The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

When it was the Sixteenth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ajib thus continued his tale to the lady:— When I was certified that I had slain him, I arose and ascending the stairs replaced the trap- door and covered it with earth as before. Then I looked out seawards and saw the ship cleaving the waters and making for the island, wherefore I was afeard and said, “The moment they come and see the youth done to death, they will know ’twas I who slew him and will slay me without respite.” So I climbed up into a high tree and concealed myself among its leaves; and hardly had I done so when the ship anchored and the slaves landed with the ancient man, the youth’s father, and made direct for the place and when they removed the earth they were surprised to see it soft.1 Then they raised the trap door and went down and found the youth lying at full length, clothed in fair new garments, with a face beaming after the bath, and the knife deep in his heart. At the sight they shrieked and wept and beat their faces, loudly cursing the murderer; whilst a swoon came over the Shaykh so that the slaves deemed him dead, unable to survive his son. At last they wrapped the slain youth in his clothes and carried him up and laid him on the ground covering him with a shroud of silk. Whilst they were making for the ship the old man revived; and, gazing on his son who was stretched out, fell on the ground and strewed dust over his head and smote his face and plucked out his beard; and his weeping redoubled as he thought of his murdered son and he swooned away once more. After awhile a slave went and fetched a strip of silk whereupon they lay the old man and sat down at his head. All this took place and I was on the tree above them watching everything that came to pass; and my heart became hoary before my head waxed grey, for the hard lot which was mine, and for the distress and anguish I had undergone, and I fell to reciting:—

“How many a joy by Allah’s will hath fled

With flight escaping sight of wisest head!

How many a sadness shall begin the day,

Yet grow right gladsome ere the day is sped!

How many a weal trips on the heels of ill,

Causing the mourner’s heart with joy to thrill!”2

But the old man, O my lady, ceased not from his swoon till near sunset, when he came to himself and, looking upon his dead son, he recalled what had happened, and how what he had dreaded had come to pass; and he beat his face and head and recited these couplets:—

“Racked is my heart by parting fro’ my friends

And two rills ever fro’ my eyelids flow:

With them3 went forth my hopes, Ah, well away!

What shift remaineth me to say or do?

Would I had never looked upon their sight,

What shift, fair sirs, when paths e’er strainer grow?

What charm shall calm my pangs when this wise burn

Longings of love which in my vitals glow?

Would I had trod with them the road of Death!

Ne’er had befel us twain this parting blow:

Allah: I pray the Truthful show me Roth

And mix our lives nor part them evermo’e!

How blest were we as ‘death one roof we dwelt

Conjoined in joys nor recking aught of woe;

Till Fortune shot us pith the severance shaft;

Ah who shall patient bear such parting throe?

And dart of Death struck down amid the tribe

The age’s pearl that Morn saw brightest show:

I cried the while his case took speech and said:—

Would Heaven, my son, Death mote his doom foreslow!

Which be the readiest road wi’ thee to meet

My Son! for whom I would my soul bestow?

If sun I call him no! the sun cloth set;

If moon I call him, wane the moons; Ah no!

O sad mischance o’ thee, O doom of days,

Thy place none other love shall ever know:

Thy sire distracted sees thee, but despairs

By wit or wisdom Fate to overthrow:

Some evil eye this day hath cast its spell

And foul befal him as it foul betel!”

Then he sobbed a single sob and his soul fled his flesh. The slaves shrieked aloud, “Alas, our lord!” and showered dust on their heads and redoubled their weeping and wailing. Presently they carried their dead master to the ship side by side with his dead son and, having transported all the stuff from the dwelling to the vessel, set sail and disappeared from mine eyes. I descended from the tree and, raising the trap-door, went down into the underground dwelling where everything reminded me of the youth; and I looked upon the poor remains of him and began repeating these verses:—

“Their tracks I see, and pine with pain and pang

And on deserted hearths I weep and yearn:

And Him I pray who doomed them depart

Some day vouchsafe the boon of safe return.’’4

Then, O my lady, I went up again by the trap-door, and every day I used to wander round about the island and every night I returned to the underground hall. Thus I lived for a month, till at last, looking at the western side of the island, I observed that every day the fibs ebbed, leaving shallow water for which the flow did not compensate; and by the end of the month the sea showed dry land in that direction. At this I rejoiced making certain of my safety; so I arose and fording what little was left of the water got me to the mainland, where I fell in with great heaps of loose sand in which even a camel’s hoof would sink up to the knee.5 However I emboldened my soul and wading through the sand behold, a fire shone from afar burning with a brazing light.6 So I made for it hoping haply to find succour, and broke out into these verses:—

“Belike Fortune may her bridle turn

And Time bring weal although he’s jealous hight;

Forward my hopes, and further all my needs,

And passed ills with present weals requite.”

And when I drew near the fire aforesaid lo! it was a palace with gates of copper burnished red which, when the rising sun shone thereon, gleamed and glistened from afar showing what had seemed to me a fire. I rejoiced in the sight, and sat down over against the gate, but I was hardly settled in my seat before there met me ten young men clothed in sumptuous gear and all were blind of the left eye which appeared as plucked out. They were accompanied by a Shaykh, an old, old man, and much I marvelled at their appearance, and their all being blind of the same eye When they saw me, they saluted me with the Salam and asked me of my case and my history; whereupon I related to them all what had befallen me, and what full measure of misfortune was mine. Marvelling at my tale they took me to the mansion, where I saw ranged round the hall ten couches each with its blue bedding and coverlet of blue stuff7 and amiddlemost stood a smaller couch furnished like them with blue and nothing else. As we entered each of the youths took his seat on his own couch and the old man seated himself upon the smaller one in the middle saying to me, “O youth, sit thee down on the floor and ask not of our case nor of the loss of our eyes.” Presently he rose up and set before each young man some meat in a charger and drink in a large mazer, treating me in like manner; and after that they sat questioning me concerning my adventures and what had betided me: and I kept telling them my tale till the night was far spent. Then said the young men, “O our Shaykh, wilt not thou set be fore us our ordinary? The time is come.” He replied, “With love and gladness,” and rose and entering a closet disappeared, but presently returned bearing on his head ten trays each covered with a strip of blue stuff. He set a tray before each youth and, lighting ten wax candles, he stuck one upon each tray, and drew off the covers and lo! under them was naught but ashes and powdered charcoal and kettle soot. Then all the young men tucked up their sleeves to the elbows and fell a weeping and wailing and they blackened their faces and smeared their clothes and buffetted their brows and beat their breasts, continually exclaiming, “We were sitting at our ease but our frowardness brought us unease! “ They ceased not to do this till dawn drew nigh, when the old man rose and heated water for them; and they washed their faces, and donned other and clean clothes. Now when I saw this, O my lady, for very wonderment my senses left me and my wits went wild and heart and head were full of thought, till I forgot what had betided me and I could not keep silence feeling I fain must speak out and question them of these strangenesses; so I said to them, “How come ye to do this after we have been so open hearted and frolicksome? Thanks be to Allah ye be all sound and sane, yet actions such as these befit none but mad men or those possessed of an evil spirit. I conjure you by all that is dearest to you, why stint ye to tell me your history, and the cause of your losing your eyes and your blackening your faces with ashes and soot?” Hereupon they turned to me and said, “O young man, hearken not to thy youthtide’s suggestions and question us no questions.” Then they slept and I with them and when they awoke the old man brought us somewhat of food; and, after we had eaten and the plates and goblets had been removed, they sat conversing till night fall when the old man rose and lit the wax candles and lamps and set meat and drink before us. After we had eaten and drunken we sat conversing and carousing in companionage till the noon of night, when they said to the old man, “Bring us our ordinary, for the hour of sleep is at hand!” So he rose and brought them the trays of soot and ashes; and they did as they had done on the preceding night, nor more, nor less. I abode with them after this fashion for the space of a month during which time they used to blacken their faces with ashes every night, and to wash and change their raiment when the morn was young; and I but marvelled the more and my scruples and curiosity increased to such a point that I had to forego even food and drink. At last, I lost command of myself, for my heart was aflame with fire unquenchable and lowe unconcealable and I said, “O young men, will ye not relieve my trouble and acquaint me with the reason of thus blackening your faces and the meaning of your words:— We were sitting at our ease but our frowardness brought us unease?” Quoth they “’Twere better to keep these things secret.” Still I was bewildered by their doings to the point of abstaining from eating and drinking and, at last wholly losing patience, quoth I to them, There is no help for it: ye must acquaint me with what is the reason of these doings.” They replied, “We kept our secret only for thy good: to gratify thee will bring down evil upon thee and thou wilt become a monocular even as we are.” I repeated “There is no help for it and, if ye will not, let me leave you and return to mine own people and be at rest from seeing these things, for the proverb saith:—

Better ye ’bide and I take my leave:

For what eye sees not heart shall never grieve.”

Thereupon they said to me, “Remember, O youth, that should ill befal thee we will not again harbour thee nor suffer thee to abide amongst us;” and bringing a ram they slaughtered it and skinned it. Lastly they gave me a knife saying, “Take this skin and stretch thyself upon it and we will sew it around thee, presently there shall come to thee a certain bird, hight Rukh,8 that will catch thee up in his pounces and tower high in air and then set thee down on a mountain. When thou feelest he is no longer flying, rip open the pelt with this blade and come out of it; the bird will be scared and will fly away and leave thee free. After this fare for half a day, and the march will place thee at a palace wondrous fair to behold, towering high in air and builded of Khalanj9, lign-aloes and sandal-wood, plated with red gold, and studded with all manner emeralds and costly gems fit for seal rings. Enter it and thou shalt win to thy wish for we have all entered that palace; and such is the cause of our losing our eyes and of our blackening our faces. Were we now to tell thee our stories it would take too long a time; for each and every of us lost his left eye by an adventure of his own.” I rejoiced at their words and they did with me as they said; and the bird Rukh bore me off end set me down on the mountain. Then I came out of the skin and walked on till I reached the palace. The door stood open as I entered and found myself in a spacious and goodly hall, wide exceedingly, even as a horse-course; and around it were an hundred chambers with doors of sandal and aloes woods plated with red gold and furnished with silver rings by way of knockers.10 At the head or upper end11 of the hall I saw forty damsels, sumptuously dressed and ornamented and one and all bright as moons; none could ever tire of gazing upon them and all so lovely that the most ascetic devotee on seeing them would become their slave and obey their will. When they saw me the whole bevy came up to me and said “Welcome and well come and good cheer12 to thee, O our lord! This whole month have we been expecting thee. Praised be Allah who hath sent us one who is worthy of us, even as we are worthy of him!” Then they made me sit down upon a high divan and said to me, “This day thou art our lord and master, and we are thy servants and thy hand-maids, so order us as thou wilt.” And I marvelled at their case. Presently one of them arose and set meat before me and I ate and they ate with me; whilst others warmed water and washed my hands and feet and changed my clothes and others made ready sherbets and gave us to drink; and all gathered around me being full of joy and gladness at my coming. Then they sat down and conversed with me till nightfall, when five of them arose and laid the trays and spread them with flowers and fragrant herbs and fruits, fresh and dried, and confections in profusion. At last they brought out a fine wine service with rich old wine; and we sat down to drink and some sang songs and others played the lute and psaltery and recorders and other instruments, and the bowl went merrily round. Hereupon such gladness possessed me that I forgot the sorrows of the world one and all and said, “This is indeed life; O sad that ’tis fleeting!” I enjoyed their company till the time came for rest; and our heads were all warm with wine, when they said, “O our lord, choose from amongst us her who shall be thy bed-fellow this night and not lie with thee again till forty days be past.” So I chose a girl fair of face and perfect in shape, with eyes Kohl-edged by nature’s hand;13 hair long and jet black with slightly parted teeth14 and joining brows: ‘twas as if she were some limber graceful branchlet or the slender stalk of sweet basil to amaze and to bewilder man’s fancy, even as the poet said of such an one —

To even her with greeny bough were vain

Fool he who finds her beauties in the roe:

When hath the roe those lively lovely limbs

Or honey dews those lips alone bestow?

Those eyne, soul piercing eyne, which slay with love,

Which bind the victim by their shafts laid low?

My heart to second childhood they beguiled

No wonder: love sick-man again is child!

And I repeated to her the maker’s words who said:—

“None other charms but thine shall greet mine eyes,

Nor other image can my heart surprise:

Thy love, my lady, captives all my thoughts

And on that love I’ll die and I’ll arise.

So I lay with her that night; none fairer I ever knew; and, when it was morning, the damsels carried me to the Hammam bath and bathed me and robed me in fairest apparel. Then they served up food, and we ate and drank and the cup went round till nightfall when I chose from among them one fair of form and face, soft-sided and a model of grace, such an one as the poet described when he said. —

On her fair bosom caskets twain I scanned,

Sealed fast with musk seals lovers to withstand

With arrowy glances stand on guard her eyes,

Whose shafts would shoot who dares put forth a hand.

With her I spent a most goodly night; and, to be brief, O my mistress, I remained with them in all solace and delight of life, eating and drinking, conversing and carousing and every night lying with one or other of them. But at the head of the new year they came to me in tears and bade me farewell, weeping and crying out and clinging about me: whereat I wondered and said, “What may be the matter? verily you break my heart!” They exclaimed, “Would Heaven we had never known thee; for, though we have companies with many, yet never saw we a pleasanter than thou or a more courteous.” And they wept again. “But tell me more clearly,” asked I, “what causeth this weeping which maketh my gall-bladder15 like to burst;” and they answered, “O our lord and master, it is severance which maketh us weep; and thou, and thou only, art the cause of our tears. If thou hearken to us we need never be parted and if thou hearken not we part for ever; but our hearts tell us that thou wilt not listen to our words and this is the cause of our tears and cries.” “Tell me how the case standeth?” “Know, O our lord, that we are the daughters of Kings who have met here and have lived together for years; and once in every year we are perforce absent for forty days; and afterwards we return and abide here for the rest of the twelve month eating and drinking and taking our pleasure and enjoying delights: we are about to depart according to our custom; and we fear lest after we be gone thou contraire our charge and disobey our injunctions. Here now we commit to thee the keys of the palace which containeth forty chambers and thou mayest open of these thirty and nine, but beware (and we conjure thee by Allah and by the lives of us!) lest thou open the fortieth door, for therein is that which shall separate us for ever.”16 Quoth I, “Assuredly I will not open it, if it contain the cause of severance from you.” Then one among them came up to me and falling on my neck wept and recited these verses. —

“If Time unite us after absent while,

The world harsh frowning on our lot shall smile

And if thy semblance deign adorn mine eyes,17

I’ll pardon Time past wrongs and by gone guile.”

And I recited the following:—

“When drew she near to bid adieu with heart unstrung,

While care and longing on that day her bosom wrung

Wet pearls she wept and mine like red carnelians rolled

And, joined in sad rivière, around her neck they hung.”

When I saw her weeping I said, “By Allah I will never open that fortieth door, never and no wise!” and I bade her farewell. Thereupon all departed flying away like birds; signalling with their hands farewells as they went and leaving me alone in the palace. When evening drew near I opened the door of the first chamber and entering it found myself in a place like one of the pleasaunces of Paradise. It was a garden with trees of freshest green and ripe fruits of yellow sheen; and its birds were singing clear and keen and nils ran wimpling through the fair terrene. The sight and sounds brought solace to my sprite; and I walked among the trees, and I smelt the breath of the flowers on the breeze; and heard the birdies sing their melodies hymning the One, the Almighty in sweetest litanies; and I looked upon the apple whose hue is parcel red and parcel yellow; as said the poet:—

Apple whose hue combines in union mellow

My fair’s red cheek, her hapless lover’s yellow.

Then I looked upon the quince, and inhaled its fragrance which to shame musk and ambergris, even as the poet hath said:

Quince every taste conjoins; in her are found

Gifts which for queen of fruits the Quince have crowned

Her taste is wine, her scent the waft of musk;

Pure gold her hue, her shape the Moon’s fair round.

Then I looked upon the pear whose taste surpasseth sherbet and sugar; and the apricot18 whose beauty striketh the eye with admiration, as if she were a polished ruby. Then I went out of the place and locked the door as it was before. When it was the morrow I opened the second door; and entering found myself in a spacious plain set with tall date palms and watered by a running stream whose banks were shrubbed with bushes of rose and jasmine, while privet and eglantine, oxe-eye, violet and lily, narcissus, origane and the winter gilliflower carpeted the borders; and the breath of the breeze swept over these sweet smelling growths diffusing their delicious odours right and left, perfuming the world and filling my soul with delight. After taking my pleasure there awhile I went from it and, having closed the door as it was before, opened the third door wherein I saw a high open hall pargetted with parti-coloured marbles and pietra dura of price and other precious stones, and hung with cages of sandal-wood and eagle-wood; full of birds which made sweet music, such as the Thousand voiced,19 and the cushat, the merle, the turtle-dove and the Nubian ring dove. My heart was filled with pleasure thereby; my grief was dispelled and I slept in that aviary till dawn. Then I undocked the door of the fourth chamber and there in found a grand saloon with forty smaller chambers giving upon it. All their doors stood open: so I entered and found them full of pearls and jacinths and beryls and emeralds and corals and car buncles, and all manner precious gems and jewels, such as tongue of man may not describe. My thought was stunned at the sight and I said to myself, “These be things methinks united which could not be found save in the treasuries of a King of Kings, nor could the monarchs of the world have collected the like of these!” And my heart dilated and my sorrows ceased, “For,” quoth I, “now verily am I the monarch of the age, since by Allah’s grace this enormous wealth is mine; and I have forty damsels under my hand nor is there any to claim them save myself.” Then I gave not over opening place after place until nine and thirty days were passed and in that time I had entered every chamber except that one whose door the Princesses had charged me not to open. But my thoughts, O my mistress, ever ran on that forbidden fortieth20 and Satan urged me to open it for my own undoing; nor had I patience to forbear, albeit there wanted of the trysting time but a single day. So I stood before the chamber aforesaid and, after a moment’s hesitation, opened the door which was plated with red gold, and entered. I was met by a perfume whose like I had never before smelt; and so sharp and subtle was the odour that it made my senses drunken as with strong wine, and I fell to the ground in a fainting fit which lasted a full hour. When I came to myself I strengthened my heart and, entering, found myself in a chamber whose floor was bespread with saffron and blazing with light from branched candelabra of gold and lamps fed with costly oils, which diffused the scent of musk and ambergris. I saw there also two great censers each big as a mazer-bowl,21 flaming with lign-aloes, nadd- perfume,22 ambergris and honied scents; and the place was full of their fragrance. Presently, O my lady, I espied a noble steed, black as the murks of night when murkiest, standing, ready saddled and bridled (and his saddle was of red gold) before two mangers, one of clear crystal wherein was husked sesame, and the other also of crystal containing water of the rose scented with musk. When I saw this I marvelled and said to myself, “Doubtless in this animal must be some wondrous mystery;” and Satan cozened me, so I led him without the palace end mounted him, but he would not stir from his place. So I hammered his sides with my heels, but he moved not, and then I took the rein whip,23 and struck him withal. When he felt the blow, he neighed a neigh with a sound like deafening thunder and, opening a pair of wings24 flew up with me in the firmament of heaven far beyond the eyesight of man. After a full hour of flight he descended and alighted on a terrace roof and shaking me off his back lashed me on the face with his tail and gouged out my left eye causing it roll along my cheek. Then he flew away. I went down from the terrace and found myself again amongst the ten one eyed youths sitting upon their ten couches with blue covers; and they cried out when they saw me, “No welcome to thee, nor aught of good cheer! We all lived of lives the happiest and we ate and drank of the best; upon brocades and cloths of gold we took rest and we slept with our heads on beauty’s breast, but we could not await one day to gain the delights of a year!” Quoth I, “Behold I have become one like unto you and now I would have you bring me a tray full of blackness, wherewith to blacken my face, and receive me into your society.” “No, by Allah,” quoth they, “thou shalt not sojourn with us and now get thee hence!” So they drove me away. Finding them reject me thus I foresaw that matters would go hard with me, and I remembered the many miseries which Destiny had written upon my forehead; and I fared forth from among them heavy hearted and tearful eyed, repeating to myself these words, “I was sitting at mine ease but my frowardness brought me to unease.” Then I shaved beard and mustachios and eye brows, renouncing the world, and wan dered in Kalandar garb about Allah’s earth; and the Almighty decreed safety for me till I arrived at Baghdad, which was on the evening of this very night. Here I met these two other Kalandars standing bewildered; so I saluted them saying, “I am a stranger!” and they answered, “And we likewise be strangers!” By the freak of Fortune we were like to like, three Kalandars and three monoculars all blind of the left eye. Such, O my lady, is the cause of the shearing of my beard and the manner of my losing an eye. Said the lady to him, “Rub thy head and wend thy ways;” but he answered, “By Allah, I will not go until I hear the stories of these others.” Then the lady, turning towards the Caliph and Ja’afar and Masrur, said to them, “Do ye also give an account of yourselves, you men!” Whereupon Ja’afar stood forth and told her what he had told the portress as they were entering the house; and when she heard his story of their being merchants and Mosul men who had outrun the watch, she said, “I grant you your lives each for each sake, and now away with you all.” So they all went out and when they were in the street, quoth the Caliph to the Kalandars, “O company, whither go ye now, seeing that the morning hath not yet dawned?” Quoth they, “By Allah, O our lord, we know not where to go.” “Come and pass the rest of the night with us,” said the Caliph and, turning to Ja’afar, “Take them home with thee and to morrow bring them to my presence that we may chronicle their adventures.” Ja’afar did as the Caliph bade him and the Commander of the Faithful returned to his palace; but sleep gave no sign of visiting him that night and he lay awake pondering the mishaps of the three Kalandar princes and impatient to know the history of the ladies and the two black bitches. No sooner had morning dawned than he went forth and sat upon the throne of his sovereignty; and, turning to Ja’afar, after all his Grandees and Officers of state were gathered together, he said, “Bring me the three ladies and the two bitches and the three Kalandars.” So Ja’afar fared forth and brought them all before him (and the ladies were veiled); then the Minister turned to them and said in the Caliph s name, “We pardon you your maltreatment of us and your want of courtesy, in consideration of the kindness which forewent it, and for that ye knew us not: now however I would have you to know that ye stand in presence of the fifth25 of the sons of Abbas, Harun al-Rashid, brother of Caliph Músá al-Hádi, son of Al–Mansúr; son of Mohammed the brother of Al–Saffáh bin Mohammed who was first of the royal house. Speak ye therefore before him the truth and the whole truth!” When the ladies heard Ja afar’s words touching the Commander of the Faithful, the eldest came forward and said, “O Prince of True Believers, my story is one which, were it graven with needle-gravers upon the eye corners were a warner for whoso would be warned and an example for whoso can take profit from example.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Having lately been moved by Ajib.

2 Mr. Payne (i. 131) omits these lines which appear out of place; but this mode of inappropriate quotation is a characteristic of Eastern tales.

3 Anglicè “him.”

4 This march of the tribe is a lieu commun of Arab verse e.g. the poet Labid’s noble elegy on the “Deserted Camp.” We shall find scores of instances in The Nights.

5 I have heard of such sands in the Desert east of Damascus which can be crossed only on boards or camel furniture; and the same is reported of the infamous Region “Al–Ahkláf” (“Unexplored Syria”).

6 Hence the Arab. saying “The bark of a dog and not the gleam of a fire;” the tired traveller knows from the former that the camp is near, whereas the latter shows from great distances.

7 Dark blue is the colour of mourning in Egypt as it was of the Roman Republic. The Persians hold that this tint was introduced by Kay Kawús (B. C. 600) when mourning for his son Siyáwush. It was continued till the death of Husayn on the 10th of Muharram (the first month, then representing the vernal equinox) when it was changed for black. As a rule Moslems do not adopt this symbol of sorrow (called “Hidád”) looking upon the practice as somewhat idolatrous and foreign to Arab manners. In Egypt and especially on the Upper Nile women dye their hands with indigo and stair. their faces black or blacker.

8 The older Roc, of which more in the Tale of Sindbad. Meanwhile the reader curious about the Persian Símurgh (thirty bird) will consult the Dabistan, i., 55,191 and iii., 237, and Richardson’s Diss. p. xlviii. For the Anka (Enka or Unka — long necked bird) see Dab. iii., 249 and for the Humá (bird of Paradise) Richardson lxix. We still lack details concerning the Ben or Bennu (nycticorax) of Egypt which with the Article pi gave rise to the Greek “phœnix.”

9 Probably the Haledj of Forskal (p. xcvi. Flor. Ægypt. Arab.), “lignum tenax, durum, obscuri generic.” The Bres. Edit. has “ákúl”=teak wood, vulg. “Sáj.”

10 The knocker ring is an invention well known to the Romans.

11 Arab. “Sadr”; the place of honour; hence the “Sudder Adawlut” (Supreme Court) in the Anglo–Indian jargon.

12 Arab. “Ahlan wa sahlan wa marhabá,” the words still popularly addressed to a guest.

13 This may mean “liquid black eyes”; but also, as I have noticed, that the lashes were long and thick enough to make the eyelids appear as if Kohl-powder had been applied to the inner rims.

14 A slight parting between the two front incisors, the upper only, is considered a beauty by Arabs; why it as hard to say except for the racial love of variety. “Sugar” (Thug) in the text means, primarily, the opening of the mouth, the gape: hence the front teeth.

15 i.e. makes me taste the bitterness of death, “bursting the gall-bladder” (Marárah) being our “breaking the heart.”

16 Almost needless to say that forbidden doors and rooms form a lieu-commun in Fairie: they are found in the Hindu Katha Sarit Sagara and became familiar to our childhood by “Bluebeard.”

17 Lit. “apply Kohl to my eyes,” even as Jezebel “painted her face,” in Heb. put her eyes in painting (2 Kings ix. 30).

18 Arab. “Al–Barkúk,” whence our older “Apricock.” Classically it is “Burkúk” and Pers. for Arab. “Mishrnish,” and it also denotes a small plum or damson. In Syria the side next the sun” shows a glowing red flush.

19 Arab. “Hazár” (in Persian, a thousand) = a kind of mocking bird.

20 Some Edits. make the doors number a hundred, but the Princesses were forty and these coincidences, which seem to have significance and have none save for Arab symmetromania, are common in Arab stories.

21 Arab. “Májur”: hence possibly our “mazer,” which is popularly derived from Masarn, a maple.

22 A compound scent of ambergris, musk and aloes.

23 The ends of the bridle-reins forming the whip.

24 The flying horse is Pegasus which is a Greek travesty of an Egyptian myth developed in India.

25 The Bres. Edit. wrongly says “the seventh.”

When it was the Seventeenth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that she stood forth before the Commander of the Faithful and began to tell

The Eldest Lady’s Tale.

Verily a strange tale is mine and ’tis this:— Yon two black bitches are my eldest sisters by one mother and father; and these two others, she who beareth upon her the signs of stripes and the third our procuratrix are my sisters by another mother. When my father died, each took her share of the heritage and, after a while my mother also deceased, leaving me and my sisters german three thousand diners; so each daughter received her portion of a thousand diners and I the same, albe the youngest. In due course of time my sisters married with the usual festivities and lived with their husbands, who bought merchandise with their wives monies and set out on their travels together. Thus they threw me off. My brothers in law were absent with their wives five years, during which period they spent all the money they had and, becoming bankrupt, deserted my sisters in foreign parts amid stranger folk. After five years my eldest sister returned to me in beggar’s gear with her clothes in rags and tatters1 and a dirty old mantilla;2 and truly she was in the foulest and sorriest plight. At first sight I did not know my own sister; but presently I recognised her and said “What state is this?” “O our sister,” she replied, “Words cannot undo the done; and the reed of Destiny hath run through what Allah decreed.” Then I sent her to the bath and dressed her in a suit of mine own, and boiled for her a bouillon and brought her some good wine and said to her, “O my sister, thou art the eldest, who still standest to us in the stead of father and mother; and, as for the inheritance which came to me as to you twain, Allah hath blessed it and prospered it to me with increase; and my circumstances are easy, for I have made much money by spinning and cleaning silk; and I and you will share my wealth alike.” I entreated her with all kindliness and she abode with me a whole year, during which our thoughts and fancies were always full of our other sister Shortly after she too came home in yet fouler and sorrier plight than that of my eldest sister; and I dealt by her still more honorably than I had done by the first, and each of them had a share of my substance. After a time they said to me, ‘O our sister, we desire to marry again, for indeed we have not patience to drag on our days without husbands and to lead the lives of widows bewitched;” and I replied, “O eyes of me!3 ye have hitherto seen scanty weal in wedlock, for now-a-days good men and true are become rarities and curiosities; nor do I deem your projects advisable, as ye have already made trial of matrimony and have failed.” But they would not accept my advice and married without my consent: nevertheless I gave them outfit and dowries out of my money; and they fared forth with their mates. In a mighty little time their husbands played them false and, taking whatever they could lay hands upon, levanted and left them in the lurch. Thereupon they came to me ashamed and in abject case and made their excuses to me, saying, Pardon our fault and be not wroth with us;4 for although thou art younger in years yet art thou older in wit; henceforth we will never make mention of marriage; so take us back as thy hand maidens that we may eat our mouthful.” Quoth I, “Welcome to you, O my sisters, there is naught dearer to me than you.” And I took them in and redoubled my kindness to them. We ceased not to live after this loving fashion for a full year, when I resolved to sell my wares abroad and first to fit me a conveyance for Bassorah; so I equipped a large ship, and loaded her with merchandise and valuable goods for traffic, and with provaunt and all needful for a voyage, and said to my sisters, “Will ye abide at home whilst I travel, or would ye prefer to accompany me on the voyage?” “We will travel with thee,” answered they, “for we cannot bear to be parted from thee.” So I divided my monies into two parts, one to accompany me and the other to be left in charge of a trusty person, for, as I said to myself, “Haply some accident may happen to the ship and yet we remain alive; in which case we shall find on our return what may stand us in good stead.” I took my two sisters and we went a voyaging some days and nights; but the master was careless enough to miss his course, and the ship went astray with us and entered a sea other than the sea we sought. For a time we knew naught of this; and the wind blew fair for us ten days, after which the look out man went aloft to see about him and cried, “Good news!” Then he came down rejoicing and said, “I have seen what seemeth to be a city as ’twere a pigeon.” Hereat we rejoiced and, ere an hour of the day had passed, the buildings showed plain in the offing and we asked the Captain, “What is the name of yonder city?” and he answered By Allah I wot not, for I never saw it before and never sailed these seas in my life: but, since our troubles have ended in safety, remains for you only to land there with your merchandise and, if you find selling profitable, sell and make your market of what is there; and if not, we will rest here two days and provision ourselves and fare away.” So we entered the port and the Captain went up town and was absent awhile, after which he returned to us and said, “Arise; go up into the city and marvel at the works of Allah with His creatures and pray to be preserved from His righteous wrath!” So we landed and going up into the city, saw at the gate men hending staves in hand; but when we drew near them, behold, they had been translated5 by the anger of Allah and had become stones. Then we entered the city and found all who therein woned into black stones enstoned: not an inhabited house appeared to the espier, nor was there a blower of fire.6 We were awe struck at the sight and threaded the market streets where we found the goods and gold and silver left lying in their places; and we were glad and said, “Doubtless there is some mystery in all this.” Then we dispersed about the thorough-fares and each busied himself with collecting the wealth and money and rich stuffs, taking scanty heed of friend or comrade. As for myself I went up to the castle which was strongly fortified; and, entering the King’s palace by its gate of red gold, found all the vaiselle of gold and silver, and the King himself seated in the midst of his Chamberlains and Nabobs and Emirs and Wazirs; all clad in raiment which confounded man’s art. I drew nearer and saw him sitting on a throne incrusted and inlaid with pearls and gems; and his robes were of gold-cloth adorned with jewels of every kind, each one flashing like a star. Around him stood fifty Mamelukes, white slaves, clothed in silks of divers sorts holding their drawn swords in their hands; but when I drew near to them lo! all were black stones. My understanding was confounded at the sight, but I walked on and entered the great hall of the Harim,7 whose walls I found hung with tapestries of gold striped silk and spread with silken carpets embroidered with golden cowers. Here I saw the Queen lying at full length arrayed in robes purfled with fresh young8 pearls; on her head was a diadem set with many sorts of gems each fit for a ring9 and around her neck hung collars and necklaces. All her raiment and her ornaments were in natural state but she had been turned into a black stone by Allah’s wrath. Presently I espied an open door for which I made straight and found leading to it a flight of seven steps. So I walked up and came upon a place pargetted with marble and spread and hung with gold-worked carpets and tapestry, amiddlemostof which stood a throne of juniper wood inlaid with pearls and precious stones and set with bosses of emeralds. In the further wall was an alcove whose curtains, bestrung with pearls, were let down and I saw a light issuing therefrom; so I drew near and perceived that the light came from a precious stone as big as an ostrich egg, set at the upper end of the alcove upon a little chryselephantine couch of ivory and gold; and this jewel, blazing like the sun, cast its rays wide and side. The couch also was spread with all manner of silken stuffs amazing the gazer with their richness and beauty. I marvelled much at all this, especially when seeing in that place candles ready lighted; and I said in my mind, “Needs must some one have lighted these candles.” Then I went forth and came to the kitchen and thence to the buttery and the King’s treasure chambers; and continued to explore the palace and to pace from place to place; I forgot myself in my awe and marvel at these matters and I was drowned in thought till the night came on. Then I would have gone forth, but knowing not the gate I lost my way, so I returned to the alcove whither the lighted candles directed me and sat down upon the couch; and wrapping myself in a coverlet, after I had repeated somewhat from the Koran, I would have slept but could not, for restlessness possessed me. When night was at its noon I heard a voice chanting the Koran in sweetest accents; but the tone thereof was weak; so I rose, glad to hear the silence broken, and followed the sound until I reached a closet whose door stood ajar. Then peeping through a chink I considered the place and lo! it was an oratory wherein was a prayer niche10 with two wax candles burning and lamps hanging from the ceiling. In it too was spread a prayer carpet whereupon sat a youth fair to see; and before him on its stand11 was a copy of the Koran, from which he was reading. I marvelled to see him alone alive amongst the people of the city and entering saluted him; whereupon he raised his eyes and returned my salam. Quoth I, “Now by the Truth of what thou readest in Allah’s Holy Book, I conjure thee to answer my question.” He looked upon me with a smile and said, “O handmaid of Allah, first tell me the cause of thy coming hither, and I in turn will tell what hath befallen both me and the people of this city, and what was the reason of my escaping their doom.” So I told him my story whereat he wondered; and I questioned him of the people of the city, when he replied, “Have patience with me for a while, O my sister!” and, reverently closing the Holy Book, he laid it up in a satin bag. Then he seated me by his side; and I looked at him and behold, he was as the moon at its full, fair of face and rare of form, soft sided and slight, of well proportioned height, and cheek smoothly bright and diffusing light; in brief a sweet, a sugar stick,12. even as saith the poet of the like of him in these couplets:—

That night th’ astrologer a scheme of planets drew,

And lo! a graceful shape of youth appeared in view:

Saturn had stained his locks with Saturninest jet,

And spots of nut brown musk on rosy side face blew:13

Mars tinctured either cheek with tinct of martial red;

Sagittal shots from eyelids Sagittarius threw:

Dowered him Mercury with bright mercurial wit;

Bore off the Bear14 what all man’s evil glances grew:

Amazed stood Astrophil to sight the marvel birth

When louted low the Moon at full to buss the Earth.

And of a truth Allah the Most High had robed him in the raiment of perfect grace and had purfled and fringed it with a cheek all beauty and loveliness, even as the poet saith of such an one:—

By his eyelids shedding perfume and his fine slim waist I swear,

By the shooting of his shafts barbed with sorcery passing rare;

By the softness of his sides,15 and glances’ lingering light,

And brow of dazzling day-tide ray and night within his hair;

By his eyebrows which deny to who look upon them rest,

Now bidding now forbidding, ever dealing joy and care;

By the rose that decks his cheek, and the myrtle of its moss,16

By jacinths bedded in his lips and pearl his smile lays bare;

By his graceful bending neck and the curving of his breast,

Whose polished surface beareth those granados, lovely pair;

By his heavy hips that quiver as he passeth in his pride,

Or he resteth with that waist which is slim beyond compare;

By the satin of his skin, by that fine unsullied sprite;

By the beauty that containeth all things bright and debonnair;

By that ever open hand; by the candour of his tongue;

By noble blood and high degree whereof he’s hope and heir;

Musk from him borrows muskiness she loveth to exhale

And all the airs of ambergris through him perfume the air;

The sun, methinks, the broad bright sun, before my love would pale

And sans his splendour would appear a paring of his nail.17

I glanced at him with one glance of eyes which caused me a thousand sighs; and my heart was at once taken captive wise, so I asked him, “O my lord and my love, tell me that whereof I questioned thee;” and he answered, “Hearing is obeying! Know O handmaid of Allah, that this city was the capital of my father who is the King thou sawest on the throne transfigured by Allah’s wrath to a black stone, and the Queen thou foundest in the alcove is my mother. They and all the people of the city were Magians who fire adored in lieu of the Omnipotent Lord18 and were wont to swear by lowe and heat and shade and light and the spheres revolving day and night. My father had ne’er a son till he was blest with me near the last of his days; and he reared me till I grew up and prosperity anticipated me in all things. Now it so fortuned that there was with us an old woman well stricken in years, a Moslemah who, inwardly believing in Allah and His Apostle, conformed outwardly with the religion of my people; and my father placed thorough confidence in her for that he knew her to be trustworthy and virtuous; and he treated her with ever increasing kindness believing her to be of his own belief. So when I was well nigh grown up my father committed me to her charge saying:— Take him and educate him and teach him the rules of our faith; let him have the best in structions and cease not thy fostering care of him. So she took me and taught me the tenets of Al–Islam with the divine ordinances19 of the Wuzu ablution and the five daily prayers and she made me learn the Koran by rote, often repeating:— Serve none save Allah Almighty! When I had mastered this much of knowledge she said to me:— O my son, keep this matter concealed from thy sire and reveal naught to him lest he slay thee. So I hid it from him and I abode on this wise for a term of days when the old woman died, and the people of the city redoubled in their impiety20 and arrogance and the error of their ways. One day, while they were as wont, behold, they heard a loud and terrible sound and a crier crying out with a voice like roaring thunder so every ear could hear, far and near, “O folk of this city, leave ye your fire worshipping and adore Allah the All-compassionate King!” At this, fear and terror fell upon the citizens and they crowded to my father (he being King of the city) and asked him, “What is this awesome voice we have heard, for it hath confounded us with the excess of its terror?” and he answered, “Let not a voice fright you nor shake your steadfast sprite nor turn you back from the faith which is right.” Their hearts inclined to his words and they ceased not to worship the fire and they persisted in rebellion for a full year from the time they heard the first voice; and on the anniversary came a second cry, and a third at the head of the third year, each year once Still they persisted in their malpractises till one day at break of dawn, judgment and the wrath of Heaven descended upon them with all suddenness, and by the visitation of Allah all were metamorphosed into black stones,21 they and their beasts and their cattle; and none was saved save myself who at the time was engaged in my devotions. From that day to this I am in the case thou seest, constant in prayer and fasting and reading and reciting the Koran; but I am indeed grown weary by reason of my loneliness, having none to bear me company.” Then said I to him (for in very sooth he had won my heart and was the lord of my life and soul), “O youth, wilt thou fare with me to Baghdad city and visit the Olema and men learned in the law and doctors of divinity and get thee increase of wisdom and understanding and theology? And know that she who standeth in thy presence will be thy handmaid, albeit she be head of her family and mistress over men and eunuchs and servants and slaves Indeed my life was no life before it fell in with thy youth. I have here a ship laden with merchandise; and in very truth Destiny drove me to this city that I might come to the knowledge of these matters, for it was fated that we should meet.” And I ceased not to persuade him and speak him fair and use every art till he consented. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Sharmutah” (plur. Sharámít) from the root Sharmat, to shred, a favourite Egyptian word also applied in vulgar speech to a strumpet, a punk, a piece. It is also the popular term for strips of jerked or boucaned meat hung up in the sun to dry, and classically called “Kadíd.”

2 Arab. “Izár,” the man’s waistcloth opposed to the Ridá or shoulder-cloth, is also the sheet of white calico worn by the poorer Egyptian women out of doors and covering head and hands. See Lane (M. E., chaps. i.). The rich prefer a “Habárah” of black silk, and the poor, when they have nothing else, use a bed-sheet.

3 i.e. “My clears.”

4 Arab. “Lá tawákhizná:” lit. “do not chastise (or blame) us;” the pop. expression for, “excuse (or pardon) us.”

5 Arab. “Maskhút,” mostly applied to change of shape as man enchanted to monkey, and in vulgar parlance applied to a statue (of stone, etc.). The list of metamorphoses in Al–Islam is longer than that known to Ovid. Those who have seen Petra, the Greek town of the Haurán and the Roman ruins in Northern Africa will readily detect the bests upon which these stories are built. I shall return to this subject in The City of Iram (Night cclxxvi.) and The City of Brass (dlxvii.).

6 A picturesque phrase enough to express a deserted site, a spectacle familiar to the Nomades and always abounding in pathos to the citizens.

7 The olden “Harem” (or gynæceum, Pers. Zenanah, Serraglio): Harím is also used by synecdoche for the inmates; especially the wife.

8 The pearl is supposed in the East to lose 1% per ann. of its splendour and value.

9 Arab. “Fass,” properly the bezel of a ring; also a gem cut en cabochon and generally the contenant for the contenu.

10 Arab. “Mihráb” = the arch-headed niche in the Mosque-wall facing Meccah-wards. Here, with his back to the people and fronting the Ka’abah or Square House of Meccah (hence called the “Kiblah” = direction of prayer), stations himself the Imám, artistes or fugleman, lit. “one who stands before others;” and his bows and prostrations give the time to the congregation. I have derived the Mihrab from the niche in which the Egyptian God was shrined: the Jews ignored it, but the Christians preserved it for their statues and altars. Maundrell suggests that the empty niche denotes an invisible God. As the niche (symbol of Venus) and the minaret (symbol of Priapus) date only from the days of the tenth Caliph, Al–Walid (A.H. 86–96=105–115), the Hindus charge the Moslems with having borrowed the two from their favourite idols — The Linga–Yoni or Cunnus phallus (Pilgrimage ii. 140), and plainly call the Mihrab a Bhaga= Cunnus (Dabistan ii. 152). The Guebres further term Meccah “Mah-gah,” locus Lunæ, and Al–Medinah, “Mahdinah,” = Moon of religion. See Dabistan i., 49, etc.

11 Arab “Kursi,” a stool of palm-fronds, etc., X-shaped (see Lane’s illustration, Nights i., 197), before which the reader sits. Good Moslems will not hold the Holy Volume below the waist nor open it except when ceremonially pure. Englishmen in the East should remember this, for to neglect the “Adab al-Kúran” (respect due to Holy Writ) gives great scandal.

12 Mr. Payne (i. 148) quotes the German Zuckerpüppchen.

13 The Persian poets have a thousand conceits in praise of the “mole,” (Khál or Shámah) for which Hafiz offered “Samarkand and Bokhara” (they not being his, as his friends remarked). Another “topic” is the flight of arrows shot by eyelashes.

14 Arab. “Suhá” a star in the Great Bear introduced only to balance “wushát” = spies, enviers, enemies, whose “evil eye” it will ward off.

15 In Arab tales beauty is always “soft-sided,” and a smooth skin is valued in proportion to its rarity.

16 The myrtle is the young hair upon the side face

17 In other copies of these verses the fourth couplet swears “by the scorpions of his brow” i.e. the accroche-cæurs, the beau-catchers, bell-ropes or aggravators,” as the B.P. calls them. In couplet eight the poet alludes to his love’s “Unsur,” or element his nature made up of the four classicals, and in the last couplet he makes the nail paring refer to the moon not the sun. I

18 This is regular formula when speaking of Guebres.

19 Arab. “Faráiz”; the orders expressly given in the Koran which the reader will remember, is Uncreate and Eternal. In India “Farz” is applied to injunctions thrice repeated; and “Wájíb” to those given twice over. Elsewhere scanty difference is made between them.

20 Arab. “Kufr” = rejecting the True Religion, i.e. Al–Islam, such rejection being “Tughyán” or rebellion against the Lord. The “terrible sound” is taken from the legend of the prophet Sálih and the proto-historic tribe of Thámúd which for its impiety was struck dead by an earthquake and a noise from heaven. The latter, according to some commentators, was the voice of the Archangel Gabriel crying “Die all of you” (Koran, chapts. vii., xviii., etc.). We shall hear more of it in the “City of many-columned Iram.” According to some, Salih, a mysterious Badawi prophet, is buried in the Wady al-Shaykh of the so-called Sinaitic Peninsula.

21 Yet they kept the semblance of man, showing that the idea arose from the basaltic statues found in Hauranic ruins. Mohammed in his various marches to Syria must have seen remnants of Greek and Roman settlements; and as has been noticed “Sesostris”

When it was the Eighteenth Night,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the lady ceased not persuading with soft speech the youth to depart with her till he consented and said “Yes.” She slept that night lying at his feet and hardly knowing where she was for excess of joy. As soon as the next morning dawned (she pursued, addressing the Caliph), I arose and we entered the treasuries and took thence whatever was light in weight and great in worth; then we went down side by side from the castle to the city, where we were met by the Captain and my sisters and slaves who had been seeking for me. When they saw me they rejoiced and asked what had stayed me, and I told them all I had seen and related to them the story of the young Prince and the transformation wherewith the citizens had been justly visited. Hereat all marvelled, but when my two sisters (these two bitches, O Commander of the Faithful!) saw me by the side of my young lover they jaloused me on his account and were wroth and plotted mischief against me. We awaited a fair wind and went on board rejoicing and ready to fly for joy by reason of the goods we had gotten, but my own greatest joyance was in the youth; and we waited awhile till the wind blewfair for us and then we set sail and fared forth. Now as we sat talking, my sisters asked me, “And what wilt thou do with this handsome young man?”; and I answered, “I purpose to make him my husband!” Then I turned to him and said, “O my lord, I have that to propose to thee wherein thou must not cross me; and this it is that, when we reach Baghdad, my native city, I offer thee my life as thy handmaiden in holy matrimony, and thou shalt be to me baron and I will be femme to thee.” He answered, “I hear and I obey!; thou art my lady and my mistress and whatso thou doest I will not gainsay.” Then I turned to my sisters and said, “This is my gain; I content me with this youth and those who have gotten aught of my property let them keep it as their gain with my good will.” “Thou sayest and doest well,” answered the twain, but they imagined mischief against me. We ceased not spooning before a fair wind till we had exchanged the sea of peril for the seas of safety and, in a few days, we made Bassorah city, whose buildings loomed clear before us as evening fell. But after we had retired to rest and were sound alseep, my two sisters arose and took me up, bed and all, and threw me into the sea: they did the same with the young Prince who, as he could not swim, sank and was drowned and Allah enrolled him in the noble army of Martyrs.1 As for me would Heaven I had been drowned with him, but Allah deemed that I should be of the saved; so when I awoke and found myself in the sea and saw the ship making off like a dash of lightning, He threw in my way a piece of timber which I bestrided, and the waves tossed me to and fro till they cast me upon an island coast, a high land and an uninhabited. I landed and walked about the island the rest of the night and, when morning dawned, I saw a rough track barely fit for child of Adam to tread, leading to what proved a shallow ford connecting island and mainland. As soon as the sun had risen I spread my garments to dry in its rays; and ate of the fruits of the island and drank of its waters; then I set out along the foot track and ceased not walking till I reached the mainland. Now when there remained between me and the city but a two hours’ journey behold, a great serpent, the bigness of a date palm, came fleeing towards me in all haste, gliding along now to the right then to the left till she was close upon me, whilst her tongue lolled ground wards a span long and swept the dust as she went. She was pursued by a Dragon2 who was not longer than two lances, and of slender build about the bulk of a spear and, although her terror lent her speed, and she kept wriggling from side to side, he overtook her and seized her by the tail, whereat her tears streamed down and her tongue was thrust out in her agony. I took pity on her and, picking up a stone and calling upon Allah for aid, threw it at the Dragon’s head with such force that he died then and there; and the serpent opening a pair of wings Hew into the lift and disappeared from before my eyes. I sat down marvelling over that adventure, but I was weary and, drowsiness overcoming me, I slept where I was for a while. When I awoke I found a jet black damsel sitting at my feet shampooing them; and by her side stood two black bitches (my sisters, O Commander of the Faithful!). I was ashamed before her3 and, sitting up, asked her, “O my sister, who and what art thou?”; and she answered, “How soon hast thou forgotten me! I am she for whom thou wroughtest a good deed and sowedest the seed of gratitude and slowest her foe; for I am the serpent whom by Allah’s aidance thou didst just now deliver from the Dragon. I am a Jinniyah and he was a Jinn who hated me, and none saved my life from him save thou. As soon as thou freedest me from him I Dew on the wind to the ship whence thy sisters threw thee, and removed all that was therein to thy house. Then I ordered my attendant Marids to sink the ship and I transformed thy two sisters into these black bitches; for I know all that hath passed between them and thee; but as for the youth, of a truth he is drowned.” So saying, she dew up with me and the bitches, and presently set us down on the terrace roof of my house, wherein I found ready stored the whole of what property was in my ship, nor was aught of it missing. “Now (continued the serpent that was), I swear by all engraver on the seal-ring of Solomon4 (with whom be peace!) unless thou deal to each of these bitches three hundred stripes every day I will come and imprison thee forever under the earth.” I answered, “Hearkening and obedience!”; and away she Dew. But before going she again charged me saying, “I again swear by Him who made the two seas flow5 (and this be my second oath) if thou gainsay me I will come and transform thee like thy sisters.” Since then I have never failed, O Commander of the Faithful, to beat them with that number of blows till their blood flows with my tears, I pitying them the while, and well they wot that their being scourged is no fault of mine and they accept my excuses. And this is my tale and my history! The Caliph marvelled at her adventures and then signed to Ja’afar who said to the second lady, the Portress, “And thou, how camest thou by the welts and wheels upon thy body?” So she began the

1 Arab. “Shuhadá”; highly respected by Moslems as by other religionists; although their principal if not only merit seems as a rule to have been intense obstinacy and devotion to one idea for which they were ready to sacrifice even life. The Martyrs-category is extensive including those killed by falling walls; victims to the plague, pleurisy and pregnancy, travellers drowned or otherwise lost when journeying honestly, and chaste lovers who die of “broken hearts” i.e. impaired digestion. Their souls are at once stowed away in the crops of green birds where they remain till Resurrection Day, “eating of the fruits and drinking of the streams of Paradise,” a place however, whose topography is wholly uncertain. Thus the young Prince was rewarded with a manner of anti-Purgatory, a preparatory heaven.

2 Arab. “Su’ubán:” the Badawin give the name to a variety of serpents all held to be venomous; but in tales the word, like “Tannín,” expresses our “dragon” or “cockatrice.”

3 She was ashamed to see the lady doing servile duty by rubbing her feet. This massage, which B. de la Brocquière describes in 1452 as “kneading and pinching,” has already been noticed. The French term is apparently derived from the Arab. “Mas-h.”

4 Alluding to the Most High Name, the hundredth name of God, the Heb. Shem hamphorash, unknown save to a favoured few who by using it perform all manner of miracles.

5 i e. the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.

Tale of the Portress.

Know, O Commander of the Faithful, that I had a father who, after fulfilling his time, deceased and left me great store of wealth. I remained single for a short time and presently married one of the richest of his day. I abode with him a year when he also died, and my share of his property amounted to eighty thousand diners in gold according to the holy law of inheritance.1 Thus I became passing rich an my reputation spread far and wide, for I had made me ten changes of raiment, each worth a thousand diners One day as I was sitting at home, behold, there came in to me an old woman2 with lantern jaws and cheeks sucked in, and eyes rucked up, and eyebrows scant and scald, and head bare and bald; and teeth broken by time and mauled, and back bending and neck nape nodding, and face blotched, and rheum running, and hair like a snake black and white speckled, in complexion a very fright, even as saith the poet of the like of her:—

Ill-omened hag! unshriven be her sins

Nor mercy visit her on dying bed:

Thousand head strongest he mules would her guiles,

Despite their bolting lead with spider thread.

And as saith another:—

A hag to whom th’ unlawful lawfullest

And witchcraft wisdom in her sight are grown:

A mischief making brat, a demon maid,

A whorish woman and a pimping crone.3

When the old woman entered she salamed to me and kissing the ground before me, said, “I have at home an orphan daughter and this night are her wedding and her displaying.4 We be poor folks and strangers in this city knowing none inhabitant and we are broken hearted. So do thou earn for thyself a recompense and a reward in Heaven by being present at her displaying and, when the ladles of this city shall hear that thou art to make act of presence, they also will present themselves; so shalt thou comfort her affliction, for she is sore bruised in spirit and she hath none to look to save Allah the Most High.” Then she wept and kissed my feet reciting these couplets:—

“Thy presence bringeth us a grace

We own before thy winsome face:

And wert thou absent ne’er an one

Could stand in stead or take thy place.”

So pity get hold on me and compassion and I said, “Hearing is consenting and, please Allah, I will do somewhat more for her; nor shall she be shown to her bridegroom save in my raiment and ornaments and jewelry.” At this the old woman rejoiced and bowed her head to my feet and kissed them, saying, “Allah requite thee weal, and comfort thy heart even as thou hast comforted mine! But, O my lady, do not trouble thyself to do me this service at this hour; be thou ready by supper time,5 when I will come and fetch thee.” So saying she kissed my hand and went her ways. I set about stringing my pearls and donning my brocades and making my toilette, Little recking what Fortune had in womb for me, when suddenly the old woman stood before me, simpering and smiling till she showed every tooth stump, and quoth she, “O my mistress, the city madams have arrived and when I apprized them that thou promisedst to be present, they were glad and they are now awaiting thee and looking eagerly for thy coming and for the honour of meeting thee.” So I threw on my mantilla and, making the old crone walk before me and my handmaidens behind me, I fared till we came to a street well watered and swept neat, where the winnowing breeze blew cool and sweet. Here we were stopped by a gate arched over with a dome of marble stone firmly seated on solidest foundation, and leading to a Palace whose walls from earth rose tall and proud, and whose pinnacle was crowned by the clouds,6 and over the doorway were writ these couplets:—

I am the wone where Mirth shall ever smile;

The home of Joyance through my lasting while:

And ’mid my court a fountain jets and flows,

Nor tears nor troubles shall that fount defile:

The merge with royal Nu’uman’s7 bloom is dight,

Myrtle, Narcissus-flower and Chamomile.

Arrived at the gate, before which hung a black curtain, the old woman knocked and it was opened to us; when we entered and found a vestibule spread with carpets and hung around with lamps all alight and wax candles in candelabra adorned with pendants of precious gems and noble ores. We passed on through this passage till we entered a saloon, whose like for grandeur and beauty is not to be found in this world. It was hung and carpeted with silken stuffs, and was illuminated with branches sconces and tapers ranged in double row, an avenue abutting on the upper or noble end of the saloon, where stood a couch of juniper wood encrusted with pearls and gems and surmounted by a baldaquin with mosquito curtains of satin looped up with margaritas. And hardly had we taken note of this when there came forth from the baldaquin a young lady and I looked, O Commander of the Faithful, upon a face and form more perfect than the moon when fullest, with a favour brighter than the dawn gleaming with saffron-hued light, even as the poet sang when he said —

Thou pacest the palace a marvel sight,

A bride for a Kisra’s or Kaisar’s night!

Wantons the rose on thy roseate cheek,

O cheek as the blood of the dragon8 bright!

Slim waisted, languorous, sleepy eyed,

With charms which promise all love

And the tire which attires thy tiara’d brow

Is a night of woe on a morn’s glad light.

The fair young girl came down from the estrade and said to me, “Welcome and well come and good cheer to my sister, the dearly beloved, the illustrious, and a thousand greetings!” Then she recited these couplets:—

“An but the house could know who cometh ‘twould rejoice,

And kiss the very dust whereon thy foot was placed

And with the tongue of circumstance the walls would say,

“Welcome and hail to one with generous gifts engraced!”

Then sat she down and said to me, “O my sister, I have a brother who hath had sight of thee at sundry wedding feasts and festive seasons: he is a youth handsomer than I, and he hath fallen desperately in love with thee, for that bounteous Destiny hath garnered in thee all beauty and perfection; and he hath given silver to this old woman that she might visit thee; and she hath contrived on this wise to foregather us twain. He hath heard that thou art one of the nobles of thy tribe nor is he aught less in his; and, being desirous to ally his lot with thy lot, he hath practiced this device to bring me in company with thee; for he is fain to marry thee after the ordinance of Allah and his Apostle; and in what is lawful and right there is no shame.” When I heard these words and saw myself fairly entrapped in the house, I said, “Hearing is consenting.” She was delighted at this and clapped her hands;9 whereupon a door opened and out of it came a young man blooming in the prime of life, exquisitely dressed, a model of beauty and loveliness and symmetry and perfect grace, with gentle winning manners and eyebrows like a bended bow and shaft on cord, and eyes which bewitched all hearts with sorcery lawful in the sight of the Lord; even as saith some rhymer describing the like of him:—

His face as the face of the young moon shines

And Fortune stamps him with pearls for signs.10

And Allah favour him who said:—

Blest be his beauty; blest the Lord’s decree

Who cast and shaped a thing so bright of blee:

All gifts of beauty he conjoins in one;

Lost in his love is all humanity;

For Beauty’s self inscribed on his brow

“I testify there be no Good but he!”11

When I looked at him my heart inclined to him and I loved him; and he sat by my side and talked with me a while, when the young lady again clapped her hands and behold, a side door opened and out of it came the Kazi with his four assessors as witnesses; and they saluted us and, sitting down, drew up and wrote out the marriage contract between me and the youth and retired. Then he turned to me and said, “Be our night blessed,” presently adding, “O my lady, I have a condition to lay on thee.” Quoth I, “O my lord, what is that?” Whereupon he arose and fetching a copy of the Holy Book presented it to me saying “Swear hereon thou wilt never look at any other than myself nor incline thy body or thy heart to him.” I swore readily enough to this and he joyed with exceeding joy and embraced me round the neck while love for him possessed my whole heart. Then they set the table12 before us and we ate and drank till we were satisfied, but I was dying for the coming of the night. And when night did come he led me to the bride chamber and slept with me on the bed and continued to kiss and embrace me till the morning — such a night I had never seen in my dreams. I lived with him a life of happiness and delight for a full month, at the end of which I asked his leave13 to go on foot to the bazar and buy me certain especial stuffs and he gave me permission. So I donned my mantilla and, taking with me the old woman and a slave-girl,14 I went to the khan of the silk-mercers, where I seated myself in the shop front of a young merchant whom the old woman recommended, saying to me, “This youth’s father died when he was a boy and left him great store of wealth: he hath by him a mighty fine15 stock of goods and thou wilt find what thou seekest with him, for none in the bazar hath better stuffs than he. Then she said to him, “Show this lady the most costly stuffs thou hast by thee;” and he replied, “Hearken ing and obedience!” Then she whispered me, “Say a civil word to him!”; but I replied, “I am pledged to address no man save my lord. And as she began to sound his praise I said sharply to her, We want nought of thy sweet speeches; our wish is to buy of him whatsoever we need, and return home.” So he brought me all I sought and I offered him his money, but he refused to take it saying, “Let it be a gift offered to my guest this day!” Then quoth I to the old woman, “If he will not take the money, give him back his stuff.” “By Allah,” cried he, “not a thing will I take from thee: I sell it not for gold or for silver, but I give it all as a gift for a single kiss; a kiss more precious to me than everything the shop containeth.” Asked the old woman, “What will the kiss profit thee?”; and, turning to me, whispered, “O my daughter, thou hearest what this young fellow saith? What harm will it do thee if he get a kiss from thee and thou gettest what thou seekest at that price?” Replied I, “I take refuge with Allah from such action! Knowest thou not that I am bound by an oath?’’16 But she answered, “Now whist! just let him kiss thee and neither speak to him nor lean over him, so shalt thou keep thine oath and thy silver, and no harm whatever shall befal thee.” And she ceased not to persuade me and importune me and make light of the matter till evil entered into my mind and I put my head in the poke17 and, declaring I would ne’er consent, consented. So I veiled my eyes and held up the edge of my mantilla between me and the people passing and he put his mouth to my cheek under the veil. But while kissing me he bit me so hard a bite that it tore the flesh from my cheek,18 and blood flowed fast and faintness came over me. The old woman caught me in her arms and, when I came to myself, I found the shop shut up and her sorrowing over me and saying, “Thank Allah for averting what might have been worse!” Then she said to me, “Come, take heart and let us go home before the matter become public and thou be dishonoured. And when thou art safe inside the house feign sickness and lie down and cover thyself up; and I will bring thee powders and plasters to cure this bite withal, and thy wound will be healed at the latest in three days.” So after a while I arose and I was in extreme distress and terror came full upon me; but I went on little by little till I reached the house when I pleaded illness and lay me down. When it was night my husband came in to me and said, “What hath befallen thee, O my darling, in this excursion of thine?”; and I replied, “I am not well: my head acheth badly.” Then he lighted a candle and drew near me and looked hard at me and asked, “What is that wound I see on thy cheek and in the tenderest part too?” And I answered, When I went out to day with thy leave to buy stuffs, a camel laden with firewood jostled me and one of the pieces tore my veil and wounded my cheek as thou seest; for indeed the ways of this city are strait.” “To morrow,” cried he, “I will go complain to the Governor, so shall he gibbet every fuel seller in Baghdad.” “Allah upon thee,” said I, “burden not thy soul with such sin against any man. The fact is I was riding on an ass and it stumbled, throwing me to the ground; and my cheek lighted upon a stick or a bit of glass and got this wound.” “Then,” said he, “to morrow I will go up to Ja’afar the Barmaki and tell him the story, so shall he kill every donkey boy in Baghdad.” “Wouldst thou destroy all these men because of my wound,” said I, “when this which befel me was by decree of Allah and His destiny?” But he answered, “There is no help for it;” and, springing to his feet, plied me with words and pressed me till I was perplexed and frightened; and I stuttered and stammered and my speech waxed thick and I said, “This is a mere accident by decree of Allah.” Then, O Commander of the Faithful, he guessed my case and said, “Thou hast been false to thine oath.” He at once cried out with a loud cry, whereupon a door opened and in came seven black slaves whom he commanded to drag me from my bed and throw me down in the middle of the room. Furthermore, he ordered one of them to pinion my elbows and squat upon my head; and a second to sit upon my knees and secure my feet; and drawing his sword he gave it to a third and said, “Strike her, O Sa’ad, and cut her in twain and let each one take half and cast it into the Tigris19 that the fish may eat her; for such is the retribution due to those who violate their vows and are unfaithful to their love.” And he redoubled in wrath and recited these couplets:—

“An there be one who shares with me her love,

I’d strangle Love tho’ life by Love were slain

Saying, O Soul, Death were the nobler choice,

For ill is Love when shared ‘twixt partners twain.”

Then he repeated to the slave, “Smite her, O Sa’ad!” And when the slave who was sitting upon me made sure of the command he bent down to me and said, “O my mistress, repeat the profession of Faith and bethink thee if there be any thing thou wouldst have done; for verily this is the last hour of thy life.” “O good slave,” said I, “wait but a little while and get off my head that I may charge thee with my last injunctions.” Then I raised my head and saw the state I was in, how I had fallen from high degree into lowest disgrace; and into death after life (and such life!) and how I had brought my punishment on myself by my own sin; where upon the tears streamed from mine eyes and I wept with exceed ing weeping. But he looked on me with eyes of wrath, and began repeating:—

“Tell her who turneth from our love to work it injury sore,

And taketh her a fine new love the old love tossing o’er:

We cry enough o’ thee ere thou enough of us shalt cry!

What past between us cloth suffice and haply something more.”20

When I heard this, O Commander of the Faithful, I wept and looked at him and began repeating these couplets:—

“To severance you doom my love and all unmoved remain;

My tear sore lids you sleepless make and sleep while I complain:

You make firm friendship reign between mine eyes and insomny;

Yet can my heart forget you not, nor tears can I restrain:

You made me swear with many an oath my troth to hold for aye;

But when you reigned my bosom’s lord you wrought me traitor bane:

I loved you like a silly child who wots not what is Love;

Then spare the learner, let her not be by the master slain!

By Allah’s name I pray you write, when I am dead and gone,

Upon my tomb, This died of Love whose senses Love had ta’en:

Then haply one shall pass that way who fire of Love hath felt,

And treading on a lover’s heart with ruth and woe shall melt.”

When I ended my verses tears came again; but the poetry and the weeping only added fury to his fury, and he recited:—

“’Twas not satiety bade me leave the dearling of my soul,

But that she sinned a mortal sin which clips me in its clip:

She sought to let another share the love between us twain,

But my True Faith of Unity refuseth partnership.”21

When he ceased reciting I wept again and prayed his pardon and humbled myself before him and spoke him softly, saying to myself, “I will work on him with words; so haply he will refrain from slaying me, even though he take all I have.” So I complained of my sufferings and began to repeat these couplets:—

“Now, by thy life and wert thou just my life thou hadst not ta’en,

But who can break the severance law which parteth lovers twain!

Thou loadest me with heavy weight of longing love, when I

Can hardly bear my chemisette for weakness and for pain:

I marvel not to see my life and soul in ruin lain:

I marvel much to see my frame such severance pangs sustain.”

When I ended my verse I wept again; and he looked at me and reviled me in abusive language,22 repeating these couplets:—

“Thou west all taken up with love of other man, not me;

’Twas thine to show me severance face, ‘’twas only mine to see:

I’ll leave thee for that first thou west of me to take thy leave

And patient bear that parting blow thou borest so patiently:

E’en as thou soughtest other love, so other love I’ll seek,

And make the crime of murdering love thine own atrocity.”

When he had ended his verses he again cried out to the slave, “Cut her in half and free us from her, for we have no profit of her. So the slave drew near me, O Commander of the Faithful and I ceased bandying verses and made sure of death and, despairing of life, committed my affairs to Almighty Allah, when behold, the old woman rushed in and threw herself at my husband’s feet and kissed them and wept and said, “O my son, by the rights of my fosterage and by my long service to thee, I conjure thee pardon this young lady, for indeed she hath done nothing deserving such doom. Thou art a very young man and I fear lest her death be laid at thy door; for it is said:— Whoso slayeth shall be slain. As for this wanton (since thou deemest her such) drive her out from thy doors, from thy love and from thy heart.” And she ceased not to weep and importune him till he relented and said, ‘I pardon her, but needs must I set on her my mark which shall show upon her all my life.” Then he bade the slaves drag me along the ground and lay me out at full length, after stripping me of all my clothes;23 and when the slaves had so sat upon me that I could not move, he fetched in a rod of quince tree and came down with it upon my body, and continued beating me on the back and sides till I lost consciousness from excess of pain, and I despaired of life. Then he commanded the slaves to take me away as soon as it was dark, together with the old woman to show them the way and throw me upon the floor of the house wherein I dwelt before my marriage. They did their lord’s bidding and cast me down in my old home and went their ways. I did not revive from my swoon till dawn appeared, when I applied myself to the dressing of my wounds with ointments and other medicaments; and I medicined myself, but my sides and ribs still showed signs of the rod as thou hast seen. I lay in weakly case and confined to my bed for four months before I was able to rise and health returned to me. At the end of that time I went to the house where all this had happened and found it a ruin; the street had been pulled down endlong and rubbish heaps rose where the building erst was; nor could I learn how this had come about. Then I betook myself to this my sister on my father’s side and found her with these two black bitches. I saluted her and told her what had betided me and the whole of my story and she said, “O my sister, who is safe from the despite of Time and secure? Thanks be to Allah who has brought thee off safely;” and she began to say:—

“Such is the World, so bear a patient heart

When riches leave thee and when friends depart!”

Then she told me her own story, and what had happened to her with her two sisters and how matters had ended; so we abode together and the subject of marriage was never on our tongues for all these years. After a while we were joined by our other sister, the procuratrix, who goeth out every morning and buyeth all we require for the day and night; and we continued in such condition till this last night. In the morning our sister went out, as usual, to make her market and then befel us what befel from bringing the Porter into the house and admitting these three Kalandar men., We entreated them kindly and honourably and a quarter of the night had not passed ere three grave and respectable merchants from Mosul joined us and told us their adventures. We sat talking with them but on one condition which they violated, whereupon we treated them as sorted with their breach of promise, and made them repeat the account they had given of themselves. They did our bidding and we forgave their offence; so they departed from us and this morning we were unexpectedly summoned to thy presence. And such is our story! The Caliph wondered at her words and bade the tale be recorded and chronicled and laid up in his muniment-chambers. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 i.e. Settled by the Koran.

2 The uglier the old woman the better procuress she is supposed to make. See the Santa Verdiana in Boccaccio v., 10. In Arab. “Ajuz” (old woman) is highly insulting and if addressed to an Egyptian, whatever be her age she will turn fiercely and resent it. The polite term is Shaybah (Pilgrimage hi., 200).

3 The four ages of woman, considered after Demosthenes in her three-fold character, prostitute for pleasure, concubine for service and wife for breeding.

4 Arab. “Jilá” (the Hindostani Julwa) = the displaying of the bride before the bridegroom for the first time, in different dresses, to the number of seven which are often borrowed for the occasion. The happy man must pay a fee called “the tax of face-unveiling” before he can see her features. Amongst Syrian Christians he sometimes tries to lift the veil by a sharp movement of the sword which is parried by the women present, and the blade remains entangled in the cloth. At last he succeeds’ the bride sinks to the ground covering her face with her hands and the robes of her friends: presently she is raised up, her veil is readjusted and her face is left bare.

5 Arab. “Ishá”= the first watch of the night, twilight, supper-time, supper. Moslems have borrowed the four watches of the Romans from 6 (a.m. or p.m.) to 6, and ignore the three original watches of the Jews, even, midnight and cockcrow (Sam. ii. 19, Judges vii. 19, and Exodus xiv. 24).

6 A popular Arab hyperbole.

7 Arab. “Shakáik al-Nu’uman,” lit. the fissures of Nu’uman, the beautiful anemone, which a tyrannical King of Hirah, Nu’uman Al–Munzir, a contemporary of Mohammed, attempted to monopolize.

8 Arab. “Andam”=here the gum called dragon’s blood; in other places the dye-wood known as brazil.

9 I need hardly say that in the East, where bells are unused, clapping the hands summons the servants. In India men cry “Quy hye” (Koi hái?) and in Brazil whistle “Pst!” after the fashion of Spain and Portugal.

10 The moles are here compared with pearls; a simile by no means common or appropriate.

11 A parody on the testification of Allah’s Unity.

12 Arab. “Simát” (prop. “Sumát”); the “dinner-table,” composed of a round wooden stool supporting a large metal tray, the two being called “Sufrah” (or “Simat”): thus “Sufrah házirah!” means dinner is on the table. After the meal they are at once removed.

13 In the text “Dastúr,” the Persian word before noticed; “Izn” would be the proper Arabic equivalent.

14 In the Moslem East a young woman, single or married, is not allowed to appear alone in the streets; and the police have a right to arrest delinquents. As a preventive of intrigues the precaution is excellent. During the Crimean war hundreds of officers, English, French and Italian, became familiar with Constantinople; and not a few flattered themselves on their success with Turkish women. I do not believe that a single bona fide case occurred: the “conquests” were all Greeks, Wallachians, Armenians or Jewesses.

15 Arab. “Azím”: translators do not seem to know that this word in The Nights often bears its Egyptian and slang sense, somewhat equivalent to our “deuced” or “mighty” or “awfully fine.”

16 This is a very serious thing amongst Moslems and scrupulous men often make great sacrifices to avoid taking an oath.

17 We should say “into the noose.”

18 The man had fallen in love with her and determined to mark her so that she might be his.

19 Arab. “Dajlah,” in which we find the Heb. Hid-dekel.

20 Such an execution would be contrary to Moslem law: but people would look leniently upon the peccadillo of beheading or sacking a faithless wife. Moreover the youth was of the blood royal and A quoi bon être prince? as was said by a boy of viceroyal family in Egypt to his tutor who reproached him for unnecessarily shooting down a poor old man.

21 Arab. “Shirk,” partnership, evening or associating gods with God; polytheism: especially levelled at the Hindu triadism, Guebre dualism and Christian Trinitarianism.

22 Arab. “Shatm”— abuse, generally couched in foulest language with especial reference to the privy parts of female relatives.

23 When a woman is bastinadoed in the East they leave her some portion of dress and pour over her sundry buckets of water for a delicate consideration. When the hands are beaten they are passed through holes in the curtain separating the sufferer from mankind, and made fast to a “falakah” or pole.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31