THE UNWISE SCHOOLMASTER WHO FELL IN LOVE BY REPORT



Quoth one of the learned, “I passed once by a school, wherein a schoolmaster was teaching children; so I entered, finding him a good-looking man and a well-dressed; when he rose to me and made me sit with him.  Then I examined him in the Koran and in syntax and prosody and lexicography; and behold, he was perfect in all required of him, so I said to him, ‘Allah strengthen thy purpose!  Thou art indeed versed in all that is requisite,’ thereafter I frequented him a while, discovering daily some new excellence in him, and quoth I to myself, ‘This is indeed a wonder in any dominie; for the wise are agreed upon a lack of wit in children’s teachers.’  Then I separated myself from him and sought him and visited him only every few days, till coming to see him one day as of wont, I found the school shut and made enquiry of his neighbors, who replied, ‘Some one is dead in his house.’  So I said in my mind, ‘It behoveth me to pay him a visit of condolence,’ and going to his house, knocked at the door, when a slave-girl came out to me and asked, ‘What dost thou want?’ and I answered, ‘I want thy master.’  She replied, ‘He is sitting alone, mourning;’ and I rejoined, ‘Tell him that his friend so and so seeketh to console him.’  She went in and told him; and he said, ‘Admit him.’  So she brought me in to him, and I found him seated alone and his head bound with mourning fillets.  So I said to him, ‘Allah requite thee amply! this is a path all must perforce tread, and it behoveth thee to take patience;’ adding, ‘But who is dead unto thee?’  He answered, ‘One who was dearest of the folk to me, and best beloved.’ ‘Perhaps thy father?’ ‘No!’  ‘Thy brother?’  “No!’  “One of thy kindred?’  ‘No!’  Then asked I, ‘What relation was the dead to thee?’; and he answered, ‘My lover.’  Quoth I to myself, ‘This is the first proof to swear by his lack of wit.’  So I said to him, ‘Assuredly there be others than she and fairer;’ and he made answer, ‘I never saw her, that I might judge whether or no there be others fairer than she.’  Quoth I to myself, ‘This is another proof positive.’  Then I said to him, ‘And how couldst thou fall in love with one thou hast never seen?’  He replied ‘Know that I was sitting one day at the window, when lo! there passed by a man, singing the following distich,

    ‘Umm Amr’, [FN#169] thy boons Allah repay! *
         Give back my heart be’t where it may!’”

And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Third Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the schoolmaster continued, “ ‘When I heard the man humming these words as he passed along the street, I said to myself ‘Except this Umm Amru were without equal in the world, the poets had not celebrated her in ode and canzon.’  So I fell in love with her; but, two days after, the same man passed, singing the following couplet,

    ‘Ass and Umm Amr’ went their way; *
         Nor she, nor ass returned for aye.’

Thereupon I knew she was dead and mourned for her.  This was three days ago, and I have been mourning ever since.  So I left him, (concluded the learned one) and fared forth, having assured myself of the weakness of the gerund-grinder’s wit.”   And they tell another and a similar tale of



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