Shishu Sansaar | Arabian Nights Stories-5

Arabian Nights Stories-5

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Story No 89-3-1, 6/21

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89-3-1 - The Story of the Hunchback (6 of 21) :
The Story Told by the Sultaan's Steward-1

On the 27th Night contd ...

Thus the Sultaan's steward Reeve started telling his story like this.

Last night, I was with a party where people celebrated the recitation of Quraan. When they had finished their work, the servants spread the food among which there was a dish of Zeerbaajaah. So we approached to eat that dish, but one of the company drew back his hand and refused to eat it. We insisted him to eat it, but he refused to eat it saying that he had suffered enough from eating it. So we asked him - "Would you tell us what is the reason of your abstaining from this dish?" He said - "Because I cannot eat it, unless I wash my hands 40 times with Galangale, and 40 times with potash, and 40 times with soap - altogether with 120 times."

So the host ordered his servants to provide all that he described, to wash his hands. After he had finished washing his hands, he advanced, though with disgust, stretched forth his hand as one in fear and put it into the Zeerbaajaah. His hand trembled and when he put it forth, we saw that his thumb was cut off and he ate with his four fingers only. We were so surprised seeing this that we could not resist ourselves asking him - "Could you tell us how your thumb was maimed? Was it created by God like this or some accident happened?"

He answered - "O my brothers, Not only I have lost my thumb, but also the thumb of the other hand; and each of my feet is in like manner - deprived of the big toe." And he showed us his all the four - two thumbs and two big toes. We said to him - "We are impatient to hear your story about losing these thumbs and big toes and the reason of your washing your hands 120 times." So he said to us .....

"My father was a great merchant, the chief of the merchants of the city Bagadaad during the times of Caliph Haaroon al-Rasheed; but he was addicted to wine and hearing to lute (a musical instrument).  When he died he left nothing. I performed his last rites and mourned him for days and nights. I opened his shop and found only a few goods there and that his debts were many. So I calmed his creditors and started buying and selling and thus paying his debts from week to week. I did this for a considerable period, till I paid all his debts and increased my capital.

One day I was sitting in my shop that a lady came to my shop. I had not seen her before. She was very beautiful and was adorned with ornaments. She came riding on a mule with a slave before her and a slave behind her. She dismounted from the mule and entered the market street followed by a eunuch. The eunuch said - "Madam, Go but do not tell anybody who you are, lest you cause insult for us." He further cautioned her when she walked forward. She looked at the shops, but found none more attractive then mine. So she came to my shop, sat down and greeted me. She drew aside the veil and I saw that she was exceedingly beautiful.

As I saw her, I recited two verses in which I requested her to visit me again. In reply of my those two verses, she also read two verses in which she accepted that she was also love- stricken in my love. Then she asked me - "Do you have any handsome stuff?" I answered - "Your slave is a poor man, but just wait till other merchants open their shops, then I will bring you whatever you desire." So we talked for a while, and when other merchants had opened their shops I brought what she wanted. The price of which was 5,000 pieces of silver. She gave all to the eunuch and they both went out of the market street. The slaves brought the mule to her and she went away without telling me who she was; and I was ashamed to mention my love to her. Now I was answerable to the merchants from whom I bought the materials - I incurred the debt of 5,000 silver pieces.

After the market was closed, I went home. Supper was before me, but I could not eat it. I desired to sleep, but it wouldn't come. The merchants asked me their money but I prevailed upon them to wait another week. After the week, the lady came again, riding upon the mule, attended by one eunuch and the two slaves and having greeted me said to me - "O my master, We are late to bring the money, call the money changer and take the money." So the money changer came and the eunuch gave him the money. 

We talked again till the market opened. Then she asked me to bring some more things, I brought them for her. She took them and went away like before without telling me anything. When she had gone I repented for what I had done. This time I bought the materials for her worth 1,000 pieces of gold. What kind of love is this. She brought me 5,000 pieces of silver and took away 1,000 gold pieces worth gods. This woman seems a cheat to me.

This time she was absent for more than a month. Meanwhile I had to sell my possession to pay the debt. I was on the brink of ruin that she appeared again and came to my shop. Seeing her I forgot my sufferings. She talked to me very softly, asked to produce the scale and weigh the money and she gave the price of the goods she had taken last month. She continued talking to me. She asked me - "Do you have a wife?" I said, "No. Because I do not know any woman," and I wept. She asked me - "Why do you weep?" 

Meanwhile a thought came to my mind. I gave some gold pieces to the eunuch requesting him to be mediator in my love affair. He laughed and said - "She is in love with you, more than your are with her; and has no need of this stuff, but has come to you only because of your love. Propose to her. She will not oppose you what you will say." She had seen me giving gold pieces to eunuch. I said to her - "Please pardon me for what I am going to say you now." And then I told her my feelings for her. She consented to my proposal and said - "This eunuch will come to you with my letter and you do whatever he says to you." And she went away.

I went to the merchants, paid their money and all were profited except myself. I was restless for the next few days. After a few days the eunuch came and told me that his mistress was sick. I asked him her history. He said - "The Lady Zubaidaa, the wife of the Caliph Haaroon al-Rasheed's wife brought her, and she is one of her private slaves. She had the liberty of going out and returning at her pleasure. One day she told her mistress about you and asked her permission to marry you. She said - "I cannot marry you to him until I see him and know whether he has a desire to marry you also." So we want to introduce you to her, and if you can enter without the knowledge of others, you will succeed marrying her. And if your plot will be discovered, you will be killed. Now what do you say?"

I said I will go with you and wait for the moment that will befall me. The eunuch said - "Tomorrow night you go the mosque, Lady Zubaida has built on the bank of the Tigris, say your prayers there and pass the night." "Most willingly."

Contd on 7th Page



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Created by Sushma Gupta on January 15, 2002
Modified on 07/15/14