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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 1 - 6/63 -
When the merchant saw that the genie was going to cut off his head, he cried out aloud to him, "For heaven's sake hold your hand! Allow me one word. Have the goodness to grant me some respite, to bid my wife and children adieu, and to divide my estate among them by will, that they may not go to law after my death. When I have done this, I will come back and submit to whatever you shall please to command." "But," said the genie, "if I grant you the time you ask, I doubt you will never return?" "If you will believe my oath," answered the merchant, "I swear by all that is sacred, that I will come and meet you here without fail." "What time do you require then?" demanded the genie. "I ask a year," said the merchant; "I cannot in less settle 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?" said the genie. "I do," answered the merchant, "and you may rely on my oath." Upon this the genie left him near the fountain, and disappeared.
The merchant being recovered from his terror, mounted his horse, and proceeded on his journey, glad on the one hand that he had escaped so great a danger, but grieved on the other, when he reflected on his fatal oath. When he reached home, his wife and children received him with all the demonstrations of perfect joy. But he, instead of returning their caresses, wept so bitterly, that his family apprehended something calamitous had befallen him. His wife enquire reason of his excessive grief and tears; "We are all overjoyed," said she, "at your return; but you alarm us by your lamentations; pray tell us the cause of your sorrow." "Alas!" replied the husband, "I have but a year to live." He then related what had passed betwixt him and the genie, and informed her that he had given him his oath to return at the end of the year, to receive death from his hands.
When they heard this afflicting intelligence, they all began to lament in the most distressing manner. His wife uttered the most piteous cries, beat her face, and tore her hair. The children, all in tears, made the house resound with their groans; and the father, not being able to resist the impulse of nature, mingled his tears with theirs: so that, in a word, they exhibited the most affecting spectacle possible.
On the following morning the merchant applied himself to put his affairs in order; and first of all to pay his debts. He made presents to his friends, gave liberal alms to the poor, set his slaves of both sexes at liberty, divided his property among his children, appointed guardians for such of them as were not of age; and after restoring to his wife all that was due to her by their marriage contract, he gave her in addition as much as the law would allow him.
At last the year expired, and he was obliged to depart. He put his burial clothes in his wallet; but when he came to bid his wife and children adieu, their grief surpassed description. They could not reconcile their minds to the separation, but resolved to go and die with him. When, however, it became necessary for him to tear himself from these dear objects, he addressed them in the following terms: "My dear wife and children, I obey the will of heaven in quitting you. Follow my example, submit with fortitude to this necessity, and consider that it is the destiny of man to die." Having thus spoken, he went out of the hearing of the cries of his family; and pursuing his journey, arrived on the day appointed at the place where he had promised to meet the genie. He alighted, and seating himself down by the fountain, waited the coming of the genie, with all the sorrow imaginable. Whilst he languished under this painful expectation, an old man leading a hind appeared and drew near him. After they had saluted one another, the old man said to him, "Brother, may I ask why you are come into this desert place, which is possessed solely by evil spirits, and where consequently you cannot be safe? From the beautiful trees which are seen here, one might indeed suppose the place inhabited; but it is in reality a wilderness, where it is dangerous to remain long."
The merchant satisfied his curiosity, and related to him the adventure which obliged him to be there. The old man listened with astonishment, and when he had done, exclaimed, "This is the most surprising thing in the world! and you are bound by the most inviolable oath. However, I will be witness of your interview with the genie." He then seated himself by the merchant, and they entered into conversation.
"But I see day," said Scheherazade, "and must leave off; yet the best of the story is to come." The sultan resolving to hear the end of it, suffered her to live that day also.
The next morning Dinarzade made the same request to her sister as before: "My dear sister," said she, "if you be not asleep, tell me one of those pleasant stories that you have read." But the sultan, wishing to learn what followed betwixt the merchant and the genie, bade her proceed with that, which she did as follows.
Sir, while the merchant and the old man who led the hind were conversing, they saw another old man coming towards them, followed by two black dogs; after they had saluted one another, he asked them what they did in that place? The old man with the hind told him the adventure of the merchant and genie, with all that had passed between them, particularly the merchant's oath. He added, that it was the day agreed on, and that he was resolved to stay and see the issue.
The second old man thinking it also worth his curiosity, resolved to do the same, and took his seat by them. They had scarcely begun to converse together, when there arrived a third old man leading a mule. He addressed himself to the two former, and asked why the merchant who sat with them looked so melancholy? They told him the reason, which appeared to him so extraordinary, that he also resolved to witness the result; and for that purpose sat down with them.
In a short time they perceived a thick vapour, like a cloud of dust raised by a whirlwind, advancing towards them. When it had come up to them it suddenly vanished, and the genie appeared; who, without saluting them, went to the merchant with a drawn cimeter, and taking him by the arm, said, "Get thee up, that I may kill thee, as thou didst my son." The merchant and the three old men began to lament and fill the air with their cries.
When the old man who led the hind saw the genie lay hold of the merchant, and about to kill him, he threw himself at the feet of the monster, and kissing them, said to him, "Prince of genies, I most humbly request you to suspend your anger, and do me the favour to hear me. I will tell you the history of my life, and of the hind you see; and if you think it more wonderful and surprising than the adventure of the merchant, I hope you will pardon the unfortunate man a third of his offence." The genie took some time to deliberate on this proposal, but answered at last, "Well then, I agree."
The Story of the First Old Man and the Hind.
I shall begin my story then; listen to me, I pray you, with attention. This hind you see is my cousin; nay, what is more, my wife. She was only twelve years of age when I married her, so that I may justly say, she ought to regard me equally as her father, her kinsman, and her husband.
We lived together twenty years, without any children. Her barrenness did not effect any change in my love; I still treated her with much kindness and affection. My desire of having children only induced me to purchase a slave, by whom I had a son, who was extremely promising. My wife being jealous, cherished a hatred for both mother and child, but concealed her aversion so well, that I knew nothing of it till it was too late.
Mean time my son grew up, and was ten years old, when I was obliged to undertake a long journey. Before I went, I recommended to my wife, of whom I had no mistrust, the slave and her son, and prayed her to take care of them during my absence, which was to be for a whole year. She however employed that time to satisfy her hatred. She applied herself to magic, and when she had learnt enough of that diabolical art to execute her horrible design, the wretch carried my son to a desolate place, where, by her enchantments, she changed him into a calf, and gave him to my farmer to fatten, pretending she had bought him. Her enmity did not stop at this abominable action, but she likewise changed the slave into a cow, and gave her also to my farmer.
At my return, I enquired for the mother and child. "Your slave," said she, "is dead; and as for your son, I know not what is become of him, I have not seen him this two months." I was afflicted at the death of the slave, but as she informed me my son had only disappeared, I was in hopes he would shortly return. However, eight months passed, and I heard nothing of him. When the festival of the great Bairam was to be celebrated, I sent to my farmer for one of the fattest cows to sacrifice. He accordingly sent me one, and the cow which was brought me proved to be my slave, the unfortunate mother of my son. I bound her, but as I was going to sacrifice her, she bellowed piteously, and I could perceive tears streaming from her eyes. This seemed to me very extraordinary, and finding myself moved with compassion, I could not find in my heart to give her a blow, but ordered my farmer to get me another.
My wife, who was present, was enraged at my tenderness, and resisting an order which disappointed her malice, she cried out, "What are you doing, husband? Sacrifice that cow; your farmer has not a finer, nor one fitter for the festival." Out of deference to my wife, I came again to the cow, and combating my compassion, which suspended the sacrifice, was going to give her the fatal blow, when the victim redoubling her tears, and bellowing, disarmed me a second time. I then put the mallet into the farmer's hands, and desired him to take it and sacrifice her himself, for her tears and bellowing pierced my heart.
The farmer, less compassionate than myself; sacrificed her; but when he flayed her, found her to be nothing except bones, though to she seemed very fat. "Take her yourself," said I to him, "dispose of her in alms, or any way you please: and if you have a very fat calf, bring it me in her stead." I did not enquire what he did with the cow, but soon after he had taken her away, he returned with a fat calf. Though I knew not the calf was my son, yet I could not forbear being moved at the sight of him. On his part, as soon as he beheld me, he made so great an effort to come
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