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The "Aldine" Edition of
The Arabian Nights Entertainments Illustrated by S. L. Wood
FROM THE TEXT OF DR. JONATHAN SCOTT
In Four Volumes Volume 2 London Pickering and Chatto 1890
Contents of Volume II.
The Story of the Little Hunch-Back The Story Told by the Christian Merchant The Story Told by the Sultan of Casgar's Purveyor The Story Told by the Jewish Physician The Story Told by the Tailor The Story Told by the Barber The Story Told by the Barber's Eldest Brother The Story Told by the Barber's Second Brother The Story Told by the Barber's Third Brother The Story Told by the Barber's Fourth Brother The Story Told by the Barber's Fifth Brother The Story Told by the Barber's Sixth Brother
The History of Aboulhassen Ali Ebn Ecar, and Schemselnihar, Favourite of Caliph Haroon Al Rusheed
The Story of the Loves of Kummir Al Zummaun, Prince of the Isles of the Children of Khaledan, and of Badoura, Princess of China
The Story of the Princes Amgiad and Assad The Story of the Prince Amgiad and a Lady of the City of Magicians
The Story of Noor Ad Deen and the Fair Persian
THE STORY OF THE LITTLE HUNCH-BACK.
There was in former times at Casgar, on the extreme boundaries of Tartary, a tailor who had a pretty wife, whom he affectionately loved, and by whom he was beloved with reciprocal tenderness. One day while he was at work, a little hunch-back seated himself at the shop door and began to sing, and play upon a tabor. The tailor was pleased with his performance, and resolved to take him to his house to entertain his wife: "This little fellow," said he, "will divert us both this evening." He accordingly invited him, and the other readily accepted the invitation: so the tailor shut up his shop, and carried him home. Immediately after their arrival the tailor's wife placed before them a good dish of fish; but as the little man was eating, he unluckily swallowed a bone, which, notwithstanding all that the tailor and his wife could do, choked him. This accident greatly alarmed them both, dreading, if the magistrates should hear of it, that they would be punished as murderers. However, the husband devised a scheme to get rid of the corpse. He reflected that a Jewish doctor lived just by, and having formed his plan, his wife and he took the corpse, the one by the feet and the other by the head, and carried it to the physician's house. They knocked at the door, from which a steep flight of stairs led to his chamber. The servant maid came down without any light, and opening the door, asked what they wanted. "Have the goodness," said the tailor, "to go up again, and tell your master we have brought him a man who is very ill, and wants his advice. Here," continued he, putting a piece of money into her hand, "give him that beforehand, to convince him that we do not mean to impose." While the servant was gone up to inform her master, the tailor and his wife hastily conveyed the hunchbacked corpse to the head of the stairs, and leaving it there, hurried away.
In the mean time, the maid told the doctor, that a man and woman waited for him at the door, desiring he would come down and look at a sick man whom they had brought with them, and clapped into his hand the money she had received. The doctor was transported with joy; being paid beforehand, he thought it must needs be a good patient, and should not be neglected. "Light, light," cried he to the maid; "follow me quickly." As he spoke, he hastily ran towards the head of the stairs without waiting for a light, and came against the corpse with so much violence that he precipitated it to the bottom, and had nearly fallen with it. "Bring me a light," cried he to the maid; "quick, quick." At last she brought one, and he went down stairs with her; but when he saw that what he had kicked down was a dead man, he was so frightened, that he invoked Moses, Aaron, Joshua, Esdras, and all the other prophets of his nation. "Unhappy man that I am," said he, "why did I attempt to come without a light! I have killed the poor fellow who was brought to me to be cured: doubtless I am the cause of his death, and unless Esdras's ass come to assist me, I am ruined: Mercy on me, they will be here out of hand, and drag me out of my house for a murderer."
Notwithstanding the perplexity and confusion into which he was thrown, he had the precaution to shut his door, for fear any one passing by should observe the accident of which he reckoned himself to be the author. He then took the corpse into his wife's chamber, who was ready to swoon at the sight. "Alas," cried she, "we are utterly ruined and undone, unless we can devise some expedient to get the corpse out of our house this night. If we harbour it till morning we are lost. What a deplorable misfortune is this! What have you done to kill this man?" "That is not now the question," replied the Jew; "our business at present is, to find a remedy for the evil which threatens us."
The doctor and his wife consulted how to dispose of the corpse that night. The doctor racked his brain in vain, he could not think of any stratagem to relieve his embarrassment; but his wife, who was more fertile in invention, said, "A thought is just come into my head; let us carry the corpse to the terrace of our house, and throw it down the chimney of our Mussulmaun neighbour."
This Mussulmaun was one of the sultan's purveyors for furnishing oil, butter, and articles of a similar nature, and had a magazine in his house, where the rats and mice made prodigious havoc.
The Jewish doctor approving the proposed expedient, the wife and he took the little hunch-back up to the roof of the house; and clapping ropes under his arm-pits, let him down the chimney into the purveyor's chamber so dexterously that he stood upright against the wall, as if he had been alive. When they found he had reached the bottom, they pulled up the ropes, and left the corpse in that posture. They were scarcely got down into their chamber, when the purveyor, who had just returned from a wedding feast, went into his room, with a lanthorn in his hand. He was not a little surprised to discover a man standing in his chimney; but being a stout fellow, and apprehending him to be a thief, he took up a stick, and making straight up to the hunch-back, "Ah!" said he, "I thought the rats and mice ate my butter and tallow; but it is you who come down the chimney to rob me? However, I think you will have no wish to come here again." Upon this he attacked hunch-back, and struck him several times with his stick. The corpse fell down flat on the ground, and the purveyor redoubled his blows. But, observing that the body did not move, he stood a little time to regard it; and then, perceiving it to be dead, fear succeeded his anger. "Wretched man that I am," said he, "what have I done! I have killed a man; alas, I have carried my revenge too far. Good God, unless thou pity me my life is gone! Cursed, ten thousand times accursed, be the fat and the oil that occasioned me to commit so criminal an action." He stood pale and thunderstruck; he fancied he already saw the officers come to drag him to condign punishment, and could not tell what resolution to take.
The sultan of Casgar's purveyor had never noticed the little man's hump-back when he was beating him, but as soon as he perceived it, he uttered a thousand imprecations against him. "Ah, thou cursed hunch-back," cried he, "thou crooked wretch, would to God thou hadst robbed me of all my fat, and I had not found thee here. I then should not have been thrown into this perplexity on account of this and thy vile hunch. Ye stars that twinkle in the heavens, give your light to none but me in this dangerous juncture." As soon as he had uttered these words, he took the crooked corpse upon his shoulders, and carried it to the end of the street, where he placed it in an upright posture against a shop; he then returned without once looking behind him.
A few minutes before day-break, a Christian merchant, who was very rich, and furnished the sultan's palace with various articles, having sat up all night at a debauch, happened to come from his house in this direction on his way to the bath. Though he was intoxicated, he was sensible that the night was far spent, and that the people would soon be called to morning prayers; he therefore quickened his pace to get to the bath in time, lest some Mussulmaun, in his way to the mosque, should meet him and carry him to prison for a drunkard. When he came to the end of the street, he had occasion to stop by the shop where the sultan's purveyor had put the hunch-backed corpse; which being jostled by him, tumbled upon the merchant's back. The merchant thinking he was attacked by a robber, knocked it down, and after redoubling his blows, cried out "Thieves!"
The outcry alarmed the watch, who came up immediately, and finding a Christian beating a Mussulmaun (for hump-back was of our religion), "What reason have you," said he, "to abuse a Mussulmaun in this manner?" "He would have robbed me," replied the merchant, "and jumped upon my back in order to take me by the throat." "If he did," said the watch, "you have revenged yourself sufficiently; come, get off him." At the same time he stretched out his hand to help little hump-back up, but observing he was dead, "Oh!" said he, "is it thus that a Christian dares to assassinate a Mussulmaun?" So saying, he laid hold of the Christian, and carried him to the house of the officer of the police, where he was kept till the judge was stirring, and ready to examine him. In the mean time, the Christian merchant became sober, and the more he reflected upon his adventure, the less could he conceive how such slight blows of his fist could have killed the man.
The judge having heard the report of the watch, and viewed the corpse, which they had taken care to bring to his house, interrogated the Christian merchant, who could not deny the crime, though he had not committed it. But the judge considering that little hump-back belonged to the sultan, for he was one of his buffoons, would not put the Christian to death till he knew the sultan's pleasure. For this end he went to the palace, and acquainted the sultan with what had happened; and received this answer: "I have no mercy to show to a Christian who kills a Mussulmaun." Upon this the judge ordered a stake to be prepared, and sent criers all over the city to proclaim that they were about to impale a Christian for killing a Mussulmaun.
At length the merchant was brought to the place of execution; and the executioner was about to do his duty, when the sultan's purveyor pushed through the crowd, calling to him to stop for that the Christian had not committed the murder, but he himself had done it. Upon that, the officer who attended the execution began to question the purveyor, who told him every circumstance of his having killed the little hunchback, and how he had conveyed his corpse to the place where the Christian merchant had found it. "You were about," added he, "to put to death an innocent person; for how can he be guilty of the death of a man who was dead before he touched him? It is enough for me to have killed a Mussulmaun without loading my conscience with the death of a Christian who is not guilty."
The sultan of Casgar's purveyor having publicly charged himself with the death of the little hunchbacked man, the officer could do no less than execute justice on the merchant. "Let the Christian go," said he to the executioner, "and impale this man in his stead, since it appears by his own confession that he is guilty." Thereupon the executioner released the merchant, and seized the purveyor; but just as he was going to impale him, he heard the voice of the Jewish doctor, earnestly intreating him to suspend the execution, and make room for him to approach.
When he appeared before the judge, "My lord," said he, "this Mussulmaun you are going to execute is not guilty. I am the criminal. Last night a man and a woman, unknown to me, came to my door with a sick man; my maid went and opened it without a light, and received from them a piece of money with a commission to come and desire me, in their name, to step down and look at the patient. While she was delivering her message, they conveyed the sick person to the stair-head, and disappeared. I went, without staying till my servant had lighted a candle, and in the dark happened to stumble upon the sick person, and kick him down stairs. At length I saw he was dead, and that it was the crooked Mussulmaun whose death you are now about to avenge. My wife and I took the corpse, and, after conveying it up to the roof of the purveyor, our next neighbour, whom you were going to put to death unjustly, let it down the chimney into his chamber. The purveyor finding it in his house, took the little man for a thief, and after beating him concluded he had killed him. But that it was not so you will be convinced by this my deposition; I am the sole author of the murder; and though it was committed undesignedly, I am resolved to expiate my crime, that I may not have to charge myself with the death of two Mussulmauns."
The chief justice being persuaded that the Jewish doctor was the murderer, gave orders to the executioner to seize him and release the purveyor. Accordingly the doctor was just going to be impaled, when the tailor appeared, crying to the executioner to hold his hand, and make room for him, that he might come and make his confession to the chief judge. Room being made, "My lord," said he, "you have narrowly escaped taking away the lives of three innocent persons; but if you will have the patience to hear me, I will discover to you the real murderer of the crook backed man. If his death is to be expiated by another, that must be mine. Yesterday, towards the evening, as I was at work in my shop, and was disposed to be merry, the little hunch-back came to my door half-drunk, and sat down. He sung a little, and so I invited him to pass the evening at my house. He accepted the invitation and went in with me. We sat down to supper and I gave him a plate of fish; but in eating, a bone stuck in his throat, and though my wife and I did our utmost to relieve him, he died in a few minutes. His death afflicted us extremely, and for fear of being charged with it, we carried the corpse to the Jewish doctor's house and knocked. The maid came. and opened the door; I desired her to go up again and ask her master to come down and give his advice to a sick person whom we had brought along with us; and withal, to encourage him, I charged her to give him a piece of money, which I put into her hand. When she was gone, I carried the hunch-back up stairs, and laid him upon the uppermost step, and then my wife and I made the best of our way home. The doctor coming, threw the corpse down stairs, and concluded himself to be the author of his death. This being the case," continued he, "release the doctor, and let me die in his stead."
The chief justice, and all the spectators, wondered at the strange events which had ensued upon the death of the little hunch-back. "Let the Jewish doctor go," said the judge, "and seize the tailor, since he confesses the crime. It is certain this history is very uncommon, and deserves to be recorded in letters of gold." The executioner having dismissed the doctor prepared to impale the tailor.
While the executioner was making ready to impale the tailor, the sultan of Casgar, wanting the company of his crooked jester, asked where he was; and one of his officers told him; "The hunch- back, Sir, whom you inquire after, got drunk last night, and contrary to his custom slipped out of the palace, and went strolling about the city, and this morning was found dead. A man was brought before the chief justice, and charged with the murder of him; but when he was going to be impaled, up came a man, and after him another, who took the charge upon themselves and cleared one another, and the judge is now examining a third, who gives himself out for the real author of the murder."
Upon this intelligence the sultan of Casgar sent an officer to the place of execution. "Go," said he, "with all expedition, and tell the judge to bring the accused persons before me immediately and bring also the corpse of poor hunch-back, that I may see him once more." Accordingly the officer went, and happened to arrive at the place of execution at the very time that the executioner had laid his hands upon the tailor. He called aloud to him to suspend the execution. The executioner knowing the officer, did not dare to proceed, but released the tailor; and then the officer acquainted the judge with the sultan's pleasure. The judge obeyed, and went directly to the palace accompanied by the tailor, the Jewish doctor, and the Christian merchant; and made four of his men carry the hunch-backed corpse along with him.
When they appeared in the sultan's presence, the judge threw himself at the prince's feet and after recovering himself, gave him a faithful relation of what he knew of the story of the hunch-backed man. The story appeared so extraordinary to the sultan, that he ordered his own historian to write it down with all its circumstances. Then addressing himself to the audience; "Did you ever hear," said he, "such a surprising event as has happened on the account of my little crooked buffoon?" The Christian merchant, after falling down, and touching the earth with his forehead, spoke as follows: "Most puissant monarch, I know a story yet more astonishing than this; if your majesty will give me leave, I will relate it. The circumstances are such, that no one can hear them without emotion." "Well," said the sultan, "you have my permission:" and the merchant went on as follows:
The Story told by the Christian Merchant.
Sir, before I commence the recital of the story you have permitted me to relate, I beg leave to acquaint you, that I have not the honour to be born in any part of your majesty's empire. I am a stranger, born at Cairo in Egypt, a Copt by nation, and by religion a Christian. My father was a broker, and realized considerable property, which he left me at his death. I followed his example, and pursued the same employment. While I was standing in the public inn frequented by the corn merchants, there came up to me a handsome young man, well dressed, and mounted on an ass. He saluted me, and pulling out a handkerchief, in which he had a sample of sesame or Turkey corn, asked me how much a bushel of such sesame would fetch.
I examined the corn the young man shewed me, and told him it was worth a hundred dirhems of silver per bushel. "Pray," said he, "look out for some merchant to take it at that price, and come to me at the Victory gate, where you will see a khan at a distance from the houses." So saying, he left me the sample, and I shewed it to several merchants, who told me, that they would take as much as I could spare at a hundred and ten dirhems per bushel, so that I reckoned on getting ten dirhems per bushel for my commission. Full of the expectation of this profit, I went to the Victory gate, where I found the young merchant expecting me, and he took me into his granary, which was full of sesame. He had then a hundred and fifty bushels, which I measured out, and having carried them off upon asses, sold them for five thousand dirhems of silver. "Out of this sum," said the young man, "there are five hundred dirhems coming to you, at the rate of ten dirhems per bushel. This I give you; and as for the rest which pertains to me, take it out of the merchants' hands, and keep it till I call or send for it, for I have no occasion for it at present." I answered, it should be ready for him whenever he pleased to demand it; and so, kissing his hand, took leave of him, with a grateful sense of his generosity.
A month passed before he came near me: then he asked for the sum he had committed to my trust. I told him it was ready, and should be counted to him immediately. He was mounted on his ass, and I desired him to alight, and do me the honour to eat a mouthful with me before he received his money. "No," said he, "I cannot alight at present, I have urgent business that obliges me to be at a place just by; but I will return this way, and then take the money which I desired you would have in readiness." This said, he disappeared, and I still expected his return, but it was a full month before I saw him again. "This young merchant," thought I, "has great confidence in me, leaving so great a sum in my hands without knowing me; any other man would have been afraid I should have run away with it." To be short, he came again at the end of the third month, and was still mounted on his ass, but more handsomely dressed than before.
As soon as I saw the young man, I intreated him to alight, and asked him if he would not take his money? "There is no hurry," said he, with a pleasant easy air, "I know it is in good hands; I will come and take it when my other money is all gone. Adieu," continued he, "I will return towards the end of the week." With that he struck the ass, and soon disappeared. "Well," thought I, "he says he will see me towards the end of the week, but he may not perhaps return for a great while; I will make the most I can of his money, which may bring me much profit."
As it happened, I was not deceived in my conjecture; for it was a full year before I saw my young merchant again. He then appeared as richly appareled as before, but seemed to have something on his spirits. I asked him to do me the honour to walk into my house. "For this time," replied he, "I will: but on this condition, that you shall put yourself to no extraordinary charge on my account." "I will do just as you please," said I, "only do me the favour to alight and walk in." Accordingly he complied. I gave orders to have a repast prepared, and while this was doing, we entered into conversation. All things being ready, we sat down. I observed he took the first mouthful with his left hand, and not with the right. I was at a loss what to think of this. "Ever since I have known this young man," said I inwardly, "he has always appeared very polite; is it possible he can do this out of contempt? What can be the reason he does not use his right hand?"
After we had done eating, and every thing was taken away, we sat upon a sofa, and I presented him with a lozenge by way of dainty; but still he took it with his left hand. I said to him, "Pardon, Sir, the liberty I take in asking you what reason you have for not using your right hand? Perhaps you have some complaint in that hand." Instead of answering, he heaved a deep sigh, and pulling out his right arm, which he had hitherto kept under his vest, shewed me, to my great astonishment, that it had been cut off. "Doubtless you were displeased," said he, "to see me feed myself with the left hand; but I leave you to judge, whether it was in my power to do otherwise." "May one ask," said I, "by what mischance you lost your right hand?" Upon that he burst into tears, and after wiping his eyes, gave me the following relation.
You must know that I am a native of Bagdad, the son of a rich merchant, the most eminent in that city for rank and opulence. I had scarcely launched into the world, when falling into the company of travellers, and hearing their wonderful accounts of Egypt, especially of Grand Cairo, I was interested by their discourse, and felt a strong desire to travel. But my father was then alive, and would not grant me permission. At length he died; and being then my own master, I resolved to take a journey to Cairo. I laid out a large sum of money in the purchase of several sorts of fine stuffs of Bagdad and Moussol. and departed.
Arriving at Cairo, I went to the khan, called the khan of Mesrour, and there took lodgings, with a warehouse for my bales, which I had brought with me upon camels. This done, I retired to my chamber to rest, after the fatigue of my journey, and gave some money to my servants, with orders to buy some provisions and dress them. After I had eaten, I went to view the castle, some mosques, the public squares, and the other most remarkable places.
Next day I dressed myself, and ordered some of the finest and richest of my bales to be selected and carried by my slaves to the Circassian bazaar, whither I followed. I had no sooner made my appearance, than I was surrounded with brokers and criers who had heard of my arrival. I gave patterns of my stuffs to several of the criers, who shewed them all over the bazaar; but none of the merchants offered near so much as prime cost and carriage. This vexed me, and the criers observing I was dissatisfied, said, "If you will take our advice, we will put you in a way to sell your goods without loss."
The brokers and the criers, having thus promised to put me in a way of losing nothing by my goods, I asked them what course they would have me pursue . "Divide your goods," said they, among several merchants, they will sell them by retail; and twice a week, that is on Mondays and Thursdays, you may receive what money they may have taken. By this means, instead of losing, you will turn your goods to advantage, and the merchants will gain by you. In the mean while you will have time to take your pleasure about the town or go upon the Nile."
I took their advice, and conducted them to my warehouse; from whence I brought all my goods to the bazaar, and there divided them among the merchants whom they represented as most reputable and able to pay; and the merchants gave me a formal receipt before witnesses, stipulating that I should not making any demands upon them for the first month.
Having thus regulated my affairs, my mind was occupied with ordinary pleasures. I contracted acquaintance with divers persons of nearly the same age with myself, which made the time pass agreeably. After the first month had expired, I began to visit my merchants twice a week, taking with me a public officer to inspect their books of sale, and a banker to see that they paid me in good money, and to regulate the value of the several coins. Every pay-day, I had a good sum of money to carry home to my lodging at the khan of Mesrour. I went on other days to pass the morning sometimes at one merchant's house, and sometimes at that of another. In short, I amused myself in conversing with them, and seeing what passed in the bazaar.
One Monday, as I was sitting in a merchant s shop, whose name was Buddir ad Deen, a lady of quality, as might easily be perceived by her air, her apparel, and by a well-dressed slave attending her, came into the shop, and sat down by me. Her external appearance, joined to a natural grace that shone in all her actions, prepossessed me in her favour, and inspired me with a desire to be better acquainted with her. I know not whether she observed that I took pleasure in gazing on her, and whether this attention on my part was not agreeable to her; but she let down the crepe that hung over the muslin which covered her face, and gave me the opportunity of seeing her large black eyes; which perfectly charmed me. In fine, she inflamed my love to the height by the agreeable sound of her voice, her graceful carriage in saluting the merchant, and asking him how he did since she had seen him last.
After conversing with him some time upon indifferent subjects, she gave him to understand that she wanted a particular kind of stuff with a gold ground; that she came to his shop, as affording the best choice of any in all the bazaar; and that if he had any such as she asked for, he would oblige her in showing them. Buddir ad Deen produced several pieces, one of which she pitched upon, and he asked for it eleven hundred dirhems of silver. "I will," said she, "give you your price for it, but I have not money enough about me; so I hope you will give me credit till to- morrow, and in the mean time allow me to carry home the stuff. I shall not fail," added she, "to send you tomorrow the eleven hundred dirhems." "Madam," said Buddir ad Deen, "I would give you credit with all my heart if the stuff were mine; but it belongs to the young man you see here, and this is the day on which we settle our accounts." "Why," said the lady in surprise, "do you use me so? Am not I a customer to your shop And when I have bought of you, and carried home the things without paying ready money for them, did I in any instance fail to send you your money next morning?" "Madam," said the merchant, "all this is true, but this very day I have occasion for the money." "There," said she, throwing the stuff to him, "take your stuff, I care not for you nor any of the merchants. You are all alike; you respect no one." As she spoke, she rose up in anger, and walked out.
When I saw that the lady walked away, I felt interested on her behalf, and called her back, saying, "Madam, do me the favour to return, perhaps I can find a way to satisfy you both." She returned, saying, it was on my account that she complied. "Buddir ad Deen," said I to the merchant, "what is the price you must have for this stuff that belongs to me?" "I must have," replied he, "eleven hundred dirhems, I cannot take less." "Give it to the lady then," said I, "let her take it home with her; I allow a hundred dirhems profit to yourself, and shall now write you a note, empowering you to deduct that sum upon the produce of the other goods you have of mine." In fine, I wrote, signed, and gave him the note, and then delivered the stuff to the lady. "Madam," said I, "you may take the stuff with you, and as for the money, you may either send it to-morrow or the next day; or, if you will, accept it as a present from me." "Pardon me," returned she, "I mean no such thing. You treat me with so much politeness, that I should be unworthy to appear in the world again, were I to omit making you my best acknowledgments. May God reward you, by an increase of your fortune; may you live many years after I am dead; may the gate of paradise be open to you when you remove to the other world, and may all the city proclaim your generosity."
These words inspired me with some assurance. "Madam," I replied, "I desire no other reward for the service I have done you than the happiness of seeing your face; which will repay me with interest." I had no sooner spoken than she turned towards me, took off her veil, and discovered to me a wonderful beauty. I became speechless with admiration. I could have gazed upon her for ever; but fearing any one should observe her, she quickly covered her face, and letting down the crepe, took up the piece of stuff, and went away, leaving me in a very different state of mind from that in which I had entered the shop. I continued for some time in great confusion and perplexity. Before I took leave of the merchant, I asked him, if he knew the lady; "Yes," said he, "she is the daughter of an emir."
I went back to the khan of Mesrour, and sat down to supper, but could not eat, neither could I shut my eyes all the night, which seemed the longest in my life. As soon as it was day I arose, in hopes of once more beholding the object that disturbed my repose: and to engage her affection, I dressed myself much richer than I had done the day before.
I had but just reached Buddir ad Deen's shop, when I saw the lady coming in more magnificent apparel than before, and attended by her slave. When she entered, she did not regard the merchant, but addressing herself to me, said, "Sir, you see I am punctual to my word. I am come for the express purpose of paying the sum you were so kind as to pass your word for yesterday, though you had no knowledge of me. Such uncommon generosity I shall never forget."
"Madam," said I, "you had no occasion to be in such haste; I was well satisfied as to my money, and am sorry you should put yourself to so much trouble." "I had been very unjust," answered she, "if I had abused your generosity." With these words she put the money into my hand, and sat down by me.
Having this opportunity of conversing with her, I determined to improve it, and mentioned to her the love I had for her; but she rose and left me very abruptly, as if she had been angry with the declaration I had made. I followed her with my eyes as long as she continued in sight; then taking leave of the merchant walked out of the bazaar, without knowing where I went. I was musing on this adventure, when I felt somebody pulling me behind, and turning to see who it was, I was agreeably surprised to perceive it was the lady's slave. "My mistress," said she, "I mean the young lady you spoke to in the merchant's shop, wants to speak with you, if you please to give yourself the trouble to follow me." Accordingly I followed her, and found her mistress sitting waiting for me in a banker's shop.
She made me sit down by her, and spoke to this purpose. "Do not be surprised, that I left you so abruptly. I thought it not proper, before that merchant, to give a favourable answer to the discovery you made of your affection for me. But to speak the truth, I was so far from being offended at it, that it gave me pleasure; and I account myself infinitely happy in having a man of your merit for my lover. I do not know what impression the first sight of me may have made on you, but I assure you, I had no sooner beheld you than I found my heart moved with the tenderest emotions of love. Since yesterday I have done nothing but think of what you said to me; and my eagerness to seek you this morning may convince you of my regard." "Madam," I replied, transported with love and joy, "nothing can be more agreeable to me than this declaration. No passion can exceed that with which I love you. My eyes were dazzled with so many charms, that my heart yielded without resistance." "Let us not trifle away the time in needless discourse," said she, interrupting me; "make no doubt of your sincerity, and you shall quickly be convinced of mine. Will you do me the honour to come to my residence? Or if you will I will go to yours." "Madam," I returned, "I am a stranger lodged in a khan, which is not the proper place for the reception of a lady of your quality. It is more proper, madam, that I should visit you at your house; have the goodness to tell me where it is." The lady consented; "Come," said she, "on Friday, which is the day after to-morrow, after noon-prayers, and ask for the house of Abon Schama, surnamed Bercour, late master of the emirs; there you will find me." This said, we parted; and I passed the next day in great impatience.
On Friday I put on my richest apparel, and took fifty pieces of gold in my purse. I mounted an ass I had bespoken the day before, and set out, accompanied by the man who let me the ass. I directed the owner of the ass to inquire for the house I wanted; he found it, and conducted me thither. I paid him liberally, directing him to observe narrowly where he left me, and not to fail to return next morning with the ass, to carry me again to the khan of Mesrour.
I knocked at the door, and presently two little female slaves, white as snow, and neatly dressed came and opened it. "Be pleased to come in, Sir, said they, "our mistress expects you impatiently; these two days she has talked of nothing but you. I entered the court, and saw a pavilion raised seven steps, and surrounded with iron rails that parted it from a very pleasant garden. Besides the trees which only embellished the place, and formed an agreeable shade, there was an infinite number of others loaded with all sorts of fruit. I was charmed with the warbling of a great number of birds, that joined their notes to the murmurings of a fountain, in the middle of a parterre enamelled with flowers. This fountain formed a very agreeable object; four large gilded dragons at the angles of the basin, which was of a square form, spouted out water clearer than rock-crystal. This delicious place gave me a charming idea of the conquest I had made. The two little slaves conducted me into a saloon magnificently furnished; and while one of them went to acquaint her mistress with my arrival, the other tarried with me, and pointed out to me the beauties of the hall.
I did not wait long in the hall, ere the lady I loved appeared, adorned with pearls and diamonds ; but the splendour of her eyes far outshone that of her jewels. Her shape, which was now not disguised by the habit she wore in the city, appeared the most slender and delicate. I need not mention with what joy we met once more; it far exceeded all expression. When the first compliments were over, we sat down upon a sofa, and there conversed together with the highest satisfaction. We had the most delicious refreshments served up to us; and after eating, continued our conversation till night. We then had excellent wine brought up, and fruit adapted to promote drinking, and timed our cups to the sound of musical instruments, joined to the voices of the slaves. The lady of the house sung herself, and by her songs raised my passion to the height. In short, I passed the night in full enjoyment.
Next morning I slipped under the bolster of the bed the purse with the fifty pieces of gold I had brought with me, and took leave of the lady, who asked me when I would see her again. "Madam," said I, "I give you my promise to return this night." She seemed to be transported with my answer, and conducting me to the door, conjured me at parting to be mindful of my promise.
The same man who had carried me thither waited for me with his ass, which I mounted, and went directly to the khan; ordering the man to come to me again in the afternoon at a certain hour, to secure which, I deferred paying him till that time came.
As soon as I arrived at my lodging, my first care was to order my people to buy a lamb, and several sorts of cakes, which I sent by a porter as a present to the lady. When that was done I attended to my business till the owner of the ass arrived. I then went along with him to the lady's house, and was received by her with as much joy as before, and entertained with equal magnificence.
Next morning I took leave, left her another purse with fifty pieces of gold, and returned to my khan.
I continued to visit the lady every day, and to leave her every time a purse with fifty pieces of gold, till the merchants whom I employed to sell my goods, and whom I visited regularly twice a week, had paid me the whole amount of my goods and, in short, I came at last to be moneyless, and hopeless of having any more.
In this forlorn condition I walked out of my lodging, not knowing what course to take, and by chance went towards the castle, where there was a great crowd to witness a spectacle given by the sultan of Egypt. As soon as I came up, I wedged in among the crowd, and by chance happened to stand by a horseman well mounted and handsomely clothed, who had upon the pommel of his saddle a bag, half open, with a string of green silk hanging out of it. I clapped my hand to the bag, concluding the silk-twist might be the string of a purse within: in the mean time a porter, with a load of wood upon his back, passed by on the other side of the horse so near, that the rider was forced to turn his head towards him, to avoid being hurt, or having his clothes torn by the wood. In that moment the devil tempted me; I took the string in one hand, and with the other pulled out the purse so dexterously, that nobody perceived me. The purse was heavy, and I did not doubt but it contained gold or silver.
As soon as the porter had passed, the horseman, who probably had some suspicion of what I had done while his head was turned, presently put his hand to his bag, and finding his purse was gone, gave me such a blow, that he knocked me down. This violence shocked all who saw it. Some took hold of the horse's bridle to stop the gentleman, and asked him what reason he had to strike me, or how he came to treat a Mussulmaun so rudely. "Do not you trouble yourselves," said he briskly, "I had reason for what I did; this fellow is a thief." At these words I started up, and from my appearance every one took my part, and cried out he was a liar, for that it was incredible a young man such as I was should be guilty of so base an action: but while they were holding his horse by the bridle to favour my escape, unfortunately passed by the judge, who seeing such a crowd about the gentleman on horseback, came up and asked what the matter was. Every body present reflected on the gentleman for treating me so unjustly upon the presence of robbery.
The judge did not give ear to all that was said; but asked the cavalier if he suspected any body else beside me? The cavalier told him he did not, and gave his reasons why he believed his suspicions not to be groundless. Upon this the judge ordered his followers to seize me, which they presently did; and finding the purse upon me, exposed it to the view of all the people. The disgrace was so great, I could not bear it, and I swooned away. In the mean time the judge called for the purse.
When the judge had got the purse in his hand, he asked the horseman if it was his, and how much money it contained. The cavalier knew it to be his own, and assured the judge he had put twenty sequins into it. Upon which the judge called me before him; "Come, young man," said he, "confess the truth. Was it you that took the gentleman's purse from him? Do not wait for the torture to extort confession." Then with downcast eyes, thinking that if I denied the fact, they, having found the purse upon me, would convict me of a lie, to avoid a double punishment I looked up and confessed my guilt. I had no sooner made the confession, than the judge called people to witness it, and ordered my hand to be cutoff. This sentence was immediately put in execution, to the great regret of all the spectators; nay, I observed, by the cavalier's countenance, that he was moved with pity as much as the rest. The judge would likewise have ordered my foot to be cut off, but I begged the cavalier to intercede for my pardon; which he did, and obtained it.
When the judge was gone, the cavalier came up to me, and holding out the purse, said, "I see plainly that necessity drove you to an action so disgraceful and unworthy of such a young man as you appear. Here, take that fatal purse; I freely give it you, and am heartily sorry for the misfortune you have undergone." Having thus spoken, he went away. Being very weak by loss of blood, some of the good people of the neighbourhood had the kindness to carry me into a house and give me a glass of cordial; they likewise dressed my arm, and wrapped up the dismembered hand in a cloth, which I carried away with me fastened to my girdle.
Had I returned to the khan of Mesrour in this melancholy condition, I should not have found there such relief as I wanted; and to offer to go to the young lady was running a great hazard, it being likely she would not look upon me after being informed of my disgrace. I resolved, however, to put her to the trial; and to tire out the crowd that followed me, I turned down several by- streets, and at last arrived at the lady's house very weak, and so much fatigued, that I presently threw myself down upon a sofa, keeping my right arm under my garment, for I took great care to conceal my misfortune.
In the mean time the lady, hearing of my arrival, and that I was not well, came to me in haste; and seeing me pale and dejected, said, "My dear love, what is the matter with you?" "Madam," I replied, dissembling, "I have a violent pain in my head." The lady seemed to be much concerned, and asked me to sit down, for I had arisen to receive her. "Tell me," said she, "how your illness was occasioned. The last time I had the pleasure to see you, you were very well. There must be something that you conceal from me, let me know what it is." I stood silent, and instead of an answer, tears trickled down my cheeks. "I cannot conceive," resumed she, "what it is that afflicts you. Have I unthinkingly given you any occasion of uneasiness? Or do you come on purpose to tell me you no longer love me?" "It is not that, madam," said I, heaving a deep sigh; "your unjust suspicion adds to my misfortune."
I could not think of discovering to her the true cause. When night came, supper was brought, and she pressed me to eat; but considering I could only feed myself with my left hand, I begged to be excused upon the plea of having no appetite. "It will return," said she, "if you would but discover what you so obstinately conceal from me. Your want of appetite, without doubt, is only owing to your irresolution."
"Alas! madam," returned I, "I find I must resolve at last." I had no sooner spoken, than she filled me a cup full of wine, and offering it to me, "Drink that," said she, "it will give you courage." I reached out my left hand, and took the cup.
When I had taken the cup in my hand, I redoubled my tears and sighs. "Why do you sigh and weep so bitterly?" asked the lady; "and why do you take the cup with your left hand, rather than your right?" "Ah! madam," I replied, "I beseech you excuse me; I have a swelling in my right hand." "Let me see that swelling," said she; "I will open it." I desired to be excused, alleging it was not ripe enough for such an operation; and drank off the cup, which was very large. The fumes of the wine, joined to my weakness and weariness, set me asleep, and I slept very soundly till morning.
In the mean time the lady, curious to know what ailed my right hand, lifted up my garment that covered it; and saw to her great astonishment that it was cut off, and that I had brought it along with me wrapped up in a cloth. She presently apprehended what was my reason for declining a discovery, notwithstanding all her pressing solicitation; and passed the night in the greatest uneasiness on account of my disgrace, which she concluded had been occasioned only by the love I bore to her.
When I awoke, I discerned by her countenance that she was extremely grieved. However, that she might not increase my uneasiness she said not a word. She called for jelly-broth of fowl, which she had ordered to be prepared, and made me eat and drink to recruit my strength. After that, I offered to take leave of her; but she declared I should not go out of her doors. "Though you tell me nothing of the matter," said she, "I am persuaded I am the cause of the misfortune that has befallen you. The grief that I feel on that account will soon end my days, but before I die, I must execute a design for your benefit." She had no sooner spoken, than she called for a judge and witnesses, and ordered a writing to be drawn up, putting me in possession of her whole property. After this was done, and every body dismissed, she opened a large trunk where lay all the purses I had given her from the commencement of our amour. "There they are all entire," said she; "I have not touched one of them. Here is the key ; take it, for all is yours." After I had returned her thanks for her generosity and goodness; "What I have done for you," said she, "is nothing; I shall not be satisfied unless I die, to show how much I love you." I conjured her, by all the powers of love, to relinquish such a fatal resolution. But all my remonstrances were ineffectual: she was so afflicted to see me have but one hand, that she sickened, and died after five or six weeks' illness.
After mourning for her death as long as was decent, I took possession of all her property, a particular account of which she gave me before she died; and the corn you sold for me was part of it.
"What I have now told you," said he, "will plead my excuse for eating with my left hand. I am highly obliged to you for the trouble you have given yourself on my account. I can never sufficiently recompense your fidelity. Since I have still, thanks to God, a competent estate, notwithstanding I have spent a great deal, I beg you to accept of the sum now in your hand, as a present from me. I have besides a proposal to make to you. As I am obliged, on account of this fatal accident, to quit Cairo, I am resolved never to return to it again. If you choose to accompany me, we will trade together as equal partners, and share the profits."
I thanked the young man for the present he had made me, and I willingly embraced the proposal of travelling with him, assuring him, that his interest should always be as dear to me as my own.
We fixed a day for our departure, and accordingly entered upon our travels. We passed through Syria and Mesopotamia, travelled over Persia, and after stopping at several cities, came at last, sir, to your capital. Some time after our arrival here, the young man having formed a design of returning to Persia, and settling there, we balanced our accounts, and parted very good friends. He went from hence, and I, sir, continue here in your majesty's service. This is the story I had to relate. Does not your majesty find it more surprising than that of the hunch-back buffoon?
The sultan of Casgar fell into a passion against the Christian merchant. "Thou art a presumptuous fellow," said he, "to tell me a story so little worth hearing, and then to compare it to that of my jester. Canst thou flatter thyself so far as to believe that the trifling adventures of a young debauchee are more interesting than those of my jester? I will have you all four impaled, to revenge his death.
Hearing this, the purveyor prostrated himself at the sultan's feet. "Sir," said he, "I humbly beseech your majesty to suspend your wrath, and hear my story; and if it appears to be more extraordinary than that of your jester, to pardon us." The sultan having granted his request, the purveyor began thus.
The Story told by the Sultan of Casgar's Purveyor.
Sir, a person of quality invited me yesterday to his daughter's wedding. I went to his house in the evening at the hour appointed, and found there a large company of men of the law, ministers of justice, and others of the first rank in the city. After the ceremony was over, we partook of a splendid feast. Among other dishes set upon the table, there was one seasoned with garlic, which was very delicious, and generally relished. We observed, however, that one of the guests did not touch it, though it stood just before him. We invited him to taste it, but he intreated us not to press him. "I will take good care," said he, "how I touch any dish that is seasoned with garlic; I have not yet forgotten what the tasting of such a dish once cost me." We requested him to inform us what the reason was of his aversion to garlic. But before he had time to answer, the master of the house exclaimed, "Is it thus you honour my table? This dish is excellent, do not expect to be excused from eating of it; you must do me that favour as well as the rest." "Sir," said the gentleman, who was a Bagdad merchant, "I hope you do not think my refusal proceeds from any mistaken delicacy; if you insist on my compliance I will submit, but it must be on this condition, that after having eaten, I may, with your permission, wash my hands with alkali forty times, forty times more with ashes, and forty times again with soap. I hope you will not feel displeased at this stipulation, as I have made an oath never to taste garlic but on these terms."
As the master of the house, continued the purveyor of the sultan of Casgar, would not dispense with the merchant's partaking of the dish seasoned with garlic, he ordered his servants to provide a basin of water, together with some alkali, the ashes, and soap, that the merchant might wash as often as he pleased. After he had given these instructions, he addressed the merchant and said, "I hope you will now do as we do."
The merchant, apparently displeased with the constraint put upon him, took up a bit, which he put to his mouth trembling, and ate with a reluctance that astonished us. But what surprised us yet more was, that he had no thumb; which none of us had observed before, though he had eaten of other dishes. "You have lost your thumb," said the master of the house. "This must have been occasioned by some extraordinary accident, a relation of which will be agreeable to the company." "Sir," replied the merchant, "I have no thumb on either the right or the left hand." As he spoke he put out his left hand, and shewed us that what he said was true. "But this is not all," continued he: "I have no great toe on either of my feet: I was maimed in this manner by an unheard-of adventure, which I am willing to relate, if you will have the patience to hear me. The account will excite at once your astonishment and your pity. Only allow me first to wash my hands." With this he rose from the table, and after washing his hands a hundred and twenty times, reseated himself, and proceeded with his narrative as follows.
In the reign of the caliph Haroon al Rusheed, my father lived at Bagdad, the place of my nativity, and was reputed one of the richest merchants in the city. But being a man addicted to his pleasures, and neglecting his private affairs, instead of leaving me an ample fortune, he died in such embarrassed circumstances, that I was reduced to the necessity of using all the economy possible to discharge the debts he had contracted. I at last, however, paid them all; and by care and good management my little fortune began to wear a smiling aspect.
One morning, as I opened my shop, a lady mounted upon a mule, and attended by an eunuch and two slaves, stopped near my door, and with the assistance of the eunuch alighted. "Madam," said the eunuch, "I told you you would be too early; you see there is no one yet in the bazaar: had you taken my advice, you might have saved yourself the trouble of waiting here." The lady looked and perceiving no shop open but mine, asked permission to sit in it till the other merchants arrived. With this request I of course readily complied.
The lady took a seat in my shop, and observing there was no one in the bazaar but the eunuch and myself, uncovered her face to take the air. I had never beheld any thing so beautiful. I became instantly enamoured, and kept my eyes fixed upon her. I flattered myself that my attention was not unpleasant to her; for she allowed me time to view her deliberately, and only concealed her face so far as she thought necessary to avoid being observed.
After she had again lowered her veil, she told me she wanted several sorts of the richest and finest stuffs, and asked me if I had them. "Alas! madam," I replied, "I am but a young man just beginning the world; I have not capital sufficient for such extensive traffic. I am much mortified not to be able to accommodate you with the articles you want. But to save you the trouble of going from shop to shop, when the merchants arrive, I will, if you please, go and get those articles from them, and ascertain the lowest prices." She assented to this proposal, and entered into conversation with me, which I prolonged, making her believe the merchants that could furnish what she wanted were not yet come.
I was not less charmed with her wit than I had been before with the beauty of her face; but was obliged to forego the pleasure of her conversation. I ran for the stuffs she wanted, and after she had fixed upon what she liked, we agreed for five thousand dirhems of coined silver; I wrapped up the stuffs in a small bundle, and gave it to the eunuch, who put it under his arm. She then rose and took leave. I followed her with my eyes till she had reached the bazaar gate, and even after she had remounted her mule.
The lady had no sooner disappeared, than I perceived that love had led me to a serious oversight. It had so engrossed my thoughts, that I did not reflect that she went away without paying, and that I had not informed myself who she was, or where she resided. I soon felt sensible, however, that I was accountable for a large sum to the merchants, who, perhaps, would not have patience to wait for their money: I went to them, and made the best excuse I could, pretending that I knew the lady; and then returned home, equally affected with love, and with the burden of such a heavy debt.
I had desired my creditors to wait eight days for their money: when this period had elapsed, they did not fail to dun me. I then intreated them to give me eight days more, to which they consented; but the next day I saw the lady enter the bazaar, mounted on her mule, with the same attendants as before, and exactly the same hour of the day.
She came straight to my shop. "I have made you wait some time," said she, "but here is your money at last; carry it to the banker, and see that it is all good and right." The eunuch who carried the money went along with me to the banker, and we found it quite right. I returned, and had the happiness of conversing with the lady till all the shops of the bazaar were open. Though we talked but of ordinary things, she gave them such a turn, that they appeared new and uncommon; and convinced me that I was not mistaken in admiring her wit at our first interview.
As soon as the merchants had arrived and opened their shops, I carried to the respective owners the money due for their stuffs, and was readily intrusted with more, which the lady had desired to see. She chose some from these to the value of one thousand pieces of gold, and carried them away as before without paying; nay, without speaking a word, or informing me who she was. What distressed me was the consideration that while at this rate she risked nothing, she left me without any security against being made answerable for the goods in case she did not return. "She has paid me," thought I, "a considerable sum; but she leaves me responsible for a greater, Surely she cannot be a cheat. The merchants do not know her, they will all come upon me." In short, my love was not so powerful as to stifle the uneasiness I felt, when I reflected upon the circumstances in which I was placed. A whole month passed before I heard any thing of the lady again; and during that time my alarm increased. The merchants were impatient for their money, and to satisfy them, I was going to sell off all I had, when one morning the lady returned with the same equipage as before.
"Take your weights," said she, "and weigh the gold I have brought you." These words dispelled my fear, and inflamed my love. Before we counted the money, she asked me several questions, and particularly if I was married. I answered I never had been. Then reaching out the gold to the eunuch, "Let us have your interposition," said she, "to accommodate our matters." Upon which the eunuch fell a laughing, and calling me aside, made me weigh the gold. While I was thus occupied, the eunuch whispered in my ear, "I know by your eyes you love this lady, and I am surprised that you have not the courage to disclose your passion. She loves you more ardently than you do her. Do not imagine that she has any real occasion for your stuffs. She only makes this her presence to come here, because you have inspired her with a violent passion. It was for this reason she asked you if you were married. It will be your own fault, if you do not marry her." "It is true," I replied, "I have loved her since I first beheld her; but I durst not aspire to the happiness of thinking my attachment could meet her approbation. I am entirely hers, and shall not fail to retain a grateful sense of your good offices in this affair."
I finished weighing the gold, and while I was putting it into the bag, the eunuch turned to the lady, and told her I was satisfied; that being the word they had agreed upon between themselves. Presently after, the lady rose and took her leave; telling me she would send her eunuch to me, and that I had only to obey the directions he might give me in her name.
I carried each of the merchants their money, and waited some days with impatience for the eunuch. At last he came.
I received the eunuch very kindly, and inquired after his mistress's health. "You are," said he, "the happiest lover in the world; she is impatient to see you; aud were she mistress of her own conduct, would not fail to come to you herself, and willingly pass in your society all the days of her life." "Her noble mien and graceful carriage," I replied, "convinced me, that she was a lady beyond the common rank." "You have not erred in your judgment on that head," said the eunuch; "she is the favourite of Zobeide the caliph's wife, who is the more affectionately attached to her from having brought her up from her infancy, and intrusts her with all her affairs. Having a wish to marry, she has declared to her mistress that she has fixed her affections upon you, and has desired her consent. Zobeide told her, she would not withhold her consent; but that she would see you first, in order to judge if she had made a good choice; in which case she meant herself to defray the expenses of the wedding. Thus you see your felicity is certain; since you have pleased the favourite, you will be equally agreeable to the mistress, who seeks only to oblige her, and would by no means thwart her inclination. All you have to do is to come to the palace. I am sent hither to invite you." "My resolution is already formed," said I, "and I am ready to follow you whithersoever you please." "Very well," said the eunuch; "but you know men are not allowed to enter the ladies' apartments in the palace, and you must be introduced with great secrecy. The favourite lady has contrived the matter well. On your side you must act your part discreetly; for if you do not, your life is at stake."
I gave him repeated assurances punctually to perform whatever he might require. "Then," said he, "in the evening, you must be at the mosque built by the caliph's lady on the bank of the Tigris, and wait there till somebody comes to conduct you." To this I agreed; and after passing the day in great impatience, went in the evening to the prayer that is said an hour and a half after sun-set in the mosque, and remained there after all the people had departed.
Soon after I saw a boat making up to the mosque, the rowers of which were all eunuchs, who came on shore, put several large trunks into the mosque, and then retired. One of them stayed behind, whom I perceived to be the eunuch that had accompanied the lady, and had been with me that morning. I saw the lady also enter the mosque; and approaching her, told her I was ready to obey her orders. "We have no time to lose," said she; and opening one of the trunks, desired me to get into it, that being necessary both for her safety and mine. "Fear nothing," added she, "leave the management of all to me." I considered with myself that I had gone too far to recede, and obeyed her orders; when she immediately locked the trunk. This done, the eunuch her confidant called the other eunuchs who had brought in the trunks, and ordered them to carry them on board again. The lady and the eunuch re-embarked, and the boatmen rowed to Zobeide's apartment.
In the meantime I reflected very seriously upon the danger to which I had exposed myself, and made vows and prayers, though it was then too late.
The boat stopped at the palace-gate, and the trunks were carried into the apartment of the officer of the eunuchs, who keeps the key of the ladies' apartments, and suffers nothing to enter without a narrow inspection. The officer was then in bed, and it was necessary to call him up.
The officer of the eunuchs was displeased at having his rest disturbed, and severely chid the favourite lady for coming home so late. "You shall not come off so easily as you think," said he: "not one of these trunks shall pass till I have opened it." At the same time he commanded the eunuchs to bring them before him, and open them one by one. The first they took was that wherein I lay, which put me into inexpressible fear.
The favourite lady, who had the key, protested it should not be opened. "You know very well," said she, "I bring nothing hither but what is for the use of Zobeide, your mistress and mine. This trunk is filled with rich goods, which I purchased from some merchants lately arrived, besides a number of bottles of Zemzem water sent from Mecca; and if any of these should happen to break, the goods will be spoiled, and you must answer for them; depend upon it, Zobeide will resent your insolence." She insisted upon this in such peremptory terms, that the officer did not dare to open any of the trunks. "Let them go," said he angrily; "you may take them away." Upon this the door of the women's apartment was opened, and all the trunks were carried in.
This had been scarcely accomplished, when I heard the people cry, "Here is the caliph! Here comes the caliph!" This put me in such alarm, that I wonder I did not die upon the spot; for as they announced, it proved to be the caliph. "What hast thou got in these trunks?" said he to the favourite. "Some stuffs," she replied, "lately arrived, which the empress wishes to see." "Open them," cried he, "and let me see them." She excused herself, alleging the stuffs were only proper for ladies, and that by opening them, his lady would be deprived of the pleasure of seeing them first. "I say open them," resumed the caliph; "I will see them." She still represented that her mistress would be angry with her, if she complied: "No, no," said he, "I will engage she shall not say a word to you. Come, come, open them, and do not keep me waiting."
It was necessary to obey, which gave me such alarm, that I tremble every time I recollect my situation. The caliph sat down; and the favourite ordered all the trunks to be brought before him one after another. She opened some of them; and to lengthen out the time, displayed the beauties of each particular stuff, thinking in this manner to tire out his patience; but her stratagem did not succeed. Being as unwilling as myself to have the trunk where I lay opened, she left that to the last. When all the rest were viewed, "Come," said the caliph, "let us see what is in that." I am at a loss to tell you whether I was dead or alive that moment; for I little thought of escaping such imminent danger.
When Zobeide's favourite saw that the caliph persisted in having this trunk opened: "As for this," said she, "your majesty will please to dispense with the opening of it; there are some things in it which I cannot shew you without your lady be present." "Well, well," said the caliph, "since that is the case, I am satisfied; order the trunks to be carried away." The words were no sooner spoken than they were moved into her chamber, where I began to revive again.
As soon as the eunuchs, who had brought them, were gone, she opened the trunk in which I was confined. "Come out," said she; "go up these stairs that lead to an upper room, and wait there till I come to you." The door, which led to the stairs, she locked after me; and that was no sooner done, than the caliph came and sat down on the very trunk which had been my prison. The occasion of this visit did not respect me. He wished to question the lady about what she had seen or heard in the city. So they conversed together some time; he then left her, and retired to his apartment.
When she found the coast clear, she came to the chamber where I lay concealed, and made many apologies for the alarms she had given me. "My uneasiness," said she, "was no less than yours; you cannot well doubt of that, since I have run the same risk out of love to you. Perhaps another person in my situation would not, upon so delicate an occasion, have had the presence of mind to manage so difficult a business with so much dexterity; nothing less than the love I had for you could have inspired me with courage to do what I have. But come, take heart, the danger is now over." After much tender conversation, she told me it was time to go to rest, and that she would not fail to introduce me to Zobeide her mistress, some hour on the morrow, "which will be very easy," added she; "for the caliph never sees her but at night." Encouraged by these words, I slept very well, or if my sleep was interrupted, it was by agreeable disquietudes, caused by the hopes of possessing a lady blest with so much wit and beauty.
The next day, before I was introduced to Zobeide, her favourite instructed me how to conduct myself, mentioning what questions she would probably put to me, and dictating the answers I was to return. She then carried me into a very magnificent and richly furnished hall. I had no sooner entered, than twenty female slaves, advanced in age, dressed in rich and uniform habits, came out of Zobeide's apartment, and placed themselves before the throne in two equal rows; they were followed by twenty other younger ladies, clothed after the same fashion, only their habits appeared somewhat gayer. In the middle of these appeared Zobeide with a majestic air, and so laden with jewels, that she could scarcely walk. She ascended the throne, and the favourite lady, who had accompanied her, stood just by her right hand; the other ladies, who were slaves, being placed at some distance on each side of the throne.
As soon as the caliph's lady was seated, the slaves who came in first made a sign for me to approach. I advanced between the two rows they had formed, and prostrated myself upon the carpet that was under the princess's feet. She ordered me to rise, did me the honour to ask my name, my family, and the state of my fortune; to all which I gave her satisfactory answers, as I perceived, not only by her countenance, but by her words. "I am glad," said she, "that my daughter," (so she used to call the favourite lady,) "for I look upon her as such after the care I have take of her education, has made this choice; I approve of it, and consent to your marriage. I will myself give orders for having it solemnized; but I wish my daughter to remain with me ten days before the solemnity; in that time I will speak to the caliph, and obtain his consent: mean while do you remain here; you shall be taken care of."
Pursuant to the commands of the caliph's lady, I remained ten days in the women's apartments, and during that time was deprived of the pleasure of seeing the favourite lady: but was so well used by her orders, that I had no reason to be dissatisfied.
Zobeide told the caliph her resolution of marrying the favourite lady; and the caliph leaving to her the liberty to act in the business as she thought proper, granted the favourite a considerable sum by way of settlement. When the ten days were expired, Zobeide ordered the contract of marriage to be drawn up and brought to her, and the necessary preparations being made for the solemnity, the musicians and the dancers, both male and female, were called in, and there were great rejoicings in the palace for nine days. The tenth day being appointed for the last ceremony of the marriage, the favourite lady was conducted to a bath, and I to another. At night I had all manner of dishes served up to me, and among others, one seasoned with garlic, such as you have now forced me to eat. This I liked so well, that I scarcely touched any of the other dishes. But to my misfortune, when I rose from table, instead of washing my hands well, I only wiped them; a piece of negligence of which I had never before been guilty.
As it was then night, the whole apartment of the ladies was lighted up so as to equal the brightness of day. Nothing was to be heard through the palace but musical instruments, dances, and acclamations of joy. My bride and I were introduced into a great hall, where we were placed upon two thrones. The women who attended her made her robe herself several times, according to the usual custom on wedding days; and they shewed her to me every time she changed her habit.
All these ceremonies being over, we were conducted to the nuptial chamber: as soon as the company retired, I approached my wife; but instead of returning my transports, she pushed me away, and cried out, upon which all the ladies of the apartment came running in to inquire the cause: and for my own part, I was so thunderstruck, that I stood like a statue, without the power of even asking what she meant. "Dear sister," said they to her, "what has happened since we left you? Let us know, that we may try to relieve you." "Take," said she, "take that vile fellow out of my sight." "Why, madam?" I asked, "wherein have I deserved your displeasure?" "You are a villain," said she in a furious passion, "to eat garlic, and not wash your hands! Do you think I would suffer such a polluted wretch to poison me? Down with him, down with him on the ground," continued she, addressing herself to the ladies, "and bring me a bastinado." They immediately did as they were desired; and while some held my hands, and others my feet, my wife, who was presently furnished with a weapon, laid on me as long as she could stand. She then said to the ladies, "Take him, send him to the judge, and let the hand be cut off with which he fed upon the garlic dish."
"Alas!" cried I, "must I be beaten unmercifully, and, to complete my affliction, have my hand cut off, for partaking of a dish seasoned with garlic, and forgetting to wash my hands? What proportion is there between the punishment and the crime? Curse on the dish, on the cook who dressed it, and on him who served it up."
"All the ladies who had seen me receive the thousand strokes, took pity on me, when they heard the cutting off of my hand mentioned. "Dear madam, dear sister," said they to the favourite lady, "you carry your resentment too far. We own he is a man quite ignorant of the world, of your quality, and the respect that is due to you: but we beseech you to overlook and pardon his fault." "I have not received adequate satisfaction," said she; "I will teach him to know the world; I will make him bear sensible marks of his impertinence, and be cautious hereafter how he tastes a dish seasoned with garlic without washing his hands." They renewed their solicitations, fell down at her feet, and kissing her fair hands, said, "Good madam, moderate your anger, and grant us the favour we supplicate." She made no reply, but got up, and after uttering a thousand reproaches against me, walked out of the chamber: all the ladies followed her, leaving me in inconceivable affliction.
I continued thus ten days, without seeing any body but an old female slave that brought me victuals. I asked her what was become of the favourite lady. "She is sick," said the old woman; "she is sick of the poisoned smell with which you infected her. Why did you not take care to wash your hands after eating of that cursed dish?" "Is it possible," thought I, "that these ladies can be so nice, and so vindictive for such a trifling fault!" I loved my wife notwithstanding all her cruelty, and could not help pitying her.
One day the old woman told me my spouse was recovered, and gone to bathe, and would come to see me the next day. "So," said she, "I would have you call up your patience, and endeavour to accommodate yourself to her humour. For she is in other respects a woman of good sense and discretion, and beloved by all the ladies about the court of our respected mistress Zobeide."
My wife accordingly came on the following evening, and accosted me thus: "You perceive that I must possess much tenderness to you, after the affront you have offered me: but still I cannot be reconciled till I have punished you according to your demerit, in not washing your hands after eating of the garlic dish." She then called the ladies, who, by her order, threw me upon the ground; and after binding me fast, she had the barbarity to cut off my thumbs and great toes herself, with a razor. One of the ladies applied a certain root to staunch the blood; but by bleeding and by the pain, I swooned away.
When I came to myself, they gave me wine to drink, to recruit my strength. "Ah! madam," said I to my wife, "if ever I again eat of a dish with garlic in it, I solemnly swear to wash my hands a hundred and twenty times with alkali, with ashes, and with soap." "Well," replied she, "upon that condition I am willing to forget what is past, and live with you as my husband."
"This," continued the Bagdad merchant, addressing himself to the company, "is the reason why I refused to eat of the dish seasoned with what is now on the table."
The ladies applied to my wounds not only the root I mentioned, but likewise some balsam of Mecca, which they were well assured was not adulterated, because they had it out of the caliph's own dispensatory. By virtue of that admirable balsam, I was in a few days perfectly cured, and my wife and I lived together as agreeably as if I had never eaten of the garlic dish. But having been all my lifetime used to enjoy my liberty, I grew weary of being confined to the caliph's palace; yet I said nothing to my wife on the subject, for fear of displeasing her. However, she suspected my feelings; and eagerly wished for liberty herself, for it was gratitude alone that made her continue with Zobeide. She represented to her mistress in such lively terms the constraint I was under, in not living in the city with people of my own rank, as I had always done, that the good princess chose rather to deprive herself of the pleasure of having her favourite about her than not to grant what we both equally desired.
A month after our marriage, my wife came into my room with several eunuchs, each carrying a bag of silver. When the eunuchs were gone; "You never told me," said she, "that you were uneasy in being confined to court; but I perceived it, and have happily found means to make you contented. My mistress Zobeide gives us permission to quit the palace; and here are fifty thousand sequins, of which she has made us a present, in order to enable us to live comfortably in the city. Take ten thousand of them, and go and buy us a house."
I quickly found a house for the money, and after furnishing it richly, we went to reside in it, kept a great many slaves of both sexes, and made a good figure. We thus began to live in a very agreeable manner: but my felicity was of short continuance; for at the end of a year my wife fell sick and died.
I might have married again, and lived honourably at Bagdad; but curiosity to see the world put me upon another plan. I sold my house, and after purchasing several kinds of merchandize, went with a caravan to Persia; from Persia I travelled to Samarcand, and from thence to this city.
"This," said the purveyor to the sultan of Casgar, "is the story that the Bagdad merchant related in a company where I was yesterday." "This story," said the sultan, "has something in it extraordinary; but it does not come near that of the little hunch-back." The Jewish physician prostrated himself before the sultan's throne, and addressed the prince in the following manner: "Sir, if you will be so good as to hear me, I flatter myself you will be pleased with a story I have to tell you." "Well spoken," said the sultan; "but if it be not more surprising than that of little hunch-back, you must not expect to live."
The Jewish physician, finding the sultan of Casgar disposed to hear him, gave the following relation.
The Story told by the Jewish Physician.
When I was studying physic at Damascus, and was just beginning to practise that noble profession with some reputation, a slave called me to see a patient in the governor of the city's family. Accordingly I went, and was conducted into a room, where I found a very handsome young man, much dejected by his disorder. I saluted him, and sat down by him; but he made no return to my compliments, only a sign with his eyes that he heard me, and thanked me. "Pray, sir," said I, "give me your hand, that I may feel your pulse." But instead of stretching out his right, he gave me his left hand, at which I was extremely surprised. However, I felt his pulse, wrote him a prescription, and took leave.
I continued my visits for nine days, and every time I felt his pulse, he still gave me his left hand. On the tenth day he seemed to be so far recovered, that I only deemed it necessary to prescribe bathing to him. The governor of Damascus, who was by, in testimony of his satisfaction with my service, invested me with a very rich robe, saying, he had appointed me a physician of the city hospital, and physician in ordinary to his house, where I might eat at his table when I pleased.
The young man likewise shewed me many civilities, and asked me to accompany him to the bath. Accordingly we went together, and when his attendants had undressed him, I perceived he wanted the right hand, and that it had not long been cut off, which had been the occasion of his disorder, though concealed from me; for while the people about him were applying proper remedies externally, they had called me to prevent the ill consequence of the fever which was on him. I was much surprised and concerned on seeing his misfortune; which he observed by my countenance. "Doctor," cried he, "do not be astonished that my hand is cut off; some day or other I will tell you the cause; and in that relation you will hear very surprising adventures."
After we had returned from the bath, we sat down to a collation; and he asked me if it would be any prejudice to his health if he went and took a walk out of town in the governor's garden? I made answer, that the air would be of service to him. "Then," said he, "if you will give me your company, I will recount to you my history." I replied I was at his command for all that day. Upon which he presently called his servants, and we went to the governor's garden. Having taken two or three turns there, we seated ourselves on a carpet that his servants had spread under a tree, which gave a pleasant shade. The young man then gave me his history in the following terms;
I was born at Moussol, of one of the most considerable families in the city. My father was the eldest of ten brothers, who were all alive and married when my grandfather died. All the brothers were childless, except my father; and he had no child but me. He took particular care of my education; and made me learn every thing proper for my rank.
When I was grown up, and began to enter into the world, I happened one Friday to be at noon-prayers with my father and my uncles in the great mosque of Moussol. After prayers were over, the rest of the company going away, my father and my uncles continued sitting upon the best carpet in the mosque; and I sat down by them. They discoursed of several things, but the conversation fell insensibly, I know not how, upon the subject of travelling. They extolled the beauties and peculiar rarities of some kingdoms, and of their principal cities. But one of my uncles said, that according to the uniform report of an infinite number of voyagers, there was not in the world a pleasanter country than Egypt, on account of the Nile; and the description he gave infused into me such high admiration, that from that moment I had a desire to travel thither. Whatever my other uncles said, by way of preference to Bagdad and the Tigris, in calling Bagdad the residence of the Mussulmaun religion, and the metropolis of all the cities of the earth, made no impression upon me. My father joined in opinion with those of his brothers who had spoken in favour of Egypt; which filled me with joy. "Say what you will," said he, "the man that has not seen Egypt has not seen the greatest rarity in the world. All the land there is golden; I mean, it is so fertile, that it enriches its inhabitants. All the women of that country charm you by their beauty and their agreeable carriage. If you speak of the Nile, where is there a more wonderful river? What water was ever lighter or more delicious? The very slime it carries along in its overflowing fattens the fields, which produce a thousand times more than other countries that are cultivated with the greatest labour. Observe what a poet said of the Egyptians, when he was obliged to depart from Egypt: Your Nile loads you with blessings every day; it is for you only that it runs from such a distance. Alas! in removing from you, my tears will flow as abundantly as its waters; you are to continue in the enjoyment of its sweetnesses, while I am condemned to deprive myself of them against my will.'
"If you look," added my father, "towards the island that is formed by the two greatest branches of the Nile, what variety of verdure! What enamel of all sorts of flowers! What a prodigious number of cities, villages, canals, and a thousand other agreeable objects! If you turn your eyes on the other side, up towards Ethiopia, how many other subjects of admiration! I cannot compare the verdure of so many plains, watered by the different canals of the island, better than to brilliant emeralds set in silver. Is not Grand Cairo the largest, the most populous, and the richest city in the world? What a number of magnificent edifices both public and private! If you view the pyramids, you will be filled with astonishment at the sight of the masses of stone of an enormous thickness, which rear their heads to the skies! You will be obliged to confess, that the Pharaohs, who employed such riches, and so many men in building them, must have surpassed in magnificence and invention all the monarchs who have appeared since, not only in Egypt, but in all the world, for having left monuments so worthy of their memory: monuments so ancient, that the learned cannot agree upon the date of their erection; yet such as will last to the end of time. I pass over in silence the maritime cities of the kingdom of Egypt, such as Damietta, Rosetta, and Alexandria, where nations come for various sorts of grain, cloth, and an infinite number of commodities calculated for accommodation and delight. I speak of what I know; for I spent some years there in my youth, which I shall always reckon the most agreeable part of my life."
My uncles could make no reply, and assented to all my father had said of the Nile, of Cairo, and of the whole kingdom of Egypt. My imagination was so full of these subjects, I could not sleep that night. Soon after, my uncles declared how much they were struck with my father's account. They made a proposal to him, that they should travel all together into Egypt. To this he assented; and being rich merchants, they resolved to carry with them such commodities as were likely to suit the market. When I found that they were making preparations for their departure, I went to my father, and begged of him, with tears in my eyes, that he would suffer me to make one of the party, and allow me some stock of goods to trade with on my own account. "You are too young," said he, "to travel into Egypt; the fatigue is too great for you; and, besides, I am sure you will come off a loser in your traffic." These words, however, did not suppress my eager desire to travel. I made use of my uncles' interest with my father, who at last granted me permission to go as far as Damascus, where they were to leave me, till they had travelled through Egypt. "The city of Damascus," said my father, "may likewise glory in its beauties, and my son must be content with leave to go so far." Though my curiosity to see Egypt was very pressing, I considered he was my father, and submitted to his will.
I set out from Moussol in company with him and my uncles. We travelled through Mesopotamia, passed the Euphrates, and arrived at Aleppo, where we stayed some days. From thence we went to Damascus, the first sight of which struck me with agreeable surprise We lodged all together in one khan; and I had the view of a city that was large, populous, full of handsome people, and well fortified. We employed some days in walking up and down the delicious gardens that surrounded it; and we all agreed that Damascus was justly said to be seated in a paradise. At last my uncles thought of pursuing their journey; but took care, before they went, to sell my goods so advantageously for me, that I gained by them five hundred per cent. This sale brought me a sum so considerable, as to fill me with delight.