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Scott: The Story of the First Lunatic

[Go back to The Adventures of the Abdicated Sultan (cont.)]

I was a merchant, and had a warehouse in which were Indian goods of all sorts, and of the highest value, and I bought and sold to great advantage. One day as I was sitting in my warehouse, according to custom, busy in buying and selling, an old woman came in, telling her beads, and greeted me. I returned her salute, when she sat down, and said, "Sir, have you any choice Indian cloths?" "Yes, my mistress," replied I, "of all sorts that you can possibly wish for." "Bring them," said she. I showed her a piece of great value, with which she was highly pleased, and inquired the price. "Five hundred deenars," replied I: she took out her purse, paid me the money, and went away with the cloth; upon which I had a profit of one hundred and fifty deenars. She returned the next day, bought another piece, paid for it, and, in short, did the same for fifteen days successively, paying me regularly for each purchase. On the sixteenth day she came to my shop as usual, chose the cloth and was going to pay me, but missed her purse; upon which she said, "Sir, I have unfortunately left my purse at home." "Mistress," replied I, "it is of no consequence; take the cloth, and if you return, well, if not, you are welcome to this trifle:" she would not take it: I pressed her, but in vain. Much friendly argument passed between us, till at length she said, "Sir, you contradict, and I contradict, but we shall never agree unless you will favour me by accompanying me to my house to receive the value of your goods; so lock up your warehouse, lest any thing should be lost in your absence." Accordingly I fastened my doors, and accompanied her; we walked on conversing, till we came near her house, when she pulled out a handkerchief from her girdle, and said, "My desire is to tie this over thy eyes." "On what account?" replied I. "Because," said she, "in our way are several houses, the gates of which are open, and the women sitting in their balconies, so that possibly thy eyes may glance upon some one of them, and thy heart be distracted with love; for in this part are many beautiful damsels, who would fascinate even a religious, and therefore I am alarmed for thy peace."

Upon this I said to myself, "This old woman advises me properly," and I consented to her demand; when she bound the handkerchief over my eyes, and we proceeded till we arrived at her house. She knocked at the door, which was opened by a damsel, and we entered. The old lady then took the handkerchief from my eyes, when I looked around me, and perceived that I was in a mansion having several quadrangles, highly ornamented, and resembling the palaces of the sultan.

The old lady now desired me to retire into a room, which I did, and there beheld heaped together all the pieces of cloth which she had purchased of me, at which I was surprised, but still more so when two damsels beautiful as resplendent moons approached, and having divided a piece of cloth into halves, each took one, and wrapped it round her hand. They then sprinkled the floor with rose water and other scents, wiping it with the cloth, and rubbing it till it became bright as silver; after which they withdrew into an adjoining room, and brought out at least fifty stools, which they set down, and placed over each a rich covering, with cushions of tissue. They then fetched a large stool of gold, and having put upon it a carpet and cushions of gold brocade, retired. Not long after this, there descended from the staircase by two and two, as many damsels in number as the stools; upon each of which one sat down. At last descended a lady attended by ten damsels, who placed herself upon the larger stool. When I beheld her, my lord, my senses forsook me, and I was in raptures at her beauty, her stature, and elegance, as she chatted and laughed with her companions.

At length she exclaimed, "My dear mother!" when the old woman entered; to whom she said, "Hast thou brought the young man?" She replied, "Yes, my daughter, he is ready to attend thee." Upon which the lady said, "Introduce him to me." When I heard this I was alarmed, and said to myself, "There is no refuge but in the most high God; doubtless she has discovered my being here, and will command me to be put to death." The old woman came to me, and leading me by the hand, took me before the lady seated on the golden stool, who, on seeing me, smiled, made a graceful salute, and waved her hand for a seat to be brought, which was done, and placed close to her own. She then commanded me to sit down, which I did with much confusion.

When I was seated, the lady began to chat and joke with me, saying, "What think you of my appearance and my beauty, do you judge me worthy of your affection? shall I be your partner and you mine?" When I had heard these words, I replied, "How, dear lady, dare I presume, who am not worthy to be your servant, to arrive at such an honour?" Upon this, she said, "Young man, my words have no evasion in them; be not discouraged, or fearful of returning me an answer, for my heart is devoted to thy love." I now perceived, my lord, that the lady was anxious to marry me; but could not conceive on what account, or who could have given her intelligence concerning me. She continued to shew me so many pleasing attentions, that at length I was emboldened to say, "Lady, if your words to me are sincere, according to the proverb, no time is so favourable as the present." "There cannot," said she," be a more fortunate day than this for our union." Upon this I replied, "My dear lady, how can I allot for you a proper dowry?" "The value of the cloth you intrusted to the old lady, who is my mother," answered she, "is sufficient." "That cannot be enough," rejoined I. "Nothing more shall be added," exclaimed the lady; "and my intention is this instant to send for the cauzee and witnesses, and I will choose a trustee, that they may unite us without delay. We will celebrate our nuptials this very evening, but upon one condition." "What is that?" replied I. She answered, "That you bind yourself not to address or hold conversation with any woman but myself." My lord, I was eager to be in possession of so beautiful a woman, and therefore said to her, "I agree, and will never contradict thee either by my words or actions." She then sent for the cauzee and witnesses, and appointed a trustee, after which we were married. After the ceremony, she ordered coffee and sherbet, gave money to the cauzee, a dress of honour to her trustee, and they departed.

I was lost in astonishment, and said to myself, "Do I dream, or am I awake?" She now commanded her damsels to empty the warm bath, fill it afresh, and prepare cloths and necessaries for bathing. When they had done as she desired, she ordered the eunuchs in waiting to conduct me to the hummaum, and gave them a rich dress. They led me into an elegant apartment, difficult for speech to describe. They spread many-coloured carpets, upon which I sat down and undressed; after which I entered the hummaum, and perceived delightful odours from sandal wood, of comorin, and other sweets diffusing from every part. Here they seated me, covered me with perfumed soaps, and rubbed me till my body became bright as silver; when they brought the basins, and I washed with warm water, after which they gave me rose-water, and I poured it over me. They next brought in sweet-smelling salves, which I rubbed over me, and then repaired to the hummaum, where I found a royal dress, in which the eunuchs arrayed me; and after perfuming me with incense of sandal wood, brought in confections, coffee, and sherberts of various sorts, with which I refreshed myself. I then left the bath with my attendants, who shewed me into the grand hall of the palace, which was spread with most magnificent carpets, stools, and cushions. Here the lady met me, attired in a new habit, more sumptuous than I had seen her in before.

When I beheld my bride, she appeared to me, from the richness of her ornaments, like a concealed treasure from which the talisman had just been removed. She sat down by me, and smiled so fascinatingly upon me, I could no longer contain my rapture. In a short time she retired, but soon returned again in a dress richer than her last. I again embraced her, and in short, my lord, we remained together for ten days in the height of happiness and enjoyment. At the end of this period I recollected my mother, and said to my wife, "It is so long since I have been absent from home, and since my mother has not seen me, that I am certain she must be anxious concerning me. Will you permit me to visit her and look after my warehouse?" "There can be no impediment," replied she; "you may visit your mother daily, and employ yourself in your warehouse, but the old woman must conduct you and bring you back;" to which I assented.

The old lady then came in, tied a handkerchief over my eyes, conducted me to the spot where she had first blindfolded me, and said, "You will return here about the time of evening prayer, and will find me waiting." I left her, and repaired to my mother, whom I found in great affliction at my absence, and weeping bitterly. Upon seeing me, she ran and embraced me with tears of joy. I said, "Weep not, my dear mother, for my absence has been owing to the highest good fortune." I then informed her of my lucky adventure, when she exclaimed, "May Allah protect thee, my son, but visit me at least every two days, that my affection for thee may be gratified." I then went to my warehouse, and employed myself as usual till evening, when I returned to the place appointed, where I found the old lady, who blindfolded me as before, and conducted me to the palace of my wife, who received me with fondness. For three months I continued to go and come in this manner, but I could not help wishing to know whom I had married, and wondering at the affluence, splendour, and attendance that appeared around her.

At length I found an opportunity of being in private with one of her black slaves, and questioned her concerning her mistress. "My lord," replied she, "the history of my mistress is wonderful; but I dare not relate it, lest she should put me to death." Upon this, I assured her, that if she would inform me, no one should know it but myself, and I took an oath of secrecy, when she began as follows:

"My mistress one day went to a public bath, intending to amuse herself, for which purpose she made such preparations of delicacies and rarities, as were worth a camel's load of treasure, and when she left the hummaum, made an excursion to a garden, where a splendid collation was laid out. Here she continued enjoying herself till evening, when she ordered her retinue to make ready for departure, and the fragments of the entertainment to be distributed among the poor. On her return, she passed through the street in which is your warehouse. It was upon a Friday, when you were sitting in conversation with a friend, arrayed in your best attire. She beheld you, her heart was stricken with love, but no one perceived her emotion. However, she had no sooner reached her palace than she became low and melancholy, and her appetite failed her. At length she took to her bed, her colour left her, sleep forsook her, and she became very weak. Upon this her mother went to call in a physician, that he might consider what might be the cause of her daughter's indisposition; but on the way she met a skilful old lady, with whom she returned home.

"The old lady on feeling the pulse of her patient, and after asking several questions, could perceive in her no bodily ailment or pain; upon which she judged she was in love, but did not venture to speak to her before her mother of her suspicions. She took leave, and said, ‘By God's blessing thou wilt soon recover; I will return tomorrow, and bring with me an infallible medicine.' She then took her mother aside, and said, ‘My good lady, be not angry at what I shall remark, but thy daughter has no bodily disorder; she is in love, and there can be no cure for her but by a union with her beloved.' The mother, on the departure of the old lady, repaired to her daughter, and with much difficulty, after twenty days of denial (for my mistress's modesty was hurt), obtained from her a description of your person, and the street in which you lived; upon which she behaved to you in the manner you are well acquainted with, brought you here, and you know what followed. Such is her history," concluded the black slave, "which you must not reveal." "I will not," replied I; and after this I continued to live very happily with my wife, going daily to see my mother, to attend in my warehouse, and return in the evening, conducted as usual by the old lady my mother-in-law.

One day, after the expiration of some months, as I was sitting in my warehouse, a damsel came into the street with the image of a cock, composed of jewelry. It was set with pearls, diamonds, and other precious stones, and she offered it to the merchants for sale; when they began bidding for it at five hundred deenars, and went to nine hundred and fifty; all which I observed in silence and did not interfere by speaking or bidding. At length the damsel came up to me, and said, "My lord, all the merchants have increased in bidding for my precious toy, but you have neither bidden, nor taken any notice of me." "I have no occasion for it," replied I. "Nay," exclaimed she, "but you must bid something more." "Since I must," I answered, "I will give fifty deenars more, which will be just a thousand." She accepted the price, and I went into my warehouse to fetch the money to pay her, saying to myself, "I will present this curiosity to my wife, as it may please her." When I was going to pay the money, the damsel would not take it, but said, "My lord, I have a request to make, which is, that I may snatch one kiss from your cheek as the price of my jewelry, for I want nothing else." Upon this, I thought to myself, a single kiss of my cheek is an easy price for the value of a thousand deenars, and consented; when she came up to me and gave me a kiss, but at the same time a most severe bite; left the piece of jewelry, and went away with the greatest haste.

In the evening I repaired to the house of my wife, and found the old lady waiting as usual at the accustomed spot. She tied the handkerchief over my eyes, and when she had conducted me home, took it off. I found my wife sitting upon her golden stool, but dressed in scarlet, and with an angry countenance; upon which I said to myself, "God grant all may be well." I approached her, took out the toy set with diamonds and rubies (thinking that on sight of it her ill-humour would vanish), and said, "My mistress, accept this, for it is curious, and I purchased it for thee." She took it into her hand, and examined it on all sides; after which she exclaimed, "Didst thou really purchase this on my account?" "By heavens," replied I, "I bought it for thy sake, for a thousand deenars." Upon this she frowned angrily upon me, and exclaimed, "What means that wound upon thy cheek?" I was overwhelmed with confusion.

While I was in this state, she called out to her attendants, who immediately descended the staircase, carrying the headless corpse of a young girl, the head placed upon the middle of the body. I looked, and knew it to be the head of the damsel who had sold me the piece of jewelry for a kiss, and had bitten my cheek. My wife now exclaimed, "I had no occasion for such baubles, for I have many of them; but I wished to know if thou wert so faithful to thy agreement with me, as not to address another woman than myself, and sent the girl to try thee. Since thy promise has been broken, begone, and return no more."

When my wife had finished her speech, the old woman took me by the hand, tied the handkerchief over my eyes, and conducted me to the usual spot, when she said, "Begone!" and disappeared. I was so overcome by the sad adventure, and the loss of my wife, that I ran through the streets like one frantic, crying, "Ah, what beauty, what grace, what elegance did she possess!" upon which, the people, supposing me distracted, conducted me to this hospital, and bound me in fetters, as you see.

When the sultan had heard the young man's story, he was much affected, inclined his head for some instants in deep thought, then said to his vizier, "By Allah, who has intrusted me with sovereignty, if thou dost not discover the lady who married this young man, thy head shall be forfeited." The vizier was alarmed, but recovering himself, replied, "Allow me three days to search," to which the sultan consented. The vizier then took with him the young man, and for two days was at a loss how to find out the house. At length he inquired if he should know the spot where the handkerchief was tied over his eyes, and the gateway at which it was taken off, of both which the youth professed to be certain. He conducted the minister to the street where he was blindfolded, and they reached a gateway, at which the vizier knocked. It was opened by the domestics, who knowing the vizier, and seeing the young man with him, were alarmed, and ran to communicate the quality of the visitants to their mistress. She desired to know the commands of the vizier, who informed her, that it was the sultan's pleasure she should be reconciled to her husband; to which she replied, "Since the sultan hath commanded, my duty is obedience." The young man was reunited to his wife, who was the daughter of a former sultan of Cairo.

Such were the adventures of the young man who was reading in the hospital. We now recite those of the youth who was listening to him. Upon the sultan's inquiring his story, he began as follows.

[Go to The Story of the Second Lunatic]

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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