Story of Shah Manssur.

ONCE upon a time there was a man called Shah Manssur, from the neighbourhood of Nishapúr, who lived in affluence, but deceitful fortune had spread the chess-board of hypocrisy, had mated and abandoned him in the desert of affliction. After he lost all his property, he sat down in the lap of misery, and finding all his efforts to better his condition fruitless, he set out for India. When he arrived in Kabúl he was equally disappointed, so he went one day into the bazár, hoping to find employment as a porter. There he waited till evening, and every man found occupa­tion excepting himself. He began involuntarily to shed tears, and one of the principal merchants, who was returning home from the palace of the Amír, saw him, and, concluding that he was suffering from some wrong done to him, asked him the cause of his distress. Manssur informed him of his circumstances, upon which the merchant took him to his house, and next morning told him that as he was in need of an attendant he might stay until he could find something more to his advantage. Shah Manssur accordingly entered into the merchant's service, and gained by his diligence the approbation of his master, but raised the envy of his fellow servants and incurred the ill-will of his mistress. One day he felt somewhat indisposed, and the merchant's wife sent him some poison as a medicine,* but as his distemper was slight he made no use of the remedy, and kept it in his pocket. Now the merchant had a little son whom Shah Manssur was wont to carry about, and who was so much accustomed to him that whenever he cried Manssur only could quiet him. It so happened that this day the child would not cease weeping, and Shah Manssur was obliged to take him into the street, hoping to divert him by looking at the passers-by. Having a little business to despatch, he set the child for a moment against a wall, which unfortunately fell and covered him. Shah Manssur was in despair and made a great outcry, whereupon the merchant came out and asked him why he made such a noise. He told his master of the accident, at which the merchant was disconsolate, and the people flocked from all directions wishing to kill Shah Manssur. Meanwhile the ruins of the wall were removed, and on the child being extricated he was found alive and perfectly uninjured. The father and mother of the child were in an ecstasy of joy at his fortunate escape, and all the people wondered. Shah Manssur fell on his knees and thanked the Most High, and everybody rejoiced. A man in the crowd proposed that a medi­cine be administered to the child, and Shah Manssur immediately produced from his pocket that sent to him by the merchant's wife, and handed it to his master, but as soon as the child had swallowed it he fell into convulsions and expired. The child's parents were in despair, especially the mother, who threatened to commit suicide if Shah Manssur were suffered to live, because, as she said, he had poisoned her son. Hereupon the merchant's servants tied Manssur to a post, and ill-treated him so much that he fainted, and was abandoned for dead.

In the evening he began to revive and moaned piteously. The merchant was an intelligent man and could hardly believe Shah Manssur to have been so ungrateful as to kill his child deliberately with poison, so he approached the supposed culprit and besought him to speak the truth. Manssur said that as he was deeply grateful for the kindness he had received from his master and greatly attached to the child, the thought of committing such a crime could not have entered his mind; and that he had only given to the child a remedy which had been sent to himself by his mistress when he was slightly indisposed. The merchant at once perceived his wife's treachery and was convinced of Shah Manssur's innocence; but nevertheless he told him that he could no longer retain him in his service; so he loosed his bonds and dismissed him. Naked and wounded, as he was, Shah Manssur walked away and took refuge in the outskirts of the city with an old woman, at whose house he used to stay in better times when on his commercial journeys. Having explained to her his case, she received him kindly and set about curing his wounds. This old woman had a son who was carrying on an amorous intrigue with a neighbour's wife. He happened to be absent on that night at a friend's house, but his paramour was ignorant of this, and having waited till her husband was asleep she hastened to her lover's house, which she found in darkness, and mistaking Shah Manssur for him she approached his couch. The wounded man thought it was his old landlady, and began to thank her for her kind solicitude. In the meantime the husband of the adulterous woman had missed her and made his appearance in the old woman's house. She had just got up to ascertain the cause of the disturbance, and on perceiving a man standing with a naked sword at the door, she concluded he was a thief, and at once ran up to the roof of her house and raised an alarm, which caused all the people of the district to sally forth with sticks and swords; but the adulterous woman ran off by way of the river, which was the shortest, to her house and went instantly to bed. In the confusion her husband was struck by many stones thrown at him when making his escape, but at last he arrived home and overwhelmed his wife with reproaches; she, however, yawned, pretended to awake from sleep, turned from one side to the other, and asked what was the hour of the night. But the infuriated husband would not be deceived by this subterfuge, but vehemently accused her of being unfaithful, and even drew his sword. Upon this the woman cried aloud: “O Muslims! my husband is killing me!” and the police officers, who were at that moment returning from the alarm that had been raised by the old woman, caught the words and ran to the house, when the husband violently struck one of them with his sword, and after a brief struggle was taken into custody.

After the woman had thus got rid of her husband the wasps of lust again stung her, and being anxious to know whether her lover was sick she once more approached Shah Manssur's couch, awoke him and began her overtures. The old woman's son, who had been at a neighbour's, hearing of the disturbance in his mother's house, went home. On his way, however, when passing near the dwelling of his paramour, he went in, and finding the house empty he concluded that she had gone in search of himself. He was not aware, of course, of Shah Manssur being the guest of his mother, and when he reached home he lit a candle and went into his room, where beholding his paramour with a strange man, he exclaimed: “I have got a curious substitute to-night!” The woman fled in terror, but Shah Manssur fell into the grasp of the young man. The noise of the struggle again awoke the old woman, who, as before, thought that thieves had broken into the house, and ran to the roof of the house and screamed loudly. Her son, supposing Shah Manssur to be the thief, told her that he had taken him. The old woman tried in vain to undeceive him; but he, incited by his jealousy and rage, struck her, on which she raised a great noise, accusing him of wishing to kill her, till some neighbours came and dragged him off to prison.

Notwithstanding all that had taken place the adul­terous woman could not rest and again repaired to Shah Manssur, who was this time frightened at her re-appearance, ascribing to her all the mischief that had happened during the night, and believing her to be an evil spirit was considering how he might get rid of her. The old woman's sister, overhearing conversation, approached the door to listen. Mean­while the imprisoned husband had bribed his jailor, escaped from custody, and made his appearance at the old woman's house, where mistaking her sister for his own wife he wounded her with his sword. The noise again made the landlady get up, and in the tumult the faithless wife took to her heels, as did also her husband, who believed that he had grievously wounded her and chuckled in his heart at the deed. She was, however, very swift-footed, and when he reached home he found her again in bed and to all appearance asleep. Pretending to be just awaking, she asked what he wanted, and he told her he was greatly astonished to behold her safe and sound after he had killed her at the old woman's house. The wife sarcastically remarked that men are once a-year subject to lunatic influences which affect their minds. Quoth the man: “Possibly this may be the case with me, as I have been greatly disturbed in my mind during the last two days; you have done well to inform me of this.”

When the old woman came out from her house she saw no one except her sister, who was severely wounded. She was amazed, and said to herself: “All the tumult and mischief of this night occurred on account of the presence of this man.” So when it was morning she spoke to Shah Manssur, saying: “Dear sir, as these misfortunes have happened, my son has been thrown into prison, and my sister will perchance die of her wound; and as, moreover, my son is very self-willed and incensed against you, it will be best for you to remove from this house.” Shah Manssur accordingly left the place and began with great pains to travel towards Gaznín, bearing the load of misery on the back of sorrow, and reading the threnody of his misfortunes.*

After some time he was overtaken by a man riding on a camel, who accosted him and had compassion for his wretched condition. The man informed him that his name was Baba Fys, that his camel was laden with silk belonging to Khoja Fyra, the vazír of the Amír of Gaznín, who was of a very benevolent dis­position and would no doubt assist him. He then took Shah Manssur on his camel, and, dreading the dangers of the night, he proceeded with great speed. The swift motion and his wounds so distressed Shah Manssur that he earnestly desired Baba Fys to set him down again, in order that he might pass the night in tranquility and thus be able to continue his journey in the morning. But his companion told him that to stop at such a place was by no means advisable, since in the vicinity there was a mountain pass to which many animals resorted under the leadership of a monkey named Paykar, who had plundered many caravans. By the prayers of the Lord Sulayman, they could now do mischief only during the night, and therefore they kept the pass obstructed all day, so that travellers must necessarily hasten through it in the night, but after that the road was quite safe, and then he might rest himself. Shah Manssur, how­ever, was in such great distress, and so determined to alight, that Baba Fys, unwilling to abandon him to his fate, was obliged to comply with his request. They agreed to sleep and relieve each other by turns, but had rested only a short time when they perceived a camel approaching them, ridden by a monkey and guided by a bear. Many other animals of dreadful aspect also came running and attacked the camel. Hereupon Baba Fys began to lament, and accused Shah Manssur of having brought him into all this trouble. This attracted the attention of the monkey, who made a sign to the wild beasts, which immediately pulled Baba Fys to the ground, bit off his ears and then retired. This incident so disconcerted Baba Fys that he was ashamed to continue his journey to Gaznín, and, after bitterly upbraiding his companion for being the cause of his mishap, he returned to Kabúl.

Shah Manssur, though wretched and on foot, resumed his journey, and at last reached Gaznín. As it was winter and the city noted for its coldness, he strolled about till he came to a bath-house, when he said to himself: “This is a warm place, so I will spend the night in it.” Accordingly, saluting the keeper, he walked in. The keeper said: “Young man, you appear to be a stranger; where do you come from? where are you travelling to? and what is your occupation?” Manssur replied: “I am a traveller, and the caravan of misfortunes has brought me to this country.” The bath-keeper then asked him: “Did you happen to meet on your way a camel-rider named Baba Fys?” He replied: “We were companions, but in the desert we were attacked by wild beasts, who bit off his ears, and therefore he has returned to Kabúl.” On hearing this the heart of the bath-keeper became hot as a blacksmith's furnace, seething from the flames of grief, and he exclaimed: “What more distressing news could you tell me? He is my brother; the camel was my property; and I borrowed the price of the silk. I must of necessity go home to-night and consult my relatives on this affair; and as the vazír, who is the owner of this bath and is at present sick, intends to come here in the morning, I was ordered to warm the bath well. Do you therefore put fire into it, and to-morrow I will pay you for your trouble. Take care, however, to stir up the fuel from time to time, so that the bath may become properly heated.” After giving these instructions to Manssur, he departed to his house. But as Manssur was fatigued and glad to be in a warm place, he soon fell asleep; and on awaking he found the fire was extinguished, so he got up, and in his anxiety and inexpertness he stirred the fire so as to break part of the floor above it, in consequence of which the water in the reservoir rushed down and completely put out the fire again, at the same time scalding Manssur, who fled from the place in great fear. When the vazír arrived at the bath in the morning he began to tremble from the cold, and his malady so increased that he fainted. His attendants immediately seized the bath-keeper, who asserted, in excuse, that it was all the fault of the fireman, who had run away. But the vazír suddenly dying in consequence of having caught cold, his son gave orders that both the bath-keeper and the fireman should be put to death.

Manssur, however, had made good his escape from Gaznín, and was journeying towards Lahore when he fell in with a caravan, of which one of the merchants engaged him as his servant. As Manssur was well acquainted with his duties, he diligently guarded his master's goods, and soon gained his confidence. When the caravan had entered into one of the pargannas of Lahore, as all the provisions were exhausted, each merchant gave his servant a quantity of goods to exchange for victuals. Manssur bartered the goods he had received from his master very profitably, and returned with various kinds of provisions before any of his companions, at which his master was so well pleased that he said to him: “I hear that there are many wealthy persons in this parganna. Take there­fore some goods of high price and dispose of them, and I will give you half the profits.” Accordingly, Manssur selected merchandise of nearly the value of five hundred tománs,* which he sold for a thousand and returned. His master gave him three hundred tománs, saying: “Let this sum be the capital of your business, which you will in a short time increase and be thus enabled to return to your own country.” Shah Manssur gratefully received the merchant's generous gift, and, having bought suitable goods, again repaired to the parganna, and hawked them about till he arrived at the gate of an elegant and magnificent mansion, which he concluded to be the property of some noble or grandee, and thought the owner might possibly buy all his stock of merchandise. So he deposited his wares in the shade of a wall and leaned against it, watching the door of the house. Presently a maiden resembling a húrí* in stature, with the serenity of the moon in her countenance, and with bewitching eyes, came out of the house with a pitcher in her hand for the purpose of taking water from the river; and Shah Manssur thus addressed her: “I am at your service—

The glances of your eyes are wonderful;
Whoever beholds them is on the top of felicity.”

But the maiden replied:

“This is not the place where every caravan stops;
The lion of every desert is here distrusted.”

Having thus spoken the damsel went her way, leaving Shah Manssur disappointed. But after a while she returned and inquired of him: “Why do you stop here?” He answered: “I am waiting on rosy-cheeked ladies, and my heart is stored with all sorts of services for them.” Quoth the damsel: “Bring your goods into the house that I may buy them.” So he took up his wares and followed the girl, who walked very rapidly. They passed through a corridor with several doors, and arrived in the court-yard of the mansion, which was a great and lofty edifice of much beauty, having many apartments elegantly furnished, but un­tenanted. When he had looked around and rested himself for a while, he perceived that the maiden had disappeared. At last he concluded it would be best for him to leave the place; but as he was roaming from one apartment to another he lost his way, and finding no way of exit became frightened, yet continued his search until he reached a hall from the ceiling of which a golden disk was suspended by chains encrusted with precious stones. On both sides of the disk small globular bells were dangling, and upon it there was a phial of glass. The statue of a lion of marble bound in chains occupied one side of the apartment. While Shah Manssur viewed this scene with amazement, the same girl entered with a rod in her hand. As he was about to address her, she exclaimed: “Ha! madman, you have walked into the trap at last!” and struck the lion so that he began to roar, and the disk, the chains, and the little bells shook and jingled, accom­panied by great noises, shoutings, and lamentations, which terrified Shah Manssur, who anxiously wished to make his escape. Meanwhile the phial on the disk emitted a green substance mingled with flames, which ascended into the air and filled the apartment with darkness: Shah Manssur almost fainted; and when the smoke and the flame had subsided, a viper lifted its head out of the phial, from which it finally emerged and entered the mouth of the lion. Soon after this the lion sneezed, and from his brains a spider escaped, which gradually increased in size until it became as large as a sheep; when it made a still greater effort its skin burst, from which an old hag of miserable aspect, dreadful as a goblin and ugly as a satyr, came forth, embraced Shah Manssur very ardently, kissed him, and emitted from her cadaverous mouth a disgusting liquid which covered his face. Her putrid breath was like burning sulphur, and made him cough and almost give up the ghost. This dreadful hag, however, doubled her caresses, and would not leave him until he fainted away. When he came to his senses he cried out piteously: “O most gracious lady, deliver me from this calamity!” But she replied: “Your request cannot be gratified;” and then, giving him a substance to smell at, he again became un­conscious.

Thus Shah Manssur continued during nearly forty days in the grasp of misfortune. The wretched hag made her appearance once every day, tormenting him, and causing him to faint for the gratification of her wicked lust. One day, however, when she was about the same business, she pulled out a mirror from her pocket and looking into it with great consternation, was suddenly transformed into a spider, crawled into the mouth of the lion, whence she again issued in the form of a serpent, ascended to the disk and disappeared in the phial. Then Shah Manssur went into the court-yard and tried whether he could escape from the place. There the girl met him and said: “I am astonished that she has not thrown you into a trance;” upon which Manssur told her all that had occurred, and the girl said: “She has a foe in Jábolká, whose machination she learns from that mirror, because whenever he attempts to ruin this wicked fairy his figure appears in it, and the accursed one departs to combat him.” Then exclaimed Shah Manssur bitterly: “O cruel and merciless woman! the torments which I have suffered in this house are the consequences of my having by your coquetry been decoyed into it; and now perhaps you will be compassionate enough to let me depart.” The damsel replied: “Young man, I have, like yourself, been caught in this shoreless whirl­pool, and have been made the instrument of alluring poor victims, whom she was in the habit of using for the gratification of her wicked desires and afterwards destroying. Whenever I disobeyed her she punished me severely. Her name is Hennána the Witch, and she is a descendant of the sorcerers of the time of Kolyas, whom the accursed Pharaoh sent against the Lord Moses (salutation to him).* This iniquitous wretch keeps a similar establishment in Hindústán: she is able, like the wind, to transport herself in a moment from the eastern to the western parts of the world, and to carry the flames of misfortune to all places.”

Shah Manssur then asked the girl: “How did you fall into her power?” She replied: “Know that my father is the chief of Agra and is possessed of great wealth. He had betrothed me to my cousin, who set out for Banáres to procure the paraphernalia of the wedding ceremony; and when the report of my beauty and other qualities had spread through that city, the Amír verified it, was desirous to marry me, and said to my relatives: ‘I have heard that you have a beautiful girl, and I wish to take her for a wife.’ My father and my relatives consented; but as I was deeply in love with my uncle's son, I became very indignant and exclaimed: ‘To how many men will you give your daughter? It is many years since you betrothed me to my cousin, and though he is absent at Banáres for the purpose of procuring the things needful for a household, I consider myself as under his protection, and shall never accept of another husband as long as I am alive. Do not try to force me, for I would rather commit suicide.’ This resolute declaration had the effect I desired, and, after holding a consultation with our relatives, my father determined that we should all flee to Banáres. I was dressed in male garments, and when night approached was taken out of the city and given in charge of two confidential servants who were to explain everything to my cousin, and we began our journey on fleet Arab steeds. After we had travelled for three days a fearful wind and thunderstorm overtook us in the desert, during which I became separated from my escort and was left alone. As I was roaming about I arrived at a green spot where I discovered a fountain, and feeling thirsty I alighted from my horse, which at once took to flight, and in my vain pursuit of it I chanced to meet an old woman who was weeping piteously and crying aloud: ‘O unhappy fate! have you at last in my old age and weakness thrown me into such a state that I must become the prey of wild beasts? Would to God some friend could take me by the hand and deliver me from this danger!’ I came forward and said: ‘Old woman, what has happened to you?’ She answered: ‘I was going on a pilgrimage to Makka, and when our caravan entered this desert it was plundered by robbers. Here have I been for two days without a morsel of food. Young man, have pity on my age and helplessness; deliver me from this calamity, and convey me to a place of security, that you may be rewarded for your good act.’ I had compassion on the wretched old woman and was considering what I could do for her, when she handed me an apple, of which I had no sooner eaten a small piece than I sneezed and fainted; nor was I sensible of aught until I again opened my eyes and found myself in this place with that accursed witch. When she saw me pale and frightened, she exclaimed: ‘Let nothing dismay you, for your life is not in danger from me;’ and thinking I was a man, she commenced to fondle me, but I soon undeceived her. Since that time four years have elapsed, during which, being myself miserable, I was compelled to entice helpless men into her snares. Nevertheless, one day I conceived that I might escape and secretly left the house, but I was instantly transformed into a she-dog, and was pursued by all the dogs in the town, so that I was again obliged to return to this place. But now I shall propose to you a means of escape, on condition that you convey me in safety to my friends.” Shah Manssur eagerly replied: “I promise to do whatever you require of me,” and the girl went on to say: “When the phial is broken the witch must die; request her therefore to give you tidings concerning your family, and as soon as she disappears you must strike the phial with a stone so as to break it.”*

Whilst they were conversing they perceived the accursed hag approaching. So the maiden left the apartment; and when the witch saw Shah Manssur weeping she asked him the reason, to which he answered: “It is now a long time since I was sepa­rated from my country, and I have had a fearful dream which afflicts me sorely.” Quoth the hag: “Be not distressed; I shall instantly give you infor­mation regarding your relatives;” so saying, she went to the phial, disappeared and quickly returned, and minutely described to him the dwelling as well as the condition of his parents and relatives. Manssur was astonished at the accuracy of her description, but, dissembling, said to her: “I cannot believe all this, because my country is far distant and you have returned in half a minute. Unless you bring me a token that you have really been there I cannot trust you.” Quoth the witch: “What kind of token do you desire?” Manssur replied: “In the garden of our house is a tree on which I once climbed, when a portion of my belt was torn off, which I tied to a branch. If you bring me a rag of the belt I shall then believe you.” When he had said this the witch went again to the phial, and, as before, disappeared. This time the girl brought Shah Manssur a stone; he invoked the aid of God the Most High, and striking the phial, it flew into pieces. Then the lion roared, the chains clanked, the little bells jingled, a fearful noise was heard, some blood dripped from the ceiling of the apartment to the ground, and the magical apparatus, the furniture, the chambers, and the entire edifice vanished, leaving Shah Manssur and the maiden standing together in a cemetery, and both poured forth their thanks to the Most High. Then the girl said: “My dear friend, from hence to Agra is ten days' journey;” and handing him some costly pearls she added, “try to convey me quickly to my parents, and buy with these pearls all that is necessary for me on the way.” Shah Manssur purchased a camel with a litter and a slave for the damsel, and sent her off to her own country, after which he set out on foot, and in a destitute condition, for Burhanpúr.

When Shah Manssur arrived at his destination he heard that the Amír of Burhanpúr, while hunting, had lost a precious gem from the hilt of his sword, and had issued an order that all the citizens should go next morning to the hunting ground in search of it. So rich and poor, gentle and simple, left the city and roamed about. Shah Manssur joined the crowd, and was fortunate enough to find the lost gem. On presenting it to the Amír he was highly pleased, praised him greatly, and questioned him as to his connections and circumstances; after which he gave him in charge of one of his chamberlains to provide for him as soon as possible. It happened, however, that the Amír died suddenly, and the re­ward promised to Manssur came to nothing.

The son of the Amír succeeded his father. One day a merchant presented him with a parrot that could speak with great eloquence, and the new Amír entrusted it to the care of the chamberlain, who took the bird home, and having sent for Manssur said to him: “Take the utmost care of this parrot, for it may become the means of introducing you to the Amír, and of your obtaining the reward which his father promised you.”* Manssur took charge of the bird and carried it away; but when he got into the street the people were all so anxious to see it and pressed so much upon him that he thought it would be better to take the parrot out of the cage and carry it in his hand. But unluckily it escaped from his grasp and flew to the top of the chamberlain's haram. Manssur had great trouble in climbing the wall, and just as he had succeeded the parrot again flitted away and alighted on the roof of one of the haram apartments. Shah Manssur was so frightened that he said nothing to the eunuch and other servants, but threw up a cord, by means of which he contrived to reach the spot; but once more the parrot started off, and in so doing moved a tile which fell on the head of the chief lady of the chamberlain's haram and killed her there and then. The eunuchs and maid-servants, on discovering this fatal mishap, raised their voices in lamentation, which caused the cham­berlain to leave his office and run into the haram, where he found everyone in a state of great agitation, and Shah Manssur a captive in the hands of the eunuchs, and he at once ordered the culprit to be beaten and thrown into prison, where the poor fellow was kept for some time and tormented every day until he found a favourable opportunity and escaped.

Shah Manssur fled to Guzerat, where he wandered about in great distress, sometimes hiring himself out as a labourer and sometimes as a porter. One day, when he was unable to obtain either food or employ­ment, he determined to sell the ring with which the neighbour's wife had presented him.* He was chiefly induced to take this step by sniffing the appetising fumes of roast meat in passing a cook's shop, the owner of which he approached, and requesting some­thing to eat offered the ring in pledge for the price. But when the cook looked at the ruby set in the beazle and then at the poverty-stricken figure of Shah Manssur, he felt sure that he could not be the lawful possessor of such a gem but must have stolen it, and that, not knowing its real value, he was ready to part with it for a meal. Now it chanced that during the preceding night some thieves had broken into the treasury of the Amír and stolen a great quantity of gold, silver, precious stones, and valuables of all kinds; and this audacious robbery had become known throughout the city and the police were busy searching the bazárs and private houses for the thieves. So the cook said to Shah Manssur: “Friend, you do not look like the owner of such a ring as this;—come, tell me where you got it?” “What business have you thus to question me?” replied Manssur. “Either give me something to eat or return me the ring.” These words gave rise to a dispute, which culminated in a fight, wherein the neighbours took the part of the cook, and on the arrival of the police on the scene they took the ring from the cook, and thinking it to be one of the articles stolen from the treasury they dragged Shah Manssur before their superintendent, and reported that they had recovered a portion of the stolen treasure and captured the thief.

It happened that a notorious robber named Obayd was at that time, with forty companions, carrying on great depredations which the police were unable to prevent, and his fame had so widely spread through Hindústán that day and night no one could breathe in peace. It is even said that a few days before the robbery of the Amír's treasury Obayd sent a message to the police superintendent, to be on his guard, as he was coming. Consequently, when the superintendent saw Manssur he supposed him to be Obayd, loaded him with heavy chains, and sent him to the Amír, together with the ring, for the purpose of ingratiating himself and displaying his zeal in the service. But when the Amír looked at Shah Manssur, he said: “I have always heard that Obayd is a powerful and strong man; this fellow is weak and looks like an arrant coward: he may possibly be an accomplice, but he cannot be Obayd himself.” The superintendent, how­ever, replied: “May your highness live for ever! This man, who seems so feeble, is strong and bold, and so nimble that he can jump through a finger-ring. But now that he has been captured by me his power­ful limbs have shrunk together from fear; and I shall put him to the torture forthwith to compel him to tell the truth.” Said the Amír to Shah Manssur: “Who are you? and whence have you obtained this ruby?” He replied, “May the Amír live long! I am a stranger, and the ring is my own property. I have come to this country on account of the great name and the good report which I have heard of the Amír. I have fallen into the hands of the police, but I have no knowledge at all of the robbery of your highness' treasury.” The apparatus of torture was then brought, and Shah Manssur, being suspended by the heels of punishment, forgot in his misery the name of Obayd and said, “I am Zubayr, and have robbed the treasury.” Now there was a famous robber of the name of Zubayr, so the Amír believed the poor fellow's statement and remarked: “He may be Zubayr.” The superintendent said to his men: “Take good care of this man to-night, and in the morning we shall again examine him.” Accordingly they took Manssur to prison, all believing him to be the robber Zubayr. On the way all the people who had been robbed by Zubayr rushed up to Manssur and demanded their property; but the superintendent said: “Do not be uneasy. I shall get back to the last farthing every­thing he has taken from you.”

When night set in special watchmen were appointed to guard the prison, and vaunting their own bravery and fidelity, they took charge of the four corners thereof. Shah Manssur was unable to sleep, and was thinking how the morning would dawn on his innocent head, when he heard sounds of striking and digging. It was midnight, and he hearkened to the sounds with fear and trembling, till suddenly the wall opened, from which a hand grasping a sword protruded, at which Manssur became so terrified that he nearly fainted, for he weened it was a man belonging to the police. A voice, however, exclaimed: “Friend, be not afraid. I have come to save you. We have no time to lose in explanations;” and with these words a strong man seized Shah Manssur with his fetters and chains, carried him out of the prison, let him down the wall of the fort by a rope, and conveyed him quickly to a ruin at a distance of nearly three farasangs. When he arrived there he placed Manssur on his feet, and raising a great stone which covered the entrance to an underground chamber, they descended into it, and there he set poor Manssur free from his heavy bonds, after which he thus addressed him: “Young man, be comfortable and rest yourself, for I know you have suffered much.” Then placing before him different kinds of delicious food, he added: “Eat cheerfully, for your misfortunes are now ended.”

After Shah Manssur had eaten he went to sleep; and when he awoke he spoke thus to his deliverer: “Generous and kind man, although honesty radiates from your august countenance and I feel happy in your company, yet, as it is my fate to wander in the desert of grief and to fall perpetually from one calamity to another, you would greatly relieve my apprehensions by informing me of the motives of your kind act.” The man replied: “I am the robber of the Amír's treasury! But when I learned that you, an innocent man, had been imprisoned in my stead, I considered it my duty to liberate you, and for that purpose I have been obliged to kill many of the watchmen. To-morrow, when everything becomes known, there will be great excitement and the police will be in pursuit of me. This is a secure refuge where no one can discover you; and when the storm is over I shall find means to convey you out of all danger.” Shah Manssur replied by expressing his deep feeling of gratitude to his deliverer.

Next morning at sun-rise the superintendent was informed that a number of watchmen had been killed and that Zubayr had been carried off through an opening in the wall. At this unpleasant news he was much disconcerted, and ran at once to the palace to make his report. The Amír was furious and exclaimed: “You rascal! is this how you have taken care of your prisoner? This comes only through your gross negligence. I shall hear none of your excuses. Produce the man, else I shall punish you and ignominiously expel you from my service.”

When the people of the town learned what had happened, all who had been plundered by Zubayr accused the superintendent of having connived at the prisoner's escape and clamoured for the restitution of their property. So he asked for a month's respite and despatched three thousand men in search of the robber. But after vainly searching in all directions they re­turned, and those who had been robbed confiscated the superintendent's property, and the Amír expelled him from the city.

Meanwhile the deliverer of Shah Manssur kept him company during the day and went forth at night in order to ascertain what was going on in the city; and when he heard of the superintendent's downfall he hastened back and said to Manssur: “Praise be to God! the danger is over, and it is time for me to send you to your own country.” But quoth Shah Manssur: “Dear friend, I have a difficulty which I wish you to solve for me.” Said the man: “Speak.” Shah Manssur continued: “Since I have had the pleasure of your acquaintance, I have discovered nothing improper in your character; but it is utterly incomprehensible to me how you, who are endowed with such noble sentiments, can have selected the occupation of a robber.” His liberator answered:

“My occupation was formerly quite different. Know that my name is Junayd Muhtashim, and I am a scion of a noble and opulent family. In this neigh­bourhood there is a tract of country with flowing rivers, spacious meadows, fertile lands, many houses and numberless gardens. All that district belonged to me and was inhabited by my retainers and servants, and I cheerfully paid all taxes to the Amír, who was for many years my friend. In course of time, how­ever, the exactions of the government officials became very heavy; judges, tax-gatherers, and accountants were sent to me whose rapacity it was difficult to satisfy, and I became greatly distressed. I repeatedly made complaints to the Amír, and endeavoured to convince him that he could be powerful only so long as he treated his subjects with justice, and that oppres­sion could result in nothing but unhappiness and confusion. But all my advice proved futile, and when his delegates came again I took refuge in a fort and answered therefrom. After several days had passed in this way, I heard that it was the intention of the Amír to plunder me, so I conveyed all my moveable property into the stronghold and prepared to stand a siege. When the Amír became aware that he could not very easily get at me, he seized the sheep and cattle which I possessed outside of the city, and ultimately I was able to take refuge with my retainers in Hyderábád, whither some persons came and bought of me all the landed property I had in Guzerat; but as I could in no other way recover the value of the goods and cattle which the Amír had forcibly taken from me, I secretly returned to Guzerat to pay myself from his own treasury or in any other way, and no one has been able to interfere with me.* But you, my friend, must no longer remain in this place. I have a courser, swift like lightning, to whom fifty farasangs are an easy stage: mount and ride on him to Hyder-ábád, where I shall induce my friends to send you comfortably to Nishapúr.”

Having written a few words to his relatives, explained to Shah Manssur the position of his house, and pre­sented him with a costly diamond, he took affectionate leave of him, wished him God-speed, led him out of the underground apartment, and said: “Wait a moment till I bring you a horse.” He presently returned with a steed, which when Manssur had mounted, “This courser,” said his deliverer, “well knows the road, and when you reach Hyderábád you must throw the reins on his neck, and he will carry you without fail to the threshold of my house;” so saying, he led him on to the highway and again bade him farewell.

Shah Manssur prosecuted his journey with great rapidity till he arrived at Hyderábád, and remembering the injunctions he had received, allowed the horse to go where it pleased. Thus he rode through the streets till suddenly a man recognised the horse, and proceed­ing to Junayd's house intimated that a stranger was coming mounted on his horse. Some of Junayd's relatives at once went out and asked Shah Manssur where he got the animal he bestrode. He replied: “The horse is my own, and you have no right to question me.” These words so incensed the people that they instantly surrounded him and pulled him off the horse, saying: “This animal belongs to us. Come—tell us the truth as to how you obtained it.” Shah Manssur, believing them to be a pack of rascals who wished to deprive him of the horse, began to use insulting language towards them. By this time a great number of people had gathered round the horse and they cried out: “We know this animal: it belongs to Junayd, and these are his relatives. You must produce some token of your honesty.” As soon as Manssur learned that these were the friends of Junayd he began to fumble in his pocket for the letter he had received from him, but could not find it—on the road he had lost both the letter and the diamond; so all his assertions that the horse had been given to him by the owner were discredited. They declared to him plainly that he had either killed Junayd or robbed him; and then they beat Manssur most cruelly and imprisoned him until the matter could be cleared up. He was kept in confinement till one of his accusers fell dangerously ill, and tormented by the stings of his conscience, when he was set at liberty.

Shah Manssur now reflected: “My remaining in Hindústán is of no use, for calamities dog me at every step. Alas for the time which I have lost in roaming about in this country! It were better that I should return home, and if the Most High please, he can make me happy and cause me to prosper there.” A caravan was proceeding from Hyderábád to Irán,* and Manssur, sad and disappointed, travelled along with it. On reaching the outskirts of Nishapúr, he said to himself: “To make my appearance in this destitute and miserable condition, after a journey from Hindústán, would distress my friends and cause my enemies to rejoice. Therefore I will remain here until nightfall and then enter the town and go to my friends.” He took refuge in a dilapidated building, where he mourned and wept over his sad fate. After a while an owl flew in, pursued by an eagle, and sought protection of Shah Manssur, who took up a stone to throw at the eagle. The stone, however, struck the wall and displaced a brick, when a quantity of gold ashrafís* fell to the ground. Shah Manssur ran to the place and there found a pot full of gold and silver. He stuffed his pockets with gold coins and then concealed the pot in an obscure corner of the ruin, fervently thanking God for this happy termination of his travels and misfortunes.*

He remained in the ruin all night, and in the morning he did not enter Nishapúr but went to Kazvyn, where he took an apartment in the caravan­serai, changed his habiliments, and bought a large quantity of the finest merchandise, a string of camels, and three slaves, and made his entrance into Nishapúr rejoicing. He was most kindly received by his relatives and friends, and in course of time he removed the whole of the treasure from the ruin to his own house. Thus he lived in comfort and prosperity, made several journeys to the country of Rúm and to that of the Franks,* by which he obtained large profits, so that he finally became the owner of seven hundred strings of valuable camels.

One day when he was sitting with his friends and relating his unhappy adventures in Hindústán, he mentioned also the affair of the witch, and asked whether they had seen her about the place. They replied: “We were sitting together one day in this very house, when a strange cat made its appearance, looked at each of us attentively, and instantly vanished. Not long afterwards it came again, ran with great speed up yonder tree, and immediately falling down, seemed to be in the agony of death, but when we went up to the animal it had already expired.” Quoth Shah Manssur: “That was the same witch whose captive I had been for some time, until at last I contrived to send her here and escape;” and at this explanation they were greatly amazed.*

Shah Manssur once took a large quantity of mer­chandise, with many attendants, to the country of Tabríz, which was at that time under the Turkish government. He waited on the Amír of Tabríz, associated with him, and so gained his favour that he made him his vazír; and when the Amír died, the citizens, being pleased with the kind and just disposition of Shah Manssur in his capacity of vazír, petitioned the sultan to make him Amír, a request which was readily granted, and Shah Manssur governed in Tabríz for many years until he died.

“My dear Nassar,” continued Khayrandísh, “I have related this narrative to make you understand that a man cannot attain the object of his desires by irregular wanderings and inordinate appetites; but if he be patient he will succeed. The world is a coquette, and the more she is courted the more coy and prudish she becomes, but if left unnoticed she will try to gain our favours.”


“It is necessary to guard oneself from the wiles and snares of our fellow-beings, and not to trust implicitly in persons whose character is neither known nor tried. Whoever walks among thorns must do so with great care and precaution. This world resembles a picture-gallery with many apartments, each of which has its own peculiar attractions; but a man who should spend all his time in the contemplation and enjoyment thereof, to the neglect and disregard of his daily avocations, would injure his own interests. Therefore he is prudent who runs not after every fleeting illusion, but bridles his desires lest he be disappointed and rendered unhappy, like the geomancer, the washerman, and the painter, who lost control of their passions and were drowned in the ocean of misfortunes and errors, grieving over their troubles, which they were unable to remedy.” Then Khayrandísh told Nassar the