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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 2 - 6/66 -

till the other merchants arrived. With this request I of course readily complied.

The lady took a seat in my shop, and observing there was no one in the bazaar but the eunuch and myself, uncovered her face to take the air. I had never beheld any thing so beautiful. I became instantly enamoured, and kept my eyes fixed upon her. I flattered myself that my attention was not unpleasant to her; for she allowed me time to view her deliberately, and only concealed her face so far as she thought necessary to avoid being observed.

After she had again lowered her veil, she told me she wanted several sorts of the richest and finest stuffs, and asked me if I had them. "Alas! madam," I replied, "I am but a young man just beginning the world; I have not capital sufficient for such extensive traffic. I am much mortified not to be able to accommodate you with the articles you want. But to save you the trouble of going from shop to shop, when the merchants arrive, I will, if you please, go and get those articles from them, and ascertain the lowest prices." She assented to this proposal, and entered into conversation with me, which I prolonged, making her believe the merchants that could furnish what she wanted were not yet come.

I was not less charmed with her wit than I had been before with the beauty of her face; but was obliged to forego the pleasure of her conversation. I ran for the stuffs she wanted, and after she had fixed upon what she liked, we agreed for five thousand dirhems of coined silver; I wrapped up the stuffs in a small bundle, and gave it to the eunuch, who put it under his arm. She then rose and took leave. I followed her with my eyes till she had reached the bazaar gate, and even after she had remounted her mule.

The lady had no sooner disappeared, than I perceived that love had led me to a serious oversight. It had so engrossed my thoughts, that I did not reflect that she went away without paying, and that I had not informed myself who she was, or where she resided. I soon felt sensible, however, that I was accountable for a large sum to the merchants, who, perhaps, would not have patience to wait for their money: I went to them, and made the best excuse I could, pretending that I knew the lady; and then returned home, equally affected with love, and with the burden of such a heavy debt.

I had desired my creditors to wait eight days for their money: when this period had elapsed, they did not fail to dun me. I then intreated them to give me eight days more, to which they consented; but the next day I saw the lady enter the bazaar, mounted on her mule, with the same attendants as before, and exactly the same hour of the day.

She came straight to my shop. "I have made you wait some time," said she, "but here is your money at last; carry it to the banker, and see that it is all good and right." The eunuch who carried the money went along with me to the banker, and we found it quite right. I returned, and had the happiness of conversing with the lady till all the shops of the bazaar were open. Though we talked but of ordinary things, she gave them such a turn, that they appeared new and uncommon; and convinced me that I was not mistaken in admiring her wit at our first interview.

As soon as the merchants had arrived and opened their shops, I carried to the respective owners the money due for their stuffs, and was readily intrusted with more, which the lady had desired to see. She chose some from these to the value of one thousand pieces of gold, and carried them away as before without paying; nay, without speaking a word, or informing me who she was. What distressed me was the consideration that while at this rate she risked nothing, she left me without any security against being made answerable for the goods in case she did not return. "She has paid me," thought I, "a considerable sum; but she leaves me responsible for a greater, Surely she cannot be a cheat. The merchants do not know her, they will all come upon me." In short, my love was not so powerful as to stifle the uneasiness I felt, when I reflected upon the circumstances in which I was placed. A whole month passed before I heard any thing of the lady again; and during that time my alarm increased. The merchants were impatient for their money, and to satisfy them, I was going to sell off all I had, when one morning the lady returned with the same equipage as before.

"Take your weights," said she, "and weigh the gold I have brought you." These words dispelled my fear, and inflamed my love. Before we counted the money, she asked me several questions, and particularly if I was married. I answered I never had been. Then reaching out the gold to the eunuch, "Let us have your interposition," said she, "to accommodate our matters." Upon which the eunuch fell a laughing, and calling me aside, made me weigh the gold. While I was thus occupied, the eunuch whispered in my ear, "I know by your eyes you love this lady, and I am surprised that you have not the courage to disclose your passion. She loves you more ardently than you do her. Do not imagine that she has any real occasion for your stuffs. She only makes this her presence to come here, because you have inspired her with a violent passion. It was for this reason she asked you if you were married. It will be your own fault, if you do not marry her." "It is true," I replied, "I have loved her since I first beheld her; but I durst not aspire to the happiness of thinking my attachment could meet her approbation. I am entirely hers, and shall not fail to retain a grateful sense of your good offices in this affair."

I finished weighing the gold, and while I was putting it into the bag, the eunuch turned to the lady, and told her I was satisfied; that being the word they had agreed upon between themselves. Presently after, the lady rose and took her leave; telling me she would send her eunuch to me, and that I had only to obey the directions he might give me in her name.

I carried each of the merchants their money, and waited some days with impatience for the eunuch. At last he came.

I received the eunuch very kindly, and inquired after his mistress's health. "You are," said he, "the happiest lover in the world; she is impatient to see you; aud were she mistress of her own conduct, would not fail to come to you herself, and willingly pass in your society all the days of her life." "Her noble mien and graceful carriage," I replied, "convinced me, that she was a lady beyond the common rank." "You have not erred in your judgment on that head," said the eunuch; "she is the favourite of Zobeide the caliph's wife, who is the more affectionately attached to her from having brought her up from her infancy, and intrusts her with all her affairs. Having a wish to marry, she has declared to her mistress that she has fixed her affections upon you, and has desired her consent. Zobeide told her, she would not withhold her consent; but that she would see you first, in order to judge if she had made a good choice; in which case she meant herself to defray the expenses of the wedding. Thus you see your felicity is certain; since you have pleased the favourite, you will be equally agreeable to the mistress, who seeks only to oblige her, and would by no means thwart her inclination. All you have to do is to come to the palace. I am sent hither to invite you." "My resolution is already formed," said I, "and I am ready to follow you whithersoever you please." "Very well," said the eunuch; "but you know men are not allowed to enter the ladies' apartments in the palace, and you must be introduced with great secrecy. The favourite lady has contrived the matter well. On your side you must act your part discreetly; for if you do not, your life is at stake."

I gave him repeated assurances punctually to perform whatever he might require. "Then," said he, "in the evening, you must be at the mosque built by the caliph's lady on the bank of the Tigris, and wait there till somebody comes to conduct you." To this I agreed; and after passing the day in great impatience, went in the evening to the prayer that is said an hour and a half after sun-set in the mosque, and remained there after all the people had departed.

Soon after I saw a boat making up to the mosque, the rowers of which were all eunuchs, who came on shore, put several large trunks into the mosque, and then retired. One of them stayed behind, whom I perceived to be the eunuch that had accompanied the lady, and had been with me that morning. I saw the lady also enter the mosque; and approaching her, told her I was ready to obey her orders. "We have no time to lose," said she; and opening one of the trunks, desired me to get into it, that being necessary both for her safety and mine. "Fear nothing," added she, "leave the management of all to me." I considered with myself that I had gone too far to recede, and obeyed her orders; when she immediately locked the trunk. This done, the eunuch her confidant called the other eunuchs who had brought in the trunks, and ordered them to carry them on board again. The lady and the eunuch re-embarked, and the boatmen rowed to Zobeide's apartment.

In the meantime I reflected very seriously upon the danger to which I had exposed myself, and made vows and prayers, though it was then too late.

The boat stopped at the palace-gate, and the trunks were carried into the apartment of the officer of the eunuchs, who keeps the key of the ladies' apartments, and suffers nothing to enter without a narrow inspection. The officer was then in bed, and it was necessary to call him up.

The officer of the eunuchs was displeased at having his rest disturbed, and severely chid the favourite lady for coming home so late. "You shall not come off so easily as you think," said he: "not one of these trunks shall pass till I have opened it." At the same time he commanded the eunuchs to bring them before him, and open them one by one. The first they took was that wherein I lay, which put me into inexpressible fear.

The favourite lady, who had the key, protested it should not be opened. "You know very well," said she, "I bring nothing hither but what is for the use of Zobeide, your mistress and mine. This trunk is filled with rich goods, which I purchased from some merchants lately arrived, besides a number of bottles of Zemzem water sent from Mecca; and if any of these should happen to break, the goods will be spoiled, and you must answer for them; depend upon it, Zobeide will resent your insolence." She insisted upon this in such peremptory terms, that the officer did not dare to open any of the trunks. "Let them go," said he angrily; "you may take them away." Upon this the door of the women's apartment was opened, and all the trunks were carried in.

This had been scarcely accomplished, when I heard the people cry, "Here is the caliph! Here comes the caliph!" This put me in such alarm, that I wonder I did not die upon the spot; for as they

The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 2 - 6/66

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