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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 20/114 -

wine, and drank first herself, according to the custom of the Arabians; then she filled the cup to her sisters, who drank in course as they sat; and at last she filled it the fourth time to the porter, who, as he received it, kissed Amine's hand, and, before he drank, sung a song to this purpose: That as the wind brings along with it the sweet scents of the perfumed places through which it passes, so the wine he was going to drink, coming from her fair hands, received a more exquisite taste than what it had of its own nature. This song pleased the ladies so much, that each of them sung another in their turn. In short, they were extraordinary merry all the time of dinner, which lasted a long while, and nothing was wanting that could make it agreeable. The day being almost spent, Safie spoke in the name of the three ladies, and says to the porter, Arise, and be gone; it is time for you to depart. But the porter, not willing to leave so good company, cried, Alas! ladies, whither do you command me to go in the condition I am in? I am quite beside myself by what I have seen since I came hither, and having also drank above my ordinary, I shall never find the way home: Allow me this night to recover myself in any place where you please, for no less time is necessary for me to come to myself; but, go when I will, I shall leave the best part of myself behind me.

Amine pleaded a second time for the porter, saying, Sisters, he is in the right; I am pleased with the request; he having already diverted us so well; and if you will take my advice, or if you love me as much as I think you do, let us keep him to pass away the remaining part of the night. Sister, answered Zobeide, we can refuse you nothing; and then, turning to the porter, said, We are willing once more to grant your request; but upon this new condition, that whatever we do in your presence, relating to ourselves or any thing else, take heed that you do not once open your mouth to ask the reason of it; for if you ask questions about that which does not belong to you, you may come to know that which will be no way pleasing to you: Beware, therefore, and be not too curious to dive into the motives of our actions.

Madam, replies the porter, I promise to observe this condition with such exactness, that you shall have no cause to reproach me with the breaking of it, and far less to punish my indiscretion; my tongue shall be immovable on this occasion, and my eye like a looking-glass, which retains nothing of the object that is set before it. And to show you, says Zobeide, with a serious countenance, that what we demand of you is not a new thing among us, rise up and read what is over our gate in the inside.

The porter went thither, and read these words, written in large characters of gold: 'He who speaks of things that do not concern him, shall hear of things that will not please him.' Returning again to the three sisters, Ladies, says he, I give you my oath that you will never hear me speak any thing which does not concern me, or wherein you may have any concern.

This agreement being made, Amine brought in supper, and after the room was set round with tapers that were mixed with aloes and ambergris, which gave a most agreeable scent, as well as a delicate light, she sat down at table with her sisters and the porter. They began again to eat and drink, to sing and repeat verses. The ladies took pleasure to inebriate the porter, under pretext of causing him to drink their healths; and abundance of witty sentences passed on both sides. In short, as they were all in the best humour in the world, they heard one knocking at the gate.

When the ladies heard the knocking, they all three got up to open the gate; but Safie, to whom this office did particularly belong, was the nimblest; which her other two sisters perceiving, sat down till she came back to acquaint them who it could be that had any business with them so late. Safie returning, said, Sisters, we have here a very fine opportunity to pass a good part of the night with much satisfaction, and if you be of the same mind with me, we shall not let it slip. There are three calenders at our gate, at least they appear to be such by their habit; but that which you will most wonder at is, they are all three blind of the right eye, have their heads, beards, and eye-brows shaved, and, as they say, are but just come to Bagdad, where they never were before; and it being night, and not knowing where to find any lodging, they happened by chance to knock at this gate, and pray us, for the love of Heaven, to have compassion on them, and receive them into the house: They care not what place we put them in; provided they may be under shelter, they would be satisfied with a stable. They are young and handsome enough, and seem also to be men of good sense; but I cannot, without laughing, think of their pleasant and uniform figure. Here Safie fell a-laughing so heartily, that it put the two sisters and the porter into the same mood. My dear sisters, says she, are you content that they come in? it is impossible but, with such persons as I have already described them to be, we shall finish the day better than we began it; they will afford us diversion enough, and put us to no charge, because they desire shelter only for this night, and resolve to leave us as soon as day appears.

Zobeide and Amine made some difficulty to grant Safie's request, for reasons they knew well enough; but she having so great a desire to obtain this favour, they could not refuse. Go then, says Zobeide, and bring them in, but do not forget to acquaint them that they must not speak of any thing which does not concern them, and cause them to read what is written over the gate. Safie ran out with a great deal of joy, and in a little while after returned with the three calenders in company.

At their entrance they made a profound bow to the ladies. who rose up to receive them; told them most obligingly that they were very welcome, that they were glad to have met with an opportunity to oblige them, and to contribute towards relieving them from the fatigue of their journey, and at last invited them to sit down with them.

The magnificence of the place, and the civility of the ladies, made the calenders to conceive a mighty idea of their fine land-ladies: But, before they sat down, having by chance cast their eye upon the porter, whom they saw clad almost like one of those other calenders with whom they are in controversy about several points of discipline, because they neither shave their beards nor eye-brows, one of them said, Look here, I believe we have got one of our revolted Arabian brethren.

The porter, though half asleep, and having his head pretty warm with wine, was affronted at these words; and, with a fierce look, without stirring from his place, answered, Sit you down, and do not meddle with what does not concern you. Have you not read the inscription over the gate? Do not pretend to make people live after your fashion, but follow ours.

Honest man, says the calender, do not put yourself into a passion; we should be very sorry to give you the least occasion; but, on the contrary, we are ready to receive your commands. Upon which, to avoid all quarrels, the ladies interposed, and pacified them. When the calenders were set at table, the ladies served them with meat; and Safie, being most pleased with them, did not let them want for drink.

After the calenders had ate and drunk liberally, they signified to the ladies that they had a great desire to entertain them with a concert of music, if they had any instruments in the house, and would cause them to be brought them. They willingly accepted the proffer, and fair Safie, going to fetch them, returned again in a moment, and presented them with a flute of her own country fashion, another of the Persian sort, and a tabor. Each man took the instrument he liked, and all the three together began to play a tune. The ladies, who knew the words of a merry song that suited that air, joined the concert with their voices; but the words of the song made them now and then stop, and fall into excessive laughter.

At the height of this diversion, and when the company was in the midst of their jollity, somebody knocks at the gate; Safie left off singing, and went to see who it was. But, sir, says Scheherazade to the sultan, it is fit your majesty should know why this knocking happened so late at the ladies' house, and the reason was this: The caliph Haroun Alraschid was accustomed to walk abroad in disguise very often by night, that he might see with his own eyes if every thing was quiet in the city, and that no disorders were committed in it.

This night the caliph went out pretty early on his rambles, accompanied with Giafar his grand vizier, and Mesrour the chief of the eunuchs of his palace, all disguised in merchants' habits; and passing through the street where the three ladies dwelt, he heard the sound of the music, and great fits of laughter; upon which he commanded the vizier to knock, because he would go in to know the reason of that jollity. The vizier told him in vain that it was some women a merry-making; that, without question, their heads were warm with wine; and that it would not be proper he should expose himself to be affronted by them; besides, it was not yet an unlawful hour, and therefore he ought not to disturb them in their mirth. No matter, said the caliph, I command you to knock. So it was that the grand vizier Giafar knocked at the ladies' gate by the caliph's order, because he himself would not be known. Safie opened the gate, and the vizier perceived, by the light that she held in her hand, that she was an incomparable beauty. The vizier acted his part very well, and, with a very low bow and respectful behaviour, said, Madam, we are three merchants of Moussol, who arrived about ten days ago with rich merchandise, which we have in a warehouse at a khan, or inn, where we have also our lodging. We happened to-day to be with a merchant of this city, who invited us to a treat at his house, where we had a splendid entertainment; and the wine having put us in humour, he sent for a company of dancers; night being come on, and the music and dancers making a great noise, the watch came by in the mean time, caused the gate to be opened, and some of the company to be taken up; but we had the good fortune to escape by getting over a wall. Now, says the vizier, being strangers, and somewhat overcome with wine, we were afraid of meeting another, or perhaps the same watch, before we got home to our khan, which lies a good way from hence. Besides, when we come there, the gates will be shut, and not opened till morning; wherefore, madam, hearing, as we passed by this way, the sound of music, we supposed you were not yet going to rest, and made bold to knock at your gate, to beg the favour of lodging ourselves in the house till morning; and if you think us worthy of your good company, we will endeavour to contribute to your diversion what lies in our power, to make some amends for the interruption we have given you; if not, we only beg the favour of staying this night under your porch.

While Giafar held this discourse, fair Safie had time to observe the vizier and his two companions, who were said to be merchants like himself, and told them that she was not mistress of the house; but, if they would have a minute's patience, she would

The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 20/114

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