14 THE ARABIAN NIGHTS
To celebrate it I ordered my steward to bring me a very fat cow to sacrifice. He did so. The cow that he brought was my unfortunate slave. I bound her, but just as I was about to kill her she began to low most piteously, and I saw that her eyes were streaming with tears. It seemed to me most extraordinary, and, feeling a movement of pity, I ordered the steward to lead her away and bring another. My wife, who was present, scoffed at my compassion, which made her malice of no avail. 'What are you doing?' she cried. 'Kill this cow. It is the best we have to sacrifice.'
To please her I tried again, but again the animal's lows and tears disarmed me.
' Take her away,' I said to the steward, ' and kill her ; I cannot.'
The steward killed her, but on skinning her found that she was nothing but bones, although she appeared so fat. I was vexed.
'Keep her for yourself,' I said to the steward, 'and if you have a fat calf bring that in her stead.'
In a short time he brought a very fat calf, which, although I did not know it, was my son. It tried hard to break its cord and come to me. It threw itself at my feet, with its head on the ground, as if it wished to excite my pity, and to beg me not to take away its life.
I was even more surprised and touched at this action than I had been at the tears of the cow.
' Go,' I said to the steward, ' take back this calf, take great care of it, and bring me another in its place instantly.'
As soon as my wife heard me speak this she at once cried out, ' What are you doing, husband ? Do not sacrifice any calf but this.'
' Wife,' I answered, ' I will not sacrifice this calf,' and, in spite of all her remonstrances, I remained firm.
I had another calf killed; this one was led away. The next day the steward asked to speak to me in private.