Tales from the Arabic Volumes 1-3
by John Payne
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Meanwhile, the governor returned to the youth, who questioned him of his absence, and he told him that he had been in the city of the king who had taken the damsel. When the youth heard this, he misdoubted of the governor and never again trusted him in aught, but was still on his guard against him. Then the governor made great store of sweetmeats and put in them deadly poison and presented them to the youth. When the latter saw the sweetmeats, he said in himself, 'This is an extraordinary thing of the governor! Needs must there be mischief in this sweetmeat, and I will make proof of it upon himself.' So he made ready victual and set on the sweetmeat amongst it and bade the governor to his house and set food before him. He ate and amongst the rest, they brought him the poisoned sweetmeat; so he ate thereof and died forthright; whereby the youth knew that this was a plot against himself and said, 'He who seeketh his fortune of his own [unaided] might[FN#190] attaineth it not.' Nor (continued the vizier) is this, O king of the age, more extraordinary than the story of the druggist and his wife and the singer."

When King Shah Bekht heard his vizier's story, he gave him leave to withdraw to his own house and he abode there the rest of the night and the next day till the evening.

The Second Night of the Month

When the evening evened, the king sat in his privy sitting-chamber and his mind was occupied with the story of the singer and the druggist. So he called the vizier and bade him tell the story. "It is well," answered he, "They tell, O my lord, that


There was once in the city of Hemadan[FN#191] a young man of comely aspect and excellently skilled in singing to the lute, and he was well seen of the people of the city. He went forth one day of his city, with intent to travel, and gave not over journeying till his travel brought him to a goodly city. Now he had with him a lute and what pertained thereto,[FN#192] so he entered and went round about the city till he fell in with a druggist, who, when he espied him, called to him. So he went up to him and he bade him sit down. Accordingly, he sat down by him and the druggist questioned him of his case. The singer told him what was in his mind and the other took him up into his shop and brought him food and fed him. Then said he to him, 'Arise and take up thy lute and beg about the streets, and whenas thou smellest the odour of wine, break in upon the drinkers and say to them, "I am a singer." They will laugh and say, "Come, [sing] to us." And when thou singest, the folk will know thee and bespeak one another of thee; so shall thou become known in the city and thine affairs will prosper.'

So he went round about, as the druggist bade him, till the sun grew hot, but found none drinking. Then he entered a by-street, that he might rest himself, and seeing there a handsome and lofty house, stood in its shade and fell to observing the goodliness of its ordinance. As he was thus engaged, behold, a window opened and there appeared thereat a face, as it were the moon. Quoth she,[FN#193] 'What aileth thee to stand there? Dost thou want aught?' And he answered, 'I am a stranger,' and acquainted her with his case; whereupon quoth she, 'What sayst thou to meat and drink and the enjoyment of a fair-face[d one] and getting thee what thou mayst spend?' 'O my lady,' answered he, 'this is my desire and that in quest whereof I am going about.'

So she opened the door to him and brought him in. Then she seated him at the upper end of the room and set food before him. So he ate and drank and lay with her and swived her. Then she sat down in his lap and they toyed and laughed and kissed till the day was half spent, when her husband came home and she could find nothing for it but to hide the singer in a rug, in which she rolled him up. The husband entered and seeing the place disordered[FN#194] and smelling the odour of wine, questioned her of this. Quoth she, 'I had with me a friend of mine and I conjured her [to drink with me]; so we drank a jar [of wine], she and I, and she went away but now, before thy coming in.' Her husband, (who was none other than the singer's friend the druggist, that had invited him and fed him), deemed her words true and went away to his shop, whereupon the singer came forth and he and the lady returned to their sport and abode on this wise till eventide, when she gave him money and said to him, 'Come hither to-morrow in the forenoon.' 'It is well,' answered he and departed; and at nightfall he went to the bath.

On the morrow, he betook himself to the shop of his friend the druggist, who welcomed him and questioned him of his case and how he had fared that day. Quoth the singer, 'May God requite thee with good, O my brother! For that thou hast directed me unto easance!' And he related to him his adventure with the woman, till he came to the mention of her husband, when he said, 'And at midday came the cuckold her husband and knocked at the door. So she wrapped me in the mat, and when he had gone about his business, I came forth and we returned to what we were about.' This was grievous to the druggist and he repented of having taught him [how he should do] and misdoubted of his wife. So he said to the singer, 'And what said she to thee at thy going away?' And the other answered, 'She bade me come back to her on the morrow. So, behold, I am going to her and I came not hither but that I might acquaint thee with this, lest thy heart be occupied with me.' Then he took leave of him and went his way. As soon as the druggist was assured that he had reached the house, he cast the net over his shop[FN#195] and made for his house, misdoubting of his wife, and knocked at the door.

Now the singer had entered and the druggist's wife said to him, 'Arise, enter this chest.' So he entered it and she shut the lid on him and opened to her husband, who came in, in a state of bewilderment, and searched the house, but found none and overlooked the chest. So he said in himself, 'The house [of which the singer spoke] is one which resembleth my house and the woman is one who resembles my wife,' and returned to his shop; whereupon the singer came forth of the chest and falling upon the druggist's wife, did his occasion and paid her her due and weighed down the scale for her.[FN#196] Then they ate and drank and kissed and clipped, and on this wise they abode till the evening, when she gave him money, for that she found his weaving good,[FN#197] and made him promise to come to her on the morrow.

So he left her and slept his night and on the morrow he repaired to the shop of his friend the druggist and saluted him. The other welcomed him and questioned him of his case; whereupon he told him how he had fared, till he came to the mention of the woman's husband, when he said, 'Then came the cuckold her husband and she clapped me into the chest and shut the lid on me, whilst her addlepated pimp of a husband went round about the house, top and bottom; and when he had gone his way, we returned to what we were about.' With this, the druggist was certified that the house was his house and the wife his wife, and he said, 'And what wilt thou do to-day?' Quoth the singer, 'I shall return to her and weave for her and full her yarn,[FN#198] and I came but to thank thee for thy dealing with me.'

Then he went away, whilst the fire was loosed in the heart of the druggist and he shut his shop and betaking himself to his house, knocked at the door. Quoth the singer, 'Let me get into the chest, for he saw me not yesterday.' 'Nay,' answered she, 'wrap thyself up in the rug.' So he wrapped himself up in the rug and stood in a corner of the room, whilst the druggist entered and went straight to the chest, but found it empty. Then he went round about the house and searched it from top to bottom, but found nothing and no one and abode between belief and disbelief, and said in himself, 'Belike, I suspect my wife of that which is not in her.' So he was certified of her innocence and returned to his shop, whereupon out came the singer and they abode on their former case, as of wont, till eventide, when she gave him one of her husband's shirts and he took it and going away, passed the night in his lodging.

On the morrow, he repaired to the druggist, who saluted him and came to meet him and rejoiced in him and smiled in his face, deeming his wife innocent. Then he questioned him of his yesterday's case and he told him how he had fared, saying, 'O my brother, when the cuckold knocked at the door, I would have entered the chest; but his wife forbade me and rolled me up in the rug. The man entered and thought of nothing but the chest; so he broke it open and abode as he were a madman, going up and coming down. Then he went his way and I came out and we abode on our wonted case till eventide, when she gave me this shirt of her husband's; and behold, I am going to her.'

When the druggist heard the singer's words, he was certified of the case and knew that the calamity, all of it, was in his own house and that the wife was his wife; and he saw the shirt, whereupon he redoubled in certainty and said to the singer, 'Art thou now going to her?' 'Yes, O my brother,' answered he and taking leave of him, went away; whereupon the druggist started up, as he were a madman, and ungarnished his shop.[FN#199] Whilst he was thus engaged, the singer won to the house, and presently up came the druggist and knocked at the door. The singer would have wrapped himself up in the rug, but she forbade him and said to him, 'Get thee down to the bottom of the house and enter the oven[FN#200] and shut the lid upon thyself.' So he did as she bade him and she went down to her husband and opened the door to him, whereupon he entered and went round about the house, but found no one and overlooked the oven. So he stood meditating and swore that he would not go forth of the house till the morrow.

As for the singer, when his [stay in the oven] grew long upon him, he came forth therefrom, thinking that her husband had gone away. Then he went up to the roof and looking down, beheld his friend the druggist; whereat he was sore concerned and said in himself, 'Alas, the disgrace of it! This is my friend the druggist, who dealt kindly with me and wrought me fair and I have requited him with foul' And he feared to return to the druggist; so he went down and opened the first door and would have gone out; but, when he came to the outer door, he found it locked and saw not the key. So he stole up again to the roof and cast himself down into the [next] house. The people of the house heard him and hastened to him, deeming him a thief. Now the house in question belonged to a Persian; so they laid hands on him and the master of the house began to beat him, saying to him, 'Thou art a thief.' 'Nay,' answered he, 'I am no thief, but a singing-man, a stranger. I heard your voices and came to sing to you.'

When the folk heard his words, they talked of letting him go; but the Persian said, 'O folk, let not his speech beguile you. This fellow is none other than a thief who knoweth how to sing, and when he happeneth on the like of us, he is a singer.' 'O our lord,' answered they, 'this man is a stranger, and needs must we release him.' Quoth he, 'By Allah, my heart revolteth from this fellow! Let me make an end of him with beating.' But they said, 'Thou mayst nowise do that' So they delivered the singer from the Persian, the master of the house, and seated him amongst them, whereupon he fell to singing to them and they rejoiced in him.

Now the Persian had a mameluke,[FN#201] as he were the full moon, and he arose [and went out], and the singer followed him and wept before him, professing love to him and kissing his hands and feet. The mameluke took compassion on him and said to him, 'When the night cometh and my master entereth [the harem] and the folk go away, I will grant thee thy desire; and I lie in such a place.' Then the singer returned and sat with the boon-companions, and the Persian rose and went out, he and the mameluke beside him. [Then they returned and sat down.][FN#202] Now the singer knew the place that the mameluke occupied at the first of the night; but it befell that he rose from his place and the candle went out. The Persian, who was drunken, fell over on his face, and the singer, supposing him to be the mameluke, said, 'By Allah, it is good!' and threw himself upon him and clipped him, whereupon the Persian started up, crying out, and laying hands on the singer, pinioned him and beat him grievously, after which he bound him to a tree that was in the house.[FN#203]

Now there was in the house a fair singing-girl and when she saw the singer pinioned and bound to the tree, she waited till the Persian lay down on his couch, when she arose and going to the singer, fell to condoling with him over what had betided him and ogling him and handling his yard and rubbing it, till it rose on end. Then said she to him, 'Do thou swive me and I will loose thy bonds, lest he return and beat thee again; for he purposeth thee evil.' Quoth he, 'Loose me and I will do.' But she said, 'I fear that, [if I loose thee], thou wilt not do. But I will do, and thou standing; and when I have done, I will loose thee.' So saying, she pulled up her clothes and sitting down on the singer's yard, fell to going and coming.

Now there was in the house a ram, with which the Persian used to butt, and when he saw what the woman did, he thought she would butt with him; so he broke his halter and running at her, butted her and broke her head. She fell on her back and cried out; whereupon the Persian started up from sleep in haste and seeing the singing-girl [cast down on her back] and the singer with his yard on end, said to the latter, 'O accursed one, doth not what thou hast already done suffice thee?' Then he beat him soundly and opening the door, put him out in the middle of the night.

He lay the rest of the night in one of the ruins, and when he arose in the morning, he said, 'None is to blame. I sought my own good, and he is no fool who seeketh good for himself; and the druggist's wife also sought good for herself; but destiny overcometh precaution and there remaineth no abiding for me in this town.' So he went forth from the city. Nor (added the vizier) is this story, extraordinary though it be, more extraordinary than that of the king and his son and that which bedded them of wonders and rarities."

When the king heard this story, he deemed it pleasant and said, "This story is near unto that which I know and meseemeth I should do well to have patience and hasten not to slay my vizier, so I may get of him the story of the king and his son." Then he gave the vizier leave to go away to his own house; so he thanked him and abode in his house all that day.

The Third Night of the Month

When it was the time of the evening meal, the king repaired to the sitting-chamber and summoning the vizier, sought of him the story he had promised him; and the vizier said, "They avouch, O king, that


There came to a king of the kings, in his old age, a son, who grew up comely, quick-witted and intelligent, and when he came to years of discretion and became a young man, his father said to him, 'Take this kingdom and govern it in my stead, for I desire to flee [from the world] to God the Most High and don the gown of wool and give myself up to devotion.' Quoth the prince, 'And I also desire to take refuge with God the Most High.' And the king said, 'Arise, let us flee forth and make for the mountains and worship in them, for shamefastness before God the Most High.'

So they gat them raiment of wool and clothing themselves therewith, went forth and wandered in the deserts and wastes; but, when some days had passed over them, they became weak for hunger and repented them of that which they had done, whenas repentance profited them not, and the prince complained to his father of weariness and hunger. 'Dear my son,' answered the king, 'I did with thee that which behoved me,[FN#205] but thou wouldst not hearken to me, and now there is no means of returning to thy former estate, for that another hath taken the kingdom and become its defender; but I will counsel thee of somewhat, wherein do thou pleasure me.' Quoth the prince, 'What is it?' And his father said, 'Take me and go with me to the market and sell me and take my price and do with it what thou wilt, and I shall become the property of one who will provide for my support,' 'Who will buy thee of me,' asked the prince, 'seeing thou art a very old man? Nay, do thou rather sell me, for the demand for me will be greater.' But the king said, 'An thou wert king, thou wouldst require me of service.'

So the youth obeyed his father's commandment and taking him, carried him to the slave-dealer and said to the latter, 'Sell me this old man.' Quoth the dealer, 'Who will buy this fellow, and he a man of fourscore?' Then said he to the king, 'In what crafts dost thou excel?' Quoth he, 'I know the quintessence of jewels and I know the quintessence of horses and that of men; brief, I know the quintessence of all things.' So the dealer took him and went about, offering him for sale to the folk; but none would buy. Presently, up came the overseer of the [Sultan's] kitchen and said, 'What is this man?' And the dealer answered, 'This is a slave for sale.' The cook marvelled at this and bought the king for ten thousand dirhems, after questioning him of what he could do. Then he paid down the money and carried him to his house, but dared not employ him in aught of service; so he appointed him an allowance, such as should suffice for his livelihood, and repented him of having bought him, saying, 'What shall I do with the like of this fellow?'

Presently, the king [of the city] was minded to go forth to his garden,[FN#206] a-pleasuring, and bade the cook forego him thither and appoint in his stead one who should dress meat for the king, so that, when he returned, he might find it ready. So the cook fell a-considering of whom he should appoint and was bewildered concerning his affair. As he was on this wise, the old man came to him and seeing him perplexed how he should do, said to him, 'Tell me what is in thy mind; belike, I may avail to relieve thee.' So he acquainted him with the king's wishes and he said, 'Have no care for this, but leave me one of the serving-men and go thou in peace and surety, for I will suffice thee of this.' So the cook departed with the king, after he had brought the old man what he needed and left him a man of the guards.

When he was gone, the old man bade the trooper wash the kitchen-vessels and made ready passing goodly food. When the king returned, he set the meat before him, and he tasted food whose like he had never known; whereat he marvelled and asked who had dressed it. So they acquainted him with the old man's case and he summoned him to his presence and awarded him a handsome recompense.[FN#207] Moreover, he commanded that they should cook together, he and the cook, and the old man obeyed his commandment.

Awhile after this, there came two merchants to the king with two pearls of price and each of them avouched that his pearl was worth a thousand dinars, but there was none who availed to value them. Then said the cook, 'God prosper the king! Verily, the old man whom I bought avouched that he knew the quintessence of jewels and that he was skilled in cookery. We have made proof of him in cookery and have found him the skilfullest of men; and now, if we send after him and prove him on jewels, [the truth or falsehood of] his pretension will be made manifest to us.'

So the king bade fetch the old man and he came and stood before the Sultan, who showed him the two pearls. Quoth he, 'As for this one, it is worth a thousand dinars.' And the king said, 'So saith its owner.' 'But for this other,' continued the old man, 'it is worth but five hundred.' The folk laughed and marvelled at his saying, and the merchant, [the owner of the second pearl], said to him, 'How can this, which is greater of bulk and purer of water and more perfect of rondure, be less of worth than that?' And the old man answered, 'I have said what is with me.'[FN#208] Then said the king to him, 'Indeed, the outward appearance thereof is like unto that of the other pearl; why then is it worth but the half of its price?' 'Yes,' answered the old man, '[its outward resembleth the other]; but its inward is corrupt.' 'Hath a pearl then an outward and an inward?' asked the merchant, and the old man said, 'Yes. In its inward is a boring worm; but the other pearl is sound and secure against breakage.' Quoth the merchant, 'Give us a token of this and prove to us the truth of thy saying.' And the old man answered, 'We will break the pearl. If I prove a, liar, here is my head, and if I speak truth, thou wilt have lost thy pearl.' And the merchant said, 'I agree to that.' So they broke the pearl and it was even as the old man had said, to wit, in its midst was a boring worm.

The king marvelled at what he saw and questioned him of [how he came by] the knowledge of this. 'O king,' answered the old man, 'this [kind of] jewel is engendered in the belly of a creature called the oyster and its origin is a drop of rain and it is firm to the touch [and groweth not warm, when held in the hand]; so, when [I took the second pearl and felt that] it was warm to the touch, I knew that it harboured some living thing, for that live things thrive not but in heat.'[FN#209] So the king said to the cook, 'Increase his allowance.' And he appointed to him [fresh] allowances.

Awhile after this, two merchants presented themselves to the king with two horses, and one said, 'I ask a thousand dinars for my horse,' and the other, 'I seek five thousand for mine.' Quoth the cook, 'We have experienced the old man's just judgment; what deemeth the king of fetching him?' So the king bade fetch him, and when he saw the two horses, he said, 'This one is worth a thousand and the other two thousand dinars.' Quoth the folk, 'This [horse that thou judgeth the lesser worth] is an evident thoroughbred and he is younger and swifter and more compact of limb than the other, ay, and finer of head and clearer of skin and colour. What token, then, hast thou of the truth of thy saying?' And the old man said, 'This ye say is all true, but his sire is old and this other is the son of a young horse. Now, when the son of an old horse standeth still [to rest,] his breath returneth not to him and his rider falleth into the hand of him who followeth after him; but the son of a young horse, if thou put him to speed and make him run, [then check him] and alight from off him, thou wilt find him untired, by reason of his robustness.'

Quoth the merchant, 'Indeed, it is as the old man avoucheth and he is an excellent judge.' And the king said, 'Increase his allowance.' But the old man stood still and did not go away. So the king said to him, 'Why dost thou not go about thy business?' And he answered, 'My business is with the king.' 'Name what thou wouldst have,' said the king, and the other replied, 'I would have thee question me of the quintessences of men, even as thou hast questioned me of the quintessences of horses.' Quoth the king, 'We have no occasion to question thee of [this].' But the old man replied, 'I have occasion to acquaint thee.' 'Say what thou pleasest,' rejoined the king, and the old man said, 'Verily, the king is the son of a baker.' Quoth the king 'How knowest thou that?' And the other replied, 'Know, O king, that I have examined into degrees and dignities[FN#210] and have learnt this.'

Thereupon the king went in to his mother and questioned her of his father, and she told him that me king her husband was weak;[FN#211] 'wherefore,' quoth she, 'I feared for the kingdom, lest it pass away, after his death; so I took to my bed a young man, a baker, and conceived by him [and bore a son]; and the kingship came into the hand of my son, to wit, thyself.' So the king returned to the old man and said to him, 'I am indeed the son of a baker; so do thou expound to me the means whereby thou knewest me for this.' Quoth the other, 'I knew that, hadst thou been a king's son, thou wouldst have given largesse of things of price, such as rubies [and the like]; and wert thou the son of a Cadi, thou hadst given largesse of a dirhem or two dirhems, and wert thou the son of a merchant, thou hadst given wealth galore. But I saw that thou guerdonest me not but with cakes of bread [and other victual], wherefore I knew that thou wast the son of a baker.' Quoth the king, 'Thou hast hit the mark.' And he gave him wealth galore and advanced him to high estate."

This story pleased King Shah Bekht and he marvelled thereat; but the vizier said to him, "This story is not more extraordinary than that of the rich man who married his fair daughter to the poor old man." The king's mind was occupied with the [promised] story and he bade the vizier withdraw to his lodging. So he [returned to his house and] abode there the rest of the night and the whole of the following day.

The Fourth Night of the Month.

When the evening evened, the king withdrew to his privy sitting-chamber and bade fetch the vizier. When he presented himself before him, he said to him, "Tell me the story of the wealthy man who married his daughter to the poor old man." "It is well," answered the vizier. "Know, O puissant king, that


A certain wealthy merchant had a fair daughter, who was as the full moon, and when she attained the age of fifteen, her father betook himself to an old man and spreading him a carpet in his sitting-chamber, gave him to eat and caroused with him. Then said he to him, 'I desire to marry thee to my daughter.' The other excused himself, because of his poverty, and said to him, 'I am not worthy of her nor am I a match for thee.' The merchant was instant with him, but he repeated his answer to him, saying, 'I will not consent to this till thou acquaint me with the reason of thy desire for me. If I find it reasonable, I will fall in with thy wish; and if not, I will not do this ever.'

'Know, then,' said the merchant, 'that I am a man from the land of China and was in my youth well-favoured and well-to-do. Now I made no account of womankind, one and all, but followed after boys, and one night I saw, in a dream, as it were a balance set up, and it was said by it, "This is the portion of such an one." Presently, I heard my own name; so I looked and beheld a woman of the utmost loathliness; whereupon I awoke in affright and said, "I will never marry, lest haply this loathly woman fall to my lot." Then I set out for this city with merchandise and the voyage was pleasant to me and the sojourn here, so that I took up my abode here awhile and got me friends and factors, till I had sold all my merchandise and taken its price and there was left me nothing to occupy me till the folk[FN#212] should depart and depart with them.

One day, I changed my clothes and putting money in my sleeve, sallied forth to explore the holes and corners of this city, and as I was going about, I saw a handsome house. Its goodliness pleased me; so I stood looking on it, and behold, a lovely woman [at the lattice]. When she saw me, she made haste and descended, whilst I abode confounded. Then I betook myself to a tailor there and questioned him of the house and to whom it belonged. Quoth he, "It belongeth to such an one the notary, may God curse him!" "Is he her father?" asked I; [and he replied, "Yes."] So I repaired in haste to a man, with whom I had been used to deposit my goods for sale, and told him that I desired to gain access to such an one the notary. Accordingly he assembled his friends and we betook ourselves to the notary's house. When we came in to him, we saluted him and sat with him, and I said to him, "I come to thee as a suitor, desiring the hand of thy daughter in marriage." Quoth he, "I have no daughter befitting this man." And I rejoined, "God aid thee! My desire is for thee and not for her."[FN#213] But he still refused and his friends said to him, "This is an honourable man and thine equal in estate, and it is not lawful to thee that thou hinder the girl of her fortune." Quoth he to them, "Verily, my daughter whom ye seek is passing foul-favoured and in her are all blameworthy qualities." And I said, "I accept her, though she be as thou sayest." Then said the folk, "Extolled be the perfection of God! A truce to talk! [The thing is settled;] so say the word, how much wilt thou have [to her dowry]?" Quoth he, "I must have four thousand dinars." And I said, "Hearkening and obedience."

So the affair was concluded and we drew up the contract of marriage and I made the bride-feast; but on the wedding-night I beheld a thing[FN#214] than which never made God the Most High aught more loathly. Methought her people had contrived this by way of sport; so I laughed and looked for my mistress, whom I had seen [at the lattice], to make her appearance; but saw her not. When the affair was prolonged and I found none but her, I was like to go mad for vexation and fell to beseeching my Lord and humbling myself in supplication to Him that He would deliver me from her. When I arose in the morning, there came the chamber-woman and said to me, "Hast thou occasion for the bath?" "No," answered I; and she said, "Art thou for breakfast?" But I replied, "No;" and on this wise I abode three days, tasting neither meat nor drink.

When the damsel[FN#215] saw me in this plight, she said to me, "O man, tell me thy story, for, by Allah, an I may avail to thy deliverance, I will assuredly further thee thereto." I gave ear to her speech and put faith in her loyalty and told her the story of the damsel whom I had seen [at the lattice] and how I had fallen in love with her; whereupon quoth she, "If the girl belong to me, that which I possess is thine, and if she belong to my father, I will demand her of him and deliver her to thee." Then she fell to calling slave-girl after slave-girl and showing them to me, till I saw the damsel whom I loved and said, "This is she." Quoth my wife, "Let not thy heart be troubled, for this is my slave-girl. My father gave her to me and I give her to thee. So comfort thyself and be of good heart and cheerful eye."

Then, when it was night, she brought her to me, after she had adorned her and perfumed her, and said to her, "Gainsay not this thy lord in aught that he shall seek of thee." When she came to bed with me, I said in myself, "Verily, this damsel[FN#216] is more generous than I!" Then I sent away the slave-girl and drew not nigh unto her, but arose forthright and betaking myself to my wife, lay with her and did away her maidenhead. She straightway conceived by me and accomplishing the time of her pregnancy, gave birth to this dear little daughter; in whom I rejoiced, for that she was lovely to the utterest, and she hath inherited her mother's wit and her father's comeliness.

Indeed, many of the notables of the people have sought her of me in marriage, but I would not marry her to any, for that, one night, I saw, in a dream, the balance aforesaid set up and men and women being weighed, one against the other, therein, and meseemed I saw thee [and her] and it was said to me, "This is such a man,[FN#217] the allotted portion of such a woman."[FN#218] Wherefore I knew that God the Most High had allotted unto her none other than thyself, and I choose rather to marry thee to her in my lifetime than that thou shouldst marry her after my death.'

When the poor man heard the merchant's story, he became desirous of marrying his daughter. So he took her to wife and was vouchsafed of her exceeding love. Nor," added the vizier, "is this story more extraordinary than that of the rich man and his wasteful heir."

When the king heard his vizier's story, he was assured that he would not slay him and said, "I will have patience with him, so I may get of him the story of the rich man and his wasteful heir." And he bade him depart to his own house.

The Fifth Night of the Month

When the evening evened, the king sat in his privy closet and summoning the vizier, required of him the promised story. So Er Rehwan said, "Know, O king, that


There was once a sage of the sages, who had three sons and sons' sons, and when they waxed many and their posterity multiplied, there befell dissension between them. So he assembled them and said to them, 'Be ye one hand[FN#219] against other than you and despise[FN#220] not [one another,] lest the folk despise you, and know that the like of you is as the rope which the man cut, when it was single; then he doubled [it] and availed not to cut it; on this wise is division and union. And beware lest ye seek help of others against yourselves[FN#221] or ye will fall into perdition, for by whosesoever means ye attain your desire,[FN#222] his word[FN#223] will have precedence of[FN#224] your word. Now I have wealth which I will bury in a certain place, so it may be a store for you, against the time of your need.'

Then they left him and dispersed and one of the sons fell to spying upon his father, so that he saw him hide the treasure without the city. When he had made an end of burying it, he returned to his house; and when the morning morrowed, his son repaired to the place where he had seen his father bury the treasure and dug and took it and went his way. When the [hour of the] old man's admission [to the mercy of God] drew nigh, he called his sons to him and acquainted them with the place where he had hidden his riches. As soon as he was dead, they went and dug up the treasure and found wealth galore, for that the money, which the first son had taken by stealth, was on the surface and he knew not that under it was other money. So they took it and divided it and the first son took his share with the rest and laid it to that which he had taken aforetime, behind [the backs of] his father and his brethren. Then he took to wife the daughter of his father's brother and was vouchsafed by her a male child, who was the goodliest of the folk of his time.

When the boy grew up, his father feared for him from poverty and change of case, so he said to him, 'Dear my son, know that in my youth I wronged my brothers in the matter of our father's good, and I see thee in weal; but, if thou [come to] need, ask not of one of them nor of any other, for I have laid up for thee in yonder chamber a treasure; but do not thou open it until thou come to lack thy day's food.' Then he died, and his wealth, which was a great matter, fell to his son. The young man had not patience to wait till he had made an end of that which was with him, but rose and opened the chamber, and behold, it was [empty and its walls were] whitened, and in its midst was a rope hanging down and half a score bricks, one upon another, and a scroll, wherein was written, 'Needs must death betide; so hang thyself and beg not of any, but kick away the bricks, so there may be no escape[FN#225] for thee, and thou shall be at rest from the exultation of enemies and enviers and the bitterness of poverty.'

When the youth saw this, he marvelled at that which his father had done and said, 'This is a sorry treasure.' Then he went forth and fell to eating and drinking with the folk, till nothing was left him and he abode two days without tasting food, at the end of which time he took a handkerchief and selling it for two dirhems, bought bread and milk with the price and left it on the shelf [and went out. Whilst he was gone,] a dog came and took the bread and spoiled the milk, and when the man returned and saw this, he buffeted his face and went forth, distraught, at a venture. Presently, he met a friend of his, to whom he discovered his case, and the other said to him, 'Art thou not ashamed to talk thus? How hast thou wasted all this wealth and now comest telling lies and saying, "The dog hath mounted on the shelf," and talking nonsense?' And he reviled him.

So the youth returned to his house, and indeed the world was grown black in his eyes and he said, 'My father said sooth.' Then he opened the chamber door and piling up the bricks under his feet, put the rope about his neck and kicked away the bricks and swung himself off; whereupon the rope gave way with him [and he fell] to the ground and the ceiling clove in sunder and there poured down on him wealth galore, So he knew that his father meant to discipline[FN#226] him by means of this and invoked God's mercy on him. Then he got him again that which he had sold of lands and houses and what not else and became once more in good case. Moreover, his friends returned to him and he entertained them some days.

Then said he to them one day, 'There was with us bread and the locusts ate it; so we put in its place a stone, a cubit long and the like broad, and the locusts came and gnawed away the stone, because of the smell of the bread.' Quoth one of his friends (and it was he who had given him the lie concerning the dog and the bread and milk), 'Marvel not at this, for mice do more than that.' And he said, 'Go to your houses. In the days of my poverty, I was a liar [when I told you] of the dog's climbing upon the shelf and eating the bread and spoiling the milk; and to-day, for that I am rich again, I say sooth [when I tell you] that locusts devoured a stone a cubit long and a cubit broad.' They were confounded at his speech and departed from him; and the youth's good flourished and his case was amended.[FN#227] Nor," added the vizier,"is this stranger or more extraordinary than the story of the king's son who fell in love with the picture."

Quoth the king, "Belike, if I hear this story, I shall gain wisdom from it; so I will not hasten in the slaying of this vizier, nor will I put him to death before the thirty days have expired." Then he gave him leave to withdraw, and he went away to his own house.

The Sixth Night of the Month

When the day departed and the evening came, the king sat in his privy chamber and summoned the vizier, who presented himself to him and he questioned him of the story. So the vizier said, "Know, O august king, that


There was once, in a province of Persia, a king of the kings, who was mighty of estate, endowed with majesty and venerance and having troops and guards at his command; but he was childless. Towards the end of his life, his Lord vouchsafed him a male child, and the boy grew up and was comely and learned all manner of knowledge. He made him a private place, to wit, a lofty palace, builded with coloured marbles and [adorned with] jewels and paintings. When the prince entered the palace, he saw in its ceiling the picture [of a woman], than whom he had never beheld a fairer of aspect, and she was compassed about with slave-girls; whereupon he fell down in a swoon and became distraught for love of her. Then he sat under the picture, till, one day, his father came in to him and finding him wasted of body and changed of colour, by reason of his [continual] looking on that picture, thought that he was ill and sent for the sages and physicians, that they might medicine him. Moreover, he said to one of his boon- companions, 'If thou canst learn what aileth my son, thou shalt have of me largesse.' So the courtier went in to the prince and spoke him fair and cajoled him, till he confessed to him that his malady was caused by the picture. Then he returned to the king and told him what ailed his son, whereupon he transported the prince to another palace and made his former lodging the guest-house; and whosoever of the Arabs was entertained therein, he questioned of the picture, but none could give him tidings thereof.

One day, there came a traveller and seeing the picture, said, 'There is no god but God! My brother wrought this picture.' So the king sent for him and questioned him of the affair of the picture and where was he who had wrought it. 'O my lord,' answered the traveller, 'we are two brothers and one of us went to the land of Hind and fell in love with the king's daughter of the country, and it is she who is the original of the portrait. In every city he entereth, he painteth her portrait, and I follow him, and long is my journey.' When the king's son heard this, he said,'Needs must I travel to this damsel.' So he took all manner rarities and store of riches and journeyed days and nights till he entered the land of Hind, nor did he win thereto save after sore travail. Then he enquired of the King of Hind and he also heard of him.

When the prince came before him, he sought of him his daughter in marriage, and the king said, 'Indeed, thou art her equal, but none dare name a man to her, because of her aversion to men.' So the prince pitched his tents under the windows of the princess's palace, till one day he got hold of one of her favourite slave-girls and gave her wealth galore. Quoth she to him, 'Hast thou a wish?' Yes,' answered he and acquainted her with his case; and she said, 'Indeed thou puttest thyself in peril.' Then he abode, flattering himself with false hopes, till all that he had with him was gone and the servants fled from him; whereupon quoth he to one in whom he trusted, 'I am minded to go to my country and fetch what may suffice me and return hither.' And the other answered, 'It is for thee to decide.' So they set out to return, but the way was long to them and all that the prince had with him was spent and his company died and there abode but one with him, on whom he loaded what remained of the victual and they left the rest and fared on. Then there came out a lion and ate the servant, and the prince abode alone. He went on, till his beast stood still, whereupon he left her and fared on afoot till his feet swelled.

Presently he came to the land of the Turks,[FN#228] and he naked and hungry and having with him nought but somewhat of jewels, bound about his fore-arm. So he went to the bazaar of the goldsmiths and calling one of the brokers, gave him the jewels. The broker looked and seeing two great rubies, said to him, 'Follow me.' So he followed him, till he brought him to a goldsmith, to whom he gave the jewels, saying, 'Buy these.' Quoth he, 'Whence hadst thou these?' And the broker replied, 'This youth is the owner of them.' Then said the goldsmith to the prince, 'Whence hadst thou these rubies?' And he told him all that had befallen him and that he was a king's son. The goldsmith marvelled at his story and bought of him the rubies for a thousand dinars.

Then said the prince to him, 'Make ready to go with me to my country.' So he made ready and went with the prince till he drew near the frontiers of his father's kingdom, where the people received him with the utmost honour and sent to acquaint his father with his son's coming. The king came out to meet him and they entreated the goldsmith with honour. The prince abode awhile with his father, then set out, [he and the goldsmith] to return to the country of the fair one, the daughter of the King of Hind; but there met him robbers by the way and he fought the sorest of battles and was slain. The goldsmith buried him and marked his grave[FN#229] and returned, sorrowing and distraught to his own country, without telling any of the prince's death.

To return to the king's daughter of whom the prince went in quest and on whose account he was slain. She had been used to look out from the top of her palace and gaze on the youth and on his beauty and grace; so she said to her slave-girl one day, 'Harkye! What is come of the troops that were encamped beside my palace?' Quoth the maid, 'They were the troops of the youth, the king's son of the Persians, who came to demand thee in marriage, and wearied himself on thine account, but thou hadst no compassion on him.' 'Out on thee!' cried the princess. 'Why didst thou not tell me?' And the damsel answered, 'I feared thy wrath.' Then she sought an audience of the king her father and said to him, 'By Allah, I will go in quest of him, even as he came in quest of me; else should I not do him justice.'

So she made ready and setting out, traversed the deserts and spent treasures till she came to Sejestan, where she called a goldsmith to make her somewhat of trinkets. [Now the goldsmith in question was none other than the prince's friend]; so, when he saw her, he knew her (for that the prince had talked with him of her and had depictured her to him) and questioned her of her case. She acquainted him with her errand, whereupon he buffeted his face and rent his clothes and strewed dust on his head and fell a-weeping. Quoth she, 'Why dost thou thus?' And he acquainted her with the prince's case and how he was his comrade and told her that he was dead; whereat she grieved for him and faring on to his father and mother, [acquainted them with the case].

So the prince's father and his uncle and his mother and the grandees of the realm repaired to his tomb and the princess made lamentation over him, crying aloud. She abode by the tomb a whole month; then she let fetch painters and caused them limn her portraiture and that of the king's son. Moreover, she set down in writing their story and that which had befallen them of perils and afflictions and set it [together with the pictures], at the head of the tomb; and after a little, they departed from the place. Nor," added the vizier, "is this more extraordinary, O king of the age, than the story of the fuller and his wife and the trooper and what passed between them."

With this the king bade the vizier go away to his lodging, and when he arose in the morning, he abode his day in his house.

The Seventh Night of the Month.

At eventide the king sat [in his privy sitting-chamber] and sending for the vizier, said to him, "Tell me the story of the fuller and his wife." "With all my heart," answered the vizier. So he came forward and said, "Know, O king of the age, that


There was once in a certain city a woman fair of favour, who had to lover a trooper. Her husband was a fuller, and when he went out to his business, the trooper used to come to her and abide with her till the time of the fuller's return, when he would go away. On this wise they abode awhile, till one day the trooper said to his mistress, 'I mean to take me a house near unto thine and dig an underground passage from my house to thy house, and do thou say to thy husband, "My sister hath been absent with her husband and now they have returned from their travels; and I have made her take up her sojourn in my neighbourhood, so I may foregather with her at all times. So go thou to her husband the trooper and offer him thy wares [for sale], and thou wilt see my sister with him and wilt see that she is I and I am she, without doubt. So, Allah, Allah, go to my sister's husband and give ear to that which he shall say to thee."'

Accordingly, the trooper bought him a house near at hand and made therein an underground passage communicating with his mistress's house. When he had accomplished his affair, the wife bespoke her husband as her lover had lessoned her and he went out to go to the trooper's house, but turned back by the way, whereupon quoth she to him, 'By Allah, go forthright, for that my sister asketh of thee.' So the dolt of a fuller went out and made for the trooper's house, whilst his wife forewent him thither by the secret passage, and going up, sat down beside her lover. Presently, the fuller entered and saluted the trooper and his [supposed] wife and was confounded at the coincidence of the case.[FN#230] Then doubt betided him and he returned in haste to his dwelling; but she forewent him by the underground passage to her chamber and donning her wonted clothes, sat [waiting] for him and said to him, 'Did I not bid thee go to my sister and salute her husband and make friends with them?' Quoth he, 'I did this, but I misdoubted of my affair, when I saw his wife.' And she said, 'Did I not tell thee that she resembleth me and I her, and there is nought to distinguish between us but our clothes? Go back to her.'

So, of the heaviness of his wit, he believed her and turning back, went in to the trooper; but she had foregone him, and when he saw her beside her lover, he fell to looking on her and pondering. Then he saluted her and she returned him the salutation; and when she spoke, he was bewildered. So the trooper said to him, 'What ails thee to be thus?' And he answered, 'This woman is my wife and the voice is her voice.' Then he rose in haste and returning to his own house, saw his wife, who had foregone him by the secret passage. So he went back to the trooper's house and saw her sitting as before; whereupon he was abashed before her and sitting down in the trooper's sitting-chamber, ate and drank with him and became drunken and abode without sense all that day till nightfall, when the trooper arose and shaving off some of the fuller's hair (which was long and flowing) after the fashion of the Turks, clipped the rest short and clapped a tarboush on his head.

Then he thrust his feet into boots and girt him with a sword and a girdle and bound about his middle a quiver and a bow and arrows. Moreover, he put money in his pocket and thrust into his sleeve letters-patent addressed to the governor of Ispahan, bidding him assign to Rustem Khemartekeni a monthly allowance of a hundred dirhems and ten pounds of bread and five pounds of meat and enrol him among the Turks under his commandment. Then he took him up and carrying him forth, left him in one of the mosques.

The fuller gave not over sleeping till sunrise, when he awoke and finding himself in this plight, misdoubted of his affair and imagined that he was a Turk and abode putting one foot forward and drawing the other back. Then said he in himself, 'I will go to my dwelling, and if my wife know me, then am I Ahmed the fuller; but, if she know me not, I am a Turk.' So he betook himself to his house; but when the artful baggage his wife saw him, she cried out in his face, saying, 'Whither away, O trooper? Wilt thou break into the house of Ahmed the fuller, and he a man of repute, having a brother-in-law a Turk, a man of high standing with the Sultan? An thou depart not, I will acquaint my husband and he will requite thee thy deed.'

When he heard her words, the dregs of the drunkenness wrought in him and he imagined that he was indeed a Turk. So he went out from her and putting his hand to his sleeve, found therein a scroll and gave it to one who read it to him. When he heard that which was written in the scroll, his mind was confirmed in the false supposition; but he said in himself, 'Maybe my wife seeketh to put a cheat on me; so I will go to my fellows the fullers; and if they know me not, then am I for sure Khemartekeni the Turk.' So he betook himself to the fullers and when they espied him afar off, they thought that he was one of the Turks, who used to wash their clothes with them without payment and give them nothing.

Now they had complained of them aforetime to the Sultan, and he said, 'If any of the Turks come to you, pelt them with stones.' So, when they saw the fuller, they fell upon him with sticks and stones and pelted him; whereupon quoth he [in himself], 'Verily, I am a Turk and knew it not.' Then he took of the money in his pocket and bought him victual [for the journey] and hired a hackney and set out for Ispahan, leaving his wife to the trooper. Nor," added the vizier, "is this more extraordinary than the story of the merchant and the old woman and the king."

The vizier's story pleased King Shah Bekht and his heart clave to the story of the merchant and the old woman; so he bade Er Rehwan withdraw to his lodging, and he went away to his house and abode there the next day.

The Eight Night of the Month

When the evening evened, the king sat in his privy chamber and bade fetch the vizier, who presented himself before him, and the king required of him the promised story. So the vizier answered, "With all my heart. Know, O king, that


There was once in a city of Khorassan a family of affluence and distinction, and the townsfolk used to envy them for that which God had vouchsafed them. As time went on, their fortune ceased from them and they passed away, till there remained of them but one old woman. When she grew feeble and decrepit, the townsfolk succoured her not with aught, but put her forth of the city, saying, 'This old woman shall not harbour with us, for that we do her kindness and she requiteth us with evil.' So she took shelter in a ruined place and strangers used to bestow alms upon her, and on this wise she abode a while of time.

Now the uncle's son of the king of the city had aforetime disputed [the kingship] with him, and the people misliked the king; but God the Most High decreed that he should get the better of his cousin. However, jealousy of him abode in his heart and he acquainted the vizier, who hid it not and sent [him] money. Moreover, he fell to summoning [all strangers who came to the town], man after man, and questioning them of their faith and their worldly estate, and whoso answered him not [to his liking], he took his good.[FN#231] Now a certain wealthy man of the Muslims was on a journey and it befell that he arrived at that city by night, unknowing what was to do, and coming to the ruin aforesaid, gave the old woman money and said to her, 'No harm upon thee.' Whereupon she lifted up her voice and prayed [for him], He set down his merchandise by her [and abode with her] the rest of the night and the next day.

Now thieves had followed him, so they might rob him of his good, but availed not unto aught; wherefore he went up to the old woman and kissed her head and exceeded in munificence to her. Then she [warned him of that which awaited strangers entering the town and] said to him, 'I like not this for thee and I fear mischief for thee from these questions that the vizier hath appointed for the confrontation of the ignorant.' And she expounded to him the case according to its fashion. Then said she to him, 'But have no concern: only carry me with thee to thy lodging, and if he question thee of aught, whilst I am with thee, I will expound the answers to thee.' Se he carried her with him to the city and established her in his lodging and entreated her kindly.

Presently, the vizier heard of the merchant's coming; so he sent to him and let bring him to his house and talked with him awhile of his travels and of that which he had abidden therein, and the merchant answered him thereof. Then said the vizier, 'I will put certain questions to thee, which if thou answer me, it will be well [for thee].' And the merchant rose and made him no answer. Quoth the vizier, 'What is the weight of the elephant?' The merchant was perplexed and returned him no answer and gave himself up for lost. Then said he, 'Grant me three days' time.' So the vizier granted him the delay he sought and he returned to his lodging and related what had passed to the old woman, who said, 'When the morrow cometh, go to the vizier and say to him, "Make a ship and launch it on the sea and put in it an elephant, and when it sinketh in the water, [under the beast's weight], mark the place to which the water riseth. Then take out the elephant and cast in stones in its place, till the ship sink to the mark aforesaid; whereupon do thou take out the stones and weigh them and thou wilt know the weight of the elephant"'

So, when he arose in the morning, he repaired to the vizier and repeated to him that which the old woman had taught him; whereat the vizier marvelled and said to him, 'What sayst thou of a man, who seeth in his house four holes, and in each a viper offering to come out and kill him, and in his house are four staves and each hole may not be stopped but with the ends of two staves? How shall he stop all the holes and deliver himself from the vipers?' When the merchant heard this, there betided him [of concern] what made him forget the first and he said to the vizier, 'Grant me time, so I may consider the answer.' 'Go out,' replied the vizier, 'and bring me the answer, or I will seize thy good.'

The merchant went out and returned to the old woman, who, seeing him changed of colour, said to him, 'What did he ask thee, [may God confound] his hoariness?' So he acquainted her with the case and she said to him, 'Fear not; I will bring thee forth of this [strait].' Quoth he, 'God requite thee with good!' And she said, 'To-morrow go to him with a stout heart and say, "The answer to that whereof thou askest me is that thou put the heads of two staves into one of the holes; then take the other two staves and lay them across the middle of the first two and stop with their heads the second hole and with their butts the fourth hole. Then take the butts of the first two staves and stop with them the third hole."'[FN#232]

So he repaired to the vizier and repeated to him the answer; and he marvelled at its justness and said to him, 'Go; by Allah, I will ask thee no more questions, for thou with thy skill marrest my foundation.'[FN#233] Then he entreated him friendly and the merchant acquainted him with the affair of the old woman; whereupon quoth the vizier, 'Needs must the man of understanding company with those of understanding.' Thus did this weak woman restore to that man his life and good on the easiest wise. Nor," added the vizier, "is this more extraordinary than the story of the credulous husband."

When the king heard this story, he said, "How like is this to our own case!" Then he bade the vizier retire to his lodging; so he withdrew to his house and on the morrow he abode at home [till the king should summon him to his presence.]

The Ninth Night of the Month.

When the night came, the king sat in his privy chamber and sending after the vizier, sought of him the promised story; and he said, "Know, O august king, that


There was once of old time a foolish, ignorant man, who had wealth galore, and his wife was a fair woman, who loved a handsome youth. The latter used to watch for her husband's absence and come to her, and on this wise he abode a long while. One day, as the woman was private with her lover, he said to her, 'O my lady and my beloved, if thou desire me and love me, give me possession of thyself and accomplish my need in thy husband's presence; else will I never again come to thee nor draw near thee, what while I abide on life.' Now she loved him with an exceeding love and could not brook his separation an hour nor could endure to vex him; so, when she heard his words, she said to him, ['So be it,] in God's name, O my beloved and solace of mine eyes, may he not live who would vex thee!' Quoth he, 'To-day?' And she said, 'Yes, by thy life,' and appointed him of this.

When her husband came home, she said to him, 'I desire to go a-pleasuring.' And he said, ' With all my heart.' So he went, till he came to a goodly place, abounding in vines and water, whither he carried her and pitched her a tent beside a great tree; and she betook herself to a place beside the tent and made her there an underground hiding-place, [in which she hid her lover]. Then said she to her husband, 'I desire to mount this tree.' And he said, 'Do so.' So she climbed up and when she came to the top of the tree, she cried out and buffeted her face, saying, 'Lewd fellow that thou art, are these thy usages? Thou sworest [fidelity to me] and liedst.' And she repeated her speech twice and thrice.

Then she came down from the tree and rent her clothes and said, 'O villain, if these be thy dealings with me before my eyes, how dost thou when thou art absent from me?' Quoth he, 'What aileth thee?' and she said, 'I saw thee swive the woman before my very eyes.' 'Not so, by Allah!' cried he. 'But hold thy peace till I go up and see.' So he climbed the tree and no sooner did he begin to do so than up came the lover [from his hiding-place] and taking the woman by the legs, [fell to swiving her]. When the husband came to the top of the tree, he looked and beheld a man swiving his wife. So he said, 'O strumpet, what doings are these?' And he made haste to come down from the tree to the ground; [but meanwhile the lover had returned to his hiding- place] and his wife said to him, 'What sawest thou?' 'I saw a man swive thee,' answered he; and she said, 'Thou liest; thou sawest nought and sayst this but of conjecture.'

On this wise they did three times, and every time [he climbed the tree] the lover came up out of the underground place and bestrode her, whilst her husband looked on and she still said, 'O liar, seest thou aught?' 'Yes,' would he answer and came down in haste, but saw no one and she said to him, 'By my life, look and say nought but the truth!' Then said he to her, 'Arise, let us depart this place,[FN#234] for it is full of Jinn and Marids.' [So they returned to their house] and passed the night [there] and the man arose in the morning, assured that this was all but imagination and illusion. And so the lover accomplished his desire.[FN#235] Nor, O king of the age," added the vizier, "is this more extraordinary than the story of the king and the tither."

When the king heard this from the vizier, he bade him go away [and he withdrew to his house].

The Tenth Night of the Month.

When it was eventide, the king summoned the vizier and sought of him the story of the King and the Tither, and he said, "Know, O king, that


There was once a king of the kings of the earth, who dwelt in a populous[FN#236] city, abounding in good; but he oppressed its people and used them foully, so that he ruined[FN#237] the city; and he was named none other than tyrant and misdoer. Now he was wont, whenas he heard of a masterful man[FN#238] in another land, to send after him and tempt him with money to take service with him; and there was a certain tither, who exceeded all his brethren in oppression of the people and foulness of dealing. So the king sent after him and when he stood before him, he found him a mighty man[FN#239] and said to him, 'Thou hast been praised to me, but meseemeth thou overpassest the description. Set out to me somewhat of thy sayings and doings, so I may be dispensed therewith from [enquiring into] all thy circumstance.' 'With all my heart,' answered the other. 'Know, O king, that I oppress the folk and people[FN#240] the land, whilst other than I wasteth[FN#241] it and peopleth it not.'

Now the king was leaning back; so he sat up and said, 'Tell me of this.' 'It is well,' answered the tither. 'I go to the man whom I purpose to tithe and circumvent him and feign to be occupied with certain business, so that I seclude myself therewith from the folk; and meanwhile the man is squeezed after the foulest fashion, till nothing is left him. Then I appear and they come in to me and questions befall concerning him and I say, "Indeed, I was ordered worse than this, for some one (may God curse him!) hath slandered him to the king." Then I take half of his good and return him the rest publicly before the folk and send him away to his house, in all honour and worship, and he causeth the money returned to be carried before him, whilst he and all who are with him call down blessings on me. So is it published in the city that I have returned him his money and he himself saith the like, so he may have a claim on me for the favour due to whoso praiseth me. Then I feign to forget him till some time[FN#242] hath passed over him, when I send for him and recall to him somewhat of that which hath befallen aforetime and demand [of him] somewhat privily. So he doth this and hasteneth to his dwelling and sendeth what I bid him, with a glad heart. Then I send to another man, between whom and the other is enmity, and lay hands upon him and feign to the first man that it is he who hath traduced him to the king and taken the half of his good; and the people praise me.'[FN#243]

The king marvelled at this and at his dealing and contrivance and invested him with [the control of] all his affairs and of his kingdom and the land abode [under his governance] and he said to him, 'Take and people.'[FN#244] One day, the tither went out and saw an old man, a woodcutter, and with him wood; so he said to him, 'Pay a dirhem tithe for thy load.' Quoth the old man, 'Behold, thou killest me and killest my family.' 'What [meanest thou]?' said the tither. 'Who killeth the folk?' And the other answered, 'If thou suffer me enter the city, I shall sell the wood there for three dirhems, whereof I will give thee one and buy with the other two what will support my family; but, if thou press me for the tithe without the city, the load will sell but for one dirhem and thou wilt take it and I shall abide without food, I and my family. Indeed, thou and I in this circumstance are like unto David and Solomon, on whom be peace!' ['How so?' asked the tither, and the woodcutter said], 'Know that


Certain husbandmen once made complaint to David (on whom be peace!) against certain owners of sheep, whose flocks had fallen upon their crops by night and devoured them, and he bade value the crops [and that the shepherds should make good the amount]. But Solomon (on whom be peace!) rose and said, "Nay, but let the sheep be delivered to the husbandmen, so they may take their milk and wool, till they have repaid themselves the value of their crops; then let the sheep return to their owners." So David withdrew his own ordinance and caused execute that of Solomon; yet was David no oppressor; but Solomon's judgment was more pertinent and he showed himself therein better versed in jurisprudence.'[FN#245]

When the tither heard the old man's speech, he relented towards him and said to him, 'O old man, I make thee a present of that which is due from thee, and do thou cleave to me and leave me not, so haply I may get of thee profit that shall do away from me my errors and guide me into the way of righteousness.' So the old man followed him, and there met him another with a load of wood. Quoth the tither to him, 'Pay what is due from thee.' And he answered, 'Have patience with me till to-morrow, for I owe the hire of a house, and I will sell another load of wood and pay thee two days' tithe.' But he refused him this and the old man said to him, 'If thou constrain him unto this, thou wilt enforce him quit thy country, for that he is a stranger here and hath no domicile; and if he remove on account of one dirhem, thou wilt lose [of him] three hundred and threescore dirhems a year. Thus wilt thou lose the much in keeping the little.' Quoth the tither, 'I give him a dirhem every month to the hire of his lodging.'

Then he went on and presently there met him a third woodcutter and he said to him, 'Pay what is due from thee.' And he answered, 'I will pay thee a dirhem when I enter the city; or take of me four danics[FN#246] [now].' Quoth the tither, 'I will not do it,' but the old man said to him, 'Take of him the four danics presently, for it is easy to take and hard to restore.' 'By Allah,' quoth the tither, 'it is good!' and he arose and went on, crying out, at the top of his voice and saying, 'I have no power to-day [to do evil].' Then he put off his clothes and went forth wandering at a venture, repenting unto his Lord. Nor," added the vizier, "is this story more extraordinary than that of the thief who believed the woman and sought refuge with God against falling in with her like, by reason of her cunning contrivance for herself."

When the king heard this, he said in himself, "Since the tither repented, in consequence of the admonitions [of the woodcutter], it behoves that I spare this vizier, so I may hear the story of the thief and the woman." And he bade Er Rehwan withdraw to his lodging.

The Eleventh Night of the Month.

When the evening came and the king sat in his privy chamber, he summoned the vizier and required of him the story of the thief and the woman. Quoth the vizier, "Know, O king, that


A certain thief was a [cunning] workman and used not to steal aught, till he had spent all that was with him; moreover, he stole not from his neighbours, neither companied with any of the thieves, lest some one should come to know him and his case get wind. On this wise he abode a great while, in flourishing case, and his secret was concealed, till God the Most High decreed that he broke in upon a poor man, deeming that he was rich. When he entered the house, he found nought, whereat he was wroth, and necessity prompted him to wake the man, who was asleep with his wife. So he aroused him and said to him, 'Show me thy treasure.'

Now he had no treasure; but the thief believed him not and insisted upon him with threats and blows. When he saw that he got no profit of him, he said to him, 'Swear by the oath of divorce from thy wife[FN#247] [that thou hast nothing].' So he swore and his wife said to him, 'Out on thee! Wilt thou divorce me? Is not the treasure buried in yonder chamber?' Then she turned to the thief and conjured him to multiply blows upon her husband, till he should deliver to him the treasure, concerning which he had sworn falsely. So he drubbed him grievously, till he carried him to a certain chamber, wherein she signed to him that the treasure was and that he should take it up.

So the thief entered, he and the husband; and when they were both in the chamber, she locked on them the door, which was a stout one, and said to the thief, 'Out on thee, O fool! Thou hast fallen [into the trap] and now I have but to cry out and the officers of the police will come and take thee and thou wilt lose thy life, O Satan!' Quoth he, 'Let me go forth;' and she said, 'Thou art a man and I am a woman; and in thy hand is a knife and I am afraid of thee.' Quoth he, 'Take the knife from me.' So she took the knife from him and said to her husband, 'Art thou a woman and he a man? Mar his nape with beating, even as he did with thee; and if he put out his hand to thee, I will cry out and the police will come and take him and cut him in sunder.' So the husband said to him, 'O thousand-horned,[FN#248] O dog, O traitor, I owe thee a deposit,[FN#249] for which thou dunnest me.' And he fell to beating him grievously with a stick of live-oak, whilst he called out to the woman for help and besought her of deliverance; but she said, 'Abide in thy place till the morning, and thou shalt see wonders.' And her husband beat him within the chamber, till he [well- nigh] made an end of him and he swooned away.

Then he left beating him and when the thief came to himself, the woman said to her husband, 'O man, this house is on hire and we owe its owners much money, and we have nought; so how wilt thou do?' And she went on to bespeak him thus. Quoth the thief, 'And what is the amount of the rent?' 'It will be fourscore dirhems,' answered the husband; and the thief said, 'I will pay this for thee and do thou let me go my way.' Then said the wife, 'O man, how much do we owe the baker and the greengrocer?' Quoth the thief, 'What is the sum of this?' And the husband said, 'Sixscore dirhems.' 'That makes two hundred dirhems,' rejoined the other; 'let me go my way and I will pay them.' But the wife said, 'O my dear one, and the girl groweth up and needs must we marry her and equip her and [do] what else is needful' So the thief said to the husband, 'How much dost thou want?' And he answered, 'A hundred dirhems, in the way of moderation.'[FN#250] Quoth the thief, 'That makes three hundred dirhems.' And the woman said, 'O my dear one, when the girl is married, thou wilt need money for winter expenses, charcoal and firewood and other necessaries.' 'What wouldst thou have?' asked the thief; and she said, 'A hundred dirhems.' 'Be it four hundred dirhems,' rejoined he; and she said, 'O my dear one and solace of mine eyes, needs must my husband have capital in hand, wherewith he may buy merchandise and open him a shop.' 'How much will that be?' asked he, and she said, 'A hundred dirhems.' Quoth the thief, '[That makes five hundred dirhems; I will pay it;] but may I be divorced from my wife if all my possessions amount to more than this, and that the savings of twenty years! Let me go my way, so I may deliver them to thee.' 'O fool,' answered she, 'how shall I let thee go thy way? Give me a right token.' [So he gave her a token for his wife] and she cried out to her young daughter and said to her, 'Keep this door.'

Then she charged her husband keep watch over the thief, till she should return, and repairing to his wife, acquainted her with his case and told her that her husband the thief had been taken and had compounded for his release, at the price of seven hundred dirhems, and named to her the token. So she gave her the money and she took it and returned to her house. By this time, the dawn had broken; so she let the thief go his way, and when he went out, she said to him, 'O my dear one, when shall I see thee come and take the treasure?' 'O indebted one,' answered he, 'when thou needest other seven hundred dirhems, wherewithal to amend thy case and that of thy children and to discharge thy debts.' And he went out, hardly believing in his deliverance from her. Nor," added the vizier, "is this more extraordinary than the story of the three men and our Lord Jesus."

And the king bade him depart to his own house.

The Twelfth Night of the Month.

When it was eventide, the king summoned the vizier and bade him tell the [promised] story, "Hearkening and obedience," answered he. "Know, O king, that


Three men once went out in quest of riches and came upon a block of gold, weighing a hundred pounds. When they saw it, they took it up on their shoulders and fared on with it, till they drew near a certain city, when one of them said, 'Let us sit in the mosque, whilst one of us goes and buys us what we may eat." So they sat down in the mosque and one of them arose and entered the city. When he came therein, his soul prompted him to play his fellows false and get the gold for himself alone. So he bought food and poisoned it; but, when he returned to his comrades, they fell upon him and slew him, so they might enjoy the gold without him. Then they ate of the [poisoned] food and died, and the gold abode cast down over against them.

Presently, Jesus, son of Mary (on whom be peace!) passed by and seeing this, besought God the Most High for tidings of their case; so He told him what had betided them, whereat great was his wonderment and he related to his disciples what he had seen. Quoth one of them, 'O Spirit of God,[FN#251] nought resembleth this but my own story.' 'How so?' asked Jesus, and the other said,


'I was aforetime in such a city and hid a thousand dirhems in a monastery there. After awhile, I went thither and taking the money, bound it about my middle. [Then I set out to return] and when I came to the desert, the carrying of the money was burdensome to me. Presently, I espied a horseman pricking after me; so I [waited till he came up and] said to him, "O horseman, carry this money [for me] and earn reward and recompense [from God]." "Nay," answered he; "I will not do it, for I should weary myself and weary my horse." Then he went on, but, before he had gone far, he said in himself, "If I take up the money and spur my horse and forego him, how shall he overtake me?" And I also said in myself, "Verily, I erred [in asking him to carry the money]; for, had he taken it and made off, I could have done nought." Then he turned back to me and said to me, "Hand over the money, that I may carry it for thee." But I answered him, saying, "That which hath occurred to thy mind hath occurred to mine also; so go in peace."'

Quoth Jesus (on whom be peace!), 'Had these dealt prudently, they had taken thought for themselves; but they neglected the issues of events; for that whoso acteth prudently is safe and conquereth,[FN#252] and whoso neglecteth precaution perisheth and repenteth.' Nor," added the vizier," is this more extraordinary nor goodlier than the story of the king, whose kingdom was restored to him and his wealth, after he had become poor, possessing not a single dirhem."

When the king heard this, he said in himself "How like is this to my own story in the matter of the vizier and his slaughter! Had I not used precaution, I had put him to death." And he bade Er Rehwan depart to his own house.

The Thirteenth Night of the Month.

When the evening evened, the king sent for the vizier to his privy sitting chamber and bade him [tell] the [promised] story. So he said, "Hearkening and obedience. They avouch, O king, that


There was once, in a city of Hind, a just and beneficent king, and he had a vizier, a man of understanding, just in his judgment, praiseworthy in his policy, in whose hand was the governance of all the affairs of the realm; for he was firmly stablished in the king's favour and high in esteem with the folk of his time, and the king set great store by him and committed himself to him in all his affairs, by reason of his contrivance for his subjects, and he had helpers[FN#253] who were content with him.

Now the king had a brother, who envied him and would fain have been in his place; and when he was weary of looking for his death and the term of his life seemed distant unto him, he took counsel with certain of his partisans and they said, 'The vizier is the king's counsellor and but for him, there would be left the king no kingdom.' So the king's brother cast about for the ruin of the vizier, but could find no means of accomplishing his design; and when the affair grew long upon him, he said to his wife, 'What deemest thou will advantage us in this?' Quoth she, 'What is it?' And he replied, 'I mean in the matter of yonder vizier, who inciteth my brother to devoutness with all his might and biddeth him thereto, and indeed the king is infatuated with his counsel and committeth to him the governance of all things and matters.' Quoth she, 'Thou sayst truly; but how shall we do with him?' And he answered, 'I have a device, so thou wilt help me in that which I shall say to thee.' Quoth she, 'Thou shall have my help in whatsoever thou desirest.' And he said, 'I mean to dig him a pit in the vestibule and dissemble it artfully.'

So he did this, and when it was night, he covered the pit with a light covering, so that, whenas the vizier stepped upon it, it would give way with him. Then he sent to him and summoned him to the presence in the king's name, and the messenger bade him enter by the privy door. So he entered in thereat, alone, and when he stepped upon the covering of the pit, it gave way with him and he fell to the bottom; whereupon the king's brother fell to pelting him with stones. When the vizier saw what had betided him, he gave himself up for lost; so he stirred not and lay still. The prince, seeing him make no motion, [deemed him dead]; so he took him forth and wrapping him up in his clothes, cast him into the billows of the sea in the middle of the night. When the vizier felt the water, he awoke from the swoon and swam awhile, till a ship passed by him, whereupon he cried out to the sailors and they took him up.

When the morning morrowed, the people went seeking for him, but found him not; and when the king knew this, he was perplexed concerning his affair and abode unknowing what he should do. Then he sought for a vizier to fill his room, and the king's brother said, 'I have a vizier, a sufficient man.' 'Bring him to me,' said the king. So he brought him a man, whom he set at the head of affairs; but he seized upon the kingdom and clapped the king in irons and made his brother king in his stead. The new king gave himself up to all manner of wickedness, whereat the folk murmured and his vizier said to him, 'I fear lest the Indians take the old king and restore him to the kingship and we both perish; wherefore, if we take him and cast him into the sea, we shall be at rest from him; and we will publish among the folk that he is dead.' And they agreed upon this. So they took him up and carrying him out to sea, cast him in.

When he felt the water, he struck out, and gave not over swimming till he landed upon an island, where he abode five days, finding nothing which he might eat or drink; but, on the sixth day, when he despaired of himself, he caught sight of a passing ship; so he made signals to the crew and they came and took him up and fared on with him to an inhabited country, where they set him ashore, naked as he was. There he saw a man tilling; so he sought guidance of him and the husbandman said, 'Art thou a stranger?' 'Yes,' answered the king and sat with him and they talked. The husbandman found him quickwitted and intelligent and said to him, 'If thou sawest a comrade of mine, thou wouldst see him the like of what I see thee, for his case is even as thy case, and he is presently my friend.'

Quoth the king, 'Verily, thou makest me long to see him. Canst thou not bring us together?' 'With all my heart,' answered the husbandman, and the king sat with him till he had made an end of his tillage, when he carried him to his dwelling-place and brought him in company with the other stranger, aud behold, it was his vizier. When they saw each other, they wept and embraced, and the husbandman wept for their weeping; but the king concealed their affair and said to him, 'This is a man from my country and he is as my brother.' So they abode with the husbandman and helped him for a wage, wherewith they supported themselves a long while. Meanwhile, they sought news of their country and learned that which its people suffered of straitness and oppression.

One day, there came a ship and in it a merchant from their own country, who knew them and rejoiced in them with an exceeding joy and clad them in goodly apparel. Moreover, he acquainted them with the manner of the treachery that had been practised upon them and counselled them to return to their own land, they and he with whom they had made friends,[FN#254] assuring them that God the Most High would restore them to their former estate. So the king returned and the folk joined themselves to him and he fell upon his brother and his vizier and took them and clapped them in prison.

Then he sat down again upon the throne of his kingship, whilst the vizier stood before him, and they returned to their former estate, but they had nought of the [goods of the world]. So the king said to his vizier, 'How shall we avail to abide in this city, and we in this state of poverty?' And he answered, 'Be at thine ease and have no concern.' Then he singled out one of the soldiers[FN#255] and said to him, 'Send us thy service[FN#256] for the year.' Now there were in the city fifty thousand subjects[FN#257] and in the hamlets and villages a like number; and the vizier sent to each of these, saying, 'Let each of you get an egg and lay it under a hen.' So they did this and it was neither burden nor grievance to them.

When twenty days had passed by, each [egg] was hatched, and the vizier bade them pair the chickens, male and female, and rear them well. So they did this and it was found a charge unto no one. Then they waited for them awhile and after this the vizier enquired of the chickens and was told that they were become fowls. Moreover, they brought him all their eggs and he bade set them; and after twenty days there were hatched from each [pair] of them thirty or five-and-twenty or fifteen [chickens] at the least. The vizier let note against each man the number of chickens that pertained to him, and after two months, he took the old hens and the cockerels, and there came to him from each man nigh half a score, and he left the [young] hens with them. On like wise he sent to the country folk and let the cocks abide with them. So he got him young ones [galore] and appropriated to himself the sale of the fowls, and on this wise he got him, in the course of a year, that which the regal estate required of the king and his affairs were set right for him by the vizier's contrivance. And he peopled[FN#258] the country and dealt justly by his subjects and returned to them all that he took from them and lived a happy and prosperous life. Thus good judgment and prudence are better than wealth, for that understanding profiteth at all times and seasons. Nor," added the vizier, "is this more extraordinary than the story of the man whose caution slew him."

When the king heard his vizier's words, he marvelled with the utmost wonderment and bade him retire to his lodging. [So Er Rehwan withdrew to his house and abode there till eventide of the next day, when he again presented himself before the king.]

The Fourteenth Night of the Month.

When the vizier returned to the king, the latter sought of him the story of the man whose caution slew him and be said, "Know, O august king, that


There was once a man who was exceeding cautious over himself, and he set out one day on a journey to a land abounding in wild beasts. The caravan wherein he was came by night to the gate of a city; but the warders refused to open to them; so they passed the night without the city, and there were lions there. The man aforesaid, of the excess of his caution, could not fix upon a place wherein he should pass the night, for fear of the wild beasts and reptiles; so he went about seeking an empty place wherein he might lie.

Now there was a ruined building hard by and he climbed up on to a high wall and gave not over clambering hither and thither, of the excess of his carefulness, till his feet betrayed him and he slipped [and fell] to the bottom and died, whilst his companions arose in the morning in health [and weal]. Now, if he had overmastered his corrupt[FN#259] judgment and submitted himself to fate and fortune fore-ordained, it had been safer and better [for him]; but he made light of the folk and belittled their wit and was not content to take example by them; for his soul whispered him that he was a man of understanding and he imagined that, if he abode with them, he would perish; so his folly cast him into perdition. Nor," added the vizier, "is this more extraordinary than the story of the man who was lavish of his house and his victual to one whom he knew not"

When the king heard this, he said, "I will not isolate myself from the folk and slay my vizier." And he bade him depart to his dwelling.

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