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.
Know, O Prince of the Faithful, that the first (who was named El-Bakbuk) was the lame one. He practised the art of a tailor in Baghdad, and used to sew in a shop which he hired of a man possessing great wealth, who lived over the shop, and who had, in the lower part of his house, a mill And as my lame brother was sitting in hia shop one day, sewing, he raised his head, and saw a woman like the rising full moon, at a projecting window of the house, looking at the people passing by; and as soon as he beheld her, his heart was entangled by her love. He passed that day gazing at her, and neglecting his occupation, until the evening; and on the following morning he opened his shop, and sat down to sew; but every time that he sewed a stitch, he looked towards the window; and in this state he continued, sewing nothing sufficient to earn a piece of silver.
On the third day he seated himself again in his place, looking towards the woman; and she saw him, and, perceiving that he had become enslaved by her love, laughed in his face, and he, in like manner, laughed in her face. She then disappeared from before him, and sent to him her slave-girl, with a wrapper containing a piece of red flowered silk; and the girl, coming to him, said to him, My mistress sakiteth thee, and desireth thee to cut out for her, with the hand of skill, a shirt of this piece, and to sew it beautifully.
So he answered, I hear and obey:-and he cut out for her the shirt, and finished the sewing of it on that day; and on the following day the slave-girl came to him again, and said to him, My mistress saluteth thee, and saith to thee, How didst thou pass last night?-for she tasted not sleep, fro her passion for thee.-She then placed before him a piece of yellow satin, and said to him, My mistress desireth thee to cut out for her, of this piece, two pairs of trousers, and to make them this day. He replied, I hear and obey. Salute her with abundant salutations, and say to her, Thy slave is submissive to thine order, and command him to do whatsoever thou wilt.-He then busied himself with the cutting out, and used all diligence in sewing the two pairs of trousers; and presently the woman looked out at him from the window, and saluted him by a sign, now casting down her eyes, and now smiling in his face, so that he imagined he should soon obtain possession of her. After this, she disappeared from before him, and the slave-girl came to him; so he delivered to her the two pairs of trousers, and she took them and departed: and when the night came, he threw himself upon his bed, and remained turning himself over in restlessness until the morning.
Lord (may God exalt thy dominion!), these chests contain clothes of my mistress Zubeydeh. - Open them, said the Khalifeh, that I may see the clothes.-When I heard this, I felt sure of my destruction. The damsel could not disobey his command; but she replied, O Prince of the Faithful, there is nothing in these chests but clothes of the lady Zubeydeh, and she hath commanded me not to open them to any one. The Khalifeh, however, said, The chests must be opened, all of them, that I may see their contents: - and immediately he called out to the eunuchs to bring them before him. I therefore felt certain that I was on the point of destruction. They then brought before him chest after chest, and opened each to him, and he examined the contents; and when they brought forward the chest in which I was enclosed, I bid adieu to life, and prepared myself for death; but as the eunuchs were about to open it, the damsel said, O Prince of the Faithful, verily this chest con-taineth things, especially appertaining to women; and it is proper, therefore, that it should be opened before the lady Zubeydeh: - and when the Khalifeh heard her words, he ordered the eunuchs to convey all the chests into the interior of the palace. The damsel then hastened, and ordered two eunuchs to carry away the chest in which I was hidden, and they took it to an inner chamber, and went their way: whereupon she quickly opened it, and made a sign to me to come out: so I did as she desired, and entered a closet that was before me, and she locked the door upon me, and closed the chest: and when the eunuchs had brought in all the chests, and had gone back, she opened the door of the closet, and said, Thou hast nothing to fear! May God refresh thine eye! Come forth now, and go up with me, that thou mayest have the happiness of kissing the ground before the lady Zubeydeh.
I therefore went with her, and beheld twenty other female slaves, high-bosomed virgins, and among them was the lady Zubeydeh, who was scarcely able to walk from the weight of the robes and ornaments with which she was decked. As she approached, the female slaves dispersed from around her, and I advanced to her, and kissed the ground before her. She made a sign to me to sit down: so I seated myself before her; and she began to ask me questions respecting my condition and lineage; to all of which I gave such answers that she was pleased, and said, By Allah, the care which we have bestowed on the education of this damsel hath not been in vain. She then said to me, Know that this damsel is esteemed by us as though she were really our child, and she is a trust committed to thy care by God. Upon this, therefore, I again kissed the ground before her, well pleased to marry the damsel; after which, she commanded me to remain with them ten days. Accordingly, I continued with them during this period; but I knew nothing meanwhile o*f the damsel; certain of the maids only bringing me my dinner and supper, as my servants. After this, however, the lady Zubeydeh asked permission of her husband, the Prince of the Faithful, to marry her maid, and he granted her request, and ordered that ten thousand pieces of gold should be given to her.
The lady Zubeydeh, therefore, sent for the Kadi and .witnesses, and they wrote my contract of marriage to the damsel; and the maids then prepared sweetmeats and exquisite dishes, and distributed them in all the apartments. Thus they continued to do for a period of ten more days; and after the twenty days had passed, they conducted the damsel into the bath, preparatively to my being introduced to her as her husband. They then brought to me a repast comprising a basin of zirbajeh sweetened with sugar, perfumed with rose-water infused with musk, and containing different kinds of fricandoed fowls and a variety of other ingredients, such as astonished the mind; and, by Allah, when this repast was brought, I instantly commenced upon the zirbajeh, and ate of it as much as satisfied me, and wiped my hand, but forgot to wash it. I remained sitting until it became dark; when the maids lighted the candles, and the singing-girls approached with the tambourines, and they continued to display the bride, and to give presents of gold, until she had perambulated the whole of the palace; after which they brought her to me, and disrobed her; and as soon as I was left alone with her, I threw my arms around her neck, scarcely believing in our union: but as I did so, she perceived the smell of the zirbajeh from my hand, and immediately uttered a loud cry: whereupon the female slaves ran in to her from every quarter. I was violently agitated, not knowing what was the matter; and the slaves who had come in said to her, What hath happened to thee, O our sister ?-Take away from me, she exclaimed to them, this madman, whom I imagined to be a man of sense!-What indication of my insanity hath appeared to thee? I asked. Thou madman, said she, wherefore hast thou eaten of the zirbajeh, and not washed thy hand? By Allah, I will not accept thee for thy want of sense, and thy disgusting conduct!-And so saying, she took from her side a whip, and beat me with it upon my back until I became insensible from the number of the stripes. She then said to the other maids, Take him to the magistrate of the city police, that he may cut off his hand with which he ate the zirbajeh without washing it afterwards. On hearing this, I exclaimed, There is no strength nor power but in God! Wilt thou cut off my hand on account of my eating a zirbajeh and neglecting to wash it?-And the maids who were present entreated her, saying to her, O our sister, be not angry with him for what he hath done this time. But she replied, By Allah, I must cut off something from his extremities! And immediately she departed, and was absent from me ten days: after which, she came again, and said to me, O thou black-faced! Am I not worthy of thee ? How didst thou dare to eat the zirbajeh and not wash thy hand?- And she called to the maids, who bound my hands behind me, and she took a sharp razor, and cut off both my thumbs and both my great toes, as ye see, O companions; and I swooned away. She then sprinkled upon my wounds some powder, by means of which the blood was stanched; and I said, I will not eat of a zirbajeh as long as I live unless I wash my hands forty times with kali and forty times with cyperus and forty time9 with soap:-and she exacted of me an oath that I would not eat of this dish unless I washed my hands as I have described to you. Therefore, when this zirbajeh was brought, my colour changed, and I said within myself, This was the cause of the cutting off of my thumbs and great toes:-so, when ye compelled me, I said, I must fulfil the oath which I have sworn.
I then said to him (continued the Sultan's steward), And what happened to thee after that? He answered, When I had thus sworn to her, she was appeased, and I was admitted into her favour and we lived happily together for a considerable time: after which she said, The people of the Khali feh's palace know not that thou hast resided here with me, and no strange man beside thee hath entered it; nor didst thou enter but through the assistance of the lady Zubeydeh. She then gave me fifty thousand pieces of gold, and said to me, Take these pieces of gold, and go forth and buy for us a spacious house. So I went forth, and purchased a handsome and spacious house, and removed thither all the riches that she possessed, and all that she had treasured up, and her dresses and rarities.-This was the cause of the amputation of my thumbs and great toes.-So we ate (said the Sultan's steward), and departed; and after this, the accident with the humpback happened to me: this is all my story; and peace be on thee.
The King said, This is not more pleasant than the story of the humpback: nay, the story of the humpback is more pleasant than this; and ye must all of you be crucified.
The Jew, however, then came forward, and, having kissed the ground, said, O King of the age, I will relate to thee a story more wonderful than that of the humpback:-and the King said, Relate thy story. So he commenced thus: