Calcutta (1814-8) Text
4. Women’s Craft
King Shah Bekht and His
Vizier Er Rehwan
The Eighteenth Night of the Month.
When the evening evened, the king summoned the vizier and required of him the [promised] story; so he said, “It is well. Know, O king, that
There was once a man of Nishapour,[FN#1] who had a wife of the utmost loveliness and piety, and he was minded to set out on the pilgrimage. So he commended his wife to the care of his brother and besought him to aid her in her affairs and further her to her desires till he should return, so they both abode alive and well. Then he took ship and departed and his absence was prolonged. Meanwhile, the brother went in to his brother’s wife, at all times and seasons, and questioned her of her circumstances and went about her occasions; and when his visits to her were prolonged and he heard her speech and looked upon her face, the love of her gat hold upon his heart and he became distraught with passion for her and his soul prompted him [to evil]. So he besought her to lie with him, but she refused and chid him for his foul deed, and he found him no way unto presumption;[FN#2] wherefore he importuned her with soft speech and gentleness.
Now she was righteous in all her dealings and swerved not from one word;[FN#3] so, when he saw that she consented not unto him, he misdoubted that she would tell his brother, when he returned from his journey, and said to her, ’An thou consent not to this whereof I require thee, I will cause thee fall into suspicion and thou wilt perish.’ Quoth she, ’Be God (extolled be His perfection and exalted be He!) [judge] betwixt me and thee, and know that, shouldst thou tear me limb from limb, I would not consent to that whereto thou biddest me.’ His folly[FN#4] persuaded him that she would tell her husband; so, of his exceeding despite, he betook himself to a company of people in the mosque and told them that he had witnessed a man commit adultery with his brother’s wife. They believed his saying and took act of his accusation and assembled to stone her. Then they dug her a pit without the city and seating her therein, stoned her, till they deemed her dead, when they left her.
Presently a villager passed by [the pit and finding] her [alive,] carried her to his house and tended her, [till she recovered]. Now, he had a son, and when the young man saw her, he loved her and besought her of herself; but she refused and consented not to him, whereupon he redoubled in love and longing and despite prompted him to suborn a youth of the people of his village and agree with him that he should come by night and take somewhat from his father’s house and that, when he was discovered, he should say that she was of accord with him in this and avouch