The Arabian Nights Entertainments
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The Arabian Nights Entertainments





Copyright, 1914, by


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The Arabian Nights was introduced to Europe in a French translation by Antoine Galland in 1704, and rapidly attained a unique popularity. There are even accounts of the translator being roused from sleep by bands of young men under his windows in Paris, importuning him to tell them another story.

The learned world at first refused to believe that M. Galland had not invented the tales. But he had really discovered an Arabic manuscript from sixteenth-century Egypt, and had consulted Oriental story-tellers. In spite of inaccuracies and loss of color, his twelve volumes long remained classic in France, and formed the basis of our popular translations.

A more accurate version, corrected from the Arabic, with a style admirably direct, easy, and simple, was published by Dr. Jonathan Scott in 1811. This is the text of the present edition.

The Moslems delight in stories, but are generally ashamed to show a literary interest in fiction. Hence the world's most delightful story book has come to us with but scant indications of its origin. Critical scholarship, however, has been able to reach fairly definite conclusions.

The reader will be interested to trace out for himself the similarities in the adventures of the two Persian queens, Schehera-zade, and Esther of Bible story, which M. de Goeje has pointed out as indicating their original identity (Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Thousand and One Nights"). There are two or three references in tenth-century Arabic literature to a Persian collection of tales, called The Thousand Nights, by the fascination of which the lady Schehera-zade kept winning one more day's lease of life. A good many of the tales as we have them contain elements clearly indicating Persian or Hindu origin. But most of the stories, even those with scenes laid in Persia or India, are thoroughly Mohammedan in thought, feeling, situation, and action.

The favorite scene is "the glorious city," ninth-century Bagdad, whose caliph, Haroun al Raschid, though a great king, and heir of still mightier men, is known to fame chiefly by the favor of these tales. But the contents (with due regard to the possibility of later insertions), references in other writings, and the dialect show that our Arabian Nights took form in Egypt very soon after the year 1450. The author, doubtless a professional teller of stories, was, like his Schehera-zade, a person of extensive reading and faultless memory, fluent of speech, and ready on occasion to drop into poetry. The coarseness of the Arabic narrative, which does not appear in our translation, is characteristic of Egyptian society under the Mameluke sultans. It would have been tolerated by the subjects of the caliph in old Bagdad no more than by modern Christians.

More fascinating stories were never told. Though the oath of an Oriental was of all things the most sacred, and though Schah-riar had "bound himself by a solemn vow to marry a new wife every night, and command her to be strangled in the morning," we well believe that he forswore himself, and granted his bride a stay of execution until he could find out why the ten polite young gentlemen, all blind of the right eye, "having blackened themselves, wept and lamented, beating their heads and breasts, and crying continually, 'This is the fruit of our idleness and curiosity.'" To be sure, when the golden door has been opened, and the black horse has vanished with that vicious switch of his tail, we have a little feeling of having been "sold,"—a feeling which great art never gives. But we are in the best of humor; for were we not warned all along against just this foible of curiosity, and is not the story-teller smiling inscrutably and advising us to be thankful that we at least still have our two good eyes?

Beside the story interest, the life and movement of the tales, the spirits that enter and set their own precedents, there is for us the charm of mingling with men so different from ourselves: men adventurous but never strenuous, men of many tribulations but no perplexities. Fantastic, magnificent, extravagant, beautiful, gloriously colored, humorous—was ever book of such infinite contrasts?

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The genie immediately returned with a tray bearing dishes of the most delicious viands Frontispiece

He had the gift of understanding the language of beasts

He was chained to the spot by the pleasure of beholding three such beauties

These ladies vied with each other in their eager solicitude to do me all possible service

The gardener, with the rake which he had in his hand, drew the basket to the side of the canal

He presently discovered a gold box, about a foot square, which he gave into the princess's hands

She drew the poniard, and, holding it in her hand, began a dance

Having balanced my cargo exactly, and fastened it well to the raft, I went on board with the two oars I had made

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It is written in the chronicles of the Sassanian monarchs that there once lived an illustrious prince, beloved by his own subjects for his wisdom and his prudence, and feared by his enemies for his courage and for the hardy and well-disciplined army of which he was the leader. This prince had two sons, the elder called Schah-riar, and the younger Schah-zenan, both equally good and deserving of praise.

When the old king died at the end of a long and glorious reign, Schah-riar, his eldest son, ascended the throne and reigned in his stead. Schah-zenan, however, was not in the least envious, and a friendly contest soon arose between the two brothers as to which could best promote the happiness of the other. Schah-zenan did all he could to show his loyalty and affection, while the new sultan loaded his brother with all possible honors, and in order that he might in some degree share the sultan's power and wealth, bestowed on him the kingdom of Great Tartary. Schah-zenan immediately went to take possession of the empire allotted him, and fixed his residence at Samarcand, the chief city.

After a separation of ten years Schah-riar so ardently desired to see his brother, that he sent his first vizier,[1] with a splendid embassy, to invite him to revisit his court. As soon as Schah-zenan was informed of the approach of the vizier, he went out to meet him, with all his ministers, in most magnificent dress, and inquired after the health of the sultan, his brother. Having replied to these affectionate inquiries, the vizier told the purpose of his coming. Schah-zenan, who was much affected at the kindness and recollection of his brother, then addressed the vizier in these words: "Sage vizier, the sultan, my brother, does me too much honor. It is impossible that his wish to see me can exceed my desire of again beholding him. You have come at a happy moment. My kingdom is tranquil, and in ten days' time I will be ready to depart with you. Meanwhile pitch your tents on this spot, and I will order every refreshment and accommodation for you and your whole train."

[Footnote 1: Vazir, Vezir—literally, a porter, that is, the minister who bears the principal burden of the state.—D'Herbelot, Bibliotheque Orientale.]

At the end of ten days everything was ready, and Schah-zenan took a tender leave of the queen, his consort. Accompanied by such officers as he had appointed to attend him, he left Samarcand in the evening and camped near the tents of his brother's ambassador, that they might proceed on their journey early the following morning. Wishing, however, once more to see his queen, whom he tenderly loved, he returned privately to the palace, and went directly to her apartment. There, to his extreme grief, he found her in the company of a slave whom she plainly loved better than himself. Yielding to the first outburst of his indignation, the unfortunate monarch drew his scimitar, and with one rapid stroke slew them both.

He then went from the city as privately as he had entered it, and returned to his pavilion. Not a word did he say to any one of what had happened. At dawn he ordered the tents to be struck, and the party set forth on their journey to the sound of drums and other musical instruments. The whole train was filled with joy, except the king, who could think of nothing but his queen, and he was a prey to the deepest grief and melancholy during the whole journey.

When he approached the capital of Persia he perceived the Sultan Schah-riar and all his court coming out to greet him. As soon as the parties met the two brothers alighted and embraced each other; and after a thousand expressions of regard, remounted and entered the city amid the shouts of the multitude. The sultan there conducted the king his brother to a palace which had been prepared for him. This palace communicated by a garden with the sultan's own and was even more magnificent, as it was the spot where all the fetes and splendid entertainments of the court were given.

Schah-riar left the King of Tartary in order that he might bathe and change his dress; but immediately on his return from the bath went to him again. They seated themselves on a sofa, and conversed till supper time. After so long a separation they seemed even more united by affection than by blood. They ate supper together, and then continued their conversation till Schah-riar, perceiving the night far advanced, left his brother to repose.

The unfortunate Schah-zenan retired to his couch; but if in the presence of the sultan he had for a while forgotten his grief, it now returned with doubled force. Every circumstance of the queen's death arose to his mind and kept him awake, and left such a look of sorrow on his face that next morning the sultan could not fail to notice it. He did all in his power to show his continued love and affection, and sought to amuse his brother with the most splendid entertainments, but the gayest fetes served only to increase Schah-zenan's melancholy.

One morning when Schah-riar had given orders for a grand hunting party at the distance of two days' journey from the city, Schah-zenan requested permission to remain in his palace on account of a slight illness. The sultan, wishing to please him, consented, but he himself went with all his court to partake of the sport.

The King of Tartary was no sooner alone than he shut himself up in his apartment, and gave way to his sorrow. But as he sat thus grieving at the open window, looking out upon the beautiful garden of the palace, he suddenly saw the sultana, the beloved wife of his brother, meet a man in the garden with whom she held an affectionate conversation. Upon witnessing this interview, Schah-zenan determined that he would no longer give way to such inconsolable grief for a misfortune which came to other husbands as well as to himself. He ordered supper to be brought, and ate with a better appetite than he had before done since leaving Samarcand. He even enjoyed the fine concert performed while he sat at table.

Schah-riar returned from the hunt at the close of the second day, and was delighted at the change which he soon found had taken place in his brother. He urged him to explain the cause of his former depression and of his present joy. The King of Tartary, feeling it his duty to obey his suzerain lord, related the story of his wife's misconduct, and of the severe punishment which he had visited on her. Schah-riar expressed his full approval of his brother's conduct.

"I own," he said, "had I been in your place I should have been less easily satisfied. I should not have been contented to take away the life of one woman, but should have sacrificed a thousand to my resentment. Your fate, surely, is most singular. Since, however, it has pleased God to afford you consolation, which, I am sure, is as well founded as was your grief, inform me, I beg, of that also."

Schah-zenan was very reluctant to relate what he had seen, but at last yielded to the urgent commands and entreaties of his brother, and told him of the faithlessness of his own queen.

At this unexpected news, the rage and grief of Schah-riar knew no bounds. He far exceeded his brother in his invectives and indignation. Not only did he sentence to death his unhappy sultana but bound himself by a solemn vow that, immediately on the departure of the king his brother, he would marry a new wife every night, and command her to be strangled in the morning. Schah-zenan soon after had a solemn audience of leave, and returned to his own kingdom, laden with the most magnificent presents.

When Schah-zenan was gone the sultan began to carry out his unhappy oath. Every night he married the daughter of some one of his subjects, and the next morning she was ordered out and put to death. It was the duty of the grand vizier to execute these commands of the sultan's, and revolting as they were to him, he was obliged to submit or lose his own head. The report of this unexampled inhumanity spread a panic of consternation throughout the city. Instead of the praises and blessings with which, until now, they had loaded their monarch, all his subjects poured out curses on his head.

The grand vizier had two daughters, the elder of whom was called Schehera-zade, and the younger Dinar-zade. Schehera-zade was possessed of a remarkable degree of courage. She had read much, and had so good a memory that she never forgot anything she had once read or heard. Her beauty was equaled only by her virtuous disposition. The vizier was passionately fond of her.

One day as they were talking together, she made the astonishing request that she might have the honor of becoming the sultan's bride. The grand vizier was horrified, and tried to dissuade her. He pointed out the fearful penalty attached to the favor she sought. Schehera-zade, however, persisted, telling her father she had in mind a plan which she thought might put a stop to the sultan's dreadful cruelty.

"I am aware of the danger I run, my father," she said, "but it does not deter me from my purpose. If I die, my death will be glorious; if I succeed, I shall render my country an important service."

Still the vizier was most reluctant to allow his beloved child to enter on so dangerous an enterprise, and attempted to turn her from her purpose by telling her the following story:


A very rich merchant had several farmhouses in the country, where he bred every kind of cattle. This merchant understood the language of beasts. He obtained this privilege on the condition of not imparting to any one what he heard, under penalty of death.

By chance[2] he had put an ox and an ass into the same stall; and being seated near them, he heard the ox say to the ass: "How happy do I think your lot. A servant looks after you with great care, washes you, feeds you with fine sifted barley, and gives you fresh and clean water; your greatest task is to carry the merchant, our master. My condition is as unfortunate as yours is pleasant. They yoke me to a plow the whole day, while the laborer urges me on with his goad. The weight and force of the plow, too, chafes all the skin from my neck. When I have worked from morning till night, they give me unwholesome and uninviting food. Have I not, then, reason to envy your lot?"

[Footnote 2: The ass and the ox in the East were subject to very different treatment; the one was strong to labor, and was little cared for—the other was reserved for princes and judges to ride on, and was tended with the utmost attention.]

When he had finished, the ass replied in these words: "Believe me, they would not treat you thus if you possessed as much courage as strength. When they come to tie you to the manger, what resistance, pray, do you ever make? Do you ever push them with your horns? Do you ever show your anger by stamping on the ground with your feet? Why don't you terrify them with your bellowing? Nature has given you the means of making yourself respected, and yet you neglect to use them. They bring you bad beans and chaff. Well, do not eat them; smell at them only and leave them. Thus, if you follow my plans, you will soon perceive a change, which you will thank me for."

The ox took the advice of the ass very kindly, and declared himself much obliged to him.

Early the next morning the laborer came for the ox, and yoked him to the plow, and set him to work as usual. The latter, who had not forgotten the advice he had received, was very unruly the whole day; and at night, when the laborer attempted to fasten him to the stall, he ran bellowing back, and put down his horns to strike him; in short, he did exactly as the ass had advised him.

On the next morning, when the man came, he found the manger still full of beans and chaff, and the ox lying on the ground with his legs stretched out, and making a strange groaning. The laborer thought him very ill, and that it would be useless to take him to work; he, therefore, immediately went and informed the merchant.

The latter perceived that the bad advice of the ass had been followed; and he told the laborer to go and take the ass instead of the ox, and not fail to give him plenty of exercise. The man obeyed; and the ass was obliged to drag the plow the whole day, which tired him the more because he was unaccustomed to it; besides which, he was so beaten that he could scarcely support himself when he came back, and fell down in his stall half dead.

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Here the grand vizier said to Schehera-zade: "You are, my child, just like this ass, and would expose yourself to destruction."

"Sir," replied Schehera-zade, "the example which you have brought does not alter my resolution, and I shall not cease importuning you till I have obtained from you the favor of presenting me to the sultan as his consort."

The vizier, finding her persistent in her request, said, "Well then, since you will remain thus obstinate, I shall be obliged to treat you as the rich merchant I mentioned did his wife."

Being told in what a miserable state the ass was, he was curious to know what passed between him and the ox. After supper, therefore, he went out by moonlight, accompanied by his wife, and sat down near them; on his arrival, he heard the ass say to the ox, "Tell me, brother, what you mean to do when the laborer brings you food to-morrow!"

"Mean to do!" replied the ox. "Why, what you taught me, to be sure."

"Take care," interrupted the ass, "what you are about, lest you destroy yourself; for in coming home yesterday evening, I heard our master say these sad words: 'Since the ox can neither eat nor support himself, I wish him to be killed to-morrow; do not, therefore, fail to send for the butcher.' This is what I heard; and the interest I take in your safety, and the friendship I have for you, induces me to mention it. When they bring you beans and chaff, get up, and begin eating directly. Our master, by this, will suppose that you have recovered, and will, without doubt, revoke the sentence for your death; in my opinion, if you act otherwise, it is all over with you."

This speech produced the intended effect; the ox was much troubled, and lowed with fear. The merchant, who had listened to everything with great attention, burst into a fit of laughter that quite surprised his wife.

"Tell me," said she, "what you laugh at, that I may join in it. I wish to know the cause."

"That satisfaction," replied the husband, "I cannot afford you. I can only tell you that I laughed at what the ass said to the ox; the rest is a secret, which I must not reveal."

"And why not?" asked his wife.

"Because, if I tell you, it will cost me my life."

"You trifle with me," added she; "this can never be true; and if you do not immediately inform me what you laughed at, I swear by Allah that we will live together no longer."

In saying this, she went back to the house in a pet, shut herself up, and cried the whole night. Her husband, finding that she continued in the same state all the next day, said, "How foolish it is to afflict yourself in this way! Do I not seriously tell you, that if I were to yield to your foolish importunities, it would cost me my life?"

"Whatever happens rests with Allah," said she; "but I shall not alter my mind."

"I see very plainly," answered the merchant, "it it not possible to make you submit to reason, and that your obstinacy will kill you."

He then sent for the parents and other relations of his wife; when they were all assembled, he explained to them his motives for calling them together, and requested them to use all their influence with his wife, and endeavor to convince her of the folly of her conduct. She rejected them all, and said she had rather die than give up this point to her husband. When her children saw that nothing could alter her resolution, they began to lament most bitterly—the merchant himself knew not what to do.

A little while afterward he was sitting by chance at the door of his house, considering whether he should not even sacrifice himself in order to save his wife, whom he so tenderly loved, when he saw his favorite dog run up to the cock in the farmyard, and tell him all the circumstances of the painful situation in which he was placed. Upon which the cock said, "How foolish must our master be. He has but one wife, and cannot gain his point, while I have fifty, and do just as I please. Let him take a good-sized stick, and not scruple to use it, and she will soon know better, and not worry him to reveal what he ought to keep secret."

The merchant at once did as he suggested, on which his wife quickly repented of her ill-timed curiosity, and all her family came in, heartily glad at finding her more rational and submissive to her husband.

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"You deserve, my daughter," added the grand vizier, "to be treated like the merchant's wife."

"Do not, sir," answered Schehera-zade, "think ill of me if I still persist in my sentiments. The history of this woman does not shake my resolution. I could recount, on the other hand, many good reasons which ought to persuade you not to oppose my design. Pardon me, too, if I add that your opposition will be useless; for if your paternal tenderness should refuse the request I make, I will present myself to the sultan."

At length the vizier, overcome by his daughter's firmness, yielded to her entreaties; and although he was very sorry at not being able to conquer her resolution, he immediately went to Schah-riar, and announced to him that Schehera-zade herself would be his bride on the following night.

The sultan was much astonished at the sacrifice of the grand vizier. "Is it possible," said he, "that you can give up your own child?"

"Sire," replied the vizier, "she has herself made the offer. The dreadful fate that hangs over her does not alarm her; and she resigns her life for the honor of being the consort of your majesty, though it be but for one night."

"Vizier," said the sultan, "do not deceive yourself with any hopes; for be assured that, in delivering Schehera-zade into your charge to-morrow, it will be with an order for her death; and if you disobey, your own head will be the forfeit."

"Although," answered the vizier, "I am her father, I will answer for the fidelity of this arm in fulfilling your commands."

When the grand vizier returned to Schehera-zade, she thanked her father; and observing him to be much afflicted, consoled him by saying that she hoped he would be so far from repenting her marriage with the sultan that it would become a subject of joy to him for the remainder of his life.

Before Schehera-zade went to the palace, she called her sister, Dinar-zade, aside, and said, "As soon as I shall have presented myself before the sultan, I shall entreat him to suffer you to sleep in the bridal chamber, that I may enjoy for the last time your company. If I obtain this favor, as I expect, remember to awaken me to-morrow morning an hour before daybreak, and say, 'If you are not asleep, my sister, I beg of you, till the morning appears, to recount to me one of those delightful stories you know.' I will immediately begin to tell one; and I flatter myself that by these means I shall free the kingdom from the consternation in which it is."

Dinar-zade promised to do with pleasure what she required.

Within a short time Schehera-zade was conducted by her father to the palace, and was admitted to the presence of the sultan. They were no sooner alone than the sultan ordered her to take off her veil. He was charmed with her beauty; but perceiving her tears, he demanded the cause of them.

"Sire," answered Schehera-zade, "I have a sister whom I tenderly love—I earnestly wish that she might be permitted to pass the night in this apartment, that we may again see each other, and once more take a tender farewell. Will you allow me the consolation of giving her this last proof of my affection?"

Schah-riar having agreed to it, they sent for Dinar-zade, who came directly. The sultan passed the night with Schehera-zade on an elevated couch, as was the custom among the eastern monarchs, and Dinar-zade slept at the foot of it on a mattress prepared for the purpose.

Dinar-zade, having awakened about an hour before day, did what her sister had ordered her. "My dear sister," she said, "if you are not asleep, I entreat you, as it will soon be light, to relate to me one of those delightful tales you know. It will, alas, be the last time I shall receive that pleasure."

Instead of returning any answer to her sister, Schehera-zade addressed these words to the sultan: "Will your majesty permit me to indulge my sister in her request?"

"Freely," replied he.

Schehera-zade then desired her sister to attend, and, addressing herself to the sultan, began as follows:


There was formerly, sire, a merchant, who was possessed of great wealth, in land, merchandise, and ready money. Having one day an affair of great importance to settle at a considerable distance from home, he mounted his horse, and with only a sort of cloak-bag behind him, in which he had put a few biscuits and dates, he began his journey. He arrived without any accident at the place of his destination; and having finished his business, set out on his return.

On the fourth day of his journey he felt himself so incommoded by the heat of the sun that he turned out of his road, in order to rest under some trees by which there was a fountain. He alighted, and tying his horse to a branch of the tree, sat down on its bank to eat some biscuits and dates from his little store. When he had satisfied his hunger he amused himself with throwing about the stones of the fruit with considerable velocity. When he had finished his frugal repast he washed his hands, his face, and his feet, and repeated a prayer, like a good Mussulman.[3]

He was still on his knees, when he saw a genie,[4] white with age and of an enormous stature, advancing toward him, with a scimitar in his hand. As soon as he was close to him he said in a most terrible tone: "Get up, that I may kill thee with this scimitar, as thou hast caused the death of my son." He accompanied these words with a dreadful yell.

[Footnote 3: Mussulman signifies resigned, or "conformed to the divine will." The Arabic word is Moslemuna, in the singular, Moslem; which the Mohammedans take as a title peculiar to themselves. The Europeans generally write and pronounce it Mussulman.—Sale's Koran, c. ii, p. 16. 4to, 1734.]

[Footnote 4: These tales are furnished throughout with a certain imaginary machinery. They have, as their foundation, the perpetual intervention of certain fantastic beings, in most cases superior to man, but yet subordinate to the authority of certain favored individuals. These beings may, for our purpose, be generally divided into genies, whose interference is generally for evil; peris, whose presence indicates favorable issues to those whom they befriend; and ghouls, monsters which have a less direct control over man's affairs, but represent any monster repugnant or loathsome to mankind.]

The merchant, alarmed by the horrible figure of this giant, as well as by the words he heard, replied in trembling accents: "How can I have slain him? I do not know him, nor have I ever seen him."

"Didst thou not," replied the giant, "on thine arrival here, sit down, and take some dates from thy wallet; and after eating them, didst thou not throw the stones about on all sides?"

"This is all true," replied the merchant; "I do not deny it."

"Well, then," said the other, "I tell thee thou hast killed my son; for while thou wast throwing about the stones, my son passed by; one of them struck him in the eye, and caused his death,[5] and thus hast thou slain my son."

[Footnote 5: "Now this, at first sight, seems a singular, if not a ridiculous thing; but even this has its foundation in an Eastern custom. It is in this manner that prisoners are sometimes put to death; a man sits down at a little distance from the object he intends to destroy, and then attacks him by repeatedly shooting at him with the stone of the date, thrown from his two forefingers, and in this way puts an end to his life."—Preface to Forster's edition of Arabian Nights.]

"Ah, sire, forgive me," cried the merchant.

"I have neither forgiveness nor mercy," replied the giant; "and is it not just that he who has inflicted death should suffer it?"

"I grant this; yet surely I have not done so: and even if I have, I have done so innocently, and therefore I entreat you to pardon me, and suffer me to live."

"No, no," cried the genie, still persisting in his resolution, "I must destroy thee, as thou hast killed my son."

At these words, he took the merchant in his arms, and having thrown him with his face on the ground, he lifted up his saber, in order to strike off his head.

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Schehera-zade, at this instant perceiving it was day, and knowing that the sultan rose early to his prayers,[6] and then to hold a council, broke off.

[Footnote 6: "The Mohammedans divide their religion into two parts—Imana, faith; and Din, practice. The first is the confession, 'There is no God but the true God, and Mohammed is his prophet.' Under this are comprehended six distinct tenets,—1. Belief in God; 2. In His anger; 3. In His scriptures; 4. In His prophets; 5. In the resurrection and day of judgment; 6. God's absolute decree and predetermination of all events, good or evil. The points of practice are,—1. Prayer and purification; 2. Alms; 3. Fasting; 4. Pilgrimage to Mecca."—Sale's Preliminary Discourse, p. 171.]

"What a wonderful story," said Dinar-zade, "have you chosen!"

"The conclusion," observed Schehera-zade, "is still more surprising, as you would confess if the sultan would suffer me to live another day, and in the morning permit me to continue the relation."

Schah-riar, who had listened with much pleasure to the narration, determined to wait till to-morrow, intending to order her execution after she had finished her story.

He arose, and having prayed, went to the council.

The grand vizier, in the meantime, was in a state of cruel suspense. Unable to sleep, he passed the night in lamenting the approaching fate of his daughter, whose executioner he was compelled to be. Dreading, therefore, in this melancholy situation, to meet the sultan, how great was his surprise in seeing him enter the council chamber without giving him the horrible order he expected!

The sultan spent the day, as usual, in regulating the affairs of his kingdom, and on the approach of night, retired with Schehera-zade to his apartment.[7]

[Footnote 7: In the original work, Schehera-zade continually breaks off to ask the sultan to spare her life for another day, that she may finish the story on which she is engaged, and he as regularly grants her request. These interruptions are omitted as interfering with the continued interest of the numerous stories told by the patriotic Schehera-zade.]

On the next morning, the sultan did not wait for Schehera-zade to ask permission to continue her story, but said, "Finish the tale of the genie and the merchant. I am curious to hear the end of it." Schehera-zade immediately went on as follows:

When the merchant, sire, perceived that the genie was about to execute his purpose, he cried aloud: "One word more, I entreat you; have the goodness to grant me a little delay; give me only one year to go and take leave of my dear wife and children, and I promise to return to this spot, and submit myself entirely to your pleasure."

"Take Allah to witness of the promise thou hast made me," said the other.

"Again I swear," replied he, "and you may rely on my oath."

On this the genie left him near the fountain, and immediately disappeared.

The merchant, on his reaching home, related faithfully all that had happened to him. On hearing the sad news, his wife uttered the most lamentable groans, tearing her hair and beating her breast; and his children made the house resound with their grief. The father, overcome by affection, mingled his tears with theirs.

The year quickly passed. The good merchant having settled his affairs, paid his just debts, given alms to the poor, and made provision to the best of his ability for his wife and family, tore himself away amid the most frantic expressions of grief; and mindful of his oath, he arrived at the destined spot on the very day he had promised.

While he was waiting for the arrival of the genie, there suddenly appeared an old man leading a hind, who, after a respectful salutation, inquired what brought him to that desert place. The merchant satisfied the old man's curiosity, and related his adventure, on which he expressed a wish to witness his interview with the genie. He had scarcely finished his speech when another old man, accompanied by two black dogs, came in sight, and having heard the tale of the merchant, he also determined to remain to see the event.

Soon they perceived, toward the plain, a thick vapor or smoke, like a column of dust raised by the wind. This vapor approached them, and then suddenly disappearing, they saw the genie, who, without noticing the others, went toward the merchant, scimitar in hand. Taking him by the arm, "Get up," said he, "that I may kill thee, as thou hast slain my son."

Both the merchant and the two old men, struck with terror, began to weep and fill the air with their lamentations.

When the old man who conducted the hind saw the genie lay hold of the merchant, and about to murder him without mercy, he threw himself at the monster's feet, and, kissing them, said, "Lord Genie, I humbly entreat you to suspend your rage, and hear my history, and that of the hind, which you see; and if you find it more wonderful and surprising than the adventure of this merchant, whose life you wish to take, may I not hope that you will at least grant me one half part the blood of this unfortunate man?"

After meditating some time, the genie answered, "Well then, I agree to it."


The hind, whom you, Lord Genie, see here, is my wife. I married her when she was twelve years old, and we lived together thirty years, without having any children. At the end of that time I adopted into my family a son, whom a slave had borne. This act of mine excited against the mother and her child the hatred and jealousy of my wife. During my absence on a journey she availed herself of her knowledge of magic to change the slave and my adopted son into a cow and a calf, and sent them to my farm to be fed and taken care of by the steward.

Immediately on my return I inquired after my child and his mother.

"Your slave is dead," said she, "and it is now more than two months since I have beheld your son; nor do I know what has become of him."

I was sensibly affected at the death of the slave; but as my son had only disappeared, I flattered myself that he would soon be found. Eight months, however, passed, and he did not return; nor could I learn any tidings of him. In order to celebrate the festival of the great Bairam,[8] which was approaching, I ordered my bailiff to bring me the fattest cow I possessed, for a sacrifice. He obeyed my commands. Having bound the cow, I was about to make the sacrifice, when at the very instant she lowed most sorrowfully, and the tears even fell from her eyes. This seemed to me so extraordinary that I could not but feel compassion for her, and was unable to give the fatal blow. I therefore ordered her to be taken away, and another brought.

[Footnote 8: Bairam, a Turkish word, signifies a feast day or holiday. It commences on the close of the Ramadan—or the month's fast of the Mohammedans. At this feast they kill a calf, goat, or sheep; and after giving a part to the poor, eat the rest with their friends. It commences with the new moon, and is supposed to be instituted in memory of the sacrifice of his son by Abraham. The observance of the lesser Bairam is confined to Mecca.]

My wife, who was present, seemed very angry at my compassion, and opposed my order.

I then said to my steward, "Make the sacrifice yourself; the lamentations and tears of the animal have overcome me."

The steward was less compassionate, and sacrificed her. On taking off the skin we found hardly anything but bones, though she appeared very fat.

"Take her away," said I to the steward, truly chagrined, "and if you have a very fat calf, bring it in her place."

He returned with a remarkably fine calf, who, as soon as he perceived me, made so great an effort to come to me that he broke his cord. He lay down at my feet, with his head on the ground, as if he endeavored to excite my compassion, and to entreat me not to have the cruelty to take away his life.

"Wife," said I, "I will not sacrifice this calf, I wish to favor him. Do not you, therefore, oppose it."

She, however, did not agree to my proposal; and continued to demand his sacrifice so obstinately that I was compelled to yield. I bound the calf, and took the fatal knife to bury it in his throat, when he turned his eyes, filled with tears, so persuasively upon me, that I had no power to execute my intention. The knife fell from my hand, and I told my wife I was determined to have another calf. She tried every means to induce me to alter my mind; I continued firm, however, in my resolution, in spite of all she could say; promising, for the sake of appeasing her, to sacrifice this calf at the feast of Bairam on the following year.

The next morning my steward desired to speak with me in private. He informed me that his daughter, who had some knowledge of magic, wished to speak with me. On being admitted to my presence, she informed me that during my absence my wife had turned the slave and my son into a cow and calf, that I had already sacrificed the cow, but that she could restore my son to life if I would give him to her for her husband, and allow her to visit my wife with the punishment her cruelty had deserved. To these proposals I gave my consent.

The damsel then took a vessel full of water, and pronouncing over it some words I did not understand, she threw the water over the calf, and he instantly regained his own form.

"My son! My son!" I exclaimed, and embraced him with transport. "This damsel has destroyed the horrible charm with which you were surrounded. I am sure your gratitude will induce you to marry her, as I have already promised for you."

He joyfully consented; but before they were united the damsel changed my wife into this hind, which you see here.

Since this, my son has become a widower, and is now traveling. Many years have passed since I have heard anything of him. I have, therefore, now set out with a view to gain some information; and as I did not like to trust my wife to the care of any one during my search, I thought proper to carry her along with me. This is the history of myself and this hind. Can anything be more wonderful?

"I agree with you," said the genie, "and in consequence, I grant to you a half of the blood of this merchant."

As soon as the first old man had finished, the second, who led the two black dogs, made the same request to the genie for a half of the merchant's blood, on the condition that his tale exceeded in interest the one that had just been related. On the genie signifying his assent, the old man began.


Great Prince of the genies, you must know that these two black dogs, which you see here, and myself, are three brothers. Our father, when he died, left us one thousand sequins each. With this sum we all embarked in business as merchants. My two brothers determined to travel, that they might trade in foreign parts. They were both unfortunate, and returned at the end of two years in a state of abject poverty, having lost their all. I had in the meanwhile prospered. I gladly received them, and gave them one thousand sequins each, and again set them up as merchants.

My brothers frequently proposed to me that I should make a voyage with them for the purpose of traffic. Knowing their former want of success, I refused to join them, until at the end of five years I at length yielded to their repeated solicitations. On consulting on the merchandise to be bought for the voyage, I discovered that nothing remained of the thousand sequins I had given to each. I did not reproach them; on the contrary, as my capital was increased to six thousand sequins, I gave them each one thousand sequins, and kept a like sum myself, concealing the other three thousand in a corner of my house, in order that if our voyage proved unsuccessful we might be able to console ourselves and begin our former profession.

We purchased our goods, embarked in a vessel, which we ourselves freighted, and set sail with a favorable wind. After sailing about a month, we arrived, without any accident, at a port, where we landed, and had a most advantageous sale for our merchandise. I, in particular, sold mine so well that I gained ten for one.

About the time that we were ready to embark on our return, I accidentally met on the seashore a female of great beauty, but very poorly dressed. She accosted me by kissing my hand, and entreated me most earnestly to permit her to be my wife. I stated many difficulties to such a plan; but at length she said so much to persuade me that I ought not to regard her poverty, and that I should be well satisfied with her conduct, I was quite overcome. I directly procured proper dresses for her, and after marrying her in due form, she embarked with me, and we set sail.

During our voyage I found my wife possessed of so many good qualities that I loved her every day more and more. In the meantime my two brothers, who had not traded so advantageously as myself, and who were jealous of my prosperity, began to feel exceedingly envious. They even went so far as to conspire against my life; for one night, while my wife and I were asleep, they threw us into the sea. I had hardly, however, fallen into the water, before my wife took me up and transported me to an island. As soon as it was day she thus addressed me:

"You must know that I am a fairy, and being upon the shore when you were about to sail, I wished to try the goodness of your heart, and for this purpose I presented myself before you in the disguise you saw. You acted most generously, and I am therefore delighted in finding an occasion of showing my gratitude, and I trust, my husband, that in saving your life I have not ill rewarded the good you have done me. But I am enraged against your brothers, nor shall I be satisfied till I have taken their lives."

I listened with astonishment to the discourse of the fairy, and thanked her, as well as I was able, for the great obligation she had conferred on me.

"But, madam," said I to her, "I must entreat you to pardon my brothers."

I related to her what I had done for each of them, but my account only increased her anger.

"I must instantly fly after these ungrateful wretches," cried she, "and bring them to a just punishment; I will sink their vessel, and precipitate them to the bottom of the sea."

"No, beautiful lady," replied I, "for heaven's sake moderate your indignation, and do not execute so dreadful an intention; remember, they are still my brothers, and that we are bound to return good for evil."

No sooner had I pronounced these words, than I was transported in an instant from the island, where we were, to the top of my own house. I descended, opened the doors, and dug up the three thousand sequins which I had hidden. I afterward repaired to my shop, opened it, and received the congratulations of the merchants in the neighborhood on my arrival. When I returned home I perceived these two black dogs, which came toward me with a submissive air. I could not imagine what this meant, but the fairy, who soon appeared, satisfied my curiosity.

"My dear husband," said she, "be not surprised at seeing these two dogs in your house; they are your brothers."

My blood ran cold on hearing this, and I inquired by what power they had been transformed into that state.

"It is I," replied the fairy, "who have done it, and I have sunk their ship; for the loss of the merchandise it contained I shall recompense you. As to your brothers, I have condemned them to remain under this form for ten years, as a punishment for their perfidy."

Then informing me where I might hear of her, she disappeared.

The ten years are now completed, and I am traveling in search of her. This, O Lord Genie, is my history; does it not appear to you of a most extraordinary nature?

"Yes," replied the genie, "I confess it is most wonderful, and therefore I grant you the other half of this merchant's blood," and having said this, the genie disappeared, to the great joy of the merchant and of the two old men.

The merchant did not omit to bestow many thanks upon his liberators, who, bidding him adieu, proceeded on their travels. He remounted his horse, returned home to his wife and children, and spent the remainder of his days with them in tranquillity.


In the reign of Caliph Haroun al Raschid there was at Bagdad a porter, who was a fellow of infinite wit and humor. One morning as he was at the place where he usually waited for employment, with a great basket before him, a handsome lady, covered with a great muslin veil, accosted him, and said with a pleasant air, "Hark you, porter, take your basket[9] and follow me."

[Footnote 9: Baskets, panniers made of leaves of palm, used in conveying fruits and bread, while heavier articles are carried in bags of leather or skin.]

The delighted porter took his basket immediately, set it on his head, and followed the lady, exclaiming, "Oh, happy day! Oh, day of good luck!"

In a short time the lady stopped before a gate and knocked: a Christian, with a venerable long white beard, opened it, and she put money into his hand without speaking; but the Christian, who knew what she wanted, went in, and shortly after brought out a large jar of excellent wine.

"Take this jar," said the lady to the porter, "and put it into the basket."

This being done, she desired him to follow her, and walked on; the porter still exclaiming, "Oh, day of happiness! Oh, day of agreeable surprise and joy!"

The lady stopped at a fruit shop, where she bought some apples, apricots, peaches, lemons, citrons, oranges, myrtles, sweet basil, lilies, jassamine, and some other plants. She told the porter to put all those things into his basket and follow her. Passing by a butcher's shop, she ordered five and twenty pounds of his finest meat to be weighed, which was also put into the porter's basket.

At another shop she bought capers, small cucumbers, parsley, and other herbs; at another, some pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, kernels of the pine, and other similar fruits; at a third, she purchased all sorts of almond patties.

The porter, in putting all these things into his basket, said, "My good lady, you should have told me that you intended buying so many things, and I would have provided a camel to carry them, for if you buy ever so little more, I shall not be able to bear it."

The lady laughed at the fellow's pleasant humor, and ordered him still to follow her.

She then went to a druggist's, where she furnished herself with all manner of sweet-scented waters, cloves, musk, pepper, ginger, and a great piece of ambergris, and several other Indian spices; this quite filled the porter's basket and she ordered him to follow her. They walked till they came to a magnificent house, whose front was adorned with fine columns, and had a gate of ivory. There they stopped, and the lady knocked softly. Another lady soon came to open the gate, and all three, after passing through a handsome vestibule, crossed a spacious court, surrounded by an open gallery which communicated with many magnificent apartments, all on the same floor. At the end of this court there was a dais richly furnished, with a couch in the middle, supported by four columns of ebony, enriched with diamonds and pearls of an extraordinary size, and covered with red satin, relieved by a bordering of Indian gold. In the middle of the court there was a large basin lined with white marble, and full of the finest transparent water, which rushed from the mouth of a lion of gilt bronze.

But what principally attracted the attention of the porter, was a third most beautiful lady, who was seated on the couch before mentioned. This lady was called Zobeide, she who opened the door was called Safie, and the name of the one who had been for the provisions was Amina. Then said Zobeide, accosting the other two, "Sisters, do you not see that this honest man is ready to sink under his burden? Why do you not ease him of it?"

Then Amina and Safie took the basket, the one before and the other behind; Zobeide also assisted, and all three together set it on the ground, and then emptied it. When they had done, the beautiful Amina took out money and paid the porter liberally.

The porter was well satisfied, but when he ought to have departed he was chained to the spot by the pleasure of beholding three such beauties, who appeared to him equally charming; for Amina, having now laid aside her veil, proved to be as handsome as either of the others. What surprised him most was that he saw no man about the house, yet most of the provisions he had brought in, as the dry fruits and the several sorts of cakes and confections, were adapted chiefly for those who could drink and make merry.

"Madam," said he, addressing Zobeide, "I am sensible that I act rudely in staying longer than I ought, but I hope you will have the goodness to pardon me, when I tell you that I am astonished not to see a man with three ladies of such extraordinary beauty; and you know that a company of women without men is as melancholy as a company of men without women."

To this he added some pleasantries in proof of what he advanced; and did not forget the Bagdad proverb, "That the table is not completely furnished, except there be four in company"; so concluded, that since they were but three, they wanted another.

The ladies fell a-laughing at the porter's reasoning; after which Zobeide gravely addressed him, "Friend, you presume rather too much; and though you do not deserve it, I have no objection to inform you that we are three sisters, who transact our affairs with so much secrecy that no one knows anything of them. A good author says, 'Keep thy own secret, and do not reveal it to any one. He that maketh his secret known is no longer its master. If thy own breast cannot keep thy counsel, how canst thou expect the breast of another to be more faithful?'"

"Permit me, I entreat thee, to say, that I also have read in another a maxim, which I have always happily practiced: 'Conceal thy secret,' he says, 'only from such as are known to be indiscreet, and who will abuse thy confidence; but make no difficulty in discovering it to prudent men, because they know how to keep it.' The secret, then, with me, is as safe as if locked up in a cabinet, the key of which is lost and the door sealed."

The porter, notwithstanding his rhetoric, must, in all probability, have retired in confusion if Amina had not taken his part, and said to Zobeide and Safie, "My dear sisters, I conjure you to let him remain; he will afford us some diversion. Were I to repeat to you all the amusing things he addressed to me by the way, you would not feel surprised at my taking his part."

At these words of Amina the porter fell on his knees, kissed the ground at her feet, and raising himself up, said, "Most beautiful lady, you began my good fortune to-day, and now you complete it by this generous conduct. I cannot adequately express my acknowledgments. As to the rest, ladies," said he, addressing himself to all the three sisters, "since you do me so great an honor, I shall always look upon myself as one of your most humble slaves."

When he had spoken these words he would have returned the money he had received, but Zobeide ordered him to keep it.

"What we have once given," said she, "we never take back. We are willing, too, to allow you to stay on one condition, that you keep secret and do not ask the reason for anything you may see us do. To show you," said Zobeide, with a serious countenance, "that what we demand of you is not a new thing among us, read what is written over our gate on the inside."

The porter read these words, written in large characters of gold: "He who speaks of things that do not concern him, shall hear things that will not please him."

"Ladies," said he, "I swear to you that you shall never hear me utter a word respecting what does not relate to me, or wherein you may have any concern."

These preliminaries being settled, Amina brought in supper, and after she had lighted up the room with tapers made of aloewood and ambergris, which yield a most agreeable perfume as well as a delicate light, she sat down with her sisters and the porter. They began again to eat and drink, to sing, and repeat verses. The ladies diverted themselves by intoxicating the porter, under pretext of making him drink their healths, and the repast was enlivened by reciprocal sallies of wit. When they were all as merry as possible, they suddenly heard a knocking at the gate.

Safie, whose office it was, went to the porch, and quickly returning, told them thus: "There are three calenders[10] at the door, all blind of the right eye, and have their heads, beards, and eyebrows shaved. They say that they are only just arrived at Bagdad, where they have never been before; and, as it is dark, and they know not where to lodge, they knocked at our door by chance and pray us to show compassion, and to take them in. They care not where we put them, provided they obtain shelter. They are young and handsome; but I cannot, without laughing, think of their amusing and exact likeness to each other. My dear sisters, pray permit them to come in; they will afford us diversion enough, and put us to little charge, because they desire shelter only for this night, and resolve to leave us as soon as day appears."

[Footnote 10: Calender, a sort of privileged beggar or fakir among the Mohammedans, who wore a dress of sheepskin, with a leathern girdle about his loins, and collected alms. A dervish is a poor man, who is not bound by any vow of poverty to abstain from meat, and may relinquish his profession at will.]

"Go, then," said Zobeide, "and bring them in, but make them read what is written over the gate." Safie ran out with joy, and in a little time after returned with the three calenders.

At their entrance they made a profound obeisance to the ladies, who rose up to receive them and told them courteously that they were welcome, that they were glad of the opportunity to oblige them and to contribute toward relieving the fatigues of their journey, and at last invited them to sit down with them.

The magnificence of the place, and the civility they received, inspired the calenders with high respect for the ladies; but before they sat down, having by chance cast their eyes upon the porter, whom they saw clad almost like those devotees with whom they have continual disputes respecting several points of discipline, because they never shave their beards nor eyebrows,[11] one of them said, "I believe we have got here one of our revolted Arabian brethren."

The porter, having his head warm with wine, took offense at these words, and with a fierce look, without stirring from his place, answered, "Sit you down, and do not meddle with what does not concern you. Have you not read the inscription over the gate? Do not pretend to make people live after your fashion, but follow ours."

"Honest man," said the calender, "do not put yourself in a passion. We should be sorry to give you the least occasion. On the contrary, we are ready to receive your commands." Upon which, to put an end to the dispute, the ladies interposed, and pacified them. When the calenders were seated, the ladies served them with meat; and Safie, being highly pleased with them, did not let them want for wine.

[Footnote 11: This may probably be an allusion to the two great divisions prevailing among the Mohammedans, the Soonnis and the Shiites. The former upheld the legitimacy of the three first successions of Mohammed; the latter maintained the right of his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, and his descendants, called Fatemites or Ismaelites. They both received the Koran, but the one added to it the Sonna, or certain oral traditions attributed to Mohammed, which the other rejected.]

When the calenders had finished their repast, they signified to the ladies that they wished to entertain them with a concert of music, if they had any instruments in the house, and would cause them to be brought. The ladies willingly accepted the proposal, and Safie went to fetch the instruments. Each man took the instrument he liked, and all three together began to play a tune. The ladies, who knew the words of a merry song that suited the air, joined the concert with their voices; but the words of the song made them now and then stop, and fall into excessive laughter. While their amusement was at its height, there was a knock of unwonted loudness at their gate.

Now, it was the custom of the sultan Haroun al Raschid sometimes during the night to go through the city in disguise, in order to discover whether everything was quiet. On this evening he set out from his palace accompanied by Giafar, his grand vizier, and Mesrour, chief of the household, all three disguised as merchants. He it was, who, in passing through the street, was attracted by the noise of the music and of the peals of loud laughter, and had desired his grand vizier to knock at the gate, and to demand shelter and admittance as for three strangers who knew not where to seek shelter for the night. Safie, who had opened the door, came back and obtained permission of her sisters to admit the newly arrived strangers.

The caliph and his attendants, upon their entrance, most courteously made obeisance to the ladies and to the calenders. The ladies returned their salutations, supposing them to be merchants. Zobeide, as the chief, addressed them with a grave and serious countenance and said, "You are welcome. But while you are here you must have eyes but no tongues; you must not ask the reason of anything you may see, nor speak of anything that does not concern you, lest you hear and see what will by no means please you."

"Madam," replied the vizier, "you shall be obeyed. It is enough for us to attend to our own business, without meddling with what does not concern us." After this, each seated himself, and the conversation became general, and they drank to the health of the new guests.

While the vizier Giafar entertained them, the caliph ceased not from admiring the beauty, elegance, and lively disposition of the ladies; while the appearance of the three calenders, all blind of the right eye, surprised him very much. He anxiously wished to learn the cause of this singularity, but the conditions they had imposed upon him and his companions prevented any inquiry. Besides all this, when he reflected upon the richness of the services and furniture, with the regularity and arrangement everywhere apparent, he could hardly persuade himself it was not the effect of enchantment.

The guests continued their conversation, when, after an interval, Zobeide rose up, and taking Amina by the hand, said to her, "Come, sister, the company shall not prevent us from doing as we have always been accustomed."

Amina, who perfectly understood what her sister meant, got up, and took away the dishes, tables, bottles, glasses, and also the instruments on which the calenders had played. Nor did Safie remain idle; she snuffed the candles, and added more aloewood and ambergris. Having done this, she requested the three calenders to sit on a sofa on one side, and the caliph and his company on the other.

"Get up," said she then to the porter, looking at him, "and be ready to assist in whatever we want of you."

A little while after, Amina came in with a sort of seat, which she placed in the middle of the room. She then went to the door of a closet, and having opened it, she made a sign to the porter to approach.

"Come and assist me," she cried. He did so, and went in with her, and returned a moment after, followed by two black dogs, each of them secured by a collar and chain. They appeared as if they had been severely whipped with rods, and he brought them into the middle of the apartment.

Zobeide, rising from her seat between the calenders and the caliph, moved very gravely toward the porter.

"Come," said she, heaving a deep sigh, "let us perform our duty."

She then tucked up her sleeves above her elbows, and receiving a rod from Safie, "Porter," said she, "deliver one of the dogs to my sister Amina, and bring the other to me."

The porter did as he was commanded. Upon this, the dog that he held in his hand began to howl, and, turning toward Zobeide, held her head up in a supplicating posture; but Zobeide, having no regard to the sad countenance of the animal, which would have moved any one else to pity, nor to its cries that resounded through the house, whipped her with the rod till she was out of breath; and having spent her strength, threw down the rod, and taking the chain from the porter, lifted up the dog by her paws, and looking upon her with a sad and pitiful countenance, they both wept. After this Zobeide, with her handkerchief, wiped the tears from the dog's eyes, kissed her, returned the chain to the porter, and desired him to carry the dog to the place whence he took her, and to bring the other. Then taking the whip, she served this in the same manner; she then wept with it, dried its tears, kissed it, and returned it to the porter.

The three calenders, with the caliph and his companions, were extremely surprised at this exhibition, and could not comprehend why Zobeide, after having so furiously beaten those two dogs, that by the Mussulman religion are reckoned unclean[12] animals, should weep with them, wipe off their tears, and kiss them. They muttered among themselves; and the caliph, who, being more impatient than the rest, longed exceedingly to be informed of the cause of so strange a proceeding, could not forbear making signs to the vizier to ask the question. The vizier turned his head another way; but being pressed by repeated signs, he answered by others, that it was not yet time for the caliph to satisfy his curiosity.

[Footnote 12: The dog is in great disrepute among the Mohammedans. Mohammed is reported to have said, "No angel enters where a dog is." Cats, on the contrary, are great favorites, and sometimes accompany their masters when they go to their mosque. The Mohammedans are under certain restrictions in food; they are forbidden to eat the hare, wolf, the cat, and all animals forbidden by the law of Moses. The shrimp is forbidden among fish.—Bernard Picard.]

Zobeide sat still some time in the middle of the room, where she had whipped the two dogs, to recover herself of her fatigue; and Safie called to her, "Dear sister, will you not be pleased to return to your place, that I may also act my part?"

"Yes, sister," replied Zobeide, and then went and sat down upon the sofa, having the caliph, Giafar, and Mesrour on her right hand, and the three calenders, with the porter, on her left.

The whole company remained silent for some time. At last Safie, sitting on a chair in the middle of the room, spoke to her sister Amina: "Dear sister, I conjure you to rise; you know what I would say." Amina rose, and went into another closet near to that where the dogs were, and brought out a case covered with yellow satin, richly embroidered with gold and green silk. She went toward Safie and opened the case, from whence she took a lute, and presented it to her; and after some time spent in tuning it, Safie began to play, and, accompanying the instrument with her voice, sang a song about the torments that absence creates to lovers.

Having sung with much passion and action, she said to Amina, "Pray take it, sister, for my voice fails me; oblige the company with a tune and a song in my stead."

"Very willingly," replied Amina, who, taking the lute from her sister Safie, sat down in her place. Having sung most delightfully, the caliph expressed his admiration. While he was doing so, Amina fainted away; and on opening her robe to give her air, they discovered that her breast was covered with fearful scars.

While Zobeide and Safie ran to assist their sister, the caliph inquired of the calender, "Cannot you inform me about these two black dogs, and this lady, who appears to have been so ill-treated?"

"Sir," said the calender, "we never were in this house before now, and entered it only a few minutes sooner than you did."

This increased the astonishment of the caliph. "Perhaps," said he, "the man who is with you can give you some information?"

The calender made signs to the porter to draw near, and asked him if he knew why the black dogs had been beaten, and why the bosom of Amina was so scarred.

"Sir," replied the porter, "if you know nothing of the matter, I know as little as you do. I never was in the house until now; and if you are surprised to see me here, I am as much so to find myself in your company."

The caliph, more and more perplexed at all he heard, determined that he would have the information he required for the explaining these mysterious proceedings. But the question was, who should first make the inquiry? The caliph endeavored to persuade the calenders to speak first, but they excused themselves. At last they all agreed that the porter should be the man.

While they were consulting how to put the question, Zobeide herself, as Amina had recovered from her fainting, approached them, and inquired, "What are you talking of? What is your contest about?"

The porter then addressed her as follows: "These gentlemen, madam, entreat you to explain why you wept with those dogs, after having treated them so ill, and how it has happened that the lady who fainted has her bosom covered with scars."

At these words Zobeide put on a stern look, and turning toward the caliph and the rest of the company: "Is it true, gentlemen," said she, "that you desired him to ask me these questions?"

All of them, except the vizier Giafar, who spoke not a word, answered "Yes." She thereupon exclaimed, in a tone of resentment: "Before we granted you the favor of receiving you into our house, and to prevent all occasion of inquiry from you, we imposed the condition that you should not speak of anything that did not concern you, lest you might hear that which would not please you; and yet, after having received our entertainment, you make no scruple to break your promise. Our easy compliance with your wishes may have occasioned this, but that shall not excuse your rudeness."

As she spoke these words, she gave three stamps with her foot, and clapping[13] her hands as often together, cried, "Come quickly!"

Upon this a door flew open, and seven black slaves[14] rushed in; each one seized a man, threw him to the ground, and dragged him into the middle of the room, brandishing a scimitar over his head.

[Footnote 13: This is the ordinary mode in the East of calling the attendants in waiting.]

[Footnote 14: In this manner the apartments of ladies were constantly guarded.—Beckford's Vathek, Notes to p. 204.]

We can easily conceive the alarm of the caliph. He repented, but too late, that he had not taken the advice of his vizier, who, with Mesrour, the calenders, and porter, were, from his ill-timed curiosity, on the point of forfeiting their lives.

Before they gave the fatal stroke, one of the slaves said to Zobeide and her sisters, "Would it not be right to interrogate them first?" On which Zobeide, with a grave voice, said: "Answer me, and say who you are, otherwise you shall not live one moment longer. I cannot believe you to be honest men, or persons of authority or distinction in your own countries; for, if you were, you would have been more modest and more respectful to us."

The caliph, naturally warm, was infinitely more indignant than the rest, to find his life depending upon the command of a woman: but he began to conceive some hopes, when he found she wished to know who they all were; for he imagined that she would by no means take away his life when she should be informed of his rank. He whispered to his vizier, who was near him, instantly to declare who he was. But this wise vizier, being more prudent, resolved to save his master's honor, and not let the world know the affront he had brought upon himself by his own imprudence; and therefore answered, "We have what we deserve."

But if he had intended to speak as the caliph commanded him, Zobeide would not have allowed him time: for having turned to the calenders, and seeing them all blind with one eye, she asked if they were brothers.

One of them answered, "No, madam, no otherwise than as we are calenders; that is to say, as we observe the same rules."

"Were you born blind of the right eye?" continued she.

"No, madam," answered he; "I lost my eye in such a surprising adventure, that it would be instructive to every one to hear it."

Zobeide put the same question to the others in their turn, when the last she addressed replied, "Pray, madam, show some pity on us, for we are all the sons of kings. Although we have never seen each other before this evening, we have had sufficient time to become acquainted with this circumstance; and I can assure you that the kings who have given us birth have made some noise in the world!" During this speech Zobeide became less angry, and said to the slaves, "Give them their liberty a while, but remain where you are. Those who tell us their history, and the occasion of their coming, do them not hurt, let them go where they please; but do not spare those who refuse to give us that satisfaction."

The three calenders, the caliph, the grand vizier Giafar, the captain of his guards, and the porter were all in the middle of the hall, seated upon a carpet in the presence of the three ladies, who reclined upon a sofa, and the slaves stood ready to do whatever their mistresses should command.

The porter spoke first, and briefly related the adventures of the morning with Amina, and the kind favors to him of herself and her fair sisters in the evening, which he declared to be the whole of his history.

When the porter had concluded, Zobeide said, "Save thyself and begone, nor ever let us see thee again."

"I beg of you, madam," replied he, "to let me remain a little longer. It would be unfair that I should not hear their histories, after they have had the pleasure of hearing mine."

Saying this, he took his place at the end of the sofa, truly delighted at finding himself free from the danger which so much alarmed him.

One of the calenders, addressing himself to Zobeide, next spoke.


Madam, I am the son of a sultan. My father had a brother, who reigned over a neighboring kingdom. His son, my cousin, and I were nearly of the same age. I went regularly every year to see my uncle, at whose court I amused myself for a month or two, and then returned home.

On one occasion I arrived at my father's capital, where, contrary to custom, I found a numerous guard at the gate of the palace. They surrounded me as I entered. The commanding officer said, "Prince, the army has proclaimed the grand vizier sultan, instead of your father, who is dead, and I take you prisoner in the name of the new sultan."

This rebel vizier had long entertained a mortal hatred toward me. When I was a boy I loved to shoot with a crossbow. Being one day upon the terrace of the palace, and a bird happening to come by, I shot but missed him, and the ball by misfortune hit the vizier, who was taking the air upon the terrace of his own house, and put out one of his eyes. He never forgave me, and, as opportunity offered, made me sensible of his resentment. But now that he had me in his power he came to me like a madman, and thrusting his finger into my right eye, pulled it out, and thus I became blind of one eye.

His cruelty did not stop here; he commanded the executioner to cut off my head, and leave me to be devoured by birds of prey. The executioner conveyed me to the place of execution to complete this barbarous sentence, but by my prayers and tears, I moved the man's compassion: "Go," said he to me, "get you speedily out of the kingdom, and never return, or you will destroy yourself and me."

I thanked him, and as soon as I was left alone, comforted myself for the loss of my eye by considering that I had very narrowly escaped a much greater evil.

Being thus surrounded with sorrows and persecuted by fortune, I had recourse to a stratagem, which was the only means left me to save my life: I caused my beard and eyebrows to be shaved, and putting on a calender's habit, I passed, unknown by any, out of the city. I avoided the towns till I arrived in the empire of the commander of the faithful, the renowned caliph Haroun al Raschid, when I ceased to fear. I resolved to come to Bagdad and throw myself at the feet of this great monarch. I shall move him to compassion, said I to myself, by the relation of my uncommon misfortunes, and without doubt he will take pity on a persecuted prince, and not suffer me to implore his assistance in vain.

In short, after a journey of several months, I arrived to-day at the gate of this city, into which I entered at dusk: and as I entered, another calender came up. He saluted me, and I him.

"You appear," said I, "to be a stranger, as I am."

"You are not mistaken," replied he.

He had no sooner returned this answer, than a third calender overtook us. He saluted us, and told us he was a stranger newly come to Bagdad; so that as brethren we joined together, resolving not to separate from one another.

It was now late, and we knew not where to seek a lodging in the city, where we had never been before. But good fortune having brought us to your gate, we made bold to knock, when you received us with so much kindness that we are incapable of rendering suitable thanks. This, madam, is, in obedience to your commands, the account I was to give how I lost my right eye, wherefore my beard and eyebrows are shaved, and how I came to be with you at this time.

* * * * *

"It is enough," said Zobeide; "you may retire to what place you think fit."

The calender begged the ladies' permission to stay till he had heard the relations of his two comrades, "whom I cannot," said he, "leave with honor"; and that he might also hear those of the three other persons in company.

The history of the first calender appeared very surprising to the whole company, and particularly to the caliph. The presence of the slaves, armed with their scimitars, did not prevent him from saying in a whisper to the vizier, "As long as I can remember, I never heard anything to compare with this history of the calender, though I have been all my life in the habit of hearing similar narratives."

He had no sooner finished than the second calender began, and addressing himself to Zobeide, spoke as follows:


Madam, to obey your commands, and to show you by what strange accident I became blind of the right eye, I must give you the account of my life. I was yet a youth when the sultan, my father (for you must know I am a prince by birth), perceived that I was endowed with good natural ability, and spared nothing proper for improving it. No sooner was I able to read and write than I learned the Koran from beginning to end by heart, all the traditions collected from the mouth of our prophet, and the works of poets. I applied myself to geography, chronology, and to speak the Arabian language in its purity; not forgetting in the meantime all such exercises as were proper for a prince to understand. But one thing which I was fond of, and succeeded in, was penmanship. In this I surpassed all the celebrated scribes of our kingdom.

The fame of my learning reached the Emperor of Hindustan, who sent an embassy with rich presents to my father and invited me to his court. I returned with the ambassador.

We had been about a month on our journey when we saw in the distance an immense cloud of dust, and soon after we discovered fifty fierce horsemen, sons of the desert, well armed.

Not being able to repel force by force, we told them we were the ambassadors of the sultan of India; but the sons of the desert insolently answered, "Why do you wish us to respect the sultan, your master? We are not his subjects, nor even within his realm." They attacked us on all sides.

I defended myself as long as I could, but finding that I was wounded, and that the ambassador and all our attendants were overthrown, I took advantage of the remaining strength of my horse, and escaped. My horse was wounded and suddenly fell dead under me. Alone, wounded, and a stranger, I bound up my own wound and walked on the rest of the day, and arrived at the foot of a mountain, where I perceived, as the sun set, a cave; I went in, and stayed there that night, after I had eaten some fruits that I gathered by the way. I continued my journey for several successive days without finding any place of abode; but after a month's time I came to a large town, well inhabited. It was surrounded by several streams, so that it seemed to enjoy perpetual spring.

My face, hands, and feet were black and sunburnt; and by my long journey, my boots were quite worn out, so that I was forced to walk barefooted; and my clothes were all in rags. I entered the town to inform myself where I was, and addressed myself to a tailor that was at work in his shop. He made me sit down by him, and asked me who I was, from whence I came, and what had brought me thither. I did not conceal anything that had befallen me, nor made I any scruple to reveal to him my rank. The tailor listened to me with attention; then he brought me something to eat, and offered me an apartment at his house, which I accepted.

Some days after my arrival the tailor asked me if I knew anything by which I could acquire a livelihood. I told him that I was well versed in the science of laws, both human and divine; that I was a grammarian, a poet, and, above all, that I wrote remarkably well.

"None of these things will avail you here. If you will follow my advice," he added, "you will procure a short jacket, and as you are strong and in good health, you may go into the neighboring forest and cut wood for fuel. You may then go and expose it for sale in the market. By these means you will be enabled to wait till the cloud which hangs over you, and obliges you to conceal your birth, shall have blown over. I will furnish you with a cord and hatchet."

The next day the tailor brought me a rope, a hatchet, and a short jacket, and recommended me to some poor people who gained their bread after the same manner, that they might take me into their company. They conducted me to the wood, and the first day I brought in as much upon my head as procured me half a piece of gold of the money of that country; for though the wood was not far distant from the town, yet it was very scarce, by reason that few would be at the trouble of fetching it for themselves. I gained a good sum of money in a short time, and repaid my tailor what he had loaned me.

I continued this way of living for a whole year. One day, having by chance penetrated farther into the wood than usual, I happened to light on a pleasant spot, where I began to cut. In pulling up the root of a tree I espied an iron ring, fastened to a trap door of the same metal. I took away the earth that covered it, and having lifted it up, discovered a flight of stairs, which I descended with my ax in my hand.

When I had reached the bottom I found myself in a palace, which was as well lighted as if it had been above ground in the open air. I was going forward along a gallery supported by pillars of jasper, the base and capitals being of massy gold, when I saw a lady of a noble and graceful air, and extremely beautiful, coming toward me.

I hastened to meet her; and as I was making a low obeisance she asked me, "Are you a man, or a genie?"

"A man, madam," said I.

"By what adventure," said she, fetching a deep sigh, "are you come hither? I have lived here for twenty-five years, and you are the first man I have beheld in that time."

Her great beauty, and the sweetness and civility wherewith she received me, emboldened me to say, "Madam, before I satisfy your curiosity, give me leave to say that I am infinitely gratified with this unexpected meeting, which offers me an occasion of consolation in the midst of my affliction; and perhaps it may give me an opportunity of making you also more happy than you are."

I then related my story to her from beginning to end.

"Alas! prince," she replied, sighing, "the most enchanting spots cannot afford delight when we are there against our will. But hear now my history. I am a princess, the daughter of a sultan, the king of the Ebony Island, to which the precious wood found in it has given its name.

"The king, my father, had chosen for my husband a prince, who was my cousin; but on the very night of the bridal festivities, in the midst of the rejoicings of the court, a genie took me away. I fainted with alarm, and when I recovered I found myself in this place. I was long inconsolable; but time and necessity have reconciled me to see the genie. Twenty-five years I have passed in this place, in which I have everything necessary for life and splendor.

"Every ten days," continued the princess, "the genie visits me. In the meantime, if I have any occasion for him, I have only to touch a talisman, and he appears. It is now four days since he was here, and I have therefore to wait six days more before he again makes his appearance. You, therefore, may remain five with me, if it be agreeable to you, in order to keep me company; and I will endeavor to regale and entertain you equal to your merit and dignity."

The princess then conducted me to a bath, the most commodious, and the most sumptuous imaginable; and when I came forth, instead of my own clothes I found a costly robe, which I did not esteem so much for its richness as because it made me appear worthy to be in her company. We sat down on a sofa covered with rich tapestry, with cushions of the rarest Indian brocade; and some time after she covered a table with several dishes of delicate meats. We ate, and passed the remaining part of the day, as also the evening, together very pleasantly.

The next day I said to her, "Fair princess, you have been too long buried alive in this subterranean palace; pray rise—follow me and enjoy the light of day, of which you have been deprived so many years."

"Prince," replied she, with a smile, "if you out of ten days will grant me nine, and resign the tenth to the genie, the light of day would be nothing to me."

"Princess," said I, "the fear of the genie makes you speak thus. For my part, I regard him so little that I will break in pieces his talisman, with the spell that is written about it. Let him come; and how brave or powerful he be, I will defy him." On saying this I gave the talisman a kick with my foot, and broke it in pieces.

The talisman was no sooner broken than the whole palace shook as if ready to fall to atoms, and the walls opened to afford a passage to the genie. I had no sooner felt the shock than, at the earnest request of the princess, I took to flight. Having hastily put on my own robe, I ascended the stairs leading to the forest, and reached the town in safety. My landlord, the tailor, was very glad to see me.

In my haste, however, I had left my hatchet and cord in the princess's chamber.

Shortly after my return, while brooding over this loss and lamenting the cruel treatment to which the princess would be exposed, the tailor came in and said, "An old man, whom I do not know, brings your hatchet and cords, and wishes to speak to you, for he will deliver them to none but yourself."

At these words I changed color, and fell a-trembling. While the tailor was asking me the reason, my chamber door opened, and the old man, having no patience to stay, appeared with my hatchet and cords.

"I am a genie," said he, speaking to me, "a grandson of Eblis,[15] prince of genies. Is not this your hatchet and are not these your cords?"

[Footnote 15: Eblis, or Degial, the evil spirit, who, according to the Koran, betrayed Adam to transgression, and yet seeks to inflict injury on his race.]

After the genie had put these questions to me he gave me no time to answer. He grasped me by the middle, dragged me out of the chamber, and mounting into the air carried me up to the skies with extraordinary swiftness. He descended again in like manner to the earth, which on a sudden he caused to open with a stroke of his foot, when I found myself in the enchanted palace, before the fair princess of the Isle of Ebony. But, alas! what a spectacle was there! I saw what pierced me to the heart; this poor princess was weltering in her blood, and lay upon the ground, more like one dead than alive, with her cheeks bathed in tears.

The genie, having loaded us both with many insults and reproaches, drew his scimitar and declared that he would give life and liberty to either of us who would with his scimitar cut off the head of the other. We both resolutely declined to purchase freedom at such a price, and asserted our choice to be to die rather in the presence of each other.

"I see," said the genie, "that you both outbrave me, but both of you shall know by my treatment of you of what I am capable."

At these words the monster took up the scimitar and cut off one of her hands, which left her only so much life as to give me a token with the other that she bade me forever adieu; and then she died.

I fainted at the sight.

When I was come to myself again, I cried, "Strike, for I am ready to die, and await death as the greatest favor you can show me."

But instead of killing me, he said, "Behold how genies revenge themselves on those who offend them. Thou art the least to blame, and I will content myself with transforming thee into a dog, ape, lion, or bird; take thy choice of any of these. I will leave it to thyself."

These words gave me some hopes of being able to appease him.

"O genie," said I, "restrain your rage, and since you will not take away my life, pardon me freely, as a good dervish pardoned one who envied him."

"And how was that?" said he.

I answered as follows:


In a certain town there were two men, neighbors, who lived next door to each other. One of them was so excessively envious of the other that the latter resolved to change his abode and go and reside at some distance from him. He therefore sold his house, and went to another city at no great distance, and bought a convenient house. It had a good garden and a moderate court, in which there was a deep well that was not now used.

The good man, having made this purchase, put on the habit of a dervish, and in a short time he established a numerous society of dervishes.[16] He soon came to be known by his virtues, through which he acquired the esteem of many people, as well of the commonalty as of the chief of the city. In short, he was much honored and courted by all ranks. People came from afar to recommend themselves to his prayers; and all who visited him, published what blessings they received through his means.

[Footnote 16: Sir Paul Ricaut gives this account of the dress of the dervish. "Their shirts are of coarse linen, with a white plaid or mantle about their shoulders. Their caps are like the crown of a hat of the largest size. Their legs are always bare, and their breasts open, which some of them burn or scar in token of greater devotion. They wear a leathern girdle, with some shining stone upon the buckle before. They always carry a string of beads, which they call Tesbe, and oftener run them over than our friars do their rosary, at every bead repeating the name of God."—History of Ottoman Empire, p. 263.

"Their order has few rules, except of performing their fantastic rites every Tuesday and Friday. They meet in a large hall, where they all stand with their eyes fixed on the ground, and their arms crossed, while the imaun or preacher reads part of the Koran from a pulpit, and after a short exposition on what he has read, they stand around their superior, and tying their robe, which is very wide, round their waist, begin to turn round with an amazing swiftness, moving fast or slow as the music is played. This lasts above an hour, without any of them showing the least appearance of giddiness, which is not to be wondered at when it is considered they are used to it from their infancy. There were among them some little dervishes, of six or seven years old, who seemed no more disordered by that exercise than the others. At the end of the ceremony they shout out, 'There is no other god but God, and Mohammed is his prophet'; after which they kiss the superior's hand and retire. The whole is performed with the most solemn gravity." Lady M. W. Montague's Letters, vol. ii, p. 43.]

The great reputation of this honest man having spread to the town from whence he had come, it touched the envious man so much to the quick that he left his own house and affairs with a resolution to ruin him. With this intent he went to the new convent of dervishes, of which his former neighbor was the head, who received him with all imaginable tokens of friendship. The envious man told him that he was come to communicate a business of importance, which he could not do but in private; "and that nobody may hear us," he said, "let us take a walk in your court; and seeing night begins to draw on, command your dervishes to retire to their cells." The chief of the dervishes did as he was requested.

When the envious man saw that he was alone with this good man, he began to tell him his errand, walking side by side in the court, till he saw his opportunity; and getting the good man near the brink of the well, he gave him a thrust, and pushed him into it.

This old well was inhabited by peris[17] and genies, which happened luckily for the relief of the head of the convent; for they received and supported him, and carried him to the bottom, so that he got no hurt. He perceived that there was something extraordinary in his fall, which must otherwise have cost him his life; but he neither saw nor felt anything.

[Footnote 17: The word peri, in the Persian language, signifies that beautiful race of creatures which constitutes the link between angels and men.]

He soon heard a voice, however, which said, "Do you know what honest man this is, to whom we have done this service?"

Another voice answered, "No." To which the first replied, "Then I will tell you. This man, out of charity, left the town he lived in, and has established himself in this place, in hopes to cure one of his neighbors of the envy he had conceived against him; he had acquired such a general esteem that the envious man, not able to endure it, came hither on purpose to ruin him; and he would have accomplished his design had it not been for the assistance we have given this honest man, whose reputation is so great that the sultan, who keeps his residence in the neighboring city, was to pay him a visit to-morrow, to recommend the princess his daughter to his prayers."

Another voice asked, "What need had the princess of the dervish's prayers?" To which the first answered, "You do not know, it seems, that she is possessed by a genie. But I well know how this good dervish may cure her. He has a black cat in his convent, with a white spot at the end of her tail, about the bigness of a small piece of Arabian money; let him only pull seven hairs out of the white spot, burn them, and smoke the princess's head with the fumes. She will not only be immediately cured, but be so safely delivered from the genie that he will never dare approach her again."

The head of the dervishes remembered every word of the conversation between the fairies and the genies, who remained silent the remainder of the night. The next morning, as soon as daylight appeared, and he could discern the nature of his situation, the well being broken down in several places, he saw a hole, by which he crept out with ease.

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