The Arabian Nights Entertainments, by Andrew Lang
Part 5 out of 6
the mountains. Aladdin was so tired that he begged to go back,
but the magician beguiled him with pleasant stories, and led him on
in spite of himself.
At last they came to two mountains divided by a narrow valley.
"We will go no farther," said the false uncle. "I will show you
something wonderful; only do you gather up sticks while I kindle
When it was lit the magician threw on it a powder he had about him,
at the same time saying some magical words. The earth trembled a little
and opened in front of them, disclosing a square flat stone with a
brass ring in the middle to raise it by. Aladdin tried to run away,
but the magician caught him and gave him a blow that knocked him down.
"What have I done, uncle?" he said piteously; whereupon the magician
said more kindly: "Fear nothing, but obey me. Beneath this stone
lies a treasure which is to be yours, and no one else may touch it,
so you must do exactly as I tell you."
At the word treasure, Aladdin forgot his fears, and grasped the ring
as he was told, saying the names of his father and grandfather.
The stone came up quite easily and some steps appeared.
"Go down," said the magician; "at the foot of those steps you will find
an open door leading into three large halls. Tuck up your gown and go
through them without touching anything, or you will die instantly.
These halls lead into a garden of fine fruit trees. Walk on till
you come to a niche in a terrace where stands a lighted lamp.
Pour out the oil it contains and bring it to me."
He drew a ring from his finger and gave it to Aladdin,
bidding him prosper.
Aladdin found everything as the magician had said, gathered some
fruit off the trees, and, having got the lamp, arrived at the mouth
of the cave. The magician cried out in a great hurry:
"Make haste and give me the lamp." This Aladdin refused to do until
he was out of the cave. The magician flew into a terrible passion,
and throwing some more powder on the fire, he said something,
and the stone rolled back into its place.
The magician left Persia for ever, which plainly showed that he
was no uncle of Aladdin's, but a cunning magician who had read in
his magic books of a wonderful lamp, which would make him the most
powerful man in the world. Though he alone knew where to find it,
he could only receive it from the hand of another. He had picked
out the foolish Aladdin for this purpose, intending to get the lamp
and kill him afterwards.
For two days Aladdin remained in the dark, crying and lamenting.
At last he clasped his hands in prayer, and in so doing rubbed the ring,
which the magician had forgotten to take from him. Immediately an
enormous and frightful genie rose out of the earth, saying:
"What wouldst thou with me? I am the Slave of the Ring, and will
obey thee in all things."
Aladdin fearlessly replied: "Deliver me from this place!"
whereupon the earth opened, and he found himself outside.
As soon as his eyes could bear the light he went home, but fainted
on the threshold. When he came to himself he told his mother
what had passed, and showed her the lamp and the fruits he had
gathered in the garden, which were in reality precious stones.
He then asked for some food.
"Alas! child," she said, "I have nothing in the house, but I have
spun a little cotton and will go and sell it."
Aladdin bade her keep her cotton, for he would sell the lamp instead.
As it was very dirty she began to rub it, that it might fetch a
higher price. Instantly a hideous genie appeared, and asked what she
would have. She fainted away, but Aladdin, snatching the lamp,
"Fetch me something to eat!"
The genie returned with a silver bowl, twelve silver plates
containing rich meats, two silver cups, and two bottles of wine.
Aladdin's mother, when she came to herself, said:
"Whence comes this splendid feast?"
"Ask not, but eat," replied Aladdin.
So they sat at breakfast till it was dinner-time, and Aladdin
told his mother about the lamp. She begged him to sell it,
and have nothing to do with devils.
"No," said Aladdin, "since chance has made us aware of its virtues,
we will use it and the ring likewise, which I shall always wear
on my finger." When they had eaten all the genie had brought,
Aladdin sold one of the silver plates, and so on till none were left.
He then had recourse to the genie, who gave him another set of plates,
and thus they lived for many years.
One day Aladdin heard an order from the Sultan proclaimed that everyone
was to stay at home and close his shutters while the princess,
his daughter, went to and from the bath. Aladdin was seized by a desire
to see her face, which was very difficult, as she always went veiled.
He hid himself behind the door of the bath, and peeped through
a chink. The princess lifted her veil as she went in, and looked
so beautiful that Aladdin fell in love with her at first sight.
He went home so changed that his mother was frightened. He told her
he loved the princess so deeply that he could not live without her,
and meant to ask her in marriage of her father. His mother,
on hearing this, burst out laughing, but Aladdin at last prevailed
upon her to go before the Sultan and carry his request. She fetched
a napkin and laid in it the magic fruits from the enchanted garden,
which sparkled and shone like the most beautiful jewels. She took
these with her to please the Sultan, and set out, trusting in the lamp.
The grand-vizir and the lords of council had just gone in as she
entered the hall and placed herself in front of the Sultan.
He, however, took no notice of her. She went every day for a week,
and stood in the same place.
When the council broke up on the sixth day the Sultan said
to his vizir: "I see a certain woman in the audience-chamber
every day carrying something in a napkin. Call her next time,
that I may find out what she wants."
Next day, at a sign from the vizir, she went up to the foot of
the throne, and remained kneeling till the Sultan said to her:
"Rise, good woman, and tell me what you want."
She hesitated, so the Sultan sent away all but the vizir, and bade
her speak freely, promising to forgive her beforehand for anything she
might say. She then told him of her son's violent love for the princess.
"I prayed him to forget her," she said, "but in vain; he threatened
to do some desperate deed if I refused to go and ask your Majesty
for the hand of the princess. Now I pray you to forgive not me alone,
but my son Aladdin."
The Sultan asked her kindly what she had in the napkin, whereupon she
unfolded the jewels and presented them.
He was thunderstruck, and turning to the vizir said: "What sayest thou?
Ought I not to bestow the princess on one who values her at such
The vizir, who wanted her for his own son, begged the Sultan to withhold
her for three months, in the course of which he hoped his son would
contrive to make him a richer present. The Sultan granted this,
and told Aladdin's mother that, though he consented to the marriage,
she must not appear before him again for three months.
Aladdin waited patiently for nearly three months, but after
two had elapsed his mother, going into the city to buy oil,
found everyone rejoicing, and asked what was going on.
"Do you not know," was the answer, "that the son of the grand-vizir
is to marry the Sultan's daughter to-night?"
Breathless, she ran and told Aladdin, who was overwhelmed at first,
but presently bethought him of the lamp. He rubbed it, and the
genie appeared, saying: "What is thy will?"
Aladdin replied: "The Sultan, as thou knowest, has broken
his promise to me, and the vizir's son is to have the princess.
My command is that to-night you bring hither the bride and bridegroom."
"Master, I obey," said the genie.
Aladdin then went to his chamber, where, sure enough at midnight the
genie transported the bed containing the vizir's son and the princess.
"Take this new-married man," he said, "and put him outside in the cold,
and return at daybreak."
Whereupon the genie took the vizir's son out of bed, leaving Aladdin
with the princess.
"Fear nothing," Aladdin said to her; "you are my wife, promised to
me by your unjust father, and no harm shall come to you."
The princess was too frightened to speak, and passed the most miserable
night of her life, while Aladdin lay down beside her and slept soundly.
At the appointed hour the genie fetched in the shivering bridegroom,
laid him in his place, and transported the bed back to the palace.
Presently the Sultan came to wish his daughter good-morning.
The unhappy vizir's son jumped up and hid himself, while the princess
would not say a word, and was very sorrowful.
The Sultan sent her mother to her, who said: "How comes it,
child, that you will not speak to your father? What has happened?"
The princess sighed deeply, and at last told her mother how,
during the night, the bed had been carried into some strange house,
and what had passed there. Her mother did not believe her in the least,
but bade her rise and consider it an idle dream.
The following night exactly the same thing happened, and next morning,
on the princess's refusing to speak, the Sultan threatened to cut
off her head. She then confessed all, bidding him ask the vizir's
son if it were not so. The Sultan told the vizir to ask his son,
who owned the truth, adding that, dearly as he loved the princess,
he had rather die than go through another such fearful night,
and wished to be separated from her. His wish was granted, and there
was an end of feasting and rejoicing.
When the three months were over, Aladdin sent his mother to remind
the Sultan of his promise. She stood in the same place as before,
and the Sultan, who had forgotten Aladdin, at once remembered him,
and sent for her. On seeing her poverty the Sultan felt less
inclined than ever to keep his word, and asked the vizir's advice,
who counselled him to set so high a value on the princess that no man
living could come up to it.
The Sultan then turned to Aladdin's mother, saying: "Good woman,
a Sultan must remember his promises, and I will remember mine,
but your son must first send me forty basins of gold brimful
of jewels, carried by forty black slaves, led by as many white ones,
splendidly dressed. Tell him that I await his answer." The mother
of Aladdin bowed low and went home, thinking all was lost.
She gave Aladdin the message, adding: "He may wait long enough
for your answer!"
"Not so long, mother, as you think," her son replied "I would
do a great deal more than that for the princess."
He summoned the genie, and in a few moments the eighty slaves arrived,
and filled up the small house and garden.
Aladdin made them set out to the palace, two and two, followed by
his mother. They were so richly dressed, with such splendid jewels
in their girdles, that everyone crowded to see them and the basins
of gold they carried on their heads.
They entered the palace, and, after kneeling before the Sultan,
stood in a half-circle round the throne with their arms crossed,
while Aladdin's mother presented them to the Sultan.
He hesitated no longer, but said: "Good woman, return and tell
your son that I wait for him with open arms."
She lost no time in telling Aladdin, bidding him make haste.
But Aladdin first called the genie.
"I want a scented bath," he said, "a richly embroidered habit,
a horse surpassing the Sultan's, and twenty slaves to attend me.
Besides this, six slaves, beautifully dressed, to wait on my mother;
and lastly, ten thousand pieces of gold in ten purses."
No sooner said than done. Aladdin mounted his horse and passed
through the streets, the slaves strewing gold as they went.
Those who had played with him in his childhood knew him not,
he had grown so handsome.
When the Sultan saw him he came down from his throne, embraced him,
and led him into a hall where a feast was spread, intending to marry
him to the princess that very day.
But Aladdin refused, saying, "I must build a palace fit for her,"
and took his leave.
Once home he said to the genie: "Build me a palace of the
finest marble, set with jasper, agate, and other precious stones.
In the middle you shall build me a large hall with a dome, its four
walls of massy gold and silver, each side having six windows,
whose lattices, all except one, which is to be left unfinished,
must be set with diamonds and rubies. There must be stables and
horses and grooms and slaves; go and see about it!"
The palace was finished by next day, and the genie carried him
there and showed him all his orders faithfully carried out,
even to the laying of a velvet carpet from Aladdin's palace to the
Sultan's. Aladdin's mother then dressed herself carefully, and walked
to the palace with her slaves, while he followed her on horseback.
The Sultan sent musicians with trumpets and cymbals to meet them,
so that the air resounded with music and cheers. She was taken
to the princess, who saluted her and treated her with great honour.
At night the princess said good-bye to her father, and set out
on the carpet for Aladdin's palace, with his mother at her side,
and followed by the hundred slaves. She was charmed at the sight
of Aladdin, who ran to receive her.
"Princess," he said, "blame your beauty for my boldness if I have
She told him that, having seen him, she willingly obeyed her father
in this matter. After the wedding had taken place Aladdin led her
into the hall, where a feast was spread, and she supped with him,
after which they danced till midnight.
Next day Aladdin invited the Sultan to see the palace. On entering
the hall with the four-and-twenty windows, with their rubies,
diamonds, and emeralds, he cried:
"It is a world's wonder! There is only one thing that surprises me.
Was it by accident that one window was left unfinished?"
"No, sir, by design," returned Aladdin. "I wished your Majesty
to have the glory of finishing this palace."
The Sultan was pleased, and sent for the best jewelers in the city.
He showed them the unfinished window, and bade them fit it up like
"Sir," replied their spokesman, "we cannot find jewels enough."
The Sultan had his own fetched, which they soon used, but to
no purpose, for in a month's time the work was not half done.
Aladdin, knowing that their task was vain, bade them undo their
work and carry the jewels back, and the genie finished the window
at his command. The Sultan was surprised to receive his jewels
again and visited Aladdin, who showed him the window finished.
The Sultan embraced him, the envious vizir meanwhile hinting
that it was the work of enchantment.
Aladdin had won the hearts of the people by his gentle bearing.
He was made captain of the Sultan's armies, and won several battles
for him, but remained modest and courteous as before, and lived thus
in peace and content for several years.
But far away in Africa the magician remembered Aladdin, and by his
magic arts discovered that Aladdin, instead of perishing miserably
in the cave, had escaped, and had married a princess, with whom
he was living in great honour and wealth. He knew that the poor
tailor's son could only have accomplished this by means of the lamp,
and travelled night and day till he reached the capital of China,
bent on Aladdin's ruin. As he passed through the town he heard
people talking everywhere about a marvellous palace.
"Forgive my ignorance," he asked, "what is this palace you speak of?"
"Have you not heard of Prince Aladdin's palace," was the reply,
"the greatest wonder of the world? I will direct you if you have
a mind to see it."
The magician thanked him who spoke, and having seen the palace knew
that it had been raised by the genie of the lamp, and became half
mad with rage. He determined to get hold of the lamp, and again
plunge Aladdin into the deepest poverty.
Unluckily, Aladdin had gone a-hunting for eight days, which gave
the magician plenty of time. He bought a dozen copper lamps, put them
into a basket, and went to the palace, crying: "New lamps for old!"
followed by a jeering crowd.
The princess, sitting in the hall of four-and-twenty windows, sent a
slave to find out what the noise was about, who came back laughing,
so that the princess scolded her.
"Madam," replied the slave, "who can help laughing to see an old
fool offering to exchange fine new lamps for old ones?"
Another slave, hearing
this, said: "There is an old one on the cornice there which he can have."
Now this was the magic lamp, which Aladdin had left there, as he
could not take it out hunting with him. The princess, not knowing
its value, laughingly bade the slave take it and make the exchange.
She went and said to the magician: "Give me a new lamp for this."
He snatched it and bade the slave take her choice, amid the jeers
of the crowd. Little he cared, but left off crying his lamps,
and went out of the city gates to a lonely place, where he remained
till nightfall, when he pulled out the lamp and rubbed it.
The genie appeared, and at the magician's command carried him,
together with the palace and the princess in it, to a lonely place
Next morning the Sultan looked out of the window towards Aladdin's
palace and rubbed his eyes, for it was gone. He sent for the vizir,
and asked what had become of the palace. The vizir looked out too,
and was lost in astonishment. He again put it down to enchantment,
and this time the Sultan believed him, and sent thirty men on horseback
to fetch Aladdin in chains. They met him riding home, bound him,
and forced him to go with them on foot. The people, however,
who loved him, followed, armed, to see that he came to no harm.
He was carried before the Sultan, who ordered the executioner
to cut off his head. The executioner made Aladdin kneel down,
bandaged his eyes, and raised his scimitar to strike.
At that instant the vizir, who saw that the crowd had forced their
way into the courtyard and were scaling the walls to rescue Aladdin,
called to the executioner to stay his hand. The people, indeed,
looked so threatening that the Sultan gave way and ordered Aladdin
to be unbound, and pardoned him in the sight of the crowd.
Aladdin now begged to know what he had done.
"False wretch!" said the Sultan, "come hither," and showed him
from the window the place where his palace had stood.
Aladdin was so amazed that he could not say a word.
"Where is my palace and my daughter?" demanded the Sultan.
"For the first I am not so deeply concerned, but my daughter I
must have, and you must find her or lose your head."
Aladdin begged for forty days in which to find her, promising if he
failed to return and suffer death at the Sultan's pleasure. His prayer
was granted, and he went forth sadly from the Sultan's presence.
For three days he wandered about like a madman, asking everyone
what had become of his palace, but they only laughed and pitied him.
He came to the banks of a river, and knelt down to say his prayers
before throwing himself in. In so doing he rubbed the magic ring he
The genie he had seen in the cave appeared, and asked his will.
"Save my life, genie," said Aladdin, "and bring my palace back."
"That is not in my power," said the genie; "I am only the slave
of the ring; you must ask the slave of the lamp."
"Even so," said Aladdin "but thou canst take me to the palace,
and set me down under my dear wife's window." He at once found
himself in Africa, under the window of the princess, and fell asleep
out of sheer weariness.
He was awakened by the singing of the birds, and his heart was lighter.
He saw plainly that all his misfortunes were owing to the loss
of the lamp, and vainly wondered who had robbed him of it.
That morning the princess rose earlier than she had done since she
had been carried into Africa by the magician, whose company she was
forced to endure once a day. She, however, treated him so harshly
that he dared not live there altogether. As she was dressing,
one of her women looked out and saw Aladdin. The princess ran
and opened the window, and at the noise she made Aladdin looked up.
She called to him to come to her, and great was the joy of these
lovers at seeing each other again.
After he had kissed her Aladdin said: "I beg of you, Princess,
in God's name, before we speak of anything else, for your own sake
and mine, tell me what has become of an old lamp I left on the
cornice in the hall of four-and-twenty windows, when I went a-hunting."
"Alas!" she said "I am the innocent cause of our sorrows," and told
him of the exchange of the lamp.
"Now I know," cried Aladdin, "that we have to thank the African
magician for this! Where is the lamp?"
"He carries it about with him," said the princess, "I know, for he
pulled it out of his breast to show me. He wishes me to break
my faith with you and marry him, saying that you were beheaded
by my father's command. He is forever speaking ill of you,
but I only reply by my tears. If I persist, I doubt not that he
will use violence."
Aladdin comforted her, and left her for a while. He changed clothes
with the first person he met in the town, and having bought a certain
powder returned to the princess, who let him in by a little side door.
"Put on your most beautiful dress," he said to her, "and receive
the magician with smiles, leading him to believe that you
have forgotten me. Invite him to sup with you, and say you
wish to taste the wine of his country. He will go for some,
and while he is gone I will tell you what to do."
She listened carefully to Aladdin, and when he left her arrayed
herself gaily for the first time since she left China. She put
on a girdle and head-dress of diamonds, and seeing in a glass
that she looked more beautiful than ever, received the magician,
saying to his great amazement: "I have made up my mind that Aladdin
is dead, and that all my tears will not bring him back to me,
so I am resolved to mourn no more, and have therefore invited you
to sup with me; but I am tired of the wines of China, and would
fain taste those of Africa."
The magician flew to his cellar, and the princess put the powder
Aladdin had given her in her cup. When he returned she asked him
to drink her health in the wine of Africa, handing him her cup
in exchange for his as a sign she was reconciled to him.
Before drinking the magician made her a speech in praise of her beauty,
but the princess cut him short saying:
"Let me drink first, and you shall say what you will afterwards."
She set her cup to her lips and kept it there, while the magician
drained his to the dregs and fell back lifeless.
The princess then opened the door to Aladdin, and flung her arms
round his neck, but Aladdin put her away, bidding her to leave him,
as he had more to do. He then went to the dead magician, took the
lamp out of his vest, and bade the genie carry the palace and all
in it back to China. This was done, and the princess in her chamber
only felt two little shocks, and little thought she was at home again.
The Sultan, who was sitting in his closet, mourning for his
lost daughter, happened to look up, and rubbed his eyes,
for there stood the palace as before! He hastened thither,
and Aladdin received him in the hall of the four-and-twenty windows,
with the princess at his side. Aladdin told him what had happened,
and showed him the dead body of the magician, that he might believe.
A ten days' feast was proclaimed, and it seemed as if Aladdin
might now live the rest of his life in peace; but it was not to be.
The African magician had a younger brother, who was, if possible,
more wicked and more cunning than himself. He travelled to China
to avenge his brother's death, and went to visit a pious woman
called Fatima, thinking she might be of use to him. He entered
her cell and clapped a dagger to her breast, telling her to rise
and do his bidding on pain of death. He changed clothes with her,
coloured his face like hers, put on her veil and murdered her,
that she might tell no tales. Then he went towards the palace
of Aladdin, and all the people thinking he was the holy woman,
gathered round him, kissing his hands and begging his blessing.
When he got to the palace there was such a noise going on round him
that the princess bade her slave look out of the window and ask what
was the matter. The slave said it was the holy woman, curing people
by her touch of their ailments, whereupon the princess, who had long
desired to see Fatima, sent for her. On coming to the princess
the magician offered up a prayer for her health and prosperity.
When he had done the princess made him sit by her, and begged him
to stay with her always. The false Fatima, who wished for nothing
better, consented, but kept his veil down for fear of discovery.
The princess showed him the hall, and asked him what he thought
"It is truly beautiful," said the false Fatima. "In my mind it
wants but one thing."
"And what is that?" said the princess.
"If only a roc's egg," replied he, "were hung up from the middle
of this dome, it would be the wonder of the world."
After this the princess could think of nothing but a roc's egg,
and when Aladdin returned from hunting he found her in a very
ill humour. He begged to know what was amiss, and she told
him that all her pleasure in the hall was spoilt for the want
of a roc's egg hanging from the dome.
"It that is all," replied Aladdin, "you shall soon be happy."
He left her and rubbed the lamp, and when the genie appeared
commanded him to bring a roc's egg. The genie gave such a loud
and terrible shriek that the hall shook.
"Wretch!" he cried, "is it not enough that I have done everything
for you, but you must command me to bring my master and hang him
up in the midst of this dome? You and your wife and your palace
deserve to be burnt to ashes; but this request does not come from you,
but from the brother of the African magician whom you destroyed.
He is now in your palace disguised as the holy woman--whom he murdered.
He it was who put that wish into your wife's head. Take care of yourself,
for he means to kill you." So saying the genie disappeared.
Aladdin went back to the princess, saying his head ached, and requesting
that the holy Fatima should be fetched to lay her hands on it.
But when the magician came near, Aladdin, seizing his dagger,
pierced him to the heart.
"What have you done?" cried the princess. "You have killed
the holy woman!"
"Not so," replied Aladdin, "but a wicked magician," and told her
of how she had been deceived.
After this Aladdin and his wife lived in peace. He succeeded
the Sultan when he died, and reigned for many years, leaving behind
him a long line of kings.
The Adventures of Haroun-al-Raschid, Caliph of Bagdad
The Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid sat in his palace, wondering if there was
anything left in the world that could possibly give him a few hours'
amusement, when Giafar the grand-vizir, his old and tried friend,
suddenly appeared before him. Bowing low, he waited, as was his duty,
till his master spoke, but Haroun-al-Raschid merely turned his
head and looked at him, and sank back into his former weary posture.
Now Giafar had something of importance to say to the Caliph,
and had no intention of being put off by mere silence, so with
another low bow in front of the throne, he began to speak.
"Commander of the Faithful," said he, "I have taken on myself to
remind your Highness that you have undertaken secretly to observe
for yourself the manner in which justice is done and order is kept
throughout the city. This is the day you have set apart to devote
to this object, and perhaps in fulfilling this duty you may find
some distraction from the melancholy to which, as I see to my sorrow,
you are a prey."
"You are right," returned the Caliph, "I had forgotten all about it.
Go and change your coat, and I will change mine."
A few moments later they both re-entered the hall, disguised as
foreign merchants, and passed through a secret door, out into the
open country. Here they turned towards the Euphrates, and crossing
the river in a small boat, walked through that part of the town
which lay along the further bank, without seeing anything to call
for their interference. Much pleased with the peace and good order
of the city, the Caliph and his vizir made their way to a bridge,
which led straight back to the palace, and had already crossed it,
when they were stopped by an old and blind man, who begged for alms.
The Caliph gave him a piece of money, and was passing on,
but the blind man seized his hand, and held him fast.
"Charitable person," he said, "whoever you may be grant me yet
another prayer. Strike me, I beg of you, one blow. I have deserved
it richly, and even a more severe penalty."
The Caliph, much surprised at this request, replied gently:
"My good man, that which you ask is impossible. Of what use would
my alms be if I treated you so ill?" And as he spoke he tried
to loosen the grasp of the blind beggar.
"My lord," answered the man, "pardon my boldness and my persistence.
Take back your money, or give me the blow which I crave.
I have sworn a solemn oath that I will receive nothing without
receiving chastisement, and if you knew all, you would feel that
the punishment is not a tenth part of what I deserve."
Moved by these words, and perhaps still more by the fact that he
had other business to attend to, the Caliph yielded, and struck him
lightly on the shoulder. Then he continued his road, followed by
the blessing of the blind man. When they were out of earshot,
he said to the vizir, "There must be something very odd to make
that man act so--I should like to find out what is the reason.
Go back to him; tell him who I am, and order him to come without fail
to the palace to-morrow, after the hour of evening prayer."
So the grand-vizir went back to the bridge; gave the blind beggar
first a piece of money and then a blow, delivered the Caliph's message,
and rejoined his master.
They passed on towards the palace, but walking through a square,
they came upon a crowd watching a young and well-dressed man
who was urging a horse at full speed round the open space,
using at the same time his spurs and whip so unmercifully that
the animal was all covered with foam and blood. The Caliph,
astonished at this proceeding, inquired of a passer-by what it
all meant, but no one could tell him anything, except that every
day at the same hour the same thing took place.
Still wondering, he passed on, and for the moment had to
content himself with telling the vizir to command the horseman
also to appear before him at the same time as the blind man.
The next day, after evening prayer, the Caliph entered the hall,
and was followed by the vizir bringing with him the two men of whom
we have spoken, and a third, with whom we have nothing to do.
They all bowed themselves low before the throne and then the Caliph
bade them rise, and ask the blind man his name.
"Baba-Abdalla, your Highness," said he.
"Baba-Abdalla," returned the Caliph, "your way of asking alms
yesterday seemed to me so strange, that I almost commanded you
then and there to cease from causing such a public scandal.
But I have sent for you to inquire what was your motive in making
such a curious vow. When I know the reason I shall be able to judge
whether you can be permitted to continue to practise it, for I
cannot help thinking that it sets a very bad example to others.
Tell me therefore the whole truth, and conceal nothing."
These words troubled the heart of Baba-Abdalla, who prostrated
himself at the feet of the Caliph. Then rising, he answered:
"Commander of the Faithful, I crave your pardon humbly,
for my persistence in beseeching your Highness to do an action
which appears on the face of it to be without any meaning.
No doubt, in the eyes of men, it has none; but I look on it as a
slight expiation for a fearful sin of which I have been guilty,
and if your Highness will deign to listen to my tale, you will
see that no punishment could atone for the crime."
Story of the Blind Baba-Abdalla
I was born, Commander of the Faithful, in Bagdad, and was left
an orphan while I was yet a very young man, for my parents died
within a few days of each other. I had inherited from them
a small fortune, which I worked hard night and day to increase,
till at last I found myself the owner of eighty camels. These I
hired out to travelling merchants, whom I frequently accompanied
on their various journeys, and always returned with large profits.
One day I was coming back from Balsora, whither I had taken a supply
of goods, intended for India, and halted at noon in a lonely place,
which promised rich pasture for my camels. I was resting in the
shade under a tree, when a dervish, going on foot towards Balsora,
sat down by my side, and I inquired whence he had come and to what
place he was going. We soon made friends, and after we had asked
each other the usual questions, we produced the food we had with us,
and satisfied our hunger.
While we were eating, the dervish happened to mention that in a spot
only a little way off from where we were sitting, there was hidden
a treasure so great that if my eighty camels were loaded till they
could carry no more, the hiding place would seem as full as if it
had never been touched.
At this news I became almost beside myself with joy and greed, and I
flung my arms round the neck of the dervish, exclaiming: "Good dervish,
I see plainly that the riches of this world are nothing to you,
therefore of what use is the knowledge of this treasure to you?
Alone and on foot, you could carry away a mere handful. But tell me
where it is, and I will load my eighty camels with it, and give you
one of them as a token of my gratitude."
Certainly my offer does not sound very magnificent, but it was
great to me, for at his words a wave of covetousness had swept
over my heart, and I almost felt as if the seventy-nine camels
that were left were nothing in comparison.
The dervish saw quite well what was passing in my mind, but he did
not show what he thought of my proposal.
"My brother," he answered quietly, "you know as well as I do,
that you are behaving unjustly. It was open to me to keep my secret,
and to reserve the treasure for myself. But the fact that I have
told you of its existence shows that I had confidence in you,
and that I hoped to earn your gratitude for ever, by making your
fortune as well as mine. But before I reveal to you the secret
of the treasure, you must swear that, after we have loaded the
camels with as much as they can carry, you will give half to me,
and let us go our own ways. I think you will see that this is fair,
for if you present me with forty camels, I on my side will give you
the means of buying a thousand more."
I could not of course deny that what the dervish said was perfectly
reasonable, but, in spite of that, the thought that the dervish
would be as rich as I was unbearable to me. Still there was no
use in discussing the matter, and I had to accept his conditions
or bewail to the end of my life the loss of immense wealth.
So I collected my camels and we set out together under the guidance
of the dervish. After walking some time, we reached what looked
like a valley, but with such a narrow entrance that my camels could
only pass one by one. The little valley, or open space, was shut
up by two mountains, whose sides were formed of straight cliffs,
which no human being could climb.
When we were exactly between these mountains the dervish stopped.
"Make your camels lie down in this open space," he said, "so that we
can easily load them; then we will go to the treasure."
I did what I was bid, and rejoined the dervish, whom I found trying
to kindle a fire out of some dry wood. As soon as it was alight,
he threw on it a handful of perfumes, and pronounced a few words
that I did not understand, and immediately a thick column of smoke
rose high into the air. He separated the smoke into two columns,
and then I saw a rock, which stood like a pillar between the
two mountains, slowly open, and a splendid palace appear within.
But, Commander of the Faithful, the love of gold had taken such
possession of my heart, that I could not even stop to examine
the riches, but fell upon the first pile of gold within my reach
and began to heap it into a sack that I had brought with me.
The dervish likewise set to work, but I soon noticed that he
confined himself to collecting precious stones, and I felt I
should be wise to follow his example. At length the camels
were loaded with as much as they could carry, and nothing
remained but to seal up the treasure, and go our ways.
Before, however, this was done, the dervish went up to a great
golden vase, beautifully chased, and took from it a small wooden box,
which he hid in the bosom of his dress, merely saying that it
contained a special kind of ointment. Then he once more kindled
the fire, threw on the perfume, and murmured the unknown spell,
and the rock closed, and stood whole as before.
The next thing was to divide the camels, and to charge them with
the treasure, after which we each took command of our own and marched
out of the valley, till we reached the place in the high road
where the routes diverge, and then we parted, the dervish going
towards Balsora, and I to Bagdad. We embraced each other tenderly,
and I poured out my gratitude for the honour he had done me,
in singling me out for this great wealth, and having said a hearty
farewell we turned our backs, and hastened after our camels.
I had hardly come up with mine when the demon of envy filled my soul.
"What does a dervish want with riches like that?" I said to myself.
"He alone has the secret of the treasure, and can always get as much
as he wants," and I halted my camels by the roadside, and ran back
I was a quick runner, and it did not take me very long to come up
with him. "My brother," I exclaimed, as soon as I could speak,
"almost at the moment of our leave-taking, a reflection occurred
to me, which is perhaps new to you. You are a dervish by profession,
and live a very quiet life, only caring to do good, and careless
of the things of this world. You do not realise the burden that you
lay upon yourself, when you gather into your hands such great wealth,
besides the fact that no one, who is not accustomed to camels from
his birth, can ever manage the stubborn beasts. If you are wise,
you will not encumber yourself with more than thirty, and you will find
those trouble enough."
"You are right," replied the dervish, who understood me quite well,
but did not wish to fight the matter. "I confess I had not thought
about it. Choose any ten you like, and drive them before you."
I selected ten of the best camels, and we proceeded along the road,
to rejoin those I had left behind. I had got what I wanted, but I
had found the dervish so easy to deal with, that I rather regretted
I had not asked for ten more. I looked back. He had only gone
a few paces, and I called after him.
"My brother," I said, "I am unwilling to part from you without
pointing out what I think you scarcely grasp, that large experience
of camel-driving is necessary to anybody who intends to keep
together a troop of thirty. In your own interest, I feel sure you
would be much happier if you entrusted ten more of them to me,
for with my practice it is all one to me if I take two or a hundred."
As before, the dervish made no difficulties, and I drove off my ten
camels in triumph, only leaving him with twenty for his share.
I had now sixty, and anyone might have imagined that I should
But, Commander of the Faithful, there is a proverb that says,
"the more one has, the more one wants." So it was with me.
I could not rest as long as one solitary camel remained to the dervish;
and returning to him I redoubled my prayers and embraces, and promises
of eternal gratitude, till the last twenty were in my hands.
"Make a good use of them, my brother," said the holy man.
"Remember riches sometimes have wings if we keep them for ourselves,
and the poor are at our gates expressly that we may help them."
My eyes were so blinded by gold, that I paid no heed to his wise counsel,
and only looked about for something else to grasp. Suddenly I
remembered the little box of ointment that the dervish had hidden,
and which most likely contained a treasure more precious than all
the rest. Giving him one last embrace, I observed accidentally,
"What are you going to do with that little box of ointment? It seems
hardly worth taking with you; you might as well let me have it.
And really, a dervish who has given up the world has no need
Oh, if he had only refused my request! But then, supposing he had,
I should have got possession of it by force, so great was the
madness that had laid hold upon me. However, far from refusing it,
the dervish at once held it out, saying gracefully, "Take it,
my friend, and if there is anything else I can do to make you happy
you must let me know."
Directly the box was in my hands I wrenched off the cover.
"As you are so kind," I said, "tell me, I pray you, what are the
virtues of this ointment?"
"They are most curious and interesting," replied the dervish.
"If you apply a little of it to your left eye you will behold
in an instant all the treasures hidden in the bowels of the earth.
But beware lest you touch your right eye with it, or your sight will
be destroyed for ever."
His words excited my curiosity to the highest pitch. "Make trial
on me, I implore you," I cried, holding out the box to the dervish.
"You will know how to do it better than I! I am burning with
impatience to test its charms."
The dervish took the box I had extended to him, and, bidding me
shut my left eye, touched it gently with the ointment. When I
opened it again I saw spread out, as it were before me, treasures of
every kind and without number. But as all this time I had been
obliged to keep my right eye closed, which was very fatiguing,
I begged the dervish to apply the ointment to that eye also.
"If you insist upon it I will do it," answered the dervish,
"but you must remember what I told you just now--that if it touches
your right eye you will become blind on the spot."
Unluckily, in spite of my having proved the truth of the dervish's words
in so many instances, I was firmly convinced that he was now keeping
concealed from me some hidden and precious virtue of the ointment.
So I turned a deaf ear to all he said.
"My brother," I replied smiling, "I see you are joking. It is
not natural that the same ointment should have two such exactly
"It is true all the same," answered the dervish, "and it would
be well for you if you believed my word."
But I would not believe, and, dazzled by the greed of avarice,
I thought that if one eye could show me riches, the other might
teach me how to get possession of them. And I continued to press
the dervish to anoint my right eye, but this he resolutely declined
"After having conferred such benefits on you," said he, "I am
loth indeed to work you such evil. Think what it is to be blind,
and do not force me to do what you will repent as long as you live."
It was of no use. "My brother," I said firmly, "pray say no more,
but do what I ask. You have most generously responded to my wishes
up to this time, do not spoil my recollection of you for a thing
of such little consequence. Let what will happen I take it on my
own head, and will never reproach you."
"Since you are determined upon it," he answered with a sigh,
"there is no use talking," and taking the ointment he laid some
on my right eye, which was tight shut. When I tried to open it
heavy clouds of darkness floated before me. I was as blind as you
see me now!
"Miserable dervish!" I shrieked, "so it is true after all!
Into what a bottomless pit has my lust after gold plunged me.
Ah, now that my eyes are closed they are really opened. I know that
all my sufferings are caused by myself alone! But, good brother,
you, who are so kind and charitable, and know the secrets of such
vast learning, have you nothing that will give me back my sight?"
"Unhappy man," replied the dervish, "it is not my fault that this has
befallen you, but it is a just chastisement. The blindness of your
heart has wrought the blindness of your body. Yes, I have secrets;
that you have seen in the short time that we have known each other.
But I have none that will give you back your sight. You have proved
yourself unworthy of the riches that were given you. Now they have
passed into my hands, whence they will flow into the hands of others
less greedy and ungrateful than you."
The dervish said no more and left me, speechless with shame
and confusion, and so wretched that I stood rooted to the spot,
while he collected the eighty camels and proceeded on his way
to Balsora. It was in vain that I entreated him not to leave me,
but at least to take me within reach of the first passing caravan.
He was deaf to my prayers and cries, and I should soon have been dead
of hunger and misery if some merchants had not come along the track
the following day and kindly brought me back to Bagdad.
From a rich man I had in one moment become a beggar; and up to this
time I have lived solely on the alms that have been bestowed on me.
But, in order to expiate the sin of avarice, which was my undoing,
I oblige each passer-by to give me a blow.
This, Commander of the Faithful, is my story.
When the blind man had ended the Caliph addressed him:
"Baba-Abdalla, truly your sin is great, but you have suffered enough.
Henceforth repent in private, for I will see that enough money
is given you day by day for all your wants."
At these words Baba-Abdalla flung himself at the Caliph's feet,
and prayed that honour and happiness might be his portion for ever.
The Story of Sidi-Nouman
The Caliph, Haroun-al-Raschid, was much pleased with the tale of
the blind man and the dervish, and when it was finished he turned
to the young man who had ill-treated his horse, and inquired
his name also. The young man replied that he was called Sidi-Nouman.
"Sidi-Nouman," observed the Caliph, "I have seen horses broken all my
life long, and have even broken them myself, but I have never seen
any horse broken in such a barbarous manner as by you yesterday.
Every one who looked on was indignant, and blamed you loudly.
As for myself, I was so angry that I was very nearly disclosing
who I was, and putting a stop to it at once. Still, you have not
the air of a cruel man, and I would gladly believe that you did not
act in this way without some reason. As I am told that it was not
the first time, and indeed that every day you are to be seen flogging
and spurring your horse, I wish to come to the bottom of the matter.
But tell me the whole truth, and conceal nothing."
Sidi-Nouman changed colour as he heard these words, and his manner
grew confused; but he saw plainly that there was no help for it.
So he prostrated himself before the throne of the Caliph and tried
to obey, but the words stuck in his throat, and he remained silent.
The Caliph, accustomed though he was to instant obedience,
guessed something of what was passing in the young man's mind,
and sought to put him at his ease. "Sidi-Nouman," he said,
"do not think of me as the Caliph, but merely as a friend who would
like to hear your story. If there is anything in it that you are
afraid may offend me, take courage, for I pardon you beforehand.
Speak then openly and without fear, as to one who knows and loves you."
Reassured by the kindness of the Caliph, Sidi-Nouman at length
began his tale.
"Commander of the Faithful," said he, "dazzled though I am
by the lustre of your Highness' presence, I will do my best
to satisfy your wishes. I am by no means perfect, but I am not
naturally cruel, neither do I take pleasure in breaking the law.
I admit that the treatment of my horse is calculated to give your
Highness a bad opinion of me, and to set an evil example to others;
yet I have not chastised it without reason, and I have hopes
that I shall be judged more worthy of pity than punishment."
Commander of the Faithful, I will not trouble to describe my birth;
it is not of sufficient distinction to deserve your Highness'
attention. My ancestors were careful people, and I inherited
enough money to enable me to live comfortably, though without show.
Having therefore a modest fortune, the only thing wanting to my
happiness was a wife who could return my affection, but this blessing
I was not destined to get; for on the very day after my marriage,
my bride began to try my patience in every way that was most hard
Now, seeing that the customs of our land oblige us to marry without
ever beholding the person with whom we are to pass our lives,
a man has of course no right to complain as long as his wife
is not absolutely repulsive, or is not positively deformed.
And whatever defects her body may have, pleasant ways and good
behaviour will go far to remedy them.
The first time I saw my wife unveiled, when she had been brought
to my house with the usual ceremonies, I was enchanted to find
that I had not been deceived in regard to the account that had been
given me of her beauty. I began my married life in high spirits,
and the best hopes of happiness.
The following day a grand dinner was served to us but as my wife did
not appear, I ordered a servant to call her. Still she did not come,
and I waited impatiently for some time. At last she entered the room,
and she took our places at the table, and plates of rice were set
I ate mine, as was natural, with a spoon, but great was my surprise
to notice that my wife, instead of doing the same, drew from her
pocket a little case, from which she selected a long pin, and by
the help of this pin conveyed her rice grain by grain to her mouth.
"Amina," I exclaimed in astonishment, "is that the way you eat rice
at home? And did you do it because your appetite was so small,
or did you wish to count the grains so that you might never eat
more than a certain number? If it was from economy, and you are
anxious to teach me not to be wasteful, you have no cause for alarm.
We shall never ruin ourselves in that way! Our fortune is large
enough for all our needs, therefore, dear Amina, do not seek to
check yourself, but eat as much as you desire, as I do!"
In reply to my affectionate words, I expected a cheerful answer;
yet Amina said nothing at all, but continued to pick her rice
as before, only at longer and longer intervals. And, instead of
trying the other dishes, all she did was to put every now and then
a crumb, of bread into her mouth, that would not have made a meal
for a sparrow.
I felt provoked by her obstinacy, but to excuse her to myself
as far as I could, I suggested that perhaps she had never been
used to eat in the company of men, and that her family might have
taught her that she ought to behave prudently and discreetly
in the presence of her husband. Likewise that she might either
have dined already or intend to do so in her own apartments.
So I took no further notice, and when I had finished left the room,
secretly much vexed at her strange conduct.
The same thing occurred at supper, and all through the next day,
whenever we ate together. It was quite clear that no woman could
live upon two or three bread-crumbs and a few grains of rice,
and I determined to find out how and when she got food. I pretended
not to pay attention to anything she did, in the hope that little
by little she would get accustomed to me, and become more friendly;
but I soon saw that my expectations were quite vain.
One night I was lying with my eyes closed, and to, all appearance
sound asleep, when Amina arose softly, and dressed herself without
making the slightest sound. I could not imagine what she was going
to do, and as my curiosity was great I made up my mind to follow her.
When she was fully dressed, she stole quietly from the room.
The instant she had let the curtain fall behind her, I flung
a garment on my shoulders and a pair of slippers on my feet.
Looking from a lattice which opened into the court, I saw her in
the act of passing through the street door, which she carefully
It was bright moonlight, so I easily managed to keep her in sight,
till she entered a cemetery not far from the house. There I hid
myself under the shadow of the wall, and crouched down cautiously;
and hardly was I concealed, when I saw my wife approaching in company
with a ghoul--one of those demons which, as your Highness is aware,
wander about the country making their lairs in deserted buildings
and springing out upon unwary travellers whose flesh they eat.
If no live being goes their way, they then betake themselves to
the cemeteries, and feed upon the dead bodies.
I was nearly struck dumb with horror on seeing my wife with this
hideous female ghoul. They passed by me without noticing me,
began to dig up a corpse which had been buried that day, and then
sat down on the edge of the grave, to enjoy their frightful repast,
talking quietly and cheerfully all the while, though I was too far
off to hear what they said. When they had finished, they threw
back the body into the grave, and heaped back the earth upon it.
I made no effort to disturb them, and returned quickly to the house,
when I took care to leave the door open, as I had previously found it.
Then I got back into bed, and pretended to sleep soundly.
A short time after Amina entered as quietly as she had gone out.
She undressed and stole into bed, congratulating herself apparently
on the cleverness with which she had managed her expedition.
As may be guessed, after such a scene it was long before I could
close my eyes, and at the first sound which called the faithful
to prayer, I put on my clothes and went to the mosque. But even
prayer did not restore peace to my troubled spirit, and I could
not face my wife until I had made up my mind what future course
I should pursue in regard to her. I therefore spent the morning
roaming about from one garden to another, turning over various
plans for compelling my wife to give up her horrible ways;
I thought of using violence to make her submit, but felt reluctant
to be unkind to her. Besides, I had an instinct that gentle
means had the best chance of success; so, a little soothed,
I turned towards home, which I reached about the hour of dinner.
As soon as I appeared, Amina ordered dinner to be served, and we
sat down together. As usual, she persisted in only picking a few
grains of rice, and I resolved to speak to her at once of what lay
so heavily on my heart.
"Amina," I said, as quietly as possible, "you must have guessed
the surprise I felt, when the day after our marriage you declined
to eat anything but a few morsels of rice, and altogether behaved
in such a manner that most husbands would have been deeply wounded.
However I had patience with you, and only tried to tempt your appetite
by the choicest dishes I could invent, but all to no purpose.
Still, Amina, it seems to me that there be some among them as sweet
to the taste as the flesh of a corpse?"
I had no sooner uttered these words than Amina, who instantly
understood that I had followed her to the grave-yard, was seized
with a passion beyond any that I have ever witnessed. Her face
became purple, her eyes looked as if they would start from her head,
and she positively foamed with rage.
I watched her with terror, wondering what would happen next,
but little thinking what would be the end of her fury. She seized
a vessel of water that stood at hand, and plunging her hand in it,
murmured some words I failed to catch. Then, sprinkling it on my face,
she cried madly:
"Wretch, receive the reward of your prying, and become a dog."
The words were not out of her mouth when, without feeling conscious
that any change was passing over me, I suddenly knew that I had ceased
to be a man. In the greatness of the shock and surprise--for I had
no idea that Amina was a magician--I never dreamed of running away,
and stood rooted to the spot, while Amina grasped a stick and began
to beat me. Indeed her blows were so heavy, that I only wonder they
did not kill me at once. However they succeeded in rousing me from
my stupor, and I dashed into the court-yard, followed closely by Amina,
who made frantic dives at me, which I was not quick enough to dodge.
At last she got tired of pursuing me, or else a new trick entered
into her head, which would give me speedy and painful death;
she opened the gate leading into the street, intending to crush me
as I passed through. Dog though I was, I saw through her design,
and stung into presence of mind by the greatness of the danger,
I timed my movements so well that I contrived to rush through,
and only the tip of my tail received a squeeze as she banged
I was safe, but my tail hurt me horribly, and I yelped and howled so
loud all along the streets, that the other dogs came and attacked me,
which made matters no better. In order to avoid them, I took
refuge in a cookshop, where tongues and sheep's heads were sold.
At first the owner showed me great kindness, and drove away
the other dogs that were still at my heels, while I crept into
the darkest corner. But though I was safe for the moment,
I was not destined to remain long under his protection, for he
was one of those who hold all dogs to be unclean, and that all the
washing in the world will hardly purify you from their contact.
So after my enemies had gone to seek other prey, he tried to
lure me from my corner in order to force me into the street.
But I refused to come out of my hole, and spent the night in sleep,
which I sorely needed, after the pain inflicted on me by Amina.
I have no wish to weary your Highness by dwelling on the sad thoughts
which accompanied my change of shape, but it may interest you to hear
that the next morning my host went out early to do his marketing,
and returned laden with the sheep's heads, and tongues and trotters
that formed his stock in trade for the day. The smell of meat
attracted various hungry dogs in the neighbourhood, and they gathered
round the door begging for some bits. I stole out of my corner,
and stood with them.
In spite of his objection to dogs, as unclean animals, my protector
was a kind-hearted man, and knowing I had eaten nothing since yesterday,
he threw me bigger and better bits than those which fell to the
share of the other dogs. When I had finished, I tried to go back
into the shop, but this he would not allow, and stood so firmly at
the entrance with a stout stick, that I was forced to give it up,
and seek some other home.
A few paces further on was a baker's shop, which seemed to have
a gay and merry man for a master. At that moment he was having
his breakfast, and though I gave no signs of hunger, he at once
threw me a piece of bread. Before gobbling it up, as most dogs
are in the habit of doing, I bowed my head and wagged my tail,
in token of thanks, and he understood, and smiled pleasantly.
I really did not want the bread at all, but felt it would be
ungracious to refuse, so I ate it slowly, in order that he might see
that I only did it out of politeness. He understood this also,
and seemed quite willing to let me stay in his shop, so I sat down,
with my face to the door, to show that I only asked his protection.
This he gave me, and indeed encouraged me to come into the
house itself, giving me a corner where I might sleep, without being
in anybody's way.
The kindness heaped on me by this excellent man was far greater
than I could ever have expected. He was always affectionate
in his manner of treating me, and I shared his breakfast,
dinner and supper, while, on my side, I gave him all the gratitude
and attachment to which he had a right.
I sat with my eyes fixed on him, and he never left the house
without having me at his heels; and if it ever happened that when
he was preparing to go out I was asleep, and did not notice,
he would call "Rufus, Rufus," for that was the name he gave me.
Some weeks passed in this way, when one day a woman came in to buy bread.
In paying for it, she laid down several pieces of money, one of
which was bad. The baker perceived this, and declined to take it,
demanding another in its place. The woman, for her part, refused to
take it back, declaring it was perfectly good, but the baker would
have nothing to do with it. "It is really such a bad imitation,"
he exclaimed at last, "that even my dog would not be taken in.
Here Rufus! Rufus!" and hearing his voice, I jumped on to the counter.
The baker threw down the money before me, and said, "Find out
if there is a bad coin." I looked at each in turn, and then laid
my paw on the false one, glancing at the same time at my master,
so as to point it out.
The baker, who had of course been only in joke, was exceedingly
surprised at my cleverness, and the woman, who was at last convinced
that the man spoke the truth, produced another piece of money
in its place. When she had gone, my master was so pleased that he
told all the neighbours what I had done, and made a great deal
more of it than there really was.
The neighbours, very naturally, declined to believe his story,
and tried me several times with all the bad money they could
collect together, but I never failed to stand the test triumphantly.
Soon, the shop was filled from morning till night, with people
who on the pretence of buying bread came to see if I was as clever
as I was reported to be. The baker drove a roaring trade,
and admitted that I was worth my weight in gold to him.
Of course there were plenty who envied him his large custom,
and many was the pitfall set for me, so that he never dared to let
me out of his sight. One day a woman, who had not been in the
shop before, came to ask for bread, like the rest. As usual,
I was lying on the counter, and she threw down six coins before me,
one of which was false. I detected it at once, and put my paw on it,
looking as I did so at the woman. "Yes," she said, nodding her head.
"You are quite right, that is the one." She stood gazing at me
attentively for some time, then paid for the bread, and left the shop,
making a sign for me to follow her secretly.
Now my thoughts were always running on some means of shaking off
the spell laid on me, and noticing the way in which this woman
had looked at me, the idea entered my head that perhaps she might
have guessed what had happened, and in this I was not deceived.
However I let her go on a little way, and merely stood at the door
watching her. She turned, and seeing that I was quite still,
she again beckoned to me.
The baker all this while was busy with his oven, and had forgotten
all about me, so I stole out softly, and ran after the woman.
When we came to her house, which was some distance off, she opened
the door and then said to me, "Come in, come in; you will never be
sorry that you followed me." When I had entered she fastened the door,
and took me into a large room, where a beautiful girl was working
at a piece of embroidery. "My daughter," exclaimed my guide,
"I have brought you the famous dog belonging to the baker which can
tell good money from bad. You know that when I first heard of him,
I told you I was sure he must be really a man, changed into a dog
by magic. To-day I went to the baker's, to prove for myself
the truth of the story, and persuaded the dog to follow me here.
Now what do you say?"
"You are right, mother," replied the girl, and rising she dipped her
hand into a vessel of water. Then sprinkling it over me she said,
"If you were born dog, remain dog; but if you were born man,
by virtue of this water resume your proper form." In one moment the
spell was broken. The dog's shape vanished as if it had never been,
and it was a man who stood before her.
Overcome with gratitude at my deliverance, I flung myself at
her feet, and kissed the hem of her garment. "How can I thank you
for your goodness towards a stranger, and for what you have done?
Henceforth I am your slave. Deal with me as you will!"
Then, in order to explain how I came to be changed into a dog,
I told her my whole story, and finished with rendering the mother
the thanks due to her for the happiness she had brought me.
"Sidi-Nouman," returned the daughter, "say no more about the
obligation you are under to us. The knowledge that we have been
of service to you is ample payment. Let us speak of Amina, your wife,
with whom I was acquainted before her marriage. I was aware that she
was a magician, and she knew too that I had studied the same art,
under the same mistress. We met often going to the same baths,
but we did not like each other, and never sought to become friends.
As to what concerns you, it is not enough to have broken your spell,
she must be punished for her wickedness. Remain for a moment with
my mother, I beg," she added hastily, "I will return shortly."
Left alone with the mother, I again expressed the gratitude I felt,
to her as well as to her daughter.
"My daughter," she answered, "is, as you see, as accomplished a magician
as Amina herself, but you would be astonished at the amount of good
she does by her knowledge. That is why I have never interfered,
otherwise I should have put a stop to it long ago." As she spoke,
her daughter entered with a small bottle in her hand.
"Sidi-Nouman," she said, "the books I have just consulted tell
me that Amina is not home at present, but she should return at
any moment. I have likewise found out by their means, that she
pretends before the servants great uneasiness as to your absence.
She has circulated a story that, while at dinner with her,
you remembered some important business that had to be done at once,
and left the house without shutting the door. By this means a dog
had strayed in, which she was forced to get rid of by a stick.
Go home then without delay, and await Amina's return in your room.
When she comes in, go down to meet her, and in her surprise, she will
try to run away. Then have this bottle ready, and dash the water it
contains over her, saying boldly, "Receive the reward of your crimes."
That is all I have to tell you."
Everything happened exactly as the young magician had foretold.
I had not been in my house many minutes before Amina returned, and as
she approached I stepped in front of her, with the water in my hand.
She gave one loud cry, and turned to the door, but she was too late.
I had already dashed the water in her face and spoken the magic words.
Amina disappeared, and in her place stood the horse you saw me
This, Commander of the Faithful, is my story, and may I venture
to hope that, now you have heard the reason of my conduct,
your Highness will not think this wicked woman too harshly treated?
"Sidi-Nouman," replied the Caliph, "your story is indeed a strange one,
and there is no excuse to be offered for your wife. But, without
condemning your treatment of her, I wish you to reflect how much
she must suffer from being changed into an animal, and I hope you
will let that punishment be enough. I do not order you to insist
upon the young magician finding the means to restore your wife to her
human shape, because I know that when once women such as she begin
to work evil they never leave off, and I should only bring down on
your head a vengeance far worse than the one you have undergone already."
Story of Ali Colia, Merchant of Bagdad
In the reign of Haroun-al-Raschid, there lived in Bagdad a
merchant named Ali Cogia, who, having neither wife nor child,
contented himself with the modest profits produced by his trade.
He had spent some years quite happily in the house his father had
left him, when three nights running he dreamed that an old man had
appeared to him, and reproached him for having neglected the duty
of a good Mussulman, in delaying so long his pilgrimage to Mecca.
Ali Cogia was much troubled by this dream, as he was unwilling
to give up his shop, and lose all his customers. He had shut his
eyes for some time to the necessity of performing this pilgrimage,
and tried to atone to his conscience by an extra number of good works,
but the dream seemed to him a direct warning, and he resolved to put
the journey off no longer.
The first thing he did was to sell his furniture and the wares
he had in his shop, only reserving to himself such goods as he
might trade with on the road. The shop itself he sold also,
and easily found a tenant for his private house. The only matter he
could not settle satisfactorily was the safe custody of a thousand
pieces of gold which he wished to leave behind him.
After some thought, Ali Cogia hit upon a plan which seemed a safe one.
He took a large vase, and placing the money in the bottom of it,
filled up the rest with olives. After corking the vase tightly down,
he carried it to one of his friends, a merchant like himself,
and said to him:
"My brother, you have probably heard that I am staffing with a caravan
in a few days for Mecca. I have come to ask whether you would
do me the favour to keep this vase of olives for me till I come back?"
The merchant replied readily, "Look, this is the key of my shop:
take it, and put the vase wherever you like. I promise that you shall
find it in the same place on your return."
A few days later, Ali Cogia mounted the camel that he had laden
with merchandise, joined the caravan, and arrived in due time
at Mecca. Like the other pilgrims he visited the sacred Mosque,
and after all his religious duties were performed, he set out his
goods to the best advantage, hoping to gain some customers among
Very soon two merchants stopped before the pile, and when they
had turned it over, one said to the other:
"If this man was wise he would take these things to Cairo, where he
would get a much better price than he is likely to do here."
Ali Cogia heard the words, and lost no time in following the advice.
He packed up his wares, and instead of returning to Bagdad,
joined a caravan that was going to Cairo. The results of the journey
gladdened his heart. He sold off everything almost directly,
and bought a stock of Egyptian curiosities, which he intended selling
at Damascus; but as the caravan with which he would have to travel
would not be starting for another six weeks, he took advantage
of the delay to visit the Pyramids, and some of the cities along
the banks of the Nile.
Now the attractions of Damascus so fascinated the worthy Ali,
that he could hardly tear himself away, but at length he remembered
that he had a home in Bagdad, meaning to return by way of Aleppo,
and after he had crossed the Euphrates, to follow the course of
But when he reached Mossoul, Ali had made such friends with some
Persian merchants, that they persuaded him to accompany them
to their native land, and even as far as India, and so it came
to pass that seven years had slipped by since he had left Bagdad,
and during all that time the friend with whom he had left the vase
of olives had never once thought of him or of it. In fact,
it was only a month before Ali Cogia's actual return that the affair
came into his head at all, owing to his wife's remarking one day,
that it was a long time since she had eaten any olives, and would
"That reminds me," said the husband, "that before Ali Cogia went
to Mecca seven years ago, he left a vase of olives in my care.
But really by this time he must be dead, and there is no reason we
should not eat the olives if we like. Give me a light, and I will
fetch them and see how they taste."
"My husband," answered the wife, "beware, I pray, of your doing
anything so base! Supposing seven years have passed without news
of Ali Cogia, he need not be dead for all that, and may come back
any day. How shameful it would be to have to confess that you
had betrayed your trust and broken the seal of the vase! Pay no
attention to my idle words, I really have no desire for olives now.
And probably after all this while they are no longer good.
I have a presentiment that Ali Cogia will return, and what will he
think of you? Give it up, I entreat."
The merchant, however, refused to listen to her advice, sensible
though it was. He took a light and a dish and went into his shop.
"If you will be so obstinate," said his wife, "I cannot help it;
but do not blame me if it turns out ill."
When the merchant opened the vase he found the topmost olives
were rotten, and in order to see if the under ones were in better
condition he shook some ont into the dish. As they fell out a few
of the gold pieces fell out too.
The sight of the money roused all the merchant's greed. He looked
into the vase, and saw that all the bottom was filled with gold.
He then replaced the olives and returned to his wife.
"My wife," he said, as he entered the room, "you were quite right;
the olives are rotten, and I have recorked the vase so well that Ali
Cogia will never know it has been touched."
"You would have done better to believe me," replied the wife.
"I trust that no harm will come of it."
These words made no more impression on the merchant than the others
had done; and he spent the whole night in wondering how he could manage
to keep the gold if Ali Cogia should come back and claim his vase.
Very early next morning he went out and bought fresh new olives;
he then threw away the old ones, took out the gold and hid it,
and filled up the vase with the olives he had bought. This done he
recorked the vase and put it in the same place where it had been left
by Ali Cogia.
A month later Ali Cogia re-entered Bagdad, and as his house was
still let he went to an inn; and the following day set out to see
his friend the merchant, who received him with open arms and many
expressions of surprise. After a few moments given to inquiries
Ali Cogia begged the merchant to hand him over the vase that he
had taken care of for so long.
"Oh certainly," said he, "I am only glad I could be of use to you
in the matter. Here is the key of my shop; you will find the vase
in the place where you put it."
Ali Cogia fetched his vase and carried it to his room at the inn,
where he opened it. He thrust down his hand but could feel no money,
but still was persuaded it must be there. So he got some plates
and vessels from his travelling kit and emptied ont the olives.
To no purpose. The gold was not there. The poor man was dumb
with horror, then, lifting up his hands, he exclaimed, "Can my old
friend really have committed such a crime?"
In great haste he went back to the house of the merchant. "My friend,"
he cried, "you will be astonished to see me again, but I can find
nowhere in this vase a thousand pieces of gold that I placed in the
bottom under the olives. Perhaps you may have taken a loan of them
for your business purposes; if that is so you are most welcome.
I will only ask you to give me a receipt, and you can pay the money
at your leisure."
The merchant, who had expected something of the sort, had his reply
all ready. "Ali Cogia," he said, "when you brought me the vase
of olives did I ever touch it?"
"I gave you the key of my shop and you put it yourself where you liked,
and did you not find it in exactly the same spot and in the
same state? If you placed any gold in it, it must be there still.
I know nothing about that; you only told me there were olives.
You can believe me or not, but I have not laid a finger on the vase."
Ali Cogia still tried every means to persuade the merchant to admit
the truth. "I love peace," he said, "and shall deeply regret having
to resort to harsh measures. Once more, think of your reputation.
I shall be in despair if you oblige me to call in the aid of the law."
"Ali Cogia," answered the merchant, "you allow that it was a vase
of olives you placed in my charge. You fetched it and removed
it yourself, and now you tell me it contained a thousand pieces
of gold, and that I must restore them to you! Did you ever say
anything about them before? Why, I did not even know that the
vase had olives in it! Yon never showed them to me. I wonder
you have not demanded pearls or diamonds. Retire, I pray you,
lest a crowd should gather in front of my shop."
By this time not only the casual passers-by, but also the
neighbouring merchants, were standing round, listening to the dispute,
and trying every now and then to smooth matters between them.
But at the merchant's last words Ali Cogia resolved to lay the
cause of the quarrel before them, and told them the whole story.
They heard him to the end, and inquired of the merchant what he
had to say.
The accused man admitted that he had kept Ali Cogia's vase in his shop;
but he denied having touched it, and swore that as to what it
contained he only knew what Ali Cogia had told him, and called
them all to witness the insult that had been put upon him.
"You have brought it on yourself," said Ali Cogia, taking him
by the arm, "and as you appeal to the law, the law you shall have!
Let us see if you will dare to repeat your story before the Cadi."
Now as a good Mussulman the merchant was forbidden to refuse this
choice of a judge, so he accepted the test, and said to Ali Cogia,
"Very well; I should like nothing better. We shall soon see which
of us is in the right."
So the two men presented themselves before the Cadi, and Ali Cogia
again repeated his tale. The Cadi asked what witnesses he had.
Ali Cogia replied that he had not taken this precaution, as he had
considered the man his friend, and up to that time had always found
The merchant, on his side, stuck to his story, and offered to swear
solemnly that not only had he never stolen the thousand gold pieces,
but that he did not even know they were there. The Cadi allowed him
to take the oath, and pronounced him innocent.
Ali Cogia, furious at having to suffer such a loss, protested against
the verdict, declaring that he would appeal to the Caliph,
Haroun-al-Raschid, himself. But the Cadi paid no attention
to his threats, and was quite satisfied that he had done what was right.
Judgment being given the merchant returned home triumphant, and Ali
Cogia went back to his inn to draw up a petition to the Caliph.
The next morning he placed himself on the road along which the Caliph
must pass after mid-day prayer, and stretched out his petition to the
officer who walked before the Caliph, whose duty it was to collect
such things, and on entering the palace to hand them to his master.
There Haroun-al-Raschid studied them carefully.
Knowing this custom, Ali Cogia followed the Caliph into the public
hall of the palace, and waited the result. After some time the
officer appeared, and told him that the Caliph had read his petition,
and had appointed an hour the next morning to give him audience.
He then inquired the merchant's address, so that he might be summoned
to attend also.
That very evening, the Caliph, with his grand-vizir Giafar, and Mesrour,
chief of the eunuchs, all three disguised, as was their habit,
went out to take a stroll through the town.
Going down one street, the Caliph's attention was attracted
by a noise, and looking through a door which opened into a court
he perceived ten or twelve children playing in the moonlight.
He hid himself in a dark corner, and watched them.
"Let us play at being the Cadi," said the brightest and quickest
of them all; "I will be the Cadi. Bring before me Ali Cogia,
and the merchant who robbed him of the thousand pieces of gold."
The boy's words recalled to the Caliph the petition he had read
that morning, and he waited with interest to see what the children
The proposal was hailed with joy by the other children, who had heard
a great deal of talk about the matter, and they quickly settled
the part each one was to play. The Cadi took his seat gravely,
and an officer introduced first Ali Cogia, the plaintiff, and then
the merchant who was the defendant.
Ali Cogia made a low bow, and pleaded his cause point by point;
concluding by imploring the Cadi not to inflict on him such a
The Cadi having heard his case, turned to the merchant, and inquired
why he had not repaid Ali Cogia the sum in question.
The false merchant repeated the reasons that the real merchant
had given to the Cadi of Bagdad, and also offered to swear that he
had told the truth.
"Stop a moment!" said the little Cadi, "before we come to oaths,
I should like to examine the vase with the olives. Ali Cogia,"
he added, "have you got the vase with you?" and finding he had not,
the Cadi continued, "Go and get it, and bring it to me."
So Ali Cogia disappeared for an instant, and then pretended
to lay a vase at the feet of the Cadi, declaring it was his vase,
which he had given to the accused for safe custody; and in order
to be quite correct, the Cadi asked the merchant if he recognised it
as the same vase. By his silence the merchant admitted the fact,
and the Cadi then commanded to have the vase opened. Ali Cogia
made a movement as if he was taking off the lid, and the little
Cadi on his part made a pretence of peering into a vase.
"What beautiful olives!" he said, "I should like to taste one,"
and pretending to put one in his mouth, he added, "they are
"But," he went on, "it seems to me odd that olives seven years
old should be as good as that! Send for some dealers in olives,
and let us hear what they say!"
Two children were presented to him as olive merchants, and the Cadi
addressed them. "Tell me," he said, "how long can olives be kept
so as to be pleasant eating?"
"My lord," replied the merchants, "however much care is taken
to preserve them, they never last beyond the third year. They lose
both taste and colour, and are only fit to be thrown away."
"If that is so," answered the little Cadi, "examine this vase,
and tell me how long the olives have been in it."
The olive merchants pretended to examine the olives and taste them;
then reported to the Cadi that they were fresh and good.
"You are mistaken," said he, "Ali Cogia declares he put them
in that vase seven years ago."
"My lord," returned the olive merchants, "we can assure you that
the olives are those of the present year. And if you consult all
the merchants in Bagdad you will not find one to give a contrary opinion."
The accused merchant opened his mouth as if to protest, but the
Cadi gave him no time. "Be silent," he said, "you are a thief.
Take him away and hang him." So the game ended, the children
clapping their hands in applause, and leading the criminal away
to be hanged.
Haroun-al-Raschid was lost in astonishment at the wisdom of the child,
who had given so wise a verdict on the case which he himself was
to hear on the morrow. "Is there any other verdict possible?"
he asked the grand-vizir, who was as much impressed as himself.
"I can imagine no better judgment."
"If the circumstances are really such as we have heard,"
replied the grand-vizir, "it seems to me your Highness could
only follow the example of this boy, in the method of reasoning,
and also in your conclusions."
"Then take careful note of this house," said the Caliph, "and bring me
the boy to-morrow, so that the affair may be tried by him in my presence.
Summon also the Cadi, to learn his duty from the mouth of a child.
Bid Ali Cogia bring his vase of olives, and see that two dealers
in olives are present." So saying the Caliph returned to the palace.
The next morning early, the grand-vizir went back to the house
where they had seen the children playing, and asked for the mistress
and her children. Three boys appeared, and the grand-vizir inquired
which had represented the Cadi in their game of the previous evening.
The eldest and tallest, changing colour, confessed that it was he,
and to his mother's great alarm, the grand-vizir said that he had
strict orders to bring him into the presence of the Caliph.
"Does he want to take my son from me?" cried the poor woman;
but the grand-vizir hastened to calm her, by assuring her that she
should have the boy again in an hour, and she would be quite
satisfied when she knew the reason of the summons. So she dressed
the boy in his best clothes, and the two left the house.
When the grand-vizir presented the child to the Caliph, he was
a little awed and confused, and the Caliph proceeded to explain
why he had sent for him. "Approach, my son," he said kindly.
"I think it was you who judged the case of Ali Cogia and the merchant
last night? I overheard you by chance, and was very pleased
with the way you conducted it. To-day you will see the real Ali
Cogia and the real merchant. Seat yourself at once next to me."
The Caliph being seated on his throne with the boy next him, the parties
to the suit were ushered in. One by one they prostrated themselves,
and touched the carpet at the foot of the throne with their foreheads.
When they rose up, the Caliph said: "Now speak. This child will
give you justice, and if more should be wanted I will see to it myself."
Ali Cogia and the merchant pleaded one after the other,
but when the merchant offered to swear the same oath that he
had taken before the Cadi, he was stopped by the child, who said
that before this was done he must first see the vase of olives.
At these words, Ali Cogia presented the vase to the Caliph,
and uncovered it. The Caliph took one of the olives, tasted it,
and ordered the expert merchants to do the same. They pronounced
the olives good, and fresh that year. The boy informed them that Ali
Cogia declared it was seven years since he had placed them in the vase;
to which they returned the same answer as the children had done.
The accused merchant saw by this time that his condemnation
was certain, and tried to allege something in his defence.
The boy had too much sense to order him to be hanged, and looked at
the Caliph, saying, "Commander of the Faithful, this is not a game now;
it is for your Highness to condemn him to death and not for me."
Then the Caliph, convinced that the man was a thief, bade them take
him away and hang him, which was done, but not before he had confessed
his guilt and the place in which he had hidden Ali Cogia's money.
The Caliph ordered the Cadi to learn how to deal out justice from
the mouth of a child, and sent the boy home, with a purse containing
a hundred pieces of gold as a mark of his favour.
The Enchanted Horse
It was the Feast of the New Year, the oldest and most splendid of
all the feasts in the Kingdom of Persia, and the day had been spent
by the king in the city of Schiraz, taking part in the magnificent
spectacles prepared by his subjects to do honour to the festival.
The sun was setting, and the monarch was about to give his court the
signal to retire, when suddenly an Indian appeared before his throne,
leading a horse richly harnessed, and looking in every respect
exactly like a real one.
"Sire," said he, prostrating himself as he spoke, "although I make
my appearance so late before your Highness, I can confidently
assure you that none of the wonders you have seen during the day
can be compared to this horse, if you will deign to cast your eyes
"I see nothing in it," replied the king, "except a clever imitation
of a real one; and any skilled workman might do as much."
"Sire," returned the Indian, "it is not of his outward form that I
would speak, but of the use that I can make of him. I have only
to mount him, and to wish myself in some special place, and no
matter how distant it may be, in a very few moments I shall find
myself there. It is this, Sire, that makes the horse so marvellous,
and if your Highness will allow me, you can prove it for yourself."
The King of Persia, who was interested in every thing out of the common,
and had never before come across a horse with such qualities,
bade the Indian mount the animal, and show what he could do.
In an instant the man had vaulted on his back, and inquired where
the monarch wished to send him.
"Do you see that mountain?" asked the king, pointing to a huge
mass that towered into the sky about three leagues from Schiraz;
"go and bring me the leaf of a palm that grows at the foot."
The words were hardly out of the king's mouth when the Indian
turned a screw placed in the horse's neck, close to the saddle,
and the animal bounded like lightning up into the air, and was soon
beyond the sight even of the sharpest eyes. In a quarter of an
hour the Indian was seen returning, bearing in his hand the palm,
and, guiding his horse to the foot of the throne, he dismounted,
and laid the leaf before the king.
Now the monarch had no sooner proved the astonishing speed of which the
horse was capable than he longed to possess it himself, and indeed,
so sure was he that the Indian would be quite ready to sell it,
that he looked upon it as his own already.
"I never guessed from his mere outside how valuable an animal he was,"
he remarked to the Indian, "and I am grateful to you for having shown
me my error," said he. "If you will sell it, name your own price."
"Sire," replied the Indian, "I never doubted that a sovereign so wise
and accomplished as your Highness would do justice to my horse,
when he once knew its power; and I even went so far as to think it
probable that you might wish to possess it. Greatly as I prize it,
I will yield it up to your Highness on one condition. The horse
was not constructed by me, but it was given me by the inventor,
in exchange for my only daughter, who made me take a solemn oath that I
would never part with it, except for some object of equal value."
"Name anything you like," cried the monarch, interrupting him.
"My kingdom is large, and filled with fair cities. You have only
to choose which you would prefer, to become its ruler to the end
of your life."
"Sire," answered the Indian, to whom the proposal did not seem
nearly so generous as it appeared to the king, "I am most
grateful to your Highness for your princely offer, and beseech
you not to be offended with me if I say that I can only deliver
up my horse in exchange for the hand of the princess your daughter."
A shout of laughter burst from the courtiers as they heard these words,
and Prince Firouz Schah, the heir apparent, was filled with anger
at the Indian's presumption. The king, however, thought that it
would not cost him much to part from the princess in order to gain
such a delightful toy, and while he was hesitating as to his answer
the prince broke in.
"Sire," he said, "it is not possible that you can doubt for an
instant what reply you should give to such an insolent bargain.
Consider what you owe to yourself, and to the blood of your ancestors."
"My son," replied the king, "you speak nobly, but you do not
realise either the value of the horse, or the fact that if I reject
the proposal of the Indian, he will only make the same to some
other monarch, and I should be filled with despair at the thought
that anyone but myself should own this Seventh Wonder of the World.
Of course I do not say that I shall accept his conditions,
and perhaps he may be brought to reason, but meanwhile I should
like you to examine the horse, and, with the owner's permission,
to make trial of its powers."
The Indian, who had overheard the king's speech, thought that he
saw in it signs of yielding to his proposal, so he joyfully agreed
to the monarch's wishes, and came forward to help the prince to mount
the horse, and show him how to guide it: but, before he had finished,
the young man turned the screw, and was soon out of sight.
They waited some time, expecting that every moment he might be seen
returning in the distance, but at length the Indian grew frightened,
and prostrating himself before the throne, he said to the king,
"Sire, your Highness must have noticed that the prince,
in his impatience, did not allow me to tell him what it was necessary
to do in order to return to the place from which he started.
I implore you not to punish me for what was not my fault, and not
to visit on me any misfortune that may occur."
"But why," cried the king in a burst of fear and anger, "why did
you not call him back when you saw him disappearing?"
"Sire," replied the Indian, "the rapidity of his movements took me
so by surprise that he was out of hearing before I recovered my speech.
But we must hope that he will perceive and turn a second screw,
which will have the effect of bringing the horse back to earth."
"But supposing he does!" answered the king, "what is to hinder
the horse from descending straight into the sea, or dashing him
to pieces on the rocks?"
"Have no fears, your Highness," said the Indian; "the horse has
the gift of passing over seas, and of carrying his rider wherever
he wishes to go."
"Well, your head shall answer for it," returned the monarch, "and if
in three months he is not safe back with me, or at any rate does
not send me news of his safety, your life shall pay the penalty."
So saying, he ordered his guards to seize the Indian and throw him
Meanwhile, Prince Firouz Schah had gone gaily up into the air,
and for the space of an hour continued to ascend higher and higher,
till the very mountains were not distinguishable from the plains.
Then he began to think it was time to come down, and took for granted
that, in order to do this, it was only needful to turn the screw
the reverse way; but, to his surprise and horror, he found that,
turn as he might, he did not make the smallest impression.
He then remembered that he had never waited to ask how he was to get
back to earth again, and understood the danger in which he stood.
Luckily, he did not lose his head, and set about examining the
horse's neck with great care, till at last, to his intense joy,
he discovered a tiny little peg, much smaller than the other,
close to the right ear. This he turned, and found him-self dropping
to the earth, though more slowly than he had left it.
It was now dark, and as the prince could see nothing, he was obliged,
not without some feeling of disquiet, to allow the horse to direct
his own course, and midnight was already passed before Prince Firouz
Schah again touched the ground, faint and weary from his long ride,
and from the fact that he had eaten nothing since early morning.
The first thing he did on dismounting was to try to find out where
he was, and, as far as he could discover in the thick darkness,
he found himself on the terraced roof of a huge palace, with a
balustrade of marble running round. In one corner of the terrace stood
a small door, opening on to a staircase which led down into the palace.
Some people might have hesitated before exploring further, but not
so the prince. "I am doing no harm," he said, "and whoever the owner
may be, he will not touch me when he sees I am unarmed," and in dread
of making a false step, he went cautiously down the staircase.
On a landing, he noticed an open door, beyond which was a faintly
Before entering, the prince paused and listened, but he heard
nothing except the sound of men snoring. By the light of a lantern
suspended from the roof, he perceived a row of black guards sleeping,
each with a naked sword lying by him, and he understood that the hall
must form the ante-room to the chamber of some queen or princess.
Standing quite still, Prince Firouz Schah looked about him, till his
eyes grew accustomed to the gloom, and he noticed a bright light
shining through a curtain in one corner. He then made his way softly
towards it, and, drawing aside its folds, passed into a magnificent
chamber full of sleeping women, all lying on low couches, except one,
who was on a sofa; and this one, he knew, must be the princess.
Gently stealing up to the side of her bed he looked at her, and saw
that she was more beautiful than any woman he had ever beheld.
But, fascinated though he was, he was well aware of the danger
of his position, as one cry of surprise would awake the guards,
and cause his certain death.
So sinking quietly on his knees, he took hold of the sleeve of
the princess and drew her arm lightly towards him. The princess
opened her eyes, and seeing before her a handsome well-dressed man,
she remained speechless with astonishment.
This favourable moment was seized by the prince, who bowing low
while he knelt, thus addressed her:
"You behold, madame, a prince in distress, son to the King of Persia,
who, owing to an adventure so strange that you will scarcely
believe it, finds himself here, a suppliant for your protection.
But yesterday, I was in my father's court, engaged in the celebration
of our most solemn festival; to-day, I am in an unknown land,
in danger of my life."
Now the princess whose mercy Prince Firouz Schah implored was the eldest
daughter of the King of Bengal, who was enjoying rest and change in the
palace her father had built her, at a little distance from the capital.
She listened kindly to what he had to say, and then answered:
"Prince, be not uneasy; hospitality and humanity are practised
as widely in Bengal as they are in Persia. The protection you ask
will be given you by all. You have my word for it." And as the
prince was about to thank her for her goodness, she added quickly,
"However great may be my curiosity to learn by what means you
have travelled here so speedily, I know that you must be faint
for want of food, so I shall give orders to my women to take you
to one of my chambers, where you will be provided with supper,
and left to repose."
By this time the princess's attendants were all awake, and listening
to the conversation. At a sign from their mistress they rose,
dressed themselves hastily, and snatching up some of the tapers which
lighted the room, conducted the prince to a large and lofty room,
where two of the number prepared his bed, and the rest went down
to the kitchen, from which they soon returned with all sorts
of dishes. Then, showing him cupboards filled with dresses and linen,
they quitted the room.
During their absence the Princess of Bengal, who had been greatly struck
by the beauty of the prince, tried in vain to go to sleep again.
It was of no use: she felt broad awake, and when her women entered
the room, she inquired eagerly if the prince had all he wanted,
and what they thought of him.
"Madame," they replied, "it is of course impossible for us to tell
what impression this young man has made on you. For ourselves,
we think you would be fortunate if the king your father should
allow you to marry anyone so amiable. Certainly there is no one
in the Court of Bengal who can be compared with him."
These flattering observations were by no means displeasing to
the princess, but as she did not wish to betray her own feelings she
merely said, "You are all a set of chatterboxes; go back to bed,
and let me sleep."
When she dressed the following morning, her maids noticed that,
contrary to her usual habit, the princess was very particular about
her toilette, and insisted on her hair being dressed two or three
times over. "For," she said to herself, "if my appearance was not
displeasing to the prince when he saw me in the condition I was,
how much more will he be struck with me when he beholds me with all
Then she placed in her hair the largest and most brilliant diamonds
she could find, with a necklace, bracelets and girdle, all of
precious stones. And over her shoulders her ladies put a robe of the
richest stuff in all the Indies, that no one was allowed to wear except
members of the royal family. When she was fully dressed according
to her wishes, she sent to know if the Prince of Persia was awake
and ready to receive her, as she desired to present herself before him.
When the princess's messenger entered his room, Prince Firouz Schah
was in the act of leaving it, to inquire if he might be allowed to pay
his homage to her mistress: but on hearing the princess's wishes,
he at once gave way. "Her will is my law," he said, "I am only
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