The Washerman's Story.

I HAVE followed the business of a washerman for many years. My occupation brought me every day to this place, and once, when I was here as usual, I observed a dove alighting on a tree. The bird was so beautiful that I left off my work to admire it. After a while it shook its wings, its skin opened, and a húrí-like damsel was revealed to my sight. She descended from the tree and seated herself in my lap. I rubbed the sleeve of astonishment over my eyes and exclaimed: “What happiness has fallen to my lot! O most beauteous lady, I am ready to sacrifice my life to you, and to make you the companion of my joys and sorrows.” But the damsel replied: “Young man, this is not a fitting time for jesting. I have come a long way, and feeling very weary I wish to repose for a while.” So she laid her head in my lap and fell asleep, while I pondered my good fortune and future enjoy­ment. Meantime another and still more beautiful dove settled on a branch of the tree, and presently turned into a heart-ravishing maiden. Desirous to please her, I expressed some compliments, to which she thus responded: “Men are of weak intellects and so fickle that they bestow every moment their affection on a new object. One eye needs not two pupils and one scabbard cannot contain two swords. Let no one be thirsty in a river, or wish for flowers in a garden.” On hearing these sarcastic remarks I gently removed the head of the first lady from my lap and said to the second: “I renounce a thousand mistresses like this for half a glance of your eyes,” adding many other complimentary expressions which pleased her so much that she also laid her head in my lap and fell asleep. Soon afterwards a third dove alighted on the tree, and was like the others transformed into a beautiful girl. Forgetting what I had said to the other ladies, I fell violently in love with her, but while I was trying to ingratiate myself with the new comer, the two others awoke, and all three upbraided me in this strain: “O faithless and ignorant wretch! are you not ashamed of your unsteady and chameleon-like nature, and do you not know that the first condition of love is fidelity! Who could ever expect attach­ment from thee?

The morning brings light, the evening night;
Nor can a bat perceive the sun.”

When they had thus spoken they assumed the forms of doves again and flew away, leaving me to regret my folly and repent of my fickleness. Many years have come and gone since then, but I can never forget the happiness which I might have enjoyed, and so I roam about in despair.

Hatim took leave of the washerman and proceeded to the cave in the mountain where he related the history of the fickle lover to the blind man, who now told him his own history in these words: