Supplemental Nights, Volume 2
by Richard F. Burton
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The "curious" reader will find European and Asiatic versions of this amusing story in "Originals and Analogues of some of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales." Published for the Chaucer Society, pp. 177-188 and (in a paper contrived by me: "The Enchanted Tree") p. 341-364.


Under the title of "The Robbers and the Treasure-Trove" I have brought together many European and Asiatic versions of this wide- spread tale in "Chaucer Analogues," pp. 415-436.


A similar but much shorter story is found in Gladwin's "Persian Moonshee," and storybooks in several of the Indian vernaculars which have been rendered into English:

A miser said to a friend, "I have now a thousand rupees, which I will bury out of the city, and I will not tell the secret to any one besides yourself." They went out of the city together, and buried the money under a tree. Some days after the miser went alone to the tree and found no signs of his money. He said to himself, "Excepting that friend, no other has taken it away, but if I question him he will never confess." He therefore went to his (the friend's) house and said, "A great deal of money is come into my hands, which I want to put in the same place; if you will come to-morrow, we will go together." The friend, by coveting this large sum, replaced the former money, and the miser next day went there alone and found it. He was delighted with his own contrivance, and never again placed any confidence in friends.

One should suppose a miser the last person to confide the secret of his wealth to any one; but the Italian versions bear a closer resemblance to the Arabian story. From No. 74 of the "Cento Novelle Antiche" Sacchetti, who was born in 1335 and is ranked by Crescimbini as next to Boccaccio, adapted his 198th novella, which is a most pleasing version of the Asiatic story:


A blind man of Orvieto, of the name of Cola, hit upon a device to recover a hundred florins he had been cheated of, which showed he was possessed of all the eyes of Argus, though he had unluckily lost his own. And this he did without wasting a farthing either upon law or arbitration, by sheer dexterity, for he had formerly been a barber, and accustomed to shave very close, having then all his eyes about him, which had been now closed for about thirty years. Alms seemed then the only resource to which he could betake himself, and such was the surprising progress he in a short time made in his new trade that he counted a hundred florins in his purse, which he secretly carried about him until he could find a safer place. His gains far surpassed anything he had realised with his razor and scissors; indeed, they increased so fast that he no longer knew where to bestow them, until one morning happening to remain the last, as he believed, in the church, he thought of depositing his purse of a hundred florins under a loose tile in the floor behind the door, knowing the situation of the place perfectly well. After listening some time without hearing a foot stirring, he very cautiously laid it in the spot; but unluckily there remained a certain Juccio Pezzichernolo, offering his adoration before an image of San Giovanni Boccadoro, who happened to see Cola busily engaged behind the door. He continued his adorations until he saw the blind man depart, when, not in the least suspecting the truth, he approached and searched the place. He soon found the identical tile, and on removing it with the help of his knife, he found the purse, which he very quietly put into his pocket, replacing the tiles just as they were, and, resolving to say nothing about it, he went home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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