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♪1øø1~Story told by the Purveyor of the Sultan♪


The strory told by the Purveyor of the Sultan of Gasgar

"I WAS yesterday, great monarch, invited by a man of great position and fortune to the wedding of one of his daughters. I did not fail to be at his house by the appointed hour; and found a large company of the best inhabitants of the city.

When the ceremony was over, the feast, which was very magnificent, was served up. There was one dish dressed with garlic, which was so very excellent that every one wished to try it. We remarked, however, that one of the guests avoided eating any, although the dish stood directly before him. We invited him to help himself to some, but he requested us not to press him to touch it. 'I shall be very careful,’ said he, 'how I touch a ragout dressed with garlic. I have not yet forgotten the consequences to me the last time I tasted one.’ We inquired the cause of the aversion he seemed to have to garlic; but the master of the house called out, without giving him time to answer our inquiries: 'Is it thus you honour my table? This ragout is delicious. Do not, therefore, refuse to eat of it; you must do me that favour, like the rest of the company.’ 'My master,’ replied his guest, who was a merchant of Bagdad, 'I certainly will obey your commands if you insist; but it must only be on condition that, after eating the ragout of garlic, you will permit me to wash my hands forty times with alkali, forty times with the ashes of the plant from which that substance is procured, and as many times with soap. I hope you will not be offended at this design, for it is in consequence of an oath I have taken, and which I must not break, never to eat a ragout with garlic without observing these ceremonies!'

"As the master of the house would not excuse the merchant from eating some of the ragout, he ordered his servants to get ready some basins, containing a solution of alkali, ashes of the same plant, and soap, that the merchant might wash as often as he pleased. After giving these orders, he said to the merchant: 'Come, now, do as we do, and eat; neither the alkali, the ashes of the plant, nor the soap shall be wanting.’

"Although the merchant was angry at the sort of compulsion to which he was subjected, he put out his hand, and took a small quantity of the ragout, which he put to his mouth with fear and trembling, and ate with a repugnance that very much astonished us all. But we remarked with still greater surprise that he had only four fingers, and no thumb. No one had noticed this circumstance until now. The master of the house then said: 'You seem to have lost your thumb; how did such an accident happen? There must have been some singular circumstances connected with it; and you will afford this company great pleasure if you will relate them.' ‘It is not only on my right hand that I have no thumb,’ replied the guest; ‘my left is also in the same state.' He held out his left hand as he spoke. 'Nor is this all,’ he added; 'I have lost the great toe from each of my feet. I have been maimed in this manner through a most extraordinary adventure, which I have no objection to relate if you will have the patience to listen to it. First of all, however, permit me to wash my hands.' So saying, he rose from table; and after washing his hands one hundred and twenty times, he related the following story :—

"You must know, my masters, that my father lived at Bagdad, where I also was born, and he was reckoned one of the richest merchants in that city. But as he was a man much addicted to pleasure and dissipation, he very much neglected his affairs; instead, therefore, of inheriting a large fortune at his death, I found myself greatly embarrassed, and was obliged to use the greatest economy to pay the debts he left behind him. By dint of great attention and care, however, I at last discharged them all, and my small fortune then began to assume a favourable appearance.

"One morning, as I was opening my shop, a lady, mounted upon a mule, accompanied by an eunuch, and followed by two slaves, came riding towards my warehouse, and stopped in front of my door. The eunuch assisted her to alight; he then said to her: 'I am afraid, lady, you have arrived too soon; you see, there is no one yet come to the bazaar.' She looked round, and finding that there was no other shop open but mine, she requested permission to sit down till the other merchants arrived. I replied that my shop was at her service.

"The lady entered my shop and sat down; and as she observed there was no one to be seen in the bazaar except the eunuch and myself, she took off her veil in order to enjoy the air. I had never seen any one so beautiful, and to gaze upon her and to be passionately in love were with me one and the same thing. I kept my eyes constantly fixed upon her, and I thought she looked as if my admiration was not unpleasing to her; nor did she put down her veil till the fear of the approach of strangers obliged her to do so. After she had adjusted her veil, she informed me that she had come with the intention of looking at some of the finest and richest kinds of stuff, which she described to me, and inquired whether I had any such wares. 'Alas! Lady,’ I said. 'I am but a young merchant, and have not long begun business; I am not yet rich enough to trade so largely; and it is a great mortification to me that I have none of the things for which you came into the bazaar; but to save you the trouble of going from shop to shop, let me, as soon as the merchants come, go and get from them whatever you wish to see.' To this she consented, and I began a conversation with her which lasted a long time.

"I was not less delighted with her wit and understanding than I had been with her personal charms. I was, however, at last compelled to seek the stuffs she wanted. When she had decided upon those she wished to have, I informed her that they came to five thousand drachms of silver. I then made them up into a parcel, and gave them to the eunuch, who put them under his arm. The lady immediately rose, took leave of me, and went away. I followed her with my eyes until she had reached the gate of the bazaar.

"When the lady was out of sight, I recollected that my love had caused me to be guilty of a great fault. My beautiful visitor had so wholly engrossed my attention that I had not only omitted taking the money for the goods, but even neglected to inquire who she was, and where she lived. This led me immediately to reflect that I was accountable for a very large sum of money to several merchants, who would not, perhaps, have the patience to wait. I then went and excused myself to them in the best way I could, telling them I knew the lady very well. I returned home as much in love as ever, although very much depressed at the idea of the heavy debt I had incurred.

"I requested my creditors to wait a week for their money, which they agreed to do. On the eighth morning they did not fail to come and demand payment; but I again begged the favour of a little further delay, and they kindly granted my request; but on the very next morning I saw the lady coming along on the same mule, with the same persons attending her.

"She came directly to my shop. She said: 'I have made you wait a little for your money in payment for the stuffs which I had the other day, but I have at last brought it you.' After this I had the happiness of a long conversation with the lady.

"As soon as the merchants were come and had opened their shops, I took the sum I owed to each of those from whom I had purchased the stuffs on credit; and I had now no difficulty in getting from them other pieces which the lady had desired to see. I carried back with me brocades worth a thousand pieces of gold, all of which she took away with her; and not only did she omit to pay for them, but never mentioned the subject, or even informed me who she was or where she lived. I said to myself: ‘She has certainly paid me a very large sum of money, but she has left me responsible for a debt of much greater amount. Is it possible she can intend to cheat me, and thus, by paying me for the first quantity, has only enticed me to more certain ruin?'

"My love was not powerful enough to prevent me from making these distressing reflections for one entire month. My fears kept increasing from day to day, and time passed on without my having any intelligence whatever of the lady. The merchants at last began to grow very impatient, and in order to satisfy them I was going to sell off everything I had; when, one morning, I saw the lady coming with exactly the same attendants as before. ‘Take your weights,’ she said to me, 'and weigh the gold I have brought you.' These few words put an end to all my fears.

"Before she began to count out the gold, she inquired if I was married. I told her I was not, nor had I ever been. Thereupon she gave the gold to the eunuch, and said to him: ' Come, let us have your assistance to settle our affairs.' The eunuch could not help smiling; and taking me aside he made me weigh the gold.

"While I was thus employed, the eunuch whispered the following words in my ear: 'I have only to look at you to see that you are desperately in love with my mistress; and I am surprised that you have not the courage to declare your passion to her. She loves you, if possible, more than you love her. Don't suppose that she wants any of your stuffs; she only comes here out of affection for you. You have only to declare yourself, and if you wish it, she will not hesitate even to marry you.' 'It is true,' I replied, ‘that I felt emotions of love arise in my breast the very first moment I beheld your lady. I am wholly her own, and shall not fail to remember the good service you have done me.'

"When I had finished weighing the gold, and while I was putting it back into the bag, the eunuch went to the lady, and said that I was very well satisfied. This was the expression they had agreed upon between themselves. The lady, who was seated, immediately rose and went away, telling me first that she would send back the eunuch, and that I must do exactly as he directed.

"I then went to all the merchants to whom I was indebted, and paid them. After this I waited with the greatest impatience for the arrival of the eunuch; but it was some days before he made his appearance. At length he appeared.

"I received him in the most friendly manner, and made many inquiries after the health of his mistress. He replied: 'You are certainly the happiest lover in all the world: she is absolutely dying for love of you. If she were able to follow her own inclinations, she ...
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