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Payne: The Second Calendar's Story (cont.)

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Then I wept before him exceeding sore, and repeated the following verses:

I prithee, pardon mine offence: for men of prudent mind To pardon unto those that sin their sins are still inclined. If I, alas! contain in me all fashions of offence, Let there in thee forgiveness fair be found in every kind. For men are bound to pardon those that are beneath their hand, If they themselves with those that be above them grace would find.

Quoth the Afrit, "I will neither kill thee nor let thee go free, but I will assuredly enchant thee." Then he tore me from the ground and flew up with me into the air, till I saw the earth as it were a platter midmost the water. Presently he set me down on a mountain and took a little earth, over which he muttered some magical words, then sprinkled me with it, saying, "Quit this shape for that of an ape." And immediately I became an ape, a hundred years old. Then he went away and left me; and when I saw myself in this ugly shape, I wept, but resigned myself to the tyranny of fate, knowing that fortune is constant to no one, and descended to the foot of the mountain, where found a wide plain. I fared on for the space of a month till my course brought me to the shore of the salt sea: where I stood awhile and presently caught sight of a ship in the midst of the sea, making for the land with a fair wind. I hid myself behind a rock on the beach and waited till the ship drew near, when I sprang on board. Quoth one of the passengers, "Turn this unlucky brute out from amongst us!" And the captain said, "Let us kill him." And a third, "I will kill him with this sword." But I laid hold of the captain's skirts and wept, and the tears ran down my face. The captain took pity on me and said, "O merchants, this ape appeals to me for protection, and I will protect him: henceforth he is under my safeguard, and none shall molest or annoy him." Then he entreated me kindly and whatever he said I understood and ministered to all his wants and waited on him, so that he loved me. The ship sailed on with a fair wind for the space of fifty days, at the end of which time we cast anchor over against a great city, wherein were much people, none could tell their number save God. No sooner had we come to an anchor, than we were boarded by officers from the King of the city; who said to the merchants, "Our King gives you joy of your safety and sends you this scroll of paper, on which each one of you is to write a line. For know that the King's Vizier, who was an excellent penman, is dead and the King has sworn a solemn oath that he will make none Vizier in his stead who cannot write like him." Then they gave them a scroll, ten cubits long by one wide, and each of the merchants, who could write, wrote a line therein: after which I rose and snatched the scroll from their hands, and they cried out at me and rated me, fearing that I would tear it or throw it into the sea. But I made signs that I would write; whereat they marvelled, saying, "We never saw an ape write!" And the captain said to them, "Let him alone; if he scrabble, we will drive him away and kill him; but if he write well, I will adopt him as my son, for I never saw so intelligent and well-mannered an ape; and would God my son had his sense and good breeding!" So I took the pen and dipping it in the inkhorn, wrote in an epistolary hand the following verses:

Time hath recorded the virtues of the great: But thine have remained unchronicled till now. May God not orphan the human race of thee, For sire and mother of all good deeds art thou.

Then I wrote the following in a running hand:

Thou hast a pen whose use confers good gifts on every clime; Upon all creatures of the world its happy favours fall. What are the bounties of the Nile to thy munificence, Whose fingers five extend to shower thy benefits on all?

And in an engrossing hand the following:

There is no writer but he shall pass away: Yet what he writes shall last for ever and aye. Write, therefore, nought but that which shall gladden thee, When as it meets thine eye on the Judgment Day.

And in a transcribing hand the following:

When separation is to us by destiny decreed And 'gainst the cruel chance of Fate our efforts are in vain, Unto the inkhorn's mouth we fly that, by the tongues of pens, Of parting and its bitterness it may for us complain.

And in a large formal hand the following:

The regal state endureth not to any mortal man. If thou deny this, where is he who first on earth held sway? Plant therefore saplings of good deeds, whilst that thou yet art great Though thou be ousted from thy stead, they shall not pass away.

And in a court hand the following:

When thou the inkhorn op'st of power and lordship over men, Make thou thine ink of noble thoughts and generous purpose; then Write gracious deeds and good therewith, whilst that thy power endures. So shall thy virtues blazoned be at point of sword and pen.

Then I gave the scroll to the officers, who took it and returned with it to the King. When he saw it, no writing pleased him but mine; so he said to his officers, "Go to the writer of these lines and dress him in a splendid robe; then mount him on a mule and bring him to me with a band of music before him." At this they smiled, and the King was wroth with them and said, "O accursed ones, I give you an order, and ye laugh at me!" "O King," answered they, "we have good cause to laugh." Quoth he, "What is it?" And they replied, "O King, thou orderest us to bring thee the man who wrote these lines: now he who wrote them is no man, but an ape belonging to the captain of the ship." "Can this be true?" asked he; and they said, "Yea, by thy munificence!" The King was astonished at their report and shook with mirth and said, "I have a mind to buy this ape of the captain." Then he sent messengers to the ship and said to them, "Dress him none the less in the robe and mount him on the mule and bring him hither in state, with the band of music before him." So they came to the ship and took me and clad me in the robe and mounted me on the mule and carried me in procession through the city; whilst the people were astounded and crowded to gaze upon me, and the place was all astir on my account. When I reached the King's presence, I kissed the earth before him three times, and he bade me be seated; so I sat down on my heels; and all the bystanders marvelled at my good manners, and the King most of all. After awhile the King dismissed his courtiers, and there remained but myself, his highness the King, an eunuch and a little white slave. Then the King gave orders and they brought the table of food, containing all kinds of birds that hop and fly and couple in the nests, such as grouse and quails and so forth. He signed to me to eat with him; so I rose and kissed the earth before him then sat down and ate with him. When we had done eating, the table was removed, and I washed my hands seven times. Then I took pen and ink and wrote the following verses:

Weep for the cranes that erst within the porringers did lie, And for the stews and partridges evanished heave a sigh! Mourn for the younglings of the grouse; lament unceasingly, As, for the omelettes and the fowls browned in the pan, do I. How my heart yearneth for the fish, that in its different kinds, Upon a paste of wheaten flour lay hidden in the pie! Praised be God for the roast meat! As in the dish it lay, With pot-herbs, soaked in vinegar, in porringers hard by! My hunger was appeased: I lay, intent upon the gleam Of arms that in the frumenty were buried bracelet high. I woke my sleeping appetite to eat, as 'twere in jest, Of all the tarts that, piled on trays, shone fair unto the eye. O soul, have patience! For indeed, Fate full of marvel is: If fortune straiten thee one day, the next relief is nigh.

Then I rose and seated myself at a distance, whilst the King read what I had written and marvelled and said "Strange that an ape should be gifted with such fluency and skill in penmanship! By Allah, this is a wonder of wonders!" Then they set choice wine before the King in flagons of glass; and he drank, then passed the cup to me; and I kissed the earth and drank and wrote the following verses:

They burnt me with fire, to make me speak, And found me patient and debonair. For this I am borne on men's hands on high And kiss the rosy lips of the fair!

And these also:

Morn struggles through the dusk; so pour me out, I pray, Of wine, such wine as makes the saddest-hearted gay! So pure and bright it is, that whether wine in glass Or glass in wine be held, i' faith, 'tis hard to say.

The King read them and said, with a sigh, "If a man had this quickness of wit, he would excel all the folk of his age and time." Then he called for a chess-board and said to me, "Wilt thou play with me?" I signed with my head as who should say, "Yes," and came forward and placed the men and played two games with him, each of which I won, much to his amazement. Then I took the pen and wrote the following verses:

Two hosts throughout the live-long day contend in deadly fight, That waxes ever till the shades of night upon them creep; Then, when the darkness puts an end at last unto their strife, Upon one couch and side by side, they lay them down to sleep.

These verses filled the King with wonder and delight, and he said to the eunuch, "Go to thy mistress, the Lady of Beauty, and bid her come and amuse herself with the sight of this wonderful ape." So the eunuch went out and presently returned with the lady, who, when she saw me, veiled her face, and said, "O my father, how comes it that thou art pleased to send for me and show me to strange men?" "O my daughter," said he, "there is none here save the little slave and the eunuch who reared thee and myself, thy father. From whom then dost thou veil thy face?" Quoth she, "This that thou deemest an ape is a wise and learned man, the son of a king; the Afrit Jerjis of the lineage of Iblis enchanted him thus, after putting to death his own wife, the daughter of King Efitamous, Lord of the Ebony Islands." At this the King wondered and turning to me, said, "Is this true that she says of thee?" And I signed with my head, as who should say, "Yes;" and wept. Then said he to his daughter, "Whence knewest thou that he was enchanted?" "O my father," answered she, "there was with me, in my childhood, an old woman who was skilled in magic and taught me its rules and practice; and I became skilled therein and committed to memory a hundred and seventy magical formulas, by the least of which I could transport the stones of thy?? behind the mountain Caf and make its site an abyss of the sea and its people fishes swimming in its midst." "O my daughter," said her father, "I conjure thee, by my life, to disenchant this young man, that I may make him my Vizier, for he is a right pleasant and ingenious youth." "With all my heart," replied she, and taking a knife, on which were engraved Hebrew characters, drew therewith a circle in the midst of the hall and wrote there in names and talismans and muttered words and charms, some of which we understood and others not. Presently the world darkened upon us, and the Afrit presented himself before us in his own shape and aspect, with hands like pitchforks legs like masts and eyes like flames of fire. We were affrighted at him, but the princess said to him, "An ill welcome to thee, O dog!" Whereupon he took the form of a lion and said to her, "O traitress, thou hast broken thy compact with me! Did we not swear that neither of us should molest the other?" "O accursed one," answered she, "how could there be a compact between me and the like of thee?" "Then," said he, "take what thou hast brought on thyself." And opening his mouth, rushed upon her: but she made haste and plucked a hair from her head and waved it in the air, muttering the while; and it at once became a sharp sword, with which she smote the lion and cut him in two. His head became a scorpion, whereupon the princess transformed herself into a great serpent and fell upon the scorpion and there befell a sore battle between them. Presently the scorpion changed to an eagle, and the serpent at once became a griffin, which pursued the eagle a long while, till the latter became a black cat. Thereupon the griffin became a piebald wolf and they fought long and sore, till the cat finding itself beaten, changed into a worm and crept into a pomegranate which lay beside the fountain in the midst of the hall whereupon the pomegranate swelled till it was as big as a watermelon. The wolf ran to seize it, but it rose into the air and falling on the pavement, broke in pieces, and all the seeds fell out and rolled hither and thither, till the floor was covered with them. Then the wolf shook itself and became a cock, which fell to picking up the seeds, till they were all gone, except one that, by the decree of Fate, had rolled to the side of the basin and lay hidden there. The cock began to crow and clap its wings and signed to us with his beak, as who should say, "Are there any grains left?" But we understood him not; and he gave such a cry that we thought the palace would fall on us. Then he ran about all over the hall, till he saw the remaining pomegranate-seed, and rushed to pick it up, but it sprang into the midst of the water and became a fish, which sank to the bottom of the basin. Thereupon the cock became big fish and plunged in after the other; and we saw nothing of them for a time, but heard a loud crying and screaming and trembled. Presently the Afrit rose out of the water, as he were one great flame, with fire and smoke issuing from his mouth and eyes and nostrils. Immediately after, the princess rose also, like a great coal of fire, and they fought till they were wrapped in flames and the hall was filled with smoke. As for us, we were well-nigh suffocated and hid ourselves and would have plunged into the water, fearing lest we be burnt up and destroyed: and the King said, "There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme! We are God's and to Him we return! Would God I had not urged my daughter to attempt the delivery of this ape, whereby I have imposed on her this fearful labour with yonder accursed Afrit, against whom all the other Afrits in the world could not prevail! And would we had never seen this ape, may God's blessing not be on him nor on the hour of his coming! We thought to do him a kindness for the love of God, by freeing him from this enchantment, and lo, we have brought this terrible travail upon ourselves!" But my tongue was tied and I could not say a word to him. Suddenly, the Afrit roared out from under the flames and coming up to us, as we stood on the dais, blew fire in our faces. The princess pursued him and blew flames at him, and the sparks from them both fell upon us; her sparks did us no hurt, but of his one lighted on my right eye and destroyed it; another fell on the King's face and scorched the lower part, burning away half his beard and making his under teeth drop out, and a third lighted on the eunuch's breast and set him on fire, so that he was consumed and died forthright. So we despaired of life and looked for nothing but death; but presently we heard a voice exclaiming, "God is most great! He giveth aid and victory to the true believer and abandoneth him who denieth the religion of Mohammed, the Moon of the Faith!" And lo, the King's daughter had burnt up the Afrit and he was become a heap of ashes! Then she came up to us and said, "Bring me a cup of water." They did so: and she spoke over the water words we understood not and sprinkled me with it, saying, "By the virtue of the Truth and of the Most Great Name of God, return to thine original shape!" And immediately I shook and became a man as before, save that I had lost my right eye. Then she cried out, "The fire! The fire! O my father, I have but an instant to live, for I am not used to fight with Jinn: had he been a man, I had slain him long ago. I had no travail till the time when the pomegranate burst asunder and I overlooked the seed in which was the genie's life. Had I picked it up, he would have died at once; but as fate and destiny would have it, I knew not of this, so that he came upon me unawares and there befell between us a sore strife under the earth and in the air and in the water: and as often as I opened on him a gate (of magic), he opened on me another, till at last he opened on me the gate of fire, and seldom does he on whom the gate of fire is opened escape alive. But Providence aided me against him, so that I consumed him first, after I had summoned him to embrace the faith of Islam. As for me, I am a dead woman and may God supply my place to you!" Then she called upon God for help and ceased not to implore relief from the fire, till presently a tongue of fierce flame broke out from her clothes and shot up to her breast and thence to her face. When it reached her face, she wept and said, "I testify that there is no god but God and that Mohammed is the apostle of God!" And we looked at her and behold, she was a heap of ashes beside those of the genie. We mourned for her and I wished I had been in her place, so had I not seen the fair-faced one who had done me this good office reduced to ashes; but there is no averting the decree of God. When the King saw what had befallen his daughter, he plucked out the rest of his beard and buffeted his face and rent his clothes; and I did the like, and we both wept for her. Then came in the chamberlains and grandees and were amazed to find two heaps of ashes and the Sultan in a swoon. So they stood round him till he revived and told them what had happened, whereat they were sore afflicted and the women and slave-girls shrieked aloud and kept up their lamentation for the space of seven days. Moreover, the King bade build a great dome over his daughter's ashes and burn therein candles and lamps: but the Afrit's ashes they scattered to the winds, committing them to the malediction of God. The King was sick, well-nigh unto death, for a month's space, after which health returned to him and His beard grew again. Then he sent for me and said to me, "O youth, verily we led the happiest of lives, safe from the vicissitudes of fortune, till thou camest to us, when troubles flocked upon us. O that we had never seen thee nor the ugly face of thee! For through our taking pity on thee, we are come to this state of bereavement. I have lost, on thine account, first, my daughter, who was worth a hundred men; secondly, I have suffered what befell me by the fire and the loss of my teeth, and my eunuch also is dead. I do not indeed blame thee for aught of this; for all was decreed of God to us and to thee; and praised be He that my daughter delivered thee, though at the cost of her own life! But now, O my son, depart from my city and let what has befallen us on thine account suffice. Depart in peace, and if I see thee again I will kill thee." And he cried out at me. So I went forth from his presence, knowing not whither I should go, and hardly believing in my escape. And I recalled all that had befallen me from first to last and thanked God that it was my eye that I had lost and not my life. Before I left the town, I entered the bath and shaved my head and put on a hair-cloth garment. Then I fared forth at a venture, and every day I recalled all the misfortunes that had befallen me and wept and repeated the following verses:

By the Compassionate, I'm dazed and know not where I go. Griefs flock on me from every side, I know not whence they grow. I will endure till patience' self less patient is than I: I will have patience till it please the Lord to end my woe. A vanquished man, without complaint, my doom I will endure, As the parched traveller in the waste endures the torrid glow. I will endure till aloes' self confess that I, indeed, Can 'gainst a bitt'rer thing abide than even it can show. There is no bitt'rer thing; and yet if patience play me false, It were to me a bitt'rer thing than all the rest, I trow. The wrinkles graven on my heart would speak my hidden pain If through my breast the thought could pierce and read what lies below. Were but my load on mountains laid, they'd crumble into dust; On fire it would be quenched outright; on wind, 'twould cease to blow. Let who will say that life is sweet; to all there comes a day When they must needs a bitt'rer thing than aloes undergo.

Then I journeyed through many lands and cities, intending for the Abode of Peace, Baghdad, in the hope that I might get speech of the Commander of the Faithful and tell him all that had befallen me. I arrived here this night and found my brother, this first Calender, standing perplexed; so I saluted him and entered into converse with him. Presently up came our brother, this third Calender, and said to us, "Peace be on you! I am a stranger." "We also are strangers," answered we, "and have come hither this blessed night." So we all three walked on together, none of us knowing the others' story, till chance brought us to this door and we came in to you. This, then, is my story and the manner of the shaving of my face and the loss of my eye.' Quoth the mistress of the house, 'Thy story is indeed a rare one: and now begone about thy business.' But he replied, 'I will not stir till I hear the others' stories.' Then came forward the third Calender and said, 'O illustrious lady, my history is not like that of these my comrades, but still stranger and more marvellous, in that, whilst destiny and fore-ordained fate overcame them unawares, I with mine own hand drew fate and affliction upon myself, as thou shalt presently hear. Know that...

[Go to The Third Calendar'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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