6 THE ARABIAN NIGHTS
THE STORY OF THE MERCHANT AND THE GENIUS
Sire, there was once upon a time a merchant who possessed great wealth, in land and merchandise, as well as in ready money. He was obliged from time to time to take journeys to arrange his affairs. One day, having to go a long way from home, he mounted his horse, taking with him a small wallet in which he had put a few biscuits and dates, because he had to pass through a desert where no food was to be got. He arrived without any mishap, and, having finished his business, set out on his return. On the fourth day of his journey, the heat of the sun being very great, he turned out of his road to rest under some trees. He found at the foot of a large walnut-tree a fountain of clear and running water. He dismounted, fastened his horse to a branch of the tree, and sat down by the fountain, after having taken from his wallet some of his dates and biscuits. Whilst eating the dates he threw the stones right and left. When he had finished this frugal meal he washed his face and hands in the fountain.
Whilst he was thus employed he saw an enormous genius, white with rage, coming towards him, with a scimitar in his hand.
' Arise,' he cried in a terrible voice, ' and let me kill you as you have killed my son!'
As he uttered these words he gave a frightful yell. The merchant, quite as much terrified at the hideous face of the monster as at his words, answered him tremblingly,