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Burton: The King's Son and the Merchant's Wife

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A certain merchant, who was addicted to jealousy, had a wife that was a model of beauty and loveliness; and of the excess of his fear and jealousy of her, he would not abide with her in any town, but built her a pavilion without the city, apart from all other buildings. And he raised its height and strengthened its doors and provided them with curious locks; and when he had occasion to go into the city, he locked the doors and hung the keys about his neck. One day, when the merchant was abroad, the King's son of that city came forth, to take his pleasure and solace in the open country without the walls, and seeing the solitary pavilion, stood still to examine it for a long while. At last he caught sight of a charming lady looking and leaning out of one of the windows, and being smitten with amazement at her grace and charms, cast about for a means of getting to her, but could find none. So he called up one of his pages, who brought him ink-case and paper and wrote her a letter, setting forth his condition for love of her. Then he set it on the pile-point of an arrow and shot it at the pavilion, and it fell in the garden, where the lady was then walking with her maidens. She said to one of the girls, "Hasten and bring me yon letter," for she could read writing; and, when she had read it and understood what he said in it of his love and passion, yearning and longing, she wrote him a merciful reply, to the effect that she was smitten with a yet fiercer desire for him; and then threw the letter down to him from one of the windows of the pavilion. When he saw her, he picked up the reply and after reading it, came under the window and said to her, "Let me down a thread, that I may send thee this key; which do thou take and keep by thee." So she let down a thread and he tied the key to it. Then he went away and repairing to one of his father's Wazirs, complained to him of his passion for the lady and that he could not live without her; and the Minister said, "And how dost thou bid me contrive?" Quoth the Prince, "I would have thee set me in a chest and commit it to the merchant, feigning to him that it is thine and desiring him to keep it for thee in his country-house some days, that I may have my will of her; then do thou demand it back from him." The Wazir answered, "With love and gladness." So the Prince returned to his palace and fixing the padlock, the key whereof he had given the lady, on a chest he had by him, entered therein. Then the Wazir locked it upon him and setting it on a mule, carried it to the pavilion of the merchant, who, seeing the Minister, came forth to him and kissed his hands, saying, "Belike our lord the Wazir hath some need or business which we may have the pleasure and honour of accomplishing for him?" Quoth the Minister, "I would have thee set this chest in the safest and best place within thy house and keep it till I seek it of thee." So the merchant made the porters carry it inside and set it down in one of his store-closets, after which he went out on business. As soon as he was gone, his wife arose and went up to the chest and unlocked it with the key the King's son had given her, whereupon there came forth a youth like the moon. When she saw him, she donned her richest raiment and carried him to her sitting-saloon, where they abode seven days, eating and drinking and making merry: and as often as her husband came home, she put the Prince back into the chest and locked it upon him. One day the King asked for his son and the Wazir hurried off to the merchant's place of business and sought of him the chest.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Five Hundred and Ninety-second Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Wazir reached the merchant's counting-house he asked for the box. The man accordingly repaired in haste to his pavilion, contrary to his custom and knocked at the door. When his wife was ware of him, she hurried the Prince back into the chest, but, in her confusion, forgot to lock it. The merchant bade the porters take it up and carry it to his house in the town. So they took up the box by the lid, whereupon it flew open and lo! the Prince was lying within. When the merchant saw him and knew him for the King's son, he went out to the Wazir and said to him, "Go in, thou, and take the King's son; for none of us may lay hands on him." So the Minister went in and taking the Prince, went away with him. As soon as they were gone, the merchant put away his wife and swore that he would never marry again. "And," continued the damsel, "I have heard tell, also, O King, a tale of...

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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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