[Go back to The Merchant, His Daughter, and the Prince of Eerauk]
In the capital of Bagdad there was formerly a cauzee, who filled the seat of justice with the purest integrity, and who by his example in private life gave force to the strictness of his public decrees. After some years spent in this honourable post, he became anxious to make the pilgrimage to Mecca; and having obtained permission of the caliph, departed on his pious journey, leaving his wife, a beautiful woman, under the protection of his brother, who promised to respect her as his daughter. The cauzee, however, had not long left home, when the brother, instigated by passion, made love to his sister-in-law, which she rejected with scorn; being, however, unwilling to expose so near a relative to her husband, she endeavoured to divert him from his purpose by argument on the heinousness of his intended crime, but in vain. The abominable wretch, instead of repenting, a gain and again offered his love, and at last threatened, if she would not accept his love, to accuse her of adultery, and bring upon her the punishment of the law. This threat having no effect, the atrocious villain suborned evidences to swear that they had seen her in the act of infidelity, and she was sentenced to receive one hundred strokes with a knotted whip, and be banished from the city. Having endured this disgraceful punishment, the unhappy lady was led through Bagdad by the public executioner, amid the taunts and scorns of the populace; after which she was thrust oat of the gates and left to shift for herself. Relying on Providence, and without complaining of its decrees, she resolved to travel to Mecca, in hopes of meeting her husband, and clearing her defamed character to him, whose opinion alone she valued. When advanced some days on her journey she entered a city, and perceived a great crowd of people following the executioner, who led a young man by a rope tied about his neck. Inquiring the crime of the culprit, she was informed that he owed a hundred deenars, which being unable to pay, he was sentenced to be hung, such being the punishment of insolvent debtors in that city. The cauzee's wife, moved with compassion, immediately tendered the sum, being nearly all she had, when the young man was released, and falling upon his knees before her, vowed to dedicate his life to her service. She related to him her intention of making the pilgrimage to Mecca, upon which the young man requested to accompany and protect her, to which she consented. They set out on their journey; but had not proceeded many days, when the youth forgot his obligations, and giving way to impulse, insulted his benefactress by offering her his love. The unfortunate lady reasoned with him on the ingratitude of his conduct, and the youth seemed to be convinced and repentant, but revenge rankled in his heart. Some days after this they reached the sea-shore, where the young man perceiving a ship, made a signal to speak with it, and the master letting down his boat sent it to land; upon which the young man going on board the vessel, informed the master that he had for sale a handsome female slave, for whom he asked a thousand deenars. The master, who had been used to purchase slaves upon that coast, went on shore, and looking at the cauzee's wife, paid the money to the wicked young man, who went his way, and the lady was carried on board the ship, supposing that her companion had taken the opportunity of easing her fatigue, by procuring her a passage to some sea-port near Mecca: but her persecution was not to end here. In the evening she was insulted by attentions of the master of the vessel, who being surprised at her coolness, informed her that he had purchased her as his slave for a thousand deenars. The unfortunate lady told him that she was a free woman, but this had no effect on the brutish sailor, who finding tenderness ineffectual proceeded to force and blows in order to reduce her to submit to his authority. Her strength was almost exhausted, when suddenly the ship struck upon a rock, the master was hurried upon deck, and in a few moments the vessel went to pieces. Providentially the virtuous wife laying hold of a plank was wafted to the shore, after being for several hours buffeted by the waves. Having recovered her senses she walked inland, and found a pleasant country abounding in fruits and clear streams, which satisfied her hunger and thirst. On the second day she arrived at a magnificent city, and on entering it was conducted to the sultan, who inquiring her story, she informed him that she was a woman devoted to a religious life, and was proceeding on the pilgrimage to Mecca, when her vessel was shipwrecked on his coast, and whether any of the crew had escaped she knew not, as she had seen none of them since her being cast ashore on a plank; but as now the hopes of her reaching the sacred house were cut off, if the sultan would allot her a small hut, and a trifling pittance for her support, she would spend the remainder of her days in prayers for the prosperity of himself and his subjects.
The sultan, who was truly devout, and pitied the misfortune of the lady, gladly acceded to her request, and allotted a pleasant garden-house near his palace for her residence, at which he often visited her, and conversed with her on religious topics, to his great edification and comfort, for she was sensibly pious. Not long after her arrival, several refractory vassals who had for years withheld their usual tribute, and against whom the good sultan, unwilling to shed blood, though his treasury much felt the defalcation, had not sent a force to compel payment, unexpectedly sent in their arrears; submissively begged pardon for their late disobedience, and promised in future to be loyal in their duty. The sultan, who attributed this fortunate event to the successful prayers of his virtuous guest, mentioned his opinion to his courtiers in full divan, and they to their dependents. As, according to the proverb, the sheep always follow their leader, so it was in the present instance. All ranks of people on every emergency flocked to beg the prayers and counsel of the sultan's favourite devotee; and such was their efficacy, that her clients every day became more numerous, nor were they ungrateful; so that in a short time the offerings made to her amounted in value to an incalculable sum. Her reputation was not confined to the kingdom of her protector, but spread gradually abroad through all the countries in the possession of true believers, who came from all parts of Asia to solicit her prayers. Her residence was enlarged to a vast extent, in which she supported great numbers of destitute persons, as well as entertained the crowds of poor people who came in pilgrimage to so holy a personage as she was now esteemed. But we must now return to her pious husband.
The good cauzee having finished the ceremonies of his pilgrimage at Mecca, where he resided one year, and visited all the holy spots around, returned to Bagdad: but dreadful was his agony and grief when informed that his wife had played the harlot, and that his brother, unable to bear the disgrace of his family, had left the city, and had not been heard of since. This sad intelligence had such an effect upon his mind, that he resolved to give up worldly concerns, and adopt the life of a wandering religious, to move from place to place, from country to country, and visit the devotees celebrated for sanctity in each. For two years he travelled through various kingdoms, and at length hearing of his wife's fame, though he little supposed the much-talked-of female saint stood in that relation to himself, he resolved to pay his respects to so holy a personage. With this view he journeyed towards the capital of the sultan her protector, hoping to receive benefit from her pious conversation and prayers.
The cauzee on his way overtook his treacherous brother, who, repenting of his wicked life, had turned mendicant, and was going to confess his sins, and ask the prayers for absolution of the far-famed religious woman. Time and alteration of dress, for they were both habited as dervishes, caused the brothers not to know each other. As fellow travellers they entered into conversation; and finding they were both bound the same way, agreed to continue their journey together. They had not proceeded many days when they came up with a driver of camels, who informed them that he was upon the same errand as themselves, having been guilty of a horrid crime, the reflection upon which tormented his conscience, and made life miserable; that he was going to confess his sins to the pious devotee, and consult her on whatever penance could atone for his villany, of which he had heartily repented, and hoped to obtain the mercy of heaven by a sincere reformation of life. The crime of this wretch was no less than murder; the circumstances of which we forgot to detail in its proper place. The cauzee's wife immediately after her expulsion from Bagdad, and before she had met the young man who sold her for a slave, had taken shelter in the hut of a camel breeder, whose wife owed her great obligations, and who received her with true hospitality and kindness; consoling her in her misfortunes, dressing her wounds, and insisting on her stay till she should be fully recovered of the painful effects of her unjust and disgraceful punishment; and in this she was seconded by the honest husband. With this humble couple, who had an infant son, she remained some time, and was recovering her spirits and beauty when the wicked camel breeder, first mentioned, arrived on a visit to her host; and being struck with her beauty made love to her, which she mildly but firmly rejected, informing him that she was a married woman. Blinded by passion, the wretch pressed his addresses repeatedly, but in vain; till at length, irritated by refusal, he changed his love into furious anger, and resolved to revenge his disappointed lust by her death. With this view he armed himself with a poniard; and about midnight, when the family were asleep, stole into the chamber where she reposed, and close by her the infant son of her generous host. The villain being in the dark made a random stroke, not knowing of the infant, and instead of stabbing the object of his revenge, plunged his weapon into the bosom of the child, who uttered loud screams; upon which the assassin, fearful of detection, ran away, and escaped from the house. The cauzee's wife awaking in a fright, alarmed her unhappy hosts, who, striking a light, came to her assistance; but how can we describe their agonizing affliction when they beheld their beloved child expiring, and their unfortunate guest, who had swooned away, bathed in the infant's blood. From such a scene we turn away, as the pen is incapable of description. The unhappy lady at length revived, but their darling boy was gone for ever. Some days after this tragical event she began her pilgrimage, and, as above stated, reached the city where she released the young man from his cruel creditors, and was shortly afterwards ungratefully sold by him as a slave. But to return to the good cauzee and his wicked companions.
They had not travelled far when they overtook a young man, who saluted them, and inquired their course; of which being informed, he begged to join in company, saying, that he also was going to pay his respects to the celebrated religious, in hopes that by her prayers he might obtain pardon of God for a most flagitious ingratitude; the remorse for which had rendered him a burthen to himself ever since the commission of the crime. The four pilgrims pursued their journey, and a few days afterwards overtook the master of a vessel, who told them he had some time back suffered shipwreck; since which he had undergone the severest distress, and was now going to request the aid of the far-famed woman, whose charities and miraculous prayers had been noised abroad through all countries. The companions then invited him to join them, and they proceeded on the pilgrimage together, till at length they reached the capital of the good sultan who protected the cauzee's wife.
The five pilgrims having entered the city, repaired immediately to the abode of the respected devotee; the courts of which were crowded with petitioners from all parts, so that they could with difficulty gain admission. Some of her domestics seeing they were strangers newly arrived, and seemingly fatigued, kindly invited them, into an apartment, and to repose themselves while they informed their mistress of their arrival; which having done, they brought word that she would see them when the crowd was dispersed, and hear their petitions at her leisure. Refreshments were then brought in, of which they were desired to partake, and the pilgrims having make their ablutions, sat down to eat, all the while admiring and praising the hospitality of their pious hostess; who, unperceived by them, was examining their persons and features through the lattice of a balcony, at one end of the hall. Her heart beat with joyful rapture when she beheld her long lost husband, whose absence she had never ceased to deplore, but scarcely expected ever to meet him again; and great was her surprise to find him in company with his treacherous brother, her infamous intending assassin, her ungrateful betrayer the young man, and the master of the vessel to whom he had sold her as a slave. It was with difficulty she restrained her feelings; but not choosing to discover herself till she should hear their adventures, she withdrew into her chamber, and being relieved by tears prostrated herself on the earth, and offered up thanksgivings to the protector of the just, who had rewarded her patience under affliction by succeeding blessings, and at length restored to her the partner of her heart. Having finished her devotions, she sent to the sultan requesting him to send her a confidential officer, who might witness the relations of five visitors whom she was going to examine. On his arrival she placed him where he could listen unseen; and covering herself with a veil, sat down on her stool to receive the pilgrims, who being admitted, bowed their foreheads to the ground; when requesting them to arise, she addressed them as follows: "You are welcome, brethren, to my humble abode, to my counsel and my prayers, which, by God's mercy, have sometimes relieved the repentant sinner; but as it is impossible I can give advice without hearing a case, or pray without knowing the wants of him who entreats me, you must relate your histories with the strictest truth, for equivocation, evasion, or concealment, will prevent my being of any service; and this you may depend upon, that the prayers of a liar tend only to his own destruction." Having said this, she ordered the cauzee to remain, but the other four to withdraw; as she should, to spare their shame before each other, hear their cases separately. The good cauzee having no sins to confess related his pilgrimage to Mecca; the supposed infidelity of his wife; and his consequent resolve to spend his days in visiting sacred places and holy personages, among whom she stood so famous, that to hear her edifying conversation, and entreat the benefit of her prayers for his unhappy wife, was the object of his having travelled to her sacred abode. When he had finished his narrative the lady dismissed him to another chamber, and heard one by one the confessions of his companions; who not daring to conceal any thing, related their cruel conduct towards herself, as above-mentioned; but little suspecting that they were acknowledging their guilt to the intended victim of their evil passions. After this the cauzee's wife commanded the officer to conduct all five to the sultan, and inform him of what he had heard them confess. The sultan, enraged at the wicked behaviour of the cauzee's brother, the camel-driver, the young man, and the master of the vessel, condemned them to death; and the executioner was preparing to put the sentence in force, when the lady arriving at the presence demanded their pardon; and to his unspeakable joy discovered herself to her delighted husband. The sultan complying with her request, dismissed the criminals; but prevailed on the cauzee to remain at his court, where for the remainder of his life this upright judge filled the high office of chief magistrate with honour to himself, and satisfaction to all who had causes tried before him; while he and his faithful partner continued striking examples of virtue and conjugal felicity. The sultan was unbounded in his favour towards them, and would often pass whole evenings in their company in friendly conversation, which generally turned upon the vicissitudes of life, and the goodness of Providence in relieving the sufferings of the faithful, by divine interposition, at the very instant when ready to sink under them and overwhelmed with calamity. "I myself," said the sultan, "am an example of the protection of heaven, as you, my friends, will learn from my adventures." He then began as follows.
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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