THE PORTER AND THE THREE GIRLS OF BAGHDAD
N. J. DAWOOD
Once upon a time there lived in the city of Baghdad a young bachelor who was by trade a porter.
One day, as he sat in the marker-place leaning idly against his basket, a young woman, dressed in rare silks and cloaked in a gold-embroidered mantle of Mosul brocade, stopped before him and gently raised her veil. Beneath it there showed dark eyes with long lashes and lineaments of perfect beauty.
“Life up your basket, porter,” she said in a sweet voice, “and follow me.”
At once the porter took up his basket and followed her, thinking to himself; “ This is indeed a blessed day!” Until she stopped at the door of a house and knocked. The door was opened by a Christian, who gave her, in return for a piece of gold, a measure of olives and two casks of wine. These she put into the basket and said to the porter, “Follow me.”
“By Allah,” thought the porter, “this is surely my lucky day!”
He took up his basket and followed her until she stopped at a fruiterer’s, where she bought Syrian apples an Othmani quinces, Peaches from and Sultani citrons, sweet-scented myrtle and henna flowers, chamomile, anemones, violets, sweet-briar and pomegranate-blossom.
All these she put into the basket and again said to the porter, “Follow me.”
She stopped at a butcher’s stall and said to him “cut me ten pounds of meat.” She wrapped the meat in a large banana-leaf and putting it into the basket, ordered the porter to follow her. She next made her way to a grocer’s shop, where she bought pistachios, nuts and raisins, and then to a confectioner’s where she chose a platter of dainty sweetmeats stuffed with almonds and flavored with musk; lemon cakes, pastry, crescents. Zainab’s combs and honey tarts. And all these she placed into the porter’s basket.
“Had you told me,” observed the porter, “ I would have brought a mule to carry all these things!”
The young woman smiled at the porter’s remark and bidding him bold his tongue, stopped at a perfume-seller’s and bought tem different essences, rose-water, willow water and musk-rose dew, tow loaves of sugar, a sprinkling bottle, frankincense, aloe-wood, ambergris and candles of Alexandrine followed her until she came to a magnificent, lofty house facing a great courtyard. Its doors were of ebony plated with gold.