[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 branches, and a river running through it. The place pleased him; so he sat down there and taking out some conserves he had brought with him, began to eat. Presently, he espied a great smoke rising up to heaven and taking fright, climbed up into a tree and hid himself among the branches. Thence he saw an Afrit rise out of the midst of the stream, with a chest of marble, secured by a padlock, on his head. He set down the chest on the sward and opened it, and there came forth a damsel like the sun shining in the cloudless sky. He gazed 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 in which was the prince, and seeing him, signed to him to come down. He refused, but she swore to him that, except he came down and did as she bade him, she would wake the Afrit and point him out to him, when he would straightway kill him. The prince, fearing she would do as she said, came down, whereupon she kissed his hands and feet and conjured him to do her occasion, to which he consented; and when he had satisfied her desires, she said to him, "Give me the seal-ring on thy finger." So he gave it to her and she laid it in a silken handkerchief she had with her, wherein were more than fourscore others. When the prince saw this, he asked her what she did with all these rings and she answered, saying, "Know that this Afrit carried me off from my father's palace and shut me in this box, which he carries about on his head wherever he goes; and he hardly leaves me a moment, of the excess of his jealousy over me, and hinders me from what I desire. When I saw this, I swore that I would deny my favours to no one, and these rings thou seest are after the tale of the men who have had to do with me; for I took from each a ring and laid it in this handkerchief. And now go thy ways, that I may look for another than thee, for the Afrit will not awake yet awhile."
So the prince returned to his father's palace, hardly crediting what he had heard, and when the King heard that his son had lost his ring, he bade put him to death, knowing not how the damsel had beguiled him. (Now she feared this not, neither took any account thereof.) Then he rose and entered his palace; but his Viziers came in to him and prevailed with him to abandon his purpose. The same night, the King sent for them and thanked them for having dissuaded him from slaying his son; and the latter also thanked them, saying, "It was well done of you to counsel my father to let me live, and God willing, I will abundantly requite you." 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 Vizier, 'the malice of women and what they do unto men.'
The King hearkened to the Vizier'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 amirs and officers and men of learning, the prince entered, with his hand in that of his governor, Es Sindibad, and praised his father and his Viziers and grandees in the most eloquent words and thanked them; so that all who were present wondered at his eloquence and fluency and the excellence of his speech. His father rejoiced in him with an exceeding joy and calling him to him, kissed him between the eyes. Then he called Es Sindibad and asked him why his son had kept silence these seven days, to which he replied, 'O my lord, it was I who enjoined him to this, in my fear for him of death; for, 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 rejoiced and said to his Viziers, 'If I had killed my son would the fault have fallen on me or the damsel or Es Sindibad?' But they refrained from answering and Es Sindibad said to the prince, 'Answer thou, O my son.' Quoth he, 'I have heard tell that certain guests once alighted at a merchant's house, and he sent his slave-girl to the market, to buy a jar of milk. So she bought it and set out on her return; but, on her way home, there passed over her a kite, holding a serpent in its claws, and a drop of the serpent's venom fell into the jar of milk, 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 tell me, O King, whose was the fault in this case?' Some 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 uncovered.' But Es Sindibad said to the prince, 'What sayest thou, O my son?' 'I say,' answered the prince, 'that the folk err; it was neither the fault of the damsel nor of the company, for their appointed hour was come, with the exhaustion of their divinely-decreed provision, and God had fore-ordained them to die thus.'
When the courtiers heard this, they marvelled greatly and lifted up their voices, calling down blessings on the prince and saying, 'O our lord, thou hast made a peerless answer, and thou art the wisest man of thy time.' 'Indeed, I am no sage,' answered the prince; 'the blind sheikh and the three-year-old child and the five-year-old were wiser than I.' 'O youth,' said the bystanders, 'tell us the stories of these three who were wiser than thou.' 'With all my heart,' answered he, 'I have heard tell that...
[Go to The Sandal-wood Merchant and the Sharpers]
Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram 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