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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 2 - 2/66 -

dead, "Oh!" said he, "is it thus that a Christian dares to assassinate a Mussulmaun?" So saying, he laid hold of the Christian, and carried him to the house of the officer of the police, where he was kept till the judge was stirring, and ready to examine him. In the mean time, the Christian merchant became sober, and the more he reflected upon his adventure, the less could he conceive how such slight blows of his fist could have killed the man.

The judge having heard the report of the watch, and viewed the corpse, which they had taken care to bring to his house, interrogated the Christian merchant, who could not deny the crime, though he had not committed it. But the judge considering that little hump-back belonged to the sultan, for he was one of his buffoons, would not put the Christian to death till he knew the sultan's pleasure. For this end he went to the palace, and acquainted the sultan with what had happened; and received this answer: "I have no mercy to show to a Christian who kills a Mussulmaun." Upon this the judge ordered a stake to be prepared, and sent criers all over the city to proclaim that they were about to impale a Christian for killing a Mussulmaun.

At length the merchant was brought to the place of execution; and the executioner was about to do his duty, when the sultan's purveyor pushed through the crowd, calling to him to stop for that the Christian had not committed the murder, but he himself had done it. Upon that, the officer who attended the execution began to question the purveyor, who told him every circumstance of his having killed the little hunchback, and how he had conveyed his corpse to the place where the Christian merchant had found it. "You were about," added he, "to put to death an innocent person; for how can he be guilty of the death of a man who was dead before he touched him? It is enough for me to have killed a Mussulmaun without loading my conscience with the death of a Christian who is not guilty."

The sultan of Casgar's purveyor having publicly charged himself with the death of the little hunchbacked man, the officer could do no less than execute justice on the merchant. "Let the Christian go," said he to the executioner, "and impale this man in his stead, since it appears by his own confession that he is guilty." Thereupon the executioner released the merchant, and seized the purveyor; but just as he was going to impale him, he heard the voice of the Jewish doctor, earnestly intreating him to suspend the execution, and make room for him to approach.

When he appeared before the judge, "My lord," said he, "this Mussulmaun you are going to execute is not guilty. I am the criminal. Last night a man and a woman, unknown to me, came to my door with a sick man; my maid went and opened it without a light, and received from them a piece of money with a commission to come and desire me, in their name, to step down and look at the patient. While she was delivering her message, they conveyed the sick person to the stair-head, and disappeared. I went, without staying till my servant had lighted a candle, and in the dark happened to stumble upon the sick person, and kick him down stairs. At length I saw he was dead, and that it was the crooked Mussulmaun whose death you are now about to avenge. My wife and I took the corpse, and, after conveying it up to the roof of the purveyor, our next neighbour, whom you were going to put to death unjustly, let it down the chimney into his chamber. The purveyor finding it in his house, took the little man for a thief, and after beating him concluded he had killed him. But that it was not so you will be convinced by this my deposition; I am the sole author of the murder; and though it was committed undesignedly, I am resolved to expiate my crime, that I may not have to charge myself with the death of two Mussulmauns."

The chief justice being persuaded that the Jewish doctor was the murderer, gave orders to the executioner to seize him and release the purveyor. Accordingly the doctor was just going to be impaled, when the tailor appeared, crying to the executioner to hold his hand, and make room for him, that he might come and make his confession to the chief judge. Room being made, "My lord," said he, "you have narrowly escaped taking away the lives of three innocent persons; but if you will have the patience to hear me, I will discover to you the real murderer of the crook backed man. If his death is to be expiated by another, that must be mine. Yesterday, towards the evening, as I was at work in my shop, and was disposed to be merry, the little hunch-back came to my door half-drunk, and sat down. He sung a little, and so I invited him to pass the evening at my house. He accepted the invitation and went in with me. We sat down to supper and I gave him a plate of fish; but in eating, a bone stuck in his throat, and though my wife and I did our utmost to relieve him, he died in a few minutes. His death afflicted us extremely, and for fear of being charged with it, we carried the corpse to the Jewish doctor's house and knocked. The maid came. and opened the door; I desired her to go up again and ask her master to come down and give his advice to a sick person whom we had brought along with us; and withal, to encourage him, I charged her to give him a piece of money, which I put into her hand. When she was gone, I carried the hunch-back up stairs, and laid him upon the uppermost step, and then my wife and I made the best of our way home. The doctor coming, threw the corpse down stairs, and concluded himself to be the author of his death. This being the case," continued he, "release the doctor, and let me die in his stead."

The chief justice, and all the spectators, wondered at the strange events which had ensued upon the death of the little hunch-back. "Let the Jewish doctor go," said the judge, "and seize the tailor, since he confesses the crime. It is certain this history is very uncommon, and deserves to be recorded in letters of gold." The executioner having dismissed the doctor prepared to impale the tailor.

While the executioner was making ready to impale the tailor, the sultan of Casgar, wanting the company of his crooked jester, asked where he was; and one of his officers told him; "The hunch- back, Sir, whom you inquire after, got drunk last night, and contrary to his custom slipped out of the palace, and went strolling about the city, and this morning was found dead. A man was brought before the chief justice, and charged with the murder of him; but when he was going to be impaled, up came a man, and after him another, who took the charge upon themselves and cleared one another, and the judge is now examining a third, who gives himself out for the real author of the murder."

Upon this intelligence the sultan of Casgar sent an officer to the place of execution. "Go," said he, "with all expedition, and tell the judge to bring the accused persons before me immediately and bring also the corpse of poor hunch-back, that I may see him once more." Accordingly the officer went, and happened to arrive at the place of execution at the very time that the executioner had laid his hands upon the tailor. He called aloud to him to suspend the execution. The executioner knowing the officer, did not dare to proceed, but released the tailor; and then the officer acquainted the judge with the sultan's pleasure. The judge obeyed, and went directly to the palace accompanied by the tailor, the Jewish doctor, and the Christian merchant; and made four of his men carry the hunch-backed corpse along with him.

When they appeared in the sultan's presence, the judge threw himself at the prince's feet and after recovering himself, gave him a faithful relation of what he knew of the story of the hunch-backed man. The story appeared so extraordinary to the sultan, that he ordered his own historian to write it down with all its circumstances. Then addressing himself to the audience; "Did you ever hear," said he, "such a surprising event as has happened on the account of my little crooked buffoon?" The Christian merchant, after falling down, and touching the earth with his forehead, spoke as follows: "Most puissant monarch, I know a story yet more astonishing than this; if your majesty will give me leave, I will relate it. The circumstances are such, that no one can hear them without emotion." "Well," said the sultan, "you have my permission:" and the merchant went on as follows:

The Story told by the Christian Merchant.

Sir, before I commence the recital of the story you have permitted me to relate, I beg leave to acquaint you, that I have not the honour to be born in any part of your majesty's empire. I am a stranger, born at Cairo in Egypt, a Copt by nation, and by religion a Christian. My father was a broker, and realized considerable property, which he left me at his death. I followed his example, and pursued the same employment. While I was standing in the public inn frequented by the corn merchants, there came up to me a handsome young man, well dressed, and mounted on an ass. He saluted me, and pulling out a handkerchief, in which he had a sample of sesame or Turkey corn, asked me how much a bushel of such sesame would fetch.

I examined the corn the young man shewed me, and told him it was worth a hundred dirhems of silver per bushel. "Pray," said he, "look out for some merchant to take it at that price, and come to me at the Victory gate, where you will see a khan at a distance from the houses." So saying, he left me the sample, and I shewed it to several merchants, who told me, that they would take as much as I could spare at a hundred and ten dirhems per bushel, so that I reckoned on getting ten dirhems per bushel for my commission. Full of the expectation of this profit, I went to the Victory gate, where I found the young merchant expecting me, and he took me into his granary, which was full of sesame. He had then a hundred and fifty bushels, which I measured out, and having carried them off upon asses, sold them for five thousand dirhems of silver. "Out of this sum," said the young man, "there are five hundred dirhems coming to you, at the rate of ten dirhems per bushel. This I give you; and as for the rest which pertains to me, take it out of the merchants' hands, and keep it till I call or send for it, for I have no occasion for it at present." I answered, it should be ready for him whenever he pleased to demand it; and so, kissing his hand, took leave of him, with a grateful sense of his generosity.

A month passed before he came near me: then he asked for the sum he had committed to my trust. I told him it was ready, and should be counted to him immediately. He was mounted on his ass, and I desired him to alight, and do me the honour to eat a mouthful with me before he received his money. "No," said he, "I cannot alight at present, I have urgent business that obliges me to be at a place just by; but I will return this way, and then take the money which I desired you would have in readiness." This said, he disappeared, and I still expected his return, but it was a full month before I saw him again. "This young merchant," thought I, "has great confidence in me, leaving so great a sum in my hands

The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 2 - 2/66

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