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Payne: The King's Son and the Merchant's Wife

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A certain jealous merchant had a beautiful wife; and of the excess of his fearfulness and jealousy of her, he would not abide with her in any town, but built her a pavilion without the city, apart from all other buildings, and fortified it with high walls and strong doors, secured with curious locks; and when he had occasion to go into the city, he locked the doors and hung the keys about his neck. One day, when the merchant was abroad, the king's son of the city came forth, to take his pleasure in the open country without the walls, and coming to the solitary pavilion, stood still to examine it. Presently, he caught sight of a lovely lady looking out of one of the windows and being smitten with amazement at her grace and beauty, cast about for a means of getting to her, but could find none. So he called to one of his attendants, who brought him pen and paper anti inkhorn, and wrote her a letter, setting forth his case for love of her. Then he set it on the point of an arrow and shot it at the pavilion, and it fell in the garden, where the lady was then walking with her maidens. She bade one of the latter hasten and bring her the letter, for she could read writing; and when she had read it and saw what he said in it of his love and passion and longing, she wrote him a reply, to the effect that she was smitten with a yet fiercer passion for him and threw the letter down to him from one of the windows of the pavilion. When he saw her, he picked up the reply and after reading it, came under the window and said to her, "Let me down a string, that I may send thee this key, which do thou take and keep by thee." So she let down a string and he tied the key to it.

Then he went away and repairing to one of his father's viziers, complained to him of his passion for the lady and that he could not live without her; and the vizier said, "And how dost thou bid me contrive?" Quoth the prince, "I would have thee lay me in a chest and commit it to the merchant, feigning to him that it is thine and desiring him to keep it for thee in his country-house some days, that I may have my will of her; then do thou demand it back from him." The vizier answered, "With all my heart." So the prince returned to his palace and fixing the padlock, the key whereof he had given the lady, on a chest he had by him, entered the latter, whereupon the vizier locked it upon him and setting it on a mule, carried it to the pavilion of the merchant. The latter, seeing the vizier, came forth to him and kissed his hands, saying, "Belike our lord the vizier hath some need or business which we may have the pleasure of accomplishing for him?" "Yes," answered the vizier; "I would have thee set this chest in the priviest place in thy house and keep it till I seek it of thee." So the merchant made the porter carry it in and set it down in one of his store-houses, after which he went out upon some occasion of his. As soon as he was gone, his wife went up to the chest and unlocked it with the key the prince had given her, whereupon there came forth a youth like the moon. When she saw him, she donned her richest apparel and carried him to her sitting-chamber, where they abode seven days, eating and drinking and making merry; and as often as her husband came home, she put the prince back into the chest and locked it upon him.

One day, the king asked for his son and the vizier hurried off to the merchant's [town] house and sought of him the chest. The merchant accordingly repaired in haste to his pavilion, at a time other than of his wont, and knocked at the door. When his wife was ware of him, she hurried the prince back into the chest, but, in her confusion, forgot to lock it. The merchant bade the porters take it up and carry it to his house in the town. So they took up the box by the lid, whereupon it flew open and discovered the prince lying within. When the merchant saw him and knew him for the king's son, he went out to the vizier and said to him, "Go in, thou, and take the King's son; for none of us may lay hands on him." So the vizier went in and taking the prince, went away with him. As soon as they were gone, the merchant put away his wife and swore that he would never marry again. And I have heard tell also, O King,' continued the damsel, '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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