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Payne: The Merchant and the Thieves

[Go back to The Man and His Wilful Wife]

There was once a wealthy merchant, who set out for a certain city with merchandise, purposing to sell it there, and when he came thither, he hired a lodging there and took up his abode therein. Now certain thieves saw him, who were wont to lie in wait for merchants, that they might steal their goods; so they went to his house and cast about to enter in, but could find no way thereto, and their captain said, "I will accomplish you his affair." Then he went away and donning a physician's habit, threw over his shoulder a bag containing medicines, with which he set out, crying, "Who lacks a doctor?" and fared on till he came to the merchant's lodging and saw him sitting eating the morning meal. So he said to him, "Dost thou want a physician?" "Not I," answered the merchant; "but sit and eat with me." So the thief sat down over against him and began to eat.

Now this merchant was a great eater; and the thief, seeing this, said to himself, "I have found my opportunity." So he turned to his host and said to him, "It behoveth me to give thee an admonition; and after thy kindness to me, I cannot hide it from thee. I see thee to be a great eater and the cause of this is a disorder in thy stomach; so hasten to take order for thy cure, or thine affair will end in perdition.' Quoth the merchant, "My body is sound and my stomach quick of digestion, and though I be a hearty eater, yet is there no disease in me, to God be the praise and the thanks!" "It may so appear unto thee," rejoined the thief; "but I know thou hast a latent disorder in thy vitals and if thou hearken to me, thou wilt medicine thyself.' "And where shall I find him who knoweth my remedy?" asked the merchant. "God is the Healer," answered the robber; "but a physician like myself tendeth the sick to the best of his power." And the other said, "Show me my remedy and give me thereof." So he gave him a powder, wherein was great plenty of aloes, saying, "Use this to-night."

When the night came, the merchant tasted the powder and found it nauseous of taste; nevertheless he misdoubted not of it, but swallowed it all and found ease therefrom that night. Next night the thief brought him another powder, wherein was yet more aloes, and he took it. It purged him that night, but he bore with this and rejected it not. When the thief saw that he gave ear unto his word and put trust in him, he brought him a deadly drug and gave it to him. The merchant swallowed it and no sooner had he done this than that which was in his belly fell down and his guts were rent in sunder, and by the morrow he was a dead man; whereupon the thieves came and took all that belonged to him. This,' added the favourite, 'I tell thee, O king, but that thou mayst not give ear to these deluders; else will there befall thee that whereby thou wilt destroy thyself.' "Thou sayst sooth,' replied the king; 'I will not go forth to them.'

On the morrow, the folk assembled together and repairing to the king's door, sat there the most part of the day, till they despaired of his coming forth, when they returned to Shimas and said to him, 'O sage philosopher and learned master, seest thou not that this ignorant boy doth but redouble in falsehood to us? Verily it were of reason to take the kingdom from him and give it to another, so our affairs may be set in order and our estates maintained; but go thou in to him a third time and tell him that nought hindereth us from rising against him and taking the kingship from him but [the remembrance] of his father's goodness to us and that which he required from us of oaths and engagements [with respect to him]. However, to-morrow, we will all, to the last of us, assemble here with our arms and break down the gate of the palace; and if he come forth to us and do that which we wish, well and good; else will we go in to him and slay him and put the kingdom in another's hand.'

So Shimas went in to him and said, 'O king, that wallowest in thy lusts and thy pleasures, what is this thou dost with thyself and who promptest thee thereunto? Indeed, thou sinnest against thyself and there hath ceased from thee that which we knew in thee aforetime of integrity and wisdom and eloquence. Would I knew who hath thus changed thee and turned thee from wisdom to folly and from fidelity to iniquity and from complaisance to stiffneckedness and from acceptance of me to aversion from me! How comes it that I admonish thee thrice and thou neglectest my admonition and that I counsel thee justly and thou still gainsayest my counsel? Tell me, what is this heedlessness and folly and who is it prompteth thee thereunto? Know that the people of thy kingdom have agreed together to come in to thee and slay thee and give thy kingdom to another. Art thou able to cope with them all and save thyself from their hands or canst thou quicken thyself after slaughter? If, indeed, thou availest to do all this, thou art safe and hast no occasion for my rede; but, if thou have any concern for thy life and thy kingship, return to thy senses and hold fast thy kingdom and show forth to the people the power of thy prowess and acquaint the folk with thine excuse, for they are minded to tear away that which is in thy hand and commit it unto another, being resolved upon revolt and rebellion, impelled thereto by that which they know of thy youth and thy surrender of thyself to lusts and voluptuousness; for that stones, albeit they lie long in water, if thou take them out therefrom and smite one upon another, fire will be struck from them. Now thy subjects are many in number and they have taken counsel together against thee, to transfer the kingship from thee to another and accomplish upon thee that which they desire of thy destruction. So shalt thou fare as did the wolf with the foxes and the lion.' 'How was that?' asked the king, and the vizier answered, 'They say that...

[Go to The Foxes and the Wolf]


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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