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    10- The Three Calenders

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    Chapter 11
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    The Story of the Three Calenders, sons of Sultans; and of The Five Ladies of Bagdad

    In the reign of Caliph Haroon al Rusheed, there was at Bagdad, a
    porter, who, notwithstanding his mean and laborious business, was
    a fellow of wit and good humour. One morning as he was at the
    place where he usually plyed, with a great basket, waiting for
    employment, a handsome young lady, covered with a great muslin
    veil, accosted him, and said with a pleasant air, "Hark you,
    porter, take your basket and follow me." The porter, charmed with
    these words, pronounced in so agreeable a manner, took his basket
    immediately, set it on his head, and followed the lady,
    exclaiming, "O happy day, O day of good luck!"

    In a short time the lady stopped before a gate that was shut, and
    knocked: a Christian, with a venerable long white beard, opened
    it; and she put money into his hand, without speaking; but the
    Christian, who knew what she wanted, went in, and in a little
    time, brought a large jug of excellent wine. "Take this jug,"
    said the lady to the porter, "and put it in your basket." This
    being done, she commanded him to follow her; and as she
    proceeded, the porter continued his exclamation, "O happy day!
    This is a day of agreeable surprise and joy."

    The lady stopped at a fruit-shop, where she bought several sorts
    of apples, apricots, peaches, quinces, lemons, citrons, oranges;
    myrtles, sweet basil, lilies, jessamin, and some other flowers
    and fragrant plants; she bid the porter put all into his basket,
    and follow her. As she went by a butcher's stall, she made him
    weigh her twenty five pounds of his best meat, which she ordered
    the porter to put also into his basket. At another shop, she took
    capers, tarragon, cucumbers, sassafras, and other herbs,
    preserved in vinegar: at another, she bought pistachios, walnuts,
    filberts, almonds, kernels of pine-apples, and such other fruits;
    and at another, all sorts of confectionery. When the porter had
    put all these things into his basket, and perceived that it grew
    full, "My good lady," said he, "you ought to have given me notice
    that you had so much provision to carry, and then I would have
    brought a horse, or rather a camel, for the purpose; for if you
    buy ever so little more, I shall not be able to bear it." The
    lady laughed at the fellow's pleasant humour, and ordered him
    still to follow her.

    She then went to a druggist, where she furnished herself with all
    manner of sweet-scented waters, cloves, musk, pepper, ginger, and
    a great piece of ambergris, and several other Indian spices; this
    quite filled the porter's basket, and she ordered him to follow
    her. They walked till they came to a magnificent house, whose
    front was adorned with fine columns, and had a gate of ivory.
    There they stopped, and the lady knocked softly.

    While the young lady and the porter waited for the opening of the
    gate, the porter made a thousand reflections. He wondered that
    such a fine lady should come abroad to buy provisions; he
    concluded she could not be a slave, her air was too noble, and
    therefore he thought she must needs be a woman of quality. Just
    as he was about to ask her some questions upon this head, another
    lady came to open the gate, and appeared to him so beautiful,
    that he was perfectly surprised, or rather so much struck with
    her charms, that he had nearly suffered his basket to fall, for
    he had never seen any beauty that equalled her.

    The lady who brought the porter with her, perceiving his
    disorder, and knowing the cause, was greatly diverted, and took
    so much pleasure in watching his looks, that she forgot the gate
    was opened. "Pray, Sister," said the beautiful portress, "come
    in, what do you stay for? Do not you see this poor man so heavy
    laden, that he is scarcely able to stand,"

    When she entered with the porter, the lady who had opened the
    gate shut it, and all three, after having passed through a
    splendid vestibule, entered a spacious court, encompassed with an
    open gallery, which had a communication with several apartments
    of extraordinary magnificence. At the farther end of the court
    there was a platform, richly furnished, with a throne of amber in
    the middle, supported by four columns of ebony, enriched with
    diamonds and pearls of an extraordinary size, and covered with
    red satin embroidered with Indian gold of admirable workmanship.
    In the middle of the court there was a fountain, faced with white
    marble, and full of clear water, which was copiously supplied out
    of the mouth of a lion of brass.

    The porter, though heavy laden, could not but admire the
    magnificence of this house, and the excellent order in which
    every thing was placed; but what particularly captivated his
    attention, was a third lady, who seemed to be more beautiful than
    the second, and was seated upon the throne just mentioned; she
    descended as soon as she saw the two others, and advanced towards
    them: he judged by the respect which the other ladies showed her,
    that she was the chief, in which he was not mistaken. This lady
    was called Zobeide, she who opened the gate Safie, and she who
    went to buy the provisions was named Amene.

    Zobeide said to the two ladies, when she came to them, "Sisters,
    do not you see that this honest man is ready to sink under his
    burden, why do not you ease him of it?" Then Amene and Safie took
    the basket, the one before and the other behind; Zobeide also
    assisted, and all three together set it on the ground; then
    emptied it; and when they had done, the beautiful Amene took out
    money, and paid the porter liberally.

    The porter was well satisfied with the money he had received; but
    when he ought to have departed, he could not summon sufficient
    resolution for the purpose. He was chained to the spot by the
    pleasure of beholding three such beauties, who appeared to him
    equally charming; for Amene having now laid aside her veil,
    proved to be as handsome as either of the others. What surprised
    him most was, that he saw no man about the house, yet most of the
    provisions he had brought in, as the dry fruits, and the several
    sorts of cakes and confections, were adapted chiefly for those
    who could drink and make merry.

    Zobeide thought at first, that the porter staid only to take
    breath, but perceiving that he remained too long, "What do you
    wait for," said she, "are you not sufficiently paid?" And turning
    to Amene. she continued, "Sister, give him something more, that
    he may depart satisfied." "Madam," replied the porter, "it is not
    that which detains me, I am already more than paid for my
    services; I am sensible that I act rudely in staying longer than
    I ought, but I hope you will the goodness to pardon me, when I
    tell you, that I am astonished not to see a man with three ladies
    of such extraordinary beauty: and you know that a company of
    women without men is as melancholy as a company of men without
    women." To this he added several other pleasant things, to prove
    what he said, and did not forget the Bagdad proverb, "That the
    table is not completely furnished, except there be four in
    company:" and so concluded, that since they were but three, they
    wanted another.

    The ladies fell a laughing at the porter's reasoning; after which
    Zobeide gravely addressed him, "Friend, you presume rather too
    much; and though you do not deserve that I should enter into any
    explanation with you, I have no objection to inform you that we
    are three sisters, who transact our affairs with so much secrecy
    that no one knows any thing of them. We have but too much reason
    to be cautious of acquainting indiscreet persons with our
    counsel; and a good author that we have read, says, ‘Keep thy own
    secret, and do not reveal it to any one. He that makes his secret
    known it no longer its master. If thy own breast cannot keep thy
    counsel, how canst thou expect the breast of another to be more

    "My ladies," replied the porter, "by your very air, I judged at
    first that you were persons of extraordinary merit, and I
    conceive that I am not mistaken. Though fortune has not given me
    wealth enough to raise me above my mean profession, yet I have
    not omitted to cultivate my mind as much as I could, by reading
    books of science and history; and allow me, I beseech you, to
    say, that I have also read in another author a maxim which I have
    always happily followed: ‘We conceal our secret from such persons
    only as are known to all the world to want discretion, and would
    abuse our confidence; but we hesitate not to discover it to the
    prudent, because we know that with them it is safe.' A secret in
    my keeping is as secure as if it were locked up in a cabinet, the
    key of which is lost, and the door sealed up."

    Zobeide perceiving that the porter was not deficient in wit, but
    thinking he wished to share in their festivity, answered him,
    smiling, "You know that we have been making preparations to
    regale ourselves, and that, as you have seen, at a considerable
    expense; it is not just that you should now partake of the
    entertainment without contributing to the cost." The beautiful
    Safie seconded her sister, and said to the porter, "Friend. have
    you never heard the common saying, ‘If you bring something with
    you, you shall carry something away, but if you bring nothing,
    you shall depart empty?'"

    The porter, notwithstanding his rhetoric, must, in all
    probability, have retired in confusion, if Amene had not taken
    his part, and said to Zobeide and Safie, "My dear sisters, I
    conjure you to let him remain; I need not tell you that he will
    afford us some diversion, of this you perceive he is capable: I
    assure you, had it not been for his readiness, his alacrity, and
    courage to follow me, I could not have done so much business, in
    so short a time; besides, where I to repeat to you all the
    obliging expressions he addressed to me by the way, you would not
    feel surprised at my taking his part."

    At these words of Amene, the porter was so transported with joy,
    that he fell on his knees, kissed the ground at her feet, and
    raising himself up, said, "Most beautiful lady, you began my good
    fortune to-day, and now you complete it by this generous conduct;
    I cannot adequately express my acknowledgments. As to the rest,
    ladies," said he, addressing himself to all the three sisters,
    "since you do me so great an honour, do not think that I will
    abuse it, or look upon myself as deserving of the distinction.
    No, I shall always look upon myself as one of your most humble
    slaves." When he had spoken these words he would have returned
    the money he had received, but Zobeide ordered him to keep it.
    "What we have once given," said she, "to reward those who have
    served us, we never take back. My friend, in consenting to your
    staying with us, I must forewarn you, that it is not the only
    condition we impose upon you that you keep inviolable the secret
    we may entrust to you, but we also require you to attend to the
    strictest rules of good manners." During this address, the
    charming Amene put off the apparel she went abroad with, and
    fastened her robe to her girdle that she might act with the
    greater freedom; she then brought in several sorts of meat, wine,
    and cups of gold. Soon after, the ladies took their places, and
    made the porter sit down by them, who was overjoyed to see
    himself seated with three such admirable beauties. After they had
    eaten a little, Amene took a cup, poured some wine into it, and
    drank first herself; she then filled the cup to her sisters, who
    drank in course as they sat; and at last she filled it the fourth
    time for the porter, who, as he received it, kissed Amene's hand;
    and before he drank, sung a song to this purpose. That as the
    wind bears with it the sweet scents of the purfumed places over
    which it passes, so the wine he was going to drink, coming from
    her fair hands, received a more exquisite flavour than it
    naturally possessed. The song pleased the ladies much, and each
    of them afterwards sung one in her turn. In short, they were all
    very pleasant during the repast, which lasted a considerable
    time, and nothing was wanting that could serve to render it
    agreeable. The day drawing to a close, Safie spoke in the name of
    the three ladies, and said to the porter, "Arise, it is time for
    you to depart." But the porter, not willing to leave good
    company, cried, "Alas! ladies, whither do you command me to go in
    my present condition? What with drinking and your society, I am
    quite beside myself. I shall never find the way home; allow me
    this night to recover myself, in any place you please, but go
    when I will, I shall leave the best part of myself behind."

    Amene pleaded the second time for the porter, saying, "Sisters,
    he is right, I am pleased with the request, he having already
    diverted us so well; and, if you will take my advice, or if you
    love me as much as I think you do, let us keep him for the
    remainder of the night." "Sister," answered Zobeide, "we can
    refuse you nothing;" and then turning to the porter, said, "We
    are willing once more to grant your request, but upon this new
    condition, that, whatever we do in your presence relating either
    to ourselves or any thing else, you do not so much as open your
    mouth to ask the reason; for if you put any questions respecting
    what does not concern you, you may chance to hear what you will
    not like; beware therefore, and be not too inquisitive to pry
    into the motives of our actions.

    "Madam," replied the porter, "I promise to abide by this
    condition, that you shall have no cause to complain, and far less
    to punish my indiscretion; my tongue shall be immovable on this
    occasion, and my eye like a looking-glass, which retains nothing
    of the objets that is set before it." "To shew you," said Zobeide
    with a serious countenance, "that what we demand of you is not a
    new thing among us, read what is written over our gate on the

    The porter went and read these words, written in large characters
    of gold: "He who speaks of things that do not concern him, shall
    hear things that will not please him." Returning again to the
    three sisters, "Ladies," said he, "I swear to you that you shall
    never hear me utter a word respecting what does not relate to me,
    or wherein you may have any concern."

    These preliminaries being settled, Amene brought in supper, and
    after she had lighted up the room with tapers, made of aloe-wood
    and ambergris, which yield a most agreeable perfume, as well as a
    delicate light, she sat down with her sisters and the porter.
    They began again to eat and drink, to sing, and repeat verses.
    The ladies diverted themselves in intoxicating the porter, under
    pretext of making him drink their healths, and the repast was
    enlivened by reciprocal flashes of wit. When they were all in the
    best humour possible, they heard a knocking at the gate.

    When the ladies heard the knocking, they all three got up to open
    the gate; but Safie was the nimblest; which her sisters
    perceiving, they resumed their seats. Safie returning, said,
    "Sisters, we have a very fine opportunity of passing a good part
    of the night pleasantly, and if you agree with me, you will not
    suffer it to go by. There are three calenders at our gate, at
    least they appear to be such by their habit; but what will
    surprise you is, they are all three blind of the right eye, and
    have their heads, beards, and eye-brows shaved. They say, they
    are but just come to Bagdad, where they never were before; it
    being night, and not knowing where to find a lodging, they
    happened by chance to knock at this gate, and pray us, for the
    love of heaven, to have compassion on them, and receive them into
    the house. They care not what place we put them in, provided they
    may be under shelter; they would be satisfied with a stable. They
    are young and handsome, and seem not to want spirit. But I cannot
    without laughing think of their amusing and uniform figure." Here
    Safie laughed so heartily, that the two sisters and the porter
    could not refrain from laughing also. "My dear sisters," said
    she, "you will permit them to come in; it is impossible but that
    with such persons as I have described them to be, we shall finish
    the day better than we began it; they will afford us diversion
    enough, and put us to no charge, because they desire shelter only
    for this night, and resolve to leave us as soon as day appears."

    Zobeide and Amene made some difficulty to grant Safie's request,
    for reasons which she herself well knew. But being very desirous
    to obtain this favour, they could not refuse her; "Go then," said
    Zobeide, "and bring them in, but do not forget to acquaint them
    that they must not speak of any thing which does not concern
    them, and cause them to read what is written over the gate."
    Safie ran out with joy, and in a little time after returned with
    the three calenders.

    At their entrance they made a profound obeisance to the ladies,
    who rose up to receive them, and told them courteously that they
    were welcome, that they were glad of the opportunity to oblige
    them, and to contribute towards relieving the fatigues of their
    journey, and at last invited them to sit down with them.

    The magnificence of the place, and the civility they received,
    inspired the calenders with high respect for the ladies: but,
    before they sat down, having by chance cast their eyes upon the
    porter, whom they saw clad almost like those devotees with whom
    they have continual disputes respecting several points of
    discipline, because they never shave their beards nor eye-brows;
    one of them said, "I believe we have got here one of our revolted
    Arabian brethren."

    The porter having his head warm with wine, took offence and with
    a fierce look, without stirring from his place, answered, "Sit
    you down, and do not meddle with what does not concern you: have
    you not read the inscription over the gate? Do not pretend to
    make people live after your fashion, but follow ours."

    "Honest man," said the calender, "do not put yourself in a
    passion; we should be sorry to give you the least occasion; on
    the contrary, we are ready to receive your commands." Upon which,
    to put an end to the dispute, the ladies interposed, and pacified
    them. When the calenders were seated, the ladies served them with
    meat; and Safie, being highly pleased with them, did not let them
    want for wine.

    After the calenders had eaten and drunk liberally, they signified
    to the ladies, that they wished to entertain them with a concert
    of music, if they had any instruments in the house, and would
    cause them to be brought: they willingly accepted the proposal,
    and fair Safie going to fetch them, returned again in a moment,
    and presented them with a flute of her own country fashion,
    another of the Persian, and a tabor. Each man took the instrument
    he liked, and all three together began to play a tune The ladies,
    who knew the words of a merry song that suited the air, joined
    the concert with their voices; but the words of the song made
    them now and then stop, and fall into excessive laughter.

    In the height of this diversion, when the company were in the
    midst of their jollity, a knocking was heard at the gate; Safie
    left off singing, and went to see who it was. The caliph Haroon
    al Rusheed was frequently in the habit of walking abroad in
    disguise by night, that he might discover if every thing was
    quiet in the city, and see that no disorders were committed.

    This night the caliph went out on his rambles, accompanied by
    Jaaffier his grand vizier, and Mesrour the chief of the eunuchs
    of his palace, all disguised in merchants' habits; and passing
    through the street where the three ladies dwelt, he heard the
    sound of music and fits of loud laughter; upon which he commanded
    the vizier, to knock, as he wished to enter to ascertain the
    reason. The vizier, in vain represented to him that the noise
    proceeded from some women who were merry-making, that without
    question their heads were warm with wine, and that it would not
    be proper he should expose himself to be affronted by them:
    besides, it was not yet an unlawful hour, and therefore he ought
    not to disturb them in their mirth. "No matter," said the caliph,
    "I command you to knock." Jaaffier complied; Safie opened the
    gate, and the vizier, perceiving by the light in her hand, that
    she was an incomparable beauty, with a very low salutation said,
    "We are three merchants of Mossoul, who arrived here about ten
    days ago with rich merchandise, which we have in a warehouse at a
    caravan-serai, where we have also our lodging. We happened this
    evening to be with a merchant of this city, who invited us to his
    house, where we had a splendid entertainment: and the wine having
    put us in good humour, he sent for a company of dancers. Night
    being come on, and the music and dancers making a great noise,
    the watch, passing by, caused the gate to be opened and some of
    the company to be taken up; but we had the good fortune to escape
    by getting over the wall. Being strangers, and somewhat overcome
    with wine, we are afraid of meeting that or some other watch,
    before we get home to our khan. Besides, before we can arrive
    there the gates will be shut, and will not be opened till
    morning: wherefore, hearing, as we passed by this way, the sound
    of music, we supposed you were not yet going to rest, and made
    bold to knock at your gate, to beg the favour of lodging
    ourselves in the house till morning; and if you think us worthy
    of your good company, we will endeavour to contribute to your
    diversion to the best of our power, to make some amends for the
    interruption we have given you; if not, we only beg the favour of
    staying this night in your vestibule."

    Whilst Jaaffier was speaking, Safie had time to observe the
    vizier, and his two companions, who were said to be merchants
    like himself, and told them that she was not mistress of the
    house; but if they would have a minute's patience, she would
    return with an answer.

    Safie made the business known to her sisters, who considered for
    some time what to do: but being naturally of a good disposition,
    and having granted the same favour to the three calenders, they
    at last consented to let them in.

    The caliph, his grand vizier, and the chief of the eunuchs, being
    introduced by the fair Safie, very courteously saluted the ladies
    and the calenders. The ladies returned their salutations,
    supposing them to be merchants. Zobeide, as the chief, addressed
    them with a grave and serious countenance, which was natural to
    her, and said, "You are welcome. But before I proceed farther, I
    hope you will not take it ill if we desire one favour of you."
    "Alas!" said the vizier, "what favour? We can refuse nothing to
    such fair ladies." Zobeide continued, "It is that, while here,
    you would have eyes, but no tongues; that you question us not for
    the reason of any thing you may see, and speak not of any thing
    that does not concern you, lest you hear what will by no means
    please you."

    "Madam," replied the vizier, "you shall be obeyed. We are not
    censorious, nor impertinently curious; it is enough for us to
    notice affairs that concern us, without meddling with what does
    not belong to us." Upon this they all sat down, and the company
    being united, they drank to the health of the new-comers.

    While the vizier, entertained the ladies in conversation, the
    caliph could not forbear admiring their extraordinary beauty,
    graceful behaviour, pleasant humour, and ready wit; on the other
    hand, nothing struck him with more surprise than the calenders
    being all three blind of the right eye. He would gladly have
    learnt the cause of this singularity; but the conditions so
    lately imposed upon himself and his companions would not allow
    him to speak. These circumstances, with the richness of the
    furniture, the exact order of every thing, and the neatness of
    the house, made him think they were in some enchanted place.

    Their conversation happening to turn upon diversions, and the
    different ways of making merry; the calenders arose, and danced
    after their fashion, which augmented the good opinion the ladies
    had conceived of them, and procured them the esteem of the caliph
    and his companions.

    When the three calenders had finished their dance, Zobeide arose,
    and taking Amene by the hand, said, "Pray, sister, arise, for the
    company will not be offended if we use our freedom, and their
    presence need not hinder the performance of our customary
    exercise." Amene understanding her sister's meaning, rose from
    her seat, carried away the dishes, the flasks and cups, together
    with the instruments which the calenders had played upon.

    Safie was not idle, but swept the room, put every thing again in
    its place, trimmed the lamps, and put fresh aloes and ambergris
    to them; this being done, she requested the three calenders to
    sit down upon the sofa at one side, and the caliph with his
    companions on the other: then addressing herself to the porter,
    she said, "Get up, and prepare yourself to assist us in what we
    are going to do; a man like you, who is one of the family, ought
    not to be idle." The porter, being somewhat recovered from his
    wine, arose immediately, and having tied the sleeve of his gown
    to his belt, answered, "Here am I, ready to obey your commands."
    "Very well," replied Safie, "stay till you are spoken to; and you
    shall not be idle long." A little time after, Amene came in with
    a chair, which she placed in the middle of the room; and then
    went towards a closet. Having opened the door, she beckoned to
    the porter, and said, "Come hither and assist me." He obeyed, and
    entered the closet, and returned immediately, leading two black
    bitches, each of them secured by a collar and chain; they
    appeared as if they had been severely whipped with rods, and he
    brought them into the middle of the apartment.

    Zobeide, rising from her seat between the calenders and the
    caliph, moved very gravely towards the porter; "Come," said she,
    heaving a deep sigh, "let us perform our duty:" she then tucked
    up her sleeves above her elbows, and receiving a rod from Safie,
    "Porter," said she, "deliver one of the bitches to my sister
    Amene, and bring the other to me."

    The porter did as he was commanded. Upon this the bitch that he
    held in his hand began to howl, and turning towards Zobeide, held
    her head up in a supplicating posture; but Zobeide, having no
    regard to the sad countenance of the animal, which would have
    moved pity, nor to her cries that resounded through the house,
    whipped her with the rod till she was out of breath; and having
    spent her strength, threw down the rod, and taking the chain from
    the porter, lifted up the bitch by her paws, and looking upon her
    with a sad and pitiful countenance, they both wept: after which,
    Zobeide, with her handkerchief, wiped the tears from the bitch's
    eye, kissed her, returned the chain to the porter, desired him to
    carry her to the place whence he took her, and bring her the
    other. The porter led back the whipped bitch to the closet, and
    receiving the other from Amene, presented her to Zobeide, who
    requested him to hold her as he had done the first, took up the
    rod, and treated her after the same manner; and when she had wept
    over her, she dried her eyes, kissed her, and returned her to the
    porter: but Amene spared him the trouble of leading her back into
    the closet, and did it herself. The three calenders, with the
    caliph and his companions, were extremely surprised at this
    exhibition, and could not comprehend why Zobeide, after having so
    furiously beaten those two bitches, that by the moosulman
    religion are reckoned unclean animals, should weep with them,
    wipe off their tears, and kiss them. They muttered among
    themselves, and the caliph, who, being more impatient than the
    rest, longed exceedingly to be informed of the cause of so
    strange a proceeding, could not forbear making signs to the
    vizier to ask the question: the vizier turned his head another
    way; but being pressed by repeated signs, he answered by others,
    that it was not yet time for the caliph to satisfy his curiosity.

    Zobeide sat still some time in the middle of the room, where she
    had whipped the two bitches, to recover herself of her fatigue;
    and Safie called to her, "Dear sister, will you not be pleased to
    return to your place, that I may also aft my part?" "Yes,
    sister," replied Zobeide; and then went, and sat down upon the
    sofa, having the caliph, Jaaffier, and Mesrour, on her right
    hand, and the three calenders, with the porter, on her left.

    After Zobeide had taken her seat, the whole company remained
    silent for some time; at last, Safie, sitting on a chair in the
    middle of the room, spoke to her sister Amene, "Dear sister, I
    conjure you to rise; you know what I would say." Amene rose, and
    went into another closet, near to that where the bitches were,
    and brought out a case covered with yellow satin, richly
    embroidered with gold and green silk. She went towards Safie and
    opened the case, from whence she took a lute, and presented it to
    her: and after some time spent in tuning it, Safie began to play,
    and accompanying the instrument with her voice, sung a song about
    the torments that absence creates to lovers, with so much
    sweetness, that it charmed the caliph and all the company. Having
    sung with much passion and action, she said to Amene, "Pray take
    it, sister, for my voice fails me; oblige the company with a
    tune, and a song in my stead." "Very willingly," replied Amene,
    who, taking the lute from her sister Safie, sat down in her

    Amene played and sung almost as long upon the same subject, but
    with so much vehemence, and was so much affected, or rather
    transported, by the words of the song, that her strength failed
    her as she finished.

    Zobeide, desirous of testifying her satisfaction, said, "Sister,
    you have done wonders, and we may easily see that you feel the
    grief you have expressed in so lively a manner." Amene was
    prevented from answering this civility, her heart being so
    sensibly touched at the moment, that she was obliged, for air, to
    uncover her neck and bosom, which did not appear so fair as might
    have been expected; but, on the contrary, were black and full of
    scars, which surprised and affected all the spectators. However,
    this gave her no ease, for she fell into a fit.

    When Zobeide and Safie had run to help their sister, one of the
    calenders could not forbear saying, "We had better have slept in
    the streets than have come hither to behold such spectacles." The
    caliph, who heard this, came to him and the other calenders, and
    asked them what might be the meaning of all this? They answered,
    "We know no more than you do." "What," said the caliph, "are you
    not of the family? Can you not resolve us concerning the two
    black bitches and the lady that fainted away, who appears to have
    been so basely abused?" "Sir," said the calenders, "this is the
    first time of our being in the house; we came in but a few
    minutes before you."

    This increased the caliph's astonishment: "Probably," said he,
    "this man who is with you may know something of the matter." One
    of the calenders beckoned the porter to come near; and asked him,
    whether he knew why those two black bitches had been whipped, and
    why Amene's bosom was so scarred. "Sir," said the porter, "I can
    swear by heaven, that if you know nothing of all this, I know as
    little as you do. It is true, I live in this city, but I never
    was in the house until now, and if you are surprised to see me I
    am as much so to find myself in your company; and that which
    increases my wonder is, that I have not seen one man with these

    The caliph and his company, as well as the calenders, had
    supposed the porter to be one of the family, and hoped he would
    have been able to give them the information they sought; but
    finding he could not, and resolving to satisfy his curiosity, the
    caliph said to the rest, "We are seven men, and have but three
    women to deal with; let us try if we can oblige them to explain
    what we have seen, and if they refuse by fair means, we are in a
    condition to compel them by force."

    The grand vizier Jaaffier objected to this, and shewed the caliph
    what might be the consequence. Without discovering the prince to
    the calenders, he addressed him as if he had been a merchant, and
    said, "Consider, I pray you, that our reputation is at stake. You
    know the conditions on which these ladies consented to receive
    us, and which we agreed to observe; what will they say of us if
    we break them? We shall be still more to blame, if any mischief
    befall us; for it is not likely that they would have extorted
    such a promise from us, without knowing themselves to be in a
    condition to punish us for its violation."

    Here the vizier took the caliph aside, and whispered to him, "The
    night will soon be at an end, and if your majesty will only be
    pleased to have so much patience, I will to-morrow morning bring
    these ladies before your throne, where you may be informed of all
    that you desire to know." Though this advice was very judicious,
    the caliph rejected it, desired the vizier to hold his tongue,
    and said, he would not wait so long, but would immediately have
    his curiosity satisfied.

    The next business was to settle who should carry the message. The
    caliph endeavoured to prevail with the calenders to speak first;
    but they excused themselves, and at last they agreed that the
    porter should be the man: as they were consulting how to word
    this fatal question, Zobeide returned from her sister Amene, who
    was recovered of her fit. She drew near them, and having
    overheard them speaking pretty loud, said, "Gentlemen, what is
    the subject of your conversation? What are you disputing about?"

    The porter answered immediately, "Madam, these gentlemen beseech
    you to inform them why you wept over your two bitches after you
    had whipped them so severely, and how the bosom of that lady who
    lately fainted away came to be so full of scars? These are the
    questions I am ordered to ask in their name."

    At these words, Zobeide put on a stern countenance, and turning
    towards the caliph and the rest of the company, "Is it true,
    gentlemen," said she, "that you desired him to ask me these
    questions?" All of them, except the vizier Jaaffier, who spoke
    not a word, answered, "Yes." On which she exclaimed, in a tone
    that sufficiently expressed her resentment, "Before we granted
    you the favour of receiving you into our house, and to prevent
    all occasion of trouble from you, because we are alone, we
    imposed the condition that you should not speak of any thing that
    did not concern you, lest you might hear that which would not
    please you; and yet after having received and entertained you,
    you make no scruple to break your promise. It is true that our
    easy temper has occasioned this, but that shall not excuse your
    rudeness." As she spoke these words, she gave three stamps with
    her foot, and clapping her hands as often together, cried, "Come
    quickly:" upon this, a door flew open, and seven black slaves
    rushed in; every one seized a man, threw him on the ground, and
    dragged him into the middle of the room, brandishing a cimeter
    over his head.

    We may easily conceive the caliph then repented, but too late,
    that he had not taken the advice of his vizier, who, with
    Mesrour, the calenders and porter, was from his ill-timed
    curiosity on the point of forfeiting his life. Before they would
    strike the fatal blow, one of the slaves said to Zobeide, and her
    sisters: "High, mighty, and adorable mistresses, do you command
    us to strike off their heads?" "Stay," said Zobeide, "I must
    examine them first." The frightened porter interrupted her thus:
    "In the name of heaven, do not put me to death for another man's
    crime. I am innocent; they are to blame." "Alas!" said he,
    weeping, "how pleasantly did we pass our time! those blind
    calenders are the cause of this misfortune; there is no town in
    the world but suffers wherever these inauspicious fellows come.
    Madam, I beg you not to destroy the innocent with the guilty, and
    consider, that it is more glorious to pardon such a wretch as I
    am, who have no way to help myself, than to sacrifice me to your

    Zobeide, notwithstanding her anger, could not but laugh within
    herself at the porter's lamentation: but without replying to him,
    she spoke a second time to the rest; "Answer me, and say who you
    are, otherwise you shall not live one moment longer: I cannot
    believe you to be honest men, or persons of authority or
    distinction in your own countries; for if you were, you would
    have been more modest and more respectful to us."

    The caliph, naturally warm, was infinitely more indignant than
    the rest, to find his life depending upon the command of a woman:
    but he began to conceive some hopes, when he found she wished to
    know who they all were; for he imagined she would not put him to
    death, when informed of his quality; therefore he spoke with a
    low voice to the vizier, who was near him, to declare it
    speedily: but the vizier, more prudent, resolved to save his
    master's honour, and not let the world know the affront he had
    brought upon himself by his own imprudence; and therefore
    answered, "We have what we deserve." But if he had intended to
    speak as the caliph commanded him, Zobeide would not have allowed
    him time: for having turned to the calenders, and seeing them all
    blind with one eye, she asked if they were brothers. One of them
    answered, "No, madam, no otherwise than as we are calenders; that
    is to say, as we observe the same rules." "Were you born blind of
    the right eye," continued she? "No, madam," answered he; "I lost
    my eye in such a surprising adventure, that it would be
    instructive to every body were it in writing: after that
    misfortune I shaved my beard and eyebrows, and took the habit of
    a calender which I now wear."

    Zobeide asked the other two calenders the same question, and had
    the same answers; but the last who spoke added, "Madam, to shew
    you that we are no common fellows, and that you may have some
    consideration for us, be pleased to know, that we are all three
    sons of sultans; and though we never met together till this
    evening, yet we have had time enough to make that known to one
    another; and I assure you that the sultans from whom we derive
    our being were famous in the world."

    At this discourse Zobeide suppressed her anger, and said to the
    slaves, "Give them their liberty a while, but remain where you
    are. Those who tell us their history, and the occasion of their
    coming, do them no hurt, let them go where they please; but do
    not spare those who refuse to give us that satisfaction."

    The three calendars, the caliph, the grand vizier, Jaaffier, the
    eunuch Mesrour, and the porter, were all in the middle of the
    hall, seated upon a carpet in the presence of the three ladies,
    who reclined upon a sofa, and the slaves stood ready to do
    whatever their mistresses should command.

    The porter, understanding that he might extricate himself from
    danger by telling his history, spoke first, and said, "Madam, you
    know my history already, and the occasion of my coming hither; so
    that what I have to say will be very short. My lady, your sister,
    called me this morning at the place where I plyed as porter to
    see if any body would employ me, that I might get my bread; I
    followed her to a vintner's, then to a herb-shop, then to one
    where oranges, lemons, and citrons were sold, then to a grocer's,
    next to a confectioner's, and a druggist's, with my basket upon
    my head as full as I was able to carry it; then I came hither,
    where you had the goodness to suffer me to continue till now, a
    favour that I shall never forget. This, madam, is my history."

    When the porter had done, Zobeide said to him, "Depart, let us
    see you here no more." "Madam," replied the porter, "I beg you to
    let me stay; it would not be just, after the rest have had the
    pleasure to hear my history, that I should not also have the
    satisfaction of hearing theirs." And having spoken thus, he sat
    down at the end of the sofa, glad at heart to have escaped the
    danger that had frightened him so much. After him, one of the
    three calenders directing his speech to Zobeide, as the principal
    of the three ladies, began thus:
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