The Caliph, Haroun-al-Raschid,
was much pleased with the tale of the blind man and
the dervish, and when it was finished he turned to
the young man who had ill-treated his horse, and inquired
his name also. The young man replied that he
was called Sidi-Nouman.
the Caliph, “I have seen horses broken all my
life long, and have even broken them myself, but I
have never seen any horse broken in such a barbarous
manner as by you yesterday. Every one who looked
on was indignant, and blamed you loudly. As for
myself, I was so angry that I was very nearly disclosing
who I was, and putting a stop to it at once.
Still, you have not the air of a cruel man, and I
would gladly believe that you did not act in this way
without some reason. As I am told that it was
not the first time, and indeed that every day you
are to be seen flogging and spurring your horse, I
wish to come to the bottom of the matter. But
tell me the whole truth, and conceal nothing.”
Sidi-Nouman changed colour as he heard
these words, and his manner grew confused; but he
saw plainly that there was no help for it. So
he prostrated himself before the throne of the Caliph
and tried to obey, but the words stuck in his throat,
and he remained silent.
The Caliph, accustomed though he was
to instant obedience, guessed something of what was
passing in the young man’s mind, and sought to
put him at his ease. “Sidi-Nouman,”
he said, “do not think of me as the Caliph,
but merely as a friend who would like to hear your
story. If there is anything in it that you are
afraid may offend me, take courage, for I pardon you
beforehand. Speak then openly and without fear,
as to one who knows and loves you.”
Reassured by the kindness of the Caliph,
Sidi-Nouman at length began his tale.
“Commander of the Faithful,”
said he, “dazzled though I am by the lustre
of your Highness’ presence, I will do my best
to satisfy your wishes. I am by no means perfect,
but I am not naturally cruel, neither do I take pleasure
in breaking the law. I admit that the treatment
of my horse is calculated to give your Highness a bad
opinion of me, and to set an evil example to others;
yet I have not chastised it without reason, and I
have hopes that I shall be judged more worthy of pity
Commander of the Faithful, I will
not trouble to describe my birth; it is not of sufficient
distinction to deserve your Highness’ attention.
My ancestors were careful people, and I inherited enough
money to enable me to live comfortably, though without
Having therefore a modest fortune,
the only thing wanting to my happiness was a wife
who could return my affection, but this blessing I
was not destined to get; for on the very day after
my marriage, my bride began to try my patience in
every way that was most hard to bear.
Now, seeing that the customs of our
land oblige us to marry without ever beholding the
person with whom we are to pass our lives, a man has
of course no right to complain as long as his wife
is not absolutely repulsive, or is not positively
deformed. And whatever defects her body may
have, pleasant ways and good behaviour will go far
to remedy them.
The first time I saw my wife unveiled,
when she had been brought to my house with the usual
ceremonies, I was enchanted to find that I had not
been deceived in regard to the account that had been
given me of her beauty. I began my married life
in high spirits, and the best hopes of happiness.
The following day a grand dinner was
served to us but as my wife did not appear, I ordered
a servant to call her. Still she did not come,
and I waited impatiently for some time. At last
she entered the room, and she took our places at the
table, and plates of rice were set before us.
I ate mine, as was natural, with a
spoon, but great was my surprise to notice that my
wife, instead of doing the same, drew from her pocket
a little case, from which she selected a long pin,
and by the help of this pin conveyed her rice grain
by grain to her mouth.
“Amina,” I exclaimed in
astonishment, “is that the way you eat rice at
home? And did you do it because your appetite
was so small, or did you wish to count the grains
so that you might never eat more than a certain number?
If it was from economy, and you are anxious to teach
me not to be wasteful, you have no cause for alarm.
We shall never ruin ourselves in that way!
Our fortune is large enough for all our needs, therefore,
dear Amina, do not seek to check yourself, but eat
as much as you desire, as I do!”
In reply to my affectionate words,
I expected a cheerful answer; yet Amina said nothing
at all, but continued to pick her rice as before,
only at longer and longer intervals. And, instead
of trying the other dishes, all she did was to put
every now and then a crumb, of bread into her mouth,
that would not have made a meal for a sparrow.
I felt provoked by her obstinacy,
but to excuse her to myself as far as I could, I suggested
that perhaps she had never been used to eat in the
company of men, and that her family might have taught
her that she ought to behave prudently and discreetly
in the presence of her husband. Likewise that
she might either have dined already or intend to do
so in her own apartments. So I took no further
notice, and when I had finished left the room, secretly
much vexed at her strange conduct.
The same thing occurred at supper,
and all through the next day, whenever we ate together.
It was quite clear that no woman could live upon
two or three bread-crumbs and a few grains of rice,
and I determined to find out how and when she got
food. I pretended not to pay attention to anything
she did, in the hope that little by little she would
get accustomed to me, and become more friendly; but
I soon saw that my expectations were quite vain.
One night I was lying with my eyes
closed, and to, all appearance sound asleep, when
Amina arose softly, and dressed herself without making
the slightest sound. I could not imagine what
she was going to do, and as my curiosity was great
I made up my mind to follow her. When she was
fully dressed, she stole quietly from the room.
The instant she had let the curtain
fall behind her, I flung a garment on my shoulders
and a pair of slippers on my feet. Looking from
a lattice which opened into the court, I saw her in
the act of passing through the street door, which
she carefully left open.
It was bright moonlight, so I easily
managed to keep her in sight, till she entered a cemetery
not far from the house. There I hid myself under
the shadow of the wall, and crouched down cautiously;
and hardly was I concealed, when I saw my wife approaching
in company with a ghoul one of those demons
which, as your Highness is aware, wander about the
country making their lairs in deserted buildings and
springing out upon unwary travellers whose flesh they
eat. If no live being goes their way, they then
betake themselves to the cemeteries, and feed upon
the dead bodies.
I was nearly struck dumb with horror
on seeing my wife with this hideous female ghoul.
They passed by me without noticing me, began to dig
up a corpse which had been buried that day, and then
sat down on the edge of the grave, to enjoy their
frightful repast, talking quietly and cheerfully all
the while, though I was too far off to hear what they
said. When they had finished, they threw back
the body into the grave, and heaped back the earth
upon it. I made no effort to disturb them, and
returned quickly to the house, when I took care to
leave the door open, as I had previously found it.
Then I got back into bed, and pretended to sleep
A short time after Amina entered as
quietly as she had gone out. She undressed and
stole into bed, congratulating herself apparently on
the cleverness with which she had managed her expedition.
As may be guessed, after such a scene
it was long before I could close my eyes, and at the
first sound which called the faithful to prayer, I
put on my clothes and went to the mosque. But
even prayer did not restore peace to my troubled spirit,
and I could not face my wife until I had made up my
mind what future course I should pursue in regard to
her. I therefore spent the morning roaming about
from one garden to another, turning over various plans
for compelling my wife to give up her horrible ways;
I thought of using violence to make her submit, but
felt reluctant to be unkind to her. Besides,
I had an instinct that gentle means had the best chance
of success; so, a little soothed, I turned towards
home, which I reached about the hour of dinner.
As soon as I appeared, Amina ordered
dinner to be served, and we sat down together.
As usual, she persisted in only picking a few grains
of rice, and I resolved to speak to her at once of
what lay so heavily on my heart.
“Amina,” I said, as quietly
as possible, “you must have guessed the surprise
I felt, when the day after our marriage you declined
to eat anything but a few morsels of rice, and altogether
behaved in such a manner that most husbands would
have been deeply wounded. However I had patience
with you, and only tried to tempt your appetite by
the choicest dishes I could invent, but all to no
purpose. Still, Amina, it seems to me that there
be some among them as sweet to the taste as the flesh
of a corpse?”
I had no sooner uttered these words
than Amina, who instantly understood that I had followed
her to the grave-yard, was seized with a passion beyond
any that I have ever witnessed. Her face became
purple, her eyes looked as if they would start from
her head, and she positively foamed with rage.
I watched her with terror, wondering
what would happen next, but little thinking what would
be the end of her fury. She seized a vessel of
water that stood at hand, and plunging her hand in
it, murmured some words I failed to catch. Then,
sprinkling it on my face, she cried madly:
“Wretch, receive the reward
of your prying, and become a dog.”
The words were not out of her mouth
when, without feeling conscious that any change was
passing over me, I suddenly knew that I had ceased
to be a man. In the greatness of the shock and
surprise for I had no idea that Amina was
a magician I never dreamed of running away,
and stood rooted to the spot, while Amina grasped
a stick and began to beat me. Indeed her blows
were so heavy, that I only wonder they did not kill
me at once. However they succeeded in rousing
me from my stupor, and I dashed into the court-yard,
followed closely by Amina, who made frantic dives
at me, which I was not quick enough to dodge.
At last she got tired of pursuing me, or else a new
trick entered into her head, which would give me speedy
and painful death; she opened the gate leading into
the street, intending to crush me as I passed through.
Dog though I was, I saw through her design, and stung
into presence of mind by the greatness of the danger,
I timed my movements so well that I contrived to rush
through, and only the tip of my tail received a squeeze
as she banged the gate.
I was safe, but my tail hurt me horribly,
and I yelped and howled so loud all along the streets,
that the other dogs came and attacked me, which made
matters no better. In order to avoid them, I
took refuge in a cookshop, where tongues and sheep’s
heads were sold.
At first the owner showed me great
kindness, and drove away the other dogs that were
still at my heels, while I crept into the darkest
corner. But though I was safe for the moment,
I was not destined to remain long under his protection,
for he was one of those who hold all dogs to be unclean,
and that all the washing in the world will hardly
purify you from their contact. So after my enemies
had gone to seek other prey, he tried to lure me from
my corner in order to force me into the street.
But I refused to come out of my hole, and spent the
night in sleep, which I sorely needed, after the pain
inflicted on me by Amina.
I have no wish to weary your Highness
by dwelling on the sad thoughts which accompanied
my change of shape, but it may interest you to hear
that the next morning my host went out early to do
his marketing, and returned laden with the sheep’s
heads, and tongues and trotters that formed his stock
in trade for the day. The smell of meat attracted
various hungry dogs in the neighbourhood, and they
gathered round the door begging for some bits.
I stole out of my corner, and stood with them.
In spite of his objection to dogs,
as unclean animals, my protector was a kind-hearted
man, and knowing I had eaten nothing since yesterday,
he threw me bigger and better bits than those which
fell to the share of the other dogs. When I
had finished, I tried to go back into the shop, but
this he would not allow, and stood so firmly at the
entrance with a stout stick, that I was forced to
give it up, and seek some other home.
A few paces further on was a baker’s
shop, which seemed to have a gay and merry man for
a master. At that moment he was having his breakfast,
and though I gave no signs of hunger, he at once threw
me a piece of bread. Before gobbling it up,
as most dogs are in the habit of doing, I bowed my
head and wagged my tail, in token of thanks, and he
understood, and smiled pleasantly. I really did
not want the bread at all, but felt it would be ungracious
to refuse, so I ate it slowly, in order that he might
see that I only did it out of politeness. He
understood this also, and seemed quite willing to let
me stay in his shop, so I sat down, with my face to
the door, to show that I only asked his protection.
This he gave me, and indeed encouraged me to come
into the house itself, giving me a corner where I might
sleep, without being in anybody’s way.
The kindness heaped on me by this
excellent man was far greater than I could ever have
expected. He was always affectionate in his manner
of treating me, and I shared his breakfast, dinner
and supper, while, on my side, I gave him all the
gratitude and attachment to which he had a right.
I sat with my eyes fixed on him, and
he never left the house without having me at his heels;
and if it ever happened that when he was preparing
to go out I was asleep, and did not notice, he would
call “Rufus, Rufus,” for that was the
name he gave me.
Some weeks passed in this way, when
one day a woman came in to buy bread. In paying
for it, she laid down several pieces of money, one
of which was bad. The baker perceived this,
and declined to take it, demanding another in its
place. The woman, for her part, refused to take
it back, declaring it was perfectly good, but the baker
would have nothing to do with it. “It
is really such a bad imitation,” he exclaimed
at last, “that even my dog would not be taken
in. Here Rufus! Rufus!” and hearing
his voice, I jumped on to the counter. The baker
threw down the money before me, and said, “Find
out if there is a bad coin.” I looked
at each in turn, and then laid my paw on the false
one, glancing at the same time at my master, so as
to point it out.
The baker, who had of course been
only in joke, was exceedingly surprised at my cleverness,
and the woman, who was at last convinced that the
man spoke the truth, produced another piece of money
in its place. When she had gone, my master was
so pleased that he told all the neighbours what I
had done, and made a great deal more of it than there
The neighbours, very naturally, declined
to believe his story, and tried me several times with
all the bad money they could collect together, but
I never failed to stand the test triumphantly.
Soon, the shop was filled from morning
till night, with people who on the pretence of buying
bread came to see if I was as clever as I was reported
to be. The baker drove a roaring trade, and admitted
that I was worth my weight in gold to him.
Of course there were plenty who envied
him his large custom, and many was the pitfall set
for me, so that he never dared to let me out of his
sight. One day a woman, who had not been in the
shop before, came to ask for bread, like the rest.
As usual, I was lying on the counter, and she threw
down six coins before me, one of which was false.
I detected it at once, and put my paw on it, looking
as I did so at the woman. “Yes,”
she said, nodding her head. “You are quite
right, that is the one.” She stood gazing
at me attentively for some time, then paid for the
bread, and left the shop, making a sign for me to follow
Now my thoughts were always running
on some means of shaking off the spell laid on me,
and noticing the way in which this woman had looked
at me, the idea entered my head that perhaps she might
have guessed what had happened, and in this I was
not deceived. However I let her go on a little
way, and merely stood at the door watching her.
She turned, and seeing that I was quite still, she
again beckoned to me.
The baker all this while was busy
with his oven, and had forgotten all about me, so
I stole out softly, and ran after the woman.
When we came to her house, which was
some distance off, she opened the door and then said
to me, “Come in, come in; you will never be sorry
that you followed me.” When I had entered
she fastened the door, and took me into a large room,
where a beautiful girl was working at a piece of embroidery.
“My daughter,” exclaimed my guide, “I
have brought you the famous dog belonging to the baker
which can tell good money from bad. You know
that when I first heard of him, I told you I was sure
he must be really a man, changed into a dog by magic.
To-day I went to the baker’s, to prove for
myself the truth of the story, and persuaded the dog
to follow me here. Now what do you say?”
“You are right, mother,”
replied the girl, and rising she dipped her hand into
a vessel of water. Then sprinkling it over me
she said, “If you were born dog, remain dog;
but if you were born man, by virtue of this water
resume your proper form.” In one moment
the spell was broken. The dog’s shape
vanished as if it had never been, and it was a man
who stood before her.
Overcome with gratitude at my deliverance,
I flung myself at her feet, and kissed the hem of
her garment. “How can I thank you for your
goodness towards a stranger, and for what you have
done? Henceforth I am your slave. Deal
with me as you will!”
Then, in order to explain how I came
to be changed into a dog, I told her my whole story,
and finished with rendering the mother the thanks
due to her for the happiness she had brought me.
the daughter, “say no more about the obligation
you are under to us. The knowledge that we have
been of service to you is ample payment. Let
us speak of Amina, your wife, with whom I was acquainted
before her marriage. I was aware that she was
a magician, and she knew too that I had studied the
same art, under the same mistress. We met often
going to the same baths, but we did not like each
other, and never sought to become friends. As
to what concerns you, it is not enough to have broken
your spell, she must be punished for her wickedness.
Remain for a moment with my mother, I beg,”
she added hastily, “I will return shortly.”
Left alone with the mother, I again
expressed the gratitude I felt, to her as well as
to her daughter.
“My daughter,” she answered,
“is, as you see, as accomplished a magician
as Amina herself, but you would be astonished at the
amount of good she does by her knowledge. That
is why I have never interfered, otherwise I should
have put a stop to it long ago.” As she
spoke, her daughter entered with a small bottle in
“Sidi-Nouman,” she said,
“the books I have just consulted tell me that
Amina is not home at present, but she should return
at any moment. I have likewise found out by
their means, that she pretends before the servants
great uneasiness as to your absence. She has
circulated a story that, while at dinner with her,
you remembered some important business that had to
be done at once, and left the house without shutting
the door. By this means a dog had strayed in,
which she was forced to get rid of by a stick.
Go home then without delay, and await Amina’s
return in your room. When she comes in, go down
to meet her, and in her surprise, she will try to
run away. Then have this bottle ready, and dash
the water it contains over her, saying boldly, “Receive
the reward of your crimes.” That is all
I have to tell you.”
Everything happened exactly as the
young magician had foretold. I had not been
in my house many minutes before Amina returned, and
as she approached I stepped in front of her, with
the water in my hand. She gave one loud cry,
and turned to the door, but she was too late.
I had already dashed the water in her face and spoken
the magic words. Amina disappeared, and in her
place stood the horse you saw me beating yesterday.
This, Commander of the Faithful, is
my story, and may I venture to hope that, now you
have heard the reason of my conduct, your Highness
will not think this wicked woman too harshly treated?
the Caliph, “your story is indeed a strange one,
and there is no excuse to be offered for your wife.
But, without condemning your treatment of her, I
wish you to reflect how much she must suffer from
being changed into an animal, and I hope you will let
that punishment be enough. I do not order you
to insist upon the young magician finding the means
to restore your wife to her human shape, because I
know that when once women such as she begin to work
evil they never leave off, and I should only bring
down on your head a vengeance far worse than the one
you have undergone already.”