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Payne: The First Old Man's Story

[Go back to The Merchant and the Genie]

This gazelle is the daughter of my father's brother and my own flesh and blood. I married her whilst she was yet of tender age and lived with her near thirty years, without being blessed with a child by her. So I took me a concubine and had by her a son like the rising full moon, with eyes and eyebrows of perfect beauty; and he grew up and flourished till he reached the age of fifteen, when I had occasion to journey to a certain city, and set out thither with great store of merchandise. Now my wife had studied sorcery and magic from her youth: so, I being gone, she turned my son into a calf and his mother into a cow and delivered them both to the cowherd: and when, after a long absence, I returned from my journey and inquired after my son and his mother, my wife said to me, "Thy slave died and her son ran away, whither I know not." I abode for the space of a year, mournful-hearted and weeping-eyed, till the coming of the Greater Festival, when I sent to the herdsman and bade him bring me a fat cow for the purpose of sacrifice. So he brought me the very cow into which my wife had changed my concubine by her art; and I tucked up my skirts and taking the knife in my hand, went up to the cow to slaughter her; but she lowed and moaned so piteously, that I was seized with wonder and compassion and held my hand from her and said to the herd, "Bring me another cow." "Not so!" cried my wife. "Slaughter this one, for we have no finer nor fatter." So I went up to her again, but she cried out, and I left her and ordered the herdsman to kill her and skin her. So he killed her and flayed her, but found on her neither fat nor flesh, only skin and bone. Then I was sorry for having slain her, when repentance availed me not; and I gave her to the herd and said to him, "Bring me a fat calf." So he brought me my son in the guise of a calf; and when he saw me, he broke his halter and came up to me and fawned on me and moaned and wept, till I took pity on him and said to the man, "Bring me a cow and let this calf go." But my wife cried out at me and said, "Not so: thou must sacrifice this calf and none other to-day: for it is a holy and a blessed day, on which it behoves us to offer up none but a good thing, and we have no calf fatter or finer than this one." Quoth I, "Look at the condition of the cow I slaughtered by thine order; we were deceived in her, and now I will not be persuaded by thee to slay this calf this time." "By the great God, the Compassionate, the Merciful," answered she, "thou must without fail sacrifice this calf on this holy day! Else thou art no longer my husband nor am I thy wife." When I heard this harsh speech from her, I went up to the calf, knowing not what she aimed at, and took the knife in my hand.'" Here Shehrzad perceived the day and was silent; and her sister said to her, "What a charming and delightful story!" Quoth Shehrzad, "This is nothing to what I will tell thee to-morrow night, if the King let me live." And the King said to himself, "By Allah, I will not kill her, till I hear the rest of the story!" So they lay together till morning, when the King went out to his hall of audience and the Vizier came in to him, with the winding-sheet under his arm. Then the King ordered and appointed and deposed, without telling the Vizier aught of what had happened, much to the former's surprise, until the end of the day, when the Divan broke up and he retired to his apartments.

And when it was the second night

Dunyazad said to her sister Shehrzad, "O my sister, finish us thy story of the merchant and the genie." "With all my heart," answered she, "if the King give me leave." The king bade her "Say on." So she began as follows: "It has reached me, O august king and wise governor, that the first old man continued his story as follows: 'O lord of the Kings of the Jinn, as I was about to kill the calf, my heart failed me and I said to the herdsman, "Keep this calf with the rest of the cattle." So he took it and went away. Next day the herd came to me, as I was sitting by myself, and said to me, "O my lord, I have that to tell thee will rejoice thee, and I claim a reward for good news." Quoth I, "It is well." And he said, "O merchant, I have a daughter, who learnt the art of magic in her youth from an old woman who lived with us, and yesterday, when I took home the calf that thou gavest me, she looked at it and veiled her face and fell a-weeping. Then she laughed and said to me, 'O my father, am I become of so little account in thine eyes that thou bringest in to me strange men?' 'Where are the strange men?' asked I. 'And why dost thou weep and laugh?' Quoth she, 'The calf thou hast there is our master's son, who has been enchanted, as well as his mother, by his father's wife. This is why I laughed: and I wept for his mother, because his father slaughtered her.' I wondered exceedingly at this and the day had no sooner broken than I came to tell thee." When (continued the old man) I heard the herdsman's story, O genie, I went out with him, drunken without wine for stress of joy and gladness, and accompanied him to his house, where his daughter welcomed me and kissed my hand; and the calf came up to me and fawned on me. Said I to the girl, "Is it true what I hear about this calf?" "Yes, O my lord," answered she, "this is indeed thy son and the darling of thy heart." So I said to her, "O damsel, if thou wilt release him, all that is under thy father's hand of beasts and goods shall be thine!" But she smiled and said, "O my lord, I care not for wealth, but I will do what thou desirest upon two conditions, the first that thou marry me to this thy son, and the second that thou permit me to bewitch the sorceress and imprison her (in the shape of a beast); else I shall not be safe from her craft." I answered, "Besides what thou seekest, thou shalt have all that is under thy father's hand, and as to my wife, it shall be lawful to thee to shed her blood, if thou wilt." When she heard this, she took a cup full of water, and conjured over it; then sprinkled the calf with the water, saying, "If thou be a calf by the creation of the Almighty, abide in that form and change not: but if thou be enchanted, return to thine original form, with the permission of God the Most High!" With that he shook and became a man: and I fell upon him and said to him, "For God's sake, tell me what my wife did with thee and thy mother." So he told me what had befallen them and I said to him, "O my son, God hath sent thee one to deliver and avenge thee." Then I married him to the herdsman's daughter, and she transformed my wife into this gazelle, saying to me, "I have given her this graceful form for thy sake, that thou mayest look on her without aversion." She dwelt with us days and nights and nights and days, till God took her to Himself; and after her death, my son set out on a journey to the land of Ind, which is this merchant's native country; and after awhile, I took the gazelle and travelled with her from place to place, seeking news of my son, till chance led me to this garden, where I found this merchant sitting weeping; and this is my story.' Quoth the genie, 'This is indeed a rare story, and I remit to thee a third part of his blood.' Then came forward the second old man, he of the two greyhounds, and said to the genie, 'I will tell thee my story with these two dogs, and if thou find it still rarer and more marvellous, do thou remit to me another third part of his blood. Quoth the genie, 'I agree to this.' Then said the second old man, 'Know, O lord of the Kings of the Jinn, that...

[Go to The Second Old Man's Story]

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

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