[Go back to The Envious Man, and Him that He Envied]
When I had finished the recital of this story to the genie, the murderer of the princess of the isle of Ebene, I made an application of it to himself: "O genie!" said I, "this bountiful sultan was not satisfied with merely overlooking the design of the envious man to take away his life, but also treated him kindly, and sent him back loaded with the favours I have enumerated." In short, I employed all my eloquence to persuade him to imitate so good an example, and to grant me pardon; but it was impossible to move his compassion.
"All that I can do for thee," said he, "is, to grant thee thy life; but do not flatter thyself that I will allow thee to return safe and well; I must let thee feel what I am able to do by my enchantments." So saying, he seized me violently, and carried me through the arched roof of the subterraneous palace, which opened to give him passage; he ascended with me into the air to such a height, that the earth appeared like a little white cloud; he then descended again like lightning, and alighted upon the summit of a mountain.
Here he took up a handful of earth, and pronouncing, or rather muttering, some words which I did not understand, threw it upon me. "Quit," said he, "the form of a man, and take that of an ape." He instantly disappeared, and left me alone, transformed into an ape, and overwhelmed with sorrow in a strange country, not knowing whether I was near or far from my father's dominions.
I descended the mountain, and entered a plain level country, which took me a month to travel over, and then I came to the sea- side. It happened at the time to be perfectly calm, and I espied a vessel about half a league from the shore: unwilling to lose so good an opportunity, I broke off a large branch from a tree, carried it into the sea, and placed myself astride upon it, with a stick in each hand to serve me for oars.
I launched out in this posture, and rowed towards the ship. When I had approached sufficiently near to be seen, I exhibited to the seamen and passengers on the deck an extraordinary spectacle, and all of them regarded me with astonishment. In the meantime I got on board, and laying hold of a rope, jumped upon the deck, but having lost my speech I found myself in great perplexity: and indeed the risk I ran was not less than when I was at the mercy of the genie.
The merchants, being both superstitious and scrupulous, thought if they received me on board I should be the occasion of some misfortune to them during their voyage. On this account one of them said, "I will destroy him with a blow of this handspike;" another, "I will shoot an arrow through his body;" and a third, "Let us throw him into the sea." Some one of them would not have failed to carry his threat into execution had I not gone to the captain, thrown myself at his feet, and taken hold of his skirt in a supplicating posture. This action, together with the tears which he saw gush from my eyes, moved his compassion. He took me under his protection, threatened to be revenged on any one that would do me the least hurt, and loaded me with a thousand caresses. On my part, though I had not power to speak, I showed by my gestures every mark of gratitude in my power.
The wind that succeeded the calm was not strong, but favourable; it continued to blow in the same direction for fifty days, and brought us safe to the port of a city, well peopled, and of great trade, the capital of a powerful state, where we came to anchor.
Our vessel was instantly surrounded with an infinite number of boats full of people, who came to congratulate their friends on their safe arrival, or to inquire for those they had left behind them in the country from whence they had come, or out of curiosity to see a ship that had performed so long a voyage.
Amongst the rest, some officers came on board, desiring in the name of the sultan to speak with the merchants. The merchants appearing, one of the officers told them, "The sultan our master hath commanded us to acquaint you, that he rejoices in your safe arrival, and beseeches each of you to take the trouble to write a few lines upon this roll. That you may understand the design of this request, you must know that we had a prime vizier, who besides possessing great abilities for the management of public affairs could write in the highest perfection. This minister a few days since died. The event has greatly affected the sultan; and since he can never behold his writing without admiration, he has made a solemn vow, not to give the place to any one who cannot write equally well. Many have presented specimens of their skill; but to this day, no one in the empire has been judged worthy to supply the vizier's place."
Those of the merchants who thought they could write well enough to aspire to this high dignity, wrote one after another what they thought fit. After they had done, I advanced, and took the roll out of the gentleman's hand; but all the people, especially the merchants, cried out, that I would tear it, or throw it into the sea, till they saw how properly I held the roll, and made a sign that I would write in my turn: their apprehensions then changed into wonder. However, as they had never seen an ape that could write, and could not be persuaded that I was more ingenious than others of my kind, they wished to take the roll out of my hand; but the captain took my part once more. "Let him alone," said he, "allow him to write. If he only scribbles the paper, I promise you that I will immediately punish him. If, on the contrary, he writes well, as I hope he will, because I never saw an ape so clever and ingenious, and so quick of apprehension, I declare that I will adopt him as my son." Perceiving that no one opposed my design, I took the pen, and wrote six sorts of hands used among the Arabians, and each specimen contained an extemporary distich or quatrain in praise of the sultan. My writing not only excelled that of the merchants, but was such as they had not before seen in that country. When I had done, the officers took the roll, and carried it to the sultan.
The sultan took little notice of any of the writings, except mine, which pleased him so much that he said to the officers, "Take the finest horse in my stable, with the richest trappings, and a robe of the most sumptuous brocade to put on the person who wrote the six hands, and bring him thither." At this command the officers could not forbear laughing. The sultan was incensed at their rudeness, and would have punished them had they not explained: "Sir," said they, "we humbly beg your majesty's pardon: these hands were not written by a man, but by an ape." "What do you say?" exclaimed the sultan. "Those admirable characters, are they not written by the hands of a man?" "No, Sir," replied the officers; "we assure your majesty that it was an ape, who wrote them in our presence." The sultan was too much surprised at this account not to desire a sight of me, and therefore said, "Do what I command you, and bring me speedily that wonderful ape."
The officers returned to the vessel and shewed the captain their order, who answered, "The sultan's command must be obeyed." Whereupon they clothed me with the rich brocade robe, and carried me ashore, where they set me on horseback, whilst the sultan waited for me at his palace with a great number of courtiers, whom he gathered together to do me the more honour.
The procession commenced; the harbour, the streets, the public places, windows, terraces, palaces, and houses, were filled with an infinite number of people of all ranks, who flocked from every part of the city to see me; for the rumour was spread in a moment, that the sultan had chosen an ape to be his grand vizier, and after having served for a spectacle to the people, who could not forbear to express their surprise by redoubling their shouts and cries, I arrived at the sultan's palace.
I found the prince on his throne in the midst of the grandees; I made my obeisance three times very low, and at last kneeled and kissed the ground before him, and afterwards took my seat in the posture of an ape. The whole assembly viewed me with admiration, and could not comprehend how it was possible that an ape should so well understand how to pay the sultan his due respect; and he himself was more astonished than any. In short, the usual ceremony of the audience would have been complete, could I have added speech to my behaviour; but apes never speak, and the advantage I had of having been a man did not now yield me that privilege.
The sultan dismissed his courtiers, and none remained by him but the chief of the eunuchs, a little young slave, and myself. He went from his chamber of audience into his own apartment, where he ordered dinner to be brought. As he sat at table he made me a sign to approach and eat with them: to shew my obedience I kissed the ground, arose, and placed myself at the table, and ate with discretion and moderation.
Before the table was cleared, I espied a standish, which I made a sign to have brought me; having got it, I wrote upon a large peach some verses expressive of my acknowledgment to the sultan; who having read them after I had presented the peach to him, was still more astonished. When the things were removed, they brought him a particular liquor, of which he caused them to give me a glass. I drank, and wrote upon the glass some new verses, which explained the state I was reduced to, after many sufferings. The sultan read these likewise, and said, "A man that was capable of doing so much would be above the greatest of his species."
The sultan caused to be brought to him a chessboard, and asked me by a sign if I understood that game, and would play with him? I kissed the ground, and laying my hand upon my head, signified that I was ready to receive that honour. He won the first game, but I won the second and third; and perceiving he was somewhat displeased at my success, I made a quatrain to satisfy him; in which I told him that two potent armies had been fighting furiously all day, but that they concluded a peace towards the evening, and passed the remaining part of the night very amicably together upon the field of battle.
So many circumstances appearing to the sultan beyond whatever had either been seen or known of the cleverness or sense of apes, he determined not to be the only witness of these prodigies himself, but having a daughter, called the Lady of Beauty, on whom the chief of the eunuchs, then present, waited; "Go," said the sultan to him, "and bid your lady come hither: I am desirous she should share my pleasure."
The eunuch went, and immediately brought the princess, who had her face uncovered; but she had no sooner come into the room, than she put on her veil, and said to the sultan, "Sir, your majesty must needs have forgotten yourself; I am surprised that your majesty has sent for me to appear among men." "How, daughter!" said the sultan, "you do not know what you say: there is no one here, but the little slave, the eunuch your governor, and myself, who have the liberty to see your face; and yet you lower your veil, and blame me for having sent for you." "Sir," said the princess, "your majesty shall soon understand that I am not in the wrong. That seeming ape is a young prince, son of a powerful sultan, and has been metamorphosed into an ape by enchantment. A genie, son of the daughter of Eblis, has maliciously done him this wrong, after having cruelly taken away the life of the princess of the isle of Ebene."
The sultan, astonished at this declaration, turned towards me, and speaking no more by signs, but in plain words, asked me, if what his daughter said was true? Finding I could not speak, I put my hand to my head' to signify that what the princess spoke was correct. Upon this the sultan said again to his daughter, "How do you know that this prince has been transformed by enchantments into an ape?" "Sir," replied the Lady of Beauty, "your majesty may remember that when I was past my infancy I had an old lady who waited on me; she was a most expert magician, and taught me seventy rules of magic, by virtue of which I can, in the twinkling of an eye, transport your capital into the midst of the sea, or beyond mount Caucasus. By this science I know all enchanted persons at first sight: I know who they are, and by whom they have been enchanted; therefore do not be surprised if I should forthwith relieve this prince, in spite of the enchantments, from that which prevents his appearing in your sight in his natural form." "Daughter," said the sultan, "I did not believe you to have understood so much." "Sir," replied the princess, "these things are curious and worth knowing; but I think I ought not to boast of them." "Since it is so," said the sultan, "you can dispel the prince's enchantment." "Yes, sir," said the princess, "I can restore him to his original shape." "Do it then," said the sultan, "you cannot do me a greater pleasure; for I will have him to be my vizier, and he shall marry you." "Sir," said the princess, "I am ready to obey you in all that you should be pleased to command me."
The princess, the Lady of Beauty, went into her apartment, and brought thence a knife, which had some Hebrew words engraven on the blade: she made the sultan, the master of the eunuchs, the little slave, and myself, descend into a private court of the palace, and there left us under a gallery that went round it. She placed herself in the middle of the court, where she made a great circle, and within it she wrote several words in Arabian characters, some of them ancient.
When she had finished and prepared the circle as she thought fit, she placed herself in the centre of it, where she began incantations, and repeated verses of the Koraun. The air grew insensibly dark, as if it had been night, and the whole world were about to be dissolved: we found ourselves struck with consternation, and our fear increased when we saw the genie, the son of the daughter of Eblis, appear suddenly in the shape of a lion of a gigantic size.
As soon as the princess perceived this monster, "Dog," said she, "instead of creeping before me, dare you present yourself in this shape, thinking to frighten me?" "And thou," replied the lion, "art thou not afraid to break the treaty which was solemnly made and confirmed between us by oath, not to wrong or do one another any injury?" "Wretch," replied the princess, "I justly may reproach thee with having done so." The lion answered fiercely, "Thou shalt quickly have thy reward for the trouble thou hast given me:" with that he opened his monstrous jaws, and sprang forward to devour her; but she, being on her guard, stepped back, got time to pull out one of her hairs, and by pronouncing three or four words, changed it into a sharp sword, with which she cut the lion in two through the middle.
The two parts of the lion disappeared, while the head changed into a large scorpion. Immediately the princess turned herself into a serpent, and fought the scorpion, who, finding himself worsted, took the shape of an eagle, and flew away: but the serpent at the same time took also the shape of an eagle, that was black and much stronger, and pursued him, so that we lost sight of them both.
Some time after they had disappeared, the ground opened before us, and out of it came forth a black and white cat, with her hair standing on end, and mewing in a frightful manner; a black wolf followed close after her, and gave her no time to rest. The cat, being thus hard pressed, changed into a worm, and being near a pomegranate accidentally fallen from a tree on the side of a canal which was deep, but not broad, pierced the pomegranate in an instant, and hid itself, but the pomegranate swelled immediately, and became as big as a gourd, which, mounting up to the roof of the gallery, rolled there for some time backward and forward; it then fell down again into the court, and broke into several pieces.
The wolf had in the meanwhile transformed itself into a cock, and now fell to picking up the seeds of the pomegranate one after another; but finding no more, he came towards us with his wings spread, making a great noise, as if he would ask us whether there were any more seed. There was one lying on the brink of the canal, which the cock perceiving as he went back, ran speedily thither; but just as he was going to pick it up, the seed rolled into the river, and turned into a little fish.
The cock leaped into the river, turned into a pike, and pursued the small fish; they continued both under water above two hours, and we knew not what was become of them, but suddenly we heard terrible cries, which made us tremble, and a little while after we saw the genie and princess all in flames. They threw flashes of fire out of their mouths at each other, till they came to close combat; then the two fires increased, with a thick burning smoke which mounted so high that we had reason to apprehend it would set the palace on fire. But we very soon had a more pressing occasion of fear, for the genie having got loose from the princess, came to the gallery where we stood, and blew flames of fire upon us. We must all have perished had not the princess, running to our assistance, forced him to retire, and defend himself against her; yet, notwithstanding all her exertions, she could not hinder the sultan's beard from being burnt, and his face scorched, the chief of the eunuchs from being stifled, and a spark from entering my right eye, and making it blind. The sultan and I expected but death, when we heard a cry of "Victory! Victory!" and instantly the princess appeared in her natural shape, but the genie was reduced to a heap of ashes.
The princess approached us, and hastily called for a cup-full of water, which the young slave, who had received no hurt, brought her. She took it, and after pronouncing some words over it, threw it upon me, saying, "If thou art become an ape by enchantment, change thy shape, and take that of a man which thou hadst before." These words were hardly uttered, when I again became a man, in every respect as I was before my transformation, excepting the loss of my eye.
I was prepared to return the princess my thanks, but she prevented me by addressing herself to her father: "Sir, I have gained the victory over the genie, as your majesty may see; but it is a victory that costs me dear; I have but a few minutes to live, and you will not have the satisfaction to make the match you intended; the fire has pierced me during the terrible combat, and I find it is gradually consuming me. This would not have happened, had I perceived the last of the pomegranate seeds, and swallowed it, as I did the others when I was changed into a cock: the genie had fled thither as to his last intrenchment, and upon that the success of the combat depended, which would have been successful, and without danger to me. This oversight obliged me to have recourse to fire, and to fight with those mighty arms as I did, between heaven and earth, in your presence; for, in spite of all his redoubtable art and experience, I made the genie know that I understood more than he; I have conquered and reduced him to ashes, but I cannot escape death, which is approaching."
The sultan suffered the princess, the Lady of Beauty, to go on with the recital of her combat, and when she had done, addressed her in a tone that sufficiently testified his grief; "My daughter," said he, "you see in what condition your father is; alas! I wonder that I am yet alive! Your governor, the eunuch, is dead, and the prince whom you have delivered from his enchantment has lost one of his eyes." He could say no more, for his tears, sighs, and sobs, deprived him of the power of utterance.
Suddenly the princess exclaimed, "I burn! I burn!" She found that the fire had at last seized upon her vital parts, which made her still cry "I burn!" until death had put an end to her intolerable pains. The effect of that fire was so extraordinary, that in a few moments she was wholly reduced to ashes, as the genie had been.
I cannot tell you, madam, how much I was grieved at so dismal a spectacle; I had rather all my life have continued an ape or a dog, than to have seen my benefactress thus miserably perish. The sultan being afflicted all that can be imagined, cried piteously, and beat himself on his head and breast, until being quite overcome with grief, he fainted away, which made me fear for his life. In the mean time, the eunuchs and officers came running at the sultan's lamentations, and with much difficulty brought him to himself. It was not necessary that the prince or myself should relate the circumstances of the adventure, to convince them of the affliction it had occasioned us. The two heaps of ashes, to which the princess and the genie had been reduced, were a sufficient demonstration. The sultan was hardly able to stand, but was under the necessity of being supported to his apartment.
When the knowledge of this tragical event had spread through the palace and the city, all the people bewailed the misfortune of the princess, the Lady of Beauty, and commiserated the sultan's affliction. Public mourning was observed for seven days, and many ceremonies were performed. The ashes of the genie were thrown into the air, but those of the princess were collected into a precious urn, to be preserved, and the urn was deposited in a superb mausoleum, constructed for that purpose on the spot where the princess had been consumed.
The grief of the sultan for the loss of his daughter confined him to his chamber for a whole month. Before he had fully recovered his strength he sent for me: "Prince," said he, "attend to the commands I now give you; your life must answer if you do not carry them into execution." I assured him of exalt obedience; upon which he went on thus: "I have constantly lived in perfect felicity, but by your arrival all the happiness I possessed has vanished; my daughter is dead, her governor is no more, and it is only through a miracle that I am myself yet alive You are the cause of all these misfortunes, under which it is impossible that I should be comforted; depart hence therefore in peace, without farther delay, for I must myself perish if you remain any longer. I am persuaded that your presence brings misfortune with it. Depart, and take care never to appear again in my dominions. No consideration whatever shall hinder me from making you repent your temerity should you violate my injunction." I was going to speak, but he prevented me by words full of anger; and I was obliged to quit the palace, rejected, banished, an outcast from the world. Before I left the city I went into a bagnio, here I caused my beard and eyebrows to be shaved, and put on a calender's habit. I began my journey, not so much deploring my own miseries, as the death of the two fair princesses, of which I have been the occasion. I passed through many countries without making myself known; at last I resolved to come to Bagdad, in hopes of getting myself introduced to the commander of the faithful, to move his compassion by relating to him my unfortunate adventures. I arrived this evening, and the first man I met was this calender, our brother, who spoke before me. You know the remaining part, madam, and the cause of my having the honour to be here.
When the second calender had concluded his story, Zobeide, to whom he had addressed his speech, said, "It is well, you are at liberty." But instead of departing, he also petitioned the lady to shew him the same favour vouchsafed to the first calender, and went and sat down by him.
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Scott, Jonathan (1754-1829). The Arabian Nights Entertainments. London: Pickering and Chatto, 1890. 4 Volumes. Project Gutenberg.
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