The Prince next relates the

Story of the Sandal-wood Merchant, and the
Advice of the Blind Old Man

THERE was once a young man, a merchant, who wandered about the world like the zephyr or the north wind, and who, like the sun and moon, was on his travels every month and all the year round. Manifold are the advantages of travel, by which a man of enterprise becomes respected. He who has travelled is awake and intelligent; and when an affair of import­ance occurs, he is powerful; while he who has sat inactive at home can with difficulty procure a liveli­hood. Travel is the profit and the capital of man; its hardships are his nurse. Through it the raw and inexperienced at length become adepts; through it the great achieve renown. By travel the new moon perpetually becomes the full. What is travel, but a capital by which a fortune may be amassed?* By travel this young man became alert and active; and he who is active attains to wealth. He was now in Khatā, now in Khutan;* now in Aleppo, and now in Yaman. He carried the products of Khurasan to Kh,ārazm;* he conveyed the stuffs of Ispahan to the emperor of China. As he sold in Bukhara the products of Abyssinia, he necessarily sold them at 1,000 per cent. (lit. one for ten).*

Some one having told him that at Kāshgar sandal­wood was of equal value with gold, and was sold for its weight in that metal, he resolved to proceed thither; and accordingly, having converted all his capital into sandal-wood,* he set out on his journey. When he arrived near Kāshgar, a person of the country, hearing that he had a large supply of sandal-wood (in which he himself dealt), and fearing that that commodity would be depreciated by its abundance, devised the follow­ing stratagem.

Going two stages out of the city, he halted at the spot where the foreign merchant was; and having pitched his tent and opened his bales, he lit a fire and piled sandal-wood on it for fuel. When the merchant smelt the odour of the sandal-wood he rushed from his tent in amazement and vexation. The man from the city saluted him, saying: “You are welcome; may God protect you from evil! Say, from what country do you come, and what mer­chandise bring you?” The merchant informed him. “You have made a sad blunder,” remarked the citizen. “Why have you brought cumin-seed to Kirmān?* The whole timber of this country is sandal­wood: every casement, roof, and door is composed of it. If one were to bring common wood hither, it would be far better than sandal-wood. Who has been so cruel as to suggest to you this ill-advised scheme? From whose hand proceeds such a blunder as this? Does anyone bring the musk-bladder to Chinese Tartary?”*

“Alas!” said the young man to himself, “I have thrown away my capital! Covetousness is an unblest passion! Alas, for my long journey, and the hardships I have endured! What have they availed me? He who is not content with what God allots him, never prospers.”

The man, seeing the merchant now ready for his purpose, said to him: “The world is never free from profit and loss. Give this sandal-wood to me, and I will give you in return a measure of gold or silver, or of whatever else you shall ask.”* The merchant con­sented; two witnesses were called, and the bargain was struck. The merchant considered that the sum he should receive was so much gain, and was rejoiced to be rid of so worthless an article as he had brought.

He thence proceeded to the city of Kāshgar, and entering that delightful spot, that model of Paradise, took up his lodging in the house of a virtuous old woman. Of her the merchant asked a question, the reply to which brought him grief and trouble. He inquired: “What is the value of sandal-wood in this kingdom?” and she informed him that it was worth its weight in gold.* “In this city,” said she, “headache is common; and hence it is in demand.” At this intelligence the merchant became distracted, for he saw that he had been duped. He related his adven­ture to the old woman, who cautioned him not to trust the inhabitants of that city, by whose cunning many had been ruined.

When morning came, he washed his eyes from sleep, and inquired the way to the market. Thither he bent his course, and wandered through market, street, and field, still solitary, and without a friend or companion. The alien has no portion in enjoyment: he is a martyr wherever he dies. I will suppose him to be but second to Kay-Qubād,* and that he has placed on his head the diadem of Farīdūn. Even were he Joseph of Egypt, yet when he calls to mind his home and country, a palace becomes to him a prison.

The young merchant was sad at heart, for his enter­prise was entirely at a stand. Suddenly he observed a person playing at draughts in the street. He stopped, and thought to himself: “I will play with this person to dispel my grief;” and sat down beside the player, forgetful of the caution which his landlady had given him. The other agreed to let him play, on condition that whichever of them should lose should be bound to do whatever the winner should desire.* The merchant was soon beaten by his crafty opponent, who, upon this, required him to “drink up the waters of the sea,” a demand at which the merchant was con­founded and perplexed. The report spread through Kāshgar, and a crowd soon collected. Another of the gang had but one eye, which was blue, the colour of the merchant's eyes. “You have stolen my eye,” said he to the merchant, and he claimed it in the presence of the crowd. A third produced a stone, and said: “Make from this piece of marble a pair of trousers and a shirt.”*

The story soon spread, and all Kāshgar was in a bustle. The old woman, hearing of it, hastened from her house, and saw her lodger involved in difficulty. She was surety for him, with ten householders, that she would deliver him, when required, to the court of justice. When they reached home, she reproached him, saying: “When a man listens not to advice, fresh calamities will constantly overtake him. Did I not tell you to have absolutely no dealings with the inhabitants of this city—no intimacy with them?”— “It was no fault of yours,” replied the youth; “but there is no remedy against the decrees of destiny.” He was much dispirited, but she consoled him. “Be not downcast,” said she; “for joy succeeds to grief; there can be no cure till there be a complaint. In this city there is a blind old man, with neither power in his feet nor strength in his hands; but a man of great intelligence and acuteness. Those sharpers assemble nightly at his house, and are directed by him how to act. Do you this night dress yourself like them, and repairing to his house sit silent among them. When your adversaries shall enter and relate their adventures of the day, mark his answers and his questions. Be all ear there, like the rose; like the narcissus, be all eye and silent.”

The young man did as she desired, and repairing thither at night, quietly seated himself in a corner. The first who entered was the person who had bought the sandal-wood. He related his adventure. “I have bought a quantity of sandal-wood,” said he, “for which I am to give one measure of whatever the seller may choose.” “O simpleton!” exclaimed the old man, “you have thrown yourself into the net. This crafty merchant has over-reached you, my son. For if he should demand of you neither silver nor gold, but a sā'* of male fleas, with silken housings and jewelled bridles, and all linked together with golden chains, say, how will you be able to extricate yourself from this difficulty?”—“How,” replied the sharper, “could that simpleton ever think of such a trick?”—“However that may be,” said the old man, “I have given you your answer.”

Next entered the draught-player, and related the adventure of the game. “I have beaten him at draughts,” said he, “and have bound him to this condition (and there are witnesses to our agreement), that he shall drink up the whole waters of the sea.”— “You have blundered,” replied the old man, “and have involved yourself in difficulty. You thought you had taken him in: in imagination you had caught him in a snare from which there was no escape. But suppose he should say: ‘First, pray stop all the streams and rivers that are flowing into the sea, before I drink it dry;”* what possible answer can you return?”—“How,” said the knave, “could he, in his whole life, think such a thought?”

Next the other sharper entered—a knave more shameless than the other two. “I desired him,” said he, “to make with his own hands a pair of trousers and a shirt from this slab of stone.” The crafty old man replied: “You have managed worse than all. For if your opponent should say: ‘Do you first weave me from iron the thread to sew it with,’* how will you be able to reply?”—“How should a simpleton like him think of such an idea?” said the sharper.

The man with one eye next came in. “That youth,” said he, “has blue eyes. I said to him: ‘This is my eye; it is evident to every one that you have stolen it; restore it, and return my other eye its fellow.’”— “O ignorant of the wiles of the age,” replied the old man; “your fortune is more adverse than that of all the rest. Suppose he should say: ‘Pluck out your one eye, and then I will pluck out one of mine, that we may put them both in scales and judge by their weight whether you are right.’ That man will then have one of his eyes remaining, while you will be quite blind.” “He will never,” said the other, “think of such a trick as that.”*

The young man listened, unobserved, to all that had passed, hastened home, and gave the woman a thousand thanks for having put him on a plan of foiling his adversaries. He passed the night in calm­ness and tranquillity. Next morning, when the parties appeared before the qāzī, the first, who had bought the sandal-wood, seized the merchant by the collar, saying: “Produce your measure, that I may fill it, and give you your due.” When the merchant gave him his reply, he was confounded, and sat down mortified in presence of the qāzī. In like manner the merchant made to each of the rest the reply which the old man had suggested. At length, after a hundred difficulties and objections, the merchant consented to take back his sandal-wood, and several bags of gold as compen­sation; and he availed himself of the first opportunity which offered to escape from the power of those worthless people.*

When his Majesty heard this tale, he blessed heaven that he had such a son; then, turning to his ministers and courtiers, he inquired to whom they considered him indebted for such a blessing. The first said: “To the prince's mother, who attended carefully to his bringing-up.” Another ascribed his excellence to his father; another to the attention of Sindibād; “for,” said he, “if the sun withhold his glance, how could the stone be converted into a ruby or a turquoise?”* Another said: “Nay; but to your Majesty's ministers, who have been a shield interposed between the prince and calamity, so that the shaft of woman hath not taken effect.”

Then the eloquent Sindibād opened his mouth like the lily, and said: “There is none worthy of thanks or praise save God—that God who bestows vision and hearing; for nothing proceeds from the blind and deaf. He it is who has bestowed on the prince his capacity and talent.”

The king then asked the prince which of these opinions he considered as the best. The Prince replied by relating the