So, when he arose in the morning, he repaired to the vizier and repeated to him that which the old woman had taught him; whereat the vizier marvelled and said to him, ’What sayst thou of a man, who seeth in his house four holes, and in each a viper offering to come out and kill him, and in his house are four staves and each hole may not be stopped but with the ends of two staves? How shall he stop all the holes and deliver himself from the vipers?’ When the merchant heard this, there betided him [of concern] what made him forget the first and he said to the vizier, ’Grant me time, so I may consider the answer.’ ‘Go out,’ replied the vizier, ‘and bring me the answer, or I will seize thy good.’
The merchant went out and returned to the old woman, who, seeing him changed of colour, said to him, ’What did he ask thee, [may God confound] his hoariness?’ So he acquainted her with the case and she said to him, ’Fear not; I will bring thee forth of this [strait].’ Quoth he, ‘God requite thee with good!’ And she said, ’To-morrow go to him with a stout heart and say, “The answer to that whereof thou askest me is that thou put the heads of two staves into one of the holes; then take the other two staves and lay them across the middle of the first two and stop with their heads the second hole and with their butts the fourth hole. Then take the butts of the first two staves and stop with them the third hole."’[FN#232]
So he repaired to the vizier and repeated to him the answer; and he marvelled at its justness and said to him, ’Go; by Allah, I will ask thee no more questions, for thou with thy skill marrest my foundation.’[FN#233] Then he entreated him friendly and the merchant acquainted him with the affair of the old woman; whereupon quoth the vizier, ’Needs must the man of understanding company with those of understanding.’ Thus did this weak woman restore to that man his life and good on the easiest wise. Nor,” added the vizier, “is this more extraordinary than the story of the credulous husband.”
When the king heard this story, he said, “How like is this to our own case!” Then he bade the vizier retire to his lodging; so he withdrew to his house and on the morrow he abode at home [till the king should summon him to his presence.]
The Ninth Night of the Month.
When the night came, the king sat in his privy chamber and sending after the vizier, sought of him the promised story; and he said, “Know, O august king, that
There was once of old time a foolish, ignorant man, who had wealth galore, and his wife was a fair woman, who loved a handsome youth. The latter used to watch for her husband’s absence and come to her, and on this wise he abode a long while. One day, as the woman was private with her lover, he said to her, ’O my lady and my beloved, if thou desire me and love me, give me possession of thyself