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Burton: The Boy and the Thieves

[Go back to The Foolish Fisherman]

Seven Thieves once went out to steal, according to their custom, and fell in with a Boy, poor and orphaned to boot, who besought them for somewhat to eat. One of them asked him, "Wilt go with us, O Boy, and we will feed thee and give thee drink, clothe thee and entreat thee kindly?" And he answered, "Needs must I go with you whitherso ye will and ye are as my own kith and kin." So they took him and fared on with him till they came to a garden, and entering, went round about therein till they found a walnut tree laden with ripe fruit and said to him, "O Boy, wilt thou enter this garden with us and swarm up this tree and eat of its walnuts thy sufficiency and throw the rest down to us?" He consented and entered with them,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Nineteenth Night,

She said: It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Boy consented and entered with the Thieves, one of them said to other, "Look which is the lightest and smallest of us and make him climb the tree." And they said, "None of us is slighter than this Boy." So they sent him up into the tree and said to him, "O Boy, touch not aught of the fruit, lest someone see thee and work thee a mischief." He asked, "How then shall I do?", and they answered, "Sit among the boughs and shake them one by one with all thy might, so that which is thereon may fall, and we will pick it up. Then, when thou hast made an end of shaking down the fruit, come down and take thy share of that which we have gathered." Accordingly he began to shake every branch at which he could come, so that the nuts fell and the thieves picked them up and ate some and hid other some till all were full, save the Boy who had eaten naught. As they were thus engaged, behold, up came the owner of the garden who, standing to witness the spectacle, enquired of them, "What do ye with this tree?" They replied, "We have taken naught thereof, but we were passing by and seeing yonder Boy on the tree, took him for the owner thereof and besought him to give us to eat of the fruit. thereat he fell to shaking one of the branches so that the nuts dropped down, and we are not at fault." Quoth the master to the Boy, "What sayst thou?"; and quoth he, "These men lie, but I will tell thee the truth. It is that we all came hither together and they bade me climb the tree and shake its boughs that the nuts might fall down to them, and I obeyed their bidding." Said the master, "Thou hast cast thyself into sore calamity, but hast thou profited by eating aught of the fruit?"; and he said, "I have eaten naught thereof." Rejoined the owner of the garden, "Now know I thy folly and thine ignorance in that thou hast wrought to ruin thyself and profit others." Then said he to the Thieves, "I have no resort against you, so wend your ways!" But he laid hands on the Boy and punished him. "On likewise," added the favourite, "thy Wazirs and Officers of state would sacrifice thee to their interests and do with thee as did the Thieves with the Boy." Answered the King, "Thou sayst sooth, and speakest truth. I will not go forth to them nor leave my pleasures." Then he passed the night with his wife in all delight till the morning, when the Grand Wazir arose and, assembling the Officers of state, together with those of the lieges who were present with them, repaired with them to the palace-gate, congratulating one another and rejoicing. But the door opened not nor did the King come forth unto them nor give them leave to go in to him. So, when they despaired of him, they said to Shimas, "O excellent Wazir and accomplished sage, seest thou not the behaviour of this lad, young of years and little of wit, how he addeth to his offences falsehood? See how he hath broken his promise to us and hath not performed that for which he engaged unto us, and this sin it behoveth thee join unto his other sins; but we beseech thee go in to him yet again and discover what is the cause of his holding back and refusal to come forth, for we doubt not but that the like of this action cometh of his corrupt nature, and indeed he is now hardened to the highest degree." Accordingly, Shimas went in to the King and bespake him, saying, "Peace be with thee, O King! How cometh it that I see thee give thyself up to these slight pleasures and neglect the great affair whereto it behoveth thee sedulously apply thyself? Thou art like unto a man who had a milch camel and, coming one day to milk her, the goodness of her milk made him neglect to hold fast her halter, which whenas she felt, she haled herself free and made off into the world. Thus the man lost both milk and camel and the loss that betided him surpassed his gain. Wherefore, O King, do thou look unto that wherein is thy welfare and the weal of thy subjects; for, even as it behoveth not a man to sit forever at the kitchen door, because of his need unto food, so should he not alway company with women, by reason of his inclination to them. And as a man should eat but as much food as will guard him from the pains of hunger and drink but what will ward off the pangs of thirst, in like manner it behoveth the sensible man to content himself with passing two of the four-and-twenty hours of his day with women and expend the rest in ordering his own affairs and those of his people. For to be longer than this in company with women is hurtful both to mind and body, seeing that they bid not unto good neither direct thereto; wherefore it besitteth not a man to accept from them or word or deed, for indeed it hath reached me that many men have come to ruin through their women, and amongst others a certain man who perished through conversation with his wife at her command." The King asked, "How was that?" and Shimas answered, saying, "Hear, O King the tale of...

[Go to The Man and his Wife]

Burton, Richard (1821-1890). The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. London. 1885-1888. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. VII. Gutenberg Vol. VIII. Gutenberg Vol. IX. Gutenberg Vol. X. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.

1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM

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