Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > Greek, Roman & Oriental
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vol. XV: Greek—Roman—Oriental
 
The Glass Merchant’s Dream
By The Thousand and One Nights
 

ALNASCHAR, while he lived with my father, was excessively idle; instead of working for his bread, he was not ashamed of demanding sufficient for his support every evening, and would live upon it the next day. Our father at last died at a very advanced period of life, and all he left us consisted of seven hundred drams of silver. We divided it equally among us, and each took one hundred for his share. Alnaschar, who had never before been in possession of so much money at a time, found himself very much embarrassed with the disposal of it. He debated a long time in his own mind on this subject, and at last determined to lay it out in the purchase of glasses, bottles, and other glass articles, which he went to get at a large wholesale merchant’s. He put the whole of his stock into an open basket, and selected a very small open stall, where he sat down with the basket on the counter, which faced the street. Leaning back in his seat, his feet resting against the edge of the counter, he waited for customers to buy his merchandise.
  1
  While he was in this attitude, with his eyes fixed upon his basket, he began to meditate, and in the midst of his reverie he gave vent to the following speech, sufficiently loud for a tailor, who was his neighbor, to hear him:  2
  “This basket,” said he, “cost me one hundred drams, and that is all I am worth in the world. In selling its contents by retail, I shall do well if I make two hundred drams; and of these two hundred, which I shall invest again in glassware, I shall make four hundred drams. By continuing this traffic, I shall in process of time amass the sum of four thousand drams. With these four thousand I shall easily make eight. And as soon as I am worth ten thousand I will leave off selling glassware, and turn jeweler. I will then deal in diamonds, pearls, and all sorts of precious stones. When I shall be in possession of as much wealth as I wish, I will purchase a beautiful house, large estates, eunuchs, slaves, and horses; I will entertain handsomely and largely, and shall make some noise in the world. I will make all the musicians and dancers, both male and female, who live in the city, come to my house. Nor will I remain satisfied till I have realized, if it shall please God, one hundred thousand drams. And when I shall become thus rich, I shall think myself equal to a prince; and I will send and demand the daughter of the grand vizier in marriage, and represent to him that I have heard the most astonishing reports of the beauty, wisdom, wit, and every other good quality of his daughter; and, in short, that I will bestow upon her, the very night of our nuptials, a thousand pieces of gold. If the vizier should be so ill-bred as to refuse me his daughter—though I know that will not be the case—I will go and take her away before his face, and bring her home in spite of him.  3
  “As soon as I shall have married the grand vizier’s daughter, I will purchase ten very young and well-made black eunuchs for her. I will dress myself like a prince, and will parade through the town, mounted on a fine horse, the saddle of which shall be of pure gold, and the caparisons of gold stuff, relieved with diamonds and pearls. I will be accompanied by slaves, who shall go both before and behind me, and will thus proceed to the palace of the vizier, with the eyes of all fixed upon me, both nobles and others, who will make me the most profound reverence as I go along. When I shall have dismounted at the grand vizier’s, and come to the bottom of the staircase, I will ascend between my people ranged in two rows to the right and left, and the grand vizier, in receiving me for his son-in-law, shall give me his place, and seat himself before me, in order to show me the more respect. If all this should happen, two of my men shall have a purse, each containing one thousand pieces of gold, which I had ordered them to bring. I will then take one of them, and in presenting it to the grand vizier, will say, ‘Behold the thousand pieces of gold which I have promised you on the first night of my marriage.’ Then offering him the other, I will add, ‘This is not all. To show you that I am a man of my word, and to prove that I give you more than I promise, receive this other purse of equal value.’ After such an act as this, my generosity will be the conversation of the whole world.  4
  “I will then return home with the same pomp. My wife will send some officer to compliment me on my visit to her father. I will bestow a beautiful robe of honor on the officer, and send him back with a rich present. If in return she shall wish to make me a present, I will refuse it, and dismiss the person who brings it. I will not, moreover, permit her to leave her apartments upon any account whatever without first consulting me; and whenever I wish to go to her, it shall always be in a way that shall impress her with the greatest respect for me. In short, no house shall be so well regulated as mine. I will always appear magnificently dressed; and whenever I wish to pass the evening with her, I will sit in the most honorable seat, where I will affect a grave and solemn air; nor will I turn my head to the right or left. I will speak but little; and while my wife, beautiful as the moon at the full, presents herself before me in all her splendor, I will pretend not to see her. Her women, who will be standing round her, will say, ‘My dear lord and master, behold your spouse, the humblest of your slaves, before you. She is waiting for you to caress her, and is much mortified that you do not deign to take the least notice of her. She is greatly fatigued at standing thus long before you; at least, then, give her leave to sit down.’ I will not answer a word to this speech, at which their surprise and grief will be much augmented. They will then throw themselves at my feet; and after they shall have remained there a considerable time, entreating and begging of me to yield to them, I will at last lift up my head, and casting upon her a sort of negligent, unmeaning glance, will then return to my former state. Thinking, perhaps, that my wife may not either be well or properly dressed, they will lead her back to her room in order to change her habit; and in the meantime I will return to my apartment and put on a more magnificent dress than I had before. They will then return a second time, will address the same speech, and I shall again have the pleasure of not looking at my wife, till they shall have prayed and entreated me as long and earnestly as before. And I will thus begin, on the very first day of my marriage, to teach her how she may expect to be treated during the remainder of her life.  5
  “After the various ceremonies of our nuptials are over,” continued Alnaschar, “I will take a purse containing five hundred pieces of gold from the hands of one of the attendants, which I will give to the female attendants, that they may leave me alone with my spouse. As soon as they shall have retired, my wife shall go to bed first. I will immediately follow her, and will be the whole night with my back turned toward her, and will not utter a single syllable. The next morning she will not fail to complain to her mother, the wife of the grand vizier, of my pride and neglect, and this will delight me very much. Her mother will then come to see me, and out of respect take and kiss my hands, and say to me, ‘My lord’—for she will not dare to call me son-in-law, through fear of displeasing me by speaking with so much familiarity—‘I entreat you, my lord, not to despise my child in such a manner, nor keep her at such a distance. I assure you she will always endeavor to please you, and I know her whole heart is devoted to you.’ Although my mother-in-law shall address me so respectfully and kindly, I will not answer her a word, but remain as grave and solemn as ever. She will then throw herself at my feet, and after kissing them many times, will say, ‘My lord, is it possible you suspect the virtue of my daughter? I assure you I have never suffered her to go out of my sight, and you are the first man who has ever seen her face. Forbear to inflict so great a mortification upon her, and do her the favor to look at and speak to her, and thus strengthen her good intention of endeavoring to satisfy and please you in everything.’  6
  “All this shall have no effect upon me; which my mother-in-law observing, she will then take a glass of wine, and putting it into my wife’s hand, will say, ‘Go and present him this glass of wine yourself; he will not, perhaps, have the cruelty to refuse it from so beautiful a hand.’ My wife will then take the glass, and stand up before me, trembling all the time. When she observes that I do not incline myself toward her, and that I persist in taking not the least notice of her, she will address me, with her eyes bathed in tears, in these words: ‘My heart, my dear soul, my amiable lord, I conjure you, by the favors which Heaven has so plentifully bestowed upon you, to have the goodness to take this glass of wine from the hand of the humblest of your slaves.’ I shall, however, take care neither to look at nor speak to her. ‘My charming husband,’ she will continue to say, redoubling her tears, and carrying the glass of wine close to my mouth, ‘I will not cease entreating you till I obtain the favor of your drinking it.’ At last, tired and worn out with her solicitations and prayers, I will throw a most terrible glance at her, and will give her a good slap on her cheek, at the same time pushing her so violently from me with my foot that she shall fall down at the bottom of the sofa.”  7
  My brother was so entirely absorbed in these chimerical visions that he represented the action with his foot as if it were a reality, and he unfortunately struck his basket of glassware so violently that he sent it from the counter into the street, where it was all broken to pieces.  8
  His neighbor, the tailor, who had heard the whole of his extravagant speech, burst out into a fit of laughter when he saw the basket overturned. “Oh, you cruel wretch!” said he to my brother, “ought you not to expire with shame at ill-treating a young wife in such a manner, when she has given you no reason for complaint? You must be hard-hearted indeed to pay no attention to the tears and be insensible to the charms of so amiable a lady. If I were in the place of your father-in-law, the grand vizier, I would order you a hundred strokes with a leathern strap, and send you round the city with the praise you so well merit.”  9
  This most unfortunate accident brought my brother to his senses, and knowing that it was his own insupportable pride that had caused it, he beat his breast, tore his garments, and sobbed so violently and loud that all the neighborhood soon assembled; and the people who were going by to midday prayers stopped to inquire the cause of all this bustle; and as this happened to be on a Friday, there were more people than usual. Some pitied Alnaschar, others laughed at his folly. The vanity, however, which he had before possessed was now entirely annihilated, as well as his property.  10
 
 
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