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.”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,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,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 rede183 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 steed184 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.
179 In the Book of Sindibad this is the “Story of the Prince who went out to hunt and the stratagem which the Wazir practised on him.”
180 I have noted that it is a dire affront to an Arab if his first cousin marry any save himself without his formal leave.
181 i.e. the flowery, the splendid; an epithet of Fatimah, the daughter of the Apostle “the bright blooming.” Fátimah is an old Arab name of good omen, “the weaner:” in Egypt it becomes Fattúmah (an incrementative= “great weaner”); and so Amínah, Khadíjah and Nafísah on the banks of the Nile are barbarised to Ammúnah, Khaddúgah and Naffúsah.
182 i.e. his coming misfortune, the phrase being euphemistic.
183 Arab. “Ráy:” in theology it means “private judgment” and “Ráyí” (act. partic.) is a Rationalist. The Hanafí School is called “Asháb al-Ráy” because it allows more liberty of thought than the other three orthodox.
184 The angels in Al–Islam ride piebalds.
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, Rajiz185 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.
185 In the Bresl. Edit. “Zájir” (xii. 286).
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
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 clothes187 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.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
186 This is the “King’s Son and the Merchant’s Wife” of the Hitopadesa (chapt. i.) transferred to all the Prakrit versions of India. It is the Story of the Bath-keeper who conducted his Wife to the Son of the King of Kanuj in the Book of Sindibad.
187 The pious Caliph Al–Muktadi bi Amri ’llah (A.H. 467=A.D. 1075) was obliged to forbid men entering the baths of Baghdad without drawers.
188 This peculiarity is not uncommon amongst the so-called Aryan and Semitic races, while to the African it is all but unknown. Women highly prize a conformation which (as the prostitute described it) is always “either in his belly or in mine.”
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 corrupted189 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.
189 Easterns, I have said, are perfectly aware of the fact that women corrupt women much more than men do. The tale is the “Story of the Libertine Husband” in the Book of Sindibad; blended with the “Story of the Go-between and the Bitch” in the Book of Sindibad. It is related in the “Disciplina Clericalis” of Alphonsus (A.D. 1106); the fabliau of La vieille qui seduisit la jeune fille; the Gesta Romanorum (thirteenth century) and the “Cunning Siddhikari” in the Kathá-Sarit-Ságara.
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.
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 Cashmere190 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
190 The Kashmir people, men and women, have a very bad name in Eastern tales, the former for treachery and the latter for unchastity. A Persian distich says:
If folk be scarce as food in dearth ne’er let three lots come
First Sindi, second Jat, and third a rascally Kashmeeree.
The women have fair skins and handsome features but, like all living in that zone, Persians, Sindis, Afghans, etc., their bosoms fall after the first child and become like udders. This is not the case with Hindú women, Rajpúts, Maráthís, etc.
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-guard191 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.
191 By these words she appealed to his honour.
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,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 mountains193 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
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.
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,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 son,” 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, “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.
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 ocean196 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 marked197 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,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.
196 The Mac. Edit. has “Nahr”= river.
197 i.e. marked with the Wasm or tribal sign to show their blood. The subject of Wasm is extensive and highly interesting, for many of these brands date doubtless from prehistoric ages. For instance, some of the great Anazah nation (not tribe) use a circlet, the initial of their name (an Ayn-letter), which thus shows the eye from which it was formed. I have given some specimens of Wasm in The Land of Midian (i. 320) where, as amongst the “Sinaitic” Badawin, various kinds of crosses are preserved long after the death and burial of Christianity.
198 i.e. from the heights. The “Sayl” is a dangerous feature in Arabia as in Southern India, where many officers have lost their lives by trying to swim it.
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, arrogance199 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.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.
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
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.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,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-case203 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;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.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 chest206 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.
201 Eastern tale-tellers always harp upon this theme, the cunning precautions taken by mankind and their utter confusion by “Fate and Fortune.” In such matters the West remarks, “Ce que femme veut, Dieu veut.”
202 As favourite an occupation in Oriental lands as in Southern Europe and the Brazil, where the Quinta or country villa must be built by the road-side to please the mistress.
203 The ink-case would contain the pens; hence called in India Kalamdán=reed (pen) box. I have advised travellers to prefer the strong Egyptian article of brass to the Persian, which is of wood or papier-mâché, prettily varnished, but not to wear it in the waist-belt, as this is a sign of being a scribe. (Pilgrimage i. 353.)
204 The vulgar Eastern idea is that women are quite knowing enough without learning to read and write; and at all events they should not be taught anything beyond reading the Koran, or some clearly-written book. The contrast with modern Europe is great; greater still in Anglo–America of our day, and greatest with the new sects which propose “biunes” and “bisexuals” and “women robed with the sun.”
205 In the Bresl. Edit. the Prince ties a key to a second arrow and shoots it into the pavilion.
206 The “box-trick” has often been played with success, by Lord Byron amongst a host of others. The readiness with which the Wazir enters into the scheme is characteristic of oriental servility: an honest Moslem should at least put in a remonstrance.
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
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,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;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.
207 This story appears familiar, but I have not found it easy to trace. In “The Book of Sindibad” (p. 83) it is apparently represented by a lacuna. In the Squire’s Tale of Chaucer Canace’s ring enables the wearer to understand bird-language, not merely to pretend as does the slave-boy in the text.
208 The crow is an ill-omened bird in Al-lslam and in Eastern Christendom. “The crow of cursed life and foul odour,” says the Book of Kalilah and Dimna (p. 44). The Hindus are its only protectors, and in this matter they follow suit with the Guebres. I may note that the word belongs to the days before “Aryan” and “Semitic” speech had parted; we find it in Heb. Oreb; Arab. Ghurab; Lat. Corvus; Engl. Crow, etc.
209 Again in the Hibernian sense of being “kilt.”
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
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.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
210 Quoted in Night dlxxxii.; said by Kitfír or Itfír (Potiphar) when his wife (Ráil or Zulaykha) charged Joseph with attempting her chastity and he saw that the youth’s garment was whole in front and rent in rear. (Koran, chapt. xii.)
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.
211 This witty tale, ending somewhat grossly here, has over-wandered the world. First we find it in the Kathá (S. S.) where Upakoshá, the merry wife of Vararuchi, disrobes her suitors, a family priest, a commander of the guard and the prince’s tutor, under plea of the bath and stows them away in baskets which suggest Falstaff’s “buck-basket.” In Miss Stokes’ “Indian Fairy Tales” the fair wife of an absent merchant plays a similar notable prank upon the Kotwal, the Wazir, the Kazi and the King; and akin to this is the exploit of Temal Rámákistnan, the Madrasi Tyl Eulenspiegel and Scogin who by means of a lady saves his life from the Rajah and the High Priest. Mr. G. H. Damant (pp. 357–360 of the “Indian Antiquary” of 1873) relates the “Tale of the Touchstone,” a legend of Dinahpur, wherein a woman “sells” her four admirers. In the Persian Tales ascribed to the Dervish “Mokles” (Mukhlis) of Isfahan, the lady Aruyá tricks and exposes a Kazi, a doctor and a governor. Boccaccio (viii. 1) has the story of a lady who shut up her gallant in a chest with her husband’s sanction; and a similar tale (ix. 1) of Rinuccio and Alexander with the corpse of Scannadeo (Throkh-god). Hence a Lydgate (circ. A.D. 1430) derived the plot of his metrical tale of “The Lady Prioress and her Three Sisters”; which was modified in the Netherlandish version by the introduction of the Long Wapper, a Flemish Robin Goodfellow. Followed in English the metrical tale of “The Wright’s Chaste Wife,” by Adam of Cobham (edited by Mr. Furnivall from a Ms. of circ. A.D. 1460) where the victims are a lord, a steward and a proctor. See also “The Master–Maid” in Dr. (now Sir George) Dasent’s “Popular Tales from the Norse,” Mr. Clouston, who gives these details more fully, mentions a similar Scottish story concerning a lascivious monk and the chaste wife of a miller.
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