Supplemental Nights, Volume 2
Richard F. Burton

Part 6 out of 8

tile, and on removing it with the help of his knife, he found the
purse, which he very quietly put into his pocket, replacing the
tiles just as they were, and, resolving to say nothing about it,
he went home.

At the end of three days the blind mendicant, desirous of
inspecting his treasure, took a quiet time for visiting the
place, and removing the tile searched a long while in great
perturbation, but all vain, to find his beloved purse. At last,
replacing things just as they were, he was compelled to return in
no very enviable state of mind to his dwelling, and there
meditating on his loss, the harvest of the toil of so many days,
by dint of intense thinking a bright thought struck him (as
frequently happens by cogitating in the dark), how he had yet a
kind of chance of redeeming his lost spoils. Accordingly in the
morning he called his young guide, a lad about nine years old,
saying, "My son, lead me to church," and before setting out he
tutored him how he was to behave, seating himself at his side
before the entrance, and particularly remarking every person who
should enter into the church. "Now, if you happen to see any one
who takes particular notice of me, and who either laughs or makes
any sign, be sure you observe it and tell me." The boy promised
he would; and they proceeded accordingly and took their station
before the church

When the dinner-hour arrived, the father and son prepared to
leave the place, the former inquiring by the way whether his son
had observed any one looking hard at him as he passed along.
"That I did," answered the lad, "but only one, and he laughed as
he went past us. I do not know his name, but he is strongly
marked with the small-pox and lives somewhere near the Frati
Minori." "Do you think, my dear lad," said his father, "that you
could take me to his shop, and tell me when you see him there?"
"To be sure I could," said the lad. "Then come, let us lose no
time," replied the father, "and when we are there tell me, and
while I speak to him you can step on one side and wait for me."
So the sharp little fellow led him along the way until he reached
a cheesemonger's stall, when he acquainted his father, and
brought him close to it. No sooner did the blind man hear him
speaking with his customers than he recognised him for the same
Juccio with whom he had formerly been acquainted during his days
of light. When the coast was a little clear, our blind hero
entreated some moments' conversation, and Juccio, half suspecting
the occasion took him on one side into a little room, saying,
"Cola, friend, what good news?" "Why," said Cola, "I am come to
consult you, in great hopes you will be of use to me. You know
it is a long time since I lost my sight, and being in a destitute
condition, I was compelled to earn my subsistence by begging
alms. Now, by the grace of God, and with the help of you and of
other good people of Orvieto, I have saved a sum of two hundred
florins, one hundred of which I have deposited in a safe place,
and the other is in the hands of my relations, which I expect to
receive with interest in the course of a week. Now if you would
consent to receive, and to employ for me to the best advantage,
the whole sum of two hundred florins it would be doing me a great
kindness, for there is no one besides in all Orvieto in whom I
dare to confide; nor do I like to be at the expense of paying a
notary for doing business which we can as well transact
ourselves. Only I wish you would say nothing about it, but
receive the two hundred florins from me to employ as you think
best. Say not a word about it, for there would be an end of my
calling were it known I had received so large a sum in alms."
Here the blind mendicant stopped; and the sly Juccio, imagining
he might thus become master of the entire sum, said he should be
very happy to serve him in every way he could and would return an
answer the next morning as to the best way of laying out the
money. Cola then took his leave, while Juccio, going directly
for the purse, deposited it in its old place being in full
expectation of soon receiving it again with the addition of the
other hundred, as it was clear that Cola had not yet missed the
money. The cunning old mendicant on his part expected that he
would do no less, and trusting that his plot might have
succeeded, he set out the very same day to the church, and had
the delight, on removing the tile, to find his purse really
there. Seizing upon it with the utmost eagerness, he concealed
it under his clothes, and placing the tiles exactly in the same
position, he hastened home whistling, troubling himself very
little about his appointment of the next day.

The sly thief Juccio set out accordingly the next morning to see
his friend Cola, and actually met him on the road. "Whither are
you going?" inquired Juccio. "I was going," said Cola, "to your
house." The former, then taking the blind man aside, said, "I am
resolved to do what you ask; and since you are pleased to confide
in me, I will tell you of a plan that I have in hand for laying
out your money to advantage. If you will put the two hundred
florins into my possession, I will make a purchase in cheese and
salt meat, a speculation which cannot fail to turn to good
account." "Thank you," quoth Cola, "I am going to-day for the
other hundred, which I mean to bring, and when you have got them
both, you can do with them what you think proper." Juccio said,
"Then let me have them soon, for I think I can secure this
bargain; and as the soldiers are come into the town, who are fond
of these articles, I think it cannot fail to answer; so go, and
Heaven speed you." And Cola went, but with very different
intentions from those imagined by his friend--Cola being now
clear-sighted, and Juccio truly blind. The next day Cola called
on his friend with very downcast and melancholy looks, and when
Juccio bade him good day, he said, "I wish from my soul it were a
good, or even a middling, day for me." "Why, what is the
matter?" "The matter?" echoed Cola; "why, it is all over with
me: some rascal has stolen a hundred florins from the place where
they were hidden, and I cannot recover a penny from my relations,
so that I may eat my fingers off or anything I have to expect."
Juccio replied, "This is like all the rest of my speculations. I
have invariably lost where I expected to make a good hit. What I
shall do I know not, for if the person should choose to keep me
to the agreement I made for you, I shall be in a pretty dilemma
indeed." "Yet," said Cola, "I think my condition is still worse
than yours. I shall be sadly distressed and shall have to amass
afresh capital, which will take me ever so long. And when I have
got it, I will take care not to conceal it in a hole in the
floor, or trust it, Juccio, into any friend's hands." "But,"
said Juccio, "if we could contrive to recover what is owing by
your relations, we might still make some pretty profit of it, I
doubt not." For he thought, if he could only get hold of the
hundred he had returned it would still be something in his way.
"Why," said Cola, "to tell the truth, if I were to proceed
against my relations I believe I might get it; but such a thing
would ruin my business, my dear Juccio, for ever: the world
would know I was worth money, and I should get no more money from
the world; so I fear I shall hardly be able to profit by your
kindness, though I shall always consider myself as much obliged
as if I had actually cleared a large sum. Moreover, I am going
to teach another blind man my profession, and if we have luck you
shall see me again, and we can venture a speculation together."
So far the wily mendicant, to whom Juccio said, "Well, go and try
to get money soon, and bring it; you know where to find me, but
look sharp about you and the Lord speed you; farewell."
"Farewell," said Cola; "and I am well rid of thee," he whispered
to himself, and going upon his way, in a short time he doubled
his capital; but he no longer went near his friend Juccio to know
how he should invest it. He had great diversion in telling the
story to his companions during their feasts, always concluding,
"By St. Lucia! Juccio is the blinder man of the two: he thought
it was a bold stroke to risk his hundred to double the amount."

For my own part, I think the blind must possess a more acute
intellect than other people, inasmuch as the light, exhibiting
such a variety of objects to view, is apt to distract the
attention, of which many examples might be adduced. For
instance, two gentlemen may be conversing together on some matter
of business, and in the middle of a sentence a fine woman happens
to pass by, and they will suddenly stop, gazing after her; or a
fine equipage or any other object is enough to turn the current
of their thoughts. And then we are obliged to recollect
ourselves, saying, "Where was I?" "What was it that I was
observing?"--a thing which never occurs to a blind man. The
philosopher Democritus very properly on this account knocked his
eyes out in order to catch objects in a juster light with his
mind's eye.

It is impossible to describe Juccio's vexation on going to church
and finding the florins were gone. His regret was far greater
than if he had actually lost a hundred of his own; as is known to
be the case with all inveterate rogues, half of whose pleasure
consists in depriving others of their lawful property.

There are many analogous stories, one of which is the well-known
tale of the merchant who, before going on a journey, deposited
with a dervish 1,000 sequins, which he thought it prudent to
reserve in case of accidents. When he returned and requested his
deposit, the dervish flatly denied that he ever had any of his
money. Upon this the merchant went and laid his case before the
kazi, who advised him to return to the dervish and speak
pleasantly to him, which he does, but receives nothing but abuse.
He informed the kazi of this, and was told not to go near the
dervish for the present, but to be at ease for he should have his
money next day. The kazi then sent for the dervish, and after
entertaining him sumptuously, told him that, for certain reasons,
he was desirous of removing a considerable sum of money from his
house; that he knew of no person in whom he could confide so much
as himself; and that if he would come the following evening at a
late hour, he should have the precious deposit. On hearing this,
the dervish expressed his gratification that so much confidence
should be placed in his integrity, and agreed to take charge of
the treasure. Next day the merchant returned to the kazi, who
bade him go back to the dervish and demand his money once more,
and should he refuse, threaten to complain to the kazi. The
result may be readily guessed: no sooner did the merchant mention
the kazi than the rascally dervish said, "My good friend, what
need is there to complain to the kazi? Here is your money; it
was only a little joke on my part." But in the evening, when he
went to receive the kazi's pretended deposit, he experienced the
truth of the saw, that "covetousness sews up the eyes of

A variant of this found in the continental "Gesta Romanorum" (ch.
cxviii. of Swan's translation), in which a knight deposits ten
talents with a respectable old man, who when called upon to
refund the money denies all knowledge of it. By the advice of an
old woman the knight has ten chests made, and employs a person to
take them to the old man and represent them as containing
treasure; and while one of them is being carried into his house
the knight enters and in the stranger's presence demands his
money, which is at once delivered to him.

In Mr. Edward Rehatsek's translated selections from the Persian
story-book "Shamsa u Kuhkuha" (see ante, p. 237), printed at
Bombay in 1871, under the title of "Amusing Stories," there is a
tale (No. xviii.) which also bears some resemblance to that of
the Melancholist and the Sharper; and as Mr. Rehatsek's little
work is exceedingly scarce, I give it in extenso as follows:

There was in Damascus a man of the name of Zayn el-Arab, with the
honey of whose life the poison of hardships was always mixed.
Day and night he hastened like the breeze from north to south in
the world of exertion, and he was burning brightly like straw,
from his endeavours in the oven of acquisition in order to gain a
loaf of bread and feed his family. In course of time, however,
he succeeded in accumulating a considerable sum of money, but as
he had tasted the bitter poison of destitution, and had for a
very long time earned the heavy load of poverty upon his back,
and fearing to lose his property by the chameleon-like changes of
fortune, he took up his money on a certain night, carried it out
of the city, and buried it under a tree. After some time had
passed be began sorely to miss the presence of his treasure, and
betook himself to the tree to refresh his eyes with the sight of
it. But when he dug up the ground at the foot of the tree he
discovered that his soul-exhilarating deposit was refreshing the
palate of some one else. The morning of his prosperity was
suddenly changed into the evening of bitterness and
disappointment. He was perplexed to what friend to confide his
secret, and to what remedy to fly for the recovery of his
treasure. The lancet of grief had pierced the liver of his
peace, and the huntsman of distress had tied up the wings and
feet of the bird of his serenity. One day he went on some
business to a learned and wise man of the city with whom he was
on a footing of intimacy. This man said to him, "It is some time
since I perceived the glade of your circumstances to have been
destroyed by the burning coals of restlessness, and a sad change
to have taken place in your health. I do not know the reason,
nor what thorn of misfortune has pierced the foot of your heart,
nor what hardship has dawned from the east of your mind." Zayn
el-Arab wept tears of sadness and said, "O thou standard coin
from the mint of love! the treachery of misfortune has brought a
strange accident upon me, and the bow of destiny has let fly an
unpropitious arrow upon my feeble target. I have a heavy heart
and great sorrow, and were I to reveal it to you perhaps it would
be of no use and would plunge you also into grief." The learned
man said, "Since the hearts of intimate friends are like looking-
glasses and are receiving the figures of mutual secrets, it is at
all times necessary that they should communicate to each other
any difficulties which they have fallen into, that they may
remove them by taking in common those steps which prudence and
foresight should recommend." Zayn el-Arab replied, "Dear friend,
I had some gold, and fearing lest it should be stolen, I carried
it to such and such a place and buried it under a tree, and when
I again visited the place, I perceived the garment of my beloved
Joseph to be sprinkled with the blood of the wolf of deception."
The learned man said, "This is a grave accident, and it will be
difficult to get on the track of your gold. Perhaps some one saw
you bury it: he who has taken it will have to give an account of
it in the next world, for God is omniscient. Give me ten days'
delay, that I may study the book of expedients and stratagems,
when mayhap somewhat will occur to me."

That knowing man sat down for ten days in the school of
meditation, and how much so ever he turned over the leaves of the
volume of his mind from the preface to the epilogue, he could hit
upon no plan. On the tenth day they again met in the street, and
he said to Zayn el-Arab, "Although the diver of my mind has
plunged deeply and searched diligently in this deep sea, he has
been unable to seize the precious pearl of a wise plan of
operation: may God recompense you from the stores of His hidden
treasury!" They were conversing in this way when a lunatic met
them and said, "Well, my boys, what secret- mongering have you
got between you?" The learned man said to Zayn el-Arab, "Come,
let us relate our case to this crazy fellow, to see the flower of
the plant that may bloom from his mind." Zayn el-Arab replied,
"Dear friend, you, with all your knowledge, cannot devise
anything during ten days: what information are we likely to gain
from a poor lunatic who does not know whether it is now day or
night?" The learned man said, "There is no telling what he may
say to us. But you know that the most foolish as well as the most
wise have ideas, and a sentence uttered at random has sometimes
furnished a clue by which the desired object may be attained."
Meanwhile a little boy also came up, and perceiving the lunatic
stopped to see his tricks. The two friends explained their case
to the lunatic, who then seemed immersed in thought for some
time, after which he said, "He who took the root of that tree for
a medicine also took the gold," and having thus spoken, he turned
his back upon them and went his way. They consulted with each
other what indication this remark might furnish, when the little
boy who had overheard the conversation, asked what kind of tree
it was. Zayn el-Arab replied that it was a jujube tree. The boy
said, "This is an easy matter: you ought to inquire of all the
doctors of this town for whom a medicine has been prescribed of
the roots of this tree." They greatly admired the boy's
acuteness and also of the lunatic's lucky thought.[FN#511] The
learned man was well acquainted with all the physicians of the
city and made his enquiries, till he met with one who informed
him that about twenty days ago he had prescribed for a merchant
of the name of Khoja Semender, who suffered from asthma, and that
one of the remedies was the root of that jujube tree. The
learned man soon discovered the merchant's house, found him
enjoying excellent health, and said to him, "Ah Khoja, all the
goods of this world ought to be surrendered to procure health.
By the blessing of God, you have recovered your health, and you
ought to give up what you found at the root of that tree, because
the owner of it is a worthy man and possesses nothing else." The
honest merchant answered, "It is true, I have found it, and it is
with me. If you will describe it I will deliver it into your
hands." The exact sum being stated, the merchant at once
delivered up the gold.

In the "Katha Sarit Sagara," Book vi. ch. 33, we have probably
the original of this last story: A wealthy merchant provided a
Brahman with a lodging near his own house, and every day gave him
a large quantity of unhusked rice and other presents and in
course of time he received like gifts from other great merchants.
In this way the miserly fellow gradually accumulated a thousand
dinars, and going into the forest he dug a hole and buried it in
the ground, and he went daily to carefully examine the spot. One
day, however, he discovered that his hoard had been stolen, and
he went to his friend the merchant near whose house he lived,
and, weeping bitterly, told him of his loss, and that he had
resolved to go to a holy bathing-place and there starve himself
to death. The merchant tried to console him and dissuade him
from his resolution, saying, "Brahman, why do you long to die for
the loss of your wealth? Wealth, like an unseasonable cloud,
suddenly comes and goes." But the Brahman would not abandon his
fixed determination to commit suicide, for wealth is dearer to
the miser than life itself. When he was about to depart for the
holy place, the king, having heard of it, came and asked him,
"Brahman, do you know of any mark by which you can distinguish
the place where you buried your dinars?" He replied, "There is a
small tree in the wood, at the foot of which I buried that
money." Then said the king, "I will find the money and give it
back to you, or I will give it you from my own treasury;--do not
commit suicide, Brahman."

When the king returned to his palace, he pretended to have a
headache, and summoned all the physicians in the city by
proclamation with beat of drum. And he took aside every one of
them singly and questioned them privately, saying, "What patients
have you, and what medicines have you prescribed for each?" And
they thereupon, one by one, answered the king's questions. At
length a physician said, "The merchant Matridatta has been out of
sorts, O king, and this is the second day I have prescribed for
him nagabala (the plant Uraria Lagopodioides)." Then the king
sent for the merchant, and said to him, "Tell me, who fetched you
the nagabala?" The merchant replied, "My servant, your highness."
On hearing this, the king at once summoned the servant and said
to him, "Give up that treasure belonging to a Brahman, consisting
of a store of dinars, which you found when you were digging at
the foot of the tree for nagabala." When the king said this to
him the servant was frightened, and confessed immediately, and
bringing the money left it there. Then the king summoned the
Brahman and gave him, who had been fasting meanwhile, the dinars,
lost and found again, like a second soul external to his body.
Thus did the king by his wisdom recover to the Brahman his wealth
which had been taken away from the root of the tree, knowing that
that simple grew in such spots.


This is one of three Arabian variants of Chaucer's Man of Law's
Tale (the Story of Constance), of which there are numerous
versions--see my paper entitled "The Innocent Persecuted Wife,"
pp. 365-414 of "Originals and Analogues of some of Chaucer's
Canterbury Tales."


Somewhat resembling his, but much more elaborate, is the amusing
story of Ahmed the Cobbler, in Sir John Malcolm's "Sketches of
Persia," ch. xx., the original of which is probably found in the
tale of Harisarman, book vi. ch. 30, of the "Katha Sarit Sagara,"
and it has many European variants, such as the German story of
Doctor Allwissend, in Grimm's collection, and that of the
Charcoal Burner in Sir George Dasent's "Tales from the Fjeld.--
According to the Persian story, Ahmed the Cobbler had a young and
pretty wife, of whom he was very fond. She was ever forming grand
schemes of riches and splendour, and was firmly persuaded that
she was destined to great fortune. It happened one evening, while
in this frame of mind, that she went to the public baths, where
she saw a lady retiring dressed in a magnificent robe, covered
with jewels, and surrounded by slaves. This was the very
condition she had always longed for, and she eagerly inquired the
name of the happy person who had so many attendants and such fine
jewels. She learned it was the wife of the chief astrologer to
the king. With this information she returned home. Ahmed met her
at the door, but was received with a frown, nor could all his
caresses obtain a smile or a word; for several hours she
continued silent, and in apparent misery, at length she said,
"Cease your caresses, unless you are ready to give me a proof
that you do really and sincerely love me." "What proof of love,"
exclaimed poor Ahmed, "can you desire that I will not give?"
"Give over cobbling, it is a vile, low trade, and never yields
more than ten or twelve dinars a day. Turn astrologer; your
fortune will be made, and I shall have all I wish and be happy."
"Astrologer!" cried Ahmed--"astrologer! Have you forgotten who I
am--a cobbler, without any learning--that you want me to engage
in a profession which requires so much skill and knowledge?" "I
neither think nor care about your qualifications," said the
enraged wife; "all I know is that if you do not turn astrologer
immediately, I will be divorced from you to-morrow." The cobbler
remonstrated, but in vain. The figure of the astrologer's wife,
with her jewels and her slaves, took complete possession of her
imagination. All night it haunted her: she dreamt of nothing
else, and on awakening declared that she would leave the house if
her husband did not comply with her wishes. What could poor Ahmed
do? He was no astrologer, but he was dotingly fond of his wife,
and he could not bear the idea of losing her. He promised to
obey, and having sold his little stock, bought an astrolabe, an
astronomical almanac, and a table of the twelve signs of the
zodiac. Furnished with these, he went to the marketplace, crying,
"I am an astrologer! I know the sun, and the moon, and the stars,
and the twelve signs of the zodiac; I can calculate nativities; I
can foretell everything that is to happen." No man was better
known than Ahmed the Cobbler. A crowd soon gathered round him.
"What, friend Ahmed," said one, "have you worked till your head
is turned?" "Are you tired of looking down at your last," cried
another, "that you are now looking up at the stars?" These and a
thousand other jokes assailed the ears of the poor cobbler, who
notwithstanding continued to exclaim that he was an astrologer,
having resolved on doing what he could to please his beautiful

It so happened that the king's jeweller was passing by. He was in
great distress, having lost the richest ruby belonging to the
king. Every search had been made to recover this inestimable
jewel, but to no purpose; and as the jeweller knew he could no
longer conceal its loss from the king, he looked forward to death
as inevitable. In this hopeless state, while wandering about the
town, he reached the crowd around Ahmed, and asked what was the
matter. "Don't you know Ahmed the Cobbler?" said one of the
bystanders, laughing. "He has been inspired and is become an
astrologer." A drowning man will catch at a broken reed: the
jeweller no sooner heard the sound of the word astrologer than he
went up to Ahmed, told him what had happened, and said, "If you
understand your art, you must be able to discover the king's
ruby. Do so, and I will give you two hundred pieces of gold. But
if you do not succeed within six hours, I will use my influence
at court to have you put to death as an impostor." Poor Ahmed was
thunderstruck. He stood long without being able to speak,
reflecting on his misfortunes, and grieving, above all, that his
wife, whom he so loved, had, by her envy and selfishness, brought
him to such a fearful alternative. Full of these sad thoughts, he
exclaimed aloud, "O woman! woman! thou art more baneful to the
happiness of man than the poisonous dragon of the desert!" Now
the lost ruby had been secreted by the jeweller's wife, who,
disquieted by those alarms which ever attend guilt, sent one of
her female slaves to watch her husband. This slave, on seeing her
master speak to the astrologer, drew near; and when she heard
Ahmed, after some moments of abstraction, compare a woman to a
poisonous dragon, she was satisfied that he must know everything.
She ran to her mistress, and, breathless with fear, cried, "You
are discovered by a vile astrologer! Before six hours are past
the whole story will be known, and you will become infamous, if
you are even so fortunate as to escape with life, unless you can
find some way of prevailing on him to be merciful." She then
related what she had seen and heard; and Ahmed's exclamation
carried as complete conviction to the mind of the terrified lady
as it had done to that of her slave. The jeweller's wife hastily
throwing on her veil, went in search of the dreaded astrologer.
When she found him, she erred, "Spare my honour and my life, and
I will confess everything." "What can you have to confess to me?"
said Ahmed, in amazement. "O nothing--nothing with which you are
not already acquainted. You know too well that I stole the king's
ruby. I did so to punish my husband, who uses me most cruelly;
and I thought by this means to obtain riches for myself and have
him put to death. But you, most wonderful man, from whom nothing
is hidden, have discovered and defeated my wicked plan. I beg
only for mercy, and will do whatever you command me." An angel
from heaven could not have brought more consolation to Ahmed than
did the jeweller's wife. He assumed all the dignified solemnity
that became his new character, and said, "Woman! I know all thou
hast done, and it is fortunate for thee that thou hast come to
confess thy sin and beg for mercy before it was too late. Return
to thy house; put the ruby under the pillow of the couch on which
thy husband sleeps; let it be laid on the side farthest from the
door, and be satisfied thy guilt shall never be even suspected."
The jeweller's wife went home and did as she was instructed. In
an hour Ahmed followed her, and told the jeweller he had made his
calculations, and found by the aspect of the sun and moon, and by
the configuration of the stars, that the ruby was at that moment
lying under the pillow of his couch on the side farthest from the
door. The jeweller thought Ahmed must be crazy; but as a ray of
hope is like a ray from heaven to the wretched, he ran to his
couch, and there, to his joy and wonder, found the ruby in the
very place described. He came back to Ahmed, embraced him, called
him his dearest friend and the preserver of his life, gave him
two hundred pieces of gold, declaring that he was the first
astrologer of the age.

Ahmed returned home with his lucky gains, and would gladly have
resumed his cobbling but his wife insisting on his continuing to
practice his new profession, there was no help but to go out
again next day and proclaim his astrological accomplishments. By
mere chance he is the means of a lady recovering a valuable
necklace which she had lost at the bath, and forty chests of gold
stolen from the king's treasury, and is finally rewarded with the
hand of the king's daughter in marriage.


In the "Indian Antiquary" for June 1886 the Rev. J. Hinton
Knowles gives a translation of what he terms a Kashmiri Tale,
under the title of "Pride Abased," which, he says, was told him
by "a Brahman named Mukund Bayu, who resides at Suthu, Srinagar,"
and which is an interesting variant of the Wazir Er-Rahwan's
second story of the King who lost his Realm and Wealth:


There was once a king who was noted throughout his dominions for
daily boasting of his power and riches. His ministers at length
became weary of this self-glorification, and one day when he
demanded of them, as usual, whether there existed in the whole
world another king as powerful as he, they plainly told him that
there was such another potentate, upon which he assembled his
troops and rode forth at their head, challenging the neighbouring
kings to fight with him. Ere long he met with more than his
match, for another king came with a great army and utterly
defeated him, and took possession of his kingdom. Disguising
himself, the humbled king escaped with his wife and two boys, and
arriving at the sea shore, found a ship about to sail. The master
agreed to take him and his family and land them at the port for
which he was bound. But when he beheld the beauty of the queen,
he became enamoured of her, and determined to make her his own.
The queen was the first to go on board the ship, and the king and
his two sons were about to follow, when they were seized by a
party of ruffians, hired by the shipmaster, and held back until
the vessel had got fairly under way. The queen was distracted on
seeing her husband and children left behind, and refused to
listen to the master's suit, who, after having tried to win her
love for several days without success, resolved to sell her as a
slave. Among the passengers was a merchant, who, seeing that the
lady would not accept the shipmaster for her husband, thought
that if he bought her, he might in time gain her affection.
Accordingly he purchased her of the master for a large sum of
money, and then told her that he had done so with a view of
making her his wife. The lady replied that, although the shipman
had no right thus to dispose of her, yet she would consent to
marry him at the end of two years, if she did not during that
period meet with her husband and their two sons, and to this
condition the merchant agreed. In the meanwhile the king, having
sorrowfully watched the vessel till it was out of sight, turned
back with his two boys, who wept and lamented as they ran beside
him. After walking a great distance, he came to a shallow but
rapid river, which he wished to cross, and, as there was no boat
or bridge, he was obliged to wade through the water. Taking up
one of his sons he contrived to reach the other side in safety,
and was returning for the other when the force of the current
overcame him and he was drowned.

When the two boys noticed that their father had perished, they
wept bitterly. Their separation, too, was a further cause for
grief. There they stood, one on either side of the river, with no
means of reaching each other. They shouted, and ran about hither
and thither in their grief, till they had almost wearied
themselves into sleep, when a fisherman came past, who, seeing
the great distress of the boys, took them into his boat, and
asked them who they were, and who were their parents; and they
told him all that had happened. When he had heard their story, he
said, "You have not a father or mother, and I have not a child.
Evidently God has sent you to me. Will you be my own children and
learn to fish, and live in my house?" Of course, the poor boys
were only too glad to find a friend and shelter. "Come," said the
fisherman kindly, leading them out of the boat to a house close
by, "I will look after you." The boys followed most happily, and
went into the fisherman's house, and when they saw his wife they
were still better pleased, for she was very kind to them, and
treated them as if they had been her own children. The two boys
went to school, and when they had learned all that the master
could teach them, they began to help their adoptive father, and
in a little while became most expert and diligent young

Thus time was passing with them, when it happened that a great
fish threw itself on to the bank of the river and could not get
back again into the water. Everybody in the village went to see
the monstrous fish, and cut a slice of its flesh and took it
home. A few people also went from the neighbouring villages, and
amongst them was a maker of earthernware. His wife had heard of
the great fish and urged him to go and get some of the flesh. So
he went, although the hour was late. On his arrival he found that
all the people had returned to their homes. The potter had taken
an axe with him, thinking that the bones would be so great and
strong as to require its use in breaking them. When he struck the
first blow a voice came out of the fish, like that of some one in
pain, at which the potter was greatly surprised. "Perhaps,"
thought he, "the fish is possessed by a bhut.[FN#513] I'll try
again," whereupon he struck another blow with his axe. Again the
voice came forth from the fish, saying, "Woe is me! woe is me!"
On hearing this, the potter thought, "Well, this is evidently not
a bhut, but the voice of an ordinary man. I'll cut the flesh
carefully. May be that I shall find some poor distressed
person." So he began to cut away the flesh carefully, and
presently he perceived a man's foot, then the legs appeared, and
then the entire body. "Praise be to God," he cried, "the soul is
yet in him." He carried the man to his house as fast as he could,
and on arriving there did everything in his power to recover him.
A large fire was soon got ready, and tea and soup given the man,
and great was the joy of the potter and his wife when they saw
him reviving.[FN#514] For some months the stranger lived with
those good people, and learnt how to make pots and pans and other
articles and thereby helped them considerably. Now it happened
that the king of that country died and it was the custom of the
people to take for their sovereign whomsoever the late king's
elephant and hawk should select. And so on the death of the king
the royal elephant was driven all over the country, and the hawk
was made to fly about, in search of a successor and it came to
pass that the person before whom the elephant saluted and on whom
the hawk alighted was considered as the divinely-chosen one.
Accordingly the elephant and the hawk went about the country, and
in the course of their wanderings came by the house of the potter
who had so kindly succoured the poor man whom he found in the
belly of the monstrous fish; and it chanced that as they passed
the place the stranger was standing by the door, and behold, no
sooner did the elephant and hawk see him than the one bowed down
before him and the other perched on his hand. "Let him be king!
let him be king!" shouted the people who were in attendance on
the elephant, and they prostrated themselves before the stranger
and begged him to accompany them to the palace.[FN#515]

The ministers were glad when they heard the news, and most
respectfully welcomed their new king. As soon as the rites and
ceremonies necessary for the installation of a king had been
observed, his majesty entered on his duties. The first thing he
did was to send for the potter and his wife and grant them some
land and money. In this and other ways such as just judgments,
proper laws, and kindly notices of all who were clever and good,
he won for himself the good opinion and affection of his subjects
and prospered in consequence thereof. After a few months,
however, his health was impaired, and his physicians advised him
to take out-door exercise. Accordingly, he alternately rode,
hunted and fished. He was especially fond of fishing, and
whenever he indulged in this amusement, he was attended by two
sons of a fisherman, who were clever and handsome youths.

About this time the merchant who bought the wife of the poor king
that was carried away by the rapid river visited that country for
purposes of trade. He obtained an interview with the king, and
displayed before him all his precious stones and stuffs. The king
was much pleased to see such treasures, and asked many questions
about them and the countries whence they had been brought. The
merchant satisfied the king's curiosity, and then begged
permission to trade in that country, under his majesty's
protection, which the king readily granted, and ordered that some
soldiers should be placed on guard in the merchant's courtyard,
and sent the fisherman's two sons to sleep in the premises.

One night those two youths not being able to sleep, the younger
asked his brother to tell him a story to pass the time, so he
replied, "I will tell you one out of our own experience: Once
upon a time there lived a great and wealthy king, who was very
proud, and his pride led him to utter ruin and caused him the
sorest afflictions.. One day when going about with his army,
challenging other kings to fight with him, a great and powerful
king appeared and conquered him. He escaped with his wife and two
sons to the sea, hoping to find a vessel, by which he and his
family might reach a foreign land. After walking several miles
they reached the sea-shore and found a ship ready to sail. The
master of the vessel took the queen, but the king and his two
sons were held back by some men, who had been hired by the master
for this purpose, until the ship was under way. The poor king
after this walked long and far till he came to a rapid river. As
there was no bridge or boat near, he was obliged to wade across.
He took one of his boys and got over safely, and was returning
for the other when he stumbled over a stone, lost his footing,
and was carried down the stream; and he has not been heard of
since. A fisherman came along, and, seeing the two boys crying,
took them into his boat, and afterwards to his house, and became
very fond of them, as did also his wife, and they were like
father and mother to them. All this happened a few years ago, and
the two boys are generally believed to be the fisherman's own
sons. O brother, we are these two boys! And there you have my

The tale was so interesting and its conclusion so wonderful that
the younger brother was more awake than before. It had also
attracted the attention of another. The merchant's promised wife,
who happened to be lying awake at the time, and whose room was
separated from the warehouse by a very thin partition, overheard
all that had been said, and she thought within herself, "Surely
these two boys must be my own sons." Presently she was sitting
beside them and asking them many questions. Two years or more had
made great difference in the persons of both the boys, but there
were certain signs which a hundred years could not efface from a
mother's memory. These, together with the answers which she
elicited from them, assured her that she had found her own sons
again. Tears streamed down her face as she embraced them, and
revealed to them that she was the queen, their mother, about whom
they had just been speaking. She then told them all that had
happened to her since she had been parted from them and their
poor father, the king; after which she explained that although
the merchant was a good man and very wealthy yet she did not like
him well enough to become his wife, and proposed a plan for her
getting rid of him. "My device," said she, "is to pretend to the
merchant that you attempted my honour. I shall affect to be very
angry and not give him any peace until he goes to the king and
complains against you. Then will the king send for you in great
wrath and inquire into this matter. In reply you may say it is
all a mistake, for you regard me as your own mother, and in proof
of this you will beg the king to summon me into his presence,
that I may corroborate what you say. Then I will declare that you
are really my own sons, and beseech the king to free me from the
merchant and allow me to live with you in any place I may choose
for the rest of my days."

The sons agreed to this proposal, and next night, when the
merchant was also sleeping in the house, the woman raised a great
cry, so that everybody was awakened by the noise. The merchant
came and asked the cause of the outcry, and she answered, "The
two youths who look after your warehouse have attempted to
violate me, so I screamed in order to make them desist." On
hearing this the merchant was enraged. He immediately bound the
two youths, and, as soon as there was any chance of seeing the
king, took them before him preferred his complaint. "What have
you to say in your defence?" said the king, addressing the
youths; "because, if what this merchant charges against you be
true, I will have you at once put to death. Is this the gratitude
you manifest for all my kindness and condescension towards you?
Say quickly what you have to say." "O king, our benefactor,"
replied the elder brother, "we are not affrighted by your words
and looks, for we are true servants. We have not betrayed your
trust in us, but have always tried to fully your wishes to the
utmost of our power. The charges brought against us by this
merchant are unfounded. We have not attempted to dishonour his
wife; we have rather always regarded her as our own mother. May
it please your majesty to send for the woman and inquire further
into this matter."

The king consented, and the woman was brought before him. "Is it
true," he asked her "what the merchant, your affianced husband,
witnesses against these two youths?" "O king," she replied, "the
youths whom you gave to help the merchant have most carefully
tried to carry out your wishes. But the night before last I heard
their conversation. The elder was telling the younger a tale,
from his own experience, he said. It was a story of a conceited
king who had been defeated by another more powerful than he, and
obliged to fly with his wife and two children to the sea. There,
through the vile trickery of the master of a vessel, the wife was
stolen and taken away to far distant lands, where she became
engaged to a wealthy trader; while the exiled king and his two
sons wandered in another direction, till they came to a river, in
which the king was drowned. The two boys were found by a
fisherman and brought up as his own sons. These two boys, O king,
are before you, and I am their mother, who was taken away and
sold to the trader, and who after two days must be married to
him. For I promised that if within a certain period I should not
meet with my husband and two sons I would be his wife. But I
entreat your majesty to free me from this man. I do not wish to
marry again, now that I have found my two sons. In order to
obtain an audience of your majesty, this trick was arranged with
the two youths."

By the time the woman had finished her story the king's face was
suffused with tears and he was trembling visibly. When he had
somewhat recovered he rose from the throne and going up to the
woman and the two youths embraced them long and fervently. "You
are my own dear wife and children," he cried. "God has sent you
back to me. I, the king, your husband, your father, was not
drowned as you supposed; but was swallowed by a great fish and
nourished by it for some time, and then the monster threw itself
upon the river's bank and I was extricated. A potter and his wife
had pity on me and taught me their trade, and I was just
beginning to earn my living by making earthen vessels when the
late king of this country died, and I was chosen king by the
royal elephant and hawk--I who am now standing here." Then his
majesty ordered the queen and her two sons to be taken into the
inner apartments of the palace, and explained his conduct to the
people assembled. The merchant was politely dismissed from the
country. And as soon as the two princes were old enough to govern
the kingdom, the king committed to them the charge of all
affairs, while he retired with his wife to a sequestered spot and
passed the rest of his days in peace.

The tale of Sarwar and Nir, "as told by a celebrated Bard from
Baraut, in the Merath district," in vol. iii. of Captain R. C.
Temple's "Legends of the Panjab" (pp. 97-125) though differing in
form somewhat from the Kashmiri version, yet possesses the
leading incidents in common with it, as will be seen from the
following abstract:


Amba the raja of Puna had a beautiful wife named Amli and two
young sons, Sarwar and Nir. There came to his court one day a
fakir. The raja promised to give him whatsoever he should desire.
The fakir required Amba to give up to him all he possessed, or
lose his virtue, and the raja gave him all, save his wife and two
children, receiving in return the blessings of the fakir, Then
the raja and the rani went away; he carrying Sarwar in his bosom,
and she with Nir in her lap. For a time they lived on the fruits
and roots of the forest. At length the rani gave her husband her
(jewelled) bodice to sell in the bazar, in order to procure food.
He offered it to Kundan the merchant, who made him sit down and
asked him where he had left the rani and why he did not bring her
with him. Amba told him that he had left her with their two boys
under the banyan-tree. Then Kundan, leaving Amba in the shop,
went and got a litter, and proceeding to the banyan-tree showed
the rani the bodice, and said, "Thy husband wishes thee to come
to him." Nothing doubting, the rani entered the litter, and the
merchant sent it off to his own house. Leaving the boys in the
forest, he returned to Amba, and said to him that he had not
enough money to pay the price of the bodice, so the raja must
take it back. Amba took the bodice, and coming to the boys,
learned from Sarwar how their mother had been carried away in a
litter, and he was sorely grieved in his heart, but consoled the
children, saying that their mother had gone to her brother's
house, and that he would take them to her at once. Placing the
two boys on his shoulders he walked along till he came to a
river. He set down Nir and carried Sarwar safely across, but as
he was going back for the other, behold, an alligator seized him.
It was the will of God: what remedy is there against the writing
of Fate? The two boys, separated by the river, sat down and wept
in their sorrow. In the early morning a washerman was up and
spreading his clothes. He heard the two boys weeping and came to
see. He had pity on them and brought them together. Then he took
them to his house, and washed their faces and gave them food. He
put them into a separate house and a Brahman cooked for them and
gave them water.[FN#516] He caused the brothers to be taught all
kinds of learning, and at the end of twelve years they both set
out together to seek their living. They went to the city of
Ujjain, and told the raja their history--how they had left their
home and kingdom. The raja gave them arms and suitable clothing,
and appointed them guards over the female apartments.[FN#517] One
day a fisherman caught an alligator in his net. When he cut open
its body, he found in it Raja Amba, alive.[FN#518] So he took him
to the raja of Ujjain, and told how he had found him in the
stomach of an alligator. Amba related his whole history to the
raja; how he gave up all his wealth and his kingdom to a fakir,
how his wife had been stolen from him; and how after safely
carrying one of his young sons over the river in returning for
the other he had been swallowed by an alligator. On hearing of
all these misfortunes the raja of Ujjain pitied him and loved him
in his heart: he adopted Amba as his son; and they lived together
twenty years, when the raja died and Amba obtained the throne.

Meanwhile the beautiful Rani Amli, the wife of Amba, had
continued to refuse the merchant Kundan's reiterated proffers of
love. At length he said to her, "Many days have passed over thee,
live now in my house as my wife." And she replied, "Let me bathe
in the Ganges, and then I will dwell in thy house." So he took
elephants and horses and lakhs of coin, and set the rani in a
litter and started on the journey. When he reached the city of
Ujjain, he made a halt and pitched his tents. Then he went before
Raja Amba and said, "Give me a guard, for the nights are dark.
Hitherto I have had much trouble and no ease at nights. I am
going to bathe in the Ganges, to give alms and much food to
Brahmans. I am come, raja, to salute thee, bringing many things
from my house."

The raja sent Sarwar and Nir as guards. They watched the tents,
and while the rain was falling the two brothers began talking
over their sorrows, saying "What can our mother be doing? Whither
hath our father gone?" Their mother overheard them talking, and
by the will of God she recognised the princes; then she tore open
the tent, and cried aloud, "All my property is gone! Who brought
this thief to my tent?" The rani had both Sarwar and Nir seized,
and brought before Raja Amba on the charge of having stolen her
property. The raja held a court, and began to ask questions,
saying, "Tell me what hath passed during the night. How much of
thy property hath gone, my friend? I will do thee justice,
according to thy desire: my heart is grieved that thy goods are
gone." Then said the rani, "Be careful of the young elephant! The
lightning flashes and the heavy rain is falling. Said Nir, 'Hear,
brother Sarwar, who knows whither our mother hath gone?' And I
recognised my son; so I made all this disturbance, raja [in order
to get access to thee]". [FN#519] Hearing this, Raja Amba rose up
and took her to his breast--Amli and Amba met again through the
mercy of God. The raja gave orders to have Kundan hanged, saving,
"Do it at once, he is a scoundrel; undo him that he may not
live." They quickly fetched the executioners and put on the
noose; and then was Kundan strangled. The rani dwelt in the
palace and all her troubles passed far away. She fulfilled all
her obligations, and obtained great happiness through her virtue.


Under the title of "Krisa Gautami" in the collection of "Tibetan
Tales from Indian Sources," translated by Mr. Ralston from the
German of Von Schiefner, we have what appears to be a very much
garbled form of an old Buddhist version of our story. The heroine
is married to a young merchant, whose father gives him some
arable land in a hill district, where he resides with Krisa
Guatami his wife.

When the time came for her to expect her confinement, she
obtained leave of her husband to go to her parents' house in
order that she might have the attendance of her mother. After her
confinement and the naming of the boy, she returned home. When
the time of her second confinement drew near, she again expressed
to her husband a desire to go to her parents. Her husband set out
with her and the boy in a waggon; but by the time they had gone
half way she gave birth to a boy. When the husband saw that this
was to take place he got out of the waggon, sat under a tree, and
fell asleep. While he was completely overcome by slumber a snake
bit him and he died. When his wife in her turn alighted from the
waggon, and went up to the tree in order to bring him the joyful
tidings that a son was born unto him, he, as he had given up the
ghost, made no reply. She seized him by the hand and found that
he was dead. Then she began to weep. Meantime a thief carried off
the oxen. After weeping for a long time, and becoming very
mournful, she looked around on every side, pressed the new-born
babe to her bosom, took the elder child by the hand, and set out
on her way. As a heavy rain had unexpectedly fallen, all the
lakes, ponds, and springs were full of water, and the road was
flooded by the river. She reflected that if she were to cross the
water with both the children at once, she and they might meet
with a disaster, and therefore the children had better be taken
over separately. So she seated the elder boy on the bank of the
river, and took the younger one in her arms, walked across to the
other side and laid him down upon the bank. Then she went back
for the elder boy. But while she was in the middle of the river,
the younger boy was carried off by a jackal. The elder boy
thought that his mother was calling him, and sprang into the
water. The bank was very steep, so he fell down and was killed.
The mother hastened after the jackal, who let the child drop and
ran off. When she looked at it, she found that it was dead. So
after she had wept over it, she threw it into the water. When she
saw that the elder was being carried along by the stream, she
became still more distressed. She hastened after him, and found
that he was dead. Bereft of both husband and children, she gave
way to despair, and sat down alone on the bank, with only the
lower part of her body covered. There she listened to the howling
of the wind, the roaring of the forest and of the waves, as well
as the singing of various kinds of birds. Then wandering to and
fro, with sobs and tears of woe, she lamented the loss of her
husband and her two children.

She meets with one of her father's domestics, who informs her
that her parents and their servants had all been destroyed by a
hurricane, and that "he only had escaped" to tell her the sad
tidings. After this she is married to a weaver, who ill-uses her,
and she escapes from him one night. She attaches herself to some
travellers returning from a trading expedition in the north, and
the leader of the caravan takes her for his wife. The party are
attacked by robbers and the leader is killed. She then becomes
the wife of the chief of the robbers, who in his turn finds death
at the hands of the king of that country, and she is placed in
his zenana.

The king died, and she was buried alive in his tomb, after having
had great honour shown to her by the women, the princes, the
ministers, and a vast concourse of people. Some men from the
north who were wont to rob graves broke into this one also. The
dust they raised entered into Krisa Gautami's nostrils, and made
her sneeze. The grave-robbers were terrified, thinking that she
was a demon (vetala), and they fled; but Krisa Gautami escaped
from the grave through the opening which they had made. Conscious
of all her troubles, and affected by the want of food, just as a
violent storm arose, she went out of her mind. Covered with
merely her underclothing, her hands and feet foul and rough, with
long locks and pallid complexion, she wandered about until she
reached Sravasti. There, at the sight of Bhagavant, she recovered
her intellect. Bhagavant ordered Ananda to give her an overrobe,
and he taught her the doctrine, and admitted her into the
ecclesiastical body, and he appointed her the chief of the
Bhikshunis who had embraced discipline.[FN#520]

This remarkable story is one of those which reached Europe long
anterior to the Crusades. It is found in the Greek martyr acts,
which were probably composed in the eighth century, where it is
told of Saint Eustache, who was before his baptism a captain of
Trajan, named Placidus, and the same legend reappears, with
modifications of the details, in many mediaeval collections and
forms the subject of several romances. In most versions the motif
is similar to that of the story of Job. The following is the
outline of the original legend, according to the Greek martyr


As Placidus one day hunted in the forest, the Saviour appeared to
him between the antlers of a hart, and converted him. Placidus
changed his name into Eustache, when he was baptised with his
wife and sons. God announced to him by an angel his future
martyrdom. Eustache was afflicted by dreadful calamities, lost
all his estate, and was compelled to go abroad as a beggar with
his wife and his children. As he went on board a ship bound for
Egypt, his wife was seized by the shipmaster and carried off.
Soon after, when Eustache was travelling along the shore, his two
children were borne off by a lion and a leopard. Eustache then
worked for a long time as journeyman, till he was discovered by
the emperor Trajan, who had sent out messengers for him, and
called him to court. Reappointed captain, Eustache undertook an
expedition against the Dacians. During this war he found his wife
in a cottage as a gardener--the shipmaster had fallen dead to the
ground as he ventured to touch her--and in the same cottage he
found again his two sons as soldiers: herdsmen had rescued them
from the wild beasts and brought them up. Glad was their meeting
again! But as they returned to Rome they were all burnt in a
glowing bull of brass by the emperor's order, because they
refused to sacrifice to the heathen gods.[FN#521]

The story of Placidus, which forms chapter 110 of the continental
"Gesta Romanorum," presents few and unimportant variations from
the foregoing: Eustatius came to a river the water of which ran
so high that it seemed hazardous to attempt to cross it with both
the children at the same time; one therefore he placed upon the
bank, and then passed over with the other in his arms, and having
laid it on the ground, he returned for the other child. But in
the midst of the river, looking back, he beheld a wolf snatch up
the child he had just carried over and run with it into the
adjoining wood. He turned to rescue it, but at that instant a
huge lion approached the other child and disappeared with it.
After the loss of his two boys Eustatius journeyed on till he
came to a village, where he remained for fifteen years, tending
sheep as a hired servant, when he was discovered by Trajan's
messengers, and so on.

The story is so differently told in one of the Early English
translations of the "Gesta Romanorum" in the Harleian MSS. 7333
(re-edited by Herrtage for the E.E.T. Soc., pp. 87-91) that it is
worth while, for purposes of comparison, reproducing it here in


Averios was a wise emperour regnyng in the cite of Rome; and he
let crye a grete feste, and who so ever wold come to that feste,
and gete victory in the tournament, he shuld have his doughter to
wyf, after his decease. So there was a doughti knyght, and hardy
in armys, and specially in tournament, the which hadde wyf, and
two yong children of age of thre yere; and when this knyght had
herd this crye, in a clere morowenyng[FN#522] he entred in to a
forest, and there he herd a nyghtingale syng upon a tre so
swetly, that he herd never so swete a melody afore that tyme. The
knyght sette him doun undre the tre, and seid to him self, "Now,
Lord, if I myght knowe what this brid[FN#523] shold
bemene!"[FN#524] There come an old man, and seid to him, "That
thou shalt go within tines thre daies to the emperours feste and
thou shalt suffre grete persecution or thou come there, and if
thou be constant, and pacient in all thi tribulacion, thy sorowe
shal turne the[FN#525] to grete joy, and, ser. this is the
interpretacion of his song." When this was seid, the old man
vanysshed, and the brid fly away. Tho[FN#526] the knyght had
grete merviell; he yede[FN#527] to his wif, and told her the
cas.[FN#528] "Ser." quod she, "the will of God be fulfilled, but
I counsel! that we go to the feste of the emperour and that ye
thynk on the victory in the tournament, by the which we may be
avaunced[FN#529] and holpen."[FN#530] When the knyght had made
all thing redy, there come a grete fire in the nyght; and
brent[FN#531] up all his hous and all his goodis, for which he
had grete sorowe in hert, nevertheles, notwithstondyng ail this,
he yede forthe toward the see, with his wife, and with his two
childryn, and there he hired a ship, to passe over. When thei
come to londe, the maister of the shippe asked of the knyght his
hire for his passage, for him, and for his wif and for his two
childryn. "Dere freed," said the knyght to him, "dere freed,
suffre me, and thou shalt have all thyn, for I go now to the
feste of the emperour, where I trust to have the victory in
turnement, and then thou shalt be wele ypaied." "Nay, by the
feith that I owe to the emperour," quod that other, "hit shal not
be so, for but if [FN#532] you pay now, I shal horde thi wif to
wed,[FN#533] tyll tyme that I be paled fully my salary." And he
seid that for he desired the love of the lady. Tho the knyght
profren his two childryn to wed, so that he myght have his wif;
and the shipman seid, "Nay, such wordis beth[FN#534] vayn, for,"
quod he, "or[FN#535] I wol have my mede, or els I wolle horde thi
wif." So the knyght lefte his wif with him, and kyst her with
bitter teris; and toke the two childryn, scil. oon on his arme,
and that othir in his nek, and so he yede forth to the turnement.
Aftir, the maister of the shippe wolde have layn by the lady, but
she denyed hit, and seid, that she had lever dey[FN#536] than
consente therto. So within short tyme, the maister drew to a
fer[FN#537] fond, and there he deied; and the lady beggid her
brede fro core to core, and knew not in what fond her husbond was
duellinge. The knyght was gon toward the paleis, and at the last
he come by a depe water, that was impossible to be passid,
but[FN#538] hit were in certein tyme, when hit was at the lowist.
The knyght sette doun oo[FN#539] child, and bare the othir over
the water; and aftir that he come ayen[FN#540] to fecche over the
othir, but or[FN#541] he myght come to him, there come a lion,
and bare him awey to the forest. The knyght pursued aftir, but he
myght not come to the lion, and then he wept bitterly, and yede
ayen over the water to the othir child, and or he were ycome, a
bere had take the child, and ran therwith to the forest. When the
knyght saw that, sore he wepte, and seid, "Alias! that ever I was
bore, for now have I lost wif and childryn. O thou brid! thi song
that was so swete is yturned in to grete sorowe, and hath ytake
away myrth fro my hert." Aftir this he turned toward the feste,
and made him redy toward the turnement, and there he bare him so
manly, and so doutely in the turnement and that twies or thries,
that he wan the victory, and worship, and wynnyng of that day.
For the emperour hily avauncid him, and made him maister of his
oste,[FN#542] and commaundid that all shuld obey to him, and he
encresid, and aros from day to day in honure and richesse. And he
went aftirward in a certain day in the cite, [and] he found a
precious stone, colourid with thre maner of colours, as in oo
partie[FN#542] white, in an othir partie red, and in the thrid
partie blak. Anon he went to a lapidary, that was expert in the
vertue of stonys; and he seid, that the vertue of thilke[FN#544]
stone was this, who so ever berith the stone upon him, his
hevynesse[FN#545] shall turne in to joy; and if he be
povere,[FN#546] he shal be made riche; and if he hath lost
anything, he shall fynde hit ayen with grete joy. And when the
knyght herd this, he was glad and blith, and thought in him self,
"I am in grete hevynesse and poverte, for I have lost all that I
had, and by this stone I shal recovere all ayen, whether hit be
so or no, God wote!" Aftir, when he must go to bataile of the
emperour he gadrid togidre[FN#547] all the oste, and among them
he found two yong knyghtis, semely in harneis,[FN#548] and wele
i-shape, the which he hired for to go with him yn bataill of the
emperour. And when thei were in the bataill, there was not oon in
all the batail that did so doutely,[FN#549] as did tho[FN#550]
two knyghtis that he hired; and therof this knyght, maister of
the ost, was hily gladid. When the bataill was y-do,[FN#551]
tines two yong knyghtes yede to her oste[FN#552] in the cite; and
as they sat to-gidir, the elder seid to the yonger, "Dere freed,
hit is long sithen[FN#553] that we were felawys,[FN#554] and we
have grete grace of God,for in everybatailwe have the victory;
and therfore I pray you, telle me of what contre ye were ybore,
and in what nacion? For I askid never this of the or now; and if
thou wilt telle me soth,[FN#555] I shall telle my kynrede and
where I was borne." And when oo felawe spak thus to the othir, a
faire lady was loggid[FN#556] in the same ostry;[FN#557] and when
she herd the elder knyght speke, she herkened to him; but she
knew neither of hem,[FN#558] and yit she was modir of both, and
wyf of the maister of the oste,[FN#559] the which also the
maister of the shippe withheld for ship hire, but ever God kept
her fro synne. Then spake the yonger knyght, "Forsoth, good man,
I note[FN#560] who was my fader or who was my modir, ne[FN#561]
in what stede[FN#562] I was borne, but I have this wele in mynde
that my fader was a knyght, and that he bare me over the water,
and left my eldir brothir in the fond; and as he passid over ayen
to fecche him, there come a lion, and toke me up but a man of the
cite come with houndis, and when he saw him, he made him to leve
me with his houndis."[FN#563] "Now sothly," quod that othir, "and
in the same maner hit happid vith me. For I was the sone of a
knyght, and had only a brothir; and my fader brought me and my
brothir, and my modir, over the see toward the emperour; and for
my fader had not to pay to the maister of the ship for the
fraught, he left my modir to wed; and then my fader toke me with
my yong brothir, and brought us on his teak, and in his armys,
tyll that we come unto a water, and there left me in a side of
the water, and bare over my yong brothir; and or my fader myght
come to me ayene, to bare me over, ther come a bere, and bore me
to wode;[FN#564] and the people that saw him, make grete cry, and
for fere the bere let me falle, and so with thelke[FN#565] poeple
I duellid x. yere, and ther I was y-norisshed." When the modir
herd tines wordis, she seid, "Withoute douse tines teen my
sonys," and ran to hem anon, and fil upon her[FN#566] nekkes, and
wepte sore for joy, and seid, "Al dere sonys, I am your modir,
that your fader left with the maister of the shippe; and I know
wele by your wordis and signes that ye teeth true brethern. But
how it is with your fader that I know not, but God, that all
seth,[FN#567] yeve[FN#568] me grace to fynd my husbond." And alle
that nyght tines thre were in gladnes. On the morow the modir
rose up, and the childryn, scil. the knyghtis, folowid; and as
thei yede, the maister of the oste mette with hem in the strete
and though he were her fader, he knew hem not, but[FN#569] as
thei had manli fought the day afore; and therfor he salued hem
honurably, and askid of hem what feir lady that was, that come
with hem? Anon as his lady herd his voys, and perceyved a certeyn
signe in his frount,[FN#570] she knew fully therby that it was
her husbond; and therfore she ran to him, and crypt him and kyst
him, and for joy fille doun to the erth, as she had be deaf. So
aftir this passion, she was reised up; and then the maister seid
to her, "Telle me, feir woman, whi thou clippest me, and kyssist
me so?" She seid, "I am thi wif, that thou leftist with the
maister of the ship; and tines two knyghtis bene your sonys. Loke
wele on my front, and see." Then the knyght byheld her were, with
a good avisement,[FN#571] and knew wele by diverse tokyns that
she was his wif; and anon kyst her, and the sonys eke; and
blessid hiely God, that so had visited hem. Tho went he ayen to
his fond, with his wif, and with his children, and endid faire
his lif.

From the legend of St. Eustache the romances of Sir Isumbras,
Octavian, Sir Eglamour of Artois, and Sir Torrent of Portugal are
derived. In the last, while the hero is absent aiding the king of
Norway with his sword, his wife Desonelle is delivered of twins,
and her father, King Calamond, out of his hatred of her, causes
her and the babes to be put to sea in a boat; but a favourable
wind saves them from destruction, and drives the boat upon the
coast of Palestine. As she is wandering aimlessly along the
shore, a huge griffin appears and seizes one of her children, and
immediately after a leopard drags away the other. With submission
she suffers her miserable fate, relying on the help of the Holy
Virgin. The king of Jerusalem, just returning from a voyage,
happened to find the leopard with the child, which he ordered to
be saved and delivered to him. Seeing from the foundling's golden
ring that the child was of noble descent, and pitying its
helpless state, he took it into his palace, and brought him up as
if he were his own son, at his court. The dragon with the other
child was seen by a pious hermit, St. Antony, who, though son of
the king of Greece, had in his youth forsaken the world. Through
his prayer St. Mary made the dragon put down the infant. Antony
carried him to his father, who adopted him and ordered him to be
baptised. Desonelle wandered up and down, after the loss of her
children, till she happened to meet the king of Nazareth hunting.
He, recognising her as the king of Portugal's daughter, gave her
a kind welcome and assistance, and at his court she lived several
years in happy retirement. Ultimately she is re-united to her
husband and her two sons, when they have become famous knights.

The following is an epitome of "Sir Isumbras," from Ellis's
"Specimens of Early English Metrical Romances" (Bohr's ed. p. 479


There was once a knight, who, from his earliest infancy, appeared
to be the peculiar favourite of Fortune. His birth was noble; his
person equally remarkable for strength and beauty, his
possessions so extensive as to furnish the amusements of hawking
and hunting in the highest perfection. Though he had found no
opportunity of signalising his courage in war, he had borne away
the prize at numberless tournaments; his courtesy was the theme
of general praise; his hall was the seat of unceasing plenty; it
was crowded with minstrels, whom he entertained with princely
liberality, and the possession of a beautiful wife and three
lovely children completed the sum of earthly happiness.

Sir Isumbras had many virtues, but he had one vice. In the pride
of his heart he forgot the Giver of all good things, and
considered the blessings so abundantly showered upon him as the
proper and just reward of his distinguished merit. Instances of
this overweening presumption might perhaps be found in all ages
among the possessors of wealth and power; but few sinners have
the good fortune to be recalled, like Sir Isumbras, by a severe
but salutary punishment, to the pious sentiments of Christian

It was usual with knights to amuse themselves with hawking or
hunting whenever they were not occupied by some more serious
business; and, as business seldom intervened, they thus amused
themselves every day in the year. One morning, being mounted on
his favourite steed, surrounded by his dogs, and with a hawk on
his wrist, Sir Isumbras cast his eyes on the sky, and discovered
an angel, who, hovering over him, reproached him with his pride,
and announced the punishment of instant and complete degradation.
The terrified knight immediately fell on his knees; acknowledged
the justice of his sentence; returned thanks to Heaven for
deigning to visit him with adversity while the possession of
youth and health enabled him to endure it; and, filled with
contrition, prepared to return from the forest. But scarcely had
the angel disappeared when his good steed suddenly fell dead
under him, the hawk dropped from his wrist; his hounds wasted and
expired; and, being thus left alone, he hastened on foot towards
his palace, filled with melancholy forebodings, but impatient to
learn the whole extent of his misfortune.

He was presently met by a part of his household, who, with many
tears, informed him that his horses and oxen had been suddenly
struck dead with lightning, and that his capons were all stung to
death with adders. He received the tidings with humble
resignation, commanded his servants to abstain from murmurs
against Providence, and passed on. He was next met by a page, who
related that his castle was burned to the ground, that many of
his servants had lost their lives, and that his wife and children
had with great difficulty escaped from the flames. Sir Isumbras,
rejoiced that Heaven had yet spared those who were most dear to
him, bestowed upon the astonished page his purse of gold as a
reward for the intelligence.

A doleful sight then gan he see;
His wife and children three
Out of the fire were fled:
There they sat, under a thorn,
Bare and naked as they were born,
Brought out of their bed.
A woful man then was he,
When he saw them all naked be,
The lady said, all so blive,
"For nothing, sir, be ye adrad."
He did off his surcoat of pallade,[FN#572]
And with it clad his wife.
His scarlet mantle then shore[FN#573] he;
Therein he closed his children three
That naked before him stood.

He then proposed to his wife that, as an expiation of their sins,
they should at once under take a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; so,
cutting with his knife a sign of the cross on his bare shoulder,
he set off with the four companions of his misery resolving to
beg his bread till they should arrive at the Holy Sepulchre.
After passing through "seven lands," supported by the scanty alms
of the charitable, they arrived at length at a forest, where they
wandered during three days without meeting a single habitation.
Their food was reduced to the few berries which they were able to
collect; and the children, unaccustomed to such hard fare began
to sink under the accumulated difficulties of their journey. In
this situation they were stopped by a wide and rapid though
shallow river. Sir Isumbras, taking his eldest son in his arms,
carried him over to the opposite bank and placing him under a
bush of broom, directed him to dry his tears, and amuse himself
by playing with the blossoms till his return with his brothers.
But scarcely had he left the place when lion, starting from a
neighbouring thicket, seized the child and bore him away into the
recesses of the forest. The second son became, in like manner,-
the prey of an enormous leopard, and the disconsolate mother,
when carried over with her infant to the fatal spot, was with
difficulty persuaded to survive the loss of her two elder
children. Sir Isumbras, though he could not repress the tears
extorted by this cruel calamity, exerted himself to console his
wife and humbly confessing his sins, contented himself with
praying that his present misery might be accepted by Heaven as a
partial expiation.

Through forest they went days three,
Till they came to the Greekish sea;
They grette,[FN#574] and were full wo!
As they stood upon the land,
They saw a fleet sailand,[FN#575]
Three hundred ships and mo.[FN#576]
With top-casters set on-loft,
Richly then were they wrought,
With joy and mickle[FN#577] pride:
A heathen king was therein,
That Christendom came to win;
His power was full wide.

It was now seven days since the pilgrims had tasted bread or
meat, the soudan's[FN#578] galley therefore, was no sooner moored
to the beach than the hastened on board to beg for food The
soudan, under the apprehension that they were spies, ordered them
to be driven back on shore; but his attendants observed to him
that these could not be common beggars that the robust limbs and
tall stature of the husband proved him to be a knight in
disguise, and that the delicate complexion of the wife, who was
"bright as blossom on tree," formed a striking contrast to the
ragged apparel with which she was very imperfectly covered. They
were now brought into the royal presence; and the soudan,
addressing Sir Isumbras, immediately offered him as much treasure
as he should require, on condition that he should renounce
Christianity and consent to fight under the Saracen banners. The
answer was a respectful but peremptory refusal, concluded by an
earnest petition for a little food; but the soudan, having by
this time turned his eyes from Sir Isumbras to the beautiful
companion of his pilgrimage, paid no attention to his request.

The soudan beheld that lady there,
Him thought an angel that she were,
Comen a-down from heaven;
"Man! I will give thee gold and fee,
An thou that woman will sellen me,
More than thou can neven.[FN#579]
I will give thee an hundred pound
Of pennies that been whole and round,
And rich robes seven:
She shall be queen of my land,
And all men bow unto her hand,
And none withstand her steven."[FN#580]
Sir Isumbras said, "Nay!
My wife I will nought sell away,
Though ye me for her sloo![FN#581]
I weddid her in Goddislay,
To hold her to mine ending day,
Both for weal and wo."

It evidently would require no small share of casuistry to
construe this declaration into an acceptance of the bargain, but
the Saracens, having heard the offer of their sovereign,
deliberately counted out the stipulated sum on the mantle of Sir
Isumbras; took possession of the lady, carried the knight with
his infant son on shore; beat him till he was scarcely able to
move, and then returned for further orders. During this
operation, the soudan, with his own hand, placed the regal crown
on the head of his intended bride; but recollecting that the
original project of the voyage to Europe was to conquer it, which
might possibly occasion a loss of some time, he delayed his
intended nuptial, and ordered a fast-sailing vessel to convey her
to his dominions, providing her at the same time with a charter
addressed to his subjects, in which he enjoined them to obey her,
from the moment of her landing, as their legitimate sovereign.

The lady, emboldened by these tokens of deference on the part of
her new lord, now fell on her knees and entreated his permission
to pass a few moments in private with her former husband, and the
request was instantly granted by the complaisant Saracen. Sir
Isumbras still smarting from his bruises, was conducted with
great respect and ceremony to his wife, who, embracing him with
tears, earnestly conjured him to seek her out as soon as possible
in her new dominions, to slay his infidel rival, and to take
possession of a throne which was probably reserved to him by
Heaven as an indemnification for his past losses. She then
supplied him with provisions for a fortnight; kissed him and her
infant son; swooned three times, and then set sail for Africa.

Sir Isumbras, who had been set on shore quite confounded by this
quick succession of strange adventures, followed the vessel with
his eyes till it vanished from his sight, and then taking his son
by the hand led him up to some rocky woodlands in the
neighbourhood. Here they sat down under a tree, and after a short
repast, which was moistened with their tears, resumed their
journey. But they were again bewildered in forest, and, after
gaining the summit of the mountain without being able to descry a
single habitation, lay down on the bare ground and resigned
themselves to sleep. The next morning Sir Isumbras found that his
misfortunes were not yet terminated. He had carried his stock of
provisions, together with his gold, the fatal present of the
soudan, enveloped in a scarlet mantle; and scarcely had the sun
darted its first rays on the earth when an eagle, attracted by
the red cloth; swooped down upon the treasure and bore it off in
his talons. Sir Isumbras, waking at the moment, perceived the
theft, and for some time hastily pursued the flight of the bird,
who, he expected, would speedily drop the heavy and useless
burthen but he was disappointed; for the eagle, constantly
towering as he approached the sea, at length directed his flight
towards the opposite shore of Africa. Sir Isumbras slowly
returned to his child, whom he had no longer the means of
feeding, but the wretched father only arrived m time to behold
the boy snatched from him by a unicorn. The knight was now quite
disheartened. But his last calamity was so evidently miraculous
that even the grief of the father was nearly absorbed by the
contrition of the sinner. He fell on his knees and uttered a most
fervent prayer to Jesus and the Virgin, and then proceeded on his

His attention was soon attracted by the sound of a smith's
bellows: he quickly repaired to the forge and requested the
charitable donation of a little food, but was told by the
labourers that he seemed as well able to work as they did, and
they had nothing to throw away in charity.

Then answered the knight again,
"For meat would I swink[FN#582] fain."
Fast he bare and drow,[FN#583]
They given him meat and drink anon.
And taughten him to bear stone:
Then had he shame now.

This servitude lasted a twelvemonth, and seven years expired
before he had fully attained all the mysteries of his new
profession. He employed his few leisure hours in fabricating a
complete suit of armour: every year had brought him an account of
the progress of the Saracens; and he could not help entertaining
a hope that his arm, though so ignobly employed, was destined at
some future day to revenge the wrongs of the Christians, as well
as the injury which he had personally received from the

At length he heard that the Christian army had again taken the
field, that the day was fixed for a great and final effort; and
that a plain at an inconsiderable distance from his shop was
appointed for the scene of action. Sir Isumbras rose before day,
buckled on his armour, and mounting a horse which had hitherto
been employed in carrying coals, proceeded to the field and took
a careful view of the disposition of both armies. When the
trumpets gave the signal to charge, he dismounted, fell on his
knees, and after a short but fervent prayer to Heaven, again
sprang into his saddle and rode into the thickest ranks of the
enemy. His uncouth war-horse and awkward armour had scarcely less
effect than his wonderful address and courage in attracting the
attention of both parties; and when after three desperate
charges, his sorry steed was slain under him, one of the
Christian chiefs make a powerful effort for his rescue, bore him
to a neighbouring eminence, and presented to him a more suitable
coat of armour, and a horse more worthy of the heroic rider.

When he was armed on that stead
It is seen where his horse yede,[FN#584]
And shall be evermore.
As sparkle glides off the glede,[FN#585]
In that stour he made many bleed,
And wrought hem wonder sore.
He rode up into the mountain,
The soudan soon hath he slain,
And many that with him were.
All that day lasted the fight;
Sir Isumbras, that noble knight,
Wan the battle there.
Knights and squires have him sought,
And before the king him brought;
Full sore wounded was he.
They asked what was his name;
He said, "Sire, a smith's man;
What will ye do with me?"
The Christian king said, than,
"I trow never smith's man
In war was half so wight."
"I bid[FN#586] you, give me meat and drink
And what that I will after think,
Till I have kevered[FN#587] my might."
The king a great oath sware,
As soon as he whole were,
That he would dub him knight.
In a nunnery they him leaved,
To heal the wound in his heved,[FN#588]
That he took in that fight.
The nuns of him were full fain,
For he had the soudan slain,
And many heathen hounds;
For his sorrow they gan sore rue;
Every day they salved him new,
And stopped well his wounds.

We may fairly presume, without derogating from the merit of the
holy sisters or from the virtue of their salves and bandages,
that the knight's recovery was no less accelerated by the
pleasure of having chastised the insolent possessor of his wife
and the author of his contumelious beating. In a few days his
health was restored; and having provided himself with a "scrip
and pike" and the other accoutrements of a palmer, he took his
leave of the nuns, directed his steps once more to the "Greekish
Sea," and, embarking on board of a vessel which he found ready to
sail, speedily arrived at the port of Acre.

During seven years, which were employed in visiting every part of
the Holy Land, the penitent Sir Isumbras led a life of continued
labour and mortification: fed during the day by the precarious
contributions of the charitable, and sleeping at night in the
open air, without any addition to the scanty covering which his
pilgrim's weeds, after seven years service, were able to afford.
At length his patience and contrition were rewarded. After a day
spent in fruitless applications for a little food,

Beside the burgh of Jerusalem
He set him down by a well-stream,
Sore wepand[FN#589] for his sin.
And as he sat, about midnight,
There came an angel fair and bright,
And brought him bread and wine;
He said, "Palmer, well thou be!
The King of Heaven greeteth well thee;
Forgiven is sin thine."

Sir Isumbras accepted with pious gratitude the donation of food,
by which his strength was instantly restored, and again set out
on his travels; but he was still a widower, still deprived of his
children, and as poor as ever; nor had his heavenly monitor
afforded him any hint for his future guidance. He wandered
therefore through the country, without any settled purpose, till
he arrived at a "rich burgh," built round a "fair castle," the
possessor of which, he was told, was a charitable queen, who
daily distributed a florin of gold to every poor man who
approached her gates, and even condescended to provide food and
lodging within her palace for such as were distinguished by
superior misery. Sir Isumbras presented himself with the rest;
and his emaciated form and squalid garments procured him instant

The rich queen in hall was set;
Knights her served, at hand and feet,
In rich robes of pall:
In the floor a cloth was laid;
"The poor palmer," the steward said,
"Shall sit above you all."
Meat and drink forth they brought;
He sat still, and ate right nought,
But looked about the hall.
So mickle he saw of game and glee
(Swiche mirthis he was wont to see)
The tears he let down fall.

Conduct so unusual attracted the attention of the whole company,
and even of the queen, who, ordering "a chair with a cushion" to
be placed near the palmer, took her seat in it, entered into
conversation with him on the subject of his long and painful
pilgrimage and was much edified by the moral lessons which he
interspersed in his narrative. But no importunity could induce
him to taste food: he was sick at heart, and required the aid of
solitary meditation to overcome the painful recollections which
continually assailed him The queen was more and more astonished,
but at length left him to his reflections, after declaring that,
"for her lord's soul, or for his love, if he were still alive,"
she was determined to retain the holy palmer in her palace, and
to assign him a convenient apartment, together with a servant to
attend him.

An interval of fifteen years, passed in the laborious occupations
of blacksmith and pilgrim, may be supposed to have produced a
very considerable alteration in the appearance of Sir Isumbras;
and even his voice, subdued by disease and penance, may have
failed to discover the gallant knight under the disguise which he
had so long assumed. But that his wife (for such she was) should
have been equally altered by the sole operation of time that the
air and gestures and action of a person once so dear and so
familiar to him should have awakened no trace of recollection in
the mind of a husband, though in the midst of scenes which
painfully recalled the memory of his former splendour, is more
extraordinary. Be this as it may, the knight and the queen,
though lodged under the same roof and passing much of their time
together, continued to bewail the miseries of their protracted
widowhood. Sir Isumbras, however, speedily recovered, in the
plentiful court of the rich queen, his health and strength, and
with these the desire of returning to his former exercises. A
tournament was proclaimed; and the lists, which were formed
immediately under the widows of the castle, were quickly occupied
by a number of Saracen knights, all of whom Sir Isumbras
successively overthrew. So dreadful was the stroke of his spear,
that many were killed at the first encounter; some escaped with a
few broken bones; others were thrown headlong into the castle
ditch, but the greater number consulted their safety by a timely
flight; while the queen contemplated with pleasure and
astonishment the unparalleled exploits of her favourite palmer.

Then fell it, upon a day,
The Knight went him for to play,
As it was ere his kind;
A fowl's nest he found on high;
A red cloth therein he seygh[FN#590]
Wavand[FN#591] in the wind.
To the nest he gan win;[FN#592]
His own mantle he found therein;
The gold there gan he find.

The painful recollection awakened by this discovery weighed
heavily on the soul of Sir Isumbras. He bore the fatal treasure
to his chamber, concealed it under his bed, and spent the
remainder of the day in tears and lamentations. The images of his
lost wife and children now began to haunt him continually; and
his altered demeanour attracted the attention and excited the
curiosity of the whole court, and even of the queen, who could
only learn from the palmer's attendant that his melancholy seemed
to originate in the discovery of something in a bird's nest. With
this strange report she was compelled to be satisfied, till Sir
Isumbras, with the hope of dissipating his grief, began to resume
his usual exercises in the field, but no sooner had he quitted
his chamber than the "squires" by her command broke open the
door, discovered the treasure, and hastened with it to the royal
apartment. The sight of the gold and the scarlet mantle
immediately explained to the queen the whole mystery of the
palmer's behaviour. She burst into tears; kissed with fervent
devotion the memorial of her lost husband; fell into a swoon; and
on her recovery told the story to her attendants, and enjoined
them to go in quest of the palmer, and to bring him at once
before her. A short explanation removed her few remaining doubts;
she threw herself into the arms of her husband, and the reunion
of this long separated couple was immediately followed by the
coronation of Sir Isumbras and by a protracted series of

The Saracen subjects of the Christian sovereign continued, with
unshaken loyalty, to partake of the plentiful entertainments
provided for all ranks of people on this solemn occasion, but no
sooner had the pious Sir Isumbras signified to them the necessity
of their immediate conversion, than his whole "parliament"
adopted the resolution of deposing and committing to the flames
their newly acquired sovereign, as soon as they should have
obtained the concurrence of the neighbouring princes. Two of
these readily joined their forces for the accomplishment of this
salutary purpose, and invading the territories of Sir Isumbras
with an army of thirty thousand men, sent him, according to usual
custom, a solemn defiance. Sir Isumbras boldly answered the
defiance, issued the necessary orders, called for his arms,
sprang upon his horse, and prepared to march out against the
enemy; when he discovered that his subjects had, to a man,
abandoned him, and that he must encounter singly the whole host
of the invaders.

Sir Isumbras was bold and keen,
And took his leave at the queen,
And sighed wonder sore:
He said, "Madam, have good day!
Sickerly, as you I say,
For now and evermore!"
"Help me, sir, that I were dight
In arms, as it were a knight;
I will with you fare:
Gif God would us grace send,
That we may together end,
Then done were all my care."
Soon was the lady dight
In arms, as it were a knight;
He gave her spear and shield:
Again[FN#593] thirty thousand Saracens and mo.[FN#594]
There came no more but they two,
When they met in field.

Never, probably, did a contest take place between such
disproportioned forces. Sir Isumbras was rather encumbered than
assisted by the presence of his beautiful but feeble helpmate;
and the faithful couple were upon the point of being crushed by
the charge of the enemy, when three unknown knights suddenly made
their appearance, and as suddenly turned the fortune of the day.
The first of these was mounted on a lion, the second on a
leopard, and the third on a unicorn. The Saracen cavalry, at the
first sight of these unexpected antagonists, dispersed in all
directions. But flight and resistance were equally hopeless:
three and twenty thousand unbelievers were soon laid lifeless on
the plain by the talons of the lion and leopard and by the
resistless horn of the unicorn, or by the swords of their young
and intrepid riders; and the small remnant of the Saracen army
who escaped from the general carnage quickly spread, through
every corner of the Mohammedan world the news of this signal and
truly miraculous victory.

Sir Isumbras, who does not seem to have possessed the talent for
unravelling mysteries, had never suspected that his three
wonderful auxiliaries were his own children whom Providence had
sent to his assistance at the moment of his greatest distress,
but he was not the less thankful when informed of the happy
termination of all his calamities. The royal family were received
in the city with every demonstration of joy by his penitent
subjects whose loyalty had been completely revived by the recent
miracle. Magnificent entertainments were provided; after which
Sir Isumbras, having easily overrun the territories of his two
pagan neighbours, who had been slain in the last battle,
proceeded to conquer a third kingdom for his youngest son; and
the four monarchs, uniting their efforts for the propagation of
the true faith, enjoyed the happiness of witnessing the baptism
of all the inhabitants of their respective dominions.

They lived and died in good intent;
Unto heaven their souls went,
When that they dead were.
Jesu Christ, heaven's king,
Give us, aye, his blessing,
And shield us from care!

On comparing these several versions it will be seen that, while
they differ one from another m some of the details, yet the
fundamental outline is identical, with the single exception of
the Tibetan story, which, in common with Tibetan tales generally,
has departed very considerably from the original. A king, or
knight, is suddenly deprived of all his possessions, and with his
wife and two children becomes a wanderer on the face of the
earth; his wife is forcibly taken from him; he afterwards loses
his two sons, he is once more raised to affluence; his sons,
having been adopted and educated by a charitable person, enter
his service, their mother recognises them through overhearing
their conversation; finally husband and wife and children are
happily re-united. Such is the general outline of the story,
though modifications have been made in the details of the
different versions-- probably through its being transmitted
orally in some instances. Thus in the Arabian story, the king is
ruined apparently in consequence of no fault of his own; in the
Panjabi version, he relinquishes his wealth to a fakir as a pious
action; in the Kashmiri and in the romance of Sir Isumbras, the
hero loses his wealth as a punishment for his overweening ride,
in the legend of St. Eustache, as in the story of Job, the
calamities which overtake the Christian convert are designed by
Heaven as a trial of his patience and fortitude; while even in
the corrupted Tibetan story the ruin of the monarch is reflected
in the destruction of the parents of the heroine by a hurricane.
In both the Kashmiri and the Panjabi versions, the father is
swallowed by a fish (or an alligator) in re-crossing the river to
fetch his second child, in the Tibetan story the wife loses her
husband, who is killed by a snake, and having taken one of her
children over the river, she is returning for the other when,
looking back, she discovers her babe in the jaws of a wolf: both
her children perish: in the European versions they are carried
off by wild beasts and rescued by strangers--the romance of Sir
Isumbras is singular in representing the number of children to be
three. Only in the Arabian story do we find the father carrying
his wife and children in safety across the stream, and the latter
afterwards lost in the forest. The Kashmiri and Gesta versions
correspond exactly in representing the shipman as seizing the
lady because her husband could not pay the passage-money: in the
Arabian she is entrapped in the ship, owned by a Magian, on the
pretext that there is on board a woman in labour; in Sir Isumbras
she is forcibly "bought" by the Soudan. She is locked up in a
chest by the Magian; sent to rule his country by the Soudan;
respectfully treated by the merchant in the Kashmiri story, and,
apparently, also by Kandan in the Panjabi legend; in the story of
St. Eustache her persecutor dies and she is living in humble
circumstances when discovered by her husband.--I think there is
internal evidence, apart from the existence of the Tibetan
version, to lead to the conclusion that the story is of Buddhist
extraction, and if such be the fact, it furnishes a further
example of the indebtedness of Christian hagiology to Buddhist
tales and legends.

p. 1.

We must, I think, regard this group of tales as being genuine
narratives of the exploits of Egyptian sharpers. From the days of
Herodotus to the present time, Egypt has bred the most expert
thieves in the world. The policemen don't generally exhibit much
ability for coping with the sharpers whose tricks they so well
recount; but indeed our home-grown "bobbies" are not particularly

THE THIEF'S TALE.--Vol. XII. p. 28.

A parallel to the woman's trick of shaving off the beards and
blackening the faces of the robbers is found in the well-known
legend, as told by Herodotus (Euterpe, 121), of the robbery of
the treasure-house of Rhampsinitus king of Egypt, where the
clever thief, having made the soldiers dead drunk, shaves off the
right side of their beards and then decamps with his brother's
headless body.


The narrow escape of the singing-girl hidden under a pile of
halfah grass may be compared with an adventure of a fugitive
Mexican prince whose history, as related by Prescott, is as full
of romantic daring and hair's breadth 'scapes as that of
Scanderbeg or the "Young Chevader." This prince had just time to
turn the crest of a hill as his enemies were climbing it on the
other side, when he fell in with a girl who was reaping chian, a
Mexican plant, the seed of which is much used in the drinks of
the country. He persuaded her to cover him with the stalks she
had been cutting. When his pursuers came up and inquired if she
had seen the fugitive, the girl coolly answered that she had, and
pointed out a path as the one he had taken.


The concluding part of this story differs very materially from
that of the Greek legend of Ibycus (fl. B.C. 540), which is thus
related in a small MS. collection of Arabian and Persian
anecdotes in my possession, done into English from the French:

It is written in the history of the first kings that in the reign
of a Grecian king there lived a philosopher named Ibycus, who
surpassed in sagacity all other sages of Greece. Ibycus was once
sent by the king to a neighbouring court. On the way he was
attacked by robbers who, suspecting him to have much money,
formed the design of killing him "Your object in taking my life,"
said Ibycus, "is to obtain my money; I give it up to you, but
allow me to live." The robbers paid no attention to his words,
and persisted in their purpose. The wretched Ibycus, in his
despair, looked about him to see if any one was coming to his as
assistance, but no person was in sight. At that very moment a
flock of cranes flew overhead. "O cranes!" cried Ibycus, "know
that I have been seized in this desert by these wicked men, and I
die from their blows. Avenge me, and demand from them my blood."
At these words the robbers burst into laughter: "To take away
life from those who have lost their reason," they observed, "is
to add nothing to their hurt." So saying, they killed Ibycus and
divided his money. On receipt of the news that Ibycus had been
murdered, the inhabitants of the town were exasperated and felt
great sorrow. They caused strict inquiries to be made for the
murderers, but they could not be found. After some time the
Greeks were celebrating a feast. The inhabitants of the adjoining
districts came in crowds to the temples. The murderers of Ibycus
also came, and everywhere showed themselves. Meanwhile a flock of
cranes appeared in the air and hovered above the people, uttering
cries so loud and prolonged that the prayers and ceremonies were
interrupted. One of the robbers looked with a smile at his
comrades, saying, by way of joke, "These cranes come without
doubt to avenge the blood of Ibycus." Some one of the town, who
was near them, heard these words, repeated them to his neighbour,
and they together reported them to the king The robbers were
taken, strictly cross-examined, confessed their crime, and
suffered for it a just punishment. In this way the cranes
inflicted vengeance on the murderers of Ibycus. But we ought to
see in this incident a matter which is concealed in it: This
philosopher although apparently addressing his words to the
cranes, was really imploring help from their Creator; he hoped,
in asking their aid, that He would not suffer his blood to flow
unavenged. So God accomplished his hopes, and willed that cranes
should be the cause that his death was avenged in order that the
sages of the world should learn from it the power and wisdom of
the Creator.

This ancient legend was probably introduced into Arabian
literature in the 9th century when translations of so many of the
best Greek works were made, and, no doubt, it was adapted in the
following Indian (Muslim) story:[FN#595]

There was a certain pir, or saint, of great wisdom, learning, and
sanctity, who sat by the wayside expounding the Kuran to all who
would listen to him. He dwelt in the out-buildings of a ruined
mosque close by, his only companion being a maina, or
hill-starling, which he had taught to proclaim the excellence of
the formula of his religion, saying, "The Prophet is just!" It
chanced that two travellers passing that way beheld the holy man
at his devotions, and though far from being religious persons yet
tarried a while to hear the words of truth. Evening now drawing
on, the saint invited his apparently pious auditors to his
dwelling, and set before them such coarse food as he had to
offer. Having eaten and refreshed themselves, they were
astonished at the wisdom displayed by the bird, who continued to
repeat holy texts from the Kuran. The meal ended, they all lay
down to sleep, and while the good man reposed, his treacherous
guests, who envied him the possession a bird that in their hands
might be the means of enriching them, determined to steal the
treasure and murder its master. So they stabbed the sleeping
devotee to the heart and then seized hold of the bird's cage.
But, unperceived by them, the door of it had been left open and
the bird was not to be found. After searching for the bird in
vain, they considered it necessary to dispose of the body, since,
if discovered, suspicion would assuredly fall upon them, and
carrying it away to what they deemed a safe distance they buried
it. Vexed to be obliged to leave the place without obtaining the
reward of their evil deeds, they again looked carefully for the
bird, but without success; it was nowhere to be seen, and so they
were compelled to go forward without the object of their search.
The maina had witnessed the atrocious deed, and unseen had
followed the murderers to the place were they had buried the
body, it then perched upon the tree beneath which the saint had
been wont to enlighten the minds of his followers, and when they
assembled flew into their midst, exclaiming, "The Prophet is
just!" making short flights and then returning. These unusual
motions, together with the absence of their preceptor, induced
the people to follow it and directing its flight to the grave of
its master, it uttered a mournful cry over the newly-covered
grave. The villagers, astonished, began to remove the earth, and
soon discovered the bloody corse. Surprised and horror-stricken,
they looked about for some traces of the murderers, and
perceiving that the bird had resumed the movements which had
first induced them to follow it, they suffered it to lead them
forward. Before evening fell, the avengers came up with two men,
who no sooner heard the maina exclaim, "The Prophet is just'" and
saw the crowd that accompanied it, than they fell upon their
knees, confessing that the Prophet had indeed brought their evil
deeds to light; so, their crime being thus made manifest, summary
justice was inflicted upon them.


An entertaining story, but very inconsistent in the character of
Iblis, who is constantly termed, in good Muslim fashion, "the
accursed," yet seems to be somewhat of a follower of the Prophet,
and on the whole a good-natured sort of fellow. His mode of
expressing his approval of the damsel's musical "talent" is, to
say the least, original.

WOMEN'S WILES.--Vol. XII. p. 99.

A variant--perhaps an older form--of this story occurs in the
tale of Prince Fadlallah, which is interwoven with the History of
Prince Calaf and the Princess of China, in the Persian tales of
"The Thousand and One Days":

The prince, on his way to Baghdad, is attacked by robbers, his
followers are all slain, and himself made prisoner, but he is set
at liberty by the compassionate wife of the robber-chief during
his absence on a plundering expedition. When he reaches Baghdad
he has no resource but to beg his bread, and having stationed
himself in front of a large mansion, an old female slave
presently comes out and gives him a loaf. At this moment a gust
of wind blew aside the curtain of a window and discovered to his
admiring eyes a most beautiful damsel, of whom he became
immediately enamoured. He inquired of a passerby the name of the
owner of the mansion, and was informed that it belonged to a man
called Mouaffac, who had been lately governor of the city, but
having quarrelled with the kazi, who was of a revengeful
disposition, the latter had found means to disgrace him with the
khalif and to have him deprived of his office. After lingering
near the house in vain till nightfall, in hopes of once more
obtaining a glimpse of this beauty, he retired for the night to a
burying-ground, where he was soon joined by two thieves, who
pressed upon him a share of the good cheer with which they had
provided themselves, but while the thieves were feasting and
talking over a robbery which they had just accomplished, the
police suddenly pounced upon them, and took all three and cast
them into prison.

In the morning they were examined by the kazi, and the thieves,
seeing it was useless to deny it, confessed their crime. The
prince then told the kazi how he chanced to fall into company of
the thieves, who confirmed all he said, and he was set at
liberty. Then the kazi began to question him as to how he had
employed his time since he came to Baghdad, to which he answered
very frankly but concealed his rank. On his mentioning the brief
glance he had of the beautiful lady at the window of the
ex-governor's house, the kazi's eyes sparkled with apparent
satifaction, and he assured the prince that he should have the
lady for his bride; for, believing the prince to be a mere
beggarly adventurer, he resolved to foist him on Mouaffac as the
son of a great monarch So, having sent the prince to the bath and
provided him with rich garments, the kazi dispatched a messenger
to request Mouaffac to come to him on important business. When
the ex-governor arrived, the kazi told him blandly that there was
now an excellent opportunity for doing away the ill will that had


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