"The Arabian Nights Entertainments"
" When it was lit the magician threw on it a powder he had about him, at the same time saying some magical words. The earth trembled a little and opened in front of them, disclosing a square flat stone with a brass ring in the middle to raise it by. "
The Arabian Nights Entertainments
Selected and Edited by Andrew Lang
Illustrated By Rene Bull
H. J. Ford
W. Heath Robinson
Noureddin and the Fair Persian
Balsora was the capital of a kingdom long tributary to the caliph. During the time of the Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid the
king of Balsora, who was his cousin, was called Zinebi. Not thinking one vizir enough for the administration of his estates
he had two, named Khacan and Saouy.
Khacan was kind, generous, and liberal, and took pleasure in obliging, as far as in him lay, those who had business with
him. Throughout the entire kingdom there was no one who did not esteem and praise him as he deserved.
Saouy was quite a different character, and repelled everyone with whom he came in contact; he was always gloomy, and, in
spite of his great riches, so miserly that he denied himself even the necessaries of life. What made him particularly
detested was the great aversion he had to Khacan, of whom he never ceased to speak evil to the king.
One day, while the king amused himself talking with his two vizirs and other members of the council, the conversation
turned on female slaves. While some declared that it sufficed for a slave to be beautiful, others, and Khacan was among the
number, maintained that beauty alone was not enough, but that it must be accompanied by wit, wisdom, modesty, and, if
The king not only declared himself to be of this opinion, but charged Khacan to procure him a slave who should fulfil all
these conditions. Saouy, who had been of the opposite side, and was jealous of the honour done to Khacan, said, "Sire, it will
be very difficult to find a slave as accomplished as your Majesty desires, and, if she is to be found, she will be cheap if
she cost less than 10,000 gold pieces."
"Saouy," answered the king, "you seem to find that a very great sum. For you it may be so, but not for me."
And forthwith he ordered his grand treasurer, who was present, to send 10,000 gold pieces to Khacan for the purchase of
As soon, then, as Khacan returned home he sent for the dealers in female slaves, and charged them directly they had found
such a one as he described to inform him. They promised to do their utmost, and no day passed that they did not bring a slave
for his inspection but none was found without some defect.
At length, early one morning, while Khacan was on his way to the king's palace, a dealer, throwing himself in his way,
announced eagerly that a Persian merchant, arrived late the previous evening, had a slave to sell whose wit and wisdom were
equal to her incomparable beauty.
Khacan, overjoyed at this news, gave orders that the slave should be brought for his inspection on his return from the
palace. The dealer appearing at the appointed hour, Khacan found the slave beautiful beyond his expectations, and immediately
gave her the name of "The Fair Persian."
Being a man of great wisdom and learning, he perceived in the short conversation he had with her that he would seek in
vain another slave to surpass her in any of the qualities required by the king, and therefore asked the dealer what price the
merchant put upon her.
"Sir," was the answer, "for less than 10,000 gold pieces he will not let her go; he declares that, what with masters for
her instruction, and for bodily exercises, not to speak of clothing and nourishment, he has already spent that sum upon her.
She is in every way fit to be the slave of a king; she plays every musical instrument, she sings, she dances, she makes
verses, in fact there is no accomplishment in which she does not excel."
Khacan, who was better able to judge of her merits than the dealer, wishing to bring the matter to a conclusion, sent for
the merchant, and said to him, "It is not for myself that I wish to buy your slave, but for the king. Her price, however, is
"Sir," replied the merchant, "I should esteem it an honour to present her to his Majesty, did it become a merchant to do
such a thing. I ask no more than the sum it has cost me to make her such as she is."
Khacan, not wishing to bargain, immediately had the sum counted out, and given to the merchant, who before withdrawing
"Sir, as she is destined for the king, I would have you observe that she is extremely tired with the long journey, and
before presenting her to his Majesty you would do well to keep her a fortnight in your own house, and to see that a little
care is bestowed upon her. The sun has tanned her complexion, but when she has been two or three times to the bath, and is
fittingly dressed, you will see how much her beauty will be increased."
Khacan thanked the merchant for his advice, and determined to follow it. He gave the beautiful Persian an apartment near
to that of his wife, whom he charged to treat her as befitting a lady destined for the king, and to order for her the most
Before bidding adieu to the fair Persian, he said to her: "No happiness can be greater than what I have procured for you;
judge for yourself, you now belong to the king. I have, however, to warn you of one thing. I have a son, who, though not
wanting in sense, is young, foolish, and headstrong, and I charge you to keep him at a distance."
The Persian thanked him for his advice, and promised to profit by it.
Noureddin--for so the vizir's son was named--went freely in and out of his mother's apartments. He was young, well-made
and agreeable, and had the gift of charming all with whom he came in contact. As soon as he saw the beautiful Persian, though
aware that she was destined for the king, he let himself be carried away by her charms, and determined at once to use every
means in his power to retain her for himself. The Persian was equally captivated by Noureddin, and said to herself: "The
vizir does me too great honour in buying me for the king. I should esteem myself very happy if he would give me to his son."
Noureddin availed himself of every opportunity to gaze upon her beauty, to talk and laugh with her, and never would have
left her side if his mother had not forced him.
Some time having elapsed, on account of the long journey, since the beautiful Persian had been to the bath, five or six
days after her purchase the vizir's wife gave orders that the bath should be heated for her, and that her own female slaves
should attend her there, and after-wards should array her in a magnificent dress that had been prepared for her.
Her toilet completed, the beautiful Persian came to present herself to the vizir's wife, who hardly recognised her, so
greatly was her beauty increased. Kissing her hand, the beautiful slave said: "Madam, I do not know how you find me in this
dress that you have had prepared for me; your women assure me that it suits me so well that they hardly knew me. If it is the
truth they tell me, and not flattery, it is to you I owe the transformation."
"My daughter," answered the vizir's wife, "they do not flatter you. I myself hardly recognised you. The improvement is
not due to the dress alone, but largely to the beautifying effects of the bath. I am so struck by its results, that I would
try it on myself."
Acting forthwith on this decision she ordered two little slaves during her absence to watch over the beautiful Persian,
and not to allow Noureddin to enter should he come.
She had no sooner gone than he arrived, and not finding his mother in her apartment, would have sought her in that of the
Persian. The two little slaves barred the entrance, saying that his mother had given orders that he was not to be admitted.
Taking each by an arm, he put them out of the anteroom, and shut the door. Then they rushed to the bath, informing their
mistress with shrieks and tears that Noureddin had driven them away by force and gone in.
This news caused great consternation to the lady, who, dressing herself as quickly as possible, hastened to the apartment
of the fair Persian, to find that Noureddin had already gone out. Much astonished to see the vizir's wife enter in tears, the
Persian asked what misfortune had happened.
"What!" exclaimed the lady, "you ask me that, knowing that my son Noureddin has been alone with you?"
"But, madam," inquired the Persian, "what harm is there in that?"
"How! Has my husband not told you that you are destined for the king?"
"Certainly, but Noureddin has just been to tell me that his father has changed his mind and has bestowed me upon him. I
believed him, and so great is my affection for Noureddin that I would willingly pass my life with him."
"Would to heaven," exclaimed the wife of the vizir, "that what you say were true; but Noureddin has deceived you, and his
father will sacrifice him in vengeance for the wrong he has done."
So saying, she wept bitterly, and all her slaves wept with her.
Khacan, entering shortly after this, was much astonished to find his wife and her slaves in tears, and the beautiful
Persian greatly perturbed. He inquired the cause, but for some time no answer was forthcoming. When his wife was at length
sufficiently calm to inform him of what had happened, his rage and mortification knew no bounds. Wringing his hands and
rending his beard, he exclaimed:
"Wretched son! thou destroyest not only thyself but thy father. The king will shed not only thy blood but mine." His wife
tried to console him, saying: "Do not torment thyself. With the sale of my jewels I will obtain 10,000 gold pieces, and with
this sum you will buy another slave."
"Do not suppose," replied her husband, "that it is the loss of the money that affects me. My honour is at stake, and that
is more precious to me than all my wealth. You know that Saouy is my mortal enemy. He will relate all this to the king, and
you will see the consequences that will ensue."
"My lord," said his wife, "I am quite aware of Saouy's baseness, and that he is capable of playing you this malicious
trick. But how can he or any one else know what takes place in this house? Even if you are suspected and the king accuses you,
you have only to say that, after examining the slave, you did not find her worthy of his Majesty. Reassure yourself, and send
to the dealers, saying that you are not satisfied, and wish them to find you another slave."
This advice appearing reasonable, Khacan decided to follow it, but his wrath against his son did not abate. Noureddin
dared not appear all that day, and fearing to take refuge with his usual associates in case his father should seek him there,
he spent the day in a secluded garden where he was not known. He did not return home till after his father had gone to bed,
and went out early next morning before the vizir awoke, and these precautions he kept up during an entire month.
His mother, though knowing very well that he returned to the house every evening, dare not ask her husband to pardon him.
At length she took courage and said:
"My lord, I know that a son could not act more basely towards his father than Noureddin has done towards you, but after
all will you now pardon him? Do you not consider the harm you may be doing yourself, and fear that malicious people, seeking
the cause of your estrangement, may guess the real one?"
"Madam," replied the vizir, "what you say is very just, but I cannot pardon Noureddin before I have mortified him as he
"He will be sufficiently punished," answered the lady, "if you do as I suggest. In the evening, when he returns home, lie
in wait for him and pretend that you will slay him. I will come to his aid, and while pointing out that you only yield his
life at my supplications, you can force him to take the beautiful Persian on any conditions you please." Khacan agreed to
follow this plan, and everything took place as arranged. On Noureddin's return Khacan pretended to be about to slay him, but
yielding to his wife's intercession, said to his son:
"You owe your life to your mother. I pardon you on her intercession, and on the conditions that you take the beautiful
Persian for your wife, and not your slave, that you never sell her, nor put her away."
Noureddin, not hoping for so great indulgence, thanked his father, and vowed to do as he desired. Khacan was at great
pains frequently to speak to the king of the difficulties attending the commission he had given him, but some whispers of what
had actually taken place did reach Saouy's ears.
More than a year after these events the minister took a chill, leaving the bath while still heated to go out on important
business. This resulted in inflammation of the lungs, which rapidly increased. The vizir, feeling that his end was at hand,
sent for Noureddin, and charged him with his dying breath never to part with the beautiful Persian.
Shortly afterwards he expired, leaving universal regret throughout the kingdom; rich and poor alike followed him to the
grave. Noureddin showed every mark of the deepest grief at his father's death, and for long refused to see any one. At length
a day came when, one of his friends being admitted, urged him strongly to be consoled, and to resume his former place in
society. This advice Noureddin was not slow to follow, and soon he formed little society of ten young men all about his own
age, with whom he spent all his time in continual feasting and merry-making.
Sometimes the fair Persian consented to appear at these festivities, but she disapproved of this lavish expenditure, and
did not scruple to warn Noureddin of the probable consequences. He, however, only laughed at her advice, saying, that his
father had always kept him in too great constraint, and that now he rejoiced at his new-found liberty.
What added to the confusion in his affairs was that he refused to look into his accounts with his steward, sending him
away every time he appeared with his book.
"See only that I live well," he said, "and do not disturb me about anything else."
Not only did Noureddin's friends constantly partake of his hospitality, but in every way they took advantage of his
generosity; everything of his that they admired, whether land, houses, baths, or any other source of his revenue, he
immediately bestowed on them. In vain the Persian protested against the wrong he did himself; he continued to scatter with the
same lavish hand.
Throughout one entire year Noureddin did nothing but amuse himself, and dissipate the wealth his father had taken such
pains to acquire. The year had barely elapsed, when one day, as they sat at table, there came a knock at the door. The slaves
having been sent away, Noureddin went to open it himself. One of his friends had risen at the same time, but Noureddin was
before him, and finding the intruder to be the steward, he went out and closed the door. The friend, curious to hear what
passed between them, hid himself behind the hangings, and heard the following words:
"My lord," said the steward, "I beg a thousand pardons for interrupting you, but what I have long foreseen has taken
place. Nothing remains of the sums you gave me for your expenses, and all other sources of income are also at end, having been
transferred by you to others. If you wish me to remain in your service, furnish me with the necessary funds, else I must
So great was Noureddin's consternation that he had not a word to say in reply.
The friend, who had been listening behind the curtain, immediately hastened to communicate the news to the rest of the
"If this is so," they said, "we must cease to come here."
Noureddin re-entering at that moment, they plainly saw, in spite of his efforts to dissemble, that what they had heard was
the truth. One by one they rose, and each with a different excuse left the room, till presently he found himself alone, though
little suspecting the resolution his friends had taken. Then, seeing the beautiful Persian, he confided to her the statement
of the steward, with many expressions of regret for his own carelessness.
"Had I but followed your advice, beautiful Persian," he said, "all this would not have happened, but at least I have this
consolation, that I have spent my fortune in the company of friends who will not desert me in an hour of need. To-morrow I
will go to them, and amongst them they will lend me a sum sufficient to start in some business."
Accordingly next morning early Noureddin went to seek his ten friends, who all lived in the same street. Knocking at the
door of the first and chief, the slave who opened it left him to wait in a hall while he announced his visit to his master.
"Noureddin!" he heard him exclaim quite audibly. "Tell him, every time he calls, that I am not at home." The same thing
happened at the second door, and also at the third, and so on with all the ten. Noureddin, much mortified, recognised too
late that he had confided in false friends, who abandoned him in his hour of need. Overwhelmed with grief, he sought
consolation from the beautiful Persian.
"Alas, my lord," she said, "at last you are convinced of the truth of what I foretold. There is now no other resource
left but to sell your slaves and your furniture."
First then he sold the slaves, and subsisted for a time on the proceeds, after that the furniture was sold, and as much of
it was valuable it sufficed for some time. Finally this resource also came to an end, and again he sought counsel from the
"My lord," she said, "I know that the late vizir, your father, bought me for 10,000 gold pieces, and though I have
diminished in value since, I should still fetch a large sum. Do not therefore hesitate to sell me, and with the money you
obtain go and establish yourself in business in some distant town."
"Charming Persian," answered Noureddin, "how could I be guilty of such baseness? I would die rather than part from you
whom I love better than my life."
"My lord," she replied, "I am well aware of your love for me, which is only equalled by mine for you, but a cruel
necessity obliges us to seek the only remedy."
Noureddin, convinced at length of the truth of her words, yielded, and reluctantly led her to the slave market, where,
showing her to a dealer named Hagi Hassan, he inquired her value.
Taking them into a room apart, Hagi Hassan exclaimed as soon as she had unveiled, "My lord, is not this the slave your
father bought for 10,000 pieces?"
On learning that it was so, he promised to obtain the highest possible price for her. Leaving the beautiful Persian shut
up in the room alone, he went ont to seek the slave merchants, announcing to them that he had found the pearl among slaves,
and asking them to come and put a value upon her. As soon as they saw her they agreed that less than 4,000 gold pieces could
not be asked. Hagi Hassan, then closing the door upon her, began to offer her for sale--calling out: "Who will bid 4,000 gold
pieces for the Persian slave?"
Before any of the merchants had bid, Saouy happened to pass that way, and judging that it must be a slave of extraordinary
beauty, rode up to Hagi Hassan and desired to see her. Now it was not the custom to show a slave to a private bidder, but as
no one dared to disobey the vizir his request was granted.
As soon as Saouy saw the Persian he was so struck by her beauty, that he immediately wished to possess her, and not
knowing that she belonged to Noureddin, he desired Hagi Hassan to send for the owner and to conclude the bargain at once.
Hagi Hassan then sought Noureddin, and told him that his slave was going far below her value, and that if Saouy bought her
he was capable of not paying the money. "What you must do," he said, "is to pretend that you had no real intention of selling
your slave, and only swore you would in a fit of anger against her. When I present her to Saouy as if with your consent you
must step in, and with blows begin to lead her away."
Noureddin did as Hagi Hassan advised, to the great wrath of Saouy, who riding straight at him endeavoured to take the
beautiful Persian from him by force. Noureddin letting her go, seized Saouy's horse by the bridle, and, encouraged by the
applause of the bystanders, dragged him to the ground, beat him severely, and left him in the gutter streaming with blood.
Then, taking the beautiful Persian, he returned home amidst the acclamations of the people, who detested Saouy so much that
they would neither interfere in his behalf nor allow his slaves to protect him.
Covered from head to foot with mire and streaming with blood he rose, and leaning on two of his slaves went straight to
the palace, where he demanded an audience of the king, to whom he related what had taken place in these words:
"May it please your Majesty, I had gone to the slave market to buy myself a cook. While there I heard a slave being
offered for 4,000 pieces. Asking to see her, I found she was of incomparable beauty, and was being sold by Noureddin, the son
of your late vizir, to whom your Majesty will remember giving a sum of 10,000 gold pieces for the purchase of a slave. This
is the identical slave, whom instead of bringing to your Majesty he gave to his own son. Since the death of his father this
Noureddin has run through his entire fortune, has sold all his possessions, and is now reduced to selling the slave. Calling
him to me, I said: "Noureddin, I will give you 10,000 gold pieces for your slave, whom I will present to the king. I will
interest him at the same time in your behalf, and this will be worth much more to you than what extra money you might obtain
from the merchants." "Bad old man," he exclaimed, "rather than sell my slave to you I would give her to a Jew." "But,
Noureddin," I remonstrated, "you do not consider that in speaking thus you wrong the king, to whom your father owed
everything." This remonstrance only irritated him the more. Throwing himself on me like a madman, he tore me from my horse,
beat me to his heart's content, and left me in the state your Majesty sees."
So saying Saouy turned aside his head and wept bitterly.
The king's wrath was kindled against Noureddin. He ordered the captain of the guard to take with him forty men, to
pillage Noureddin's house, to rase it to the ground, and to bring Noureddin and the slave to him. A doorkeeper, named Sangiar,
who had been a slave of Khacan's, hearing this order given, slipped out of the king's apartment, and hastened to warn
Noureddin to take flight instantly with the beautiful Persian. Then, presenting him with forty gold pieces, he disappeared
before Noureddin had time to thank him.
As soon, then, as the fair Persian had put on her veil they fled together, and had the good fortune to get out of the town
without being observed. At the mouth of the Euphrates they found a ship just about to start for Bagdad. They embarked, and
immediately the anchor was raised and they set sail.
When the captain of the guard reached Noureddin's house he caused his soldiers to burst open the door and to enter by
force, but no trace was to be found of Noureddin and his slave, nor could the neighbours give any information about them.
When the king heard that they had escaped, he issued a proclamation that a reward of 1,000 gold pieces would be given to
whoever would bring him Noureddin and the slave, but that, on the contrary, whoever hid them would be severely punished.
Meanwhile Noureddin and the fair Persian had safely reached Bagdad. When the vessel had come to an anchor they paid five gold
pieces for their passage and went ashore. Never having been in Bagdad before, they did not know where to seek a lodging.
Wandering along the banks of the Tigris, they skirted a garden enclosed by a high wall. The gate was shut, but in front of it
was an open vestibule with a sofa on either side. "Here," said Noureddin, "let us pass the night," and reclining on the sofas
they soon fell asleep.
Now this garden belonged to the Caliph. In the middle of it was a vast pavilion, whose superb saloon had eighty windows,
each window having a lustre, lit solely when the Caliph spent the evening there. Only the door-keeper lived there, an old
soldier named Scheih Ibrahim, who had strict orders to be very careful whom he admitted, and never to allow any one to sit on
the sofas by the door. It happened that evening that he had gone out on an errand. When he came back and saw two persons
asleep on the sofas he was about to drive them out with blows, but drawing nearer he perceived that they were a handsome young
man and beautiful young woman, and decided to awake them by gentler means. Noureddin, on being awoke, told the old man that
they were strangers, and merely wished to pass the night there. "Come with me," said Scheih Ibrahim, "I will lodge you
better, and will show you a magnificent garden belonging to me." So saying the doorkeeper led the way into the Caliph's
garden, the beauties of which filled them with wonder and amazement. Noureddin took out two gold pieces, and giving them to
Scheih Ibrahim said
"I beg you to get us something to eat that we may make merry together." Being very avaricious, Scheih Ibrahim determined
to spend only the tenth part of the money and to keep the rest to himself. While he was gone Noureddin and the Persian
wandered through the gardens and went up the white marble staircase of the pavilion as far as the locked door of the saloon.
On the return of Scheih Ibrahim they begged him to open it, and to allow them to enter and admire the magnificence within.
Consenting, he brought not only the key, but a light, and immediately unlocked the door. Noureddin and the Persian entering,
were dazzled with the magnificence they beheld. The paintings and furniture were of astonishing beauty, and between each
window was a silver arm holding a candle.
Scheih Ibrahim spread the table in front of a sofa, and all three ate together. When they had finished eating Noureddin
asked the old man to bring them a bottle of wine.
"Heaven forbid," said Scheih Ibrahim, "that I should come in contact with wine! I who have four times made the pilgrimage
to Mecca, and have renounced wine for ever."
"You would, however, do us a great service in procuring us some," said Noureddin. "You need not touch it yourself. Take
the ass which is tied to the gate, lead it to the nearest wine-shop, and ask some passer-by to order two jars of wine; have
them put in the ass's panniers, and drive him before you. Here are two pieces of gold for the expenses."
At sight of the gold, Scheih Ibrahim set off at once to execute the commission. On his return, Noureddin said: "We have
still need of cups to drink from, and of fruit, if you can procure us some." Scheih Ibrahim disappeared again, and soon
returned with a table spread with cups of gold and silver, and every sort of beautiful fruit. Then he withdrew, in spite of
repeated invitations to remain.
Noureddin and the beautiful Persian, finding the wine excellent, drank of it freely, and while drinking they sang. Both
had fine voices, and Scheih Ibrahim listened to them with great pleasure-- first from a distance, then he drew nearer, and
finally put his head in at the door. Noureddin, seeing him, called to him to come in and keep them company. At first the old
man declined, but was persuaded to enter the room, to sit down on the edge of the sofa nearest the door, and at last to draw
closer and to seat himself by the beautiful Persian, who urged him so persistently to drink her health that at length he
yielded, and took the cup she offered.
Now the old man only made a pretence of renouncing wine; he frequented wine-shops like other people, and had taken none of
the precautions Noureddin had proposed. Having once yielded, he was easily persuaded to take a second cup, and a third, and
so on till he no longer knew what he was doing. Till near midnight they continued drinking, laughing, and singing together.
About that time the Persian, perceiving that the room was lit by only one miserable tallow candle, asked Scheih Ibrahim to
light some of the beautiful candles in the silver arms.
"Light them yourself," answered the old man; "you are younger than I, but let five or six be enough."
She did not stop, however, till she had lit all the eighty, but Scheih Ibrahim was not conscious of this, and when, soon
after that, Noureddin proposed to have some of the lustres lit, he answered:
"You are more capable of lighting them than I, but not more than three."
Noureddin, far from contenting himself with three, lit all, and opened all the eighty windows.
The Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid, chancing at that moment to open a window in the saloon of his palace looking on the garden,
was surprised to see the pavilion brilliantly illuminated. Calling the grand-vizir, Giafar, he said to him:
"Negligent vizir, look at the pavilion, and tell me why it is lit up when I am not there."
When the vizir saw that it was as the Caliph said, he trembled with fear, and immediately invented an excuse.
"Commander of the Faithful," he said, "I must tell you that four or five days ago Scheih Ibrahim told me that he wished to
have an assembly of the ministers of his mosque, and asked permission to hold it in the pavilion. I granted his request, but
forgot since to mention it to your Majesty."
"Giafar," replied the Caliph, "you have committed three faults-- first, in giving the permission; second, in not
mentioning it to me; and third, in not investigating the matter more closely. For punishment I condemn you to spend the rest
of the night with me in company of these worthy people. While I dress myself as a citizen, go and disguise yourself, and then
come with me."
When they reached the garden gate they found it open, to the great indignation of the Caliph. The door of the pavilion
being also open, he went softly upstairs, and looked in at the half-closed door of the saloon. Great was his surprise to see
Scheih Ibrahim, whose sobriety he had never doubted, drinking and singing with a young man and a beautiful lady. The Caliph,
before giving way to his anger, determined to watch and see who the people were and what they did.
Presently Scheih Ibrahim asked the beautiful Persian if anything were wanting to complete her enjoyment of the evening.
"If only," she said, "I had an instrument upon which I might play."
Scheih Ibrahim immediately took a lute from a cup-board and gave it to the Persian, who began to play on it, singing the
while with such skill and taste that the Caliph was enchanted. When she ceased he went softly downstairs and said to the
"Never have I heard a finer voice, nor the lute better played. I am determined to go in and make her play to me."
"Commander of the Faithful," said the vizir, "if Scheih Ibrahim recognises you he will die of fright."
"I should be sorry for that," answered the Caliph, "and I am going to take steps to prevent it. Wait here till I return."
Now the Caliph had caused a bend in the river to form a lake in his garden. There the finest fish in the Tigris were to
be found, but fishing was strictly forbidden. It happened that night, however, that a fisherman had taken advantage of the
gate being open to go in and cast his nets. He was just about to draw them when he saw the Caliph approaching. Recognising
him at once in spite of his disguise, he threw himself at his feet imploring forgiveness.
"Fear nothing," said the Caliph, "only rise up and draw thy nets."
The fisherman did as he was told, and produced five or six fine fish, of which the Caliph took the two largest. Then he
desired the fisherman to change clothes with him, and in a few minutes the Caliph was transformed into a fisherman, even to
the shoes and the turban. Taking the two fish in his hand, he returned to the vizir, who, not recognising him, would have sent
him about his business. Leaving the vizir at the foot of the stairs, the Caliph went up and knocked at the door of the saloon.
Noureddin opened it, and the Caliph, standing on the threshold, said:
"Scheih Ibrahim, I am the fisher Kerim. Seeing that you are feasting with your friends, I bring you these fish."
Noureddin and the Persian said that when the fishes were properly cooked and dressed they would gladly eat of them. The
Caliph then returned to the vizir, and they set to work in Scheih Ibrahim's house to cook the fish, of which they made so
tempting a dish that Noureddin and the fair Persian ate of it with great relish. When they had finished Noureddin took thirty
gold pieces (all that remained of what Sangiar had given him) and presented them to the Caliph, who, thanking him, asked as a
further favour if the lady would play him one piece on the lute. The Persian gladly consented, and sang and played so as to
delight the Caliph.
Noureddin, in the habit of giving to others whatever they admired, said, "Fisherman, as she pleases you so much, take her;
she is yours."
The fair Persian, astounded that he should wish to part from her, took her lute, and with tears in her eyes sang her
reproaches to its music.
The Caliph (still in the character of fisherman) said to him, "Sir, I perceive that this fair lady is your slave. Oblige
me, I beg you, by relating your history."
Noureddin willingly granted this request, and recounted everything from the purchase of the slave down to the present
"And where do you go now?" asked the Caliph.
"Wherever the hand of Allah leads me," said Noureddin.
"Then, if you will listen to me," said the Caliph, "you will immediately return to Balsora. I will give you a letter to
the king, which will ensure you a good reception from him."
"It is an unheard-of thing," said Noureddin, "that a fisherman should be in correspondence with a king."
"Let not that astonish you," answered the Caliph; "we studied together, and have always remained the best of friends,
though fortune, while making him a king, left me a humble fisherman."
The Caliph then took a sheet of paper, and wrote the following letter, at the top of which he put in very small characters
this formula to show that he must be implicitly obeyed:--
"In the name of the Most Merciful God.
"Letter of the Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid to the King of Balsora.
"Haroun-al-Raschid, son of Mahdi, sends this letter to Mohammed Zinebi, his cousin. As soon as Noureddin, son of the
Vizir Khacan, bearer of this letter, has given it to thee, and thou hast read it, take off thy royal mantle, put it on his
shoulders, and seat him in thy place without fail. Farewell."
The Caliph then gave this letter to Noureddin, who immediately set off, with only what little money he possessed when
Sangiar came to his assistance. The beautiful Persian, inconsolable at his departure, sank on a sofa bathed in tears.
When Noureddin had left the room, Scheih Ibrahim, who had hitherto kept silence, said: "Kerim, for two miserable fish
thou hast received a purse and a slave. I tell thee I will take the slave, and as to the purse, if it contains silver thou
mayst keep one piece, if gold then I will take all and give thee what copper pieces I have in my purse."
Now here it must be related that when the Caliph went upstairs with the plate of fish he ordered the vizir to hasten to
the palace and bring back four slaves bearing a change of raiment, who should wait outside the pavilion till the Caliph should
clap his hands.
Still personating the fisherman, the Caliph answered: "Scheih Ibrahim, whatever is in the purse I will share equally with
you, but as to the slave I will keep her for myself. If you do not agree to these conditions you shall have nothing."
The old man, furious at this insolence as he considered it, took a cup and threw it at the Caliph, who easily avoided a
missile from the hand of a drunken man. It hit against the wall, and broke into a thousand pieces. Scheih Ibrahim, still
more enraged, then went ont to fetch a stick. The Caliph at that moment clapped his hands, and the vizir and the four slaves
entering took off the fisherman's dress and put on him that which they had brought.
When Scheih Ibrahim returned, a thick stick in his hand, the Caliph was seated on his throne, and nothing remained of the
fisherman but his clothes in the middle of the room. Throwing himself on the ground at the Caliph's feet, he said:
"Commander of the Faithful, your miserable slave has offended you, and craves forgiveness."
The Caliph came down from his throne, and said: "Rise, I forgive thee." Then turning to the Persian he said: "Fair lady,
now you know who I am; learn also that I have sent Noureddin to Balsora to be king, and as soon as all necessary preparations
are made I will send you there to be queen. Meanwhile I will give you an apartment in my palace, where you will be treated
with all honour."
At this the beautiful Persian took courage, and the Caliph was as good as his word, recommending her to the care of his
Noureddin made all haste on his journey to Balsora, and on his arrival there went straight to the palace of the king, of
whom he demanded an audience. It was immediately granted, and holding the letter high above his head he forced his way
through the crowd. While the king read the letter he changed colour. He would instantly have executed the Caliph's order, but
first he showed the letter to Saouy, whose interests were equally at stake with his own. Pretending that he wished to read it
a second time, Saouy turned aside as if to seek a better light; unperceived by anyone he tore off the formula from the top of
the letter, put it to his mouth, and swallowed it. Then, turning to the king, he said:
"Your majesty has no need to obey this letter. The writing is indeed that of the Caliph, but the formula is absent.
Besides, he has not sent an express with the patent, without which the letter is useless. Leave all to me, and I will take the
The king not only listened to the persuasions of Saouy, but gave Noureddin into his hands. Such a severe bastinado was
first administered to him, that he was left more dead than alive; then Saouy threw him into the darkest and deepest dungeon,
and fed him only on bread and water. After ten days Saouy determined to put an end to Noureddin's life, but dared not without
the king's authority. To gain this end, he loaded several of his own slaves with rich gifts, and presented himself at their
head to the king, saying that they were from the new king on his coronation.
"What!" said the king; "is that wretch still alive? Go and behead him at once. I authorise you."
"Sire," said Saouy, "I thank your Majesty for the justice you do me. I would further beg, as Noureddin publicly affronted
me, that the execution might be in front of the palace, and that it might be proclaimed throughout the city, so that no one
may be ignorant of it."
The king granted these requests, and the announcement caused universal grief, for the memory of Noureddin's father was
still fresh in the hearts of his people. Saouy, accompanied by twenty of his own slaves, went to the prison to fetch
Noureddin, whom he mounted on a wretched horse without a saddle.
Arrived at the palace, Saouy went in to the king, leaving
Noureddin in the square, hemmed in not only by Saouy's slaves but by the royal guard, who had great difficulty in preventing
the people from rushing in and rescuing Noureddin. So great was the indignation against Saouy that if anyone had set the
example he would have been stoned on his way through the streets. Saouy, who witnessed the agitation of the people from the
windows of the king's privy chambers, called to the executioner to strike at once. The king, however, ordered him to delay;
not only was he jealous of Saouy's interference, but he had another reason. A troop of horsemen was seen at that moment riding
at full gallop towards the square. Saouy suspected who they might be, and urged the king to give the signal for the execution
without delay, but this the king refused to do till he knew who the horsemen were.
Now, they were the vizir Giafar and his suite arriving at full speed from Bagdad. For several days after Noureddin's
departure with the letter the Caliph had forgotten to send the express with the patent, without which the letter was useless.
Hearing a beautiful voice one day in the women's part of the palace uttering lamentations, he was informed that it was the
voice of the fair Persian, and suddenly calling to mind the patent, he sent for Giafar, and ordered him to make for Balsora
with the utmost speed-- if Noureddin were dead, to hang Saouy; if he were still alive, to bring him at once to Bagdad along
with the king and Saouy.
Giafar rode at full speed through the square, and alighted at the steps of the palace, where the king came to greet him.
The vizir's first question was whether Noureddin were still alive. The king replied that he was, and he was immediately led
forth, though bound hand and foot. By the vizir's orders his bonds were immediately undone, and Saouy was tied with the same
cords. Next day Giafar returned to Bagdad, bearing with him the king, Saouy, and Noureddin.
When the Caliph heard what treatment Noureddin had received, he authorised him to behead Saouy with his own hands, but he
declined to shed the blood of his enemy, who was forthwith handed over to the executioner. The Caliph also desired Noureddin
to reign over Balsora, but this, too, he declined, saying that after what had passed there he preferred never to return, but
to enter the service of the Caliph. He became one of his most intimate courtiers, and lived long in great happiness with the
fair Persian. As to the king, the Caliph contented himself with sending him back to Balsora, with the recommendation to be
more careful in future in the choice of his vizir.
Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp
The magic lamp
There once lived a poor tailor, who had a son called Aladdin, a careless, idle boy who would do nothing but play all day
long in the streets with little idle boys like himself. This so grieved the father that he died; yet, in spite of his
mother's tears and prayers, Aladdin did not mend his ways. One day, when he was playing in the streets as usual, a stranger
asked him his age, and if he were not the son of Mustapha the tailor.
"I am, sir," replied Aladdin; "but he died a long while ago."
On this the stranger, who was a famous African magician, fell on his neck and kissed him, saying: "I am your uncle, and
knew you from your likeness to my brother. Go to your mother and tell her I am coming."
Aladdin ran home, and told his mother of his newly found uncle.
"Indeed, child," she said, "your father had a brother, but I always thought he was dead."
However, she prepared supper, and bade Aladdin seek his uncle, who came laden with wine and fruit. He presently fell down
and kissed the place where Mustapha used to sit, bidding Aladdin's mother not to be surprised at not having seen him before,
as he had been forty years out of the country. He then turned to Aladdin, and asked him his trade, at which the boy hung his
head, while his mother burst into tears. On learning that Aladdin was idle and would learn no trade, he offered to take a
shop for him and stock it with merchandise. Next day he bought Aladdin a fine suit of clothes, and took him all over the city,
showing him the sights, and brought him home at nightfall to his mother, who was overjoyed to see her son so fine.
Next day the magician led Aladdin into some beautiful gardens a long way outside the city gates. They sat down by a
fountain, and the magician pulled a cake from his girdle, which he divided between them. They then journeyed onwards till
they almost reached the mountains. Aladdin was so tired that he begged to go back, but the magician beguiled him with
pleasant stories, and led him on in spite of himself.
At last they came to two mountains divided by a narrow valley.
"We will go no farther," said the false uncle. "I will show you something wonderful; only do you gather up sticks while I
kindle a fire."
When it was lit the magician threw on it a powder he had about him, at the same time saying some magical words. The earth
trembled a little and opened in front of them, disclosing a square flat stone with a brass ring in the middle to raise it by.
Aladdin tried to run away, but the magician caught him and gave him a blow that knocked him down.
"What have I done, uncle?" he said piteously; whereupon the magician said more kindly: "Fear nothing, but obey me.
Beneath this stone lies a treasure which is to be yours, and no one else may touch it, so you must do exactly as I tell you."
At the word treasure, Aladdin forgot his fears, and grasped the ring as he was told, saying the names of his father and
grandfather. The stone came up quite easily and some steps appeared.
"Go down," said the magician; "at the foot of those steps you will find an open door leading into three large halls. Tuck
up your gown and go through them without touching anything, or you will die instantly. These halls lead into a garden of fine
fruit trees. Walk on till you come to a niche in a terrace where stands a lighted lamp. Pour out the oil it contains and
bring it to me."
He drew a ring from his finger and gave it to Aladdin, bidding him prosper.
Aladdin found everything as the magician had said, gathered some fruit off the trees, and, having got the lamp, arrived at
the mouth of the cave. The magician cried out in a great hurry:
"Make haste and give me the lamp." This Aladdin refused to do until he was out of the cave. The magician flew into a
terrible passion, and throwing some more powder on the fire, he said something, and the stone rolled back into its place.
The magician left Persia for ever, which plainly showed that he was no uncle of Aladdin's, but a cunning magician who had
read in his magic books of a wonderful lamp, which would make him the most powerful man in the world. Though he alone knew
where to find it, he could only receive it from the hand of another. He had picked out the foolish Aladdin for this purpose,
intending to get the lamp and kill him afterwards.
For two days Aladdin remained in the dark, crying and lamenting. At last he clasped his hands in prayer, and in so doing
rubbed the ring, which the magician had forgotten to take from him. Immediately an enormous and frightful genie rose out of
the earth, saying:
"What wouldst thou with me? I am the Slave of the Ring, and will obey thee in all things."
Aladdin fearlessly replied: "Deliver me from this place!" whereupon the earth opened, and he found himself outside. As
soon as his eyes could bear the light he went home, but fainted on the threshold. When he came to himself he told his mother
what had passed, and showed her the lamp and the fruits he had gathered in the garden, which were in reality precious stones.
He then asked for some food.
"Alas! child," she said, "I have nothing in the house, but I have spun a little cotton and will go and sell it."
Aladdin bade her keep her cotton, for he would sell the lamp instead. As it was very dirty she began to rub it, that it
might fetch a higher price. Instantly a hideous genie appeared, and asked what she would have. She fainted away, but
Aladdin, snatching the lamp, said boldly:
"Fetch me something to eat!"
The genie returned with a silver bowl, twelve silver plates containing rich meats, two silver cups, and two bottles of
wine. Aladdin's mother, when she came to herself, said:
"Whence comes this splendid feast?"
"Ask not, but eat," replied Aladdin.
So they sat at breakfast till it was dinner-time, and Aladdin told his mother about the lamp. She begged him to sell it,
and have nothing to do with devils.
"No," said Aladdin, "since chance has made us aware of its virtues, we will use it and the ring likewise, which I shall
always wear on my finger." When they had eaten all the genie had brought, Aladdin sold one of the silver plates, and so on
till none were left. He then had recourse to the genie, who gave him another set of plates, and thus they lived for many
One day Aladdin heard an order from the Sultan proclaimed that everyone was to stay at home and close his shutters while
the princess, his daughter, went to and from the bath. Aladdin was seized by a desire to see her face, which was very
difficult, as she always went veiled. He hid himself behind the door of the bath, and peeped through a chink. The princess
lifted her veil as she went in, and looked so beautiful that Aladdin fell in love with her at first sight. He went home so
changed that his mother was frightened. He told her he loved the princess so deeply that he could not live without her, and
meant to ask her in marriage of her father. His mother, on hearing this, burst out laughing, but Aladdin at last prevailed
upon her to go before the Sultan and carry his request. She fetched a napkin and laid in it the magic fruits from the
enchanted garden, which sparkled and shone like the most beautiful jewels. She took these with her to please the Sultan, and
set out, trusting in the lamp. The grand-vizir and the lords of council had just gone in as she entered the hall and placed
herself in front of the Sultan. He, however, took no notice of her. She went every day for a week, and stood in the same
When the council broke up on the sixth day the Sultan said to his vizir: "I see a certain woman in the audience-chamber
every day carrying something in a napkin. Call her next time, that I may find out what she wants."
Next day, at a sign from the vizir, she went up to the foot of the throne, and remained kneeling till the Sultan said to
her: "Rise, good woman, and tell me what you want."
She hesitated, so the Sultan sent away all but the vizir, and bade her speak freely, promising to forgive her beforehand
for anything she might say. She then told him of her son's violent love for the princess.
"I prayed him to forget her," she said, "but in vain; he threatened to do some desperate deed if I refused to go and ask
your Majesty for the hand of the princess. Now I pray you to forgive not me alone, but my son Aladdin."
The Sultan asked her kindly what she had in the napkin, whereupon she unfolded the jewels and presented them.
He was thunderstruck, and turning to the vizir said: "What sayest thou? Ought I not to bestow the princess on one who
values her at such a price?"
The vizir, who wanted her for his own son, begged the Sultan to withhold her for three months, in the course of which he
hoped his son would contrive to make him a richer present. The Sultan granted this, and told Aladdin's mother that, though he
consented to the marriage, she must not appear before him again for three months.
Aladdin waited patiently for nearly three months, but after two had elapsed his mother, going into the city to buy oil,
found everyone rejoicing, and asked what was going on.
"Do you not know," was the answer, "that the son of the grand-vizir is to marry the Sultan's daughter to-night?"
Breathless, she ran and told Aladdin, who was overwhelmed at first, but presently bethought him of the lamp. He rubbed
it, and the genie appeared, saying: "What is thy will?"
Aladdin replied: "The Sultan, as thou knowest, has broken his promise to me, and the vizir's son is to have the princess.
My command is that to-night you bring hither the bride and bridegroom."
"Master, I obey," said the genie.
Aladdin then went to his chamber, where, sure enough at midnight the genie transported the bed containing the vizir's son
and the princess.
"Take this new-married man," he said, "and put him outside in the cold, and return at daybreak."
Whereupon the genie took the vizir's son out of bed, leaving Aladdin with the princess.
"Fear nothing," Aladdin said to her; "you are my wife, promised to me by your unjust father, and no harm shall come to
The princess was too frightened to speak, and passed the most miserable night of her life, while Aladdin lay down beside
her and slept soundly. At the appointed hour the genie fetched in the shivering bridegroom, laid him in his place, and
transported the bed back to the palace.
Presently the Sultan came to wish his daughter good-morning. The unhappy vizir's son jumped up and hid himself, while the
princess would not say a word, and was very sorrowful.
The Sultan sent her mother to her, who said: "How comes it, child, that you will not speak to your father? What has
The princess sighed deeply, and at last told her mother how, during the night, the bed had been carried into some strange
house, and what had passed there. Her mother did not believe her in the least, but bade her rise and consider it an idle
The following night exactly the same thing happened, and next morning, on the princess's refusing to speak, the Sultan
threatened to cut off her head. She then confessed all, bidding him ask the vizir's son if it were not so. The Sultan told
the vizir to ask his son, who owned the truth, adding that, dearly as he loved the princess, he had rather die than go through
another such fearful night, and wished to be separated from her. His wish was granted, and there was an end of feasting and
When the three months were over, Aladdin sent his mother to remind the Sultan of his promise. She stood in the same place
as before, and the Sultan, who had forgotten Aladdin, at once remembered him, and sent for her. On seeing her poverty the
Sultan felt less inclined than ever to keep his word, and asked the vizir's advice, who counselled him to set so high a value
on the princess that no man living could come up to it.
The Sultan then turned to Aladdin's mother, saying: "Good woman, a Sultan must remember his promises, and I will remember
mine, but your son must first send me forty basins of gold brimful of jewels, carried by forty black slaves, led by as many
white ones, splendidly dressed. Tell him that I await his answer." The mother of Aladdin bowed low and went home, thinking
all was lost.
She gave Aladdin the message, adding: "He may wait long enough for your answer!"
"Not so long, mother, as you think," her son replied "I would do a great deal more than that for the princess."
He summoned the genie, and in a few moments the eighty slaves arrived, and filled up the small house and garden.
Aladdin made them set out to the palace, two and two, followed by his mother. They were so richly dressed, with such
splendid jewels in their girdles, that everyone crowded to see them and the basins of gold they carried on their heads.
They entered the palace, and, after kneeling before the Sultan, stood in a half-circle round the throne with their arms
crossed, while Aladdin's mother presented them to the Sultan.
He hesitated no longer, but said: "Good woman, return and tell your son that I wait for him with open arms."
She lost no time in telling Aladdin, bidding him make haste. But Aladdin first called the genie.
"I want a scented bath," he said, "a richly embroidered habit, a horse surpassing the Sultan's, and twenty slaves to
attend me. Besides this, six slaves, beautifully dressed, to wait on my mother; and lastly, ten thousand pieces of gold in ten
No sooner said than done. Aladdin mounted his horse and passed through the streets, the slaves strewing gold as they
went. Those who had played with him in his childhood knew him not, he had grown so handsome.
When the Sultan saw him he came down from his throne, embraced him, and led him into a hall where a feast was spread,
intending to marry him to the princess that very day.
But Aladdin refused, saying, "I must build a palace fit for her," and took his leave.
Once home he said to the genie: "Build me a palace of the finest marble, set with jasper, agate, and other precious
stones. In the middle you shall build me a large hall with a dome, its four walls of massy gold and silver, each side having
six windows, whose lattices, all except one, which is to be left unfinished, must be set with diamonds and rubies. There must
be stables and horses and grooms and slaves; go and see about it!"
The palace was finished by next day, and the genie carried him there and showed him all his orders faithfully carried out,
even to the laying of a velvet carpet from Aladdin's palace to the Sultan's. Aladdin's mother then dressed herself carefully,
and walked to the palace with her slaves, while he followed her on horseback. The Sultan sent musicians with trumpets and
cymbals to meet them, so that the air resounded with music and cheers. She was taken to the princess, who saluted her and
treated her with great honour. At night the princess said good-bye to her father, and set out on the carpet for Aladdin's
palace, with his mother at her side, and followed by the hundred slaves. She was charmed at the sight of Aladdin, who ran to
"Princess," he said, "blame your beauty for my boldness if I have displeased you."
She told him that, having seen him, she willingly obeyed her father in this matter. After the wedding had taken place
Aladdin led her into the hall, where a feast was spread, and she supped with him, after which they danced till midnight.
Next day Aladdin invited the Sultan to see the palace. On entering the hall with the four-and-twenty windows, with their
rubies, diamonds, and emeralds, he cried:
"It is a world's wonder! There is only one thing that surprises me. Was it by accident that one window was left
"No, sir, by design," returned Aladdin. "I wished your Majesty to have the glory of finishing this palace."
The Sultan was pleased, and sent for the best jewelers in the city. He showed them the unfinished window, and bade them
fit it up like the others.
"Sir," replied their spokesman, "we cannot find jewels enough."
The Sultan had his own fetched, which they soon used, but to no purpose, for in a month's time the work was not half done.
Aladdin, knowing that their task was vain, bade them undo their work and carry the jewels back, and the genie finished the
window at his command. The Sultan was surprised to receive his jewels again and visited Aladdin, who showed him the window
finished. The Sultan embraced him, the envious vizir meanwhile hinting that it was the work of enchantment.
Aladdin had won the hearts of the people by his gentle bearing. He was made captain of the Sultan's armies, and won
several battles for him, but remained modest and courteous as before, and lived thus in peace and content for several years.
"New lamps for old!"
But far away in Africa the magician remembered Aladdin, and by his magic arts discovered that Aladdin, instead of
perishing miserably in the cave, had escaped, and had married a princess, with whom he was living in great honour and wealth.
He knew that the poor tailor's son could only have accomplished this by means of the lamp, and travelled night and day till he
reached the capital of China, bent on Aladdin's ruin. As he passed through the town he heard people talking everywhere about
a marvellous palace.
"Forgive my ignorance," he asked, "what is this palace you speak of?"
"Have you not heard of Prince Aladdin's palace," was the reply, "the greatest wonder of the world? I will direct you if
you have a mind to see it."
The magician thanked him who spoke, and having seen the palace knew that it had been raised by the genie of the lamp, and
became half mad with rage. He determined to get hold of the lamp, and again plunge Aladdin into the deepest poverty.
Unluckily, Aladdin had gone a-hunting for eight days, which gave the magician plenty of time. He bought a dozen copper
lamps, put them into a basket, and went to the palace, crying: "New lamps for old!" followed by a jeering crowd.
The princess, sitting in the hall of four-and-twenty windows, sent a slave to find out what the noise was about, who came
back laughing, so that the princess scolded her.
"Madam," replied the slave, "who can help laughing to see an old fool offering to exchange fine new lamps for old ones?"
Another slave, hearing this, said: "There is an old one on the cornice there which he can have."
Now this was the magic lamp, which Aladdin had left there, as he could not take it out hunting with him. The princess,
not knowing its value, laughingly bade the slave take it and make the exchange.
She went and said to the magician: "Give me a new lamp for this."
He snatched it and bade the slave take her choice, amid the jeers of the crowd. Little he cared, but left off crying his
lamps, and went out of the city gates to a lonely place, where he remained till nightfall, when he pulled out the lamp and
rubbed it. The genie appeared, and at the magician's command carried him, together with the palace and the princess in it, to
a lonely place in Africa.
Next morning the Sultan looked out of the window towards Aladdin's palace and rubbed his eyes, for it was gone. He sent
for the vizir, and asked what had become of the palace. The vizir looked out too, and was lost in astonishment. He again put
it down to enchantment, and this time the Sultan believed him, and sent thirty men on horseback to fetch Aladdin in chains.
They met him riding home, bound him, and forced him to go with them on foot. The people, however, who loved him, followed,
armed, to see that he came to no harm. He was carried before the Sultan, who ordered the executioner to cut off his head. The
executioner made Aladdin kneel down, bandaged his eyes, and raised his scimitar to strike.
At that instant the vizir, who saw that the crowd had forced their way into the courtyard and were scaling the walls to
rescue Aladdin, called to the executioner to stay his hand. The people, indeed, looked so threatening that the Sultan gave
way and ordered Aladdin to be unbound, and pardoned him in the sight of the crowd.
Aladdin now begged to know what he had done.
"False wretch!" said the Sultan, "come hither," and showed him from the window the place where his palace had stood.
Aladdin was so amazed that he could not say a word.
"Where is my palace and my daughter?" demanded the Sultan. "For the first I am not so deeply concerned, but my daughter I
must have, and you must find her or lose your head."
Aladdin begged for forty days in which to find her, promising if he failed to return and suffer death at the Sultan's
pleasure. His prayer was granted, and he went forth sadly from the Sultan's presence. For three days he wandered about like a
madman, asking everyone what had become of his palace, but they only laughed and pitied him. He came to the banks of a river,
and knelt down to say his prayers before throwing himself in. In so doing he rubbed the magic ring he still wore.
The genie he had seen in the cave appeared, and asked his will.
"Save my life, genie," said Aladdin, "and bring my palace back."
"That is not in my power," said the genie; "I am only the slave of the ring; you must ask the slave of the lamp."
"Even so," said Aladdin "but thou canst take me to the palace, and set me down under my dear wife's window." He at once
found himself in Africa, under the window of the princess, and fell asleep out of sheer weariness.
He was awakened by the singing of the birds, and his heart was lighter. He saw plainly that all his misfortunes were owing
to the loss of the lamp, and vainly wondered who had robbed him of it.
That morning the princess rose earlier than she had done since she had been carried into Africa by the magician, whose
company she was forced to endure once a day. She, however, treated him so harshly that he dared not live there altogether.
As she was dressing, one of her women looked out and saw Aladdin. The princess ran and opened the window, and at the noise
she made Aladdin looked up. She called to him to come to her, and great was the joy of these lovers at seeing each other
After he had kissed her Aladdin said: "I beg of you, Princess, in God's name, before we speak of anything else, for your
own sake and mine, tell me what has become of an old lamp I left on the cornice in the hall of four-and-twenty windows, when I
"Alas!" she said "I am the innocent cause of our sorrows," and told him of the exchange of the lamp.
"Now I know," cried Aladdin, "that we have to thank the African magician for this! Where is the lamp?"
"He carries it about with him," said the princess, "I know, for he pulled it out of his breast to show me. He wishes me
to break my faith with you and marry him, saying that you were beheaded by my father's command. He is forever speaking ill of
you, but I only reply by my tears. If I persist, I doubt not that he will use violence."
Aladdin comforted her, and left her for a while. He changed clothes with the first person he met in the town, and having
bought a certain powder returned to the princess, who let him in by a little side door.
"Put on your most beautiful dress," he said to her, "and receive the magician with smiles, leading him to believe that you
have forgotten me. Invite him to sup with you, and say you wish to taste the wine of his country. He will go for some, and
while he is gone I will tell you what to do."
She listened carefully to Aladdin, and when he left her arrayed herself gaily for the first time since she left China.
She put on a girdle and head-dress of diamonds, and seeing in a glass that she looked more beautiful than ever, received the
magician, saying to his great amazement: "I have made up my mind that Aladdin is dead, and that all my tears will not bring
him back to me, so I am resolved to mourn no more, and have therefore invited you to sup with me; but I am tired of the wines
of China, and would fain taste those of Africa."
The magician flew to his cellar, and the princess put the powder Aladdin had given her in her cup. When he returned she
asked him to drink her health in the wine of Africa, handing him her cup in exchange for his as a sign she was reconciled to
Before drinking the magician made her a speech in praise of her beauty, but the princess cut him short saying:
"Let me drink first, and you shall say what you will afterwards." She set her cup to her lips and kept it there, while the
magician drained his to the dregs and fell back lifeless.
The princess then opened the door to Aladdin, and flung her arms round his neck, but Aladdin put her away, bidding her to
leave him, as he had more to do. He then went to the dead magician, took the lamp out of his vest, and bade the genie carry
the palace and all in it back to China. This was done, and the princess in her chamber only felt two little shocks, and
little thought she was at home again.
The Sultan, who was sitting in his closet, mourning for his lost daughter, happened to look up, and rubbed his eyes, for
there stood the palace as before! He hastened thither, and Aladdin received him in the hall of the four-and-twenty windows,
with the princess at his side. Aladdin told him what had happened, and showed him the dead body of the magician, that he
might believe. A ten days' feast was proclaimed, and it seemed as if Aladdin might now live the rest of his life in peace; but
it was not to be.
The African magician had a younger brother, who was, if possible, more wicked and more cunning than himself. He travelled
to China to avenge his brother's death, and went to visit a pious woman called Fatima, thinking she might be of use to him.
He entered her cell and clapped a dagger to her breast, telling her to rise and do his bidding on pain of death. He changed
clothes with her, coloured his face like hers, put on her veil and murdered her, that she might tell no tales. Then he went
towards the palace of Aladdin, and all the people thinking he was the holy woman, gathered round him, kissing his hands and
begging his blessing. When he got to the palace there was such a noise going on round him that the princess bade her slave
look out of the window and ask what was the matter. The slave said it was the holy woman, curing people by her touch of their
ailments, whereupon the princess, who had long desired to see Fatima, sent for her. On coming to the princess the magician
offered up a prayer for her health and prosperity. When he had done the princess made him sit by her, and begged him to stay
with her always. The false Fatima, who wished for nothing better, consented, but kept his veil down for fear of discovery.
The princess showed him the hall, and asked him what he thought of it.
"It is truly beautiful," said the false Fatima. "In my mind it wants but one thing."
"And what is that?" said the princess.
"If only a roc's egg," replied he, "were hung up from the middle of this dome, it would be the wonder of the world."
After this the princess could think of nothing but a roc's egg, and when Aladdin returned from hunting he found her in a
very ill humour. He begged to know what was amiss, and she told him that all her pleasure in the hall was spoilt for the want
of a roc's egg hanging from the dome.
"It that is all," replied Aladdin, "you shall soon be happy."
He left her and rubbed the lamp, and when the genie appeared commanded him to bring a roc's egg. The genie gave such a
loud and terrible shriek that the hall shook.
"Wretch!" he cried, "is it not enough that I have done everything for you, but you must command me to bring my master and
hang him up in the midst of this dome? You and your wife and your palace deserve to be burnt to ashes; but this request does
not come from you, but from the brother of the African magician whom you destroyed. He is now in your palace disguised as the
holy woman--whom he murdered. He it was who put that wish into your wife's head. Take care of yourself, for he means to kill
you." So saying the genie disappeared.
Aladdin went back to the princess, saying his head ached, and requesting that the holy Fatima should be fetched to lay her
hands on it. But when the magician came near, Aladdin, seizing his dagger, pierced him to the heart.
"What have you done?" cried the princess. "You have killed the holy woman!"
"Not so," replied Aladdin, "but a wicked magician," and told her of how she had been deceived.
After this Aladdin and his wife lived in peace. He succeeded the Sultan when he died, and reigned for many years, leaving
behind him a long line of kings.
The Adventures of Haroun-al-Raschid, Caliph of Bagdad
The Caliph Haroun-al-Raschid sat in his palace, wondering if there was anything left in the world that could possibly give
him a few hours' amusement, when Giafar the grand-vizir, his old and tried friend, suddenly appeared before him. Bowing low,
he waited, as was his duty, till his master spoke, but Haroun-al-Raschid merely turned his head and looked at him, and sank
back into his former weary posture.
Now Giafar had something of importance to say to the Caliph, and had no intention of being put off by mere silence, so
with another low bow in front of the throne, he began to speak.
"Commander of the Faithful," said he, "I have taken on myself to remind your Highness that you have undertaken secretly to
observe for yourself the manner in which justice is done and order is kept throughout the city. This is the day you have set
apart to devote to this object, and perhaps in fulfilling this duty you may find some distraction from the melancholy to
which, as I see to my sorrow, you are a prey."
"You are right," returned the Caliph, "I had forgotten all about it. Go and change your coat, and I will change mine."
A few moments later they both re-entered the hall, disguised as foreign merchants, and passed through a secret door, out
into the open country. Here they turned towards the Euphrates, and crossing the river in a small boat, walked through that
part of the town which lay along the further bank, without seeing anything to call for their interference. Much pleased with
the peace and good order of the city, the Caliph and his vizir made their way to a bridge, which led straight back to the
palace, and had already crossed it, when they were stopped by an old and blind man, who begged for alms.
The Caliph gave him a piece of money, and was passing on, but the blind man seized his hand, and held him fast.
"Charitable person," he said, "whoever you may be grant me yet another prayer. Strike me, I beg of you, one blow. I have
deserved it richly, and even a more severe penalty."
The Caliph, much surprised at this request, replied gently: "My good man, that which you ask is impossible. Of what use
would my alms be if I treated you so ill?" And as he spoke he tried to loosen the grasp of the blind beggar.
"My lord," answered the man, "pardon my boldness and my persistence. Take back your money, or give me the blow which I
crave. I have sworn a solemn oath that I will receive nothing without receiving chastisement, and if you knew all, you would
feel that the punishment is not a tenth part of what I deserve."
Moved by these words, and perhaps still more by the fact that he had other business to attend to, the Caliph yielded, and
struck him lightly on the shoulder. Then he continued his road, followed by the blessing of the blind man. When they were
out of earshot, he said to the vizir, "There must be something very odd to make that man act so--I should like to find out
what is the reason. Go back to him; tell him who I am, and order him to come without fail to the palace to-morrow, after the
hour of evening prayer."
So the grand-vizir went back to the bridge; gave the blind beggar first a piece of money and then a blow, delivered the
Caliph's message, and rejoined his master.
They passed on towards the palace, but walking through a square, they came upon a crowd watching a young and well-dressed
man who was urging a horse at full speed round the open space, using at the same time his spurs and whip so unmercifully that
the animal was all covered with foam and blood. The Caliph, astonished at this proceeding, inquired of a passer-by what it
all meant, but no one could tell him anything, except that every day at the same hour the same thing took place.
Still wondering, he passed on, and for the moment had to content himself with telling the vizir to command the horseman
also to appear before him at the same time as the blind man.
The next day, after evening prayer, the Caliph entered the hall, and was followed by the vizir bringing with him the two
men of whom we have spoken, and a third, with whom we have nothing to do. They all bowed themselves low before the throne and
then the Caliph bade them rise, and ask the blind man his name.
"Baba-Abdalla, your Highness," said he.
"Baba-Abdalla," returned the Caliph, "your way of asking alms yesterday seemed to me so strange, that I almost commanded
you then and there to cease from causing such a public scandal. But I have sent for you to inquire what was your motive in
making such a curious vow. When I know the reason I shall be able to judge whether you can be permitted to continue to
practise it, for I cannot help thinking that it sets a very bad example to others. Tell me therefore the whole truth, and
These words troubled the heart of Baba-Abdalla, who prostrated himself at the feet of the Caliph. Then rising, he
answered: "Commander of the Faithful, I crave your pardon humbly, for my persistence in beseeching your Highness to do an
action which appears on the face of it to be without any meaning. No doubt, in the eyes of men, it has none; but I look on it
as a slight expiation for a fearful sin of which I have been guilty, and if your Highness will deign to listen to my tale, you
will see that no punishment could atone for the crime."
Story of the Blind Baba-Abdalla
I was born, Commander of the Faithful, in Bagdad, and was left an orphan while I was yet a very young man, for my parents
died within a few days of each other. I had inherited from them a small fortune, which I worked hard night and day to
increase, till at last I found myself the owner of eighty camels. These I hired out to travelling merchants, whom I
frequently accompanied on their various journeys, and always returned with large profits.
One day I was coming back from Balsora, whither I had taken a supply of goods, intended for India, and halted at noon in a
lonely place, which promised rich pasture for my camels. I was resting in the shade under a tree, when a dervish, going on
foot towards Balsora, sat down by my side, and I inquired whence he had come and to what place he was going. We soon made
friends, and after we had asked each other the usual questions, we produced the food we had with us, and satisfied our hunger.
While we were eating, the dervish happened to mention that in a spot only a little way off from where we were sitting,
there was hidden a treasure so great that if my eighty camels were loaded till they could carry no more, the hiding place
would seem as full as if it had never been touched.
At this news I became almost beside myself with joy and greed, and I flung my arms round the neck of the dervish,
exclaiming: "Good dervish, I see plainly that the riches of this world are nothing to you, therefore of what use is the
knowledge of this treasure to you? Alone and on foot, you could carry away a mere handful. But tell me where it is, and I
will load my eighty camels with it, and give you one of them as a token of my gratitude."
Certainly my offer does not sound very magnificent, but it was great to me, for at his words a wave of covetousness had
swept over my heart, and I almost felt as if the seventy-nine camels that were left were nothing in comparison.
The dervish saw quite well what was passing in my mind, but he did not show what he thought of my proposal.
"My brother," he answered quietly, "you know as well as I do, that you are behaving unjustly. It was open to me to keep
my secret, and to reserve the treasure for myself. But the fact that I have told you of its existence shows that I had
confidence in you, and that I hoped to earn your gratitude for ever, by making your fortune as well as mine. But before I
reveal to you the secret of the treasure, you must swear that, after we have loaded the camels with as much as they can carry,
you will give half to me, and let us go our own ways. I think you will see that this is fair, for if you present me with
forty camels, I on my side will give you the means of buying a thousand more."
I could not of course deny that what the dervish said was perfectly reasonable, but, in spite of that, the thought that
the dervish would be as rich as I was unbearable to me. Still there was no use in discussing the matter, and I had to accept
his conditions or bewail to the end of my life the loss of immense wealth. So I collected my camels and we set out together
under the guidance of the dervish. After walking some time, we reached what looked like a valley, but with such a narrow
entrance that my camels could only pass one by one. The little valley, or open space, was shut up by two mountains, whose
sides were formed of straight cliffs, which no human being could climb.
When we were exactly between these mountains the dervish stopped.
"Make your camels lie down in this open space," he said, "so that we can easily load them; then we will go to the
I did what I was bid, and rejoined the dervish, whom I found trying to kindle a fire out of some dry wood. As soon as it
was alight, he threw on it a handful of perfumes, and pronounced a few words that I did not understand, and immediately a
thick column of smoke rose high into the air. He separated the smoke into two columns, and then I saw a rock, which stood
like a pillar between the two mountains, slowly open, and a splendid palace appear within.
But, Commander of the Faithful, the love of gold had taken such possession of my heart, that I could not even stop to
examine the riches, but fell upon the first pile of gold within my reach and began to heap it into a sack that I had brought
The dervish likewise set to work, but I soon noticed that he confined himself to collecting precious stones, and I felt I
should be wise to follow his example. At length the camels were loaded with as much as they could carry, and nothing remained
but to seal up the treasure, and go our ways.
Before, however, this was done, the dervish went up to a great golden vase, beautifully chased, and took from it a small
wooden box, which he hid in the bosom of his dress, merely saying that it contained a special kind of ointment. Then he once
more kindled the fire, threw on the perfume, and murmured the unknown spell, and the rock closed, and stood whole as before.
The next thing was to divide the camels, and to charge them with the treasure, after which we each took command of our own
and marched out of the valley, till we reached the place in the high road where the routes diverge, and then we parted, the
dervish going towards Balsora, and I to Bagdad. We embraced each other tenderly, and I poured out my gratitude for the honour
he had done me, in singling me out for this great wealth, and having said a hearty farewell we turned our backs, and hastened
after our camels.
I had hardly come up with mine when the demon of envy filled my soul. "What does a dervish want with riches like that?" I
said to myself. "He alone has the secret of the treasure, and can always get as much as he wants," and I halted my camels by
the roadside, and ran back after him.
I was a quick runner, and it did not take me very long to come up with him. "My brother," I exclaimed, as soon as I could
speak, "almost at the moment of our leave-taking, a reflection occurred to me, which is perhaps new to you. You are a dervish
by profession, and live a very quiet life, only caring to do good, and careless of the things of this world. You do not
realise the burden that you lay upon yourself, when you gather into your hands such great wealth, besides the fact that no
one, who is not accustomed to camels from his birth, can ever manage the stubborn beasts. If you are wise, you will not
encumber yourself with more than thirty, and you will find those trouble enough."
"You are right," replied the dervish, who understood me quite well, but did not wish to fight the matter. "I confess I
had not thought about it. Choose any ten you like, and drive them before you."
I selected ten of the best camels, and we proceeded along the road, to rejoin those I had left behind. I had got what I
wanted, but I had found the dervish so easy to deal with, that I rather regretted I had not asked for ten more. I looked
back. He had only gone a few paces, and I called after him.
"My brother," I said, "I am unwilling to part from you without pointing out what I think you scarcely grasp, that large
experience of camel-driving is necessary to anybody who intends to keep together a troop of thirty. In your own interest, I
feel sure you would be much happier if you entrusted ten more of them to me, for with my practice it is all one to me if I
take two or a hundred."
As before, the dervish made no difficulties, and I drove off my ten camels in triumph, only leaving him with twenty for
his share. I had now sixty, and anyone might have imagined that I should be content.
But, Commander of the Faithful, there is a proverb that says, "the more one has, the more one wants." So it was with me.
I could not rest as long as one solitary camel remained to the dervish; and returning to him I redoubled my prayers and
embraces, and promises of eternal gratitude, till the last twenty were in my hands.
"Make a good use of them, my brother," said the holy man. "Remember riches sometimes have wings if we keep them for
ourselves, and the poor are at our gates expressly that we may help them."
My eyes were so blinded by gold, that I paid no heed to his wise counsel, and only looked about for something else to
grasp. Suddenly I remembered the little box of ointment that the dervish had hidden, and which most likely contained a
treasure more precious than all the rest. Giving him one last embrace, I observed accidentally, "What are you going to do
with that little box of ointment? It seems hardly worth taking with you; you might as well let me have it. And really, a
dervish who has given up the world has no need of ointment!"
Oh, if he had only refused my request! But then, supposing he had, I should have got possession of it by force, so great
was the madness that had laid hold upon me. However, far from refusing it, the dervish at once held it out, saying
gracefully, "Take it, my friend, and if there is anything else I can do to make you happy you must let me know."
Directly the box was in my hands I wrenched off the cover. "As you are so kind," I said, "tell me, I pray you, what are
the virtues of this ointment?"
"They are most curious and interesting," replied the dervish. "If you apply a little of it to your left eye you will
behold in an instant all the treasures hidden in the bowels of the earth. But beware lest you touch your right eye with it, or
your sight will be destroyed for ever."
His words excited my curiosity to the highest pitch. "Make trial on me, I implore you," I cried, holding out the box to
the dervish. "You will know how to do it better than I! I am burning with impatience to test its charms."
The dervish took the box I had extended to him, and, bidding me shut my left eye, touched it gently with the ointment.
When I opened it again I saw spread out, as it were before me, treasures of every kind and without number. But as all this
time I had been obliged to keep my right eye closed, which was very fatiguing, I begged the dervish to apply the ointment to
that eye also.
"If you insist upon it I will do it," answered the dervish, "but you must remember what I told you just now--that if it
touches your right eye you will become blind on the spot."
Unluckily, in spite of my having proved the truth of the dervish's words in so many instances, I was firmly convinced that
he was now keeping concealed from me some hidden and precious virtue of the ointment. So I turned a deaf ear to all he said.
"My brother," I replied smiling, "I see you are joking. It is not natural that the same ointment should have two such
exactly opposite effects."
"It is true all the same," answered the dervish, "and it would be well for you if you believed my word."
But I would not believe, and, dazzled by the greed of avarice, I thought that if one eye could show me riches, the other
might teach me how to get possession of them. And I continued to press the dervish to anoint my right eye, but this he
resolutely declined to do.
"After having conferred such benefits on you," said he, "I am loth indeed to work you such evil. Think what it is to be
blind, and do not force me to do what you will repent as long as you live."
It was of no use. "My brother," I said firmly, "pray say no more, but do what I ask. You have most generously responded
to my wishes up to this time, do not spoil my recollection of you for a thing of such little consequence. Let what will
happen I take it on my own head, and will never reproach you."
"Since you are determined upon it," he answered with a sigh, "there is no use talking," and taking the ointment he laid
some on my right eye, which was tight shut. When I tried to open it heavy clouds of darkness floated before me. I was as
blind as you see me now!
"Miserable dervish!" I shrieked, "so it is true after all! Into what a bottomless pit has my lust after gold plunged me.
Ah, now that my eyes are closed they are really opened. I know that all my sufferings are caused by myself alone! But, good
brother, you, who are so kind and charitable, and know the secrets of such vast learning, have you nothing that will give me
back my sight?"
"Unhappy man," replied the dervish, "it is not my fault that this has befallen you, but it is a just chastisement. The
blindness of your heart has wrought the blindness of your body. Yes, I have secrets; that you have seen in the short time
that we have known each other. But I have none that will give you back your sight. You have proved yourself unworthy of the
riches that were given you. Now they have passed into my hands, whence they will flow into the hands of others less greedy
and ungrateful than you."
The dervish said no more and left me, speechless with shame and confusion, and so wretched that I stood rooted to the
spot, while he collected the eighty camels and proceeded on his way to Balsora. It was in vain that I entreated him not to
leave me, but at least to take me within reach of the first passing caravan. He was deaf to my prayers and cries, and I should
soon have been dead of hunger and misery if some merchants had not come along the track the following day and kindly brought
me back to Bagdad.
From a rich man I had in one moment become a beggar; and up to this time I have lived solely on the alms that have been
bestowed on me. But, in order to expiate the sin of avarice, which was my undoing, I oblige each passer-by to give me a blow.
This, Commander of the Faithful, is my story.
When the blind man had ended the Caliph addressed him: "Baba-Abdalla, truly your sin is great, but you have suffered
enough. Henceforth repent in private, for I will see that enough money is given you day by day for all your wants."
At these words Baba-Abdalla flung himself at the Caliph's feet, and prayed that honour and happiness might be his portion
The Story of Sidi-Nouman
The Caliph, Haroun-al-Raschid, was much pleased with the tale of the blind man and the dervish, and when it was finished
he turned to the young man who had ill-treated his horse, and inquired his name also. The young man replied that he was
"Sidi-Nouman," observed the Caliph, "I have seen horses broken all my life long, and have even broken them myself, but I
have never seen any horse broken in such a barbarous manner as by you yesterday. Every one who looked on was indignant, and
blamed you loudly. As for myself, I was so angry that I was very nearly disclosing who I was, and putting a stop to it at
once. Still, you have not the air of a cruel man, and I would gladly believe that you did not act in this way without some
reason. As I am told that it was not the first time, and indeed that every day you are to be seen flogging and spurring your
horse, I wish to come to the bottom of the matter. But tell me the whole truth, and conceal nothing."
Sidi-Nouman changed colour as he heard these words, and his manner grew confused; but he saw plainly that there was no
help for it. So he prostrated himself before the throne of the Caliph and tried to obey, but the words stuck in his throat,
and he remained silent.
The Caliph, accustomed though he was to instant obedience, guessed something of what was passing in the young man's mind,
and sought to put him at his ease. "Sidi-Nouman," he said, "do not think of me as the Caliph, but merely as a friend who
would like to hear your story. If there is anything in it that you are afraid may offend me, take courage, for I pardon you
beforehand. Speak then openly and without fear, as to one who knows and loves you."
Reassured by the kindness of the Caliph, Sidi-Nouman at length began his tale.
"Commander of the Faithful," said he, "dazzled though I am by the lustre of your Highness' presence, I will do my best to
satisfy your wishes. I am by no means perfect, but I am not naturally cruel, neither do I take pleasure in breaking the law.
I admit that the treatment of my horse is calculated to give your Highness a bad opinion of me, and to set an evil example to
others; yet I have not chastised it without reason, and I have hopes that I shall be judged more worthy of pity than
Commander of the Faithful, I will not trouble to describe my birth; it is not of sufficient distinction to deserve your
Highness' attention. My ancestors were careful people, and I inherited enough money to enable me to live comfortably, though
Having therefore a modest fortune, the only thing wanting to my happiness was a wife who could return my affection, but
this blessing I was not destined to get; for on the very day after my marriage, my bride began to try my patience in every way
that was most hard to bear.
Now, seeing that the customs of our land oblige us to marry without ever beholding the person with whom we are to pass our
lives, a man has of course no right to complain as long as his wife is not absolutely repulsive, or is not positively
deformed. And whatever defects her body may have, pleasant ways and good behaviour will go far to remedy them.
The first time I saw my wife unveiled, when she had been brought to my house with the usual ceremonies, I was enchanted to
find that I had not been deceived in regard to the account that had been given me of her beauty. I began my married life in
high spirits, and the best hopes of happiness.
The following day a grand dinner was served to us but as my wife did not appear, I ordered a servant to call her. Still
she did not come, and I waited impatiently for some time. At last she entered the room, and she took our places at the table,
and plates of rice were set before us.
I ate mine, as was natural, with a spoon, but great was my surprise to notice that my wife, instead of doing the same,
drew from her pocket a little case, from which she selected a long pin, and by the help of this pin conveyed her rice grain by
grain to her mouth.
"Amina," I exclaimed in astonishment, "is that the way you eat rice at home? And did you do it because your appetite was
so small, or did you wish to count the grains so that you might never eat more than a certain number? If it was from economy,
and you are anxious to teach me not to be wasteful, you have no cause for alarm. We shall never ruin ourselves in that way!
Our fortune is large enough for all our needs, therefore, dear Amina, do not seek to check yourself, but eat as much as you
desire, as I do!"
In reply to my affectionate words, I expected a cheerful answer; yet Amina said nothing at all, but continued to pick her
rice as before, only at longer and longer intervals. And, instead of trying the other dishes, all she did was to put every
now and then a crumb, of bread into her mouth, that would not have made a meal for a sparrow.
I felt provoked by her obstinacy, but to excuse her to myself as far as I could, I suggested that perhaps she had never
been used to eat in the company of men, and that her family might have taught her that she ought to behave prudently and
discreetly in the presence of her husband. Likewise that she might either have dined already or intend to do so in her own
apartments. So I took no further notice, and when I had finished left the room, secretly much vexed at her strange conduct.
The same thing occurred at supper, and all through the next day, whenever we ate together. It was quite clear that no
woman could live upon two or three bread-crumbs and a few grains of rice, and I determined to find out how and when she got
food. I pretended not to pay attention to anything she did, in the hope that little by little she would get accustomed to me,
and become more friendly; but I soon saw that my expectations were quite vain.
One night I was lying with my eyes closed, and to, all appearance sound asleep, when Amina arose softly, and dressed
herself without making the slightest sound. I could not imagine what she was going to do, and as my curiosity was great I
made up my mind to follow her. When she was fully dressed, she stole quietly from the room.
The instant she had let the curtain fall behind her, I flung a garment on my shoulders and a pair of slippers on my feet.
Looking from a lattice which opened into the court, I saw her in the act of passing through the street door, which she
carefully left open.
It was bright moonlight, so I easily managed to keep her in sight, till she entered a cemetery not far from the house.
There I hid myself under the shadow of the wall, and crouched down cautiously; and hardly was I concealed, when I saw my wife
approaching in company with a ghoul--one of those demons which, as your Highness is aware, wander about the country making
their lairs in deserted buildings and springing out upon unwary travellers whose flesh they eat. If no live being goes their
way, they then betake themselves to the cemeteries, and feed upon the dead bodies.
I was nearly struck dumb with horror on seeing my wife with this hideous female ghoul. They passed by me without noticing
me, began to dig up a corpse which had been buried that day, and then sat down on the edge of the grave, to enjoy their
frightful repast, talking quietly and cheerfully all the while, though I was too far off to hear what they said. When they
had finished, they threw back the body into the grave, and heaped back the earth upon it. I made no effort to disturb them,
and returned quickly to the house, when I took care to leave the door open, as I had previously found it. Then I got back into
bed, and pretended to sleep soundly.
A short time after Amina entered as quietly as she had gone out. She undressed and stole into bed, congratulating herself
apparently on the cleverness with which she had managed her expedition.
As may be guessed, after such a scene it was long before I could close my eyes, and at the first sound which called the
faithful to prayer, I put on my clothes and went to the mosque. But even prayer did not restore peace to my troubled spirit,
and I could not face my wife until I had made up my mind what future course I should pursue in regard to her. I therefore
spent the morning roaming about from one garden to another, turning over various plans for compelling my wife to give up her
horrible ways; I thought of using violence to make her submit, but felt reluctant to be unkind to her. Besides, I had an
instinct that gentle means had the best chance of success; so, a little soothed, I turned towards home, which I reached about
the hour of dinner.
As soon as I appeared, Amina ordered dinner to be served, and we sat down together. As usual, she persisted in only
picking a few grains of rice, and I resolved to speak to her at once of what lay so heavily on my heart.
"Amina," I said, as quietly as possible, "you must have guessed the surprise I felt, when the day after our marriage you
declined to eat anything but a few morsels of rice, and altogether behaved in such a manner that most husbands would have been
deeply wounded. However I had patience with you, and only tried to tempt your appetite by the choicest dishes I could invent,
but all to no purpose. Still, Amina, it seems to me that there be some among them as sweet to the taste as the flesh of a
I had no sooner uttered these words than Amina, who instantly understood that I had followed her to the grave-yard, was
seized with a passion beyond any that I have ever witnessed. Her face became purple, her eyes looked as if they would start
from her head, and she positively foamed with rage.
I watched her with terror, wondering what would happen next, but little thinking what would be the end of her fury. She
seized a vessel of water that stood at hand, and plunging her hand in it, murmured some words I failed to catch. Then,
sprinkling it on my face, she cried madly:
"Wretch, receive the reward of your prying, and become a dog."
The words were not out of her mouth when, without feeling conscious that any change was passing over me, I suddenly knew
that I had ceased to be a man. In the greatness of the shock and surprise--for I had no idea that Amina was a magician--I
never dreamed of running away, and stood rooted to the spot, while Amina grasped a stick and began to beat me. Indeed her
blows were so heavy, that I only wonder they did not kill me at once. However they succeeded in rousing me from my stupor,
and I dashed into the court-yard, followed closely by Amina, who made frantic dives at me, which I was not quick enough to
dodge. At last she got tired of pursuing me, or else a new trick entered into her head, which would give me speedy and painful
death; she opened the gate leading into the street, intending to crush me as I passed through. Dog though I was, I saw
through her design, and stung into presence of mind by the greatness of the danger, I timed my movements so well that I
contrived to rush through, and only the tip of my tail received a squeeze as she banged the gate.
I was safe, but my tail hurt me horribly, and I yelped and howled so loud all along the streets, that the other dogs came
and attacked me, which made matters no better. In order to avoid them, I took refuge in a cookshop, where tongues and sheep's
heads were sold.
At first the owner showed me great kindness, and drove away the other dogs that were still at my heels, while I crept into
the darkest corner. But though I was safe for the moment, I was not destined to remain long under his protection, for he was
one of those who hold all dogs to be unclean, and that all the washing in the world will hardly purify you from their contact.
So after my enemies had gone to seek other prey, he tried to lure me from my corner in order to force me into the street. But
I refused to come out of my hole, and spent the night in sleep, which I sorely needed, after the pain inflicted on me by
I have no wish to weary your Highness by dwelling on the sad thoughts which accompanied my change of shape, but it may
interest you to hear that the next morning my host went out early to do his marketing, and returned laden with the sheep's
heads, and tongues and trotters that formed his stock in trade for the day. The smell of meat attracted various hungry dogs
in the neighbourhood, and they gathered round the door begging for some bits. I stole out of my corner, and stood with them.
In spite of his objection to dogs, as unclean animals, my protector was a kind-hearted man, and knowing I had eaten
nothing since yesterday, he threw me bigger and better bits than those which fell to the share of the other dogs. When I had
finished, I tried to go back into the shop, but this he would not allow, and stood so firmly at the entrance with a stout
stick, that I was forced to give it up, and seek some other home.
A few paces further on was a baker's shop, which seemed to have a gay and merry man for a master. At that moment he was
having his breakfast, and though I gave no signs of hunger, he at once threw me a piece of bread. Before gobbling it up, as
most dogs are in the habit of doing, I bowed my head and wagged my tail, in token of thanks, and he understood, and smiled
pleasantly. I really did not want the bread at all, but felt it would be ungracious to refuse, so I ate it slowly, in order
that he might see that I only did it out of politeness. He understood this also, and seemed quite willing to let me stay in
his shop, so I sat down, with my face to the door, to show that I only asked his protection. This he gave me, and indeed
encouraged me to come into the house itself, giving me a corner where I might sleep, without being in anybody's way.
The kindness heaped on me by this excellent man was far greater than I could ever have expected. He was always
affectionate in his manner of treating me, and I shared his breakfast, dinner and supper, while, on my side, I gave him all
the gratitude and attachment to which he had a right.
I sat with my eyes fixed on him, and he never left the house without having me at his heels; and if it ever happened that
when he was preparing to go out I was asleep, and did not notice, he would call "Rufus, Rufus," for that was the name he gave
Some weeks passed in this way, when one day a woman came in to buy bread. In paying for it, she laid down several pieces
of money, one of which was bad. The baker perceived this, and declined to take it, demanding another in its place. The
woman, for her part, refused to take it back, declaring it was perfectly good, but the baker would have nothing to do with it.
"It is really such a bad imitation," he exclaimed at last, "that even my dog would not be taken in. Here Rufus! Rufus!" and
hearing his voice, I jumped on to the counter. The baker threw down the money before me, and said, "Find out if there is a bad
coin." I looked at each in turn, and then laid my paw on the false one, glancing at the same time at my master, so as to
point it out.
The baker, who had of course been only in joke, was exceedingly surprised at my cleverness, and the woman, who was at last
convinced that the man spoke the truth, produced another piece of money in its place. When she had gone, my master was so
pleased that he told all the neighbours what I had done, and made a great deal more of it than there really was.
The neighbours, very naturally, declined to believe his story, and tried me several times with all the bad money they
could collect together, but I never failed to stand the test triumphantly.
Soon, the shop was filled from morning till night, with people who on the pretence of buying bread came to see if I was as
clever as I was reported to be. The baker drove a roaring trade, and admitted that I was worth my weight in gold to him.
Of course there were plenty who envied him his large custom, and many was the pitfall set for me, so that he never dared
to let me out of his sight. One day a woman, who had not been in the shop before, came to ask for bread, like the rest. As
usual, I was lying on the counter, and she threw down six coins before me, one of which was false. I detected it at once, and
put my paw on it, looking as I did so at the woman. "Yes," she said, nodding her head. "You are quite right, that is the
one." She stood gazing at me attentively for some time, then paid for the bread, and left the shop, making a sign for me to
follow her secretly.
Now my thoughts were always running on some means of shaking off the spell laid on me, and noticing the way in which this
woman had looked at me, the idea entered my head that perhaps she might have guessed what had happened, and in this I was not
deceived. However I let her go on a little way, and merely stood at the door watching her. She turned, and seeing that I was
quite still, she again beckoned to me.
The baker all this while was busy with his oven, and had forgotten all about me, so I stole out softly, and ran after the
When we came to her house, which was some distance off, she opened the door and then said to me, "Come in, come in; you
will never be sorry that you followed me." When I had entered she fastened the door, and took me into a large room, where a
beautiful girl was working at a piece of embroidery. "My daughter," exclaimed my guide, "I have brought you the famous dog
belonging to the baker which can tell good money from bad. You know that when I first heard of him, I told you I was sure he
must be really a man, changed into a dog by magic. To-day I went to the baker's, to prove for myself the truth of the story,
and persuaded the dog to follow me here. Now what do you say?"
"You are right, mother," replied the girl, and rising she dipped her hand into a vessel of water. Then sprinkling it over
me she said, "If you were born dog, remain dog; but if you were born man, by virtue of this water resume your proper form."
In one moment the spell was broken. The dog's shape vanished as if it had never been, and it was a man who stood before her.
Overcome with gratitude at my deliverance, I flung myself at her feet, and kissed the hem of her garment. "How can I
thank you for your goodness towards a stranger, and for what you have done? Henceforth I am your slave. Deal with me as you
Then, in order to explain how I came to be changed into a dog, I told her my whole story, and finished with rendering the
mother the thanks due to her for the happiness she had brought me.
"Sidi-Nouman," returned the daughter, "say no more about the obligation you are under to us. The knowledge that we have
been of service to you is ample payment. Let us speak of Amina, your wife, with whom I was acquainted before her marriage. I
was aware that she was a magician, and she knew too that I had studied the same art, under the same mistress. We met often
going to the same baths, but we did not like each other, and never sought to become friends. As to what concerns you, it is
not enough to have broken your spell, she must be punished for her wickedness. Remain for a moment with my mother, I beg,"
she added hastily, "I will return shortly."
Left alone with the mother, I again expressed the gratitude I felt, to her as well as to her daughter.
"My daughter," she answered, "is, as you see, as accomplished a magician as Amina herself, but you would be astonished at
the amount of good she does by her knowledge. That is why I have never interfered, otherwise I should have put a stop to it
long ago." As she spoke, her daughter entered with a small bottle in her hand.
"Sidi-Nouman," she said, "the books I have just consulted tell me that Amina is not home at present, but she should return
at any moment. I have likewise found out by their means, that she pretends before the servants great uneasiness as to your
absence. She has circulated a story that, while at dinner with her, you remembered some important business that had to be done
at once, and left the house without shutting the door. By this means a dog had strayed in, which she was forced to get rid of
by a stick. Go home then without delay, and await Amina's return in your room. When she comes in, go down to meet her, and in
her surprise, she will try to run away. Then have this bottle ready, and dash the water it contains over her, saying boldly,
"Receive the reward of your crimes." That is all I have to tell you."
Everything happened exactly as the young magician had foretold. I had not been in my house many minutes before Amina
returned, and as she approached I stepped in front of her, with the water in my hand. She gave one loud cry, and turned to the
door, but she was too late. I had already dashed the water in her face and spoken the magic words. Amina disappeared, and in
her place stood the horse you saw me beating yesterday.
This, Commander of the Faithful, is my story, and may I venture to hope that, now you have heard the reason of my conduct,
your Highness will not think this wicked woman too harshly treated?
"Sidi-Nouman," replied the Caliph, "your story is indeed a strange one, and there is no excuse to be offered for your
wife. But, without condemning your treatment of her, I wish you to reflect how much she must suffer from being changed into
an animal, and I hope you will let that punishment be enough. I do not order you to insist upon the young magician finding
the means to restore your wife to her human shape, because I know that when once women such as she begin to work evil they
never leave off, and I should only bring down on your head a vengeance far worse than the one you have undergone already."
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The illustrations are by Rene Bull (1872 - 1942) illustrations 1912) and Maxfield Parish (1870 - 1966) illustrations 1909) and W. Heath Robinson (1872 - 1944) illustrations 1899) also H. J. Ford (1860- 1941) illustrations 1898)