Story of the Lover in the Chest.

A MERCHANT, who was exceedingly jealous, had a very beautiful wife. From suspicion of her fidelity, he would not dwell in a city among men, but built a house in a most retired situation, that no one might visit her. It was surrounded by lofty walls, and had a strong gateway. Every morning he locked the door, took the key with him, and proceeded to the city to transact business until the evening.

One day, the sultan's son, riding out for amuse­ment, passed by the house, and cast his eyes on the merchant's wife, who was walking on the terrace. He was captivated by her beauty, and she was no less charmed with his appearance. He tried the gate, but it was securely fastened. At length he wrote a declara­tion of his love, and fixed it on an arrow, which he shot upon the terrace. The merchant's wife read the letter, and returned a favourable answer. He then took the key of a chest, tied it to a note, in which was written, “I will come to thee in a chest, of which this is the key,” and threw it up to her. The prince after this took his leave, and returning to the city, sent for his father's vazīr, to whom he communicated what had happened, requesting his assistance. “My son,” said the vazīr, “what can I do? I tremble for my character in such a business, and what plan can we pursue?” The prince answered: “I only require thy help in what I have contrived. I mean to place myself in a large chest, which thou must lock upon me, and convey at night to the merchant's house, and say to him: ‘This chest contains my jewels and treasure, which I am afraid the sultan may seize, and must for a time entrust to thy care.’”

The vazīr having consented to the proposal, the prince entered the chest, which was then locked and conveyed privately to the town-house of the merchant. The vazīr knocked at the door, and the merchant ap­pearing, made a profound obeisance to so honourable a visitant, who requested to leave the chest with him for some days, till the alarm of the sultan's displeasure should be over. The merchant readily consented, and had the chest for security carried to his country house, and placed in the apartments of his wife. In the morning he went about his affairs to the city, when his wife, having adorned herself in her richest apparel, opened the chest. The prince came out, embraced her, and kissed her. They passed the day together in merriment, till the merchant's return, when the prince repaired to his place of concealment.

Seven days had passed in this manner, when it chanced that the sultan inquired for his son, and the vazīr went hastily to the merchant to reclaim the chest. The merchant had returned earlier than usual to his country house, and was overtaken on his way by the vazīr. The lady and the prince, who had been amusing themselves in the court of the house, were suddenly disturbed by a knocking at the gate, and the prince betook himself to the chest, which the wife in her con­fusion forgot to lock. The merchant entered with his servants, who took up the chest to deliver to the vazīr; when lo! the lid opened, and the prince was discovered, half intoxicated with wine. The poor merchant durst not revenge himself upon the son of his sovereign. He conducted him to the vazīr, who was overwhelmed with shame at the disgraceful discovery. The merchant, con­vinced of his own dishonour, and that his precautions had been in vain, divorced his wife, and took an oath never to marry again. [29]

“Such is the wiliness of men,” added the Damsel; “but thy vazīrs cannot escape my penetration.”—After hearing this story, the sultan, who doatingly loved the Damsel, gave orders for the execution of his son.

On the sixth day the Sixth Vazīr came before the sultan, and said: “Be cautious, my lord, in the execu­tion of your son; be not rash, for rashness is sinful, and the artfulness of women is well known, for God has declared, in the Qur'ān, that their craftiness is beyond all measure.