CRAFT AND MALICE OF WOMEN, [FN#153] OR THE TALE OF THE KING, HIS SON, HIS CONCUBINE AND THE SEVEN WAZIRS.
There was, in days of yore and in ages and times long gone before, a puissant King among the Kings of China, the crown of crowned heads, who ruled over many men of war and vassals with wisdom and justice, might and majesty; equitable to his Ryots, liberal to his lieges and dearly beloved by the hearts of his subjects. He was wealthy as he was powerful, but he had grown old without being blessed with a son, and this caused him sore affliction. He could only brood over the cutting off of his seed and the oblivion that would bury his name and the passing of his realm into the stranger's hands. So he secluded himself in his palace, never going in and out or rising and taking rest till the lieges lost all tidings of him and were sore perplexed and began to talk about their King. Some said, "He's dead"; others said, "No, he's not"; but all resolved to find a ruler who could reign over them and carry out the customs of government. At last, utterly despairing of male issue, he sought the intercession of the Prophet (whom Allah bless and keep!) with the Most High and implored Him, by the glory of His Prophets and Saints and Martyrs and others of the Faithful who were acceptable to Heaven that he would grant him a son, to be the coolth of his eyes and heir to the kingdom after him. Then he rose forthright and, withdrawing to his sitting-saloon, sent for his wife who was the daughter of his uncle. Now this Queen was of surpassing beauty and loveliness, the fairest of all his wives and the dearest to him as she was the nearest: and to boot a woman of excellent wit and passing judgement. She found the King dejected and sorrowful, tearful-eyed and heavy-hearted; so she kissed ground between his hands and said, "O King, may my life ransom thy life! may Time never prove thy foe, nor the shifts of Fortune prevail over thee; may Allah grant thee every joy and ward off from thee all annoy! How is it I see thee brooding over thy case and tormented by the displeasures of memory?" He replied, "Thou wottest well that I am a man now shotten in years, who hath never been blessed with a son, a sight to cool his eyes; so I know that my kingdom shall pass away to the stranger in blood and my name and memory will be blotted out amongst men. 'Tis this causeth me to grieve with excessive grief." "Allah do away with thy sorrows," quoth she: "long ere this day a thought struck me; and yearning for issue arose in my heart even as in thine. One night I dreamed a dream and a voice said to me, 'The King thy husband pineth for progeny: if a daughter be vouchsafed to him, she will be the ruin of his realm; if a son, the youth will undergo much trouble and annoy but he will pass through it without loss of life. Such a son can be conceived by thee and thee only and the time of thy conception is when the moon conjoineth with Gemini!' I woke from my dream, but after what I heard that voice declare I refrained from breeding and would not consent to bear children." "There is no help for it but that I have a son, Inshallah, --God willing!" cried the King. Thereupon she soothed and consoled him till he forgot his sorrows and went forth amongst the lieges and sat, as of wont, upon his throne of estate. All rejoiced to see him once more and especially the Lords of his realm. Now when the conjunction of the moon and Gemini took place, the King knew his wife carnally and, by order of Allah Almighty she became pregnant. Presently she anounced the glad tidings to her husband and led her usual life until her nine months of pregnancy were completed and she bare a male child whose face was as the rondure of the moon on its fourteenth night. The lieges of the realm congratulated one another thereanent and the King commanded an assembly of his Olema and philosophers, astrologers and horoscopists, whom he thus addressed, "I desire you to forecast the fortune of my son and to determine his ascendant [FN#154] and whatever is shown by his nativity." They replied "'Tis well, in Allah's name, let us do so!" and cast his nativity with all diligence. After ascertaining his ascendant, they pronounced judgement in these words, "We see his lot favourable and his life viable and durable; save that a danger awaiteth his youth." The father was sorely concerned at this saying, when they added "But, O King, he shall escape from it nor shall aught of injury accrue to him!" Hereupon the King cast aside all cark and care and robed the wizards and dismissed them with splendid honoraria; and he resigned himself to the will of Heaven and acknowledged that the decrees of destiny may not be countervailed. He committed his boy to wet nurses and dry nurses, handmaids and eunuchs, leaving him to grow and fill out in the Harim till he reached the age of seven. Then he addressed letters to his Viceroys and Governors in every clime and by their means gathered together Olema and philosophers and doctors of law and religion, from all countries, to a number of three hundred and three score. He held an especial assembly for them and, when all were in presence, he bade them draw near him and be at their ease while he sent for the food-trays and all ate their sufficiency. And when the banquet ended and the wizards had taken seats in their several degrees, the King asked them, "Wot ye wherefore I have gathered ye together?"; whereto all answered, "We wot not, O King!" He continued, "It is my wish that you select from amongst you fifty men, and from these fifty ten, and from these ten one, that he may teach my son omnem rem scibilem; for whenas I see the youth perfect in all science, I will share my dignity with the Prince and make him partner with me in my possessions." "Know, O King," they replied, "that among us none is more learned or more excellent than Al-Sindibad, [FN#155] hight the Sage, who woneth in thy capital under thy protection. If such be thy design, summon him and bid him do thy will." The King acted upon their advice and the Sage, standing in the presence, expressed his loyal sentiments with his salutation, whereupon his Sovereign bade him draw nigh and thus raised his rank, saying, "I would have thee to know, O Sage, that I summoned this assembly of the learned and bade them choose me out a man to teach my son all knowledge; when they selected thee without dissenting thought or voice. If, then, thou feel capable of what they claimed for thee, come thou to the task and understand that a man's son and heir is the very fruit of his vitals and core of his heart and liver. My desire of thee is thine instruction of him; and to happy issue Allah guideth!" The King then sent for his son and committed him to Al-Sindibad conditioning the Sage to finish his education in three years. He did accordingly but, at the end of that time, the young Prince had learned nothing, his mind being wholly occupied with play and disport; and when summoned and examined by his sire, behold, his knowledge was as nil. Thereupon the King turned his attention to the learned once more and bade them elect a tutor for his youth; so they asked, "And what hath his governor, Al-Sindibad, been doing?" and when the King answered, "He hath taught my son naught;" the Olema and philosophers and high officers summoned the instructor and said to him, "O Sage, what prevented thee from teaching the King's son during this length of days?" "O wise men," he replied, "the Prince's mind is wholly occupied with disport and play; yet, an the King will make with me three conditions and keep to them, I will teach him in seven months what he would not learn (nor indeed could any other lesson him) within seven years." "I hearken to thee," quoth the King, "and I submit myself to thy conditions;" and quoth Al-Sindibad, "Hear from me, Sire, and bear in mind these three sayings, whereof the first is, 'Do not to others what thou wouldest not they do unto thee'; [FN#156] and second, 'Do naught hastily without consulting the experienced'; and thirdly, 'Where thou hast power show pity.' [FN#157] In teaching this lad I require no more of thee but to accept these three dictes and adhere thereto." Cried the King, "Bear ye witness against me, O all ye here assembled, that I stand firm by these conditions!"; and caused a proces verbal to be drawn up with his personal security and the testimony of his courtiers. Thereupon the Sage, taking the Prince's hand, led him to his place, and the King sent them all requisites of provaunt and kitchen-batteries, carpets and other furniture. Moreover the tutor bade build a house whose walls he lined with the whitest stucco painted over with ceruse, [FN#158] and, lastly, he delineated thereon all the objects concerning which he proposed to lecture his pupil. When the place was duly furnished, he took the lad's hand and installed him in the apartment which was amply furnished with belly-timber; and, after stablishing him therein, went forth and fastened the door with seven padlocks. Nor did he visit the Prince save every third day when he lessoned him on the knowledge to be extracted from the wall-pictures and renewed his provision of meat and drink, after which he left him again to solitude. So whenever the youth was straitened in breast by the tedium and ennui of loneliness, he applied himself diligently to his object-lessons and mastered all the deductions therefrom. His governor seeing this turned his mind into other channel and taught him the inner meanings of the external objects; and in a little time the pupil mastered every requisite. Then the Sage took him from the house and taught him cavalarice and Jerid play and archery. When the pupil had thoroughly mastered these arts, the tutor sent to the King informing him that the Prince was perfect and complete in all things required to figure favourably amongst his peers. Hereat the King rejoiced; and, summoning his Wazirs and Lords of estate to be present at the examination, commanded the Sage to send his son into the presence. Thereupon Al-Sindibad consulted his pupil's horoscope and found it barred by an inauspicious conjunction which would last seven days; so, in sore affright for the youth's life, he said, "Look into thy nativity-scheme." The Prince did so and, recognising the portent, feared for himself and presently asked the Sage, saying, "What dost thou bid me do?" "I bid thee," he answered, "remain silent and speak not a word during this se'nnight; even though thy sire slay thee with scourging. An thou pass safely through this period, thou shalt win to high rank and succeed to thy sire's reign; but an things go otherwise then the behest is with Allah from the beginning to the end thereof." Quoth the pupil, "Thou art in fault, O preceptor, and thou hast shown undue haste in sending that message to the King before looking into my horoscope. Hadst thou delayed till the week had passed all had been well." Quoth the tutor, "O my son, what was to be was; and the sole defaulter therein was my delight in thy scholarship. But now be firm in thy resolve; rely upon Allah Almighty and determine not to utter a single word." Thereupon the Prince fared for the presence and was met by the Wazirs who led him to his father. The King accosted him and addressed him but he answered not; and sought speech of him but he spake not. Whereupon the courtiers were astounded and the monarch, sore concerned for his son, summoned Al-Sindibad. But the tutor so hid himself that none could hit upon his trace nor gain tidings of him; and folk said, "He was ashamed to appear before the King's majesty and the courtiers." Under these conditions the Sovereign heard some of those present saying, "Send the lad to the Serraglio where he will talk with the women and soon set aside this bashfulness;" and, approving their counsel, gave orders accordingly. So the Prince was led into the palace, which was compassed about by a running stream whose banks were planted with all manner of fruit-trees and sweet-smelling flowers. Moreover, in this palace were forty chambers and in every chamber ten slave-girls, each skilled in some instrument of music, so that whenever one of them played, the palace danced to her melodious strains. Here the Prince passed one night; but, on the following morning, the King's favourite concubine happened to cast eyes upon his beauty and loveliness, his symmetrical stature, his brilliancy and his perfect grace, and love gat hold of her heart and she was ravished with his charms. [FN#159] So she went up to him and threw herself upon him, but he made her no response; whereupon, being dazed by his beauty, she cried out to him and required him of himself and importuned him; then she again threw herself upon him and clasped him to her bosom kissing him and saying, "O King's son, grant me thy favours and I will set thee in thy father's stead; I will give him to drink of poison, so he may die and thou shalt enjoy his realm and wealth." When the Prince heard these words, he was sore enraged against her and said to her by signs, "O accursed one, so it please Almighty Allah, I will assuredly requite thee this thy deed, whenas I can speak; for I will go forth to my father and will tell him, and he shall kill thee." So signing, he arose in rage, and went out from her chamber; whereat she feared for herself. Thereupon she buffeted her face and rent her raiment and tare her hair and bared her head, then went in to the King and cast herself at his feet, weeping and wailing. When he saw her in this plight, he was sore concerned and asked her, "What aileth thee, O damsel? How is it with thy lord, my son? Is he not well?"; and she answered, "O King, this thy son, whom thy courtiers avouch to be dumb, required me of myself and I repelled him, whereupon he did with me as thou seest and would have slain me; so I fled from him, nor will I ever return to him, nor to the palace again, no, never again!" When the King heard this, he was wroth with exceeding wrath and, calling his seven Wazirs, bade them put the Prince to death. However, they said one to other, "If we do the King's commandment, he will surely repent of having ordered his son's death, for he is passing dear to him and this child came not to him save after despair; and he will round upon us and blame us, saying, 'Why did ye not contrive to dissuade me from slaying him?'" So they took counsel together, to turn him from his purpose, and the chief Wazir said, "I will warrant you from the King's mischief this day." Then he went in to the presence and prostrating himself craved leave to speak. The King gave him permission, and he said, "O King, though thou hadst a thousand sons, yet were it no light matter to thee to put one of them to death, on the report of a woman, be she true or be she false; and belike this is a lie and a trick of her against thy son; for indeed, O King, I have heard tell great plenty of stories of the malice, the craft and perfidy of women." Quoth the King, "Tell me somewhat of that which hath come to thy knowledge thereof." And the Wazir answered, saying, 'Yes, there hath reached me, O King, a tale entituled
The King and his Wazir's Wife. [FN#160]
There was once a King of the Kings, a potent man and a proud, who was devoted to the love of women and one day being in the privacy of his palace, he espied a beautiful woman on the terraceroof of her house and could not contain himself from falling consumedly in love with her. [FN#161] He asked his folk to whom the house and the damsel belonged and they said, "This is the dwelling of the Wazir such an one and she is his wife." So he called the Minister in question and despatched him on an errand to a distant part of the kingdom, where he was to collect information and to return; but, as soon as he obeyed and was gone, the King contrived by a trick to gain access to his house and his spouse. When the Wazir's wife saw him, she knew him and springing up, kissed his hands and feet and welcomed him. Then she stood afar off, busying herself in his service, and said to him, "O our lord, what is the cause of thy gracious coming? Such an honour is not for the like of me." Quoth he, "The cause of it is that love of thee and desire thee-wards have moved me to this. Whereupon she kissed ground before him a second time and said, "By Allah, O our lord, indeed I am not worthy to be the handmaid of one of the King's servants; whence then have I the great good fortune to be in such high honour and favour with thee?" Then the King put out his hand to her intending to enjoy her person, when she said, "This thing shall not escape us; but take patience, O my King, and abide with thy handmaid all this day, that she may make ready for thee somewhat to eat and drink." So the King sat down on his Minister's couch and she went in haste and brought him a book wherein he might read, whilst she made ready the food. He took the book and, beginning to read, found therein moral instances and exhortations, such as restrained him from adultery and broke his courage to commit sin and crime. After awhile, she returned and set before him some ninety dishes of different kinds of colours, and he ate a mouthful of each and found that, while the number was many, the taste of them was one. At this, he marvelled with exceeding marvel and said to her, "O damsel, I see these meats to be manifold and various, but the taste of them is simple and the same." "Allah prosper the King!" replied she, "this is a parable I have set for thee, that thou mayst be admonished thereby." He asked, "And what is its meaning?"; and she answered, "Allah amend the case of our lord the King!; in thy palace are ninety concubines of various colours, but their taste is one." [FN#162] When the King heard this, he was ashamed and rising hastily, went out, without offering her any affront and returned to his palace; but, in his haste and confusion, he forgot his signet-ring and left it under the cushion where he had been sitting and albeit he remembered it he was ashamed to send for it. Now hardly had he reached home when the Wazir returned and, presenting himself before the King, kissed the ground and made his report to him of the state of the province in question. Then he repaired to his own house and sat down on his couch and chancing to put his hand under the cushion, behold, he found the King's seal-ring. So he knew it and taking the matter to heart, held aloof in great grief from his wife for a whole year, not going in unto her nor even speaking to her, whilst she knew not the reason of his anger. --And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Seventy-ninth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Wazir held aloof from his wife, whilst she knew not the cause of his wrath. At last, being weary of the longsome neglect, she sent for her sire and told him the case; whereupon quoth he, "I will complain of him to the King, at some time when he is in the presence." So, one day, he went in to the King and, finding the Wazir and the Kazi of the army before him, [FN#163] complained thus saying, "Almighty Allah amend the King's case! I had a fair flower-garden, which I planted with mine own hand and thereon spent my substance till it bare fruit; and its fruitage was ripe for plucking, when I gave it to this thy Wazir, who ate of it what seemed good to him, then deserted it and watered it not, so that its bloom wilted and withered and its sheen departed and its state changed." Then said the Wazir, "O my King, this man saith sooth. I did indeed care for and guard the garden and kept it in good condition and ate thereof, till one day I went thither and I saw the trail of the lion there, wherefore I feared for my life and withdrew from the garden." The King understood him that the trail of the lion meant his own seal-ring, which he had forgotten in the woman's house; so he said, "Return, O Wazir, to thy flower-garden and fear nothing, for the lion came not near it. It hath reached me that he went thither; but, by the honour of my fathers and forefathers, he offered it no hurt." "Hearkening and obedience," answered the Minister and, returning home sent for his wife and made his peace with her and thenceforth put faith in her chastity. "This I tell thee, O King (continued the Wazir), for no other purpose save to let thee know how great is their craft and how precipitancy bequeatheth repentance. [FN#164] And I have also heard the following
Story of the Confectioner, his Wife, and the Parrot.
Once upon a time there dwelt in Egypt a confectioner who had a wife famed for beauty and loveliness; and a parrot which, as occasion required, did the office of watchman and guard, bell and spy, and flapped her wings did she but hear a fly buzzing about the sugar. This parrot caused abundant trouble to the wife, always telling her husband what took place in his absence. Now one evening, before going out to visit certain friends, the confectioner gave the bird strict injunctions to watch all night and bade his wife make all fast, as he should not return until morning. Hardly had he left the door than the woman went for her old lover, who returned with her and they passed the night together in mirth and merriment, while the parrot observed all. Betimes in the morning the lover fared forth and the husband, returning, was informed by the parrot of what had taken place; whereupon he hastened to his wife's room and beat her with a painful beating. She thought in herself, "Who could have informed against me?" and she asked a woman that was in her confidence whether it was she. The woman protested by the worlds visible and invisible that she had not betrayed her mistress; but informed her that on the morning of his return home, the husband had stood some time before the cage listening to the parrot's talk. When the wife heard this, she resolved to contrive the destruction of the bird. Some days after, the husband was again invited to the house of a friend where he was to pass the night; and, before departing, he enjoined the parrot with the same injunctions as before; wherefore his heart was free from care, for he had his spy at home. The wife and her confidante then planned how they might destroy the credit of the parrot with the master. For this purpose they resolved to counterfeit a storm; and this they did by placing over the parrot's head a hand-mill (which the lover worked by pouring water upon a piece of hide), by waving a fan and by suddenly uncovering a candle hid under a dish. Thus did they raise such a tempest of rain and lightning, that the parrot was drenched and half-drowned in a deluge. Now rolled the thunder, then flashed the lightning; that from the noise of the hand-mill, this from the reflection of the candle; when thought the parrot to herself, "In very sooth the flood hath come on, such an one as belike Noah himself never witnessed." So saying she buried her head under her wing, a prey to terror. The husband, on his return, hastened to the parrot to ask what had happened during his absence; and the bird answered that she found it impossible to describe the deluge and tempest of the last night; and that years would be required to explain the uproar of the hurricane and storm. When the shopkeeper heard the parrot talk of last night's deluge, he said: "Surely O bird, thou art gone clean daft! Where was there, even in a dream, rain or lightning last night? Thou hast utterly ruined my house and ancient family. My wife is the most virtuous woman of the age and all thine accusations of her are lies." So in his wrath he dashed the cage upon the ground, tore off the parrot's head, and threw it from the window. Presently his friend, coming to call upon him, saw the parrot in this condition with head torn off, and without wings or plumage. Being informed of the circumstances he suspected some trick on the part of the woman, and said to the husband, "When your wife leaves home to go to the Hammam-bath, compel her confidante to disclose the secret." So as soon as his wife went out, the husband entered his Harim and insisted on the woman telling him the truth. She recounted the whole story and the husband now bitterly repented having killed the parrot, of whose innocence he had proof. "This I tell thee, O King (continued the Wazir), that thou mayst know how great are the craft and malice of women and that to act in haste leadeth to repent at leisure." So the King turned from slaying his son: but, next day, the favourite came in to him and, kissing the ground before him, said, "O King, why dost thou delay to do me justice? Indeed, the Kings have heard that thou commandest a thing and thy Wazir countermandeth it. Now the obedience of Kings is in the fulfilment of their commandments, and every one knows thy justice and equity: so do thou justice for me on the Prince. I also have heard tell a tale concerning
The Fuller and his Son.
There was once a man which was a fuller, and he used every day to go forth to the Tigris-bank a-cleaning clothes; and his son was wont to go with him that he might swim whilst his father was fulling, nor was he forbidden from this. One day, as the boy was swimming, [FN#165] he was taken with cramp in the forearms and sank, whereupon the fuller plunged into the water and caught hold of him; but the boy clung about him and pulled him down and so father and son were both drowned. "Thus it is with thee, O King. Except thou prevent thy son and do me justice on him, I fear lest both of you sink together, thou and he."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it Was the Five Hundred and Eightieth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the favourite had told her tale of the Fuller and his son, she ended with, "I fear lest both of you sink together, thou and he. Moreover," continued she, "for an instance of the malice of men, I have heard tell a tale concerning
The Rake's Trick against the Chaste Wife.
A certain man loved a beautiful and lovely woman, a model of charms and grace, married to a man whom she loved and who loved her. Moreover, she was virtuous and chaste, like unto me, and her rake of a lover found no way to her; so when his patience was at an end, he devised a device to win his will. Now the husband had a young man, whom he had brought up in his house and who was in high trust with him as his steward. So the rake addressed himself to the youth and ceased not insinuating himself into his favour by presents and fair words and deeds, till he became more obedient to him than the hand to the mouth and did whatever he ordered him. One day, he said to him, "Harkye, such an one; wilt thou not bring me into the family dwelling-place some time when the lady is gone out?" "Yes," answered the young steward so, when his master was at the shop and his mistress gone forth to the Hammam, he took his friend by the hand and, bringing him into the house, showed him the sitting-rooms and all that was therein. Now the lover was determined to play a trick upon the woman; so he took the white of an egg which he had brought with him in a vessel, and spilt it on the merchant's bedding, unseen by the young man; after which he returned thanks and leaving the house went his way. In an hour or so the merchant came home; and, going to the bed to rest himself, found thereon something wet. So he took it up in his hand and looked at it and deemed it man's seed; whereat he stared at the young man with eyes of wrath, and asked him, "Where is thy mistress?"; and he answered, "She is gone forth to the Hammam and will return forthright after she has made her ablutions." [FN#166] When the man heard this, his suspicion concerning the semen was confirmed; and he waxed furious and said, "Go at once and bring her back." The steward accordingly fetched her and when she came before her husband, the jealous man sprang upon her and beat her a grievous beating; then, binding her arms behind her, offered to cut her throat with a knife; but she cried out to the neighbours, who came to her, and she said to them, "This my man hath beaten me unjustly and without cause and is minded to kill me, though I know not what is mine offence." So they rose up and asked him, "Why hast thou dealt thus by her?" And he answered, "She is divorced." Quoth they, "Thou hast no right to maltreat her; either divorce her or use her kindly, for we know her prudence and purity and chastity. Indeed, she hath been our neighbour this long time and we wot no evil of her." Quoth he, "When I came home, I found on my bed seed like human sperm, and I know not the meaning of this." Upon this a little boy, one of those present, came forward and said, "Show it to me, nuncle mine!" When he saw it, he smelt it and, calling for fire and a frying-pan, he took the white of egg and cooked it so that it became solid. Then he ate of it and made the husband and the others taste if it, and they were certified that it was white of egg. So the husband was convinced that he had sinned against his wife's innocence, she being clear of all offence, and the neighbours made peace between them after the divorce, and he prayed her pardon and presented her with an hundred gold pieces. And so the wicked lover's cunning trick came to naught. "And know, O King, that this is an instance of the malice of men and their perfidy." When the King heard this, he bade his son be slain; but on the next day the second Wazir came forward for intercession and kissed ground in prostration. Whereupon the King said, "Raise thy head: prostration must be made to Allah only." [FN#167] So the Minister rose from before him and said, "O King, hasten not to slay thy son, for he was not granted to his mother by the Almighty but after despair, nor didst thou expect such good luck; and we hope that he will live to become a guerdon to thy reign and a guardian of thy good. Wherefore, have patience, O King; belike he will offer a fit excuse; and, if thou make haste to slay him, thou wilt surely repent, even as the merchant-wight repented." Asked the King, "And how was it with the merchant, O Wazir?"; and the Wazir answered, "O King, I have heard a tale of
The Miser and the Loaves of Bread.
There was once a merchant, who was a niggard and miserly in his eating and drinking. One day, he went on a journey to a certain town and as he walked in the market-streets, behold, he met an old trot with two scones of bread which looked sound and fair, He asked her, "Are these for sale?"; and she answered, "Yes!" So he beat her down and bought them at the lowest price and took them home to his lodging, where he ate them that day. When morning morrowed, he returned to the same place and, finding the old woman there with other two scones, bought these also; and thus he ceased not during twenty-five days' space when the old wife disappeared. He made enquiry for her, but could hear no tidings of her, till, one day as he was walking about the high streets, he chanced upon her: so he accosted her and, after the usual salutation and with much praise and politeness, asked why she had disappeared from the market and ceased to supply the two cakes of bread? Hearing this, at first she evaded giving him a reply; but he conjured her to tell him her case; so she said, "Hear my excuse, O my lord, which is that I was attending upon a man who had a corroding ulcer on his spine, and his doctor bade us knead flour with butter into a plaster and lay it on the place of pain, where it abode all night. In the morning, I used to take that flour and turn it into dough and make it into two scones, which I cooked and sold to thee or to another; but presently the man died and I was cut off from making cakes." [FN#168] When the merchant heard this, he repented whenas repentance availed him naught, saying, "Verily, we are Allah's and verily unto Him we are returning! There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Him, the Glorious, the Great!" --And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Eighty-first Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the old trot told the merchant the provenance of the scones, he cried, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!" And he repeated the saying of the Most High, "Whatever evil falleth to thee it is from thyself;" [FN#169] and vomited till he fell sick and repented whenas repentance availed him naught. "Moreover, O King" (continued the second Wazir), "I have heard tell, of the malice of women, a tale of
The Lady and her Two Lovers.
Once upon a time there was a man, who was sword-bearer to one of the Kings, and he loved a damsel of the common sort. One day, he sent his page to her with a message, as of wont between them, and the lad sat down with her and toyed with her. She inclined to him and pressed him to her breast and groped him and kissed him whereupon he sought carnal connection of her and she consented; but, as the two were thus, lo! the youth's master knocked at the door. So she pushed the page through a trapdoor into an underground chamber there and opened the door to his lord, who entered hending sword in hand and sat down upon her bed. Then she came up to him and sported and toyed with him, kissing him and pressing him to her bosom, and he took her and lay with her. Presently, her husband knocked at the door and the gallant asked her, "Who is that?"; whereto she answered, "My husband." Quoth he, "How shall I do?" Quoth she, "Draw thy sword and stand in the vestibule and abuse me and revile me; and when my husband comes in to thee, do thou go forth and wend thy ways." He did as she bade him; and, when the husband entered, he saw the King's sword-bearer standing with naked brand in hand, abusing and threatening his wife; but, when the lover saw him, he was ashamed and sheathing his scymitar, went forth the house. Said the man to his wife, "What means this?"; and she replied, "O man, how blessed is the hour of thy coming! Thou hast saved a True Believer from slaughter, and it happed after this fashion. I was on the house-terrace, spinning, [FN#170] when behold, there came up to me a youth, distracted and panting for fear of death, fleeing from yonder man, who followed upon him as hard as he could with his drawn sword. The young man fell down before me, and kissed my hands and feet, saying, "O Protector, of thy mercy, save me from him who would slay me wrongously!" So I hid him in that underground chamber of ours and presently in came yonder man to me, naked brand in hand, demanding the youth. But I denied him to him, whereupon he fell to abusing and threatening me as thou sawest. And praised be Allah who sent thee to me, for I was distraught and had none to deliver me!" "Well hast thou done, O woman!" answered the husband. "Thy reward is with Allah the Almighty, and may He abundantly requite thy good deed!" Then he went to the trap door and called to the page, saying, "Come forth and fear not; no harm shall befal thee." So he came out, trembling for fear, and the husband said, "Be of good cheer: none shall I hurt thee;" condoling with him on what had befallen him; whilst the page called down blessings on his head. Then they both went forth, nor was that Cornuto nor was the page aware of that which the woman had contrived. "This, then, O King," said the Wazir, "is one of the tricks of women; so beware lest thou rely upon their I words." The King was persuaded and turned from putting his son to death; but, on the third day, the favourite came in to him I and, kissing the ground before him, cried, "O King, do me justice on thy son and be not turned from thy purpose by thy Ministers' prate, for there is no good in wicked Wazirs, and be not as the King of Baghdad, who relied on the word of a certain wicked counsellor of his." Quoth he, "And how was that?" Quoth she, "There hath been told me, O auspicious and well-advised King, a tale of
The Kings Son and the Ogress. [FN#171]
A certain King had a son, whom he loved and favoured with exceeding favour, over all his other children; and this son said to him one day, "O my father, I have a mind to fare a-coursing and a-hunting." So the King bade furnish him and commanded one of his Wazirs to bear him company and do all the service he needed during his trip. The Minister accordingly took everything that was necessary for the journey and they set out with a retinue of eunuchs and officers and pages, and rode on, sporting as they went, till they came to a green and well-grassed champaign abounding in pasture and water and game. Here the Prince turned to the Minister and told him that the place pleased him and he purposed to halt there. So they set down in that site and they loosed the falcons and lynxes and dogs and caught great plenty of game, whereat they rejoiced and abode there some days, in all joyance of life and its delight. Then the King's son gave the signal for departure; but, as they went along, a beautiful gazelle, as if the sun rose shining from between her horns, that had strayed from her mate, sprang up before the Prince, whereupon his soul longed to make prize of her and he coveted her. So he said to the Wazir, "I have a mind to follow that gazelle;" and the Minister replied, "Do what seemeth good to thee." Thereupon the Prince rode single-handed after the gazelle, till he lost sight of his companions, and chased her all that day till dusk, when she took refuge in a bit of rocky ground [FN#172] and darkness closed in upon him. Then he would have turned back, but knew not the way; whereat he was sore concerned and said, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!" He sat his mare all night till morning dawned, in quest of relief, but found none; and, when the day appeared, he fared on at hazard fearful, famished, thirsty, and knowing not whither to wend till it was noon and the sun beat down upon him with burning heat. By that time he came in sight of a great city, with massive base and lofty bulwarks; but it was ruined and desolate, nor was there any live thing therein save owl and raven. As he stood among the buildings, marvelling at their ordinance, lo! his eyes fell on a damsel, young, beautiful and lovely, sitting under one of the city walls wailing and weeping copious tears. So he drew nigh to her and asked, "Who art thou and who brought thee hither?" She answered, "I am called Bint al-Tamimah, daughter of Al-Tiyakh, King of the Gray Country. I went out one day to obey a call of nature, [FN#173] when an Ifrit of the Jinn snatched me up and soared with me between heaven and earth; but as he flew there fell on him a shooting-star in the form of a flame of fire and burned him, and I dropped here, where these three days I have hungered and thirsted; but when I saw thee I longed for life." --And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Eighty-second Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Prince when addressed by the daughter of King Al-Tiyakh who said to him, "When I saw thee I longed for life," was smitten with ruth and grief for her and took her up on his courser's crupper, saying, "Be of good cheer and keep thine eyes cool and clear; for, if Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) restore me to my people and family, I will send thee back to thine own folk." Then he rode on, praying for deliverance, and presently the damsel said to him, "O King's son, set me down, that I may do an occasion under this wall." So he drew bridle and she alighted. He waited for her a long while as she hid herself behind the wall; and she came forth, with the foulest of favours; which when he saw, his hair stood on end and he quaked for fear of her and he turned deadly pale. Then she sprang up on his steed, behind him, wearing the most loathly of aspects, and presently she said to him, "O King's son, what ails thee that I see thee troubled and thy favour changed?" "I have bethought me of somewhat that troubles me." "Seek aid against it of thy father's troops and his braves." "He whom I fear careth naught for troops, neither can braves affright him." "Aid thyself against him with thy father's monies and treasures." "He whom I fear will not be satisfied with wealth." "Ye hold that ye have in Heaven a God who seeth and is not seen and is Omnipotent and Omniscient." "Yes, we have none but Him." "Then pray thou to Him; haply He will deliver thee from me thine enemy!" So the King's son raised his eyes to heaven and began to pray with his whole heart, saying, "O my God, I implore Thy succour against that which troubleth me." Then he pointed to her with his hand, and she fell to the ground, burnt black as charcoal. Therewith he thanked Allah and praised Him and ceased not to fare forwards; and the Almighty (extolled and exalted be He!) of His grace made the way easy to him and guided him into the right road, so that he reached his own land and came upon his father's capital, after he had despaired of life. Now all this befel by the contrivance of the Wazir, who travelled with him, to the end that he might cause him to perish on the way; but Almighty Allah succoured him. "And this" (said the damsel) "have I told thee, O King, that thou mayst know that wicked Wazirs deal not honestly by nor counsel with sincere intent their Kings; wherefore be thou wise and ware of them in this matter." The King gave ear to her speech and bade put his son to death; but the third Wazir came in and said to his brother Ministers, "I will warrant you from the King's mischief this day" and, going in to him, kissed the ground between his hands and said, "O King, I am thy true counsellor and solicitous for thee and for thine estate, and indeed I rede thee the best of rede; it is that thou hasten not to slay thy son, the coolth of thine eyes and the fruit of thy vitals. Haply his sin is but a slight slip, which this damsel hath made great to thee; and indeed I have heard tell that the people of two villages once destroyed one another, because of a drop of honey." Asked the King, "How was that?"; and the Wazir answered, saying, "Know, O King, that I have heard this story anent
The Drop of Honey. [FN#174]
A certain hunter used to chase wild beasts in wold, and one day he came upon a grotto in the mountains, where he found a hollow full of bees' honey. So he took somewhat thereof in a water-skin he had with him and, throwing it over his shoulder, carried it to the city, followed by a hunting dog which was dear to him. He stopped at the shop of an oilman and offered him the honey for sale and he bought it. Then he emptied it out of the skin, that he might see it, and in the act a drop fell to the ground, whereupon the flies flocked to it and a bird swooped down upon the flies. Now the oilman had a cat, which sprang upon the bird, and the huntsman's dog, seeing the cat, sprang upon it and slew it; whereupon the oilman sprang upon the dog and slew it, and the huntsman in turn sprang upon the oilman and slew him. Now the oilman was of one village and the huntsman of another; and when the people of the two places heard what had passed, they took up arms and weapons and rose one on other in wrath and the two lines met; nor did the sword leave to play amongst them, till there died of them much people, none knoweth their number save Almighty Allah. "And amongst other stories of the malice of women" (continued the Wazir) "I have heard tell, O King, one concerning
The Woman who made her Husband Sift Dust. [FN#175]
A man once gave his wife a dirham to buy rice; so she took it and went to the rice-seller, who gave her the rice and began to jest with her and ogle her, for she was dowered with beauty and loveliness, saying, "Rice is not good but with sugar which if thou wilt have, come in with me for an hour." So, saying, "Give me sugar," she went in with him into his shop and he won his will of her and said to his slave, "Weigh her out a dirham's worth of sugar." But he made the slave a privy sign, and the boy, taking the napkin, in which was the rice, emptied it out and put in earth and dust in its stead, and for the sugar set stones, after which he again knotted up the napkin and left it by her. His object, in doing this, was that she should come to him a second time; so, when she went forth of the shop, he gave her the napkin and she took it, thinking to have in it rice and sugar, and ganged her gait; but when she returned home and, setting it before her husband, went for a cooking-pot, he found in it earth and stones. So, as soon as she came back bringing the pot, he said to her, "Did I tell thee I had aught to build, that thou bringest me earth and stones?" When she saw this; she knew that the rice-seller's slave had tricked her; so she said to her husband, "O man, in my trouble of mind for what hath befallen me, I went to fetch the sieve and brought the cooking-pot." "What hath troubled thee?" asked he; and she answered, "O husband, I dropped the dirham thou gavest me in the market-street and was ashamed to search for it before the folk; yet I grudged to lose the silver, so I gathered up the earth from the place where it fell and brought it away, thinking to sift it at home. Wherefore I went to fetch the sieve, but brought the cooking-pot instead." Then she fetched the sieve and gave it to her husband, saying, "Do thou sift it; for thine eyes are sharper than mine." Accordingly he sat, sifting the clay, till his face and beard were covered with dust; and he discovered not her trick, neither knew what had befallen her. "This then, O King," said the Wazir, "is an instance of the malice of women, and consider the saying of Allah Almighty, "Surely the cunning of you (women) is great!' [FN#176] And again, 'Indeed, the malice of Satan is weak in comparison with the malice of women.'" [FN#177] The King gave ear to his Wazir's speech and was persuaded thereby and was satisfied by what he cited to him of the signs of Allah [FN#178]; and the lights of good counsel arose and shone in the firmament of his understanding and he turned from his purpose of slaying his son. But on the fourth day, the favourite came in to him weeping and wailing and, kissing the ground before him, said, "O auspicious King, and lord of good rede, I have made plainly manifest to thee my grievance and thou hast dealt unjustly by me and hast forborne to avenge me on him who hath wronged me, because he is thy son and the darling of thy heart; but Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) will presently succour me against him, even as He succoured the King's son against his father's Wazir." "And how was that?" asked the King; and she answered, "I have heard tell, O King, a tale of
The Enchanted String. [FN#179]
There was once in times gone by a King who had one son and none other; and, when the Prince grew up to man's estate, he contracted him in marriage to another King's daughter. Now the damsel was a model of beauty and grace and her uncle's son had sought her in wedlock of her sire, but she would none of him. So, when he knew that she was to be married to another, envy and jealousy gat hold of him and he bethought himself and sent a noble present to the Wazir of the bridegroom's father and much treasure, desiring him to use craft for slaying the Prince or contrive to make him leave his intent of espousing the girl and adding, "O Wazir, indeed jealousy moveth me to this for she is my cousin." [FN#180] The Wazir accepted the present and sent an answer, saying, "Be of good cheer and of eyes cool and clear, for I will do all that thou wishest." Presently, the bride's father wrote to the Prince, bidding him to his capital, that he might go in to his daughter; whereupon the King his father gave him leave to wend his way thither, sending with him the bribed Wazir and a thousand horse, besides presents and litters, tents and pavilions. The Minister set out with the Prince, plotting the while in his heart to do him a mischief; and when they came into the desert, he called to mind a certain spring of running water in the mountains there, called Al-Zahra, [FN#181] whereof whosoever drank from a man became a woman. So he called a halt of the troops near the fountain and presently mounting steed again, said to the Prince, "Hast thou a mind to go with me and look upon a spring of water near hand?" The Prince mounted, knowing not what should befal him in the future, [FN#182] and they rode on, unattended by any, and without stopping till they came to the spring. The Prince being thirsty said to the Wazir, "O Minister, I am suffering from drouth," and the other answered, "Get thee down and drink of this spring!" So he alighted and washed his hands and drank, when behold, he straightway became a woman. As soon as he knew what had befallen him, he cried out and wept till he fainted away, and the Wazir came up to him as if to learn what had befallen him and cried, "What aileth thee?" So he told him what had happened, and the Minister feigned to condole with him and weep for his affliction, saying, "Allah Almighty be thy refuge in thine affliction! How came this calamity upon thee and this great misfortune to betide thee, and we carrying thee with joy and gladness, that thou mightest go in to the King's daughter? Verily, now I know not whether we shall go to her or not; but the rede [FN#183] is thine. What dost thou command me to do?" Quoth the Prince, "Go back to my sire and tell him what hath betided me, for I will not stir hence till this matter be removed from me or I die in my regret." So he wrote a letter to his father, telling him what had happened, and the Wazir took it and set out on his return to the city, leaving what troops he had with the Prince and inwardly exulting for the success of his plot. As soon as he reached the King's capital, he went in to him and, telling him what had passed, delivered the letter. The King mourned for his son with sore mourning and sent for the wise men and masters of esoteric science, that they might discover and explain to him this thing which had befallen his son, but none could give him an answer. Then the Wazir wrote to the lady's cousin, conveying to him the glad news of the Prince's misfortune, and he when he read the letter rejoiced with great joy and thought to marry the Princess and answered the Minister sending him rich presents and great store of treasure and thanking him exceedingly. Meanwhile, the Prince abode by the stream three days and three nights, eating not nor drinking and committing himself, in his strait, unto Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) who disappointeth not whoso relieth on him. On the fourth night, lo! there came to him a cavalier on a bright-bay steed [FN#184] with a crown on his head, as he were of the sons of the Kings, and said to him, "Who brought thee hither, O youth?" The Prince told him his mishap, how he was wending to his wedding, and how the Wazir had led him to a spring whereof he drank and incurred what had occurred; and as he spoke his speech was broken by tears. Having heard him the horseman pitied his case and said, "It was thy father's Wazir who cast thee into this strait, for no man alive save he knoweth of this spring;" presently adding, "Mount thee behind me and come with me to my dwelling, for thou art my guest this night." "Acquaint me who thou art ere I fare with thee," quoth the Prince; and quoth the other, "I am a King's son of the Jánn, as thou a King's son of mankind; so be of good cheer and keep thine eyes clear of tear, for I will surely do away thy cark and care; and this is a slight thing unto me." So the Prince mounted him behind the stranger, and they rode on, leaving the troops, from the first of the day till midnight, when the King's son of the Jinn asked the Prince, "Knowest thou how many days' march we have covered in this time?" "Not I." "We have come a full year's journey for a diligent horseman." The Prince marvelled at this and said, "How shall I do to return to my people?" "That is not thine affair, but my business. As soon as thou art quit of thy complaint, thou shalt return to thy people in less than the twinkling of an eye; for that is an easy matter to me." When the Prince heard these words he was ready to fly for excess of joy; it seemed to him as he were in the imbroglio of a dream and he exclaimed, "Glory be to Him who can restore the unhappy to happiness!"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Eighty-third Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Prince of the Jinn said to the Prince of mankind, "When thou art quit of thy complaint, thou shalt return to thy folk in less than the twinkling of an eye;" and the King's son rejoiced. They fared on all that night till the morning morrowed when lo! they found themselves in a green and smiling country, full of trees spireing and birds quiring and garths fruit-growing and palaces highshowing and waters a-flowing and odoriferous flowers a-blowing. Here the King's son of the Jinn alighted from his steed and, bidding the Prince do the like, took him by the hand and carried him into one of the palaces, where he found a great King and puissant Sultan; and abode with him all that day eating and drinking, till nightfall. Then the King's son of the Jinn mounted his courser and taking the Prince up behind him, fared on swiftly through the murks and glooms until morning, when lo, they found themselves in a dark land and a desert, full of black rocks and stones, as it were a piece of Hell; and the Prince asked the Jinni, "What is the name of this land?" Answered the other, "It is called the Black Country, and belongs to one of the Kings of the Jinn, by name Zu'l Janahayn, against whom none of the other Kings may prevail, neither may any enter his dominions save by his permit; so tarry thou here, whilst I go ask leave." So saying, he went away and, returning after awhile, they fared on again, till they landed at a spring of water welling forth of a black rock, and the King's son of the Jinn said to the King's son of men, "Alight!" He dismounted and the other cried, "Drink of this water!" So he drank of the spring without stay or delay; and, no sooner had he done so than, by grace of Allah, he became a man as before. At this he joyed with exceeding joy and asked the Jinni, "O my brother, how is this spring called?" Answered the other, "It is called the Women's Spring, for that no woman drinketh thereof but she becometh a man: wherefore do thou praise Allah the Most High and thank Him for thy restoration and mount." So the Prince prostrated himself in gratitude to the Almighty, after which he mounted again and they fared on diligently all that day, till they returned to the Jinni's home, where the Prince passed the night in all solace of life. They spent the next day in eating and drinking till nightfall, when the King's son of the Jinn asked the Prince, "Hast thou a mind to return to thy people this very night?" "Yes," he answered; "for indeed I long for them." Then the Jinni called one of his father's slaves, Rajiz [FN#185] hight, and said to him, "Take this young man mounted on thy shoulders, and let not the day dawn ere he be with his father-in-law and his wife." Replied the slave, "Hearkening and obedience, and with love and gladness, and upon my head and eyes!" then, withdrawing awhile, re-appeared in the form of an Ifrit. When the Prince saw this, he lost his senses for affright, but the Jinni said to him, "Fear not; no harm shall befal thee. Mount thy horse and leap him on to the Ifrit's shoulders." "Nay," answered he, "I will leave my horse with thee and bestride his shoulders myself." So he bestrode the Ifrit's shoulders and, when the Jinni cried, "Close thine eyes, O my lord, and be not a craven!" he strengthened his heart and shut his eyes. Thereupon the Ifrit rose with him into the air and ceased not to fly between sky and earth, whilst the Prince was unconscious, nor was the last third of the night come before he alighted down with him on the terrace-roof of his father-in-law's palace. Then said the Ifrit, "Dismount and open thine eyes; for this is the palace of thy father-in-law and his daughter." So he came down and the Ifrit flew away and left him on the roof of the palace. When the day broke and the Prince recovered from his troubles, he descended into the palace and as his father-in-law caught sight of him, he came to meet him and marvelled to see him descend from the roof of the palace, saying, "We see folk enter by the doors; but thou comest from the skies." Quoth the Prince, "Whatso Allah (may He be extolled and exalted!) willeth that cometh to pass." And he told him all that had befallen him, from first to last, whereat the King marvelled and rejoiced in his safety; and, as soon as the sun rose, bade his Wazir make ready splendid bride-feasts. So did he and they held the marriage festival: after which the Prince went in unto his bride and abode with her two months, then departed with her for his father's capital. As for the damsel's cousin, he died forthright of envy and jealousy. When the Prince and his bride drew near his father's city, the King came out to meet them with his troops and Wazirs, and so Allah (blessed and exalted be He!) enabled the Prince to prevail against his bride's cousin and his father's Minister. "And I pray the Almighty" (added the damsel) "to aid thee against thy Wazirs, O King, and I beseech thee to do me justice on thy son!" When the King heard this, he bade put his son to death;--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When is was the Five Hundred and Eighty-forth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the favourite had told her tale to the King she said, "I beseech thee to do me justice by putting thy son to death." Now this was the fourth day, so the fourth Wazir entered and, kissing the ground before him, said, "Allah stablish and protect the King! O King, be deliberate in doing this thou art resolved upon, for the wise man doth naught till he hath considered the issue thereof, and the proverb saith, 'Whoso looketh not to his actions' end, hath not the world to friend; and whoso acteth without consideration, there befalleth him what befel the Hammam-keeper with his wife.'" "And what betided him?" asked the King. And the Wazir answered, "I have heard tell, O King, a tale of the
Wazir's Son and the Hammam-Keepeer's Wife." [FN#186]
There was once a bath-keeper, to whom resorted the notables of the folk and head men, and one day there came in to him a handsome youth of the sons of Wazirs who was fat and bulky of body. So he stood to serve him and when the young man put off his clothes [FN#187] he saw not his yard, for that it was hidden between his thighs, by reason of the excess of his fat, and there appeared thereof but what was like unto a filbert. [FN#188] At this the bath-keeper fell a-lamenting and smiting hand upon hand, which when the youth saw, he said to him, "What ails thee, O bath-keeper, to lament thus?" And he answered, saying, "O my lord, my lamentation is for thee, because thou art in sore straits, for all thy fair fortune and goodliness and exceeding comeliness, seeing thou hast naught wherewithal to do and receive delight, like unto other men." Quoth the youth, "Thou sayst sooth, but thou mindest me of somewhat I had forgotten." "What is that?" asked the bathkeeper, and the youth answered, "Take this gold piece and fetch me a pretty woman, that I may prove my nature on her." So he took the money and betaking himself to his wife, said to her, "O woman, there is come to me in the bath a young man of the sons of the Wazirs, as he were the moon on the fullest night; but he hath no prickle like other men, for that which he hath is but some small matter like unto a filbert. I lamented over his youth and he gave me this dinar and asked me to fetch him a woman on whom he might approve himself. Now thou art worthier of the money than another, and from this no harm shall betide us, for I will protect thee. So do thou sit with him awhile and laugh at him and take this dinar from him." So the good wife took the dinar and rising, adorned herself and donned the richest of her raiment. Now she was the fairest woman of her time. Then she went out with her husband and he carried her in to the Wazir's son in a privy place. When she came in to him, she looked at him and finding him a handsome youth, fair of favour as he were the moon at full, was confounded at his beauty and loveliness; and on like wise his heart and wit were amazed at the first sight of her and the sweetness of her smile. So he rose forthright and locking the door, took the damsel in his arms and pressed her to his bosom and they embraced, whereupon the young man's yard swelled and rose on end, as it were that of a jackass, and he rode upon her breast and futtered her, whilst she sobbed and sighed and writhed and wriggled under him. Now the bathkeeper was standing behind the door, awaiting what should betide between them, and he began to call her saying, "O Umm Abdillah, enough! Come out, for the day is long upon thy sucking child." Quoth the youth, "Go forth to thy boy and come back;" but quoth she, "If I go forth from thee, my soul will depart my body; as regards the child, so I must either leave him to die of weeping or let him be reared an orphan, without a mother." So she ceased not to abide with him till he had done his desire of her ten times running, while her husband stood at the door, calling her and crying out and weeping and imploring succour. But none came to aid him and he ceased not to do thus, saying, "I will slay myself!"; till at last, finding no way of access to his wife, and being distraught with rage and jealousy, to hear her sighing and murmuring and breathing hard under the young man, he went up to the top of the bath and, casting himself down therefrom, died. "Moreover, O King" (continued the Wazir), "there hath reached me another story of the malice of women." "What is that?" asked the King, and the Wazir said, "Know, O King, that it is anent
The Wife's Device to Cheat her Husband."
There was once a woman who had no equal in her day for beauty and loveliness and grace and perfection; and a certain lewd youth and an obscene setting eyes on her, fell in love with her and loved her with exceeding passion, but she was chaste and inclined not to adultery. It chanced one day that her husband went on a journey to a certain town, whereupon the young man fell to sending to her many times a day; but she made him no reply. At last, he resorted to an old woman, who dwelt hard by, and after saluting her he sat down and complained to her of his sufferings for love of the woman and his longing to enjoy her. Quoth she, "I will warrant thee this; no harm shall befal thee, for I will surely bring thee to thy desire, Inshallah, --an it please Allah the Most High!" At these words he gave her a dinar and went his way. When the morning morrowed she appeared before the woman and, renewing an old acquaintance with her, fell to visiting her daily, eating the undertime with her and the evening meal and carrying away food for her children. Moreover, she used to sport and jest with her, till the wife became corrupted [FN#189] and could not endure an hour without her company. Now she was wont, when she left the lady's house, to take bread and fat wherewith she mixed a little pepper and to feed a bitch, that was in that quarter; and thus she did day by day, till the bitch became fond of her and followed her wherever she went. One day she took a cake of dough and, putting therein an overdose of pepper, gave it to the bitch to eat, whereupon the beast's eyes began to shed tears, for the heat of the pepper, and she followed the old woman, weeping. When the lady saw this she was amazed and asked the ancient, "O my mother, what ails this bitch to weep?" Answered she, "Learn, O my heart's love, that hers is a strange story. Know that she was once a close friend of mine, a lovely and accomplished young lady, a model of comeliness and perfect grace. A young Nazarene of the quarter fell in love with her and his passion and pining increased on him, till he took to his pillow, and he sent to her times manifold, begging her to have compassion on him and show him mercy, but she refused, albeit I gave her good counsel, saying, "O my daughter, have pity on him and be kind and consent to all he wisheth." She gave no heed to my advice, until, the young man's patience failing him, he complained at last to one of his friends, who cast an enchantment on her and changed her human shape into canine form. When she saw what transformation had befallen her and that there was none to pity her case save myself, she came to my house and began to fawn on me and buss my hands and feet and whine and shed tears, till I recognised her and said to her, 'How often did I not warn thee?; but my advice profited thee naught.'"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Eighty-fifth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the old trot related to the young lady the tale of the bitch and recounted the case in her cunning and deceit, with the view to gain her consent and said to her, "When the enchanted beast came to me and wept I reminded her, 'How often did I not warn thee?; but my advice profited thee naught.' However, O my daughter, seeing her misery, I had compassion on her case and kept her by me; and as often as she bethinketh herself of her former estate, she weepeth thus, in pity for herself." When the lady heard this, she was taken with great alarm and said, "O my mother, by Allah, thou affrightest me with this thy story." "Why so?" asked the old woman. Answered the lady, "Because a certain handsome young man fell in love with me and hath sent many times to me, but hitherto I have repelled him; and now I fear lest there befal me the like of what befel this bitch." "O my daughter," rejoined the old woman, "look thou to what I counsel thee and beware of crossing me, for I am in great fear for thee. If thou know not his abiding-place, describe his semblance to me, that I may fetch him to thee, and let not any one's heart be angered against thee." So the lady described him to her, and she showed not to know him and said, "When I go out, I will ask after him." But when she left the lady, she went straight to the young man and said to him, "Be of good cheer, for I have played with the girl's wits; so to-morrow at noon wait thou at the head of the street, till I come and carry thee to her house, where thou shalt take thine ease with her the rest of the day and all night long." At this the young man rejoiced with exceeding joy and gave her two dinars, saying, "When I have won my wish of her, I will give thee ten gold pieces." Then she returned to the lady and said to her, "I have seen him and spoken with him on this matter. I found him exceeding wroth with thee and minded to do thee a harm, but I plied him with fair words till he agreed to come to-morrow at the time of the call to noon-prayer." When the lady heard this she rejoiced exceedingly and said, "O my mother, if he keep his promise, I will give thee ten dinars." Quoth the old woman, "Look to his coming from none but from me." When the next morn morrowed she said to the lady, "Make ready the early meal and forget not the wine and adorn thyself and don thy richest dress and decoration, whilst I go and fetch him to thee." So she clad herself in her finest finery and prepared food, whilst the old woman went out to look for the young man, who came not. So she went around searching for him, but could come by no news of him, and she said to herself, "What is to be done? Shall the food and drink she hath gotten ready be wasted and I lose the gold pieces she promised me? Indeed, I will not allow my cunning contrivance to come to naught, but will look her out another man and carry him to her." So she walked about the highways till her eyes fell on a pretty fellow, young and distinguished-looking, to whom the folk bowed and who bore in his face the traces of travel. She went up to him and saluting him, asked, "Hast thou a mind to meat and drink and a girl adorned and ready?" Answered he, "Where is this to be had?" "At home, in my house," rejoined she and carrying him to his own house, knocked at the door. The lady opened to them and ran in again, to make an end of her dressing and perfuming; whilst the wicked old woman brought the man, who was the husband and house-master, into the saloon and made him sit down congratulating herself on her cunning contrivance. Presently in walked the lady, who no sooner set eyes on her husband sitting by the old trot than she knew him and guessed how the case stood; nevertheless, she was not taken aback and without stay or delay bethought her of a device to hoodwink him. So she pulled off her outer boot and cried at her husband, "Is this how thou keepest the contract between us? How canst thou betray me and deal thus with me? Know that, when I heard of thy coming, I sent this old woman to try thee and she hath made thee fall into that against which I warned thee: so now I am certified of thine affair and that thou hast broken faith with me. I thought thee chaste and pure till I saw thee, with my own eyes, in this old woman's company and knew that thou didst frequent loose baggages." So saying, she fell to beating him with her slipper about the head, and crying out, "Divorce me! Divorce me!"; whilst he excused himself and swore to her, by Allah the Most High, that he had never in his life been untrue to her nor had done aught of that whereof she suspected him. But she stinted not to weep and scream and bash him, crying out and saying, "Come to my help, O Moslems!"; till he laid hold of her mouth with his hand and she bit it. Moreover, he humbled himself to her and kissed her hands and feet, whilst she would not be appeased and continued to cuff him. At last, she winked at the old woman to come and hold her hand from him. So she came up to her and kissed her hands and feet, till she made peace between them and they sat down together; whereupon the husband began to kiss her hands, saying, "Allah Almighty requite thee with all good, for that thou hast delivered me from her!" And the old woman marvelled at the wife's cunning and ready wit. "This, then, O King" (said the Wazir) "is one of many instances of the craft and malice and perfidy of women." When the King heard this story, he was persuaded by it and turned from his purpose to slay his son;-- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Eighty-sixth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the fourth Wazir had told his tale, the King turned from his purpose to slay his son; but, on the fifth day, the damsel came in to him hending a bowl of poison in hand, calling on Heaven for help and buffeting her cheeks and face, and said to him, "O King, either thou shalt do me justice and avenge me on thy son, or I will drink up this poison-cup and die, and the sin of my blood shall be on thy head at the Day of Doom. These thy Ministers accuse me of malice and perfidy, but there be none in the world more perfidious than men. Hast thou not heard the story of the Goldsmith and the Cashmere [FN#190] singing-girl?" "What befel the twain, O damsel?" asked the King; and she answered, saying, "There hath come to my knowledge, O august King, a tale of the
Goldsmith and the Cashmere Singing-Girl.
There lived once, in a city of Persia a goldsmith who delighted in women and in drinking wine. One day, being in the house of one of his intimates, he saw painted on the wall the figure of a lutanist, a beautiful damsel, beholder never beheld a fairer or a more pleasant. He looked at the picture again and again, marvelling at its beauty, and fell so desperately in love with it, that he sickened for passion and came near to die. It chanced that one of his friends came to visit him and sitting down by his side, asked how he did and what ailed him, whereto the goldsmith answered, "O my brother, that which ails me is love, and it befel on this wise. I saw a figure of a woman painted on the house- wall of my brother such an one and became enamoured of it." Hereupon the other fell to blaming him and said, "This was of thy lack of wit; how couldst thou fall in love with a painted figure on a wall, that can neither harm nor profit, that seeth not neither heareth, that neither taketh nor withholdeth." Said the sick man, "He who painted yonder picture never could have limned it save after the likeness of some beautiful woman." "Haply," rejoined his friend, "he painted it from imagination." "In any case," replied the goldsmith, "here am I dying for love of the picture, and if there live the original thereof in the world, I pray Allah Most High to protect my life till I see her." When those who were present went out, they asked for the painter of the picture and, finding that he had travelled to another town, wrote him a letter, complaining of their comrade's case and enquiring whether he had drawn the figure of his own inventive talents or copied it from a living model; to which he replied, "I painted it after a certain singing-girl belonging to one of the Wazirs in the city of Cashmere in the land of Hind." When the goldsmith heard this, he left Persia for Cashmere-city, where he arrived after much travail. He tarried awhile there till one day he went and clapped up an acquaintance with a certain of the citizens who was a druggist, a fellow of a sharp wit, keen, crafty; and, being one even-tide in company with him, asked him of their King and his polity; to which the other answered, saying, "Well, our King is just and righteous in his governance, equitable to his lieges and beneficent to his commons and abhorreth nothing in the world save sorcerers; but, whenever a sorcerer or sorceress falls into his hands, he casteth them into a pit without the city and there leaveth them in hunger to die." Then he questioned him of the King's Wazirs, and the druggist told him of each Minister, his fashion and condition, till the talk came round to the singing-girl and he told him, "She belongeth to such a Wazir." The goldsmith took note of the Minister's abiding place and waited some days, till he had devised a device to his desire; and one night of rain and thunder and stormy winds, he provided himself with thieves' tackle and repaired to the house of the Wazir who owned the damsel. Here he hanged a rope-ladder with grappling-irons to the battlements and climbed up to the terrace-roof of the palace. Thence he descended to the inner court and, making his way into the Harim, found all the slave-girls lying asleep, each on her own couch; and amongst them reclining on a couch of alabaster and covered with a coverlet of cloth of gold a damsel, as she were the moon rising on a fourteenth night. At her head stood a candle of ambergris, and at her feet another, each in a candlestick of glittering gold, her brilliancy dimming them both; and under her pillow lay a casket of silver, wherein were her Jewels. He raised the coverlet and drawing near her, considered her straitly, and behold, it was the lutanist whom he desired and of whom he was come in quest. So he took out a knife and wounded her in the back parts, a palpable outer wound, whereupon she awoke in terror; but, when she saw him, she was afraid to cry out, thinking he came to steal her goods. So she said to him, "Take the box and what is therein, but slay me not, for I am in thy protection and under thy safe-guard [FN#191] and my death will profit thee nothing." Accordingly, he took the box and went away.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When is was the Five Hundred and Eighty-seventh Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the goldsmith had entered the Wazir's palace he wounded the damsel slightly in the back parts and, taking the box which contained her jewels, wended his way. And when morning morrowed he donned clothes after the fashion of men of learning and doctors of the law and, taking the jewel-case went in therewith to the King of the city, before whom he kissed the ground and said to him, "O King, I am a devout man; withal a loyal well-wisher to thee and come hither a pilgrim to thy court from the land of Khorasan, attracted by the report of thy just governance and righteous dealing with thy subjects and minded to be under thy standard. I reached this city at the last of the day and finding the gate locked and barred, threw me down to sleep without the walls; but, as I lay betwixt sleep and wake, behold, I saw four women come up; one riding on a broom-stick, another on a wine-jar, a third on an oven-peel and a fourth on a black bitch, [FN#192] and I knew that they were witches making for thy city. One of them came up to me and kicked me with her foot and beat me with a fox's tail she had in her hand, hurting me grievously, whereat I was wroth and smote her with a knife I had with me, wounding her in the back parts, as she turned to flee from me. When she felt the wound, she fled before me and in her flight let drop this casket, which I picked up and opening, found these costly jewels therein. So do thou take it, for I have no need thereof, being a wanderer in the mountains [FN#193] who hath rejected the world from my heart and renounced it and all that is in it, seeking only the face of Allah the Most High." Then he set the casket before the King and fared forth. The King opened the box and emptying out all the trinkets it contained, fell to turning them over with his hand, till he chanced upon a necklace whereof he had made gift to the Wazir to whom the girl belonged. Seeing this, he called the Minister in question and said to him, "This is the necklace I gave thee?" He knew it at first sight and answered, "It is; and I gave it to a singing girl of mine." Quoth the King, "Fetch that girl to me forthwith." So he fetched her to him, and he said, "Uncover her back parts and see if there be a wound therein or no." The Wazir accordingly bared her backside and finding a knife-wound there, said, "Yes, O my lord, there is a wound." Then said the King, "This is the witch of whom the devotee told me, and there can be no doubt of it," and bade cast her into the witches' well. So they carried her thither at once. As soon as it was night and the goldsmith knew that his plot had succeeded, he repaired to the pit, taking with him a purse of a thousand dinars, and, entering into converse with the warder, sat talking with him till a third part of the night was passed, when he broached the matter to him, saying, "Know, O my brother, that this girl is innocent of that they lay to her charge and that it was I brought this calamity upon her." Then he told him the whole story, first and last, adding, "Take, O my brother, this purse of a thousand dinars and give me the damsel, that I may carry her to my own land, for these gold pieces will profit thee more than keeping her in prison; moreover Allah will requite thee for us, and we too will both offer up prayers for thy prosperity and safety." When the warder heard this story, he marvelled with exceeding marvel at that device and its success; then taking the money, he delivered the girl to the goldsmith, conditioning that he should not abide one hour with her in the city. Thereupon the goldsmith took the girl and fared on with her, without ceasing, till he reached his own country and so he won his wish. "See, then, O King" (said the damsel), "the malice of men and their wiles. Now thy Wazirs hinder thee from doing me justice on thy son; but to-morrow we shall stand, both thou and I, before the Just Judge, and He shall do me justice on thee, O King." When the King heard this, he commanded to put his son to death; but the fifth Wazir came in to him and kissing the ground before him, said, "O mighty King, delay and hasten not to slay thy son: speed will oftentimes repentance breed; and I fear for thee lest thou repent, even as did the man who never laughed for the rest of his days." "And how was that, O Wazir?" asked the King. Quoth he, "I have heard tell, O King, this tale concerning
The Man who never Laughed during the Rest of his Days.
There was once a man who was rich in lands and houses and monies and goods, eunuchs and slaves, and he died and went to the mercy of Allah the Most High; leaving a young son, who, when he grew up, gave himself to feasting and carousing and hearing music and singing and the loud laughter of parasites; and he wasted his substance in gifts and prodigality till he had squandered all the money his father left him, --And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Eighty-eighth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the young man, when he had squandered all the money his father had left him and naught thereof remained to him, betook himself to selling his slaves and handmaids, lands and houses and spent the proceeds on like wise, till he was reduced to beggary and must needs labour for his living. He abode thus a year's space, at the end of which time he was sitting one day under a wall, awaiting who should hire him when behold, there came up to him an old man of comely aspect and apparel and saluted him. The young man asked, "O uncle, hast thou known me aforetime?" and the other answered, "Not so, O my son, I know thee not at all, at all; but I see the trace of gentle breeding on thee despite thy present case." "O uncle, " rejoined the poor man, "needs must Fate and Fortune be accomplished; but, O uncle, O bright of blee, hast thou any occasion wherein thou wouldst employ me?" Said the other, "I wish, O my son, to employ thee in a slight matter." "What is it?" quoth the young man, and quoth the stranger, "We are eleven old men in one house, but we have none to serve us; so an thou wilt stay and take service with us, thou shalt have food and clothing to thy heart's content, besides what cometh to thee of coin and other good; and haply Allah will restore thee thy fortune by our means." Replied the youth, "Hearkening and obedience!" "But I have a condition to impose on thee." "What is that?" "O my son, it is that thou keep our secret in what thou seest us do, and if thou see us weep, that thou question us not of the cause of our weeping." "It is well, O uncle;" "Come with me, O my son, with the blessing of Allah Almighty." So he followed him to the bath, where the old man caused cleanse his body of the crusted dirt, after which he sent one to fetch a handsome garment of linen and clad him therein. Then he carried him to his company which was in his domicile and the youth found a house lofty and spacious and strongly builded, wherein were sitting-chambers facing one another; and saloons, in each one a fountain of water, with the birds warbling over it, and windows on every side, giving upon a fair garden within the house. The old man brought him into one of the parlours, which was variegated with many-coloured marbles, the ceiling thereof being decorated with ultramarine and glowing gold; and the floor bespread with silken carpets. Here he found ten Shaykhs in mourning apparel, seated one opposite other, weeping and wailing. He marvelled at their case and purposed to ask the reason, when he remembered the condition and held his peace. Then he who had brought him delivered to him a chest containing thirty thousand dinars and said to him, "O my son, spend freely from this chest what is fitting for our entertainment and thine own; and be thou faithful and remember that wherewith I charged thee." "I hear and I obey, " answered he and served them days and nights, till one of them died, whereupon his fellows washed him and shrouded him and buried him in a garden behind the house, [FN#194] nor did death cease to take them, one after other, till there remained but the Shaykh who had hired the youth for service. Then the two men, old and young, dwelt together in that house alone for years and years, nor was there with them a third save Allah the Most High, till the elder fell sick; and when the younger despaired of his life, he went up to him and condoling with him, said, "O nuncle mine, I have waited upon you twelve years and have not failed of my duties a single hour, but have been loyal and faithful to you and served you with my might and main." "Yes, O my so
n," answered the old man, "thou hast served us well until all my comrades are gone to the mercy of Allah (to whom belong honour and glory!) and needs must I die also." "O my lord," said the other, "thou art in danger of death and I would fain have thee acquaint me with the cause of your weeping and wailing and of your unceasing mourning and lamentation and regrets." "O my son," answered the old man, "it concerns thee not to know this, so importune me not of what I may not do: for I have vowed to Almighty Allah that I would acquaint none of His creatures with this, lest he be afflicted with what befel me and my comrades. If, then, thou desire to be delivered from that into which we fell, look thou open not yonder door, " [FN#195] and pointed to a certain part of the house; "but, if thou have a mind to suffer what we have suffered, then open it and thou shalt learn the cause of that thou hast seen us do; and whenas thou knowest it, thou shalt repent what time repentance will avail thee not."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Eighty-ninth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the surviving Shaykh of the ten said to the youth, "Beware how thou open yonder door or thou shalt repent what time repentance will avail thee not." Then his sickness grew on him and he accomplished his term and departed life to the presence of his Lord; and the young man washed him with his own hands and shrouded him and buried him by the side of his comrades; after which he abode alone in the place and took possession of whatsoever was therein. Withal he was uneasy and troubled concerning the case of the old men, till, one day, as he sat pondering the words of his dead master and his injunction not to open the door, he suddenly bethought himself to go and look for it. So he rose up and repaired to the part whither the dead man had pointed and sought till, in a dark unfrequented corner, he found a little door, over which the spider had spun her webs and which was fastened with four padlocks of steel. Seeing this he recalled the old man's warning and restrained himself and went away; and he held aloof from it seven days, whilst all the time his heart prompted him to open it. On the eighth day his curiosity got the better of him and he said, "Come what will, needs must I open the door and see what will happen to me therefrom. Nothing can avert what is fated and fore-ordained of Allah the Most High; nor doth aught befal but by His will." So saying, he rose and broke the padlocks and opening the door saw a narrow passage, which he followed for some three hours when lo! he came out on the shore of a vast ocean [FN#196] and fared on along the beach, marvelling at this main, whereof he had no knowledge and turning right and left. Presently, a great eagle swooped down upon him from the lift and seizing him in its talons, flew away with him betwixt heaven and earth, till it came to an island in the midst of the sea, where it cast him down and flew away. The youth was dazed and knew not whither he should wend, but after a few days as he sat pondering his case, he caught sight of the sails of a ship in the middlemost of the main, as it were a star in the sky; and his heart clave to it, so haply his deliverance might be therein. He continued gazing at the ship, until it drew nigh, when he saw that it was a foyst builded all of ivory and ebony, inlaid with glistening gold made fast by nails of steel, with oars of sandal and lign-aloes. In it were ten damsels, high-bosomed maids, as they were moons; and when they saw him, they came ashore to him and kissed his hands, saying, "Thou art the King, the Bridegroom!" Then there accosted him a young lady, as she were the sun shining in sky serene bearing in hand a silken napkin, wherein were a royal robe and a crown of gold set with all manner rubies and pearls. She threw the robe over him and set the crown upon his head, after which the damsels bore him on their arms to the foyst, where he found all kinds of silken carpets and hangings of various colours. Then they spread the sails and stretched out into mid-ocean. Quoth the young man, "Indeed, when they put to sea with me, meseemed it was a dream and I knew not whither they were wending with me. Presently, we drew near to land, and I saw the shore full of troops none knoweth their number save Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) and all were magnificently arrayed and clad in complete steel. As soon as the vessel had made fast to the land, they brought me five marked [FN#197] horses of noble breeds, housed and saddled with gold, inlaid with all manner pearls and high-priced bezel stones. I chose out one of them and mounted it, whilst they led the four others before me. Then they raised the banners and the standards over my head, whilst the troops ranged themselves right and left, and we set out, with drums beating and cymbals clashing, and rode on; whilst I debated in myself whether I were in sleep or on wake; and we never ceased faring, I believing not in that my estate, but taking all this for the imbroglio of a dream, till we drew near to the green mead, full of palaces and gardens and trees and streams and blooms and birds chanting the praises of Allah the One, the Victorious. Hereupon, behold, an army sallied out from amid the palaces and gardens, as it were the torrent when it poureth down, [FN#198] and the host overflowed the mead. These troops halted at a little distance from me and presently there rode forth from amongst them a King, preceded by some of his chief officers on foot." When he came up to the young man (saith the tale-teller) he dismounted also, and the two saluted each other after the goodliest fashion. Then said the King, "Come with us, for thou art my guest." So they took horse again and rode on stirrup touching stirrup in great and stately procession, conversing as they went, till they came to the royal palace, where they alighted together.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Ninetieth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the two rode together in stately procession till they entered the palace, when the King taking the young man by the hand, led him into a domed room followed by his suite, and making him sit down on a throne of gold, seated himself beside him. Then he unbound the swathe from his lower face; and behold, the King was a young lady, like the splendid sun shining in the sheeny sky, perfect in beauty and loveliness, brilliancy and grace, arrogance [FN#199] and all perfection. The youth looked upon this singular blessing and embodied boon and was lost in wonder at her charms and comeliness and seemlihead and at the splendour and affluence he saw about him, when she said "Know, O King, that I am the Queen of this land and that all the troops thou hast seen, whether horse or foot, are women, there is no man amongst them; for in this our state the men delve and sow and ear and occupy themselves with the tillage of the earth and the building of towns and other mechanical crafts and useful arts, whilst the women govern and fill the great offices of state and bear arms." At this the youth marvelled with exceeding marvel and, as they were in discourse, behold, in came the Wazir who was a tall gray-haired old woman of venerable semblance and majestic aspect, and it was told him that this was the Minister. Quoth the Queen to her, "Bring us the Kazi and witnesses." So she went out to do this, and the Queen, turning to him, conversed with him in friendly fashion, and enforced herself to reassure his awe of her and do away his shame with speech blander than the zephyr, saying, "Art thou content to be to me baron and I to thee feme?" Thereupon he arose and would have kissed ground between her hands, but she forbade him and he replied, saying, "O my lady, I am the least of thy slaves who serve thee." "Seest thou all these servants and soldiers and riches and hoards and treasures?" asked she, and he answered, "Yes!" Quoth she, "All these are at thy commandment to dispose of them and give and bestow as seemeth good to thee." Then she pointed to a closed door and said, "All these things are at thy disposal, save yonder door; that shalt thou not open, and if thou open it thou shalt repent when repentance will avail thee naught. So beware! and again I say, beware!" Hardly had she made an end of speaking when the Waziress entered followed by the Kazii and witnesses, all old women, with their hair streaming over their shoulders and of reverend and majestic presence; and the Queen bade them draw up the contract of marriage between herself and the young man. Accordingly, they performed the marriage-ceremony and the Queen made a great bride-feast, to which she bade all the troops; and after they had eaten and drunken, he went in unto his bride and found her a maid virginal. So he did away her hymen and abode with her seven years in all joyance and solace and delight of life, till, one day of the days, he bethought himself of the forbidden door and said in himself, "Except there were therein treasures greater and grander than any I have seen, she had not forbidden me therefrom." So he rose and opened the door, when, lo! behind it was the very bird which had brought him from the sea-shore to the island, and it said to him, "No welcome to a face that shall never prosper!" When he saw it and heard what it said, he fled from it; but it followed him and seizing him in its talons, flew with him an hour's journey betwixt heaven and earth, till it set him down in the place whence it had first carried him off and flew away. When he came to his senses, he remembered his late estate, great, grand and glorious, and the troops which rode before him and his lordly rule and all the honour and fair fortune he had lost and fell to weeping and wailing.
[FN#200] He abode two months on the sea-shore, where the bird had set him down, hoping yet to return to his wife, till, as he sat one night wakeful, mourning and musing, behold, he heard one speaking, albeit he saw no one, and saying, "How great were the delights! Alas, far from thee is the return of that which is past!" When he heard this, he redoubled in his regrets and despaired of recovering his wife and his fair estate that was; so he returned, weary and broken-hearted, to the house where he had dwelt with the old men and knew that they had fared even as he and that this was the cause of their shedding tears and lamenting their lot; wherefore he ever after held them excused. Then, being overcome with chagrin and concern, he took to his chamber and gave himself up to mourning and lamentation; and he ceased not crying and complaining and left eating and drinking and pleasant scents and merriment; nor did he laugh once till the day of his death, when they buried him beside the Shaykhs. "See, then, O King," continued the Wazir "what cometh of precipitance; verily, it is unpraiseworthy and bequeatheth repentance; and in this I give thee true advice and loyal counsel." When the King heard this story, he turned from slaying his son;--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Ninety-first Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the King heard this story he turned from slaying his son; but, on the sixth day, the favourite came in to him hending a naked knife in hand, and said to him, "Know, O my lord, that except thou hearken to my complaint and protect thy right and thine honour against these thy Ministers, who are banded together against me, to do me wrong, I will kill myself with this knife, and my blood will testify against thee on the Day of Doom. Indeed, they pretend that women are full of tricks and malice and perfidy; and they design thereby to defeat me of my due and hinder the King from doing me justice; but, behold, I will prove to thee that men are more perfidious than women by the story of a King among the Kings and how he gained access to the wife of a certain merchant." "And what passed between them?" asked the King, and she answered, "I have heard tell, O august King, a tale of
The King's Son and the Merchant's Wife.
A certain merchant, who was addicted to jealousy, had a wife that was a model of beauty and loveliness; and of the excess of his fear and jealousy of her, he would not abide with her in any town, but built her a pavilion without the city, apart from all other buildings. And he raised its height and strengthened its doors and provided them with curious locks; and when he had occasion to go into the city, he locked the doors and hung the keys about his neck. [FN#201] One day, when the merchant was abroad, the King's son of that city came forth, to take his pleasure and solace in the open country without the walls, and seeing the solitary pavilion, stood still to examine it for a long while. At last he caught sight of a charming lady looking and leaning out of one of the windows, [FN#202] and being smitten with amazement at her grace and charms, cast about for a means of getting to her, but could find none. So he called up one of his pages, who brought him ink-case [FN#203] and paper and wrote her a letter, setting forth his condition for love of her. Then he set it on the pile-point of an arrow and shot it at the pavilion, and it fell in the garden, where the lady was then walking with her maidens. She said to one of the girls, "Hasten and bring me yon letter," for she could read writing; [FN#204] and, when she had read it and understood what he said in it of his love and passion, yearning and longing, she wrote him a merciful reply, to the effect that she was smitten with a yet fiercer desire for him; and then threw the letter down to him from one of the windows of the pavilion. When he saw her, he picked up the reply and after reading it, came under the window and said to her, "Let me down a thread, that I may send thee this key; which do thou take and keep by thee." So she let down a thread and he tied the key to it. [FN#205] Then he went away and repairing to one of his father's Wazirs, complained to him of his passion for the lady and that he could not live without her; and the Minister said, "And how dost thou bid me contrive?" Quoth the Prince, "I would have thee set me in a chest [FN#206] and commit it to the merchant, feigning to him that it is thine and desiring him to keep it for thee in his country-house some days, that I may have my will of her; then do thou demand it back from him." The Wazir answered, "With love and gladness." So the Prince returned to his palace and fixing the padlock, the key whereof he had given the lady, on a chest he had by him, entered therein. Then the Wazir locked it upon him and setting it on a mule, carried it to the pavilion of the merchant, who, seeing the Minister, came forth to him and kissed his hands, saying, "Belike our lord the Wazir hath some need or business which we may have the pleasure and honour of accomplishing for him?" Quoth the Minister, "I would have thee set this chest in the safest and best place within thy house and keep it till I seek it of thee." So the merchant made the porters carry it inside and set it down in one of his store-closets, after which he went out on business. As soon as he was gone, his wife arose and went up to the chest and unlocked it with the key the King's son had given her, whereupon there came forth a youth like the moon. When she saw him, she donned her richest raiment and carried him to her sitting-saloon, where they abode seven days, eating and drinking and making merry: and as often as her husband came home, she put the Prince back into the chest and locked it upon him. One day the King asked for his son and the Wazir hurried off to the merchant's place of business and sought of him the chest.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Ninety-second Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Wazir reached the merchant's counting-house he asked for the box. The man accordingly repaired in haste to his pavilion, contrary to his custom and knocked at the door. When his wife was ware of him, she hurried the Prince back into the chest, but, in her confusion, forgot to lock it. The merchant bade the porters take it up and carry it to his house in the town. So they took up the box by the lid, whereupon it flew open and lo! the Prince was lying within. When the merchant saw him and knew him for the King's son, he went out to the Wazir and said to him, "Go in, thou, and take the King's son; for none of us may lay hands on him." So the Minister went in and taking the Prince, went away with him. As soon as they were gone, the merchant put away his wife and swore that he would never marry again. "And," continued the damsel, "I have heard tell, also, O King, a tale of
The Page who Feigned to Know the Speech of Birds. [FN#207]
A certain man of rank once entered the slave-market and saw a page being cried for sale; so he bought him and carrying him home, said to his wife, "Take good care of him." The lad abode there for a while till, one day, the man said to his wife, "Go forth to-morrow to the garden and take thy solace therein and amuse thyself and enjoy thyself." And she replied, "With love and gladness!" Now when the page heard this, he made ready in secret meat and drink and fruits and desert, and sallied forth with them privily that night to the garden, where he laid the meat under one tree, the wine under another and the fruit and conserves under a third, in the way his mistress must pass. When morning morrowed the husband bade him accompany the lady to that garden carrying with him all the provisions required for the day; so she took horse and riding thither with him, dismounted and entered. Presently, as they were walking about, a crow croaked, [FN#208] and the page said, "Thou sayst sooth;" whereupon his mistress asked him, "Dost thou know what the crow said?"; and he answered, "Yes, O my lady, he said, Under yonder tree is meat; go and eat it." So she said, "I see thou really dost understand them;" then she went up to the tree and, finding a dish of meat ready dressed, was assured that the youth told the truth and marvelled with exceeding marvel. They ate of the meat and walked about awhile, taking their pleasure in the garden, till the crow croaked a second time, and the page again replied, "Thou sayst sooth." "What said he?" quoth the lady, and quoth the page, "O my lady, he saith that under such a tree are a gugglet of water flavoured with musk and a pitcher of old wine." So she went up with him to the tree and, finding the wine and water there, redoubled in wonderment and the page was magnified in her eyes. They sat down and drank, then arose and walked in another part of the garden. Presently the crow croaked again and the page said, "Thou sayst sooth." Said the lady, "What saith he now?" and the page replied, "He saith that under yonder tree are fruits, fresh and dried." So they went thither and found all as he said and sat down and ate. Then they walked about again till the crow croaked a fourth time, whereupon the page took up a stone and threw it at him. Quoth she, "What said he, that thou shouldst stone him?" "O my lady," answered he, "he said what I cannot tell thee." "Say on," rejoined she, "and be not abashed in my presence, for there is naught between me and thee." But he ceased not to say, "No," and she to press him to speak, till at last she conjured him to tell her, and he answered, "The crow said to me, 'Do with thy lady even as doth her husband.'" When she heard his words she laughed till she fell backward and said, "This is a light matter, and I may not gainsay thee therein." So saying, she went up to a tree and, spreading the carpet under it, lay down, and called to him to come and do her need, when, lo! her husband, who had followed them unawares and saw this, called out to the page, saying, "Harkye, boy! What ails thy mistress to lie there, weeping?" Answered the page, "O my lord, she fell off the tree and was killed; [FN#209] and none but Allah (be He extolled and exalted!) restored her to thee. Wherefore she lay down awhile to recover herself by rest." When the lady saw her husband standing by her head, she rose and made a show of weakness and pain, saying, "O my back! O my sides! Come to my help, O my friends! I shall never survive this." So her husband was deceived and said to the page, "Fetch thy mistress's horse and set her thereon." Then he carried her home, the boy holding one stirrup and the man the other and saying, "Allah vouchsafe thee ease and recovery!" "These then, O King," (said the damsel) "are some instances of the craft of men and their perfidy; wherefore let not thy Wazirs turn thee from succouring me and doing me justice." Then she wept, and when the King saw her weeping (for she was the dearest to him of all his slave-girls) he once more commanded to put his son to death; but the sixth Minister entered and kissing ground before him, said, "May the Almighty advance the King! Verily I am a loyal counsellor to thee, in that I counsel thee to deal deliberately in the matter of thy son;"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Ninety-third Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the sixth Wazir said, "O King, deal deliberately in the matter of thy son; for falsehood is as smoke and fact is built on base which shall not be broken; yea, and the light of sooth dispelleth the night of untruth. Know that the perfidy of women is great, even as saith Allah the Most High in His Holy Book, "Verily, the malice of you is great. [FN#210] And indeed a tale hath reached me that a certain woman befooled the Chiefs of the State on such wise as never did any before her." Asked the King, "And how was that?" And the Wazir answered, "I have heard tell a tale, O King, as follows concerning
The Lady and her Five Suitors. [FN#211]
A woman of the daughters of the merchants was married to a man who was a great traveller. It chanced once that he set out for a far country and was absent so long that his wife, for pure ennui, fell in love with a handsome young man of the sons of the merchants, and they loved each other with exceeding love. One day, the youth quarrelled with another man, who lodged a complaint against him with the Chief of Police, and he cast him into prison. When the news came to the merchant's wife his mistress, she wellnigh lost her wits; then she arose and donning her richest clothes repaired to the house of the Chief of Police. She saluted him and presented a written petition to this purport, "He thou hast clapped in jail is my brother, such and such, who fell out with such an one; and those who testified against him bore false witness. He hath been wrongfully imprisoned, and I have none other to come in to me nor to provide for my support; therefore I beseech thee of thy grace to release him." When the magistrate had read the paper, he cast his eyes on her and fell in love with her forthright; so he said to her, "Go into the house, till I bring him before me; then I will send for thee and thou shalt take him." "O my lord," replied she, "I have none to protect me save Almighty Allah!: I am a stranger and may not enter any man's abode." Quoth the Wali, "I will not let him go, except thou come to my home and I take my will of thee." Rejoined she, "If it must be so, thou must needs come to my lodging and sit and sleep the siesta and rest the whole day there." "And where is thy abode?" asked he; and she answered, "In such a place," and appointed him for such a time. Then she went out from him, leaving his heart taken with love of her, and she repaired to the Kazi of the city, to whom she said, "O our lord the Kazi!" He exclaimed, "Yes!" and she continued, "Look into my case, and thy reward be with Allah the Most High!" Quoth he, "Who hath wronged thee?" and quoth she, "O my lord, I have a brother and I have none but that one, and it is on his account that I come to thee; because the Wali hath imprisoned him for a criminal and men have borne false witness against him that he is a wrong-doer; and I beseech thee to intercede for him with the Chief of Police." When the Kazi looked on her, he fell in love with her forthright and said to her, "Enter the house and rest awhile with my handmaids whilst I send to the Wali to release thy brother. If I knew the money-fine which is upon him, I would pay it out of my own purse, so I may have my desire of thee, for thou pleasest me with thy sweet speech." Quoth she, "If thou, O my lord, do thus, we must not blame others." Quoth he, "An thou wilt not come in, wend thy ways." Then said she, "An thou wilt have it so, O our lord, it will be privier and better in my place than in thine, for here are slave-girls and eunuchs and goers-in and comers-out, and indeed I am a woman who wotteth naught of this fashion; but need compelleth." Asked the Kazi, "And where is thy house?"; and she answered, "In such a place," and appointed him for the same day and time as the Chief of Police. Then she went out from him to the Wazir, to whom she preferred her petition for the release from prison of her brother who was absolutely necessary to her: but he also required her of herself, saying, "Suffer me to have my will of thee and I will set thy brother free." Quoth she, "An thou wilt have it so, be it in my house, for there it will be privier both for me and for thee. It is not far distant and thou knowest that which behoveth us women of cleanliness and adornment." Asked he, "Where is thy house?" "In such a place," answered she and appointed him for the same time as the two others. Then she went out from him to the King of the city and told him her story and sought of him her brother's release. "Who imprisoned him?" enquired he; and she replied, "Twas thy Chief of Police." When the King heard her speech, it transpierced his heart with the arrows of love and he bade her enter the palace with him, that he might send to the Kazi and release her brother. Quoth she, "O King, this thing is easy to thee, whether I will or nill; and if the King will indeed have this of me, it is of my good fortune; but, if he come to my house, he will do me the more honour by setting step therein, even as saith the poet,
'O my friends, have ye seen or have ye heard * Of his visit whose virtues I hold so high?'"
Quoth the King, "We will not cross thee in this." So she appointed him for the same time as the three others, and told him where her house was.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Ninety-fourth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the woman told the King where her house was and appointed him for the same time as the Wali, the Kazi and the Wazir. Then she left him and betaking herself to a man which was a carpenter, said to him, "I would have thee make me a cabinet with four compartments one above other, each with its door for locking up. Let me know thy hire and I will give it thee." Replied he, "My price will be four dinars; but, O noble lady and well-protected, if thou wilt vouchsafe me thy favours, I will ask nothing of thee." Rejoined she, "An there be no help but that thou have it so, then make thou five compartments with their padlocks;" and she appointed him to bring it exactly on the day required. Said he, "It is well; sit down, O my lady, and I will make it for thee forthright, and after I will come to thee at my leisure." So she sat down by him, whilst he fell to work on the cabinet, and when he had made an end of it she chose to see it at once carried home and set up in the sitting-chamber. Then she took four gowns and carried them to the dyer, who dyed them each of a different colour; after which she applied herself to making ready meat and drink; fruits, flowers and perfumes. Now when the appointed trysting day came, she donned her costliest dress and adorned herself and scented herself, then spread the sitting-room with various kinds of rich carpets and sat down to await who should come. And behold, the Kazi was the first to appear, devancing the rest, and when she saw him, she rose to her feet and kissed the ground before him; then, taking him by the hand, made him sit down by her on the couch and lay with him and fell to jesting and toying with him. By and by, he would have her do his desire, but she said, "O my lord, doff thy clothes and turband and assume this yellow cassock and this head-kerchief, [FN#212] whilst I bring thee meat and drink; and after thou shalt win thy will." So saying, she took his clothes and turband and clad him in the cassock and the kerchief; but hardly had she done this, when lo! there came a knocking at the door. Asked he, "Who is that rapping at the door?" and she answered, "My husband." Quoth the Kazi, "What is to be done, and where shall I go?" Quoth she, "Fear nothing, I will hide thee in this cabinet;" and he, "Do as seemeth good to thee." So she took him by the hand and pushing him into the lowest compartment, locked the door upon him. Then she went to the house-door, where she found the Wali; so she bussed ground before him and taking his hand brought him into the saloon, where she made him sit down and said to him, "O my lord, this house is thy house; this place is thy place, and I am thy handmaid: thou shalt pass all this day with me; wherefore do thou doff thy clothes and don this red gown, for it is a sleeping gown." So she took away his clothes and made him assume the red gown and set on his head an old patched rag she had by her; after which she sat by him on the divan and she sported with him while he toyed with her awhile, till he put out his hand to her. Whereupon she said to him, "O our lord, this day is thy day and none shall share in it with thee; but first, of thy favour and benevolence, write me an order for my brother's release from gaol that my heart may be at ease." Quoth he, "Hearkening and obedience: on my head and eyes be it!"; and wrote a letter to his treasurer, saying, "As soon as this communication shall reach thee, do thou set such an one free, without stay or delay; neither answer the bearer a word." Then he sealed it and she took it from him, after which she began to toy again with him on the divan when, behold, some one knocked at the door. He asked, "Who is that?" and she answered, "My husband." "What shall I do?" said he, and she, "Enter this cabinet, till I send him away and return to thee." So she clapped him into the second compartment from the bottom and padlocked the door on him; and meanwhile the Kazi heard all they said. Then she went to the house-door and opened it, whereupon lo! the Wazir entered. She bussed the ground before him and received him with all honour and worship, saying, "O my lord, thou exaltest us by thy coming to our house; Allah never deprive us of the light of thy countenance!" Then she seated him on the divan and said to him, "O my lord, doff thy heavy dress and turband and don these lighter vestments." So he put off his clothes and turband and she clad him in a blue cassock and a tall red bonnet, and said to him, "Erst thy garb was that of the Wazirate; so leave it to its own time and don this light gown, which is better fitted for carousing and making merry and sleep." Thereupon she began to play with him and he with her, and he would have done his desire of her; but she put him off, saying, "O my lord, this shall not fail us." As they were talking there came a knocking at the door, and the Wazir asked her, "Who is that?": to which she answered, "My husband." Quoth he, "What is to be done?" Quoth she, "Enter this cabinet, till I get rid of him and come back to thee and fear thou nothing." So she put him in the third compartment and locked the door on him, after which she went out and opened the house-door when lo and behold! in came the King. As soon as she saw him she kissed ground before him, and taking him by the hand, led him into the saloon and seated him on the divan at the upper end. Then said she to him, "Verily, O King, thou dost us high honour, and if we brought thee to gift the world and all that therein is, it would not be worth a single one of thy steps us-wards."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Ninety-fifth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the King entered the lady's house she said to him, "Had we brought thee to gift the world and all which is therein, it would not be worth a single one of thy steps us-wards." And when he had taken his seat upon the divan she said, "Give me leave to speak one word." "Say what thou wilt," answered he, and she said, "O my lord, take thine ease and doff thy dress and turband." Now his clothes were worth a thousand dinars; and when he put them off she clad him in a patched gown, worth at the very most ten dirhams, and fell to talking and jesting with him; all this while the folk in the cabinet hearing everything that passed, but not daring to say a word. Presently, the King put his hand to her neck and sought to do his desire of her; when she said, "This thing shall not fail us, but I had first promised myself to entertain thee in this sitting-chamber, and I have that which shall content thee." Now as they were speaking, some one knocked at the door and he asked her, "Who is that?" "My husband," answered she, and he, "Make him go away of his own good will, or I will fare forth to him and send him away perforce." Replied she, "Nay, O my lord, have patience till I send him away by my skilful contrivance." "And I, how shall I do!" enquired the King; whereupon she took him by the hand and making him enter the fourth compartment of the cabinet, locked it upon him. Then she went out and opened the house-door when behold, the carpenter entered and saluted her. Quoth she, "What manner of thing is this cabinet thou hast made me?" "What aileth it, O my lady?" asked he, and she answered, "The top compartment is too strait." Rejoined he, "Not so;" and she, "Go in thyself and see; it is not wide enough for thee." Quoth he, "It is wide enough for four," and entered the fifth compartment, whereupon she locked the door on him. Then she took the letter of the Chief of Police and carried it to the treasurer who, having read and understood it, kissed it and delivered her lover to her. She told him all she had done and he said, "And how shall we act now?" She answered, "We will remove hence to another city, for after this work there is no tarrying for us here." So the twain packed up what goods they had and, loading them on camels, set out forthright for another city. Meanwhile, the five abode each in his compartment of the cabinet without eating or drinking three whole days, during which time they held their water until at last the carpenter could retain his no longer; so he staled on the King's head, and the King urined on the Wazir's head, and the Wazir piddled on the Wali and the Wali pissed on the head of the Kazi; whereupon the Judge cried out and said, "What nastiness [FN#213] is this? Doth not what strait we are in suffice us, but you must make water upon us?"' The Chief of Police recognised the Kazi's voice and answered, saying aloud, "Allah increase thy reward, O Kazi!" And when the Kazi heard him, he knew him for the Wali. Then the Chief of Police lifted up his voice and said, "What means this nastiness?" and the Wazir answered, saying, "Allah increase thy reward, O Wali!" whereupon he knew him to be the Minister. Then the Wazir lifted up his voice and said, "What means this nastiness?" But when the King heard and recognised his Minister's voice, he held his peace and concealed his affair. Then said the Wazir, "May God damn [FN#214] this woman for her dealing with us! She hath brought hither all the Chief Officers of the state, except the King." Quoth the King, "Hold your peace, for I was the first to fall into the toils of this lewd strumpet." Whereat cried the carpenter, "And I, what have I done? I made her a cabinet for four gold pieces, and when I came to seek my hire, she tricked me into entering this compartment and locked the door on me." And they fell to talking with one another, diverting the King and doing away his chagrin. Presently the neighbours came up to the house and, seeing it deserted, said one to other, "But yesterday our neighbour, the wife of such an one, was in it; but now no sound is to be heard therein nor is soul to be seen. Let us break open the doors and see how the case stands, lest it come to the ears of the Wali or the King and we be cast into prison and regret not doing this thing before." So they broke open the doors and entered the saloon, where they saw a large wooden cabinet and heard men within groaning for hunger and thirst. Then said one of them, "Is there a Jinni in this cabinet?" and his fellow, "Let us heap fuel about it and burn it with fire." When the Kazi heard this, he bawled out to them, "Do it not!"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Ninety-sixth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the neighbours proposed to heap fuel about the cabinet and to burn it the Kazi bawled out to them, "Do it not!" And they said to one another, "Verily the Jinn make believe to be mortals and speak with men's voices." Thereupon the Kazi repeated somewhat of the Sublime Koran and said to the neighbours, "Draw near to the cabinet wherein we are." So they drew near, and he said, "I am so and so the Kazi, and ye are such an one and such an one, and we are here a company." Quoth the neighbours, "Who brought you here?" And he told them the whole case from beginning to end. Then they fetched a carpenter, who opened the five doors and let out Kazi, Wazir, Wali, King and carpenter in their queer disguises; and each, when he saw how the others were accoutred, fell a-laughing at them. Now she had taken away all their clothes; so every one of them sent to his people for fresh clothes and put them on and went out, covering himself therewith from the sight of the folk. "Consider, therefore, O our lord the King" (said the Wazir), "what a trick this woman played off upon the folk! And I have heard tell also a tale of
The Three Wishes, [FN#215] or the Man who Longed to see the Night of Power.
A certain man had longed all his life to look upon the Night of Power, [FN#216] and one night it befel that he gazed at the sky and saw the angels, and Heaven's gates thrown open; and he beheld all things prostrating themselves before their Lord, each in its several stead. So he said to his wife, "Harkye, such an one, verily Allah hath shown me the Night of Power, and it hath been proclaimed to me, from the invisible world, that three prayers will be granted unto me; so I consult thee for counsel as to what shall I ask." Quoth she, "O man, the perfection of man and his delight is in his prickle; therefore do thou pray Allah to greaten thy yard and magnify it." So he lifted up his hands to heaven and said, "O Allah, greaten my yard and magnify it." Hardly had he spoken when his tool became as big as a column and he could neither sit nor stand nor move about nor even stir from his stead; and when he would have carnally known his wife, she fled before him from place to place. So he said to her, "O accursed woman, what is to be done? This is thy list, by reason of thy lust." She replied, "No, by Allah, I did not ask for this length and huge bulk, for which the gate of a street were too strait. Pray Heaven to make it less." So he raised his eyes to Heaven and said, "O Allah, rid me of this thing and deliver me therefrom." And immediately his prickle disappeared altogether and he became clean smooth. When his wife saw this, she said, "I have no occasion for thee, now thou are become pegless as a eunuch, shaven and shorn;" and he answered her, saying, "All this comes of thine ill-omened counsel and thine imbecile judgment. I had three prayers accepted of Allah, wherewith I might have gotten me my good, both in this world and in the next, and now two wishes are gone in pure waste, by thy lewd will, and there remaineth but one." Quoth she, "Pray Allah the Most High to restore thee thy yard as it was." So he prayed to his Lord and his prickle was restored to its first estate. Thus the man lost his three wishes by the ill counsel and lack of wit in the woman; "And this, O King" (said the Wazir), "have I told thee, that thou mightest be certified of the thoughtlessness of women and their inconsequence and silliness and see what cometh of hearkening to their counsel. Wherefore be not persuaded by them to slay thy son, thy heart's core, who shall cause thy remembrance to survive thee." The King gave ear to his Minister's words and forbore to put his son to death; but, on the seventh day, the damsel came in, shrieking, and after lighting a great fire in the King's presence, made as she would cast herself therein; whereupon they laid hands on her and brought her before him. He asked her, "Why hast thou done this?"; and she answered, "Except thou do me justice on thy son, I will cast myself into this very fire and accuse thee of this on the Day of Resurrection, for I am a-weary of my life, and before coming into thy presence I wrote my last will and testament and gave alms of my goods and resolved upon death. And thou wilt repent with all repentance, even as did the King of having punished the pious woman who kept the Hammam." Quoth the King, "How was that?" and quoth she, "I have heard tell, O King, this tale concerning
The Stolen Necklace.
There was once a devotee, a recluse, a woman who had devoted herself to religion. Now she used to resort to a certain King's palace, [FN#217] whose dwellers were blessed by her presence and she was held of them in high honour. One day she entered that palace according to her custom and sat down beside the King's wife. Presently the Queen gave her a necklace, worth a thousand dinars, saying, "Keep this for me, O woman, whilst I go to the Hammam." So she entered the bath, which was in the palace, and the pious woman remaining in the place where the Queen was and awaiting her return laid the necklace on the prayer-carpet and stood up to pray. As she was thus engaged, there came a magpie [FN#218] which snatched up the necklace, while she went out to obey a call of nature and carrying it off, hid it inside a crevice in a corner of the palace-walls. When the Queen came out of the bath, she sought the necklace of the recluse, who also searched for it, but found it not nor could light on any trace of it; so she said to the King's wife, "By Allah, O my daughter, none hath been with me. When thou gavest me the necklace, I laid it on the prayer-carpet, and I know not if one of the servants saw it and took it without my heed, whilst I was engaged in prayer. Almighty Allah only knoweth what is come of it!" When the King heard what had happened, he bade his Queen put the bath-woman to the question by fire and grievous blows, --And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Ninety-seventh Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the King bade his Queen question the bath-woman with fire and grievous blows, they tortured her with all manner tortures, but could not bring her to confess or to accuse any. Then he commanded to cast her into prison and manacle and fetter her; and they did as he bade. One day, after this, as the King sat in the inner court of his palace, with the Queen by his side and water flowing around him, he saw the pie fly into a crevice in a corner of the wall and pull out the necklace, whereupon he cried out to a damsel who was with him, and she caught the bird and took the necklace from it. By this the King knew that the pious bath-woman had been wronged and repented of that he had done with her. So he sent for her to the presence and fell to kissing her head and with many tears sought pardon of her. Moreover, he commanded much treasure to be given to her, but she refused and would none of it. However, she forgave him and went away, swearing never again to enter any one's house. So she betook herself to wandering in the mountains and valleys and worshipped God until she died, and Almighty Allah have mercy upon her! "And for an instance of the malice of the male sex" (continued the damsel), "I have heard, O King, tell this tale of
The Two Pigeons. [FN#219]
A pair of pigeons once stored up wheat and barley in their nest during the winter, and when the summer came, the grain shrivelled and became less; so the male pigeon said to his wife, "Thou hast eaten of this grain." Replied she, "No, by Allah, I have never touched it!" But he believed not her words and beat her with his wings and pecked her with his bill, till he killed her. When the cold season returned, the corn swelled out and became as before, whereupon he knew that he had slain his wife wrongously and wickedly, and he repented whenas repentance availed him naught. Then he lay down by her side, mourning over her and weeping for grief, and left meat and drink, till he fell sick and died. "But" (added the damsel), "I know a story of the malice of men more extraordinary than either of these." Quoth the King, "Let us hear what thou hast to tell;" and quoth she, "I have heard tell, O King, this
Story of Prince Behram and the Princess Al-Datma.
There was once a King's daughter, who had no equal in her time for beauty and loveliness and symmetrical stature and grace, brilliancy, amorous lace and the art of ravishing the wits of the masculine race and her name was Al-Datmá. She used to boast, "Indeed there is none like me in this age." Nor was there one more accomplished than she in horsemanship and martial exercises and all that behoveth a cavalier. So all the Kings' sons sought her to wife; but she would take none of them, saying, "No man shall marry me except he overcome me at lunge of lance and stroke of sword in fair field and patent plain. If any can do this, I will willingly wed him; but, if I overcome him, I will take his horse and clothes and arms and write with fire upon his forehead, 'This is the freed man of Al-Datma.'" Now the sons of the Kings flocked to her from every quarter far and near, and she overcame them and put them to shame, stripping them of their arms and branding them with fire. Presently the son of a King of the Kings of the Persians, by name Behram ibn Tájí, heard of her and journeyed from afar to her father's court, bringing with him men and horses and great store of wealth and royal treasures. When he drew near the city, he sent her parent a rich present and the King came out to meet him and honoured him with the utmost honour. Then the King's son sent a message to him by his Wazir, demanding his daughter's hand in marriage; but the King answered, saying, "O my son, as regards my daughter Al-Datma, I have no power over her, for she hath sworn by her soul to marry none except he overcome her in the listed field." Quoth the Prince, "I journeyed hither from my father's court with no other object but this; I came here to woo and for thine alliance to sue;" quoth the King, "Thou shalt meet her tomorrow." So next day he sent to bid his daughter who, making ready for battle, donned her harness of war, and the folk, hearing of the coming joust, flocked from all sides to the field. Presently the Princess rode into the lists, armed cap-à-pie and belted and with vizor down, and the Persian King's son came out singlehanded to meet her, equipped at all points after the fairest of fashions. Then they drove at each other and fought a great while, wheeling and falsing, advancing and retreating, till the Princess, finding in him such courage and cavalarice as she had seen in none else, began to fear for herself lest he put her to shame before the bystanders and knew that he would assuredly overcome her. So she resolved to trick him and, raising her vizor, lo! her face appeared more brilliant than the full moon, which when he saw, he was confounded by her beauty and his strength failed and his spirit faltered. When she perceived this, she fell upon him unawares in his moment of weakness, and tare him from his saddle, and he became in her hands as he were a sparrow in the clutches of an eagle, knowing not what was done with him for amazement and confusion. So she took his steed and clothes and armour and, branding him with fire, let him wend his ways. When he recovered from his stupor, he abode several days without meat or drink or sleep for despite and love of the girl which had taken hold upon his heart. Then he sent a letter by certain of his slaves to his father, advising him that he could not return home till he had won his will of the Princess or died for want of her. When his sire got the letter, he was sore concerned for his son and would have succoured him by sending troops and soldiers; but his Wazirs dissuaded him from this and exhorted him to patience; so he committed his affair to Almighty Allah. Meanwhile, the Prince cast about for a means of coming to his desire; and presently, disguising himself as a decrepit old man, with a white beard over his own black beard repaired to a garden of the Princess wherein she used to walk most of her days. Here he sought out the gardener and said to him, "I am a stranger from a far country and from my youth upwards I have been a gardener, and in the grafting of trees and the culture of fruits and flowers and care of the vine none is more skilled than I." When the gardener heard this, he rejoiced in him with exceeding joy and carried him into the garden, where he commended him to his underlings, and the Prince betook himself to the service of the garden and the tending of the trees and the bettering of their fruits and improving the Persian water-wheels and disposing the irrigation-channels. One day, as he was thus employed, lo! he saw some slaves enter the garden, leading mules laden with carpets and vessels, and asked them the meaning of this, to which they answered, "The Princess is minded to take her pleasure." When he heard these words he hastened to his lodging and, fetching some of the jewels and ornaments he had brought with him from home, sat down in the garden and spread somewhat of them out before him, shaking and making a show of extreme old age,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Ninety-eighth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the son of the Persian King, after disguising himself as an old man shotten in years and taking a seat in the garden, spread out somewhat of the jewels and ornaments before him and made a show of shaking and trembling as if for decrepitude and the weakness of extreme senility. After an hour or so a company of damsels and eunuchs entered with the Princess in their midst, as she were the moon among the stars, and dispersed about the garden, plucking the fruits and diverting themselves. Presently they espied a man sitting under one of the trees; and, making towards him (who was the Prince), found him a very old man, whose hands and feet trembled for decrepitude, and before him store of precious jewels and royal ornaments. So they marvelled at his case and asked him what he did there with the jewels; when he answered, "With these trinkets I would fain buy me to wife one of you." They laughed together at him and said, "If one of us marry thee, what wilt thou do with her?" Said he, "I will give her one kiss and divorce her." Then quoth the Princess, "I give thee this damsel to wife." So he rose and coming up to her, leaning on his staff and shivering and staggering, kissed her and gave her the jewels and ornaments; whereat she rejoiced and they, laughing at him, went their way. Next day, they came again to the garden, and finding him seated in the same place, with more jewels and ornaments than before spread in front of him, asked him, "O Shaykh, what wilt thou do with this jewellery?"; and he answered, saying, "I wish therewith to take one of you to wife even as yesterday." So the Princess said, "I marry thee to this damsel;" and he came up to her and kissed her and gave her the jewels, and they all went their ways. But, seeing such generosity to her handmaids, the Princess said in herself, "I have more right to all these fine things than these baggages, and no harm can betide me." So when morning morrowed she went down from her chamber singly into the garden, in the habit of one of her damsels, and presenting herself privily before the Prince, said to him, "O Shaykh, the King's daughter hath sent me to thee, that thou mayst marry me." He looked at her and knew her; so he answered, "With love and gladness," and gave her jewels and ornaments of the finest and costliest. Then he rose to kiss her, and she off her guard and fearing nothing but, when he came up to her, he suddenly laid hold of her with a strong hand and instantly throwing her down, on the ground abated her maidenhead. [FN#220] Then he pulled the beard from his face and said to her, "Dost thou not know me?" Asked she, "Who art thou?" and he answered, "I am Behram, the King's son of Persia, who have changed my favour and am become a stranger to my people and estate for thy sake and have lavished my treasures for thy love." So she rose from under him in silence and answered not his address nor spake a word of reply to him, being dazed for what had befallen her and seeing nothing better than to be silent, for fear of shame; and she bethought herself and said, "If I kill myself it will be useless and if I do him die, his death will profit me naught;" and presently added, "Nothing will serve me but that I elope with him to his own country." Then she gathered together her monies and treasures and sent to him, acquainting him therewith, to the intent that he also might equip himself with his wealth and needs; and they agreed upon a night on which to depart. So, at the appointed time, they mounted race-horses and set out under cover of the gloom, nor did morning morrow till they had traversed a great distance; and they ceased not faring forwards till they drew near his father's capital in the land of the Persians. When the King heard of his son's coming, he rode out to meet him with his troops and rejoiced in him with exceeding joy. Then, after a few days, he sent the Princess's father a splendid present, and a letter to the effect that his daughter was with him and demanding her wedding equipage. Al-Datma's father came out to meet the messengers with the greatest gladness (for that he had deemed his daughter lost and had grieved sore for her loss): after which he made bride-feasts and, summoning the Kazi and the witnesses, let draw up the marriage-contract between his daughter and the Prince of Persia. He invested the envoys with robes of honour, then he made ready her equipage and despatched it to her; and Prince Behram abode with her till death sundered their union. "See therefore, O King" (continued the favourite), "the malice of men in their dealing with women. As for me, I will not go back from my due till I die." So the King once more commanded to put his son to death; but the seventh Wazir came in to him and kissing the ground before him, said, "O King, have patience with me whilst I speak these words of good counsel to thee; how many patient and slow-moving men unto their hope attain, and how many who are precipitate fall into shameful state! Now I have seen how this damsel hath profligately excited the King by lies to horrible and unnatural cruelties; but I his Mameluke, whom he hath overwhelmed with his favours and bounties, do proffer him true and loyal rede; for that I, O King, know of the malice of women that which none knoweth save myself; and in particular there hath reached me, on this subject, the story of the old woman and the son of the merchant with its warning instances." Asked the King, "And what fell out between them, O Wazir?" and the seventh Wazir answered, "I have heard tell, O King, the tale of
The House with the Belvedere. [FN#221]
A wealthy merchant had a son who was very dear to him and who said to him one day, "O my father, I have a boon to beg of thee." Quoth the merchant, "O my son, what is it, that I may give it thee and bring thee to thy desire, though it were the light of mine eyes." Quoth the youth, "Give me money, that I may journey with the merchants to the city of Baghdad and see its sights and sail on the Tigris and look upon the palace of the Caliphs [FN#222]; for the sons of the merchants have described these things to me and I long to see them for myself." Said the father, "O my child, O my little son, how can I endure to part from thee?" But the youth replied, ' I have said my say and there is no help for it but I journey to Baghdad with thy consent or e'en without it: such a longing for its sight hath fallen upon me as can only be assuaged by the going hither." --And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Five Hundred and Ninety-ninth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the merchant's son said to his sire, "There is no help for it but that I journey to Baghdad." Now when the father saw that there was no help for it, he provided his son with goods to the value of thirty thousand gold pieces and sent him with certain merchants in whom he trusted, committing him to their charge. Then he took leave of the youth, who journeyed with his friends the merchants till they reached Baghdad, the House of Peace, where he entered the market and hired him a house, so handsome and delectable and spacious and elegant that on seeing it he well nigh lost his wits for admiration; for therein were pavilions facing one another, with floors of coloured marbles and ceilings inlaid with gold and lapis lazuli, and its gardens were full of warbling birds. So he asked the door keeper [FN#223] what was its monthly rent, and he replied, "Ten dinars." Quoth the young man, "Speakest thou soothly or dost thou but jest with me?" Quoth the porter, "By Allah, I speak naught but the truth, for none who taketh up his abode in This house lodgeth in it more than a week [FN#224] or two." "And how is that?" quoth the youth; and quoth the porter, "O my son, whoso dwelleth in this house cometh not forth of it, except sick or dead, wherefore it is known amongst all the folk of Baghdad so that none offereth to inhabit it, and thus cometh it that its rent is fallen so low." Hearing this the young merchant marvelled with exceeding marvel and said, "Needs must there be some reason for this sickening and perishing." However after considering awhile and seeking refuge with Allah from Satan the Stoned, he rented the house and took up his abode there. Then he put away apprehension from his thought and busied himself with selling and buying; and some days passed by without any such ill case befalling him in the house, as the doorkeeper had mentioned. One day as he sat upon the bench before his door, there came up a grizzled crone, as she were a snake speckled white and black, calling aloud on the name of Allah, magnifying Him inordinately and, at the same time, putting away the stones and other obstacles from the path. [FN#225] Seeing the youth sitting there, she looked at him and marvelled at his case; where upon quoth he to her, "O woman, dost thou know me or am I like any thou knowest?" When she heard him speak, she toddled up to him and saluting him with the salaam, asked, "How long hast thou dwelt in this house?" Answered he, "Two months, O my mother;" and she said, "It was hereat I marvelled; for I, O my son, know thee not, neither dost thou know me, nor yet art thou like unto any one I know; but I marvelled for that none other than thou hath taken up his abode in this house but hath gone forth from it, dead or dying, saving thee alone. Doubtless, O my son, thou hast periled thy young years; but I suppose thou hast not gone up to the upper story neither looked out from the belvedere there." So saying, she went her way and he fell a pondering her words and said to himself, "I have not gone up to the top of the house; nor did I know that there was a belvedere there." Then he arose forthright and going in, searched the by ways of the house till he espied, in a wall corner among the trees, a narrow door between whose posts [FN#226] the spider had woven her webs, and said in himself, "Haply the spider hath not webbed over the door, but because death and doom is within." However, he heartened himself with the saying of God the Most High, "Say, nothing shall befall us but what Allah hath written for us;" [FN#227] and opening the door, ascended a narrow flight of stairs, till he came to the terrace roof, where he found a belvedere, in which he sat down to rest and solace himself with the view. Presently, he caught sight of a fine house and a well cared for hard by, surmounted by a lofty belvedere, over looking the whole of Baghdad, in which sat a damsel fair as a Houri. Her beauty took possession of his whole heart and made away with his reason, bequeathing to him the pains and patience of Job and the grief and weeping of Jacob. And as he looked at her and considered her curiously, an object to enamour an ascetic and make a devotee lovesick, fire was lighted in his vitals and he cried, "Folk say that whoso taketh up his abode in this house dieth or sickeneth. An this be so, yon damsel is assuredly the cause. Would Heaven I knew how I shall win free of this affair, for my wits are clean gone!" Then he descended from the terrace, pondering his case, and sat down in the house, but being unable to rest, he went out and took his seat at the door, absorbed in melancholy thought when, behold, up came the old woman afoot, praising and magnifying Allah as she went. When he saw her, he rose and accosting her with a courteous salaam and wishes for her life being prolonged said to her, "O my mother, I was healthy and hearty till thou madest mention to me of the door leading to the belvedere; so I opened it and ascending to the top Of the house, saw thence what stole away my senses; and now methinks I am a lost man, and I know no physician for me but thyself." When she heard this, she laughed and said, "No harm shall befall thee Inshallah so Allah please!" Whereupon he rose and went into the house and coming back with an hundred dinars in his sleeve, said to her, "Take this, O my mother, and deal with me the dealing of lords with slaves and succour me quickly for, if I die, a claim for my blood will meet thee on the Day of Doom." Answered she, "With love and gladness; but, O my son, I expect thou lend me thine aid in some small matter, whereby hangs the winning of thy wish." Quoth he, "What wouldst thou have me do, O my mother?" Quoth she, "Go to the silk market and enquire for the shop of Abú al-Fath bin Kaydám. Sit thee down on his counter and salute him and say to him, 'Give me the face veil [FN#228] thou hast by thee orfrayed with gold:' for he hath none handsomer in his shop. Then buy it of him, O my son, at his own price however high and keep it till I come to thee to morrow, Allah Almighty willing." So saying, she went away and he passed the night upon live coals of the Ghazá [FN#229]-wood. Next morning he took a thousand ducats in his pocket and repairing to the silk market, sought out the shop of Abu al-Fath to whom he was directed by one of the merchants. He found him a man of dignified aspect, surrounded by pages, eunuchs and attendants; for he was a merchant of great wealth and consideration befriended by the Caliph; and of the blessings which Allah the Most High had bestowed upon him was the damsel who had ravished the young man's heart. She was his wife and had not her match for beauty, nor was her like to be found with any of the sons of the Kings. The young man saluted him and Abu al-Fath returned his salaam and bade him be seated. So he sat down by him and said to him, "O merchant, I wish to look at such a face veil." Accordingly he bade his slave bring him a bundle of silk from the inner shop And opening it, brought out a number of veils, whose beauty amazed the youth. Among them was the veil he sought; so he bought it for fifty gold pieces and bore it home well pleased.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Six Hundredth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the youth after buying the veil of the merchant bore it home; but hardly had he reached the house when lo! up came the old woman. He rose to her and gave her his purchase when she bade him bring a live coal, with which she burnt one of the corners of the veil, then folded it up as before and, repairing to Abu al-Fath's house, knocked at the door. Asked the damsel, "Who is there?"; and she answered, "I, such an one." Now the damsel knew her for a friend of her mother so, when she heard her voice, she came out and opening the door to her, said, "What brought thee here, O my mother? My mamma hath left me and gone to her own house." Replied the old woman, "O my daughter, I know thy mother is not with thee, for I have been with her in her home, and I come not to thee, but because I fear to pass the hour of prayer; wherefore I desire to make my Wuzu-ablution with thee, for I know thou art clean and thy house pure." [FN#230] The damsel admitted the old trot who saluted her and called down blessings upon her. Then she took the ewer and went into the wash house, where she made her ablutions and prayed in a place there. Presently, she came out again and said to the damsel, "O my daughter, I suspect thy handmaidens have been in yonder place and defiled it; so do thou show me another place where I may pray, for the prayer I have prayed I account null and void." Thereupon the damsel took her by the hand and said to her, "O my mother, come and pray on my carpet, where my husband sits." So she stood there and prayed and worshipped, bowed and prostrated; and presently, she took the damsel unawares and made shift to slip the veil under the cushion, unseen of her. Then she blessed her and went her ways. Now as the day was closing Abu al-Fath came home and sat down upon the carpet, whilst his wife brought him food and he ate of it his sufficiency and washed his hands; after which he leant back upon the cushion. Presently, he caught sight of a corner of the veil protruding from under the cushion; so he pulled it out and considered it straitly, when, knowing it for that he had sold to the young man, he at once suspected his wife of unchastity. Thereupon he called her and said, "Whence hadst thou this veil?" And she swore an oath to him, saying, "None hath come to me but thou." The merchant was silent for fear of scandal, and said to himself, "If I open up this chapter, I shall be put to shame before all Baghdad;" for he was one of the intimates of the Caliph and so he could do nothing save hold his peace. So he asked no questions, but said to his wife, whose name was Mahzíyah, "It hath reached me that thy mother lieth ill of heart ache [FN#231] and all the women are with her, weeping over her; wherefore I order thee to go to her." Accordingly, she repaired to her mother's house and found her in the best of health; and she asked her daughter, "What brings thee here at this hour?" So she told her what her husband had said and sat with her awhile; when behold, up came porters, who brought her clothes from her husband's house, and transporting all her paraphernalia and what not else belonged to her of goods and vessels, deposited them in her mother's lodging. When the mother saw this, she said to her daughter, "Tell me what hath passed between thee and thy husband, to bring about this." But she swore to her that she knew not the cause thereof and that there had befallen nothing between them to call for this conduct. Quoth her mother, "Needs must there be a cause for this." And she answered, saying, "I know of none, and after this, with Almighty Allah be it to make provision!" Whereupon her mother fell a weeping and lamented her daughter's separation from the like of this man, by reason of his sufficiency and fortune and the greatness of his rank and dignity. On this wise things abode some days, after which the curst, ill omened old woman, whose name was Miryam the Koranist, [FN#232] paid a visit to Mahziyah, in her mother's house and saluted her cordially, saying, "What ails thee, O my daughter, O my darling? Indeed, thou hast troubled my mind." Then she went in to her mother and said to her, "O my sister, what is this business about thy daughter and her husband? It hath reached me that he hath divorced her! What hath she done to call for this?" Quoth the mother, "Belike her husband will return to her by the blessed influence of thy prayers, O Háfizah; so do thou pray for her, O my sister, for thou art a day faster and a night prayer." Then the three fell to talking together and the old woman said to the damsel, "O my daughter, grieve not for, if Allah please, I will make peace between thee and thy husband before many days." Then she left them and going to the young merchant, said to him, "Get ready a handsome entertainment for us, for I will bring her to thee this very night." So he sprang up and went forth and provided all that was fitting of meat and drink and so forth, then sat down to await the twain; whilst the old woman returned to the girl's mother and said to her, "O my sister, we have a splendid bride feast to night; so let thy daughter go with me, that she may divert herself and make merry with us and throw off her cark and care, and forget the ruin of her home. I will bring her back to thee even as I took her away." The mother dressed her daughter in her finest dress and costliest jewels and accompanied her to the door, where she commended her to the old woman's charge, saying, " 'Ware lest thou let any of Almighty Allah's creatures look upon her, for thou knowest her husband's rank with the Caliph; and do not tarry, but bring her back to me as soon as possible." The old woman carried the girl to the young man's house which she entered, thinking it the place where the wedding was to be held: but as soon as she came into the sitting saloon,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Six Hundred and First Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that as soon as the damsel entered the sitting saloon, the youth sprang up to her and flung his arms round her neck and kissed her hands and feet. She was confounded at his loveliness, as well as at the beauty of the place and the profusion of meat and drink, flowers and perfumes that she saw therein, and deemed all was a dream. When the old woman saw her amazement, she said to her, "The name of Allah be upon thee, O my daughter! Fear not; I am here sitting with thee and will not leave thee for a moment. Thou art worthy of him and he is worthy of thee." So the damsel sat down shame-fast and in great confusion; but the young man jested and toyed with her and entertained her with laughable stories and loving verses, till her breast broadened and she became at her ease. Then she ate and drank and growing warm with wine, took the lute and sang these couplets,
"My friend who went hath returned once more; * Oh, the welcome light that such beauty shows!
And but for the fear of those arrowy eyes, * From his lovely cheek I had culled the rose."
And when the youth saw that she to his beauty did incline he waxt drunken without wine and his life was a light matter to him compared with his love. [FN#233] Presently the old woman went out and left them alone together to enjoy their loves till the next morning, when she went into them and gave them both good morrow [FN#234] and asked the damsel, "How hast thou passed the night, O my lady?" Answered the girl, "Right well, thanks to thy adroitness and the excellence of thy going between." [FN#235] Then said the old woman, ''Up, let us go back to thy mother." At these words the young man pulled out an hundred sequins and gave them to her, saying, "Take this and leave her with me to night." So she left them and repaired to the girl's mother, to whom quoth she, "Thy daughter saluteth thee, and the bride's mother hath sworn her to abide with her this night." Replied the mother, "O my sister, bear her my salaam, and, if it please and amuse the girl, there is no harm in her staying the night; so let her do this and divert herself and come back to me at her leisure, for all I fear for her is chagrin on account of an angry husband." The old woman ceased not to make excuse after excuse to the girl's mother and to put off cheat upon cheat upon her, till Mahziyah had tarried seven days with the young man, of whom she took an hundred dinars each day for herself; while he enjoyed all the solace of life and coition. But at the end of this time, the girl's mother said to her, "Bring my daughter back to me forthright; for I am uneasy about her, because she hath been so long absent, and I misdoubt me of this." So the old woman went out saying, "Woe to thee! shall such words be spoken to the like of me?"; and, going to the young man's house, took the girl by the hand and carried her away (leaving him lying asleep on his bed, for he was drunken with wine) to her mother. She received her with pleasure and gladness and seeing her in redoubled beauty and brilliancy rejoiced in her with exceeding joy, saying, "O my daughter, my heart was troubled about thee and in my uneasiness I offended against this my sister the Koranist with a speech that wounded her." Replied Mahziyah, "Rise and kiss her hands and feet, for she hath been to me as a servant in my hour of need, and if thou do it not thou art no mamma of mine, nor am I thy girl." So the mother went up at once to the old woman and made her peace with her. Meanwhile, the young man recovered from his drunkenness and missed the damsel, but congratulated himself on having enjoyed his desire. Presently Miryam the old Koranist came in to him and saluted him, saying, "What thinkest thou of my feat?" Quoth he, "Excellently well conceived and contrived of thee was that same." Then quoth she, "Come, let us mend what we have marred and restore this girl to her husband, for we have been the cause of their separation and it is unrighteous." Asked he, "How shall I do?" and she answered, "Go to Abu al-Fath's shop and salute him and sit down by him, till thou seest me pass by, when do thou rise in haste and catch hold of my dress and abuse me and threaten me, demanding of me the veil. And do thou say to the merchant, 'Thou knowest, O my lord, the face veil I bought of thee for fifty dinars? It so chanced that my handmaid put it on and burnt a corner of it by accident; so she gave it to this old woman, who took it, promising to get it fine-drawn [FN#236] and return it, and went away, nor have I seen her from that day to this.'" "With joy and good will," replied the young man, and rising forthright, walked to the shop of the silk merchant, with whom he sat awhile till behold, the old woman passed telling her beads on a rosary she held in hand; whereupon he sprang up and laying hold of her dress began to abuse and rail at her, whilst she answered him with fair words, saying, "Indeed, my son, thou art excusable." So the people of the bazaar flocked round the two, saying, "What is the matter?" and he replied, "O folk, I bought of this merchant a veil for fifty dinars and gave it to my slave girl, who wore it awhile, then sat down to fumigate it with perfume. Presently a spark flew out of the censer and, lighting on the edge of the veil, burnt a hole in it. So we committed it to this pestilent old woman, that she might give it to who should fine-draw it and return it to us; but from that time we have never set eyes on her again till this day." Answered the old woman, "This young man speaks sooth. I had the veil from him, but I took it with me into one of the houses where I am wont to visit and forgot it there, nor do I know where I left it; and, being a poor woman, I feared its owner and dared not face him." Now the girl's husband was listening to all they said,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Six Hundred and Second Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the young man seized the old woman and spoke to her of the veil as she had primed him, the girl's husband was listening to all they said, from beginning to end, and when he heard the tale which the crafty old woman had contrived with the young man, he rose to his feet and said, "Allah Almighty! I crave pardon of the Omnipotent One for my sins and for what my heart suspected!" And he praised the Lord who had discovered to him the truth. Then he accosted the old woman and said to her, "Dost thou use to visit us?" [FN#237] Replied she, "O my son, I visit you and other than you, for the sake of alms; but from that day to this, none hath given me news of the veil." Asked the merchant, "Hast thou enquired at my house?" and she answered, "O my lord, I did indeed go to thy house and ask; but they told me that the person of the house [FN#238] had been divorced by the merchant; so I went away and asked no farther; nor have I enquired of anybody else until this day." Hereupon the merchant turned to the young man and said, "Let the old woman go her way; for the veil is with me." So saying he brought it out from the shop and gave it to the fine-drawer before all present. Then he betook himself to his wife and, giving her somewhat of money, took her to himself again, after making abundance of excuses to her and asking pardon of Allah, because he knew not what the old woman had done. (Said the Wazir), "This then, O King, is an instance of the malice of women and for another to the same purport, I have heard tell the following tale anent
The King's Son and the Ifrit's Mistress [FN#239]
A certain King's son was once walking alone for his pleasure, when he came to a green meadow, abounding in trees laden with fruit and birds singing on the boughs, and a river running athwart it. The place pleased him; so he sat down there and taking out some dried fruits he had brought with him, began to eat, when lo! he espied a great smoke rising up to heaven and, taking fright, he climbed up into a tree and hid himself among the branches. Thence he saw an Ifrit rise out of the midst of the stream bearing on his head a chest of marble, secured by a padlock. He set down the chest on the meadow-sward and opened it and there came forth a damsel of mortal race like the sun shining in the sheeny sky. After seating her he solaced himself by gazing on her awhile, then laid his head in her lap and fell asleep, whereupon she lifted up his head and laying it on the chest, rose and walked about. Presently, she chanced to raise her eyes to the tree wherein was the Prince, and seeing him, signed to him to come down. He refused, but she swore to him, saying, "Except thou come down and do as I bid thee, I will wake the Ifrit and point thee out to him, when he will straightway kill thee." The King's son fearing she would do as she said, came down, whereupon she kissed his hands and feet and besought him to do her need. To this he consented and, when he had satisfied her wants, she said to him, "Give me this seal ring I see on thy finger." So he gave her his signet and she set it in a silken kerchief she had with her, wherein were more than four score others. When the Prince saw this, he asked her, "What dost thou with all these rings?"; and she answered, "In very sooth this Ifrit carried me off from my father's palace and shut me in this box, which he beareth about on his head wherever he goeth, with the keys about him; and he hardly leaveth me one moment alone of the excess of his jealousy over me, and hindereth me from what I desire. When I saw this, I swore that I would deny my last favours to no man whatsoever, and these rings thou seest are after the tale of the men who have had me; for after coition I took from each a seal ring and laid it in this kerchief." Then she added, "And now go thy ways, that I may look for another than thyself, for the Ifrit will not awake yet awhile." Hardly crediting what he had heard, the Prince returned to his father's palace, but the King knew naught of the damsel's malice (for she feared not this and took no count thereof), and seeing that his son had lost his ring, he bade put him to death. [FN#240] Then he rose from his place and entered his palace; but his Wazirs came in to him and prevailed with him to abandon his purpose. The same night, the King sent for all of them and thanked them for having dissuaded him from slaying his son; and the Prince also thanked them, saying, "It was well done of you to counsel my father to let me live and Inshallah! I will soon requite you abundantly." Then he related to them how he had lost the ring, and they offered up prayers for his long life and advancement and withdrew. "See then, O King," (said the Wazir), "the malice of women and what they do unto men." The King hearkened to the Minister's counsel and again countermanded his order to slay his son. Next morning, it being the eighth day, as the King sat in his audience chamber in the midst of his Grandees and Emirs and Wazirs and Olema, the Prince entered, with his hand in that of his governor, Al Sindibad, and praised his father and his Ministers and lords and divines in the most eloquent words and thanked them for having saved his life; so that all who were present wondered at his eloquence and fluency of speech. His father rejoiced in him with exceeding, all surpassing joy, and calling him to him, kissed him between the eyes. Then he called his preceptor, al-Sindibad, and asked him why his son had kept silence these seven days, to which he replied, "O our lord, the truth is, it was I who enjoined him to this, in my fear for him of death: I knew this from the day of his birth; and, when I took his nativity, I found it written in the stars that, if he should speak during this period, he would surely die; but now the danger is over, by the King's fortune." At this the King was glad and said to his Wazirs, "If I had killed my son, would the fault have fallen on me or the damsel or on the preceptor, al-Sindibad?" But all present refrained from replying, and al-Sindibad said to the Prince, "Answer thou, O my son." --And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Six Hundred and Third Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Al-Sindibad said, "Answer thou, O my son," the Prince replied, "I have heard tell that a merchant at whose house certain guests once alighted sent his slave girl to the market to buy a jar of clotted milk. [FN#241] So she bought it and set out on her return home; but on the way there passed over her a kite, holding and squeezing a serpent in its claws, and a drop of the serpent's venom fell into the milk jar, unknown of the girl. So, when she came back, the merchant took the milk from her and drank of it, he and his guests; but hardly had it settled in their stomachs when they all died. [FN#242] Now consider, O King, whose was the fault in this matter?" Thereupon some present said, "It was the fault of the company who drank the milk without examining it." And other some, "That of the girl, who left the jar without cover." But al-Sindibad asked the Prince, "What sayest thou, O my son?" Answered he, "I say that the folk err; it was neither the fault of the damsel nor of the company, for their appointed hour was come, their divinely decreed provision was exhausted and Allah had fore ordained them to die thus." [FN#243] When the courtiers heard this, they marvelled greatly and lifted up their voices, blessing the King's son, and saying, "O our lord, thou hast made a reply sans peur, and thou art the sagest man of thine age sans reproche." "Indeed, I am no sage," answered the Prince; "the blind Shaykh and the son of three years and the son of five years were wiser than I." Said the bystanders, "O youth, tell us the stories of these three who were wiser than thou art, O youth." Answered he, "With all my heart. I have heard tell this tale concerning the
Sandal-Wood Merchant and the Sharpers. [FN#244]
There once lived an exceeding rich merchant, who was a great traveller and who visited all manner of places. One day, being minded to journey to a certain city, he asked those who came thence, saying, "What kind of goods brought most profit there?" and they answered, "Chanders-wood; for it selleth at a high price." So he laid out all his money in sandal and set out for that city; and arriving there at close of day, behold, he met and old woman driving her sheep. Quoth she to him, "Who art thou, O man? and quoth he, "I am a stranger, a merchant." "Beware of the townsfolk," said she, "for they are cheats, rascals, robbers who love nothing more than imposing on the foreigner that they may get the better of him and devour his substance. Indeed I give thee good counsel." Then she left him and on the morrow there met him one of the citizens who saluted him and asked him, "O my lord, whence comest thou?" Answered the merchant, "From such a place." "And what merchandise hast thou brought with thee?" enquired the other; and replied he, "Chanders-wood, for it is high of price with you." Quoth the townsman, "He blundered who told thee that; for we burn nothing under our cooking-pots save sandal-wood, whose worth with us is but that of fuel." When the merchant heard this he sighed and repented and stood balanced between belief and unbelief. Then he alighted at one of the khans of the city, and, when it was night, he saw a merchant make fire of chanders-wood under his cooking pot. Now this was the man who had spoken with him and this proceeding was a trick of his. When the townsman saw the merchant looking at him, he asked, "Wilt thou sell me thy sandal-wood for a measure [FN#245] of whatever thy soul shall desire?" "I sell it to thee," answered the merchant; and the buyer transported all the wood to his own house and stored it up there; whilst the seller purposed to take an equal quantity of gold for it. Next morning the merchant, who was a blue-eyed man, went out to walk in the city but, as he went along, one of the townsfolk, who was blue-eyed and one-eyed to boot, caught hold of him, saying, "Thou are he who stole my eye and I will never let thee go." [FN#246] The merchant denied this, saying, "I never stole it: the thing is impossible." Whereupon the folk collected round them and besought the one-eyed man to grant him till the morrow, that he might give him the price of his eye. So the merchant procured one to be surety for him, and they let him go. Now his sandal had been rent in the struggle with the one-eyed man; so he stopped at a cobbler's stall and gave it to him, saying, "Mend it and thou shalt have of me what shall content thee." Then he went on, till he came to some people sitting at play of forfeits and sat down with them, to divert his cark and care. They invited him to play with them and he did so; but they practised on him and overcoming him, offered him his choice, [FN#247] either to drink up the sea or disburse all the money he had. "Have patience with me till to-morrow," said he, and they granted him the delay he sought; whereupon he went away, sore concerned for what had betided him and knowing not how he should do, and sat down in a solitary place heart-heavy, care-full, thought-opprest. And behold, the old woman passed by and seeing him thus, said to him, "Peradventure the townsfolk have gotten the better of thee, for I see the troubled at that which hath befallen thee: recount to me what aileth thee." So he told her all that had passed from first to last, and she said, "As for him who diddled thee in the matter of the chanders-wood, thou must know that with us it is worth ten gold pieces a pound. But I will give thee a rede, whereby I trust thou shalt deliver thyself; and it is this. Go to such and such a gate whereby lives a blind Shaykh, a cripple, who is knowing, wise as a wizard and experienced; and all resort to him and ask him what they require, when he counsels them what will be their advantage; for he is versed in craft [FN#248] and magic and trickery. Now he is a sharper and the sharpers resort to him by night; therefore, I repeat, go thou to his lodging and hide thyself from thine adversaries, so thou mayst hear what they say, unseen of them; for he telleth them which party got the better and which got the worse; and haply thou shalt learn from them some plan which may avail to deliver thee from them." --And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Six Hundred and Fourth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the old woman said to the merchant, "Go this night to that expert who is frequented by the townsfolk and hide thine identity: haply shalt thou hear from him some plea which shall deliver thee from thine adversaries." So he went to the place she mentioned and hid himself albeit he took seat near the blind man. Before long, up came the Shaykh's company who were wont to choose him for their judge: they saluted the oldster and one another and sat down round him, whereupon the merchant recognised his four adversaries. The Chief set somewhat of food before them and they ate; then each began to tell what had befallen him during his day, and amongst the rest came forward he of the chanders-wood and told the Shaykh how he had bought of one man sandal below its price, and had agreed to pay for it a Sá'a or measure of whatever the seller should desire. [FN#249] Quoth the old man, "Thine opponent hath the better of thee." Asked the other, "How can that be?"; and the Shaykh answered, "What if he say, I will take the measure full of gold or silver, wilt thou give it to him?" "Yes," replied the other, "I will give it to him and still be the gainer." And the Shaykh answered, "And if he say, I will take the measure full of fleas, [FN#250] half male and half female, what wilt thou do?" So the sharper knew that he was worsted. Then came forward the one-eyed man and said, "O Shaykh, I met to-day a blue-eyed man, a stranger to the town; so I picked a quarrel with him and caught hold of him, saying, ''Twas thou robbedst me of my eye'; nor did I let him go, till some became surety for him that he should return to me to-morrow and satisfy me for my eye." Quoth the oldster, "If he will he may have the better of thee and thou the worse." "How so?" asked the sharper; and the Chief said, "he may say to thee, 'Pluck out thine eye, and I will pluck out one of mine; then we will weigh them both, and if thine eye be of the same weight as mine, thou sayest sooth in what thou avouchest.' So wilt thou owe him the legal price of his eye and be stone blind, whilst he will still see with his other eye." So the sharper knew that the merchant might baffle him with such plea. Then came the cobbler; and said, "O Shaykh, a man brought me his sandal-shoe to-day, saying, 'Mend this;' and I asked him, 'What wage wilt thou give me?'; when he answered, 'Thou shalt have of me what will content thee.' Now nothing will content me but all the wealth he hath." Quoth the oldster, "And he will, he may take his sandal from thee and give thee nothing." "How so?" quoth the cobbler, and quoth the Shaykh, "He has but to say to thee, 'The Sultan's enemies are put to the rout; his foes are waxed weak and his children and helpers are multiplied. Art thou content or no?' If thou say, 'I am content,' [FN#251] he will take his sandal and go away; and if thou say, 'I am not content,' he will take his sandal and beat thee therewith over the face and neck." So the cobbler owned himself worsted. Then came forward the gamester and said, "O Shaykh, I played at forfeits with a man to-day and beat him and quoth I to hime, 'If thou drink the sea I will give thee all my wealth; and if not I will take all that is thine.'" Replied the Chief, "An he will he may worst thee." "How so?" asked the sharper, and the Shaykh answered, "He hath but to say, 'Hold for me the mouth of the sea in thine hand and give it me and I will drink it.' But thou wilt not be able to do this; so he will baffle thee with this plea." When the merchant heard this, he knew how it behoved him to deal with his adversaries. Then the sharpers left the Shaykh and the merchant returned to his lodging. Now when morning morrowed, the gamester came to him and summoned him to drink the sea; so he said to him, "Hold for me its mouth and I will drink it up." Whereupon he confessed himself beaten and redeemed his foreit by paying an hundred gold pieces. Then came the cobbler and sought of him what should content him. Quoth the merchant, "Our lord the Sultan hath overcome his foes and hath destroyed his enemies and his children are multiplied. Art thou content or no?" "I am content," replied the cobbler and, giving up the shoe [FN#252] without wage, went away. Next came the one-eyed man and demanded the legal price of his eye. Said the merchant, "Pluck out thine eye, and I will pluck out mine: then we will weigh them, and if they are equal in weight, I will acknowledge thy truth, and pay thee the price of thine eye; but, if they differ, thou liest and I will sue thee for the price of mine eye." Quoth the one-eyed man, "Grant me time;" but the merchant answered, saying, "I am a stranger and grant time to none, nor will I part from thee till thou pay." So the sharper ransomed his eye by paying him an hundred ducats and went away. Last of all came the buyer of the chanders-wood and said, "Take the price of thy ware." Asked the merchant, "What wilt thou give me?"; and the other answered, "We agreed for a Sá'a-measure of whatever thou shouldst desire; so, if thou wilt, take it full of gold and silver." "Not I," rejoined the merchant, "Not I! nothing shall serve me but I must have it full of fleas, half male and half female." Said the sharper, "I can do nothing of the kind;" and, confessing himself beaten, returned him his sandal-wood and redeemed himself from him with an hundred sequins, to be off his bargain. Then the merchant sold the chanders-wood at his own price and, quitting the city of sharpers, returned to his own land, ---And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Six Hundred and Fifth Night
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the merchant had sold his chanders-wood and had taken the money he quitted that city and returned to his own land. Then the Prince continued, "But this is not more wondrous than the tale of the three-year-old child." "What may that be?" asked the King, and the Prince answered, "I have heard tell this tale of
The Debauchee and the Three-Year-Old Child.
Know, O King that a certain profligate man, who was addicted to the sex, once heard of a beautiful and lovely woman who dwelt in a city other than his own. So he journeyed thither, taking with him a present, and wrote her a note, setting forth all that he suffered of love-longing and desire for her and how his passion for her had driven him to forsake his native land and come to her; and he ended by praying for an assignation. She gave him leave to visit her and, as he entered her abode, she stood up and received him with all honour and worship, kissing his hands and entertaining him with the best entertainment of meat and drink. Now she had a little son, but three years old, whom she left and busied herself in cooking rice. [FN#253] Presently the man said to her, "Come, let us go and lie together;" but she replied, "My son is sitting looking at us." Quoth the man, "He is a little child, understanding not neither knowing how to speak." Quoth the woman, "Thou wouldst not say thus, and thou knew his intelligence." When the boy saw that the rice was done, he wept with bitter weeping and his mother said to him, "What gars thee weep, O my son?" "Ladle me out some rice," answered he, "and put clarified butter in it." So she ladled him out somewhat of rice and put butter therein; and the child ate a little, then began to weep again. Quoth she, "What ails thee now, O my son?"; and quoth he, "O mother mine, I want some sugar with my rice." At this said the man, who was an-angered, "Thou art none other than a curst child." "Curst thyself, by Allah," answered the boy, "seeing thou weariest thyself and journeyest from city to city, in quest of adultery. As for me, I wept because I had somewhat in my eye, and my tears brought it out; and now I have eaten rice with butter and sugar and am content; so which is the curst of us twain?" The man was confounded at this rebuke from a little child and forthright grace entered him and he was reclaimed. Wherefor he laid not a finger on the woman, but went out from her and returned to his own country, where he lived a contrite life till he died. "As for the story of the five-year-old child" (continued the Prince), "I have heard tell, O King, the following anent
The Stolen Purse.
Four merchants once owned in common a thousand gold pieces; so they laid them mingled together in one purse and set out to buy merchandise therewith. They happened as they wended their way on a beautiful garden; so they left the purse with a woman who had care of the garden, saying to here, "Mind thee, thou shalt not give it back save when all four of us in person demand it of thee." She agreed to this and they entered and strolled awhile about the garden-walks and ate and drank and made merry, after which one of them said to the others, "I have with me scented fuller's-earth; come, let us wash our heads therewith in this running water." Quoth another, "We lack a comb;" and a third, "Let us ask the keeper; belike she hath a comb." Thereupon one of them arose and accosting the care-taker, said to her, "Give me the purse." Said she, "Not until ye be all present or thy fellows bid me give it thee." Then he called to his companions (who could see him but not hear him) saying, "She will not give it me;" and they said to her, "Give it him," thinking he meant the comb. So she gave him the purse and he took it and made off as fast as he could. When the three others were wary of waiting, they went to the keeper and asked her, "Why wilt thou not give him the comb?" Answered she, "He demanded naught of me save the purse, and I gave not that same but with your consent, and he went his way with it." When they heard her words they buffeted their faces and, laying hands upon her, said, "We authorized thee only to give him the comb;" and she rejoined, "He named not a comb to me." Then they seized her and haled her before the Kazi, to whom they related their claim and he condemned her to make good the the purse and bound over sundry of her debtors to answer for her. ---And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Six Hundred and Sixth Night
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Kazi condemned the care-taker to make good the purse and bound over sundry of her debtors to answer for her. So she went forth, confounded and knowing not her way out of difficulty. Presently she met a five-year-old boy who, seeing her troubled, said to her, "What ails thee, O my mother?" But she gave him no answer, contemning him because of his tender age, and he repeated his question a second time and a third time till, at last, she told him all that had passed, [FN#254] not forgetting the condition that she was to keep the purse until all four had demanded it of her. Said the boy, "Give me a dirham to buy sweetmeats withal and I will tell the how thou mayst acquit thyself." So she gave him a silver and said to him, "What hast thou to say?" Quoth he, "Return to the Kazi, and say to him, It was agreed between myself and them that I should not give them the purse, except all four of them were present. Let them all four come and I will give them the purse, as was agreed." So she went back to the Kazi and said to him as the boy had counselled; and he asked the merchants, "Was it thus agreed between you and this woman?"; and they answered, "Yes." Quoth the Kazi, "Then bring me your comrade and take the purse." So they went in quest of their fellow, whilst the keeper came off scot-free and went her way without let or hindrance. And Allah is Omniscient! [FN#255] When the King and his Wazir and those present in the assembly heard the Prince's words they said to his father, "O our lord the King, in very sooth thy son is the most accomplished man of his time;" and they called down blessings upon the King and the Prince. Then the King strained his son to his bosom and kissed him between the eyes and questioned him of what had passed between the favourite and himself; and the Prince sware to him, by Almighty Allah and by His Holy Prophet that it was she who had required him of love which he refused, adding, "Moreover, she promised me that she would give thee poison to drink and kill the, so should the kingship be mine; whereupon I waxed wroth and signed to her, 'O accursed one, whenas I can speak I will requite thee!' So she feared me and did what she did." The King believed his words and sending for the favourite said to those present, "How shall we put this damsel to death?" Some counselled him to cut out her tongue and other some to burn it with fire; but, when she came before the King, she said to him, "My case with thee is like unto naught save the tale of the fox and the folk." "How so?" asked he; and she said, "I have heard, O King, tell a
Story of the Fox and the Folk. [FN#256]
A fox once made his way into a city by the wall and, entering a currier's store-house, played havoc with all therein and spoiled the skins for the owner. One day, the currier set a trap for him and taking him, beat him with the hides, till he fell down senseless, whereupon the man deeming him to be dead, cast him out into the road by the city-gate. Presently, an old woman who was walking by, seeing the fox said, "This is a fox whose eye, hung about a child's neck, is salutary against weeping." So she pluckt out his right eye and went away. Then passed a boy, who said, "What does this tail on this fox?"; and cut off his brush. After a while, up came a man and saying, "This is a fox whose gall cleareth away film and dimness from the eyes, if they be anointed therewith like kohl," took out his knife to slit up the fox's paunch. But Reynard said in himself, "We bore with the plucking out of the eye and the cutting off of the tail; but, as for the slitting of the paunch, there is no putting up with that!" So saying, he sprang up and made off through the gate of the city, hardly believing in his escape. Quoth the King, "I excuse her, and in my son's hands be her doom. If he will, let him torture her, and if he will, let him kill her." Quoth the Prince, "Pardon is better than vengeance and mercy is of the quality of the noble;" and the King repeated, "'Tis for thee to decide, O my son." So the Prince set her free, saying, "Depart from our neighbourhood and Alla pardon what is past!" Therewith the King rose from his throne of estate and seating his son thereon, crowned him with his crown and bade the Grandees of his realm swear fealty and commanded them do homage to him. And he said, "O folk, indeed, I am stricken in years and desire to withdraw apart and devote myself only to the service of my Lord; and I call you to witness that I divest myself of the kingly dignity, even as I have divested myself of my crown and set it on my son's head." So the troops and officers swore fealty to the Prince, and his father gave himself up to the worship of his Lord nor stinted from this, whilst his son abode in his kingship, doing justice and righteousness; and his power was magnified and his sultanate strengthened and he abode in all delight and solace of life, till there came to him the Certainty.