There was formerly, sire, a merchant, who was possessed of great wealth, in land, merchandise, and ready money. Having one day an affair of great importance to settle at a considerable distance from home, he mounted his horse, and with only a sort of cloak-bag behind him, in which he had put a few biscuits and dates, he began his journey. He arrived without any accident at the place of his destination; and having finished his business, set out on his return.
On the fourth day of his journey he felt himself so incommoded by the heat of the sun that he turned out of his road, in order to rest under some trees by which there was a fountain. He alighted, and tying his horse to a branch of the tree, sat down on its bank to eat some biscuits and dates from his little store. When he had satisfied his hunger he amused himself with throwing about the stones of the fruit with considerable velocity. When he had finished his frugal repast he washed his hands, his face, and his feet, and repeated a prayer, like a good Mussulman.
He was still on his knees, when he saw a genie, white with age and of an enormous stature, advancing toward him, with a scimitar in his hand. As soon as he was close to him he said in a most terrible tone: “Get up, that I may kill thee with this scimitar, as thou hast caused the death of my son.” He accompanied these words with a dreadful yell.
The merchant, alarmed by the horrible figure of this giant, as well as by the words he heard, replied in trembling accents: “How can I have slain him? I do not know him, nor have I ever seen him.”
“Didst thou not,” replied the giant, “on thine arrival here, sit down, and take some dates from thy wallet; and after eating them, didst thou not throw the stones about on all sides?”
“This is all true,” replied the merchant; “I do not deny it.”
“Well, then,” said the other, “I tell thee thou hast killed my son; for while thou wast throwing about the stones, my son passed by; one of them struck him in the eye, and caused his death, and thus hast thou slain my son.”
“Ah, sire, forgive me,” cried the merchant.
“I have neither forgiveness nor mercy,” replied the giant; “and is it not just that he who has inflicted death should suffer it?”
“I grant this; yet surely I have not done so: and even if I have, I have done so innocently, and therefore I entreat you to pardon me, and suffer me to live.”
“No, no,” cried the genie, still persisting in his resolution, “I must destroy thee, as thou hast killed my son.”
At these words, he took the merchant in his arms, and having thrown him with his face on the ground, he lifted up his saber, in order to strike off his head.
Schehera-zade, at this instant perceiving it was day, and knowing that the sultan rose early to his prayers, and then to hold a council, broke off.
“What a wonderful story,” said Dinar-zade, “have you chosen!”
“The conclusion,” observed Schehera-zade, “is still more surprising, as you would confess if the sultan would suffer me to live another day, and in the morning permit me to continue the relation.”
Schah-riar, who had listened with much pleasure to the narration, determined to wait till to-morrow, intending to order her execution after she had finished her story.
He arose, and having prayed, went to the council.
The grand vizier, in the meantime, was in a state of cruel suspense. Unable to sleep, he passed the night in lamenting the approaching fate of his daughter, whose executioner he was compelled to be. Dreading, therefore, in this melancholy situation, to meet the sultan, how great was his surprise in seeing him enter the council chamber without giving him the horrible order he expected!
The sultan spent the day, as usual, in regulating the affairs of his kingdom, and on the approach of night, retired with Schehera-zade to his apartment.
On the next morning, the sultan did not wait for Schehera-zade to ask permission to continue her story, but said, “Finish the tale of the genie and the merchant. I am curious to hear the end of it.”
Schehera-zade immediately went on as follows:
When the merchant, sire, perceived that the genie was about to execute his purpose, he cried aloud: “One word more, I entreat you; have the goodness to grant me a little delay; give me only one year to go and take leave of my dear wife and children, and I promise to return to this spot, and submit myself entirely to your pleasure.”
“Take Allah to witness of the promise thou hast made me,” said the other.
“Again I swear,” replied he, “and you may rely on my oath.”
On this the genie left him near the fountain, and immediately disappeared.
The merchant, on his reaching home, related faithfully all that had happened to him. On hearing the sad news, his wife uttered the most lamentable groans, tearing her hair and beating her breast; and his children made the house resound with their grief. The father, overcome by affection, mingled his tears with theirs.
The year quickly passed. The good merchant having settled his affairs, paid his just debts, given alms to the poor, and made provision to the best of his ability for his wife and family, tore himself away amid the most frantic expressions of grief; and mindful of his oath, he arrived at the destined spot on the very day he had promised.
While he was waiting for the arrival of the genie, there suddenly appeared an old man leading a hind, who, after a respectful salutation, inquired what brought him to that desert place. The merchant satisfied the old man’s curiosity, and related his adventure, on which he expressed a wish to witness his interview with the genie. He had scarcely finished his speech when another old man, accompanied by two black dogs, came in sight, and having heard the tale of the merchant, he also determined to remain to see the event.
Soon they perceived, toward the plain, a thick vapor or smoke, like a column of dust raised by the wind. This vapor approached them, and then suddenly disappearing, they saw the genie, who, without noticing the others, went toward the merchant, scimitar in hand. Taking him by the arm, “Get up,” said he, “that I may kill thee, as thou hast slain my son.”
Both the merchant and the two old men, struck with terror, began to weep and fill the air with their lamentations.
When the old man who conducted the hind saw the genie lay hold of the merchant, and about to murder him without mercy, he threw himself at the monster’s feet, and, kissing them, said, “Lord Genie, I humbly entreat you to suspend your rage, and hear my history, and that of the hind, which you see; and if you find it more wonderful and surprising than the adventure of this merchant, whose life you wish to take, may I not hope that you will at least grant me one half part the blood of this unfortunate man?”
After meditating some time, the genie answered, “Well then, I agree to it.”