Enan, the Demon, related: Once upon a time, in my
ings to and fro upon the earth, I came to a city whose inhabitants
dwelt together, happy, prosperous, and secure. I made myself well
acquainted with the place and the people, but, despite all my
efforts, I was unable to entrap a single one.
"This is no place for me," I said. "I had better return to my own
country." I left the city, and, journeying on, came across a river,
at the brink of which I seated myself. Scarcely had I done so, when
a woman appeared bearing her garments to be washed in the river.
She looked at me and asked, "Art thou of the children of men
or of demons?"
"Well," said I, "I have grown up among men, but I was born
"But what art thou after here?"
"Ah," I replied, "I have spent a whole month in yonder city.
And what have I found? A city full of friends, enjoying every
happiness in common. In vain have I tried to put a little of wicked-
ness among them."
Then the woman, with a supercilious air, declared: "If I am to
take thee for a specimen, I must have a very poor opinion of the
whole tribe of demons. You seem mighty enough, but you haven't
the strength of women. Stop here and keep an eye on the wash:
but mind, play me no tricks. I will go back to the city and kindle
therein fire and fury, and pour over it a spirit of mischief, and thou
shalt see how I call manage things."
"Agreed!'' said I. "I will stay here and await thy coming, and
watch how affairs turn out in thy hands."
The washerwoman departed, went into the city, called upon
one of the great families there residing, and requested to see the
lady of the house. She asked for a washing order, which she prom-
ised to execute to the most perfect satisfaction. While the house-
maid was collecting the linen, the washerwoman lifted her eyes to
the beautiful face of the mistress, and exclaimed: "Yes, they are
a dreadful lot, the men; they are all alike, a malediction on them!
The best of them is not to be trusted. They love all women but
their own wives."
"What dost thou mean?" asked the lady.
"Merely this," the washerwoman answered. "Coming hither
from my house, whom should I meet but thy husband making
love to another woman, and such a hideous creature, too! How he
could forsake beauty so rare and exquisite as thine for such dis-
gusting ugliness, passes my understanding. But do not weep, dear
lady, don't distress thyself and give way. I know a means by which
I shall bring that husband of thine to his senses, so that thou shalt
suffer no reproach, and he shall never love any other woman than
thee. This is what thou must do. When thy husband comes home,
speak softly and sweetly to him; let him suspect nothing; and when
he has fallen asleep, take a sharp razor and cut off three hairs from
his beard; black or white hairs, it matters not. These thou must
afterwards give to me, and with them I will compound such a
remedy that his eyes shall be darkened in their sockets, so that he
will look no more upon other lovely women, but cling to thee
alone in mighty and manifest and enduring love." All this the lady
promised, and gifts besides for the washerwoman, should her plan
Carrying the garments with her, the woman now sought out the
lady's husband. With every sign of distress in her voice and man-
ner, she told him that she had a frightful secret to divulge to him.
She knew not if she would have the strength to do so. She would
rather die first. The husband was all the more eager to know, and
would not be refused. "Well, then," she said, "I have just been to
the house, where my lady, thy wife, gave me these garments to
wash; and, while I was yet standing there, a youth, of handsome
mien and nobly attired, arrived, and the two withdrew into an
adjoining room: so I inclined mine ear to listen to their speech,
and this is what I overheard: The young mall said to thy wife,
'Kill thy husband, and I will marry thee.' She, however, declared
that she was afraid to do such a dreadful deed. 'O,' answered he,
with a little courage it is quite easy. When thy husband is asleep,
take a sharp razor and cut his throat.' "
In fierce rage, but suppressing all outward indication of it, the
husband returned home. Pretending to fall asleep, he watched his
wife closely, saw her take a razor to sever three three hairs for the
washerwoman's spell, darted up suddenly, wrested the razor from
her hands, and with it slew his wife on the spot.
The news spread; the relations of the wife united to avenge her
death, and kill the husband. In their turn his relatives resolved to
avenge him; both houses were embroiled, and before the feud was
at an end, two hundred and thirty lives were sacrificed. The city
resounded with a great cry, the like of which had never been heard.
"The following quotations are from the SEPHER
SASHUIM , "The Book
of Delight," an exuberant little mishmash in rhymed Hebrew prose by
Joseph ben Me'ir ibn Zabara, who was born in Barcelona about 1140.
Though much of the material is derived from Hindu and other Orien-
tal sources, and the general tone shows strong Arab influence, the
document deserves inclusion in this anthology, if only because of its
prolonged popularity in Jewish circles.l "
" 1 The translation is taken from Israel
Abrahams' The Book of Delight
and Other Papers (Jewish Pub. Soc., Philadelphia, 1912). "
Etext prepared by Thomas Pollock, aka Spartacus, Editor of The Men's Tribune.