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    5- The Fisherman

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    Chapter 6
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    There was an aged fisherman, who was so poor, that he could
    scarcely as much as would maintain himself, his wife, and three
    children. He went every day to fish betimes in the morning; and
    imposed it as a law upon himself, not to cast his nets above four
    times a-day. He went one morning by moon-light, and coming to the
    seaside, undressed himself, and cast in his nets. As he drew them
    towards the shore, he found them very heavy, and thought he had a
    good draught of fish, at which he rejoiced; but in a moment
    after, perceiving that instead of fish his nets contained nothing
    but the carcass of an ass, he was much vexed.

    When the fisherman had mended his nets, which the carcass of the
    ass had broken in several places, he threw them in a second time;
    and when he drew them, found a great deal of resistance, which
    made him think he had taken abundance of fish; but he found
    nothing except a basket full of gravel and slime, which grieved
    him extremely. "O fortune!" cried he, with a lamentable tone, "be
    not angry with me, nor persecute a wretch who prays thee to spare
    him. I came hither from my house to seek for my livelihood, and
    thou pronouncest against me a sentence of death. I have no other
    trade but this to subsist by: and notwithstanding all my care, I
    can scarcely provide what is absolutely necessary for my family.
    But I am to blame to complain of thee; thou takest pleasure to
    persecute honest people, and to leave great men in obscurity,
    while thou shewest favour to the wicked, and advancest those who
    have no virtue to recommend them."

    Having finished this complaint, he fretfully threw away the
    basket, and washing his nets from the slime, cast them the third
    time; but brought up nothing, except stones, shells, and mud. No
    language can express his disappointment; he was almost
    distracted. However, when day began to appear, he did not forget
    to say his prayers, like a good Moosulmaun, and he added to them
    this petition: "Lord, thou knowest that I cast my nets only four
    times a day; I have already drawn them three times, without the
    least reward for my labour: I am only to cast them once more; I
    pray thee to render the sea favourable to me, as thou didst to
    Moses "

    The fisherman having finished this prayer, cast his nets the
    fourth time; and when he thought it was proper, drew them as
    formerly, with great difficulty; but instead of fish, found
    nothing in them but a vessel of yellow copper, which from its
    weight seemed not to be empty; and he observed that it was shut
    up and sealed with lead, having the impression of a seal upon it.
    This turn of fortune rejoiced him; "I will sell it," said he, "to
    the founder, and with the money buy a measure of corn." He
    examined the vessel on all sides, and shook it, to try if its
    contents made any noise, but heard nothing. This circumstance,
    with the impression of the seal upon the leaden cover, made him
    think it inclosed something precious. To try this, he took a
    knife, and opened it with very little labour. He turned the mouth
    downward, but nothing came out; which surprised him extremely. He
    placed it before him, but while he viewed it attentively, there
    came out a very thick smoke, which obliged him to retire two or
    three paces back.

    The smoke ascended to the clouds, and extending itself along the
    sea and upon the shore formed a great mist, which we may well
    imagine filled the fisherman with astonishment. When the smoke
    was all out of the vessel, it re-united and became a solid body,
    of which was formed a genie twice as high as the greatest of
    giants. At the sight of a monster of such an unwieldy bulk, the
    fisherman would fain have fled, but was so frightened, that he
    could not move.

    "Solomon," cried the genie immediately, "Solomon, the great
    prophet, pardon, pardon; I will never more oppose your will, I
    will obey all your commands."

    When the fisherman heard these words of the genie, he recovered
    his courage, and said to him, "Thou proud spirit, what is it you
    say? It is above eighteen hundred years since the prophet Solomon
    died, and we are now at the end of time. Tell me your history,
    and how you came to be shut up in this vessel."

    The genie turning to the fisherman, with a fierce look, said.
    "Thou must speak to me with more respect; thou art a presumptuous
    fellow to call me a proud spirit." "Very well," replied the
    fisherman, "shall I speak to you more civilly, and call you the
    owl of good luck?" "I say," answered the genie, "speak to me more
    respectfully, or I will kill thee." "Ah!" replied the fisherman,
    "why would you kill me? Did I not just now set you at liberty,
    and have you already forgotten my services?" "Yes, I remember
    it," said the genie, "but that shall not save thy life: I have
    only one favour to grant thee." "And what is that?" asked the
    fisherman. "It is," answered the genie, "to give thee thy choice,
    in what manner thou wouldst have me put thee to death." "But
    wherein have I offended you?" demanded the fisherman. "Is that
    your reward for the service I have rendered you?" "I cannot treat
    thee otherwise," said the genie; "and that thou mayest know the
    reason, hearken to my story."

    "I am one of those rebellious spirits that opposed the will of
    heaven; nearly all the other genies owned Solomon, the great
    prophet, and yielded to his authority. Sabhir and I were the only
    two that would never be guilty of a mean submission: and to
    avenge himself, that great monarch sent Asaph, the son of
    Barakhia, his chief minister, to apprehend me. That was
    accordingly done. Asaph seized my person, and brought me by force
    before his master's throne.

    "Solomon, the son of David, commanded me to acknowledge his
    power, and to submit to his commands: I bravely refused, and told
    him, I would rather expose myself to his resentment, than swear
    fealty as he required. To punish me, he shut me up in this copper
    vessel; and that I might not break my prison, he himself stamps
    upon this leaden cover, his seal with the great name of God
    engraver upon it. He then gave the vessel to one of the genies
    who had submitted, with orders to throw me into the sea, which to
    my sorrow were executed.

    "During the first hundred years of my imprisonment, I swore that
    if any one should deliver me before the expiration of that
    period, I would make him rich, even after his death: but that
    century ran out, and nobody did me that good office. During the
    second, I made an oath, that I would open all the treasures of
    the earth to any one that might set me at liberty; but with no
    better success. In the third, I promised to make my deliverer a
    potent monarch, to be always near him in spirit, and to grant him
    every day three requests, of what nature soever they might be:
    but this century passed as well as the two former, and I
    continued in prison. At last being angry, or rather mad, to find
    myself a prisoner so long, I swore, that if afterwards any one
    should deliver me, I would kill him without mercy, and grant him
    no other favour but to choose the manner of his death; and
    therefore, since thou hast delivered me to-day, I give thee that

    This discourse afflicted the fisherman extremely: "I am very
    unfortunate," cried he, "to come hither to do such a kindness to
    one that is so ungrateful. I beg you to consider your injustice,
    and revoke such an unreasonable oath; pardon me, and heaven will
    pardon you; if you grant me my life, heaven will protest you from
    all attempts against your own." "No, thy death is resolved on,"
    said the genie, "only choose in what manner you will die." The
    fisherman perceiving the genie to be resolute, was extremely
    grieved, not so much for himself, as on account of his three
    children; and bewailed the misery they must be reduced to by his
    death. He endeavoured still to appease the genie, and said,
    "Alas! be pleased to take pity on me, in consideration of the
    service I have done you." "I have told thee already," replied the
    genie, "it is for that very reason I must kill thee." "That is
    strange," said the fisherman, "are you resolved to reward good
    with evil? The proverb says, ‘That he who does good to one who
    deserves it not is always ill rewarded.' I must confess, I
    thought it was false; for certainly there can be nothing more
    contrary to reason, or the laws of society. Nevertheless, I find
    now by cruel experience that it is but too true." "Do not lose
    time," interrupted the genie; "all thy reasonings shall not
    divert me from my purpose: make haste, and tell me what kind of
    death thou preferest?"

    Necessity is the mother of invention. The fisherman bethought
    himself of a stratagem. "Since I must die then," said he to the
    genie, "I submit to the will of heaven; but before I choose the
    manner of my death, I conjure you by the great name which was
    engraver upon the seal of the prophet Solomon, the son of David,
    to answer me truly the question I am going to ask you."

    The genie finding himself obliged to a positive answer by this
    adjuration, trembled; and replied to the fisherman, "Ask what
    thou wilt, but make haste."

    The fisherman then said to him, "I wish to know if you were
    actually in this vessel: Dare you swear it by the name of the
    great God?" "Yes," replied the genie, "I do swear by that great
    name, that I was." "In good faith," answered the fisherman, "I
    cannot believe you; the vessel is not capable of holding one of
    your size, and how should it be possible that your whole body
    should lie in it?" "I swear to thee, notwithstanding," replied
    the genie, "that I was there just as you see me here: Is it
    possible, that thou cost not believe me after the solemn oath I
    have taken?" "Truly not I," said the fisherman; "nor will I
    believe you, unless you go into the vessel again."

    Upon which the body of the genie dissolved and changed itself
    into smoke, extending as before upon the sea shore; and at last,
    being collected, it began to re-enter the vessel, which it
    continued to do by a slow and equal motion, till no part remained
    out; when immediately a voice came forth, which said to the
    fisherman, "Well now, incredulous fellow, I am in the vessel, do
    not you believe me now?"

    The fisherman, instead of answering the genie, took the cover of
    lead, and having speedily replaced it on the vessel, "Genie,"
    cried he, "now it is your turn to beg my favour, and to choose
    which way I shall put you to death; but not so, it is better that
    I should throw you into the sea, whence I took you: and then I
    will build a house upon the shore, where I will reside and give
    notice to all fishermen who come to throw in their nets, to
    beware of such a wicked genie as thou art, who hast made an oath
    to kill him that shall set thee at liberty."

    The genie, enraged at these expressions, struggled to set himself
    at liberty; but it was impossible, for the impression of
    Solomon's seal prevented him. Perceiving that the fisherman had
    got the advantage of him, for he thought fit to dissemble his
    anger; "Fishermen," said he, "take heed you do not what you
    threaten; for what I spoke to you was only by way of jest." "O
    genie!" replied the fisherman, "thou who wast but a moment ago
    the greatest of all genies, and now art the least of them, thy
    crafty discourse will signify nothing, to the sea thou shalt
    return. If thou hast been there already so long as thou hast told
    me, thou may'st very well stay there till the day of judgment. I
    begged of thee in God's name not to take away my life, and thou
    didst reject my prayers; I am obliged to treat thee in the same

    The genie omitted nothing that he thought likely to prevail with
    the fisherman: "Open the vessel," said he, "give me my liberty,
    and I promise to satisfy thee to thy own content." "Thou art a
    traitor," replied the fisherman, "I should deserve to lose my
    life, if I were such a fool as to trust thee: thou wilt not fail
    to treat me in the same manner as a certain Grecian king treated
    the physician Douban. It is a story I have a mind to tell thee,
    therefore listen to it."
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