The Benevolent Lady's Story.

MY father was a wealthy merchant of this country, and very intimate with all its ruling powers, until he died, when I inherited his property and lived in com­fort. One day as I was sitting at a window I observed a large company of devotees, preceded by a man reputed to be of great sanctity, who bore the marks of piety in his countenance. Whenever he stopped a chair was placed for him, and the people stood reverently around him, wiping with their sleeves the dust from his skirts and shoes; and in this manner the procession entered the city. Seeing the stature of that person invested with the robe of piety and devotion, I was curious to ascertain what famed hermit or saint he might be, and despatched a servant to make inquiries. He returned soon and said: “This is Múllah Tamurtash, the ascetic, who has in the school of abstinence studied the divine laws and performs his devotions in the hermitage of Abú Tuchmah and is now come to the city at the invitation of the people to preach and pray.” On learning this I considered it incumbent on me to pay a compliment to so holy a personage, so the next day I made up a few presents and said to a slave: “Take this to the holy ascetic, and request his prayers for me at the throne of Grace.” My messenger was received with great kindness, and examined on every circumstance connected with my affairs. During the ensuing night an alarm of “thieves” was raised in my house, and when I awoke I found that a number of men had walked off with all the valuables they could lay hands on, and I sent a servant in pursuit of them to discover where they deposited my property. The servant on his return informed me that everything had been conveyed to the abode of the ascetic. I immediately proceeded to the king's palace and stated my case to him, but was not a little surprised to receive this reply: “This foolish and impudent woman,” said the king, “speaks like an infidel, and ought to be expelled from the city lest some calamity should befall us on account of her wickedness. To asperse the character of a man who has all his life walked in the path of virtue is enough to call down the wrath of God on our own heads.” I was accordingly driven out of the city, poor and helpless, and journeyed on foot till I reached a village, where I obtained shelter in the house of a respectable man; and having, as my sole property, a ruby ring, I managed, by means of my host, to sell it for ten thousand dirhams, and as one of the agents of my father was established in Hindústán I determined to go to that country. Having purchased a camel and a slave, I set out on my journey and in due time arrived safely at the house of my father's agent, to whom I related my misfortunes. In short, I remained some time in Hindústán and engaged in commerce, through which I accumulated immense wealth. I then resolved to return to China, and, having provided myself with seventy powerful, valiant, and intelligent slaves and put on men's attire, proceeded to trade from town to town until I reached my native city. I readily ob­tained an audience of the king, to whom I presented a number of valuable gifts, and soon it was reported far and wide that a very rich merchant had arrived from Hindústán with a great company of attendants. One day I gave a quantity of gold and silver to a slave and ordered him to carry it to Tamurtash the ascetic, with my humble request that he would remember me in his prayers. At night I ordered all my attendants to arm themselves and to be on the alert, but keep quiet and concealed. I was not deceived in my expectation, for about the middle of the night the ascetic with his followers came, and throwing ropes over the wall got into the courtyard with the design of plundering my house. Suddenly my servants leapt forth from their ambush and captured the ascetic with his forty accom­plices, all of whom I caused to be confined in chains. As soon as morning dawned I went to the palace and made my statement, when the king ordered the police immediately to search for the thieves. “O King,” said I, “all the robbers are already captured, and if you will permit, I shall bring them into your presence.” When the king and his courtiers beheld Tamurtash the ascetic and his disciples they were amazed, and the king straightway caused them all to be put to death, saying: “That woman stated the truth the first time also, but we gave no credit to her words; she has suffered innocently, and now we have no means to make good our error.” But I replied, smiling: “That poor woman am I, O King,” and related the whole affair. The king approved of what I had done, and made over to me all the property of the ascetic.*

“Now, my friend,” continued the lady, “years have passed since I commenced to bestow the most abundant gifts from that property, and no diminution appears in it. But in spite of all my liberality my fame is not known beyond this country, while that of Hatim is patent and manifest in the world like the sun. You have promised to bring me the head of Hatim, but you have not kept your word.” Hatim answered: “I am myself Hatim, and my head is at your disposal,” and drawing his sword he laid it before the lady. She was greatly moved and said: “True greatness consists not merely in liberality but in hazarding our lives for those of our friends, and that you have done. The pre-eminence is therefore yours. Hitherto I have abstained from accepting the addresses of any man, but your beauty and liberality induce me to offer you my hand.” Hatim was highly pleased, drew the hand of response over the eyes of acquiescence, married her, and lived with her happily for many years until they were parted by death.

When Khayrandísh had ended this tale he said to Nassar: “I have related these stories to impress on your mind the fact that whoever abandons the reins of his heart to the promptings of foolish illusions, and the vain imaginings of his animal passions, will fare like the Painter, the Washerman, and the Blind Man, will reap only disappointment, carry on his back the load of bitter memories, and during his whole life taste nothing but the beverage of shame and repentance.”


“Although Fortune may smile on a man,” con­tinued Khayrandísh, “and distinguish him above his peers, he should be provident and prudent, and must not despise the counsel of his friends. He must also be on his guard against enemies, else he will, like Kasharkasha the son of the king of Fars,* fall into the power of his foes, and the rose-grove of his contentment will be withered by the autumn of grief, and all his life he will be a wanderer in the deserts of repentance.” Nassar asked: “How was that?” And Khayrandísh began to relate the