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Payne: The Page Who Feigned to Know the Speech of Birds

[Go back to The King's Son and the Merchant's Wife]

A certain man of condition once entered the slave-market and saw a page put up for sale; so he bought him and carrying him home, gave him in charge to his wife, with whom he abode awhile. One day the man said to his wife, "Go forth to-morrow to the garden and take thy pleasure therein." And she replied, "With all my heart." When the page heard this, he made ready in secret meat and drink and fruits and dessert and sallied forth with them privily that night to the garden, where he laid the meat under one tree, the drink under another and the fruits and conserves under a third, in the way his mistress should pass. Next morning, the husband bade him accompany the lady to the garden; so she took horse and riding thither with him, dismounted and entered.

Presently, as they were walking about, a crow croaked, and the page said, "Thou sayst truly," whereupon his mistress said to him, "Dost thou know what the crow said?" "Yes, O my lady," answered he; "he said, 'Under yonder tree is meat; go and eat it.'" So she went up to the tree and finding a dish of meat ready dressed, was assured that the youth understood the speech of birds and marvelled exceedingly. They ate of the meat and walked about awhile, taking their pleasure in the garden, till the crow croaked a second time, and the page again replied, "Thou sayst well." "What said he?" asked the lady, and the page, "O my lady, he says that under such a tree is a pitcher of old wine and a gugglet of water flavoured with musk." So she went up to the tree and finding the wine and water there, redoubled in wonderment and the page was magnified in her eyes. They sat down and drank, then arose and walked in another part of the garden. Presently, the crow croaked again and the page said, " Right." Quoth the lady, "What says he now?" and the page, "He says that under yonder tree are fruits and confections." So they went thither and found all as he said and sat down and ate. Then they walked about again till the crow croaked a fourth time, whereupon the page took up a stone and cast it at him. Quoth she, "What said he, that thou shouldst stone him?" ' O my lady," answered he, "he said what I cannot tell thee." "Say on," rejoined she, "and be not abashed, for there is nought between me and thee." But he ceased not to say, "No," and she to press him to speak, till at last she conjured him to tell her, and he answered, "The crow said to me, 'Do with thy mistress even as doth her husband."'

When she heard this, she laughed till she fell backward and said, "This is a light matter, and I may not cross thee therein." So saying, she went up to a tree and spreading the carpet under it, [lay down and] called to him to come and do her need, when, behold, her husband, who had followed them unawares and saw this, called out to the page, saying, "Harkye, boy! What ails thy mistress to lie there, weeping?" "O my lord," answered the page, "she fell off the tree and was [all but] killed; and none but God (may He be exalted and glorified!) restored her to thee. Wherefore she lay down awhile to recover herself" When the lady saw her husband standing by her, she rose and made a show of weakness and pain, saying, "O my back! O my sides! Come to my help, O my friends! I shall never survive this." So her husband was deceived and sending the page for the horse, set her thereon and carried her home, the boy holding one stirrup and the man the other and saying, "God vouchsafe thee ease and recovery!"

These then, O King,' said the damsel, 'are some instances of the craft and perfidy of men; wherefore let not thy viziers turn thee from succouring me and doing me justice. Then she wept, and when the King saw her weeping, (for she was the dearest to him of all his slave-girls,) he once more commanded to put his son to death; but the sixth vizier entered and kissing the earth before him, said, 'May God the Most High advance the King! Verily I am a loyal counsellor to thee, in that I counsel thee to deal deliberately in the matter of thy son; for falsehood is as smoke and truth is a strongly stablished [fortress]; yea, and the light thereof dispels the darkness of falsehood. Know that the perfidy of women is great, even as saith God the Most High in His Holy Book, "Verily, the malice of you [women] is great." And indeed I have heard tell of a certain woman who befooled the chiefs of the state on such wise as never did any before her.' 'And how was that?' asked the King. 'I have heard tell, O King,' answered the vizier, '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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