THE THREE CALENDERS 57
and after some discussion it was agreed that he should be allowed to stay, as his society might prove entertaining. t But listen, friend,' said Zobeida, ' if we grant your request, it is only on condition that you behave with the utmost politeness, and that you keep the secret of our way of living, which chance has revealed to you.' Then they all sat down to table, which had been covered by Amina with the dishes she had bought.
After the first few mouthfuls Amina poured some wine into a golden cup. She first drank herself, according to the Arab custom, and then filled it for her sisters. When it came to the porter's turn he kissed Amina's hand, and sang a song, which he composed at the moment in praise of the wine. The three ladies were pleased with the song, and then sang themselves, so that the repast was a merry one, and lasted much longer than usual.
At length, seeing that the sun was about to set, Sadie said to the porter, ' Rise and go; it is now time for us to separate.'
' Oh, madam,' replied he, 'how can you desire me to quit you in the state in which I am ? Between the wine I have drunk, and the pleasure of seeing you, I should never find the way to my house. Let me remain here till morning, and when I have recovered my senses I will go when you like.'
' Let him stay,' said Amina, who had before proved herself his friend. ' It is only just, as he has given us so much amusement.'
' If you wish it, my sister,' replied Zobeida; 'but if he does, I must make a new condition. Porter,' she continued, turning to him, ' if you remain, you must promise to ask no questions about anything you may see. If you do, you may perhaps hear what you don't like.'
This being settled, Amina brought in supper, and lit up the hall with a number of sweet smelling tapers. They then sat down again at the table, and began with fresh appetites to eat, drink, sing, and recite verses. In