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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 10/114 -
Fortune! cries he, with a lamentable tone, do not be angry with me, nor persecute a wretch who prays thee to spare him. I came hither from my house to seek for my livelihood, and thou pronouncest death against me. I have no other trade but this to subsist by; and, notwithstanding all the care I take, I can scarcely provide what is absolutely necessary for my family. But I am in the wrong to complain of thee; thou takest pleasure to persecute honest people, and to leave great men in obscurity, whilst thou showest favour to the wicked, and advancest those who have no virtue to recommend them.
Having finished this complaint, he threw away the pannier in a fret, and washing his nets from the slime, cast them the third time, but brought up nothing except stones, shells, and mud. Nobody can express his disorder; he was within an ace of going quite mad. However, when day began to appear, he did not forget to say his prayers like a good Mussulman, and afterwards added this petition: "Lord, you know that I cast my net only four times a day; I have already drawn them three times, without the least reward for my labour: I am only to cast them once more; I pray you to render the sea favourable to me, as you did to Moses."
The fisherman, having finished this prayer, cast his nets the fourth time; and, when he thought it was time, he drew them, as formerly, with great difficulty; but, instead of fish, found nothing in them but a vessel of yellow copper, that, by its weight, seemed to be full of something; and he observed that it was shut up and sealed with lead, having the impression of a seal upon it. This rejoiced him; I will sell it, says he, to the founder, and with the money arising from the product, buy a measure of corn. He examined the vessel on all sides, and shook it, to see if what was within made any noise, and heard nothing. This circumstance, with the impression of the seal upon the leaden cover, made him to think there was something precious in it. To try this, he took a knife, and opened it with very little labour; he presently turned the mouth downward; but nothing came out, which surprised him extremely. He set it before him, and, while he looked upon it attentively, there came out a very thick smoke which obliged him to retire two or three paces from it.
This smoke mounted as high as the clouds, and extending itself along the sea, and upon the shore, formed a great mist, which, we may well imagine, did mightily astonish the fisherman. When the smoke was all out of the vessel, it reunited itself, and became a solid body, of which there was formed a genie twice as high as the greatest of giants. At the sight of a monster of such unsizeable bulk, the fisherman would fain have fled, but was so frightened that he could not go one step.
Solomon, cried the genie immediately, Solomon, the great prophet, pardon, pardon; I will never more oppose your will: I will obey all your commands.--Scheherazade, perceiving it day, broke off her story.
Upon which Dinarzade said, Dear sister, nobody can keep their promise better than you can keep yours. This story is certainly more surprising than the former. Sister, replies the sultaness, there are more wonderful things yet to come, if my lord the sultan will allow me to tell them you. Schahriar had too great a desire to hear out the story of the fisherman to deprive himself of that pleasure, and therefore put off the sultaness's death another day.
The Tenth Night.
Dinarzade called her sister next night when she thought it was time, and prayed her to continue the story of the fisherman; and the sultan being also impatient to know what concern the genie had with Solomon, Scheherazade continued her story thus;
Sir, the fisherman, when he heard these words of the genie, recovered his courage, and says to him, Thou proud spirit, what is this that you talk? it is above eighteen hundred years since the prophet Solomon died, and we are now at the end of time: Tell me your history, and how you came to be shut up in this vessel.
The genie, turning to the fisherman with a fierce look, says, You must speak to me with more civility; thou art very bold to call me a proud spirit. Very well, replies the fisherman, shall I speak to you with more civility, and call you the owl of good luck? I say, answers the genie, speak to me more civilly, before I kill thee. I have only one favour to grant thee. And what is that, says the fisherman? It is, answers the genie, to give you your choice in what manner you wouldst have me to take thy life. But wherein have I offended you, replies the fisherman? Is this the reward for the good service I have done you. I cannot treat you otherwise, says the genie; and that you may be convinced of it, hearken to my story.
I am one of those rebellious spirits that opposed themselves to the will of Heaven; all the other genies owned Solomon, the great prophet, and submitted to him. Sacar and I were the only genies that would never be guilty of so mean a thing: And, to avenge himself, that great monarch sent Asaph, the son of Barakia, his chief minister, to apprehend me. That was accordingly done; Asaph seized my person, and brought me by force before his master's throne.
Solomon, the son of David, commanded me to quit my way of living, to acknowledge his power, and to submit myself to his commands: I bravely refused to obey, and told him, I would rather expose myself to his resentment, than swear fealty, and submit to him as he required. To punish me, he shut me up in this copper vessel; and to make sure of me that I should not break prison, he stamped (himself) upon this leaden cover his seal, with the great name God engraven upon it. Thus he gave the vessel to one of the genies that submitted to him, with orders to throw it into the sea, which was executed to my great sorrow.
During the first hundred years imprisonment, I swore that if one would deliver me before the hundred years expired, I would make him rich even after his death: But that century ran out, and nobody did me that good office. During the second, I made an oath, that I would open all the treasures of the earth to any one that would set me at liberty, but with no better success. In the third, I promised to make my deliverer a potent monarch, to be always near him in spirit, and to grant him every day three demands, of what nature soever they might be: But this century ran out as well as the two former, and I continued in prison. At last, being angry, or rather mad, to find myself a prisoner so long, I swore, that if afterwards any one should deliver me, I would kill him without pity, and grant him no other favour but to choose what kind of death he would die; and therefore, since you have delivered me to-day, I give you that choice.
This discourse afflicted the poor fisherman extremely: I am very unfortunate, cries he, to come hither to do such a piece of good service to one that is so ungrateful. I beg you to consider your injustice, and revoke such an unreasonable oath: pardon me, and Heaven will pardon you; if you grant me my life, Heaven will protect you from all attempts against yours. No, thy death is resolved on, says the genie, only choose how you will die. The fisherman, perceiving the genie to be resolute, was extremely grieved, not so much for himself as for his three children, and bewailed the misery they must be reduced to by his death. He endeavoured still to appease the genie, and says, Alas! be pleased to take pity on me in consideration of the good service I have done you. I have told thee already, replies the genie, it is for that very reason I must kill thee. That is very strange, says the fisherman, are you resolved to reward good for evil? The proverb says, "That he who does good to one who deserves it not, is always ill rewarded." I must confess I thought it was false; for in effect there can be nothing more contrary to reason, or the laws of society. Nevertheless, I find now, by cruel experience, that it is but too true. Do not let us lose time, replies the genie, all thy reasoning shall not divert me from my purpose: Make haste, and tell me which way you choose to die.
Necessity is the mother of invention. The fisherman bethought himself of a stratagem. Since I must die then, says he to the genie, I submit to the will of Heaven; but, before I choose the manner of death, I conjure you by the great name which was engraven upon the seal of the prophet Solomon, the son of David, to answer me truly the question I am going to ask you. The genie, finding himself obliged to give a positive answer by this adjuration, trembled, and replied to the fisherman, Ask what thou wilt, but make haste. Day appearing, Scheherazade held her peace.
Sister, says Dinarzade, it must be owned, that the more you speak, the more you surprise and satisfy. I hope the sultan, our lord, will not order you to be put to death till he hears out the fine story of the fisherman. The sultan is absolute, replies Scheherazade; we must submit to his will in every thing. But Shahriar, being as willing as Dinarzade to hear an end of the story, did again put off the execution of the sultaness.
The Eleventh Night.
Shahriar, and the princess his spouse, passed this night in the same manner as they had done the former; and, before break of day, Dinarzade awaked them with these words, which she addressed to the sultaness: I pray you, sister, to resume the story of the fisherman. With all my heart, says Scheherazade, I am willing to satisfy you, with the sultan's permission.
The genie (continued she) having promised to speak the truth, the fisherman says to him, I would know if you were actually in this vessel? Dare you swear it by the name of the great God? Yes, replied the genie, I do swear by that great name that I was, and it is a certain truth. In good faith, answered the fisherman, I cannot believe you; the vessel is not capable to hold one of your feet, and how should it be possible that your whole body could be in it? I swear to thee notwithstanding, replied the genie, that I was there just as you see me here: Is it possible that thou dost not believe me after the great oath which I have taken? Truly, not I, said the fisherman; nor will I believe you unless you show it me.
Upon which the body of the genie was dissolved, and changed itself into smoke, extending itself, as formerly, upon the sea-shore; and then at last, being gathered together, it began to reenter the vessel, which he continued to do successively, by a slow and equal motion, after a smooth and exact way, till nothing was left out, and immediately a voice came forth, which said to the fisherman, Well, now, incredulous fellow, I am all in the vessel, do not you believe me now?
The fisherman, instead of answering the genie, took the cover of lead, and having speedily shut the vessel, Genie, cries he, now it is your turn to beg my favour, and to choose which way I shall
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