THERE was a man in Tabríz the orbs of whose vision were deprived of the faculty of seeing, and the stature of his circumstances had lost the robe of wealth. He went from house to house begging and was in the habit of chanting these verses:

“Whoever turns his face from the road of justice, His breast will become a target for the shafts of misfortune.”

One day he went about according to his custom, and having stopped near a rich man's house, he began to beg, and also recited the above distich. The master of the house refreshed his thirsty lips with the pleasant shower of a gift and said: “I have often heard you chant these words; tell me your reason for so doing.” The blind man thus replied:

“Kind and humane Sir, why do you ask me to relate to you an event which is sad, and still rankles in my heart? My birth-place is in Syria, near Damascus. My father in the beginning of his career was a hawker, and in that business he considered honesty, piety, and justice as the principal stock-in-trade of the shop of his livelihood. By the blessing of these upright principles his condition was improved, and day by day the darkness of his poverty was being dispelled by the lamp of prosperity; his wealth gradu­ally increased so much that he became a dealer in jewels, and having with some other merchants under­taken an expedition to Bahrayn, he bought there a great quantity of pearls and returned home. He engaged in that business with several assistants and the star of his good fortune was daily rising till it culminated, and he became one of the wealthiest men in that country. The diver in the sea of Destiny extracted the pearl of my father's life from the shell of his existence. All his property became mine; and having sat down in the depository of my father's welfare and ease, I spread like him the carpet of the self-same employment and occupation. The tree of greediness for money had struck deep roots in my heart; and worldliness had obtained such a complete dominion over me that I was deprived once for all of the reins of self-control. In lucrative speculations and mercantile transactions I took dishonesty and fraud into my partnership; and, although I en­deavoured to cover the reproving eye of conscience with the sleeve of prohibition, I was unable to cope with my insatiable greediness. It is considered as very mean to commence business in the bazár before sunrise, but I was in the habit of doing so,* and one day, just when I had opened my shop, there came a man of sinister aspect, from whose face the jaundice of poverty had wiped off the bloom of health. He began to praise God, and, having drawn from his pocket a precious pearl, thus addressed me: “Young man, I had once great riches and possessions, but by a sudden reverse of fortune I was made penniless in the twinkling of an eye, and all that has remained to me is this pearl. The destitution of my family and my own difficulties have compelled me to offer it for sale in order to ward off other evils, until the breeze of prosperity again begins to blow towards me.” I took the pearl from his hand, and although it was extremely valuable and I was astonished at its beauty, purity, and splendour, yet, influenced by the cunning of our trade, I turned contemptuously towards the man and said: “This pearl is not so precious as you suppose; your poverty, however, induces me to buy it. What is the price?” Then I pretended to busy myself with something else, but the desire to possess the pearl had pervaded my whole being, and I was afraid lest it should become the prey of another dealer. The man replied: “Dear friend, though you see me now in a state of distress, there was a time when I presented many such pearls to my friends. It is not worth while to make so much about the sale of a single pearl, and I myself am perfectly aware of its real value; but as I have come to your shop I should feel ashamed to go round the others. Your own skill and knowledge are perfectly competent to decide this matter, and you may offer me whatever you think just and equitable.” He then handed the pearl to me once more, and though I contended with my greedi­ness to offer him one half of its value my wicked nature would not consent. I drew forth twenty dirhams from my pocket and placed them before him. He took the money, and drawing a deep sigh he exclaimed: “What justice and humanity!” and went his way. I was highly pleased at having thus obtained a gem for twenty dirhams which would have been cheap at a thousand. I drew every moment the comb of complacency over the mustachios of my shrewd­ness, and placed the hand of approbation on the shoulder of my expertness, and never suspected that the day of retribution would overtake me.

“Only two days had elapsed after this transaction when I again opened my shop at sunrise, before any other inhabitant of the bazár had begun to stir. I was arranging my shop when one of the principal citizens passed on horseback, and, thrusting my head out from the door to see who the cavalier was, the horse shied, the rider was thrown violently to the ground and im­mediately expired. A crowd of attendants that fol­lowed fell on me, beat me with sticks, and then tied my hands. The other shopkeepers, who were un­friendly towards me on account of my greediness of gain, began to gather round me; they heartily wished that I might fall into some scrape, and much as I tried to explain no one paid any attention; but one of them said: ‘The accumulation of wealth by the unworthy and dishonest clearly points to accidents like this.’ So much of this kind of talk passed that the majority were convinced of my guilt, and declared that I had killed the man. The police, having tied my hands and neck together, took me before the Amír of Damascus, who was a rapacious man and coveted riches. He considered this as a very good opportunity to attain his end; and the guards also said that, by the corruscation of the Amír's star of prosperity, this day a wonderfully fat piece of game had fallen into their hands. No time was given me to explain: the Amír made a sign that I should be decapitated. Some of the bystanders, however, pleaded for mercy, and I was fined a thousand gold dínars.

“By the depredation of this misfortune I was mulcted of more than half of my property, and, although the loins of my patience had been crushed by the burden of this loss, I again spread out on all sides the net of acquisition, and the sportsman of my mind was running about in search of the game of wealth, when one day, while I was sitting in my shop, two well-dressed women came up, one of whom had a baby in her arms, the other carried a casket, and both sat down on the threshold of the shop. The woman with the child in her arms took some gold ashrafís from her pocket, and, handing them to the other, said: ‘Give this money to Haji Jalál Kazviní for the articles which you bought yesterday, and say that I shall send him the balance to-morrow. Tell him also that he must quickly procure the jewels which are required, because the wedding is to take place in ten days. I will wait here for you; return speedily with an answer.’ When the woman had departed on her errand I became anxious for gain, because I had heard a wedding spoken of and had seen the gold ashrafís; so I said to her who remained: ‘Lady of the haram of modesty, where have you sent your companion?’ She replied: ‘The daughter of such a citizen is to be given in marriage to the vazír's son, and we, being attached to the household of the young lady, have come to the bazár, because we were in need of some fine linen and jewels; the first we bought yesterday of Haji Jalál and have now sent him the price, with orders to procure the jewels as soon as possible.’ On hearing this, I poured a considerable sum of money into the pocket of my imagination, and I said to her: ‘Noble and honoured lady, I have many precious jewels. Allow me to exhibit them to you, and you may choose those which you consider suitable; there will be no difficulty in agreeing about the price.’ The woman answered: ‘The lady to whom the jewels are to be submitted for approbation is very nice in her choice and difficult to please. During the last few days we have shown her many jewels, but she desires to see only high-priced gems; besides, we have already bargained with Haji Jalál and bought jewels of him, and he is very considerate towards ourselves.’ When she had spoken thus, I knocked at the door of compliance and observed: ‘Nor would I be disposed to forfeit your good will, because thereby I should be greatly benefited in the profitable transaction of business with great people.’ She said: ‘We shall see.’ While we were thus con­versing her companion returned and handed her a string of valuable pearls. She cast a glance at me, whispered something to her companion, and then continued speaking to her aloud: ‘Since you have brought them, let them remain also.’ Turning to me, she said: ‘Show us your jewels.’ I produced a small box which contained my principal stock, displayed the most rare and beautiful pearls and gems which I possessed, and stated the price of each. I also fixed the price of the pearl which I bought from that stranger at two thousand dirhams. The woman said: ‘I cannot tell whether they will approve of these or not.’ She sealed the box, took out her tablets and wrote something, which she delivered with the box to her companion, and said to me: ‘I shall remain here, while the lady of the house makes her choice. If you like, you may send some­body with my friend, in order to learn where the house is.’ I had a faithful servant whom I sent along with her companion, and the woman herself sat down in my shop. Presently two men in the bazár began to quarrel, and when they reached my door they drew their swords and began to fight. A great crowd gathered quickly, and the men of the Amír also came to fetch those who had witnessed the affair. They compelled the shopkeepers to follow and dragged me also with them. Meanwhile the woman remained sitting in my shop with the child in her arms, and said to me: ‘Do not be uneasy about your shop, for I will take care of it till you return.’ I proceeded a few paces, till it occurred to me that the woman might deceive me, so I said to the butcher whose shop was next to mine: ‘Take care of this woman.’ As he had no knowledge of my transaction with her, he supposed that I wished him to take care of the shop only, and said: ‘All right.’

“As some time had elapsed since my servant went with the woman and the box of jewels and had not yet returned, and as the other woman was by herself in my shop, I was full of anxiety and went with an oppressed heart to the court of the Amír. When I arrived there all the witnesses had been examined and discharged. I was taken into the presence of the Amír to give my testimony, but being in a very dis­tracted state of mind I gave my evidence in a way which did not correspond with that of the other witnesses. The Amír smiled and said: ‘This is the wretch who killed such a man,’ and the people said: ‘So it is!’ The Amír continued: ‘This is the reason why his evidence is contradicting that of all the others; such a worthless fellow deserves to be severely punished.’ When I was led out of the palace I gave a large sum to the officials to induce them to take bail of respectable persons and set me at liberty.

“On returning to my shop, the woman was gone, and my servant was sitting alone crying and in sore distress. I asked him what had become of the jewels and the woman he accompanied; and he in his turn inquired what had become of the woman he had left in the shop with me. I told him that I had committed her to the care of the butcher, and demanded to know where he had been and what he had done with the box of jewels. He replied: ‘You gave the box to the woman, and ordered me simply to follow her so as to learn where the house is, and this I did. I went with her from the bazár and passed through several streets until we reached the street of the Forty Virgins; she stopped at the door of a house, before which a number of respectable people were sitting, and bade me sit down till she came out again. The woman went in, and I remained waiting for her till near noon, but she did not make her appearance. When it was mid-day and I heard the voice of the muezzin, and beheld crowds entering the house, I supposed that somebody had died there and that the people were going to condole with the relatives. After a while they all came out again. At last I asked one of the people: “Does the woman who went in here not intend to come out at all?” The man laughed and said: “Whose house do you suppose this is? And what woman are you speaking about? Step forward, there is none to prohibit you, and see what place this house is.” I arose from my seat and entered the portico with fear and apprehension, and proceeded till I reached the interior of a mosque where I saw people engaged in prayer. On the opposite side of the mosque I saw an open door through which people were also coming and going. Then I knew that the woman must have passed through it. I went out by that door and saw women like her walking about, but as there was nothing particular in her dress by which I might have recognised her, and not knowing her name, I wandered through the streets for some time and then hopelessly returned to the shop.’*

“I was choked with grief at these tidings, and almost lost my senses. I went to the butcher and asked him what had become of the woman whom I had left to his care, and he answered: ‘When did you entrust a woman to me? You only asked me to look after your shop. When you were gone I noticed a woman sitting there with a child in her arms, and I asked her with whom she had any business, to which she replied: “I want a sum of money from the jeweller.” Presently she brought the child and said: “Let this child remain here till I come back,” and went away, and there is the child in your shop.’ I said: ‘Bring it out, that I may see it.’ The butcher did so, and when I raised the veil from its face we discovered that it was a plaster figure dressed up as an infant. I said to the butcher: ‘This is a very strange child!’ He replied: ‘Leave off joking; go in and inquire for the woman.’ I con­tinued: ‘I entrusted the woman to your care, and I want you to produce her. She remained in my shop as a pledge for more than three thousand tománs' worth of jewels.’ He replied: ‘You fool! Perhaps I was your servant, that I should take care of the woman, instead of your doing so yourself!’ I was in so great a state of excitement that I took up his great knife which was lying near me and threw it at him; it wounded him in the face. His friends and neigh­bours seized and carried me before the Amír, who ordered them to kill me. But there were many that said: ‘This man is crazy: of what use could it be to kill him? Let his possessions be confiscated, and himself be expelled from the city, as a warning to others.’

“All that I possessed was taken from me as a mulct for my crime, and being driven out of the city, I went away poor and naked. When I reached the desert I lost my road, and wandered about thirsty and hungry for ten days, bitterly lamenting my misfor­tunes. Suddenly a man met me and mounted me on a camel. Having carried me into the main road, he asked me whether I knew him. I said: ‘Your voice seems to be that of a friend.’ He continued: ‘I am the man who sold you the pearl for twenty dirhams to try your honesty, and I have it with me now’; and putting his hand into his wallet he drew forth the same pearl and showed it to me, saying: ‘Know that I am King Akabil, and that several thousands of genii are subject to me, and my occupation is to go about in the cities and bazárs under various disguises, to discover whether people are honest in their dealings. When I find one upright I always remain his friend and helper; but when I see a man who is unjust and fraudulent, I endanger his life and property. You ought to know that base actions are unrighteous­ness and deceit towards your fellow beings. On account of your deceitfulness and injustice, the granary of your immense property has in a very short time been blown away by the wind of non-existence.’ I began to cry and complain, but he said: ‘Remorse is now of no avail,’ and disappeared from my sight. So I came to this country and am wandering about in a state of helplessness and destitution, in bitter repentance and grief for my former dishonesty and the loss of my property. Whatever I undertook, nothing succeeded, and at last I became blind. Now begging has become my trade; and the reason why I always chant the same distich is that neither the high nor the low should quit the road of honesty and justice, lest they be exiled, like myself, from the abode of peace and prosperity.”