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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 5/114 -

When they come to fasten you to the stall, why do not you make resistance? why do not you strike them with your horns, and show that you are angry by striking your foot against the ground? and, in short, why do not you frighten them by bellowing aloud? Nature has furnished you with means to procure you respect, but you do not make use of them. They bring you sorry beans and bad straw; eat none of them; only smell them, and leave them. If you follow the advice I give you, you will quickly find a change, for which you will thank me. The ox took the ass's advice in very good part, and owned he was very much obliged to him for it.

Dear Sprightly, adds he, I will not fail to do all that you have said, and you shall see how I shall acquit myself. They held their peace after this discourse, of which the merchant heard every word.

Next morning betimes the labourer came to take the ox; he fastened him to the plough, and carried him to his ordinary work. The ox, who had not forgotten the ass's counsel, was very troublesome and untoward all that day; and in the evening, when the labourer brought him back to the stall, and began to fasten him to it, the malicious beast, instead of presenting his horns willingly as he used to do, was restive, and went backward bellowing, and then made at the labourer as if he would have pushed him with his horns; in a word, he did all that the ass advised him to. Next day the labourer came, as usual, to take the ox to his labour; but, finding the stall full of beans, the straw that he put in the night before not touched, and the ox lying on the ground with his legs stretched out, and panting in a strange manner, he believed him to he sick, pitied him, and thinking; that it was not proper to carry him to work, went immediately and acquainted the merchant with it; who, perceiving that the ox had followed all the mischievous advices of the ass, whom he thought fit to punish for it, ordered the labourer to go and put the ass in the ox's place, and to be sure to work him hard. The labourer did so: the ass was forced to draw the plough all that day; which fatigued him so much the more, as he was not accustomed to that sort of labour; besides, he had been so soundly beaten, that he could scarcely stand when he came back.

Meanwhile the ox was mightily pleased; he ate up all that was in his stall, and rested himself the whole day. He was glad at the heart that he had followed the ass's advice, blessed him a thousand times for it, and did not fail to compliment him upon it when he saw him come back. The ass answered him not one word, so vexed was he to be so ill treated; but says within himself, it is by my own imprudence I have brought this misfortune upon myself; I lived happily, every thing smiled upon me. I had all that I could wish, it is my own fault that I am brought to this miserable condition, and if I cannot contrive some way to get out of it, I am certainly undone; and as he spoke thus, his strength was so much exhausted, that he fell down at his stall, as if he had been half dead.

Here the grand visier addressed himself to Scheherazade, and said, Daughter, you do like the ass; you will expose yourself to destruction by your false prudence. Take my advice; be easy, and do not take such measures as will hasten your death. Father, replies Scheherazade, the example you bring me is not capable of making me change my resolution; I will never cease importuning you until you present me to the sultan to be his bride. The vizier, perceiving that she persisted in her demand, replied, Alas, then! since you will continue obstinate, I shall be obliged to treat you in the same manner as the merchant I named treated his wife in a little time after.

The merchant, understanding that the ass was in a lamentable condition, was curious to know what passed betwixt him and the ox; therefore, after supper, he went out by moon-light, and sat down by them, his wife bearing him company. When he arrived, he heard the ass say to the ox, Comrade, tell me, I pray you, what you intend to do to-morrow, when the labourer brings you meat? What will I do? says the ox: I will continue to do as you taught me. I will go off from him, and threaten him with my horns, as I did yesterday; I will feign myself to be sick, and just ready to die. Beware of that, replies the ass, it will ruin you: for as I came home this evening, I heard the merchant, our master, say something that makes me tremble for you. Alas! what did you hear? says the ox; as you love me, hide nothing from me, my dear Sprightly. Our master, replied the ass, had these sad expressions to the labourer: Since the ox does not eat, and is not able to work, I would have him killed tomorrow, and we will give his flesh as an alms to the poor for God's sake; as for his skin, that will be of use to us, and I would have you give it to the currier to dress; therefore do not fail to send for the butcher. This is what I had to tell you, says the ass. The concern I have for your preservation, and my friendship for you, obliged me to let you know it, and to give you new advice. As soon as they bring you your bran and straw, rise up and eat heartily. Our master will, by this, think that you are cured, and no doubt will recal his orders for killing you; whereas, if you do otherwise, you are certainly gone.

This discourse had the effect which the ass designed. The ox was strangely troubled at it, and bellowed out for fear. The merchant, who heard the discourse very attentively, fell into such a fit of laughter, that his wife was surprised at it, and said, Pray, husband, tell me what you laugh at so heartily, that I may laugh with you. Wife, said he, you must content yourself with hearing me laugh. No, replies she, I will know the reason. I cannot give you that satisfaction, answers he, but only that I laugh at what our ass just now said to our ox. The rest is a secret, which I am not allowed to reveal. And what hinders you from revealing the secret, says she? If I tell it you, answers he, it will cost me my life. You only jeer me, cried his wife; what you tell me now cannot be true. If you do not satisfy me presently with what you laugh at, and tell me what the ox and ass said to one another, I swear by Heaven that you and I shall never bed together again.

Having spoken thus, she went into the house in a great fret, and, setting herself in a corner, cried there all night. Her husband lay alone, and finding next morning that she continued in the same humour, told her she was a very foolish woman to afflict herself in that manner, the thing was not worth so much; and that it concerned her as little to know the matter, as it concerned him so much to keep it secret; therefore I conjure you to think no more of it. I shall still think so much of it, says she, as never to forbear weeping till you have satisfied my curiosity. But I tell you very seriously, replied he, that it will cost me my life, if I yield to your indiscretion. Let what will happen, says she, I do insist upon it. I perceive, says the merchant, that it is impossible to bring you to reason; and since I foresee that you will occasion your own death by your obstinacy, I will call in your children, that they may see you before you die. Accordingly he called for them, and sent for her father and mother, and other relations. When they were come, and heard the reason of their being called, they did all they could to convince her that she was in the wrong, but to no purpose: she told them she would rather die than yield that point to her husband. Her father and mother spoke to her by herself, and told her that what she desired to know was of no importance to her; but that could gain nothing upon her, either by their authority or entreaties. When her children saw that nothing could prevail to bring her out of that sullen temper, they wept bitterly. The merchant himself was like a man out of his senses, and was almost ready to risk his own life to save that of his wife, whom he loved dearly.

Now, my daughter, says the vizier to Scheherazade, this merchant had fifty hens, and a cock, with a dog that gave good heed to all that passed; and while the merchant was set down, as I said, and considering what he had best do, he sees the dog run towards the cock, as he was treading a hen, and heard him speak to him thus: Cock, says he, I am sure Heaven will not let you live long; are you not ashamed to do that thing to-day? The cock, standing up on tip-toe, answers the dog fiercely, And why should I not do it to-day as well as other days? As you do not know, replies the dog, then I tell you that this day our master is in great perplexity. His wife would have him reveal a secret, which is of such a nature, that it will cost him his life if he doth it. Things are come to that pass, that it is to be feared he will scarcely have resolution enough to resist his wife's obstinacy; for, he loves her, and is affected with the tears that she continually sheds, and perhaps it may cost him his life. We are all alarmed at it, and you only insult our melancholy, and have the imprudence to divert yourself with your hens.

The cock answered the dog's reproof thus: What! has our master so little sense? he has but one wife, and cannot govern her; and though I have fifty, I make them all do what I please. Let him make use of his reason, he will speedily find a way to rid himself of his trouble. How, says the dog,, what would you have him to do? Let him go into the room where his wife is, says the cock, lock the door, and take a good stick, and thrash her well, and I will answer for it that that will bring her to her right wits, and make her forbear to ask him any more what he ought not to tell her. The merchant had no sooner heard what the cock said, than he took up a good stick, went to his wife, whom he found still a crying, and, shutting the door, belaboured her so soundly, that she cried out, "It is enough, husband, it is enough, let me alone, and I will never ask the question more." Upon this, perceiving that she repented of her impertinent curiosity, he forbore drubbing her; and, opening the door, her friends came in, were glad to find her cured of her obstinacy, and complimented her husband upon this happy expedient to bring his wife to reason. Daughter, adds the grand vizier, you deserve to be treated as the merchant treated his wife.

Father, replies Scheherazade, I beg you will not take it ill that I persist in my opinion. I am nothing moved by the story of that woman; I can tell you abundance of others to persuade you that you ought not to oppose my design. Besides, pardon me for declaring to you that your opposing me would be in vain; for if your paternal affection should hinder you to grant my request, I would go and offer myself to the sultan. In short, the father being overcome by the resolution of his daughter, yielded to her importunity; and though he was very much grieved that he could not divert her from such a fatal resolution, he went that minute to acquaint the sultan that next night he would bring him Scheherazade.

The sultan was much surprised at the sacrifice which the grand vizier made to him. How could you resolve, says he, to bring me your own daughter? Sir, answers the vizier, it is her own offer. The sad destiny that attends it could not scare her; she prefers the honour of being your majesty's wife for one night to her life. But do not mistake yourself, vizier, says the sultan; to-morrow, when I put Scheherazade into your hands, I expect you shall take away her life; and, if you fail, I swear that yourself shall die. Sir, rejoins the vizier, my heart, without doubt will

The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 5/114

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