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Scott: The Lady who was Murdered, and the Young Man her Husband

[Go back to The Three Apples]

Commander of the faithful, this murdered lady was my wife, daughter of this old man, who is my uncle by the father's side. She was not above twelve years old, when eleven years ago he gave her to me. I have three children by her, all boys, yet alive, and I must do her the justice to say, that she never gave me the least occasion for offence; she was chaste, of good behaviour, and made it her whole business to please me. And on my part I ardently loved her, and in every thing rather anticipated than opposed her wishes.

About two months ago she fell sick; I took all imaginable care of her, and spared nothing that could promote her speedy recovery. After a month thus passed she began to grow better, and expressed a wish to go to the bath. Before she went, "Cousin," said she (for so she used to call me out of familiarity), "I long for some apples; if you would get me any, you would greatly please me. I have longed for them a great while, and I must own it is come to that height, that if I be not satisfied very soon, I fear some misfortune will befall me." "I will cheerfully try," said I, "and do all in my power to make you easy."

I went immediately round all the markets and shops in the town to seek for apples, but I could not get one, though I offered to pay a sequin a piece. I returned home much dissatisfied at my failure; and for my wife, when she returned from the bagnio, and saw no apples, she became so very uneasy, that she could not sleep all night. I got up by times in the morning, and went through all the gardens, but had no better success than the day before; only I happened to meet an old gardener, who told me, that all my pains would signify nothing, for I could not expect to find apples any where but in your majesty's garden at Bussorah. As I loved my wife passionately, and would not neglect to satisfy her, I dressed myself in a traveller's habit, and after I had told her my design, went to Bussorah, and made my journey with such speed, that I returned at the end of fifteen days with three apples, which cost me a sequin apiece, for as there were no more left, the gardener would not let me have them for less. As soon as I came home, I presented them to my wife, but her longing had ceased, she satisfied herself with receiving them, and laid them down by her. In the mean time she continued sickly, and I knew not what remedy to procure for her relief.

Some few days after I returned from my journey, sitting in my shop in the public place where all sorts of fine stuffs are sold, I saw an ugly, tall, black slave come in, with an apple in his hand, which I knew to be one of those I had brought from Bussorah. I had no reason to doubt it, because I was certain there was not one to be had in Bagdad, nor in any of the gardens in the vicinity. I called to him, and said, "Good slave, pr'ythee tell me where thou hadst this apple?" "It is a present" (said he, smiling) "from my mistress. I went to see her to-day, and found her out of order. I saw three apples lying by her, and asked her where she had them. She told me the good man, her husband, had made a fortnight's journey on purpose, and brought them to her. We had a collation together; and, when I took my leave of her, I brought away this apple."

This account rendered me distracted. I rose, shut up my shop, ran home with all speed, and going to my wife's chamber, looked immediately for the apples, and seeing only two, asked what was become of the third. My wife, turning her head to the place where the apples lay, and perceiving there were but two, answered me coldly, "Cousin, I know not what is become of it." At this reply I was convinced what the slave had told me was true; and giving myself up to madness and jealousy, drew my knife from my girdle, and thrust it into the unfortunate creature's throat. I afterwards cut off her head, and divided her body into four quarters, which I packed up in a bundle, sewed it up with a thread of red yarn, put all together in a trunk, and when night came, carried it on my shoulder down to the Tigris, where I sunk it.

The two youngest of my children were asleep, the third was out; but at my return, I found him sitting by my gate, weeping. I asked him the reason; "Father," said he, "I took this morning from my mother, without her knowledge, one of those three apples you brought her, and kept it a long while; but, as I was playing some time ago with my little brother in the street, a tall slave passing by snatched it out of my hands, and carried it away. I ran after him, demanding it back, and besides told him, that it belonged to my mother, who was sick; and that you had made a fortnight's journey to procure it; but all to no purpose, he would not restore it. And as I still followed him, crying out, he turned and beat me, and then ran away as fast as he could from one lane to another, till at length I lost sight of him. I have since been walking without the town expecting your return, to pray you, dear father, not to tell my mother of it, lest it should make her worse!" When he had thus spoken he fell a weeping again more bitterly than before.

My son's account afflicted me beyond measure. I then found myself guilty of an enormous crime, and repented too late of having so easily believed the calumnies of a wretched slave, who, from what he had learnt of my son, had invented that fatal falsehood.

My uncle here present came just at that time to see his daughter, but instead of finding her alive, understood from me that she was dead, for I concealed nothing from him; and without staying for his censure, declared myself the greatest criminal in the world.

Upon this, instead of reproaching me, he joined his tears with mine, and we together wept three days without intermission, he for the loss of a daughter whom he had loved tenderly; and I for the loss of a beloved wife, of whom I had deprived myself in so cruel a manner by giving too easy credit to the report of a lying slave.

This, commander of the faithful, is the sincere confession your majesty required from me. You have now heard all the circumstances of my crime, and I must humbly beg of you to order the punishment due for it; how severe soever it may be, I shall not in the least complain, but esteem it too easy and light.

The caliph was much astonished at the young man's relation. But this just prince, finding he was rather to be pitied than condemned, began to speak in his favour: "This young man's crime," said he, "is pardonable before God, and excusable with men. The wicked slave is the sole cause of this murder; it is he alone that must be punished: wherefore," continued he, looking upon the grand vizier, "I give you three days' time to find him out; if you do not bring him within that space, you shall die in his stead." The unfortunate Jaaffier, had thought himself out of danger, was perplexed at this order of the caliph; but as he durst not return any answer to the prince, whose hasty temper he knew too well, he departed from his presence, and retired melancholy to his house, convinced that he had but three days to live; for he was so fully persuaded that he should not find the slave, that he made not the least enquiry after him. "Is it possible," said he, "that in such a city as Bagdad, where there is an infinite number of negro slaves, I should be able to find him out that is guilty? Unless God be pleased to interpose as he hath already to detest the murderer, nothing can save my life."

He spent the first two days in mourning with his family, who sat round him weeping and complaining of the caliph's cruelty. The third day being arrived, he prepared himself to die with courage, as an honest minister, and one who had nothing to trouble his conscience; he sent for notaries and witnesses' who signed his will. After which he took leave of his wife and children, and bade them farewell. All his family were drowned in tears, so that there never was a more sorrowful spectacle. At last a messenger came from the caliph to tell him that he was out of all patience, having heard nothing from him concerning the negro slave whom he had commanded him to search for; "I am therefore ordered," said the messenger, "to bring you before his throne." The afflicted vizier, obeyed the mandate, but as he was going out, they brought him his youngest daughter, about five or six years of age, to receive his last blessing.

As he had a particular affection for that child, he prayed the messenger to give him leave to stop a moment, and taking his daughter in his arms, kissed her several times: as he kissed her, he perceived she had something in her bosom that looked bulky, and had a sweet scent. "My dear little one," said he, "what hast thou in thy bosom?" "My dear father," she replied, "it is an apple which our slave Rihan sold me for two sequins."

At these words apple and slave, the grand vizier, uttered an exclamation of surprise, intermixed with joy, and putting his hand into the child's bosom, pulled out the apple. He caused the slave, who was not far off, to be brought immediately, and when he came, "Rascal," said he, "where hadst thou this apple?" "My lord," replied the slave, "I swear to you that I neither stole it in your house, nor out of the commander of the faithful's garden; but the other day, as I was passing through a street where three or four children were at play, one of them having it in his hand, I snatched it from him, and carried it away. The child ran after me, telling me it was not his own, but belonged mother, who was sick; and that his father, to satisfy her longing, had made a long journey, and brought home three apples, whereof this was one, which he had taken from his mother without her knowledge. He said all he could to prevail upon me to give it him back, but I refused, and so brought it home, and sold it for two sequins to the little lady your daughter."

Jaaffier could not reflect without astonishment that the mischievousness of a slave had been the cause of an innocent woman's death, and nearly of his own. He carried the slave along with him, and when he came before the caliph, gave the prince an exact account of what the slave had told him, and the chance which led him to the discovery of his crime.

Never was any surprise so great as that of the caliph, yet he could not refrain from falling into excessive fits of laughter. At last he recovered himself, and with a serious air told the vizier, that since his slave had been the occasion of murder, he deserved an exemplary punishment. "I must own it," said the vizier, "but his guilt is not unpardonable: I remember the wonderful history of a vizier, of Cairo, and am ready to relate it, upon condition that if your majesty finds it more astonishing than that which gives me occasion to tell it, you will be pleased to pardon my slave." "I consent," said the caliph; "but you undertake a hard task, for I do not believe you can save your slave, the story of the apples being so very singular." Upon this, Jaaffier began his story thus:

[Go to Noor ad Deen Ali and Buddir ad Deen Houssun]

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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