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In a considerable town two persons dwelt in adjoining houses. One of them conceived such a violent hatred against the other, that the hated party resolved to remove to a distance, being persuaded that their being neighbours was the only cause of this animosity; for though he had done him several pieces of service, he found that his hatred was not diminished; he therefore sold his house, with what goods he had left, and retired to the capital city of a kingdom which was not far distant. Here he bought a little spot of ground, which lay about half a league from the city; where he had a convenient house, with a garden, and a pretty spacious court, wherein there was a deep well, which was not in use.
The honest man having made this purchase put on a dervise's habit, intending to lead a retired life, and caused several cells to be made in the house, where in a short time he established a numerous society of dervises. He soon came to be publicly known by his virtue, through which he acquired the esteem of many people, as well of the commonalty as of the chief of the city. In short, he was much honoured and courted by all ranks. People came from afar to recommend themselves to his prayers; and all who visited him, published what blessings they received through his means.
The great reputation of this honest man having spread to the town from whence he had come, it touched the envious man so much to the quick, that he left his house and affairs with a resolution to ruin him. With this intent he went to the new convent of dervises, of which his former neighbour was the head, who received him with all imaginable tokens of friendship. The envious man told him that he was come on purpose to communicate a business of importance, which he could not do but in private; and "that nobody may hear us, let us," said he, "take a walk in your court; and seeing night begins to draw on, command your dervises to retire to their cells." The chief of the dervises did as he was required.
When the envious man saw that he was alone with this good man, he began to tell him his errand, walking side by side in the court, till he saw his opportunity; and getting the good man near the brink of the well, he gave him a thrust, and pushed him into it, without being seen by any one. Having done thus, he returned, got out at the gate of the convent without being known, and reached his own house well satisfied with his journey, being fully persuaded that the object of his hatred was no more; but he found himself mistaken.
This old well was inhabited by fairies and genies, which happened luckily for the relief of the head of the convent; for they received and supported him, and carried him to the bottom, so that he got no hurt. He perceived that there was something extraordinary in his fall, which must otherwise have cost him his life; but he neither saw nor felt anything. He soon heard a voice, however, which said, "Do you know what honest man this is, to whom we have done this piece of service?" Another voice answered, "No." To which the first replied, "Then I will tell you. This man out of charity, the purest ever known, left the town he lived in, and has established himself in this place, in hopes to cure one of his neighbours of the envy he had conceived against him; he had acquired such a general esteem, that the envious man, not able to endure it, came hither on purpose to ruin him; and he would have accomplished his design, had it not been for the assistance we have given this honest man, whose reputation is so great, that the sultan, who keeps his residence in the neighbouring city, was to pay him a visit to-morrow, to recommend the princess his daughter to his prayers."
Another voice asked, "What need had the princess of the dervise's prayers?" To which the first answered, "You do not know, it seems, that she is possessed by genie Maimoun, the son of Dimdim, who is fallen in love with her. But I well know how this good head of the dervises may cure her; the thing is very easy, and I will explain it to you. He has a black cat in his convent, with a white spot at the end of her tail, about the bigness of a small piece of Arabian money; let him only pull seven hairs out of the white spot, burn them, and smoke the princess's head with the fume, she will not only be immediately cured, but be so safely delivered from Maimoun, the son of Dimdim, that he will never dare to approach her again."
The head of the dervises remembered every word of the conversation between the fairies and the genies, who remained silent the remainder of the night. The next morning, as soon as daylight appeared, and he could discern the nature of his situation, the well being broken down in several places, he saw a hole, by which he crept out with ease.
The other dervises, who had been seeking for him, were rejoiced to see him; he gave them a brief account of the wickedness of the man to whom he had given so kind a reception the day before, and retired into his cell. Shortly after the black cat, which the fairies and the genies had mentioned the night before, came to fawn upon her master, as she was accustomed to do; he took her up, and pulled seven hairs from the white spot that was upon her tail, and laid them aside for his use when occasion should serve.
Soon after sunrise the sultan, who would leave no means untried that he thought likely to restore the princess to perfect health, arrived at the gate of the convent. He commanded his guards to halt, whilst he with his principal officers went in. The dervises received him with profound respect.
The sultan called their chief aside, and said, "Good Sheik, you may probably be already acquainted with the cause of my visit." "Yes, Sir," replied he gravely, "if I do not mistake, it is the disease of the princess which procures me this unmerited honour." "That is the real case," replied the sultan. "You will give me new life if your prayers, as I hope they may, restore my daughter's health." "Sir," said the good man, "if your majesty will be pleased to let her come hither, I am in hopes, through God's assistance and favour, that she will be effectually cured."
The prince, transported with joy, sent immediately for his daughter, who soon appeared with a numerous train of ladies and eunuchs, but veiled, so that her face was not seen. The chief of the dervises caused a pall to be held over her head, and he had no sooner thrown the seven hairs upon the burning coals, than the genie Maimoun, the son of Dimdim, uttered a great cry, and without being seen, left the princess at liberty; upon which, she took the veil from her face, and rose up to see where she was, saying, "Where am I, and who brought me hither?" At these words the sultan, overcome with excess of joy, embraced his daughter, and kissed her eyes; he also kissed the chief of the dervises' hands, and said to his officers, "What reward does he deserve that has thus cured my daughter?" They all cried, "He deserves her in marriage." "That is what I had in my thoughts," said the sultan; "and I make him my son-in-law from this moment." Some time after the prime vizier died, and the sultan conferred the place on the dervise. The sultan himself also died without heirs male; upon which the religious orders and the militia consulted together, and the good man was declared and acknowledged sultan by general consent.
The honest dervise, having ascended the throne of his father-in- law, as he was one day in the midst of his courtiers on a march, espied the envious man among the crowd that stood as he passed along, and calling one of the viziers that attended him, whispered him in his ear, "Go, bring me that man you see there; but take care you do not frighten him." The vizier obeyed, and when the envious man was brought into his presence, the sultan said, "Friend, I am extremely glad to see you." Upon which he called an officer, "Go immediately," said he, "and cause to be paid to this man out of my treasury, one hundred pieces of gold: let him have also twenty loads of the richest merchandize in my storehouses, and a sufficient guard to conduit him to his house." After he had given this charge to the officer, he bade the envious man farewell, and proceeded on his march.
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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