[Go back to The Vizier's Son and the Bathkeeper's Wife]
There was once a woman, who had no equal in her day for beauty and grace and perfection; and a certain lewd fellow, setting eyes on her, fell passionately in love with her, but she was chaste and inclined not to adultery. It chanced one day that her husband went on a journey to a certain town, whereupon the young man fell to sending to her many times a day; but she made him no reply. At last, he resorted to an old woman, who dwelt hard by, and complained to her of his suffering for love of the woman and his longing to enjoy her. Quoth she, "I will warrant thee this; no harm shall befall thee, for I will surely bring thee to thy desire, if it please God the Most High." So he gave her a dinar and went his way. Next day she went in to the woman and clapping up an acquaintance with her, fell to visiting her daily, eating the morning with her and the evening meal and carrying away food for her children. Moreover, she used to sport and jest with her, till the wife became corrupted and could not endure an hour without her company.
Now she was wont, when she left the lady's house, to feed a bitch, that was in that quarter, with the fragments that remained over, and thus she did day by day, till the bitch became fond of her and followed her wherever she went. One day she took a cake of dough and putting therein much pepper and butter, gave it to the bitch to eat, whereupon the animal's eyes began to water, for the heat of the pepper, and she followed the old woman, weeping. When the lady saw this, she was amazed and said to the old woman, "O my mother, what ails this bitch to weep?" "O my daughter," answered she, "hers is a strange story. Know that she was once a most lovely and accomplished young lady and a close friend of mine. A young man of the quarter fell in love with her and his passion increased on him, till he took to his pillow, and he sent to her many times, begging her to have compassion on him, but she refused, albeit I gave her good counsel, saying, 'O my daughter, have pity on him and consent to that which he wishes.' She gave no heed to my advice, until, at last, the young man's patience failing him, he complained to one of his friends, who cast an enchantment on her and changed her into a bitch. When she saw what had befallen her and that there was none to pity her save myself, she came to my house and began to fawn on me and lick my hands and feet and whine and shed tears, till I recognized her and said to her, 'How often did I not warn thee? But my advice profited thee nothing.' However, I had compassion on her case and kept her by me; and as often as she bethinks herself of her former estate, she weeps thus."
When the lady heard this, she was taken with great fear and said, "By Allah, O my mother, thou affrightest me with this thy story." "Why so?" asked the old woman. "Because," answered the lady, "a certain handsome young man fell in love with me and hath sent many times to me, but hitherto I have repelled him; and now I fear lest there befall me the like of what befell this bitch." "O my daughter," rejoined the old woman, "look thou to what I counsel thee and beware of crossing me, for I am in great fear for thee. If thou know not his abiding-place, describe him to me, that I may fetch him to thee, and let not any one's heart be angered against thee." So the lady described him to her, and she feigned not to know him and said, "When I go out, I will ask after him." But when she left the lady, she went straight to the young man and said to him, "Be of good cheer, for I have played with the girl's wits, [so that she hath consented;] so come thou to-morrow at noonday and wait at the end of the street, till I come and carry thee to her house, where thou shalt take thine ease with her the rest of the day and all night long." At this the young man rejoiced greatly and gave her half a score dinars, saying, "When I have gotten my desire [of her,] I will give thee other ten dinars."
Then she returned to the lady and said to her, "I have seen him and spoken with him on the matter. I found him exceeding wroth with thee and minded to do thee hurt, but I plied him with fair words till he agreed to come to-morrow at the time of the call to midday prayer. When the lady heard this, she rejoiced exceedingly and said, "O my mother, if he keep his promise, I will give thee ten dinars." Quoth the old woman, "Look to none but me to bring him to thee." When the next day came, she said to the lady, "Make ready the morning meal and adorn thyself and don thy richest clothes and ornaments, whilst I go and fetch him to thee." Accordingly, she clad herself in her richest apparel and made ready food, whilst the old woman went out to look for the young man. The latter came not and she went round looking for him, but could come by no news of him; so she said to herself, "What is to be done? Shall the food she has made ready be wasted and I lose the reward she promised me? Indeed, I will not lose my pains thus, but will look her out another man and carry him to her." So she walked about the streets till her eye fell on a handsome and elegant young man, who bore on his face the traces of travel.
Now this was the lady's husband; but she knew it not; so she went up to him and saluted him, saying, "Hast thou a mind to meat and drink and a girl adorned and ready?" "Where is this to be had?" asked he. "At home, in my house," answered she and carrying him to his own house, knocked at the door. The lady opened to them and hastened in again, to make an end of her dressing and perfuming; whilst the old woman brought the husband into the saloon and made him sit down. Presently, in came the lady, who no sooner set eyes on her husband than she knew him and guessed how the case stood; nevertheless, she was not taken aback and forthwith bethought her of a device to hoodwink him. "Is this how thou keepest our contract?" cried she. "Hou canst thou betray me and deal thus with me? Know that, when I heard of thy coming, I sent this old woman to try thee and she hath made thee fall into that against which I warned thee: so now I am certified of thine affair and that thou hast broken faith with me. I thought thee chaste till now, till I saw thee, with my own eyes, in this old woman's company and knew that thou didst frequent loose women."
So saying, she pulled off her slipper and fell to beating him about the head, whilst he excused himself and swore to her by God the Most High that he had never in his life been untrue to her nor had done aught of that whereof she suspected him. But she stinted not to weep and scream and beat him, crying out and saying, "Come to my help, O Muslims!" till he laid hold of her mouth with his hand and she bit it. Moreover, he humbled himself to her and kissed her hands and feet, whilst she continued to cuff him and would not be appeased. At last, she made a privy sign to the old woman to come and hold her hand from him. So she came up to her and kissed her hands and feet, till she made peace between them and they sat down together; whereupon the husband began to kiss her hands, saying, "God requite thee with all good, for that thou hast delivered me from her!" And the old woman marvelled at the wife's cunning and ready wit. This, then, O King,' said the vizier, 'is one of many instances of the craft and malice and perfidy of women.'
When the King heard this story, he was persuaded by it and turned from his purpose to kill his son; but, on the fifth day, the damsel came in to him with a cup of poison in her hand, calling aloud for help and buffeting her cheeks and face, and said to him, 'O King, either thou shalt do me justice and avenge me on thy son, or I will drink this cup of poison and die, and my blood will be on thy head at the Day of Resurrection. Thy viziers accuse me of malice and perfidy, but there be none in the world more perfidious than men. Hast thou not heard the story of the goldsmith and the Cashmere singing-girl?' 'What befell them, O damsel?' asked the King; and she answered, saying, 'It hath come to my knowledge, O august King, that...
[Go to The Goldsmith and the Cashmere Singing-Girl]
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