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 King of the age, that I came to this country with merchandise, and destiny stayed me among your people. I was born in Cairo, and am one of its Copts, and there I was brought up. My father was a broker; and when I had attained to manhood, he died, and I succeeded to his business; and as I was sitting one day, lo, a young man of most handsome aspect, and clad in a dress of the richest description, came to me, riding upon an ass, and when he saw me, saluted me; whereupon I rose to him, to pay him honour, and he produced a handkerchief containing some sesame, and said, What is the value of an ardebb8 of this? I answered him, A hundred pieces of silver. And he said to me, Take the carriers and the measurers, and repair to the Khan of El-Jawali in the district of Bab en-Nasr:4 there wilt thou find me. And he left me and went his way, after having given me the handkerchief with the sample of the sesame. So I went about to the purchasers; and the price of each ardebb amounted to a hundred and twenty pieces of silver; and I took with me four carriers, and went to him. I found him waiting my arrival; and when he saw me he rose and opened a magazine, and we measured its contents, and the whole amounted to fifty ardebbs. The young man then said, Thou shalt have, for every ardebb, ten pieces of silver as brokerage; and do thou receive the price and keep it in thy care: the whole sum will be five thousand; and thy share of it, five hundred: so there will remain for me four thousand and five hundred; and when I shall have finished the sale of the goods contained in my store-room, I will come to thee and receive it. I replied, It shall be as thou desirest. And I kissed his hand, and left him. Thus there accrued to me, on that day, a thousand pieces of silver, [besides my brokerage].
He was absent from me a month, at the expiration of which he came and said to me, Where is the money? I answered, Here it is, ready. And he said, Keep it until I come to thee to receive it. And I remained expecting him; but he was absent from me another month; after which he came again, and said, Where is the money? Whereupon I arose and saluted him, and said to him, Wilt thou eat something with us? He, however, declined, and said, Keep the money until I shall have gone and returned to receive it.
* In Cairo, nearly five bushels.
4 Gate of Victory or of Aid:" the easternmost of the northern gates of Cairo built in 1088. The Khan referred to is mentioned by El-Makrizi as being situated at a short distance within the present gate and by the site of the older gate of the same name, and as existing in his time £1417]* irom thee. He then departed; and I arose, and prepared for him the money, and sat expecting him; but again he absented himsolf from me for a month, and then came and said, After this day I will receive it from thee. And he departed, and I made ready the money for him as before, and sat waiting his return. Again, however, he remained a month absent from me, and I said within myself, Verily this young man is endowed with consummate liberality! After the month he came, attired in rich clothing, and resembling the full moon, appearing as if he had just come out of the bath, with red cheek and fair forehead, and a mole like a globule of ambergris. When I beheld him I kissed his hand, and invoked a blessing upon him, and said to him, O my master, wilt thou not take thy money?-Have patience with me, he answered, until I shall have transacted all my affairs, after which I will receive it from thee. And so saying, he departed; and I said within myself, By Allah, when he cometh I will entertain him as a guest, on account of the profit which I have derived from his money; for great wealth hath accrued to me from it.
At the close of the year he returned, clad in a dress richer than the former; and I swore to him that he should alight to be my guest.-On the condition, he replied, that thou expend nothing of my money that is in thy possession. I said, Well:-and, having seated him, prepared what was requisite of meats and drinks and other provisions, and placed them before him, saying, In the name of Allah! And he drew near to the table, and put forth his left hand, and thus ate with me: so I was surprised at him;5 and when we had finished he washed his hand, and I gave him a napkin with which to wipe it. We then sat down to converse, and I said, O my master, dispel a trouble from my mind. Wherefore didst thou eat with thy left hand? Probably something paineth thee in thy right hand ?-On hearing these words, he stretched forth his arm from his sleeve, and behold, it was maimed-an arm without a hand! And I wondered at this; but he said to me, Wonder not; nor say in thy heart that I ate with thee with my left hand from a motive of self-conceit; for rather to be wondered at is the cause of the cutting off of my right hand.
6 The Arabs consider it indecorous to eat with the left hand.
And what, said I, was the cause of it? He answered thus:
Know that I am from Baghdad: my father was one of the chief people of that city; and when I had attained the age of manhood, I heard the wanderers and travellers and merchants conversing respecting the land of Egypt, and their words remained in my heart until my father died, when I took large sums of money, and prepared merchandise consisting of the stuffs of Baghdad and of El-Mosil, and similar precious goods, and, having packed them up, journeyed from Baghdad; and God decreed me safety until I entered this your city. And so saying, he wept, and repeated these verses:
The blear-eyed escapeth a pit into which the clear-sighted falleth; And the ignorant, an expression by which the shrewd sage is ruined. The believer can scarce earn his food, while the impious infidel is favoured.
What art or act can a man devise? It is what the Almighty appointeth I
I entered Cairo, continued the young man, and deposited the stuffs in the Khan of Mesrur,* and, having unbound my packages and put them in the magazines, gave to the servant some money to buy for us something to eat, after which I slept a little; and when I arose, I went to Beyn el-Kasreyn. I then returned, and passed the night; and in the morning following, I opened a bale of stuff, and said within myself, I will arise and go through some of the market-streets, and see the state of the mart. So I took some stuff, and made some of my servants carry it, and proceeded until I arrived at the Keysariyeh7 of Jaharkas, where the brokers came to me, having heard of my arrival, and took from me the stuff, and cried it about for sale; but the price bidden amounted not to the prime cost. And upon this the Sheykh of the brokers said to me, O my master, I know a plan by which thou mayest profit; and it is this: that thou do as other merchants, and sell thy merchandise upon credit for a certain period, employing a scrivener and a witness and a money-changer, and receive a portion of the profits every Thursday and Monday; so shalt thou make of every piece of silver two; and besides that, thou wilt be able to enjoy the amusements afforded by Egypt and its Nile.-The advice is judicious, I replied: and accordingly I took the brokers with me to the Khan, and they conveyed the stuffs to the Keysariyeh, where I sold it to the merchants, writing a bond in their names, which I committed to the money-changer, and taking from him a corresponding bond. I then returned to the Khan, and remained there some days; and every day I took for my breakfast a cup of wine, and had mutton and sweetmeats prepared for me, until the month in which I became entitled to the receipt of the profits, when I seated myself every Thursday and Monday at the shops of the merchants, and the money-changer went with the scrivener and brought me the money.
• [In the Beyn el-Kasreyn or u Betwixt the Palaces," by the present Suk en-Nahhasin. See Lane-Poole, Story of Cairo (1902), pp. 266-270.] 1A superior kind of suk or market*.