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Scott: The Three Calendars, Sons of Sultans, and the Five Ladies of Baghdad (cont.)

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The third calender having finished this relation of his adventures, Zobeide addressed him and his fellow calenders thus: "Go wherever you think proper, you are at liberty." But one of them answered, "Madam, we beg you to pardon our curiosity, and permit us to hear the stories of those gentlemen who have not yet spoken." Then the lady turned to the caliph, the vizier Jaaffier, and Mesrour, and said to them, "It is now your turn to relate your adventures, therefore speak."

The grand vizier who had all along been the spokesman, answered Zobeide: "Madam, in order to obey you, we need only repeat what we have already said. We are merchants of Moussol come to Bagdad to sell our merchandize, which lies in the khan where we lodge. We dined today with several other persons of our condition, at a merchant's house of this city; who, after he had treated us with choice dainties and excellent wines, sent for men and women dancers, and musicians. The great noise we made brought in the watch, who arrested some of the company, and we had the good fortune to escape: but it being already late, and the door of our khan shut up, we knew not whither to retire. We chanced as we passed along this street to hear mirth at your house, which made us determine to knock at your gate. This is all the account that we can give you, in obedience to your commands."

Zobeide having heard this statement, seemed to hesitate what to say, which the calenders perceiving, prayed her to grant the same favour to the three Moussol merchants as she had done to them. "Well then," said she, "you shall all be equally obliged to me; I pardon you all, provided you immediately depart."

Zobeide having given this command in a tone that signified she would be obeyed, the caliph, the vizier Mesrour, the three calenders, and the porter departed, without saying one word: for the presence of the seven slaves with their weapons awed them into silence. As soon as they had quitted the house, and the gate was closed after them, the caliph said to the calenders, without making himself known, "You gentlemen, who are newly come to town, which way do you design to go, since it is not yet day?" "It is this," they replied, "that perplexes us." "Follow us," resumed the caliph, "and we will convey you out of danger." He then whispered to the vizier, "Take them along with you, and tomorrow morning bring them to me; I will cause their history to be put in writing, for it deserves a place in the annals of my reign."

The vizier Jaaffier took the three calenders along with him; the porter went to his quarters, and the caliph and Mesrour returned to the palace. The caliph went to bed, but could not sleep, being perplexed by the extraordinary things he had seen and heard. But above all, he was most concerned to know the history of Zobeide; what reason she could have to be so severe to the two black bitches, and why Amene had her bosom so scarred. Day began to appear whilst he was thinking upon these things; he arose and went to his council chamber, and sat upon his throne.

The grand vizier entered soon after, and paid his respects as usual. "Vizier," said the caliph, "the affairs that we have to consider at present are not very pressing; that of the three ladies and the two black bitches is the most urgent: my mind cannot rest till I am thoroughly satisfied, in all those matters that have so much surprised me. Go, bring those ladies and the calenders at the same time; make haste, and remember that I impatiently expect your return."

The vizier who knew his master's quick and fiery temper, hastened to obey, and went to the ladies, to whom he communicated, in a civil way,. the orders with which he was charged, to bring them before the caliph, without taking any notice of what had passed the night before at their house.

The ladies put on their veils, and went with the vizier As he passed his own house, he took along with him the three calenders, who in the interval had learnt that they had seen and spoken with the caliph, without knowing him. The vizier conducted them to the palace with so much expedition, that the caliph was much pleased. This prince, that he might observe proper decorum before the officers of his court who were then present, ordered that the ladies should be placed behind the hangings of the door which led to his own chamber, and placed the three calenders near his person, who, by their respectful behaviour, sufficiently evinced that they were not ignorant before whom they had the honour to appear.

When the ladies were thus disposed of, the caliph turned towards them, and said, "When I acquaint you that I was last night in your house, disguised in a merchant's habit, you may probably be alarmed, lest you may have given me offence; you may perhaps believe that I have sent for you for no other purpose than to shew some marks of my resentment; but be not afraid; you may rest assured that I have forgotten all that has past, and am well satisfied with your conduct. I wish that all the ladies of Bagdad had as much discretion as you evinced before me. I shall always remember the moderation with which you acted, after the rudeness of which we were guilty. I was then a merchant of Moussol, but am at present Haroon al Rusheed, the fifth caliph of the glorious house of Abbas, and hold the place of our great prophet. I have only sent for you to know who you are, and to ask for what reason one of you, after severely whipping the two black bitches, wept with them? And I am no less curious to know, why another of you has her bosom so full of scars."

Though the caliph pronounced these words very distinctly, the three ladies heard him well enough, yet the vizier out of ceremony, repeated them.

Zobeide, after the caliph by his address had encouraged her, began thus:

[Go to The Story of Zobeide]

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

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