Matured Stories

Arabian night (+16) – Episode 4

( The Story of the
Second Old Man and of the Two
Black Dogs)

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Great prince of the genii, you must know
that we are three brothers– these two
black dogs and myself. Our father died,
leaving us each a thousand sequins. With
this sum we all three took up the same
profession, and became merchants. A
short time after we had opened our
shops, my eldest brother, one of these
two dogs, resolved to travel in foreign
countries for the sake of merchandise.
With this intention he sold all he had and
bought merchandise suitable to the
voyages he was about to make. He set
out, and was away a whole year. At the
end of this time a beggar came to my
shop. “Good-day,” I said. “Good-day,” he
answered; “is it possible that you do not
recognise me?” Then I looked at him
closely and saw he was my brother. I
made him come into my house, and
asked him how he had fared in his
enterprise.
“Do not question me,” he replied, “see
me, you see all I have. It would but
renew my trouble to tell of all the
misfortunes that have befallen me in a
year, and have brought me to this state.”
I shut up my shop, paid him every
attention, taking him to the bath, giving
him my most beautiful robes. I examined
my accounts, and found that I had
doubled my capital–that is, that I now
possessed two thousand sequins. I gave
my brother half, saying: “Now, brother,
you can forget your losses.” He accepted
them with joy, and we lived together as
we had before.
Some time afterwards my second brother
wished also to sell his business and
travel. My eldest brother and I did all we
could to dissuade him, but it was of no
use. He joined a caravan and set out. He
came back at the end of a year in the
same state as his elder brother. I took
care of him, and as I had a thousand
sequins to spare I gave them to him, and
he re-opened his shop.
One day, my two brothers came to me to
propose that we should make a journey
and trade. At first I refused to go. “You
travelled,” I said, “and what did you
gain?” But they came to me repeatedly,
and after having held out for five years I
at last gave way. But when they had made
their preparation, and they began to buy
the merchandise we needed, they found
they had spent every piece of the
thousand sequins I had given them. I did
not reproach them. I divided my six
thousand sequins with them, giving a
thousand to each and keeping one for
myself, and the other three I buried in a
corner of my house. We bought
merchandise, loaded a vessel with it, and
set forth with a favorable wind.
After two months’ sailing we arrived at a
seaport, where we disembarked and did a
great trade. Then we bought the
merchandise of the country, and were
just going to sail once more, when I was
stopped on the shore by a beautiful
though poorly dressed woman. She came
up to me, kissed my hand, and implored
me to marry her, and take her on board.
At first I refused, but she begged so hard
and promised to be such a good wife to
me, that at last I consented. I got her
some beautiful dresses, and after having
married her, we embarked and set sail.
During the voyage, I discovered so many
good qualities in my wife that I began to
lover her more and more. But my
brothers began to be jealous of my
prosperity, and set to work to plot against
my life. One night when we were
sleeping they threw my wife and myself
into the sea. My wife, however, was a
fairy, and so she did not let me drown,
but transported me to an island. When
the day dawned, she said to me,
“When I saw you on the sea-shore I took
a great fancy to you, and wished to try
your good nature, so I presented myself
in the disguise you saw. Now I have
rewarded you by saving your life. But I
am very angry with your brothers, and I
shall not rest till I have taken their lives.”
I thanked the fairy for all that she had
done for me, but I begged her not to kill
my brothers.
I appeased her wrath, and in a moment
she transported me from the island
where we were to the roof of my house,
and she disappeared a moment
afterwards. I went down, and opened the
doors, and dug up the three thousand
sequins which I had buried. I went to the
place where my shop was, opened it, and
received from my fellow-merchants
congratulations on my return. When I
went home, I saw two black dogs who
came to meet me with sorrowful faces. I
was much astonished, but the fairy who
reappeared said to me,
“Do not be surprised to see these dogs;
they are your two brothers. I have
condemned them to remain for ten years
in these shapes.” Then having told me
where I could hear news of her, she
vanished.
The ten years are nearly passed, and I am
on the road to find her. As in passing I
met this merchant and the old man with
the hind, I stayed with them.
This is my history, O prince of genii! Do
you not think it is a most marvellous
one?
“Yes, indeed,” replied the Genie, “and I
will give up to you the third of the
merchant’s punishment.”
Then the third old man made the Genie
the same request as the other two had
done, and the Genie promised him the
last third of the merchant’s punishment
if his story surpassed both the others.
So he told his story to the Genie, but I
cannot tell you what it was, as I do not
know.
But I do know that it was even more
marvellous than either of the others, so
that the Genie was astonished, and said
to the third old man, “I will give up to
you the third part of the merchant’s
punishment. He ought to thank all three
of you for having interested yourselves in
his favour. But for you, he would be here
no longer.”
So saying, he disappeared, to the great
joy of the company. The merchant did not
fail to thank his friends, and then each
went on his way. The merchant returned
to his wife and children, and passed the
rest of his days happily with them.
“But, sire,” added Scheherazade,
“however beautiful are the stories I have
just told you, they cannot compare with
the story of the Fisherman.”

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