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Burton: The King's Son and the Ifrit's Mistress

[Go back to The House With the Belvedere]

A certain King's son was once walking alone for his pleasure, when he came to a green meadow, abounding in trees laden with fruit and birds singing on the boughs, and a river running athwart it. The place pleased him; so he sat down there and taking out some dried fruits he had brought with him, began to eat, when lo! he espied a great smoke rising up to heaven and, taking fright, he climbed up into a tree and hid himself among the branches. Thence he saw an Ifrit rise out of the midst of the stream bearing on his head a chest of marble, secured by a padlock. He set down the chest on the meadow-sward and opened it and there came forth a damsel of mortal race like the sun shining in the sheeny sky. After seating her he solaced himself by gazing on her awhile, then laid his head in her lap and fell asleep, whereupon she lifted up his head and laying it on the chest, rose and walked about. Presently, she chanced to raise her eyes to the tree wherein was the Prince, and seeing him, signed to him to come down. He refused, but she swore to him, saying, "Except thou come down and do as I bid thee, I will wake the Ifrit and point thee out to him, when he will straightway kill thee." The King's son fearing she would do as she said, came down, whereupon she kissed his hands and feet and besought him to do her need. To this he consented and, when he had satisfied her wants, she said to him, "Give me this seal ring I see on thy finger." So he gave her his signet and she set it in a silken kerchief she had with her, wherein were more than four score others. When the Prince saw this, he asked her, "What dost thou with all these rings?"; and she answered, "In very sooth this Ifrit carried me off from my father's palace and shut me in this box, which he beareth about on his head wherever he goeth, with the keys about him; and he hardly leaveth me one moment alone of the excess of his jealousy over me, and hindereth me from what I desire. When I saw this, I swore that I would deny my last favours to no man whatsoever, and these rings thou seest are after the tale of the men who have had me; for after coition I took from each a seal ring and laid it in this kerchief." Then she added, "And now go thy ways, that I may look for another than thyself, for the Ifrit will not awake yet awhile." Hardly crediting what he had heard, the Prince returned to his father's palace, but the King knew naught of the damsel's malice (for she feared not this and took no count thereof), and seeing that his son had lost his ring, he bade put him to death. Then he rose from his place and entered his palace; but his Wazirs came in to him and prevailed with him to abandon his purpose. The same night, the King sent for all of them and thanked them for having dissuaded him from slaying his son; and the Prince also thanked them, saying, "It was well done of you to counsel my father to let me live and Inshallah! I will soon requite you abundantly." Then he related to them how he had lost the ring, and they offered up prayers for his long life and advancement and withdrew. "See then, O King," (said the Wazir), "the malice of women and what they do unto men." The King hearkened to the Minister's counsel and again countermanded his order to slay his son. Next morning, it being the eighth day, as the King sat in his audience chamber in the midst of his Grandees and Emirs and Wazirs and Olema, the Prince entered, with his hand in that of his governor, Al Sindibad, and praised his father and his Ministers and lords and divines in the most eloquent words and thanked them for having saved his life; so that all who were present wondered at his eloquence and fluency of speech. His father rejoiced in him with exceeding, all surpassing joy, and calling him to him, kissed him between the eyes. Then he called his preceptor, al-Sindibad, and asked him why his son had kept silence these seven days, to which he replied, "O our lord, the truth is, it was I who enjoined him to this, in my fear for him of death: I knew this from the day of his birth; and, when I took his nativity, I found it written in the stars that, if he should speak during this period, he would surely die; but now the danger is over, by the King's fortune." At this the King was glad and said to his Wazirs, "If I had killed my son, would the fault have fallen on me or the damsel or on the preceptor, al-Sindibad?" But all present refrained from replying, and al-Sindibad said to the Prince, "Answer thou, O my son."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Six Hundred and Third Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Al-Sindibad said, "Answer thou, O my son," the Prince replied, "I have heard tell that a merchant at whose house certain guests once alighted sent his slave girl to the market to buy a jar of clotted milk. So she bought it and set out on her return home; but on the way there passed over her a kite, holding and squeezing a serpent in its claws, and a drop of the serpent's venom fell into the milk jar, unknown of the girl. So, when she came back, the merchant took the milk from her and drank of it, he and his guests; but hardly had it settled in their stomachs when they all died. Now consider, O King, whose was the fault in this matter?" Thereupon some present said, "It was the fault of the company who drank the milk without examining it." And other some, "That of the girl, who left the jar without cover." But al-Sindibad asked the Prince, "What sayest thou, O my son?" Answered he, "I say that the folk err; it was neither the fault of the damsel nor of the company, for their appointed hour was come, their divinely decreed provision was exhausted and Allah had fore ordained them to die thus." When the courtiers heard this, they marvelled greatly and lifted up their voices, blessing the King's son, and saying, "O our lord, thou hast made a reply sans peur, and thou art the sagest man of thine age sans reproche." "Indeed, I am no sage," answered the Prince; "the blind Shaykh and the son of three years and the son of five years were wiser than I." Said the bystanders, "O youth, tell us the stories of these three who were wiser than thou art, O youth." Answered he, "With all my heart. I have heard tell this tale concerning the...

[Go to The Sandal-Wood Merchant and the Sharpers]

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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