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    16- The Story of Amene

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    Chapter 17
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    Commander of the faithful, to avoid repeating what your majesty
    has already heard in my sister's story, I shall only add, that
    after my mother had taken a house for herself to live in, during
    her widowhood, she gave me in marriage, with the portion my
    father left me, to a gentleman who had one of the best estates in
    the city.

    I had scarcely been a year married when I became a widow, and was
    left in possession of all my husband's property, which amounted
    to 90,000 sequins. The interest of this money was sufficient to
    maintain me very honourably. When the first six months of my
    mourning was over, I caused to be made for me ten different
    dresses, of such magnificence that each came to a thousand
    sequins; and at the end of the year I began to wear them.

    One day, while I was alone engaged in my domestic affairs, I was
    told that a lady desired to speak to me. I gave orders that she
    should be admitted. She was a person advanced in years; she
    saluted me by kissing the ground, and said to me kneeling, "Dear
    lady, excuse the freedom I take to trouble you, the confidence I
    have in your charity makes me thus bold. I must acquaint your
    ladyship that I have an orphan daughter, who is to be married
    this day. She and I are both strangers, and have no acquaintance
    in this town; which much perplexes me, for we wish the numerous
    family with whom we are going to ally ourselves to think we are
    not altogether unknown and without credit: therefore, most
    beautiful lady, if you would vouchsafe to honour the wedding with
    your presence, we shall be infinitely obliged, because the ladies
    of our country, when informed that a lady of your rank has strewn
    us this respect, will then know that we are not regarded here as
    unworthy and despised persons. But, alas! madam, if you refuse
    this request, how great will be our mortification! we know not
    where else to apply."

    This poor woman's address, which she spoke with tears, moved my
    compassion. "Good woman," said I, "do not afflict yourself, I
    will grant you the favour you desire; tell me whither I must go,
    and I will meet you as soon as I am dressed." The old woman was
    so transported with joy at my answer, that she kissed my feet
    before I had time to prevent her. "My compassionate lady," said
    she, rising, "God will reward the kindness you have shewed to
    your servants, and make your heart as joyful as you have made
    theirs. You need not at present trouble yourself; it will be time
    enough for you to go when I call for you in the evening. So
    farewell, madam, till I have the honour to see you again."

    As soon as she was gone, I took the suit I liked best, with a
    necklace of large pearls, bracelets, pendents for my ears, and
    rings set with the finest and most sparkling diamonds; for my
    mind presaged what would befall me.

    When the night closed in, the old woman called upon me, with a
    countenance full of joy. She kissed my hands, and said, "My dear
    lady, the relations of my son-in-law, who are the principal
    ladies of the city, are now met together; you may come when you
    please; I am ready to conduct you." We immediately set out; she
    walked before me, and I was followed by a number of my women and
    slaves properly dressed for the occasion. We stopt in a wide
    street, newly swept and watered, at a spacious gate with a lamp,
    by the light of which I read this inscription in golden letters
    over the entrance: "This is the everlasting abode of pleasure and
    joy." The old woman knocked, and the gate was opened immediately.

    I was conducted towards the lower end of the court, into a large
    hall, where I was received by a young lady of admirable beauty.
    She drew near, and after having embraced me, made me sit down by
    her upon a sofa, on which was raised a throne of precious wood
    set with diamonds. "Madam," said she, "you are brought hither to
    assist at a wedding; but I hope it will be a different wedding
    from what you expected. I have a brother, one of the handsomest
    men in the world: he is fallen so much in love with the fame of
    your beauty, that his fate depends wholly upon you, and he will
    be the unhappiest of men if you do not take pity on him. He knows
    your quality, and I can assure you he is in no respect unworthy
    of your alliance. If my prayers, madam, can prevail, I shall join
    them with his, and humbly beg you will not refuse the proposal of
    being his wife."

    After the death of my husband I had not thought of marrying
    again. But I had no power to refuse the solicitation of so
    charming a lady. As soon as I had given consent by my silence,
    accompanied with a blush, the young lady claps her hands, and
    immediately a closet-door opened, out of which came a young man
    of a majestic air, and so graceful a behaviour, that I thought
    myself happy to have made so great a conquest. He sat down by me,
    and I found from his conversation that his merits far exceeded
    the eulogium of his sister.

    When she perceived that we were satisfied with one another, she
    claps her hands a second time, and out came a Cauzee, who wrote
    our contract of marriage, signed it himself, and caused it to be
    attested by four witnesses he brought along with him. The only
    condition that my new husband imposed upon me was, that I should
    not be seen by nor speak to any other man but himself, and he
    vowed to me that, if I complied in this respect, I should have no
    reason to complain of him. Our marriage was concluded and
    finished after this manner; so I became the principal actress in
    a wedding to which I had only been invited as a guest.

    About a month after our marriage, having occasion for some
    stuffs, I asked my husband's permission to go out to buy them,
    which he granted; and I took with me the old woman of whom I
    spoke before, she being one of the family, and two of my own
    female slaves.

    When we came to the street where the merchants reside, the old
    woman said, "Dear mistress, since you want silk stuffs, I must
    take you to a young merchant of my acquaintance, who has a great
    variety; and that you may not fatigue yourself by running from
    shop to shop, I can assure you that you will find in his what no
    other can furnish." I was easily persuaded, and we entered a shop
    belonging to a young merchant who was tolerably handsome. I sat
    down, and bade the old woman desire him to shew me the finest
    silk stuffs he had. The woman desired me to speak myself; but I
    told her it was one of the articles of my marriage contract not
    to speak to any man but my husband, which I ought to keep.

    The merchant shewed me several stuffs, of which one pleased me
    better than the rest; but I bade her ask the price. He answered
    the old woman, "I will not sell it for gold or money, but I will
    make her a present of it, if she will give me leave to kiss her
    cheek." I ordered the old woman to tell him, that he was very
    rude to propose such a freedom. But instead of obeying me, she
    said, "What the merchant desires of you is no such great matter;
    you need not speak, but only present him your cheek." The stuff
    pleased me so much, that I was foolish enough to take her advice.
    The old woman and my slaves stood up, that nobody might see, and
    I put up my veil; but instead of kissing me, the merchant bit me
    so violently as to draw blood.

    The pain and my surprise were so great, that I fell down in a
    swoon, and continued insensible so long, that the merchant had
    time to escape. When I came to myself, I found my cheek covered
    with blood: the old woman and my slaves took care to cover it
    with my veil, that the people who came about us could not
    perceive it, but supposed I had only had a fainting fit.

    The old woman who accompanied me being extremely troubled at this
    accident, endeavoured to comfort me. "My dear mistress," said
    she, "I beg your pardon, for I am the cause of this misfortune,
    having brought you to this merchant, because he is my countryman:
    but I never thought he would be guilty of such a villainous
    action. But do not grieve; let us hasten home, I will apply a
    remedy that shall in three days so perfectly cure you, that not
    the least mark shall be visible." The fit had made me so weak,
    that I was scarcely able to walk. But at last I got home, where I
    again fainted, as I went into my chamber. Meanwhile, the old
    woman applied her remedy; I came to myself, and went to bed.

    My husband came to me at night, and seeing my head bound up,
    asked me the reason. I told him I had the head-ache, which I
    hoped would have satisfied him, but he took a candle, and saw my
    cheek was hurt: "How comes this wound?" said he. Though I did not
    consider myself as guilty of any great offence, yet I could not
    think of owning the truth. Besides, to make such an avowal to a
    husband, I considered as somewhat indecorous; I therefore said,
    "That as I was going, under his permission, to purchase some silk
    stuff, a porter, carrying a load of wood, came so near to me, in
    a narrow street, that one of the sticks grazed my cheek; but had
    not done me much hurt." This account put my husband into a
    violent passion. "This act," said he, "shall not go unpunished. I
    will to-morrow order the lieutenant of the police to seize all
    those brutes of porters, and cause them to be hanged." Fearful of
    occasioning the death of so many innocent persons, I said, "Sir,
    I should be sorry so great a piece of injustice should be
    committed. Pray refrain; for I should deem myself unpardonable,
    were I to be the cause of so much mischief." "Then tell me
    sincerely," said he, "how came you by this wound." "I answered,
    "That it was occasioned by the inadvertency of a broom-seller
    upon an ass, who coming behind me, while he was looking another
    way, his ass came against me with so much violence, that I fell
    down, and hurt my cheek upon some glass." "If that is the case,"
    said my husband, "to-morrow morning, before sun-rise, the grand
    vizier Jaaffier shall be informed of this insolence, and cause
    all the broom-sellers to be put to death." "For the love of God,
    Sir," said I, "let me beg of you to pardon them, for they are not
    guilty." "How, madam," he demanded, "what then am I to believe?
    Speak, for I am resolved to know the truth from your own mouth."
    "Sir," I replied, "I was taken with a giddiness, and fell down,
    and that is the whole matter."

    At these words my husband lost all patience. "I have," said he,
    "too long listened to your falsehoods." As he spoke he clapped
    his hands, and in came three slaves: "Pull her out of bed," said
    he, "and lay her in the middle of the floor." The slaves obeyed,
    one holding me by the head, another by the feet; he commanded the
    third to fetch a cimeter, and when he had brought it, "Strike,"
    said he, "cut her in two, and then throw her into the Tygris.
    This is the punishment I inflict on those to whom I have given my
    heart, when they falsify their promise." When he saw that the
    slave hesitated to obey him, "Why do you not strike?" said he.
    "What do you wait for?"

    "Madam," said the slave then, "you are near the last moment of
    your life, consider if you have any thing to dispose of before
    you die." I begged permission to speak one word, which was
    granted me. I lifted up my head, and casting an affectionate look
    on my husband, said, "Alas! to what a condition am I reduced!
    must I then die in the prime of my youth!" I could say no more,
    for my tears and sighs choked my utterance. My husband was not at
    all moved, but, on the contrary, went on to reproach me; and it
    would have been in vain to attempt a reply. I had recourse to
    intreaties and prayers; but he had no regard to them, and
    commanded the slaves to proceed to execution. The old woman, who
    had been his nurse, came in just at that moment, fell down upon
    her knees, and endeavoured to appease his wrath. "My son," said
    she, "since I have been your nurse and brought you up, let me beg
    the favour of you to grant me her life. Consider, that he who
    kills shall be killed, and that you will stain your reputation,
    and forfeit the esteem of mankind. What will the world say of
    such sanguinary violence?" She spoke these words in such an
    affecting manner, accompanied with tears, that she prevailed upon
    him at last to abandon his purpose,

    "Well then," said he to his nurse, "for your sake I will spare
    her life; but she shall bear about her person some marks to make
    her remember her offence." When he had thus spoken, one of the
    slaves, by his order, gave me upon my sides and breast so many
    blows, with a little cane, that he tore away both skin and flesh,
    which threw me into a swoon. In this state he caused the same
    slaves, the executioners of his fury, to carry me into a house,
    where the old woman took care of me. I kept my bed four months;
    at last I recovered: the scars which, contrary to my wish, you
    saw yesterday, have remained ever since.

    As soon as I was able to walk, and go abroad, I resolved to
    retire to the house which was left me by my first husband, but I
    could not find the site whereon it had stood. My second husband,
    in the heat of his resentment, was not satisfied with the
    demolition of that, but caused every other house in the same
    street to be razed to the ground. I believe such an act of
    violence was never heard of before; but against whom could I
    complain? The perpetrator had taken good care to conceal himself.
    But suppose I had discovered him, is it not easily seen that his
    conduct must have proceeded from absolute power? How then could I
    dare to complain?

    Being left thus destitute and helpless, I had recourse to my dear
    sister Zobeide, whose adventures your majesty has just heard. To
    her I made known my misfortune; she received me with her
    accustomed goodness, and advised me to bear my ambition patience.
    "This is the way of the world," said she, "which either robs us
    of our property, our friends, or our lovers; and some. times of
    all together." In confirmation of her remark, she at the same
    time gave me an account of the loss of the young prince,
    occasioned by the jealousy of her two sisters. She told me also
    by what accident they were transformed into bitches: and in the
    last place, after a thousand testimonials of her love towards me,
    she introduced me to my youngest sister, who had likewise taken
    sanctuary with her after the death of her mother.

    Having returned our grateful acknowledgments to God for having
    thus brought us together, we resolved to preserve our freedom,
    and never again to separate. We have now long enjoyed this
    tranquil life. As it was my business to manage the affairs of the
    house, I always took pleasure in going myself to purchase what we
    wanted. I happened to go abroad yesterday for this purpose, and
    the things I bought I caused to be carried home by a porter, who
    proving to be a sensible and jocose fellow, we kept with us for a
    little diversion. Three calenders happened to come to our door as
    it began to grow dark, and prayed us to give them shelter till
    the next morning We admitted them upon certain conditions which
    they agreed to observe; and after we had made them sit at table
    with us, they in their own way entertained us with a concert of
    music. At this time we heard knocking at our gate. This proceeded
    from three merchants of Moussol, men of good appearance, who
    begged the same favour which the calenders had obtained before.
    We consented upon the same conditions, but neither of them kept
    their promise. Though we had power, as well as justice on our
    side, to punish them, yet we contented ourselves with demanding
    from them the history of their lives; and afterwards confined our
    revenge to dismissing them, after they had done, and denying them
    the asylum they requested.

    The caliph was well pleased to be thus informed of what he
    desired to know; and publicly expressed his admiration of what he
    had heard.

    The caliph having satisfied his curiosity, thought himself
    obliged to shew his generosity to the calender princes, and also
    to give the three ladies some proof of his bounty. He himself,
    without making use of his minister, the grand vizier, spoke to
    Zobeide. "Madam, did not this fairy, that shewed herself to you
    in the shape of a serpent, and imposed such a rigorous command
    upon you, tell you where her place of abode was? Or rather, did
    she not promise to see you, and restore those bitches to their
    natural shape?"

    "Commander of the faithful," answered Zobeide, "I forgot to tell
    your majesty that the fairy left with me a bundle of hair,
    saying, that her presence would one day be of use to me; and
    then, if I only burnt two tufts of this hair, she would be with
    me in a moment, though she were beyond mount Caucasus." "Madam,"
    demanded the caliph, "where is the bundle of hair?" She answered,
    "Ever since that time I have been so careful of it, that I always
    carry it about me." Upon which she pulled it out, opened the case
    which contained it, and shewed it to him. "Well then," said the
    caliph, "let us bring the fairy hither; you could not call her in
    a better time, for I long to see her."

    Zobeide having consented, fire was brought in, and she threw the
    whole bundle of hair into it. The palace at that instant began to
    shake, and the fairy appeared before the caliph in the form of a
    lady very richly dressed.

    "Commander of the faithful," said she to the prince, "you see I
    am ready to receive your commands. The lady who gave me this call
    by your order did me essential service. To evince my gratitude, I
    revenged her of her sisters' inhumanity, by changing them to
    bitches; but if your majesty commands me, I will restore them to
    their former shape."

    "Generous fairy," replied the caliph, "you cannot do me a greater
    pleasure; vouchsafe them that favour, and I will find some means
    to comfort them for their hard penance. But besides, I have
    another boon to ask in favour of that lady, who has had such
    cruel usage from an unknown husband. As you undoubtedly know all
    things, oblige me with the name of this barbarous wretch, who
    could not be contented to exercise his outrageous and unmanly
    cruelty upon her person, but has also most unjustly taken from
    her all her substance. I only wonder how such an unjust and
    inhuman action could be performed under my authority, and even in
    my residence, without having come to my knowledge."

    "To oblige your majesty," answered the fairy, "I will restore the
    two bitches to their former state, and I will so cure the lady of
    her scars, that it shall never appear she was so beaten; and I
    will also tell you who it was that abused her."

    The caliph sent for the two bitches from Zobeide's house, and
    when they came, a glass of water was brought to the fairy by her
    desire. She pronounced over it some words which nobody
    understood; then throwing some part of it upon Amene, and the
    rest upon the bitches, the latter became two ladies of surprising
    beauty, and the scars that were upon Amene disappeared. After
    which the fairy said to the caliph, "Commander of the faithful, I
    must now discover to you the unknown husband you enquire after.
    He is very nearly related to yourself, for it is prince Amin,
    your eldest son, who falling passionately in love with this lady
    from the fame of her beauty, by stratagem had her brought to his
    house, where he married her. As to the blows he caused to be
    given her, he is in some measure excusable; for the lady his
    spouse had been a little too easy, and the excuses she had made
    were calculated to lead him to believe she was more faulty than
    she really was. This is all I can say to satisfy your curiosity."
    At these words she saluted the caliph, and vanished.

    The prince being filled with admiration, and having much
    satisfaction in the changes that had happened through his means,
    acted in such a manner as will perpetuate his memory to all ages.
    First, he sent for his son Amin, told him that he was informed of
    his secret marriage, and how he had ill-treated Amene upon a very
    slight cause. Upon this the prince did not wait for his father's
    commands, but received her again immediately.

    After which the caliph declared that he would give his own heart
    and hand to Zobeide, and offered the other three sisters to the
    calenders, sons of sultans, who accepted them for their brides
    with much joy. The caliph assigned each of them a magnificent
    palace in the city of Bagdad, promoted them to the highest
    dignities of his empire, and admitted them to his councils.

    The chief Cauzee of Bagdad being called, with witnesses, wrote
    the contracts of marriage; and the caliph in promoting by his
    patronage the happiness of many persons who had suffered such
    incredible calamities, drew a thousand blessings upon himself.
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