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The Book Of The Thousand Nights And One Night, Volume I by Anonymous

Part 3 out of 7

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Mourn for the younglings of the grouse; lament unceasingly, As,
for the omelettes and the fowls browned in the pan, do I.
How my heart yearneth for the fish, that in its different kinds,
Upon a paste of wheaten flour lay hidden in the pie!
Praised be God for the roast meat! As in the dish it lay, With
pot-herbs, soaked in vinegar, in porringers hard by!
My hunger was appeased: I lay, intent upon the gleam Of arms that
in the frumenty were buried bracelet high.
I woke my sleeping appetite to eat, as 'twere in jest, Of all the
tarts that, piled on trays, shone fair unto the eye.
O soul, have patience! For indeed, Fate full of marvel is: If
fortune straiten thee one day, the next relief is nigh.

Then I rose and seated myself at a distance, whilst the King read
what I had written and marvelled and said "Strange that an ape
should be gifted with such fluency and skill in penmanship! By
Allah, this is a wonder of wonders!" Then they set choice wine
before the King in flagons of glass; and he drank, then passed
the cup to me; and I kissed the earth and drank and wrote the
following verses:

They burnt me[FN#33] with fire, to make me speak, And found me
patient and debonair.
For this I am borne on men's hands on high And kiss the rosy lips
of the fair!

And these also:

Morn struggles through the dusk; so pour me out, I pray, Of wine,
such wine as makes the saddest-hearted gay!
So pure and bright it is, that whether wine in glass Or glass in
wine be held, i' faith, 'tis hard to say.

The King read them and said, with a sigh, "If a man had this
quickness of wit, he would excel all the folk of his age and
time." Then he called for a chess-board and said to me, "Wilt
thou play with me?" I signed with my head as who should say,
"Yes," and came forward and placed the men and played two games
with him, each of which I won, much to his amazement. Then I took
the pen and wrote the following verses:

Two hosts throughout the live-long day contend in deadly fight,
That waxes ever till the shades of night upon them creep;
Then, when the darkness puts an end at last unto their strife,
Upon one couch and side by side, they lay them down to

These verses filled the King with wonder and delight, and he said
to the eunuch, "Go to thy mistress, the Lady of Beauty, and bid
her come and amuse herself with the sight of this wonderful ape."
So the eunuch went out and presently returned with the lady, who,
when she saw me, veiled her face, and said, "O my father, how
comes it that thou art pleased to send for me and show me to
strange men?" "O my daughter," said he, "there is none here save
the little slave and the eunuch who reared thee and myself, thy
father. From whom then dost thou veil thy face?" Quoth she, "This
that thou deemest an ape is a wise and learned man, the son of a
king; the Afrit Jerjis of the lineage of Iblis enchanted him
thus, after putting to death his own wife, the daughter of King
Efitamous, Lord of the Ebony Islands." At this the King wondered
and turning to me, said, "Is this true that she says of thee?"
And I signed with my head, as who should say, "Yes;" and wept.
Then said he to his daughter, "Whence knewest thou that he was
enchanted?" "O my father," answered she, "there was with me, in
my childhood, an old woman who was skilled in magic and taught me
its rules and practice; and I became skilled therein and
committed to memory a hundred and seventy magical formulas, by
the least of which I could transport the stones of thy?? behind
the mountain Caf and make its site an abyss of the sea and its
people fishes swimming in its midst." "O my daughter," said her
father, "I conjure thee, by my life, to disenchant this young
man, that I may make him my Vizier, for he is a right pleasant
and ingenious youth." "With all my heart," replied she, and
taking a knife, on which were engraved Hebrew characters, drew
therewith a circle in the midst of the hall and wrote there in
names and talismans and muttered words and charms, some of which
we understood and others not. Presently the world darkened upon
us, and the Afrit presented himself before us in his own shape
and aspect, with hands like pitchforks legs like masts and eyes
like flames of fire. We were affrighted at him, but the princess
said to him, "An ill welcome to thee, O dog!" Whereupon he took
the form of a lion and said to her, "O traitress, thou hast
broken thy compact with me! Did we not swear that neither of us
should molest the other?" "O accursed one," answered she, "how
could there be a compact between me and the like of thee?"
"Then," said he, "take what thou hast brought on thyself." And
opening his mouth, rushed upon her: but she made haste and
plucked a hair from her head and waved it in the air, muttering
the while; and it at once became a sharp sword, with which she
smote the lion and cut him in two. His head became a scorpion,
whereupon the princess transformed herself into a great serpent
and fell upon the scorpion and there befell a sore battle between
them. Presently the scorpion changed to an eagle, and the serpent
at once became a griffin, which pursued the eagle a long while,
till the latter became a black cat. Thereupon the griffin became
a piebald wolf and they fought long and sore, till the cat
finding itself beaten, changed into a worm and crept into a
pomegranate which lay beside the fountain in the midst of the
hall whereupon the pomegranate swelled till it was as big as a
watermelon. The wolf ran to seize it, but it rose into the air
and falling on the pavement, broke in pieces, and all the seeds
fell out and rolled hither and thither, till the floor was
covered with them. Then the wolf shook itself and became a cock,
which fell to picking up the seeds, till they were all gone,
except one that, by the decree of Fate, had rolled to the side of
the basin and lay hidden there. The cock began to crow and clap
its wings and signed to us with his beak, as who should say,
"Are there any grains left?" But we understood him not; and he
gave such a cry that we thought the palace would fall on us.
Then he ran about all over the hall, till he saw the remaining
pomegranate-seed, and rushed to pick it up, but it sprang into
the midst of the water and became a fish, which sank to the
bottom of the basin. Thereupon the cock became big fish and
plunged in after the other; and we saw nothing of them for
a time, but heard a loud crying and screaming and trembled.
Presently the Afrit rose out of the water, as he were one great
flame, with fire and smoke issuing from his mouth and eyes and
nostrils. Immediately after, the princess rose also, like a great
coal of fire, and they fought till they were wrapped in flames
and the hall was filled with smoke. As for us, we were well-nigh
suffocated and hid ourselves and would have plunged into the
water, fearing lest we be burnt up and destroyed: and the King
said, "There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High,
the Supreme! We are God's and to Him we return! Would God I had
not urged my daughter to attempt the delivery of this ape,
whereby I have imposed on her this fearful labour with yonder
accursed Afrit, against whom all the other Afrits in the world
could not prevail! And would we had never seen this ape, may
God's blessing not be on him nor on the hour of his coming! We
thought to do him a kindness for the love of God, by freeing him
from this enchantment, and lo, we have brought this terrible
travail upon ourselves!" But my tongue was tied and I could not
say a word to him. Suddenly, the Afrit roared out from under the
flames and coming up to us, as we stood on the dais, blew fire in
our faces. The princess pursued him and blew flames at him, and
the sparks from them both fell upon us; her sparks did us no
hurt, but of his one lighted on my right eye and destroyed it;
another fell on the King's face and scorched the lower part,
burning away half his beard and making his under teeth drop out,
and a third lighted on the eunuch's breast and set him on fire,
so that he was consumed and died forthright. So we despaired of
life and looked for nothing but death; but presently we heard a
voice exclaiming, "God is most great! He giveth aid and victory
to the true believer and abandoneth him who denieth the religion
of Mohammed, the Moon of the Faith!" And lo, the King's daughter
had burnt up the Afrit and he was become a heap of ashes! Then
she came up to us and said, "Bring me a cup of water." They did
so: and she spoke over the water words we understood not and
sprinkled me with it, saying, "By the virtue of the Truth and of
the Most Great Name of God, return to thine original shape!" And
immediately I shook and became a man as before, save that I had
lost my right eye. Then she cried out, "The fire! The fire! O my
father, I have but an instant to live, for I am not used to fight
with Jinn: had he been a man, I had slain him long ago. I had no
travail till the time when the pomegranate burst asunder and I
overlooked the seed in which was the genie's life. Had I picked
it up, he would have died at once; but as fate and destiny would
have it, I knew not of this, so that he came upon me unawares and
there befell between us a sore strife under the earth and in the
air and in the water: and as often as I opened on him a
gate[FN#34] (of magic), he opened on me another, till at last he
opened on me the gate of fire, and seldom does he on whom the
gate of fire is opened escape alive. But Providence aided me
against him, so that I consumed him first, after I had summoned
him to embrace the faith of Islam. As for me, I am a dead woman
and may God supply my place to you!" Then she called upon God for
help and ceased not to implore relief from the fire, till
presently a tongue of fierce flame broke out from her clothes and
shot up to her breast and thence to her face. When it reached her
face, she wept and said, "I testify that there is no god but God
and that Mohammed is the apostle of God!" And we looked at her
and behold, she was a heap of ashes beside those of the genie. We
mourned for her and I wished I had been in her place, so had I
not seen the fair-faced one who had done me this good office
reduced to ashes; but there is no averting the decree of God.
When the King saw what had befallen his daughter, he plucked out
the rest of his beard and buffeted his face and rent his clothes;
and I did the like, and we both wept for her. Then came in the
chamberlains and grandees and were amazed to find two heaps of
ashes and the Sultan in a swoon. So they stood round him till he
revived and told them what had happened, whereat they were sore
afflicted and the women and slave-girls shrieked aloud and kept
up their lamentation for the space of seven days. Moreover, the
King bade build a great dome over his daughter's ashes and burn
therein candles and lamps: but the Afrit's ashes they scattered
to the winds, committing them to the malediction of God. The King
was sick, well-nigh unto death, for a month's space, after which
health returned to him and His beard grew again. Then he sent for
me and said to me, "O youth, verily we led the happiest of lives,
safe from the vicissitudes of fortune, till thou camest to us,
when troubles flocked upon us. O that we had never seen thee nor
the ugly face of thee! For through our taking pity on thee, we
are come to this state of bereavement. I have lost, on thine
account, first, my daughter, who was worth a hundred men;
secondly, I have suffered what befell me by the fire and the loss
of my teeth, and my eunuch also is dead. I do not indeed blame
thee for aught of this; for all was decreed of God to us and to
thee; and praised be He that my daughter delivered thee, though
at the cost of her own life! But now, O my son, depart from my
city and let what has befallen us on thine account suffice.
Depart in peace, and if I see thee again I will kill thee." And
he cried out at me. So I went forth from his presence, knowing
not whither I should go, and hardly believing in my escape. And I
recalled all that had befallen me from first to last and thanked
God that it was my eye that I had lost and not my life. Before I
left the town, I entered the bath and shaved my head and put on a
hair-cloth garment. Then I fared forth at a venture, and every
day I recalled all the misfortunes that had befallen me and wept
and repeated the following verses:

By the Compassionate, I'm dazed and know not where I go. Griefs
flock on me from every side, I know not whence they grow.
I will endure till patience' self less patient is than I: I will
have patience till it please the Lord to end my woe.
A vanquished man, without complaint, my doom I will endure, As
the parched traveller in the waste endures the torrid glow.
I will endure till aloes'[FN#35] self confess that I, indeed, Can
'gainst a bitt'rer thing abide than even it can show.
There is no bitt'rer thing; and yet if patience play me false, It
were to me a bitt'rer thing than all the rest, I trow.
The wrinkles graven on my heart would speak my hidden pain If
through my breast the thought could pierce and read what
lies below.
Were but my load on mountains laid, they'd crumble into dust; On
fire it would be quenched outright; on wind, 'twould cease
to blow.
Let who will say that life is sweet; to all there comes a day
When they must needs a bitt'rer thing than aloes[FN#36]

Then I journeyed through many lands and cities, intending for the
Abode of Peace[FN#37], Baghdad, in the hope that I might get
speech of the Commander of the Faithful and tell him all that had
befallen me. I arrived here this night and found my brother, this
first Calender, standing perplexed; so I saluted him and entered
into converse with him. Presently up came our brother, this third
Calender, and said to us, "Peace be on you! I am a stranger." "We
also are strangers," answered we, "and have come hither this
blessed night." So we all three walked on together, none of us
knowing the others' story, till chance brought us to this door
and we came in to you. This, then, is my story and the manner of
the shaving of my face and the loss of my eye.' Quoth the
mistress of the house, 'Thy story is indeed a rare one: and now
begone about thy business.' But he replied, 'I will not stir till
I hear the others' stories.' Then came forward the third Calender
and said, 'O illustrious lady, my history is not like that of
these my comrades, but still stranger and more marvellous, in
that, whilst destiny and fore-ordained fate overcame them
unawares, I with mine own hand drew fate and affliction upon
myself, as thou shalt presently hear. Know that

Story of the Third Calender.

I also am a king, the son of a king, and my name is Agib, son of
Khesib. My father died, and I took the kingdom after him and
ruled my subjects with justice and beneficence. My capital city
stood on the shore of a wide spreading sea, on which I had fifty
merchant ships and fifty smaller vessels for pleasure and a
hundred and fifty cruisers equipped for war; and near at hand
were many great islands in the midst of the ocean. Now I loved to
sail the sea and had a mind to visit the islands aforesaid so I
took ship with a month's victual and set out and took my pleasure
in the islands and returned to my capital Then, being minded to
make a longer voyage upon the ocean, I fitted out half a score
ships with provision for two months and sailed twenty days, till
one night the wind blew contrary and the sea rose against us with
great billows; the waves clashed together and there fell on us a
great darkness. So we gave ourselves up for lost and I said, "He
who perils himself is not to be commended, though he come off
safe." Then we prayed to God and besought Him, but the wind
ceased not to rage and the waves to clash together, till
daybreak, when the wind fell, the sea became calm and the sun
shone out. Presently we sighted an island, where we landed and
cooked food and ate and rested two days. Then we set out again
and sailed other twenty days, without seeing land; but the
currents carried us out of our true course, so that the captain
lost his reckoning and finding himself in strange waters, bade
the watch go up to the mast-head and look out. So he climbed the
mast and looked out and said "O captain, I see nothing to right
and left save sky and water, but ahead I see something looming
afar off in the midst of the sea, now black and now white." When
the captain heard the look-out's words, he cast his turban on the
deck and plucked out his beard and buffeted his face and said, "O
King, we are all dead men, not one of us can be saved." We all
wept for his weeping and I said to him, "O captain, tell us what
it is the look-out saw." "O my lord," answered he, "know that we
lost our way on the night of the storm and since then we have
gone astray one-and-twenty days and there is no wind to bring us
back to our true course. To-morrow, by the end of the day, we
shall come to a mountain of black stone, called loadstone, for
thither the currents bear us perforce. As soon as we come within
a certain distance, all the nails in the ships will fly out and
fasten to the mountain, and the ships will open and fall to
pieces, for that God the Most High has gifted the loadstone with
a secret virtue, by reason whereof all iron is attracted to it;
and on this mountain is much iron, how much God only knows, from
the many ships that have been wrecked there from old time. On its
summit there stands a dome of brass, raised on ten columns and on
the top of the dome are a horse and horseman of the same metal.
The latter holds in his hand a brazen lance and on his breast is
a tablet of lead, graven with names and talismans: and, O King,
it is nought but this horseman that causeth the folk to perish,
nor will the charm be broken till he fall from his horse." Then
he wept sore and we all made sure of death and each took leave of
his comrade and charged him with his last wishes, in case he
should be saved. That night we slept not, and in the morning, we
sighted the loadstone mountain, towards which the currents
carried us with irresistible force. When the ships came within a
certain distance, they opened and the nails started out and all
the iron in them sought the loadstone and clove to it; so that by
the end of the day, we were all struggling in the sea round the
mountain. Some of us were saved, but the most part drowned, and
even those who escaped knew not one of the other, being stupefied
by the raging wind and the buffeting of the waves. As for me, God
preserved me that I might suffer that which He willed to me of
trouble and torment and affliction, for I got on a plank from one
of the ships and, the wind driving it ashore, I happened on a
pathway leading to the top, as it were a stair hewn out of the
rock. So I called upon the name of God the Most High and besought
His succour and clinging to the steps, addressed myself to climb
up little by little. And God stilled the wind and aided me in my
ascent, so that I reached the summit in safety. There I found
nothing but the dome; so I entered, mightily rejoiced at my
escape, and made my ablutions and prayed a two-bow prayer[FN#38]
in gratitude to God for my preservation. Then I fell asleep under
the dome and saw in a dream one who said to me, "O son of Khesib,
when thou awakest, dig under thy feet and thou wilt find a bow of
brass and three leaden arrows, inscribed with talismanic
characters. Take the bow and shoot the arrows at the horseman on
the top of the dome and rid mankind of this great calamity. When
thou shootest at him, he will fall into the sea and the horse
will drop at thy feet: take it and bury it in the place of the
bow. This done, the sea will swell and rise till it is level with
the top of the mountain, and there will appear on it a boat
containing a man of brass (other than he whom thou shalt have
thrown down), with an oar in his hands. He will come to thee, and
do thou embark with him, but beware of naming God. He will row
with thee for the space of ten days, till he brings thee to a
port of safety, where thou shalt find those who will carry thee
to thine own country: and all this shall be fulfilled to thee, so
thou pronounce not the name of God." I started up from my sleep
and hastening to do the bidding of the mysterious voice, found
the bow and arrows and shot at the horseman and overthrew him;
whereupon he fell into the sea, whilst the horse dropped at my
feet and I took it and buried it. Then the sea grew troubled and
rose till it reached the top of the mountain; nor had I long to
wait before I saw a boat in the midst of the sea coming towards
me. So I gave thanks to God: and when the boat came up to me, I
saw in it a man of brass, with a tablet of lead on his breast,
inscribed with names and talismans; and I embarked without saying
a word. The boatman rowed on with me for ten whole days, till I
caught sight of islands and mountains and signs of safety;
whereat I was beyond measure rejoiced and in the excess of my
gladness, I called upon the name of the Almighty and exclaimed,
"There is no god but God! God is most great!" When behold, the
boat turned over and cast me out into the sea, then righted and
sank beneath the water. Now, I knew how to swim, so I swam the
whole day till nightfall, when my arms and shoulders failed me
for fatigue, and I abode in mortal peril and made the profession
of the Faith[FN#39], looking for nothing but death. Presently,
the sea rose, for the greatness of the wind, and a wave like a
great rampart took me and bearing me forward, cast me up on the
land, that the will of God might be done. I clambered up the
beach and, putting off my clothes, wrung them and spread them out
to dry, then lay down and slept all night. As soon as it was day,
I put on my clothes and rose to look about me. Presently I came
to a grove of trees and making a circuit round it, found that I
was on a little island, surrounded on all sides by the sea;
whereupon I said to myself, "No sooner do I escape from one peril
than I fall into a worse." But as I was pondering my case and
wishing for death, I spied a ship afar off making towards me; so
I climbed up into a tree and hid myself among the branches.
Presently the ship came to an anchor, and ten slaves landed,
bearing spades, and made for the middle of the island, where they
dug till they uncovered a trapdoor and raised it. Then they
returned to the ship and brought thence bread and flour and oil
and honey and meat and carpets and all else that was needed to
furnish one dwelling there; nor did they leave going back and
forth till they had transferred to the underground dwelling all
that was in the ship: after which they again repaired to the
vessel and returned, laden with wearing apparel of the finest
kind and in their midst a very old man, whom time had mauled till
he was wasted and worn, as he were a bone wrapped in a rag of
blue cloth, through which the winds blew East and West. As says
the poet of him:

Time makes us tremble ah, how piteously! For full of violence and
might is he.
Once on a time I walked and was not tired: Now am I tired, yet
have not walked, ah me!

He held by the hand a youth cast in the mould of symmetry and
perfection, so fair that his beauty might well be the subject of
proverbs; for he was like a tender sapling, ravishing every heart
with his beauty and seducing every wit with his amorous grace. It
was of him the poet spoke, when he said:

Beauty they brought to liken it with him: But Beauty hung its
head for shame and fear.
"O Beauty," said they, "dost thou know his like?" It answered,
"Never have I seen his peer."

They proceeded to the underground, where they descended all and
did not reappear for an hour or more, at the end of which time
the old man and the slaves came up, without the youth, and
replacing the trap-door, covered it again with earth; then
returned to the ship and set sail. As soon as they were out of
sight, I came down from the tree and going to the place I had
seen them fill up, made shift to clear away the earth, till I
came to the trap-door, which was of wood, the shape and bigness
of a mill-stone, and raised it, when there appeared underneath a
winding stair of stone. At this I wondered and descending, came
to a fair chamber, spread with various kinds of carpets and hung
with silken stuffs, where I saw the youth sitting alone upon a
raised couch and leant upon a cushion, with a fan in his hand and
sweet-scented flowers and herbs and fruits before him. When he
saw me, he turned pale; but I saluted him, saying, "Calm thyself
and put away fear; no harm shall come to thee: I am a man like
unto thee and a king's son, whom Providence hath sent to bear
thee company in thy solitude. But now tell me thy history and why
thou dwellest underground by thyself." When he was assured that I
was of his kind, he was glad and his colour returned; then he
made me draw near to him and said, "O my brother, my story is a
strange one, and it is as follows. My father is a merchant
jeweller, possessed of great wealth and having black and white
slaves, who make trading voyages, on his account, in ships and on
camels, to the most distant countries; and he has dealings with
kings. Until my birth, he had never been blessed with a child,
but one night he dreamt that a son had been born to him, who
lived but a short time, and awoke weeping and crying out. The
following night my mother conceived and he took note of the date
of her conception. The days of her pregnancy were accomplished
and she gave birth to myself, whereupon my father rejoiced and
made banquets and fed the poor and the needy for that I had been
vouchsafed to him in his old age. Then he assembled the
astrologers and mathematicians of the day and those learned in
nativities and horoscopes; and they drew my horoscope and said to
my father, 'Thy son will live till the age of fifteen, at which
date there is a break[FN#40] in his line of life, which if he
tide over in safety, he shall live long. The danger with which he
is threatened is as follows. In the Sea of Peril stands a
mountain called the Loadstone Mountain, on whose summit is a
horseman of brass, seated on a horse of the same metal, with a
tablet of lead on his breast. Fifty days after this horseman
falls from his horse, thy son will die, and his slayer will be he
who overthrows the statue, a king called Agib, son of Khesib.' My
father was sore concerned at this prediction; but he brought me
up and gave me a good education, till I attained my fifteenth
year. Ten days ago, news came to him that the horseman had fallen
into the sea and that he who overthrew him was Agib, son of King
Khesib; whereat he was as one distraught and feared for my life.
So he built me this place under the earth and stocking it with
all that I need during the forty days that yet remain of the
period of danger, transported me hither, that I might be safe
from King Agib's hands. When the forty days are past, he will
come back and fetch me; and this is my story and why thou findest
me here alone." When I heard his story, I marvelled and said to
myself, "I am that King Agib of whom he speaks; but, by Allah, I
will assuredly not kill him!" And I said to him, "O my lord, God
willing, thou shalt be spared suffering and death, nor shalt thou
see trouble or sorrow or disquiet, for I will abide with thee and
serve thee; and when I have borne thee company during the
appointed days, I will go with thee to thy dwelling-place and
thou shalt bring me to some of thy father's servants, with whom I
may journey to my own country; and God shall requite thee for
me." He rejoiced in my words and we sat conversing till nightfall
when I rose and lighted a great wax candle and fed the lamps and
set on meat and drink and sweetmeats. We ate and drank and sat
talking till late into the night, when he lay down to sleep and I
covered him up and went to sleep myself. Next morning, I rose and
heated a little water, then woke him gently and brought him the
warm water, with which he washed his face and thanked me, saying,
"God requite thee with good, O youth! By Allah, if I escape from
this my danger and from him they call Agib ben Khesib, I will
make my father reward thee!" "May the day never come on which
evil shall befall thee," answered I, "and may God appoint my last
day before thine!" Then I set on food and we ate, and I made
ready perfumes with which he scented himself. Moreover, I made
him a backgammon board[FN#41], and we played and ate sweetmeats
and played again till nightfall when I rose and lighting the
lamps, set on food; and we ate and sat talking till the night was
far spent. Then he lay down to sleep and I covered him up and
went to sleep myself. Thus I did with him, day and night, and the
love of him got hold upon my heart and I forgot my troubles and
said to myself, "The astrologers lied; by Allah, I will not kill
him!" I ceased not to serve him and bear him company and
entertain him thus, till nine-and-thirty days were passed and we
came to the morning of the fortieth day, when he rejoiced and
said to me, "O my brother, the forty days are up to-day, praised
be God who hath preserved me from death, and this by thy blessing
and the blessing of thy coming to me, and I pray Him to restore
thee to thy country! But now, O my brother, I prithee heat me
some water, that I may wash my body and change my clothes."
"With all my heart," answered I; and heated water in plenty
and carrying it in to him, washed his body well with lupin-
meal[FN#42] and rubbed him down and changed his clothes and
spread him a high bed, on which he lay down to rest after the
bath. Then said he, "O my brother, cut me a melon and sweeten it
with sugar-candy." So I went to the closet and bringing a fine
melon I found there on a platter, said to him, "O my lord, hast
thou no knife?" "Here it is," answered he, "on the high shelf at
my head." So I got up hurriedly and taking the knife, drew it
from its sheath; but in stepping down backward, my foot slipped
and I fell heavily on the youth, holding in my hand the knife,
which hastened to fulfil that which was ordained and entered his
heart, and he died forthright. When I saw that he was no more and
that I had indeed killed him, I cried out grievously and buffeted
my face and tore my clothes, saying, "We are God's and to Him we
return! There remained for this youth but one day of the period
of danger that the astrologers had foretold for him, and the
death of this fair one was to be at my hand! Verily, my life is
nought but disasters and afflictions! Would he had not asked me
to cut the melon or would I had died before him! But what God
decrees cometh to pass." When I was certain that there was no
life left in him, I rose and ascending the stair, replaced the
trap-door and covered it with earth. Then I looked out to sea and
saw the ship cleaving the waters in the direction of the island.
Whereat I was afeared and said, "They will be here anon and will
find their son dead and know 'twas I killed him and will slay me
without fail." So I climbed up into a high tree and hid myself
among the leaves. Hardly had I done so, when the vessel came to
an anchor and the slaves landed with the old man and made direct
for the place, where they cleared away the earth and were
surprised to find it soft.[FN#43] Then they raised the trap-door
and going down, found the boy lying dead, clad in clean clothes,
with his face shining from the bath and the knife sticking in his
breast. At this sight, they shrieked aloud and wept and buffeted
their faces and cried out, "Alas! woe worth the day!" whilst the
old man swooned away and remained so long insensible, that the
slaves thought he would not survive his son. So they wrapped the
dead youth in his clothes and carried him up and laid him on the
ground, covering him with a shroud of silk. Then they addressed
themselves to transport all that was in the place to the ship,
and presently the old man revived and coming up after them, saw
his son laid out, whereupon he fell on the ground and strewed
dust on his head and buffeted his face and tore his beard; and
his weeping redoubled, as he hung over his dead son, till he
swooned away again. After awhile the slaves came back, with a
silken carpet, and laying the old man thereon, sat down at his
head. All this time I was in the tree above them, watching them;
and indeed my heart became hoary before my head, for all the
grief and affliction I had undergone. The old man ceased not from
his swoon till nigh upon sundown, when he came to himself and
looking upon his dead son, recalled what had happened and how
what he had feared had come to pass: and he buffeted his face and
head and recited the following verses:

My heart is cleft in twain for severance of loves; The burning
tears pour down in torrents from my eye.
My every wish with him I loved is fled away: What can I do or
say? what help, what hope have I?
Would I had never looked upon his lovely face! Alas, the ways on
me are straitened far and nigh!
What charm can bring me peace, what drink forgetfulness, Whilst
in my heart the fire of love burns fierce and high?
Would that my feet had trod with him the road of death! Then
should I not, as now, in lonely sorrow sigh.
O God, that art my hope, have pity upon me! Unite us twain, I
crave, in Paradise for aye!
How blessed were we once, whilst one house held us both And
twinned in pure content our happy lives passed by!
Till fortune aimed at us the shafts of severance And parted us;
for who her arrows can defy?
For lo! the age's pearl, the darling of his folk, The mould of
every grace, was singled out to die!
I call him back: "Would God thine hour had never come!" What
while the case takes speech and doth forestall my cry.
Which is the speediest way to win to thee, my son! My soul had
paid the price, if that thy life might buy.
The sun could not compare with him, for lo! it sets. Nor yet the
moon that wanes and wasteth from the sky.
Alas, my grief for thee and my complaint of fate! None can
console for thee nor aught thy place supply.
Thy sire is all distraught with languishment for thee; Since
death upon thee came, his hopes are gone awry.
Surely, some foe hath cast an envious eye on us: May he who
wrought this thing his just deserts aby!

Then he sobbed once and gave up the ghost; whereupon the slaves
cried out, "Alas, our master!" and strewed dust on their heads
and wept sore. Then they carried the two bodies to the ship and
set sail. As soon as they were out of sight, I came down from the
tree and raising the trap-door, went down into the underground
dwelling, where the sight of some of the youth's gear recalled
him to my mind, and I repeated the following verses:

I see their traces and pine for longing pain; My tears rain down
on the empty dwelling-place!
And I pray to God, who willed that we should part, One day to
grant us reunion, of His grace!

Then I went up again and spent the day in walking about the
island, returning to the underground dwelling for the night. Thus
I lived for a month, during which time I became aware that the
sea was gradually receding day by day from the western side of
the island, till by the end of the month, I found that the water
was become low enough to afford a passage to the mainland. At
this I rejoiced, making sure of delivery, and fording the little
water that remained, made shift to reach the mainland, where I
found great heaps of sand, in which even a camel would sink up to
the knees. However, I took heart and making my way through the
sand, espied something shining afar off, as it were a bright-
blazing fire. So I made towards it, thinking to find succour
and repeating the following verses:

It may be Fate at last shall draw its bridle-rein And bring me
happy chance; for Fortune changes still;
And things shall happen yet, despite the things fordone, To
further forth my hopes and bring me to my will.

When I drew near the supposed fire, behold, it was a palace, with
a gate of brass, whereon, when the sun shone, it gleamed and
glistened and showed from afar, as it were a fire. I rejoiced at
the sight and sat down before the palace gate; but hardly had I
done so, when there came up ten young men, sumptuously clad and
all blind of the right eye. They were accompanied by an old man;
and I marvelled at their appearance and at their being all blind
of the same eye. They saluted me and questioned me of my
condition, whereupon I told them all that had befallen me. They
wondered at my story and carried me into the palace, where I saw
ten couches, with beds and coverlets of blue stuff, ranged in a
circle, with a like couch of smaller size in the midst. As we
entered, each of the young men went up to his own couch, and the
old man seated himself on the smaller one in the middle. Then
said they unto me, "O youth, sit down on the ground and enquire
not of our doings nor of the loss of our right eyes." Presently
the old man rose and brought each one of the young men and myself
his portion of meat and drink in separate vessels; and we sat
talking, they questioning me of my adventures and I replying,
till the night was far spent. Then said they to the old man, "O
elder, wilt thou not bring us our ordinary? The time is come."
"Willingly," answered he, and rose and entering a closet,
disappeared and presently returned, bearing on his head ten
dishes, each covered with a piece of blue stuff. He set a dish
before each youth and lighting ten wax-candles, set one upon each
dish; after which he uncovered the dishes, and lo, they were full
of ashes and powdered charcoal and soot. Then all the young men
tucked up their sleeves and fell to weeping and lamenting; and
they blackened their faces and rent their clothes and buffeted
their cheeks and beat their breasts, exclaiming "We were seated
at our ease, but our impertinent curiosity would not let us be!"
They ceased not to do thus till near daybreak, when the old man
rose and heated water for them, and they washed their faces and
put on fresh clothes. When I saw this, my senses left me for
wonderment and my heart was troubled and my mind perplexed, for
their strange behaviour, till I forgot what had befallen me and
could not refrain from questioning them; so I said to them, "What
makes you do thus, after our sport and merry-making together?
Praised be God, ye are whole of wit, yet these are the doings of
madmen! I conjure you, by all that is most precious to you, tell
me why you behave thus and how ye came to lose each an eye!" At
this, they turned to me and said, "O young man, let not thy youth
beguile thee, but leave thy questioning." Then they slept and I
with them, and when we awoke, the old man served up food; and
after we had eaten and the vessels had been removed, we sat
conversing till nightfall, when the old man rose and lit the
candles and lamps and set meat and drink before us. We ate and
sat talking and carousing till midnight, when they said to the
old man, "Bring us our ordinary, for the hour of sleep is at
hand." So he rose and brought them the dishes of soot and ashes,
and they did as they had done on the preceding night. I abode
with them on this wise for a month, during which time they
blackened their faces every night, then washed them and changed
their clothes and my trouble and amazement increased upon me till
I could neither eat nor drink. At last, I lost patience and said
to them, "O young men, if ye will not relieve my concern and
acquaint me with the reason of your blackening your faces and the
meaning of your words, 'We were seated at our ease, but our
impertinent curiosity would not let us be,' let me leave you and
return to my own people and be at rest from seeing these things,
for as says the proverb,

'Twere wiser and better your presence to leave, For when the eye
sees not, the heart does not grieve."

"O youth," answered they, "we have not concealed this thing from
thee but in our concern for thee, lest what befell us before thee
and thou become like unto us." "It avails not," said I; "you must
tell me." "We give thee good advice," rejoined they; "do thou
take it and leave questioning us of our case, or thou wilt become
one-eyed like unto us." But I still persisted in my demand and
they said, "O youth, if this thing befall thee, we warn thee that
we will never again receive thee into our company nor let thee
abide with us." Then they took a ram and slaughtering it, skinned
it and gave me a knife, saying, "Lie down on the skin and we will
sew thee up in it and leave thee and go away. Presently there
will come to thee a bird called the roc[FN#44], that will catch
thee up in its claws and fly away with thee and set thee down on
a mountain. As soon as thou feelest it alight with thee, slit the
skin with the knife and come forth; whereupon the bird will take
fright at thee and fly away and leave thee. Then rise and fare on
half a day's journey, till thou comest to a palace rising high
into the air, builded of khelenj[FN#45] and aloes and sandal-wood
and plated with red gold, inlaid with all manner emeralds and
other jewels. There enter and thou wilt attain thy desire. We all
have been in that place, and this is the cause of the loss of our
right eyes and the reason why we blacken our faces. Were we to
tell thee our stories, it would take too much time, for each lost
his eye by a separate adventure." They then sewed me up in the
skin and left me on the ground outside the palace; and the roc
carried me off and set me down on the mountain. I cut open the
skin and came out, whereupon the bird flew away and I walked on
till I reached the palace. The door stood open; so I entered
and found myself in a very wide and goodly hall, as big as a
tilting-ground, round which were a hundred doors of sandal and
aloes-wood, plated with red gold and furnished with rings of
silver. At the upper end of the hall, I saw forty young ladies,
sumptuously clad and adorned, as they were moons, one could never
tire of gazing on them: and they all came up to me, saying,
"Welcome and fair welcome, O my lord! This month past have we
been expecting the like of thee; and praised be God who hath sent
us one who is worthy of us and we of him!" Then they made me sit
down on a high divan and said to me, "From to-day thou art our
lord and master, and we are thy handmaids; so order us as thou
wilt." And I marvelled at their case. Presently one of them arose
and set food before me, and I ate, whilst others heated water and
washed my hands and feet and changed my clothes, and yet others
made ready sherbets and gave me to drink; and they were all full
of joy and delight at my coming. Then they sat down and conversed
with me till nightfall, when five of them arose and spreading a
mat, covered it with flowers and fruits and confections in
profusion and set on wine; and we sat down to drink, while some
of them sang and others played the lute and psaltery and
recorders and other instruments. So the cup went round amongst us
and such gladness possessed me that I forgot all the cares of the
world and said, "This is indeed life, but that it is fleeting."
We ceased not to drink and make merry till the night was far
spent and we were warm with wine, when they said to me, "O our
lord, choose from amongst us one who shall be thy bedfellow this
night and not lie with thee again till forty days be past." So I
chose a girl fair of face, with liquid black eyes and jetty hair,
slightly parted teeth[FN#46] and joining eyebrows, perfect in
shape and form, as she were a palm-sapling or a stalk of sweet
basil; such an one as troubles the heart and bewilders the wit,
even as saith of her the poet:

'Twere vain to liken her unto the tender branch, And out on who
compares her form to the gazelle!
Whence should gazelles indeed her shape's perfection get Or yet
her honeyed lips so sweet to taste and smell,
Or those great eyes of hers, so dire to those who love, That bind
their victims fast in passion's fatal spell?
I dote on her with all the folly of a child. What wonder if he
turn a child who loves too well!

And I repeated to her the following verses:

My eyes to gaze on aught but thy grace disdain And none but thou
in my thought shall ever reign.
The love of thee is my sole concern, my fair; In love of thee, I
will die and rise again.

So I lay with her that night, never knew I a fairer, and when it
was morning, the ladies carried me to the bath and washed me and
clad me in rich clothes. Then they served up food and we ate and
drank, and the cup went round amongst us till the night, when I
chose from among them one who was fair to look upon and soft of
sides, such an one as the poet describes, when he says:

I saw upon her breast two caskets snowy-white, Musk-sealed; she
doth forbid to lovers their delight.
She guards them with the darts that glitter from her eyes; And
those who would them press, her arrowy glances smite.

I passed a most delightful night with her; and to make a long
story short, I led the goodliest life with them, eating and
drinking and carousing and every night taking one or other of
them to my bed, for a whole year, at the end of which time they
came in to me in tears and fell to bidding me farewell and
clinging to me, weeping and crying out; whereat I marvelled and
said to them, "What ails you? Indeed you break my heart." "Would
we had never known thee!" answered they. "We have companied with
many men, but never saw we a pleasanter or more courteous than
thou: and now we must part from thee. Yet it rests with thee to
see us again, and if thou hearken to us, we need never be parted:
but our hearts forebode us that thou will not hearken to us; and
this is the cause of our weeping" "Tell me how the case stands,"
said I; and they answered, "Know that we are the daughters of
kings, who have lived here together for years past, and once in
every year we are absent for forty days; then we return and abide
here for the rest of the year, eating and drinking and making
merry. We are now about to depart according to our custom, and we
fear lest thou disobey our injunctions in our absence, in which
case we shall never see thee again; but if thou do as we bid
thee, all will yet be well. Take these keys: they are those of
the hundred apartments of the palace, each of which contains what
will suffice thee for a day's entertainment. Ninety-and-nine of
these thou mayst open and take thy pleasure therein, but beware
lest thou open the hundredth, that which has a door of red gold;
for therein is that which will bring about a separation between
us and thee." Quoth I, "I will assuredly not open the hundredth
door, if therein be separation from you." Then one of them came
up to me and embraced me and repeated the following verses:

If but the days once more our severed loves unite, If but my eyes
once more be gladdened by thy sight,
Then shall the face of Time smile after many a frown, And I will
pardon Fate for all its past despite.

And I repeated the following:

When she drew near to bid farewell, upon our parting day, Whilst
on her heart the double stroke of love and longing smote,
She wept pure pearls, and eke mine eyes did rain cornelians
forth; And lo, they all combined and made a necklace for her

When I saw her weeping, I said, "By Allah, I will never open the
hundredth door!" Then they bade me farewell and departed, leaving
me alone in the palace. When the evening drew near, I opened the
first door and found myself in an orchard, full of blooming
trees, laden with ripe fruit, and the air resounded with the loud
singing of birds and the ripple of running waters. The sight
brought solace to my soul, and I entered and walked among the
trees, inhaling the odours of the flowers and listening to the
warble of the birds, that sang the praises of God the One, the
Almighty. I looked upon the apple, whose colour is parcel red and
parcel yellow, as says the poet:

The apple in itself two colours doth unite, The loved one's cheek
of red, and yellow of despite.

Then I looked upon the quince and inhaled its fragrance that puts
musk and ambergris to shame, even as says the poet:

The quince contains all pleasant things that can delight mankind,
Wherefore above all fruits that be its virtues are renowned.
Its taste is as the taste of wine, its breath the scent of musk;
Its hue is that of virgin gold, its shape the full moon's

Thence I passed to the pear, whose taste surpasses rose-water and
sugar, and the plum, whose beauty delights the eye, as it were a
polished ruby. When I had taken my fill of looking on the place,
I went and locked the door again. Next day, I opened the second
door and found myself in a great pleasaunce, set with many
palm-trees and watered by a running stream, whose borders were
decked with bushes of rose and jessamine and henna[FN#47] and
camomile and marjoram and sweetbriar and carpeted with narcissus
and ox-eye and violets and lilies and gillyflowers. The breeze
fluttered over all these sweet-smelling plants and scattered
their scents right and left, possessing me with complete delight.
I took my pleasure in the place awhile, and my chagrin was
somewhat lightened. Then I went out and locked the door and
opening the third door, found therein a great hall paved with
vari-coloured marbles and other precious stones and hung with
cages of sandal and aloes wood, full of singing-birds, such as
the thousand-voiced nightingale[FN#48] and the cushat and the
blackbird and the turtle-dove and the Nubian warbler. My heart
was ravished by the song of the birds and I forgot my cares and
slept in the aviary till the morning. Then I opened the fourth
door and saw a great hall, with forty cabinets ranged on either
side. The doors of the latter stood open; so I entered and found
them full of pearls and rubies and chrysolites and beryls and
emeralds and corals and carbuncles and all manner of precious
stones and jewels of gold and silver, such as the tongue fails to
describe. I was amazed at what I saw and said in myself
"Methinks, if all the kings of the earth joined together they
could not produce the like of these treasures!" And my heart
dilated and I exclaimed, "Now am I king of my time, for all these
riches are mine by the favour of God, and I have forty young
ladies under my hand, nor is there any with them but myself!" In
short, I passed nine-and-thirty days after this fashion,
exploring the riches of the place, till I had opened all the
doors, except that which the princesses had charged me not to
open, but my thoughts ran ever on this latter and Satan urged me,
for my ruin, to open it, nor had I patience to forbear; though
there remained but one day of the appointed time. So I opened the
hundredth door, that which was plated with red gold, and was met
by a perfume, whose like I had never before smelt and which was
of so subtle and penetrating a quality, that it invaded my head
and I fell down, as if intoxicated, and lay awhile unconscious.
Then I revived and took heart and entering, found myself in a
place strewn with saffron and blazing with light shed by lamps of
gold and candles, that diffused a scent of musk and aloes. In the
midst stood two great censers, full of burning aloes wood and
ambergris and other perfumes, and the place was full of their
fragrance. Presently I espied a horse, black as night at its
darkest, girt and bridled and saddled with red gold, standing
before two mangers of white crystal, one full of winnowed sesame
and the other of rose-water flavoured with musk. When I saw this,
I was amazed and said to myself, "Surely this horse must be of
extraordinary value!" and the devil tempted me, so that I took
him out and mounted him, but he would not stir. So I spurred him
with my heel, but he did not move; and I took a. switch and
struck him with it. When he felt the blow, he gave a neigh like
the roaring thunder, and spreading a pair of wings flew up with
me high into the air. After awhile, he descended and set me down
on the terrace of a palace; then, shaking me off his back, he
smote me on the face with his tail and struck out my right eye
and flew away, leaving me there. I went down into the palace and
found myself again among the ten one-eyed youths, who exclaimed,
when they saw me, "An ill welcome to thee!" Quoth I, "Behold, I
am become like unto you, and now I would have you give me a dish
of soot, that I may blacken my face and admit me to your
company." "By Allah," answered they, "thou shalt not abide with
us! Depart hence!" And they drove me away. I was grieved at their
rejection of me and went out from them, mourning-hearted and
tearful-eyed, saying to myself, "Of a truth, I was sitting at my
ease, but my impertinent curiosity would not let me be." Then I
shaved my beard and eyebrows and renouncing the world, became a
Calender and wandered about God's earth, till by His blessing, I
arrived at Baghdad in safety this evening and met with these two
other Calenders standing bewildered. So I saluted them, saying,
"I am a stranger;" to which they replied, "We also are strangers."
And, as it chanced, we were all Calenders and each blind of the
right eye. This, then, O my lady, is my story and the manner of
the shaving of my face and the loss of my eye.' Quoth the
mistress of the house, 'Begone about thy business.' But he said,
'By Allah, I will not go, till I hear the others' stories!' Then
she turned to the Khalif and his companions and said, 'Give me an
account of yourselves.' So Jaafer came forward and repeated the
story he had told the portress; whereupon the lady said, 'I
pardon you all: go your ways.' So they all went out; and when
they reached the street the Khalif said to the Calenders, 'O folk,
whither are you bound now, seeing that it is not yet day?' 'By
Allah, O my lord,' answered they, 'we know not where to go!'
'Then come and pass the rest of the night with us,' said the
Khalif, and turning to Jaafer, said to him, 'Take them home
with thee and to-morrow bring them before me, that we may cause
their adventures to be recorded.' Jaafer did as the Khalif
bade him, and the latter returned to his palace. Sleep did not
visit him that night, but he lay awake, pondering the adventures
of the three Calenders and full of impatience to know the history
of the two ladies and the black bitches; and no sooner had the
day dawned than he went out and sat down on his chair of estate.
Then his courtiers presented themselves and withdrew, whereupon
he turned to Jaafer and said to him, 'Bring me the three ladies
and the bitches and the Calenders, and make haste.' So Jaafer
went out and brought them all before him and seated the ladies
behind a curtain; then turned to them and said, speaking for the
Khalif, 'O women, we pardon you your rough usage of us, in
consideration of your previous kindness and for that ye knew us
not: and now I would have you to know that you are in the
presence of the fifth of the sons of Abbas, the Commander of the
Faithful Haroun er Reshid, son of El Mehdi Mohammed, son of Abou
Jaafer el Mensour. So do ye acquaint him with your stories and
tell him nothing but the truth.' When the ladies heard Jaafer's
speech, the eldest came forward and said, 'O Commander of the
Faithful, my story is one which, were it graven with needles on
the corners of the eye, would serve for an example to those who
can profit by example and a warning to those who can take
warning. And it is that

The Eldest Lady's Story.

These two bitches are my elder sisters by the same mother and
father, and these two others, she on whom are the marks of blows
and the cateress, are my sisters by another mother. When my
father died, each took her portion of the heritage, and after
awhile my mother died also and left me and my sisters-german a
thousand dinars each. After awhile my two sisters married and
lived with their husbands for a time; then the latter bought
merchandise with their wives' money and set out on their travels,
and I heard no more of them for five years: for their husbands
spent their wives' fortunes and became bankrupt and deserted them
in a foreign land. Presently, my eldest sister came back to me in
the guise of a beggar, with tattered clothes and a dirty old
veil, and altogether in so sorry a plight, that at first I knew
her not; but when I recognised her, I asked her how she came in
such a state. "O my sister," answered she, "talking profits not
now: the pen[FN#49] hath written what was decreed." Then I sent
her to the bath and clothed her in a suit of my own and entreated
her kindly and said to her, "O my sister, thou standest to me in
the stead of my father and mother; and God has blessed me in the
share of the inheritance that fell to me and prospered it to me,
so that I am now in flourishing case; and thou shalt share with
me in my increase." So she abode with me a whole year, during
which time we were much concerned to know what was become of our
other sister. At last, she too came back to me, in a worse plight
than the other, and I dealt still more kindly by her than by the
first, and each of them had a share of my substance. After
awhile, they said to me, "O sister, we desire to marry again, for
we can no longer endure to live without husbands." "O my dear
ones[FN#50]," answered I, "there is no good in marriage, for
now-a-days good men are rare to find; nor do I see the advantage
of marrying again, since ye have already made trial of matrimony
and it has profited you nothing." They would not listen to me,
but married without my consent; nevertheless I equipped them and
portioned them with my own money and they went away with their
husbands. After a little, the latter cheated them of all they had
and went away and left them. Then they came to me, in abject
case, and made their excuses to me, saying, "Do not reproach us;
thou art younger than we, but riper of wit, so take us as thy
handmaids, that we may eat our mouthful; and we will never again
speak of marriage." Quoth I, "Ye are welcome, O my sisters: there
is nothing dearer to me than you." And I took them in and
redoubled in kindness to them. We lived thus for a whole year, at
the end of which time I was minded to travel. So I fitted out a
great ship at Bassora and loaded her with merchandise and victual
and other necessaries for a voyage, and said to my sisters, "Will
you come with me or abide at home till I return?" "We will go
with thee," answered they, "for we cannot endure to be parted
from thee." So I took them and set sail, after dividing my money
into two parts, one of which I deposited with a trusty person,
saying, "Maybe ill-hap shall betide the ship and yet we remain
alive; but now, if we return, we shall find what will be of
service to us." We sailed days and nights, till the captain
missed the true course and the ship went astray with us and
entered a sea other than that we aimed at. We knew not of this
awhile and the wind blew fair for us ten days, at the end of
which time, the watch went up to the mast-head, to look out, and
cried, "Good news!" Then he came down, rejoicing, and said to us,
"I see a city in the distance as it were a dove." At this we
rejoiced and before an hour of the day was past, the city
appeared to us afar off: and we said to the captain, "What is the
name of yonder city?" "By Allah!" replied he, "I know not, for I
never saw it before nor have I ever sailed this sea in my life;
but since the affair has issued in safety, ye have nought to do
but to land your goods, and if ye find a market, sell and buy and
barter, as the occasion serves; if not, we will rest here two
days, re-victual and depart." So we entered the harbour and the
captain landed and was absent awhile, after which he returned and
said to us, "Arise, go up into the city and marvel at God's
dealings with His creatures and seek to be preserved from His
wrath." So we landed and going up to the city, saw at the gate
men with staves in their hands; but when we drew near them,
behold, they had been stricken by the wrath of God and were
become stones. Then we entered the city and found all its in
habitants changed into black stones: there was not a living soul
therein, no, not a blower of the fire. At this we were amazed and
passed on through the bazaars, where we found all the goods and
gold and silver left lying in their places, and rejoiced and
said, "Doubtless, there is some mystery in all this." Then we
dispersed about the streets of the city and each busied himself
with making prize of the wealth and stuffs lying about and took
no heed of his comrades, whilst I went up to the citadel and
found it goodly of fashion. I entered the king's palace and saw
all the vessels of gold and silver and the king himself seated in
the midst of his officers and grandees, clad in raiment such as
confounded the wit. The throne on which he sat was encrusted with
pearls and jewels and his robes were of cloth of gold, adorned
with all manner jewels, that shone like stars. Around him stood
fifty white slaves, with drawn swords in their hands and clad in
divers sorts of silken stuffs; but when I drew near to them,
behold, they were all black stones. My understanding was
confounded at the sight, but I went on and came to the saloon of
the harem, which I found hung with tapestries of gold-striped
silk and spread with carpets of the same, embroidered with
flowers of gold. Here I saw the queen lying, arrayed in a robe
covered with fresh pearls as big as hazel-nuts and crowned with a
diadem set with all manner jewels. Her neck was covered with
collars and necklaces and all her clothes and ornaments were
unchanged, but she herself had been smitten of God and was become
black stone. Presently I spied an open door, with seven steps
leading to it, and going up, found myself in a place paved with
marble and hung and carpeted with gold-embroidered stuffs. At the
upper end stood an alcove with drawn curtains and I saw a light
issuing thence. So I went up to the alcove and found therein a
couch of juniper wood, inlaid with pearls and diamonds and set
with bosses of emeralds, with silken coverings of bewildering
richness and curtains of the same, looped up with pearls. At the
head of the bed stood two lighted candles and in the midst of the
alcove was a little stool, on which lay a jewel, the size of a
goose's egg, that shone like a lamp and lighted the whole place;
but there was no one to be seen. When I saw these things, I
wondered and said, "Some one must have lighted these candles."
Then I went out and came to the kitchen and thence to the buttery
and the king's treasuries and continued to explore the palace and
to go from place to place; and for wonderment at what I saw, I
forgot myself and wandered on, lost in thought, till the night
overtook me. Then I would have gone out, but lost my way and
could not find the gate; so I returned to the alcove, where I lay
down on the bed and covering myself with a quilt, repeated
somewhat of the Koran and would have slept, but could not, for
restlessness possessed me. In the middle of the night, I heard a
low sweet voice reciting the Koran, whereat I rejoiced and
rising, followed the sound, till it led me to a chamber with the
door ajar. I looked through the chink of the door and saw an
oratory, wherein was a prayer-niche[FN#51], with candles burning
and lamps hanging from the ceiling. In the midst was spread a
prayer-carpet, on which sat a handsome youth, with a copy of the
Koran open before him, from which he was reading. I wondered to
see him alone alive of all the people of the city and entered and
saluted him; whereupon he raised his eyes and returned my
salutation. Then said I, "I implore thee, by the truth of that
thou readest from the book of God, to answer me my questions." He
looked at me with a smile and said, "O handmaid of God, tell me
first how thou camest hither, and I will tell thee what has
befallen me and the people of this city and the manner of my
preservation." So I told him my story, at which he marvelled, and
questioned him of the people of the city. Quoth he, "Have
patience with me a little, O my sister!" and shutting the Koran,
laid it in a bag of satin. Then he made me sit down by his side,
and I looked at him and behold, he was like the moon at its full,
bright-faced, soft-sided, well-shaped and fair to look upon, as
he were a figure of sugar,[FN#52] even as says the poet of the
like of him:

A seer of the stars one night was reading the book of the skies,
When lo, in his scroll he saw a lovely youth arise.
Saturn had dyed his hair the hue of the raven's wing And
sprinkled upon his face the musk of Paradise[FN#53]:
The rose of his cheeks from Mars its ruddy colour drew, And the
Archer winged the shafts that darted from his eyes.
Hermes dowered the youth with his own mercurial wit, And the
Great Bear warded off the baleful glance of spies.
Wonder seized on the sage at the sight of the lovely boy, For the
full moon kissed the earth before him, servant-wise.
And indeed God the Most High had clad him in the garment of
perfection and broidered it with the shining fringes of his
cheeks, even as says the poet of him:
By the perfume of his eyelids and his slender waist I swear, By
the arrows that he feathers with the witchery of his air,
By his sides so soft and tender and his glances bright and keen,
By the whiteness of his forehead and the blackness of his
By his arched imperious eyebrows, chasing slumber from my eyes,
With their yeas and noes that hold me 'twixt rejoicing and
By the myrtle of his whiskers and the roses of his cheeks, By his
lips' incarnate rubies and his teeth's fine pearls and rare,
By his neck and by its beauty, by the softness of his breast And
the pair of twin pomegranates that my eyes discover there,
By his heavy hips that tremble, both in motion and repose, And
the slender waist above them, all too slim their weight to
By his skin's unsullied satin and the quickness of his spright,
By the matchless combination in his form of all things fair,
By his hand's perennial bounty and his true and trusty speech, By
the stars that smile upon him, favouring and debonair,
Lo, the smell of musk none other than his very fragrance is, And
the ambergris's perfume breathes around him everywhere.
Yea, the sun in all its splendour cannot with his grace compare,
Seeming but a shining fragment that he from his nail doth

I stole a look at him, which cost me a thousand sighs, for my
heart was taken with his love, and I said to him, "O my lord,
tell me what I asked thee." "I hear and obey," answered he.
"Know, O handmaid of God, that this city was the capital of my
father, who is the king thou sawest on the throne, changed to a
black stone, and as for the queen on the bed, she was my mother;
and they and all the people of the city were Magians, worshipping
the fire, instead of the All-powerful King, and swearing by the
fire and the light and the shade and the heat and the revolving
sphere. My father had no child, till I was vouchsafed to him in
his old age, and he reared me and I grew up and flourished. Now,
as my good star would have it, there was with us an old woman
stricken in years, who was at heart a Muslim, believing in God
and His prophet, but conforming outwardly to the religion of my
people. My father had confidence in her, supposing her to be of
his own belief, and showed her exceeding favour, for that he knew
her to be trusty and virtuous; so when I grew to a fitting age,
he committed me to her charge, saying, 'Take him and do thy best
to give him a good education and teach him the things of our
faith.' So she took me and taught me the tenets of Islam and the
ordinances of ablution and prayer and made me learn the Koran by
heart, bidding me worship none but God the Most High and charging
me to keep my faith secret from my father, lest he should kill
me. So I hid it from him, and I abode thus till, in a little
while, the old woman died and the people of the city redoubled in
their impiety and frowardness and in the error of their ways. One
day, they heard a voice from on high, proclaiming aloud, with a
noise like the resounding thunder, so that all heard it far and
near, and saying, 'O people of the city, turn from your worship
of the fire and serve God the Compassionate King!' At this, fear
fell on the people of the city and they crowded to my father and
said to him; 'What is this awful voice that we have heard and
that has confounded us with the excess of its terror?' But
he said, 'Let not a voice fright you nor turn you from your
faith.' Their hearts inclined to his word and they ceased not to
worship the fire, but redoubled in their frowardness, till the
anniversary of the day on which they had heard the supernatural
voice. When they heard it anew, and so again a third time at the
end of the second year. Still they persisted in their evil ways,
till one day, at break of dawn, judgment descended on them and
wrath from heaven, and they were all turned into black stones,
they and their beasts and cattle; and none was spared, save
myself. From that day to this, I have remained as thou seest me,
occupying myself with prayer and fasting and reading the Koran
aloud; and indeed I am grown weary of solitude, having none to
bear me company." Then said I to him (and indeed he had won my
heart), "O youth, wilt thou go with me to the city of Baghdad and
foregather with men of learning and theologians and grow in
wisdom and understanding and knowledge of the Law? If so, I will
be thy handmaid, albeit I am head of my family and mistress over
men and slaves and servants. I have here a ship laden with
merchandise; and indeed it was providence drove us to this city,
that I might come to the knowledge of these things, for it was
fated that we should meet." And I ceased not to speak him fair
and persuade him, till he consented to go with me, and I passed
the night at his feet, beside myself for joy. When it was day, we
repaired to the treasuries and took thence what was little of
weight and great of value; then went down into the town, where we
met the slaves and the captain seeking for me. When they saw me,
they rejoiced and I told them all I had seen and related to them
the story of the young man and of the curse that had fallen on
the people of the city. At this they wondered: but when my
sisters saw me with the prince, they envied me on his account and
were enraged and plotted mischief against me in their hearts.
Then we took ship again, beside ourselves for joy in the booty we
had gotten, though the most of my joy was in the prince, and
waited till the wind blew fair for us, when we set sail and
departed. As we sat talking, my sisters said to me, "O sister,
what wilt thou do with this handsome young man?" "I purpose to
make him my husband," answered I; and I turned to the prince and
said, "O my lord, I have that to propose to thee, in which I will
not have thee cross me: and it is that, when we reach Baghdad, I
will give myself to thee as a handmaid in the way of marriage,
and thou shalt be my husband and I thy wife." Quoth he, "I hear
and obey; thou art my lady and my mistress, and whatever thou
dost, I will not cross thee." Then I turned to my sisters and
said to them, "This young man suffices me; and those who have
gotten aught, it is theirs." "Thou sayest well," replied they;
but in their hearts they purposed me evil. We sailed on with a
fair wind, till we left the sea of peril and came into safe
waters, and in a few days, we came in sight of the walls of
Bassora, even as night overtook us. My sisters waited till the
prince and I were asleep, when they took us up, bed and all, and
threw us into the sea. The prince, who could not swim, was
drowned and God wrote him of the company of the martyrs. As for
me, would I had been drowned with him! But God decreed that I
should be of the saved; so He threw in my way a piece of wood and
I got astride of it, and the waters tossed me about till they
cast me up on an island. I landed and walked about the island the
rest of the night, and when the day broke, I saw a footway,
leading to the mainland. By this time, the sun had risen; so I
dried my clothes in its rays and ate of the fruits of the island
and drank of its waters. Then I set out and fared on till I
reached the mainland and found myself but two hours' distant from
the city. So I sat down to rest and presently I saw a great
serpent, the bigness of a palm-tree, come fleeing towards me,
with all her might, whilst her tongue for weariness hung from her
mouth a span's length and swept the dust as she went. She was
pursued by a dragon, as long and thin as a spear, which presently
overtook her and seized her by the tail whereat the tears
streamed from her eyes and she wriggled from side to side. I took
pity on her and catching up a stone, threw it at the dragon's
head and killed him on the spot. Then the serpent spread a pair
of wings and flew away out of sight, leaving me wondering. Now I
was tired and drowsiness overcoming me, I slept where I was for
awhile. When I awoke, I found a damsel sitting at my feet,
rubbing them, and with her, two black bitches, and I was ashamed
before her; so I sat up and said to her, "O my sister, who art
thou?" "How quickly thou hast forgotten me!" answered she. "I am
the serpent, whom thou didst deliver from my enemy by killing
him, for I am a Jinniyeh[FN#54] and the dragon was a genie; and I
was only saved from him by thy kindness. As soon as thou hadst
done me this service, I flew on the wind to your ship and
transported all that was therein to thy house. Then I sank the
vessel and changed thy sisters into two black bitches, for I know
all that has passed between thee and them: but as for the young
man, he is drowned." So saying, she flew up with me and the two
bitches and presently set us down on the roof of my house, where
I found all the goods that were in my ship, nor was aught
missing. Then she said to me, "By that which is written on the
seal of our lord Solomon (on whom be peace!) except thou give
each of these bitches three hundred lashes every day, I will come
and make thee like unto them." "I hear and obey," answered I; and
since then I have never failed to beat them thus, O Commander of
the Faithful, pitying them the while; and they know it is no
fault of mine that they are beaten and accept my excuse. And this
is my story.' The Khalif marvelled at her story and said to the
portress, 'And thou, how camest thou by the weals on thy body?'
'O Commander of the Faithful,' answered she:

Story of the Portress.

'My father died and left me great wealth, and soon after his
death I married one of the richest men of Baghdad. At the end of
a year he too died and I inherited from him fourscore thousand
dinars, being my lawful share of his property; so that I became
passing rich and the report of my wealth spread abroad, for I got
me half a score suits of clothes, each worth a thousand dinars.
One day, as I was sitting alone, there came in to me an old woman
with sunken cheeks and worn eyebrows, bleared eyes and broken
teeth, blotched face and bald head, grizzled hair and bent and
mangy body, running nose and sallow complexion, even as says the
poet of the like of her:

A right pernicious hag! Unshriven be her sins, Nor let her mercy
find what time she comes to die!
So full of wile she is, that with a single thread Of spider's
silk she'd curb a thousand mules that shy.

She saluted me and kissing the ground before me, said, "I have an
orphan daughter whose wedding and unveiling[FN#55] I celebrate
to-night. We are strangers in the city and know none of its
inhabitants, and verily our hearts are broken so do thou earn
through us a recompense and reward in the world to come by being
present at her unveiling. When the ladies of the city hear that
thou art to be present, they also will attend, and so wilt thou
bring healing to her spirit, for now she is broken-hearted and
has none to look to but God the Most High." Then she wept and
kissed my feet, repeating the following verses:

Thy presence honoureth us, and we Confess thy magnanimity:
If thou forsake us, there is none Can stand to us in stead of

I was moved to pity for her and said, "I hear and obey; and God
willing, I will do more than this for her, for she shall not be
unveiled but in my clothes and ornaments and jewellery." At this
the old woman rejoiced and fell at my feet and kissed them,
saying, "God requite thee with good and gladden thy heart as thou
hast gladdened mine! But, O my lady, do not trouble thyself now,
but be ready against the evening, when I will come and fetch
thee." So saying, she kissed my hand and went away, whilst I
attired myself and made my preparations. At the appointed time,
the old woman returned, smiling, and kissed my hand, saying,
"O my mistress, the most part of the ladies of the city are
assembled; and I told them that thou hadst promised to be
present, whereat they rejoiced and they are now awaiting thee and
are looking eagerly for thy coming." So I veiled myself and taking
my serving-maids with me, followed the old woman, till we came to
a street swept and watered, through which blew a pleasant breeze.
Here she stopped at a handsome portico vaulted with marble and
leading to a palace that rose from the ground and took hold upon
the clouds. The gateway was hung with a black curtain and lighted
by a lamp of gold curiously wrought; and on the door were written
the following verses:

I am a dwelling, builded for delight; My time is still for
joyance day and night.
Right in my midst a springing fountain wells, Whose waters banish
anguish and despite,
Whose marge with rose, narcissus, camomile, Anemone and myrtle,
is bedight.

The old woman knocked at the gate, which opened; and we entered a
carpeted vestibule hung with lighted lamps and candles and
adorned with pendants of precious stones and minerals. Through
this we passed into a saloon, whose like is not to be found in
the world, hung and carpeted with silken stuffs and lighted by
hanging lamps and wax candles in rows. At the upper end stood a
couch of juniper-wood, set with pearls and jewels and canopied
with curtains of satin, looped up with pearls. Hardly had I taken
note of all this, when there came out from the alcove a young
lady more perfect than the moon at its full, with a forehead
brilliant as the morning, when it shines forth, even as says the

Upon the imperial necks she walks, a loveling bright, For
bride-chambers of kings and emperors bedight.
The blossom of her cheek is red as dragon's blood, And all her
face is flowered with roses red and white.
Slender and sleepy-eyed and languorous of gait, All manner
loveliness is in her sweetest sight.
The locks upon her brow are like a troubled night, From out of
which there shines a morning of delight.

She came down from the dais and said to me, "Welcome, a thousand
times welcome to the dear and illustrious sister!" and she
recited the following verses:

If the house knew who visits it, it would indeed rejoice And
stoop to kiss the happy place whereon her feet have stood;
And in the voice with which the case, though mute, yet speaks,
exclaim, "Welcome and many a welcome to the generous and

Then she sat down and said to me, "O my sister, I have a brother,
who is handsomer than I; and he saw thee at certain festivals and
assemblies and fell passionately in love with thee, for that thou
art possessed of beauty and grace beyond thy share. He heard that
thou wast thine own mistress, even as he also is the head of his
family, and wished to make thine acquaintance; wherefore he used
this device to bring thee in company with me; for he desires to
marry thee according to the law of God and His prophet, and there
is no shame in what is lawful." When I heard what she said, I
bethought me that I was fairly entrapped and answered, "I hear
and obey." At this she was glad and clapped her hands, whereupon
a door opened and out came the handsomest of young men, elegantly
dressed and perfect in beauty and symmetry and winning grace,
with eyebrows like a bended bow and eyes that ravished hearts
with lawful enchantments, even as says a poet, describing the
like of him:

His face is like unto the new moon's face With signs[FN#56], like
pearls, of fortune and of grace.

And God bless him who said:

He hath indeed been blest with beauty and with grace, And blest
be He who shaped and fashioned forth his face!
All rarest charms that be unite to make him fair, His witching
loveliness distracts the human race.
Beauty itself hath set these words upon his brow, "Except this
youth there's none that's fair in any place."

When I looked at him, my heart inclined to him and I loved him;
and he sat down by me and talked with me awhile. Presently the
young lady clapped her hands a second time, and behold, a side
door opened and there came out a Cadi and four witnesses, who
saluted and sitting down, drew up the contract of marriage
between me and the young man and retired. Then he turned to me
and said, "May our night be blessed! O my mistress, I have a
condition to lay on thee." Quoth I, "O my lord, what is it?"
Whereupon he rose and fetching a copy of the Koran, said to me,
"Swear to me that thou wilt never look upon another man than
myself, nor incline to him." I did as he wished and he rejoiced
with an exceeding joy and embraced me and my whole heart was
taken with love of him. Presently they set food before us and we
ate and drank, till we were satisfied and night closed in upon
us. Then he took me and went to bed with me and ceased not to
kiss and embrace me till the morning. I lived with him in all
delight and happiness for a month, at the end of which time I
asked his leave to go to the bazaar to buy certain stuffs that I
wanted, and he gave me leave. So I veiled myself and taking with
me the old woman and a serving-maid, went to the bazaar, where I
sat down in the shop of a young merchant, whom the old woman knew
and had recommended to me, saying, "The father of this young man
died, when he was a boy, and left him great wealth: he has great
store of goods, and thou wilt find what thou seekest with him,
for none in the bazaar has finer stuffs than he." So she said to
him, "Show this lady thy finest stuffs." And he answered, "I hear
and obey." Then she began to sound his praises; but I said, "I
have no concern with thy praises of him; all I want is to buy
what I need of him and return home." So he brought me what I
sought, and I offered him the price, but he refused to take it,
saying, "It is a guest-gift to thee on the occasion of thy visit
to me this day." Then I said to the old woman, "If he will not
take the money, give him back the stuff." "By Allah!" said he, "I
will take nothing from thee! I make thee a present of it all, in
return for one kiss; for that is more precious to me than all
that is in my shop." Quoth the old woman, "What will a kiss
profit thee?" Then she said to me, "O my daughter, thou hearest
what this young man says. What harm will it do thee, if he take
from thee a kiss and thou get the stuffs for nothing?" "Dost thou
not know," answered I, "that I am bound by an oath?" But she
said, "Hold thy tongue and let him kiss thee, and thou shalt keep
thy money and no harm shall betide thee." And she ceased not to
persuade me till I put my head into the noose and consented. So I
veiled my eyes and held up the edge of my veil between me and the
street, that the passers-by might not see me; and he put his
mouth to my cheek under the veil. But, instead of kissing me, he
bit me so hard that he tore the flesh of my cheek, and I swooned
away. The old woman took me in her arms and when I came to
myself, I found the shop shut up and her lamenting over me and
saying, "Thank God it was no worse!" Then she said to me, "Come,
take courage and let us go home, lest the thing get wind and thou
be disgraced. When thou returnest, do thou feign sickness and lie
down and cover thyself up, and I will bring thee a remedy that
will soon heal the wound." So, after awhile, I arose, full of
fear and anxiety, and went little by little, till I came to the
house, where I lay down and gave out that I was ill. When it was
night, my husband came in to me and said, "O my lady, what has
befallen thee in this excursion?" Quoth I, "I am not well: I have
a pain in my head." Then he lighted a candle and drew near and
looked at me and said, "What is that wound on thy cheek, in the
soft part?" Said I, "When I went out to-day to buy stuffs, with
thy leave, a camel laden with firewood jostled me and the end of
one of the pieces of wood tore my veil and wounded my cheek, as
thou seest; for indeed the ways are strait in this city."
"To-morrow," rejoined he, "I will go to the governor and speak to
him, that he may hang every firewood-seller in the city." "God on
thee," cried I, "do not burden thy conscience with such a sin
against any one! The truth is that I was riding on an ass, and it
stumbled and threw me down, and my cheek fell on a piece of
glass, which wounded it." "Then," said he, "to morrow I will go
to Jaafer the Barmecide and tell him the case, and he will kill
every ass in the city." "Wilt thou ruin all the folk on my
account," said I, "when this that befell me was decreed of God?"
"There is no help for it," answered he, and springing to his
feet, plied me with questions and pressed me, till I was
frightened and stammered in my speech, so that he guessed how the
case stood and exclaimed, "Thou hast been false to thine oath!"
Then he gave a great cry, whereupon a door opened and in came
seven black slaves, whom he commanded to drag me from my bed and
throw me down in the middle of the room. Moreover, he made one
take me by the shoulders and sit upon my head and another sit on
my knees and hold my feet and giving a third a naked sword, said
to him, "Strike her, O Saad, and cut her in twain and let each
take half and throw it into the Tigris that the fish may eat
her, for this is the reward of her who breaks her oath and is
unfaithful to her love." And he redoubled in wrath and repeated
the following verses:

If any other share with me in her whom I adore, I'll root out
passion from my heart, though longing me destroy;
And I will say unto my soul, "Death is the better part;" For love
is naught that men with me in common do enjoy.

Then he said to the slave, "Smite her, O Saad!" Whereupon the
latter bent down to me and said, "O my lady, repeat the
profession of the faith and tell us if there be aught thou
wouldst have done, for thy last hour is come." "O good slave,"
said I, "grant me a little respite, that I may give thee my last
injunctions." Then I raised my head and considered my case and
how I had fallen from high estate into abjection; wherefore the
tears streamed from my eyes and I wept passing sore. He looked at
me with angry eyes and repeated the following

Say unto her who wronged us, on whom our kisses tire, Her that
hath chosen another for darling of desire,
Lo, we will spurn thee from us, before thou cast us off! That
which is past between us suffices to our ire.

When I heard this, I wept and looked at him and repeated the
following verses:

You doom my banishment from love and all unmoved remain; You rob
my wounded lids of rest and sleep whilst I complain.
You make mine eyes familiar with watching and unrest; Yet can my
heart forget you not, nor eyes from tears refrain.
You swore to me that you would keep, for aye, your plighted
faith; But when my heart was yours, you broke the oath that
you had ta'en.
Are you secure against the shifts of time and evil chance, That
you've no mercy on my love nor aught of pity deign?
If I must die, I prithee, write, 'fore God, upon my tomb, "A
slave of passion lieth here, who died of love in vain."
It may be one shall pass that way, who knows the pangs of love,
And looking on a lover's grave, take pity on her pain.

Then I wept; and when he heard what I said and saw my tears, his
anger redoubled, and he repeated the following verses:

I left the darling of my heart, not from satiety; But she had
sinned a sin that called aloud for punishment.
She would have ta'en another in to share with me her love, But
the religion of my heart to share will not consent[FN#57].

Then I wept again and implored him, saying to myself, "I will
work on him with words; so haply he may spare my life, though he
take all I have." So I complained to him of my sufferings and
repeated the following verses:

If thou indeed wert just to me, thou wouldst not take my life.
Alas! against the law of Death no arbiter is there!
Thou layst upon my back the load of passion and desire, When I
for weakness scarce can lift the very gown I wear!
That so my soul should waste away, small wonder is to me; But oh!
I wonder how my flesh can thine estrangement bear.

Then I wept again, and he looked at me and reviled and reproached
me, repeating the following verses:

Thou hast forgotten my love in the arms of another than me; Thou
shew'st me estrangement, though I was never unfaithful to
So I will cast thee away, since thou wast the first to forsake,
And by thy pattern content to live without thee will I be.
And (like thyself) in the arms of another thy charms I'll forget;
'Tis thou that hast sundered our loves: thou canst not
reproach it to me.

Then he called to the slave with the sword, saying "Cut her in
half and rid us of her, for we have no profit of her." So the
slave drew near to me and I gave myself up for lost and committed
my affair to God the Most High; but, at this moment, in came the
old woman and threw herself at my husband's feet and kissed them,
saying, "O my son, for the sake of my fosterage of thee and my
service to thee, spare this young lady, for indeed she has done
nothing deserving of death. Thou art a very young man, and I fear
lest her death be laid to thy count, for it is said, 'He who
kills shall be killed.' As for this wretched woman, put her away
from thee and from thy thought and heart." And she ceased not to
weep and implore him, till he relented and said, "I pardon her,
but I will set a mark on her that shall stay with her all her
life." Then he made the slaves strip off my clothes and hold me
down, and taking a rod of quince-wood beat me with it on the back
and sides till I lost my senses for excess of pain and despaired
of life. Then he commanded slaves, as soon as it was dark, to
carry me back to the house in which I had lived before my
marriage with him, taking the old woman with them to guide them.
They did as he bade them and cast me down in my house and went
away. I did not recover from my swoon till the morning, when I
applied myself to the dressing of my wounds, and medicined myself
and kept my bed for four months, at the end of which time my body
healed and I was restored to health; but my sides still bore the
marks of the blows, as thou hast seen. As soon as I could walk, I
went to the house where all this had happened, but found the
whole street pulled down and nothing but heaps of rubbish where
the house had stood, nor could I learn how this had come about.
Then I betook myself to this my half-sister and found with her
these two black bitches. I saluted her and told her what had
befallen me; and she said, "O my sister, who is safe from the
vicissitudes of fortune? Praised be God, who hath brought thee
off with thy life!" And she repeated the following verse:

Fortune indeed was ever thus: endure it patiently, Whether thou
suffer loss of wealth or friends depart from thee.

Then she told me her own story, and we abode together, she and I,
never mentioning the name of marriage. After awhile there came to
live with us this our other sister the cateress, who goes out
every day and buys what we require for the day and night. We led
this life till yesterday, when our sister went out as usual and
fell in with the porter. Presently we were joined by these three
Calenders and later on by three respectable merchants from
Tiberias, all of whom we admitted to our company on certain
conditions, which they infringed. But we forgave them their
breach of faith, on condition that they should give us an account
of themselves; so they told us their stories and went away; and
we heard nothing more till this morning, when we were summoned to
appear before thee; and this is our story.' The Khalif wondered
at her story, and ordered it and those of her sister and the
Calenders to be recorded in the archives of his reign and laid up
in the royal treasury. Then he said to the eldest lady, 'Knowst
thou where to find the Afriteh who enchanted thy sisters?' 'O
Commander of the Faithful,' answered she, 'she gave me some of
her hair, saying, "When thou wouldst see me, burn one or two of
these hairs, and I will be with thee presently, though I be
behind the mountain Caf."' Quoth the Khalif, 'Bring me the hair.'
So she fetched it and he threw the whole lock into the fire,
whereupon the palace shook and they heard a rumbling sound of
thunder, and presently the Jinniyeh appeared and saluted the
Khalif, saying, 'Peace be upon thee, O vicar of God!' 'And on
thee be peace,' answered he, 'and the mercy of God and His
blessing!' Quoth she, 'Know that this lady did me a service for
which I cannot enough requite her, in that she saved me from
death and slew my enemy. Now I had seen how her sisters dealt
with her and felt bound to avenge her on them. At first, I was
minded to kill them, but I feared it would be grievous to her, so
I turned them into bitches; and now, O Commander of the Faithful,
if thou wouldst have me release them, I will do so, out of
respect to thee and to her, for I am of the true believers.'
'Release them,' said the Khalif; 'and after we will proceed to
look into the affair of the beaten lady, and if her account prove
true, we will avenge her on him who wronged her.' 'O Commander of
the Faithful,' replied she, 'I will release them forthwith and
bring thee to the knowledge of him who maltreated this lady and
took her property; and he is the nearest of all men to thee.' So
saying, she took a cup of water and muttered over it and spoke
words that might not be understood. Then she threw some of the
water in the faces of the bitches, saying, 'Return to your former
human shape;' whereupon they were restored to their original
form, and the Afriteh said to the Khalif, 'O Commander of the
Faithful, he who beat this lady is thy son El Amin, brother of El
Mamoun[FN#58], who heard of her beauty and grace and laid a trap
for her and married her; and indeed he is not to blame for
beating her, for he laid a condition on her and took of her a
solemn oath that she would not do a certain thing; but she was
false to her vow; and he was minded to kill her, but was
restrained by the fear of God the Most High and contented himself
with beating her, as thou hast seen, and sending her back to her
own place.' When the Khalif heard this, he wondered greatly and
said, 'Glory be to God the Most High, the Supreme, who hath
vouchsafed me the delivery of these two damsels from enchantment
and torment and hath granted me to know the secret of this lady's
history! By Allah, I will do a thing that shall be chronicled
after me!' Then he summoned his son El Amin and questioned him of
the story of the portress, and he told him the truth; whereupon
the Khalif sent for Cadis and witnesses and married the eldest
lady and her two sisters-german to the three Calenders, whom he
made his chamberlains, appointing them stipends and all that they
needed and lodging them in his palace at Baghdad. Moreover, he
returned the beaten girl to her husband, his son El Amin,
renewing the marriage contract between them, and gave her great
wealth and bade rebuild the house more handsomely than before. As
for himself, he took to wife the cateress and lay with her that
night; and on the morrow he assigned her a separate lodging in
his seraglio, with a fixed allowance and serving-maids to wait on
her; and the people marvelled at his equity and magnificence and

When Shehrzad had made an end of her story, Dunyazad said to her,
"By Allah, this is indeed a pleasant and delightful story, never
was heard its like! But now, O my sister, tell us another story,
to beguile the rest of the waking hours of our night." "With all
my heart," answered Shehrzad, "if the King give me leave." And he
said, "Tell thy story, and that quickly." Then said she, "They
say, O King of the age and lord of the time and the day, that


The Khalif Haroun er Reshid summoned his Vizier Jaafer one night
and said to him, 'I have a mind to go down into the city and
question the common people of the conduct of the officers charged
with its government; and those of whom they complain, we will
depose, and those whom they commend, we will advance.' Quoth
Jaafer, 'I hear and obey.' So the Khalif and Jaafer and Mesrour
went down into the town and walked about the streets and markets
till, as they were passing through a certain alley, they came
upon an old man walking along at a leisurely pace, with a
fishing-net and a basket on his head and a staff in his hand, and
heard him repeat the following verses:

They tell me I shine, by my wisdom and wit, Midst the rest of my
kind, as the moon in the night.
"A truce to your idle discourses!" I cry, "What's knowledge,
indeed, unattended by might?"
If you offered me, knowledge and wisdom and all, with my inkhorn
and papers, in pawn for a mite,
To buy one day's victual, the pledge they'd reject And cast, like
an unread petition, from sight.
Sorry, indeed, is the case of the poor, And his life, what a load
of chagrin and despite!
In summer, he's pinched for a living and cowers O'er the fire-pot
in winter, for warmth and for light.
The curs of the street dog his heels, as he goes, And the
scurviest rascal may rail at the wight.
If he lift up his voice to complain of his case, He finds not a
soul who will pity his plight.
Since such is the life and the lot of the poor, It were better he
lay in the graveyard forthright!

When the Khalif heard this, he said to Jaafer, 'See yonder poor
man and note his verses, for they show his necessity.' Then he
went up to him and said, 'O old man, what is thy trade?' 'O my
lord,' replied he, 'I am a fisherman, with a family to maintain;
and I have been out since mid-day, but God has not vouchsafed me
aught wherewith to feed them, and indeed I abhor myself and wish
for death.' Quoth the Khalif, 'Wilt thou go back with me to the
Tigris and cast thy net yet once more on my account, and I will
buy of thee whatever comes up for a hundred dinars?' 'On my head
be it!' answered the fisherman joyfully. 'I will go back with
you.' So he returned with them to the river-bank and cast his net
and waited awhile, then drew it up and found in it a chest,
locked and heavy. The Khalif lifted it and found it weighty; so
he gave the fisherman a hundred dinars, and he went his way;
whilst Mesrour carried the chest to the palace, where he set it
down before the Khalif and lighted the candles. Then Jaafer and
Mesrour broke open the chest and found in it a basket of
palm-leaves, sewn together with red worsted. This they cut open
and found within a bundle wrapped in a piece of carpet. Under the
carpet was a woman's veil and in this a young lady, as she were
an ingot of silver, slain and cut in pieces. When the Khalif saw
this, he was sore enraged and afflicted; the tears ran down his
cheeks and he turned to Jaafer and said, "O dog of a Vizier,
shall folk be murdered in my capital city and thrown into the
river and their death laid to my account on the Day of Judgment?
I must avenge this woman on her murderer and put him to death
without mercy! And as surely as I am descended from the sons of
Abbas, an thou bring me not him who slew her, that I may do her
justice on him, I will hang thee and forty of thy kinsmen at the
gate of my palace!' Quoth Jaafer, 'Grant me three days' respite.'
And the Khalif said, 'I grant thee this.' So Jaafer went out from
before him and returned to his house, full of sorrow and saying
to himself, 'How shall I find him who killed the damsel, that I
may bring him before the Khalif? If I bring other than the right
man, it will be laid to my charge by God. Indeed, I know not what
to do.' Then he kept his house three days, and on the fourth day,
the Khalif sent one of his chamberlains for him and said to him,
'Where is the murderer of the damsel?' 'O Commander of the
Faithful,' replied the Vizier, 'am I inspector of murdered folk,
that I should know who killed her?' The Khalif was enraged at his
answer and commanded to hang him before his palace-gate and that
proclamation should be made in the streets of Baghdad, 'Whoso
hath a mind to witness the hanging of Jaafer the Barmecide,
Vizier of the Khalif, and of forty of his kin, before the gate of
the Khalif's palace, let him come out to see!' So the people came
out from all quarters to witness the execution of Jaafer and his
kinsmen, not knowing the reason. Then they set up the gallows and
made Jaafer and the others stand underneath in readiness; but
whilst they awaited the Khalif's signal for the execution and the
people wept for Jaafer and his kinsmen, behold, a handsome and
well-dressed young man, with shining face and bright black eyes,
flower-white forehead, downy whiskers and rosy cheeks and a mole
like a grain of ambergris, pressed through the crowd, till he
stood before Jaafer and said to him, 'I come to deliver thee from
this strait, O chief of the Amirs and refuge of the poor! I am he
who killed the woman ye found in the chest; so hang me for her
and do her justice on me!' When Jaafer heard this, he rejoiced at
his own deliverance, but grieved for the young man; and whilst
they were yet talking, behold, a man far advanced in years made
his way when he saluted them and said, 'O Vizier and noble lord,
credit not what this young man says. None killed the damsel but
I; so do thou avenge her on me, or I do accuse thee before God
the Most High.' Then said the youth, 'O Vizier, this is a doting
old man, who knows not what he says: it was I killed her, so do
thou avenge her on me.' 'O my son,' said the old man, 'thou art
young and desirest the things of the world, and I am old and
weary of the world. I will ransom thee and the Vizier and his
kinsmen with my life. None killed the damsel but I; so God on
thee, make haste to hang me, or there is no living for me after
her!' The Vizier marvelled at all this and taking the youth and
the old man, carried them before the Khalif and said to him, 'O
Commander of the Faithful, I bring thee the murderer of the
damsel.' 'Where is he?' asked the Khalif, and Jaafer answered,
'This youth says he killed her, but this old man gives him the
lie and affirms that he himself killed her: and behold, they are
both in thy hands.' The Khalif looked at them and said, 'Which of
you killed the damsel?' The youth replied, 'It was I.' And the
old man, 'Indeed, none killed her but myself.' Then the Khalif
said to Jaafer, 'Take them and hang them both.' But the Vizier
replied, 'If one of them be the murderer, to hang the other were
unjust.' 'By Him who vaulted the heavens and spread out the earth
like a carpet,' cried the youth, 'it was I killed her!' And he
set forth the circumstance of her death and how they had found
her body, so that the Khalif was certified that he was the
murderer, whereat he wondered and said to him, 'Why didst thou
slay the damsel wrongfully and what made thee come and accuse
thyself thus and confess thy crime without being beaten?' 'Know,
O Commander of the Faithful,' answered the young man, 'that this
damsel was my wife and the daughter of this old man, who is my
father's brother, and she was a virgin when I married her. God
blessed me with three male children by her, and she loved me and
served me, and I also loved her with an exceeding love and saw no
evil in her. We lived happily together till the beginning of this
month, when she fell grievously ill. I fetched the doctors to her
and she recovered slowly; and I would have had her take a bath;
but she said, "There is something I long for, before I go to the
bath." "What is it?" asked I, and she replied, "I have a longing
for an apple, that I may smell it and bite a piece of it." So I
went out into the city at once and sought for apples, but could
find none, though, had they been a dinar apiece, I would have
bought them. I was vexed at this and went home and said to my
wife, "By Allah, my cousin, I can find none." She was distressed,
being yet weak, and her weakness increased greatly on her that
night, and I passed the night full of anxiety. As soon as it was
day, I went out again and made the round of the gardens, but
could find no apples anywhere. At last I met an old gardener, of
whom I enquired for them, and he said to me, "O my son, this
fruit is rare with us and is not now to be found but in the
garden of the Commander of the Faithful at Bassora, where the
gardener keeps them for the Khalif's table.' I returned home,
troubled at my ill-success, and my love and concern for her moved
me to undertake the journey to Bassora. So I set out and
travelled thither and bought three apples of the gardener there
for three dinars, with which I returned to Baghdad, after having
been absent fifteen days and nights, going and coming. I went in
to my wife and gave her the apples; but she took no pleasure in
them and let them lie by her side; for weakness and fever had
increased on her and did not leave her for ten days, at the end
of which time she began to mend. So I left the house and went to
my shop, where I sat buying and selling. About mid-day a great
ugly black slave came into the bazaar, having in his hand one of
the three apples, with which he was playing; so I called to him
and said, "Prithee, good slave, tell me whence thou hadst that
apple, that I may get the fellow to it." He laughed and answered,
"I had it of my mistress; for I had been absent and on my return
I found her lying ill, with three apples by her side: and she
told me that the cuckold her husband had made a journey for them
to Bassora, where he had bought them for three dinars. So I ate
and drank with her and took this one from her." When I heard
this, the world grew black in my eyes, and I rose and shut my
shop and went home, beside myself for excess of rage. I looked
for the apples and finding but two of them, said to my wife,
"Where is the third apple?" Quoth she, "I know not what is come
of it." This convinced me of the truth of the slave's story, so I
took a knife and coming behind her, without word said, got up on
her breast and cut her throat; after which I hewed her in pieces
and wrapping her in her veil and a piece of carpet, sewed the
whole up hurriedly in the basket. Then I put the basket in the
chest and locking it up, set it on my mule and threw it into the
Tigris with my own hands. So, God on thee, O Commander of the
Faithful, make haste to hang me, for I fear lest she sue for
vengeance on me at the Day of Resurrection! For when I had thrown
her into the river, unknown of any, I returned home and found my
eldest boy weeping, though he knew not what I had done with his
mother; and I said to him "Why dost thou weep, my son?" He
replied, "I took one of my mother's apples and went down with it
into the street to play with my brothers, when lo, a tall black
slave snatched it from my hand, saying, 'Whence hadst thou this?'
Quoth I, 'My father journeyed to Bassora for it and brought it to
my mother, who is ill, with two other apples for which he paid
three dinars. Give it back to me and do not get me into trouble
for it.' He paid no heed to my words and I demanded the apple a
second and a third time; but he beat me and went away with it. I
was afraid that my mother would beat me on account of the apple;
so for fear of her, I went without the city with my brothers and
abode there until night closed in upon us, and indeed I am in
fear of her: so by Allah, O my father, say nothing to her of
this, or it will add to her illness." When I heard what the child
said, I knew that the slave was he who had forged a lie against
my wife and was certified that I had killed her wrongfully. So I
wept sore, and presently, this old man, her father, came in and I
told him what had passed; and he sat down by my side and wept and
we ceased not weeping half the night. This was five days ago and
from that time to this, we have never ceased to bewail her and
mourn for her, sorrowing sore for that she was unjustly put to
death. All this came of the lying story of the slave, and this
was the manner of my killing her; so I conjure thee, by the
honour of thy forefathers, make haste to kill me and do her
justice on me, for there is no living for me after her.' The
Khalif wondered at his story and said, 'By Allah, the young man
is excusable, and I will hang none but the accursed slave!' Then
he fumed to Jaafer and said to him, 'Bring me the accursed slave,
who was the cause of this calamity, and if thou bring him not in
three days, thou shalt suffer in his stead.' And Jaafer went out,
weeping and saying, 'Verily, I am beset by deaths; the pitcher
does not come off for aye unbroken. I can do nothing in this
matter; but He who saved me the first time may save me again. By
Allah, I will not leave my house during the three days that
remain to me, and God who is the Truth shall do what He will.' So
he kept his house three days, and on the fourth day, he summoned
Cadis and witnesses and made his last dispositions and bade
farewell to his children, weeping. Presently in came a messenger
from the Khalif and said to him, 'The Commander of the Faithful
is beyond measure wroth and sends to seek thee and swears that
the day shall not pass without thy being hanged.' When Jaafer
heard this, he wept and his children and slaves and all that were
in the house wept with him. Then they brought him his little
daughter, that he might bid her farewell. Now he loved her more
than all his other children; so he pressed her to his breast and
kissed her and wept over his separation from her; when lo, he
felt something round in her bosom and said to her, 'What's this
in thy bosom?' 'O my father,' answered she, 'it is an apple with
the name of our lord the Khalif written on it. Our slave Rihan
brought it to me four days ago and would not let me have it, till
I gave him two dinars for it.' When Jaafer heard this, he put his
hand into her bosom and took out the apple and knew it and
rejoiced, saying, 'O swift Dispeller of trouble[FN#59]!' Then he
sent for the slave and said to him, 'Harkye Rihan, whence hadst
thou this apple?' 'By Allah, O my lord,' replied he, 'though
lying might get me off, yet is it safer to tell the truth[FN#60]!
I did not steal it from thy palace nor from the palace of His
Highness nor the garden of the Commander of the Faithful. The
fact is that some days ago, I was passing along a certain alley
of this city, when I saw some children playing and this apple in
the hand of one of them. So I snatched it from him, and he wept
and said, "O youth, this apple is my mother's and she is ill. She
longed for apples, and my father journeyed to Bassora and bought
her three for three dinars, and I took one of them to play with."
But I paid no heed to what he said and beat him and went off with
the apple and sold it to my little mistress for two dinars.' When
Jaafer heard this, he wondered that the death of the damsel and
all this misery should have been caused by his slave and grieved
for the relation of the slave to himself, whilst rejoicing over
his own delivery: and he repeated the following verses:

If through a servant misfortune befall thee, Spare not to save
thine own life at his cost.
Servants in plenty thou'lt find to replace him, Life for life
never, once it is lost.

Then he carried the slave to the Khalif, to whom he related the
whole story; and the Khalif wondered greatly and laughed till he
fell backward and ordered the story to be recorded and published
among the folk. Then said Jaafer, 'O Commander of the Faithful,
wonder not at this story, for it is not more marvellous than that
of Noureddin Ali of Cairo and his son Bedreddin Hassan.' 'What is
that?' asked the Khalif; 'and how can it be more marvellous than
this story?' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' answered Jaafer, 'I
will not tell it thee except thou pardon my slave.' Quoth the
Khalif, 'If it be indeed more marvellous than that of the three
apples, I grant thee thy slave's life; but if not, I will kill
him.' 'Know, then, O Commander of the Faithful,' said Jaafer,


There was once in the land of Egypt a just and pious King who
loved the poor and companied with the learned, and he had a
Vizier, a wise and experienced man, well versed in affairs and in
the art of government. This Vizier, who was a very old man, had
two sons, as they were two moons, never was seen their like for
beauty and grace, the elder called Shemseddin Mohammed and the
younger Noureddin Ali; but the younger excelled his brother in
comeliness and fair favour, so that folk heard of him in distant
lands and journeyed to Egypt to get sight of him. After awhile
the Vizier died, to the great grief of the Sultan, who sent for
his two sons and invested them with robes of honour, saying, "Let
not your hearts be troubled, for you shall stand in your father's
stead and be joint Viziers of Egypt." At this they were glad and
kissed the earth before him and mourned for their father a whole
month, at the end of which time they entered upon the Vizierate,
and the government passed into their hands, as it had been in
those of their father, each ruling for a week at a time. Whenever
the Sultan went on a journey, they took it in turns to accompany
him; and the two brothers lived in one house, and there was
perfect accord between them. It chanced, one night, that the
Sultan purposed setting out on a journey on the morrow and the
elder, whose turn it was to attend him, was sitting talking with
his brother and said to him, "O my brother, it is my wish that
we both marry and go in to our wives on the same night." "O my
brother," replied Noureddin, "do as thou wilt; I will conform to
thee." So they agreed upon this and Shemseddin said, "If it be
the will of God that we both marry on the same night, and our
wives be brought to bed on the same day, and thy wife bear a boy
and mine a girl, we will marry the children to one another, for
they will be cousins." "O my brother," asked Noureddin, "what
dowry wilt thou require of my son for thy daughter!" Quoth the
other, "I will have of him three thousand dinars and three
gardens and three farms, for it would not be fitting that he
bring her a smaller dowry than this." When Noureddin heard this,
he said, "What dowry is this thou wouldst impose on my son?
Knowest thou not that we are brothers and both by God's grace
Viziers and equal in rank? It behoves thee to offer thy daughter
to my son, without dowry: or if thou must have a dower, it should
be something of nominal value, for mere show; for thou knowest
the male to be more worthy than the female, and my son is a male,
and our memory will be preserved by him, not by thy daughter; but
I see thou wouldst do with me according to the saying, 'If thou
wouldst drive away a purchaser, ask him a high price,' or as did
one, who, being asked by a friend to do him a favour, replied,
'In the name of God; I will comply with thy request, but not till
tomorrow.' Whereupon the other answered him with this verse:

'When one, of whom a favour's asked, postpones it till next day,
'Tis, to a man who knows the world, as if he said him nay.'"

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