When the king heard the vizier’s speech, he deemed it goodly and it pleased him; so he bade him go away to his house, and there he abode his day long.
The Twenty-fifth Night of the Month.
When the evening evened, the king summoned his vizier and bade him tell the [promised] story. So he said, “It is well. Know, O king, that
There was once a man of the Arabs who had a number of sons, and amongst them a boy, never was seen a fairer than he of favour nor a more accomplished in loveliness, no, nor a more perfect of wit. When he came to man’s estate, his father married him to the daughter of one of his uncles, and she excelled not in beauty, neither was she praiseworthy of attributes; wherefore she pleased not the youth, but he bore with her, for kinship’s sake.
One day, he went forth in quest of certain stray camels of his and fared on all his day and night till eventide, when he [came to an Arab encampment and] was fain to seek hospitality of one of the inhabitants. So he alighted at one of the tents of the camp and there came forth to him a man of short stature and loathly aspect, who saluted him and lodging him in a corner of the tent, sat entertaining him with talk, the goodliest that might be. When his food was dressed, the Arab’s wife brought it to the guest, and he looked at the mistress of the tent and saw a favour than which no goodlier might be. Indeed, her beauty and grace and symmetry amazed him and he abode confounded, looking now at her and now at her husband. When his looking grew long, the man said to him, ’Harkye, O son of the worthy! Occupy thyself with thine own concerns, for by me and this woman hangeth a rare story, that is yet goodlier than that which thou seest of her beauty; and when we have made an end of our food, I will tell it thee.’
So, when they had made an end of eating and drinking, the young man asked his host for the story, and he said, ’Know that in my youth I was even as thou seest me in the matter of loathliness and foul favour; and I had brethren of the comeliest of the folk; wherefore my father preferred them over me and used to show them kindness, to my exclusion, and employ me, in their room [in menial service], like as one employeth slaves. One day, a she-camel of his went astray and he said to me, “Go thou forth in quest of her and return not but with her.” Quoth I, “Send other than I of thy sons.” But he would not consent to this and reviled me and insisted upon me, till the matter came to such a pass with him that he took a whip and fell to beating me. So I arose and taking a riding-camel, mounted her and sallied forth at a venture, purposing to go out into the deserts and return to him no more. I fared on all my night [and the next day] and coming at eventide to [the encampment of] this my wife’s people, alighted down with her father, who was a very old man, and became his guest.