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- The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 4 - 30/71 -

look at thy jewels, the examination of which may perhaps entertain thee." The sultan did so, but it had no effect on his lassitude; when he said, "Vizier, this dispiritedness will not quit me, and nothing gives me pleasure within my palace; let us, therefore, walk out in disguise." "To hear is to obey," replied the vizier. They then retired into a private chamber, and putting on the habits of dervishes of Arabia, strolled through the city till they reached a hospital for lunatics, which they entered. Here they beheld two men, one reading and the other listening to him; when the sultan said to himself, "This is surprising;" and addressed the men, saying, "Are you really mad?" They replied, "We are not mad, but our stories are so wonderful, that were they recorded on a tablet of adamant, they would remain for examples to them who would be advised." "Let us hear them," said the sultan; upon which, the man who had been reading exclaimed, "Hear mine first!" and thus began.

Story of the First Lunatic.

I was a merchant, and had a warehouse in which were Indian goods of all sorts, and of the highest value, and I bought and sold to great advantage. One day as I was sitting in my warehouse, according to custom, busy in buying and selling, an old woman came in, telling her beads, and greeted me. I returned her salute, when she sat down, and said, "Sir, have you any choice Indian cloths?" "Yes, my mistress," replied I, "of all sorts that you can possibly wish for." "Bring them," said she. I showed her a piece of great value, with which she was highly pleased, and inquired the price. "Five hundred deenars," replied I: she took out her purse, paid me the money, and went away with the cloth; upon which I had a profit of one hundred and fifty deenars. She returned the next day, bought another piece, paid for it, and, in short, did the same for fifteen days successively, paying me regularly for each purchase. On the sixteenth day she came to my shop as usual, chose the cloth and was going to pay me, but missed her purse; upon which she said, "Sir, I have unfortunately left my purse at home." "Mistress," replied I, "it is of no consequence; take the cloth, and if you return, well, if not, you are welcome to this trifle:" she would not take it: I pressed her, but in vain. Much friendly argument passed between us, till at length she said, "Sir, you contradict, and I contradict, but we shall never agree unless you will favour me by accompanying me to my house to receive the value of your goods; so lock up your warehouse, lest any thing should be lost in your absence." Accordingly I fastened my doors, and accompanied her; we walked on conversing, till we came near her house, when she pulled out a handkerchief from her girdle, and said, "My desire is to tie this over thy eyes." "On what account?" replied I. "Because," said she, "in our way are several houses, the gates of which are open, and the women sitting in their balconies, so that possibly thy eyes may glance upon some one of them, and thy heart be distracted with love; for in this part are many beautiful damsels, who would fascinate even a religious, and therefore I am alarmed for thy peace."

Upon this I said to myself, "This old woman advises me properly," and I consented to her demand; when she bound the handkerchief over my eyes, and we proceeded till we arrived at her house. She knocked at the door, which was opened by a damsel, and we entered. The old lady then took the handkerchief from my eyes, when I looked around me, and perceived that I was in a mansion having several quadrangles, highly ornamented, and resembling the palaces of the sultan.

The old lady now desired me to retire into a room, which I did, and there beheld heaped together all the pieces of cloth which she had purchased of me, at which I was surprised, but still more so when two damsels beautiful as resplendent moons approached, and having divided a piece of cloth into halves, each took one, and wrapped it round her hand. They then sprinkled the floor with rose water and other scents, wiping it with the cloth, and rubbing it till it became bright as silver; after which they withdrew into an adjoining room, and brought out at least fifty stools, which they set down, and placed over each a rich covering, with cushions of tissue. They then fetched a large stool of gold, and having put upon it a carpet and cushions of gold brocade, retired. Not long after this, there descended from the staircase by two and two, as many damsels in number as the stools; upon each of which one sat down. At last descended a lady attended by ten damsels, who placed herself upon the larger stool. When I beheld her, my lord, my senses forsook me, and I was in raptures at her beauty, her stature, and elegance, as she chatted and laughed with her companions.

At length she exclaimed, "My dear mother!" when the old woman entered; to whom she said, "Hast thou brought the young man?" She replied, "Yes, my daughter, he is ready to attend thee." Upon which the lady said, "Introduce him to me." When I heard this I was alarmed, and said to myself, "There is no refuge but in the most high God; doubtless she has discovered my being here, and will command me to be put to death." The old woman came to me, and leading me by the hand, took me before the lady seated on the golden stool, who, on seeing me, smiled, made a graceful salute, and waved her hand for a seat to be brought, which was done, and placed close to her own. She then commanded me to sit down, which I did with much confusion.

When I was seated, the lady began to chat and joke with me, saying, "What think you of my appearance and my beauty, do you judge me worthy of your affection? shall I be your partner and you mine?" When I had heard these words, I replied, "How, dear lady, dare I presume, who am not worthy to be your servant, to arrive at such an honour?" Upon this, she said, "Young man, my words have no evasion in them; be not discouraged, or fearful of returning me an answer, for my heart is devoted to thy love." I now perceived, my lord, that the lady was anxious to marry me; but could not conceive on what account, or who could have given her intelligence concerning me. She continued to shew me so many pleasing attentions, that at length I was emboldened to say, "Lady, if your words to me are sincere, according to the proverb, no time is so favourable as the present." "There cannot," said she," be a more fortunate day than this for our union." Upon this I replied, "My dear lady, how can I allot for you a proper dowry?" "The value of the cloth you intrusted to the old lady, who is my mother," answered she, "is sufficient." "That cannot be enough," rejoined I. "Nothing more shall be added," exclaimed the lady; "and my intention is this instant to send for the cauzee and witnesses, and I will choose a trustee, that they may unite us without delay. We will celebrate our nuptials this very evening, but upon one condition." "What is that?" replied I. She answered, "That you bind yourself not to address or hold conversation with any woman but myself." My lord, I was eager to be in possession of so beautiful a woman, and therefore said to her, "I agree, and will never contradict thee either by my words or actions." She then sent for the cauzee and witnesses, and appointed a trustee, after which we were married. After the ceremony, she ordered coffee and sherbet, gave money to the cauzee, a dress of honour to her trustee, and they departed.

I was lost in astonishment, and said to myself, "Do I dream, or am I awake?" She now commanded her damsels to empty the warm bath, fill it afresh, and prepare cloths and necessaries for bathing. When they had done as she desired, she ordered the eunuchs in waiting to conduct me to the hummaum, and gave them a rich dress. They led me into an elegant apartment, difficult for speech to describe. They spread many-coloured carpets, upon which I sat down and undressed; after which I entered the hummaum, and perceived delightful odours from sandal wood, of comorin, and other sweets diffusing from every part. Here they seated me, covered me with perfumed soaps, and rubbed me till my body became bright as silver; when they brought the basins, and I washed with warm water, after which they gave me rose-water, and I poured it over me. They next brought in sweet-smelling salves, which I rubbed over me, and then repaired to the hummaum, where I found a royal dress, in which the eunuchs arrayed me; and after perfuming me with incense of sandal wood, brought in confections, coffee, and sherberts of various sorts, with which I refreshed myself. I then left the bath with my attendants, who shewed me into the grand hall of the palace, which was spread with most magnificent carpets, stools, and cushions. Here the lady met me, attired in a new habit, more sumptuous than I had seen her in before.

When I beheld my bride, she appeared to me, from the richness of her ornaments, like a concealed treasure from which the talisman had just been removed. She sat down by me, and smiled so fascinatingly upon me, I could no longer contain my rapture. In a short time she retired, but soon returned again in a dress richer than her last. I again embraced her, and in short, my lord, we remained together for ten days in the height of happiness and enjoyment. At the end of this period I recollected my mother, and said to my wife, "It is so long since I have been absent from home, and since my mother has not seen me, that I am certain she must be anxious concerning me. Will you permit me to visit her and look after my warehouse?" "There can be no impediment," replied she; "you may visit your mother daily, and employ yourself in your warehouse, but the old woman must conduct you and bring you back;" to which I assented.

The old lady then came in, tied a handkerchief over my eyes, conducted me to the spot where she had first blindfolded me, and said, "You will return here about the time of evening prayer, and will find me waiting." I left her, and repaired to my mother, whom I found in great affliction at my absence, and weeping bitterly. Upon seeing me, she ran and embraced me with tears of joy. I said, "Weep not, my dear mother, for my absence has been owing to the highest good fortune." I then informed her of my lucky adventure, when she exclaimed, "May Allah protect thee, my son, but visit me at least every two days, that my affection for thee may be gratified." I then went to my warehouse, and employed myself as usual till evening, when I returned to the place appointed, where I found the old lady, who blindfolded me as before, and conducted me to the palace of my wife, who received me with fondness. For three months I continued to go and come in this manner, but I could not help wishing to know whom I had married, and wondering at the affluence, splendour, and attendance that appeared around her.

At length I found an opportunity of being in private with one of her black slaves, and questioned her concerning her mistress. "My lord," replied she, "the history of my mistress is wonderful; but I dare not relate it, lest she should put me to death." Upon this, I assured her, that if she would inform me, no one should know it but myself, and I took an oath of secrecy, when she began as follows:

The Arabian Nights Entertainments vol. 4 - 30/71

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