Matured Stories

Arabian night (+16) – Episode 2

( The merchant and the Genie)

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Sire, there was once upon a time a
merchant who possessed great wealth, in
land and merchandise, as well as in ready
money. He was obliged from time to time
to take journeys to arrange his affairs.
One day, having to go a long way from
home, he mounted his horse, taking with
him a small wallet in which he had put a
few biscuits and dates, because he had to
pass through the desert where no food
was to be got. He arrived without any
mishap, and, having finished his business,
set out on his return. On the fourth day of
his journey, the heat of the sun being
very great, he turned out of his road to
rest under some trees. He found at the
foot of a large walnut-tree a fountain of
clear and running water. He dismounted,
fastened his horse to a branch of the tree,
and sat by the fountain, after having
taken from his wallet some of his dates
and biscuits. When he had finished this
frugal mean he washed his face and
hands in the fountain.
When he was thus employed he saw an
enormous Genie, white with rage, coming
towards him, with a scimitar in his hand.
“Arise,” he cried in a terrible voice, “and
let me kill you as you have killed my
son!”
As he uttered these words he gave a
frightful yell. The merchant, quite as
much terrified at the hideous face of the
monster as at his words, answered him
tremblingly, “Alas, good sir, what can I
have done to you to deserve death?”
“I shall kill you,” repeated the Genie, “as
you have killed my son.”
“But,” said the merchant, “How can I
have killed your son? I do not know him,
and I have never even seen him.”
“When you arrived here did you not sit
down on the ground?” asked the Genie,
“and did you not take some dates from
your wallet, and whilst eating them did
not you throw the stones about?”
“Yes,” said the merchant, “I certainly did
so.”
“Then,” said the Genie, “I tell you you
have killed my son, for whilst you were
throwing about the stones, my son passed
by, and one of them struck him in the
eye and killed him. So I shall kill you.”
“Ah, sir, forgive me!” cried the merchant.
“I will have no mercy on you,” answered
the Genie.
“But I killed your son quite
unintentionally, so I implore you to spare
my life.”
“No,” said the Genie, “I shall kill you as
you killed my son,” and so saying, he
seized the merchant by the arm, threw
him on the ground, and lifted his sabre to
cut off his head.
The merchant, protesting his innocence,
bewailed his wife and children, and tried
pitifully to avert his fate. The Genie, with
his raised scimitar, waited till he had
finished, bit was not in the least touched.
Scheherazade, at this point, seeing that it
was day, and knowing that the Sultan
always rose very early to attend the
council, stopped speaking.
“Indeed, sister,” said Dinarzade, “this is a
wonderful story.”
“The rest is still more wonderful,” replied
Scheherazade, “and you would say so, if
the sultan would allow me to live another
day, and would give me leave to tell it to
you the next night.”
Schahriar, who had been listening to
Scheherazade with pleasure, said to
himself, “I will wait till to-morrow; I can
always have her killed when I have heard
the end of her story.”
All this time the grand-vizir was in a
terrible state of anxiety. But he was much
delighted when he saw the Sultan enter
the council-chamber without giving the
terrible command that he was expecting.
The next morning, before the day broke,
Dinarzade said to her sister, “Dear sister,
if you are awake I pray you to go on with
your story.”
The Sultan did not wait for Scheherazade
to ask his leave. “Finish,” said he, “the
story of the Genie and the merchant. I am
curious to hear the end.”
So Scheherazade went on with the story.
This happened every morning. The
Sultana told a story, and the Sultan let
her live to finish it.
When the merchant saw that the Genie
was determined to cut off his head, he
said: “One word more, I entreat you.
Grant me a little delay; just a short time
to go home and bid my wife and children
farewell, and to make my will. When I
have done this I will come back here, and
you shall kill me.”
“But,” said the Genie, “if I grant you the
delay you ask, I am afraid that you will
not come back.”
“I give you my word of honour,”
answered the merchant, “that I will come
back without fail.”
“How long do you require?” asked the
Genie.
“I ask you for a year’s grace,” replied the
merchant. “I promise you that to-morrow
twelvemonth, I shall be waiting under
these trees to give myself up to you.”
On this the Genie left him near the
fountain and disappeared.
The merchant, having recovered from his
fright, mounted his horse and went on his
road.
When he arrived home his wife and
children received him with the greatest
joy. But instead of embracing them he
began to weep so bitterly that they soon
guessed that something terrible was the
matter.
“Tell us, I pray you,” said his wife, “what
has happened.”
“Alas!” answered her husband, “I have
only a year to live.”
Then he told them what had passed
between him and the Genie, and how he
had given his word to return at the end
of a year to be killed. When they heard
this sad news they were in despair, and
wept much.
The next day the merchant began to
settle his affairs, and first of all to pay his
debts. He gave presents to his friends,
and large alms to the poor. He set his
slaves at liberty, and provided for his
wife and children. The year soon passed
away, and he was obliged to depart.
When he tried to say good-bye he was
quite overcome with grief, and with
difficulty tore himself away. At length he
reached the place where he had first seen
the Genie, on the very day that he had
appointed. He dismounted, and sat down
at the edge of the fountain, where he
awaited the Genie in terrible suspense.
Whilst he was thus waiting an old man
leading a hind came towards him. They
greeted one another, and then the old
man said to him, “May I ask, brother,
what brought you to this desert place,
where there are so many evil genii
about? To see these beautiful trees one
would imagine it was inhabited, but it is
a dangerous place to stop long in.”
The merchant told the old man why he
was obliged to come there. He listened in
astonishment.
“This is a most marvelous affair. I should
like to be a witness of your interview
with the Genie.” So saying he sat down
by the merchant.
While they were talking another old man
came up, followed by two black dogs. He
greeted them, and asked what they were
doing in this place. The old man who was
leading the hind told him the adventure
of the merchant and the Genie. The
second old man had not sooner heard the
story than he, too, decided to stay there
to see what would happen. He sat down
by the others, and was talking, when a
third old man arrived. He asked why the
merchant who was with them looked so
sad. They told him the story, and he also
resolved to see what would pass between
the Genie and the merchant, so waited
with the rest.
They soon saw in the distance a thick
smoke, like a cloud of dust. This smoke
came nearer and nearer, and then, all at
once, it vanished, and they saw the
Genie, who, without speaking to them,
approached the merchant, sword in
hand, and, taking him by the arm, said,
“Get up and let me kill you as you killed
my son.”
The merchant and the three old men
began to weep and groan.
Then the old man leading the hind threw
himself at the monster’s feet and said, “O
Prince of the Genii, I beg of you to stay
your fury and to listen to me. I am going
to tell you my story and that of the hind I
have with me, and if you find it more
marvellous than that of the merchant
whom you are about to kill, I hope that
you will do away with a third part of his
punishment?”
The Genie considered some time, and
then he said, “Very well, I agree to this.”

Also Read:   Three Empty Words - Episode 16
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