Story of the Concealed Robe.*

IN old times there was a prince of the city of Ray, who spent all his time with minstrels, harps, and lutes; he was never without mirth all the year—a youth whose lot had never been troubled. He had no anxiety for the future, no business save pleasure. He never tasted grief, but ever tasted wine. He had a hundred lovers in every corner; every eye waited on his road; his ward thronged with beauties, he was never a moment without coquetry and drinking.

One night, at the time when he thought to sleep, when he knew not harp from rebeck, one of his fair companions said to him: “To-day I saw a beauty, whose face none ever beheld save the mirror, whose hair none ever caressed save the comb—a jasmine-cheeked one from the gardens of Paradise, beside whom the hūrīs were ugly as demons.” The wine-flushed man was ravished with her locks; all night he slept not for passion of that moon (i.e. the damsel); he spoke of nought but her image. When it was day, he arose, and thought to go to her street. He asked for her ward, and he (soon) began to perceive her odour.* He inquired regarding her of the neighbours, the eunuchs, and the duennas coming and going. By chance, her fairy-cheek was at the window: the youth had paused at the head of the street; at the same moment came that envy of the perīs—like the petal of the rose for grace and freshness, the perspiration was on the rose of her face, the hyacinths of her hair were in confusion. The youth became intoxicated by the zephyr from her rose; straightway his wits forsook him; suddenly his foot fell into the snare; suddenly his foot slipped from the roof; he flung himself with his own hands into the net, like the fawn that rushes headlong into the lasso. When the fairy-faced hūrī passed quickly away, how shall I tell what passed over him? He no longer knew his head from his foot, through his inebriety (with love); he no longer knew height or depth. He returned helpless from that street to his own house, where he gave himself up to grief.

The youth had an old woman in the house, who was a mistress of spells and charms; who had now cleared her hands from affairs of the world, but had formerly arranged many such matters. He went to her, and spoke with her, for the pain of the soul must not be hidden. When she heard his tale, she began to consider how to act. She had an old comrade, an effeminate one; who was fallen into the worst of plights; whose back was become (bent) like a harp, through old age; whose voice was like the boom of a drum; who was altogether hideous;—time had given him sticks for feet. He signified to the youth that this business was in his way. So the youth told what was on his heart, for one must not conceal the secret from the counsellor. He replied: “Know, O youth, that that envy of Venus and the moon is the wife of a great merchant of our city, at whose counter Kārūn* would be a beggar. To-morrow do thou go before his shop, and buy of him a costly piece of raiment: give it to me, and thou shalt see how I will manage this business.”

So next day the youth went to the bazaar, and bought a robe of the merchant, which he gave to the effeminate one, who proceeded to the street where the moon-faced one dwelt, and by craft managed to get into the house. When the fairy-face saw his demon-like form, she laughed and ran before him. After a while she brought a tray of food, and sat down beside him; and he made friends with her. And when the girl was not looking, he slipped the robe under the husband's pillow, soon after which he left the house. When the good-man came back, as usual (for he was never a night absent from the house), he looked at the pillow, and saw that robe. He was amazed, and tore up the robe. As this sight was not far from sin, he was dis­gusted with life and with woman, and he struck the poor thing's head and face. The woman managed to escape from him, and went to her mother.

One day the vile hag came forth from her house, and went to the house where the lady was, and in­quired what had befallen her. The lady answered: “My husband came in and struck me, though I had done nothing;—I know of nothing wrong that I did; I said nothing either good or bad. It seems as though they had cast a spell on him to make him act thus. What can I do in such a case?” The ill-omened hag thus answered her: “I know a skilful diviner, than whom no one better knows secrets; the heavens are to him as the earth; everything from the moon to the earth is as wax under his seal; never have I seen any one who speaks more truly than he;—he will certainly be able to divine thy case, and annul the enchantment against thee.” With such words she gained her confi­dence; and returning to the youth's house, she told him all that had happened, and he was greatly pleased with what he heard. In the morning he adorned the house as for a banquet; made it like a garden when the roses are in bloom; and collected lutists and harpers, for they say that wine without music is grief. When all was ready and he was waiting their coming, there entered the demon, and after her the fairy, whose cheek was studded with perspiration, like the rose with dew in the morning. She was come to that house in order that he might draw her out a charm. The youth at once came forward to meet her, bowing much and apologising: the fairy-face saw him whose heart was distracted for her—saw him whose nights were sleep­less through longing for her. That same moment she forgot the merchant—forgot right and wrong. The hag then left the house, for the arrow had struck the mark. The youth then took her by the hand and seated her… The diviner looked in her face and dis­covered the state of her mind… When the lady had returned to her mother's house, the youth called for the hag, and said: “Since thou hast done so well, and forgotten nothing;—as thou hast done a kindness, complete it: make peace between these two mates— speak of the virtue and goodness of the wife.” She said: “Yes; for such is my work.”

In the morning she went to the bazaar, and said to the merchant: “They have not accepted thy stuff, so I am disgusted and vexed for shame. I went on to the house of prosperity (i.e. his own house), and there I left the stuff. Look, for it is under thy pillow. God forbid that any should have grieved through this (my mistake).” She then took the price of the stuff from the merchant, and returned to her master. When the merchant heard this story from the old woman, it seemed to him to be true, and he repented of what he had done. He took many robes better than that one, of Khataian, Baghdādī, and Chinese stuffs, and gave them to his wife, and kissed her, and begged for pardon, saying: “My wife, the right was with thee.” He rubbed his head against her feet, and so soothed and did away her displeasure.]*

The king is again persuaded to suspend the execu­tion, and to remand his son to prison.

The Damsel comes the Seventh Time before the King, rends her Garments, and demands Justice.

When the Damsel learned that her calumnies were ineffectual, and that the wrath of his Majesty, and the thirst for his son's blood, which she had excited, had been dispelled by the counsels of his sage minister, thinking that she might yet conceal from him her crime, she approached the throne, and shedding tears, exclaimed: “O king, whither is departed that justice for which you were renowned? Dread that God who created the soul, and made you ruler of the earth. When a son aims, as yours has done, at the life of his father, he is a curse, and not a blessing. Trust not your vazīr, who is attached to other interests than yours, and who seeks only the aggrandisement of his own family. You yourself exercise no real sovereignty, but are guided in everything by him, and have not the liberty of a common rustic. If I have spoken too freely, consider for whose interest I am speaking. You are a mighty sovereign, and honoured with the esteem of other monarchs. Your son is but an ignorant boy, pleased with his panther and his hawk;* while your vazīr is so intent on his own ambitious schemes, that he knows not months from years: entrust not the management of your kingdom to a foe. You have gained it by the sword; leave it not to the needle. Since this vazīr is leagued with your son, choose another minister. What will it avail you to lament my fate, when I shall be in my grave? You know what a prince once experienced from his [father's] vazīr, who acknowledged not the ties of gratitude, but involved him in dire calamity? If your Majesty desires it, I will relate the story.” The king having expressed a wish to hear it, the Damsel relates the