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.
There was a man of the city of Baghdad, who was unmarried, and he was a porter; and one day, as he sat in the market, reclining against his crate, there accosted him a female wrapped in an izar of the manufacture of El-Mosil,1 composed of gold-embroidered silk, with a border of gold lace at each end, who raised her face-veil, and displayed beneath it a pair of black eyes, with lids bordered by long lashes, exhibiting a tender expression, and features of perfect beauty; and she said, with a sweet voice, Bring thy crate, and follow me.
The porter had scarcely heard her words when he took up his crate, and he followed her until she stopped at the door of a house, and knocked; whereupon there came down to her a Christian, and she gave him a piece of gold, and received for it a quantity of olives, and two large vessels of wine, which she placed in the crate, saying to the porter, Take it up, and follow me. The porter exclaimed, This is, indeed, a fortunate day!-and he took up the crate, and followed her. She next stopped at the shop of a fruiterer, and bought of him Syrian apples, and 'Othmani quinces, and peaches of 'Oman, and jasmine of Aleppo, and water-lilies of Damascus, and cucumbers of the Nile, and Egyptian limes, and Sultani citrons, and sweet-scented myrtle, and sprigs of the henna-tree, and chamomile, and anemones, and violets, and pomegranate-flowers, and eglantine: all these she put into the porter's crate, and said to him, Take it up. So he took it up, and followed her until she stopped at the shop of a butcher, to whom she said, Cut off ten pounds of meat;-and he cut it off for her, and she wrapped it in a leaf of a banana-tree, and put it in the crate, and said again, Take it up, O porter:-and he did so, and followed her. She next stopped at the shop of a seller of dry fruits, and took some of every kind of these, and desired the porter to take up his burden. Having obeyed, he followed her until she stopped at the shop of a confectioner, where she bought a dish, and filled it with sweets of every kind that he had, which she put into the crate; whereupon the porter ventured to say, If thou hadst informed me beforehand, I had brought with me a mule to carry all these things. The lady smiled at his remark, and next stopped at the shop of a perfumer, of whom she bought ten kinds of scented waters; rose-water, and orange-flower-water, and willow-flower-water, etc.; together with some sugar, and a sprinkling-bottle of rose-water infused with musk, and some frankincense, and aloes-wood, and ambergris, and musk, and wax candles; and, placing all these in the crate, she said, Take up thy crate, and follow me. He, therefore, took it up, and followed her until she came to a handsome house, before which was a spacious court. It was a lofty structure, with a door of two leaves, composed of ebony, overlaid with plates of red gold.
1" Mosul," a city long famous for its fine stuffs.
The young lady stopped at this door, and knocked gently; whereupon both its leaves were opened, and the porter, looking to see who opened it, found it to be a damsel of tall stature, high-bosomed, fair and beautiful, and of elegant form, with a forehead like the bright new moon, eyes like those of gazelles, eyebrows like the new moon of Ramadan, cheeks resembling anemones, and a mouth like the seal of Suleyman: her countenance was like the full , moon in its splendour, and the forms of her bosom resembled two pomegranates of equal size. When the porter beheld her, she captived his reason, the crate nearly fell from his head, and he exclaimed, Never in my life have I seen a more fortunate day than this! The lady-portress, standing within the door, said to the cateress and the porter, Ye are welcome:-and they entered, and proceeded to a spacious saloon, decorated with various colours, and beautifully constructed, with carved wood-work, and fountains, and benches of different kinds, and closets with curtains hanging before them; there was also in it, at the upper end, a couch of , alabaster inlaid with large pearls and jewels, with mosquito-curtain of red satin suspended over it, and within this was a young lady with eyes possessing the enchantment of Babil," and a figure like the letter Alif, with a face that put to shame the shining sun: she was like one of the brilliant planets, or rather, one of the most high-born of the maidens of Arabia. This third lady, rising from the couch, advanced with a slow and elegant gait to the middle of the saloon, where her sisters were standing, and said to them, Why stand ye still? Lift down the burden from the head of this poor porter:-whereupon the cateress placed herself before him, and the portress behind him, and, the third lady assisting them, they lifted it down from his head. They then took out the contents of the crate, and, having put everything in its place, gave to the porter two pieces of gold, saying to him Depart, O porter.
The porter, however, stood looking at the ladies, and admiring their beauty and their agreeable dispositions; for he had never seen any more handsome; and when he observed that they had not a man among them, and gazed upon the wine, and fruits, and sweet-scented flowers, which were there, he was full of astonishment, and hesitated to go out; upon which one of the ladies said to him, Why dost thou not go? dost thou deem thy hire too Httle? Then turning to one of her sisters, she said to her, Give him another piece of gold.-By Allah, O my mistress, exclaimed the porter, my hire is but two half-dirhems, and I thought not what ye have given me too little; but my heart and mind were occupied with reflections upon you and your state, ye being alone, with no man among you, not one to amuse you with his company; for ye know that the menareh* standeth not firmly but on four walls: now ye have not a fourth, and the pleasure of women is not complete without men: ye are three only, and have need of a fourth, who should be a man, a person of sense, discreet, acute, and a concealer of secrets.-We are maidens, they replied; and fear to impart our secret to him who will npt keep it; for we have read, in a certain history, this verse:
■Babil, or Babel, is regarded by the Muslims as the fountain-head of the science of magic, which was, and, as most think, still is, taught there to mankind by two fallen angels, named Ha rut and Marut (Kuran, ii. 96). who are there suspended by the feet in a great pit closed by a mass of rock.