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 that this city belonged to my father and his family and subjects; and he is the King whom thou hast seen converted into stone; and the Queen whom thou hast seen is my mother. They were all Magians, worshipping fire in the place of the Almighty King; and they swore by the fire and the light, and the shade and the heat, and the revolving orb. My father had no son, till, in his declining years, he was blest with me, whom he reared until I attained to manhood. But, happily for me, there was, in our family, an old woman, far advanced in age, who was a Muslimeh, believing in God and his Apostle in her heart, though she conformed with my family in outward observances; and my father confided in her, on account of the faithfulness and modesty that he had observed in her character, and shewed her great favour, firmly believing that she held the same faith as himself; therefore, when I had passed my infancy, he committed me to her care, saying, Take him, and rear him, and instruct him in the ordinances of our faith, and educate him and serve him in the best manner. The old woman accordingly received me, but took care to instruct me in the faith of El-Islam, teaching me the laws of purification, and the divine ordinances of ablution, together with the forms of prayer; after which she made me commit to memory the whole of the Kur'an. She then charged me to keep my faith a secret from my father, lest he should kill me; and I did so; and a few days after, the old woman died. The inhabitants of the city»> had now increased in their impiety and arrogance, and in their dereliction of the truth; and while they were in this state, they heard a crier proclaim with a voice like thunder, so as to be audible to-both the near and the distant, O inhabitants of this city, abstain from the worship of fire, and worship the Almighty King!-The people were struck with consternation, and, flocking to my father, the King of the city, said to him, What is this alarming voice which hath astounded us by its terrible sound?-but he answered them, Let not the voice terrify you, nor let it turn you from your faith:-and their hearts inclined to his words; so they persevered in the worship of fire, and remained obstinate in their impiety during another year, until the return of the period at which they had heard the voice the first time. It was then heard a second time; and again, in the next year, they heard it a third time; but still they persisted in their evil ways, until, drawing down upon themselves the abhorrence and indignation of Heaven, one morning, shortly after daybreak, they were converted into black stones, together with their beasts and all their cattle. Not one of the inhabitants of the city escaped, excepting me; and from the day on which this catastrophe happened, I have continued occupied as thou seest, in prayer, and fasting, and reading the Kur'an: but I have become weary of this solitary state, having no one to cheer me with his company.
On hearing these words, I said to him, Wilt thou go with me to the city of Baghdad, and visit its learned men and lawyers, and increase thy knowledge? If so, I will be thy handmaid, though I am the mistress of my family, and have authority over a household of men. I have here a ship laden with merchandise, and destiny hath driven us to this city, in order that we might become acquainted with these events: our meeting was predestined.-In this manner I continued to persuade him until he gave his consent. I slept that night at his feet, unconscious of my state through excessive joy; and in the morning we rose, and, entering the treasuries, took away a quantity of the lighter and most valuable of the articles that they contained, and descended from the citadel into the city, where we met the slaves and the captain, who were searching for me. They were rejoiced at seeing me, and, to their questions respecting my absence, I replied by informing them of all that I had seen, and related to them the history of the young man, and the cause of the transmutation of the people of the city, and of all that had befallen them, which filled them with wonder. But when my two sisters saw me with the young man, they envied me on his account, and malevolently plotted against me.
We embarked again, and I experienced the utmost happiness, chiefly owing to the company of the young man; and after we had waited a while till the wind was favourable, we spread our sails, and departed. My sisters sat with me and the young man; and, in their conversation with me, said, O our sister, what dost thou purpose to do with this handsome }/outh? I answered, I desire to take him as my husband:-and, turning to him, and approaching him, I said, O, my master, I wish to make a proposal to thee, and do not thou oppose it He replied, I hear and obey:-and I then looked towards my sisters, and said to them, This young man is all that I desire, and all the wealth that is here is yours.-Excellent, they replied, is thy determination: -yet still they designed evil against me.-We continued our voyage with a favourable wind, and, quitting the sea of peril, entered the sea of security, across which we proceeded for some days, until we drew near to the city of El-Basrah, the buildings of which loomed before us at the approach of evening; but as soon as we had fallen asleep, my sisters took us up in our bed, both myself and the young man, and threw us into the sea. The youth, being unable to swim, was drowned; God recorded him among the company of the martyrs; while I was registered among those whose life was yet to be preserved: and, accordingly, as soon as I awoke and found myself in the sea, the providence of God supplied me with a piece of timber, upon which I placed myself, and the waves cast me upon the shore of an island.
During the remainder of the night I walked along this island, and in the morning I saw a neck of land, bearing the marks of a man's feet, and uniting with the main land. The sun having now risen, I dried my clothes in its rays, and proceeded along the path that I had discovered until I drew near to the shore upon which stands the city, when I beheld a snake approaching me, and followed by a serpent which was endeavouring to destroy it: the tongue of the snake was hanging from its mouth in consequence of excessive fatigue, and it excited my compassion; so I took up a stone, and threw it at the head of the serpent, which instantly died: the snake then extended a pair of wings, and soared aloft into the sky, leaving me in wonder at the sight At the time of this occurrence I had become so fatigued, that I now laid myself down and slept; but I awoke after a little while, and found a damsel seated at my feet, and gently rubbing them with her hands; upon which I immediately sat up, feeling ashamed that she should perform this service for me, and said to her, Who art thou, and what dost thou want?-How soon hast thou forgotten me! she exclaimed: I am she to whom thou hast just done a kindness, by killing my enemy: I am the snake whom thou savedst from the serpent; for I am a Jinniyeh, and the serpent was a Jinni at enmity with me; and none but thou delivered me from him: therefore, as soon as thou didst this, I flew to the ship from which thy sisters cast thee, and transported all that it contained to thy house; I then sunk it; but as to thy sisters, I transformed them by enchantment into two black bitches; for I knew all that they had done to thee: the young man, however, is drowned.-Having thus said, she took me up, and placed me with the two black bitches on the roof of my house: and I found all the treasures that the ship had contained collected in the midst of my house: nothing was lost She then said to me, I swear by that which was engraved upon the seal of Suleyman, that, if thou do not inflict three hundred lashes upon each of these bitches every day, I will come and transform thee in the like manner:-so I replied, I hear and obey:-and have continued ever since to inflict upon them these stripes, though pitying them while I do so.
The Khalifeh heard this story with astonishment, and then said to the second lady, And what occasioned fhe stripes of which thou bearest the marks ? She answered as follows: