There was formerly a merchant who possessed much property in
lands, goods, and money, and had a great number of clerks,
factors, and slaves. He was obliged from time to time to visit
his correspondents on business; and one day being under the
necessity of going a long journey on an affair of importance, he
took horse, and carried with him a wallet containing biscuits and
dates, because he had a great desert to pass over, where he could
procure no sort of provisions. He arrived without any accident at
the end of his journey; and having dispatched his affairs, took
horse again, in order to return home.
The fourth day of his journey, he was so much incommoded by the
heat of the sun, and the reflection of that heat from the earth,
that he turned out of the road, to refresh himself under some
trees. He found at the root of a large tree a fountain of very
clear running water. Having alighted, he tied his horse to a
branch, and sitting down by the fountain, took some biscuits and
dates out of his wallet. As he ate his dates, he threw the shells
carelessly in different directions. When he had finished his
repast, being a good Moosulmaun, he washed his hands, face, and
feet, and said his prayers. Before he had finished, and while he
was yet on his knees, he saw a genie, white with age, and of a
monstrous bulk, advancing towards him with a cimeter in his hand.
The genie spoke to him in a terrible voice: "Rise, that I may
kill thee with this cimeter, as thou hast killed my son;" and
accompanied these words with a frightful cry. The merchant being
as much alarmed at the hideous shape of the monster as at his
threatening language, answered him, trembling, "Alas! my good
lord, of what crime can I be guilty towards you, that you should
take away my life?" "I will," replied the genie, "kill thee, as
thou hast killed my son." "Heavens," exclaimed the merchant, "how
could I kill your son? I never knew, never saw him." "Did not you
sit down when you came hither?" demanded the genie: "did you not
take dates out of your wallet, and as you ate them, did not you
throw the shells about in different directions?" "I did all that
you say," answered the merchant, "I cannot deny it." "If it be
so," resumed the genie, "I tell thee that thou hast killed my
son; and in this manner: When thou wert throwing the shells
about, my son was passing by, and thou didst throw one into his
eye, which killed him; therefore I must kill thee." "Ah! my lord!
pardon me!" cried the merchant. "No pardon," exclaimed the genie,
"no mercy. Is it not just to kill him that has killed another?"
"I agree it is," replied the merchant, "but certainly I never
killed your son; and if I have, it was unknown to me, and I did
it innocently; I beg you therefore to pardon me, and suffer me to
live." "No, no," returned the genie, persisting in his
resolution, "I must kill thee, since thou hast killed my son."
Then taking the merchant by the arm, he threw him with his face
on the ground, and lifted up his cimeter to cut off his head.
The merchant, with tears, protested he was innocent, bewailed his
wife and children, and supplicated the genie, in the most moving
expressions. The genie, with his cimeter still lifted up, had the
patience to hear his unfortunate victims to the end of his
lamentations, but would not relent. "All this whining," said the
monster, "is to no purpose; though you should shed tears of
blood, they should not hinder me from killing thee, as thou hast
killed my son." "What!" exclaimed the merchant, "can nothing
prevail with you? Will you absolutely take away the life of a
poor innocent?" "Yes," replied the genie, "I am resolved."
As soon as she had spoken these words, perceiving it was day, and
knowing that the sultan rose early in the morning to say his
prayers, and hold his council, Scheherazade discontinued her
story. "Dear sister," said Dinarzade, "what a wonderful story is
this!" "The remainder of it," replied Scheherazade "is more
surprising, and you will be of this opinion, if the sultan will
but permit me to live over this day, and allow me to proceed with
the relation the ensuing night." Shier-ear, who had listened to
Scheherazade with much interest, said to himself, "I will wait
till to-morrow, for I can at any time put her to death when she
has concluded her story." Having thus resolved not to put
Scheherazade to death that day, he rose and went to his prayers,
and to attend his council.
During this time the grand vizier was in the utmost distress.
Instead of sleeping, he spent the night in sighs and groans,
bewailing the lot of his daughter, of whom he believed he should
himself shortly be the executioner. As, with this melancholy
prospect before him, he dreaded to meet the sultan, he was
agreeably surprised when he found the prince entered the council
chamber without giving him the fatal orders he expected.
The sultan, according to his custom, spent the day in regulating
his affairs; and when the night had closed in, retired with
Scheherazade. The next morning before day, Dinarzade failed not
to call to her sister: "My dear sister, if you be not asleep, I
pray you till day-break, which is very near, to go on with the
story you began last night." The sultan, without waiting for
Scheherazade to ask his permission, bade her proceed with the
story of the genie and the merchant; upon which Scheherazade
continued her relation as follows. [FN: In the original work
Scheherazade continually breaks off to ask the sultan to spare
her life for another day, that she may finish the story she is
relating. As these interruptions considerably interfere with the
continued interest of the stories, it has been deemed advisable
to omit them.]
When the merchant saw that the genie was going to cut off his
head, he cried out aloud to him, "For heaven's sake hold your
hand! Allow me one word. Have the goodness to grant me some
respite, to bid my wife and children adieu, and to divide my
estate among them by will, that they may not go to law after my
death. When I have done this, I will come back and submit to
whatever you shall please to command." "But," said the genie, "if
I grant you the time you ask, I doubt you will never return?" "If
you will believe my oath," answered the merchant, "I swear by all
that is sacred, that I will come and meet you here without fail."
"What time do you require then?" demanded the genie. "I ask a
year," said the merchant; "I cannot in less settle my affairs,
and prepare myself to die without regret. But I promise you, that
this day twelve months I will return under these trees, to put
myself into your hands." "Do you take heaven to be witness to
this promise?" said the genie. "I do," answered the merchant,
"and you may rely on my oath." Upon this the genie left him near
the fountain, and disappeared.
The merchant being recovered from his terror, mounted his horse,
and proceeded on his journey, glad on the one hand that he had
escaped so great a danger, but grieved on the other, when he
reflected on his fatal oath. When he reached home, his wife and
children received him with all the demonstrations of perfect joy.
But he, instead of returning their caresses, wept so bitterly,
that his family apprehended something calamitous had befallen
him. His wife enquire reason of his excessive grief and tears;
"We are all overjoyed," said she, "at your return; but you alarm
us by your lamentations; pray tell us the cause of your sorrow."
"Alas!" replied the husband, "I have but a year to live." He then
related what had passed betwixt him and the genie, and informed
her that he had given him his oath to return at the end of the
year, to receive death from his hands.
When they heard this afflicting intelligence, they all began to
lament in the most distressing manner. His wife uttered the most
piteous cries, beat her face, and tore her hair. The children,
all in tears, made the house resound with their groans; and the
father, not being able to resist the impulse of nature, mingled
his tears with theirs: so that, in a word, they exhibited the
most affecting spectacle possible.
On the following morning the merchant applied himself to put his
affairs in order; and first of all to pay his debts. He made
presents to his friends, gave liberal alms to the poor, set his
slaves of both sexes at liberty, divided his property among his
children, appointed guardians for such of them as were not of
age; and after restoring to his wife all that was due to her by
their marriage contract, he gave her in addition as much as the
law would allow him.
At last the year expired, and he was obliged to depart. He put
his burial clothes in his wallet; but when he came to bid his
wife and children adieu, their grief surpassed description. They
could not reconcile their minds to the separation, but resolved
to go and die with him. When, however, it became necessary for
him to tear himself from these dear objects, he addressed them in
the following terms: "My dear wife and children, I obey the will
of heaven in quitting you. Follow my example, submit with
fortitude to this necessity, and consider that it is the destiny
of man to die." Having thus spoken, he went out of the hearing of
the cries of his family; and pursuing his journey, arrived on the
day appointed at the place where he had promised to meet the
genie. He alighted, and seating himself down by the fountain,
waited the coming of the genie, with all the sorrow imaginable.
Whilst he languished under this painful expectation, an old man
leading a hind appeared and drew near him. After they had saluted
one another, the old man said to him, "Brother, may I ask why you
are come into this desert place, which is possessed solely by
evil spirits, and where consequently you cannot be safe? From the
beautiful trees which are seen here, one might indeed suppose the
place inhabited; but it is in reality a wilderness, where it is
dangerous to remain long."
The merchant satisfied his curiosity, and related to him the
adventure which obliged him to be there. The old man listened
with astonishment, and when he had done, exclaimed, "This is the
most surprising thing in the world! and you are bound by the most
inviolable oath. However, I will be witness of your interview
with the genie." He then seated himself by the merchant, and they
entered into conversation.
"But I see day," said Scheherazade, "and must leave off; yet the
best of the story is to come." The sultan resolving to hear the
end of it, suffered her to live that day also.
The next morning Dinarzade made the same request to her sister as
before: "My dear sister," said she, "if you be not asleep, tell
me one of those pleasant stories that you have read." But the
sultan, wishing to learn what followed betwixt the merchant and
the genie, bade her proceed with that, which she did as follows.
Sir, while the merchant and the old man who led the hind were
conversing, they saw another old man coming towards them,
followed by two black dogs; after they had saluted one another,
he asked them what they did in that place? The old man with the
hind told him the adventure of the merchant and genie, with all
that had passed between them, particularly the merchant's oath.
He added, that it was the day agreed on, and that he was resolved
to stay and see the issue.
The second old man thinking it also worth his curiosity, resolved
to do the same, and took his seat by them. They had scarcely
begun to converse together, when there arrived a third old man
leading a mule. He addressed himself to the two former, and asked
why the merchant who sat with them looked so melancholy? They
told him the reason, which appeared to him so extraordinary, that
he also resolved to witness the result; and for that purpose sat
down with them.
In a short time they perceived a thick vapour, like a cloud of
dust raised by a whirlwind, advancing towards them. When it had
come up to them it suddenly vanished, and the genie appeared;
who, without saluting them, went to the merchant with a drawn
cimeter, and taking him by the arm, said, "Get thee up, that I
may kill thee, as thou didst my son." The merchant and the three
old men began to lament and fill the air with their cries.
When the old man who led the hind saw the genie lay hold of the
merchant, and about to kill him, he threw himself at the feet of
the monster, and kissing them, said to him, "Prince of genies, I
most humbly request you to suspend your anger, and do me the
favour to hear me. I will tell you the history of my life, and of
the hind you see; and if you think it more wonderful and
surprising than the adventure of the merchant, I hope you will
pardon the unfortunate man a third of his offence." The genie
took some time to deliberate on this proposal, but answered at
last, "Well then, I agree."
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