STORY OF THE THREE SHARPERS AND THE SULTAN.
Three very ingenious sharpers who associated together, being much distressed, agreed, in hopes of obtaining immediate relief, that they would go to the sultan, and pretend each to superior ability in some occupation. Accordingly they proceeded to the metropolis, but found admission to the presence difficult; the sultan being at a garden palace surrounded by guards, who would not let them approach. Upon this they consulted, and agreed to feign a quarrel, in hopes that their clamour would draw the notice of the sultan. It did so: he commanded them to be brought before him, inquired who they were, and the cause of their dispute. "We were disputing," said they, "concerning the superiority of our professions; for each of us possesses complete skill in his own." "What are your professions?" replied the sultan. "I am," said one, "O sovereign, a lapidary of wonderful skill." "I fear thou art an astonishing rascal," exclaimed the sultan.
"I am," said the second sharper, "a genealogist of horses." "And I," continued the third, "a genealogist of mankind, knowing every one's true descent; an art much more wonderful than that of either of my companions, for no one possesses it but myself, nor ever did before me." The sultan was astonished, but gave little credit to their pretensions: yet he said to himself, "If these men speak truth, they are worthy of encouragement. I will keep them near me till I have occasion to try them; when, if they prove their abilities, I will promote them; but if not, I will put them to death." He then allotted them an apartment, with an allowance of three cakes of bread and a mess of pottage daily; but placed spies over them, fearing lest they might escape.
Not long after this, a present of rarities was brought to the sultan, among which were two precious stones; one of them remarkably clear in its water, and the other with a flaw. The sultan now bethought himself of the lapidary, and sent for him to his presence, when he gave him the clear jewel to examine, and demanded what he thought it was worth.
The sharper took the stone, and with much gravity turned it backwards and forwards in his hands, examining it with minute attention on every part; after which he said, "My lord, this jewel has a flaw in the very centre of it." When the sultan heard this, he was enraged against the sharper, and gave orders to strike off his head; saying, "This stone is free from blemish, and yet thou pretendest it hath a flaw." The executioner now advanced, laid hold of the sharper, bound him, and was going to strike, when the vizier entered, and seeing the sultan enraged, and the sharper under the cimeter, inquired the cause. Being informed, he advanced towards the sultan, and said, "My lord, act not thus, but first break the stone: should a flaw appear in it, the words of this man are true; but if it be found free from blemish, put him to death." The sultan replied, "Thy advice is just:" and broke it in two with his mace. In the middle he found a flaw, at which he was astonished, and exclaimed to the sharper, "By what means couldst thou discover the blemish?" He replied, "By the acuteness of my sight." The sultan then released him, and said, "Take him back to his companions, allow him a mess of pottage to himself, and two cakes of bread."
Some time after this a tribute came from one of the provinces, part of which consisted of a beautiful black colt, in colour resembling the hue of the darkest night. The sultan was delighted with the animal, and spent whole days in admiring him. At length he bethought himself of the sharper who had pretended to be a genealogist of horses, and commanded him to his presence. When he appeared, the sultan said, "Art thou a judge of horses?" He replied, "Yes, my lord: "upon which the sultan exclaimed," It is well! but I swear by him who appointed me guardian of his subjects, and said to the universe, Be! and it was, that should I find untruth in thy declaration, I will strike off thy head." The man replied, "To hear is to submit." After this they brought out the colt, that he might examine him.
The sharper desired the groom to mount the colt and pace him before him, which he did backwards and forwards, the fiery animal all the while plunging and rearing. At length the genealogist said, "It is enough:" and turning to the sultan exclaimed, "My lord, this colt is singularly beautiful, of true blood by his sire, his paces exquisite and proportions just; but in him there is one blemish; could that be done away, he would be all perfection; nor would there be upon the face of the earth his equal among all the various breeds of horses." "What can that blemish be?" said the sultan. "His sire," rejoined the genealogist, "was of true blood, but his dam of another species of animal; and, if commanded, I will inform you." "Speak," said the sultan. "The dam of this beautiful colt," continued the genealogist, "was a buffalo."
When the sultan heard this he flew into a rage, and commanded an executioner to strike off the head of the sharper; exclaiming, "Thou accursed dog! how could a buffalo bring forth a colt?" "My lord," replied the sharper, "the executioner is in attendance; but send for the person who presented the colt, and inquire of him the truth. If my words prove just, my skill will be ascertained; but if what I have said be false, then let my head pay the forfeit for my tongue." Upon this the sultan sent for the master of the colt to attend his presence.
When the master of the colt appeared before him, the sultan inquired whether it was purchased of another person, or had been bred by himself? To which the man replied, "My lord, I will relate nothing but the truth. The production of this colt is surprising. His sire belonged to me, and was of the true breed of sea-horses: he was always kept in an enclosure by himself, as I was fearful of his being injured; but it happened one day in the spring, that the groom took him for air into the country, and picqueted him in the plain. By chance a cow-buffalo coming near the spot, the stallion became outrageous, broke his heel-ropes, joined the buffalo, which after the usual period of gestation, produced this colt, to our great astonishment."
The sultan was surprised at this relation. He commanded the genealogist to be sent for, and upon his arrival said, "Thy words have proved true, and thy wonderful skill in the breed of horses is ascertained; but by what mark couldst thou know that the dam of this colt was a buffalo?" The man replied, "My lord, the mark is visible in the colt itself. It is not unknown to any person of observation, that the hoof of a horse is nearly round, but the hoof of a buffalo thick and longish, like this colt's: hence I judged that the dam must certainly have been a buffalo." The sultan now dismissed him graciously, and commanded that he should be allowed daily a mess of pottage, and two cakes of bread.
Not long after this the sultan bethought himself of the third sharper, who pretended that he was the genealogist of man, and sent for him to the presence. On his appearance he said, "Thou canst trace the descent of man?" "Yes, my lord," replied the genealogist. Upon this the sultan commanded an eunuch to take him into his haram, that he might examine the descent of his favourite mistress. Upon his introduction, he looked at the lady on this side and on that, through her veil, till he was satisfied, when he came out; and the sultan exclaimed, "Well, what hast thou discovered in my mistress?" He replied, "My lord, she is all perfect in elegance, beauty, grace, stature, bloom, modesty, accomplishments, and knowledge, so that every thing desirable centres in herself; but still there is one point that disgraces her, from which if she was free, it is not possible she could be excelled in anything among the whole of the fair sex." When the sultan had heard this, he rose up angrily, and drawing his cimeter, ran towards the genealogist, intending to strike off his head.
Just as he was going to strike, some of the attendants said, "My lord, put not the man to death before thou art convinced of his falsehood." Upon which the sultan exclaimed, "What fault appeared to thee in my mistress?" "O sultan," replied the man, "she is, as to herself, all perfect; but her mother was a rope-dancer." Upon this the sultan immediately sent for the father of the lady, and said, "Inform me truly who was the mother of thy daughter, or I will put thee to death." "Mighty prince," replied the father, "there is no safety for man but in the truth. Her mother was a rope-dancer, whom I took when very young from a company of strolling mummers, and educated. She grew up most beautiful and accomplished: I married her, and she produced me the girl whom thou hast chosen."
When the sultan heard this, his rage cooled, but he was filled with astonishment; and said to the genealogist, "Inform me what could shew thee that my mistress was the daughter of a rope-dancer?" "My lord," replied the man, "this cast of people have always their eyes very black, and their eyebrows bushy; such are hers: and from them I guessed her descent." The sultan was now convinced of his skill, dismissed him graciously, and commanded that he should be allowed a mess of pottage and three cakes of bread daily, which was done accordingly.
Some time after this the sultan reflected on the three sharpers, and said to himself, "These men have proved their skill in whatever I have tried them. The lapidary was singularly excellent in his art, the horse genealogist in his, and the last has proved his upon my mistress. I have an inclination to know my own descent beyond a doubt." He then ordered the genealogist into his presence, and said, "Dost thou think thou canst prove my descent?" "Yes, my lord," replied the man, but on condition that you spare my life after I shall have informed you; for the proverb says, 'When the sultan is present, beware of his anger, as there is no delay when he commands to strike.'" "There shall be safety for thee," exclaimed the sultan," in my promise, an obligation that can never be forfeited."
"O sultan," continued the genealogist, "when I shall inform thee of thy parentage and descent, let not there be any present who may hear me." "Wherefore?" replied the sultan. "My lord," answered the sharper, "you know the attributes of the Deity should be veiled in mystery." The sultan now commanded all his attendants to retire, and when they were alone, the genealogist advanced and said, "Mighty prince, thou art illegitimate, and the son of an adulteress."
As soon as the sultan heard this, his colour changed, he turned pale, and fainted away. When he was recovered, he remained some time in deep contemplation, after which he exclaimed, "By him who constituted me the guardian of his people, I swear that if thy assertion be found true I will abdicate my kingdom, and resign it to thee, for royalty cannot longer become me; but should thy words prove void of foundation, I will put thee to instant death." "To hear is to assent," replied the sharper.
The sultan now arose, entered the haram, and bursting into his mother's apartment with his cimeter drawn, exclaimed, "By him who divided the heavens from the earth, shouldst thou not answer faithfully to what I shall inquire, I will cut thee to pieces with this cimeter." The queen, trembling with alarm, said, "What dost thou ask of me?" "Inform me," replied the sultan, "of whom am I the son?" "Since truth only can save me," cried the princess, "know that thou art the offspring of a cook. My husband had no children either male or female, on which account he became sad, and lost his health and appetite. In a court of the haram we had several sorts of birds, and one day the sultan fancying he should relish one of them, ordered the cook to kill and dress it. I happened then to be in the bath alone.
"As I was in the bath," continued the sultana, "I saw the cook endeavouring to catch the birds. At that instant it occurred to my mind from the instigation of Satan, that if I bore not a son, after the death of the sultan my influence would be lost. I tempted the man, and thou art the produce of my crime. The signs of my pregnancy soon appeared; and when the sultan was informed of them, he recovered his health, and rejoiced exceedingly, and conferred favours and presents on his ministers and courtiers daily, till the time of my delivery. On that day he chanced to be upon a hunting excursion at a country palace; but when intelligence was brought him of the birth of a son, he instantly returned to me, and issued orders for the city to be decorated, which was done for forty days together, out of respect to the sultan. Such was my crime, and such was thy birth."
The sultan now returned to the adventurer, and commanded him to pull off his clothes, which he did; when the sultan, disrobing himself, habited him in the royal vestments, after which he said, "Inform me whence thou judgest that I was a bastard?"
"My lord," replied the adventurer, "when each of us shewed our skill in what was demanded, you ordered him only an allowance of a mess of pottage and three cakes of bread. Hence I judged you to be the offspring of a cook, for it is the custom of princes to reward the deserving with wealth and honours, but you only gratified us with victuals from your kitchen." The sultan replied, "Thou hast spoken truly." He then made him put on the rest of the royal robes and ornaments, and seated him upon the throne; after which he disguised himself in the habit of a dervish, and wandered from his abdicated dominions. When the lucky adventurer found himself in possession of the throne, he sent for his companions; and finding they did not recognize him in his royal habiliments, dismissed them with liberal presents, but commanded them to quit his territories with the utmost expedition, lest they should discover him. After this, with a satisfied mind, he fulfilled the duties of his new station with a liberality and dignity that made the inhabitants of the metropolis and all the provinces bless him, and pray for the prolongation of his reign.
The Adventures of the Abdicated Sultan.
The abdicated prince, disguised as a dervish, did not cease travelling in a solitary mood till he came to the city of Cairo, which he perceived to be in repose and security, and well regulated. Here he amused himself with walking through several streets, till he had reached the royal palace, and was admiring its magnificent architecture and extent, and the crowds passing in and out, when the sultan with his train appeared in sight returning from a hunting excursion, upon which he retired to one side of the road. The sultan observing his dignified demeanour, commanded one of his attendants to invite him to the palace, and entertain him till he should inquire after him.
When the sultan had reposed himself from the fatigue of his exercise, he sent for the supposed dervish to his presence, and said, "From what kingdom art thou arrived?" He answered, "I am, my lord, a wandering dervish." "Well," replied the sultan, "but inform me on what account thou art come here." On which he said, "My lord, this cannot be done but in privacy." "Let it be so," rejoined the sultan; and rising up, led him into a retired apartment of the palace. The supposed dervish then related what had befallen him, the cause of his having abdicated his kingdom, and taken upon himself the character of a religious. The sultan was astonished at his self-denial, and exclaimed, "Blessed be his holy name, who exalteth and humbleth whom he will by his almighty power; but my history is more surprising than thine. I will relate it to thee, and conceal nothing."
History of Mahummud, Sultan of Cairo.
At my first outset in the world I was an indigent man, and possessed none of the conveniences of life, till at length I became possessed of ten pieces of silver, which I resolved to expend in amusing myself. With this intention, I one day walked into the principal market, intending first to purchase somewhat delicate to feast upon. While I was looking about me, a man passed by, with a great crowd following and laughing at him, for he led in an iron chain a monstrous baboon, which he cried for sale at the price of ten pieces of silver. Something instinctively impelled me to purchase the creature, so I paid him the money, and took my bargain to my lodging; but on my arrival, was at a loss how to procure a meal for myself or the baboon. While I was considering what I should do, the baboon having made several springs, became suddenly transformed into a handsome young man, beautiful as the moon at the fourteenth night of its appearance, and addressed me, saying, "Shekh Mahummud, thou hast purchased me for ten pieces of silver, being all thou hadst, and art now thinking how thou canst procure food for me and thyself." "That is true," replied I; "but in the name of Allah, from whence dost thou come?" "Ask no questions," replied my companion, "but take this piece of gold, and purchase us somewhat to eat and drink." I took the gold, did as he had desired, and we spent the evening merrily together in feasting and conversation, till it was time to repose.
In the morning the young man said, "My friend, this lodging is not fitting for us; go, and hire a better." "To hear is to obey," replied I, and departed to the principal serai, where I hired an upper apartment, to which we removed. He then gave me ten deenars, with orders to purchase carpets and cushions, which I did, and on my return found before him a package, containing princely vestments. These he gave to me, desiring that I would go to the bath, and, after bathing, put them on. I obeyed his commands, dressed myself, and found in each pocket a hundred deenars. I was not a little proud of my improved appearance in the rich robes. On my return, he praised my figure, and seated me by him, when we refreshed ourselves, and chatted on various subjefls. At length he gave me a bundle, desiring that I would present it to the sultan, and at the same time demand his daughter in marriage for myself, assuring me that my request would meet a ready compliance.
The young man commanded a slave he had bought to attend me, who carried the bundle, and I set out for the palace; near which I found a great crowd of grandees, officers, and guards, who seeing me so richly habited, inquired respectfully what I wanted. Upon my replying that my business was with the sultan, they informed the ushers, who introduced me to the presence. I made the customary obeisance, and the sultan returned my salute; after which I presented the bundle before him, saying, "Will my lord accept this trifle, becoming my humble situation to offer, but certainly not worthy the royal dignity to receive?" The sultan commanded the package to be opened; when, lo! it contained a complete dress of royal apparel, richer than had ever been before seen, at which the sultan was astonished, and exclaimed, "Heavens! I have nothing like this, nor ever possessed so magnificent a suit; it shall be accepted: but inform me, Shekh, what thou requirest in return for so valuable an offering." "Mighty sovereign," replied I, "my wish is to become thy relation by espousing that precious gem of the casket of beauty, thy incomparable daughter."
When the sultan had heard this request, he turned towards his vizier and said, "Advise me how I should act in this affair." Upon which the minister replied, "Shew him, my lord, your most valuable diamond, and inquire if he has any one equally precious to match it as a marriage present for your daughter." The sultan did so; when I said, "If I present two, will you give me your daughter?" To which he assented, and I took my leave, carrying with me the diamond, to shew the young man as a model. Upon my arrival at our serai, I informed him of what passed, when he examined the diamond, and said, "The day is now far spent, but tomorrow I will procure ten like it, which thou shalt present to the sultan." Accordingly in the morning he walked out, and in the space of an hour returned with ten diamonds, which he gave me, and I hastened with them to the sultan. When he beheld the precious stones he was enraptured at their brilliancy, and again consulted his vizier how he should act in this business. "My lord," replied the minister, "you only required one diamond of the Shekh, and he has presented you with ten: it is therefore incumbent upon you to give him your daughter."
The sultan now sent for the cauzees and effendis, who drew up the deed of espousals, which they gave me, when I returned to our serai, and shewed it to the young man, who said, "It is well; go and complete thy marriage; but I entreat that thou wilt not consummate thy nuptials till I shall give thee permission." "To hear is to obey," replied I. When it was night I entered the princess's apartment, but sat down at a distance from her, and did not speak till morning, when I bade her farewell, and took my leave for the day. I observed the same conduct the second night and the third, upon which, offended at my coldness, she complained to her mother, who informed the sultan of my affronting behaviour.
The sultan sent for me to his presence, and with much anger threatened, if I should continue my coldness to the princess another evening, that he would put me to death. Upon this I hastened to inform my friend at the serai, who commanded, that when I should next be alone with my wife I should demand of her a bracelet which she wore upon her right arm, and bring it to him, after which I might consummate my nuptials. I replied, "To hear is to obey;" and the next evening, when I entered the apartment, said to my wife, "If thou desirest that we should live happily together, give me the bracelet on thy right arm." She did so immediately, when I carried it to the young man, and, returning to the palace, slept, as I supposed, with the princess till morning. Guess, however, what was my surprise, when on awaking I found myself lying in my first humble lodging, stripped of my rich vestments, and saw on the ground my former mean attire; namely, an old vest, a pair of tattered drawers, and a ragged turban, as full of holes as a sieve. When I had somewhat recovered my senses, I put them on and walked out in a melancholy mood, regretting my lost happiness, and not knowing what I should do to recover it. As I strolled towards the palace, I beheld sitting in the street a fortune-teller, who had some written papers before him, and was casting omens for the bystanders. I advanced, and made him a salute, which he returned kindly; and after looking attentively in my face, exclaimed, "What! has that accursed wretch betrayed thee, and torn thee from thy wife?" I replied, "Yes." Upon this he desired me to wait a little, and seated me by him. When his employers were departed, he said, "My friend, the ape which you purchased for ten pieces of silver, and who soon after was transformed into a young man, is not of human race, but a genie deeply in love with the princess whom you married. However, he could not approach her while she wore the bracelet, containing a powerful charm, upon her right arm, and therefore made use of thee to obtain it. He is now with her, but I will soon effect his destruction, that genii and men may be secure from his wickedness, for he is one of the rebellious and accursed spirits who disobeyed our lord Solomon, son of David."
After this, the fortune-teller wrote a note, which having sealed and directed, he gave it to me, saying, "Go to a certain spot, wait there, and observe those who may approach. Fortify thy mind, and when thou shall see a great personage attended by a numerous train, present to him this letter, when he will accomplish thy desires." I took the note, immediately departed for the place to which the fortune-teller had direfted me, and after travelling all night and half the next day reached it, and sat down to wait for what might happen. The evening shut in, and about a fourth part of the night had passed, when a great glare of lights appeared advancing towards me from a distance; and as it shone nearer, I perceived persons carrying flambeaux and lanterns, also a numerous train of attendants, as if belonging to some mighty sultan. My mind was alarmed, but I recovered myself, and resolved to stay where I was. A great concourse passed by me, marching two and two, and at length there appeared a sultan of the genii, surrounded by a splendid attendance; upon which I advanced as boldly as I could, and having prostrated myself, presented the letter, which he opened, and read aloud, as follows:
"Be it known unto thee, O sultan of the genii, that the bearer of this is in distress, from which thou must relieve him by destroying his enemy. Shouldst thou not assist him, beware of thy own safety. Farewell."
When the sultan of the genii had read the note, he called out to one of his messengers, who immediately attended before him, and commanded him to bring into his presence without delay the genie who had enchanted the daughter of the sultan of Cairo. "To hear is to obey," replied the messenger, and instantly disappearing, was absent for about an hour, when he returned with the criminal, and placed him before the sultan of the genii, who exclaimed, "Accursed wretch, hast thou ill-treated this man?"
"Mighty sovereign," replied the genie, "my crime proceeded from love of the princess, who wore a charm in her bracelet which prevented my approaching her, and therefore I made use of this man. He procured me the charm, and I now have her in my power; but I love her tenderly, and have not injured her." "Return the bracelet instantly," replied the sultan of the genii, "that the man may recover his wife, or I will command an executioner to strike off thy head." The offending genie, who was of an accursed and obstinate race, upon hearing these words was inflamed with passion, and insolently cried out, "I will not return the bracelet, for no one shall possess the princess but myself." Having said thus, he attempted to fly away, but in vain.
The sultan of the genii now commanded his attendants to bind the criminal in chains, which they did, and having forced the bracelet from him, struck off his head. The sultan then presented me the charm, which was no sooner in my hand than all the genii vanished from my sight, and I found myself dressed as before, in the rich habit given me by the pretended young man. I proceeded to the city, which I entered, and when I came near the palace was recognized by the guards and courtiers, who cried out in raptures of joy, "Our lost prince is at length returned." They paid their respects, and I entered the apartment of the princess, whom I found in a deep sleep, in which state she had been ever since my departure. On my replacing the bracelet on her arm, she awoke. After this we lived together in all happiness till the death of her father, who appointed me his successor, having no son, so that I am what I am.
When the sultan of Cairo had finished his narrative, the abdicated prince expressed his surprise at his adventures: upon which the sultan said, "Wonder not, my brother, at the dispensations of the Almighty, for he worketh in secret, and when he pleaseth revealeth his mysteries. Since thou hast quitted thy kingdom, if thou choosest, thou shalt be my vizier, and we will live together as friends and brothers." "To hear is to obey," replied the prince. The sultan then constituted him vizier, enrobed him in a rich uniform, and committed to him his seal, the inkstand, and other insignia of office, at the same time conferring upon him a magnificent palace, superbly furnished with gorgeous carpets, musnuds, and cushions: belonging to it were also extensive gardens. The vizier entered immediately upon his new office; held his divans regularly twice every day, and judged so equitably on all appeals brought before him, that his fame for justice and impartiality was soon spread abroad; insomuch, that whoever had a cause or dispute willingly referred it to his decision, and was satisfied with it, praying for his life and prosperity. In this state he remained for many years, the sovereign pleased with him, and he happy under the protection of the sultan of Cairo, so that he did not regret his abdicated kingdom.
It happened one evening that the mind of the sultan was depressed, upon which he sent for the vizier, who attended; when he said, "Vizier, my mind is so uneasy that nothing will amuse me." "Enter then," replied the minister, "into thy cabinet, and look at thy jewels, the examination of which may perhaps entertain thee." The sultan did so, but it had no effect on his lassitude; when he said, "Vizier, this dispiritedness will not quit me, and nothing gives me pleasure within my palace; let us, therefore, walk out in disguise." "To hear is to obey," replied the vizier. They then retired into a private chamber, and putting on the habits of dervishes of Arabia, strolled through the city till they reached a hospital for lunatics, which they entered. Here they beheld two men, one reading and the other listening to him; when the sultan said to himself, "This is surprising;" and addressed the men, saying, "Are you really mad?" They replied, "We are not mad, but our stories are so wonderful, that were they recorded on a tablet of adamant, they would remain for examples to them who would be advised." "Let us hear them," said the sultan; upon which, the man who had been reading exclaimed, "Hear mine first!" and thus began.
Story of the First Lunatic.
I was a merchant, and had a warehouse in which were Indian goods of all sorts, and of the highest value, and I bought and sold to great advantage. One day as I was sitting in my warehouse, according to custom, busy in buying and selling, an old woman came in, telling her beads, and greeted me. I returned her salute, when she sat down, and said, "Sir, have you any choice Indian cloths?" "Yes, my mistress," replied I, "of all sorts that you can possibly wish for." "Bring them," said she. I showed her a piece of great value, with which she was highly pleased, and inquired the price. "Five hundred deenars," replied I: she took out her purse, paid me the money, and went away with the cloth; upon which I had a profit of one hundred and fifty deenars. She returned the next day, bought another piece, paid for it, and, in short, did the same for fifteen days successively, paying me regularly for each purchase. On the sixteenth day she came to my shop as usual, chose the cloth and was going to pay me, but missed her purse; upon which she said, "Sir, I have unfortunately left my purse at home." "Mistress," replied I, "it is of no consequence; take the cloth, and if you return, well, if not, you are welcome to this trifle:" she would not take it: I pressed her, but in vain. Much friendly argument passed between us, till at length she said, "Sir, you contradict, and I contradict, but we shall never agree unless you will favour me by accompanying me to my house to receive the value of your goods; so lock up your warehouse, lest any thing should be lost in your absence." Accordingly I fastened my doors, and accompanied her; we walked on conversing, till we came near her house, when she pulled out a handkerchief from her girdle, and said, "My desire is to tie this over thy eyes." "On what account?" replied I. "Because," said she, "in our way are several houses, the gates of which are open, and the women sitting in their balconies, so that possibly thy eyes may glance upon some one of them, and thy heart be distracted with love; for in this part are many beautiful damsels, who would fascinate even a religious, and therefore I am alarmed for thy peace."
Upon this I said to myself, "This old woman advises me properly," and I consented to her demand; when she bound the handkerchief over my eyes, and we proceeded till we arrived at her house. She knocked at the door, which was opened by a damsel, and we entered. The old lady then took the handkerchief from my eyes, when I looked around me, and perceived that I was in a mansion having several quadrangles, highly ornamented, and resembling the palaces of the sultan.
The old lady now desired me to retire into a room, which I did, and there beheld heaped together all the pieces of cloth which she had purchased of me, at which I was surprised, but still more so when two damsels beautiful as resplendent moons approached, and having divided a piece of cloth into halves, each took one, and wrapped it round her hand. They then sprinkled the floor with rose water and other scents, wiping it with the cloth, and rubbing it till it became bright as silver; after which they withdrew into an adjoining room, and brought out at least fifty stools, which they set down, and placed over each a rich covering, with cushions of tissue. They then fetched a large stool of gold, and having put upon it a carpet and cushions of gold brocade, retired. Not long after this, there descended from the staircase by two and two, as many damsels in number as the stools; upon each of which one sat down. At last descended a lady attended by ten damsels, who placed herself upon the larger stool. When I beheld her, my lord, my senses forsook me, and I was in raptures at her beauty, her stature, and elegance, as she chatted and laughed with her companions.
At length she exclaimed, "My dear mother!" when the old woman entered; to whom she said, "Hast thou brought the young man?" She replied, "Yes, my daughter, he is ready to attend thee." Upon which the lady said, "Introduce him to me." When I heard this I was alarmed, and said to myself, "There is no refuge but in the most high God; doubtless she has discovered my being here, and will command me to be put to death." The old woman came to me, and leading me by the hand, took me before the lady seated on the golden stool, who, on seeing me, smiled, made a graceful salute, and waved her hand for a seat to be brought, which was done, and placed close to her own. She then commanded me to sit down, which I did with much confusion.
When I was seated, the lady began to chat and joke with me, saying, "What think you of my appearance and my beauty, do you judge me worthy of your affection? shall I be your partner and you mine?" When I had heard these words, I replied, "How, dear lady, dare I presume, who am not worthy to be your servant, to arrive at such an honour?" Upon this, she said, "Young man, my words have no evasion in them; be not discouraged, or fearful of returning me an answer, for my heart is devoted to thy love." I now perceived, my lord, that the lady was anxious to marry me; but could not conceive on what account, or who could have given her intelligence concerning me. She continued to shew me so many pleasing attentions, that at length I was emboldened to say, "Lady, if your words to me are sincere, according to the proverb, no time is so favourable as the present." "There cannot," said she," be a more fortunate day than this for our union." Upon this I replied, "My dear lady, how can I allot for you a proper dowry?" "The value of the cloth you intrusted to the old lady, who is my mother," answered she, "is sufficient." "That cannot be enough," rejoined I. "Nothing more shall be added," exclaimed the lady; "and my intention is this instant to send for the cauzee and witnesses, and I will choose a trustee, that they may unite us without delay. We will celebrate our nuptials this very evening, but upon one condition." "What is that?" replied I. She answered, "That you bind yourself not to address or hold conversation with any woman but myself." My lord, I was eager to be in possession of so beautiful a woman, and therefore said to her, "I agree, and will never contradict thee either by my words or actions." She then sent for the cauzee and witnesses, and appointed a trustee, after which we were married. After the ceremony, she ordered coffee and sherbet, gave money to the cauzee, a dress of honour to her trustee, and they departed.
I was lost in astonishment, and said to myself, "Do I dream, or am I awake?" She now commanded her damsels to empty the warm bath, fill it afresh, and prepare cloths and necessaries for bathing. When they had done as she desired, she ordered the eunuchs in waiting to conduct me to the hummaum, and gave them a rich dress. They led me into an elegant apartment, difficult for speech to describe. They spread many-coloured carpets, upon which I sat down and undressed; after which I entered the hummaum, and perceived delightful odours from sandal wood, of comorin, and other sweets diffusing from every part. Here they seated me, covered me with perfumed soaps, and rubbed me till my body became bright as silver; when they brought the basins, and I washed with warm water, after which they gave me rose-water, and I poured it over me. They next brought in sweet-smelling salves, which I rubbed over me, and then repaired to the hummaum, where I found a royal dress, in which the eunuchs arrayed me; and after perfuming me with incense of sandal wood, brought in confections, coffee, and sherberts of various sorts, with which I refreshed myself. I then left the bath with my attendants, who shewed me into the grand hall of the palace, which was spread with most magnificent carpets, stools, and cushions. Here the lady met me, attired in a new habit, more sumptuous than I had seen her in before.
When I beheld my bride, she appeared to me, from the richness of her ornaments, like a concealed treasure from which the talisman had just been removed. She sat down by me, and smiled so fascinatingly upon me, I could no longer contain my rapture. In a short time she retired, but soon returned again in a dress richer than her last. I again embraced her, and in short, my lord, we remained together for ten days in the height of happiness and enjoyment. At the end of this period I recollected my mother, and said to my wife, "It is so long since I have been absent from home, and since my mother has not seen me, that I am certain she must be anxious concerning me. Will you permit me to visit her and look after my warehouse?" "There can be no impediment," replied she; "you may visit your mother daily, and employ yourself in your warehouse, but the old woman must conduct you and bring you back;" to which I assented.
The old lady then came in, tied a handkerchief over my eyes, conducted me to the spot where she had first blindfolded me, and said, "You will return here about the time of evening prayer, and will find me waiting." I left her, and repaired to my mother, whom I found in great affliction at my absence, and weeping bitterly. Upon seeing me, she ran and embraced me with tears of joy. I said, "Weep not, my dear mother, for my absence has been owing to the highest good fortune." I then informed her of my lucky adventure, when she exclaimed, "May Allah protect thee, my son, but visit me at least every two days, that my affection for thee may be gratified." I then went to my warehouse, and employed myself as usual till evening, when I returned to the place appointed, where I found the old lady, who blindfolded me as before, and conducted me to the palace of my wife, who received me with fondness. For three months I continued to go and come in this manner, but I could not help wishing to know whom I had married, and wondering at the affluence, splendour, and attendance that appeared around her.
At length I found an opportunity of being in private with one of her black slaves, and questioned her concerning her mistress. "My lord," replied she, "the history of my mistress is wonderful; but I dare not relate it, lest she should put me to death." Upon this, I assured her, that if she would inform me, no one should know it but myself, and I took an oath of secrecy, when she began as follows:
"My mistress one day went to a public bath, intending to amuse herself, for which purpose she made such preparations of delicacies and rarities, as were worth a camel's load of treasure, and when she left the hummaum, made an excursion to a garden, where a splendid collation was laid out. Here she continued enjoying herself till evening, when she ordered her retinue to make ready for departure, and the fragments of the entertainment to be distributed among the poor. On her return, she passed through the street in which is your warehouse. It was upon a Friday, when you were sitting in conversation with a friend, arrayed in your best attire. She beheld you, her heart was stricken with love, but no one perceived her emotion. However, she had no sooner reached her palace than she became low and melancholy, and her appetite failed her. At length she took to her bed, her colour left her, sleep forsook her, and she became very weak. Upon this her mother went to call in a physician, that he might consider what might be the cause of her daughter's indisposition; but on the way she met a skilful old lady, with whom she returned home.
"The old lady on feeling the pulse of her patient, and after asking several questions, could perceive in her no bodily ailment or pain; upon which she judged she was in love, but did not venture to speak to her before her mother of her suspicions. She took leave, and said, 'By God's blessing thou wilt soon recover; I will return tomorrow, and bring with me an infallible medicine.' She then took her mother aside, and said, 'My good lady, be not angry at what I shall remark, but thy daughter has no bodily disorder; she is in love, and there can be no cure for her but by a union with her beloved.' The mother, on the departure of the old lady, repaired to her daughter, and with much difficulty, after twenty days of denial (for my mistress's modesty was hurt), obtained from her a description of your person, and the street in which you lived; upon which she behaved to you in the manner you are well acquainted with, brought you here, and you know what followed. Such is her history," concluded the black slave, "which you must not reveal." "I will not," replied I; and after this I continued to live very happily with my wife, going daily to see my mother, to attend in my warehouse, and return in the evening, conducted as usual by the old lady my mother-in-law.
One day, after the expiration of some months, as I was sitting in my warehouse, a damsel came into the street with the image of a cock, composed of jewelry. It was set with pearls, diamonds, and other precious stones, and she offered it to the merchants for sale; when they began bidding for it at five hundred deenars, and went to nine hundred and fifty; all which I observed in silence and did not interfere by speaking or bidding. At length the damsel came up to me, and said, "My lord, all the merchants have increased in bidding for my precious toy, but you have neither bidden, nor taken any notice of me." "I have no occasion for it," replied I. "Nay," exclaimed she, "but you must bid something more." "Since I must," I answered, "I will give fifty deenars more, which will be just a thousand." She accepted the price, and I went into my warehouse to fetch the money to pay her, saying to myself, "I will present this curiosity to my wife, as it may please her." When I was going to pay the money, the damsel would not take it, but said, "My lord, I have a request to make, which is, that I may snatch one kiss from your cheek as the price of my jewelry, for I want nothing else." Upon this, I thought to myself, a single kiss of my cheek is an easy price for the value of a thousand deenars, and consented; when she came up to me and gave me a kiss, but at the same time a most severe bite; left the piece of jewelry, and went away with the greatest haste.
In the evening I repaired to the house of my wife, and found the old lady waiting as usual at the accustomed spot. She tied the handkerchief over my eyes, and when she had conducted me home, took it off. I found my wife sitting upon her golden stool, but dressed in scarlet, and with an angry countenance; upon which I said to myself, "God grant all may be well." I approached her, took out the toy set with diamonds and rubies (thinking that on sight of it her ill-humour would vanish), and said, "My mistress, accept this, for it is curious, and I purchased it for thee." She took it into her hand, and examined it on all sides; after which she exclaimed, "Didst thou really purchase this on my account?" "By heavens," replied I, "I bought it for thy sake, for a thousand deenars." Upon this she frowned angrily upon me, and exclaimed, "What means that wound upon thy cheek?" I was overwhelmed with confusion.
While I was in this state, she called out to her attendants, who immediately descended the staircase, carrying the headless corpse of a young girl, the head placed upon the middle of the body. I looked, and knew it to be the head of the damsel who had sold me the piece of jewelry for a kiss, and had bitten my cheek. My wife now exclaimed, "I had no occasion for such baubles, for I have many of them; but I wished to know if thou wert so faithful to thy agreement with me, as not to address another woman than myself, and sent the girl to try thee. Since thy promise has been broken, begone, and return no more."
When my wife had finished her speech, the old woman took me by the hand, tied the handkerchief over my eyes, and conducted me to the usual spot, when she said, "Begone!" and disappeared. I was so overcome by the sad adventure, and the loss of my wife, that I ran through the streets like one frantic, crying, "Ah, what beauty, what grace, what elegance did she possess!" upon which, the people, supposing me distracted, conducted me to this hospital, and bound me in fetters, as you see.
When the sultan had heard the young man's story, he was much affected, inclined his head for some instants in deep thought, then said to his vizier, "By Allah, who has intrusted me with sovereignty, if thou dost not discover the lady who married this young man, thy head shall be forfeited." The vizier was alarmed, but recovering himself, replied, "Allow me three days to search," to which the sultan consented. The vizier then took with him the young man, and for two days was at a loss how to find out the house. At length he inquired if he should know the spot where the handkerchief was tied over his eyes, and the gateway at which it was taken off, of both which the youth professed to be certain. He conducted the minister to the street where he was blindfolded, and they reached a gateway, at which the vizier knocked. It was opened by the domestics, who knowing the vizier, and seeing the young man with him, were alarmed, and ran to communicate the quality of the visitants to their mistress. She desired to know the commands of the vizier, who informed her, that it was the sultan's pleasure she should be reconciled to her husband; to which she replied, "Since the sultan hath commanded, my duty is obedience." The young man was reunited to his wife, who was the daughter of a former sultan of Cairo.
Such were the adventures of the young man who was reading in the hospital. We now recite those of the youth who was listening to him. Upon the sultan's inquiring his story, he began as follows.
Story of the Second Lunatic.
My lord, I was by profession a merchant, and on my commencing business the youngest of my trade, having but just entered my sixteenth year. As I was one day busy in my warehouse, a damsel entering, put into my hands a packet, which, on opening, I found to contain several copies of verses in praise of myself, with a letter expressive of ardent affection for my person. Supposing them meant only as banter, I foolishly flew into a passion, seized the bearer, and beat her severely. On her departure, I reflected on my improper behaviour, dreaded lest she should complain to her relations, and that they might revenge themselves upon me by some sudden assault. I repented of what I had done, but alas! it was when repentance would not avail.
Ten days had passed, when, as I was sitting in my warehouse as usual, a young lady entered most superbly dressed, and odoriferously perfumed. She resembled in brightness the moon on its fourteenth night, so that when I gazed upon her my senses forsook me, and I was incapable of attention to any thing but herself. She addressed me, saying, "Young man, have you in your warehouse any female ornaments?" to which I replied, "Of all sorts, my lady, that you can possibly require." Upon this she desired to see some bracelets for the ankles, which I shewed her, when holding out her foot, she desired me to try them on. I did so. After this, she asked for a necklace, and opening her veil, made me tie it on. She then chose a pair of bracelets, and extending her hands, desired me to put them on her wrists, which I did; after which, she inquired the amount of the whole, when I exclaimed, "Fair lady, accept them as a present, and inform me whose daughter thou art." She replied, "I am the daughter of the chief magistrate;" when I said, "My wish is to demand thee in marriage of thy father." She consented that I should, but observed, "When you ask me of my father, he will say, I have only one daughter, who is a cripple, and wretchedly deformed. Do thou, however, reply, that thou art willing to accept her, and if he remonstrates, still insist upon wedding her." I then asked when I should make my proposals. She replied, "The best time to visit my father is on the Eed al Koorbaun, which is three days hence, as thou wilt then find with him all his relations and friends, and our espousals will add to his festivity."
Agreeably to the lady's instructions, on the third day following I repaired with several of my friends to the house of the chief magistrate, and found him sitting in state, receiving the compliments of the day from the chief inhabitants of the city. We made our obeisance, which he graciously noticed, received us with kindness, and entered familiarly into conversation. A collation was brought in, the cloth spread, and we partook with him of the viands, after which we drank coffee. I then stood up, saying, "My lord, I am desirous of espousing the chaste lady your daughter, more precious than the richest gem."
When the chief magistrate heard my speech, he inclined his head for some time towards the earth in deep thought, after which he said, "Son, my daughter is an unfortunate cripple, miserably deformed." To this I replied, "To have her for my wife is all I wish." The magistrate then said, "If thou wilt have a wife of this description, it must be on condition that she shall not be taken from my house, that thou shalt consummate the marriage here, and abide with me." I replied, "To hear is to obey;" believing that she was the beautiful damsel who had visited my warehouse, and whose charms I had so rapturously beheld. In short, the nuptial ceremony was performed, when I said to myself, "Heavens! is it possible that I am become master of this beautiful damsel, and shall possess her charms!"
When night set in, the domestics of the chief magistrate introduced me into the chamber of my bride. I ran eagerly to gaze upon her beauty, but guess my mortification when I beheld her a wretched dwarf, a cripple, and deformed, as her father had represented. I was overcome with horror at the sight of her, distracted with disappointment, and ashamed of my own foolish credulity, but I dared not complain, as I had voluntarily accepted her as my wife from the magistrate: I sat down silently in one corner of the chamber, and she in another, for I could not bring myself to approach her, as she was disgusting to the sight of man, and my soul could not endure her company.
At day-break I left the house of my father-in-law, repaired to my warehouse, which I opened, and sat down much distressed in mind, with my head dizzy, like one suffering from intoxication, when lo! who should appear before me but the lady who had put upon me so mortifying a trick. She entered, and paid me the customary salute. I was enraged, and began to abuse her, saying, "Wherefore hast thou put upon me such a stratagem?" when she replied, "Wretch, recollect the day that I brought thee a packet, in return for which you seized, beat, reviled, and drove me scornfully away. In retaliation for such treatment, I have taken revenge by giving thee such a delectable bride." I now fell at her feet, entreated her forgiveness, and expressed my repentance; upon which, smiling upon me, she said, "Be not uneasy, for as I have plunged thee into a dilemma, I will also relieve thee from it. Go to the aga of the leather-dressers, give him a sum of money, and desire him to call thee his son; then repair with him, attended by his followers and musicians, to the house of the chief magistrate. When he inquires the cause of their coming, let the aga say, ' My lord, we are come to congratulate thy son-in-law, who is my beloved child, on his marriage with thy daughter, and to rejoice with him.' The magistrate will be furiously enraged, and exclaim, 'Dog, is it possible that, being a leather-dresser, thou durst marry the daughter of the chief magistrate?' Do thou then reply, 'My lord, my ambition was to be ennobled by your alliance, and as I have married your lordship's daughter, the mean appellation of leather-dresser will soon be forgotten and lost in the glorious title of the son-in-law of your lordship; I shall be promoted under your protection, and purified from the odour of the tan-pit, so that my offspring will smell as sweet as that of a syed."
I did as the lady had directed me, and having bribed the chief of the leather-dressers, he accompanied me with the body of his trade, and a numerous party of musicians, vocal and instrumental, to my father-in-law's house, before which they began to sing and dance with great clamour every now and then crying out, "Long live our noble kinsman! Long live the son-in-law of the chief magistrate!" The magistrate inquired into the cause of our intrusive rejoicing, when I told him my kinsfolk were congratulating me upon my alliance with his illustrious house, and come to thank him for the honour he had done the whole body of leather-dressers in my person. The chief magistrate on hearing this was passionately enraged, and abused me; but reflecting that without my consent the supposed disgrace of his noble house could not be done away, he became calm, and offered me money to divorce his daughter. At first I pretended unwillingness, but at length affecting to be moved by his earnest entreaties, accepted forty purses of gold, which he gave me to repudiate my deformed wife, and I returned home with a lightened heart. The day following, the lady came to my warehouse, when I thanked her for having freed me from my ridiculous marriage, and begged her to accept of me as a husband. To this she consented, but said she was, she feared, too meanly born for me to marry, as her father was but a cook, though of eminence in his way, and very rich. I replied, "Even though he were a leather-dresser, thy charms would grace a throne." In short, my lord, we were married, and have lived together very happily from the day of our union to the present time.
Such is my story, but it is not so surprising as that of the learned man and his pupil, whose adventures were among the miracles of the age, which I will relate.
Story of the retired Sage and his Pupil, related to the Sultan by the Second Lunatic,
There was a learned and devout sage, who in order to enjoy his studies and contemplations uninterrupted, had secluded himself from the world in one of the cells of the principal mosque of the city, which he never left but upon the most pressing occasions. He had led this retired life some years, when a boy one day entered his cell, and earnestly begged to be received as his pupil and domestic. The sage liked his appearance, consented to his request, inquired who were his parents, and whence he came; but the lad could not inform him, and said, "Ask not who I am, for I am an orphan, and know not whether I belong to heaven or earth." The shekh did not press him, and the boy served him with the most undeviating punctuality and attention for twelve years, during which he received his instructions in every branch of learning, and became a most accomplished youth. At the end of the twelve years, the youth one day heard some young men praising the beauty of the sultan's daughter, and saying that her charms were unequalled by those of all the princesses of the age. This discourse excited his curiosity to behold so lovely a creature. He repaired to his master, saying, "My lord, I understand that the sultan hath a most beautiful daughter, and my soul longs ardently for an opportunity of beholding her, if only for an instant." The sage exclaimed, "What have such as we to do, my son, with the daughters of sovereigns or of others? We are a secluded order, and should refrain ourselves from associating with the great ones of this world." The old man continued to warn his pupil against the vanities of the age, and to divert him from his purpose; but the more he advised and remonstrated, the more intent the youth became on his object, which affected his mind so much, that he grew very uneasy, and was continually weeping.
The sage observing his distress was afflicted at it, and at length said to the youth, "Will one look at the princess satisfy thy wishes?" "It shall," replied the pupil. The sage then anointed one of his eyes with a sort of ointment; when lo! he became to appearance as a man divided into half, and the sage ordered him to go and hop about the city. The youth obeyed his commands, but he had no sooner got into the street than he was surrounded by a crowd of passengers, who gazed with astonishment at his appearance. The report of so strange a phenomenon as a half man soon spread throughout the city, and reached the palace of the sultan, who sent for the supposed monster to the presence. The youth was conveyed to the palace, where the whole court gazed upon him with wonder; after which he was taken into the haram, to gratify the curiosity of the women. He beheld the princess, and was fascinated by the brilliancy of her charms, insomuch, that he said to himself, "If I cannot wed her, I will put myself to death."
The youth being at length dismissed from the palace, returned home; his heart tortured with love for the daughter of the sultan. On his arrival, the sage inquired if he had seen the princess. "I have," replied the youth, "but one look is not enough, and I cannot rest until I shall sit beside her, and feast my eyes till they are wearied with gazing upon her." "Alas! my son," exclaimed the old man, "I fear for thy safety: we are religious men, and should avoid temptations; nor does it become us to have any thing to do with the sultan." To this the youth replied, "My lord, unless I shall sit beside her, and touch her neck with my hands, I shall, through despair, put myself to death."
At these words, the sage was alarmed for the safety of his pupil, and said to himself, "I will, if possible, preserve this amiable youth, and perchance Allah may gratify his wishes." He then anointed both his eyes with an ointment, which had the effect of rendering him invisible to human sight. After this, he said, "Go, my son, and gratify thy wishes, but return again, and be not too long absent from thy duty."
The youth hastened towards the royal palace, which he entered unperceived, and proceeded into the haram, where he seated himself near the daughter of the sultan. For some time he contented himself with gazing on her beauty, but at length extending his hands, touched her softly on the neck. As soon as she felt his touch, the princess, alarmed, shrieked out violently, and exclaimed, "I seek refuge with Allah, from Satan the accursed." Her mother and the ladies present, affrighted at her outcries, eagerly inquired the cause; when she said, "Eblees, or some other evil spirit, hath this instant touched me on the neck."
Upon this, the mother was alarmed and sent for her nurse, who, when informed of what had happened, declared, "That nothing was so specific to drive away evil spirits as the smoke of camel's hair;" a quantity of which was instantly brought, and being set fire to, the smoke of it filled the whole apartment, and so affected the eyes of the young man, that they watered exceedingly, when he unthinkingly wiped them with his handkerchief, so that with his tears the ointment was soon washed off.
The ointment was no sooner wiped away from his eyes than the young man became visible, and the princess, her mother, and the ladies, all at once uttered a general cry of astonishment and alarm; upon which the eunuchs rushed into the apartment. Seeing the youth, they surrounded him, beat him unmercifully, then bound him with cords, and dragged him before the sultan, whom they informed of his having been found in the royal haram. The sultan, enraged, sent for an executioner, and commanded him to seize the culprit, to clothe him in a black habit patched over with flame colour, to mount him upon a camel, and after parading with him through the streets of the city, to put him to death.
The executioner took the young man, dressed him as he had been directed, placed him upon the camel, and led him through the city, preceded by guards and a crier, who bawled out, "Behold the merited punishment of him who has dared to violate the sanctuary of the royal haram." The procession was followed by an incalculable crowd of people, who were astonished at the beauty of the young man, and the little concern he seemed to feel at his own situation.
At length the procession arrived in the square before the great mosque, when the sage, disturbed by the noise and concourse of the people, looked from the window of his cell, and beheld the disgraceful situation of his pupil. He was moved to pity, and instantly calling upon the genii (for by his knowledge of magic and every abstruse science he had them all under his control), commanded them to bring him the youth from the camel, and place in his room, without being perceived, some superannuated man. They did so, and when the multitude saw the youth, as it were, transformed into a well-known venerable shekh, they were stricken with awe, and said, "Heavens! the young man turns out to be our reverend chief of the herb-sellers;" for the old man had long been accustomed to dispose of greens and sugarcane at the college gate near the great mosque, and was the oldest in his trade.
The executioner, on beholding the change of appearance in his prisoner, was confounded. He returned to the palace with the old man upon the camel, and followed by the crowd. He hastened or contrive my death." to the sultan, and said, "My lord, the young man is vanished, and in his room became seated upon the camel this venerable shekh, well known to the whole city." On hearing this, the sultan was alarmed, and said to himself, "Whoever has been able to perform this, can do things much more surprising He may depose me from my kingdom,
The sultan's fears increased so much, that he was at a loss how to act. He summoned his vizier, and said, "Advise me what to do in the affair of this strange youth, for I am utterly confounded." The vizier for some time inclined his head towards the ground in profound thought, then addressing the sultan, said, "My lord, no one could have done this but by the help of genii, or by a power which we cannot comprehend, and he may possibly, if irritated, do you in future a greater injury respecting your daughter. I advise, therefore, that you cause it to be proclaimed throughout the city, that whoever has done this, if he will appear before you shall have pardon on the word of a sultan, which can never be broken. Should he then surrender himself, espouse him to your daughter, when perhaps his mind may be reconciled by her love. He has already beheld her, and seen the ladies of the haram, so that nothing can save your honour but his union with the princess."
The sultan approved the advice of his vizer, the proclamation was issued, and the crier proceeded through several streets, till at length he reached the square of the great mosque. The pupil hearing the proclamation, was enraptured, and running to his patron, declared his intention of surrendering himself to the sultan. "My son," said the sage, "why shouldst thou do so? Hast thou not already suffered sufficiently?" The youth replied, "Nothing shall prevent me." Upon which the sage exclaimed, "Go then, my son, and my midnight prayers shall attend thee."
The youth now repaired to the hummaum, and having bathed, dressed himself in his richest habit; after which he discovered himself to the crier, who conducted him to the palace. He made a profound obeisance to the sultan, at the same time uttering an eloquent prayer for his long life and prosperity. The sultan was struck with his manly beauty, the gracefulness of his demeanour, and the propriety of his delivery, and said, "Young stranger, who art thou, and from whence dost thou come?" "I am," replied the youth, "the half man whom you saw, and have done what you are already acquainted with."
The sultan now requested him to sit in the most honourable place, and entered into conversation on various subjects. He put to him several difficult questions in science, to which the youth replied with such judgment, that his abilities astonished him, and he said to himself, "This young man is truly worthy of my daughter." He then addressed him, saying, "Young man, my wish is to unite thee to my daughter, for thou hast already seen her, also her mother, and after what has passed no one will marry her." The youth replied, "I am ready in obedience, but must advise with my friends." "Go then," said the sultan, "consult with thy friends, and return quickly."
The young man repaired to the sage, and having informed him of what had passed between himself and the sultan, signified his wish to marry the princess, when the shekh replied, "Do so, my son; there can be in the measure no crime, as it is a lawful alliance." "But I wish," said the youth, "to invite the sultan to visit you." "By all means," answered the sage. "My lord," rejoined the pupil, "since I first came, and you honoured me in your service, I have beheld you in no other residence but this confined cell, from which you have never stirred night or day. How can I invite the sultan here?" "My son," exclaimed the shekh, "go to the sultan, rely upon Allah, who can work miracles in favour of whom he chooseth, and say unto him, 'My patron greets thee, and requests thy company to an entertainment five days hence.' "The youth did as he was directed, and having returned to his master, waited upon him as before, but anxiously wishing for the fifth day to arrive.
On the fifth day, the sage said to his impatient pupil, "Let us remove to our own house, that we may prepare for the reception of the sultan, whom you must conduct to me." They arose, and walked, till on coming to a ruinous building about the middle of the city, the walls of which were fallen in heaps, the shekh said, "My son, this is my mansion, hasten and bring the sultan." The pupil, in astonishment, exclaimed, "My lord, this abode is a heap of ruins, how can I invite the sultan here, it would only disgrace us?" "Go," repeated the sage, "and dread not the consequences." Upon this the youth departed, but as he went on could not help saying to himself, "Surely my master must be insane, or means to make a jest of us." When he had reached the palace he found the sultan expecting him; upon which he made his obeisance, and said, "Will my lord honour me by his company?"
The sultan arose, mounted his horse, and attended by his whole court, followed the youth to the place chosen by the venerable shekh. It now appeared a royal mansion, at the gates of which were ranged numerous attendants in costly habits, respectfully waiting. The young man, at sight of this transformed appearance, was confounded in such a manner that he could hardly retain his senses. He said to himself, "It was but this instant that I beheld this place a heap of ruins, yet now it is a palace far more magnificent than any belonging to this sultan. I am astonished, but must keep the secret to myself."
The sultan alighted, as did also his courtiers, and entered the palace. They were surprised and delighted at the splendour of the first court, but much more so at the superior magnificence of a second; into which they were ushered, and introduced into a spacious hall, where they found the venerable shekh sitting to receive them. The sultan made a low obeisance; upon which the sage just moved his head, but did not rise. The sultan then sat down, when the shekh greeted him, and they entered into conversation on various subjects; but the senses of the sultan were confounded at the dignified demeanour of his host, and the splendid objects around him. At length the shekh desired his pupil to knock at a door and order breakfast to be brought in, which he did: when lo! the door opened, and there entered a hundred slaves, bearing upon their heads golden trays, on which were placed dishes of agate, cornelian, and other stones, filled with various eatables, which they arranged in order before the sultan. He was astonished, for he had nothing so magnificent in his own possession. He then partook of the sumptuous collation, as did also the venerable shekh, and all the courtiers, till they were satisfied; after which they drank coffee and sherbets of various sorts, when the sultan and the sage conversed on religious and literary subjects, and the former was edified by the remarks of the latter.
When it was noon the shekh again desired his pupil to knock at another door, and order dinner to be brought in. He had no sooner done so, than immediately a hundred slaves, different from the former, entered, bearing trays of the richest viands. They spread the cloth before the sultan, and arranged the dishes, which were each thickly set with precious stones, at which he was more astonished than before. When all had eaten till they were satisfied, basins and ewers, some of gold and others of agate, were carried round, and they washed their hands; after which the shekh said to the sultan, "Have you fixed what my son must give as the dower of your daughter?" To this, the sultan replied, "I have already received it." This he said out of compliment; but the shekh replied, "My lord, the marriage cannot be valid without a dower." He then presented a vast sum of money, with many jewels, for the purpose to his pupil; after which he retired with the sultan into a chamber, and arrayed him in a splendid habit; rich dresses were also given to each of his attendants according to their rank. The sultan then took leave of the shekh, and returned with his intended son-in-law to the palace.
When evening arrived the young man was introduced into the apartment of the princess, which he found spread with the richest carpets, and perfumed with costly essences, but his bride was absent: at which he was somewhat surprised, but supposed her coming was put off till midnight, for which he waited with impatience. Midnight came, but no bride appeared; when a thousand uneasy sensations afflicted his mind, and he continued in restless anxiety till morning: nor were the father and mother of the princess less impatient; for supposing she was with her husband, they waited anxiously, and were mortified at the delay.
At daylight, the mother, unable to bear longer suspense, entered the chamber; when the young man, rather angrily, inquired what had delayed the coming of his bride. "She entered before thee," replied the mother. "I have not seen her," answered the bridegroom. Upon this the sultana shrieked with affright, calling aloud on her daughter, for she had no other child but her. Her cries alarmed the sultan, who rushing into the apartment, was informed that the princess was missing, and had not been seen since her entrance in the evening. Search was now made in every quarter of the palace, but in vain; and the sultan, sultana, and the bridegroom, were involved in the deepest distress.
To account for the sudden disappearance of the princess, be it known, that a genie used often to divert himself with visiting the haram of the sultan; and happening to be there on the marriage night, was so captivated by the charms of the bride, that he resolved to steal her away. Accordingly, having rendered himself invisible, he waited in the nuptial chamber, and upon her entering bore her off, and soared into the air. At length he alighted with his prey in a delightful garden, far distant from the city; placed the princess in a shady arbour, and set before her delicious fruits; but contented himself with gazing upon her beauty.
The young bridegroom, when recovered from his first alarm, bethought himself of his tutor, and, together with the sultan, repaired to the palace where the splendid entertainment had been given. Here they found every thing in the same order as on the day of festivity, and were kindly received by the venerable shekh; who on hearing of the loss of the princess, desired them to be comforted. He then commanded a chafing-dish of lighted charcoal to be set before him, and after some moments of contemplation, cast into it some perfumes, over which he pronounced incantations. He had scarcely ended them, when lo! the earth shook, whirlwinds arose, lightnings flashed, and clouds of dust darkened the air, from which speedily descended winged troops, bearing superb standards and massive spears. In the centre of them appeared three sultans of the genii, who bowing low before the shekh, exclaimed all at once, "Master, hail! we are come to obey thy commands."
The shekh now addressed them, saying, "My orders are, that you instantly bring me the accursed spirit who hath carried off the bride of my son;" when the genii replied, "To hear is to obey:" and immediately detached fifty of their followers to reconduct the princess to her chamber, and drag the culprit to the presence of the sage. These commands were no sooner issued than they were performed. Ten of the genii carefully conveyed the bride to her apartment, while the rest having seized the offending genie, dragged him before the sage, who commanded the three sultans to burn him to ashes, which was executed in an instant. All this was done in the presence of the sultan, who was wrapt in astonishment, and viewed with awe the tremendously gigantic figures of the genii, wondering at the submissive readiness with which they obeyed the commands of the venerable shekh. When the offending genie was consumed to ashes, the shekh renewed his incantations; during which the sultans of the genii, with their followers, bowed themselves before him, and when he had ended, vanished from sight.
The sultan and the bridegroom having taken leave of the shekh, returned to the palace, where all was now gladness for the safe return of the princess. The marriage was consummated, and the young man was so happy with his bride, that he did not quit the haram for seven days. On the eighth, the sultan ordered public rejoicings to be made, and invited all the inhabitants of the city to feast at the royal cost; causing it to be proclaimed, that no one, either rich or poor, should for three days presume to eat at home, light a fire, or burn a lamp in his own house, but all repair to the nuptial festival of the daughter of the sultan. Ample provision was made for all comers in the courts of the palace, and the officers of the household attended day and night to serve the guests according to their quality. During one of the nights of this grand festival, the sultan being anxious to know if his proclamation was generally obeyed, resolved to walk through the city in disguise. Accordingly he and his vizier, in the habit of dervishes of Persia, having quitted the palace privately, began their excursion, and narrowly examined several streets. At length they came to a close alley, in one of the houses of which they perceived a light, and heard the sound of voices. When they had reached the door, they heard a person say to another, "Our sultan understands not how to treat properly, nor is he liberal, since the poor have it not in their option to partake of the costly feast he has prepared for his daughter's nuptials. He should have distributed his bounty among the wretched, who dare not presume to enter the palace in their ragged garments, by sending it to their home."
The sultan, upon hearing this, said to the vizier, "We must enter this house;" and knocked at the door, when a person cried out, "Who is there?" "Guests," replied the sultan. "You shall be welcome to what we have," answered the person, and opened the door. On entering, the sultan beheld three mean-looking old men, one of whom was lame, the second broken-backed, and the third wry-mouthed. He then inquired the cause of their misfortunes; to which they answered, "Our infirmities proceeded from the weakness of our understandings." The sultan upon this replied in a whisper to his vizier, that at the conclusion of the festival he should bring the three men to his presence, in order that he might learn their adventures.
When they had tasted of their homely fare, the sultan and vizier rose up, and having presented the three maimed companions with a few deenars, took leave and departed. They strolled onwards. It was now near midnight when they reached a house in which, through a lattice, they could perceive three girls with their mother eating a slender meal; during which, at intervals, one of them sung, and the other two laughed and talked. The sultan resolved to enter the house, and commanded the vizier to knock at the door, which he did; when one of the sisters cried out, "Who knocks at our door at this advanced time of night?" "We are two foreign dervishes," replied the vizier; to which the ladies answered, "We are women of virtue, and have no men in our house to whom you can be introduced: repair to the festival of the sultan, who will entertain you!" "Alas!" continued the vizier, "we are strangers unacquainted with the way to the palace, and dread lest the magistrate of the police should meet and apprehend us. We beg that you will afford us lodging till daylight: we will then depart, and you need not apprehend from us any improper behaviour."
When the mother of the ladies heard this she pitied the strangers, and commanded them to open the door: upon which the sultan and vizier having entered, paid their respects and sat down; but the former, on observing the beauty of the sisters and their elegant demeanour, could not contain himself, and said, "How comes it that you dwell by yourselves, have no husbands or any male to protect you?" The younger sister replied, "Impertinent dervish, withhold thy inquiries! our story is surprising; but unless thou wert sultan, and thy companion vizier, you could not appreciate our adventures." The sultan upon this remark became silent on the subject, and they discoursed upon indifferent matters till near daylight, when the pretended dervishes took a respectful leave, and departed. At the door the sultan commanded the vizier to mark it, so that he might know it again, being resolved, when the nuptial festivities should be concluded, to send for the ladies and hear their story.
On the last evening of the festival the sultan bestowed dresses of honour on all his courtiers; and on the following day, affairs returning to their usual course, he commanded his vizier to bring before him the three maimed men, and ordered them to relate the cause of their misfortunes, which they did as follows.
Story of the Broken-backed Schoolmaster.
Formerly, O mighty sultan, was a schoolmaster, and had under my tuition nearly seventy scholars, of whose manners I was as careful as of their learning: so much did I make them respect me, that whenever I sneezed they laid down their writing boards, stood up with arms crossed, and with one voice exclaimed, "God have mercy upon our tutor!" to which I replied, "May he have mercy upon me and you, and all who have children." If any one of the boys did not join in this prayer, I used to beat him severely. One fine afternoon my scholars requested leave to visit a certain garden some distance from the town, which I granted; and they clubbed their pittances to purchase sweetmeats and fruits. I attended them on this excursion, and was as much delighted as themselves with the pleasure they enjoyed, and their childish gambols. When evening approached we returned homewards, and on the way, my boys having fatigued themselves with play, as well as eaten much sweets and fruit, were seized with extreme thirst, of which they heavily complained. At length we reached a draw-well, but, alas! it had no bucket or cord. I pitied their situation, and resolved, if possible, to relieve them. I requested them to give me their turbans, which I tied to each other; but as they were altogether not long enough to reach the water, I fixed one of the turbans round my body, and made them let one down into the well, where I filled a small cup I had with me, which they drew up repeatedly till their thirst was satisfied. I then desired them to draw me up again, which they attempted; and I had reached nearly the mouth of the well, when I was unfortunately seized with a fit of sneezing; upon which the boys mechanically, as they had been accustomed to do in school, one and all let go their hold, crossed their arms, and exclaimed, "God have mercy upon our venerable tutor!" while I tumbled at once to the bottom of the well, and broke my back. I cried out from the agony of pain, and the children ran on all sides for help. At length some charitable passengers drew me out, and placing me upon an ass, carried me home; where I languished for a considerable time, and never could recover my health sufficiently again to attend to my school. Thus did I suffer for my foolish pride: for had I not been so tenacious of respect from my scholars, they would not upon my sneezing have let go their hold and broken my back.
When the broken-backed schoolmaster had finished his story, the old man with the wry-mouth thus began:
Story of the Wry-mouthed Schoolmaster.
I also, O sultan, was a schoolmaster; and so strict with my pupils, that I allowed them no indulgence, but even kept them to their studies frequently after the usual hours. At length, one more cunning than the rest resolved, in revenge, to play me a trick. He instructed the lads as they came into school to say to me, "Dear master, how pale you look!" Not feeling myself ill, I, though surprised at their remarks, did not much regard them on the first day; but a second, and so on to a fifth passing, on each of which all the pupils on entrance uttered the same exclamation, I began to think some fatal disorder had seized me, and resolved, by way of prevention, to take physic. I did so the following morning, and remained in my wife's apartments; upon which the unlucky lads, clubbing their pittances together to the amount of about a hundred faloose, requested my acceptance of the money as an offering for my recovery; and I was so pleased with the present that I gave them a holiday. The receipt of cash in so easy a manner was so agreeable to me, that I feigned illness for some days; my pupils made an offering as usual, and were allowed to play. On the tenth day the cunning urchin who had planned the scheme came into my chamber, as customary, with an offering of faloose. I happened then to have before me a boiled egg, which, upon seeing him enter, I clapped into my mouth, supposing, that if he perceived me well enough to eat he might not give me the money. He, however, observed the trick, and coming up to me with affected condolence, exclaimed, "Dear master, how your cheeks are swelled!" at the same time pressing his hands upon my face. The egg was boiling hot, and gave me intolerable pain, while the young wit pretended compassionately to stroke my visage. At length, he pressed my jaws together so hard that the egg broke, when the scalding yolk ran down my throat, and over my beard: upon which the artful lad cried out in seeming joy, "God be praised, my dear master, that the dreadful imposthume has discharged itself; we, your pupils, will all return thanks for your happy recovery." My mouth was contracted by the scald in the manner you behold, and I became so ridiculed for my folly, that I was obliged to shut up my school.
The sultan having heard the other man's story, which was of but little interest, dismissed the three foolish schoolmasters with a present, commanded the vizier to go and recognize the house of the three ladies and their mother, it being his intention to visit them again in disguise and hear their adventures. The vizier hastened to the street, but to his surprise and mortification found all the houses marked in the same manner, for the youngest sister having overheard the sultan's instructions, had done this to prevent a discovery of their residence. The vizier returned to the sultan, and informed him of the trick which had been played. He was much vexed, but the circumstance excited his curiosity in a greater degree. At length the vizier bethought himself of a stratagem, and said, "My lord, let a proclamation be issued for four days successively throughout the city, that whoever presumes after the first watch of the night to have a lamp lighted in his house, shall have his head struck off, his goods confiscated, his house razed to the ground, and his women dishonoured. It is possible, as these ladies did not regard your proclamation at the nuptials of the princess, they may disobey this, and by that means we may discover their residence."
The sultan approved the contrivance of the vizier, caused the proclamation to be made, and waited impatiently for the fourth night, when he and his minister having disguised themselves as before, proceeded to the street in which the ladies lived. A light appeared only in one house, which it being now tolerably certain was that they were in quest of, they knocked at the door.
Immediately on their knocking the youngest sister called out, "Who is at the door?" and they replied, "We are dervishes, and entreat to be your guests." She exclaimed, "What can you want at such a late hour, and where did you lodge last night?" They answered, "Our quarters are at a certain serai, but we have lost our way, and are fearful of being apprehended by the officers of police. Let your kindness then induce you to open the door, and afford us shelter for the remainder of the night: it will be a meritorious act in the eye of heaven." The mother overhearing what was said, ordered the door to be opened.
When they were admitted, the old lady and her daughters rose up, received them respectfully, and having seated them, placed refreshments before them, of which they partook, and were delighted with their treatment. At length the sultan said, "Daughters, you cannot but know of the royal proclamation; how comes it that you alone of all the inhabitants of the city have disobeyed it by having lights in your house after the first watch of the night?" Upon this the youngest sister replied, "Good dervish, even the sultan should not be obeyed but in his reasonable commands, and as this proclamation against lighting our lamps is tyrannical, it ought not to be complied with, consistently with the law of scripture; for the Koraun says, 'Obedience to a creature in a criminal matter, is a sin against the Creator.' The sultan (may God pardon him!) acts against scripture, and obeys the dictates of Satan. We three sisters, with our good mother, make it a rule to spin every night a certain quantity of cotton, which in the morning we dispose of, and of the price of our labour we lay out a part in provisions, and the remainder in a new supply of materials for working to procure us a subsistence."
The sultan now whispered to his vizier, saying, "This damsel astonishes me by her answers; endeavour to think of some question that may perplex her." "My lord," replied the vizier, "we are here in the characters of strangers and dervishes as their guests: how then can we presume to disturb them by improper questions?" The sultan still insisted upon his addressing them: upon which, the vizier said to the ladies, "Obedience to the sultan's orders is incumbent upon all subjects." "It is true he is our sovereign," exclaimed the youngest sister, "but how can he know whether we are starving or in affluence?" "Suppose," replied the vizier, "he should send for you to the presence, and question you concerning your disobedience to his commands, what could you advance in excuse for yourselves?" "I would say to the sultan," rejoined she, "'Your majesty has acted in contradiction to the divine law.'"
The vizier upon this turned towards the sultan, and said in a whisper, "Let us leave off disputing further with this lady on points of law or conscience, and inquire if she understands the fine arts." The sultan put the question; upon which she replied, "I am perfect in all:" and he then requested her to play and sing. She retired immediately, but soon returning with a lute, sat down, tuned it, and played in a plaintive strain, which she accompanied with the following verses:
"It is praiseworthy in subjects to obey their sovereigns, but his reign will continue long who gains their affections by kindness. Be liberal in thy manners, and he who is dependent upon thee will pray for thy life, for the free man alone can feel gratitude. To him who confers gifts man will ever resort, for bounty is fascinating. Sadden not with denial the countenance of the man of genius, for the liberal mind is disgusted at stinginess and haughty demeanour. Not a tenth part of mankind understand what is right, for human nature is ignorant, rebellious, and ungrateful."
When the sultan had heard these verses, he remained for some time immersed in thought; then whispering his vizier, said, "This quotation was certainly meant in allusion to ourselves, and I am convinced they must know that I am their sultan, and thou vizier, for the whole tenor of their conversation shews their knowledge of us." He then addressed the lady, saying, "Your music, your performance, your voice, and the subject of your stanzas have delighted me beyond expression." Upon this she sang the following verse:
"Men endeavour to attain station and riches during an age of toil and oppression, while, alas! their accounts to heaven and their graves are decreed from their very birth."
The sultan, from the purport of these last verses, was more assured than ever that she knew his quality. She did not leave off singing and playing till day-light, when she retired, and brought in a breakfast, of which the sultan and the vizier partook; after which she said, "I hope you will return to us this night at the conclusion of the first watch, and be our guests." The sultan promised, and departed in admiration at the beauty of the sisters, their accomplishments, and graceful manners; saying to the vizier, "My soul is delighted with the charms of these elegant women."
The following evening the sultan and vizier, disguised as usual, repaired to the house of the sisters, taking with them some purses of deenars, and were received with the same respectful welcome. Being seated, supper was set before them, and after it basins and ewers to wash their hands. Coffee was then served up, and conversation on various subjects amused them till the prayer time of the first watch; they then arose, performed their ablutions, and prayed. When, their devotions were ended, the sultan presented a purse of a thousand deenars to the youngest sister, and said, "Expend this upon your necessary occasions." She took the purse with a profound obeisance, kissed his hands, and was convinced, as she had before suspected, that he must be the sultan; at the same time hinting privately to her mother and sisters the quality of their guests, and prostrating herself before him.
The other ladies upon this arose, and followed the example of their sister; when the sultan said aside to his vizier, "They certainly know us:" and then turning to the ladies, addressed them saying, "We are merely dervishes, and you pay us a respect only due to sovereigns; I beseech you refrain." The youngest sister again fell at his feet, and repeated the following verse:
"May prosperous fortune daily accompany thee in spite of the malice of the envious! May thy days be bright and those of thy enemies gloomy!"
"I am convinced thou art the sultan, and thy companion thy vizier." The sultan replied, "What reason have you for such a supposition?" She answered, "From your dignified demeanour and liberal conduct, for the signs of royalty cannot be concealed even in the habit of a recluse."
The sultan replied, "You have indeed judged truly, but inform me how happens it, that you have with you no male protectors?" She answered, "My lord the sultan, our history is so wonderful, that were it written on a tablet of adamant it might serve as an example in future ages to such as would be advised." The sultan requested her to relate it, which she did in the following manner.
Story of the Sisters and the Sultana their Mother.
We are not, my lord the sultan, natives of this city, but of Eerauk, of which country our father was sovereign, and our mother his sultana the most beautiful woman of her time, insomuch that her fame was celebrated throughout distant regions. It chanced that in our infancy our father the sultan marched upon a hunting excursion throughout his dominions, for some months, leaving his vizier to conduct affairs at the capital. Not long after the departure of the sultan, our mother, taking the air on the roof of the palace, which adjoined that of the vizier, who was then sitting upon his terrace, her image was reflected in a mirror which he held in his hand. He was fascinated with her beauty, and resolved, if possible, to seduce her to infidelity and compliance with his wishes.
The day following he sent the female superintendant of his haram with a package, containing a most superb dress, and many inestimable jewels, to the sultana, requesting her acceptance of them, and that she would allow him to see her either at the palace or at his own house. My mother, when the old woman was admitted into her apartments, received her with kindness, supposing that she must be intrusted with some confidential message from the vizier respecting the affairs of her husband, or with letters from him.
The old woman having paid her obeisance, opened the bundle, and displayed the rich dress and dazzling jewels; when my mother, admiring them much, inquired the value, and what merchant had brought them to dispose of. The wretched old woman, supposing that the virtue of the sultana would not be proof against such a valuable present, impudently disclosed the passion of the vizier: upon which my mother, indignant with rage at this insult offered to her virtue and dignity, drew a sabre, which was near, and exerting all her strength, struck off the head of the procuress, which, with the body, she commanded her attendants to cast into the common sewer of the palace.
The vizier finding his messenger did not return, the next day despatched another, to signify that he had sent a present to the sultana, but had not heard whether it had been delivered. My mother commanded the infamous wretch to be strangled, and the corpse to be thrown into the same place as that of the old woman, but she did not make public the vizier's baseness, hoping that he would reform. He, however, continued every day to send a female domestic, and my mother to treat her in the same way as the others till the sultan's return; but my mother, not wishing to destroy the vizier, and still trusting that he would repent of his conduct, for in other respects he was a faithful and prudent minister, kept his treachery a secret from my father.
Some years after this, the sultan my father resolved on a pilgrimage to Mecca, and having, as before, left the vizier in charge of his kingdom, departed. When he had been gone ten days, the vizier, still rapturously in love, and yet presumtuously hoping to attain his wishes, sent a female domestic, who, being admitted into the apartment of the sultana, said, "For Heaven's sake have compassion on my master, for his heart is devoted to love, his senses are disturbed, and his body is wasted away. Pity his condition, revive his heart, and restore his health by the smiles of condescension."
When my mother heard this insolent message, she in a rage commanded her attendants to seize the unfortunate bearer, and having strangled her, to leave the carcase for public view in the outer court of the palace, but without divulging the cause of her displeasure. Her orders were obeyed. When the officers of state and others saw the body they informed the vizier, who, resolving to be revenged, desired them for the present to be silent, and on the sultan's return he would make known on what account the sultana had put to death his domestic, of which they could bear testimony.
When the time of the sultan's return from Mecca approached, and the treacherous vizier judged he was on his march, he wrote and despatched to him the following letter:
"After prayers for thy health, be it known, that since thy absence the sultana has sent to me five times, requesting improper compliances, to which I would not consent, and returned for answer, that however she might wish to abuse my sovereign, I could not do it, for I was left by him guardian of his honour and his kingdom: to say more would be superfluous."
The messenger reached the sultan's camp when distant eight days' journey from the city, and delivered the letter. On reading it the countenance of my father became pale, his eyes rolled with horror, he instantly ordered his tents to be struck, and moved by forced marches till he arrived within two days' journey of his capital. He then commanded a halting day, and despatched two confidential attendants with orders to conduct our innocent and unfortunate mother, with us three sisters, a day's distance from the city, and then to put us to death. They accordingly dragged us from the haram, and carried us into the country; but on arriving at the spot intended for our execution, their hearts were moved with compassion, for our mother had conferred many obligations on these men and their families. They said one to another, "By heavens, we cannot murder them!" and informed us of what the vizier had written to our father: upon which the sultana exclaimed, "God knows that he hath most falsely accused me;" and she then related to them all that she had done, with the strictest fidelity.
The men were moved even to tears at her misfortunes, and said, "We are convinced that thou hast spoken truly." They then caught some fawns of the antelope, killed them, and having required an under garment from each of us, dipped it in the blood, after which they broiled the flesh, with which we satisfied our hunger. Our preservers now bade us farewell, saying, "We intrust you to the protection of the Almighty, who never forsaketh those who are committed to his care;" and then departed from us. We wandered for ten days in the desert, living on such fruits as we could find, without beholding any signs of population, when, at length, fortunately we reached a verdant spot, abounding in various sorts of excellent vegetables and fruits. Here also was a cave, in which we resolved to shelter ourselves till a caravan might pass by. On the fourth day of our arrival one encamped near our asylum. We did not discover ourselves, but when the caravan marched, speedily followed its track at some distance, and after many days of painful exertion reached this city, where, having taken up our lodging in a serai, we returned thanks to the almighty assister of the distressed innocent for our miraculous escape from death and the perils of the desert.
We must now quit for awhile the unfortunate sultana and her daughters, to learn the adventures of the sultan her husband. As he drew near his capital, the treacherous vizier, attended by the officers of government and the principal inhabitants of the city, came out to meet him; and both high and low congratulated his safe return from the sacred pilgrimage.
The sultan, as soon as he had alighted at his palace, retired with the vizier alone, and commanded him to relate the particulars of the atrocious conduct of his wife; upon which he said, "My lord, the sultana in your absence despatched to me a slave, desiring me to visit her, but I would not, and I put the slave to death that the secret might be hidden; hoping she might repent of her weakness, but she did not, and repeated her wicked invitation five times. On the fifth I was alarmed for your honour, and acquainted you of her atrocious behaviour."
The sultan, on hearing the relation of the vizier, held down his head for some time in profound thought, then lifting it up, commanded the two attendants whom he had despatched with orders to put his wife and children to death to be brought before him. On their appearance, he said, "What have you done in execution of the charge I gave you?" they replied, "We have performed that which you commanded to be done, and as a testimony of our fidelity, behold these garments dyed with the blood of the offenders!" The sultan took the garments; but the recollection of his beauteous consort, her former affectionate endearments, of the happiness he had enjoyed with her, and of the innocence of his guiltless children, so affected his mind, that he wept bitterly and fainted away. On his recovery he turned to the vizier, and said, "Is it possible thou canst have spoken the truth?" He replied, "I have."
The sultan, after a long pause, again said to the two attendants, "Have you really put to death my innocent children with their guilty mother?" They remained silent. The sultan exclaimed, "Why answer ye not, and wherefore are ye silent?" They replied, "My lord, the honest man cannot support a lie, for lying is the distinction of traitors." When the vizier heard these words his colour changed, his whole frame was disordered, and a trembling seized him, which the sultan perceiving, he said to the attendants, "What mean you by remarking that lying is the distinction of traitors? Is it possible that ye have not put them to death? Declare the truth instantly, or by the God who hath appointed me guardian of his people, I will have you executed with the most excruciating torments."
The two men now fell at the feet of the sultan, and said, "Dread sovereign, we conveyed, as thou commandest us, the unfortunate sultana and thy daughters to the middle of the desert, when we informed them of the accusation of the vizier and thy orders concerning them. The sultana, after listening to us with fortitude, exclaimed, 'There is no refuge or asylum but with the Almighty; from God we came, and to God we must return; but if you put us to death, you will do it wrongfully, for the treacherous vizier hath accused me falsely, and he alone is guilty.' She then informed us of his having endeavoured to corrupt her by rich presents, and that she had put his messengers to death."
The sultan at these words exclaimed in agony, "Have ye slain them, or do they yet live?" "My lord," replied the attendants, "We were so convinced of the innocence of the sultana, that we could not put her to death. We caught some fawn antelopes, killed them, and having dipped these garments belonging to the abused mother and your children in their blood, dressed the flesh, and gave it to our unfortunate mistress and thy daughters, after which we said to them, 'We leave you in charge of a gracious God who never deserts his trust; your innocence will protect you.' We then left them in the midst of the desert, and returned to the city."
The sultan turned in fury towards the vizier, and exclaimed, "Wretched traitor! and is it thus thou hast estranged from me my beloved wife and innocent children?" The self-convicted minister uttered not a word, but trembled like one afflicted with the palsy. The sultan commanded instantly an enormous pile of wood to be kindled, and the vizier, being bound hand and foot, was forced into an engine, and cast from it into the fire, which rapidly consumed him to ashes. His house was then razed to the ground, his effefts left to the plunder of the populace, and the women of his haram and his children sold for slaves.
We now return to the three princesses and their mother. When the sultan had heard their adventures, he sympathized with their misfortunes, and was astonished at the fortitude with which they had borne their afflictions, saying to his vizier, "How sad has been their lot! but blessed be Allah, who, as he separateth friends, can, when he pleaseth, give them a joyful meeting." He then caused the sultana and the princesses to be conveyed to his palace, appointed them proper attendants and apartments suitable to their rank, and despatched couriers to inform the sultan their father of their safety. The messengers travelled with the greatest expedition, and on their arrival at the capital, being introduced, presented their despatches. The sultan opened them, and began to read; but when he perceived the contents, was so overcome with joy, that, uttering a loud exclamation of rapture, he fell to the ground and fainted away. His attendants were alarmed, lifted him up, and took means for his recovery. When he was revived, he informed them of his sultana and daughters being still alive, and ordered a vessel to be prepared to convey them home.
The ship was soon ready, and being laden with every necessary for the accommodation of his family, also rich presents for the friendly sultan who had afforded them protection, sailed with a favourable wind, and speedily arrived at the desired haven.
The commander of the vessel was welcomely received by the sultan, who issued orders for his entertainment and that of his whole crew at the royal cost, and at the expiration of three days the sultana and her daughters, being anxious to return home after so long an absence, and that so unfortunate, took leave and embarked. The sultan made them valuable presents, and the wind being fair they set sail. For three days the weather was propitious, but on the evening of the last a contrary gale arose, when they cast anchor, and lowered their topmasts. At length the storm increased to such violence that the anchor parted, the masts fell overboard, and the crew gave themselves over for lost. The vessel was driven about at the mercy of the tempest till midnight, all on board weeping and wailing, when at length she struck upon the rocks, and went to pieces. Such of the crew whose deaths were decreed perished, and those whose longer life was predestined escaped to shore, some on planks, some on chests, and some on the broken timbers of the ship, but all separated from each other.
The sultana mother was tossed about till daylight on a plank, when she was perceived by the commander of the vessel, who with three of his crew had taken to the ship's boat. He took her in, and after three days' rowing they reached a mountainous coast, on which they landed, and advanced into the country. They had not proceeded far when they perceived a great dust, which clearing up, displayed an approaching army. To'their joyful surprise it proved to be that of the sultan, who, after the departure of the vessel, dreading lest an accident might happen, had marched in hopes of reaching the city where they were before his wife and daughters should sail, in order to conduct them home by land. It is impossible to describe the meeting of the sultan and his consort, but their joy was clouded by the absence of their daughters, and the dreadful uncertainty of their fate. When the first raptures of meeting were over, they wept together, and exclaimed, "We are from God, and to God we must return." After forty days' march they arrived at their capital, but continually regretting the princesses, saying, "Alas, alas! most probably they have been drowned, but even should they have escaped to shore, perhaps they may have been separated; and ah! what calamities may have befallen them!" Constantly did they bemoan together in this manner, immersed in grief, and taking no pleasure in the enjoyments of life.
The youngest princess, after struggling with the waves till almost exhausted, was fortunately cast ashore on a pleasant coast, where she found some excellent fruits and clear fresh water. Being revived, she reposed herself awhile, and then walked from the beach into the country; but she had not proceeded far, when a young man on horseback with some dogs following him met her, and upon hearing that she had just escaped shipwreck, mounted her before him, and having conveyed her to his house, committed her to the care of his mother. She received her with compassionate kindness, and during a whole month assiduously attended her, till by degrees she recovered her health and beauty.
The young man was legal heir to the kingdom, but his succession had been wrested from him by a usurper, who, however, dying soon after the arrival of the princess, he was reinstated in his rights and placed on the throne, when he offered her his hand; but she said, "How can I think of marriage while I know not the condition of my unfortunate family, or enjoy repose while my mother and sisters are perhaps suffering misery? When I have intelligence of their welfare I will be grateful to my deliverer."
The young sultan was so much in love with the princess, that the most distant hope gave him comfort, and he endeavoured to wait patiently her pleasure; but the nobles of the country were anxious to see him wedded, he being the last of his race, and importuned him to marry. He promised to conform to their wishes, but much time elapsing, they became importunate and discontented, when his mother, dreading a rebellion, earnestly entreated the princess to consent to a union as the only measure that could prevent disturbances. The princess, who really loved her preserver, was unwilling to endanger the safety of one to whom she owed such important obligations, and at length consented, when the marriage was celebrated with the greatest pomp and rejoicings. At the expiration of three years the sultana was delivered of two sons, whose birth added to the felicity of the union.
The second princess, after being long driven about by the waves upon a plank, was at length cast on shore near a large city, which she entered, and was fortunately compassionated by a venerable matron, who invited her to her house, and adopted her as a daughter in the room of her own, who had lately died. Here she soon recovered her health and beauty. It chanced that the sultan of this city, who was much beloved for his gentle government and liberality, was taken ill, and not withstanding the skill of the most celebrated physicians, daily became worse, insomuch that his life was despaired of, to the general grief of the people. The princess having heard her venerable protectress lament the danger of the sultan, said, "My dear mother, I will prepare a dish of pottage, which, if you will carry to the sultan, and he can be prevailed upon to eat it, will, by the blessing of Allah, recover him from his disorder." "I fear," replied the matron, "I shall hardly be allowed admittance to the palace, much less to present him the pottage." "You can but try," answered the princess;" and even the attempt at a good action is acceptable to God." "Well,"rejoined the old woman, "prepare your pottage, my dear daughter, and I will endeavour to get admission."
The princess prepared the dish of pottage, composed of various minerals, herbs, and perfumes, and when it was ready the old woman took it to the sultan's palace. The guards and eunuchs inquired what she had brought, when she said, "A dish of pottage, which I request you will present to the sultan, and beg him to eat as much of it as he can, for by God's help it will restore him to health." The eunuchs introduced her into the chamber of their sick sovereign, when the old woman taking off the cover of the dish, such a grateful perfume exhaled from the contents as revived his spirits. Being informed what the venerable matron had brought, he thanked her and tasted the pottage, which was so agreeably flavoured that he ate part of it with an appetite to which he had been long a stranger. He then presented the bearer with a purse of deenars, when she returned home, informed the princess of her welcome reception, and of the present she had received.
The sultan had no sooner eaten part of the pottage than he felt an inclination to repose, and sunk into a refreshing sleep, which lasted for some hours. On his awakening he found himself wonderfully revived, and having a desire afresh to eat, finished the whole. He now wished for more, and inquired after the old woman, but none of his attendants could inform him where she lived. However, in the evening she brought another mess, which the princess had prepared, and the sultan ate it with renewed appetite; after which, though before quite helpless, he was now able to sit up and even to walk. He inquired of the old woman if it was her own preparation; to which she replied,"No, my lord, but my daughter dressed it, and entreated me to bring it." The sultan exclaimed, "She cannot be thy own daughter, as her skill shews her of much higher quality." He then made her a present, and requested that she would bring him every morning a fresh supply, to which she said, "To hear is to obey;" and retired.
The princess sent regularly for seven mornings successively a dish of pottage, and the sultan as regularly presented her adopted mother with a purse of deenars; for such was the rapidity of his recovery, that at the expiration of the sixth day he was perfectly well, and on the seventh he mounted his horse and repaired to his country palace to make the absolution of health and enjoy the fresh air. During her visits he had questioned the old lady concerning her adopted daughter, and she so described her beauty, virtues, and accomplishments, that his heart was smitten, and he became anxious to see her.
The sultan, in order to gratify his curiosity, disguised himself one day in the habit of a dervish, and repairing to the house of the old woman, knocked at the door. On being questioned what he wanted, he replied, "I am a wandering dervish, a stranger in this city, and distressed with hunger." The old woman being fearful of admitting an unknown person, would have sent him away, but the princess exclaimed, "Hospitality to strangers is incumbent upon us, especially to the religious poor." Upon this he was admitted, and the princess having seated him respectfully, set victuals before him, of which he ate till he was satisfied, and having washed, rose up, thanked the old woman and her supposed daughter for their bounty, and retired, but his sight was fascinated with her beauty, and his heart devoted to her love.
The sultan on his return to the palace sent for the old woman, and on her arrival presented her with a rich dress and valuable jewels, desiring that she would give them to her daughter, and prevail upon her to put them on. The old lady promised obedience, and as she walked homewards, said to herself, "If this adopted daughter of mine is wise, she will comply with the sultan's desires, and put on the dress, but if she does not, I will expel her from my house." When she reached home, she displayed the superb habit and the dazzling ornaments; but the princess at first refused to accept them, till at length, moved by the entreaties of her protectress, whom she could not disoblige, she put them on, and the old lady was delighted with her appearance.
The sultan, who had slipped on a female dress, having covered himself with a close veil, followed the old woman to her house, and listened at the door to know if the daughter would accept his present. When he found that she had put on the dress, he was overcome with rapture, and hastening back to his palace, sent again for the old lady, to whom he signified his wish to marry her daughter. When the princess was informed of the offer she consented, and the sultan, attended by a splendid cavalcade, conducted her that evening to his palace, where the cauzee united them in marriage. A general feast was made for all the inhabitants of the city for seven days successively, and the sultan and the princess enjoyed the height of felicity. In the course of five years the Almighty blessed them with a son and two daughters.
The eldest princess on the wreck of the ship having clung to a piece of timber, was after much distress floated on shore, where she found a man's habit, and thinking it a safe disguise for the protection of her honour, she dressed herself in it, and proceeded to a city which appeared near the coast. On her entrance she was accosted by a maker of cotton wallets for travelling, who observing that she was a stranger, and supposing her a man, asked if she would live with him, as he wanted an assistant. Being glad to secure any asylum, she accepted his offer of maintenance, and daily wages of half a dirhem. He conducted her to his house, and treated her with kindness. The next day she entered upon her business, and so neat was the work she executed, that in a short time her master's shop was more frequented than any other.
It happened that the shop was situated near the palace of the sultan. One morning the princess his daughter looking through the lattice of a balcony beheld the seeming young man at work, with the sleeves of his vest drawn up to his shoulder: his arms were white and polished as silver, and his countenance brilliant as the sun unobscured by clouds. The daughter of the sultan was captivated in the snare of love.
The sultan's daughter continued gazing at the supposed young man till he withdrew from work, when she retired to her apartment; but so much was she fascinated by his charms, that she became restless, and at length indisposed. Her nurse who attended her felt her pulse, and asked her several questions, but could find no symptoms of bodily illness upon her. She said, "My dear daughter, I am convinced that nothing has afflicted thee but desire of some youth with whom thou art in love."The princess exclaimed," My dear mother, as thou hast discovered my secret, thou wilt, I trust, not only keep it sacred, but bring to me the man I love."The nurse replied," No one can keep a secret closer than myself, so that you may safely confide it to my care."The princess then said," Mother, my heart is captivated by the young man who works in the shop opposite my windows, and if I cannot meet him I shall die of grief."
The nurse replied, "My dear mistress, he is the most beautiful youth of the age, and the women of the whole city are distracted with his charms; yet he is so bashful as to answer no advances, and shrinks from notice like a school-boy, but I will endeavour to overcome his shyness, and procure you a meeting." Having said thus, she went immediately to the wallet-maker's, and giving him a piece of gold, desired he would let his assistant accompany her home with two of his best wallets. The man was pleased with her generosity, and selecting his choicest manufacture, commanded his journeyman to accompany the nurse.
The old woman led the disguised princess through by-paths to a private passage of the palace, and introduced her into the apartments of the daughter of the sultan, who received her supposed beloved with emotions of joy too violent to be concealed. Pretending to admire the goods, she asked some questions, and giving him twenty pieces of gold, desired him to return with more goods on the following evening, to which the seeming journeyman replied, "To hear is to obey."
The disguised princess on her return home delivered the twenty pieces of gold to her employer, who was alarmed, and inquired from whence they came: upon which she informed him of her adventure, when the wallet-maker was in greater terror than before, and said to himself, "If this intrigue goes on, the sultan will discover it, I shall be put to death, and my family ruined on account of this young man and his follies." He then besought him not to repeat his visit, but he answered, "I cannot forbear, though I dread my death may be the consequence." In short, the disguised princess went every evening with the old nurse to the apartments of the sultan's daughter, till at length the sultan one night suddenly entered, and perceiving, he supposed, a man with the princess, commanded him to be seized and bound hand and foot.
The sultan then sent for an executioner, resolved to put the culprit to death. The executioner on his arrival seized the disguised princess; but what was the surprise of all present, when, on taking off the turban and vest, they discovered her sex. The sultan commanded her to be conducted to his haram, and inquired her story, when having no resource but the truth, she related her adventures.
When the princess had informed the sultan of the treachery of the vizier, the consequent conduct of her father, the distress of her mother, her sisters and herself, their being relieved, and her escape from shipwreck, with what had happened since, he was filled with wonder and compassion, and ordered his daughter to accommodate her in the haram. The love of the latter was now changed to sincere friendship, and under her care and attentions the unfortunate princess in a few months recovered her former beauty. It chanced that the sultan visiting his daughter was fascinated with the charms of the princess, but unwilling to infringe the rules of hospitality concealed his love, till at length he became dangerously ill, when the daughter suspecting the matter, prevailed upon him to reveal the cause of his complaint. She then informed her friend, and entreated her to accept her father in marriage; but the princess said, at the same time weeping bitterly, "Misfortune hath separated me from my family; I know not whether my sisters, my father and my mother, are living, or, if so, what is their condition. How can I be happy or merry, while they are perhaps involved in misery?"
The daughter of the sultan did not refrain from comforting the unfortunate princess, at the same time representing the hopeless condition of her father, till at length she consented to the marriage. This joyful intelligence speedily revived the love-lorn sultan, and the nuptials were celebrated with the utmost joy and magnificence.
The aged sultan and sultana continued to lament the loss of their daughters for some years, when at length the former resolved to travel in search of them, and having left the government in charge of his wife, departed, attended only by his vizier. They both assumed the habit of dervishes, and after a month's uninterrupted travelling reached a large city extending along the sea coast, close upon which the sultan of it had erected a magnificent pleasure house, where the pretended dervishes beheld him sitting in one of the pavilions with his two sons, one six and the other seven years old. They approached, made their obeisance, and uttered a long invocation, agreeably to the usage of the religious, for his prosperity. The sultan returned their compliment, desired them to be seated, and having conversed with them till evening, dismissed them with a present, when they repaired to a caravanserai, and hired an apartment. On the following day, after amusing themselves with viewing the city, they again repaired to the beach, and saw the sultan sitting with his children, as before. While they were admiring the beauty of the strufture, the younger prince, impelled by an unaccountable impulse, came up to them, gazed eagerly at them, and when they retired followed them to their lodging, which they did not perceive till he had entered with them and sat down. The old sultan was astonished at the child's behaviour, took him in his arms, kissed and fondled him, after which he desired him to return to his parents, but the boy insisted upon staying, and remained four days, during which the pretended dervishes did not stir from their caravanserai.
The sultan missing his son, supposed that he had gone to his mother, and she imagined that he was still with his father; but on the latter entering the haram the loss was discovered. Messengers were despatched every way, but no tidings of the boy could be obtained. The miserable parents now supposed that he had fallen into the sea and was drowned. Nets were dragged, and divers employed for three days, but in vain. On the fifth day orders were issued to search every house in the city, when the infant prince was at length discovered at the caravanserai in the apartment of the pretended dervishes, who were ignominiously dragged before the sultan.
The sultan was transported with joy at the recovery of his son, but supposing the dervishes had meant to steal him away, he ordered them instantly to be put to death. The executioners seized them, bound their hands behind them, and were going to strike, when the child with loud outcries ran up, and clinging to the knees of the elder victim could not be forced away. The sultan was astonished, and ordering the execution for the present to be delayed, went and informed the mother of the child of his wonderful behaviour.
The sultana, on hearing it, was no less surprised than the sultan, and felt a curiosity to hear from the dervish himself on what account he had enticed away her son. She said, "It is truly extraordinary that the boy should express such affection for a strange dervish. Send for him to your closet, and order him to relate his adventures, to which I will listen from behind a curtain."
The sultan sent for the supposed dervish, and commanding all his attendants to retire, withdrew with him into his closet, and desired him to be seated; after which he said, "Wicked dervish, what could have induced thee to entice away my son, or to visit my kingdom?" He replied, "Heaven knows, O sultan, I did not entice him. The boy followed me to my lodging, when I said, ' My son, return to thy father,' but he would not; and I remained in continual dread till what was decreed occurred." The sultan was softened, spoke kindly to him, and begged him to relate his adventures, when the pretended dervish wept, and said, "My history is a wonderful one. I had a friend whom I left as my agent and guardian to my family, while I was performing a pilgrimage to Mecca; but had scarcely left my house ten days, when accidently seeing my wife he endeavoured to debauch her, and sent an old woman with a rich present to declare his adulterous love. My wife was enraged, and put the infamous messenger to death. He sent a second, and a third, whom she also killed.
These last words were scarcely spoken, when the sultana bursting from her concealment ran up to the dervish, fell upon his neck, and embraced him: upon which, the sultan her husband was enraged, put his hand to his cimeter, and exclaimed, "What means this shameless behaviour?" The sultana, at once laughing and crying with rapture, informed him that the supposed dervish was her father: upon which the sultan also fell at his feet and welcomed him. He then ordered the other dervish his vizier to be released, commanded royal robes to be brought for his father-in-law, and a suite of apartments in the palace to be prepared for his reception, with an attendance befitting his dignity.
When the old sultan had spent some time with his youngest daughter thus happily recovered, he became anxious to search after the others, and signified his intention of departing; but his son-in-law declared that he would accompany him on the expedition with a number of his nobles, and an army, lest some fatal accident might occur from his being unattended. Preparations were accordingly made for march, the two sultans encamped without the city, and in a few days began their expedition, which proved successful to their wishes. The aged monarch having recovered his children retired to his own kingdom, where he reigned prosperously till the angel of death summoned him to Paradise.