This section is from the book "Stories From The Thousand And One Nights", by Edward William Lane and Stanley Lanepoole. Also available from Amazon: Stories From Thousand And One Nights: The Arabian Nights' Entertainments.
Ja'far therefore answered, I hear and obey:-and he advanced, and knocked at the door; and when the portress came and opened the door, he said to her, My mistress, we are merchants from Tabariyeh,5 and have been in Baghdad ten days; we have brought with us merchandise, and taken lodgings in a Khan; and a merchant invited us to an entertainment this night: accordingly, we went to his house, and he placed food before us, and we ate, and sat a while drinking together, after which he gave us leave to depart; and going out in the dark, and being strangers, we missed our way to the Khan: we trust, therefore in your generosity that you will admit us to pass the night in your house; by doing which you will obtain a reward in heaven.-The portress, looking at them, and observing that they were in the garb of merchants, and that they bore an appearance of respectability, returned, and consulted her two companions; and they said to her, Admit them:-so she returned, and opened to them the door. They said to her, Shall we enter with thy permission? She answered, Come in. The Kha-lifeh, therefore, entered, with Ja'far and Mesrur; and when the ladies saw them, they rose to them, and served them, saying, Welcome are our guests; but we have a condition to impose upon you, that ye speak not of that which doth not concern you, lest ye hear that which will not please you. They answered, Good:-and when they had sat down to drink, the Khalifeh looked at the three mendicants, and was surprised at observing: that each of them was blind of the left eye; and he gazed upon the ladies, and was perplexed and amazed at their fairness and beauty. And when the others proceeded to drink and converse, the ladies brought wine to the Khalifeh; but he said, I am a pilgrim; -and drew back from them. Whereupon the portress spread before him an embroidered cloth, and placed upon it a China bottle, into which she poured some willow-flower-water, adding to it a lump of ice, and sweetening it with sugar, while the Khalifeh thanked her, and said within himself, To-morrow I must reward her for this kind action.
The party continued their carousal, and, when the wine took effect upon them, the mistress of the house arose, and waited upon them; and afterwards, taking the hand of the cateress, said, Arise, O my sister, that we may fulfil our debt. She replied, Good. The portress then rose, and, after she had cleared the middle of the saloon, placed the mendicants at the further end, beyond the doors; after which, the ladies called to the porter, saying, How slight is thy friendship! thou art not a stranger, but one of the family. So the porter arose, and girded himself, and said, What would ye?-to which one of the ladies answered, Stand where thou art:-and presently the cateress said to him, Assist me:-and he saw two black bitches, with chains attached to their necks, and drew them to the middle of the saloon; whereupon the mistress of the house arose from her place, and tucked up her sleeve above her wrist, and, taking a whip, said to the porter, Bring to me one of them. Accordingly, he dragged one forward by the chain. The bitch whined, and shook her head at the lady; but the latter fell to beating her upon the head, notwithstanding her howling, until her arms were tired, when she threw the whip from her hand, and pressed the bitch to her bosom, and wiped away her tears, and kissed her head; after which she said to the porter, Take her back and bring the other; -and he brought her, and she did to her as she had done to the first. At the sight of this, the mind of the Khalifeh was troubled, and his heart was contracted, and he winked to Ja'far that he should ask her the reason; but he replied by a sign, Speak not The mistress of the house then looked towards the portress and said to her, Arise to perform what thou hast to do. She replied, Good:-and the mistress of the house seated herself upon a couch of alabaster, overlaid with gold and silver, and said to the portress and the cateress, Now perform your parts. The portress then seated herself upon a couch by her; and the cateress, having entered a closet, brought out from it a bag of satin with green fringes, and, placing herself before the lady of the house, shook it, and took out from it a lute; and she tuned its strings, and sang to it these verses:
Restore to my eyelids the sleep which hath been ravished; and inform me of my reason, whither it hath fled. I discovered, when I took up my abode with love, that slumber had become an enemy to my eyes.
They said, We saw thee to be one of the upright; what, then, hath seduced thee ? I answered, Seek tue cause from his glance.
Verily I excuse him for the shedding of my blood, admitting that I urged him to the deed by vexation.
He cast his sun-like image upon the mirror of my mind, and its reflection kindled a flame in my vitals.
When the portress had heard this song, she exclaimed, Allah approve thee!-and she rent her clothes, and fell upon the floor in a swoon; and when her bosom was thus uncovered, the Khalifeh saw upon her the marks of beating, as if from mikra'ahs5 and whips; at which he was greatly surprised. The cateress immediately arose, sprinkled water upon her face, and brought her another dress, which she put on. The Khalifeh then said to Ja'far, Seest thou not this woman, and the marks of beating upon her? I cannot keep silence respecting this affair, nor be at rest, until I know the truth of the history of this damsel, and that of these two bitches. But Ja'far replied, O our lord, they have made a covenant with us that we shall not speak excepting of that which concerneth us, lest we hear that which will not please us.-The cateress then took the lute again, and, placing it against her bosom, touched the chords with the ends of her fingers, and thus sang to it:
If of love we complain, what shall we say? Or consuming through desire, how can we escape?
6 Palm sticks.