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Story of the envious man.
From Arabian Nights Entertainments by Andrew Lang.
Start of Story
Age Rating 8 Plus.
In a town of moderate size, two men lived in neighbouring houses; but
they had not been there very long before one man took such a hatred of
the other, and envied him so bitterly, that the poor man determined to
find another home, hoping that when they no longer met every day his
enemy would forget all about him. So he sold his house and the little
furniture it contained, and moved into the capital of the country,
which was luckily at no great distance. About half a mile from this
city he bought a nice little place, with a large garden and a
fair-sized court, in the centre of which stood an old well.
In order to live a quieter life, the good man put on the robe of a
dervish, and divided his house into a quantity of small cells, where he
soon established a number of other dervishes. The fame of his virtue
gradually spread abroad, and many people, including several of the
highest quality, came to visit him and ask his prayers.
Of course it was not long before his reputation reached the ears of the
man who envied him, and this wicked wretch resolved never to rest till
he had in some way worked ill to the dervish whom he hated. So he left
his house and his business to look after themselves, and betook himself
to the new dervish monastery, where he was welcomed by the founder with
all the warmth imaginable. The excuse he gave for his appearance was
that he had come to consult the chief of the dervishes on a private
matter of great importance. "What I have to say must not be
overheard," he whispered; "command, I beg of you, that your dervishes
retire into their cells, as night is approaching, and meet me in the
The dervish did as he was asked without delay, and directly they were
alone together the envious man began to tell a long story, edging, as
they walked to and fro, always nearer to the well, and when they were
quite close, he seized the dervish and dropped him in. He then ran off
triumphantly, without having been seen by anyone, and congratulating
himself that the object of his hatred was dead, and would trouble him
But in this he was mistaken! The old well had long been inhabited
(unknown to mere human beings) by a set of fairies and genii, who
caught the dervish as he fell, so that he received no hurt. The
dervish himself could see nothing, but he took for granted that
something strange had happened, or he must certainly have been dashed
against the side of the well and been killed. He lay quite still, and
in a moment he heard a voice saying, "Can you guess whom this man is
that we have saved from death?"
"No," replied several other voices.
And the first speaker answered, "I will tell you. This man, from pure
goodness of heart, forsook the town where he lived and came to dwell
here, in the hope of curing one of his neighbours of the envy he felt
towards him. But his character soon won him the esteem of all, and the
envious man's hatred grew, till he came here with the deliberate
intention of causing his death. And this he would have done, without
our help, the very day before the Sultan has arranged to visit this
holy dervish, and to entreat his prayers for the princess, his
"But what is the matter with the princess that she needs the dervish's
prayers?" asked another voice.
"She has fallen into the power of the genius Maimoum, the son of
Dimdim," replied the first voice. "But it would be quite simple for
this holy chief of the dervishes to cure her if he only knew! In his
convent there is a black cat which has a tiny white tip to its tail.
Now to cure the princess the dervish must pull out seven of these white
hairs, burn three, and with their smoke perfume the head of the
princess. This will deliver her so completely that Maimoum, the son of
Dimdim, will never dare to approach her again."
The fairies and genii ceased talking, but the dervish did not forget a
word of all they had said; and when morning came he perceived a place
in the side of the well which was broken, and where he could easily
The dervishes, who could not imagine what had become of him, were
enchanted at his reappearance. He told them of the attempt on his life
made by his guest of the previous day, and then retired into his cell.
He was soon joined here by the black cat of which the voice had spoken,
who came as usual to say good-morning to his master. He took him on
his knee and seized the opportunity to pull seven white hairs out of
his tail, and put them on one side till they were needed.
The sun had not long risen before the Sultan, who was anxious to leave
nothing undone that might deliver the princess, arrived with a large
suite at the gate of the monastery, and was received by the dervishes
with profound respect. The Sultan lost no time in declaring the object
of his visit, and leading the chief of the dervishes aside, he said to
him, "Noble scheik, you have guessed perhaps what I have come to ask
"Yes, sire," answered the dervish; "if I am not mistaken, it is the
illness of the princess which has procured me this honour."
"You are right," returned the Sultan, "and you will give me fresh life
if you can by your prayers deliver my daughter from the strange malady
that has taken possession of her."
"Let your highness command her to come here, and I will see what I can
The Sultan, full of hope, sent orders at once that the princess was to
set out as soon as possible, accompanied by her usual staff of
attendants. When she arrived, she was so thickly veiled that the
dervish could not see her face, but he desired a brazier to be held
over her head, and laid the seven hairs on the burning coals. The
instant they were consumed, terrific cries were heard, but no one could
tell from whom they proceeded. Only the dervish guessed that they were
uttered by Maimoum the son of Dimdim, who felt the princess escaping
All this time she had seemed unconscious of what she was doing, but now
she raised her hand to her veil and uncovered her face. "Where am I?"
she said in a bewildered manner; "and how did I get here?"
The Sultan was so delighted to hear these words that he not only
embraced his daughter, but kissed the hand of the dervish. Then,
turning to his attendants who stood round, he said to them, "What
reward shall I give to the man who has restored me my daughter?"
They all replied with one accord that he deserved the hand of the
"That is my own opinion," said he, "and from this moment I declare him
to be my son-in-law."
Shortly after these events, the grand-vizir died, and his post was
given to the dervish. But he did not hold it for long, for the Sultan
fell a victim to an attack of illness, and as he had no sons, the
soldiers and priests declared the dervish heir to the throne, to the
great joy of all the people.
One day, when the dervish, who had now become Sultan, was making a
royal progress with his court, he perceived the envious man standing in
the crowd. He made a sign to one of his vizirs, and whispered in his
ear, "Fetch me that man who is standing out there, but take great care
not to frighten him." The vizir obeyed, and when the envious man was
brought before the Sultan, the monarch said to him, "My friend, I am
delighted to see you again." Then turning to an officer, he added,
"Give him a thousand pieces of gold out of my treasury, and twenty
waggon-loads of merchandise out of my private stores, and let an escort
of soldiers accompany him home." He then took leave of the envious
man, and went on his way.
Now when I had ended my story, I proceeded to show the genius how to
apply it to himself. "O genius," I said, "you see that this Sultan was
not content with merely forgiving the envious man for the attempt on
his life; he heaped rewards and riches upon him."
But the genius had made up his mind, and could not be softened. "Do
not imagine that you are going to escape so easily," he said. "All I
can do is to give you bare life; you will have to learn what happens to
people who interfere with me."