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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 6/114 -

be full of grief to execute your commands; but it is to no purpose for nature to murmur; though I be her father I will answer for the fidelity of my hand to obey your order. Schahriar accepted his minister's offer, and told him he might bring his daughter when he pleased.

The grand vizier went with the news to Scheherazade, who received it with as much joy as if it had been the most agreeable thing in the world; she thanked her father for having obliged her in so sensible a manner; and, perceiving that he was overwhelmed with grief, she told him, in order to his consolation, that she hoped he would never repent his having married her to the sultan; but that, on the contrary, he should have cause to rejoice at it all his days.

All her business was to put herself in a condition to appear before the sultan; but, before she went, she took her sister Dinarzade apart, and says to her, My dear sister, I have need of your help in a matter of very great importance, and must pray you not to deny it me. My father is going to carry me to the sultan to be his wife; do not let this frighten you, but hear me with patience. As soon as I come to the sultan, I will pray him to allow you to lie in the bride-chamber, that I may enjoy your company this one night more. If I obtain that favour, as I hope to do, remember to awake me to-morrow an hour before day, and to address me in these or some such words: "My sister, if you be not asleep, I pray you, that till day-break, which will be very speedily, you would tell me one of the fine stories of which you have read so many." Immediately I will tell you one; and I hope by this means to deliver the city from the consternation they are under at present. Dinarzade answered, that she would obey with pleasure what she required of her.

The time of going to bed being come, the grand vizier conducted Scheherazade to the palace, and retired, after having introduced her into the sultan's apartment. As soon as the sultan was left alone with her, he ordered her to uncover her face, and found it so beautiful, that he was perfectly charmed with her; and perceiving her to be in tears, asked her the reason. Sir, answered Scheherazade, I have a sister, who loves me tenderly, as I do her, and I could wish that she might be allowed to be all night in this chamber, that I might see her, and bid her once more adieu. Will you be pleased to allow me the comfort of giving her this last testimony of my friendship? Schahriar having consented to it, Dinarzade was sent for, who came with all possible diligence. The sultan went to bed with Scheherazade upon an alcove raised very high, according to the custom of the monarchs of the east; and Dinarzade lay in a bed that was prepared for her, near the foot of the alcove.

An hour before day, Dinarzade, being awake, failed not to do as her sister ordered her. My dear sister, cries she, if you be not asleep, I pray, until day-break, which will be in a very little time, that you will tell me one of those pleasant stories you have read; alas! this may perhaps be the last time that ever I shall have that satisfaction.

Scheherazade, instead of answering her sister, addressed herself to the sultan thus: Sir, will your majesty be pleased to allow me to give my sister this satisfaction? With all my heart, answers the sultan. Then Scheherazade bid her sister listen; and afterwards, addressing herself to Schahriar, began thus.

The First Night.

The Merchant and the Genie.

Sir--There was formerly a merchant, who had a great estate in lands, goods, and money. He had abundance of deputies, factors, and slaves. He was obliged from time to time to take journies, and talk with his correspondents; and one day being under the necessity of going a long journey about an affair of importance, he took horse, and put a portmanteau behind him, with some biscuits and dates, because he had a great desert to pass over, where he could have no manner of provisions. He arrived without any accident at the end of his journey, and, having despatched his affairs, took horse again in order to return home.

The fourth day of his journey, he was so much incommoded by the heat of the sun, and the reflection of that heat from the earth, that he turned out of the road to refresh himself under some trees that he saw in the country. There he found, at the foot of a great walnut-tree, a fountain of very clear running water; and alighting, tied his horse to a branch of the tree, and sitting down by the fountain, took some biscuits and dates out of his portmanteau, and, as he ate his dates, threw the shells about on both sides of him. When he had done eating, being a good Mussulman, he washed his hands, his face, and his feet, and said his prayers. He had not made an end, but was still on his knees, when he saw a genie appear, all white with age, and of a monstrous bulk; who, advancing towards him, with a scimitar in his hand, spoke to him in a terrible voice thus: Rise up, that I may kill thee with this scimitar, as you have killed my son; and accompanied those words with a frightful cry. The merchant, being as much frightened at the hideous shape of the monster as at these threatening words, answered him trembling, Alas! my good lord, of what crime can I be guilty towards you, that you should take away my life? I will, replies the genie, kill thee, as thou hast killed my son. O heaven! says the merchant, how should I kill your son? I did not know him, nor ever saw him. Did not you sit down when you came hither, replies the genie? Did not you take dates out of your portmanteau, and, as you ate them, did not you throw the shells about on both sides? I did all that you say, answers the merchant; I cannot deny it. If it be so, replies the genie, I tell thee that thou hast killed my son, and the way was thus; when you threw your nut-shells about, my son was passing by, and you threw one of them into his eye, which killed him; therefore I must kill thee. Ah! my lord, pardon me, cried the merchant. No pardon, answers the genie, no mercy. Is it not just to kill him that has killed another? I agree to it, says the merchant; but certainly I never killed your son; and if I have, it was unknown to me, and I did it innocently; therefore I beg you to pardon me, and suffer me to live. No, no, says the genie, persisting in his resolution, I must kill thee, since thou hast killed my son; and then taking the merchant by the arm, threw him with his face upon the ground, and lifted up his scimitar to cut off his head.

The merchant, all in tears, protested he was innocent, bewailed his wife and children, and spoke to the genie in the most moving expressions that could be uttered. The genie, with his scimitar still lifted up, had so much patience as to hear the wretch make an end of his lamentations, but would not relent. All this whining, says the monster, is to no purpose; though you should shed tears of blood, that shall not hinder me to kill thee, as thou killedst my son. Why! replied the merchant, can nothing prevail with you? Will you absolutely take away the life of a poor innocent? Yes, replied the genie, I am resolved upon it.

As Scheherazade had spoken these words, perceiving it was day, and knowing that the sultan rose betimes in the morning to say his prayers, and hold his council, Scheherazade held her peace. Lord, sister, says Dinarzade, what a wonderful story is this! The remainder of it, says Scheherazade, is more surprising; and you will be of my mind, if the sultan will let me live this day, and permit me to tell it you next night. Schahriar, who had listened to Scheherazade with pleasure, says to himself, I will stay till to-morrow, for I can at any time put her to death, when she has ended the story. So having resolved not to take away Scheherazade's life that day, he rose and went to prayers, and then called his council.

All this while the grand vizier was terribly uneasy. Instead of sleeping, he spent the night in sighs and groans, bewailing the lot of his daughter, of whom he believed that he himself should be the executioner: And as, in this melancholy prospect, he was afraid of seeing the sultan, he was agreeably surprised when he saw the prince enter the council-chamber, without giving him the fatal orders he expected.

The sultan, according to his custom, spent the day in regulating his affairs; and when night came, he went to bed with Scheherazade. Next morning, before day, Dinarzade failed not to address herself to her sister thus: My dear sister, if you be not asleep, I pray you, till day-break, which will be in a very little time, to go on with the story you began last night. The sultan, without staying till Scheherazade asked him leave, bid her make an end of the story of the genie and the merchant, for I long to hear the issue of it; upon which Scheherazade spoke, and continued the story as follows.

The Second Night.

When the merchant saw that the genie was going to cut off his head, he cried out aloud, and said to him, For Heaven's sake hold your hand! allow me one word, be so good as to grant me some respite; allow me but time to bid my wife and children adieu, and to divide my estate among them by will, that they may not go to law with one another after my death; and when I have done so, I will come back to the same place, and submit to whatever you shall please to order concerning me. But, says the genie, if I grant you the time you demand, I doubt you will never return. If you will believe my oath, answers the merchant, I swear, by all tnat is sacred, that I will come and meet you here without fail. What time do you demand then, replies the genie? I ask a year, says the merchant; I cannot have less to order my affairs, and prepare myself to die without regret. But I promise you that this day twelve months I will return under these trees, to put myself into your hands. Do you take Heaven to be witness to this promise, says the genie? I do, answers the merchant, and repeat it, and you may rely upon my oath. Upon this the genie left him near the fountain, and disappeared.

The merchant, being recovered from his fright, mounted his horse, and set forward on his journey; and as he was glad, on the one hand, that he had escaped so great a danger, so he was mortally sorry, on the other, when he thought on his fatal oath. When he came home, his wife and children received him with all the demonstrations of perfect joy. But he, instead of making them answerable returns, fell a-weeping bitterly; from whence they readily conjectured that something extraordinary had befallen him. His wife asked the reason of his excessive grief and tears;

The Arabian Nights Entertainments Volume 1 - 6/114

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