman."
While I was thus giving myself over to melancholy thoughts, the tailor came in and said, "An old man, whom I do not know, brings your hatchet and cords, which he found in his way as he tells me, and says he understood from your comrades that you lodge here; come out and speak to him, for he will deliver them to none but yourself."
At these words I changed colour, and fell a trembling. While the tailor was asking me the reason, my chamber-door opened, and the old man, having no patience to stay, appeared to us with my hatchet and cords. This was the genie, the ravisher of the fair princess of the isle of Ebene, who had thus disguised himself, after he had treated her with the utmost barbarity. "I am a genie," said he, speaking to me, "son of the daughter of Eblis, prince of genies: is not this your hatchet, and are not these your cords?"
After the genie had put the question to me, he gave me no time to answer, nor was it in my power, so much had his terrible aspect disordered me. He grasped me by the middle, dragged me out of the chamber, and mounting into the air, carried me up to the skies with such swiftness, that I was not able to take notice of the way he conveyed me. He descended again in like manner to the earth, which on a sudden he caused to open with a stroke of his foot, and sunk down at once, when I found myself in the enchanted palace, before the fair princess of the isle of Ebene. But, alas! what a spectacle was there! I saw what pierced me to the heart; this poor princess was quite naked, weltering in her blood, and laid upon the ground, more like one dead than alive, with her cheeks bathed in tears.
"Perfidious wretch!" said the genie to her, pointing at me, "is not this your gallant?" She cast her languishing eyes upon me, and answered mournfully, "I do not know him, I never saw him till this moment." "What!" said the genie, "he is the cause of thy being in the condition thou art justly in; and yet darest thou say thou cost not know him?" "If I do not know him," said the princess, "would you have me lie on purpose to ruin him?" "Oh then," said the genie, pulling out a cimeter and presenting it to the princess, "if you never saw him before, take this, and cut off his head." "Alas," replied the princess, "how is it possible that I should execute such an act? My strength is so far spent that I cannot lift up my arm; and if I could, how should I have the heart to take away the life of an innocent man, and one whom I do not know?" "This refusal," said the genie to the princess, "sufficiently informs me of your crime." Upon which, turning to me, "And thou," said he, "dost thou not know her?"
I should have been the most ungrateful wretch, and the most perfidious of all mankind, if I had not strewn myself as faithful to the princess as she had been to me, who had been the cause of her misfortunes. I therefore answered the genie, "How should I know her, when I never saw her till now?" "If it be so," said he, "take the cimeter and cut off her head: on this condition I will set thee at liberty, for then I shall be convinced that thou hast never seen her till this moment, as thou gayest." "With all my heart," replied I, and took the cimeter in my hand.
Do not think, madam, that I drew near to the fair princess of the isle of Ebene to be the executioner of the genie's barbarity. I did it only to demonstrate by my behaviour, as much as possible, that as she had strewn her resolution to sacrifice her life for my sake, I would not refuse to sacrifice mine for hers. The princess, notwithstanding her pain and suffering, understood my meaning; which she signified by an obliging look, and made me understand her willingness to die for me; and that she was satisfied to see how ready I was also to die for her. Upon this I stepped back, and threw the cimeter on the ground. "I should for ever," said I to the genie, "be hateful to all mankind were I to be so base as to murder, not only a person whom I do not know, but a lady like this, who is already on the point of expiring: do with me what you please, since I am in your power; I cannot obey your barbarous commands."
"I see," said the genie, "that you both out-brave me, and insult my jealousy; but both of you shall know by my treatment of you of what I am capable." At these words the monster took up the cimeter and cut off one of her hands, which left her only so much life as to give me a token with the other that she bade me for ever adieu. For the blood she had lost before, and that which gushed out then, did not permit her to live above one or two moments after this barbarous cruelty; the sight of which threw me into a fit. When I was come to myself again, I expostulated with the genie, why he made me languish in expectation of death: "Strike," cried I, "for I am ready to receive the mortal blow, and expect it as the greatest favour you can show me." But instead of agreeing to that, "Behold," said he, "how genies treat their wives whom they suspect of unfaithfulness; she has received thee here, and were I certain that she had put any further affront upon me, I would put thee to death this minute: but I will content myself with transforming thee into a dog, ape, lion, or bird; take thy choice of any of these, I will leave it to thyself."
These words gave me some hopes of being able to appease him: "O genie," said I, "moderate your passion, and since you will not take away my life, give it me generously. I shall always remember your clemency, if you pardon me, as one of the best men in the world pardoned one of his neighbours that bore him a mortal hatred. The genie asked me what had passed between those two neighbours, and said, he would have patience till he heard the story, which I related to him; and I believe, madam, you will not be displeased if I now repeat it.
The Story of the Envious Man, and of him that he Envied.
In a considerable town two persons dwelt in adjoining houses. One of them conceived such a violent hatred against the other, that the hated party resolved to remove to a distance, being persuaded that their being neighbours was the only cause of this animosity; for though he had done him several pieces of service, he found that his hatred was not diminished; he therefore sold his house, with what goods he had left, and retired to the capital city of a kingdom which was not far distant. Here he bought a little spot of ground, which lay about half a league from the city; where he had a convenient house, with a garden, and a pretty spacious court, wherein there was a deep well, which was not in use.
The honest man having made this purchase put on a dervise's habit, intending to lead a retired life, and caused several cells to be made in the house, where in a short time he established a numerous society of dervises. He soon came to be publicly known by his virtue, through which he acquired the esteem of many people, as well of the commonalty as of the chief of the city. In short, he was much honoured and courted by all ranks. People came from afar to recommend themselves to his prayers; and all who visited him, published what blessings they received through his means.
The great reputation of this honest man having spread to the town from whence he had come, it touched the envious man so much to the quick, that he left his house and affairs with a resolution to ruin him. With this intent he went to the new convent of dervises, of which his former neighbour was the head, who received him with all imaginable tokens of friendship. The envious man told him that he was come on purpose to communicate a business of importance, which he could not do but in private; and "that nobody may hear us, let us," said he, "take a walk in your court; and seeing night begins to draw on, command your dervises to retire to their cells." The chief of the dervises did as he was required.
When the envious man saw that he was alone with this good man, he began to tell him his errand, walking side by side in the court, till he saw his opportunity; and getting the good man near the brink of the well, he gave him a thrust, and pushed him into it, without being seen by any one. Having done thus, he returned, got out at the gate of the convent without being known, and reached his own house well satisfied with his journey, being fully persuaded that the object of his hatred was no more; but he found himself mistaken.
This old well was inhabited by fairies and genies, which happened luckily for the relief of the head of the convent; for they received and supported him, and carried him to the bottom, so that he got no hurt. He perceived that there was something extraordinary in his fall, which must otherwise have cost him his life; but he neither saw nor felt anything. He soon heard a voice, however, which said, "Do you know what honest man this is, to whom we have done this piece of service?" Another voice answered, "No." To which the first replied, "Then I will tell you. This man out of charity, the purest ever known, left the town he lived in, and has established himself in this place, in hopes to cure one of his neighbours of the envy he had conceived against him; he had acquired such a general esteem, that the envious man, not able to endure it, came hither on purpose to ruin him; and he would have accomplished his design, had it not been for the assistance we have given this honest man, whose reputation is so great, that the sultan, who keeps his residence in the neighbouring city, was to pay him a visit to-morrow, to recommend the princess his daughter to his prayers."
Another voice asked, "What need had the princess of the dervise's prayers?" To which the first answered, "You do not know, it seems, that she is possessed by genie Maimoun, the son of Dimdim, who is fallen in love with her. But I well know how this good head of the dervises may cure her; the thing is very easy, and I will explain it to you. He has a black cat in his convent, with a white spot at the end of her tail, about the bigness of a small piece of Arabian money; let him only pull seven hairs out of the white spot, burn them, and smoke the princess's head with the fume, she will not only be immediately cured, but be so safely delivered from Maimoun, the son of Dimdim, that he will never dare to approach her again."
The head of the dervises remembered every word of the conversation between the fairies and the genies, who remained silent the remainder of the night. The next morning, as soon as daylight appeared, and he could discern the nature of his situation, the well being broken down in several places, he saw a hole, by which he crept out with ease.
The other dervises, who had been seeking for him, were rejoiced to see him; he gave them a brief account of the wickedness of the man to whom he had given so kind a reception the day before, and retired into his cell. Shortly after the black cat, which the fairies and the genies had mentioned the night before, came to fawn upon her master, as she was accustomed to do; he took her up, and pulled seven hairs from the white spot that was upon her tail, and laid them aside for his use when occasion should serve.
Soon after sunrise the sultan, who would leave no means untried that he thought likely to restore the princess to perfect health, arrived at the gate of the convent. He commanded his guards to halt, whilst he with his principal officers went in. The dervises received him with profound respect.
The sultan called their chief aside, and said, "Good Sheik, you may probably be already acquainted with the cause of my visit." "Yes, Sir," replied he gravely, "if I do not mistake, it is the disease of the princess which procures me this unmerited honour." "That is the real case,'' replied the sultan. "You will give me new life if your prayers, as I hope they may, restore my daughter's health." "Sir," said the good man, "if your majesty will be pleased to let her come hither, I am in hopes, through God's assistance and favour, that she will be effectually cured."
The prince, transported with joy, sent immediately for his daughter, who soon appeared with a numerous train of ladies and eunuchs, but veiled, so that her face was not seen. The chief of the dervises caused a pall to be held over her head, and he had no sooner thrown the seven hairs upon the burning coals, than the genie Maimoun, the son of Dimdim, uttered a great cry, and without being seen, left the princess at liberty; upon which, she took the veil from her face, and rose up to see where she was, saying, "Where am I, and who brought me hither?" At these words the sultan, overcome with excess of joy, embraced his daughter, and kissed her eyes; he also kissed the chief of the dervises' hands, and said to his officers, "What reward does he deserve that has thus cured my daughter?" They all cried, "He deserves her in marriage." "That is what I had in my thoughts," said the sultan; "and I make him my son-in-law from this moment." Some time after the prime vizier died, and the sultan conferred the place on the dervise. The sultan himself also died without heirs male; upon which the religious orders and the militia consulted together, and the good man was declared and acknowledged sultan by general consent.
The honest dervise, having ascended the throne of his father-in-law, as he was one day in the midst of his courtiers on a march, espied the envious man among the crowd that stood as he passed along, and calling one of the viziers that attended him, whispered him in his ear, "Go, bring me that man you see there; but take care you do not frighten him." The vizier obeyed, and when the envious man was brought into his presence, the sultan said, "Friend, I am extremely glad to see you." Upon which he called an officer, "Go immediately," said he, "and cause to be paid to this man out of my treasury, one hundred pieces of gold: let him have also twenty loads of the richest merchandize in my storehouses, and a sufficient guard to conduit him to his house." After he had given this charge to the officer, he bade the envious man farewell, and proceeded on his march.
When I had finished the recital of this story to the genie, the murderer of the princess of the isle of Ebene, I made an application of it to himself: "O genie!" said I, "this bountiful sultan was not satisfied with merely overlooking the design of the envious man to take away his life, but also treated him kindly, and sent him back loaded with the favours I have enumerated." In short, I employed all my eloquence to persuade him to imitate so good an example, and to grant me pardon; but it was impossible to move his compassion.
"All that I can do for thee," said he, "is, to grant thee thy life; but do not flatter thyself that I will allow thee to return safe and well; I must let thee feel what I am able to do by my enchantments." So saying, he seized me violently, and carried me through the arched roof of the subterraneous palace, which opened to give him passage; he ascended with me into the air to such a height, that the earth appeared like a little white cloud; he then descended again like lightning, and alighted upon the summit of a mountain.
Here he took up a handful of earth, and pronouncing, or rather muttering, some words which I did not understand, threw it upon me. "Quit," said he, "the form of a man, and take that of an ape." He instantly disappeared, and left me alone, transformed into an ape, and overwhelmed with sorrow in a strange country, not knowing whether I was near or far from my father's dominions.
I descended the mountain, and entered a plain level country, which took me a month to travel over, and then I came to the sea-side. It happened at the time to be perfectly calm, and I espied a vessel about half a league from the shore: unwilling to lose so good an opportunity, I broke off a large branch from a tree, carried it into the sea, and placed myself astride upon it, with a stick in each hand to serve me for oars.
I launched out in this posture, and rowed towards the ship. When I had approached sufficiently near to be seen, I exhibited to the seamen and passengers on the deck an extraordinary spectacle, and all of them regarded me with astonishment. In the meantime I got on board, and laying hold of a rope, jumped upon the deck, but having lost my speech I found myself in great perplexity: and indeed the risk I ran was not less than when I was at the mercy of the genie.
The merchants, being both superstitious and scrupulous, thought if they received me on board I should be the occasion of some misfortune to them during their voyage. On this account one of them said, "I will destroy him with a blow of this handspike;" another, "I will shoot an arrow through his body;" and a third, "Let us throw him into the sea." Some one of them would not have failed to carry his threat into execution had I not gone to the captain, thrown myself at his feet, and taken hold of his skirt in a supplicating posture. This action, together with the tears which he saw gush from my eyes, moved his compassion. He took me under his protection, threatened to be revenged on any one that would do me the least hurt, and loaded me with a thousand caresses. On my part, though I had not power to speak, I showed by my gestures every mark of gratitude in my power.
The wind that succeeded the calm was not strong, but favourable; it continued to blow in the same direction for fifty days, and brought us safe to the port of a city, well peopled, and of great trade, the capital of a powerful state, where we came to anchor.
Our vessel was instantly surrounded with an infinite number of boats full of people, who came to congratulate their friends on their safe arrival, or to inquire for those they had left behind them in the country from whence they had come, or out of curiosity to see a ship that had performed so long a voyage.
Amongst the rest, some officers came on board, desiring in the name of the sultan to speak with the merchants. The merchants appearing, one of the officers told them, "The sultan our master hath commanded us to acquaint you, that he rejoices in your safe arrival, and beseeches each of you to take the trouble to write a few lines upon this roll. That you may understand the design of this request, you must know that we had a prime vizier, who besides possessing great abilities for the management of public affairs could write in the highest perfection. This minister a few days since died. The event has greatly affected the sultan; and since he can never behold his writing without admiration, he has made a solemn vow, not to give the place to any one who cannot write equally well. Many have presented specimens of their skill; but to this day, no one in the empire has been judged worthy to supply the vizier's place."
Those of the merchants who thought they could write well enough to aspire to this high dignity, wrote one after another what they thought fit. After they had done, I advanced, and took the roll out of the gentleman's hand; but all the people, especially the merchants, cried out, that I would tear it, or throw it into the sea, till they saw how properly I held the roll, and made a sign that I would write in my turn: their apprehensions then changed into wonder. However, as they had never seen an ape that could write, and could not be persuaded that I was more ingenious than others of my kind, they wished to take the roll out of my hand; but the captain took my part once more. "Let him alone," said he, "allow him to write. If he only scribbles the paper, I promise you that I will immediately punish him. If, on the contrary, he writes well, as I hope he will, because I never saw an ape so clever and ingenious, and so quick of apprehension, I declare that I will adopt him as my son." Perceiving that no one opposed my design, I took the pen, and wrote six sorts of hands used among the Arabians, and each specimen contained an extemporary distich or quatrain in praise of the sultan. My writing not only excelled that of the merchants, but was such as they had not before seen in that country. When I had done, the officers took the roll, and carried it to the sultan.
The sultan took little notice of any of the writings, except mine, which pleased him so much that he said to the officers, "Take the finest horse in my stable, with the richest trappings, and a robe of the most sumptuous brocade to put on the person who wrote the six hands, and bring him thither." At this command the officers could not forbear laughing. The sultan was incensed at their rudeness, and would have punished them had they not explained: "Sir," said they, "we humbly beg your majesty's pardon: these hands were not written by a man, but by an ape." "What do you say?" exclaimed the sultan. "Those admirable characters, are they not written by the hands of a man?" "No, Sir," replied the officers; "we assure your majesty that it was an ape, who wrote them in our presence." The sultan was too much surprised at this account not to desire a sight of me, and therefore said, "Do what I command you, and bring me speedily that wonderful ape."
The officers returned to the vessel and shewed the captain their order, who answered, "The sultan's command must be obeyed." Whereupon they clothed me with the rich brocade robe, and carried me ashore, where they set me on horseback, whilst the sultan waited for me at his palace with a great number of courtiers, whom he gathered together to do me the more honour.
The procession commenced; the harbour, the streets, the public places, windows, terraces, palaces, and houses, were filled with an infinite number of people of all ranks, who flocked from every part of the city to see me; for the rumour was spread in a moment, that the sultan had chosen an ape to be his grand vizier, and after having served for a spectacle to the people, who could not forbear to express their surprise by redoubling their shouts and cries, I arrived at the sultan's palace.
I found the prince on his throne in the midst of the grandees; I made my obeisance three times very low, and at last kneeled and kissed the ground before him, and afterwards took my seat in the posture of an ape. The whole assembly viewed me with admiration, and could not comprehend how it was possible that an ape should so well understand how to pay the sultan his due respect; and he himself was more astonished than any. In short, the usual ceremony of the audience would have been complete, could I have added speech to my behaviour; but apes never speak, and the advantage I had of having been a man did not now yield me that privilege.
The sultan dismissed his courtiers, and none remained by him but the chief of the eunuchs, a little young slave, and myself. He went from his chamber of audience into his own apartment, where he ordered dinner to be brought. As he sat at table he made me a sign to approach and eat with them: to shew my obedience I kissed the ground, arose, and placed myself at the table, and ate with discretion and moderation.
Before the table was cleared, I espied a standish, which I made a sign to have brought me; having got it, I wrote upon a large peach some verses expressive of my acknowledgment to the sultan; who having read them after I had presented the peach to him, was still more astonished. When the things were removed, they brought him a particular liquor, of which he caused them to give me a glass. I drank, and wrote upon the glass some new verses, which explained the state I was reduced to, after many sufferings. The sultan read these likewise, and said, "A man that was capable of doing so much would be above the greatest of his species."
The sultan caused to be brought to him a chessboard, and asked me by a sign if I understood that game, and would play with him? I kissed the ground, and laying my hand upon my head, signified that I was ready to receive that honour. He won the first game, but I won the second and third; and perceiving he was somewhat displeased at my success, I made a quatrain to satisfy him; in which I told him that two potent armies had been fighting furiously all day, but that they concluded a peace towards the evening, and passed the remaining part of the night very amicably together upon the field of battle.
So many circumstances appearing to the sultan beyond whatever had either been seen or known of the cleverness or sense of apes, he determined not to be the only witness of these prodigies himself, but having a daughter, called the Lady of Beauty, on whom the chief of the eunuchs, then present, waited; "Go," said the sultan to him, "and bid your lady come hither: I am desirous she should share my pleasure."
The eunuch went, and immediately brought the princess, who had her face uncovered; but she had no sooner come into the room, than she put on her veil, and said to the sultan, "Sir, your majesty must needs have forgotten yourself; I am surprised that your majesty has sent for me to appear among men." "How, daughter!" said the sultan, "you do not know what you say: there is no one here, but the little slave, the eunuch your governor, and myself, who have the liberty to see your face; and yet you lower your veil, and blame me for having sent for you." "Sir," said the princess, "your majesty shall soon understand that I am not in the wrong. That seeming ape is a young prince, son of a powerful sultan, and has been metamorphosed into an ape by enchantment. A genie, son of the daughter of Eblis, has maliciously done him this wrong, after having cruelly taken away the life of the princess of the isle of Ebene."
The sultan, astonished at this declaration, turned towards me, and speaking no more by signs, but in plain words, asked me, if what his daughter said was true? Finding I could not speak, I put my hand to my head' to signify that what the princess spoke was correct. Upon this the sultan said again to his daughter, "How do you know that this prince has been transformed by enchantments into an ape?" "Sir," replied the Lady of Beauty, " your majesty may remember that when I was past my infancy I had an old lady who waited on me; she was a most expert magician, and taught me seventy rules of magic, by virtue of which I can, in the twinkling of an eye, transport your capital into the midst of the sea, or beyond mount Caucasus. By this science I know all enchanted persons at first sight: I know who they are, and by whom they have been enchanted; therefore do not be surprised if I should forthwith relieve this prince, in spite of the enchantments, from that which prevents his appearing in your sight in his natural form." "Daughter," said the sultan, "I did not believe you to have understood so much." "Sir," replied the princess, "these things are curious and worth knowing; but I think I ought not to boast of them." "Since it is so," said the sultan, "you can dispel the prince's enchantment." "Yes, sir," said the princess, "I can restore him to his original shape." "Do it then," said the sultan, "you cannot do me a greater pleasure; for I will have him to be my vizier, and he shall marry you." "Sir," said the princess, "I am ready to obey you in all that you should be pleased to command me."
The princess, the Lady of Beauty, went into her apartment, and brought thence a knife, which had some Hebrew words engraven on the blade: she made the sultan, the master of the eunuchs, the little slave, and myself, descend into a private court of the palace, and there left us under a gallery that went round it. She placed herself in the middle of the court, where she made a great circle, and within it she wrote several words in Arabian characters, some of them ancient.
When she had finished and prepared the circle as she thought fit, she placed herself in the centre of it, where she began incantations, and repeated verses of the Koraun. The air grew insensibly dark, as if it had been night, and the whole world were about to be dissolved: we found ourselves struck with consternation, and our fear increased when we saw the genie, the son of the daughter of Eblis, appear suddenly in the shape of a lion of a gigantic size.
As soon as the princess perceived this monster,. "Dog," said she, "instead of creeping before me, dare you present yourself in this shape, thinking to frighten me?" "And thou," replied the lion, "art thou not afraid to break the treaty which was solemnly made and confirmed between us by oath, not to wrong or do one another any injury?" "Wretch," replied the princess, "I justly may reproach thee with having done so." The lion answered fiercely, "Thou shalt quickly have thy reward for the trouble thou hast given me:" with that he opened his monstrous jaws, and sprang forward to devour her; but she, being on her guard, stepped back, got time to pull out one of her hairs, and by pronouncing three or four words, changed it into a sharp sword, with which she cut the lion in two through the middle.
The two parts of the lion disappeared, while the head changed into a large scorpion. Immediately the princess turned herself into a serpent, and fought the scorpion, who, finding himself worsted, took the shape of an eagle, and flew away: but the serpent at the same time took also the shape of an eagle, that was black and much stronger, and pursued him, so that we lost sight of them both.
Some time after they had disappeared, the ground opened before us, and out of it came forth a black and white cat, with her hair standing on end, and mewing in a frightful manner; a black wolf followed close after her, and gave her no time to rest. The cat, being thus hard pressed, changed into a worm, and being near a pomegranate accidentally fallen from a tree on the side of a canal which was deep, but not broad, pierced the pomegranate in an instant, and hid itself, but the pomegranate swelled immediately, and became as big as a gourd, which, mounting up to the roof of the gallery, rolled there for some time backward and forward; it then fell down again into the court, and broke into several pieces.
The wolf had in the meanwhile transformed itself into a cock, and now fell to picking up the seeds of the pomegranate one after another; but finding no more, he came towards us with his wings spread, making a great noise, as if he would ask us whether there were any more seed. There was one lying on the brink of the canal, which the cock perceiving as he went back, ran speedily thither; but just as he was going to pick it up, the seed rolled into the river, and turned into a little fish.
The cock leaped into the river, turned into a pike, and pursued the small fish; they continued both under water above two hours, and we knew not what was become of them, but suddenly we heard terrible cries, which made us tremble, and a little while after we saw the genie and princess all in flames. They threw flashes of fire out of their mouths at each other, till they came to close combat; then the two fires increased, with a thick burning smoke which mounted so high that we had reason to apprehend it would set the palace on fire. But we very soon had a more pressing occasion of fear, for the genie having got loose from the princess, came to the gallery where we stood, and blew flames of fire upon us. We must all have perished had not the princess, running to our assistance, forced him to retire, and defend himself against her; yet, notwithstanding all her exertions, she could not hinder the sultan's beard from being burnt, and his face scorched, the chief of the eunuchs from being stifled, and a spark from entering my right eye, and making it blind. The sultan and I expected but death, when we heard a cry of "Victory! Victory!" and instantly the princess appeared in her natural shape, but the genie was reduced to a heap of ashes.
The princess approached us, and hastily called for a cup-full of water, which the young slave, who had received no hurt, brought her. She took it, and after pronouncing some words over it, threw it upon me, saying, "If thou art become an ape by enchantment, change thy shape, and take that of a man which thou hadst before." These words were hardly uttered, when I again became a man, in every respect as I was before my transformation, excepting the loss of my eye.
I was prepared to return the princess my thanks, but she prevented me by addressing herself to her father: "Sir, I have gained the victory over the genie, as your majesty may see; but it is a victory that costs me dear; I have but a few minutes to live, and you will not have the satisfaction to make the match you intended; the fire has pierced me during the terrible combat, and I find it is gradually consuming me. This would not have happened, had I perceived the last of the pomegranate seeds, and swallowed it, as I did the others when I was changed into a cock: the genie had fled thither as to his last intrenchment, and upon that the success of the combat depended, which would have been successful, and without danger to me. This oversight obliged me to have recourse to fire, and to fight with those mighty arms as I did, between heaven and earth, in your presence; for, in spite of all his redoubtable art and experience, I made the genie know that I understood more than he; I have conquered and reduced him to ashes, but I cannot escape death, which is approaching."
The sultan suffered the princess, the Lady of Beauty, to go on with the recital of her combat, and when she had done, addressed her in a tone that sufficiently testified his grief; "My daughter," said he, "you see in what condition your father is; alas! I wonder that I am yet alive! Your governor, the eunuch, is dead, and the prince whom you have delivered from his enchantment has lost one of his eyes." He could say no more, for his tears, sighs, and sobs, deprived him of the power of utterance.
Suddenly the princess exclaimed, "I burn! I burn!" She found that the fire had at last seized upon her vital parts, which made her still cry "I burn!" until death had put an end to her intolerable pains. The effect of that fire was so extraordinary, that in a few moments she was wholly reduced to ashes, as the genie had been.
I cannot tell you, madam, how much I was grieved at so dismal a spectacle; I had rather all my life have continued an ape or a dog, than to have seen my benefactress thus miserably perish. The sultan being afflicted all that can be imagined, cried piteously, and beat himself on his head and breast, until being quite overcome with grief, he fainted away, which made me fear for his life. In the mean time, the eunuchs and officers came running at the sultan's lamentations, and with much difficulty brought him to himself. It was not necessary that the prince or myself should relate the circumstances of the adventure, to convince them of the affliction it had occasioned us. The two heaps of ashes, to which the princess and the genie had been reduced, were a sufficient demonstration. The sultan was hardly able to stand, but was under the necessity of being supported to his apartment.
When the knowledge of this tragical event had spread through the palace and the city, all the people bewailed the misfortune of the princess, the Lady of Beauty, and commiserated the sultan's affliction. Public mourning was observed for seven days, and many ceremonies were performed. The ashes of the genie were thrown into the air, but those of the princess were collected into a precious urn, to be preserved, and the urn was deposited in a superb mausoleum, constructed for that purpose on the spot where the princess had been consumed.
The grief of the sultan for the loss of his daughter confined him to his chamber for a whole month. Before he had fully recovered his strength he sent for me: "Prince," said he, "attend to the commands I now give you; your life must answer if you do not carry them into execution." I assured him of exalt obedience; upon which he went on thus: "I have constantly lived in perfect felicity, but by your arrival all the happiness I possessed has vanished; my daughter is dead, her governor is no more, and it is only through a miracle that I am myself yet alive You are the cause of all these misfortunes, under which it is impossible that I should be comforted; depart hence therefore in peace, without farther delay, for I must myself perish if you remain any longer. I am persuaded that your presence brings misfortune with it. Depart, and take care never to appear again in my dominions. No consideration whatever shall hinder me from making you repent your temerity should you violate my injunction." I was going to speak, but he prevented me by words full of anger; and I was obliged to quit the palace, rejected, banished, an outcast from the world. Before I left the city I went into a bagnio, here I caused my beard and eyebrows to be shaved, and put on a calender's habit. I began my journey, not so much deploring my own miseries, as the death of the two fair princesses, of which I have been the occasion. I passed through many countries without making myself known; at last I resolved to come to Bagdad, in hopes of getting myself introduced to the commender of the faithful, to move his compassion by relating to him my unfortunate adventures. I arrived this evening, and the first man I met was this calender, our brother, who spoke before me. You know the remaining part, madam, and the cause of my having the honour to be here.
When the second calender had concluded his story, Zobeide, to whom he had addressed his speech, said, "It is well, you are at liberty." But instead of departing, he also petitioned the lady to shew him the same favour vouchsafed to the first calender, and went and sat down by him.
The History of the Third Calender.
My story, most honourable lady, very much differs from what you have already heard. The two princes who have spoken before me have each lost an eye by the pure effects of their destiny, but mine I lost through my own fault, and by hastening to seek my own misfortune, as you shall hear by the sequel of the story.
My name is Agib, and I am the son of a sultan who was called Cassib. After his death I took possession of his dominions, and continued in the city where he had resided. It is situated on the sea-coast, has one of the finest and safest harbours in the world, an arsenal capable of fitting out for sea one hundred and fifty men of war, besides merchantmen and light vessels. My kingdom is composed of several fine provinces upon the main land, besides a number of valuable islands, which lie almost in sight of my capital.
My first object was to visit the provinces: I afterwards caused my whole fleet to be fitted out, and went to my islands to gain the hearts of my subjects by my presence, and to confirm them in their loyalty. These voyages gave me some taste for navigation, in which I took so much pleasure, that I resolved to make some discoveries beyond my own territories; to which end I caused ten ships to be fitted out, embarked, and set sail.
Our voyage was very pleasant for forty days successively, but on the forty-first night the wind became contrary, and withal so boisterous that we were near being lost: about break of day the storm abated, the clouds dispersed, and the weather became fair. We reached an island, where we remained two days to take in fresh provisions; and then put off again to sea. After ten days' sail we were in hopes of seeing land, for the tempests we had experienced had so much abated my curiosity, that I gave orders to steer back to my own coast; but I perceived at the same time that my pilot knew not where we were. Upon the tenth day, a seaman being sent to look out for land from the mast head, gave notice that on starboard and larboard he could see nothing but sky and sea, but that right a-head he perceived a great blackness.
The pilot changed colour at this account, and throwing his turban on the deck with one hand, and beating his breast with the other, cried, "Oh, Sir, we are all lost; not one of us can escape; and with all my skill it is not in my power to effect our deliverance." Having spoken thus, he lamented like a man who foresaw unavoidable ruin; his despondence threw the whole ship's crew into consternation. I asked him what reason he had thus to despair? He exclaimed, "The tempest has brought us so far out of our course, that to-morrow about noon we shall be near the black mountain, or mine of adamant, which at this very minute draws all your fleet towards it, by virtue of the iron in your ships; and when we approach within a certain distance, the attraction of the adamant will have such force, that all the nails will be drawn out of the sides and bottoms of the ships, and fasten to the mountain, so that your vessels will fall to pieces and sink.
"This mountain," continued the pilot, "is inaccessible. On the summit there is a dome of fine brass, supported by pillars of the same metal, and on the top of that dome stands a horse, likewise of brass, with a rider on his back, who has a plate or lead fixed to his breast, upon which some talismanic characters are engraver. Sir, the tradition is, that this statue is the chief cause why so many ships and men have been lost and sunk in this place, and that it will ever continue to be fatal to all those who have the misfortune to approach, until it shall be thrown down."
The pilot having finished his discourse, began to weep afresh, and all the rest of the ship's company did the same. I had no other thought but that my days were there to terminate. In the mean time every one began to provide for his own safety, and to that end took all imaginable precaution; and being uncertain of the event, they all made one another their heirs, by virtue of a will, for the benefit of those that should happen to be saved.
The next morning we distinctly perceived the black mountain. About noon we were so near, that we found what the pilot had foretold to be true; for all the nails and iron in the ships flew towards the mountain, where they fixed, by the violence of the attraction, with a horrible noise; the ships split asunder, and their cargoes sunk into the sea. All my people were drowned, but God had mercy on me, and permitted me to save myself by means of a plank, which the wind drove ashore just at the foot of the mountain. I did not receive the least hurt, and my good fortune brought me to a landing place, where there were steps that led up to the summit of the mountain.
At the sight of these steps, for there was not a space of ground either on the right or left whereon a man could set his foot, I gave thanks to God; and recommended myself to his holy protection, as I began to ascend the steps, which were so narrow, that had the wind raged it would have thrown me into the sea. But, at last, I reached the top, without accident. I went into the dome, and kneeling on the ground, gave God thanks for his mercies.
I passed the night under the dome. In my sleep an old grave man appeared to me, and said, "Hearken, Agib; as soon as thou art awake dig up the ground under thy feet: thou wilt find a bow of brass, and three arrows of lead, that are made under certain constellations, to deliver mankind from the many calamities that threaten them. Shoot the three arrows at the statue, and the rider will fall into the sea, but the horse will fall by thy side; thou must bury it in the place where thou findest the bow and arrows: this being done, the sea will swell and rise to the foot of the dome. When it has come so high, thou wilt perceive a boat with one man holding an oar in each hand; this man is also of metal, but different from that thou hast thrown down; step on board, but without mentioning the name of God, and let him conduct thee. He will in ten days' time bring thee into another sea, where thou shalt find an opportunity to return to thy country, provided, as I have told thee, thou dost not mention the name of God during the whole voyage."
This was the substance of the old man's discourse. When I awoke I felt much comforted by the vision, and did not fail to observe everything that he had commanded me. I took the bow and arrows out of the ground, shot at the horseman, and with the third arrow I overthrew him; he fell into the sea, and the horse fell by my side; I buried it in the place whence I took the bow and arrows. In the mean time, the sea swelled and rose up by degrees. When it came as high as the foot of the dome upon the top of the mountain, I saw, afar off, a boat rowing towards me, and I returned God thanks that everything succeeded according to my dream.
At last the boat made land, and I perceived the man was made of metal, as I had dreamt. I stept aboard, and took great heed not to pronounce the name of God, neither spoke I one word. I sat down, and the man of metal began to row off from the mountain. He rowed without ceasing till the ninth day, when I saw some islands, which gave me hopes that I should escape all the danger that I feared. The excess of my joy made me forget what I was forbidden: "Blessed be God," said I; "God be praised."
I had no sooner spoken these words, than the boat sunk with the man of metal, leaving me upon the surface. I swam the remaining part of the day towards that land which appeared nearest. A very dark night succeeded, and not knowing where I was, I swam at random. My strength at last began to fail, and I despaired of being able to save myself, but the wind began to blow hard, and a wave vast as a mountain threw me on a flat, where it left me, and retreated. I made haste ashore, fearing another wave might wash me back. The first thing I did was to strip, wring the water out of my clothes, and lay them on the dry sand, which was still warm from the heat of the day.
Next morning the sun dried my clothes; I put them on, and went forward to discover what sort of country I was in. I had not walked far before I found I was upon a desert, though a very pleasant, island, as it displayed several sorts of trees and wild shrubs bearing fruit; but I perceived it was far from the continent, which much diminished the joy I felt at having escaped the danger of the seas. Nevertheless, I recommended myself to God and prayed him to dispose of me according to his will. Immediately after, I saw a vessel coming from the main land, before the wind, directly towards the island. I doubted not but they were coming to anchor there; and being uncertain what sort of people they might be, whether friends or foes, I thought it not safe to be seen. I got up into a very thick tree, from whence I might safely view them. The vessel came into a little creek, where ten slaves landed, carrying a spade and other instruments for digging up the ground. They went towards the middle of the island, where I saw them stop, and dig for a considerable time, after which I thought I perceived them lift up a trap door. They returned again to the vessel, and unloaded several sorts of provisions and furniture, which they carried to the place where they had been digging: they then descended, which made me suppose it led to a subterraneous dwelling.
I saw them once more go to the ship, and return soon after with an old man, who led in his hand a handsome lad of about fourteen or fifteen years of age. They all descended when the trap door had been opened. After they had again come up, they let down the trap door, covered it over with earth, and returned to the creek where the ship lay, but I saw not the young man in their company. This made me believe that he had staid behind in the subterraneous place, a circumstance which exceedingly surprised me.
The old man and the slaves went on board, and getting the vessel under weigh, steered their course towards the main land. When I perceived they had proceeded to such a distance that I could not be seen by them, I came down from the tree, and went directly to the place where I had seen the ground broken. I removed the earth by degrees, till I came to a stone that was two or three feet square. I lifted it up, and found that it covered the head of a flight of stairs, which were also of stone. I descended, and at the bottom found myself in a large room, furnished with a carpet, a couch covered with tapestry, and cushions of rich stuff, upon which the young man sat, with a fan in his hand. These things, together with fruits and flower-pot standing about him, I saw by the light of two wax tapers. The young man, when he perceived me was considerably alarmed; but to quiet his apprehensions, I said to him as I entered, "Whoever you are, Sir, do not fear; a sultan, and the son of a sultan, as I am, is not capable of doing you any injury: on the contrary, it is probable that your good destiny may have brought me hither to deliver you out of this tomb, where it seems you have been buried alive, for reasons to me unknown. But what surprises me (for you must know that I have been witness to all that hath passed since your coming into this island), is, that you suffered yourself to be entombed in this place without any resistance."
The young man felt assured at these words, and with a smiling countenance requested me to take a seat by him. When I had complied, he said "Prince, I am to acquaint you with what will surprise you by its singularity.
"My father is a merchant jeweller, who, by his industry and professional skill, has acquired considerable property. He has many slaves, and also agents, whom he employs as supercargoes in his own ships, to maintain his correspondence at the several courts, which he furnishes with precious stones.
"He had been long married without having issue, when it was intimated to him in a dream that he should have a son, though his life would be but short; at which he was much concerned when he awoke. Some days after, my mother acquainted him that she was with child, and what she supposed to be the time of her conception agreed exactly with the day of his dream. At the end of nine months she was brought to bed of me; which occasioned great joy in the family.
"My father, who had observed the very moment of my birth, consulted astrologers about my nativity; and was answered, 'Your son shall live happily till the age of fifteen, when his life will be exposed to a danger which he will hardly be able to escape. But if his good destiny preserve him beyond that time, he will live to a great age. It will be' (said they) 'when the statue of brass, that stands upon the summit of the mountain of adamant, shall be thrown into the sea by prince Agib, son of king Cassib; and, as the stars prognosticate, your son will be killed fifty days afterwards by that prince.'
"My father took all imaginable care of my education until this year, which is the fifteenth of my age. He had notice given him yesterday, that the statue of brass had been thrown into the sea about ten days ago. This news alarmed him much.
"Upon the prediction the astrologers, he sought by all means possible to falsify my horoscope, and to preserve my life. He took the precaution to form this subterranean habitation to hide me in, till the expiration of the fifty days after the throwing down of the statue; and therefore, as it is ten days since this happened, he came hastily hither to conceal me, and promised at the end of forty days to return and fetch me away. For my own part I am sanguine in my hopes, and cannot believe that prince Agib will seek for me in a place under ground, in the midst of a desert island."
While the jeweller's son was relating this story, I laughed at the astrologers who had foretold that I should take away his life; for I thought myself so far from being likely to verify their prediction, that he had scarcely done speaking, when I told him with great joy, "Dear Sir, trust in the goodness of God, and fear nothing; consider it as a debt you had to pay; but that you are acquitted of it from this hour. I rejoice that after my shipwreck I came so fortunately hither to defend you against all who would attempt your life. I will not leave you till the forty days have expired, of which the foolish astrologers have made you apprehensive; and in the mean while I will do you all the service in my power: after which, with leave of your father and yourself, I shall have the benefit of getting to the main land in your vessel; and when I am returned into my kingdom, I will remember the obligations I owe you, and endeavour to demonstrate my gratitude by suitable acknowedgments."
This discourse encouraged the jeweller's son, and inspired him with confidence. I took care not to inform him I was the very Agib whom he dreaded, lest I should alarm his fears, and used every precaution not to give him any cause to suspect who I was. We passed the time in various conversation till night came on. I found the young man of ready wit, and partook with him of his provisions, of which he had enough to have lasted beyond the forty days, though he had had more guests than myself. After supper we conversed for some time; and at last retired to bed.
The next morning, when he arose, I held the basin of water to him; I also provided dinner, and at the proper time placed it on the table: after we had dined I invented a play for our amusement, not only for that day, but for those that followed. I prepared supper after the same manner as I had done the dinner; and having supped, we retired to bed as before. We had sufficient time to contrast mutual friendship and esteem for each other. I found he loved me; and I on my part regarded him with so much affection, that I often said to myself, "Those astrologers who predicted to his father that his son should die by my hand were impostors; for it is not possible that I could commit so base a crime." In short, madam, we spent thirty-nine days in the pleasantest manner possible in this subterraneous abode.
The fortieth day appeared: and in the morning, when the young man awoke, he said to me with a transport of joy that he could not restrain, "Prince, this is the fortieth day, and I am not dead, thanks to God and your good company. My father will not fail to make you, very shortly, every acknowledgment of his gratitude for your attentions, and will furnish you with every necessary accommodation for your return to your kingdom: but," continued he, "while we are waiting his arrival, I beg you will provide me some warm water in that portable bath, that I may wash my body and change my dress, to receive my father with the more respect."
I set the water on the fire, and when it was hot poured it into the moveable bath; the youth went in, and I both washed and rubbed him. At last he came out, and laid himself down in his bed that I had prepared. After he had slept a while, he awoke, and said, " Dear prince, pray do me the favour to fetch me a melon and some sugar, that I may eat some to refresh me."
Out of several melons that remained I took the best, and laid it on a plate; and as I could not find a knife to cut it with, I asked the young man if he knew where there was one. "There is one," said he, "upon this cornice over my head:" I accordingly saw it there, and made so much haste to reach it, that, while I had it in my hand, my foot being entangled in the carpet, I fell most unhappily upon the young man, and the knife pierced his heart.
At this spectacle I cried out with agony. I beat my head, my face, and breast; I tore my clothes; I threw myself on the ground with unspeakable sorrow and grief! "Alas!" I exclaimed, "there were only some hours wanting to have put him out of that danger from which he sought sanctuary here; and when I thought the danger past, then I became his murderer, and verified the prediction. But, O Lord!" said I, lifting up my face and my hands to heaven, "I intreat thy pardon, and if I be guilty of his death, let me not live any longer."
After this misfortune I would have embraced death without any reluctance, had it presented itself to me. But what we wish, whether it be good or evil, will not always happen according to our desire. Nevertheless, considering that all my tears and sorrows would not restore the young man to life, and, the forty days being expired, I might be surprised by his father, I quitted the subterranean dwelling, laid down the great stone upon the entrance, and covered it with earth.
I had scarcely done, when, casting my eyes upon the sea towards the main land, I perceived the vessel coming to fetch away the young man. I began then to consider what I had best do. I said to myself, "If I am seen by the old man, he will certainly seize me, and perhaps cause me to be massacred by his slaves, when he has discovered that his son is killed: all that I can allege to justify myself will not convince him of my innocence. It is better then to withdraw while it is in my power, than to expose myself to his resentment."
There happened to be near a large tree thick with leaves, which I ascended in hopes of concealment, and was no sooner fixed in a place where I could not be perceived, than I saw the vessel come to the creek where she lay the first time.
The old man with his slaves landed immediately, and advanced towards the subterranean dwelling, with a countenance that shewed some hope; but when they saw the earth had been newly removed, they changed colour, particularly the old man. They lifted up the stone, and went down; they called the young man by his name, but he not answering, their fears increased. They proceeded to seek him; and at length found him lying upon the bed with the knife in his heart, for I had not power to take it out. At this sight they cried out lamentably, which increased my sorrow: the old man fell down in a swoon. The slaves, to give him air, brought him up in their arms, and laid him at the foot of the tree where I was concealed; but notwithstanding all the pains they took to recover him, the unfortunate father continued a long while insensible, and made them more than once despair of his life; but at last he came to himself. The slaves then brought up his son's corpse, dressed in his best apparel, and when they had made a grave they buried it. The old man, supported by two slaves, and his face covered with tears, threw the first earth upon the body, after which the slaves filled up the grave.
This being done, all the furniture was brought up, and, with the remaining provisions, put on board the vessel. The old man, overcome with sorrow, and not being able to stand, was laid upon a litter, and carried to the ship, which stood out to sea, and in a short time was out of sight.
After the old man and his slaves were gone, I was left alone upon the island. I lay that night in the subterranean dwelling, which they had shut up, and when the day came, I walked round the island, and stopped in such places as I thought most proper for repose.
I led this wearisome life for a whole month. At the expiration of this time I perceived that the sea had receded; that the island had increased in dimensions; the main land too seemed to be drawing nearer. In fact, the water sunk so low, that there remained between me and the continent but a small stream, which I crossed, and the water did not reach above the middle of my leg. I walked so long a way upon the slime and sand that I was very weary: at last I got upon more firm ground, and when I had proceeded some distance from the sea, I saw a good way before me something that resembled a great fire, which afforded me some comfort; for I said to myself, I shall find here some persons, it not being possible that this fire should kindle of itself. As I drew nearer, however, I found my error, and discovered that what I had taken for a fire was a castle of red copper, which the beams of the sun made to appear at a distance like flames.
I stopped in the neighbourhood of the castle, and sat down to admire its noble structure, and to rest myself. Before I had taken such a view of this magnificent building as it deserved, I saw ten handsome young men coming along, as if they had been taking a walk; but what surprised me was, that they were all blind of the right eye. They were accompanied by an old man, who was very tall, and of a venerable aspect.
I could not suppress my astonishment at the sight of so many half blind men in company, and every one deprived of the same eye. As I was conjecturing by what adventure these men could come together, they approached, and seemed glad to see me. After the first salutations, they inquired what had brought me thither. I told them my story would be somewhat tedious, but if they would take the trouble to sit down, 1 would satisfy their curiosity. They did so, and I related to them all that had happened to me since I had left my kingdom, which filled them with astonishment.
After I had concluded my account, the young gentlemen prayed me to accompany them into the castle. I accepted their offer, and we passed through a great many halls, ante-chambers, bed-chambers, and closets, very well furnished, and came at last into a spacious hall, where there were ten small blue sofas set round, separate from one another, on which they sat by day and slept at night. In the middle of this circle stood an eleventh sofa, not so high as the rest, but of the same colour, upon which the old man before-mentioned sat down, and the young gentlemen occupied the other ten. But as each sofa could only contain one man, one of the young men said to me, "Comrade, sit down upon that carpet in the middle of the room, and do not inquire into anything that concerns us, nor the reason why we are all blind of the right eye; be content with what you see, and let not your curiosity extend any farther."
The old man having sat a short time, arose, and went out; but he returned in a minute or two, brought in supper, distributed to each man separately his proportion, and likewise brought me mine, which I ate apart, as the rest did; and when supper was almost ended, he presented to each of us a cup of wine.
They thought my story so extraordinary, that they made me repeat it after supper, and it furnished conversation for a good part of the night. One of the gentlemen observing that it was late, said to the old man, "You do not bring us that with which we may acquit ourselves of our duty." At these words the old man arose, and went into a closet, and brought out thence upon his head ten basins, one after another, all covered with blue stuff; he placed one before every gentleman, together with a light.
They uncovered their basins, which contained ashes, coal-dust, and lamp-black; they mixed all together, and rubbed and bedaubed their faces with it in such a manner as to make themselves look very frightful. After having thus blackened themselves, they wept and lamented, beating their heads and breasts, and crying continually, "This is the fruit of our idleness and debauches."
They continued this strange employment nearly the whole of the night, and when they left off, the old man brought them water, with which they washed their faces and hands; they changed all their clothes, which were spoiled, and put on others; so that they exhibited no appearance of what they had been doing.
You may judge how uneasy I felt all this time. I wished a thousand times to break the silence which had been imposed upon me, and ask questions; nor was it possible for me to sleep that night.
The next day, soon after we had arisen, we went out to walk, and then I said to them, "Gentlemen, I declare to you, that I must renounce the law which you prescribed to me last night, for I cannot observe it. You are men of sense, you have convinced me that you do not want understanding; yet, I have seen you do such actions as none but madmen could be capable of. Whatever misfortune befalls me, I cannot forbear asking, why you bedaubed your faces with black? How it has happened that each of you has but one eye? Some singular circumstance must certainly be the cause; therefore I conjure you to satisfy my curiosity." To these pressing instances they answered only, that it was no business of mine to make such inquiries, and that I should do well to hold my peace.
We passed that day in conversation upon indifferent subjects; and when night was come and every man had supped, the old man brought in the blue basins, and the young gentlemen as before bedaubed their faces, wept and beat themselves, crying, "This is the fruit of our idleness and debauches," and continued the same actions the following night. At last, not being able to resist my curiosity, I earnestly prayed them to satisfy me, or to shew me how to return to my own kingdom; for it was impossible for me to keep them company any longer, and to see every night such an odd exhibition, without being permitted to know the reason.
One of the gentlemen answered on behalf of the rest, "Do not wonder at our conduit in regard to yourself, and that hitherto we have not granted your request: it is out of kindness, to save you the pain of being reduced to the same condition with ourselves. If you have a mind to try our unfortunate destiny, you need but speak, and we will give you the satisfaction you desire." I told them I was resolved on it, let what would be the consequence. "Once more," said the same gentleman, "we advise you to restrain your curiosity: it will cost you the loss of your right eye." "No matter," I replied; "be assured that if such a misfortune befall me, I will not impute it to you, but to myself."
He farther represented to me, that when I had lost an eye I must not hope to remain with them, if I were so disposed, because their number was complete, and no addition could be made to it. I told them, that it would be a great satisfaction to me never to part from such agreeable gentlemen, but if there were a necessity for it, I was ready to submit; and let it cost me what it would, I begged them to grant my request.
The ten gentlemen perceiving that I was so fixed in my resolution, took a sheep, killed it, and after they had taken off the skin, presented me with a knife, telling me it would be useful to me on an occasion which they would soon explain. "We must sew you in this skin," said they, "and then leave you; upon which a bird of a monstrous size, called a roc, will appear in the air, and taking you for a sheep, will pounce upon you, and soar with you to the sky: but let not that alarm you; he will descend with you again, and lay you on the top of a mountain. When you find yourself on the ground, cut the skin with your knife, and throw it off. As soon as the roc sees you, he will fly away for fear, and leave you at liberty. Do not stay, but walk on till you come to a spacious castle, covered with plates of gold, large emeralds, and other precious stones: go up to the gate, which always stands open, and walk in. We have each of us been in that castle; but will tell you nothing of what we saw, or what befell us there; you will learn by your own experience. All that we can inform you is, that it has cost each of us our right eye, and the penance which you have been witness to, is what we are obliged to observe in consequence of having been there. The history of each of us is so full of extraordinary adventures, that a large volume would not contain them. But we cannot explain ourselves farther."
When the gentleman had thus spoken, I wrapt myself in the sheep's skin, held fast the knife which was given me; and after the young gentlemen had been at the trouble to sew the skin about me, they retired into the hall, and left me alone. The roc they spoke of soon arrived; he pounced upon me, took me in his talons like a sheep, and carried me up the summit of the mountain.
When I found myself on the ground, I cut the skin with the knife, and throwing it off, the roc at the sight of me flew sway. This roc is a white bird, of a monstrous size; his strength is such, that he can lift up elephants from the plains, and carry them to the tops of mountains, where he feeds upon them.
Being impatient to reach the castle, I lost no time; but made so much haste, that I got thither in half a day's journey, and I must say that I found it surpassed the description they had given me of its magnificence.
The gate being open, I entered a square court, so large that there were round it ninety-nine gates of wood of sanders and aloes, and one of gold, without reckoning those of several superb staircases, that led to apartments above, besides many more which I could not see. The hundred doors I spoke of opened into gardens or store-houses full of riches, or into apartments which contained many things wonderful to be seen.
I saw a door standing open just before me, through which I entered into a large hall. Here I found forty young ladies of such perfect beauty as imagination could not surpass: they were all most sumptuously appareled. As soon as they saw me they arose, and without waiting my salutations, said to me, with demonstrations of joy, "Noble Sir, you are welcome." And one thus addressed me in the name of the rest, "We have long been in expectation of such a gentleman as you; your mien assures us, that you are master of all the good qualities we can desire; and we hope you will not find our company disagreeable or unworthy of yours."
They obliged me, notwithstanding all the opposition I could make, to sit down on a seat that was higher than their own; and when I expressed my uneasiness, "That is your place," said they, "you are at present our lord, master, and judge, and we are your slaves, ready to obey your commands."
Nothing, madam, so much astonished me, as the solicitude and eagerness of those fair ladies to do me all possible service. One brought hot water to wash my feet, a second poured sweet scented water on my hands; others brought me all kinds of necessaries, and change of apparel; others again brought in a magnificent collation; and the rest came with glasses in their hands to fill me delicious wines, all in good order, and in the most charming manner possible. I ate and drank; after which the ladies placed themselves about me, and desired an account of my travels. I gave them a full relation of my adventures, which lasted till night came on.
When I had finished my narrative to the forty ladies, some of them who sat nearest me staid to keep me company, whilst the rest, seeing it was dark, rose to fetch tapers. They brought a prodigious number, which by the wonderful light they emitted exhibited the resemblance of day, and they disposed them with so much taste as to produce the most beautiful effect possible.
Other ladies covered a table with dry fruits, sweetmeats, and everything proper to relish the liquor; a side-board was set out with several sorts of wine and other liquors. Some of the ladies brought in musical instruments, and when everything was ready, they invited me to sit down to supper. The ladies sat down with me, and we continued a long while at our repast. They that were to play upon the instruments and sing arose, and formed a most charming concert. The others began a kind of ball, and danced two and two, couple after couple, with admirable grace.
It was past midnight ere these amusements ended. At length one of the ladies said to me, "You are doubtless wearied by the journey you have taken to-day; it is time for you to retire to rest; your lodging is prepared: but before you depart choose which of us you like best to be your bedfellow." I answered, "That I knew not how to make my own choice, as they were all equally beautiful, witty, and worthy of my respects and service, and that I would not be guilty of so much incivility as to prefer one before another."
The lady who had spoken to me before answered, "We are very well satisfied of your civility, and find it is your fear to create jealousy among us that occasions your diffidence; but let not this hinder you. We assure you, that the good fortune of her whom you choose shall cause no feeling of the kind; for we are agreed among ourselves, that every one of us shall in her turn have the same honour; and when forty days are past, to begin again; therefore make your selection, and lose no time to take the repose you need." I was obliged to yield to their entreaties, and offered my hand to the lady who spoke, and who, in return, gave me hers. We were conducted to a sumptuous apartment, where they left us; and then every one retired to her own chamber.
I was scarcely dressed next morning, when the other thirty-nine ladies came into my chamber, all in different dresses from those they had worn the day before: they bade me good-morrow, and inquired after my health. After which they conveyed me to a bath, where they washed me themselves, and whether I would or no, served me with everything I needed; and when I came out of the bath, they made me put on another suit much richer than the former.
We passed the whole day almost constantly at table; and when it was bed-time, they prayed me again to make choice of one of them for my companion In short, madam, not to weary you with repetitions, I must tell you that I continued a whole year among those forty ladies, and received them into my bed one after another: and during all the time of this voluptuous life, we met not with the least kind of trouble. When the year was expired, I was greatly surprised that these forty ladies, instead of appearing with their usual cheerfulness to ask me how I did, entered my chamber one morning all in tears. They embraced me with great tenderness one after another, saying, "Adieu, dear prince, adieu! for we must leave you." Their tears affected. I prayed them to tell me the reason of their grief, and of the separation they spoke of. "Fair ladies, let me know," said I, "if it be in my power to comfort you, or if my assistance can be any way useful to you." Instead of returning a direct answer, "Would," said they, "we had never seen or known you! Several gentlemen have honoured us with their company before you; but never one of them had that comeliness, that sweetness, that pleasantness of humour, and that merit which you possess; we know not how to live without you." After they had spoken these words, they began to weep bitterly. "My dear ladies," said I, "have the kindness not to keep me any longer in suspense: tell me the cause of your sorrow." "Alas!" said they, "what but the necessity of parting from you could thus afflict us? Perhaps we shall never see you more; but if it be your wish we should, and if you possess sufficient self-command for the purpose, it is not impossible but that we may again enjoy the pleasure of your company." "Ladies," I replied, "I understand not what you mean; pray explain yourselves more clearly."
"Well," said one of them, "to satisfy you, we must acquaint you that we are all princesses, daughters of kings. We live here together in the manner you have seen; but at the end of every year we are obliged to be absent forty days upon indispensable duties, which we are not permitted to reveal: and afterwards we return again to this castle. Yesterday was the last of the year; to day we must leave you, and this circumstance is the cause of our grief. Before we depart we will leave you the keys of everything, especially those of the hundred doors, where you will find enough to satisfy your curiosity, and to relieve your solitude during our absence. But for your benefit, and our own personal interests, we recommend you to forbear opening the golden door; for if you do we shall never see you again; and the apprehension of this augments our grief. We hope, nevertheless, that you will attend to our advice; your own peace, and the happiness of your life, depends upon your compliance; therefore take heed. If you suffer yourself to be swayed by a foolish curiosity, you will do yourself a considerable injury. We conjure you to avoid the indiscretion, and to give us the satisfaction finding you here again at the end of forty days. We would willingly take the key of the golden door with us; but that it would be an affront to a prince like you to question your discretion and firmness."
This speech of the fair princesses grieved me extremely. I omitted not to declare how much their absence would afflict me. I thanked then for their good advice, assuring them that I would follow it, and expressed my willingness to perform what was much more difficult, to secure the happiness of passing the rest of my days with ladies of such beauty and accomplishments. We separated with much tenderness, and after I had embraced them all, they departed, and I remained alone in the castle.
The agreeableness of their company, their hospitality, their musical entertainments, and other amusements, had so much absorbed my attention during the whole year, that I neither had time nor desire to see the wonders contained in this enchanted palace. I did not even notice a thousand curious objects that every day offered themselves to my view, so much was I charmed by the beauty of those ladies, and the pleasure they seemed to take in promoting my gratification. Their departure sensibly afflicted me; and though their absence was to be only forty days, it seemed to me an age to live without them.
I determined not to forget the important advice they had given me, not to open the golden door; but as I was permitted to satisfy my curiosity in everything else, I took the first of the keys of the other doors, which were hung in regular order.
I opened the first door, and entered an orchard, which I believe the universe could not equal. I could not imagine any thing to surpass it, except that which our religion promises us after death. The symmetry, the neatness, the admirable order of the trees, the abundance and diversity of unknown fruits, their freshness and beauty, delighted my senses.
Nor must I omit to inform you, that this delicious orchard was watered in a very particular manner. There were channels so artificially and proportionately dug, that they carried water in considerable quantities to the roots of such trees as required much moisture. Others conveyed it in smaller quantities to those whose fruits were already formed: some carried still less to those whose fruits were swelling, and others carried only so much as was just requisite to water those which had their fruits come to perfection, and only wanted to be ripened. They far exceeded in size the ordinary fruits of our gardens. Lastly, those channels that watered the trees whose fruit was ripe had no more moisture than just what would preserve them from withering.
I should never have tired in examining and admiring so delightful a place; nor have left it, had I not conceived a still higher idea of the other things which I had not seen. I went out at last with my mind filled with the wonders I had viewed: I shut the door, and opened the next.
Instead of an orchard, I found here a flower garden, which was no less extraordinary in its kind. It contained a spacious plot, not watered so profusely as the former, but with greater niceness, furnishing no more water than just what each flower required. The roses, jessamines, violets, daffodils, hyacinths, anemonies, tulips, pinks, lilies, and an infinite number of flowers, which do not grow in other places but at certain times, were there flourishing all at once, and nothing could be more delicious than the fragrant smell which they emitted.
I opened the third door, and found a large aviary, paved with marble of several fine and uncommon colours. The trellis work was made of sandal wood and wood of aloes. It contained a vast number of nightingales, gold-finches, canary birds, larks, and other rare singing-birds, which I had never heard of; and the vessels that held their seed and water were of the most precious jasper or agate.
Besides, this aviary was so exceedingly neat, that, considering its extent, I judged there must be not less than a hundred persons to keep it clean; but all this while not one appeared, either here or in the gardens I had before examined; and yet I could not perceive a weed, or any thing superfluous or offensive to sight. The sun went down, and I retired, charmed with the chirping notes of the multitude of birds, who then began to perch upon such places as suited them for repose during the night. I went to my chamber, resolving on the following days to open all the rest of the doors, excepting that of gold.
The next day I opened the fourth door. If what I had seen before was capable of exciting my surprise, what I now beheld transported me into perfect ecstacy. I entered a large court surrounded with buildings of an admirable structure, the description of which I will omit, to avoid prolixity.
This building had forty doors, all open, and through each of them was an entrance into a treasury: several of these treasuries contained as much wealth as the largest kingdoms. The first was stored with heaps of pearls: and, what is almost incredible, the number of those stones which are most precious, and as large as pigeons' eggs, exceeded the number of those of the ordinary size. In the second treasury, there were diamonds, carbuncles, and rubies; in the third, emeralds; in the fourth, ingots of gold; in the fifth, money; in the sixth, ingots of silver; and in the two following, money. The rest contained amethysts, chrysolites, topazes, opals, turquoises, and hyacinths, with all the other stones known to us, without mentioning agate, jasper, cornelian, and coral, of which there was a store house filled, not only with branches, but whole trees.
Filled with astonishment and admiration at the view of all these riches, I exclaimed, "If all the treasures of the kings of the universe were gathered together in one place, they could not equal the value of these. How fortunate am I to possess all this wealth with so many admirable princesses! "
I will not tire you, madam, with a detail of all the other objects of curiosity and value which I discovered on the following day. I shall only say, that thirty-nine days afforded me but just as much time as was necessary to open ninety-nine doors, and to admire all that presented itself to my view, so that there was only the hundredth door left, which I was forbidden to open.
The fortieth day after the departure of those charming princesses arrived, and had I but retained so much self-command as I ought to have had, I should have been this day the happiest of all mankind, whereas now I am the most unfortunate. They were to return the next day, and the pleasure of seeing them again ought to have restrained my curiosity: but through my weakness, which I shall ever repent, I yielded to the temptations of the evil spirit, who allowed me no rest till I had involved myself in the misfortunes I have since suffered.
I opened that fatal door! But before I had moved my foot to enter, a smell pleasant enough, but too powerful for my senses, made me faint away. However, I soon recovered: but instead of taking warning from this incident to close the door, and restrain my curiosity, after waiting some time for the external air to correct the effluvia of the place, I entered, and felt myself no longer incommoded. I found myself in a spacious vaulted apartment, the pavement of which was strewed with saffron. It was illuminated by several large tapers which emitted the perfume of aloes and ambergris, and were placed in candlesticks of solid gold. This light was augmented by gold and silver lamps, burning perfumed oils of various kinds.
Among the many objects that attracted my attention was a black horse, of the most perfect symmetry and beauty that ever was beheld. I approached in order the better to observe him, and found he had on a saddle and bridle of massive gold, curiously wrought. One part of his manger was filled with clean barley and sesame, and the other with rose-water. I laid hold of his bridle, and led him out to view him by daylight. I mounted, and endeavoured to make him move: but finding he did not stir, I struck him with a switch I had taken up in his magnificent stable. He had no sooner felt the blow, than he began to neigh in a most horrible manner, and extending his wings, which I had not before perceived, flew up with me into the air. My thoughts were fully in keeping my seat; and considering the fear that had seized me, I sat well. At length he directed his course towards the earth, and lighted upon the terrace of a castle, and, without giving me time to dismount, shook me out of the saddle with such force, as to throw me behind him, and with the end of his tail he struck out my eye.
Thus it was I became blind of one eye. I then recollected the predictions of the ten young gentlemen. The horse again took wing, and soon disappeared. I got up much vexed at the misfortune I had brought upon myself. I walked upon the terrace, covering my eye with one of my hands, for it pained me exceedingly, and then descended, and entered into a hall. I soon discoved by the ten sofas in a circle, and the eleventh in the middle, lower than the rest, that I was in the castle whence I had been carried by the roc.
The ten young gentlemen were not in the hall when I entered; but came in soon after, attended by the old man. They seemed not at all surprised to see me, nor at the loss of my eye; but said, "We are sorry that we cannot congratulate you on your return, as we could wish; but we are not the cause of your misfortune." "I should do you wrong," I replied, "to lay it to your charge; I have only myself to accuse." "If," said they, "it be a subject of consolation to the afflicted to know that others share their sufferings, you have in us this alleviation of your misfortune. All that has happened to you we have also endured; we each of us tasted the same pleasures during a year; and we had still continued to enjoy them, had we not opened the golden door, when the princesses were absent. You have been no wiser than we, and have incurred the same punishment. We would gladly receive you into our company, to join with us in the penance to which we are bound, and the duration of which we know not. But we have already stated to you the reasons that render this impossible: depart, therefore, and proceed to the court of Bagdad, where you will meet with the person who is to decide your destiny." After they had explained to me the road I was to travel, I departed.
On the road I caused my beard and eye-brows to be shaven, and assumed a calender's habit. I have had a long journey, but at last I arrived this evening, and met these my brother calenders at the gate, being strangers as well as myself. We were mutually surprised at one another, to see that we were all blind of the same eye; but we had not leisure to converse long on the subject of our misfortunes. We have only had time enough to bring us hither, to implore those favours which you have been generously pleased to grant us.
The third calender having finished this relation of his adventures, Zobeide addressed him and his fellow calenders thus: "Go wherever you think proper, you are at liberty." But one of them answered, "Madam, we beg you to pardon our curiosity, and permit us to hear the stories of those gentlemen who have not yet spoken." Then the lady turned to the caliph, the vizier Jaaffier, and Mesrour, and said to them, "It is now your turn to relate your adventures, therefore speak."
The grand vizier who had all along been the spokesman, answered Zobeide: "Madam, in order to obey you, we need only repeat what we have already said. We are merchants of Moussol come to Bagdad to sell our merchandize, which lies in the khan where we lodge. We dined today with several other persons of our condition, at a merchant's house of this city; who, after he had treated us with choice dainties and excellent wines, sent for men and women dancers, and musicians. The great noise we made brought in the watch, who arrested some of the company, and we had the good fortune to escape: but it being already late, and the door of our khan shut up, we knew not whither to retire. We chanced as we passed along this street to hear mirth at your house, which made us determine to knock at your gate. This is all the account that we can give you, in obedience to your commands."
Zobeide having heard this statement, seemed to hesitate what to say, which the calenders perceiving, prayed her to grant the same favour to the three Moussol merchants as she had done to them. "Well then," said she, "you shall all be equally obliged to me; I pardon you all, provided you immediately depart."
Zobeide having given this command in a tone that signified she would be obeyed, the caliph, the vizier Mesrour, the three calenders, and the porter departed, without saying one word: for the presence of the seven slaves with their weapons awed them into silence. As soon as they had quitted the house, and the gate was closed after them, the caliph said to the calenders, without making himself known, "You gentlemen, who are newly come to town, which way do you design to go, since it is not yet day?" "It is this," they replied, "that perplexes us." "Follow us," resumed the caliph, "and we will convey you out of danger." He then whispered to the vizier, "Take them along with you, and tomorrow morning bring them to me; I will cause their history to be put in writing, for it deserves a place in the annals of my reign."
The vizier Jaaffier took the three calenders along with him; the porter went to his quarters, and the caliph and Mesrour returned to the palace. The caliph went to bed, but could not sleep, being perplexed by the extraordinary things he had seen and heard. But above all, he was most concerned to know the history of Zobeide; what reason she could have to be so severe to the two black bitches, and why Amene had her bosom so scarred. Day began to appear whilst he was thinking upon these things; he arose and went to his council chamber, and sat upon his throne.
The grand vizier entered soon after, and paid his respects as usual. "Vizier," said the caliph, "the affairs that we have to consider at present are not very pressing; that of the three ladies and the two black bitches is the most urgent: my mind cannot rest till I am thoroughly satisfied, in all those matters that have so much surprised me. Go, bring those ladies and the calenders at the same time; make haste, and remember that I impatiently expect your return."
The vizier who knew his master's quick and fiery temper, hastened to obey, and went to the ladies, to whom he communicated, in a civil way,. the orders with which he was charged, to bring them before the caliph, without taking any notice of what had passed the night before at their house.
The ladies put on their veils, and went with the vizier As he passed his own house, he took along with him the three calenders, who in the interval had learnt that they had seen and spoken with the caliph, without knowing him. The vizier conducted them to the palace with so much expedition, that the caliph was much pleased. This prince, that he might observe proper decorum before the officers of his court who were then present, ordered that the ladies should be placed behind the hangings of the door which led to his own chamber, and placed the three calenders near his person, who, by their respectful behaviour, sufficiently evinced that they were not ignorant before whom they had the honour to appear.
When the ladies were thus disposed of, the caliph turned towards them, and said, "When I acquaint you that I was last night in your house, disguised in a merchant's habit, you may probably be alarmed, lest you may have given me offence; you may perhaps believe that I have sent for you for no other purpose than to shew some marks of my resentment; but be not afraid; you may rest assured that I have forgotten all that has past, and am well satisfied with your conduct. I wish that all the ladies of Bagdad had as much discretion as you evinced before me. I shall always remember the moderation with which you acted, after the rudeness of which we were guilty. I was then a merchant of Moussol, but am at present Haroon al Rusheed, the fifth caliph of the glorious house of Abbas, and hold the place of our great prophet. I have only sent for you to know who you are, and to ask for what reason one of you, after severely whipping the two black bitches, wept with them? And I am no less curious to know, why another of you has her bosom so full of scars."
Though the caliph pronounced these words very distinctly, the three ladies heard him well enough, yet the vizier out of ceremony, repeated them.
Zobeide, after the caliph by his address had encouraged her, began thus:
The Story of Zobeide.
Commander of the faithful, the relation which I am about to give your majesty is singularly extraordinary. The two black bitches and myself are sisters by the same father and mother; and I shall acquaint you by what strange accident they came to be metamorphosed. The two ladies who live with me, and are now here, are also my sisters by the father's side, but by another mother: she that has the scars upon her breast is named Amene; the name of the other is Safie, and my own Zobeide.
After our father's death, the property that he left was equally divided among us, and as soon as these two sisters received their portions, they left me to live with their mother. My other two sisters and myself stayed with our mother, who was then alive, and who when she afterwards died left each of us a thousand sequins. As soon as we had received our portions, the two eldest (for I am the youngest) married, and left me alone. Some time after, my eldest sister's husband sold all that he had, and with that money and my sister's portion they went both into Africa, where her husband, by riotous living and debauchery' spent all; and finding himself reduced to poverty, found a pretext for divorcing my sister, and put her away.
She returned to this city, and having suffered incredible hardships by the way, came to me in so lamentable a condition that it would have moved the hardest heart to compassion to behold her. I received her with every possible tenderness, and inquiring into the cause of her distress, she told me with tears how inhumanly her husband had behaved towards her. Her misfortunes affected me: and I mingled my tears with hers. I took her to a bath, clothed her with my own apparel, and thus addressed her: "Sister, you are the elder, and I esteem you as my mother: during your absence, God has blest the portion that fell to my share, and the employment I follow of breeding silk-worms. Assure yourself there is nothing I have but is at your service, and as much at your disposal as my own."
We lived very comfortably together for some months. As we were one day conversing about our third sister, and wondering we received no intelligence of her, she came in as bad a condition as the eldest: her husband had treated her after the same manner; and I received her likewise with the same affection as I had done the former.
Some time after, my two sisters, on presence that they would not be chargeable to me, told me they intended to marry again. I observed, that if putting me to expense was the only reason, they might lay those thoughts aside, and be welcome to remain: for what I had would be sufficient to maintain us all three, in a manner answerable to our condition. "But," I added, "I rather believe you wish to marry again; I shall feel much surprised if such be the case. After the experience you have had of the little satisfaction there is in wedlock, is it possible you dare venture a second time? You know how rare it is to meet with a husband perfectly virtuous and deserving. Believe what I say, and let us live together as comfortably as we can." All my persuasion was in vain; they were resolved to marry, and soon accomplished their wishes. But after some months were past, they returned again, and begged my pardon a thousand times for not following my advice. "You are our youngest sister," said they, "but abundantly more wise than we; if you will vouchsafe to receive us once more into your house, and account us your slaves, we shall never commit a similar fault again." My answer was, "Dear sisters, I have not altered my mind with respect to you since we last parted: come again, and take part of what I have." Upon this I embraced them, and we lived together as before.
We continued thus a whole year in perfect love and harmony. Seeing that God had increased my small stock, I projected a voyage, to embark some of it in a commercial speculation. To this end, I went with my two sisters to Bussorah, where I bought a ship ready fitted for sea, and laded her with such merchandise as I had carried with me from Bagdad. We set sail with a fair wind, and soon cleared the Persian gulf; when we had reached the open sea, we steered our course to the Indies; and the twentieth day saw land. It was a very high mountain, at the bottom of which we perceived a great town: having a fresh gale, we soon reached the harbour, and cast anchor.
I had not patience to wait till my sisters were dressed to go along with me, but went ashore alone in the boat. Making directly to the gate of the town, I saw there a great number of men upon guard, some sitting, and others standing with sticks in their hands; and they had all such dreadful countenances that I was greatly alarmed; but perceiving they remained stationary, and did not so much as move their eyes, I took courage, and went nearer, when I found they were all turned into stones. I entered the town and passed through several streets, where at different intervals stood men in various attitudes, but all motionless and petrified. In the quarter inhabited by the merchants I found most of the shops shut, and in such as were open I likewise found the people petrified.
Having reached a vast square, in the heart of the city, I perceived a large folding gate, covered with plates of gold, which stood open; a curtain of silk stuff seemed to be drawn before it: a lamp hung over the entrance. After I had surveyed the building, I made no doubt but it was the palace of the prince who reigned over that country: and being much astonished that I had not met with one living creature, I approached in hopes to find some. I lifted up the curtain, and was surprised at beholding no one but the guards in the vestibule all petrified; some standing, some sitting, and some lying.
I came to a large court, where I saw before me a stately building, the windows of which were inclosed with gates of messy gold: I concluded it to be the queen's apartments. I entered; and in a large hall I found several black eunuchs turned into stone. I went from thence into a room richly furnished, where I perceived a lady in the same situation. I knew it to be the queen, by the crown of gold on her head, and a necklace of pearls about her neck, each of them as large as a nut; I approached her to have a nearer view of it, and never beheld a finer objets.
I stood some time admiring the riches and magnificence of the room; but above all, the carpet, the cushions, and the sofas, which were all ornamented with Indian stuff of gold, and representations of men and beasts in silver, admirably executed.
I quitted the chamber where the petrified queen was, and passed through several other apartments and closets richly furnished, and at last came into a large room, where there was a throne of massive gold, raised several steps above the floor, and enriched with large enchased emeralds, and upon the throne there was a bed of rich stuff embroidered with pearls. What surprised me most was a sparkling light which came from above the bed. Being curious to know whence it proceeded, I ascended the steps, and lifting up my head, saw a diamond as large as the egg of an ostrich, lying upon a low stool; it was so pure, that I could not find the least blemish in it, and it sparkled with so much brilliancy, that when I saw it by day-light I could not endure its lustre.
At the head of the bed there stood on each side a lighted flambeau, but for what use I could not comprehend; however, it made me imagine that there was some living creature in this place; for I could not believe that the torches continued thus burning of themselves. Several other rarities detained my curiosity in this room, which was inestimable in value, were it only for the diamond I mentioned.
The doors being all open, or but half shut, I surveyed some other apartments, that were as beautiful as those I had already seen. I looked into the offices and store-rooms, which were full of riches. In short, the wonders that everywhere appeared so wholly engrossed my attention, that I forgot my ship and my sisters, and thought of nothing but gratifying my curiosity. In the mean time night came on, which reminded me that it was time to retire. I proposed to return the way I had entered, but I could not find it; I lost myself among the apartments; and perceiving I was come back again to the large room, where the throne, the couch, the large diamond, and the torches stood, I resolved to take my night's lodging there, and to depart the next morning early, to get aboard my ship. I laid myself down upon a couch, not without some dread to be alone in a desolate place; and this fear hindered my sleep.
About midnight I heard a voice like that of a man reading the Koraun, after the same manner, and in the same tone as it is read in our mosques. Being extremely glad to hear it, I immediately arose, and taking a torch in my hand, passed from one chamber to another on that side from whence the sound proceeded. I came to the closet-door, and stood still, not doubting that it came from thence. I set down my torch upon the ground, and looking through a window, found it to be an oratory. It had, as we have in our mosques, a niche, to direct us whither we are to turn to say our prayers: there were also lamps hung up, and two candlesticks with large tapers of white wax burning.
I saw a little carpet laid down like those we have to kneel upon when we say our prayers, and a comely young man sat on this carpet reading with great devotion the Koraun, which lay before him on a desk. At this sight I was transported with admiration. I wondered how it came to pass that he should be the only living creature in a town where all the people were turned into stones, and I did not doubt but there was something in the circumstance very extraordinary.
The door being only half shut, I opened it, went in, and standing upright before the niche, I repeated this prayer aloud: "Praise be to God, who has favoured us with a happy voyage, and may he be graciously pleased to protect us in the same manner, until we arrive again in our own country. Hear me, O Lord, and grant my request."
The young man turned his eyes towards me, and said, "My good lady, pray let me know who you are, and what has brought you to this desolate city? And, in return, I will you who I am, what has happened to me, why the inhabitants of this city are reduced to the state you see them in, and why I alone am safe in the midst of such a terrible disaster."
I told him in a few words whence I had come, what had made me undertake the voyage, and how I safely arrived at the port after twenty days' sailing; when I had done, I prayed him to perform his promise, and told him how much I was struck by the frightful desolation which I had seen in the city.
"Lady," said the young man, "have patience for a moment." At these words he shut the Koraun, put it into a rich case, and laid it in the niche. I took that opportunity to observe him, and perceiving in him so much good nature and beauty, I felt emotions I had never known before. He made me sit down by him, and before he began his discourse, I could not forbear saying, with an air that discovered the sentiments I felt, "Amiable sir, dear object of my soul, I can scarcely have patience to wait for an account of all these wonderful objects that I have seen since I came into your city; and my curiosity cannot be satisfied too soon: therefore pray, sir, let me know by what miracle you alone are left alive among so many persons that have died in so strange a manner."
"Madam," said the young man, "by the prayer you just now addressed to him, you have given me to understand that you have a knowledge of the true God. I will acquaint you with the most remarkable effect of his greatness and power. You must know, that this city was the metropolis of a mighty kingdom, over which the sultan my father reigned. That prince, his whole court, the inhabitants of the city, and all his other subjects, were magi, worshippers of fire, and of Nardoun, the ancient king of the giants, who rebelled against God.
"But though I was born of an idolatrous father and mother, I had the good fortune in my youth to have a governess who was a good Moosulmaun. 'Dear prince,' would she oftentimes say, 'there is but one true God; take heed that you do not acknowledge and adore any other.' She taught me to read Arabic, and the book she gave me to study was the Koraun. As soon as I was capable of understanding it, she explained to me all the passages of this excellent book, and infused piety into my mind, unknown to my father or any other person. She happened to die, but not before she had perfectly instructed me in all that was necessary to convince me of the truth of the Moosulmaun religion. After her death I persisted with constancy in the belief of its divinity: and I abhor the false god Nardoun, and the adoration of fire.
"About three years and some months ago, a thundering voice was suddenly sounded so distinctly, through the whole city, that nobody could miss hearing it. The words were these: 'Inhabitants, abandon the worship of Nardoun, and of fire, and worship the only God who shews mercy.'
"This voice was heard three years successively, but no one was converted. On the last day of that year, at four o'clock in the morning, all the inhabitants were changed in an instant into stone, every one in the condition and posture they happened to be in. The sultan, my father, shared the same fate, for he was metamorphosed into a black stone, as he is to be seen in this palace, and the queen, my mother, had the like destiny.
"I am the only person who did not suffer under that heavy judgment, and ever since I have continued to serve God with more fervency than before. I am persuaded, dear lady, that he has sent you hither for my comfort, for which I render him infinite thanks; for I must own that this solitary life is extremely irksome."
All these expressions, and particularly the last, greatly increased my love for him. "Prince," said I, "there is no doubt but Providence has brought me into your port, to afford you an opportunity of withdrawing from this dismal place. The ship I came in may serve in some measure to convince you that I am in some esteem at Bagdad, where I have left considerable property; and I dare engage to promise you sanctuary there, until the mighty commander of the faithful, vicegerent to our prophet whom you acknowledge, shew you the honour that is due to your merit. This renowned prince lives at Bagdad, and as soon as he is informed of your arrival in his capital, you will find that it is not in vain to implore his assistance. It is impossible you can stay any longer in a city where all the objects you behold must renew your grief: my vessel is at your service, where you may absolutely command as you shall think fit." He accepted the offer, and we conversed the remainder of the night concerning our embarkation.
As soon as it was day we left the palace, and went aboard my ship, where we found my sisters, the captain, and the slaves, all much troubled at my absence. After I had presented my sisters to the prince, I told them what had hindered my return the day before, how I had met with the young prince, his story, and the cause of the desolation of so fine a city.
The seamen were taken up several days in unlading the merchandize I brought with me, and embarking in its stead all the precious things in the palace, such as jewels, gold, and money. We left the furniture and goods, which consisted of an infinite quantity of plate, &c., because our vessel could not carry it, for it would have required several vessels more to convey to Bagdad all the riches that we might have chosen to take with us.
After we had laden the vessel with what we thought most desirable, we took such provisions and water aboard as were necessary for our voyage (for we had still a great deal of those provisions left that we had taken in at Bussorah); at last we set sail with a wind as favourable as we could wish.
The young prince, my sisters and myself, enjoyed ourselves for some time very agreeably. But alas! this good understanding did not last long, for my sisters grew jealous of the friendship between the prince and myself, and maliciously asked me one day, what we should do with him when we came to Bagdad? I perceived immediately that they put this question on purpose to discover my inclinations; therefore, resolving to put it off with a jest, I answered, "I will take him for my husband;" and upon that, turning myself to the prince, said, "Sir, I humbly beg of you to give your consent, for as soon as we come to Bagdad I desire to offer you my person to be your slave, to do you all the service that is in my power, and to resign myself wholly to your commands."
The prince replied, "I know not, madam, whether you be in jest or no; but for my part, I seriously declare before these ladies, your sisters, that from this moment I heartily accept your offer, not with any intention to have you as a slave, but as my lady and mistress: nor will I pretend to have any power over your actions." At these words my sisters changed colour, and I could perceive afterwards that they did not love me as before.
We entered the Persian gulf, and had come within a short distance of Bussorah (where I hoped, considering the fair wind, we might have arrived the day following), when in the night, while I was asleep, my sisters watched their opportunity, and threw me overboard. They did the same to the prince, who was drowned. I floated some minutes on the water, and by good fortune, or rather miracle, I felt ground. I went towards a dark spot, that, by what I could discern, seemed to be land, and proved to be a flat on the coast, which, when day appeared, I found to be a desert island, lying about twenty miles from Bussorah. I soon dried my clothes in the sun, and as I walked along I found several kinds of fruit, and likewise fresh water, which gave me some hopes of preserving my life.
I had just laid myself down to rest in a shade, when I perceived a very large winged serpent coming towards me, with an irregular waving movement, and hanging out its tongue, which induced me to conclude it had received some injury. I instantly arose, and perceived that it was pursued by a larger serpent which had hold of its tail, and was endeavouring to devour it. This perilous situation of the first serpent excited my pity, and instead of retreating I assumed courage to take up a stone that lay near me, and to throw it with all my strength at the other, which I hit upon the head and killed. The other, finding itself at liberty, took wing and flew away. I looked after it for some time till it disappeared. I then sought another shady spot for repose, and fell asleep.
Judge what was my surprise when I awoke, to see standing by me a black woman of lively and agreeable features, who held in her hand two bitches of the same colour, fastened together. I sat up, and asked her who she was? "I am," said she, "the serpent whom you lately delivered from my mortal enemy. I did not know in what way I could better requite the important services you have rendered me than by what I have just done. The treachery of your sisters was well known to me, and to avenge your wrongs, as soon as I was liberated by your generous assistance, I called together several of my companions, fairies like myself, conveyed into your storehouses at Bagdad all the lading of your vessel, and afterwards sunk it.
"These two black bitches are your sisters, whom I have transformed into this shape. But this punishment will not suffice; and my will is that you treat them hereafter in the way I shall direst."
As soon as she had thus spoken the fairy took me under one of her arms, and the two bitches under the other, and conveyed us to my house in Bagdad; where I found in my storehouses all the riches with which my vessel had been laden. Before she left me, she delivered to me the two bitches, and said, "If you would not be changed into a similar form, I command you, in the name of him that governs the sea, to give each of your sisters every night one hundred lashes with a rod, as the punishment of the crime they have committed against yourself, and the young prince, whom they have drowned." I was forced to promise obedience. Since that time I have whipped them every night, though with regret, whereof your majesty has been a witness. My tears testify with how much sorrow and reluctance I perform this painful duty; and in this your majesty may see I am more to be pitied than blamed. If there be any thing else relating to myself that you desire to know, my sister Amene will give you full information in the relation of her story.
After the caliph had heard Zobeide with much astonishment, he desired his grand vizier to request Amene to acquaint him wherefore her breast was disfigured with so many scars.
Amene addressed herself to the caliph, and began her story after this manner:
The Story of Amene.
Commander of the faithful, to avoid repeating what your majesty has already heard in my sister's story, I shall only add, that after my mother had taken a house for herself to live in, during her widowhood, she gave me in marriage, with the portion my father left me, to a gentleman who had one of the best estates in the city.
I had scarcely been a year married when I became a widow, and was left in possession of all my husband's property, which amounted to 90,000 sequins. The interest of this money was sufficient to maintain me very honourably. When the first six months of my mourning was over, I caused to be made for me ten different dresses, of such magnificence that each came to a thousand sequins; and at the end of the year I began to wear them.
One day, while I was alone engaged in my domestic affairs, I was told that a lady desired to speak to me. I gave orders that she should be admitted. She was a person advanced in years; she saluted me by kissing the ground, and said to me kneeling, "Dear lady, excuse the freedom I take to trouble you, the confidence I have in your charity makes me thus bold. I must acquaint your ladyship that I have an orphan daughter, who is to be married this day. She and I are both strangers, and have no acquaintance in this town; which much perplexes me, for we wish the numerous family with whom we are going to ally ourselves to think we are not altogether unknown and without credit: therefore, most beautiful lady, if you would vouchsafe to honour the wedding with your presence, we shall be infinitely obliged, because the ladies of our country, when informed that a lady of your rank has strewn us this respect, will then know that we are not regarded here as unworthy and despised persons. But, alas! madam, if you refuse this request, how great will be our mortification! we know not where else to apply."
This poor woman's address, which she spoke with tears, moved my compassion. "Good woman," said I, "do not afflict yourself, I will grant you the favour you desire; tell me whither I must go, and I will meet you as soon as I am dressed." The old woman was so transported with joy at my answer, that she kissed my feet before I had time to prevent her. "My compassionate lady," said she, rising, "God will reward the kindness you have shewed to your servants, and make your heart as joyful as you have made theirs. You need not at present trouble yourself; it will be time enough for you to go when I call for you in the evening. So farewell, madam, till I have the honour to see you again."
As soon as she was gone, I took the suit I liked best, with a necklace of large pearls, bracelets, pendents for my ears, and rings set with the finest and most sparkling diamonds; for my mind presaged what would befall me.
When the night closed in, the old woman called upon me, with a countenance full of joy. She kissed my hands, and said, "My dear lady, the relations of my son-in-law, who are the principal ladies of the city, are now met together; you may come when you please; I am ready to conduct you." We immediately set out; she walked before me, and I was followed by a number of my women and slaves properly dressed for the occasion. We stopt in a wide street, newly swept and watered, at a spacious gate with a lamp, by the light of which I read this inscription in golden letters over the entrance: "This is the everlasting abode of pleasure and joy." The old woman knocked, and the gate was opened immediately.
I was conducted towards the lower end of the court, into a large hall, where I was received by a young lady of admirable beauty. She drew near, and after having embraced me, made me sit down by her upon a sofa, on which was raised a throne of precious wood set with diamonds. "Madam," said she, "you are brought hither to assist at a wedding; but I hope it will be a different wedding from what you expected. I have a brother, one of the handsomest men in the world: he is fallen so much in love with the fame of your beauty, that his fate depends wholly upon you, and he will be the unhappiest of men if you do not take pity on him. He knows your quality, and I can assure you he is in no respect unworthy of your alliance. If my prayers, madam, can prevail, I shall join them with his, and humbly beg you will not refuse the proposal of being his wife."
After the death of my husband I had not thought of marrying again. But I had no power to refuse the solicitation of so charming a lady. As soon as I had given consent by my silence, accompanied with a blush, the young lady claps her hands, and immediately a closet-door opened, out of which came a young man of a majestic air, and so graceful a behaviour, that I thought myself happy to have made so great a conquest. He sat down by me, and I found from his conversation that his merits far exceeded the eulogium of his sister.
When she perceived that we were satisfied with one another, she claps her hands a second time, and out came a Cauzee, who wrote our contract of marriage, signed it himself, and caused it to be attested by four witnesses he brought along with him. The only condition that my new husband imposed upon me was, that I should not be seen by nor speak to any other man but himself, and he vowed to me that, if I complied in this respect, I should have no reason to complain of him. Our marriage was concluded and finished after this manner; so I became the principal actress in a wedding to which I had only been invited as a guest.
About a month after our marriage, having occasion for some stuffs, I asked my husband's permission to go out to buy them, which he granted; and I took with me the old woman of whom I spoke before, she being one of the family, and two of my own female slaves.
When we came to the street where the merchants reside, the old woman said, "Dear mistress, since you want silk stuffs, I must take you to a young merchant of my acquaintance, who has a great variety; and that you may not fatigue yourself by running from shop to shop, I can assure you that you will find in his what no other can furnish." I was easily persuaded, and we entered a shop belonging to a young merchant who was tolerably handsome. I sat down, and bade the old woman desire him to shew me the finest silk stuffs he had. The woman desired me to speak myself; but I told her it was one of the articles of my marriage contract not to speak to any man but my husband, which I ought to keep.
The merchant shewed me several stuffs, of which one pleased me better than the rest; but I bade her ask the price. He answered the old woman, "I will not sell it for gold or money, but I will make her a present of it, if she will give me leave to kiss her cheek." I ordered the old woman to tell him, that he was very rude to propose such a freedom. But instead of obeying me, she said, "What the merchant desires of you is no such great matter; you need not speak, but only present him your cheek." The stuff pleased me so much, that I was foolish enough to take her advice. The old woman and my slaves stood up, that nobody might see, and I put up my veil; but instead of kissing me, the merchant bit me so violently as to draw blood.
The pain and my surprise were so great, that I fell down in a swoon, and continued insensible so long, that the merchant had time to escape. When I came to myself, I found my cheek covered with blood: the old woman and my slaves took care to cover it with my veil, that the people who came about us could not perceive it, but supposed I had only had a fainting fit.
The old woman who accompanied me being extremely troubled at this accident, endeavoured to comfort me. "My dear mistress," said she, "I beg your pardon, for I am the cause of this misfortune, having brought you to this merchant, because he is my countryman: but I never thought he would be guilty of such a villainous action. But do not grieve; let us hasten home, I will apply a remedy that shall in three days so perfectly cure you, that not the least mark shall be visible." The fit had made me so weak, that I was scarcely able to walk. But at last I got home, where I again fainted, as I went into my chamber. Meanwhile, the old woman applied her remedy; I came to myself, and went to bed.
My husband came to me at night, and seeing my head bound up, asked me the reason. I told him I had the head-ache, which I hoped would have satisfied him, but he took a candle, and saw my cheek was hurt: "How comes this wound?" said he. Though I did not consider myself as guilty of any great offence, yet I could not think of owning the truth. Besides, to make such an avowal to a husband, I considered as somewhat indecorous; I therefore said, "That as I was going, under his permission, to purchase some silk stuff, a porter, carrying a load of wood, came so near to me, in a narrow street, that one of the sticks grazed my cheek; but had not done me much hurt." This account put my husband into a violent passion. "This act," said he, "shall not go unpunished. I will to-morrow order the lieutenant of the police to seize all those brutes of porters, and cause them to be hanged." Fearful of occasioning the death of so many innocent persons, I said, "Sir, I should be sorry so great a piece of injustice should be committed. Pray refrain; for I should deem myself unpardonable, were I to be the cause of so much mischief." "Then tell me sincerely," said he, "how came you by this wound." "I answered, "That it was occasioned by the inadvertency of a broom-seller upon an ass, who coming behind me, while he was looking another way, his ass came against me with so much violence, that I fell down, and hurt my cheek upon some glass." "If that is the case," said my husband, "to-morrow morning, before sun-rise, the grand vizier Jaaffier shall be informed of this insolence, and cause all the broom-sellers to be put to death." "For the love of God, Sir," said I, "let me beg of you to pardon them, for they are not guilty." "How, madam," he demanded, "what then am I to believe? Speak, for I am resolved to know the truth from your own mouth." "Sir," I replied, "I was taken with a giddiness, and fell down, and that is the whole matter."
At these words my husband lost all patience. "I have," said he, "too long listened to your falsehoods." As he spoke he clapped his hands, and in came three slaves: "Pull her out of bed," said he, "and lay her in the middle of the floor." The slaves obeyed, one holding me by the head, another by the feet; he commanded the third to fetch a cimeter, and when he had brought it, "Strike," said he, "cut her in two, and then throw her into the Tygris. This is the punishment I inflict on those to whom I have given my heart, when they falsify their promise." When he saw that the slave hesitated to obey him, "Why do you not strike?" said he. "What do you wait for?"
"Madam," said the slave then, "you are near the last moment of your life, consider if you have any thing to dispose of before you die." I begged permission to speak one word, which was granted me. I lifted up my head, and casting an affectionate look on my husband, said, "Alas! to what a condition am I reduced! must I then die in the prime of my youth!" I could say no more, for my tears and sighs choked my utterance. My husband was not at all moved, but, on the contrary, went on to reproach me; and it would have been in vain to attempt a reply. I had recourse to intreaties and prayers; but he had no regard to them, and commanded the slaves to proceed to execution. The old woman, who had been his nurse, came in just at that moment, fell down upon her knees, and endeavoured to appease his wrath. "My son," said she, "since I have been your nurse and brought you up, let me beg the favour of you to grant me her life. Consider, that he who kills shall be killed, and that you will stain your reputation, and forfeit the esteem of mankind. What will the world say of such sanguinary violence?" She spoke these words in such an affecting manner, accompanied with tears, that she prevailed upon him at last to abandon his purpose,
"Well then," said he to his nurse, "for your sake I will spare her life; but she shall bear about her person some marks to make her remember her offence." When he had thus spoken, one of the slaves, by his order, gave me upon my sides and breast so many blows, with a little cane, that he tore away both skin and flesh, which threw me into a swoon. In this state he caused the same slaves, the executioners of his fury, to carry me into a house, where the old woman took care of me. I kept my bed four months; at last I recovered: the scars which, contrary to my wish, you saw yesterday, have remained ever since.
As soon as I was able to walk, and go abroad, I resolved to retire to the house which was left me by my first husband, but I could not find the site whereon it had stood. My second husband, in the heat of his resentment, was not satisfied with the demolition of that, but caused every other house in the same street to be razed to the ground. I believe such an act of violence was never heard of before; but against whom could I complain? The perpetrator had taken good care to conceal himself. But suppose I had discovered him, is it not easily seen that his conduct must have proceeded from absolute power? How then could I dare to complain?
Being left thus destitute and helpless, I had recourse to my dear sister Zobeide, whose adventures your majesty has just heard. To her I made known my misfortune; she received me with her accustomed goodness, and advised me to bear my ambition patience. "This is the way of the world," said she, "which either robs us of our property, our friends, or our lovers; and some. times of all together." In confirmation of her remark, she at the same time gave me an account of the loss of the young prince, occasioned by the jealousy of her two sisters. She told me also by what accident they were transformed into bitches: and in the last place, after a thousand testimonials of her love towards me, she introduced me to my youngest sister, who had likewise taken sanctuary with her after the death of her mother.
Having returned our grateful acknowledgments to God for having thus brought us together, we resolved to preserve our freedom, and never again to separate. We have now long enjoyed this tranquil life. As it was my business to manage the affairs of the house, I always took pleasure in going myself to purchase what we wanted. I happened to go abroad yesterday for this purpose, and the things I bought I caused to be carried home by a porter, who proving to be a sensible and jocose fellow, we kept with us for a little diversion. Three calenders happened to come to our door as it began to grow dark, and prayed us to give them shelter till the next morning We admitted them upon certain conditions which they agreed to observe; and after we had made them sit at table with us, they in their own way entertained us with a concert of music. At this time we heard knocking at our gate. This proceeded from three merchants of Moussol, men of good appearance, who begged the same favour which the calenders had obtained before. We consented upon the same conditions, but neither of them kept their promise. Though we had power, as well as justice on our side, to punish them, yet we contented ourselves with demanding from them the history of their lives; and afterwards confined our revenge to dismissing them, after they had done, and denying them the asylum they requested.
The caliph was well pleased to be thus informed of what he desired to know; and publicly expressed his admiration of what he had heard.
The caliph having satisfied his curiosity, thought himself obliged to shew his generosity to the calender princes, and also to give the three ladies some proof of his bounty. He himself, without making use of his minister, the grand vizier, spoke to Zobeide. "Madam, did not this fairy, that shewed herself to you in the shape of a serpent, and imposed such a rigorous command upon you, tell you where her place of abode was? Or rather, did she not promise to see you, and restore those bitches to their natural shape?"
"Commander of the faithful," answered Zobeide, "I forgot to tell your majesty that the fairy left with me a bundle of hair, saying, that her presence would one day be of use to me; and then, if I only burnt two tufts of this hair, she would be with me in a moment, though she were beyond mount Caucasus." "Madam," demanded the caliph, "where is the bundle of hair?" She answered, "Ever since that time I have been so careful of it, that I always carry it about me." Upon which she pulled it out, opened the case which contained it, and shewed it to him. "Well then," said the caliph, "let us bring the fairy hither; you could not call her in a better time, for I long to see her."
Zobeide having consented, fire was brought in, and she threw the whole bundle of hair into it. The palace at that instant began to shake, and the fairy appeared before the caliph in the form of a lady very richly dressed.
"Commander of the faithful," said she to the prince, "you see I am ready to receive your commands. The lady who gave me this call by your order did me essential service. To evince my gratitude, I revenged her of her sisters' inhumanity, by changing them to bitches; but if your majesty commands me, I will restore them to their former shape."
"Generous fairy," replied the caliph, "you cannot do me a greater pleasure; vouchsafe them that favour, and I will find some means to comfort them for their hard penance. But besides, I have another boon to ask in favour of that lady, who has had such cruel usage from an unknown husband. As you undoubtedly know all things, oblige me with the name of this barbarous wretch, who could not be contented to exercise his outrageous and unmanly cruelty upon her person, but has also most unjustly taken from her all her substance. I only wonder how such an unjust and inhuman action could be performed under my authority, and even in my residence, without having come to my knowledge."
"To oblige your majesty," answered the fairy, "I will restore the two bitches to their former state, and I will so cure the lady of her scars, that it shall never appear she was so beaten; and I will also tell you who it was that abused her."
The caliph sent for the two bitches from Zobeide's house, and when they came, a glass of water was brought to the fairy by her desire. She pronounced over it some words which nobody understood; then throwing some part of it upon Amene, and the rest upon the bitches, the latter became two ladies of surprising beauty, and the scars that were upon Amene disappeared. After which the fairy said to the caliph, "Commander of the faithful, I must now discover to you the unknown husband you enquire after. He is very nearly related to yourself, for it is prince Amin, your eldest son, who falling passionately in love with this lady from the fame of her beauty, by stratagem had her brought to his house, where he married her. As to the blows he caused to be given her, he is in some measure excusable; for the lady his spouse had been a little too easy, and the excuses she had made were calculated to lead him to believe she was more faulty than she really was. This is all I can say to satisfy your curiosity." At these words she saluted the caliph, and vanished.
The prince being filled with admiration, and having much satisfaction in the changes that had happened through his means, acted in such a manner as will perpetuate his memory to all ages. First, he sent for his son Amin, told him that he was informed of his secret marriage, and how he had ill-treated Amene upon a very slight cause. Upon this the prince did not wait for his father's commands, but received her again immediately.
After which the caliph declared that he would give his own heart and hand to Zobeide, and offered the other three sisters to the calenders, sons of sultans, who accepted them for their brides with much joy. The caliph assigned each of them a magnificent palace in the city of Bagdad, promoted them to the highest dignities of his empire, and admitted them to his councils.
The chief Cauzee of Bagdad being called, with witnesses, wrote the contracts of marriage; and the caliph in promoting by his patronage the happiness of many persons who had suffered such incredible calamities, drew a thousand blessings upon himself.