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   Stories from the Thousand and One Nights.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Nights 1–3
 
The Story of the First Sheykh and the Gazelle
 
 
THEN said the sheykh, Know, O ‘Efrit, that this gazelle is the daughter of my paternal uncle, and she is of my flesh and my blood. I took her as my wife when she was young, and I lived with her about thirty years; but I was not blessed with a child by her; so I took to me a concubine slave, and by her I was blessed with a male child, like the rising full moon, with beautiful eyes, and delicately-shaped eyebrows, and perfectly-formed limbs; and he grew up by little and little until he attained the age of fifteen years. At this period, unexpectedly had occasion to journey to a certain city, and went thither with a great stock of merchandise.  1
  Now my cousin, this gazelle, had studied enchantment and divination from her early years; and during my absence, she transformed the youth above mentioned into a calf; and his mother, into a cow; and committed them to the care of the herdsman: and when I returned, after a long time, from my journey, I asked after my son and his mother, and she said, Thy slave is dead, and thy son hath fled, and I know not whither he is gone. After hearing this, I remained for the space of a year with mourning heart and weeping eye, until the Festival of the Sacrifice; 1 when I sent to the herdsman, and ordered him to choose for me a fat cow; and he brought me one, and it was my concubine, whom this gazelle had enchanted. I tucked up my skirts and sleeves, and took the knife in my hand, and prepared myself to slaughter her; upon which she moaned and cried so violently that I left her, and ordered the herdsman to kill and skin her: and he did so, but found in her neither fat nor flesh, nor anything but skin and bone; and I repented of slaughtering her, when repentance was of no avail. I therefore gave her to the herdsman, and said to him, Bring me a fat calf: and he brought me my son, who was transformed into a calf. And when the calf saw me, he broke his rope, and came to me, and fawned upon me, and wailed and cried, so that I was moved with pity for him; and I said to the herdsman, Bring me a cow, and let this—  2
  Here Shahrazad perceived the light of morning, and discontinued the recitation with which she had been allowed thus far to proceed. Her sister said to her, How excellent is thy story! and how pretty! and how pleasant! and how sweet!—but she answered, What is this in comparison with that which will relate to thee in the next night, if I live, and the King spare me! And the King said, By Allah, I will not kill her until I hear the remainder of her story. Thus they pleasantly passed the night until the morning, when the King went forth to his hall of judgment, and the Wezir went thither with the grave-clothes under his arm: and the King gave judgment, and invested and displaced, until the close of the day, without informing the Wezir of that which had happened; and the minister was greatly astonished. The court was then dissolved; and the King returned to the privacy of his palace.  3
  [On the second and each succeeding night, Shahrazad continued so to interest King Shahriyar by her stories as to induce him to defer putting her to death, in expectation that her fund of amusing tales would soon be exhausted; and as this is expressed in the original work in nearly the same words at the close of every night, such repetitions will in the present translation be omitted.]  4
  When the sheykh, continued Shahrazad, observed the tears of the calf, his heart sympathized with him, and he said to the herdsman, Let this calf remain with the cattle.—Meanwhile, the Jinni wondered at this strange story; and the owner of the gazelle thus proceeded.  5
  O lord of the kings of the Jann, while this happened, my cousin, this gazelle, looked on, and said, Slaughter this calf; for he is fat: but I could not do it; so I ordered the herdsman to take him back; and he took him and went away. And as I was sitting, on the following day, he came to me, and said, O my master, I have to tell thee something that thou wilt be rejoiced to hear; and a reward is due to me for bringing good news. I answered, Well:—and he said, O merchant, I have a daughter who learned enchantment in her youth from an old woman in our family; and yesterday, when thou gavest me the calf, I took him to her, and she looked at him, and covered her face, and wept, and then laughed, and said, O my father, hath my condition become so degraded in thy opinion that thou bringest before me strange men?—Where, said I, are any strange men? and wherefore didst thou weep and laugh? She answered, This calf that is with thee is the son of our master, the merchant, and the wife of our master hath enchanted both him and his mother; and this was the reason of my laughter; but as to the reason of my weeping, it was on account of his mother, because his father had slaughtered her.—And I was excessively astonished at this; and scarcely was I certain that the light of morning had appeared when I hastened to inform thee.  6
  When I heard, O Jinni, the words of the herdsman, I went forth with him, intoxicated without wine, from the excessive joy and happiness that I received, and arrived at his house, where his daughter welcomed me, and kissed my hand; and the calf came to me, and fawned upon me. And I said to the herdsman’s daughter, Is that true which thou hast said respecting this calf? She answered, Yes, O my master; he is verily thy son, and the vital spirit of thy heart.—O maiden, said I, if thou wilt restore him, all the cattle and other property of mine that thy father hath under his care shall be thine. Upon this, she smiled, and said, O my master, I have no desire for the property unless on two conditions: the first is, that thou shalt marry me to him; and the second, that I shall enchant her who enchanted him, and so restrain her; otherwise, I shall not be secure from her artifice. On hearing, O Jinni, these her words, I said, And thou shalt have all the property that is under the care of thy father besides; and as to my cousin, even her blood shall be lawful to thee. So, when she heard this, she took a cup, and filled it with water, and repeated a spell over it, and sprinkled with it the calf, saying to him, If God created thee a calf, remain in this form, and be not changed; but if thou be enchanted, return to thy original form, by permission of God, whose name be exalted!—upon which he shook, and became a man; and I threw myself upon him, and said, I conjure thee by Allah that thou relate to me all that my cousin did to thee and to thy mother. So he related to me all that had happened to them both; and I said to him, O my son, God hath given thee one to liberate thee, and to avenge thee:—and I married to him, O Jinni, the herdsman’s daughter; after which, she transformed my cousin into this gazelle. And as I happened to pass this way, I saw this merchant, and asked him what had happened to him; and when he had informed me, I sat down to see the result.—This is my story. The Jinni said, This is a wonderful tale; and I give up to thee a third of my claim to his blood.  7
  The second sheykh, the owner of the two hounds, then advanced, and said to the Jinni, If I relate to thee the story of myself and these hounds, and thou find it to be in like manner wonderful, wilt thou remit to me, also, a third of thy claim to the blood of this merchant? The Jinni answered, Yes.  8
 
Note 1. The Grest Festival, commencing on the 10th of Dhu-l-Hijjeh, when the pilgrims, halting on their return from mount ‘Arafat to Mekkeh, in the valley of Mine, perform their sacrifice. [back]
 

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