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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 2 - 5/66 -
streets, and at last arrived at the lady's house very weak, and so much fatigued, that I presently threw myself down upon a sofa, keeping my right arm under my garment, for I took great care to conceal my misfortune.
In the mean time the lady, hearing of my arrival, and that I was not well, came to me in haste; and seeing me pale and dejected, said, "My dear love, what is the matter with you?" "Madam," I replied, dissembling, "I have a violent pain in my head." The lady seemed to be much concerned, and asked me to sit down, for I had arisen to receive her. "Tell me," said she, "how your illness was occasioned. The last time I had the pleasure to see you, you were very well. There must be something that you conceal from me, let me know what it is." I stood silent, and instead of an answer, tears trickled down my cheeks. "I cannot conceive," resumed she, "what it is that afflicts you. Have I unthinkingly given you any occasion of uneasiness? Or do you come on purpose to tell me you no longer love me?" "It is not that, madam," said I, heaving a deep sigh; "your unjust suspicion adds to my misfortune."
I could not think of discovering to her the true cause. When night came, supper was brought, and she pressed me to eat; but considering I could only feed myself with my left hand, I begged to be excused upon the plea of having no appetite. "It will return," said she, "if you would but discover what you so obstinately conceal from me. Your want of appetite, without doubt, is only owing to your irresolution."
"Alas! madam," returned I, "I find I must resolve at last." I had no sooner spoken, than she filled me a cup full of wine, and offering it to me, "Drink that," said she, "it will give you courage." I reached out my left hand, and took the cup.
When I had taken the cup in my hand, I redoubled my tears and sighs. "Why do you sigh and weep so bitterly?" asked the lady; "and why do you take the cup with your left hand, rather than your right?" "Ah! madam," I replied, "I beseech you excuse me; I have a swelling in my right hand." "Let me see that swelling," said she; "I will open it." I desired to be excused, alleging it was not ripe enough for such an operation; and drank off the cup, which was very large. The fumes of the wine, joined to my weakness and weariness, set me asleep, and I slept very soundly till morning.
In the mean time the lady, curious to know what ailed my right hand, lifted up my garment that covered it; and saw to her great astonishment that it was cut off, and that I had brought it along with me wrapped up in a cloth. She presently apprehended what was my reason for declining a discovery, notwithstanding all her pressing solicitation; and passed the night in the greatest uneasiness on account of my disgrace, which she concluded had been occasioned only by the love I bore to her.
When I awoke, I discerned by her countenance that she was extremely grieved. However, that she might not increase my uneasiness she said not a word. She called for jelly-broth of fowl, which she had ordered to be prepared, and made me eat and drink to recruit my strength. After that, I offered to take leave of her; but she declared I should not go out of her doors. "Though you tell me nothing of the matter," said she, "I am persuaded I am the cause of the misfortune that has befallen you. The grief that I feel on that account will soon end my days, but before I die, I must execute a design for your benefit." She had no sooner spoken, than she called for a judge and witnesses, and ordered a writing to be drawn up, putting me in possession of her whole property. After this was done, and every body dismissed, she opened a large trunk where lay all the purses I had given her from the commencement of our amour. "There they are all entire," said she; "I have not touched one of them. Here is the key ; take it, for all is yours." After I had returned her thanks for her generosity and goodness; "What I have done for you," said she, "is nothing; I shall not be satisfied unless I die, to show how much I love you." I conjured her, by all the powers of love, to relinquish such a fatal resolution. But all my remonstrances were ineffectual: she was so afflicted to see me have but one hand, that she sickened, and died after five or six weeks' illness.
After mourning for her death as long as was decent, I took possession of all her property, a particular account of which she gave me before she died; and the corn you sold for me was part of it.
"What I have now told you," said he, "will plead my excuse for eating with my left hand. I am highly obliged to you for the trouble you have given yourself on my account. I can never sufficiently recompense your fidelity. Since I have still, thanks to God, a competent estate, notwithstanding I have spent a great deal, I beg you to accept of the sum now in your hand, as a present from me. I have besides a proposal to make to you. As I am obliged, on account of this fatal accident, to quit Cairo, I am resolved never to return to it again. If you choose to accompany me, we will trade together as equal partners, and share the profits."
I thanked the young man for the present he had made me, and I willingly embraced the proposal of travelling with him, assuring him, that his interest should always be as dear to me as my own.
We fixed a day for our departure, and accordingly entered upon our travels. We passed through Syria and Mesopotamia, travelled over Persia, and after stopping at several cities, came at last, sir, to your capital. Some time after our arrival here, the young man having formed a design of returning to Persia, and settling there, we balanced our accounts, and parted very good friends. He went from hence, and I, sir, continue here in your majesty's service. This is the story I had to relate. Does not your majesty find it more surprising than that of the hunch-back buffoon?
The sultan of Casgar fell into a passion against the Christian merchant. "Thou art a presumptuous fellow," said he, "to tell me a story so little worth hearing, and then to compare it to that of my jester. Canst thou flatter thyself so far as to believe that the trifling adventures of a young debauchee are more interesting than those of my jester? I will have you all four impaled, to revenge his death.
Hearing this, the purveyor prostrated himself at the sultan's feet. "Sir," said he, "I humbly beseech your majesty to suspend your wrath, and hear my story; and if it appears to be more extraordinary than that of your jester, to pardon us." The sultan having granted his request, the purveyor began thus.
The Story told by the Sultan of Casgar's Purveyor.
Sir, a person of quality invited me yesterday to his daughter's wedding. I went to his house in the evening at the hour appointed, and found there a large company of men of the law, ministers of justice, and others of the first rank in the city. After the ceremony was over, we partook of a splendid feast. Among other dishes set upon the table, there was one seasoned with garlic, which was very delicious, and generally relished. We observed, however, that one of the guests did not touch it, though it stood just before him. We invited him to taste it, but he intreated us not to press him. "I will take good care," said he, "how I touch any dish that is seasoned with garlic; I have not yet forgotten what the tasting of such a dish once cost me." We requested him to inform us what the reason was of his aversion to garlic. But before he had time to answer, the master of the house exclaimed, "Is it thus you honour my table? This dish is excellent, do not expect to be excused from eating of it; you must do me that favour as well as the rest." "Sir," said the gentleman, who was a Bagdad merchant, "I hope you do not think my refusal proceeds from any mistaken delicacy; if you insist on my compliance I will submit, but it must be on this condition, that after having eaten, I may, with your permission, wash my hands with alkali forty times, forty times more with ashes, and forty times again with soap. I hope you will not feel displeased at this stipulation, as I have made an oath never to taste garlic but on these terms."
As the master of the house, continued the purveyor of the sultan of Casgar, would not dispense with the merchant's partaking of the dish seasoned with garlic, he ordered his servants to provide a basin of water, together with some alkali, the ashes, and soap, that the merchant might wash as often as he pleased. After he had given these instructions, he addressed the merchant and said, "I hope you will now do as we do."
The merchant, apparently displeased with the constraint put upon him, took up a bit, which he put to his mouth trembling, and ate with a reluctance that astonished us. But what surprised us yet more was, that he had no thumb; which none of us had observed before, though he had eaten of other dishes. "You have lost your thumb," said the master of the house. "This must have been occasioned by some extraordinary accident, a relation of which will be agreeable to the company." "Sir," replied the merchant, "I have no thumb on either the right or the left hand." As he spoke he put out his left hand, and shewed us that what he said was true. "But this is not all," continued he: "I have no great toe on either of my feet: I was maimed in this manner by an unheard-of adventure, which I am willing to relate, if you will have the patience to hear me. The account will excite at once your astonishment and your pity. Only allow me first to wash my hands." With this he rose from the table, and after washing his hands a hundred and twenty times, reseated himself, and proceeded with his narrative as follows.
In the reign of the caliph Haroon al Rusheed, my father lived at Bagdad, the place of my nativity, and was reputed one of the richest merchants in the city. But being a man addicted to his pleasures, and neglecting his private affairs, instead of leaving me an ample fortune, he died in such embarrassed circumstances, that I was reduced to the necessity of using all the economy possible to discharge the debts he had contracted. I at last, however, paid them all; and by care and good management my little fortune began to wear a smiling aspect.
One morning, as I opened my shop, a lady mounted upon a mule, and attended by an eunuch and two slaves, stopped near my door, and with the assistance of the eunuch alighted. "Madam," said the eunuch, "I told you you would be too early; you see there is no one yet in the bazaar: had you taken my advice, you might have saved yourself the trouble of waiting here." The lady looked and perceiving no shop open but mine, asked permission to sit in it
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