THE latter part of this tale — where the merchant Sadullah befriends the imprudent prince, bestows his own wife on him, afterwards becomes ruined in fortune, and visits the now pro­sperous sovereign, on whom he had lavished such favours (pp. 89-97)—has long been current in Europe as well as in the East, in various forms. It occurs in the collection of Persian Tales translated into French by Petis de la Croix, under the title of Les Mille et un Jours (first published in 1710-12, 5 vols.), where it is entitled: “Histoire de Nasiraddole, roi de Mousel; d'Abderrahmane, marchand de Baghdad; et de la belle Zeineb,” and it is to the following effect:

A rich young merchant named Abd er-Rahman, meets with a stranger in a confectioner's shop in Baghdád, and the two soon become very intimate friends. After some time the stranger informs the merchant that he must now return to Mosul. The merchant says that he himself may soon have to visit that town, and begs to know his friend's name, so that he may be able to inquire for him there. The stranger bids him to come and see him at the palace. Abd er-Rahman goes to Mosul on business and discovers that the stranger is no less a personage than King Nasír ad-Dole, who is delighted to see him and enter­tains him in the palace for a whole year, after which he returns to Baghdád, the king parting with him very reluctantly. Arrived in Baghdád, the merchant regales his friends and acquaintances in the most sumptuous manner, and purchases a number of slave-girls, with one of whom, a Circassian beauty called Zaynib, he becomes greatly enamoured. The king of Mosul comes again to Baghdád, without attendants, and is the honoured and cherished guest of his friend the merchant Abd er-Rahman. One day the king boasts of some beautiful slave-girls in his haram in Mosul, when the merchant, inflamed with wine, leads the king into an inner apartment, magnificently furnished, where are seated thirty lovely damsels, adorned profusely with the rarest diamonds. The king is perfectly amazed on beholding the peerless beauty of Zaynib, and on the following day, in a melancholy tone, informs his friend that he intends returning at once to Mosúl. “Has your majesty aught to complain of, that you have formed this sudden resolution?” the merchant inquired anxiously. “All my complaint,” replied the king, “is of my destiny”; but when he is about to depart his friend learns from him that he is desperately in love with the fair Zaynib, and then the king takes his leave and sets out for Mosul. Abd er-Rahman then reflects that he should not have shown Zaynib to the king, who must now lead a sorrowful life. At length he resolves to send the damsel to his royal friend, and, having ordered her litter to be prepared, sends for Zaynib and tells her that she does not now belong to him, but to the king of Mosul, whom she saw yesterday;—“he is in love with you, and is himself lovely.” Zaynib bursts into tears and exclaims: “Ah, you no longer love me—some other damsel has taken your heart from me!” “Not so,” says he. “I swear that I have never loved you so much as I do at this moment.” “Why, then, do you part with me?” “Because I cannot bear the thought of my friend's sorrow.” So a number of attendants are sent with Zaynib to Mosul, but the king had arrived there before them. When she is ushered into the palace, the king perceives that she is sorrowful, and that his presence is distasteful to her—evidently she cannot forget the merchant.

Meanwhile Abd er-Rahman falls into a languishing condition, and one day the grand vazír sends officers to apprehend him on a trumped-up charge of having spoken disrespectfully of the Khalíf in his cups, made by two envious courtiers, his enemies. The merchant's house is razed, his wealth is confiscated, and he is to be put to death the next day. But the gaoler, whom the merchant had formerly befriended, takes pity on him and secretly sets him at liberty. When the vazír learns of this he sends for the gaoler and tells him that if the merchant is not re-captured in the course of twenty-four hours he will certainly suffer in his place. The gaoler answers that he believes the merchant to be innocent of the crime charged against him. In the meantime Abd er-Rahman is concealed in a friend's house and the police are scouring the country in search of him, and during their absence from the city he escapes and takes the road to Mosul. When he enters the palace there, the king simply orders his treasurer to give him two hundred gold sequins. The poor merchant is surprised that the king should bestow such a paltry sum on him, after the sacrifice he had made by present­ing the fair Zaynib to his majesty. He takes the money, however, and tries all means of increasing it by trade. At the end of six months he returns to the king and informs him that he has lost fifty of the two hundred sequins by his unfortunate speculations. The king bids his treasurer give him fifty more sequins, again to the surprise of the merchant, who departs once more on a trading expedition, but this time he gains a hundred sequins and returning to Mosul he acquaints the king of his success. “Misfortunes are contagious,” said the king. “I had heard of your disgrace and dared not receive you into my palace again, fearing that your ill luck should affect me and put it out of my power to assist you when your star should look more favourably on you. But now you shall live with me.” Next day the king tells the merchant that he purposes giving him a good wife. “Alas,” says he, “I cannot think of any woman after my beloved Zaynib.” But the king insists, and that same night the merchant is agreeably surprised to find that the wife given him by his royal friend is none other than Zaynib, whom the king has all along regarded as a sister. Not long after this Abd er-Rahman learns that one of his accusers has confessed, and he goes to Baghdád and recovers part of his wealth, and passes the rest of his life at the court of Mosul.*

In another form the tale of the Two Friends is found in the Disciplina Clericalis of Peter Alphonsus, a Spanish Jew, of the twelfth century, whence it was probably taken into the Gesta Romanorum, the celebrated mediæval monkish collection of “spiritualised” stories for the use of preachers (page 196 of Herrtage's edition, published by the Early English Text Society). It is also found in Boccaccio's Decameron (Day x, novelle 8); and Lydgate, the monk of Bury, of the fifteenth century, turned it into verse under the title of “Fabula duorum mercatorum,” beginning:

“In Egipt whilom as I rede and fynde”

(Harleian MS. 2251, If. 56, preserved in the British Museum); and it forms one of the Fabliaux in Le Grand's collection, of which this is a translation:

Two merchants had been for a long time connected in busi­ness. They had never seen each other, one residing at Baldak [Baghdád?] and the other in Egypt; notwithstanding which, from their long correspondence and mutual services, they enter­tained a reciprocal esteem and friendship as if they had passed their lives together. The Syrian merchant at last became very desirous to have an interview with his correspondent, and set out on his journey with that intention, after having apprised his friend of it. The Egyptian rejoiced heartily at the news, and on his friend's approach went out several leagues to meet him. On his arrival he lodged the Syrian in his own house, and, making a display of his riches and all that he possessed, told him that everything was at his disposal. In order to amuse his guest, he invited several persons successively to his table. For a week together there was nothing but feasting and pleasure; but in the midst of their enjoyment the traveller was so struck with the beauty of a lady who had one day been present that he fell dangerously ill. Immediately all the best physicians of the country were sent for. At first, neither by his pulse nor by any other symptom could they discover the nature of the merchant's disorder; but at length by his profound melancholy they con­jectured that love was the cause. The Egyptian on hearing this conjured him to disclose his secret, that the remedy might if possible be found. His guest, thus called upon and pressed to declare it, acknowledged that he was in love and that without possession of the object of his affection he could not endure life. “But where to find her I know not. I am wholly unacquainted with her name and abode. My eyes beheld her once, to my great misfortune, but day and night her image is present and without her I shall certainly die.” He then fainted away. For several hours he continued in this trance, and was even thought dead. Awaking at length, he cast his eyes about the room to discover the object of his passion, but in vain. She was not among the persons present. His friend at last, in order to obtain for him, if possible, a sight of his beloved, thought of bringing successively to his bedside all the ladies who had been invited to the feasts, or whom he could have seen since his arrival in the country. But she was not of the number. Ultimately the people of the house recollected that there was in an inner chamber a young lady whom the Egyptian merchant loved to distraction, and had brought up with the greatest care, intending her soon to be his wife. She was by his desire introduced. Instantly on seeing her the Syrian exclaimed: “That is she to whom I am to owe either my life or my death!” The Egyptian merchant demurred for some time; but, with a heroic resolution sacrificing his passion to his friendship, he presented the lady to his guest. He not only consented to their union but even insisted on giving her a marriage portion. He made her presents of rich stuffs and money, and himself took charge of the nuptials, to which he did not fail to invite minstrels, who sang pantomimic songs and enlivened the feast with all manner of gaiety.

When all these carousals were ended the merchant proceeded to take leave of his generous host and to return into his own country. His friends on his arrival pressed forward to congratu­late him. There was a fresh celebration of the nuptials with rejoicings which lasted for a fortnight, after which the merchant and his spouse lived happily together. But in the meantime sad misfortunes occurred to the Egyptian merchant: he met with such losses that he was entirely ruined. In this deplorable situation he thought of having recourse to his friend at Baldak, and determined to visit him there, reckoning on his gratitude for the eminent services which he had rendered him. He was obliged to make this long journey on foot and to suffer both hunger and thirst, to endure both heat and cold, extremes of misery to which he had hitherto been unaccustomed. At length after much fatigue he arrived about nightfall at Baldak. But at the moment when he was about to enter the city the state of wretchedness in which he was excited in him a feeling of shame at proceeding farther. He thought that if he presented himself in the dark to his friend in that miserable state he would not recollect him, and therefore he judged it better to wait till morning. With this intention he entered a temple which was hard by. No sooner did he find himself in this dismal, lonely place than a multitude of melancholy ideas assailed him. “Good God!” cried he, “to what a wretched condition has thy will reduced me! Alas, my former affluence renders it still more miserable. I had all that I could desire, and now I find myself an outcast, without property and without friends! Surely in such circumstances death is preferable to existence.” While he was speaking thus to himself he suddenly heard a great noise in the temple. A murderer had taken flight thither and some of the citizens were following to seize him. They asked the Egyptian whether he had seen the assassin. He, who wished to die and thus terminate at once his shame and his sufferings, declared himself the guilty person. He was instantly seized, bound, and thrown into prison. The next day he was brought before the judge and being convicted was condemned to the gallows. When the time for the execution arrived a great number of people flocked to the place, and amongst them the friend whose life he had saved and in quest of whom he had left his native country. He had not forgotten the obligation, and luckily he recognised his friend. But what could he do at this juncture to save his life? He could think only of one method, and that was to devote himself for his friend. Having taken this sudden resolution, he exclaimed: “Good people, take care what you are about, and do not be guilty of the sin of punishing an innocent man. It was I who committed the murder.” This declaration astonished the assembly. The execution was sus­pended, the merchant was arrested, and they began to unloose the stranger. But the real assassin happened to be there, and when he saw them binding the merchant he was seized with remorse. “What!” cried he to himself, “shall this honest man die for my crimes whilst I escape? I cannot escape the vengeance of God! No! I will not charge my conscience with a second offence, but will rather expiate my crime by suffering here than subject myself to the indignation of the Deity, who can punish for ever.” He then made a full confession and was rought before the judges, who, being puzzled at this extra­ordinary case, referred it to the king, who, no less perplexed than they, sent for the three prisoners, and promising them pardon if they would declare the truth, interrogated them himself. Each then recounted with fidelity what had happened, and the consequence was that they were all three pardoned and dis­charged. The Syrian went home with his friend, whom he in his turn had had the good fortune to save. He ordered some refreshments to be served up to him, and said: “If you choose to reside here, my friend, I call God to witness that you shall never be in want of anything, but shall be as much master as myself of all I possess. If you prefer returning to your own country, I offer you the half of my wealth, or whatever part you may please to take of it.” The Egyptian declared his desire was rather to return home, and he departed, charged with presents.

Under the title of the “Mirror of Friends,” the Spanish novelist Matias de los Reyes (1634) relates this favourite story, varying the incidents of the fabliau version as above, and with a tragical catastrophe. This is an abstract of Reyes' tale, follow­ing Roscoe's translation, in his Spanish Novelists, ed. 1832, pp. 17-39:

A young man* is placed at the university of Bologna, under the guardianship of a friend of his father, named Federico, whose son Lisardo and he at once become most intimate friends. There was so close a resemblance between the two youths in person and features that one was often mistaken for the other. Four years after entering the university, he falls in love with a pretty girl whom he saw seated at a balcony—it is not said how he got introduced to her—and she returns his affection, but insists on their engagement being kept a profound secret. Shortly after this, the father of Laura — such was the sweet name of our youth's secret fiancée—proposes that she should marry Lisardo, to which his father Federico most willingly consents, as the young lady's family are of high station and very wealthy. This comes like a thunder-clap upon our poor love-sick youth, but he cannot get himself to confess to Lisardo his devoted attachment to Laura. As the time draws near for the marriage he falls dangerously ill—“sick of love”; and if his friend tried to “stay him with flagons and comfort him with apples,” he did so in vain—albeit we have high authority for the efficacy of such remedies. At length Lisardo comes to him one day, and insists upon knowing the secret cause of his illness and melancholy, otherwise their friendship must be at an end. He then confesses his love for Laura and their private betrothal. Lisardo re­proaches him for not having told him of this before, since he would willingly sacrifice his life for his friend; but even now he will contrive means whereby his friend should be united to the young lady instead of himself.

On the morning of the marriage-day Lisardo makes his friend dress himself in his wedding-garments, and, as they were so like each other, none present at the ceremony suspected but that it was Lisardo who led the bride to the altar. Next day, at an early hour, the bridegroom goes into Lisardo's room and receives his hearty congratulations; but now comes the question of how to disclose the affair to Lisardo's father. After some discussion they go to Federico and confess the deception that had been practised. At first he is very angry but at length consents to explain everything to Laura's father, which he does accordingly, at the same time stating that the match is quite as good as was intended, and this is ere long confirmed by the receipt of docu­ments from our youth's father conveying property and money to him. Soon afterwards the loving couple set out for the husband's home.

Two years pass away, during which Lisardo has not once communicated with his friend, who now goes to Bologna to ascertain how he fares. He finds that Lisardo's father is dead and himself gone no one knows where. Then he visits all the chief towns and ports of Italy in quest of him, but without success. Entering Naples for the second time, he perceives a large concourse of people in the great square, where there is a scaffold erected, on which he sees a youth with his arms pinioned, and the executioner, sword in hand, by his side. He recognises in the unhappy young man his friend Lisardo, and, breaking through the crowd, rushes on to the scaffold, exclaim­ing: “This man is innocent—I am the guilty one!” When the tumult caused by this singular scene is somewhat allayed, the chief magistrate orders both to be taken to prison in the meantime, and, as a favour, they are both placed in the same cell. Lisardo reproaches his friend for casting away his life, and he innocent of any crime, but his friend replies that he is convinced that Lisardo is equally innocent, for which Lisardo expresses his gratitude and then proceeds to tell his story. His father died worth little money, although he had a reputation of being very rich, and with a few jewels Lisardo departed from Bologna. As he journeyed he was attacked by a band of robbers, who plundered him and even stripped off his clothes. A humane cottager gave him a ragged coat, and he wandered on, not knowing or caring whither he went. He thought of his friend, but was ashamed to be seen by him in such a plight. After being sick for six months in a public hospital, he resumed his wanderings, and one night took shelter in a cavern. In the morning he was rudely awakened by some peasants, who pointed to the dead body of a man that lay in the cavern, and accused him of the murder. Presently the police came and led him off to prison. At his trial he said nothing in his own defence—for he was weary of life—and he was duly condemned to death. Having heard this sad story, his friend is now more than ever determined to save him by the sacrifice of his own life. But while they are still conversing the cell door is thrown open, and the prison officials inform them that the real murderers of the man have just been captured in a gang of desperadoes, who were discovered to be the same that had robbed Lisardo, his jewels having been found in their possession. The reaction produced by this sudden intelligence proves too much for Lis-ardo's shattered frame; and, confessing to his friend that he had from the first loved and had never ceased to love the beauteous Laura, his devoted spirit took its flight from this earth, leaving his friend for ever disconsolate: “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me!”