The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

When it was the Nineteenth Night,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph commanded this story and those of the sister and the Kalandars to be recorded in the archives and be set in the royal muniment-chambers. Then he asked the eldest lady, the mistress of the house, “Knowest thou the whereabouts of the Ifritah who spelled thy sisters?”; and she answered, “O Commander of the Faithful, she gave me a ringlet of her hair saying:— Whenas thou wouldest see me, burn a couple of these hairs and I will be with thee forthright, even though I were beyond Caucasus-mountain.” Quoth the Caliph, “Bring me hither the hair.” So she brought it and he threw the whole lock upon the fire As soon as the odour of the burning hair dispread itself, the palace shook and trembled, and all present heard a rumbling and rolling of thunder and a noise as of wings and lo! the Jinniyah who had been a serpent stood in the Caliph’s presence. Now she was a Moslemah, so she saluted him and said, “Peace be with thee O Vicar1 of Allah;” whereto he replied, “And with thee also be peace and the mercy of Allah and His blessing.” Then she continued, “Know that this damsel sowed for me the seed of kindness, wherefor I cannot enough requite her, in that she delivered me from death and destroyed mine enemy. Now I had seen how her sisters dealt with her and felt myself bound to avenge her on them. At first I was minded to slay them, but I feared it would be grievous to her, so I transformed them to bitches; but if thou desire their release, O Commander of the Faithful, I will release them to pleasure thee and her for I am of the Moslems.” Quoth the Caliph, “Release them and after we will look into the affair of the beaten lady and consider her case carefully; and if the truth of her story be evidenced I will exact retaliation2 from him who wronged her.” Said the Ifritah, “O Commander of the Faithful, I will forthwith release them and will discover to thee the man who did that deed by this lady and wronged her and took her property, and he is the nearest of all men to thee!” So saying she took a cup of water and muttered a spell over it and uttered words there was no understanding; then she sprinkled some of the water over the faces of the two bitches, saying, “Return to your former human shape!” whereupon they were restored to their natural forms and fell to praising their Creator. Then said the Ifritah, “O Commander of the Faithful, of a truth he who scourged this lady with rods is thy son Al–Amin brother of Al–Maamun;3 for he had heard of her beauty and love liness and he played a lover’s stratagem with her and married her according to the law and committed the crime (such as it is) of scourging her. Yet indeed he is not to be blamed for beating her, for he laid a condition on her and swore her by a solemn oath not to do a certain thing; however, she was false to her vow and he was minded to put her to death, but he feared Almighty Allah and contented himself with scourging her, as thou hast seen, and with sending her back to her own place. Such is the story of the second lady and the Lord knoweth all.” When the Caliph heard these words of the Ifritah, and knew who had beaten the damsel, he marvelled with mighty marvel and said, “Praise be to Allah, the Most High, the Almighty, who hath shown his exceeding mercy towards me, enabling me to deliver these two damsels from sorcery and torture, and vouchsafing to let me know the secret of this lady’s history! And now by Allah, we will do a deed which shall be recorded of us after we are no more.” Then he summoned his son Al–Amin and questioned him of the story of the second lady, the portress; and he told it in the face of truth; whereupon the Caliph bade call into presence the Kazis and their witnesses and the three Kalandars and the first lady with her sisters german who had been ensorcelled; and he married the three to the three Kalandars whom he knew to be princes and sons of Kings and he appointed them chamberlains about his person, assigning to them stipends and allowances and all that they required, and lodging them in his palace at Baghdad. He returned the beaten lady to his son, Al–Amin, renewing the marriage contract between them and gave her great wealth and bade rebuild the house fairer than it was before. As for himself he took to wife the procuratrix and lay with her that night: and next day he set apart for her an apartment in his Serraglio, with handmaidens for her service and a fixed daily allowance And the people marvelled at their Caliph’s generosity and natural beneficence and princely widsom; nor did he forget to send all these histories to be recorded in his annals. When Shahrazad ceased speaking Dunyazad exclaimed, “O my own sister, by Allah in very sooth this is a right pleasant tale and a delectable; never was heard the like of it, but prithee tell me now another story to while away what yet remaineth of the waking hours of this our night.” She replied, “With love and gladness if the King give me leave;” and he said, “Tell thy tale and tell it quickly.” So she began, in these words,

1 Arab. “Khalifah,” Caliph. The word is also used for the successor of a Santon or holy man.

2 Arab. “Sár,” here the Koranic word for carrying out the venerable and undying lex talionis the original basis of all criminal jurisprudence. Its main fault is that justice repeats the offence.

3 Both these sons of Harun became Caliphs, as we shall see in The Nights.

The Tale of the Three Apples

They relate, O King of the age and lord of the time and of these days, that the Caliph Harun al-Rashid summoned his Wazir Ja’afar one night and said to him, ‘I desire to go down into the city and question the common folk concerning the conduct of those charged with its governance; and those of whom they complain we will depose from office and those whom they commend we will promote.” Quoth Ja’afar, “Hearkening and obedience!” So the Caliph went down with Ja’afar and Eunuch Masrur to the town and walked about the streets and markets and, as they were threading a narrow alley, they came upon a very old man with a fishing-net and crate to carry small fish on his head, and in his hand a staff; and, as he walked at a leisurely pace, he repeated these lines:—

“They say me:— Thou shinest a light to mankind

With thy lore as the night which the Moon doth uplight!

I answer, “A truce to your jests and your gibes;

Without luck what is learning? — a poor-devil wight!

If they take me to pawn with my lore in my pouch,

With my volumes to read and my ink-case to write,

For one day’s provision they never could pledge me;

As likely on Doomsday to draw bill at sight:”

How poorly, indeed, doth it fare wi’ the poor,

With his pauper existence and beggarly plight:

In summer he faileth provision to find;

In winter the fire-pot’s his only delight:

The street-dogs with bite and with bark to him rise,

And each losel receives him with bark and with bite:

If he lift up his voice and complain of his wrong,

None pities or heeds him, however he’s right;

And when sorrows and evils like these he must brave

His happiest homestead were down in the grave.”

When the Caliph heard his verses he said to Ja’afar, “See this poor man and note his verses, for surely they point to his necessities.” Then he accosted him and asked, “O Shaykh, what be thine occupation?” and the poor man answered, “O my lord, I am a fisherman with a family to keep and I have been out between mid-day and this time; and not a thing hath Allah made my portion wherewithal to feed my family. I cannot even pawn myself to buy them a supper and I hate and disgust my life and I hanker after death.” Quoth the Caliph, “Say me, wilt thou return with us to Tigris’ bank and cast thy net on my luck, and whatsoever turneth up I will buy of thee for an hundred gold pieces?” The man rejoiced when he heard these words and said, “On my head be it! I will go back with you;” and, returning with them river-wards, made a cast and waited a while; then he hauled in the rope and dragged the net ashore and there appeared in it a chest padlocked and heavy. The Caliph examined it and lifted it finding it weighty; so he gave the fisherman two hundred dinars and sent him about his business; whilst Masrur, aided by the Caliph, carried the chest to the palace and set it down and lighted the candles. Ja’afar and Masrur then broke it open and found therein a basket of palm-leaves corded with red worsted. This they cut open and saw within it a piece of carpet which they lifted out, and under it was a woman’s mantilla folded in four, which they pulled out; and at the bottom of the chest they came upon a young lady, fair as a silver ingot, slain and cut into nineteen pieces. When the Caliph looked upon her he cried, “Alas!” and tears ran down his cheeks and turning to Ja’afar he said, “O dog of Wazirs, 1 shall folk be murdered in our reign and be cast into the river to be a burden and a responsibility for us on the Day of Doom? By Allah, we must avenge this woman on her murderer and he shall be made die the worst of deaths!” And presently he added, “ Now, as surely as we are descended from the Sons of Abbas, 2 if thou bring us not him who slew her, that we do her justice on him, I will hang thee at the gate of my palace, thee and forty of thy kith and kin by thy side.” And the: Caliph was wroth with exceeding rage. Quoth Ja’afar, “Grant me three days’ delay;” and quoth the Caliph, “We grant thee this.” So Ja’afar went out from before him and returned to his own house, full of sorrow and saying to himself, “How shall I find him who murdered this damsel, that I may bring him before the Caliph? If I bring other than the murderer, it will be laid to my charge by the Lord: in very sooth I wot not what to do.” He kept his house three days and on the fourth day the Caliph sent one of the Chamberlains for him and, as he came into the presence, asked him, “Where is the murderer of the damsel?” to which answered Ja’afar, “O Commander of the Faithful, am I inspector of “ murdered folk that I should ken who killed her?” The Caliph was furious at his answer and bade hang him before the palace-gate and commanded that a crier cry through the streets of Baghdad, “Whoso would see the hanging of Ja’afar, the Barmaki, Wazir of the Caliph, with forty of the Barmecides, 3 his cousins and kinsmen, before the palace-gate, let him come and let him look!” The people flocked out from all the quarters of the city to witness the execution of Ja’afar and his kinsmen, not knowing the cause. Then they set up the gallows and made Ja’afar and the others stand underneath in readiness for execution, but whilst every eye was looking for the Caliph’s signal, and the crowd wept for Ja’afar and his cousins of the Barmecides, lo and behold! a young man fair of face and neat of dress and of favour like the moon raining light, with eyes black and bright, and brow flower-white, and cheeks red as rose and young down where the beard grows, and a mole like a grain of ambergris, pushed his way through the people till he stood immediately before the Wazir and said to him, “Safety to thee from this strait, O Prince of the Emirs and Asylum of the poor! I am the man who slew the woman ye found in the chest, so hang me for her and do her justice on me!” When Ja’afar heard the youth’s confession he rejoiced at his own deliverance. but grieved and sorrowed for the fair youth; and whilst they were yet talking behold, another man well stricken in years pressed forwards through the people and thrust his way amid the populace till he came to Ja’afar and the youth, whom he saluted saying, “Ho thou the Wazir and Prince sans-peer! believe not the words of this youth. Of a surety none murdered the damsel but I; take her wreak on me this moment; for, an thou do not thus, I will require it of thee before Almighty Allah.” Then quoth the young man, “O Wazir, this is an old man in his dotage who wotteth not whatso he saith ever, and I am he who murdered her, so do thou avenge her on me!” Quoth the old man, “O my son, thou art young and desirest the joys of the world and I am old and weary and surfeited with the world: I will offer my life as a ransom for thee and for the Wazir and his cousins. No one murdered the damsel but I, so Allah upon thee, make haste to hang me, for no life is left in me now that hers is gone.” The Wazir marvelled much at all this strangeness and, taking the young man and the old man, carried them before the Caliph, where, after kissing the ground seven times between his hands, he said, “O Commander of the Faithful, I bring thee the murderer of the damsel!” “Where is he?” asked the Caliph and Ja’afar answered, “This young man saith, I am the murderer, and this old man giving him the lie saith, I am the murderer, and behold, here are the twain standing before thee.” The Caliph looked at the old man and the young man and asked, “Which of you killed the girl?” The young man replied, “No one slew her save I;” and the old man answered, “Indeed none killed her but myself.” Then said the Caliph to Ja’afar, “Take the twain and hang them both;” but Ja’afar rejoined, “Since one of them was the murderer, to hang the other were mere injustice.”4 “By Him who raised the firmament and dispread the earth like a carpet,” cried the youth, “I am he who slew the damsel;” and he went on to describe the manner of her murder and the basket, the mantilla and the bit of carpet, in fact all that the Caliph had found upon her. So the Caliph was certified that the young man was the murderer; whereat he wondered and asked him, ‘What was the cause of thy wrongfully doing this damsel to die and what made thee confess the murder without the bastinado, and what brought thee here to yield up thy life, and what made thee say Do her wreak upon me?” The youth answered, “Know, O Commander of the Faithful, that this woman was my wife and the mother of my children; also my first cousin and the daughter of my paternal uncle, this old man who is my father’s own brother. When I married her she was a maid 5 and Allah blessed me with three male children by her; she loved me and served me and I saw no evil in her, for I also loved her with fondest love. Now on the first day of this month she fell ill with grievous sickness and I fetched in physicians to her; but recovery came to her little by little. and, when I wished her to go to the Hammam. bath, she said, “There is a something I long for before I go to the bath and I long for it with an exceeding longing.” To hear is to comply,” said I. “And what is it?” Quoth she, “I have a queasy craving for an apple, to smell it and bite a bit of it.” I replied, “Hadst thou a thousand longings I would try to satisfy them!” So I went on the instant into the city and sought for apples but could find none; yet, had they cost a gold piece each, would I have bought them. I was vexed at this and went home and said, “O daughter of my uncle. by Allah I can find none!” She was distressed, being yet very weakly, and her weakness in. creased greatly on her that night and I felt anxious and alarmed on her account. As soon as morning dawned I went out again and made the round of the gardens, one by one, but found no apples anywhere. At last there met me an old gardener. of whom I asked about them and he answered, “O my son, this fruit is a rarity with us and is not now to be found save in the garden of the Commander of the Faithful at Bassorah, where the gardener keepeth it for the Caliph’s eating.” I returned to my house troubled by my ill-success; and my love for my wife and my affection moved me to undertake the journey. So I gat me ready and set out and travelled fifteen days and nights, going and coming, and brought her three apples which I bought from the gardener for three dinars. But when I went in to my wife and set them before her, she took no pleasure in them and let them lie by her side; for her weakness and fever had increased on her and her malady lasted without abating ten days, after which time she began to recover health. So I left my house and be. taking me to my shop sat there buying and selling; and about midday behold, a great ugly black slave, long as a lance and broad as a bench, passed by my shop holding in hand one of the three apples wherewith he was playing. Quoth I, “O my good slave, tell me whence thou tookest that apple, that I may get the like of it?” He laughed and answered, “I got it from my mistress, for I had been absent and on my return I found her lying ill with three apples by her side, and she said to me, ‘My horned wittol of a husband made a journey for them to Bassorah and bought them for three dinars.’ So I ate and drank with her and took this one from her.” 6 When I heard such words from the slave, O Commander of the Faithful, the world grew black before my face, and I arose and locked up my shop and went home beside myself for excess of rage. I looked for the apples and finding only two of the three asked my wife, “O my cousin, where is the third apple?”; and raising her head languidly she answered, “I wet not, O son of my uncle, where ’tis gone!” This convinced me that the slave had spoken the truth, so I took a knife and coming behind her got upon her breast without a word said and cut her throat. Then I hewed off her head and her limbs in pieces and, wrapping her in her mantilla and a rag of carpet, hurriedly sewed up the whole which I set in a chest and, locking it tight, loaded it on my he-mule and threw it into the Tigris with my own hands. So Allah upon thee, O Commander of the Faithful, make haste to hang me, as I fear lest she appeal for vengeance on Resurrection Day. For, when I had thrown her into the river and none knew aught of it, as I went back home I found my eldest son crying and yet he knew naught of what I had done with his mother. I asked him, “What hath made thee weep, my boy?” and he answered, “I took one of the three apples which were by my mammy and went down into the lane to play with my brethren when behold, a big long black slave snatched it from my hand and said. ‘Whence hadst thou this?’ Quoth I, ‘My father travelled far for it, and brought it from Bassorah for my mother who was ill and two other apples for which he paid three ducats.’ He took no heed of my words and I asked for the apple a second and a third time, but he cuffed me and kicked me and went off with it. I was afraid lest my mother should swinge me on account of the apple, so for fear of her I went with my brother outside the city and stayed there till evening closed in upon us; and indeed I am in fear of her; and now by Allah, O my father, say nothing to her of this or it may add to her ailment!” When I heard what-my child said I knew that the slave was he who had foully slandered my wife, the daughter of my uncle, and was certified that I had slain her wrong. fully. So I wept with exceeding weeping and presently this old man, my paternal uncle and her father, came in; and I told him what had happened and he sat down by my side and wept and we ceased not weeping till midnight. We have kept up mourning for her these last five days and we lamented her in the deepest sorrow for that she was unjustly done to die. This came from the gratuitous lying of the slave, the blackamoor, and this was the manner of my killing her; so I conjure thee, by the honour of thine ancestors, make haste to kill me and do her justice upon me, as there is no living for me after her!” The Caliph marvelled at his words and said, “By Allah, the young man is excusable: I will hang none but the accursed slave and I will do a deed which shall comfort the ill-at-ease and suffering, and which shall please the All-glorious King.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say,

1 “Dog” and “hog” are still highly popular terms of abuse. The Rabbis will not defile their lips with “pig;” but say “Dabhar akhir”=“another thing.”

2 The “hero eponymus” of the Abbaside dynasty, Abbas having been the brother of Abdullah the father of Mohammed. He is a famous personage in Al-Islam (D’Herbelot).

3 Europe translates the word “Barmecides. It is Persian from bar (up) and makidan (to suck). The vulgar legend is that Ja’afar, the first of the name, appeared before the Caliph Abd al-Malik with a ring poisoned for his own need; and that the Caliph, warned of it by the clapping of two stones which he wore ad hoc, charged the visitor with intention to murder him. He excused himself and in his speech occurred the Persian word “Barmakam,” which may mean “I shall sup it up,” or “I am a Barmak,” that is, a high priest among the Guebres. See D’Herbelot s.v.

4 Arab.“Zulm,” the deadliest of monarch’s sins. One of the sayings of Mohammed, popularly quoted, is, “Kingdom endureth with Kufr or infidelity (i. e. without accepting Al-Islam) but endureth not with Zulm or injustice.” Hence the good Moslem will not complain of the rule of Kafirs or Unbelievers, like the English, so long as they rule him righteously and according to his own law.]

5 All this aggravates his crime: had she been a widow she would not have had upon him “the claims of maidenhead,” the premio della verginita of Boccaccio, x. 10.

6 It is supposed that slaves cannot help telling these fatal lies. Arab story-books are full of ancient and modern instances and some have become “Joe Millers.” Moreover it is held unworthy of a free-born man to take over-notice of these servile villanies; hence the scoundrel in the story escapes unpunished. I have already noticed the predilection of debauched women for these “skunks of the human race;” and the young man in the text evidently suspected that his wife had passed herself this “little caprice.” The excuse which the Caliph would find for him is the pundonor shown in killing one he loved so fondly.

When it was the Twentieth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph swore he would hang none but the slave, for the youth was excusable. Then he turned to Ja’afar and said to him, “Bring before me this accursed slave who was the sole cause of this calamity; and, if thou bring him not before me within three days, thou shalt be slain in his stead.” So Ja’afar fared forth weeping and saying. “Two deaths have already beset me, nor shall the crock come of safe from every shock.’ 1 In this matter craft and cunning are of no avail; but He who preserved my life the first time can preserve it a second time. By Allah, I will not leave my house during the three days of life which remain to me and let the Truth (whose perfection be praised!) do e’en as He will.” So he kept his house three days, and on the fourth day he summoned the Kazis and legal witnesses and made his last will and testament, and took leave of his children weeping. Presently in came a messenger from the Caliph and said to him, “The Commander of the Faithful is in the most violent rage that can be, and he sendeth to seek thee and he sweareth that the day shall certainly not pass without thy being hanged unless the slave be forth. coming.” When Ja’afar heard this he wept, and his children and slaves and all who were in the house wept with him. After he had bidden adieu to everybody except his youngest daughter, he proceeded to farewell her; for he loved this wee one, who was a beautiful child, more than all his other children; and he pressed her to his breast and kissed her and wept bitterly at parting from her; when he felt something round inside the bosom of her dress and asked her, “O my little maid, what is in thy bosom pocket?”; “O my father,” she replied, “it is an apple with the name of our Lord the Caliph written upon it. Rayhán our slave brought it to me four days ago and would not let me have it till I gave him two dinars for it.” When Ja’afar heard speak of the slave and the apple, he was glad and put his hand into his child’s pocket 2 and drew out the apple and knew it and rejoiced saying, “O ready Dispeller of trouble “ 3 Then he bade them bring the slave and said to him, “Fie upon thee, Rayhan! whence haddest thou this apple?” “By Allah, O my master,” he replied, “though a lie may get a man once off, yet may truth get him off, and well off, again and again. I did not steal this apple from thy palace nor from the gardens of the Commander of the Faithful. The fact is that five days ago, as I was walking along one of the alleys of this city, I saw some little ones at play and this apple in hand of one of them. So I snatched it from him and beat him and he cried and said, ‘O youth this apple is my mother’s and she is ill. She told my father how she longed for an apple, so he travelled to Bassorah and bought her three apples for three gold pieces, and I took one of them to play withal.’ He wept again, but I paid no heed to what he said and carried it off and brought it here, and my little lady bought it of me for two dinars of gold. And this is the whole story.” When Ja’afar heard his words he marvelled that the murder of the damsel and all this misery should have been caused by his slave; he grieved for the relation of the slave to himself, while rejoicing over his own deliverance, and he repeated these lines:—

“If ill betide thee through thy slave,

Make him forthright thy sacrifice:

A many serviles thou shalt find,

But life comes once and never twice.”

Then he took the slave’s hand and, leading him to the Caliph, related the story from first to last and the Caliph marvelled with extreme astonishment, and laughed till he fell on his back and ordered that the story be recorded and be made public amongst the people. But Ja’afar said, “Marvel not, O Commander of the Faithful, at this adventure, for it is not more wondrous than the History of the Wazir Núr al-Dín Ali of Egypt and his brother Shams al-Dín Mohammed. — Quoth the Caliph, “Out with it; but what can be stranger than this story?” And Ja’afar answered, “O Commander of the Faithful, I will not tell it thee, save on condition that thou pardon my slave;” and the Caliph rejoined, “If it be indeed more wondrous than that of the three apples, I grant thee his blood, and if not I will surely slay thy slave.” So Ja’afar began in these words the

1 The Arab equivalent of our pitcher and well.

2 i.e. Where the dress sits loosely about the bust.

3 He had trusted in Allah and his trust was justified.

Tale of Nur Al-Din and his Son.

Know, O Commander of the Faithful, that in times of yore the land of Egypt was ruled by a Sultan endowed with justice and generosity, one who loved the pious poor and companied with the Olema and learned men; and he had a Wazir, a wise and an experienced, well versed in affairs and in the art of government. This Minister, who was a very old man, had two sons, as they were two moons; never man saw the like of them for beauty and grace, the elder called Shams al-Din Mohammed and the younger Nur al-Din Ali; but the younger excelled the elder in seemliness and pleasing semblance, so that folk heard his fame in far countries and men flocked to Egypt for the purpose of seeing him. In course of time their father, the Wazir, died and was deeply regretted and mourned by the Sultan, who sent for his two sons and, investing them with dresses of honour, 1 said to them, “Let not your hearts be troubled, for ye shall stand in your father’s stead and be joint Ministers of Egypt.” At this they rejoiced and kissed the ground before him and performed the ceremonial mourning 2 for their father during a full month; after which time they entered upon the Wazirate, and the power passed into their hands as it had been in the hands of their father, each doing duty for a week at a time. They lived under the same roof and their word was one; and whenever the Sultan desired to travel they took it by turns to be in attendance on him. It fortuned one night that the Sultan purposed setting out on a journey next morning, and the elder, whose turn it was to accompany him, was sitting conversing with his brother and said to him, “O my brother, it is my wish that we both marry, I and thou, two sisters; and go in to our wives on one and the same night.” “Do, O my brother, as thou desirest,” the younger replied, “for right is thy recking and surely I will comply with thee in whatso thou sayest.” So they agreed upon this and quoth Shams al-Din, “If Allah decree that we marry two damsels and go in to them on the same night, and they shall conceive on their bridenights and bear children to us on the same day, and by Allah’s will they wife bear thee a son and my wife bear me a daughter, let us wed them either to other, for they will be cousins.” Quoth Nur al-Din, “O my brother, Shams al-Din, what dower 3 wilt thou require from my son for thy daughter?” Quoth Shams al-Din, “I will take three thousand dinars and three pleasure gardens and three farms; and it would not be seemly that the youth make contract for less than this.” When Nur al-Din heard such demand he said, “What manner of dower is this thou wouldst impose upon my son? Wottest thou not that we are brothers and both by Allah’s grace Wazirs and equal in office? It behoveth thee to offer thy daughter to my son without marriage settlement; or if one need be, it should represent a mere nominal value by way of show to the world: for thou knowest that the masculine is worthier than the feminine, and my son is a male and our memory will be preserved by him, not by thy daughter.” “But what,” said Shams al-Din, “is she to have?”; and Nur al-Din continued, “Through her we shall not be remembered among the Emirs of the earth; but I see thou wouldest do with me according to the saying:— An thou wouldst bluff off a buyer, ask him high price and higher; or as did a man who, they say, went to a friend and asked something of him being in necessity and was answered, ‘Bismallah, 4 in the name of Allah, I will do all what thou requirest but come to-morrow!’ Whereupon the other replied in this verse:—

‘When he who is asked a favour saith “To-morrow,”

The wise man wots ‘tis vain to beg or borrow.’”

Quoth Shams al-Din, “Basta! 5 I see thee fail in respect to me by making thy son of more account than my daughter; and ‘tis plain that thine understanding is of the meanest and that thou lackest manners. Thou remindest me of thy partnership in the Wazirate, when I admitted thee to share with me only in pity for thee, and not wishing to mortify thee; and that thou mightest help me as a manner of assistant. But since thou talkest on this wise, by Allah, I will never marry my daughter to thy son; no, not for her weight in gold!” When Nur al-Din heard his brother’s words he waxed wroth and said, “And I too, I will never, never marry my son to thy daughter; no, not to keep from my lips the cup of death.” Shams al-Din replied, “I would not accept him as a husband for her, and he is not worth a paring of her nail. Were I not about to travel I would make an example of thee; however when I return thou shalt see, and I will show thee, how I can assert my dignity and vindicate my honour. But Allah doeth whatso He willeth.”6 When Nur al-Din heard this speech from his brother, he was filled with fury and lost his wits for rage; but he hid what he felt and held his peace; and each of the brothers passed the night in a place far apart, wild with wrath against the other. As soon as morning dawned the Sultan fared forth in state and crossed over from Cairo 7 to Jizah 8 and made for the pyramids, accompanied by the Wazir Shams al-Din, whose turn of duty it was, whilst his brother Nur al-din, who passed the night in sore rage, rose with the light and prayed the dawn-prayer. Then he betook himself to his treasury and, taking a small pair of saddle-bags, filled them with gold; and he called to mind his brother’s threats and the contempt wherewith he had treated him, and he repeated these couplets:—

“Travel! and thou shalt find new friends for old ones left behind;

Toil! for the sweets of human life by toil and moil are found:

The stay-at-home no honour wins nor aught attains but want;

So leave thy place of birth 9 and wander all the world around!

I’ve seen, and very oft I’ve seen, how standing water stinks,

And only flowing sweetens it and trotting makes it sound:

And were the moon for ever full and ne’er to wax or wane,

Man would not strain his watchful eyes to see its gladsome round:

Except the lion leave his lair he ne’er would fell his game,

Except the arrow leave the bow ne’er had it reached its bound:

Gold-dust is dust the while it lies untravelled in the mine,

And aloes-wood mere fuel is upon its native ground:

And gold shall win his highest worth when from his goal ungoal’d;

And aloes sent to foreign parts grows costlier than gold.”

When he ended his verse he bade one of his pages saddle him his Nubian mare-mule with her padded selle. Now she was a dapple-grey, 10 with ears like reed-pens and legs like columns and a back high and strong as a dome builded on pillars; her saddle was of gold-cloth and her stirrups of Indian steel, and her housing of Ispahan velvet; she had trappings which would serve the Chosroes, and she was like a bride adorned for her wedding night. Moreover he bade lay on her back a piece of silk for a seat, and a prayer-carpet under which were his saddle-bags. When this was done he said to his pages and slaves, “I purpose going forth a-pleasuring outside the city on the road to Kalyub-town, 11 and I shall lie three nights abroad; so let none of you follow me, for there is something straiteneth my breast.” Then he mounted the mule in haste; and, taking with him some provaunt for the way, set out from Cairo and faced the open and uncultivated country lying around it. 12 About noontide he entered Bilbays-city, 13 where he dismounted and stayed awhile to rest himself and his mule and ate some of his victual. He bought at Bilbays all he wanted for himself and forage for his mule and then fared on the way of the waste. Towards night-fall he entered a town called Sa’adiyah 14 where he alighted and took out somewhat of his viaticum and ate; then he spread his strip of silk on the sand and set the saddle-bags under his head and slept in the open air; for he was still overcome with anger. When morning dawned he mounted and rode onward till he reached the Holy City, 15 Jerusalem, and thence he made Aleppo, where he dismounted at one of the caravanserais and abode three days to rest himself and the mule and to smell the air. 16 Then, being determined to travel afar and Allah having written safety in his fate, he set out again, wending without wotting whither he was going; and, having fallen in with certain couriers, he stinted not travelling till he had reached Bassorah-city albeit he knew not what the place was. It was dark night when he alighted at the Khan, so he spread out his prayer-carpet and took down the saddle-bags from the back of his mule and gave her with her furniture in charge of the door-keeper that he might walk her about. The man took her and did as he was bid. Now it so happened that the Wazir of Bassorah, a man shot in years, was sitting at the lattice-window of his palace opposite the Khan and he saw the porter walking the mule up and down. He was struck by her trappings of price and thought her a nice beast fit for the riding of Wazirs or even of royalties; and the more he looked the more was he perplexed till at last he said to one of his pages, “Bring hither yon door-keeper,” The page went and returned to the Wazir with the porter who kissed the ground between his hands, and the Minister asked him, “Who is the owner of yonder mule and what manner of man is he?”; and he answered, “O my lord, the owner of this mule is a comely young man of pleasant manners, withal grave and dignified, and doubtless one of the sons of the merchants.” When the Wazir heard the door-keeper’s words he arose forthright; and, mounting his horse, rode to the Khan 17 and went in to Nur al-Din who, seeing the minister making towards him, rose to his feet and advanced to meet him and saluted him. The Wazir welcomed him to Bassorah and dismounting, embraced him and made him sit down by his side and said, “O my son, whence comest thou and what dost thou seek?” “O my lord,” Nur al-Din replied, “I have come from Cairo-city of which my father was whilome Wazir; but he hath been removed to the grace of Allah;” and he informed him of all that had befallen him from beginning to end, adding, “I am resolved never to return home before I have seen all the cities and countries of the world.” When the Wazir heard this, he said to him, “O my son, hearken not to the voice of passion lest it cast thee into the pit; for indeed many regions be waste places and I fear for thee the turns of Time.” Then he let load the saddle-bags and the silk and prayer-carpets on the mule and carried Nur al-Din to his own house, where he lodged him in a pleasant place and entreated him honourably and made much of him, for he inclined to love him with exceeding love. After a while he said to him, “O my son, here am I left a man in years and have no male children, but Allah hath blessed me with a daughter who eventh thee in beauty; and I have rejected all her many suitors, men of rank and substance. But affection for thee hath entered into my heart; say me, then, wilt thou be to her a husband? If thou accept this, I will go up with thee to the Sultan of Bassorah 18 and will tell him that thou art my nephew, the son of my brother, and bring thee to be appointed Wazir in my place that I may keep the house for, by Allah, O my son, I am stricken in years and aweary.” When Nur al-Din heard the Wazir’s words, he bowed his head in modesty and said, “To hear is to obey!” At this the Wazir rejoiced and bade his servants prepare a feast and decorate the great assembly-hall, wherein they were wont to celebrate the marriages of Emirs and Grandees. Then he assembled his friends and the notables of the reign and the merchants of Bassorah and when all stood before him he said to them, “I had a brother who was Wazir in the land of Egypt, and Allah Almighty blessed him with two sons, whilst to me, as well ye wot, He hath given a daughter. My brother charged me to marry my daughter to one of his sons, whereto I assented; and, when my daughter was of age to marry, he sent me one of his sons, the young man now present, to whom I purpose marrying her, drawing up the contract and celebrating the night of unveiling with due ceremony; for he is nearer and dearer to me than a stranger and, after the wedding, if he please he shall abide with me, or if he desire to travel I will forward him and his wife to his father’s home.” Hereat one and all replied, “Right is thy recking;” and they all looked at the bridegroom and were pleased with him. So the Wazir sent for the Kazi and legal witnesses and they wrote out the marriage-contract, after which the slaves perfumed the guests with incense, 19 and served them with sherbet of sugar and sprinkled rose-water on them and all went their ways. Then the Wazir bade his servants take Nur al-Din to the Hammam-baths and sent him a suit of the best of his own especial raiment, and napkins and towelry and bowls and perfume-burners and all else that was required. After the bath, when he came out and donned the dress, he was even as the full moon on the fourteenth night; and he mounted his mule and stayed not till he reached the Wazir’s palace. There he dismounted and went in to the Minister and kissed his hands, and the Wazir bade him welcome. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Khila’ah” prop. What a man strips from his person: gen. An honorary gift. It is something more than the “robe of honour” of our chivalrous romances, as it includes a horse, a sword (often gold-hilted), a black turban (amongst the Abbasides) embroidered with gold, a violet-mantle, a waist-shawl and a gold neck-chain and shoe-buckles.

2 Arab. “Izá,” i.e. the visits of condolence and so forth which are long and terribly wearisome in the Moslem East.

3 Arab. “Mahr,” the money settled by the man before marriage on the woman and without which the contract is not valid. Usually half of it is paid down on the marriage-day and the other half when the husband dies or divorces his wife. But if she take a divorce she forfeits her right to it, and obscene fellows, especially Persians, often compel her to demand divorce by unnatural and preposterous use of her person.

4 Bismillah here means “Thou art welcome to it.”

5 Arab. “Bassak,” half Pers. (bas = enough) and — ak = thou; for thee. “Bas” sounds like our “buss” (to kiss) and there are sundry good old Anglo–Indian jokes of feminine mistakes on the subject.

6 This saving clause makes the threat worse. The scene between the two brothers is written with characteristic Arab humour; and it is true to nature. In England we have heard of a man who separated from his wife because he wished to dine at six and she preferred half-past six.

7 Arab. “Misr.” (vulg. Masr). The word, which comes of a very ancient house, was applied to the present capital about the time of its conquest by the Osmanli Turks A.H. 923 = 1517.

8 The Arab. “Jízah,” = skirt, edge; the modern village is the site of an ancient Egyptian city, as the “Ghizah inscription” proves (Brugsch, History of Egypt, ii. 415)

9 Arab. “Watan” literally meaning “birth-place” but also used for “patria, native country”; thus “Hubb al-Watan” = patriotism. The Turks pronounce it “Vatan,” which the French have turned it into Va-t’en!

10 Arab. “Zarzariyah” = the colour of a stare or starling (Zurzúr).

11 Now a Railway Station on the Alexandria–Cairo line.

12 Even as late as 1852, when I first saw Cairo, the city was girt by waste lands and the climate was excellent. Now cultivation comes up to the house walls; while the Mahmudiyah Canal, the planting the streets with avenues and over-watering have seriously injured it; those who want the air of former Cairo must go to Thebes. Gout, rheumatism and hydrophobia (before unknown) have become common of late years.

13 This is the popular pronunciation: Yakút calls it “Bilbís.”

14 An outlying village on the “Long Desert,” between Cairo and Palestine.

15 Arab. “Al–Kuds” = holiness. There are few cities which in our day have less claim to this title than Jerusalem; and, curious to say, the “Holy Land” shows Jews, Christians and Moslems all in their worst form. The only religion (if it can be called one) which produces men in Syria is the Druse. “Heiligen-landes Jüden” are proverbial and nothing can be meaner than the Christians while the Moslems are famed for treachery.

16 Arab. “Shamm al-hawá.” In vulgar parlance to “smell the air” is to take a walk, especially out of town. There is a peculiar Egyptian festival called “Shamm al-Nasím” (smelling the Zephyr) which begins on Easter–Monday (O.S.), thus corresponding with the Persian Nau-roz, vernal equinox and introducing the fifty days of “Khammasín” or “Mirísi” (hot desert winds). On awakening, the people smell and bathe their temples with vinegar in which an onion has been soaked and break their fast with a “fisikh” or dried “búri” = mullet from Lake Menzalah: the late Hekekiyan Bey had the fish-heads counted in one public garden and found 70,000. The rest of the day is spent out of doors “Gypsying,” and families greatly enjoy themselves on these occasions. For a longer description, see a paper by my excellent friend Yacoub Artin Pasha, in the Bulletin de l’Institut Égyptien, 2nd series, No. 4, Cairo, 1884. I have noticed the Mirísi (south-wester) and other winds in the Land of Midian, i., 23.

17 So in the days of the “Mameluke Beys” in Egypt a man of rank would not cross the street on foot.

18 Arab. Basrah. The city is now in decay and not to flourish again till the advent of the Euphrates Valley R.R., is a modern place, founded in A.H. 15, by the Caliph Omar upon the Aylah, a feeder of the Tigris. Here, according to Al–Haríri, the “whales and the lizards meet,” and, as the tide affects the river,

Its stream shows prodigy, ebbing and flowing.

In its far-famed market-place, Al–Marbad, poems used to be recited; and the city was famous for its mosques and Saint- shrines, fair women and school of Grammar which rivalled that of Kúfah. But already in Al–Hariri’s day (nat. A.H. 446 = A.D. 1030) Baghdad had drawn off much of its population.

19 This fumigation (Bukhúr) is still used. A little incense or perfumed wood is burnt upon an open censor (Mibkharah) of earthenware or metal, and passed round, each guest holding it for a few moments under his beard. In the Somali County, the very home of incense, both sexes fumigate the whole person after carnal intercourse. Lane (Mod. Egypt, chapt. viii) gives an illustration of the Mibkharah).

When it was the Twenty-first Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Wazir stood up to him and welcoming him said, “Arise and go in to thy wife this night, and on the morrow I will carry thee to the Sultan, and pray Allah bless thee with all manner of weal.” So Nur al-Din left him and went into his wife the Wazir’s daughter. Thus far concerning him, but as regards his eldest brother, Shams al-Din, he was absent with the Sultan a long time and when he returned from his journey he found not his brother; and he asked of his servants and slaves who answered, “On the day of thy departure with the Sultan, thy brother mounted his mule fully caparisoned as for state procession saying, ‘I am going towards Kalyub-town and I shall be absent one day or at most two days; for my breast is straitened, and let none of you follow me.’ Then he fared forth and from that time to this we have heard no tidings of him.” Shams al-Din was greatly troubled at the sudden disappearance of his brother and grieved with exceeding grief at the loss and said to himself, “This is only because I chided and upbraided him the night before my departure with the Sultan; haply his feelings were hurt and he fared forth a-travelling; but I must send after him.” Then he went in to the Sultan and acquainted him with what had happened and wrote letters and dispatches, which he sent by running footmen to his deputies in every province. But during the twenty days of his brother’s absence Nur al-Din had travelled far and had reached Bassorah; so after diligent search the messengers failed to come at any news of him and returned. Thereupon Shams al-Din despaired of finding his brother and said, “Indeed I went beyond all bounds in what I said to him with reference to the marriage of our children. Would that I had not done so! This all cometh of my lack of wit and want of caution.” Soon after this he sought in marriage the daughter of a Cairene merchant, 1 and drew up the marriage contract and went in to her. And it so chanced that, on the very same night when Shams al-Din went in to his wife, Nur al-Din also went in to his wife the daughter of the Wazir of Bassorah; this being in accordance with the will of Almighty Allah, that He might deal the decrees of Destiny to His creatures. Furthermore, it was as the two brothers had said; for their two wives became pregnant by them on the same night and both were brought to bed on the same day; the wife of Shams al-Din, Wazir of Egypt, of a daughter, never in Cairo was seen a fairer; and the wife of Nur al-Din of a son, none more beautiful was ever seen in his time, as one of the poets said concerning the like of him:—

That jetty hair, that glossy brow,

My slender-waisted youth, of thine,

Can darkness round creation throw,

Or make it brightly shine.

The dusky mole that faintly shows

Upon his cheek, ah! blame it not:

The tulip-flower never blows

Undarkened by its spot 2

And as another also said:—

His scent was musk and his cheek was rose;

His teeth are pearls and his lips drop wine;

His form is a brand and his hips a hill;

His hair is night and his face moon-shine.

They named the boy Badr al-Din Hasan and his grandfather, the Wazir of Bassorah, rejoiced in him and, on the seventh day after his birth, made entertainments and spread banquets which would befit the birth of Kings’ sons and heirs. Then he took Nur al-Din and went up with him to the Sultan, and his son-in-law, when he came before the presence of the King, kissed the ground between his hands and repeated these verses, for he was ready of speech, firm of sprite and good in heart as he was goodly in form:—

“The world’s best joys long be thy lot, my lord!

And last while darkness and the dawn o’erlap:

O thou who makest, when we greet thy gifts,

The world to dance and Time his palms to clap.” 3

Then the Sultan rose up to honour them, and thanking Nur al-Din for his fine compliment, asked the Wazir, “Who may be this young man?”; and the Minister answered, “This is my brother’s son,” and related his tale from first to last. Quoth the Sultan, “And how comes he to be thy nephew and we have never heard speak of him?” Quoth the Minister, “O our lord the Sultan, I had a brother who was Wazir in the land of Egypt and he died, leaving two sons, whereof the elder hath taken his father’s place and the younger, whom thou seest, came to me. I had sworn I would not marry my daughter to any but to him; so when he came I married him to her. 4 Now he is young and I am old; my hearing is dulled and my judgement is easily fooled; wherefore I would solicit our lord the Sultan 5 to set him in my stead, for he is my brother’s son and my daughter’s husband; and he is fit for the Wazirate, being a man of good counsel and ready contrivance.” The Sultan looked at Nur al-Din and liked him, so he stablished him in office as the Wazir had requested and formally appointed him, presenting him with a splendid dress of honour and a she-mule from his private stud; and assigning to him solde, stipends and supplies. Nur al-Din kissed the Sultan’s hand and went home, he and his father-in-law, joying with exceeding joy and saying, “All this followeth on the heels of the boy Hasan’s birth!” Next day he presented himself before the King and, kissing the ground, began repeating:—

“Grow thy weal and thy welfare day by day:

And thy luck prevail o’er the envier’s spite;

And ne’er cease thy days to be white as day,

And thy foeman’s day to be black as night!”

The Sultan bade him be seated on the Wazir’s seat, so he sat down and applied himself to the business of his office and went into the cases of the lieges and their suits, as is the wont of Ministers; while the Sultan watched him and wondered at his wit and good sense, judgement and insight. Wherefor he loved him and took him into intimacy. When the Divan was dismissed Nur al-Din returned to his house and related what had passed to his father-in-law who rejoiced. And thenceforward Nur al-Din ceased not so to administer the Wazirate that the Sultan would not be parted from him night or day; and increased his stipend and supplies until his means were ample and he became the owner of ships that made trading voyages at his command, as well as of Mamelukes and blackamoor slaves; and he laid out many estates and set up Persian wheels and planted gardens. When his son Hasan was four years of age, the old Wazir deceased and he made for his father-in-law a sumptuous funeral ceremony ere he was laid in the dust. Then he occupied himself with the education of this son and, when the boy waxed strong and came to the age of seven, he brought him a Fakih, a doctor of law and religion, to teach him in his own house and charged him to give him a good education and instruct him in politeness and manners. So the tutor made the boy read and retain all varieties of useful knowledge, after he had spent some years in learning the Koran by heart; 6 and he ceased not to grow in beauty and stature and symmetry, even as saith the poet:—

In his face-sky shines the fullest moon;

In his cheeks’ anemone glows the sun:

He so conquered Beauty that he hath won

All charms of humanity one by one.

The professor brought him up in his father’s palace teaching him reading, writing and cyphering, theology and belles lettres. His grandfather the old Wazir had bequeathed to him the whole of his property when he was but four years of age. Now during all the time of his earliest youth he had never left the house, till on a certain day his father, the Wazir Nur al-Din, clad him in his best clothes and, mounting him on a she-mule of the finest, went up with him to the Sultan. The King gazed at Badr al-Din Hasan and marvelled at his comeliness and loved him. As for the city- folk, when he first passed before them with his father, they marvelled at his exceeding beauty and sat down on the road expecting his return, that they might look their fill on his beauty and loveliness and symmetry and perfect grace; even as the poet said in these verses:—

As the sage watched the stars, the semblance clear Of a fair youth on ‘s scroll he saw appear. Those jetty locks Canopus o’er him threw, And tinged his temple curls a musky hue; Mars dyed his ruddy cheek; and from his eyes The Archer-star his glittering arrow flies; His wit from Hermes came; and Soha’s care, (The half-seen star that dimly haunts the Bear) Kept off all evil eyes that threaten and ensnare, The sage stood mazed to see such fortunes meet, And Luna kissed the earth beneath his feet. 7

And they blessed him aloud as he passed and called upon Almighty Allah to bless him. 8 The Sultan entreated the lad with especial favour and said to his father, “O Wazir, thou must needs bring him daily to my presence;” whereupon he replied, “I hear and I obey.” Then the Wazir returned home with his son and ceased not to carry him to court till he reached the age of twenty. At that time the Minister sickened and, sending for Badr al-Din Hasan, said to him, “Know, O my son, that the world of the Present is but a house of mortality, while that of the Future is a house of eternity. I wish, before I die, to bequeath thee certain charges and do thou take heed of what I say and incline thy heart to my words.” Then he gave him last instructions as to the properest way of dealing with his neighbours and the due management of his affairs; after which he called to mind his brother and his home and his native land and wept over his separation from those he had first loved. Then he wiped away his tears and, turning to his son, said to him, “Before I proceed, O my son, to my last charges and injunctions, know that I have a brother, and thou hast an uncle, Shams al-Din hight, the Wazir of Cairo, which whom I parted, leaving him against his will. Now take thee a sheet of paper and write upon it whatso I say to thee.” Badr al-Din took a fair leaf and set about doing his father’s bidding and he wrote thereon a full account of what had happened to his sire first and last; the dates of his arrival at Bassorah and of his foregathering with the Wazir; of his marriage, of his going in to the Minister’s daughter and of the birth of his son; brief, his life of forty years from the date of his dispute with his brother, adding the words, “And this is written at my dictation and may Almighty Allah be with him when I am gone!” Then he folded the paper and sealed it and said, “O Hasan, O my son, keep this paper with all care; for it will enable thee to stablish thine origin and rank and lineage and, if anything contrary befal thee, set out for Cairo and ask for thine uncle and show him this paper and say to him that I died a stranger far from mine own people and full of yearning to see him and them.” So Badr al-Din Hasan took the document and folded it; and, wrapping it up in a piece of waxed cloth of his skull-cap and wound his light turband 9 round it. And he fell to weeping over his father and at parting with him, and he but a boy. Then Nur al-Din lapsed into a swoon, the forerunner of death; but presently recovering himself he said, “O Hasan, O my son, I will now bequeath to thee five last behests. The first behest is, Be over-intimate with none, nor frequent any, nor be familiar with any; so shalt thou be safe from his mischief; 10 for security lieth in seclusion of thought and a certain retirement from the society of thy fellows; and I have heard it said by a poet:—

In this world there is none thou mayst count upon

To befriend thy case in the nick of need:

So live for thyself nursing hope of none

Such counsel I give thee: enow, take heed!

The second behest is, O my son: Deal harshly with none lest fortune with thee deal hardly; for the fortune of this world is one day with thee and another day against thee and all worldly goods are but a loan to be repaid. And I have heard a poet say:-


Take thought nor hast to win the thing thou wilt;

Have ruth on man for ruth thou may’st require:

No hand is there but Allah’s hand is higher;

No tyrant but shall rue worse tyrant’s ire!

The third behest is, Learn to be silent in society and let thine own faults distract thine attention from the faults of other men: for it is said:— In silence dwelleth safety, and thereon I have heard the lines that tell us:—

Reserve’s a jewel, Silence safety is;

Whenas thou speakest many a word withhold;

For an of Silence thou repent thee once,

Of speech thou shalt repent times manifold.

The fourth behest, O my son, is Beware of wine-bibbing, for wine is the head of all frowardness and a fine solvent of human wits. So shun, and again I say, shun mixing strong liquor; for I have heard a poet say 11:—

From wine 12 I turn and whoso wine-cups swill;

Becoming one of those who deem it ill:

Wine driveth man to miss salvation-way, 13

And opes the gateway wide to sins that kill.

The fifth behest, O my son, is Keep thy wealth and it will keep thee; guard thy money and it will guard thee; and waste not thy substance lest haply thou come to want and must fare a-begging from the meanest of mankind. Save thy dirhams and deem them the sovereignest salve for the wounds of the world. And here again I have heard that one of the poets said:—

When fails my wealth no friend will deign befriend:

When wealth abounds all friends their friendship tender:

How many friends lent aid my wealth to spend;

But friends to lack of wealth no friendship render.

On this wise Nur al-Din ceased not to counsel his son Badr al-Din Hasan till his hour came and, sighing one sobbing sigh, his life went forth. Then the voice of mourning and keening rose high in his house and the Sultan and all the grandees grieved for him and buried him; but his son ceased not lamenting his loss for two months, during which he never mounted horse, nor attended the Divan nor presented himself before the Sultan. At last the King, being wroth with him, stablished in his stead one of the Chamberlains and made him Wazir, giving orders to seize and set seals on all Nur al-Din’s houses and goods and domains. So the new Wazir went forth with a mighty posse of Chamberlains and people of the Divan, and watchmen and a host of idlers to do this and to seize Badr al-Din Hasan and carry him before the King, who would deal with him as he deemed fit. Now there was among the crowd of followers a Mameluke of the deceased Wazir who, when he heard this order, urged his horse and rode at full speed to the house of Badr al-Din Hasan; for he cold not endure to see the ruin of his old master’s son. He found him sitting at the gate with head hung down and sorrowing, as was his wont, for the loss of his father; so he dismounted and kissing his hand said to him, “O my lord and son of my lord, haste ere ruin come and lay waste!” When Hasan heard this he trembled and asked, “What may be the matter?; and the man answered, “The Sultan is angered with thee and hath issued a warrant against thee, and evil cometh hard upon my track; so flee with thy life!” At these words Hasan’s heart flamed with the fire of bale, and his rose-red cheek turned pale, and he said to the “Mameluke, “O my brother, is there time for me to go in and get me some worldly gear which may stand me in stead during my strangerhood?” But the slave replied, “O my lord, up at once and save thyself and leave this house, while it is yet time.” And he quoted these lines:—

“Escape with thy life, if oppression betide thee,

And let the house of its builder’s fate!

Country for country thou’lt find, if thou seek it;

Life for life never, early or late.

It is strange men should dwell in the house of abjection,

When the plain of God’s earth is so wide and so great!” 14

At these words of the Mameluke, Badr al-Din covered his head with the skirt of his garment and went forth on foot till he stood outside of the city, where he heard folk saying, “The Sultan hath sent his new Wazir to the house of the old Wazir, now no more, to seal his property and seize his son Badr al-Din Hasan and take him before the presence, that he may put him to death; “ and all cried, “Alas for his beauty and his loveliness!” When he heard this he fled forth at hazard, knowing not whither he was going, and gave not over hurrying onwards till Destiny drove him to his father’s tomb. So he entered the cemetery and, threading his way through the graves, at last he reached the sepulchre where he sat down and let fall from his head the skirt of his long robe 15 which was made of brocade with a gold-embroidered hem whereon were worked these couplets:—

O thou whose forehead, like the radiant East,

Tells of the stars of Heaven and bounteous dews:

Endure thine honour to the latest day,

And Time thy growth of glory ne’er refuse!

While he was sitting by his father’s tomb behold, there came to him a Jew as he were a Shroff, 16 a money-changer, with a pair of saddle-bags containing much gold, who accosted him and kissed his hand, saying, “Whither bound, O my lord; ‘tis late in the day and thou art clad but lightly land I read signs of trouble in thy face?” “I was sleeping within this very hour,” answered Hasan, “when my father appeared to me and chid me for not having visited his tomb; so I awoke trembling and came hither forthright lest the day should go by without my visiting him, which would have been grievous to me.” “O my lord,” rejoined the Jew, 17 “thy father had many merchantmen at sea and, as some of them are now due, it is my wish to buy of thee the cargo of the first ship that cometh into port with this thousand dinars of gold.” “I consent,” quoth Hasan, whereupon the Jew took out a bag of gold and counted out a thousand sequins which he gave to Hasan, the son of the Wazir, saying, “Write me a letter of sale and seal it.” So Hasan took a pen and paper and wrote these words in duplicate, “The writer, Hasan Badr al-Din, son of Wazir Nur al-Din, hath to Isaac the Jew all the cargo of the first of his father’s ships which cometh into port, for a thousand dinars, and he hath received the price in advance.” And after he had taken one copy the Jew put it into his pouch and went away; but Hasan fell a-weeping as he thought of the dignity and prosperity which had erst been his and he began reciting:—

“This house, my lady, since you left is now a home no more

For me, not neighbours, since you left, prove kind and neighbourly:

The friend, whilere I took to heart, alas! no more to me

Is friend; and even Luna’s self displayeth lunacy:

You left and by your going left the world a waste, a wolf,

And lies a gloomy murk upon the face of hill and lea:

O may the raven-bird whose cry our hapless parting croaked

Find ne’er a nesty home and eke shed all his plumery!

At length my patience fails me; and this absence wastes my flesh;

How many a veil by severance rent our eyes are doomed see:

Ah! shall I ever sight again our fair past nights of your;

And shall a single house become a home for me once more?”

Then he wept with exceeding weeping and night came upon him; so he leant his head against his father’s grave and sleep overcame him: Glory to him who sleepeth not! He ceased not slumbering till the moon rose, when his head slipped from off the tomb and he lay on his back, with limbs outstretched, his face shining bright in the moonlight. Now the cemetery was haunted day and night by Jinns who were of the True Believers, and presently came out a Jinniyah who, seeing Hasan asleep, marvelled at his beauty and loveliness and cried, “Glory to God! This youth can be none other than one of the Wuldan of Paradise.18 Then she flew firmament-wards to circle it, as was her custom, and met an Ifrit on the wing who saluted her and she said to him, “Whence comest thou?” “From Cairo,” he replied. “Wilt thou come with me and look upon the beauty of a youth who sleepeth in yonder burial place?” she asked and he answered, “I will.” So they flew till they lighted at the tomb and she showed him the youth and said, “Now diddest thou ever in thy born days see aught like this?” The Ifrit looked upon him and exclaimed, “Praise be to Him that hath no equal! But, O my sister, shall I tell thee what I have seen this day?” Asked she, “What is that?” and he answered, “I have seen the counterpart of this youth in the land of Egypt. She is the daughter of the Wazir Shams al-Din and she is a model of beauty and loveliness, of fairest favour and formous form, and dight with symmetry and perfect grace. When she had reached the age of nineteen, 19 the Sultan of Egypt heard of her and, sending for the Wazir her father, said to him, ‘Hear me, O Wazir: it hath reached mine ear that thou hast a daughter and I wish to demand her of thee in marriage.” The Wazir replied, “O our lord the Sultan, deign accept my excuses and take compassion on my sorrows, for thou knowest that my brother, who was partner with me in the Wazirate, disappeared from amongst us many years ago and we wot not where he is. Now the cause of his departure was that one night, as we were sitting together and talking of wives and children to come, we had words on the matter and he went off in high dudgeon. But I swore that I would marry my daughter to none save to the son of my brother on the day her mother gave her birth, which was nigh upon nineteen years ago. I have lately heard that my brother died at Bassorah, where he married the daughter of the Wazir and that she bare him a son; and I will not marry my daughter but to him in honour of my brother’s memory. I recorded the date of my marriage and the conception of my wife and the birth of my daughter; and from her horoscope I find that her name is conjoined with that of her cousin; 20 and there are damsels in foison for our lord the Sultan.’ The King, hearing his Minister’s answer and refusal, waxed wroth with exceeding wrath and cried, ‘When the like of me asketh a girl in marriage of the like of thee, he conferreth an honour, and thou rejectest me and puttest me off with cold 21 excuses! Now, by the life of my head I will marry her to the meanest of my men in spite of the nose thee! 22 There was in the palace a horse-groom which was a Gobbo with a bunch to his breast and a hunch to his back; and the Sultan sent for him and married him to the daughter of the Wazir, lief or loath, and hath ordered a pompous marriage procession for him and that he go in to his bride this very night. I have now just flown hither from Cairo, where I left the Hunchback at the door of the Hammam-bath amidst the Sultan’s white slaves who were waving lighted flambeaux about him. As for the Minister’s daughter she sitteth among her nurses and tirewomen, weeping and wailing; for they have forbidden her father to come near her. Never have I seen, O my sister, more hideous being than this Hunchback 23 whilest the young lady is the likest of all folk to this young man, albeit even fairer than he,”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased her permitted say.

1 The reader of The Nights will remark that the merchant is often a merchant-prince, consorting and mating with the highest dignitaries. Even amongst the Romans, a race of soldiers, statesmen and lawyers, “mercatura” on a large scale was “not to be vituperated.” In Boccacio (x.19) they are netti e delicati uomini. England is perhaps the only country which has made her fortune by trade, and much of it illicit trade, like that in slaves which built Liverpool and Bristol, and which yet disdains or affects to disdain the trader. But the unworthy prejudice is disappearing with the last generation, and men who formerly would have half starved as curates and ensigns, barristers and carabins are now only too glad to become merchants.

2 These lines in the Calc. And Bul. Edits. Have already occurred (Night vii.) but such carelessness is characteristic despite the proverb, “In repetition is no fruition.” I quote Torrens (p. 60) by way of variety. As regards the anemone (here called a tulip) being named “Shakík” = fissure, I would conjecture that it derives from the flower often forming long lines of red like stripes of blood in the landscape. Travellers in Syria always observe this.

3 Such an address to a royalty (Eastern) even in the present day, would be a passport to future favours.

4 In England the man marries and the woman is married: there is no such distinction in Arabia.

5 “Sultan” (and its corruption “Soldan”) etymologically means lord, victorious, ruler, ruling over. In Arabia it is a not uncommon proper name; and as a title it is taken by a host of petty kinglets. The Abbaside Caliphs (as Al-Wásik who has been noticed) formally created these Sultans as their regents. Al-Tá‘i bi’llah (regn. A.H. 363 = 974), invested the famous Sabuktagin with the office; and as Alexander–Sikander was wont to do, fashioned for him two flags, one of silver, after the fashion of nobles, and the other of gold, as Viceroy-designate. Sabuktagin’s son, the famous Mahmúd of the Ghaznavite dynasty in A.H. 393 = 1002, was the first to adopt “Sultan” as an independent title some two hundred years after the death of Harun al-Rashid. In old writers we have the Soldan of Egypt, the Soudan of Persia, and the Sowdan of Babylon; three modifications of one word.

6 i.e. he was a “Háfiz,” one who commits to memory the whole of the Koran. It is a serious task and must be begun early. I learnt by rote the last “Juzw” (or thirtieth part) and found that quite enough. This is the vulgar use of “Hafiz”: technically and theologically it means the third order of Traditionists (the total being five) who know by heart 300,000 traditions of the Prophet with their ascriptions. A curious “spiritualist” book calls itself “Hafed, Prince of Persia,” proving by the very title that the Spirits are equally ignorant of Arabic and Persian.

7 Here again the Cairo Edit. repeats the six couplets already given in Night xvii. I take them from Torrens (p. 163).

8 This naïve admiration of beauty in either sex characterised our chivalrous times. Now it is mostly confined to “professional beauties” or what is conventionally called the “fair sex”; as if there could be any comparison between the beauty of man and the beauty of woman, the Apollo Belvidere with the Venus de Medici.

9 Arab. “Shásh” (in Pers. urine) a light turband generally of muslin.

10 This is a lieu commun of Eastern worldly wisdom. Quite true! Very unadvisable to dive below the surface of one’s acquaintances, but such intimacy is like marriage of which Johnson said, “Without it there is no pleasure in life.”

11 The lines are attributed to the famous Al–Mutanabbi = the claimant to “Prophecy,” of whom I have given a few details in my Pilgrimage iii. 60, 62. He led the life of a true poet, somewhat Chauvinistic withal; and, rather than run away, was killed in A.H. 354 = 965.

12 Arab. “Nabíz” = wine of raisins or dates; any fermented liquor; from a root to “press out” in Syriac, like the word “Talmiz” (or Tilmiz says the Kashf al-Ghurrah) a pupil, student. Date-wine (ferment from the fruit, not the Tádi, or juice of the stem, our “toddy”) is called Fazikh. Hence the Masjid al-Fazikh at Al–Medinah where the Ansar or Auxiliaries of that city were sitting cup in hand when they heard of the revelation forbidding inebriants and poured the liquor upon the ground (Pilgrimage ii. 322).

13 Arab. “Huda” = direction (to the right way), salvation, a word occurring in the Opening Chapter of the Koran. Hence to a Kafir who offers the Salam-salutation many Moslems reply “Allah-yahdík” = Allah direct thee! (i.e. make thee a Moslem), instead of Allah yusallimak = Allah lead thee to salvation. It is the root word of the Mahdi and Mohdi.

14 These lines have already occurred in The First Kalandar’s Story (Night xi.) I quote by way of change and with permission Mr. Payne’s version (i. 93).

15 Arab. “Farajíyah,” a long-sleeved robe worn by the learned (Lane, M.E., chapt. i.).

16 Arab. “Sarráf” (vulg. Sayrafi), whence the Anglo–Indian “Shroff,” a familiar corruption.

17 Arab. “Yahúdi” which is less polite than “Banú Isráil” = Children of Israel. So in Christendom “Israelite” when in favour and “Jew” (with an adjective or a participle) when nothing is wanted of him.

18 Also called “Ghilmán” = the beautiful youths appointed to serve the True Believers in Paradise. The Koran says (chapt. lvi. 9 etc.) “Youths, which shall continue in their bloom for ever, shall go round about to attend them, with goblets, and beakers, and a cup of flowing wine,” etc. Mohammed was an Arab (not a Persian, a born pederast) and he was too fond of women to be charged with love of boys: even Tristam Shandy (vol. vii. chapt. 7; “No, quoth a third; the gentleman has been committing ——”) knew that the two tastes are incompatibles. But this and other passages in the Koran have given the Chevaliers de la Pallie a hint that the use of boys, like that of wine, here forbidden, will be permitted in Paradise.

19 Which, by the by, is the age of an oldish old maid in Egypt. I much doubt puberty being there earlier than in England where our grandmothers married at fourteen. But Orientals are aware that the period of especial feminine devilry is between the first menstruation and twenty when, according to some, every girl is a “possible murderess.” So they wisely marry her and get rid of what is called the “lump of grief,” the “domestic calamity”— a daughter. Amongst them we never hear of the abominable egotism and cruelty of the English mother, who disappoints her daughter’s womanly cravings in order to keep her at home for her own comfort; and an “old maid” in the house, especially a stout, plump old maid, is considered not “respectable.” The ancient virgin is known by being lean and scraggy; and perhaps this diagnosis is correct.

20 This prognostication of destiny by the stars and a host of follies that end in — mancy is an intricate and extensive subject. Those who would study it are referred to chapt. xiv. of the “Qanoon-e-Islam, or the Customs of the Mussulmans of India; etc., etc., by Jaffur Shurreeff and translated by G. A. Herklots, M. D. of Madras.” This excellent work first appeared in 1832 (Allen and Co., London) and thus it showed the way to Lane’s “Modern Egyptians” (1833–35). The name was unfortunate as “Kuzzilbash” (which rhymed to guzzle and hash), and kept the book back till a second edition appeared in 1863 (Madras: J. Higginbotham).

21 Arab. “Bárid,” lit. cold: metaph. vain, foolish, insipid.

22 Not to “spite thee” but “in spite of thee.” The phrase is still used by high and low.

23 Arab. “Ahdab,” the common hunchback; in classical language the Gobbo in the text would be termed “Ak’as” from “Ka’as,” one with protruding back and breast; sometimes used for hollow back and protruding breast.

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