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I am a king, son of a king. My father taught me to read and write, and I got the Koran by heart, according to the seven readings, and read all manner of books under the guidance of learned professors; I studied the science of the stars and the sayings of poets and applied myself to all branches of knowledge, till I surpassed all the folk of my time. In particular, my skill in handwriting excelled that of all the scribes, and my fame was noised abroad in all countries and at the courts of all the kings. Amongst others, the King of Ind heard of me and sent to my father to seek me, with gifts and presents such as befit kings. So my father fitted out six ships for me, and we put to sea and sailed for a whole month, till we reached the land. Then we brought out the horses that were with us in the ships, together with ten camels laden with presents for the King of Ind. and set out inland, but had not gone far, before there arose a great dust, that grew till it covered the whole country. After awhile it lifted and discovered fifty steel-clad horsemen, as they were fierce lions, whom we soon found to be Arab highwaymen. When they saw that we were but a small company and had with us ten laden camels, they drove at us with levelled spears. We signed to them with our fingers to do us no hindrance, for that we were ambassadors to the mighty King of Ind; but they replied (in the same manner) that they were not in his dominions nor under his rule. Then they set on us and slew some of my attendants and put the rest to flight; and I also fled, after I had gotten a sore wound whilst the Arabs were taken up with the baggage. I knew not whither to turn, being reduced from high to low estate; so I fled forth at a venture till I came to the top of a mountain, where I took shelter for the night in a cavern. On the morrow, I continued my journey and fared on thus for a whole month, till I reached a safe and pleasant city. The winter had passed away from it with its cold and the spring was come with its roses; its flowers were blowing and its streams welling and its birds warbling. As says the poet, describing the city in question:
A town, wherein who dwells is free from all affray; Security and peace are masters there alway. Like Paradise itself, it seemeth, for its folk, With all its beauties rare decked out in bright array.
I was both glad and sorry to reach the city, glad for that I was weary with my journey and pale for weakness and anxiety, and grieved to enter it in such sorry case. However, I went in, knowing not whither to betake me, and fared on till I came to a tailor sitting in his shop. I saluted him, and he returned my salute and bade me a kindly welcome, and seeing me to be a stranger and noting marks of gentle breeding on me, enquired how I came thither. I told him all that had befallen me; and he was concerned for me and said, "O my son, do not discover thyself to any, for the King of this city is the chief of thy father's foes and hath a mortal feud against him." Then he set meat and drink before me, and I ate and he with me, and we talked together till nightfall, when he lodged me in a chamber beside his own, and brought me a bed and coverlet. I abode with him three days, at the end of which time he said to me, "Dost thou know any craft by which thou mayst earn thy living?" I replied, "I am a doctor of the law and a man of learning, a scribe, a grammarian, a poet, a mathematician and a skilled penman." Quoth he, "Thy trade is not in demand in this country nor are there in this city any who understand science or writing or aught but money-getting." "By Allah," said I, "I know nought but what I have told thee!" And he said, "Gird thy middle and take axe and cord and go and cut firewood in the desert for thy living, till God send thee relief, and tell none who thou art, or they will kill thee." Then he bought me an axe and a cord and gave me in charge to certain woodcutters; with whom I went out into the desert and cut wood all day and carried home a load on my head. I sold it for half a dinar, with part of which I bought victual and laid up the rest. On this wise I lived a whole year, at the end of which time I went out one day into the desert, according to my wont, and straying from my companions, happened on a tract full of trees and running streams, in which there was abundance of firewood; so I entered and coming on the gnarled stump of a great tree, dug round it with my axe and cleared the earth away from it. Presently, the axe struck upon a ring of brass; so I cleared away the earth, till I uncovered a wooden trap-door, which I raised and there appeared beneath it a stair I descended the stair, till I came to a door, which I opened and found myself in a vaulted hall of goodly structure, wherein was a damsel like a pearl of great price, whose aspect banished pain and care and anxiety from the heart and whose speech healed the troubled soul and captivated the wise and the intelligent. She was slender of shape and swelling-breasted, delicate-cheeked and bright of colour and fair of form; and indeed her face shone like the sun through the night of her tresses, and her teeth glittered above the snows of her bosom. As says the poet of her:
Slender of waist, with streaming hair the hue of night, is she, With hips like hills of sand and shape straight as the balsam-tree.
And as says another:
There are four things that ne'er unite, except it be To shed my heart's best blood and take my soul by storm. And these are night-black locks and brow as bright as day, Cheeks ruddy as the rose and straight and slender form.
When I looked on her, I prostrated myself before her Maker, for the grace and beauty He had created in her and she looked at me and said, "Art thou a man or a genie?" "I am a man," answered I; and she said, "And who brought thee to this place, where I have dwelt five-and-twenty years without seeing man?" Quoth I (and indeed her speech was sweet to me), "O my lady, my good star brought me hither for the dispelling of my grief and anxiety." And I told her all that had befallen me from first to last. My case was grievous to her and she wept: then she said, "I will tell thee my story in turn. I am the daughter of a King of Farther India, by name Efitamous, Lord of the Ebony Islands, who married me to my cousin, but on my wedding-night an Afrit called Jerjis ben Rejmous, the mother's sister's son of Iblis, carried me off and flying away with me, set me down in this place whither he transported all that I needed of clothes and ornaments and furniture and meat and drink and so forth. Once in every ten days he comes to me and lies the night here, then goes his way; for he took me without the consent of his family: and he has agreed with me that, in case I should ever have occasion for him in the interval between his visits, whether by night or by day, I have only to touch these two lines engraved upon the alcove, and he will be with me before I take away my hand. It is now four days since he was here, and there remain six before he comes again. Wilt thou therefore spend five days with me and depart the day before his coming?" "I will well," answered I. "O rare! if it be not all a dream." At this she rejoiced and taking me by the hand, led me through a vaulted doorway into a small but elegant bath-room, where we put off our clothes and she washed me. Then she clad me in a new suit and seated me by her side on a high divan and gave me to drink of sherbet of sugar flavoured with musk. Then she brought food, and we ate and conversed. After awhile, she said to me, "Lie down and rest, for thou art weary." So I lay down and slept and forgot all that had befallen me. When I awoke, I found her rubbing my feet: so I thanked her and blessed her, and we sat talking awhile. Quoth she, "By Allah, I was sad at heart, for that I have dwelt alone under ground these five-and-twenty years, without any to talk withal. So praised be God who hath sent thee to me!" Then she said, "O youth, art thou for wine?" And I answered, "As thou wilt." Whereupon she went to the cupboard and took out a sealed flask of old wine and decked the table with flowers and green herbs. Then she recited the following verses:
Had we thy coming known, we would for sacrifice Have poured thee forth heart's blood and blackness of the eyes: Ay, and we would have laid our cheeks within thy way, That so thy feet might tread on eyelids, carpet-wise!
I thanked her, for indeed love of her had taken hold of me, and my grief and anxiety left me. We sat carousing till nightfall, and I passed the night with her, never knew I such a night. On the morrow, delight succeeded delight till the middle of the day, when I drank wine, till I lost my senses and rose, staggering from side to side, and said to her, "Come, O fair one! I will carry thee up from under the earth and rid thee of this genie." She laughed and replied, "Be content and hold thy peace. One day in every ten is the genie's, and the other nine shall be thine." Quoth I (and indeed drunkenness had got the better of me), "This very moment will I break the alcove, on which is graven the talisman, and summon the Afrit hither, that I may kill him, for I am used to kill Afrits ten at a time." When she heard this, she conjured me by Allah to refrain and repeated the following verses:
This is a thing wherein thine own destruction lies: I rede thee keep thyself therefrom, if thou be wise.
And also these:
O thou that seek'st to hasten on the feet Of parting's steeds, the matchless swift of flight, Forbear, for fortune's nature is deceit, And parting is the end of love delight.
I paid no heed to her words, but kicked the alcove with all my might, and immediately the place grew dark, it thundered and lightened, the earth trembled and the world was wrapped in gloom. When I saw this, the fumes of the wine left my head and I said to the lady, "What is the matter?" "The Afrit is upon us," answered she "Did I not warn thee of this! By Allah, thou hast ruined me! But fly for thy life and return whence thou camest." So I ascended the stair, but, in the excess of my fear I forgot my sandals and hatchet. When I had mounted two steps, I turned to look, and behold, the ground clove in sunder and out came an Afrit of hideous aspect, who said to the lady, "What is this commotion with which thou disturbest me? What misfortune has befallen thee?" "Nothing has befallen me," answered she, "except that I was heavy at heart and drank a little wine to hearten myself. Then I rose to do an occasion, but my head became heavy and I fell against the alcove." "Thou liest, O harlot!" said he, and looked right and left, till he caught sight of the axe and the sandals and said, "These are some man's gear. Who has been with thee?" Quoth she, "I never set eyes on them till this moment; they must have clung to thee as thou camest hither." But he said, "This talk is absurd and will not impose on me, O strumpet!" Then he stripped her naked and stretching her on the ground, tied her hands and feet to four stakes and proceeded to torture her to make her confess. I could not bear to hear her weeping; so I ascended the stair, quaking for fear. When I reached the top, I replaced the trap-door and covered it over with earth; and I thought of the lady and her beauty and what had befallen her through my folly and repented me sore of what I had done. Then I bethought me of my father and his kingdom and how I had become a woodcutter, and how, after my life had been awhile serene, it had again become troubled, and I wept and repeated the following verse:
What time the cruelties of Fate o'erwhelm thee with distress, Think that one day must bring thee ease, another day duresse.
Then I went on till I reached the house of my friend, whom I found awaiting me, as he were on coals of fire on my account. When he saw me, he rejoiced and said, "O my brother, where didst thou pass the night? My heart has been full of anxiety on thine account, fearing for thee from the wild beasts or other peril: but praised be God for thy safety!" I thanked him for his solicitude, and retiring to my chamber, fell a-musing on what had passed and reproached myself grievously for my meddlesomeness in kicking the alcove. Presently the tailor came in to me and said, "O my son, there is without an old man, a foreigner, who seeks thee. He has thine axe and sandals and came to the woodcutters and said to them, 'I went out at the hour of the call to morning prayer and happened on these and know not whose they are: direct me to their owner.' They knew thine axe and sent him to thee; and he is now sitting in my shop. So do thou go out to him and thank him and take thy gear." When I heard this, my colour changed and I was sick for terror but before I could think, the floor clove asunder and up came the stranger, and lo, it was the Afrit! Now he had tortured the lady in the most barbarous manner, without being able to make her confess: so he took the axe and sandals, saying, "As sure as I am Jerjis of the lineage of Iblis, I will bring back the owner of this axe and these sandals!" So he went to the woodcutters with the tale aforesaid, and they directed him to me. He snatched me up without parley and flew high into the air, but presently descended and plunged into the ground with me, and I the while unconscious. Then he came up with me in the underground palace, where I saw the lady stretched out naked, with the blood running from her sides. At this sight, my eyes ran over with tears; but the Afrit unbound her and veiling her, said to her, "O wanton, is not this thy lover?" She looked at me and said, "I know not this man, nor have I ever seen him till now." Quoth he, "Wilt thou not confess after all this torture?" And she answered, "I never saw him in my life, and God forbid that I should lie against him and thou kill him." "Then," said he, "if thou know him not, take this sword and cut off his head." She took the sword and came and stood at my head; and I made signs to her with my eyebrows whilst the tears ran down my cheeks. She understood me and signed to me with her eyes as who should say, "Thou hast brought all this upon us." And I answered her, in the same fashion, that it was a time for forgiveness; and the tongue of the case spoke the words of the poet:
My looks interpret for my tongue and tell of what I feel: And all the love appears that I within my heart conceal. When as we meet and down our cheeks our tears are running fast, I'm dumb, and yet my speaking eyes my thought of thee reveal. She signs to me; and I, I know the things her glances say: I with my fingers sign, and she conceives the mute appeal. Our eyebrows of themselves suffice unto our intercourse: We're mute; but passion none the less speaks in the looks we steal.
Then she threw down the sword and said, "How shall I strike off the head of one whom I know not and who has done me no hurt? My religion will not allow of this." Quoth the Afrit, "It is grievous to thee to kill thy lover. Because he hath lain a night with thee, thou endurest this torture and wilt not confess upon him. It is only like that pities like." Then he turned to me and said, "O mortal, dost thou not know this woman?" "Who is she?" answered I. "I never saw her till now." "Then," said he "take this sword and strike off her head and I will believe that thou knowest her not and will let thee go and do thee no hurt." Quoth I, "It is well;" and taking the sword, went up to her briskly and raised my hand. But she signed to me with her eyebrows, as who should say, "What hurt have I done thee? Is it thus thou requitest me?" I understood what she would say and replied in the same manner, "I will ransom thee with my life." And the tongue of the case repeated the following verses:
How many a lover with his eyelids speaks And doth his thought unto his mistress tell He flashes signals to her with his eyes, And she at once is ware of what befell. How swift the looks that pass betwixt the twain! How fair, indeed, and how delectable! One with his eyelids writes what he would say: The other with her eyes the writ doth spell.
Then my eyes ran over with tears and I said, "O mighty Afrit and doughty hero! if a woman, lacking sense and religion, deem it unlawful to strike off my head, how can I, who am a man, bring myself to slay her whom I never saw in my life? Never will I do it, though I drink the cup of death and ruin!" And I threw the sword from my hand. Quoth the Afrit, "Ye show the good understanding between you, but I will let you see the issue of your doings." Then he took the sword and cut off the lady's hands and feet at four strokes; whilst I looked on and made sure of death; and she signed me a farewell with her eyes. Quoth he, "Thou cuckoldest me with thine eyes!" And struck off her head with a blow of his sword. Then he turned to me and said, "O mortal, by our law; when our wives commit adultery, it is lawful to us to put them to death. As for this woman, I stole her away on her wedding-night, when she was a girl of twelve, and she has known no one but myself. I used to come to her once in every ten days in the habit of a man, a foreigner, and pass one night with her; and when I was assured that she had played me false, I slew her. But as for thee, I am not sure that thou west her accomplice: nevertheless, I must not let thee go unharmed; but I will grant thee a favour." At this I rejoiced greatly and said, "What favour wilt thou grant me?" "I will give thee thy choice," replied he, "whether I shall change thee into a dog, an ass or an ape." Quoth I (and indeed I had hoped that he would pardon me), "By Allah, spare me, and God will reward thee for sparing a true believer, who hath done thee no harm." And I humbled myself before him to the utmost and wept, saying, "Indeed, thou dost me injustice." "Do not multiply words on me," answered he; "it is in my power to kill thee: but I give thee thy choice." "O Afrit," rejoined I, "it would best become thee to pardon me, even as the envied pardoned the envier." Quoth he, "And how was that?" "They say, O Afrit," answered I, "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