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Four merchants once owned in common a thousand gold pieces; so they laid them mingled together in one purse and set out to buy merchandise therewith. They happened as they wended their way on a beautiful garden; so they left the purse with a woman who had care of the garden, saying to here, "Mind thee, thou shalt not give it back save when all four of us in person demand it of thee." She agreed to this and they entered and strolled awhile about the garden-walks and ate and drank and made merry, after which one of them said to the others, "I have with me scented fuller's-earth; come, let us wash our heads therewith in this running water." Quoth another, "We lack a comb;" and a third, "Let us ask the keeper; belike she hath a comb." Thereupon one of them arose and accosting the care-taker, said to her, "Give me the purse." Said she, "Not until ye be all present or thy fellows bid me give it thee." Then he called to his companions (who could see him but not hear him) saying, "She will not give it me;" and they said to her, "Give it him," thinking he meant the comb. So she gave him the purse and he took it and made off as fast as he could. When the three others were wary of waiting, they went to the keeper and asked her, "Why wilt thou not give him the comb?" Answered she, "He demanded naught of me save the purse, and I gave not that same but with your consent, and he went his way with it." When they heard her words they buffeted their faces and, laying hands upon her, said, "We authorized thee only to give him the comb;" and she rejoined, "He named not a comb to me." Then they seized her and haled her before the Kazi, to whom they related their claim and he condemned her to make good the the purse and bound over sundry of her debtors to answer for her. ---And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Six Hundred and Sixth Night
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Kazi condemned the care-taker to make good the purse and bound over sundry of her debtors to answer for her. So she went forth, confounded and knowing not her way out of difficulty. Presently she met a five-year-old boy who, seeing her troubled, said to her, "What ails thee, O my mother?" But she gave him no answer, contemning him because of his tender age, and he repeated his question a second time and a third time till, at last, she told him all that had passed, not forgetting the condition that she was to keep the purse until all four had demanded it of her. Said the boy, "Give me a dirham to buy sweetmeats withal and I will tell the how thou mayst acquit thyself." So she gave him a silver and said to him, "What hast thou to say?" Quoth he, "Return to the Kazi, and say to him, It was agreed between myself and them that I should not give them the purse, except all four of them were present. Let them all four come and I will give them the purse, as was agreed." So she went back to the Kazi and said to him as the boy had counselled; and he asked the merchants, "Was it thus agreed between you and this woman?"; and they answered, "Yes." Quoth the Kazi, "Then bring me your comrade and take the purse." So they went in quest of their fellow, whilst the keeper came off scot-free and went her way without let or hindrance. And Allah is Omniscient! When the King and his Wazir and those present in the assembly heard the Prince's words they said to his father, "O our lord the King, in very sooth thy son is the most accomplished man of his time;" and they called down blessings upon the King and the Prince. Then the King strained his son to his bosom and kissed him between the eyes and questioned him of what had passed between the favourite and himself; and the Prince sware to him, by Almighty Allah and by His Holy Prophet that it was she who had required him of love which he refused, adding, "Moreover, she promised me that she would give thee poison to drink and kill the, so should the kingship be mine; whereupon I waxed wroth and signed to her, 'O accursed one, whenas I can speak I will requite thee!' So she feared me and did what she did." The King believed his words and sending for the favourite said to those present, "How shall we put this damsel to death?" Some counselled him to cut out her tongue and other some to burn it with fire; but, when she came before the King, she said to him, "My case with thee is like unto naught save the tale of the fox and the folk." "How so?" asked he; and she said, "I have heard, O King, tell a...
[Go to The Fox and the Folk]
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