Why You Might Like to Read This Story

9 April 2002

You might like to read the fol­low­ing story, “The Man and His Wife” (from Arabian Nights), for:

  1. the stir­ring use of “wilt” at the end of the third paragraph.
  2. in­struc­tion in the use of the words assiduous, except, orision, perdition, rede, succour, and suffer.
  3. the welcome reminder that women can never, ever, not-at-all be trusted. Es­pe­cially if sex is involved.

The Man and His Wife

… a certain man had a wife whom he loved and honoured, giving ear to her speech and doing ac­cord­ing to her rede. Moreover, he had a garden, which he had newly planted with his own hand, and was wont to go thither every day, to tend and water it. One day his wife asked him “What hast thou planted in they garden?” and he answered, “All thou lovest and desirest, and I am as­sid­u­ous in tending and wa­ter­ing it.” Quoth she, “Wilt thou not carry me thither and show it to me, so I may look upon it and offer thee up a pious prayer for its prosperity, seeing that my orisons are effectual?” Quoth he, “I will well; but have pa­tience with me till the morrow, when I will come and take thee.”

So early on the ensuing day, he carried her to the garden which he entered with her. Now two young men saw them enter from afar and said each to other, “Yonder man is an adul­terer and yonder woman an adultress, and they have not entered this garden but to commit adultery.” There­upon they fol­lowed the couple to see what they would do, and hid them­selves in a corner of the garden.

The man and his wife after en­ter­ing abode awhile therein, and presently he said to her, “Pray me the prayer thou didst promise me;” but she replied, saying, “I will not pray for thee, until thou do away my desire of that which women seek from men.” Cried he, “Out on thee, O woman! Hast thou not thy fill of me in the house? Here I fear scandal, es­pe­cially as thou di­vertest me from my affairs. Fearest thou not that some one will see us?” Quoth she, “We need have no care for that, seeing that we do neither sin nor lewdness; and, as for the wa­ter­ing of the garden, that may wait, because thou canst water it when thou wilt.”

And she would take neither excuse nor reason from him, but was in­sis­tant with him in seeking carnal coition. So he arose and lay with her, which when the young men afore­said saw, they ran upon them and seized them, saying, “We will not let you go, for ye are adulterers, and except we have carnal knowl­edge of the woman, we will report you to the police.” An­swered the man, “Fie upon you! This is my wife and I am the master of the garden.” They paid no heed to him, but fell upon the woman, who cried out to him for succour, saying, “Suffer them not to defile me!” Ac­cord­ingly he came up to them, calling out for help; but one of them turned on him and smote him with his dagger and slew him. After slaying the husband the two young men re­turned to the wife and rav­ished her.

“This I tell thee, O King,” con­tin­ued the Wazir, “but that thou mayest know that it be­cometh not men to give ear unto a woman’s talk neither obey her in aught nor accept her judg­ment in counsel. Beware, then, lest thou don the dress of ignorance, after the robe of knowl­edge and wisdom, and follow per­verse rede, after knowing that which is right­eous and profitable. Where­upon pursue thou not a paltry pleasure, whose trend­ing is to cor­rup­tion and whose in­clin­ing is unto sore and ut­ter­most perdition.”

(tr. Sir Richard Burton)