IN the city of Basra there was a certain man, a merchant, who possessed immense riches; but it was decreed that the light of prosperity should be changed into the darkness of misfortune, so that in a short space of time very little of all his wealth remained, and whatsoever commercial projects he tried invari­ably terminated in loss.

It happened one year, that the price of corn was increased, and the Merchant thought that, by laying out what remained of his money in purchasing some loads of corn and keeping it till the next year, he might profit considerably. He therefore hired a granary, purchased some corn, and laid it by, in expectation that the price would rise.

But corn became more abundant, and consequently more cheap, the following season. When the Mer­chant perceived this, he resolved to keep that which he had in store until the next year, thinking it prob­able that a barren season might succeed a plentiful one. But it happened that the next year, so much rain fell, that most of the houses were washed away, and the water found its way into the Merchant's granary, where it spoiled all his corn, and caused it to send forth a smell so intolerable, that the people of the city compelled him to throw it away.

He was confounded by this misfortune; but after some time, finding that he could not derive any profit from idleness or inactivity, he sold his house, and joined a company of merchants, who were setting out on a voyage by sea. With them, he embarked on board a vessel, and after three days and three nights, the world became dark, the tempest arose, the billows rolled: at length the ship was wrecked, and many of the crew perished. The Merchant, with a few others, was saved on a plank, and cast on dry land.

Hungry and naked, he wandered into a desert, when, after advancing some leagues, he discovered a man at a little distance. Delighted to find that the country was inhabited, and hoping to be relieved from hunger and thirst, which had now become almost insupport­able, he directed his course towards that man, and soon perceived an extensive and populous village, with trees and running streams. At the entrance to this village he stopped. The chief man, or dihkān, of the place was a person of considerable wealth, and of great generosity; he had erected in the outlets of this village, a summer-house, in which he happened to be when the Merchant arrived. As soon as he discovered the stranger, he ordered his servants to bring him into the summer-house. The stranger paid his respects, and was entertained by the dihkān with politeness and hospitality. Having satisfied his hunger and thirst, he related, at the desire of his host, all the circumstances of his past life, and all the misfortunes he had undergone. The story excited compassion in the breast of the generous dihkān, who gave the Merchant a suit of his own clothes, and bade him not despair, for he would keep him with himself until his affairs should be again in a prosperous condition.

After this, the dihkān gave into the Merchant's charge the account of his property and possessions, and said that he would allow him, for his own share, the eleventh part of all the corn. The Merchant, much delighted, was very diligent in superintending the concerns of his employer; and as the harvest proved very abundant, when the corn was gathered in, he found his portion so considerable, that he said within himself: “The dihkān most probably will not consent to allow me such a share; I shall therefore take it and conceal it, until the settlement of accounts, when, if he think proper to bestow so much on me, I shall give back this.” He accordingly took this quantity of the corn, and concealed it in a cavern; but it happened that a thief discovered what he had done, and stole the corn away by night.

When the dihkān inspected the accounts of the harvest, and had made his calculation of the produce, he assigned to the Merchant the eleventh part of the corn. The Merchant returned him thanks, and ac­knowledged the doubts which he had entertained, and told him how he had set apart a certain portion of the corn, “which,” said he, “I shall now go and cause to be deposited in the granary.” The dihkān sent two of his people with him to the place where he had concealed the corn, but none could be found. They were astonished, and bit the finger of amazement. When the dihkān was informed of this circumstance, he became angry, and ordered that the Merchant should be driven forth out of the village.

In melancholy plight, the unlucky Merchant turned his face towards the road which led to the sea-shore. There he chanced to meet six of those persons who gain a livelihood by diving for pearls. They knew him, and inquired into his situation. He related to them all that had happened, and his story so much excited their compassion that they agreed to bestow on him, for the sake of God, whatsoever their next descent to the bottom of the sea should produce. They accordingly, with this charitable intention, plunged all six into the sea, and each brought up from the bottom a pearl of such exquisite beauty that its equal could not be found amongst the treasures of any monarch. The Merchant received from the divers those six pre­cious pearls, and set forward with a joyful heart.

It happened that after some time he fell into com­pany with certain robbers, whom he much feared, and he resolved to save part, at least, of his property, by concealing three of the pearls in his mouth, and the other three among his clothes; hoping that, if they should search him, they might be contented with these, and that he might save those concealed within his mouth. He accordingly put three of the pearls among his clothes, and the other three into his mouth, and went on for some time without exciting any suspicion, or attracting the notice of the robbers. But unluckily opening his mouth to address them, the pearls fell on the ground; and when the robbers saw them, they seized the Merchant, and so terrified him with their threats and violence that he became senseless. The robbers, perceiving this, took up the three pearls and went away. After some time the Merchant recovered his senses, and was overjoyed to find that he had still three of the pearls left.

Proceeding on his journey, he arrived by night at a certain city, where he slept; and next morning went to the shop of a jeweller, to whom he offered the pearls for sale. The jeweller, on beholding them, was aston­ished; for they far exceeded anything he had ever seen: then casting his eyes on the mean and squalid garments of the Merchant, he immediately seized him by the collar, and exclaimed with a loud voice, accus­ing the unfortunate stranger of having stolen the pearls from his shop: a violent struggle and dispute ensued, and at length they both proceeded to the tribunal of the King.

The jeweller was a man of some repute in the city, and that which he said was believed by the inhabitants. He accused the Merchant of having contrived a hole through which he stole away a casket of gold and jewels from his shop, and those three pearls were part of the contents of the casket. The Merchant declared himself innocent; but the King ordered him to deliver the pearls to the jeweller, and he was loaded with chains and thrown into prison.

There he pined in misery and affliction, until after some time those divers who had given him the pearls arrived in that city; and going to visit the prison, that they might benefit by seeing the punishment of vice and wickedness, they distributed some money among those who were confined, and at last discovered the Merchant in a corner, loaded with chains. They were astonished, and inquired into the occasion of his dis­grace. He related the whole affair, and they, feeling great indignation on account of the injurious treatment which their friend had suffered, desired him not to despair, as they would soon procure him his liberty. They immediately hastened from the prison to the pal­ace. The chief of them was a man whom the King much respected; and when he had related the story of the Merchant, and of the pearls which they had given him, the King became convinced of the jeweller's guilt, and instantly ordered him to be seized and brought before him, and at the same time that the Merchant should be released from prison. When the jeweller appeared before the King, his confusion and trembling betrayed his guilt. The King asked him why he had thus injured a stranger; but he remained silent, and was then led away to execution. The King caused to be proclaimed throughout the city: “Such is to be the punishment of those who shall injure or do wrong to strangers.”

He directed also, that the property of the jeweller should be transferred to the Merchant. Supposing that a man who had seen so much of the world, both of prosperity and adversity, must be well qualified for the service of a King, he ordered a splendid robe to be given to the Merchant; and desired that he should be purified from the filth of a prison in a warm bath, and appointed him keeper of the treasury.

The Merchant employed himself diligently in the duties of his station; but there was a vizier who became envious of his good fortune, and resolved to devise some stratagem whereby to effect his ruin.

The King's daughter had a summer-house adjoining the treasury, and it was her custom to visit this summer-house during six months of the year, once every month. It happened that a mouse had made a hole quite through the wall of the treasury; and one day the Merchant having reason to drive a nail into the wall, it entered into the hole which the mouse had made, and went through and caused a brick to fall out on the road which led to the Princess's summer-house. The Merchant went immediately and stopped up the hole with clay.

The malicious vizier, having discovered this cir­cumstance, hastened to the King, and informed him that he had seen the Merchant making a hole through the wall of the summer-house, and that, when he had found himself detected, he had, in shame and con­fusion, stopped it up with clay. The King was astonished at this information: he arose and pro­ceeded to the treasury, where finding the Merchant's hands yet dirty from the clay, he believed what the vizier had told him; and on returning to his palace, ordered his attendants to put out the Merchant's eyes, and to turn him out at the palace-gate. After this the King went to the summer-house, that he might pay a visit to his daughter; but he found that she had not been there for some time, having gone to amuse her­self in the gardens. On proceeding to the treasury, the King discovered the hole, which had evidently been the work of a mouse. From these circumstances he began to suspect the truth of the vizier's informa­tion, and at last being convinced that the Merchant was innocent, he ordered the vizier to be punished. He lamented exceedingly the hard fate of the Mer­chant, and was much grieved at his own precipitancy; but his condolence and his sorrow were of no avail.

Having related this story, Bakhtyār observed, that the King would have prevented all this distress had he taken some time to inquire into the affair, and entreated a further respite, that he might be enabled to prove his innocence.—The King, being pleased with the recital of this story, complied with Bakhtyār's request, and ordered him to be taken back to prison for that day.