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."

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 [37]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[38] 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[39] 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[40] 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."
He was chained to the spot by the pleasure of beholding three such beauties.
He was chained to the spot by the pleasure of beholding three such beauties. Page 38

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, [41]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."

"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 [42]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.


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[44] 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[45] 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[46] 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.

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 [47]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.[48] "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[49] 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.

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 [50]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!"[51] 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.[52] 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,[53] 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[54] 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[55] 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,[56] 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."[57]

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[58] 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[59] 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[60] 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?"

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 [61]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:[62]

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, [63]published what blessings they received through his means.

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.

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 [64]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.

The other dervishes, who had been seeking for him, were rejoiced to see him. He gave them a brief account[65] of the wickedness of the man to whom he had given so kind a reception the day before, and retired into his cell. Shortly after, the black cat, which the fairies and genies had mentioned the night before, came to fawn upon her master, as she was accustomed to do; he took her up, and pulled seven hairs from the white spot that was upon her tail, and laid them aside for his use when occasion should serve.

Soon after sunrise the sultan, who would leave no means untried that he thought likely to restore the princess to perfect health, arrived at the gate of the convent. He commanded his guards to halt, while he with his principal officers went in. The dervishes received him with profound respect.

The sultan called their chief aside, and said, "Good Sheik,[18] you may probably be already acquainted with the cause of my visit."

"Yes, sir," replied he gravely, "if I do not mistake, it is the disease of the princess which procures me this unmerited honor."

"That is the real case," replied the sultan. "You will give me new life if your prayers, as I hope they may, restore my daughter's health."

"Sir," said the good man, "if your majesty will be pleased to let her come hither, I am in hopes, through God's assistance, that she will be effectually cured."

The prince, transported with joy, sent immediately for his daughter, who soon appeared with a numerous train of ladies and attendants, veiled, so that her face was not seen. The chief of the dervishes caused a carpet [66]to be held over her head, and he had no sooner thrown the seven hairs upon the burning coals than the genie uttered a great cry and, without being seen, left the princess at liberty; upon which she took the veil from her face, and rose up to see where she was, saying, "Where am I, and who brought me hither?"

At these words, the sultan, overcome with excess of joy, embraced his daughter and kissed her eyes; he also kissed the sheik's hands, and said to his officers, "What reward does he deserve that has thus cured my daughter?"

They all cried, "He deserves her in marriage."

"That is what I had in my thoughts," said the sultan; "and I make him my son-in-law from this moment."

Some time after, the prime vizier died, and the sultan conferred the office on the dervish. Then the sultan himself died, without heirs male; upon which the religious orders and the army consulted together, and the good man was declared and acknowledged sultan by general consent.

The honest dervish ascended the throne of his father-in-law. One day as he was in the midst of his courtiers on a march, he espied the envious man among the crowd that stood as he passed along. Calling one of the viziers that attended him, he whispered in his ear, "Go bring me that man you see there; but take care you do not frighten him."

The vizier obeyed, and when the envious man was brought into his presence the sultan said, "Friend, I am extremely glad to see you."

Then he called an officer. "Go immediately," said he, "and cause to be paid to this man out of my treasury,[19] [67]one hundred pieces of gold. Let him have also twenty loads of the richest merchandise in my storehouses, and a sufficient guard to conduct him to his house."

After he had given this charge to the officer he bade the envious man farewell, and proceeded on his march.

When I had finished the recital of this story to the genie I employed all my eloquence to persuade him to imitate so good an example, and to grant me pardon; but it was impossible to move his compassion.

"All that I can do for thee," said he, "is to grant thee thy life, but I must place thee under enchantments." So saying, he seized me violently, and carried me through the arched roof of the subterranean palace, which opened to give him passage. He ascended with me into the air to such a height that the earth appeared like a little white cloud. He then descended again like lightning, and alighted upon the summit of a mountain.

Here he took up a handful of earth, and, muttering some words which I did not understand, threw it upon me. "Quit," said he, "the form of a man, and take that of an ape."

He instantly disappeared, and left me alone, transformed into an ape, and overwhelmed with sorrow, in a strange country, not knowing whether I was near or far from my father's dominions.

I descended the mountain, and entered a plain, level country, which took me a month to travel over, and then I came to the seaside. It happened at the time to [68]be perfectly calm, and I espied a vessel about half a league from the shore. Unwilling to lose so good an opportunity, I broke off a large branch from a tree, carried it into the sea, and placed myself astride upon it, with a stick in each hand, to serve me for oars.

I launched out on this frail bark, and rowed toward the ship. When I had approached sufficiently near to be seen, the seamen and passengers on the deck regarded me with astonishment. In the meantime I got on board, and laying hold of a rope, jumped upon the deck, but having lost my speech, I found myself in great perplexity. And indeed the risk I ran was not less than when I was at the mercy of the genie.

The merchants, being both superstitious and scrupulous, thought if they received me on board I should be the occasion of some misfortune to them during their voyage. On this account they said, "Let us throw him into the sea." Some one of them would not have failed to carry this threat into execution had I not gone to the captain, thrown myself at his feet, and taken hold of his skirt in a supplicating posture. This action, together with the tears which he saw gush from my eyes, moved his compassion. He took me under his protection, and loaded me with a thousand caresses. On my part, though I had not power to speak, I showed by my gestures every mark of gratitude in my power.

The wind that succeeded the calm continued to blow in the same direction for fifty days, and brought us safe to the port of a city, well peopled, and of great trade, where we cast anchor.

Our vessel was instantly surrounded with multitudes of boats full of people. Among the rest, some officers[69] of the sultan came on board, and said "Our master rejoices in your safe arrival, and he beseeches each of you to write a few lines upon this roll. The prime vizier, who, besides possessing great abilities for the management of public affairs, could write in the highest perfection, died a few days since, and the sultan has made a solemn vow not to give the place to any one who cannot write equally well. No one in the empire has been judged worthy to supply the vizier's place."

Those of the merchants who thought they could write well enough to aspire to this high dignity wrote one after another what they thought fit. After they had done, I advanced, and took the roll, but all the people cried out that I would tear it or throw it into the sea, till they saw how properly I held the roll, and made a sign that I would write in my turn. Their apprehensions then changed into wonder. However, as they had never seen an ape that could write, and could not be persuaded that I was more ingenious than others of my kind, they wished to take the roll out of my hand; but the captain took my part once more.

"Let him alone," said he; "allow him to write."

Perceiving that no one opposed my design, I took the pen, and wrote six sorts of hands used among the Arabians, and each specimen contained an extemporary distich or quatrain (a stanza of four lines) in praise of the sultan. When I had done, the officers took the roll, and carried it to the sultan.

The sultan took little notice of any of the writings except mine, which pleased him so much that he said to the officers, "Take the finest horse in my stable, with the richest trappings, and a robe of the most sumptuous[70] brocade to put on the person who wrote the six hands, and bring him hither."

At this command the officers could not forbear laughing. The sultan was incensed at their rudeness, and would have punished them, had they not explained.

"Sir," said they, "we humbly beg your majesty's pardon. These hands were not written by a man, but by an ape."

"What do you say?" exclaimed the sultan. "Those admirable characters, are they not written by the hands of a man?"

"No, sir," replied the officers; "we assure your majesty that it was an ape, who wrote them in our presence."

The sultan was too much surprised at this account not to desire a sight of me, and therefore said, "Do what I command you, and bring me speedily that wonderful ape."

The officers returned to the vessel, and showed the captain their order, who answered, "The sultan's command must be obeyed." Whereupon they clothed me with the rich brocade robe, and carried me ashore, where they set me on horseback, while the sultan waited for me at his palace with a great number of courtiers.

The procession commenced; the harbor, the streets, the public places, windows, terraces, palaces, and houses were filled with an infinite number of people of all ranks, who flocked from every part of the city to see me; for the rumor was spread in a moment that the sultan had chosen an ape to be his grand vizier; and after having served for a spectacle to the people, who could not forbear to express their surprise by redoubling[71] their shouts and cries, I arrived at the sultan's palace.

I found the prince on his throne in the midst of the grandees; I made my obeisance three times very low, and at last kneeled and kissed the ground before him, and afterward took my seat in the posture of an ape. The whole assembly viewed me with admiration, and could not comprehend how it was possible that an ape should so well understand how to pay the sultan his due respect; and he himself was more astonished than any. In short, the usual ceremony of the audience would have been complete, could I have added speech to my behavior.

The sultan dismissed his courtiers, and none remained by him but the chief of the attendants of the palace, a little young slave, and myself. He went from his chamber of audience into his own apartment, where he ordered dinner to be brought. As he sat at table, he made me a sign to approach and eat with them. To show my obedience, I kissed the ground, arose, and placed myself at the table, and ate.

Before the table was cleared, I espied a standish, which I made a sign to have brought me; having got it, I wrote upon a large peach some verses expressive of my acknowledgment to the sultan; who, having read them, after I had presented the peach to him, was still more astonished. When the things were removed, they brought him a particular liquor, of which he caused them to give me a glass. I drank, and wrote upon the glass some new verses, which explained the state of happiness I was now in, after many sufferings. The sultan read these likewise, and said, "A man that was capable of composing such poetry would rank among the greatest of men."[72]

The sultan caused to be brought to him a chessboard,[20] and asked me by a sign if I understood that game, and would play with him. I kissed the ground; and laying my hand upon my head, signified that I was ready to receive that honor. He won the first game; but I won the second and third; and perceiving he was somewhat displeased at my success, I made a stanza to pacify him, in which I told him that two potent armies had been fighting furiously all day, but that they concluded a peace toward the evening, and passed the remaining part of the night very amicably together upon the field of battle.

So many circumstances appearing to the sultan beyond what had ever either been seen or known of apes, he determined not to be the only witness of these prodigies himself, but having a daughter, called the Lady of Beauty, sent for her, that she should share his pleasure.

The princess, who had her face unveiled, no sooner came into the room than she put on her veil, and said to the sultan, "Sir, I am surprised that you have sent for me to appear before a man. That seeming ape is a young prince, son of a powerful sultan, and has been metamorphosed into an ape by enchantment. When I was just out of the nursery, an old lady who waited on me was a most expert magician, and taught me seventy rules of magic. By this science I know all enchanted persons at first sight: I know who they are, and by whom they have been enchanted; therefore do not be surprised if I should forthwith restore this prince, in spite of the enchantments, to his own form."


"Do so, then," interrupted the sultan, "for you cannot give me greater pleasure, as I wish to have him for my grand vizier, and bestow you upon him for a wife."

"I am ready, sire," answered the princess, "to obey you in all things you please to command."

The princess, the Lady of Beauty, went into her apartment, and brought thence a knife, which had some Hebrew words engraved on the blade: she made the sultan, the little slave, and myself, descend into a private court of the palace, and there left us under a gallery that went round it. She placed herself in the middle of the court, where she made a great circle, and within it she wrote several words in ancient Arabian characters.

When she had finished and prepared the circle, she placed herself in the center of it, where she began incantations, and repeated verses of the Koran. The air grew insensibly dark, as if it had been night; we found ourselves struck with consternation, and our fear increased when we saw the genie appear suddenly in the shape of a lion[21] of gigantic size.

"Thou shalt pay dearly," said the lion, "for the trouble thou hast given me in coming here." In saying this, he opened his horrible jaws, and advanced to devour her; but she, being on her guard, jumped back, and had just time to pluck out a hair; and pronouncing two or three words, she changed it into a sharp scythe, with which she immediately cut the lion in two pieces, through the middle.

The two parts of the lion directly disappeared, and [74]the head changed into a large scorpion. The princess then took the form of a serpent, and fought the scorpion, which, finding itself defeated, changed into an eagle, and flew away. But the serpent then became another eagle, black, and very large, and went in pursuit of it. We now lost sight of them for some time.

Shortly after they had disappeared, the earth opened before us, and a black and white cat appeared, the hairs of which stood quite on end, and which made a most horrible mewing. A black wolf directly followed after her, and gave her no time to rest. The cat, being thus hard pressed, changed into a worm, and hid itself in a pomegranate which lay by accident on the ground; but the pomegranate swelled immediately, and became as big as a gourd, which, lifting itself up to the roof of the gallery, rolled there for some time backward and forward; it then fell down again into the court, and broke into several pieces.

The wolf had in the meanwhile transformed itself into a cock, and now fell to picking up the seeds of the pomegranate one after another; but finding no more, he came toward us with his wings spread, making a great noise, as if he would ask us whether there were any more seed. There was one lying on the brink of the canal, which the cock perceiving as he went back, ran speedily thither; but just as he was going to pick it up the seed rolled into a fountain and turned into a little fish.

The cock, flying toward the fountain, turned into a pike, and pursued the small fish; they both continued under water above two hours, and we knew not what was become of them; but suddenly we heard terrible[75] cries, which made us tremble, and a little while after we saw the genie and princess all in flames. They threw ashes of fire out of their mouths at each other, till they came to close combat; then the two fires increased, with a thick, burning smoke, which mounted so high that we had reason to apprehend it would set the palace on fire. But we very soon had a more pressing occasion of fear, for the genie, having got loose from the princess, came to the gallery where we stood, and blew flames of fire upon us. We must all have perished had not the princess, running to our assistance, forced him to retire, and to defend himself against her; yet, notwithstanding all her exertions, she could not hinder the sultan's beard from being burned, and his face scorched, and a spark from entering my right eye, and making it blind. The sultan and I expected nothing but death, when we heard a cry of "Victory, victory!" and instantly the princess appeared in her natural shape; but the genie was reduced to a heap of ashes.

The princess approached us and hastily called for a cupful of water, which the young slave, who had received no hurt, brought her. She took it, and after pronouncing some words over it, threw it upon me, saying, "If thou art become an ape by enchantment, change thy shape, and take that of a man, which thou hadst before." These words were hardly uttered when I again became a man in every respect as I was before my transformation, excepting the loss of my eye.

I was preparing to return the princess my thanks, but she prevented me by addressing herself to her father: "Sire, I have gained the victory over the genie; but it is a victory that costs me dear. I have but a few minutes[76] to live; the fire has pierced me during the terrible combat, and I find it is gradually consuming me. This would not have happened had I perceived the last of the pomegranate seeds, and swallowed it, as I did the others when I was changed into a cock; the genie had fled thither as to his last intrenchment, and upon that the success of the combat depended. This oversight obliged me to have recourse to fire, and to fight with those mighty arms as I did, between heaven and earth, in your presence; for in spite of all, I made the genie know that I understood more than he; I have conquered, and reduced him to ashes, but I cannot escape death, which is approaching."

Suddenly the princess exclaimed, "I burn, I burn!" She found that the fire had at last seized upon her vital parts, which made her still cry, "I burn!" until death had put an end to her intolerable pain. The effect of that fire was so extraordinary, that in a few moments she was wholly reduced to ashes, as the genie had been.

I cannot tell you, madam, how much I was grieved at so dismal a spectacle; I had rather all my life have continued an ape or a dog, than to have seen my benefactress thus miserably perish. The sultan cried piteously, and beat himself on his head and breast, until, being quite overcome with grief, he fainted away. In the meantime, the attendants and officers came running at the sultan's lamentations, and with much difficulty brought him to himself.

When the knowledge of the death of the princess had spread through the palace and the city, all the people greatly bewailed. Public mourning was observed for seven days, and many ceremonies were performed. The[77] ashes of the genie were thrown into the air; but those of the princess were collected into a precious urn, to be preserved; and the urn was deposited in a superb mausoleum[22] constructed for that purpose on the spot where the princess had been consumed.

The grief of the sultan for the loss of his daughter confined him to his chamber for a whole month. Before he had fully recovered his strength, he sent for me and said, "You are the cause of all these misfortunes; depart hence therefore in peace, without further delay, and take care never again to appear in my dominions on penalty of thy life."

I was obliged to quit the palace, again cast down to a low estate, and an outcast from the world. Before I left the city I went into a bagnio, where I caused my beard and eyebrows to be shaved, and put on a calender's robe. I passed through many countries without making myself known; at last I resolved to visit Bagdad, in hopes of meeting with the Commander of the Faithful, to move his compassion by relating to him my unfortunate adventures. I arrived this evening; and the first man I met was this calender, our brother, who spoke before me.


You know the remaining part, madam, and the cause of my having the honor to be here.

When the second calender had concluded his story, Zobeide, to whom he had addressed his speech, said, "It is well; you are at liberty": but instead of departing he also petitioned the lady to show him the same favor vouchsafed to the first calender, and went and sat down by him.

Then the third calender, knowing it was his turn to speak, addressed himself, like the others, to Zobeide, and began his history as follows:

My story, O honorable lady, differs from those you have already heard. The two princes who have spoken before me have each lost an eye by events beyond their own control; but I lost mine through my own fault.

My name is Agib. I am the son of a sultan. After his death I took possession of his dominions, and continued in the city where he had resided. My kingdom is composed of several fine provinces upon the mainland, besides a number of valuable islands. My first object was to visit the provinces. I afterward caused my whole fleet to be fitted out, and went to my islands to gain the hearts of my subjects by my presence, and to confirm them in their loyalty. These voyages gave me some taste for navigation, in which I took so much pleasure that I resolved to make some discoveries beyond my own territories; to which end I caused ten ships to be fitted out, embarked, and set sail.[79]

Our voyage was very pleasant for forty days successively; but on the forty-first night the wind became contrary, and so boisterous that we were nearly lost. I gave orders to steer back to my own coast; but I perceived at the same time that my pilot knew not where we were. Upon the tenth day a seaman, being sent to look out for land from the masthead, gave notice that he could see nothing but sky and sea, but that right ahead he perceived a great blackness.

The pilot changed color at this account, and throwing his turban on the deck with one hand, and beating his breast with the other, cried, "O sir, we are all lost; not one of us can escape; and with all my skill it is not in my power to effect our deliverance."

I asked him what reason he had thus to despair.

He exclaimed, "The tempest has brought us so far out of our course that to-morrow about noon we shall be near the black mountain, or mine of adamant, which at this very minute draws all your fleet toward it by virtue of the iron in your ships; and when we approach within a certain distance the attraction of the adamant will have such force that all the nails will be drawn out of the sides and bottoms of the ships, and fasten to the mountain, so that your vessels will fall to pieces and sink. This mountain," continued the pilot, "is inaccessible. On the summit there is a dome of fine brass, supported by pillars of the same metal, and on the top of that dome stands a horse, likewise of brass, with a rider on his back, who has a plate of lead fixed to his breast, upon which some talismanic characters are engraved. Sir, the tradition is, that this statue is the chief cause why so many ships and men have been lost[80] and sunk in this place, and that it will ever continue to be fatal to all those who have the misfortune to approach, until it shall be thrown down."

The pilot having finished his discourse, began to weep afresh, and all the rest of the ship's company did the same, and they took farewell of each other.

The next morning we distinctly perceived the black mountain. About noon we were so near that we found what the pilot had foretold to be true; for all the nails and iron in the ships flew toward the mountain, where they fixed, by the violence of the attraction, with a horrible noise; the ships split asunder, and their cargoes sank into the sea.

All my people were drowned, but God had mercy on me and permitted me to save myself by means of a plank, which the wind drove ashore just at the foot of the mountain. I did not receive the least hurt; and my good fortune brought me to a landing place where there were steps that led up to the summit of the mountain.

At last I reached the top, without accident. I went into the dome, and, kneeling on the ground, gave God thanks for His mercies.

I passed the night under the dome. In my sleep an old grave man appeared to me, and said, "Hearken, Agib; as soon as thou art awake dig up the ground under thy feet: thou wilt find a bow of brass, and three arrows of lead. Shoot the three arrows at the statue, and the rider and his horse will fall into the sea; this being done, the sea will swell and rise to the foot of the dome. When it has come so high, thou wilt perceive a boat, with one man holding an oar in each hand; this man is[81] also of metal, but different from that thou hast thrown down; step on board, but without mentioning the name of God, and let him conduct thee. He will in ten days' time bring thee into another sea, where thou shalt find an opportunity to return to thy country, provided, as I have told thee, thou dost not mention the name of God during the whole voyage."

When I awoke I felt much comforted by the vision, and did not fail to observe everything that the old man had commanded me. I took the bow and arrows out of the ground, shot at the horseman, and with the third arrow I overthrew him and the horse. In the meantime the sea swelled and rose up by degrees. When it came as high as the foot of the dome upon the top of the mountain, I saw, afar off, a boat rowing toward me, and I returned God thanks.

When the boat made land I stepped aboard, and took great heed not to pronounce the name of God, neither spoke I one word. I sat down, and the man of metal began to row off from the mountain. He rowed without ceasing till the ninth day, when I saw some islands, which gave me hopes that I should escape all the danger that I feared. The excess of my joy made me forget what I was forbidden: "God is great! God be praised!" said I.

I had no sooner spoken than the boat and man sank, casting me upon the sea. I swam until night, when, as my strength began to fail, a wave vast as a mountain threw me on the land. The first thing I did was to strip, and to dry my clothes.

The next morning I went forward to discover what sort of country I was in. I had not walked far before I[82] found I was upon a desert, though a very pleasant island, abounding with trees and wild shrubs bearing fruit. I recommended myself to God, and prayed Him to dispose of me according to His will.

Immediately after, I saw a vessel coming from the mainland, before the wind, directly toward the island. I got up into a very thick tree, from whence, though unseen, I might safely view them. The vessel came into a little creek, where ten slaves landed, carrying a spade and other instruments for digging up the ground. They went toward the middle of the island, where they dug for a considerable time, after which they lifted up a trapdoor. They returned again to the vessel, and unloaded several sorts of provisions and furniture, which they carried to the place where they had been digging; they then descended into a subterranean dwelling.

I saw them once more go to the ship, and return soon after with an old man, who led a handsome lad of about fifteen years of age. They all descended when the trapdoor had been opened. After they had again come up, they let down the trapdoor, covered it over with earth, and returned to the creek where the ship lay; but I saw not the young man in their company. This made me believe that he had stayed behind in the subterranean cavern.

The old man and the slaves went on board, and steered their course toward the mainland. When I perceived they had proceeded to such a distance that I could not be seen by them, I came down from the tree, and went directly to the place where I had seen the ground broken. I removed the earth by degrees, till I came to a stone two or three feet square. I lifted it up, and found[83] that it covered the head of a flight of stairs, also of stone. I descended, and at the bottom found myself in a large room, brilliantly lighted, and furnished with a carpet, a couch covered with tapestry, and cushions of rich stuff, upon which the young man sat.

The young man, when he perceived me, was considerably alarmed; but I made a low obeisance, and said to him, "Sir, do not fear. I am a king, and I will do you no harm. On the contrary, it is probable that your good destiny may have brought me hither to deliver you out of this tomb, where it seems you have been buried alive. But what surprises me (for you must know that I have seen all that hath passed since your coming into this island) is, that you suffered yourself to be entombed in this place without any resistance."

The young man, much assured at these words, with a smiling countenance requested me to seat myself by him. As soon as I was seated he said: "Prince, my story will surprise you. My father is a jeweler. He has many slaves, and also agents at the several courts, which he furnishes with precious stones. He had been long married without having issue when he dreamed that he should have a son, though his life would be but short. Some time after, I was born, which occasioned great joy in the family. My father, who had observed the very moment of my birth, consulted astrologers about my nativity, and was answered, 'Your son shall live happily till the age of fifteen, when his life will be exposed to a danger which he will hardly be able to escape. But if his good destiny preserve him beyond that time, he will live to a great age. It will be,' said they, 'when the statue of brass, that stands upon the summit of the[84] mountain of adamant, shall be thrown into the sea by Prince Agib, and, as the stars prognosticate, your son will be killed fifty days afterward by that prince.'

"My father took all imaginable care of my education until this year, which is the fifteenth of my age. He had notice given him yesterday that the statue of brass had been thrown into the sea about ten days ago. This news alarmed him much; and, in consequence of the prediction of the astrologers, he took the precaution to form this subterranean habitation to hide me in during the fifty days after the throwing down of the statue; and therefore, as it is ten days since this happened, he came hastily hither to conceal me, and promised at the end of forty days to return and fetch me away. For my own part, I am sanguine in my hopes, and cannot believe that Prince Agib will seek for me in a place under ground, in the midst of a desert island."

He had scarcely done speaking when I said to him, with great joy: "Dear sir, trust in the goodness of God, and fear nothing. I will not leave you till the forty days have expired, of which the foolish astrologers have made you apprehensive; and in the meanwhile I will do you all the service in my power; after which, with leave of your father and yourself, I shall have the benefit of getting to the mainland in your vessel; and when I am returned into my kingdom, I will remember the obligations I owe you, and endeavor to demonstrate my gratitude by suitable acknowledgments."

This discourse encouraged the jeweler's son, and inspired him with confidence. I took care not to inform him I was the very Agib whom he dreaded, lest I should alarm his fears. I found the young man of ready wit,[85] and partook with him of his provisions, of which he had enough to have lasted beyond the forty days though he had had more guests than myself. In short, madam, we spent thirty-nine days in this subterranean abode in the pleasantest manner possible.

The fortieth day appeared; and in the morning, when the young man awoke, he said to me, with a transport of joy that he could not restrain, "Prince, this is the fortieth day, and I am not dead, thanks to God and your good company. My father will not fail to make you, very shortly, every acknowledgment of his gratitude for your attentions, and will furnish you with every necessary for your return to your kingdom. But," continued he, "while we are waiting his arrival, dear prince, pray do me the favor to fetch me a melon and some sugar,[23] that I may eat some to refresh me."

Out of several melons that remained I took the best, and laid it on a plate; and as I could not find a knife to cut it with, I asked the young man if he knew where there was one.

"There is one," said he, "upon this cornice over my head." I accordingly saw it there, and made so much haste to reach it that, while I had it in my hand, my foot being entangled in the carpet, I fell most unhappily upon the young man, and the knife pierced his heart.

At this spectacle I cried out with agony. I beat my head, my face, my breast; I tore my clothes; I threw myself on the ground with unspeakable sorrow and grief.


I would have embraced death without any reluctance, had it presented itself to me. "But what we wish, whether it be good or evil, will not always happen according to our desire." Nevertheless, considering that all my tears and sorrows would not restore the young man to life, and, the forty days being expired, I might be surprised by his father, I quitted the subterranean dwelling, laid down the great stone upon the entrance, and covered it with earth. I again ascended into the tree which had previously sheltered me, when I saw the expected vessel approaching the shore.

The old man with his slaves landed immediately, and advanced toward the subterranean dwelling, with a countenance that showed some hope; but when they saw the earth had been newly removed, they changed color, particularly the old man. They lifted up the stone, and descended the stairs. They called the young man by his name, but no answer was returned. Their fears redoubled. They searched about, and at last found him stretched on his couch, with the knife through his heart, for I had not had the courage to draw it out. On seeing this, they uttered such lamentable cries that my tears flowed afresh. The unfortunate father continued a long while insensible, and made them more than once despair of his life; but at last he came to himself. The slaves then brought up his son's body, dressed in his best apparel, and when they had made a grave they buried it. The old man, supported by two slaves, and his face covered with tears, threw the first earth upon the body, after which the slaves filled up the grave.

This being done, all the furniture was brought up,[87] and, with the remaining provisions, put on board the vessel. The old man, overcome with sorrow, was carried upon a litter to the ship, which stood out to sea, and in a short time was out of sight.

After the old man and his slaves were gone I was left alone upon the island. I lay that night in the subterranean dwelling, which they had shut up, and when the day came, I walked round the island.

I led this wearisome life for a whole month. At the expiration of this time I perceived that the sea had sunk so low that there remained between me and the continent but a small stream, which I crossed, and the water did not reach above the middle of my leg. At last I got upon more firm ground. When I had proceeded some distance from the sea I saw a good way before me something that resembled a great fire, which afforded me some comfort; for I said to myself, I shall here find some persons, it not being possible that this fire should kindle of itself. As I drew nearer, however, I found my error, and discovered that what I had taken for a fire was a castle of red copper, which the beams of the sun made to appear at a distance like flames. As I wondered at this magnificent building, I saw ten handsome young men coming along; but what surprised me was that they were all blind of the right eye. They were accompanied by an old man, very tall, and of a venerable aspect.

As I was conjecturing by what adventure these men could come together, they approached, and seemed glad to see me. After we had made our salutations, they inquired what had brought me thither. I told them my story, which filled them with great astonishment.[88]
These ladies vied with each other in their eager solicitude to do me all possible service.
These ladies vied with each other in their eager solicitude to do me all possible service. Page 91

After I had concluded my account, the young men prayed me to accompany them into the palace, and brought me into a spacious hall, where there were ten small blue sofas set round, separate from one another. In the middle of this circle stood an eleventh sofa, not so high as the rest, but of the same color, upon which the old man before mentioned sat down, and the young men occupied the other ten. But as each sofa could only contain one man, one of the young men said to me, "Sit down, friend, upon that carpet in the middle of the room, and do not inquire into anything that concerns us, nor the reason why we are all blind of the right eye."

The old man, having sat a short time, arose, and went out; but he returned in a minute or two, brought in supper, distributed to each man separately his proportion, and likewise brought me mine, which I ate apart, as the rest did; and when supper was almost ended, he presented to each of us a cup of wine.

One of the young men observing that it was late, said to the old man, "You do not bring us that with which we may acquit ourselves of our duty." At these words the old man arose, and went into a closet, and brought out thence upon his head ten basins, one after another, all covered with black stuff; he placed one before every gentleman, together with a light.

They uncovered their basins, which contained ashes and powdered charcoal; they mixed all together, and rubbed and bedaubed their faces with it; and having thus blackened themselves, they wept and lamented, beating their heads and breasts, and crying continually, "This is the fruit of our idleness and curiosity."

They continued this strange employment nearly the [89]whole of the night. I wished a thousand times to break the silence which had been imposed upon me, and to ask the reason of their strange proceedings. The next day, soon after we had arisen, we went out to walk, and then I said to them, "I cannot forbear asking why you bedaubed your faces with black—how it has happened that each of you has but one eye. I conjure you to satisfy my curiosity."

One of the young men answered on behalf of the rest, "Once more we advise you to restrain your curiosity; it will cost you the loss of your right eye."

"No matter," I replied; "be assured that if such a misfortune befall me, I will not impute it to you, but to myself."

He further represented to me that when I had lost an eye I must not hope to remain with them, if I were so disposed, because their number was complete, and no addition could be made to it. I begged them, let it cost what it would, to grant my request.

The ten young men, perceiving that I was so fixed in my resolution, took a sheep, killed it, and after they had taken off the skin, presented me with a knife, telling me it would be useful to me on an occasion, which they would soon explain. "We must sew you in this skin," said they, "and then leave you; upon which a bird of monstrous size, called a roc, will appear in the air, and, taking you for a sheep, will pounce upon you, and soar with you to the sky. But let not that alarm you; he will descend with you again, and lay you on the top of a mountain. When you find yourself on the ground, cut the skin with your knife, and throw it off. As soon as the roc sees you, he will fly away for fear, and leave[90] you at liberty. Do not stay, but walk on till you come to a spacious palace, covered with plates of gold, large emeralds, and other precious stones. Go up to the gate, which always stands open, and walk in. We have each of us been in that castle, but will tell you nothing of what we saw, or what befell us there; you will learn by your own experience. All that we can inform you is, that it has cost each of us our right eye; and the penance which you have been witness to, is what we are obliged to observe in consequence of having been there; but we cannot explain ourselves further."

When the young man had thus spoken, I wrapped myself in the sheep's skin, holding fast to the knife which was given me; and after the young men had been at the trouble to sew the skin about me, they retired into the hall, and left me alone. The roc they spoke of soon arrived; he pounced upon me, took me in his talons like a sheep, and carried me up to the summit of the mountain.

When I found myself on the ground I cut the skin with the knife, and throwing it off, the roc at the sight of me flew away. This roc is a white bird of a monstrous size; his strength is such that he can lift up elephants from the plains, and carry them to the tops of mountains, where he feeds upon them.

Being impatient to reach the palace, I lost no time, but made so much haste that I got thither in half a day's journey; and I must say that I found it surpassed the description they had given me of its magnificence.

The gate being open, I entered a square court, so large that there were around it ninety-nine gates of sandalwood and wood of aloes, and one of gold, without[91] reckoning those of several superb staircases that led to apartments above, besides many more which I could not see.

I saw a door standing open just before me, through which I entered into a large hall. Here I found forty young women, of such perfect beauty as imagination could not surpass; they were all most sumptuously appareled. As soon as they saw me they arose, and without waiting my salutations, said to me, with tones of joy, "Welcome! welcome! We have long expected you. You are at present our lord, master, and judge, and we are your slaves, ready to obey your commands."

After these words were spoken, these ladies vied with each other in their eager solicitude to do me all possible service. One brought hot water to wash my feet; a second poured sweet-scented water on my hands; others brought me all kinds of necessaries and change of apparel; others again brought in a magnificent collation; and the rest came, with glasses in their hands, to pour me delicious wines, all in good order, and in the most charming manner possible. Some of the ladies brought in musical instruments, and sang most delightful songs; while others danced before me, two and two, with admirable grace. In short, honored madam, I must tell you that I passed a whole year of most pleasurable life with these forty ladies. At the end of that time I was greatly surprised to see these ladies with great sorrow impressed upon their countenances, and to hear them all say, "Adieu, dear prince, adieu! For we must leave you."

After they had spoken these words, they began to weep bitterly.[92]

"My dear ladies," said I, "have the kindness not to keep me any longer in suspense. Tell me the cause of your sorrow."

"Well," said one of them, "to satisfy you, we must acquaint you that we are all princesses, daughters of kings. We live here together in the manner you have seen; but at the end of every year we are obliged to be absent forty days, for reasons we are not permitted to reveal; and afterward we return again to this palace. Before we depart we will leave you the keys of everything, especially those of the hundred doors, where you will find enough to satisfy your curiosity, and to relieve your solitude during our absence. But we entreat you to forbear opening the golden door; for if you do, we shall never see you again; and the apprehension of this augments our grief."

We separated with much tenderness; and after I had embraced them all they departed, and I remained alone in the castle.

I determined not to forget the important advice they had given me, not to open the golden door; but as I was permitted to satisfy my curiosity in everything else, I took the first of the keys of the other doors, which were hung in regular order.

I opened the first door, and entered an orchard, which I believe the universe could not equal. I could not imagine anything to surpass it. The symmetry, the neatness, the admirable order of the trees, the abundance and diversity of unknown fruits, their freshness and beauty, delighted me. Nor must I neglect to inform you that this delightful garden was watered in a most singular manner; small channels, cut out with great art and[93] regularity, and of different lengths, carried water in considerable quantities to the roots of such trees as required much moisture. Others conveyed it in smaller quantities to those whose fruits were already formed; some carried still less; to those whose fruits were swelling; and others carried only so much as was just requisite to water those which had their fruits come to perfection, and only wanted to be ripened. They far exceeded in size the ordinary fruits in our gardens. I shut the door, and opened the next.

Instead of an orchard, I found here a flower garden, which was no less extraordinary in its kind. The roses, jessamines, violets, daffodils, hyacinths, anemones, tulips, pinks, lilies, and an infinite number of flowers, which do not grow in other places except at certain times, were there flourishing all at once; and nothing could be more delicious than the fragrant smell which they emitted.

I opened the third door, and found a large aviary, paved with marble of several fine and uncommon colors. The trellis work was made of sandalwood and wood of aloes. It contained a vast number of nightingales, goldfinches, canary birds, larks, and other rare singing birds, and the vessels that held their seed were of the most sparkling jasper or agate. The sun went down, and I retired, charmed with the chirping notes of the multitude of birds, who then began to perch upon such places as suited them for repose during the night. I went to my chamber, resolving on the following days to open all the rest of the doors, excepting that of gold.

The next day I opened the fourth door. I entered a large court, surrounded with forty gates, all open, and through each of them was an entrance into a treasury.[94] The first was stored with heaps of pearls; and, what is almost incredible, the number of those stones which are most precious, and as large as pigeon's eggs, exceeded the number of those of the ordinary size. In the second treasury,[24] there were diamonds, carbuncles, and rubies; in the third, emeralds; in the fourth, ingots of gold; in the fifth, money; in the sixth, ingots of silver; and in the two following, money. The rest contained amethysts, chrysolites, topazes, opals, turquoises, agate, jasper, cornelian, and coral, of which there was a storehouse filled, not only with branches, but whole trees.

Thus I went through, day by day, these various wonders. Thirty-nine days afforded me but just as much time as was necessary to open ninety-nine doors, and to admire all that presented itself to my view, so that there was only the hundredth door left, which I was forbidden to open.

The fortieth day after the departure of those charming princesses arrived, and had I but retained so much self-command as I ought to have had, I should have been this day the happiest of all mankind, whereas now I am the most unfortunate. But through my weakness, which I shall ever repent, and the temptations of an evil spirit, I opened that fatal door! But before I had moved my foot to enter, a smell, pleasant enough but too powerful for my senses, made me faint away. However, I soon recovered; but instead of taking warning from [95]this incident to close the door and restrain my curiosity, I entered, and found myself in a spacious vaulted apartment, illuminated by several large tapers placed in candlesticks of solid gold.

Among the many objects that attracted my attention was a black horse, of the most perfect symmetry and beauty. I approached in order the better to observe him, and found he had on a saddle and bridle of massive gold, curiously wrought. One part of his manger was filled with clean barley, and the other with rose water. I laid hold of his bridle, and led him out to view him by daylight. I mounted, and endeavored to make him move; but finding he did not stir, I struck him with a switch I had taken up in his magnificent stable. He had no sooner felt the whip than he began to neigh in a most horrible manner, and, extending wings, which I had not before perceived, flew up with me into the air. My thoughts were fully occupied in keeping my seat; and, considering the fear that had seized me, I sat well. At length he directed his course toward the earth, and lighting upon the terrace of a palace, without giving me time to dismount, he shook me out of the saddle with such force as to throw me behind him, and with the end of his tail he struck out my eye.

Thus it was I became blind of one eye. I then recollected the predictions of the ten young gentlemen. The horse again took wing, and soon disappeared. I got up, much vexed at the misfortune I had brought upon myself. I walked upon the terrace, covering my eye with one of my hands, for it pained me exceedingly, and then descended, and entered into a hall. I soon discovered, by the ten sofas in a circle and the eleventh[96] in the middle, lower than the rest, that I was in the castle whence I had been carried by the roc.

The ten young men seemed not at all surprised to see me, nor at the loss of my eye; but said, "We are sorry that we cannot congratulate you on your return, as we could wish; but we are not the cause of your misfortune."

"I should do you wrong," I replied, "to lay it to your charge; I have only myself to accuse."

"If," said they, "it be a subject of consolation to the afflicted to know that others share their sufferings, you have in us this alleviation of your misfortune. All that has happened to you we also have endured; we each of us tasted the same pleasures during a year; and we had still continued to enjoy them had we not opened the golden door when the princesses were absent. You have been no wiser than we, and have incurred the same punishment. We would gladly receive you into our company, to join with us in the penance to which we are bound, the duration of which we know not. But we have already stated to you the reasons that render this impossible; depart, therefore, and proceed to the court of Bagdad,[25] where you will meet with the person who is to decide your destiny."

After they had explained to me the road I was to travel, I departed.

On the road I caused my beard and eyebrows to be shaven, and assumed a calender's habit. I have had a long journey, but at last I arrived this evening, and met these my brother calenders at the gate, being strangers as [97]well as myself. We were mutually surprised at one another, to see that we were all blind of the same eye; but we had not leisure to converse long on the subject of our misfortunes. We have only had time enough to bring us hither, to implore those favors which you have been generously pleased to grant us.

The third calender having finished this relation of his adventures, Zobeide addressed him and his fellow-calenders thus: "Go wherever you think proper; you are at liberty."

But one of them answered, "Madam, we beg you to pardon our curiosity, and permit us to hear the stories of your other guests who have not yet spoken."

Then the lady turned to the caliph, the vizier Giafar, and Mesrour, and said to them, "It is now your turn to relate your adventures; therefore speak."

The grand vizier, who had all along been the spokesman, answered Zobeide: "Madam, in order to obey you, we need only repeat what we have already said to the fair lady who opened for us the door. We are merchants come to Bagdad to sell our merchandise, which lies in the khan[26] where we lodge. We dined to-day with several other persons of our condition, at a merchant's house of this city; who, after he had treated us with choice dainties and excellent wines, sent for men and women dancers and musicians. The great noise we made brought in the watch, who arrested some of the company, [98]but we had the good fortune to escape. But it being already late, and the door of our khan shut up, we knew not whither to retire. We chanced, as we passed along this street, to hear music at your house, which made us determine to knock at your gate. This is all the account that we can give you, in obedience to your commands."

"Well, then," said Zobeide, "you shall all be equally obliged to me; I pardon you all, provided you immediately depart!"

Zobeide having given this command, the caliph, the vizier, Mesrour, the three calenders, and the porter, departed; for the presence of the seven slaves with their weapons awed them into silence. As soon as they had quitted the house, and the gate was closed after them, the caliph said to the calenders, without making himself known, "You, gentlemen, who are newly come to town, which way do you design to go, since it is not yet day?"

"It is this," they replied, "that perplexes us."

"Follow us," resumed the caliph, "and we will convey you out of danger."

He then whispered to the vizier: "Take them along with you, and to-morrow morning bring them to me."

The vizier Giafar took the three calenders along with him; the porter went to his quarters, and the caliph and Mesrour returned to the palace.

On the following morning, as the day dawned, the sultan Haroun al Raschid arose and went to his council chamber, and sat upon his throne. The grand vizier entered soon after, and made his obeisance.

"Vizier," said the caliph, "go, bring those ladies and the calenders at the same time; make haste, and remember that I impatiently expect your return."[99]

The vizier, who knew his master's quick and fiery temper, hastened to obey, and conducted them to the palace with so much expedition that the caliph was much pleased.

When the ladies had arrived the caliph turned toward them and said, "I was last night in your house, disguised in a merchant's habit; but I am at present Haroun al Raschid, the fifth caliph of the glorious house of Abbas, and hold the place of our great prophet. I have sent for you only to know who you are, and to ask for what reason one of you, after severely whipping the two black dogs, wept with them. And I am no less curious to know why another of you has her bosom so full of scars."

Upon hearing these words, Zobeide thus related her story:

Commander of the Faithful, my story is truly wonderful. The two black dogs and myself are sisters by the same father and mother. The two ladies who are now here are also my sisters, but by another mother. After our father's death, the property that he left was equally divided among us. My two half sisters left me, that they might live with their mother. My two sisters and myself resided with our own mother. At her death she left us three thousand sequins each. Shortly after my sisters had received their portions, they married; but their husbands, having spent all their fortunes, found some pretext for divorcing them, and put them away. I received them into my house, and gave them[27] a share [100]of all my goods. At the end of a twelvemonth my sisters again resolved to marry, and did so. After some months were passed, they returned again in the same sad condition; and as they accused themselves a thousand times, I again forgave them, and admitted them to live with me as before, and we dwelt together for the space of a year. After this I determined to engage in a commercial speculation. For this purpose I went with my two sisters to Bussorah,[28] where I bought a ship ready fitted for sea, and laded her with such merchandise[29] as I had carried with me from Bagdad. We set sail with a fair wind, and soon cleared the Persian Gulf; when we had reached the open sea we steered our course to the Indies, and on the twentieth day saw land. It was a very high mountain, at the bottom of which we perceived a great town; having a fresh gale, we soon reached the harbor, and cast anchor.

I had not patience to wait till my sisters were dressed to go along with me, but went ashore alone in the boat. Making directly to the gate of the town, I saw there a great number of men upon guard, some sitting, and others [101]standing with weapons in their hands; and they had all such dreadful countenances that I was greatly alarmed; but perceiving they remained stationary, and did not so much as move their eyes, I took courage and went nearer, when I found they were all turned into stone. I entered the town, and passed through several streets, where at different intervals stood men in various attitudes, but all motionless and petrified. In the quarter inhabited by the merchants I found most of the shops open; here I likewise found the people petrified.[30]

Having reached a vast square, in the heart of the city, I perceived a large folding gate, covered with plates of gold, which stood open; a curtain of silk stuff seemed to be drawn before it; a lamp hung over the entrance. After I had surveyed the building, I made no doubt but it was the palace of the prince who reigned over that country; and being much astonished that I had not met with one living creature, I approached in hopes of finding some. I lifted up the curtain, and was surprised at beholding no one but the guards in the vestibule, all petrified.

I came to a large court. I went from thence into a room richly furnished, where I perceived a lady turned into a statue of stone. The crown of gold on her head, and a necklace of pearls about her neck, each of them as large as a nut, proclaimed her to be the queen. I quitted [102]the chamber where the petrified queen was, and passed through several other apartments richly furnished, and at last came into a large room where there was a throne of massy gold, raised several steps above the floor, and enriched with large enchased emeralds, and upon the throne there was a bed of rich stuff embroidered with pearls. What surprised me most was a sparkling light which came from above the bed. Being curious to know whence it proceeded, I ascended the steps, and, lifting up my head, saw a diamond as large as the egg of an ostrich, lying upon a low stool; it was so pure that I could not find the least blemish in it, and it sparkled with so much brilliancy that when I saw it by daylight I could not endure its luster.

At the head of the bed there stood on each side a lighted flambeau, but for what use I could not comprehend; however, it made me imagine that there must be some one living in the place; for I could not believe that the torches continued thus burning of themselves.

The doors being all open, I surveyed some other apartments, that were as beautiful as those I had already seen. In short, the wonders that everywhere appeared so wholly engrossed my attention that I forgot my ship and my sisters, and thought of nothing but gratifying my curiosity. In the meantime night came on, and I tried to return by the way I had entered, but I could not find it; I lost myself among the apartments; and perceiving I was come back again to the large room, where the throne, the couch, the large diamond, and the torches stood, I resolved to take my night's lodging there, and to depart the next morning early, to get aboard my ship. I laid myself down upon a costly[103] couch, not without some dread to be alone in a desolate place; and this fear hindered my sleep.

About midnight I heard a man reading the Koran,[31] in the same tone as it is read in our mosques. I immediately arose, and taking a torch in my hand passed from one chamber to another, on that side from whence the voice proceeded, until looking through a window I found it to be an oratory. It had, as we have in our mosques, a niche,[32] to direct us whither we are to turn to say our prayers; there were also lamps hung up, and two candlesticks with large tapers of white wax burning.

I saw a little carpet laid down like those we have to kneel upon when we say our prayers, and a comely young man sat on this carpet, with great devotion reading the Koran, which lay before him on a desk. At this sight I was transported with admiration. I wondered how it came to pass that he should be the only living [104]creature in a town where all the people were turned into stone, and I do not doubt but there was something in the circumstance very extraordinary.

The door being only half shut I opened it, went in, and standing upright before the niche, I exclaimed, "Bismillah![33] Praise be to God." The young man turned toward me, and, having saluted me, inquired what had brought me to this desolate city. I told him in a few words my history, and I prayed him to tell me why he alone was left alive in the midst of such terrible desolation. At these words he shut the Koran, put it into a rich case, and laid it in the niche. Then he thus addressed me:

"Know that this city was the metropolis of a mighty kingdom, over which the sultan, who was my father, reigned. That prince, his whole court, the inhabitants of the city, and all his other subjects, were magi, worshipers of fire instead of God.

"But though I was born of an idolatrous father and mother I had the good fortune in my youth to have a nurse who was a good Mussulman, believing in God and in His prophet. 'Dear Prince,' would she oftentimes say, 'there is but one true God; take heed that you do not acknowledge and adore any other.' She taught me to read Arabic, and the book she gave me to study was the Koran. As soon as I was capable of understanding it, she explained to me all the passages of this excellent book, unknown to my father or any other person. She died, but not before she had perfectly [105]instructed me in the Mussulman religion. After her death, I persisted in worshiping according to its directions; and I abhor the adoration of fire.

"About three years and some months ago, a thundering voice was suddenly sounded so distinctly through the whole city that nobody could miss hearing it. The words were these: 'Inhabitants, abandon the worship of fire, and worship the only God who shows mercy.' This voice was heard three years successively, but no one was converted. On the last day of that year, at the break of day, all the inhabitants were changed in an instant into stone, each one in the condition and posture in which he happened to be. The sultan, my father, and the queen, my mother, shared the same fate.

"I am the only person who did not suffer under that heavy judgment, and ever since I have continued to serve God with more fervency than before. I am persuaded, dear lady, that He has sent you hither for my comfort, for which I render Him infinite thanks, for I must own that I have become weary of this solitary life."

On hearing these words, I said, "Prince, who can doubt that Providence has brought me into your port, to afford you an opportunity of withdrawing from this dismal place? I am a lady at Bagdad, where I have considerable property; and I dare engage to promise you sanctuary there, until the mighty Commander of the Faithful, caliph of our prophet, whom you acknowledge, shows you the honor that is due to your merit. This renowned prince lives at Bagdad, and as soon as he is informed of your arrival in his capital you will find it not in vain to implore his assistance. Stay no longer[106] in a city where you can only renew your grief; my vessel is at your service, which you may absolutely command as you shall think fit." He accepted the offer, and as soon as it was day we left the palace, and went aboard my ship, where we found my sisters, the captain, and the slaves, all much troubled at my absence. After I had presented my sisters to the prince, I told them what had hindered my return the day before, how I had met with the young prince, his story, and the cause of the desolation of so fine a city.

The seamen were taken up several days in unloading the merchandise I brought with me, and embarking in its stead many of the precious things in the palace, especially jewels, gold, and money. We left the furniture and goods, which consisted of an infinite quantity of silver vessels, because our vessel could not carry it, for it would have required several vessels more to convey to Bagdad all the riches that we might have taken with us.

After we had laden the vessel with what we thought most desirable, we took such provisions and water aboard as were necessary for our voyage. At last we set sail with a favorable wind.

The young prince, my sisters, and myself passed our time very agreeably. But, alas! this good understanding did not last long, for my sisters grew jealous of the friendship between the prince and myself, and maliciously asked me, one day, what we should do with him when we came to Bagdad. Resolving to put this question off with a joke, I answered, "I will take him for my husband." Upon that, turning myself to the prince, I said, "Sir, I humbly beg of you to give your consent, for as soon as[107] we come to Bagdad I design to offer you my person to be your slave, to do you all the service that is in my power, and to resign myself wholly to your commands."

The prince replied, "I know not, madam, whether you be in jest or no; but for my part, I seriously declare before these ladies, your sisters, that from this moment I heartily accept your offer, not with any intention to have you as a slave, but as my lady and wife." At these words my sisters changed color, and I could perceive afterward that they did not love me as before.

We entered the Persian Gulf, and had come within a short distance of Bussorah (where I hoped, considering the fair wind, we might have arrived the day following), when, in the night, while I was asleep, my sisters watched their opportunity and threw me overboard. They did the same to the prince, who was drowned. I floated some minutes on the water, and by good fortune, or rather miracle, I felt ground. I went toward a dark spot, that, by what I could discern, seemed to be land, and which, when day appeared, I found to be a desert island, lying about twenty miles from Bussorah. I soon dried my clothes in the sun, and as I walked along I found several kinds of fruit, and likewise fresh water, which gave me some hopes of preserving my life.

I had just laid myself down to rest in a shade, when I perceived a very large winged serpent coming toward me, with an irregular waving movement, and hanging out its tongue, which induced me to conclude it had received some injury. I instantly arose, and perceived that it was pursued by a larger serpent which had hold of its tail, and was endeavoring to devour it. This perilous situation of the first serpent excited my pity;[108] and instead of retreating, I took up a stone that lay near me, and threw it with all my strength at its pursuer, whom I hit upon the head and killed. The other, finding itself at liberty, took wing and flew away. I looked after it for some time till it disappeared. I then sought another shady spot for repose, and fell asleep.

Judge what was my surprise, when I awoke, to see standing by me a black woman of lively and agreeable features, who held in her hand two dogs of the same color, fastened together. I sat up, and asked her who she was.

"I am," said she, "the serpent whom you lately delivered from my mortal enemy, and I wish to requite the important services you have rendered me. These two black dogs are your sisters, whom I have transformed into this shape. But this punishment will not suffice; and my will is that you treat them hereafter in the way I shall direct."

As soon as she had thus spoken the fairy took me under one of her arms, and the two black dogs under the other, and conveyed us to my house in Bagdad, where I found in my storehouses all the riches with which my vessel had been laden. Before she left me, she delivered to me the two dogs, and said, "If you would not be changed into a similar form, I command you to give each of your sisters every night one hundred lashes with a rod, as the punishment of the crime they have committed against yourself and the young prince, whom they have drowned." I was forced to promise obedience. Since that time I have whipped them every night, though with regret, whereof your majesty has been a witness. My tears testify with how much sorrow and reluctance I perform this painful duty. If there be anything else[109] relating to myself that you desire to know, my sister Amina will give you full information in the relation of her story.

After the caliph had heard Zobeide with much astonishment, he desired his grand vizier to request Amina to acquaint him wherefore her breast was disfigured with so many scars.

Commander of the Faithful, that I may not repeat those things which your majesty has already been informed of by my sister, I will only mention that my mother, having taken a house to pass her widowhood in private, first bestowed me in marriage on the heir of one of the richest men in this city.

I had not been married quite a year before my husband died. I thus became a widow, and was in possession of all his property, which amounted to above ninety thousand sequins. When the first six months of my mourning was over, I caused to be made for me ten different dresses, of such magnificence that each came to a thousand sequins; and at the end of the year I began to wear them.

One day, while I was alone, a lady[34] desired to speak to me. I gave orders that she should be admitted. She was a very old woman. She saluted me by kissing the ground, and said to me, kneeling, "Dear lady, the confidence I have in your charity makes me thus bold. [110]I have an orphan daughter, whose wedding is on this night. She and I are both strangers, and have no acquaintance in this town, which much perplexes me. Therefore, most beautiful lady, if you would vouchsafe to honor the wedding with your presence, we shall be infinitely obliged, because the family with whom we shall be allied will then know that we are not regarded here as unworthy and despised persons. But, alas, madam, if you refuse this request, how great will be our mortification! We know not where else to apply."

This poor woman's address, which she spoke with tears, moved my compassion.

"Good woman," said I, "do not afflict yourself; I will grant you the favor you desire. Tell me whither I must go, and I will meet you as soon as I am dressed." The old woman was so transported with joy at my answer that she kissed my feet before I had time to prevent her.

"Compassionate lady," said she, rising, "God will reward the kindness you have shown to your servants, and make your heart as joyful as you have made theirs. You need not at present trouble yourself; I will call for you in the evening."

As soon as she was gone I took the suit I liked best, with a necklace of large pearls, bracelets, pendants for my ears, and rings set with the finest and most sparkling diamonds, and prepared to attend the ceremony.

When the night closed in, the old woman called upon me, with a countenance full of joy, and said, "Dear lady, the relations of my son-in-law, who are the principal ladies of the city, are now met together. You may come when you please; I am ready to conduct you."[111]

We immediately set out; she walked before me, and I was followed by a number of my women and slaves, richly robed for the occasion. We stopped in a wide street, newly swept and watered, at a spacious gate with a lamp, by the light of which I read this inscription, in golden letters, over the entrance: "This is the continual abode of pleasure and joy."

The old woman knocked, and the gate was opened immediately.

I was conducted toward the lower end of the court, into a large hall, where I was received by a young lady of exceeding beauty. She drew near, and after having embraced me, made me sit down by her upon a sofa, on which was raised a throne of precious wood set with diamonds.

"Madam," said she, "you are brought hither to assist at a wedding; but I hope it will be a different wedding from what you expected. I have a brother, one of the handsomest men in the world. His fate depends wholly upon you, and he will be the unhappiest of men if you do not take pity on him. If my prayers, madam, can prevail, I shall join them with his, and humbly beg you will not refuse the proposal of being his wife."

After the death of my husband I had not thought of marrying again; but I had no power to refuse the solicitation of so charming a lady. As soon as I had given consent by my silence, accompanied with a blush, the young lady clapped her hands, and immediately a curtain was withdrawn, from behind which came a young man of so majestic an air, and so graceful a countenance, that I thought myself happy to have made such a choice. He sat down by me, and I found from his conversation[112] that his merits far exceeded the account of him given by his sister.

When she perceived that we were satisfied with one another, she clapped her hands a second time, and a cadi[35] with four witnesses, entered, who wrote and signed our contract of marriage.

There was only one condition that my new husband imposed upon me, that I should not be seen by nor speak to any other man but himself; and he vowed to me that, if I complied in this respect, I should have no reason to complain of him. Our marriage was concluded and finished after this manner; so I became the principal actress in a wedding to which I had only been invited as a guest.

About a month after our marriage, having occasion for some stuffs, I asked my husband's permission to go out to buy them, which he granted; and I took with me the old woman of whom I spoke before, she being one of the family, and two of my own female slaves.

When we came to the street where the merchants reside, the old woman said, "Dear mistress, since you want silk stuffs, I must take you to a young merchant of my acquaintance, who has a great variety; and that you may not fatigue yourself by running from shop to shop, I can assure you that you will find in his what no other can furnish." I was easily persuaded, and we entered a shop belonging to a young merchant. I sat down, and bade the old woman desire him to show me the finest silk stuffs he had. The woman desired me to speak myself; but I told her it was one of the articles of [113]my marriage contract not to speak to any man but my husband, which I ought to keep.

The merchant showed me several stuffs, of which one pleased me better than the rest; and I bade her ask the price. He answered the old woman: "I will not sell it for gold or money; but I will make her a present of it, if she will give me leave to kiss her cheek."

I ordered the old woman to tell him that he was very rude to propose such a freedom. But instead of obeying me, she said, "What the merchant desires of you is no such great matter; you need not speak, but only present him your cheek."

The stuff pleased me so much that I was foolish enough to take her advice. The old woman and my slaves stood up, that nobody might see, and I put up my veil;[36] but instead of kissing me, the merchant bit me so violently as to draw blood.

The pain and my surprise were so great that I fell down in a swoon, and continued insensible so long that the merchant had time to escape. When I came to myself I found my cheek covered with blood. The old woman and my slaves took care to cover it with my veil, and the people who came about us could not perceive it, but supposed I had only had a fainting fit.

The old woman who accompanied me being extremely troubled at this accident, endeavored to comfort me.

"My dear mistress," said she, "I beg your pardon, for I am the cause of this misfortune, having brought [114]you to this merchant, because he is my countryman; but I never thought he would be guilty of such a villainous action. But do not grieve. Let us hasten home, and I will apply a remedy that shall in three days so perfectly cure you that not the least mark shall be visible."

The pain had made me so weak that I was scarcely able to walk. But at last I got home, where I again fainted, as I went into my chamber. Meanwhile, the old woman applied her remedy. I came to myself, and went to bed.

My husband came to me at night, and seeing my head bound up, asked me the reason. I told him I had the headache, which I hoped would have satisfied him; but he took a candle, and saw my cheek was hurt.

"How comes this wound?" he said.

Though I did not consider myself as guilty of any great offense, yet I could not think of owning the truth. Besides, to make such an avowal to a husband, I considered as somewhat indecorous.

I therefore said, "That as I was going, under his permission, to purchase a silk stuff, a camel,[37] carrying a load of wood, came so near to me in a narrow street, that one of the sticks grazed my cheek, but had not done me much hurt."

"If that is the case," said my husband, "to-morrow morning, before sunrise, the grand vizier Giafar shall be informed of this insolence, and cause all the camel drivers to be put to death."

"Pray, sir," said I, "let me beg of you to pardon them, for they are not guilty."


"How, madam," he demanded, "what, then, am I to believe? Speak; for I am resolved to know the truth from your own mouth."

"Sir," I replied, "I was taken with a giddiness, and fell down, and that is the whole matter."

At these words my husband lost all patience.

"I have," said he, "too long listened to your tales."

As he spoke, he clapped his hands, and in came three slaves. "Strike," said he; "cut her in two, and then throw her into the Tigris. This is the punishment I inflict on those to whom I have given my heart, when they falsify their promise."

I had recourse to entreaties and prayers; but I supplicated in vain, when the old woman, who had been his nurse, coming in just at that moment, fell down upon her knees and endeavored to appease his wrath.

"My son," said she, "since I have been your nurse, and brought you up, let me beg you to consider, 'he who kills shall be killed,' and that you will stain your reputation and forfeit the esteem of mankind."

She spoke these words in such an affecting manner, accompanied with tears, that she prevailed upon him at last to abandon his purpose.

"Well, then," said he to his nurse, "for your sake I will spare her life; but she shall bear about her person some marks to make her remember her offense."

When he had thus spoken, one of the slaves, by his order, gave me upon my sides and breast so many blows[38] [116]with a little cane, that he tore away both skin and flesh, which threw me into a swoon. In this state he caused the same slaves, the executioners of his will, to carry me into the house, where the old woman took care of me. I kept my bed for four months. At last I recovered. The scars which, contrary to my wish, you saw yesterday, have remained ever since.

As soon as I was able to walk and go abroad, I resolved to retire to the house which was left me by my first husband, but I could not find the site whereon it stood, as my second husband had caused it to be leveled with the ground.

Being thus left destitute and helpless, I had recourse to my dear sister Zobeide. She received me with her accustomed goodness, and advised me to bear with patience my affliction, from which, she said, none are free. In confirmation of her remark, she gave me an account of the loss of the young prince her husband, occasioned by the jealousy of her two sisters. She told me also by what accident they were transformed into dogs; and in the last place, after a thousand testimonials of her love toward me, she introduced me to my youngest sister, who had likewise taken sanctuary with her after the death of her mother; and we have continued to live together in the house in which we received the guests whom your highness found assembled on your visit last night.

The caliph publicly expressed his admiration of what he had heard, and inquired of Zobeide, "Madam, did not this fairy whom you delivered, and who imposed such a rigorous command upon you, tell you where her[117] place of abode was, or that she would restore your sisters to their natural shape?"

"Commander of the Faithful," answered Zobeide, "the fairy did leave with me a bundle of hair, saying that her presence would one day be of use to me; and then, if I only burned two tufts of this hair, she would be with me in a moment."

"Madam," demanded the caliph, "where is the bundle of hair?"

She answered, "Ever since that time I have been so careful of it that I always carry it about me."

Upon which she pulled it out of the case which contained it, and showed it to him.

"Well, then," said the caliph, "let us bring the fairy hither; you could not call her in a better time, for I long to see her."

Zobeide having consented, fire was brought in, and she threw the whole bundle of hair into it. The palace at that instant began to shake, and the fairy appeared before the caliph in the form of a lady very richly dressed.

"Commander of the Faithful," said she to the prince, "you see I am ready to receive your commands. At your wish I will not only restore these two sisters to their former shape, but I will also cure this lady of her scars, and tell you who it was that abused her."

The caliph sent for the two dogs from Zobeide's house, and when they came a glass of water was brought to the fairy by her desire. She pronounced over it some words, which nobody understood; then, throwing some part of it upon Amina and the rest upon the dogs, the latter became two ladies of surprising beauty, and the scars that were upon Amina disappeared.[118]

After this the fairy said to the caliph, "Commander of the Faithful, I must now discover to you the unknown husband you inquire after. He is Prince Amin, your eldest son, who by stratagem brought this lady to his house, where he married her. As to the blows he caused to be given her, he is in some measure excusable; for this lady, his spouse, by the excuses she made, led him to believe she was more in fault than she really was."

At these words she saluted the caliph, and vanished.

The caliph, much satisfied with the changes that had happened through his means, acted in such a manner as will perpetuate his memory to all ages. First, he sent for his son Amin, and told him that he was informed of his secret marriage and how he had ill-treated Amina upon a very slight cause. Upon this, the prince, upon his father's commands, received her again immediately.

After which Haroun al Raschid declared that he would give his own heart and hand to Zobeide, and offered the other three sisters to the calenders, sons of sultans, who accepted them for their brides with much joy. The caliph assigned each of them a magnificent palace in the city of Bagdad, promoted them to the highest dignities of his empire, and admitted them to his councils.

The chief cadi of Bagdad being called, with witnesses, he wrote the contracts of marriage; and the caliph, in promoting by his patronage the happiness of many persons who had suffered such incredible calamities, drew a thousand blessings upon himself.

[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.

[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.

[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.

[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.

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

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

[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.

[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.

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

[18] Sheiks are the chiefs of the societies of dervishes; cadis, the magistrate of a town or city.—Notes on Vathek, p. 322.

[19] A favorite story is related of the benevolence of one of the sons of Ali. In serving at table, a slave had inadvertently dropped a dish of scalding broth on his master. The heedless wretch fell prostrate to deprecate his punishment, and repeated a verse of the Koran: "Paradise is for those who command their anger." "I am not angry." "And for those who pardon offenses." "I pardon your offense." "And for those who return good for evil." "I give you your liberty, and four hundred pieces of silver."—Gibbon's Decline and Fall.

[20] Chess is said to have had its origin in the East, and to have been introduced into Europe after the Crusades.

[21] This same power of changing the form has found a place in ancient and modern story. The Proteus of heathen mythology ever found means of safety and protection by his sudden assumption of some new form and shape.

[22] The erection of these tombs over the supposed effigy, or the real remains, of the deceased, is often mentioned in these tales. The same type of tomb, with its dome or cupola, prevails throughout. A structure of a similar fashion is celebrated in history as the Taj Mahal at Agra, erected by the Shah Jehan, in memory of his queen, Mumtaz Mahal. It stands on a marble terrace over the Jamna, and is surrounded by extensive gardens. The building itself on the outside is of white marble, with a high cupola and four minarets. In the center of the inside is a lofty hall of a circular form under a dome, in the middle of which is the tomb, inclosed within an open screen of elaborate tracery formed of marble and mosaics. The materials are lapis lazuli, jasper, bloodstone, a sort of golden stone (not well understood), agates, carnelian, jade, and various other stones. A single flower in the screen contains a hundred stones; "and yet," says Bishop Heber; "though everything is finished like an ornament for a drawing-room chimney-piece, the general effect is rather solemn and impressive than gaudy."—Elphinstone's India, p. 528; and Asiatic Researches, Vol. V, p. 434.

[23] Sugar has been traced to the Arabic "succar," which is the Persian "shachar." The sugar-cane is a jointed reed, crowned with leaves or blades; it contains a soft, pithy substance, full of sweet juice. The people of Egypt eat a great quantity of the green sugar-canes, and make a coarse loaf-sugar, and also sugar-candy and some very fine sugar, sent to Constantinople to the Grand Signor, which is very dear, being made only for that purpose.—Dr. Richard Pocock, Travels, Vol. I, p. 204.

[24] These tales were written shortly after the conquest of Persia, the riches of which country may be reflected in these narratives. "The naked robbers of the desert were suddenly enriched, beyond the measure of their hope and knowledge. Each chamber revealed a new chamber secreted with art, or ostentatiously displayed; the gold and silver, the various wardrobes and precious furniture, surpassed (says Abulfeda) the estimate of fancy or numbers, and another historian defines the untold and almost infinite mass by the fabulous computation of thousands of thousands of pieces of gold."—Gibbon's Decline and Fall.

[25] Bagdad was founded in the 145th year of the Hejira or flight of Mohammed to Medina, 767. It was destroyed by Hulakoo, grandson of Gengis Khan, in the 656th of the Hejira, A.D. 1277, when the dynasty of the Ambassides was terminated.

[26] "Khan, or caravansary, a large building of a quadrangular form, being one story in height. The ground floor serves for warehouses and stables, while the upper is used for lodgings. They always contain a fountain, and have cook shops and other conveniences attached to them in town. The erection of them is considered meritorious both among Hindus and Mussulmans. They are erected on the sides of public highways, and are then only a set of bare rooms and outhouses."—Popular Cyclopedia, Vol. II, p. 108.

[27] "The giving of alms is commanded in the Koran. Hasan, the son of Ali, grandson of Mohammed, is related to have thrice in his life divided his substance equally between himself and the poor."—Sale's Preliminary Dissertation, p. 110.

[28] "At the distance of fourscore miles from the Persian Gulf, the Euphrates and Tigris unite in a broad and direct current. In the midway, between the junction and the mouth of these famous streams, the new settlement of Bussorah was planted on the western bank; the first colony was composed of eight hundred Moslems; but the influence of the situation soon reared a flourishing and populous capital. The air, though excessively hot, is pure and healthy; the meadows are filled with palm trees and cattle; and one of the adjacent valleys has been celebrated among the four paradises or gardens of Asia. Under the first caliphs, the jurisdiction of this Arab colony extended over the southern provinces of Persia; the city has been sanctified by the tombs of the companions and martyrs and the vessels of Europe still frequent the port of Bussorah, as a convenient station and passage of the Indian trade."—Gibbon's Decline and Fall, 41, C.

[29] Bussorah was built by the caliph Omar. The city has four kinds of inhabitants—Jews, Persians, Mohammedans, and Christians. It is looked upon by the Arabs as one of the most delightful spots in Asia. The commerce of Bussorah consisted in the interchange of rice, sugar, spices from Ceylon, coarse white and blue cottons from Coromandel, cardamom, pepper, sandalwood from Malabar, gold and silver stuffs, brocades, turbans, shawls, indigo from Surat, pearls from Bahara, coffee from Mocha, iron, lead, woolen cloths, etc.

[30] "There is a city in Upper Egypt (Ishmonie), called the petrified city, on account of a great number of statues of men, women, and children, and other animals, which are said to be seen thereat this day; all which, as it is believed by the inhabitants, were once animated beings, but were miraculously changed into stone in all the various positions of falling, standing, eating, sitting, which they acted at the instant of their supposed transubstantiation. We did not fail to inquire after these things, and desired to have a sight of them; but they told us they were in a certain part, pointing westward, but were too sacred to be seen by any except believers."—Perry's View of the Levant.

[31] Koran (derived from the word Karaa, to read) signifies "the Reading—that which ought to be read." It is the collection of revelations supposed to be given from heaven to Mohammed during a period of twenty-three years. Some were given at Mecca, and some at Medina. Each was regarded by some as a mystery full of divine meaning. It is divided into thirty parts; and as each mosque has thirty readers, it is read through once a day. These readers chant it in long lines with rhythmical ending, and in the absence of definite vowels they alone know the right pronunciation of the Koran.—Sale's Preliminary Dissertation, p. 56.

[32] This is the kaaba or kebla, a sacred stone in the center of the temple at Mecca, over which is a lofty building, from which the name is by some said to be derived—Caaba, high. Mr. Ferguson, in his account of "The Holy Sepulcher," thus describes it: "The precept of the Koran is, that all men, when they pray, shall turn toward the kaaba, or holy house, at Mecca; and consequently throughout the Moslem world, indicators have been put up to enable the Faithful to fulfill this condition. In India they face west, in Barbary east, in Syria south. It is true that when rich men, or kings, built mosques, they frequently covered the face of this wall with arcades, to shelter the worshiper from the sun or rain. They inclosed it in a court that his meditations might not be disturbed by the noises of the outside world. They provided it with fountains, that he might perform the required ablutions before prayer. But still the essential part of the mosques is the mihrab or niche, which points toward Mecca, and toward which, when he bows, the worshiper knows that the kaaba also is before him." The holy house erected over the kaaba was decorated annually with rich tapestries and a deep golden band, at the cost of the caliphs.

[33] Bismillah. All the chapters of the Koran, except nine, begin with this word. Its meaning is, "In the name of the merciful God." It is said to be frequently used in conversation by the Arabs.—Sale's Preliminary Dissertation, p. 153.

[34] For the choice of a wife a man generally relies on his mother, or some other near relation, or a professional female betrother (who is called, khatebeh), for there are women who perform this office for hire.—Lane's Notes to the Arabian Nights, Vol. I, iv, p. 285.

[35] Marriage among the Mohammedans is an exclusively civil ceremony; and therefore the cadi, a civil judge, and not an imaun, or minister of religion, was summoned.

[36] "No woman, of what rank soever, is permitted to go into the streets without two muslins; one that covers her face all but her eyes, and another that hides the whole dress of her head, and hangs halfway down her back. Their shapes are also wholly concealed by a thing they call a ferigee, which no woman appears without. This has straight sleeves, that reach to their finger ends, and it laps all round them, not unlike a riding-hood. In winter it is of cloth, and in summer, of plain stuff or silk."—Lady M. W. Montague's Letters, Vol. VII, p. 373.

[37] The streets of Eastern cities are often so narrow as to be blocked up with a wide camel load, or to prevent two horsemen riding abreast. This is the cause of those footmen who run before great men to prepare the way for them.

[38] The Mussulmans are allowed by the Koran to beat their wives, so long as they do not make a bruise. The husband on this occasion must have broken the law.

Some such permission was given by an English judge, Sir John Buller; who declared the stick used must not be thicker than his thumb, from whence he obtained the sobriquet of "Thumb Buller."

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Główna Czytelnia Literatura Baśnie Tysiąca i Jednej Nocy THE THREE CALENDERS, SONS OF KINGS, AND THE FIVE LADIES OF BAGDAD
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