[Go back to The Debauchee and the Three-Year-Old Child]
Four merchants once owned a thousand dinars is common; so they laid them in one purse and set out to buy goods therewith. On their way, they happened on a beautiful garden; so they left the purse with a woman who kept the garden and entered. After they had walked about awhile and eaten and drunken and made merry, one of them said to the others, "I have with me scented fuller's earth; come, let us wash our heads therewith in this running water." Quoth another, "We lack a comb;" and a third, "Let us ask the keeper; belike she hath a comb." Thereupon one of them arose and accosting the keeper, whereas his comrades could see him, but not hear what he said, maid to her, "Give me the purse." Quoth she, "I will not give it up, except ye be all present or thy fellows bid me give it thee." Then he called to his companions, saying, "She will not give it me." And they said to her, "Give it him," thinking he meant the comb. So she gave him the purse and he took it and made off.
When the three others were weary of waiting, they went to the keeper and said to her, "Why wilt thou not give him the comb?" "He asked me for nought but the purse," answered she, "and I gave it not but with your consent, and he went his way with it." When they heard this, they buffeted their faces and said to her, "We authorized thee only to give him the comb." And she, "He named not a comb to me." Then they laid hands on her and haled her before the Cadi, to whom they made their complaint, and he condemned her to make good the purse and bound a number of her debtors surety for her. So she went forth, confounded and knowing not what she should do.
Presently, she met a five-year-old boy, who, seeing her troubled, said to her, "What ails thee, O my mother?" But she gave him no answer, making no account of him, because of his tender age, and he repeated his question a second and a third time, till, at last, she told him all that had passed. "Give me a dirhem, to buy sweetmeats withal," said the boy; "and I will tell thee how thou mayst acquit thyself." So she gave him a dirhem and said to him, "What hast thou to say?" "Return to the Cadi," quoth he, "and say to him, 'It was agreed between myself and them that I should not give them, back the purse, except all four of them were present. Let them all four come and I will give them the purse, as was agreed."' So she went back to the Cadi and said to him as the boy had counselled; and he said to the merchants, "Was it thus agreed between you?" "Yes," answered they. "Then bring me your fellow," said the Cadi, "and take the purse." So they went in quest of their fellow, whilst the keeper came off scot free and went her way without hindrance.'
When the King's viziers and those who were present in the assembly heard the prince's words, they said to his father, 'O our Lord the King, of a truth thy son is the most accomplished man of his time,' and they called down blessings upon the King and the prince. Then the King strained his son to his bosom and kissed him between the eyes and questioned him of what had passed between the favourite and himself; and the prince swore to him, by God the Supreme and by His Holy Prophet, that it was she who had required him of love and he refused. 'Moreover,' said he, 'she promised me that she would give thee poison to drink and kill thee, so should the kingship be mine; whereupon I waxed wroth and said to her, [by signs] "O accursed one, when I can speak, I will requite thee." So, in her fear of me, she did as thou hast seen.' The King believed his words and sending for the damsel, said to those present, 'How shall we put this damsel to death?' Some counselled to cut out her tongue and other some to burn it with fire; but, when she came before the King, she said to him, 'My case with thee is like unto the story of the fox and the folk.' 'How so?' asked he; and she said, 'I have heard tell, O King, that...
[Go to The Fox and the Folk]
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