Then she turned to the old man who had delivered her from the pit and prayed for him and gave him presents galore and among them a myriad of money;[FN#9] and they all departed from her, except her husband. When she was alone with him, she made him draw near unto her and rejoiced in his coming and gave him the choice of abiding with her. Moreover, she assembled the people of the city and set out to them his virtue and worth and counselled them to invest him with the charge of their governance and besought them to make him king over them. They fell in with her of this and he became king and took up his abode amongst them, whilst she gave herself up to her religious exercises and abode with her husband on such wise as she was with him aforetime.[FN#10] Nor,” added the vizier, “is this story, O king of the time, more extraordinary or more delightful than that of the journeyman and the girl whose belly he slit and fled.”
When King Shah Bekht heard this, he said, “Most like all they say of the vizier is leasing and his innocence will appear, even as that of the pious woman appeared.” Then he comforted the vizier’s heart and bade him go to his house.
The Nineteenth Night of the Month.
When the evening evened, the king bade fetch the vizier and required of him the story of the journeyman and the girl. So he said, “Hearkening and obedience. Know, O august king, that
STORY OF THE JOURNEYMAN AND THE GIRL.
There was once, of old time, in one of the tribes of the Arabs, a woman great with child by her husband, and they had a hired servant, a man of excellent understanding. When the woman came to [the time of her] delivery, she gave birth to a maid-child in the night and they sought fire of the neighbours. So the journeyman went in quest of fire.
Now there was in the camp a wise woman,[FN#11] and she questioned him of the new-born child, if it was male or female. Quoth he, ‘It is a girl;’ and she said, ’She shall do whoredom with a hundred men and a journeyman shall marry her and a spider shall slay her.’ When the journeyman heard this, he returned upon his steps and going in to the woman, took the child from her by wile and slit its paunch. Then he fled forth into the desert at a venture and abode in strangerhood what [while] God willed.
He gained him wealth and returning to his native land, after twenty years’ absence, alighted in the neighbourhood of an old woman, whom he bespoke fair and entreated with liberality, requiring of her a wench whom he might lie withal. Quoth she, ’I know none but a certain fair woman, who is renowned for this fashion.’[FN#12] Then she described her charms to him and made him lust after her, and he said, ’Hasten to her forthright and lavish unto her that which she asketh, [in exchange for her favours].’ So the old woman betook herself to the damsel and discovered to her the man’s wishes and bade her to him; but she answered, saying, ’It is true that I was on this [fashion of] whoredom [aforetime]; but now I have repented to God the Most High and hanker no more after this; nay, I desire lawful marriage; so, if he be content with that which is lawful, I am at his service.’