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

Part 2 out of 7

before set eyes on, whereat they were all amazed. Then they fared
on till they came to the lake lying between the four hills and
saw the fish therein of four colours, red and white and yellow
and blue. The King stood and wondered and said to his attendants,
'Has any one of you ever seen this lake before?' But they
answered, 'Never did we set eyes on it in all our lives, O King
of the age.' Then he questioned those stricken in years, and they
made him the same answer. Quoth he, 'By Allah, I will not return
to my capital nor sit down on my chair of estate till I know the
secret of this pond and its fish!' Then he ordered his people to
encamp at the foot of the hills and called his Vizier, who was a
man of learning and experience, sagacious and skilful in
business, and said to him, 'I mean to go forth alone to-night and
enquire into the matter of the lake and these fish: wherefore do
thou sit down at the door of my pavilion and tell the amirs and
viziers and chamberlains and officers and all who ask after me
that the Sultan is ailing and hath ordered thee to admit no one,
and do thou acquaint none with my purpose.' The Vizier dared not
oppose his design; so the King disguised himself and girt on his
sword and going forth privily, took a path that led over one of
the hills and fared on all that night and the next day, till the
heat overcame him and he paused to rest. Then he set out again
and fared on the rest of that day and all the next night, till on
the morning of the second day, he caught sight of some black
thing in the distance, whereat he rejoiced and said, 'Belike I
shall find some one who can tell me the secret of the lake and
the fish.' So he walked on, till he came to the black object,
when he found it a palace built of black stone, plated with iron;
and one leaf of its gate was open and the other shut. At this the
King rejoiced and went up to the gate and knocked lightly, but
heard no answer. So he knocked a second time and a third time,
with the same result. Then he knocked loudly, but still no one
answered; and he said to himself, 'It must be deserted.' So he
took courage and entering the vestibule, cried out, 'Ho, people
of the palace! I am a stranger and a wayfarer and hungry. Have ye
any victual?' He repeated these words a second and a third time,
but none answered. So he took heart and went on boldly into the
interior of the palace, which he found hung and furnished with
silken stuffs, embroidered with stars of gold, and curtains let
down before the doors. In the midst was a spacious courtyard,
with four estrades, one on each side, and a bench of stone.
Midmost the courtyard was a great basin of water, from which
sprang a fountain, and at the corners stood four lions of red
gold, spouting forth water as it were pearls and jewels; and the
place was full of birds, which were hindered from flying away by
a network of gold stretched overhead. The King looked right and
left, but there was no one to be seen; whereat he marvelled and
was vexed to find none of whom he might enquire concerning the
lake and the fish and the palace itself. So he returned to the
vestibule and sitting down between the doors, fell to musing upon
what he had seen, when lo, he heard a moaning that came from a
sorrowful heart, and a voice chanted the following verses:

I hid what I endured from thee: it came to light, And sleep was
changed to wake thenceforward to my sight.
O Fate, thou sparest not nor dost desist from me; Lo, for my
heart is racked with dolour and affright!
Have pity, lady mine, upon the great laid low, Upon the rich made
poor by love and its despite!
Once, jealous of the breeze that blew on thee, I was, Alas! on
whom Fate falls, his eyes are veiled with night.
What boots the archer's skill, if, when the foe draws near, His
bow-string snap and leave him helpless in the fight?
So when afflictions press upon the noble mind, Where shall a man
from Fate and Destiny take flight?

When the King heard this, he rose and followed the sound and
found that it came from behind a curtain let down before the
doorway of a sitting-chamber. So he raised the curtain and saw a
young man seated upon a couch raised a cubit from the ground. He
was a handsome well-shaped youth, with flower-white forehead and
rosy cheeks and a black mole, like a grain of ambergris, on the
table of his cheek, as says the poet:

The slender one! From his brow and the night of his jetty hair,
The world in alternate gloom and splendour of day doth fare.
Blame not the mole on his cheek. Is an anemone's cup Perfect,
except in its midst an eyelet of black it wear?

He was clad in a robe of silk, laced with Egyptian gold, and had
on his head a crown set with jewels, but his face bore traces of
affliction. The King rejoiced when he saw him and saluted him;
and the youth returned his salute in the most courteous wise,
though without rising, and said to him, 'O my lord, excuse me if
I do not rise to thee, as is thy due; indeed, I am unable to do
so.' 'I hold thee excused, O youth!' answered the King. 'I am thy
guest and come to thee on a pressing errand, beseeching thee to
expound to me the mystery of the lake and the fish and of this
palace, and why thou sittest here alone and weeping.' When the
young man heard this, the tears ran down his cheeks and he wept
sore, till his breast was drenched, and repeated the following

Say unto those that grieve, at whom doth Fate her arrows cast,
"How many an one hath she raised up but to lay low at last!
Lo, if ye sleep, the eye of God is never closed in sleep. For
whom indeed is life serene, for whom is Fortune fast?"

Then he gave a heavy sigh and repeated the following:

Trust thine affair to the Ruler of all that be And put thought-
taking and trouble away from thee:
Say not of aught that is past, "How came it so?" All things
depend upon the Divine decree.

The King marvelled and said to him, 'What makes thee weep, O
youth?' 'How should I not weep,' answered he 'being in such a
plight?' Then he put out his hand and lifted the skirt of his
robe, and behold, he was stone from the waist downward. When the
King saw this his condition, he grieved sore and lamented and
cried out, 'Alas! alas!' and said, 'Verily, O youth, thou addest
trouble to my trouble. I came to enquire concerning the fish; and
now I am concerned to know thy history also. But there is no
power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme!
Hasten therefore, O youth, and expound to me thy story.' Quoth
the youth, 'Give me thine ears and understanding:' and the King
replied, 'I am all attention.' Then said the youth, 'There hangs
a strange story by these fish and by myself, a story which, were
it graven with needles on the corners of the eye,[FN#22] would
serve as a warning to those who can profit by example. 'How so ?'
asked the King and the youth replied, 'Know, O my lord, that

Story of the Enchanted Youth.

My father was King of the city that stood in this place, and his
name was Mohammed, Lord of the Black Islands, which are no other
than the four hills of which thou wottest. He reigned seventy
years, at the end of which time God took him to Himself, and I
succeeded to his throne and took to wife the daughter of my
father's brother, who loved me with an exceeding love, so that,
whenever I was absent from her, she would neither eat nor drink
till she saw me again. With her I lived for five years, till one
day she went out to go to the bath, and I bade the cook hasten
supper for us against her return. Then I entered the palace and
lay down on the bed where we were wont to lie and ordered two
slave-girls to sit, one at my head and the other at my feet, and
fan me. Now I was disturbed at my wife's absence and could not
sleep, but remained awake, although my eyes were closed.
Presently I heard the damsel at my head say to the other one, "O
Mesoudeh, how unhappy is our lord and how wretched is his youth,
and oh, the pity of him with our accursed harlot of a mistress!"
"Yes, indeed," replied Mesoudeh; "may God curse all unfaithful
women and adulteresses! Indeed, it befits not that the like of
our lord should waste his youth with this harlot, who lies abroad
every night." Quoth the other, "Is our lord then a fool, that,
when he wakes in the night and finds her not by his side, he
makes no enquiry after her?" "Out on thee," rejoined Mesoudeh;
"has our lord any knowledge of this or does she leave him any
choice? Does she not drug him every night in the cup of drink she
gives him before he sleeps, in which she puts henbane? So he
sleeps like a dead man and knows nothing of what happens. Then
she dresses and scents herself and goes forth and is absent till
daybreak, when she returns and burns a perfume under his nose and
he awakes." When I heard the girls' talk, the light in my eyes
became darkness, and I thought the night would never come.
Presently, my wife returned from the bath, and they served up
supper and we ate and sat awhile drinking and talking as usual.
Then she called for my sleeping-draught and gave me the cup: and
I feigned to drink it, but made shift to pour it into my bosom
and lay down at once and began to snore as if I slept. Then said
she, "Sleep out thy night and never rise again! By Allah, I hate
thee and I hate thy person; I am sick of thy company and I know
not when God will take away thy life!" Then she rose and donned
her richest clothes and perfumed herself and girt on my sword and
opened the palace gate and went out. I rose and followed her, and
she passed through the streets of the city, till she came to the
gate, when she muttered words I understood not: and straight-way
the locks fell off and the gate opened. She went forth and fared
on among the rubbish heaps, I still following her without her
knowledge, till she came to a reed fence, within which was a hut
of brick. She entered the hut and I climbed up on the roof and
looking down, saw my wife standing by a scurvy black slave, with
blubber lips, one of which overlapped the other, like a coverlet,
and swept up the sand from the gravel floor, lying upon a bed of
sugar-cane refuse and wrapped in an old cloak and a few rags. She
kissed the earth before him, and he raised his head to her and
said, "Out on thee! why hast thou tarried till now? There have
been some of my kinsmen the blacks here, drinking; and they have
gone away, each with his wench; but I refused to drink on account
of thine absence." "O my lord and my love and solace of my eyes,"
answered she, "dost thou not know that I am married to my cousin,
and that I hate to look upon him and abhor myself in his company.
Did I not fear for thy sake, I would not let the sun rise again
till his city was a heap of ruins wherein the owl and the raven
should hoot and wolves and foxes harbour; and I would transport
its stones behind the mountain Caf."[FN#23] "Thou liest, O
accursed one!" said the black, "and I swear by the valour of the
blacks (else may our manhood be as that of the whites!) that if
thou tarry again till this hour, I will no longer keep thee
company nor join my body to thine! O accursed one, wilt thou play
fast and loose with us at thy pleasure, O stinkard, O bitch, O
vilest of whites?" When I heard and saw what passed between them,
the world grew dark in my eyes and I knew not where I was; whilst
my wife stood weeping and humbling herself to him and saying, "O
my love and fruit of my heart, if thou be angry with me, who is
left me, and if thou reject me, who shall shelter me, O my
beloved and light of mine eyes?" And she ceased not to weep and
implore him till he forgave her. Then she was glad and rose and
putting off her clothes, said to the slave, "O my lord, hast thou
aught here for thy handmaid to eat?" "Take the cover off yonder
basin," answered he; "thou wilt find under it cooked rats' bones,
and there is a little millet beer left in this pot. Eat and
drink." So she ate and drank and washed her hands and mouth; then
lay down, naked, upon the rushes, beside the slave, and covered
herself with the rags. When I saw this, I became as one
distraught and coming down from the roof, went in by the door.
Then I took the sword she had brought and drew it, thinking to
kill them both. I struck first at the slave's neck and thought I
had made an end of him; but the blow only severed the flesh and
the gullet, without dividing the jugulars. He gave a loud
gurgling groan and roused my wife, whereupon I drew back, after I
had restored the sword to its place, and resuming to the palace,
lay down on my bed till morning, when my wife came and awoke me,
and I saw that she had cut off her hair and put on mourning
garments. "O my cousin," said she, "do not blame me for this I
have done; for I have news that my mother is dead, that my father
has fallen in battle and that both my brothers are dead also, one
of a snake-bite and the other of a fall from a precipice, so that
I have good reason to weep and lament." When I heard this, I did
not reproach her, but said to her, "Do what thou wilt: I will not
baulk thee." She ceased not to mourn and lament for a whole year,
at the end of which time she said to me, "I wish to build me in
thy palace a tomb with a cupola and set it apart for mourning and
call it House of Lamentations." Quoth I, "Do what seemeth good to
thee." So she built herself a house of mourning, roofed with a
dome, and a monument in the midst like the tomb of a saint.
Thither she transported the slave and lodged him in the tomb. He
was exceeding weak and from the day I wounded him he had remained
unable to do her any service or to speak or do aught but drink;
but he was still alive, because his hour was not yet come. She
used to visit him morning and evening in the mausoleum and carry
him wine and broths to drink and weep and make moan over him; and
thus she did for another year, whilst I ceased not to have
patience with her and pay no heed to her doings, till one day I
came upon her unawares and found her weeping and saying, "Why art
thou absent from my sight, O delight of my heart? Speak to me, O
my life! speak to me, O my love!" And she recited the following

My patience fails me for desire: if thou forgettest me, My heart
and all my soul can love none other after thee.
Carry me with thee, body and soul, wherever thou dost fare, And
where thou lightest down to rest, there let me buried be.
Speak but my name above my tomb; the groaning of my bones,
Turning towards thy voice's sound, shall answer drearily.

And she wept and recited the following:

My day of bliss is that whereon thou drawest near to me; And that
whereon thou turn'st away, my day of death and fear.
What though I tremble all the night and be in dread of death, Yet
thine embraces are to me than safety far more dear.

And again the following:

Though unto me were given all that can make life sweet, Though
the Chosroes empire, yea, and the world were mine,
All were to me in value less than a midge's wing, If that mine
eyes must never look on that face of thine!

When she had finished, I said to her, "O my cousin, let thy
mourning suffice thee: for weeping profiteth nothing." She
replied, "Thwart me not, or I will kill myself." So I held my
peace and let her go her way: and she ceased not to mourn and
weep for the space of another year. At the end of the third year,
I came into the mausoleum one day, vexed at something that had
crossed me and weary of this excessive affliction, and found her
by the tomb under the dome, saying, "O my lord, I never hear thee
speak to me, no, not one word. Why dost thou not answer me, O my
lord?" And she recited the following verses:

O tomb, O tomb, have his beauties ceased, or does thy light
indeed, The sheen of the radiant countenance, no more in
thee abound?
O tomb, O tomb, thou art neither earth nor heaven unto me: How
comes it then that sun and moon at once in thee are found?

When I heard this, it added wrath to my wrath, and I said, "Alas!
how much more of this mourning?" and I repeated the following
[parody of her] verses:

O tomb, O tomb, has his blackness ceased, or does thy light
indeed, The sheen of the filthy countenance, no more in thee
O tomb, thou art neither kitchen-stove nor sewer-pool for me! How
comes it then that mire and coal at once in thee are found?

When she heard this, she sprang to her feet and said, "Out on
thee, thou dog! it was thou that didst thus with me and woundedst
the beloved of my heart and hast afflicted me and wasted his
youth, so that these three years he hath lain, neither dead nor
alive!" "O foulest of harlots and filthiest of whorish doxies of
hired slaves," answered I, "it was indeed I who did this!" And I
drew my sword and made at her to kill her; but she laughed and
said, "Avaunt, thou dog! Thinkst thou that what is past can recur
or the dead come back to life? Verily, God has given into my hand
him who did this to me and against whom there was in my heart
fire that might not be quenched and insatiable rage." Then she
stood up and pronouncing some words I did not understand, said to
me, "Let one half of thee by my enchantments become stone and the
other half remain man." And immediately I became as thou seest me
and have remained ever since neither sitting nor standing and
neither dead nor alive. Then she enchanted the city with all its
streets and gardens and turned it into the lake thou wottest of,
and the inhabitants, who were of four religions, Muslims,
Christians, Magians and Jews, she changed to fish of various
colours, the Muslims white, the Christians blue, the Magians red
and the Jews yellow; and the four islands she turned into four
mountains encompassing the lake. Moreover, the condition to which
she has reduced me does not suffice her: but every day she strips
me and gives me a hundred lashes with a whip, so that the blood
runs down me and my shoulders are torn. Then she clothes my upper
half in a shirt of hair-cloth and over that she throws these rich
robes.' And he wept and repeated the following verses:

Lord, I submit myself to Thee and eke to Fate, Content, if so
Thou please, to suffer and to wait.
My enemies oppress and torture me full sore: But Paradise at
last, belike, shall compensate.
Though Fate press hard on me, I trust in the Elect,[FN#24] The
Accepted One of God, to be my advocate.

With this the King turned to him and said, 'O youth, after having
rid me of one trouble, thou addest another to me: but tell me,
where is thy wife and where is the wounded slave?' 'The slave
lies in the tomb under the dome,' answered the youth, 'and she is
in the chamber over against the gate. Every day at sunrise, she
comes out and repairs first to me and strips off my clothes and
gives me a hundred strokes with the whip; and I weep and cry out,
but cannot stir to keep her off. When she has done torturing me,
she goes down to the slave with the wine and broth on which she
feeds him; and to-morrow at sunrise she will come.' 'O youth,'
rejoined the King, 'by Allah, I will assuredly do thee a service
by which I shall be remembered and which men shall chronicle to
the end of time!' Then he sat down by the youth and talked with
him till nightfall, when they went to sleep. At peep of day, the
King rose and put off his clothes and drawing his sword, repaired
to the mausoleum, where, after noting the paintings of the place
and the candles and Lamps and perfumes burning there, he sought
for the slave till he came upon him and slew him with one blow of
the sword; after which he took the body on his back and threw it
into a well that was in the palace. Then he returned to the dome
and wrapping himself in the black's clothes, lay down in his
place, with his drawn sword by his side. After awhile, the
accursed enchantress came out and, going first to her husband,
stripped him and beat him with the whip, whilst he cried out,
'Alas! the state I am in suffices me. Have mercy on me, O my
cousin!' But she replied, 'Didst thou show me any mercy or spare
my beloved?' And beat him till she was tired and the blood ran
from his sides. Then she put the hair shirt on him and the royal
robes over it, and went down to the dome with a goblet of wine
and a bowl of broth in her hands. When she came to the tomb, she
fell a-weeping and wailing and said, 'O my lord, speak to me!'
And repeated the following verse:

How long ere this rigour pass sway and thou relent? Is it not yet
enough of the tears that I have spent?'

And she wept and said again, 'O my lord, speak to me!' The King
lowered his voice and knotting his tongue, spoke after the
fashion of the blacks and said, 'Alack! alack! there is no power
and no virtue but in God the Most High the Supreme!' When she
heard this, she screamed out for joy and swooned away; and when
she revived, she said, 'O my lord, can it be true and didst thou
indeed speak to me?' The King made his voice small and said, 'O
accursed woman, thou deservest not that I should speak to thee!'
'Why so?' asked she; and he replied, 'Because all day thou
tormentest thy husband and his cries disturb me, and all night
long he calls upon God for help and invokes curses on thee and me
and keeps me awake from nightfall to daybreak and disquiets me;
and but for this, I had been well long ago. This is what has
hindered me from answering thee.' Quoth she, 'With thy leave, I
will release him from his present condition.' 'Do so,' said the
King, 'and rid us of his noise.' 'I hear and obey,' answered she,
and going out into the palace, took a cup full of water and spoke
over it certain words, whereupon the water began to boil and
bubble as the cauldron bubbles over the fire. Then she went up to
the young King and sprinkled him with it, saying, 'By the virtue
of the words I have spoken, if thou art thus by my spells, quit
this shape for thy former one.' And immediately he shook and rose
to his feet, rejoicing in his deliverance, and said, 'I testify
that there is no god but God and that Mohammed is His apostle,
may God bless and preserve him!' Then she said to him, 'Depart
hence and do not return, or I will kill thee.' And she screamed
out in his face. So he went out from before her, and she returned
to the dome and going down into the tomb, said, 'O my lord, come
forth to me, that I may see thy goodly form!' The King replied in
a weak voice, 'What hast thou done? Thou hast rid me of the
branch, but not of the root.' 'O my beloved, O my little black,'
said she, 'what is the root?' 'Out on thee, O accursed one!'
answered he. 'Every night, at the middle hour, the people of the
city, whom thou by thine enchantments didst change into fish,
lift up their heads from the water and cry to God for help and
curse thee and me; and this is what hinders my recovery: so do
thou go quickly and set them free, and after return and take me
by the hand and raise me up; for indeed health returns to me.'
When she heard this speech of the King, whom she supposed to be
the slave, she rejoiced and said, 'O my lord, on my head and eyes
be it, in the name of God!' Then she went out, full of joy, and
ran to the lake and taking a little of the water in her hand,
spoke over it words that might not be understood, whereupon there
was a great stir among the fish; and they raised their heads to
the surface and stood upright and became men as before. Thus was
the spell dissolved from the people of the city and the lake
became again a populous city, with its streets and bazaars, in
which the merchants bought and sold, and every one returned to
his employment; whilst the four hills were restored to their
original form of islands. Then the enchantress returned to the
King and said to him, 'O my lord, give me thy noble hand and
arise.' 'Come nearer to me,' answered he, in a faint voice. So
she came close to him, and he took his sword and smote her in the
breast, that the steel came forth, gleaming, from her back. He
smote her again and cut her in twain, and she fell to the ground
in two halves. Then he went out and found the young King standing
awaiting him and gave him joy of his deliverance, whereupon the
youth rejoiced and thanked him and kissed his hand. Quoth the
Sultan, 'Wilt thou abide in this thy city or come with me to
mine?' 'O King of the age,' rejoined he, 'dost thou know how far
it is from here to thy capital?' And the Sultan replied, 'Two
and a half days' journey.' 'O King,' said the other, 'if thou
sleepest, awake! Between thee and thy capital is a full year's
journey to a diligent traveller; and thou hadst not come hither
in two days and a half, save that the city was enchanted. But, O
King, I will never leave thee, no, not for the twinkling of an
eye!' The Sultan rejoiced at his words and said, 'Praised be God,
who hath bestowed thee upon me! Thou shalt be my son, for in all
my life I have never been blessed with a son.' And they embraced
each other and rejoiced with exceeding great joy. Then they
returned to the palace, and the young King bade his officers make
ready for a journey and prepare his baggage and all that he
required. The preparations occupied ten days, at the end of which
time the young King set out in company of the Sultan, whose heart
burned within him at the thought of his long absence from his
capital, attended by fifty white slaves and provided with
magnificent presents. They journeyed day and night for a whole
year, and God ordained them safety, till they drew near the
Sultan's capital and sent messengers in advance to acquaint the
Vizier with his safe arrival. Then came out the Vizier and the
troops, who had given up all hope of the Sultan's return, and
kissed the ground before him and gave him joy of his safety. So
he entered his palace and sat down on his throne and the Vizier
came in to him, to whom he related all that had befallen him with
the young King: and the Vizier gave the latter joy of his
deliverance. Then all things being set in order, the Sultan gave
largesse to many of his people and sending for the fisherman who
had brought him the enchanted fish and had thus been the first
cause of the delivery of the people of the Black Islands,
bestowed on him a dress of honour and enquired of his condition
and whether he had any children, to which he replied that he had
three children, two daughters and one son. So the King sent for
them and taking one daughter to wife, married the other to the
young King and made the son his treasurer. Moreover, he invested
his Vizier with the sovereignty of the Black Islands and
despatched him thither with the fifty officers, who had
accompanied the young King thence, giving him robes of honour for
all the amirs. So the Vizier kissed hands and set out for the
Black Islands. The fisherman became the richest man of his time,
and he and his daughters and the two Kings their husbands abode
in peace till death came to them.


There was once a porter of Baghdad who was a bachelor. One day,
as he stood in the market, leant upon his basket, there came to
him a lady, swathed in a wrapper of gold embroidered muslin,
fringed with gold lace, and wearing embroidered boots and
floating tresses plaited with silk and gold. She stopped before
him and raising her kerchief, showed a pair of languishing black
eyes of perfect beauty, bordered with long drooping lashes. Then
she turned to the porter and said, in a clear sweet voice, 'Take
thy basket and follow me.' No sooner had she spoken than he took
up his basket in haste, saying, 'O day of good luck! O day of
God's grace!' and followed her till she stopped and knocked at
the door of a house, when there came out a Nazarene, to whom she
gave a dinar, and he gave her in return an olive-green bottle,
full of wine, which she put into the basket, saying to the
porter, 'Hoist up and follow me.' Said he, 'By Allah, this is
indeed a happy and fortunate day!' And shouldering the basket,
followed her till she came to a fruiterer's, where she bought
Syrian apples and Turkish quinces and Arabian peaches and autumn
cucumbers and Sultani oranges and citrons, beside jessamine of
Aleppo and Damascus water-lilies and myrtle and basil and
henna-blossoms and blood-red anemones and violets and sweet-briar
and narcissus and camomile and pomegranate flowers, all of which
she put into the porter's basket, saying, 'Hoist up!' So he
shouldered the basket and followed her, till she stopped at a
butcher's shop and said to him, 'Cut me off ten pounds of meat.'
He gave her the meat, wrapped in a banana leaf, and she put it in
the basket, saying, 'Hoist up, O porter!' and went on to a
grocer's, of whom she took pistachio kernels and shelled almonds
and hazel-nuts and walnuts and sugar cane and parched peas and
Mecca raisins and all else that pertains to dessert. Thence to a
pastry-cook's, where she bought a covered dish and put therein
open-work tarts and honey-fritters and tri-coloured jelly and
march-pane, flavoured with lemon and melon, and Zeyneb's combs
and ladies' fingers and Cadi's mouthfuls and widow's bread and
meat-and-drink[FN#25] and some of every kind of sweetmeat in the
shop and laid the dish in the basket of the porter, who said to
her, 'Thou shouldst have told me, that I might have brought a
mule or a camel to carry all these good things.' She smiled and
gave him a tap on the nape, saying, 'Make haste and leave
chattering and God willing, thou shalt have a good wage.' She
stopped next at the shop of a druggist, where she bought
rose-water and water-lily water and orange-flower water and
willow-flower water and six other kinds of sweet waters and a
casting bottle of rose-water mingled with musk, besides two
loaves of sugar and frankincense and aloes-wood and ambergris and
musk and saffron and candles of Alexandrian wax, all of which she
put into the basket. Then she went on to a greengrocer's, of whom
she bought pickled safflower and olives, in brine and fresh, and
tarragon and juncates and Syrian cheese and put them all into the
basket and said to the porter, 'Take up thy basket and follow
me.' So he shouldered his load and followed her till she came to
a tall handsome house, with a spacious court before it and a
two-leaved door of ebony, inlaid with plates of glittering gold.
The lady went up to the door and throwing back her kerchief,
knocked softly, whilst the porter stood behind her, musing upon
her beauty and grace. After awhile the door opened and both the
leaves swung back; whereupon he looked to see who opened it, and
behold, it was a damsel of dazzling beauty and symmetry,
high-bosomed, with flower-white forehead and rosy cheeks, eyes
like those of gazelles or wild oxen and eyebrows like the
crescent of the new moon of Ramazan[FN#26], cheeks like blood-red
anemones, mouth like Solomon's seal, lips red as coral and teeth
like clustered pearls or camomile-petals, neck like an antelope's
and bosom like a fountain, breasts like double pomegranates,
belly like brocade and navel holding an ounce of benzoin
ointment, even as says of her the poet:

Look at her, with her slender shape and radiant beauty! this Is
she who is at once the sun and moon of palaces!
Thine eyes shall ne'er see grace combine so featly black and
white As in her visage and the locks that o'er her forehead
She in whose cheeks the red flag waves, her beauty testifies Unto
her name, if that to paint her sweet seductions miss.
With swimming gait she walks: I laugh for wonder at her hips, But
weep to see her waist, that all too slight to bear them is.

When the porter saw her, his mind and heart were taken by storm,
so that he well-nigh let fall the basket and exclaimed, 'Never in
all my life saw I a more blessed day than this!' Then said the
portress to the cateress, 'O my Sister, why tarriest thou? Come
in from the gate and ease this poor man of his burden.' So the
cateress entered, followed by the portress and the porter, and
went on before them to a spacious saloon, elegantly built and
handsomely decorated with all manner of colours and carvings and
geometrical figures, with balconies and galleries and cupboards
and benches and closets with curtains drawn before them. In the
midst was a great basin of water, from which rose a fountain, and
at the upper end stood a couch of juniper wood, inlaid with
precious stones and surmounted by a canopy of red satin, looped
up with pearls as big as hazel-nuts or bigger. Thereon sat a lady
of radiant countenance and gentle and demure aspect, moonlike in
face, with eyes of Babylonian witchcraft and arched eyebrows,
sugared lips like cornelian and a shape like the letter I. The
radiance of her countenance would have shamed the rising sun, and
she resembled one of the chief stars of heaven or a pavilion of
gold or a high-born Arabian bride on the night of her unveiling,
even as says of her the poet:

Her teeth, when she smiles, like pearls in a cluster show, Or
shredded camomile-petals or flakes of snow:
Her ringlets seem, as it were, the fallen night, And her beauty
shames the dawn and its ruddy glow.

Then she rose and coming with a stately gait to meet her sisters
in the middle of the saloon, said to them, 'Why stand ye still?
Relieve this poor porter of his burden.' So the cateress came and
stood before and the portress behind him and with the help of the
third damsel, lifted the basket from his head and emptying it,
laid everything in its place. Then they gave him two dinars,
saying, 'Go, O porter!' But he stood, looking at the ladies and
admiring, their beauty and pleasant manners, never had he seen
goodlier, and wondering greatly at the profusion of wine and meat
and fruits and flowers and so forth that they had provided and to
see no man with them, and made no movement to go. So the eldest
lady said to him, 'What ails thee that thou dost not go away?
Belike, thou grudgest at thy pay?' And she turned to the cateress
and said to her, 'Give him another dinar.' 'No, by Allah, O
lady!' answered the porter. 'I do not indeed grudge at my pay,
for my right hire is scarce two dirhems; but of a truth my heart
and soul are taken up with you and how it is that ye are alone
and have no man with you and no one to divert you, although ye
know that women's sport is little worth without men, nor is an
entertainment complete without four at the table, and ye have no
fourth. What says the poet?

Dost thou not see that for pleasure four several things combine,
Instruments four, harp, hautboy and gittern and psaltery?
And unto these, four perfumes answer and correspond, Violets,
roses and myrtle and blood-red anemone.
Nor is our pleasure perfect, unless four things have we, Money
and wine and gardens and mistress fair and free.

And ye are three and need a fourth, who should be a man, witty,
sensible and discreet, one who can keep counsel.' When they heard
what he said, it amused them and they laughed at him and replied,
'What have we to do with that, we who are girls and fear to
entrust our secrets to those who will not keep them? For we have
read, in such and such a history, what says Ibn eth Thumam:

Tell not thy secrets: keep them with all thy might. A secret
revealed is a secret lost outright.
If thine own bosom cannot thy secrets hold, Why expect more
reserve from another wight?

Or, as well says Abou Nuwas on the same subject:

The fool, that to men doth his secrets avow, Deserves to be
marked with a brand on the brow.'

'By your lives,' rejoined the porter, 'I am a man of sense and
discretion, well read in books and chronicles. I make known what
is fair and conceal what is foul, and as says the poet:

None keeps a secret but the man who's trusty and discreet. A
secret's ever safely placed with honest folk and leal;
And secrets trusted unto me are in a locked-up house Whose keys
are lost and on whose door is set the Cadi's seal.

When the girls heard this, the eldest one said to him, 'Thou
knowest that we have laid out much money in preparing this
entertainment: hast thou aught to offer us in return? For we will
not let thee sit with us and be our boon companion and gaze on
our bright fair faces, except thou pay down thy share of the
cost. Dost thou not know the saying:

Love without money
Is not worth a penny?'

'If thou have aught, my friend,' added the portress, 'then art
thou something: but if thou have nothing, be off without
anything.' Here the cateress interposed, saying, 'O sisters, let
him be: for by Allah, he has not failed us to-day: another had
not been so patient with us. I will pay his share for him.'
Whereupon the porter, overjoyed, kissed the earth and thanked
her, saying, 'By Allah, it was thou didst handsel me this day!
Here are the two dinars I had of you: take them and admit me to
your company, not as a guest, but as a servant.' 'Sit down,'
answered they; 'thou art welcome.' But the eldest lady said,
'By Allah, we will not admit thee to our society but on one
condition; and it is that thou enquire not of what does not
concern thee; and if thou meddle, thou shalt be beaten.' Said the
porter, 'I agree to this, O my lady, on my head and eyes!
Henceforth I am dumb.' Then arose the cateress and girding her
middle, laid the table by the fountain and set out the cups and
flagons, with flowers and sweet herbs and all the requisites for
drinking. Moreover, she strained the wine and set it on; and they
sat down, she and her sisters, with the porter, who fancied
himself in a dream. The cateress took the flagon of wine and
filled a cup and drank it off. Then she filled again and gave it
to one of her sisters, who drank and filled another cup and gave
it to her other sister: then she filled a fourth time and gave it
to the porter, saying:

Drink and fare well and health attend thee still. This drink
indeed's a cure for every ill.

He took the cup in his hand and bowed and returned thanks,
reciting the following verses:

Quaff not the cup except with one who is of trusty stuff, One who
is true of thought and deed and eke of good descent.
Wine's like the wind, that, if it breathe on perfume, smells as
sweet, But, if o'er carrion it pass, imbibes its evil scent.

And again:

Drink not of wine except at the hands of a maiden fair, Who, like
unto thee and it, is joyous and debonair.

Then he kissed their hands and drank and was merry with wine and
swayed from side to side and recited the following verses:

Hither, by Allah, I conjure thee! Goblets that full of the grape
juice be!
And brim up, I prithee, a cup for me, For this is the water of
life, perdie!

Then the cateress filled the cup and gave it to the portress, who
took it from her hand and thanked her and drank. Then she filled
again and gave it to the eldest, who filled another cup and
handed it to the porter. He gave thanks and drank and recited the
following verses:

It is forbidden us to drink of any blood Except it be of that
which gushes from the vine.
So pour it out to me, an offering to thine eyes, To ransom from
thy hands my soul and all that's mine.

Then he turned to the eldest lady, who was the mistress of the
house, and said to her, 'O my lady, I am thy slave and thy
servant and thy bondman!' And repeated the following verses:

There is a slave of all thy caves now standing at thy gate Who
ceases not thy bounties all to sing and celebrate.
May he come in, O lady fair, to gaze upon thy charms? Desire and
I from thee indeed may never separate.

And she said to him, 'Drink, and health and prosperity attend
thee!' So he took the cup and kissed her hand and sang the
following verses:

I brought my love old wine and pure, the likeness of her cheeks,
Whose glowing brightness called to mind a brazier's heart of
She touched the wine-cup with her lips, and laughing roguishly,
"How canst thou proffer me to drink of my own cheeks?" she
"Drink!" answered I, "it is my tears; its hue is of my blood; And
it was heated at a fire that by my sighs was fed."

And she answered him with the following verse:

If, O my friend, thou hast indeed wept tears of blood for me, I
prithee, give them me to drink, upon thine eyes and head!

Then she took the cup and drank it off to her sisters' health;
and they continued to drink and make merry, dancing and laughing
and singing and reciting verses and ballads. The porter fell to
toying and kissing and biting and handling and groping and
dallying and taking liberties with them: whilst one put a morsel
into his mouth and another thumped him, and this one gave him a
cuff and that pelted him with flowers; and he led the most
delightful life with them, as if he sat in paradise among the
houris. They ceased not to drink and carouse thus, till the wine
sported in their heads and got the better of their senses, when
the portress, arose, and putting off her clothes, let down her
hair over her naked body, for a veil. Then she threw herself into
the basin and sported in the water and swam about and dived like
a duck and took water in her mouth and spurted it at the porter
and washed her limbs and the inside of her thighs. Then she came
up out of the water and throwing herself into the porter's lap,
pointed to her commodity and said to him, 'O my lord O my friend,
what is the name of this?' 'Thy kaze,' answered he; but she said,
'Fie! art thou not ashamed!' And cuffed him on the nape of the
neck. Quoth he, 'Thy catso.' And she dealt him a second cuff,
saying, 'Fie! what an ugly word! Art thou not ashamed?' 'Thy
commodity,' said he; and she, 'Fie! is there no shame in thee?'
And thumped him and beat him. Then said he, 'Thy coney.'
Whereupon the eldest fell on him and beat him, saying, 'Thou
shalt not say that.' And whatever he said, they beat him more and
more, till his neck ached again; and they made a laughing-stock
of him amongst them, till he said at last, 'Well, what is its
name amongst you women?' 'The sweet basil of the dykes,' answered
they. 'Praised be God for safety!' cried he. 'Good, O sweet basil
of the dikes!' Then they passed round the cup and presently the
cateress rose and throwing herself into the porter's lap, pointed
to her kaze and said to him, 'O light of mine eyes, what is the
name of this?' 'Thy commodity,' answered he. 'Art thou not
ashamed?' said she, and dealt him a buffet that made the place
ring again, repeating, 'Fie! Fie! art thou not ashamed?' Quoth
he, 'The sweet basil of the dykes.' 'No! No!' answered she, and
beat him and cuffed him on the nape. Then said he, 'Thy kaze, thy
tout, thy catso, thy coney.' But they replied, 'No! No!' And he
said again, 'The sweet basil of the dykes.' Whereupon they
laughed till they fell backward and cuffed him on the neck,
saying, 'No; that is not its name.' At last he said, 'O my
sisters, what is its name?' And they answered, 'What sayest thou
to the peeled barleycorn?' Then the cateress put on her clothes
and they sat down again to carouse, whilst the porter lamented
over his neck and shoulders. The cup passed round among them
awhile, and presently the eldest and handsomest of the ladies
rose and put off her clothes; whereupon the porter took his neck
in his hand and said, 'My neck and shoulders are in the way of
God!' Then she threw herself into the basin and plunged and
sported and washed; whilst the porter looked at her, naked, as
she were a piece of the moon or the full moon when she waxes or
the dawn at its brightest, and noted her shape and breasts and
her heavy quivering buttocks, for she was naked as God created
her. And he said, 'Alack!' Alack!' and repeated the following

If to the newly-budded branch thy figure I compare, I lay upon my
heart a load of wrong too great to bear;
For that the branch most lovely is, when clad upon with green,
But thou, when free of every veil, art then by far most

When she heard this, she came up out of the water and sitting
down on his knees, pointed to her kaze and said, 'O my little
lord, what is the name of this?' 'The sweet basil of the dykes,'
answered he; but she said, 'No! No!' Quoth he, 'The peeled
barleycorn.' And she said, 'Pshaw!' Then said he, 'Thy kaze.'
Fie! Fie!' cried she. 'Art thou not ashamed?' And cuffed him on
the nape of the neck. And whatever name he said, they beat him,
saying, 'No! No!' till at last he said, 'O my sisters, what is
its name?' 'The khan[FN#27] of Abou Mensour,' answered they. And
he said, 'Praised be God for safety! Bravo! Bravo! O khan of Abou
Mensour!' Then the damsel rose and put on her clothes and they
returned to their carousing and the cup passed round awhile.
Presently, the porter rose and putting off his clothes, plunged
into the pool and swam about and washed under his chin and
armpits, even as they had done. Then he came out and threw
himself into the eldest lady's lap and putting his arms into the
portress's lap and his feet into that of the cateress pointed to
his codpiece and said, 'O my mistresses, what is the name of
this?' They laughed till they fell backward and one of them
answered, 'Thy yard.' 'Art thou not ashamed?' said he. 'A
forfeit!' and took of each a kiss. Quoth another, 'Thy pintle.'
But he replied, 'No,' and gave each of them a bite in play. Then
said they, 'Thy pizzle.' 'No,' answered he, and gave each of them
a hug; and they kept saying, 'Thy yard, thy pintle, thy pizzle,
thy codpiece!' whilst he kissed and hugged and fondled them to
his heart's content, and they laughed till they were well nigh
dead. At last they said, 'O our brother, and what is its name?'
'Don't you know?' asked he; and they said, 'No.' Quoth he, 'This
is the mule Break-all, that browses on the basil of the dykes and
gobbles up the peeled barleycorn and lies by night in the khan of
Abou Mensour.' And they laughed till they fell backward. Then
they fell again to drinking and continued after this fashion till
the night came upon them, when they said to the porter, 'In the
name of God, put on thy sandals and be off and let us see the
breadth of thy shoulders!' Quoth he, 'By Allah, the leaving life
were easier to me than the leaving you! Let us join the night to
the day, and to-morrow we will each go our own way.' 'My life on
you!' said the cateress, 'let him pass the night with us, that we
may laugh at him, for he is a pleasant rogue; and we may never
again chance upon the like of him.' So the mistress of the house
said to the porter, 'Thou shalt pass the night with us on
condition that thou submit to our authority and that, whatever
thou seest, thou ask no questions about it nor enquire the reason
of it.' 'It is well,' answered he; and they said, 'Go and read
what is written over the door.' So he went to the door and found
the following words written thereon in letters of gold, 'He who
speaks of what concerns him not, shall hear what will not please
him.' And he said, 'Be ye witness against me that I will not
speak of what concerns me not.' Then rose the cateress and
prepared food, and they ate: after which they lighted the lamps
and candles and strewed on the latter ambergris and aloes-wood;
then changed the service and set on fresh fruits and flowers and
wine and so forth and sat down again to drink. They ceased not to
eat and drink and make merry, hobnobbing and laughing and talking
and frolicking, till there came a knocking at the door: whereupon
one of them rose and went to the door, without disturbing the
party, and presently returned, saying, 'Verily, our pleasure is
to be complete to-night.' 'How so?' asked the others, and she
replied, 'There are three foreign Calenders[FN#28] at the door,
with shaven heads and chins and eyebrows and every one blind of
the right eye, which is a most extraordinary coincidence.
Apparently they are fresh from a journey and indeed the traces of
travel are evident on them; and the reason of their knocking at
the door is this. They are strangers to Baghdad and this is their
first coming to our city: the night surprised them and they could
not find a lodging in the city and know no one with whom to take
shelter: so they said to each other, "Perhaps the owner of this
house will give us the key of a stable or outhouse and let us
sleep there." And, O my sisters, each of them is a laughing-stock
after his own fashion; and if we let them in, they will make us
sport this night, and on the morrow each shall go his own way.'
And she ceased not to persuade them, till they said, 'Let them
come in, on condition that they ask no questions of what does not
concern them, on pain of hearing what will not please them.' So
she rejoiced and going to the door, returned with the three
Calenders, who saluted and bowed low and held back; but the
ladies rose to them and welcomed them and gave them joy of their
safety and made them sit down. The Calenders looked about them
and seeing a pleasant place and a table elegantly spread with
flowers and fruits and green herbs and dessert and wine, with
candles burning and perfumes smoking, and the three maidens, with
their faces unveiled, said with one voice ''Fore Allah, it is
good!' Then they turned to the porter and saw that he was tipsy
and jaded with drinking and dalliance. So they took him for one
of themselves and said, 'He is a Calender like ourselves, either
an Arab or a foreigner.' When the porter heard this, he rose and
fixing his eyes on them, said, 'Sit still and do not meddle. Have
you not read what is written on the door? It befits not folk,
like yourselves, who come to us as mendicants, to loose your
tongues on us.' 'We ask pardon of God, O fakir!' answered they.
'Our heads are before thee.' The ladies laughed and making peace
between them, set food before the Calenders. When they had eaten,
they all sat down again to carouse, the portress serving the new
comers, and the cup passed round awhile, till the porter said to
the Calenders, 'O brothers, have ye no story or rare trait to
divert us withal?' The Calenders, being warm with wine, called
for musical instruments; so the portress brought them a
tambourine and a lute and a Persian harp; and each Calender took
one and tuned it and played and sang; and the girls joined in
lustily and made a great noise. Whilst they were thus engaged,
some one knocked at the gate and the portress rose and went to
see who it was. Now the cause of this knocking was that, that
very night, the Khalif Haroun er Reshid had gone down into the
City, as was his wont, every now and then, to walk about for his
diversion and hear what news was stirring, attended by his Vizier
Jaafer and Mesrour his headsman, all three, as usual, disguised
as merchants. Their way brought them to the house of the three
ladies, where they heard the noise of musical instruments and of
singing and merriment, and the Khalif said to Jaafer, 'I have a
mind to enter this house and listen to this music and see the
singers.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' answered Jaafer, 'these
people are certainly drunk, and I fear lest some mischief betide
us at their hands.' 'It matters not,' rejoined the Khalif; 'I
must and will go in and I desire that thou contrive some pretext
to that end.' 'I hear and obey,' replied the Vizier and going up
to the gate, knocked, whereupon the portress came down and
opened. Jaafer came forward and kissing the earth before her,
said, 'O lady, we are merchants from Tiberias: we reached Baghdad
ten days ago and sold our merchandise and took up our lodging at
the khan of the merchants. Now we were bidden to-night to an
entertainment at the house of a certain merchant, who set food
before us and we ate and caroused with him awhile, till he gave
us leave to depart and we went out, intending for our lodging;
but being strangers in Baghdad, we lost ourselves and could not
find our way back to our khan: so we hope, of your courtesy, that
you will admit us to pass the night with you, and God will
requite you.' The portress looked at them and saw that they were
dressed like merchants and appeared respectable; so she returned
to her sisters and repeated to them Jaafer's story, and they took
compassion on the supposed strangers and bade her admit them. So
she resumed and opened the gate to them, and they said, 'Have we
thy leave to enter?' 'Enter,' answered she; whereupon the Khalif
and Jaafer and Mesrour entered; and when the girls saw them, they
rose and welcomed them and made them sit down and served them,
saying, 'Ye are welcome as our guests, but on one condition.'
'What is that?' asked they; and the mistress of the house
answered, 'It is that you be eyes without tongues and that,
whatever you see, you enquire not thereof nor speak of that which
concerns you not, lest you hear what will not please you.'
'Good,' answered they: 'we are no meddlers.' Then they sat down
to carouse; whilst the Khalif looked at the three Calenders and
marvelled for that they were all blind of the right eye, and
gazed upon the ladies and was amazed at their beauty and
goodliness. They fell to drinking and talking and said to the
Khalif, 'Drink.' But he answered, 'Excuse me, for I am vowed to
the pilgrimage.'[FN#29] Whereupon the portress rose and spreading
a gold-embroidered cloth before him, set thereon a china bowl,
into which she poured willow-flower water, with a spoonful of
snow and some pounded sugar-candy. The Khalif thanked her and
said to himself, 'By Allah, I will reward her to-morrow for her
kind office!' Then they addressed themselves to carousel, till
the wine began to work upon them, when the eldest lady rose and
making an obeisance to her guests, took the cateress by the hand
and said, 'Come, sisters, let us do our duty.' And they answered,
'It is well.' So the portress rose and cleared the middle of the
saloon, after she had removed the table service and thrown away
the remains of the banquet. Then she renewed the perfumes in the
censers and made the Calenders sit down on a sofa by the dais and
the Khalif and his companions on a sofa at the other end; after
which she called to the porter, saying, 'How dull and slothful
thou art! Come and help us: thou art no stranger, but one of the
household!' So he rose and girt his middle and said, 'What would
you have me do?' And she answered, 'Stay where thou art.' Then
the cateress rose and setting a chair in the middle of the room,
went to a closet, which she opened, saying to the porter, 'Come
and help me.' So he went to her and she brought out two black
bitches, with chains round their necks, and gave them to him,
saying, 'Take them.' So he took them and carried them to the
middle of the saloon; whereupon the mistress of the house tucked
up her sleeves and taking a whip, said to the porter, 'Bring me
one of the bitches.' So he brought it to her by the chain; and
the bitch wept and shook its head at the damsel, who brought the
whip down on it, whilst the porter held it by the chain. The
bitch howled and whined, but the lady ceased not to beat it till
her arm was tired; when she threw away the whip and pressing the
bitch to her bosom, kissed it on the head and wiped away its
tears. Then she said to the porter, 'Take it back and bring the
other.' He did as she bade him, and she did with the second bitch
as she had done with the first. The Khalif's mind was troubled at
her doings and his breast contracted and he could not restrain
his impatience to know the meaning of all this. So he winked to
Jaafer to ask, but the latter turned and signed to him as who
should say, 'Be silent: this is no time for impertinent
curiosity.' Then said the portress to the mistress of the house,
'O my lady, rise and go up to thy place, that I in turn may do my
part.' 'It is well,' answered she and went up and sat down on the
couch of juniper-wood, at the upper end of the dais; whilst the
portress sat down on a chair and said to the cateress, 'Do what
thou hast to do.' So the latter rose and going to a closet,
brought out a bag of yellow satin, with cords of green silk and
tassels of gold, and came and sat down before the portress. Then
she opened the bag and took out a lute, which she tuned, and sang
the following verses, accompanying herself on the lute:

Thou art my wish, thou art my end; And in thy presence, O my
There is for me abiding joy: Thine absence sets my heart a-flame
For thee distraught, with thee possest, Thou reignest ever in my
Nor in the love I bear to thee Is there for me reproach or shame.
Life's veil for me was torn apart, When Love gat hold upon my
For Love still rends the veils in twain And brings dishonour on
fair fame.
The cloak of sickness I did on; And straight my fault appeared
and shone.
Since that my heart made choice of thee And love and longing on
me came,
My eyes are ever wet with tears, And all my secret thought
When with my tears' tumultuous flow Exhales the secret of thy
Heal thou my pains, for thou to me Art both disease and remedy.
Yet him, whose cure is in thy hand, Affliction shall for ever
Thy glances set my heart on fire, Slay me with swords of my
How many, truly, of the best Have fallen beneath Love's sword of
Yet may I not from passion cease Nor in forgetting seek release;
For love's my comfort, pride and law, Public and private, aye the
Blest eyes that have of thee their fill And look upon thee at
their will!
Ay, of my own unforced intent, The slave of passion I became.

When the portress heard this foursome song, she cried out, 'Alas!
Alas! Alas!' and tore her clothes and fell down in a swoon; and
the Khalif saw on her body the marks of beating with rods and
whips, and wondered greatly. Then the cateress rose and sprinkled
water upon her and brought her a fresh dress and put it on her.
When the company saw this, their minds were troubled, for they
understood not the reason of these things. And the Khalif said to
Jaafer, 'Didst thou not see the marks of beating with rods upon
the girl's body! I cannot keep silence nor be at rest, except I
come at the truth of all this and know the story of this damsel
and the two bitches.' 'O my lord,' answered Jaafer, 'they made it
a condition with us that we should not speak of what concerns us
not, under pain of hearing what should not please us.' Then said
the portress 'By Allah! O my sister, come and complete thy
service to me.' 'With all my heart!' answered the cateress and
took the lute and leant it against her breasts. Then she swept
the strings with her finger-tips and sang the following verses:

If we complain of absence, what alas! shall we say? Or if longing
assail us, where shall we take our way?
If, to interpret for us, we trust to a messenger, How can a
message rightly a lover's plaint convey?
Or if we put on patience, short is a lover's life, After his
heart's beloved is torn from him away.
Nothing, alas! is left me but sorrow and despair And tears that
adown my cheeks without cessation stray.
Thou that art ever absent from my desireful sight, Thou that art
yet a dweller within my heart alway,
Hast thou kept troth, I wonder, with one who loves thee dear,
Whose faith, whilst time endureth, never shall know decay?
Or hast thou e'en forgotten her who for love of thee, In tears
and sickness and passion, hath wasted many a day?
Alas! though Love unite us again in one embrace, Reproach for thy
past rigour with me full long shall stay.

When the portress heard this second song, she gave a loud scream
and exclaimed, 'By Allah! it is good!' and putting her hand to
her clothes, tore them as before and fell down in a swoon.
Whereupon the cateress rose and brought her another dress, after
she had sprinkled water on her. Then she sat up again and said to
the cateress 'To it again and help me to do the rest of my duty;
for there remains but one more song.' So the cateress took the
lute and sang the following verses:

How long, ah me! shall this rigour last and this inhumanity? Are
not the tears that I have shed enough to soften thee?
If thou, of thy relentless will, estrangement do prolong,
Intending my despite, at last, I pray, contented be!
If treacherous fortune were but just to lovers and their woe,
They would not watch the weary night in sleepless agony.
Have ruth on me, for thy disdain is heavy on my heart; Is it not
time that thou relent at last, my king, to me?
To whom but thee that slayest me should I reveal my pain? What
grief is theirs who love and prove the loved one's perfidy!
Love and affliction hour by hour redouble in my breast: The days
of exile are prolonged; no end to them I see.
Muslims, avenge a slave of love, the host of wakefulness, Whose
patience hath been trampled out by passion's tyranny!
Can it be lawful, O my wish, that thou another bless With thine
embraces, whilst I die, in spite of Love's decree?
Yet in thy presence, by my side, what peace should I enjoy, Since
he I love doth ever strive to heap despite on me?

When the portress heard this third song, she screamed out and
putting forth her hand, tore her clothes even to the skirt and
fell down in a swoon for the third time, and there appeared once
more on her body the marks of beat ing with rods. Then said the
three Calenders, 'Would God we had never entered this house, but
had slept on the rubbish-heaps! for verily our entertainment hath
been troubled by things that rend the heart.' The Khalif turned
to them and said, 'How so?' And they answered, 'Indeed, our minds
are troubled about this matter.' Quoth he, 'Are you not then of
the household?' 'No,' replied they; 'nor did we ever see the
place till now.' Said the Khalif, 'There is the man by you: he
will surely know the meaning of all this.' And he winked at the
porter. So they questioned the latter and he replied, 'By the
Almighty, we are all in one boat! I was brought up at Baghdad,
but never in my life did I enter this house till to-day, and the
manner of my coming in company with them was curious.' 'By
Allah,' said they, 'we thought thee one of them, and now we see
thou art but as one of ourselves.' Then said the Khalif, 'We are
here seven men, and they are but three women: so let us question
them of their case, and if they do not answer willingly, they
shall do so by force.' They all agreed to this, except Jaafer,
who said, 'This is not well-advised: let them be, for we are
their guests, and as ye know, they imposed on us a condition, to
which we all agreed. Wherefore it is better that we keep silence
concerning this affair, for but a little remains of the night,
and each go about his business.' And he winked to the Khalif and
whispered to him, 'There is but a little longer to wait, and
to-morrow I will bring them before thee and thou canst then
question them of their story.' But the Khalif lifted his head
and cried out angrily, 'I have not patience to wait till then:
let the Calenders ask them.' And Jaafer said, 'This is not
well-advised.' Then they consulted together, and there was much
talk and dispute between them, who should put the question,
before they fixed upon the porter. The noise drew the notice of
the lady of the house, who said to them, 'O guests, what is the
matter and what are you talking about?' Then the porter came
forward and said to her, 'O lady, the company desire that thou
acquaint them with the history of the two bitches and why thou
didst beat them and after fellest to kissing and weeping over
them and also concerning thy sister and why she has been beaten
with rods, like a man. This is what they charge me to ask thee,
and peace be on thee.' When she heard this, she turned to the
others and said to them 'Is this true that he says of you?' And
they all replied 'Yes;' except Jaafer, who held his peace. Then
said she, 'By Allah! O guests, ye have done us a grievous wrong,
for we made it a previous condition with you that whoso spoke of
what concerned him not, should hear what should not please him.
Is it not enough that we have taken you into our house and fed
you with our victual! But the fault is not so much yours as that
of her who brought you in to us.' Then she tucked up her sleeves
and smote three times on the floor, saying, 'Come quickly!'
Whereupon the door of a closet opened and out came seven black
slaves, with drawn swords in their hands, to whom said the lady,
'Bind these babblers' hands behind them and tie them one with
another.' The slaves did as she bade, and said, 'O noble lady, is
it thy will that we strike off their heads?' 'Hold your hands
awhile,' answered she, 'till I question them of their condition,
before ye strike off their heads.' 'By Allah, O my lady,'
exclaimed the porter 'do not slay me for another's fault, for all
have erred and offended save myself. And by Allah, our night
would have been a pleasant one, had we not been afflicted with
these Calenders, whose presence is enough to lay a flourishing
city in ruins.' And he repeated the following verses:

How fair a thing is mercy to the great! And how much more to
those of low estate!
By all the love that has between us been, Doom not the guiltless
to the guilty's fate!

When the lady heard this, she laughed, in spite of her anger, and
coming up to the guests, said to them, 'Tell me who you are, for
ye have but a little while to live, and were you not men of rank
and consideration, you had never dared to act thus.' Then the
Khalif said to Jaafer, 'Out on thee! Tell her who we are, or we
shall be slain in a mistake, and speak her fair, ere an
abomination befall us.' 'It were only a part of thy deserts,'
replied Jaafer. Whereupon the Khalif cried out at him in anger
and said, 'There is a time to jest and a time to be serious.'
Then the lady said to the Calenders, 'Are ye brothers?' 'Not so,'
answered they; 'we are only poor men and strangers.' And she said
to one of them, 'Wast thou born blind of one eye?' 'No, by
Allah!' replied he; 'but there hangs a rare story by the loss of
my eye, a story which, were it graven with needles on the corners
of the eye, would serve as a lesson to those that can profit by
example.' She questioned the two other Calenders, and they made a
like reply, saying, 'By Allah! O our mistress, each one of us
comes from a different country and is the son of a king and a
sovereign prince ruling over lands and subjects.' Then she turned
to the others and said to them, 'Let each of you come forward in
turn and tell us his history and the manner of his coming hither
and after go about his business; but whoso refuses, I will cut
off his head.' The first to come forward was the porter, who
said, 'O my lady, I am a porter. This lady, the cateress, hired
me and took me first to the vintner's, then to the butcher's,
from the butcher's to the fruiterer's, from the fruiterer's to
the grocer's, from the grocer's to the greengrocer's, from the
greengrocer's to the confectioner's and the druggist's, and
thence to this place, where there happened to me with you what
happened. This is my story; and peace be on thee!' At this the
lady laughed and said to him, 'Begone about thy business.' But he
said, 'By Allah, I will not budge 'till I hear the others'
stories.' Then came forward the first Calender and said, 'Know, O
lady, that

The First Calender's Story.

My father was a king, and he had a brother, who was also a king
over another city. The latter had a son and a daughter, and it
chanced that I and the son of my uncle were both born on the same
day. In due time we grew up to man's estate and there was a great
affection between us. Now it was my wont every now and then to
visit my uncle and abide with him several months at a time.
One day, I went to visit him as usual and found him absent
a-hunting; but my cousin received me with the utmost courtesy and
slaughtered sheep and strained wine for me and we sat down to
drink. When the wine had got the mastery of us, my cousin said to
me, "O son of my uncle I have a great service to ask of thee, and
I beg of thee not to baulk me in what I mean to do." "With all my
heart," answered I; and he made me swear by the most solemn oaths
to do his will. Then he went away and returning in a little, with
a lady veiled and perfumed and very richly clad, said to me,
"Take this lady and go before me to the burial-ground and enter
such and such a sepulchre," and he described it to me and I knew
it, "and wait till I come." I could not gainsay him, by reason of
the oath I had sworn to him; so I took the lady and carried her
to the cemetery, and entering the tomb sat down to await my
cousin, who soon rejoined us, carrying a vessel of water, a bag
containing plaster and an adze. He went up to the tomb in the
midst of the sepulchre and loosening its stones with the adze,
laid them on one side after which he fell to digging with the
adze in the earth till he uncovered a trap of iron, as big as a
small door, and raised it, when there appeared beneath it a
winding stair. Then he turned to the lady and said to her, "Up
and make thy choice." So she descended the stair and was lost to
sight; and he said to me, "O my cousin, when I have descended,
complete thy kindness to me by replacing the trap-door and
throwing back the earth on it: then mix the plaster in the bag
with the water in this vessel and build up the tomb again with
the stones and plaster it over as before, lest any see it and
say, 'This tomb has been newly opened, albeit it is an old one;'
for I have been at work here a whole year, unknown to any save
God. This then is the service I had to ask of thee, and may God
never bereave thy friends of thee, O my cousin!" Then he
descended the stair; and when he was out of sight, I replaced the
trap-door and did as he had bidden me, till the tomb was restored
to its original condition, and I the while in a state of
intoxication; after which I returned to the palace, and found my
uncle still absent. Next morning I called to mind what had
happened and repented of having obeyed my cousin, when repentance
was of no avail, but thought that it must have been a dream. So I
fell to enquiring after my cousin; but none could give me any
news of him; and I went out to the burial-ground and sought for
the tomb where I had left him, but could not find it, and ceased
not to go from sepulchre to sepulchre and from tomb to tomb,
without success, till nightfall. Then I returned to the palace
and could neither eat nor drink, for my heart was troubled about
my cousin, seeing I knew not what was come of him; and I was
extremely chagrined and slept not that night, but lay awake for
anxiety till morning. As soon as it was day, I repaired again to
the cemetery, pondering what my cousin had done and repenting me
of having hearkened to him, and vent round among all the tombs,
but could not find the one I sought. Thus I did for the space of
seven days, but with no better success, and my trouble and
anxiety increased till I was well-nigh mad and could find nothing
for it but to return to my father. So I set out and journeyed
till I reached his capital; but as I entered the gate of the
city, a number of men sprang out on me and tied my hands behind
me. At this I was beyond measure amazed, seeing that I was the
son of the Sultan and that they were his servants and my own; and
great fear fell on me, and I said to myself, "I wonder what has
befallen my father!" Then I questioned my captors; but they
returned me no answer. However, after awhile, one of them, who
had been my servant, said to me, "Fortune has played thy father
false; and the troops deserted him. So the Vizier slew him and
seized on his throne; and we laid wait for thee by his command."
Then they took me and carried me before the Vizier, well-nigh
distraught for this news of my father. Now between me and this
Vizier was an old feud, the cause of which was as follows. I was
fond of shooting with a pellet-bow, and one day, as I was
standing on the terrace of my palace, a bird lighted on the
terrace of the Vizier's house, where the latter chanced to be
standing at the time. I let fly at the bird, but, as fate and
destiny would have it, the pellet swerved and striking the Vizier
on the eye, put it out. As says the poet:

Our footsteps follow on in their predestined way, Nor from the
ordered track can any mortal stray:
And he whom Fate appoints in any land to die, No other place on
earth shall see his dying day.

The Vizier dared say nothing, at the time, because I was the
Sultan's son of the city, but thenceforward he nourished a deadly
hatred against me. So when they brought me bound before him, he
commanded my head to be smitten off; and I said, "For what crime
wilt thou put me to death?" "What crime could be greater than
this?" answered he, and pointed to his ruined eye. Quoth I, "That
I did by misadventure." And he replied, "If thou didst it by
misadventure, I will do the like with intent." Then said he,
"Bring him to me." So they brought me up to him, and he put his
finger into my right eye and pulled it out; and thenceforward I
became one-eyed as ye see me. Then he caused me to be bound hand
and foot and put in a chest and said to the headsman, "Take this
fellow and carry him forth of the city and slay him and leave him
for the beasts and birds to eat." So the headsman carried me
without the city to the midst of the desert, where he took me out
of the chest, bound hand and foot as I was, and would have
bandaged my eyes, that he might slay me. But I wept sore till I
made him weep, and looking at him, repeated the following verses:

I counted on you as a coat of dart-proof mail toward The foeman's
arrows from my breast. Alas! ye are his sword!
I hoped in you to succour me in every evil chance, Although my
right hand to my left no more should help afford.
Yet stand aloof nor cast your lot with those who do me hate, And
let my foemen shoot their shafts against your whilom lord!
If you refuse to succour me against my enemies, At least be
neutral, nor to me nor them your aid accord.

And these also:

How many of my friends, methought, were coats of mail! And so
they were, indeed, but on my foeman's part.
Unerring shafts and true I deemed them; and they were Unerring
shafts, indeed, alas, but in my heart!

When the headsman heard this (now he had been my father's
headsman and I had done him kindness) he said, "O my lord what
can I do, being but a slave commanded?" Then he said, "Fly for
thy life and never return to this country, or thou art lost and I
with thee." As says one of the poets:

Escape with thy life, if oppression betide thee, And let the
house tell of its builder's fate!
Country for country thou'lt find, if thou seek it; Life for life
never, early or late.
It is strange men should dwell in the house of abjection, When
the plain of God's world is so wide and so great!

I kissed his hands, hardly crediting my escape; and recked little
of the loss of my eye, in consideration of my deliverance from
death. Then I repaired to my uncle's capital and going in to him,
told him what had befallen my father and myself; whereat he wept
sore and said, "Verily, thou addest affliction to my affliction
and sorrow to my sorrow; for thy cousin has been missing these
many days; I know not what is become of him, and none can give me
any news of him." Then he wept till he swooned away, and my heart
was sore for him. When he revived, he would have medicined my
eye, but found there was but the socket left and said, "O my son,
it is well that it was thine eye and not thy life!" I could not
keep silence about my cousin; so I told him all that had passed,
and he rejoiced greatly at hearing news of his son and said,
"Come, show me the tomb." "By Allah, O my uncle," answered I, "I
know it not, for I went after many times to seek for it, but
could not find it." However, we went out to the burial-ground and
looked right and left, till at last I discovered the tomb. At
this we both rejoiced greatly and entering, removed the earth,
raised the trapdoor and descended fifty steps, till we came to
the foot of the stair, where we were met by a great smoke that
blinded our eyes: and my uncle pronounced the words, which whoso
says shall never be confounded, that is to say, "There is no
power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme!" Then
we went on and found ourselves in a saloon, raised upon columns,
drawing air and light from openings communicating with the
surface of the ground and having a cistern in its midst. The
place was full of crates and sacks of flour and grain and other
victual; and at the upper end stood a couch with a canopy over
it. My uncle went up to the bed and drawing the curtains, found
his son and the lady in each other's arms; but they were become
black coal, as they had been cast into a well of fire. When he
saw this, he spat in his son's face and taking off his shoe,
smote him with it, exclaiming, "Swine that thou art, thou hast
thy deserts! This is thy punishment in this world, but there
awaits thee a far sorer and more terrible punishment in the world
to come!" His behaviour amazed me, and I mourned for my cousin,
for that he was become a black coal, and said to the king, "O my
uncle, is not that which hath befallen him enough, but thou must
beat him with thy shoe?" "O son of my brother," answered my
uncle, "this my son was from his earliest youth madly enamoured
of his sister, and I forbade him from her, saying in myself,
'They are but children.' But, when they grew up, sin befell
between them, notwithstanding that his attendants warned him to
abstain from so foul a thing, which none had done before nor
would do after him, lest the news of it should be carried abroad
by the caravans and he become dishonoured and unvalued among
kings to the end of time. I heard of this and believed it not,
but took him and upbraided him severely, saying, 'Have a care
lest this thing happen to thee; for I will surely curse thee and
put thee to death.' Then I shut her up and kept them apart, but
this accursed girl loved him passionately, and Satan got the
upper hand of them and made their deeds to seem good in their
eyes. So when my son saw that I had separated them, he made this
place under ground and transported victual hither, as thou seest,
and taking advantage of my absence a-hunting, came here with his
sister, thinking to enjoy her a long while. But the wrath of God
descended on them and consumed them; and there awaits them in the
world to come a still sorer and more terrible punishment." Then
he wept and I with him, and he looked at me and said, "Henceforth
thou art my son in his stead." Then I bethought me awhile of the
world and its chances and how the Vizier had slain my father and
usurped his throne and put out my eye and of the strange events
that had befallen my cousin and wept again, and my uncle wept
with me. Presently we ascended, and replacing the trap-door,
restored the tomb to its former condition. Then we resumed to the
palace, but hardly had we sat down when we heard a noise of drums
and trumpets and cymbals and galloping of cavalry and clamour of
men and clash of arms and clank of bridles and neighing of
horses, and the world was filled with clouds of dust raised by
the horses' hoofs. At this we were amazed and knew not what could
be the matter so we enquired and were told that the Vizier, who
had usurped my father's throne, had levied troops and hired the
wild Arabs and was come with an army like the sands of the sea,
none could tell their number nor could any avail against them.
They assaulted the city unawares, and the people, being unable to
withstand them, surrendered the place to them. My uncle was slain
and I took refuge in the suburbs, knowing that, if I fell into
the Vizier's hands, he would put me to death. Wherefore trouble
was sore upon me and I bethought me of all that had befallen me
and my father and uncle and knew not what to do, for if I showed
myself, the people of the city and my father's troops would know
me and hasten to win the usurpers favour by putting me to death;
and I could find no means of escape but by shaving my face. So I
shaved off my beard and eyebrows and donning a Calender's habit,
left the town, without being known of any, and made for this
city, in the hope that perhaps some one would bring me to the
presence of the Commander of the Faithful and Vicar of the Lord
of the Two Worlds, that I might relate to him my story and lay my
case before him. I arrived here today and was standing, perplexed
where I should go, when I saw this second Calender; so I saluted
him, saying "I am a stranger," and he replied, "And I also am a
stranger." Presently up came our comrade, this other Calender,
and saluted us, saying, "I am a stranger." "We also are
strangers," answered we; and we walked on together, till darkness
overtook us, and destiny led us to your house. This, then, is my
history and the manner of the loss of my right eye and the
shaving of my beard and eyebrows.' They all marvelled at his
story, and the Khalif said to Jaafer, 'By Allah, I never heard or
saw the like of what happened to this Calender.' Then the
mistress of the house said to the Calender, 'Begone about thy
business.' But he answered, 'I will not budge till I hear the
others' stories.' Then came forth the second Calender and kissing
the earth, said, 'O my lady, I was not born blind of one eye, and
my story is a marvellous one; were it graven with needles on the
corners of the eye, it would serve as a warning to those that can
profit by example.

The Second Calender's Story.

I am a king, son of a king. My father taught me to read and
write, and I got the Koran by heart, according to the seven
readings, and read all manner of books under the guidance of
learned professors; I studied the science of the stars and the
sayings of poets and applied myself to all branches of knowledge,
till I surpassed all the folk of my time. In particular, my skill
in handwriting excelled that of all the scribes, and my fame was
noised abroad in all countries and at the courts of all the
kings. Amongst others, the King of Ind heard of me and sent to my
father to seek me, with gifts and presents such as befit kings.
So my father fitted out six ships for me, and we put to sea and
sailed for a whole month, till we reached the land. Then we
brought out the horses that were with us in the ships, together
with ten camels laden with presents for the King of Ind. and set
out inland, but had not gone far, before there arose a great
dust, that grew till it covered the whole country. After awhile
it lifted and discovered fifty steel-clad horsemen, as they were
fierce lions, whom we soon found to be Arab highwaymen. When they
saw that we were but a small company and had with us ten laden
camels, they drove at us with levelled spears. We signed to them
with our fingers to do us no hindrance, for that we were
ambassadors to the mighty King of Ind; but they replied (in the
same manner) that they were not in his dominions nor under his
rule. Then they set on us and slew some of my attendants and put
the rest to flight; and I also fled, after I had gotten a sore
wound whilst the Arabs were taken up with the baggage. I knew not
whither to turn, being reduced from high to low estate; so I fled
forth at a venture till I came to the top of a mountain, where I
took shelter for the night in a cavern. On the morrow, I
continued my journey and fared on thus for a whole month, till I
reached a safe and pleasant city. The winter had passed away from
it with its cold and the spring was come with its roses; its
flowers were blowing and its streams welling and its birds
warbling. As says the poet, describing the city in question:

A town, wherein who dwells is free from all affray; Security and
peace are masters there alway.
Like Paradise itself, it seemeth, for its folk, With all its
beauties rare decked out in bright array.

I was both glad and sorry to reach the city, glad for that I was
weary with my journey and pale for weakness and anxiety, and
grieved to enter it in such sorry case. However, I went in,
knowing not whither to betake me, and fared on till I came to a
tailor sitting in his shop. I saluted him, and he returned my
salute and bade me a kindly welcome, and seeing me to be a
stranger and noting marks of gentle breeding on me, enquired how
I came thither. I told him all that had befallen me; and he was
concerned for me and said, "O my son, do not discover thyself to
any, for the King of this city is the chief of thy father's foes
and hath a mortal feud against him." Then he set meat and drink
before me, and I ate and he with me, and we talked together till
nightfall, when he lodged me in a chamber beside his own, and
brought me a bed and coverlet. I abode with him three days, at
the end of which time he said to me, "Dost thou know any craft by
which thou mayst earn thy living?" I replied, "I am a doctor of
the law and a man of learning, a scribe, a grammarian, a poet, a
mathematician and a skilled penman." Quoth he, "Thy trade is not
in demand in this country nor are there in this city any who
understand science or writing or aught but money-getting." "By
Allah," said I, "I know nought but what I have told thee!" And he
said, "Gird thy middle and take axe and cord and go and cut
firewood in the desert for thy living, till God send thee relief,
and tell none who thou art, or they will kill thee." Then he
bought me an axe and a cord and gave me in charge to certain
woodcutters; with whom I went out into the desert and cut wood
all day and carried home a load on my head. I sold it for half a
dinar, with part of which I bought victual and laid up the rest.
On this wise I lived a whole year, at the end of which time I
went out one day into the desert, according to my wont, and
straying from my companions, happened on a tract full of trees
and running streams, in which there was abundance of firewood; so
I entered and coming on the gnarled stump of a great tree, dug
round it with my axe and cleared the earth away from it.
Presently, the axe struck upon a ring of brass; so I cleared away
the earth, till I uncovered a wooden trap-door, which I raised
and there appeared beneath it a stair I descended the stair, till
I came to a door, which I opened and found myself in a vaulted
hall of goodly structure, wherein was a damsel like a pearl of
great price, whose aspect banished pain and care and anxiety from
the heart and whose speech healed the troubled soul and
captivated the wise and the intelligent. She was slender of shape
and swelling-breasted, delicate-cheeked and bright of colour and
fair of form; and indeed her face shone like the sun through the
night of her tresses, and her teeth glittered above the snows of
her bosom. As says the poet of her:

Slender of waist, with streaming hair the hue of night, is she,
With hips like hills of sand and shape straight as the

And as says another:

There are four things that ne'er unite, except it be To shed my
heart's best blood and take my soul by storm.
And these are night-black locks and brow as bright as day, Cheeks
ruddy as the rose and straight and slender form.

When I looked on her, I prostrated myself before her Maker, for
the grace and beauty He had created in her and she looked at me
and said, "Art thou a man or a genie?" "I am a man," answered I;
and she said, "And who brought thee to this place, where I have
dwelt five-and-twenty years without seeing man?" Quoth I (and
indeed her speech was sweet to me), "O my lady, my good star
brought me hither for the dispelling of my grief and anxiety."
And I told her all that had befallen me from first to last. My
case was grievous to her and she wept: then she said, "I will
tell thee my story in turn. I am the daughter of a King of
Farther India, by name Efitamous, Lord of the Ebony Islands, who
married me to my cousin, but on my wedding-night an Afrit called
Jerjis ben Rejmous, the mother's sister's son of Iblis, carried
me off and flying away with me, set me down in this place whither
he transported all that I needed of clothes and ornaments and
furniture and meat and drink and so forth. Once in every ten days
he comes to me and lies the night here, then goes his way; for he
took me without the consent of his family: and he has agreed with
me that, in case I should ever have occasion for him in the
interval between his visits, whether by night or by day, I have
only to touch these two lines engraved upon the alcove, and he
will be with me before I take away my hand. It is now four days
since he was here, and there remain six before he comes again.
Wilt thou therefore spend five days with me and depart the day
before his coming?" "I will well," answered I. "O rare! if it be
not all a dream." At this she rejoiced and taking me by the hand,
led me through a vaulted doorway into a small but elegant
bath-room, where we put off our clothes and she washed me. Then
she clad me in a new suit and seated me by her side on a high
divan and gave me to drink of sherbet of sugar flavoured with
musk. Then she brought food, and we ate and conversed. After
awhile, she said to me, "Lie down and rest, for thou art weary."
So I lay down and slept and forgot all that had befallen me. When
I awoke, I found her rubbing my feet:[FN#30] so I thanked her and
blessed her, and we sat talking awhile. Quoth she, "By Allah, I
was sad at heart, for that I have dwelt alone under ground these
five-and-twenty years, without any to talk withal. So praised be
God who hath sent thee to me!" Then she said, "O youth, art thou
for wine?" And I answered, "As thou wilt." Whereupon she went to
the cupboard and took out a sealed flask of old wine and decked
the table with flowers and green herbs. Then she recited the
following verses:

Had we thy coming known, we would for sacrifice Have poured thee
forth heart's blood and blackness of the eyes:
Ay, and we would have laid our cheeks within thy way, That so thy
feet might tread on eyelids, carpet-wise!

I thanked her, for indeed love of her had taken hold of me, and
my grief and anxiety left me. We sat carousing till nightfall,
and I passed the night with her, never knew I such a night. On
the morrow, delight succeeded delight till the middle of the day,
when I drank wine, till I lost my senses and rose, staggering
from side to side, and said to her, "Come, O fair one! I will
carry thee up from under the earth and rid thee of this genie."
She laughed and replied, "Be content and hold thy peace. One day
in every ten is the genie's, and the other nine shall be thine."
Quoth I (and indeed drunkenness had got the better of me), "This
very moment will I break the alcove, on which is graven the
talisman, and summon the Afrit hither, that I may kill him, for I
am used to kill Afrits ten at a time." When she heard this, she
conjured me by Allah to refrain and repeated the following

This is a thing wherein thine own destruction lies: I rede thee
keep thyself therefrom, if thou be wise.

And also these:

O thou that seek'st to hasten on the feet Of parting's steeds,
the matchless swift of flight,
Forbear, for fortune's nature is deceit, And parting is the end
of love delight.

I paid no heed to her words, but kicked the alcove with all my
might, and immediately the place grew dark, it thundered and
lightened, the earth trembled and the world was wrapped in gloom.
When I saw this, the fumes of the wine left my head and I said to
the lady, "What is the matter?" "The Afrit is upon us," answered
she "Did I not warn thee of this! By Allah, thou hast ruined me!
But fly for thy life and return whence thou camest." So I
ascended the stair, but, in the excess of my fear I forgot my
sandals and hatchet. When I had mounted two steps, I turned to
look, and behold, the ground clove in sunder and out came an
Afrit of hideous aspect, who said to the lady, "What is this
commotion with which thou disturbest me? What misfortune has
befallen thee?" "Nothing has befallen me," answered she, "except
that I was heavy at heart and drank a little wine to hearten
myself. Then I rose to do an occasion, but my head became heavy
and I fell against the alcove." "Thou liest, O harlot!" said he,
and looked right and left, till he caught sight of the axe and
the sandals and said, "These are some man's gear. Who has been
with thee?" Quoth she, "I never set eyes on them till this
moment; they must have clung to thee as thou camest hither." But
he said, "This talk is absurd and will not impose on me, O
strumpet!" Then he stripped her naked and stretching her on the
ground, tied her hands and feet to four stakes and proceeded to
torture her to make her confess. I could not bear to hear her
weeping; so I ascended the stair, quaking for fear. When I
reached the top, I replaced the trap-door and covered it over
with earth; and I thought of the lady and her beauty and what had
befallen her through my folly and repented me sore of what I had
done. Then I bethought me of my father and his kingdom and how I
had become a woodcutter, and how, after my life had been awhile
serene, it had again become troubled, and I wept and repeated the
following verse:

What time the cruelties of Fate o'erwhelm thee with distress,
Think that one day must bring thee ease, another day

Then I went on till I reached the house of my friend, whom I
found awaiting me, as he were on coals of fire on my account.
When he saw me, he rejoiced and said, "O my brother, where didst
thou pass the night? My heart has been full of anxiety on thine
account, fearing for thee from the wild beasts or other peril:
but praised be God for thy safety!" I thanked him for his
solicitude, and retiring to my chamber, fell a-musing on what had
passed and reproached myself grievously for my meddlesomeness in
kicking the alcove. Presently the tailor came in to me and said,
"O my son, there is without an old man, a foreigner, who seeks
thee. He has thine axe and sandals and came to the woodcutters
and said to them, 'I went out at the hour of the call to morning
prayer and happened on these and know not whose they are: direct
me to their owner.' They knew thine axe and sent him to thee; and
he is now sitting in my shop. So do thou go out to him and thank
him and take thy gear." When I heard this, my colour changed and
I was sick for terror but before I could think, the floor clove
asunder and up came the stranger, and lo, it was the Afrit! Now
he had tortured the lady in the most barbarous manner, without
being able to make her confess: so he took the axe and sandals,
saying, "As sure as I am Jerjis of the lineage of Iblis, I will
bring back the owner of this axe and these sandals!" So he went
to the woodcutters with the tale aforesaid, and they directed him
to me. He snatched me up without parley and flew high into the
air, but presently descended and plunged into the ground with me,
and I the while unconscious. Then he came up with me in the
underground palace, where I saw the lady stretched out naked,
with the blood running from her sides. At this sight, my eyes ran
over with tears; but the Afrit unbound her and veiling her, said
to her, "O wanton, is not this thy lover?" She looked at me and
said, "I know not this man, nor have I ever seen him till now."
Quoth he, "Wilt thou not confess after all this torture?" And she
answered, "I never saw him in my life, and God forbid that I
should lie against him and thou kill him." "Then," said he, "if
thou know him not, take this sword and cut off his head." She
took the sword and came and stood at my head; and I made signs to
her with my eyebrows whilst the tears ran down my cheeks. She
understood me and signed to me with her eyes as who should say,
"Thou hast brought all this upon us." And I answered her, in the
same fashion, that it was a time for forgiveness; and the tongue
of the case spoke[FN#31] the words of the poet:

My looks interpret for my tongue and tell of what I feel: And all
the love appears that I within my heart conceal.
When as we meet and down our cheeks our tears are running fast,
I'm dumb, and yet my speaking eyes my thought of thee
She signs to me; and I, I know the things her glances say: I with
my fingers sign, and she conceives the mute appeal.
Our eyebrows of themselves suffice unto our intercourse: We're
mute; but passion none the less speaks in the looks we

Then she threw down the sword and said, "How shall I strike off
the head of one whom I know not and who has done me no hurt? My
religion will not allow of this." Quoth the Afrit, "It is
grievous to thee to kill thy lover. Because he hath lain a night
with thee, thou endurest this torture and wilt not confess upon
him. It is only like that pities like." Then he turned to me and
said, "O mortal, dost thou not know this woman?" "Who is she?"
answered I. "I never saw her till now." "Then," said he "take
this sword and strike off her head and I will believe that thou
knowest her not and will let thee go and do thee no hurt." Quoth
I, "It is well;" and taking the sword, went up to her briskly and
raised my hand. But she signed to me with her eyebrows, as who
should say, "What hurt have I done thee? Is it thus thou
requitest me?" I understood what she would say and replied in the
same manner, "I will ransom thee with my life." And the tongue of
the case repeated the following verses:

How many a lover with his eyelids speaks And doth his thought
unto his mistress tell
He flashes signals to her with his eyes, And she at once is ware
of what befell.
How swift the looks that pass betwixt the twain! How fair,
indeed, and how delectable!
One with his eyelids writes what he would say: The other with her
eyes the writ doth spell.

Then my eyes ran over with tears and I said, "O mighty Afrit and
doughty hero! if a woman, lacking sense and religion, deem it
unlawful to strike off my head, how can I, who am a man, bring
myself to slay her whom I never saw in my life? Never will I
do it, though I drink the cup of death and ruin!" And I threw
the sword from my hand. Quoth the Afrit, "Ye show the good
understanding between you, but I will let you see the issue of
your doings." Then he took the sword and cut off the lady's hands
and feet at four strokes; whilst I looked on and made sure of
death; and she signed me a farewell with her eyes. Quoth he,
"Thou cuckoldest me with thine eyes!" And struck off her head
with a blow of his sword. Then he turned to me and said, "O
mortal, by our law; when our wives commit adultery, it is lawful
to us to put them to death. As for this woman, I stole her away
on her wedding-night, when she was a girl of twelve, and she has
known no one but myself. I used to come to her once in every
ten days in the habit of a man, a foreigner, and pass one night
with her; and when I was assured that she had played me false,
I slew her. But as for thee, I am not sure that thou west her
accomplice: nevertheless, I must not let thee go unharmed; but I
will grant thee a favour." At this I rejoiced greatly and said,
"What favour wilt thou grant me?" "I will give thee thy choice,"
replied he, "whether I shall change thee into a dog, an ass or an
ape." Quoth I (and indeed I had hoped that he would pardon me),
"By Allah, spare me, and God will reward thee for sparing a true
believer, who hath done thee no harm." And I humbled myself
before him to the utmost and wept, saying, "Indeed, thou dost me
injustice." "Do not multiply words on me," answered he; "it is in
my power to kill thee: but I give thee thy choice." "O Afrit,"
rejoined I, "it would best become thee to pardon me, even as the
envied pardoned the envier." Quoth he, "And how was that?" "They
say, O Afrit," answered I, "that

Story of the Envier and the Envied.

There dwelt once in a certain city two men, who occupied
adjoining houses, having a common party-wall; and one of them
envied the other and looked on him with an evil eye and did his
utmost endeavour to work him ill; and his envy grew on him till
he could hardly eat or enjoy the delight of sleep for it. But the
envied man did nought but prosper, and the more the other strove
to do him hurt, the more he increased and throve and flourished.
At last the hatred his neighbour bore him and his constant
endeavour to do him hurt came to his knowledge and he said, 'By
Allah, I will renounce the world on his account!' So he left his
native place and settled in a distant city, where he bought a
piece of land, in which was a dried-up well, that had once been
used for watering the fields. Here he built him an oratory, which
he fitted up with all that he required, and took up his abode
therein, devoting himself with a sincere heart to the service of
God the Most High. Fakirs[FN#32] and poor folk soon flocked to
him from all sides, and his fame spread abroad in the city, so
that the notables resorted to him. After awhile, the news reached
the envious man of the good fortune that had befallen his old
neighbour and the high consideration in which he was held: so he
set out for the town in which the latter dwelt and repaired to
the hermitage, where the envied man welcomed him and received him
with the utmost honour. Quoth the envier, 'I have journeyed
hither on purpose to tell thee a piece of good news. So order thy
fakirs to retire to their cells and go with me apart, for I will
not say what I have to tell thee, except privately where none may
overhear us.' Accordingly the envied man ordered the fakirs to
retire to their cells; and they did so. Then he took the other by
the hand and walked on with him a little way, till they came to
the deserted well, when the envious man gave the other a push and
cast him into the well, unseen of any; after which, he went out
and went his way thinking that he had killed him. Now this well
was haunted by Jinn, who bore up the envied man and let him down
little by little, so that he reached the bottom unhurt, and they
seated him on a stone. Then said one of the Jinn to the others,
'Know ye who this is?' And they answered, 'No.' Quoth he, 'This
is the envied man who fled from him who envied him and settled in
our city, where he built him this oratory and entertains us with
his litanies and recitations of the Koran. But the envious man
set out and journeyed till he rejoined him and contrived to throw
him into this well. Now the news of him hath this very night come
to the Sultan of the city and he purposes to visit him to-morrow,
on account of his daughter. 'And what ails his daughter?' asked
another. 'She is possessed of an evil spirit,' replied the first,
'for the genie Meimoun ben Demdem has fallen in love with her;
but if the pious man knew the remedy, he could cure her; and it
is the easiest of things.' 'And what is the remedy?' asked the
other. Quoth the first speaker 'The black cat that is with him in
the oratory has a white spot, the size of a dirhem, at the end of
her tail: he should take seven white hairs from this spot and
fumigate the princess therewith; whereupon the Marid will leave
her and never return, and she will be cured immediately.' And the
envied man heard all this. When the day broke and the morning
appeared and shone, the fakirs came to seek their chief and found
him rising from the well, wherefore he was magnified in their
eyes; and he took the black cat and plucking seven white hairs
from the spot at the end of her tail, laid them aside. The sun
had hardly risen when the King arrived and entered the hermitage,
attended by his chief officers, leaving the rest of his suite
without. The envied man bade him welcome and drawing near to him,
said, 'Shall I tell thee the object of thy visit?' 'Yes,'
answered the King. And he said, 'Thou comest to consult me
concerning thy daughter.' Quoth the King, 'Thou sayst truly, O
virtuous elder!' Then said the envied man, 'Send and fetch her,
and (God willing) I trust to cure her at once.' The King rejoiced
and sent for his daughter; and they brought her bound hand and
foot. The envied man made her sit down behind a curtain and
taking out the hairs, fumigated her with them; whereupon the
Afrit that was in her roared out and departed from her. And she
was restored to her right mind and veiled her face, saying, 'What
has happened and who brought me hither?' At this, the Sultan
rejoiced beyond measure and kissed her on the eyes and kissed the
envied man's hand. Then he turned to his officers and said, 'How
say you? What reward doth he deserve who cured my daughter?' They
answered, 'He deserves to have her to wife;' and the King, 'Ye
say well.' So he married him to her, and the envied man became
the King's son-in-law. After awhile, the Vizier died, and the
King said, 'Whom shall we make Vizier in his stead?' 'Thy
son-in-law,' answered the courtiers. So the envied man was made
Vizier. Presently the Sultan also died, and the grandees
determined to appoint the Vizier King in his place. So they made
him Sultan, and he became King regnant. One day, as he was riding
forth in his royal state, surrounded by his Viziers and Amirs and
grandees, his eyes fell on his old neighbour, the envious man; so
he turned to one of his viziers and said to him, 'Bring me yonder
man and frighten him not.' So the Vizier went and returned with
the envious man: and the King said, 'Give him a thousand dinars
from my treasury and twenty loads of merchandise and send him
under an escort to his own city.' Then he bade him farewell and
sent him away and forbore to punish him for what he had done with
him See, O Afrit, how the envied man forgave his envier, who had
always hated him and borne him malice and had journeyed to him
and made shift to throw him into the well: yet did he not requite
him his ill-doing, but on the contrary was bountiful to him and
forgave him." Then I wept before him exceeding sore, and repeated
the following verses:

I prithee, pardon mine offence: for men of prudent mind To pardon
unto those that sin their sins are still inclined.
If I, alas! contain in me all fashions of offence, Let there in
thee forgiveness fair be found in every kind.
For men are bound to pardon those that are beneath their hand, If
they themselves with those that be above them grace would

Quoth the Afrit, "I will neither kill thee nor let thee go free,
but I will assuredly enchant thee." Then he tore me from the
ground and flew up with me into the air, till I saw the earth as
it were a platter midmost the water. Presently he set me down on
a mountain and took a little earth, over which he muttered some
magical words, then sprinkled me with it, saying, "Quit this
shape for that of an ape." And immediately I became an ape, a
hundred years old. Then he went away and left me; and when I saw
myself in this ugly shape, I wept, but resigned myself to the
tyranny of fate, knowing that fortune is constant to no one, and
descended to the foot of the mountain, where found a wide plain.
I fared on for the space of a month till my course brought me to
the shore of the salt sea: where I stood awhile and presently
caught sight of a ship in the midst of the sea, making for the
land with a fair wind. I hid myself behind a rock on the beach
and waited till the ship drew near, when I sprang on board. Quoth
one of the passengers, "Turn this unlucky brute out from amongst
us!" And the captain said, "Let us kill him." And a third, "I
will kill him with this sword." But I laid hold of the captain's
skirts and wept, and the tears ran down my face. The captain took
pity on me and said, "O merchants, this ape appeals to me for
protection, and I will protect him: henceforth he is under my
safeguard, and none shall molest or annoy him." Then he entreated
me kindly and whatever he said I understood and ministered to all
his wants and waited on him, so that he loved me. The ship sailed
on with a fair wind for the space of fifty days, at the end of
which time we cast anchor over against a great city, wherein were
much people, none could tell their number save God. No sooner had
we come to an anchor, than we were boarded by officers from the
King of the city; who said to the merchants, "Our King gives you
joy of your safety and sends you this scroll of paper, on which
each one of you is to write a line. For know that the King's
Vizier, who was an excellent penman, is dead and the King has
sworn a solemn oath that he will make none Vizier in his stead
who cannot write like him." Then they gave them a scroll, ten
cubits long by one wide, and each of the merchants, who could
write, wrote a line therein: after which I rose and snatched the
scroll from their hands, and they cried out at me and rated me,
fearing that I would tear it or throw it into the sea. But I made
signs that I would write; whereat they marvelled, saying, "We
never saw an ape write!" And the captain said to them, "Let him
alone; if he scrabble, we will drive him away and kill him; but
if he write well, I will adopt him as my son, for I never saw so
intelligent and well-mannered an ape; and would God my son had
his sense and good breeding!" So I took the pen and dipping it in
the inkhorn, wrote in an epistolary hand the following verses:

Time hath recorded the virtues of the great: But thine have
remained unchronicled till now.
May God not orphan the human race of thee, For sire and mother of
all good deeds art thou.

Then I wrote the following in a running hand:

Thou hast a pen whose use confers good gifts on every clime; Upon
all creatures of the world its happy favours fall.
What are the bounties of the Nile to thy munificence, Whose
fingers five extend to shower thy benefits on all?

And in an engrossing hand the following:

There is no writer but he shall pass away: Yet what he writes
shall last for ever and aye.
Write, therefore, nought but that which shall gladden thee, When
as it meets thine eye on the Judgment Day.

And in a transcribing hand the following:

When separation is to us by destiny decreed And 'gainst the cruel
chance of Fate our efforts are in vain,
Unto the inkhorn's mouth we fly that, by the tongues of pens, Of
parting and its bitterness it may for us complain.

And in a large formal hand the following:

The regal state endureth not to any mortal man. If thou deny
this, where is he who first on earth held sway?
Plant therefore saplings of good deeds, whilst that thou yet art
great Though thou be ousted from thy stead, they shall not
pass away.

And in a court hand the following:

When thou the inkhorn op'st of power and lordship over men, Make
thou thine ink of noble thoughts and generous purpose; then
Write gracious deeds and good therewith, whilst that thy power
endures. So shall thy virtues blazoned be at point of sword
and pen.

Then I gave the scroll to the officers, who took it and returned
with it to the King. When he saw it, no writing pleased him but
mine; so he said to his officers, "Go to the writer of these
lines and dress him in a splendid robe; then mount him on a mule
and bring him to me with a band of music before him." At this
they smiled, and the King was wroth with them and said, "O
accursed ones, I give you an order, and ye laugh at me!" "O
King," answered they, "we have good cause to laugh." Quoth he,
"What is it?" And they replied, "O King, thou orderest us to
bring thee the man who wrote these lines: now he who wrote them
is no man, but an ape belonging to the captain of the ship."
"Can this be true?" asked he; and they said, "Yea, by thy
munificence!" The King was astonished at their report and shook
with mirth and said, "I have a mind to buy this ape of the
captain." Then he sent messengers to the ship and said to them,
"Dress him none the less in the robe and mount him on the mule
and bring him hither in state, with the band of music before
him." So they came to the ship and took me and clad me in the
robe and mounted me on the mule and carried me in procession
through the city; whilst the people were astounded and crowded to
gaze upon me, and the place was all astir on my account. When I
reached the King's presence, I kissed the earth before him three
times, and he bade me be seated; so I sat down on my heels; and
all the bystanders marvelled at my good manners, and the King
most of all. After awhile the King dismissed his courtiers, and
there remained but myself, his highness the King, an eunuch and a
little white slave. Then the King gave orders and they brought
the table of food, containing all kinds of birds that hop and fly
and couple in the nests, such as grouse and quails and so forth.
He signed to me to eat with him; so I rose and kissed the earth
before him then sat down and ate with him. When we had done
eating, the table was removed, and I washed my hands seven times.
Then I took pen and ink and wrote the following verses:

Weep for the cranes that erst within the porringers did lie, And
for the stews and partridges evanished heave a sigh!


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