Sire, there was once upon a time a merchant who possessed great wealth, in land and
merchandise, as well as in ready money. He was obliged from time to time to take journeys to
arrange his affairs. One day, having to go a long way from home, he mounted his horse, taking
with him a small wallet in which he had put a few biscuits and dates, because he had to pass
through the desert where no food was to be got. He arrived without any mishap, and, having
finished his business, set out on his return. On the fourth day of his journey, the heat of the sun
being very great, he turned out of his road to rest under some trees. He found at the foot of a
large walnut-tree a fountain of clear and running water. He dismounted, fastened his horse to a
branch of the tree, and sat by the fountain, after having taken from his wallet some of his dates
and biscuits. When he had finished this frugal meal he washed his face and hands in the fountain.
When he was thus employed he saw an enormous genius, white with rage, coming towards him,
with a scimitar in his hand.
"Arise," he cried in a terrible voice, "and let me kill you as you have killed my son!"
As he uttered these words he gave a frightful yell. The merchant, quite as much terrified at the
hideous face of the monster as at his words, answered him tremblingly, "Alas, good sir, what can I
have done to you to deserve death?"
"I shall kill you," repeated the genius, "as you have killed my son."
"But," said the merchant, "How can I have killed your son? I do not know him, and I have never
even seen him."
"When you arrived here did you not sit down on the ground?" asked the genius, "and did you not
take some dates from your wallet, and whilst eating them did not you throw the stones about?"
"Yes," said the merchant, "I certainly did so."
"Then," said the genius, "I tell you you have killed my son, for whilst you were throwing about
the stones, my son passed by, and one of them struck him in the eye and killed him. So I shall kill
"Ah, sir, forgive me!" cried the merchant.
"I will have no mercy on you," answered the genius.
"But I killed your son quite unintentionally, so I implore you to spare my life."
"No," said the genius, "I shall kill you as you killed my son," and so saying, he seized the
merchant by the arm, threw him on the ground, and lifted his sabre to cut off his head.
The merchant, protesting his innocence, bewailed his wife and children, and tried pitifully to avert
his fate. The genius, with his raised scimitar, waited till he had finished, but was not in the least
Scheherazade, at this point, seeing that it was day, and knowing that the Sultan always rose very
early to attend the council, stopped speaking.
"Indeed, sister," said Dinarzade, "this is a wonderful story."
"The rest is still more wonderful," replied Scheherazade, "and you would say so, if the sultan
would allow me to live another day, and would give me leave to tell it to you the next night."
Schahriar, who had been listening to Scheherazade with pleasure, said to himself, "I will wait till
to-morrow; I can always have her killed when I have heard the end of her story."
All this time the grand-vizir was in a terrible state of anxiety. But he was much delighted when he
saw the Sultan enter the council-chamber without giving the terrible command that he was
The next morning, before the day broke, Dinarzade said to her sister, "Dear sister, if you are
awake I pray you to go on with your story."
The Sultan did not wait for Scheherazade to ask his leave. "Finish," said he, "the story of the
genius and the merchant. I am curious to hear the end."
So Scheherazade went on with the story. This happened every morning. The Sultana told a story,
and the Sultan let her live to finish it.
When the merchant saw that the genius was determined to cut off his head, he said: "One word
more, I entreat you. Grant me a little delay; just a short time to go home and bid my wife and
children farewell, and to make my will. When I have done this I will come back here, and you
shall kill me."
"But," said the genius, "if I grant you the delay you ask, I am afraid that you will not come back."
"I give you my word of honour," answered the merchant, "that I will come back without fail."
"How long do you require?" asked the genius.
"I ask you for a year's grace," replied the merchant. "I promise you that to-morrow twelvemonth,
I shall be waiting under these trees to give myself up to you."
On this the genius left him near the fountain and disappeared.
The merchant, having recovered from his fright, mounted his horse and went on his road.
When he arrived home his wife and children received him with the greatest joy. But instead of
embracing them he began to weep so bitterly that they soon guessed that something terrible was
"Tell us, I pray you," said his wife, "what has happened."
"Alas!" answered her husband, "I have only a year to live."
Then he told them what had passed between him and the genius, and how he had given his word
to return at the end of a year to be killed. When they heard this sad news they were in despair,
and wept much.
The next day the merchant began to settle his affairs, and first of all to pay his debts. He gave
presents to his friends, and large alms to the poor. He set his slaves at liberty, and provided for
his wife and children. The year soon passed away, and he was obliged to depart. When he tried
to say good-bye he was quite overcome with grief, and with difficulty tore himself away. At
length he reached the place where he had first seen the genius, on the very day that he had
appointed. He dismounted, and sat down at the edge of the fountain, where he awaited the genius
in terrible suspense.
Whilst he was thus waiting an old man leading a hind came towards him. They greeted one
another, and then the old man said to him, "May I ask, brother, what brought you to this desert
place, where there are so many evil genii about? To see these beautiful trees one would imagine it
was inhabited, but it is a dangerous place to stop long in."
The merchant told the old man why he was obliged to come there. He listened in astonishment.
"This is a most marvellous affair. I should like to be a witness of your interview with the genius."
So saying he sat down by the merchant.
While they were talking another old man came up, followed by two black dogs. He greeted them,
and asked what they were doing in this place. The old man who was leading the hind told him the
adventure of the merchant and the genius. The second old man had not sooner heard the story
than he, too, decided to stay there to see what would happen. He sat down by the others, and was
talking, when a third old man arrived. He asked why the merchant who was with them looked so
sad. They told him the story, and he also resolved to see what would pass between the genius and
the merchant, so waited with the rest.
They soon saw in the distance a thick smoke, like a cloud of dust. This smoke came nearer and
nearer, and then, all at once, it vanished, and they saw the genius, who, without speaking to them,
approached the merchant, sword in hand, and, taking him by the arm, said, "Get up and let me kill
you as you killed my son."
The merchant and the three old men began to weep and groan.
Then the old man leading the hind threw himself at the monster's feet and said, "O Prince of the
Genii, I beg of you to stay your fury and to listen to me. I am going to tell you my story and that
of the hind I have with me, and if you find it more marvellous than that of the merchant whom
you are about to kill, I hope that you will do away with a third part of his punishment?"
The genius considered some time, and then he said, "Very well, I agree to this."