ONCE on a time there were three whales of the sea of fraud and deceit—three dragons of the nature of thunder and the quickness of lightning—three de­famers of honour and reputation—in other words, three men-deceiving, lascivious women, each of whom had, from the chancery of her cunning, issued the diploma of turmoil to a hundred cities and countries, and in the arts of fraud they accounted Satan as an admiring spectator in the theatre of their stratagems. One of them was sitting in the court of justice of the Kází's embraces; the second was the precious gem of the bazár-master's diadem of compliance; and the third was the beazle and ornament of the signet-ring of the life and soul of the superintendent of police. They were constantly entrapping the fawns of the prairie of deceit, with the grasp of cunning, and plundering the wares of the caravan of tranquility of the hearts of both strangers and acquaintances by means of the edge of the scimitar of fraud.*

One day this trefoil of roguery met at the public bath, and, according to their homogeneous nature, they intermingled as intimately as a comb with the hair: they tucked up the garment of amity to the waist of union, entered the tank of agreement, seated themselves in the hot-house of love, and poured from the dish of folly, by means of the key of hypocrisy, the water of profusion upon the head of intercourse; they rubbed with the brush of familiarity and the soap of affection the stains of jealousies from each other's limbs. After a while, when they had brought the pot of concord to boil by the fire of mutual laudation, they warmed the bath of association with the breeze of kindness and came out.* In the dressing-room all three of them happened simultaneously to find a ring, the gem of which surpassed the imagination of the Jeweller of Destiny,* and the like of which he had never beheld in the store-house of possibility. The finger of covetousness of each of the three ladies pointed to the ring, and the right of its possession became the object of dispute among them. But after their controversy had been protracted to an undue length, the mother of the bathman,* who had for years practised under the sorceress Shamsah* and had learnt all sorts of tricks from her, stepped forward and said: “I am a woman who has seen the world, and I have experienced many events of this kind. Something has occurred to me with reference to this matter, and if you will listen to my advice your diffi­culty will be solved. As I am a faithful and honest person,” the old woman continued, “you may entrust this ring to me. Each of you must sow the seed of deception into the field of her husband's folly, and she whose arrow of fraud shall settle deepest in the target of her husband's imbecility, and the rose of whose act, being watered by the art and care of dili­gence, shall flourish more than the plants of her competitors, shall, after due investigation by myself, be put in possession of the much-coveted ring.” All three of them agreed to this proposal, and surrendered the ring to the old hag. The wife of the Kází said: “I shall be the first who writes the incantation upon the name of the Kází.” Accordingly they dressed in the robe of cunning, put on the mantle of de­ception, and departed to their respective domiciles.