The Twenty-Ninth Night
The following night Dinarzad said to her sister Shahrazad, “Sister, if you are not sleepy, tell us one of your little tales to while away the night.” Shahrazad replied, “I hear and obey”:
I hear, O wise and happy King, that as the porter stood with the basket, at the door, behind the girl, marveling at her beauty, her charm, and her elegant, eloquent, and liberal ways, the door was unlocked, and the two leaves swung open. The porter, looking to see who opened the door, saw a full-bosomed girl, about five feet tall. She was all charm, beauty, and perfect grace, with a forehead like the new moon, eyes like those of a deer or wild heifer, eyebrows like the crescent in the mouth of Sha’ban, cheeks like red anemones, mouth like the seal of Solomon, lips like red carnelian, teeth like a row of pearls set in coral, neck like a cake for a king, bosom like a fountain, breasts like a pair of big pomegranates resembling a rabbit with uplifted ears, and a belly with a navel like a cup that holds a pound of benzoin ointment. She was like her of whom the poet aptly said:
On stately sun and full moon cast your sight;
Savor the flowers and lavender’s delight.
Your eyes have never seen such white in black,
Such radiant face with hair so deeply dark.
With rosy cheeks, Beauty proclaimed her name,
To those who had not yet received her fame.
Her swaying heavy hips I joyed to see,
But her sweet, slender waist brought tears to me.
When the porter saw her, he lost his senses and his wits, and the basket nearly fell from his head, as he exclaimed, “Never in my life have I seen a more blessed day then this!” Then the girl who had opened the door said to the girl who had done the shopping, “Sister, what are you waiting for? Come in and relieve this poor man of his heavy burden.” The shopper and the porter went in, and the doorkeeper locked the door and followed them until they came to a spacious, well-appointed, and splendid hall. It had arched compartments and niches with carved woodwork; it had a booth hung with drapes; and it had closets and cupboards covered with curtains. In the middle stood a large pool full of water, with a fountain in the center, and at the far end stood a couch of black juniper wood, covered with white silk and set with gems and pearls as big as hazelnuts or bigger. The curtain was unfastened, and a dazzling girl emerged, with genial charm, wise mien, and features as radiant as the moon. She had an elegant figure, the scent of ambergris, sugared lips, Babylonian eyes, with eyebrows as arched as a pair of bent bows, and a face whose radiance put the shining sun to shame, for she was like a great star soaring in the heavens, or a dome of gold, or an unveiled bride, or a splendid fish swimming in a fountain, or a morsel of luscious fat in a bowl of milk soup. She was like her of whom the poet said:
Her smile reveals twin rows of pearls
Or white daisies or pearly hail.
Her forelock like the night unfurls;
Before her light the sun is pale.
The third girl rose from the couch and strutted slowly until she joined her sisters in the middle of the hall, saying, “Why are you standing? Lift the load off this poor man.” The doorkeeper stood in front of the porter, and the shopper stood behind him, and with the help of the third girl, they lifted the basket down and emptied its contents, stacking up the fruits and pickles on one side and the flowers and fresh herbs on the other. When everything was arranged, they gave the porter one dinar and said…
But morning overtook Shahrazad, and she lapsed into silence. Then Dinarzad said to her sister Shahrazad, “What an amazing and entertaining story!” Shahrazad replied, “If I am alive tomorrow night, I shall tell you something stranger and more amazing than this.”