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The Tale of the Bull and the Ass

Whereupon quoth the merchant: "Woe betide thee! What means thy weeping? Fear Allah, and leave these words and query me no more questions." "Needs must thou tell me the cause of that laugh," said she, and he replied: "Thou wettest that when I prayed Allah to vouchsafe me understanding of the tongues of beasts and birds, I made a vow never to disclose the secret to any under pain of dying on the spot." "No matter!" cried she. "Tell me what secret passed between the bull and the ass and die this very hour an thou be so minded." And she ceased not to importune him till he was worn-out and clean distraught. So at last he said, "Summon thy father and thy mother and our kith and kin and sundry of our neighbors." Which she did, and he sent for the kazi and his assessors, intending to make his will and reveal to her his secret and die the death; for he loved her with love exceeding because she was his cousin, the daughter of his father’s brother, and the mother of his children, and he had lived with her a life of a hundred and twenty years.
Then, having assembled all the family and the folk of his neighborhood, he said to them, "By me there hangeth a strange story, and ’tis such that if I discover the secret to any, I am a dead man." Therefore quoth every one of those present to the woman, "Allah upon thee, leave this sinful obstinacy and recognize the right of this matter, lest haply thy husband and the father of thy children die." But she rejoined, "I will not turn from it till he tell me, even though he come by his death." So they ceased to urge her, and the trader rose from amongst them and repaired to an outhouse to perform the wuzu ablution, and he purposed thereafter to return and to tell them his secret and to die.
Now, Daughter Scheherazade, that merchant had in his outhouses some fifty hens under one cock, and whilst making ready to farewell his folk he heard one of his many farm dogs thus address in his own tongue the cock, who was flapping his wings and crowing lustily and jumping from one hen’s back to another and treading all in turn, saying: "O Chanticleer! How mean is thy wit and how shameless is thy conduct! Be he disappointed who brought thee up. Art thou not ashamed of thy doings on such a day as this?" "And what," asked the rooster, "hath occurred this day?" when the dog answered; "Dost thou not know that our master is this day making ready for his death? His wife is resolved that he shall disclose the secret taught to him by Allah, and the moment he so doeth he shall surely die. We dogs are all a-mourning, but thou clappest thy wings and clarionest thy loudest and treadest hen after hen. Is this an hour for pastime and pleasuring? Art thou not ashamed of thyself?"
"Then by Allah," quoth the cock, "is our master a lackwit and a man scanty of sense. If he cannot manage matters with a single wife, his life is not worth prolonging. Now I have some fifty dame partlets, and I please this and provoke that and starve one and stuff another, and through my good governance they are all well under my control. This our master pretendeth to wit and wisdom, and she hath but one wife and yet knoweth not how to manage her." Asked the dog, "What then, O Cock, should the master do to will clear of his strait?" "He should arise forthright," answered the cock, "and take some twigs from yon mulberry tree and give her a regular back-basting and ribroasting till she cry: ’I repent, O my lord! I will never ask thee a question as Ion, as I live!’ Then let him beat her once more and soundly, and when he shall have done this, he shall sleep free from care and enjoy life. But this master of ours owns neither sense nor judgment."
"Now, Daughter Scheherazade," continued the Wazir, "I will do to thee as did that husband to that wife." Said Scheherazade, "And what did he do?" He replied, "When the merchant heard the wise words spoken by his cock to his dog, he arose in haste and sought his wife’s chamber, after cutting for her some mulberry twigs and hiding them there. And then he called to her, "Come into the closet, that I may tell thee the secret while no one seeth me, and then die." She entered with him and he locked the door and came down upon her with so sound a beating of back and shoulders, ribs, arms, and legs, saying the while "Wilt thou ever be asking questions about what concerneth thee not?" that she was well-nigh senseless. Presently she cried out: "I am of the repentant! By Allah, I will ask thee no more questions, and indeed I repent sincerely and wholesomely." Then she kissed his hand and feet and he led her out of the room submissive, as a wife should be. Her parents and all the company rejoiced and sadness and mourning were changed into joy and gladness.
Thus the merchant learnt family discipline from his cock and he and his wife lived together the happiest of lives until death. And thou also, O my daughter! continued the Wazir, unless thou turn from this matter I will do by thee what that trader did to his wife. But she answered him with much decision: "I will never desist, O my father, nor shall this tale change my purpose. Leave such talk and tattle. I will not listen to thy words and if thou deny me, I will marry myself to him despite the nose of thee. And first I will go up to the King myself and alone and I will say to him: ’I prayed my father to wive me with thee, but he refused, being resolved to disappoint his lord, grudging the like of me to the like of thee’." Her father asked, "Must this needs be?" and she answered, "Even so."
Hereupon the Wazir, being weary of lamenting and contending, persuading and dissuading her, all to no purpose, went up to King Shahryar and, after blessing him and kissing the ground before him, told him all about his dispute with his daughter from first to last and how he designed to bring her to him that night. The King wondered with exceeding wonder, for he had made an especial exception of the Wazir’s daughter, and said to him: "O most faithful of counsellors, how is this? Thou wettest that I have sworn by the Raiser of the Heavens that after I have gone into her this night I shall say to thee on the morrow’s ’Take her and slay her!’ And if thou slay her not, I will slay thee in her stead without fail." "Allah guide thee to glory and lengthen thy life, O King of the Age," answered the Wazir. "It is she that hath so determined. All this have I told her and more, but she will not hearken to me and she persisteth in passing this coming night with the King’s Majesty." So Shahryar rejoiced greatly and said, "’Tis well. Go get her ready, and this night bring her to me." The Wazir returned to his daughter and reported to her the command, saying, "Allah make not thy father desolate by thy loss!"
But Scheherazade rejoiced with exceeding joy and get ready all she required and said to her younger sister, Dunyazade: "Note well what directions I entrust to thee! When I have gone into the King I will send for thee, and when thou comest to me and seest that he hath had his carnal will of me, do thou say to me: ’O my sister, an thou be not sleepy, relate to me some new story, delectable and delightsome, the better to speed our waking hours.’ And I will tell thee a tale which shall be our deliverance, if so Allah please, and which shall turn the King from his bloodthirsty custom." Dunyazade answered "With love and gladness."
So when it was night, their father the Wazir carried Scheherazade to the King, who was gladdened at the sight and asked, "Hast thou brought me my need?" And he answered, "I have." But when the King took her to his bed and fell to toying with her and wished to go in to her, she wept, which made him ask, "What aileth thee?" She replied, "O King of the Age, I have a younger sister, and lief would I take leave of her this night before I see the dawn." So he sent at once for Dunyazade and she came and kissed the ground between his hands, when he permitted her to take her seat near the foot of the couch. Then the King arose and did away with his bride’s maidenhead and the three fell asleep.
But when it was midnight Scheherazade awoke and signaled to her sister Dunyazade, who sat up and said, "Allah upon thee, O my sister, recite to us some new story, delightsome and delectable, wherewith to while away the waking hours of our latter night." "With joy and goodly gree," answered Scheherazade, "if this pious and auspicious King permit me." "Tell on," quoth the King, who chanced to be sleepless and restless and therefore was pleased with the prospect of hearing her story. So Scheherazade rejoiced, and thus, on the first night of the Thousand Nights and a Night, she began her recitations.


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