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Payne: The Merchant and the Genie

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There was once a merchant, who had much substance and traded largely in foreign countries. One day, as he was riding through a certain country, whither he had gone to collect what was due to him, there overtook him the heat of the day and presently he espied a garden before him; so he made towards it for shelter and alighting, sat down under a walnut tree, by a spring of water. Then he put his hand to his saddle bags and took out a cake of bread and a date and ate them and threw away the date stone, when behold, there started up before him a gigantic Afrit, with a naked sword in his hand, who came up to him and said, 'Arise, that I may slay thee, even as thou hast slain my son.' 'How did I slay thy son?' asked the merchant, and the genie replied, 'When thou threwest away the date stone, it smote my son, who was passing at the time, on the breast, and he died forthright.' When the merchant heard this, he said, 'Verily we are God's and to Him we return! There is no power and no virtue but in God, the Most High, the Supreme! If I killed him, it was by misadventure, and I prithee pardon me.' But the genie said, 'There is no help for it but I must kill thee.' Then he seized him and throwing him down, raised his sword to strike him: whereupon the merchant wept and said, 'I commit my affair to God!' and recited the following verses:

Fate has two days, untroubled one, the other lowering, And life two parts, the one content, the other sorrowing. Say unto him that taunteth us with fortune's perfidy, 'At whom but those whose heads are high doth Fate its arrows fling?' If that the hands of Time have made their plaything of our life, Till for its long protracted kiss ill-hap upon us spring, Dost thou not see the hurricane, what time the wild winds blow, Smite down the stately trees alone and spare each lesser thing? Lo! in the skies are many stars, no one can tell their tale, But to the sun and moon alone eclipse brings darkening. The earth bears many a pleasant herb and many a plant and tree: But none is stoned save only those to which the fair fruit cling. Look on the sea and how the waifs float up upon the foam, But in its deepest depths of blue the pearls have sojourning.

'Cut short thy speech,' said the genie, 'for, by Allah, there is no help for it but I must kill thee.' 'Know, O Afrit,' replied the merchant, 'that I have a wife and children and much substance, and I owe debts and hold pledges: so let me return home and give every one his due, and I vow by all that is most sacred that I will return to thee at the end of the year, that thou mayest do with me as thou wilt, and God is witness of what I say.' The genie accepted his promise and released him, whereupon he returned to his dwelling-place and paid his debts and settled all his affairs. Moreover, he told his wife and children what had happened and made his last dispositions, and tarried with his family till the end of the year. Then he rose and made his ablutions and took his winding sheet under his arm and bidding his household and kinsfolk and neighbours farewell, set out, much against his will, to perform his promise to the genie; whilst his family set up a great noise of crying and lamentation. He journeyed on till he reached the garden, where he had met with the genie, on the first day of the new year, and there sat down to await his doom. Presently, as he sat weeping over what had befallen him, there came up an old man, leading a gazelle by a chain, and saluted the merchant, saying, 'What ails thee to sit alone in this place, seeing that it is the resort of the Jinn?' The merchant told him all that had befallen him with the Afrit, and he wondered and said, 'By Allah, O my brother, thy good faith is exemplary and thy story is a marvellous one! If it were graven with needles on the corners of the eye, it would serve as a warning to those that can profit by example.' Then he sat down by his side, saying, 'By Allah, O my brother, I will not leave thee till I see what befalls thee with this Afrit.' So they sat conversing, and fear and terror got hold upon the merchant and trouble increased upon him, notwithstanding the old man's company. Presently another old man came up, leading two black dogs, and saluting them, inquired why they sat in a place known to be haunted by Jinn, whereupon the merchant repeated his story to him. He had not sat long with them when there came up a third old man leading a dappled she-mule, and after putting to them the same question and receiving a like answer, sat down with them to await the issue of the affair. They had sat but a little while longer, when behold, there arose a cloud of dust and a great whirling column approached from the heart of the desert. Then the dust lifted and discovered the genie, with a drawn sword in his hand and sparks of fire issuing from his eyes. He came up to them and dragged the merchant from amongst them, saying, 'Rise, that I may slay thee as thou slewest my son, the darling of my heart!' Whereupon the merchant wept and bewailed himself and the three old men joined their cries and lamentations to his. Then came forward the first old man, he of the gazelle, and kissed the Afrit's hand and said to him, 'O genie and crown of the kings of the Jinn, if I relate to thee my history with this gazelle and it seem to thee wonderful, wilt thou grant me a third of this merchant's blood?' 'Yes, O old man,' answered the genie, 'if thou tell me thy story and I find it wonderful, I will remit to thee a third of his blood.' Then said the old man, 'Know, O Afrit, that...

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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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