Edgar Allan Poe

The Thousand-And-Second Tale of Scheherazade

Truth is stranger than fiction.


HAVING had occasion, lately, in the course of some Oriental investigations, to 
consult the Tellmenow Isitsoornot, a work which (like the Zohar of Simeon 
Jochaides) is scarcely known at all, even in Europe; and which has never been 
quoted, to my knowledge, by any American–if we except, perhaps, the author of 
the "Curiosities of American Literature";–having had occasion, I say, to turn 
over some pages of the first–mentioned very remarkable work, I was not a little 
astonished to discover that the literary world has hitherto been strangely in 
error respecting the fate of the vizier's daughter, Scheherazade, as that fate 
is depicted in the "Arabian Nights"; and that the denouement there given, if not 
altogether inaccurate, as far as it goes, is at least to blame in not having 
gone very much farther.

For full information on this interesting topic, I must refer the inquisitive 
reader to the "Isitsoornot" itself, but in the meantime, I shall be pardoned for 
giving a summary of what I there discovered.

It will be remembered, that, in the usual version of the tales, a certain 
monarch having good cause to be jealous of his queen, not only puts her to 
death, but makes a vow, by his beard and the prophet, to espouse each night the 
most beautiful maiden in his dominions, and the next morning to deliver her up 
to the executioner.

Having fulfilled this vow for many years to the letter, and with a religious 
punctuality and method that conferred great credit upon him as a man of devout 
feeling and excellent sense, he was interrupted one afternoon (no doubt at his 
prayers) by a visit from his grand vizier, to whose daughter, it appears, there 
had occurred an idea.

Her name was Scheherazade, and her idea was, that she would either redeem the 
land from the depopulating tax upon its beauty, or perish, after the approved 
fashion of all heroines, in the attempt.

Accordingly, and although we do not find it to be leap-year (which makes the 
sacrifice more meritorious), she deputes her father, the grand vizier, to make 
an offer to the king of her hand. This hand the king eagerly accepts–(he had 
intended to take it at all events, and had put off the matter from day to day, 
only through fear of the vizier),–but, in accepting it now, he gives all parties 
very distinctly to understand, that, grand vizier or no grand vizier, he has not 
the slightest design of giving up one iota of his vow or of his privileges. 
When, therefore, the fair Scheherazade insisted upon marrying the king, and did 
actually marry him despite her father's excellent advice not to do any thing of 
the kind–when she would and did marry him, I say, will I, nill I, it was with 
her beautiful black eyes as thoroughly open as the nature of the case would 

It seems, however, that this politic damsel (who had been reading Machiavelli, 
beyond doubt), had a very ingenious little plot in her mind. On the night of the 
wedding, she contrived, upon I forget what specious pretence, to have her sister 
occupy a couch sufficiently near that of the royal pair to admit of easy 
conversation from bed to bed; and, a little before cock-crowing, she took care 
to awaken the good monarch, her husband (who bore her none the worse will 
because he intended to wring her neck on the morrow),–she managed to awaken him, 
I say, (although on account of a capital conscience and an easy digestion, he 
slept well) by the profound interest of a story (about a rat and a black cat, I 
think) which she was narrating (all in an undertone, of course) to her sister. 
When the day broke, it so happened that this history was not altogether 
finished, and that Scheherazade, in the nature of things could not finish it 
just then, since it was high time for her to get up and be bowstrung–a thing 
very little more pleasant than hanging, only a trifle more genteel.

The king's curiosity, however, prevailing, I am sorry to say, even over his 
sound religious principles, induced him for this once to postpone the fulfilment 
of his vow until next morning, for the purpose and with the hope of hearing that 
night how it fared in the end with the black cat (a black cat, I think it was) 
and the rat.

The night having arrived, however, the lady Scheherazade not only put the 
finishing stroke to the black cat and the rat (the rat was blue) but before she 
well knew what she was about, found herself deep in the intricacies of a 
narration, having reference (if I am not altogether mistaken) to a pink horse 
(with green wings) that went, in a violent manner, by clockwork, and was wound 
up with an indigo key. With this history the king was even more profoundly 
interested than with the other–and, as the day broke before its conclusion 
(notwithstanding all the queen's endeavors to get through with it in time for 
the bowstringing), there was again no resource but to postpone that ceremony as 
before, for twenty-four hours. The next night there happened a similar accident 
with a similar result; and then the next–and then again the next; so that, in 
the end, the good monarch, having been unavoidably deprived of all opportunity 
to keep his vow during a period of no less than one thousand and one nights, 
either forgets it altogether by the expiration of this time, or gets himself 
absolved of it in the regular way, or (what is more probable) breaks it 
outright, as well as the head of his father confessor. At all events, 
Scheherazade, who, being lineally descended from Eve, fell heir, perhaps, to the 
whole seven baskets of talk, which the latter lady, we all know, picked up from 
under the trees in the garden of Eden-Scheherazade, I say, finally triumphed, 
and the tariff upon beauty was repealed.

Now, this conclusion (which is that of the story as we have it upon record) is, 
no doubt, excessively proper and pleasant–but alas! like a great many pleasant 
things, is more pleasant than true, and I am indebted altogether to the 
"Isitsoornot" for the means of correcting the error. "Le mieux," says a French 
proverb, "est l'ennemi du bien," and, in mentioning that Scheherazade had 
inherited the seven baskets of talk, I should have added that she put them out 
at compound interest until they amounted to seventy-seven.

"My dear sister," said she, on the thousand-and-second night, (I quote the 
language of the "Isitsoornot" at this point, verbatim) "my dear sister," said 
she, "now that all this little difficulty about the bowstring has blown over, 
and that this odious tax is so happily repealed, I feel that I have been guilty 
of great indiscretion in withholding from you and the king (who I am sorry to 
say, snores–a thing no gentleman would do) the full conclusion of Sinbad the 
sailor. This person went through numerous other and more interesting adventures 
than those which I related; but the truth is, I felt sleepy on the particular 
night of their narration, and so was seduced into cutting them short–a grievous 
piece of misconduct, for which I only trust that Allah will forgive me. But even 
yet it is not too late to remedy my great neglect–and as soon as I have given 
the king a pinch or two in order to wake him up so far that he may stop making 
that horrible noise, I will forthwith entertain you (and him if he pleases) with 
the sequel of this very remarkable story.

Hereupon the sister of Scheherazade, as I have it from the "Isitsoornot," 
expressed no very particular intensity of gratification; but the king, having 
been sufficiently pinched, at length ceased snoring, and finally said, "hum!" 
and then "hoo!" when the queen, understanding these words (which are no doubt 
Arabic) to signify that he was all attention, and would do his best not to snore 
any more–the queen, I say, having arranged these matters to her satisfaction, 
re-entered thus, at once, into the history of Sinbad the sailor:

"'At length, in my old age, [these are the words of Sinbad himself, as retailed 
by Scheherazade]–'at length, in my old age, and after enjoying many years of 
tranquillity at home, I became once more possessed of a desire of visiting 
foreign countries; and one day, without acquainting any of my family with my 
design, I packed up some bundles of such merchandise as was most precious and 
least bulky, and, engaged a porter to carry them, went with him down to the sea-
shore, to await the arrival of any chance vessel that might convey me out of the 
kingdom into some region which I had not as yet explored.

"'Having deposited the packages upon the sands, we sat down beneath some trees, 
and looked out into the ocean in the hope of perceiving a ship, but during 
several hours we saw none whatever. At length I fancied that I could hear a 
singular buzzing or humming sound; and the porter, after listening awhile, 
declared that he also could distinguish it. Presently it grew louder, and then 
still louder, so that we could have no doubt that the object which caused it was 
approaching us. At length, on the edge of the horizon, we discovered a black 
speck, which rapidly increased in size until we made it out to be a vast 
monster, swimming with a great part of its body above the surface of the sea. It 
came toward us with inconceivable swiftness, throwing up huge waves of foam 
around its breast, and illuminating all that part of the sea through which it 
passed, with a long line of fire that extended far off into the distance.

"'As the thing drew near we saw it very distinctly. Its length was equal to that 
of three of the loftiest trees that grow, and it was as wide as the great hall 
of audience in your palace, O most sublime and munificent of the Caliphs. Its 
body, which was unlike that of ordinary fishes, was as solid as a rock, and of a 
jetty blackness throughout all that portion of it which floated above the water, 
with the exception of a narrow blood-red streak that completely begirdled it. 
The belly, which floated beneath the surface, and of which we could get only a 
glimpse now and then as the monster rose and fell with the billows, was entirely 
covered with metallic scales, of a color like that of the moon in misty weather. 
The back was flat and nearly white, and from it there extended upwards of six 
spines, about half the length of the whole body.

"'The horrible creature had no mouth that we could perceive, but, as if to make 
up for this deficiency, it was provided with at least four score of eyes, that 
protruded from their sockets like those of the green dragon-fly, and were 
arranged all around the body in two rows, one above the other, and parallel to 
the blood-red streak, which seemed to answer the purpose of an eyebrow. Two or 
three of these dreadful eyes were much larger than the others, and had the 
appearance of solid gold.

"'Although this beast approached us, as I have before said, with the greatest 
rapidity, it must have been moved altogether by necromancy- for it had neither 
fins like a fish nor web-feet like a duck, nor wings like the seashell which is 
blown along in the manner of a vessel; nor yet did it writhe itself forward as 
do the eels. Its head and its tail were shaped precisely alike, only, not far 
from the latter, were two small holes that served for nostrils, and through 
which the monster puffed out its thick breath with prodigious violence, and with 
a shrieking, disagreeable noise.

"'Our terror at beholding this hideous thing was very great, but it was even 
surpassed by our astonishment, when upon getting a nearer look, we perceived 
upon the creature's back a vast number of animals about the size and shape of 
men, and altogether much resembling them, except that they wore no garments (as 
men do), being supplied (by nature, no doubt) with an ugly uncomfortable 
covering, a good deal like cloth, but fitting so tight to the skin, as to render 
the poor wretches laughably awkward, and put them apparently to severe pain. On 
the very tips of their heads were certain square-looking boxes, which, at first 
sight, I thought might have been intended to answer as turbans, but I soon 
discovered that they were excessively heavy and solid, and I therefore concluded 
they were contrivances designed, by their great weight, to keep the heads of the 
animals steady and safe upon their shoulders. Around the necks of the creatures 
were fastened black collars, (badges of servitude, no doubt,) such as we keep on 
our dogs, only much wider and infinitely stiffer, so that it was quite 
impossible for these poor victims to move their heads in any direction without 
moving the body at the same time; and thus they were doomed to perpetual 
contemplation of their noses–a view puggish and snubby in a wonderful, if not 
positively in an awful degree.

"'When the monster had nearly reached the shore where we stood, it suddenly 
pushed out one of its eyes to a great extent, and emitted from it a terrible 
flash of fire, accompanied by a dense cloud of smoke, and a noise that I can 
compare to nothing but thunder. As the smoke cleared away, we saw one of the odd 
man-animals standing near the head of the large beast with a trumpet in his 
hand, through which (putting it to his mouth) he presently addressed us in loud, 
harsh, and disagreeable accents, that, perhaps, we should have mistaken for 
language, had they not come altogether through the nose.

"'Being thus evidently spoken to, I was at a loss how to reply, as I could in no 
manner understand what was said; and in this difficulty I turned to the porter, 
who was near swooning through affright, and demanded of him his opinion as to 
what species of monster it was, what it wanted, and what kind of creatures those 
were that so swarmed upon its back. To this the porter replied, as well as he 
could for trepidation, that he had once before heard of this sea-beast; that it 
was a cruel demon, with bowels of sulphur and blood of fire, created by evil 
genii as the means of inflicting misery upon mankind; that the things upon its 
back were vermin, such as sometimes infest cats and dogs, only a little larger 
and more savage; and that these vermin had their uses, however evil–for, through 
the torture they caused the beast by their nibbling and stingings, it was goaded 
into that degree of wrath which was requisite to make it roar and commit ill, 
and so fulfil the vengeful and malicious designs of the wicked genii.

"This account determined me to take to my heels, and, without once even looking 
behind me, I ran at full speed up into the hills, while the porter ran equally 
fast, although nearly in an opposite direction, so that, by these means, he 
finally made his escape with my bundles, of which I have no doubt he took 
excellent care–although this is a point I cannot determine, as I do not remember 
that I ever beheld him again.

"'For myself, I was so hotly pursued by a swarm of the men-vermin (who had come 
to the shore in boats) that I was very soon overtaken, bound hand and foot, and 
conveyed to the beast, which immediately swam out again into the middle of the 

"'I now bitterly repented my folly in quitting a comfortable home to peril my 
life in such adventures as this; but regret being useless, I made the best of my 
condition, and exerted myself to secure the goodwill of the man-animal that 
owned the trumpet, and who appeared to exercise authority over his fellows. I 
succeeded so well in this endeavor that, in a few days, the creature bestowed 
upon me various tokens of his favor, and in the end even went to the trouble of 
teaching me the rudiments of what it was vain enough to denominate its language; 
so that, at length, I was enabled to converse with it readily, and came to make 
it comprehend the ardent desire I had of seeing the world.

"'Washish squashish squeak, Sinbad, hey-diddle diddle, grunt unt grumble, hiss, 
fiss, whiss,' said he to me, one day after dinner- but I beg a thousand pardons, 
I had forgotten that your majesty is not conversant with the dialect of the 
Cock-neighs (so the man-animals were called; I presume because their language 
formed the connecting link between that of the horse and that of the rooster). 
With your permission, I will translate. 'Washish squashish,' and so forth:–that 
is to say, 'I am happy to find, my dear Sinbad, that you are really a very 
excellent fellow; we are now about doing a thing which is called 
circumnavigating the globe; and since you are so desirous of seeing the world, I 
will strain a point and give you a free passage upon back of the beast.'"

When the Lady Scheherazade had proceeded thus far, relates the "Isitsoornot," 
the king turned over from his left side to his right, and said:

"It is, in fact, very surprising, my dear queen, that you omitted, hitherto, 
these latter adventures of Sinbad. Do you know I think them exceedingly 
entertaining and strange?"

The king having thus expressed himself, we are told, the fair Scheherazade 
resumed her history in the following words:

"Sinbad went on in this manner with his narrative to the caliph- 'I thanked the 
man-animal for its kindness, and soon found myself very much at home on the 
beast, which swam at a prodigious rate through the ocean; although the surface 
of the latter is, in that part of the world, by no means flat, but round like a 
pomegranate, so that we went–so to say–either up hill or down hill all the 

"That I think, was very singular," interrupted the king.

"Nevertheless, it is quite true," replied Scheherazade.

"I have my doubts," rejoined the king; "but, pray, be so good as to go on with 
the story."

"I will," said the queen. "'The beast,' continued Sinbad to the caliph, 'swam, 
as I have related, up hill and down hill until, at length, we arrived at an 
island, many hundreds of miles in circumference, but which, nevertheless, had 
been built in the middle of the sea by a colony of little things like 

"Hum!" said the king.

"'Leaving this island,' said Sinbad–(for Scheherazade, it must be understood, 
took no notice of her husband's ill-mannered ejaculation) 'leaving this island, 
we came to another where the forests were of solid stone, and so hard that they 
shivered to pieces the finest-tempered axes with which we endeavoured to cut 
them down."'<2>

This account, at first discredited, has since been corroborated by the discovery 
of a completely petrified forest, near the head waters of the Cheyenne, or 
Chienne river, which has its source in the Black Hills of the rocky chain.

There is scarcely, perhaps, a spectacle on the surface of the globe more 
remarkable, either in a geological or picturesque point of view than that 
presented by the petrified forest, near Cairo. The traveller, having passed the 
tombs of the caliphs, just beyond the gates of the city, proceeds to the 
southward, nearly at right angles to the road across the desert to Suez, and 
after having travelled some ten miles up a low barren valley, covered with sand, 
gravel, and sea shells, fresh as if the tide had retired but yesterday, crosses 
a low range of sandhills, which has for some distance run parallel to his path. 
The scene now presented to him is beyond conception singular and desolate. A 
mass of fragments of trees, all converted into stone, and when struck by his 
horse's hoof ringing like cast iron, is seen to extend itself for miles and 
miles around him, in the form of a decayed and prostrate forest. The wood is of 
a dark brown hue, but retains its form in perfection, the pieces being from one 
to fifteen feet in length, and from half a foot to three feet in thickness, 
strewed so closely together, as far as the eye can reach, that an Egyptian 
donkey can scarcely thread its way through amongst them, and so natural that, 
were it in Scotland or Ireland, it might pass without remark for some enormous 
drained bog, on which the exhumed trees lay rotting in the sun. The roots and 
rudiments of the branches are, in many cases, nearly perfect, and in some the 
worm-holes eaten under the bark are readily recognizable. The most delicate of 
the sap vessels, and all the finer portions of the centre of the wood, are 
perfectly entire, and bear to be examined with the strongest magnifiers. The 
whole are so thoroughly silicified as to scratch glass and are capable of 
receiving the highest polish.- Asiatic Magazine.

"Hum!" said the king, again; but Scheherazade, paying him no attention, 
continued in the language of Sinbad.

"'Passing beyond this last island, we reached a country where there was a cave 
that ran to the distance of thirty or forty miles within the bowels of the 
earth, and that contained a greater number of far more spacious and more 
magnificent palaces than are to be found in all Damascus and Bagdad. From the 
roofs of these palaces there hung myriads of gems, liked diamonds, but larger 
than men; and in among the streets of towers and pyramids and temples, there 
flowed immense rivers as black as ebony, and swarming with fish that had no 

"Hum!" said the king.

"'We then swam into a region of the sea where we found a lofty mountain, down 
whose sides there streamed torrents of melted metal, some of which were twelve 
miles wide and sixty miles long<4>; while from an abyss on the summit, issued so 
vast a quantity of ashes that the sun was entirely blotted out from the heavens, 
and it became darker than the darkest midnight; so that when we were even at the 
distance of a hundred and fifty miles from the mountain, it was impossible to 
see the whitest object, however close we held it to our eyes.'"<5>

"Hum!" said the king.

"'After quitting this coast, the beast continued his voyage until we met with a 
land in which the nature of things seemed reversed–for we here saw a great lake, 
at the bottom of which, more than a hundred feet beneath the surface of the 
water, there flourished in full leaf a forest of tall and luxuriant trees.'"<6>

"Hoo!" said the king.

"Some hundred miles farther on brought us to a climate where the atmosphere was 
so dense as to sustain iron or steel, just as our own does feather.'"<7>

"Fiddle de dee," said the king.

"Proceeding still in the same direction, we presently arrived at the most 
magnificent region in the whole world. Through it there meandered a glorious 
river for several thousands of miles. This river was of unspeakable depth, and 
of a transparency richer than that of amber. It was from three to six miles in 
width; and its banks which arose on either side to twelve hundred feet in 
perpendicular height, were crowned with ever-blossoming trees and perpetual 
sweet-scented flowers, that made the whole territory one gorgeous garden; but 
the name of this luxuriant land was the Kingdom of Horror, and to enter it was 
inevitable death'"<8>

"Humph!" said the king.

"'We left this kingdom in great haste, and, after some days, came to another, 
where we were astonished to perceive myriads of monstrous animals with horns 
resembling scythes upon their heads. These hideous beasts dig for themselves 
vast caverns in the soil, of a funnel shape, and line the sides of them with, 
rocks, so disposed one upon the other that they fall instantly, when trodden 
upon by other animals, thus precipitating them into the monster's dens, where 
their blood is immediately sucked, and their carcasses afterwards hurled 
contemptuously out to an immense distance from "the caverns of death."'"<9>

"Pooh!" said the king.

"'Continuing our progress, we perceived a district with vegetables that grew not 
upon any soil but in the air.<10> There were others that sprang from the 
substance of other vegetables;<11> others that derived their substance from the 
bodies of living animals;<12> and then again, there were others that glowed all 
over with intense fire;<13> others that moved from place to place at 
pleasure,<14> and what was still more wonderful, we discovered flowers that 
lived and breathed and moved their limbs at will and had, moreover, the 
detestable passion of mankind for enslaving other creatures, and confining them 
in horrid and solitary prisons until the fulfillment of appointed tasks.'"<15>

"Pshaw!" said the king.

"'Quitting this land, we soon arrived at another in which the bees and the birds 
are mathematicians of such genius and erudition, that they give daily 
instructions in the science of geometry to the wise men of the empire. The king 
of the place having offered a reward for the solution of two very difficult 
problems, they were solved upon the spot–the one by the bees, and the other by 
the birds; but the king keeping their solution a secret, it was only after the 
most profound researches and labor, and the writing of an infinity of big books, 
during a long series of years, that the men-mathematicians at length arrived at 
the identical solutions which had been given upon the spot by the bees and by 
the birds.'"<16>

During the latter part of the last century, the question arose among 
mathematicians–"to determine the best form that can be given to the sails of a 
windmill, according to their varying distances from the revolving vanes, and 
likewise from the centres of the revolution." This is an excessively complex 
problem, for it is, in other words, to find the best possible position at an 
infinity of varied distances, and at an infinity of points on the arm. There 
were a thousand futile attempts to answer the query on the part of the most 
illustrious mathematicians; and when, at length, an undeniable solution was 
discovered, men found that the wing of a bird had given it with absolute 
precision ever since the first bird had traversed the air.

"Oh my!" said the king.

"'We had scarcely lost sight of this empire when we found ourselves close upon 
another, from whose shores there flew over our heads a flock of fowls a mile in 
breadth, and two hundred and forty miles long; so that, although they flew a 
mile during every minute, it required no less than four hours for the whole 
flock to pass over us–in which there were several millions of millions of 

"Oh fy!" said the king.

"'No sooner had we got rid of these birds, which occasioned us great annoyance, 
than we were terrified by the appearance of a fowl of another kind, and 
infinitely larger than even the rocs which I met in my former voyages; for it 
was bigger than the biggest of the domes on your seraglio, oh, most Munificent 
of Caliphs. This terrible fowl had no head that we could perceive, but was 
fashioned entirely of belly, which was of a prodigious fatness and roundness, of 
a soft-looking substance, smooth, shining and striped with various colors. In 
its talons, the monster was bearing away to his eyrie in the heavens, a house 
from which it had knocked off the roof, and in the interior of which we 
distinctly saw human beings, who, beyond doubt, were in a state of frightful 
despair at the horrible fate which awaited them. We shouted with all our might, 
in the hope of frightening the bird into letting go of its prey, but it merely 
gave a snort or puff, as if of rage and then let fall upon our heads a heavy 
sack which proved to be filled with sand!'"

"Stuff!" said the king.

"'It was just after this adventure that we encountered a continent of immense 
extent and prodigious solidity, but which, nevertheless, was supported entirely 
upon the back of a sky-blue cow that had no fewer than four hundred horns.'"<18>

"That, now, I believe," said the king, "because I have read something of the 
kind before, in a book."

"'We passed immediately beneath this continent, (swimming in between the legs of 
the cow, and, after some hours, found ourselves in a wonderful country indeed, 
which, I was informed by the man-animal, was his own native land, inhabited by 
things of his own species. This elevated the man-animal very much in my esteem, 
and in fact, I now began to feel ashamed of the contemptuous familiarity with 
which I had treated him; for I found that the man-animals in general were a 
nation of the most powerful magicians, who lived with worms in their brain,<19> 
which, no doubt, served to stimulate them by their painful writhings and 
wrigglings to the most miraculous efforts of imagination!'"

"Nonsense!" said the king.

"'Among the magicians, were domesticated several animals of very singular kinds; 
for example, there was a huge horse whose bones were iron and whose blood was 
boiling water. In place of corn, he had black stones for his usual food; and 
yet, in spite of so hard a diet, he was so strong and swift that he would drag a 
load more weighty than the grandest temple in this city, at a rate surpassing 
that of the flight of most birds.'"<20>

"Twattle!" said the king.

"'I saw, also, among these people a hen without feathers, but bigger than a 
camel; instead of flesh and bone she had iron and brick; her blood, like that of 
the horse, (to whom, in fact, she was nearly related,) was boiling water; and 
like him she ate nothing but wood or black stones. This hen brought forth very 
frequently, a hundred chickens in the day; and, after birth, they took up their 
residence for several weeks within the stomach of their mother.'"<21>

"Fa! lal!" said the king.

"'One of this nation of mighty conjurors created a man out of brass and wood, 
and leather, and endowed him with such ingenuity that he would have beaten at 
chess, all the race of mankind with the exception of the great Caliph, Haroun 
Alraschid.<22> Another of these magi constructed (of like material) a creature 
that put to shame even the genius of him who made it; for so great were its 
reasoning powers that, in a second, it performed calculations of so vast an 
extent that they would have required the united labor of fifty thousand fleshy 
men for a year.<23> But a still more wonderful conjuror fashioned for himself a 
mighty thing that was neither man nor beast, but which had brains of lead, 
intermixed with a black matter like pitch, and fingers that it employed with 
such incredible speed and dexterity that it would have had no trouble in writing 
out twenty thousand copies of the Koran in an hour, and this with so exquisite a 
precision, that in all the copies there should not be found one to vary from 
another by the breadth of the finest hair. This thing was of prodigious 
strength, so that it erected or overthrew the mightiest empires at a breath; but 
its powers were exercised equally for evil and for good.'"

"Ridiculous!" said the king.

"'Among this nation of necromancers there was also one who had in his veins the 
blood of the salamanders; for he made no scruple of sitting down to smoke his 
chibouc in a red-hot oven until his dinner was thoroughly roasted upon its 
floor.<24> Another had the faculty of converting the common metals into gold, 
without even looking at them during the process.<25> Another had such a delicacy 
of touch that he made a wire so fine as to be invisible.<26> Another had such 
quickness of perception that he counted all the separate motions of an elastic 
body, while it was springing backward and forward at the rate of nine hundred 
millions of times in a second.'"<27>

"Absurd!" said the king.

"'Another of these magicians, by means of a fluid that nobody ever yet saw, 
could make the corpses of his friends brandish their arms, kick out their legs, 
fight, or even get up and dance at his will.<28> Another had cultivated his 
voice to so great an extent that he could have made himself heard from one end 
of the world to the other.<29> Another had so long an arm that he could sit down 
in Damascus and indite a letter at Bagdad–or indeed at any distance 
whatsoever.<30> Another commanded the lightning to come down to him out of the 
heavens, and it came at his call; and served him for a plaything when it came. 
Another took two loud sounds and out of them made a silence. Another constructed 
a deep darkness out of two brilliant lights.<31> Another made ice in a red-hot 
furnace.<32> Another directed the sun to paint his portrait, and the sun 
did.<33> Another took this luminary with the moon and the planets, and having 
first weighed them with scrupulous accuracy, probed into their depths and found 
out the solidity of the substance of which they were made. But the whole nation 
is, indeed, of so surprising a necromantic ability, that not even their infants, 
nor their commonest cats and dogs have any difficulty in seeing objects that do 
not exist at all, or that for twenty millions of years before the birth of the 
nation itself had been blotted out from the face of creation."'<34>

"Preposterous!" said the king.

"'The wives and daughters of these incomparably great and wise magi,'" continued 
Scheherazade, without being in any manner disturbed by these frequent and most 
ungentlemanly interruptions on the part of her husband–"'the wives and daughters 
of these eminent conjurers are every thing that is accomplished and refined; and 
would be every thing that is interesting and beautiful, but for an unhappy 
fatality that besets them, and from which not even the miraculous powers of 
their husbands and fathers has, hitherto, been adequate to save. Some fatalities 
come in certain shapes, and some in others–but this of which I speak has come in 
the shape of a crotchet.'"

"A what?" said the king.

"'A crotchet'" said Scheherazade. "'One of the evil genii, who are perpetually 
upon the watch to inflict ill, has put it into the heads of these accomplished 
ladies that the thing which we describe as personal beauty consists altogether 
in the protuberance of the region which lies not very far below the small of the 
back. Perfection of loveliness, they say, is in the direct ratio of the extent 
of this lump. Having been long possessed of this idea, and bolsters being cheap 
in that country, the days have long gone by since it was possible to distinguish 
a woman from a dromedary-'"

"Stop!" said the king–"I can't stand that, and I won't. You have already given 
me a dreadful headache with your lies. The day, too, I perceive, is beginning to 
break. How long have we been married?–my conscience is getting to be troublesome 
again. And then that dromedary touch–do you take me for a fool? Upon the whole, 
you might as well get up and be throttled."

These words, as I learn from the "Isitsoornot," both grieved and astonished 
Scheherazade; but, as she knew the king to be a man of scrupulous integrity, and 
quite unlikely to forfeit his word, she submitted to her fate with a good grace. 
She derived, however, great consolation, (during the tightening of the 
bowstring,) from the reflection that much of the history remained still untold, 
and that the petulance of her brute of a husband had reaped for him a most 
righteous reward, in depriving him of many inconceivable adventures.

<1> The coralites.

<2> "One of the most remarkable natural curiosities in Texas is a petrified 
forest, near the head of Pasigno river. It consists of several hundred trees, in 
an erect position, all turned to stone. Some trees, now growing, are partly 
petrified. This is a startling fact for natural philosophers, and must cause 
them to modify the existing theory of petrification.–Kennedy.

<3> The Mammoth Cave of Kentucky.

<4> In Iceland, 1783.

<5> "During the eruption of Hecla, in 1766, clouds of this kind produced such a 
degree of darkness that, at Glaumba, which is more than fifty leagues from the 
mountain, people could only find their way by groping. During the eruption of 
Vesuvius, in 1794, at Caserta, four leagues distant, people could only walk by 
the light of torches. On the first of May, 1812, a cloud of volcanic ashes and 
sand, coming from a volcano in the island of St. Vincent, covered the whole of 
Barbadoes, spreading over it so intense a darkness that, at mid-day, in the open 
air, one could not perceive the trees or other objects near him, or even a white 
handkerchief placed at the distance of six inches from the eye."–Murray, p. 215, 
Phil. edit.

<6> In the year 1790, in the Caraccas during an earthquake a portion of the 
granite soil sank and left a lake eight hundred yards in diameter, and from 
eighty to a hundred feet deep. It was a part of the forest of Aripao which sank, 
and the trees remained green for several months under the water."–Murray, p. 221

<7> The hardest steel ever manufactured may, under the action of a blowpipe, be 
reduced to an impalpable powder, which will float readily in the atmospheric 

<8> The region of the Niger. See Simmona's "Colonial Magazine."

<9> The Myrmeleon-lion-ant. The term "monster" is equally applicable to small 
abnormal things and to great, while such epithets as "vast" are merely 
comparative. The cavern of the myrmeleon is vast in comparison with the hole of 
the common red ant. A grain of silex is also a "rock."

<10> The Epidendron, Flos Aeris, of the family of the Orchideae, grows with 
merely the surface of its roots attached to a tree or other object, from which 
it derives no nutriment–subsisting altogether upon air.

<11> The Parasites, such as the wonderful Rafflesia Arnaldii.

<12> Schouw advocates a class of plants that grow upon living animals–the 
Plantae Epizoae. Of this class are the Fuci and Algae.

Mr. J. B. Williams, of Salem, Mass., presented the "National Institute," with an 
insect from New Zealand, with the following description:–"'The Hotte,' a decided 
caterpillar, or worm, is found growing at the foot of the Rata tree, with a 
plant growing out of its head. This most peculiar and most extraordinary insect 
travels up both the Rata and Perriri trees, and entering into the top, eats its 
way, perforating the trunk of the tree until it reaches the root, it then comes 
out of the root, and dies, or remains dormant, and the plant propagates out of 
its head; the body remains perfect and entire, of a harder substance than when 
alive. From this insect the natives making a coloring for tattooing."

<13> In mines and natural caves we find a species of cryptogamous fungus that 
emits an intense phosphorescence.

<14> The orchis, scabius and valisneria.

<15> The corolla of this flower (Aristolochia Clematitis), which is tubular, but 
terminating upwards in a ligulate limb, is inflated into a globular figure at 
the base. The tubular part is internally beset with stiff hairs, pointing 
downwards. The globular part contains the pistil, which consists merely of a 
germen and stigma, together with the surrounding stamens. But the stamens, being 
shorter than the germen, cannot discharge the pollen so as to throw it upon the 
stigma, as the flower stands always upright till after impregnation. And hence, 
without some additional and peculiar aid, the pollen must necessarily fan down 
to the bottom of the flower. Now, the aid that nature has furnished in this 
case, is that of the Tiputa Pennicornis, a small insect, which entering the tube 
of the corrolla in quest of honey, descends to the bottom, and rummages about 
till it becomes quite covered with pollen; but not being able to force its way 
out again, owing to the downward position of the hairs, which converge to a 
point like the wires of a mouse-trap, and being somewhat impatient of its 
confinement it brushes backwards and forwards, trying every corner, till, after 
repeatedly traversing the stigma, it covers it with pollen sufficient for its 
impregnation, in consequence of which the flower soon begins to droop, and the 
hairs to shrink to the sides of the tube, effecting an easy passage for the 
escape of the insect." Rev. P. Keith-System of Physiological Botany.

<16> The bees–ever since bees were–have been constructing their cells with just 
such sides, in just such number, and at just such inclinations, as it has been 
demonstrated (in a problem involving the profoundest mathematical principles) 
are the very sides, in the very number, and at the very angles, which will 
afford the creatures the most room that is compatible with the greatest 
stability of structure.

<17> He observed a flock of pigeons passing betwixt Frankfort and the Indian 
territory, one mile at least in breadth; it took up four hours in passing, 
which, at the rate of one mile per minute, gives a length of 240 miles; and, 
supposing three pigeons to each square yard, gives 2,230,272,000 
Pigeons.–"Travels in Canada and the United States," by Lieut. F. Hall.

<18> The earth is upheld by a cow of a blue color, having horns four hundred in 
number."–Sale's Koran.

<19> "The Entozoa, or intestinal worms, have repeatedly been observed in the 
muscles, and in the cerebral substance of men."–See Wyatt's Physiology, p. 143.

<20> On the Great Western Railway, between London and Exeter, a speed of 71 
miles per hour has been attained. A train weighing 90 tons was whirled from 
Paddington to Didcot (53 miles) in 51 minutes.

<21> The Eccalobeion

<22> Maelzel's Automaton Chess-player.

<23> Babbage's Calculating Machine.

<24> Chabert, and since him, a hundred others.

<25> The Electrotype.

<26> Wollaston made of platinum for the field of views in a telescope a wire one 
eighteen-thousandth part of an inch in thickness. It could be seen only by means 
of the microscope.

<27> Newton demonstrated that the retina beneath the influence of the violet ray 
of the spectrum, vibrated 900,000,000 of times in a second.

<28> Voltaic pile.

<29> The Electro Telegraph Printing Apparatus.

<30> The Electro telegraph transmits intelligence instantaneously- at least at 
so far as regards any distance upon the earth.

<31> Common experiments in Natural Philosophy. If two red rays from two luminous 
points be admitted into a dark chamber so as to fall on a white surface, and 
differ in their length by 0.0000258 of an inch, their intensity is doubled. So 
also if the difference in length be any whole-number multiple of that fraction. 
A multiple by 2 1/4, 3 1/4, &c., gives an intensity equal to one ray only; but a 
multiple by 2 1/2, 3 1/2, &c., gives the result of total darkness. In violet 
rays similar effects arise when the difference in length is 0.000157 of an inch; 
and with all other rays the results are the same–the difference varying with a 
uniform increase from the violet to the red.

Analogous experiments in respect to sound produce analogous results.

<32> Place a platina crucible over a spirit lamp, and keep it a red heat; pour 
in some sulphuric acid, which, though the most volatile of bodies at a common 
temperature, will be found to become completely fixed in a hot crucible, and not 
a drop evaporates–being surrounded by an atmosphere of its own, it does not, in 
fact, touch the sides. A few drops of water are now introduced, when the acid, 
immediately coming in contact with the heated sides of the crucible, flies off 
in sulphurous acid vapor, and so rapid is its progress, that the caloric of the 
water passes off with it, which falls a lump of ice to the bottom; by taking 
advantage of the moment before it is allowed to remelt, it may be turned out a 
lump of ice from a red-hot vessel.

<33> The Daguerreotype.

<34> Although light travels 167,000 miles in a second, the distance of 61 Cygni 
(the only star whose distance is ascertained) is so inconceivably great, that 
its rays would require more than ten years to reach the earth. For stars beyond 
this, 20–or even 1000 years–would be a moderate estimate. Thus, if they had been 
annihilated 20, or 1000 years ago, we might still see them to-day by the light 
which started from their surfaces 20 or 1000 years in the past time. That many 
which we see daily are really extinct, is not impossible–not even improbable.