Matured Stories

Arabian night (+16) – Episode 13

The Story of the
Envious Man and of Him Who
Was Envied….

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In a town of moderate size, two men
lived in neighbouring houses; but they
had not been there very long before one
man took such a hatred of the other, and
envied him so bitterly, that the poor man
determined to find another home, hoping
that when they no longer met every day
his enemy would forget all about him. So
he sold his house and the little furniture
it contained, and moved into the capital
of the country, which was luckily at no
great distance. About half a mile from
this city he bought a nice little place, with
a large garden and a fair-sized court, in
the centre of which stood an old well.
In order to live a quieter life, the good
man put on the robe of a dervish, and
divided his house into a quantity of small
cells, where he soon established a
number of other dervishes. The fame of
his virtue gradually spread abroad, and
many people, including several of the
highest quality, came to visit him and ask
his prayers.
Of course it was not long before his
reputation reached the ears of the man
who envied him, and this wicked wretch
resolved never to rest till he had in some
way worked ill to the dervish whom he
hated. So he left his house and his
business to look after themselves, and
betook himself to the new dervish
monastery, where he was welcomed by
the founder with all the warmth
imaginable. The excuse he gave for his
appearance was that he had come to
consult the chief of the dervishes on a
private matter of great importance.
“What I have to say must not be
overheard,” he whispered; “command, I
beg of you, that your dervishes retire into
their cells, as night is approaching, and
meet me in the court.”
The dervish did as he was asked without
delay, and directly they were alone
together the envious man began to tell a
long story, edging, as they walked to and
fro, always nearer to the well, and when
they were quite close, he seized the
dervish and dropped him in. He then ran
off triumphantly, without having been
seen by anyone, and congratulating
himself that the object of his hatred was
dead, and would trouble him no more.
But in this he was mistaken! The old well
had long been inhabited
(unknown to mere human beings) by a
set of fairies and genii, who caught the
dervish as he fell, so that he received no
hurt. The dervish himself could see
nothing, but he took for granted that
something strange had happened, or he
must certainly have been dashed against
the side of the well and been killed. He
lay quite still, and in a moment he heard
a voice saying, “Can you guess whom this
man is that we have saved from death?”
“No,” replied several other voices.
And the first speaker answered, “I will
tell you. This man, from pure goodness of
heart, forsook the town where he lived
and came to dwell here, in the hope of
curing one of his neighbours of the envy
he felt towards him. But his character
soon won him the esteem of all, and the
envious man’s hatred grew, till he came
here with the deliberate intention of
causing his death. And this he would
have done, without our help, the very
day before the Sultan has arranged to
visit this holy dervish, and to entreat his
prayers for the princess, his daughter.”
“But what is the matter with the princess
that she needs the dervish’s prayers?”
asked another voice.
“She has fallen into the power of the
Genie Maimoum, the son of Dimdim,”
replied the first voice. “But it would be
quite simple for this holy chief of the
dervishes to cure her if he only knew! In
his convent there is a black cat which has
a tiny white tip to its tail. Now to cure
the princess the dervish must pull out
seven of these white hairs, burn three,
and with their smoke perfume the head
of the princess. This will deliver her so
completely that Maimoum, the son of
Dimdim, will never dare to approach her
again.”
The fairies and genii ceased talking, but
the dervish did not forget a word of all
they had said; and when morning came
he perceived a place in the side of the
well which was broken, and where he
could easily climb out.
The dervishes, who could not imagine
what had become of him, were
enchanted at his reappearance. He told
them of the attempt on his life made by
his guest of the previous day, and then
retired into his cell. He was soon joined
here by the black cat of which the voice
had spoken, who came as usual to say
good-morning to his master. He took him
on his knee and seized the opportunity to
pull seven white hairs out of his tail, and
put them on one side till they were
needed.
The sun had not long risen before the
Sultan, who was anxious to leave nothing
undone that might deliver the princess,
arrived with a large suite at the gate of
the monastery, and was received by the
dervishes with profound respect. The
Sultan lost no time in declaring the object
of his visit, and leading the chief of the
dervishes aside, he said to him, “Noble
scheik, you have guessed perhaps what I
have come to ask you?”
“Yes, sire,” answered the dervish; “if I am
not mistaken, it is the illness of the
princess which has procured me this
honour.”
“You are right,” returned the Sultan, “and
you will give me fresh life if you can by
your prayers deliver my daughter from
the strange malady that has taken
possession of her.”
“Let your highness command her to
come here, and I will see what I can do.”
The Sultan, full of hope, sent orders at
once that the princess was to set out as
soon as possible, accompanied by her
usual staff of attendants. When she
arrived, she was so thickly veiled that the
dervish could not see her face, but he
desired a brazier to be held over her
head, and laid the seven hairs on the
burning coals. The instant they were
consumed, terrific cries were heard, but
no one could tell from whom they
proceeded. Only the dervish guessed that
they were uttered by Maimoum the son
of Dimdim, who felt the princess escaping
him.
All this time she had seemed unconscious
of what she was doing, but now she
raised her hand to her veil and
uncovered her face. “Where am I?” she
said in a bewildered manner; “and how
did I get here?”
The Sultan was so delighted to hear these
words that he not only embraced his
daughter, but kissed the hand of the
dervish. Then, turning to his attendants
who stood round, he said to them, “What
reward shall I give to the man who has
restored me my daughter?”
They all replied with one accord that he
deserved the hand of the princess.
“That is my own opinion,” said he, “and
from this moment I declare him to be my
son-in-law.”
Shortly after these events, the grand-vizir
died, and his post was given to the
dervish. But he did not hold it for long,
for the Sultan fell a victim to an attack of
illness, and as he had no sons, the
soldiers and priests declared the dervish
heir to the throne, to the great joy of all
the people.
One day, when the dervish, who had now
become Sultan, was making a royal
progress with his court, he perceived the
envious man standing in the crowd. He
made a sign to one of his vizirs, and
whispered in his ear, “Fetch me that man
who is standing out there, but take great
care not to frighten him.” The vizir
obeyed, and when the envious man was
brought before the Sultan, the monarch
said to him, “My friend, I am delighted to
see you again.” Then turning to an
officer, he added, “Give him a thousand
pieces of gold out of my treasury, and
twenty waggon-loads of merchandise out
of my private stores, and let an escort of
soldiers accompany him home.” He then
took leave of the envious man, and went
on his way.
Now when I had ended my story, I
proceeded to show the Genie how to
apply it to himself. “O Genie,” I said, “you
see that this Sultan was not content with
merely forgiving the envious man for the
attempt on his life; he heaped rewards
and riches upon him.”
But the Genie had made up his mind, and
could not be softened. “Do not imagine
that you are going to escape so easily,”
he said. “All I can do is to give you bare
life; you will have to learn what happens
to people who interfere with me.”
As he spoke he seized me violently by
the arm; the roof of the palace opened to
make way for us, and we mounted up so
high into the air that the earth looked
like a little cloud. Then, as before, he
came down with the swiftness of
lightning, and we touched the ground on
a mountain top.
Then he stooped and gathered a handful
of earth, and murmured some words over
it, after which he threw the earth in my
face, saying as he did so, “Quit the form
of a man, and assume that of a monkey.”
This done, he vanished, and I was in the
likeness of an ape, and in a country I had
never seen before.
However there was no use in stopping
where I was, so I came down the
mountain and found myself in a flat plain
which was bounded by the sea. I
travelled towards it, and was pleased to
see a vessel moored about half a mile
from shore. There were no waves, so I
broke off the branch of a tree, and
dragging it down to the waters edge, sat
across it, while, using two sticks for oars,
I rowed myself towards the ship.
The deck was full of people, who
watched my progress with interest, but
when I seized a rope and swung myself
on board, I found that I had only escaped
death at the hands of the Genie to perish
by those of the sailors, lest I should bring
ill-luck to the vessel and the merchants.
“Throw him into the sea!” cried one.
“Knock him on the head with a hammer,”
exclaimed another. “Let me shoot him
with an arrow,” said a third; and
certainly somebody would have had his
way if I had not flung myself at the
captain’s feet and grasped tight hold of
his dress. He appeared touched by my
action and patted my head, and declared
that he would take me under his
protection, and that no one should do me
any harm.
At the end of about fifty days we cast
anchor before a large town, and the ship
was immediately surrounded by a
multitude of small boats filled with
people, who had come either to meet
their friends or from simple curiosity.
Among others, one boat contained
several officials, who asked to see the
merchants on board, and informed them
that they had been sent by the Sultan in
token of welcome, and to beg them each
to write a few lines on a roll of paper. “In
order to explain this strange request,”
continued the officers, “it is necessary
that you should know that the grand-
vizir, lately dead, was celebrated for his
beautiful handwriting, and the Sultan is
anxious to find a similar talent in his
successor. Hitherto the search has been a
failure, but his Highness has not yet given
up hope.”
One after another the merchants set
down a few lines upon the roll, and when
they had all finished, I came forward, and
snatched the paper from the man who
held it. At first they all thought I was
going to throw it into the sea, but they
were quieted when they saw I held it
with great care, and great was their
surprise when I made signs that I too
wished to write something.
“Let him do it if he wants to,” said the
captain. “If he only makes a mess of the
paper, you may be sure I will punish him
for it. But if, as I hope, he really can
write, for he is the cleverest monkey I
ever saw, I will adopt him as my son. The
one I lost had not nearly so much sense!”
No more was said, and I took the pen and
wrote the six sorts of writing in use
among the Arabs, and each sort contained
an original verse or couplet, in praise of
the Sultan. And not only did my
handwriting completely eclipse that of
the merchants, but it is hardly too much
to say that none so beautiful had ever
before been seen in that country. When I
had ended the officials took the roll and
returned to the Sultan.
As soon as the monarch saw my writing
he did not so much as look at the samples
of the merchants, but desired his officials
to take the finest and most richly
caparisoned horse in his stables, together
with the most magnificent dress they
could procure, and to put it on the
person who had written those lines, and
bring him to court.
The officials began to laugh when they
heard the Sultan’s command, but as soon
as they could speak they said, “Deign,
your highness, to excuse our mirth, but
those lines were not written by a man
but by a monkey.”
“A monkey!” exclaimed the Sultan.
“Yes, sire,” answered the officials. “They
were written by a monkey in our
presence.”
“Then bring me the monkey,” he replied,
“as fast as you can.”
The Sultan’s officials returned to the ship
and showed the royal order to the
captain.
“He is the master,” said the good man,
and desired that I should be sent for.
Then they put on me the gorgeous robe
and rowed me to land, where I was
placed on the horse and led to the palace.
Here the Sultan was awaiting me in great
state surrounded by his court.
All the way along the streets I had been
the object of curiosity to a vast crowd,
which had filled every doorway and
every window, and it was amidst their
shouts and cheers that I was ushered into
the presence of the Sultan.
I approached the throne on which he was
seated and made him three low bows,
then prostrated myself at his feet to the
surprise of everyone, who could not
understand how it was possible that a
monkey should be able to distinguish a
Sultan from other people, and to pay him
the respect due to his rank. However,
excepting the usual speech, I omitted
none of the common forms attending a
royal audience.
When it was over the Sultan dismissed all
the court, keeping with him only the
chief of the eunuchs and a little slave. He
then passed into another room and
ordered food to be brought, making signs
to me to sit at table with him and eat. I
rose from my seat, kissed the ground,
and took my place at the table, eating, as
you may suppose, with care and in
moderation.
Before the dishes were removed I made
signs that writing materials, which stood
in one corner of the room, should be laid
in front of me. I then took a peach and
wrote on it some verses in praise of the
Sultan, who was speechless with
astonishment; but when I did the same
thing on a glass from which I had drunk
he murmured to himself, “Why, a man
who could do as much would be cleverer
than any other man, and this is only a
monkey!”
Supper being over chessmen were
brought, and the Sultan signed to me to
know if I would play with him. I kissed
the ground and laid my hand on my head
to show that I was ready to show myself
worthy of the honour. He beat me the
first game, but I won the second and
third, and seeing that this did not quite
please I dashed off a verse by way of
consolation.
The Sultan was so enchanted with all the
talents of which I had given proof that he
wished me to exhibit some of them to
other people. So turning to the chief of
the eunuchs he said, “Go and beg my
daughter, Queen of Beauty, to come here.
I will show her something she has never
seen before.”
The chief of the eunuchs bowed and left
the room, ushering in a few moments
later the princess, Queen of Beauty. Her
face was uncovered, but the moment she
set foot in the room she threw her veil
over her head. “Sire,” she said to her
father, “what can you be thinking of to
summon me like this into the presence of
a man?”
“I do not understand you,” replied the
Sultan. “There is nobody here but the
eunuch, who is your own servant, the
little slave, and myself, yet you cover
yourself with your veil and reproach me
for having sent for you, as if I had
committed a crime.”
“Sire,” answered the princess, “I am right
and you are wrong. This monkey is really
no monkey at all, but a young prince who
has been turned into a monkey by the
wicked spells of a Genie, son of the
daughter of Eblis.”
As will be imagined, these words took the
Sultan by surprise, and he looked at me
to see how I should take the statement of
the princess. As I was unable to speak, I
placed my hand on my head to show that
it was true.
“But how do you know this, my
daughter?” asked he.
“Sire,” replied Queen of Beauty, “the old
lady who took care of me in my
childhood was an accomplished magician,
and she taught me seventy rules of her
art, by means of which I could, in the
twinkling of an eye, transplant your
capital into the middle of the ocean. Her
art likewise teaches me to recognise at
first sight all persons who are enchanted,
and tells me by whom the spell was
wrought.”
“My daughter,” said the Sultan, “I really
had no idea you were so clever.”
“Sire,” replied the princess, “there are
many out-of-the-way things it is as well
to know, but one should never boast of
them.”
“Well,” asked the Sultan, “can you tell
me what must be done to disenchant the
young prince?”
“Certainly; and I can do it.”
“Then restore him to his former shape,”
cried the Sultan. “You could give me no
greater pleasure, for I wish to make him
my grand-vizir, and to give him to you
for your husband.”
“As your Highness pleases,” replied the
princess.
Queen of Beauty rose and went to her
chamber, from which she fetched a knife
with some Hebrew words engraven on
the blade. She then desired the Sultan,
the chief of the eunuchs, the little slave,
and myself to descend into a secret court
of the palace, and placed us beneath a
gallery which ran all round, she herself
standing in the centre of the court. Here
she traced a large circle and in it wrote
several words in Arab characters.
When the circle and the writing were
finished she stood in the middle of it and
repeated some verses from the Koran.
Slowly the air grew dark, and we felt as if
the earth was about to crumble away,
and our fright was by no means
diminished at seeing the Genie, son of
the daughter of Eblis, suddenly appear
under the form of a colossal lion.
“Dog,” cried the princess when she first
caught sight of him, “you think to strike
terror into me by daring to present
yourself before me in this hideous
shape.”
“And you,” retorted the lion, “have not
feared to break our treaty that engaged
solemnly we should never interfere with
each other.”
“Accursed Genie!” exclaimed the
princess, “it is you by whom that treaty
was first broken.”
“I will teach you how to give me so much
trouble,” said the lion, and opening his
huge mouth he advanced to swallow her.
But the princess expected something of
the sort and was on her guard. She
bounded on one side, and seizing one of
the hairs of his mane repeated two or
three words over it. In an instant it
became a sword, and with a sharp blow
she cut the lion’s body into two pieces.
These pieces vanished no one knew
where, and only the lion’s head
remained, which was at once changed
into a scorpion. Quick as thought the
princess assumed the form of a serpent
and gave battle to the scorpion, who,
finding he was getting the worst of it,
turned himself into an eagle and took
flight. But in a moment the serpent had
become an eagle more powerful still, who
soared up in the air and after him, and
then we lost sight of them both.
We all remained where we were quaking
with anxiety, when the ground opened in
front of us and a black and white cat
leapt out, its hair standing on end, and
miauing frightfully. At its heels was a
wolf, who had almost seized it, when the
cat changed itself into a worm, and,
piercing the skin of a pomegranate which
had tumbled from a tree, hid itself in the
fruit. The pomegranate swelled till it
grew as large as a pumpkin, and raised
itself on to the roof of the gallery, from
which it fell into the court and was
broken into bits. While this was taking
place the wolf, who had transformed
himself into a c–k, began to swallow the
seed of the pomegranate as fast as he
could. When all were gone he flew
towards us, flapping his wings as if to ask
if we saw any more, when suddenly his
eye fell on one which lay on the bank of
the little canal that flowed through the
court; he hastened towards it, but before
he could touch it the seed rolled into the
canal and became a fish. The c–k flung
himself in after the fish and took the
shape of a pike, and for two hours they
chased each other up and down under
the water, uttering horrible cries, but we
could see nothing. At length they rose
from the water in their proper forms, but
darting such flames of fire from their
mouths that we dreaded lest the palace
should catch fire. Soon, however, we had
much greater cause for alarm, as the
Genie, having shaken off the princess,
flew towards us. Our fate would have
been sealed if the princess, seeing our
danger, had not attracted the attention of
the Genie to herself. As it was, the
Sultan’s beard was singed and his face
scorched, the chief of the eunuchs was
burned to a cinder, while a spark
deprived me of the sight of one eye. Both
I and the Sultan had given up all hope of
a rescue, when there was a shout of
“Victory, victory!” from the princess, and
the Genie lay at her feet a great heap of
ashes.
Exhausted though she was, the princess
at once ordered the little slave, who
alone was uninjured, to bring her a cup
of water, which she took in her hand.
First repeating some magic words over it,
she dashed it into my face saying, “If you
are only a monkey by enchantment,
resume the form of the man you were
before.” In an instant I stood before her
the same man I had formerly been,
though having lost the sight of one eye.
I was about to fall on my knees and
thank the princess but she did not give
me time. Turning to the Sultan, her
father, she said, “Sire, I have gained the
battle, but it has cost me dear. The fire
has penetrated to my heart, and I have
only a few moments to live. This would
not have happened if I had only noticed
the last pomegranate seed and eaten it
like the rest. It was the last struggle of
the Genie, and up to that time I was quite
safe. But having let this chance slip I was
forced to resort to fire, and in spite of all
his experience I showed the Genie that I
knew more than he did. He is dead and
in ashes, but my own death is
approaching fast.” “My daughter,” cried
the Sultan, “how sad is my condition! I
am only surprised I am alive at all! The
eunuch is consumed by the flames, and
the prince whom you have delivered has
lost the sight of one eye.” He could say no
more, for sobs choked his voice, and we
all wept together.
Suddenly the princess shrieked, “I burn, I
burn!” and death came to free her from
her torments.
I have no words, madam, to tell you of
my feelings at this terrible sight. I would
rather have remained a monkey all my
life than let my benefactress perish in
this shocking manner. As for the Sultan,
he was quite inconsolable, and his
subjects, who had dearly loved the
princess, shared his grief. For seven days
the whole nation mourned, and then the
ashes of the princess were buried with
great pomp, and a superb tomb was
raised over her.
As soon as the Sultan recovered from the
severe illness which had seized him after
the death of the princess he sent for me
and plainly, though politely, informed me
that my presence would always remind
him of his loss, and he begged that I
would instantly quit his kingdom, and on
pain of death never return to it. I was, of
course, bound to obey, and not knowing
what was to become of me I shaved my
beard and eyebrows and put on the dress
of a calender. After wandering aimlessly
through several countries, I resolved to
come to Baghdad and request an
audience of the Commander of the
Faithful.
And that, madam, is my story.
The other Calender then told his story

Also Read:   My Escapades In The North - Season 1 - Episode 21
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