The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

When it was the Twenty-fourth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Ajib’s grandmother heard his words, she waxed wroth and looked at the servant and said, “Woe to thee! dost thou spoil my son, 1 and dost take him into common cookshops?” The Eunuch was frightened and denied, saying, “We did not go into the shop; we only passed by it.” “By Allah,” cried Ajib, “but we did go in and we ate till it came out of our nostrils, and the dish was better than thy dish!” Then his grandmother rose and went and told her brother-in-law, who was incensed against the Eunuch, and sending for him asked him, “Why didst thou take my son into a cookshop?”; and the Eunuch being frightened answered, “We did not go in.” But Ajib said, “We did go inside and ate conserve of pomegranate-grains till we were full; and the cook gave us to drink of iced and sugared sherbet.” At this the Wazir’s indignation redoubled and he questioned the Castrato but, as he still denied, the Wazir said to him, “If thou speak sooth, sit down and eat before us.” So he came forward and tried to eat, but could not eat and threw away the mouthful crying “O my lord! I am surfeited since yesterday.” By this the Wazir was certified that he had eaten at the cook’s and bade the slaves throw him 2 which they did. Then they came down on him with a rib-basting which burned him till he cried for mercy and help from Allah, saying, “O my master, beat me no more and I will tell thee the truth;” whereupon the Wazir stopped the bastinado and said, “Now speak thou sooth.” Quoth the Eunuch, “Know then that we did enter the shop of a cook while he was dressing conserve of pomegranate-grains and he set some of it before us: by Allah! I never ate in my life its like, nor tasted aught nastier than this stuff which is now before us.”3 Badr al-Din Hasan’s mother was angry at this and said, “Needs thou must go back to the cook and bring me a saucer of conserved pomegranate-grains from that which is in his shop and who it to thy master, that he may say which be the better and the nicer, mine or his.” Said the unsexed, “I will.” So on the instant she gave him a saucer and a half dinar and he returned to the shop and said to the cook, “O Shaykh of all Cooks, 4 we have laid a wager concerning thy cookery in my lord’s house, for they have conserve of pomegranate-grains there also; so give me this half-dinar’s worth and look to it; for I have eaten a full meal of stick on account of thy cookery, and so do not let me eat aught more thereof.” Hasan of Bassorah laughed and answered, “By Allah, none can dress this dish as it should be dressed save myself and my mother, and she at this time is in a far country.” Then he ladled out a saucer-full; and, finishing it off with musk and rose-water, put it in a cloth which he sealed 5 and gave it to the Eunuch, who hastened back with it. No sooner had Badr al-Din Hasan’s mother tasted it and perceived its fine flavour and the excellence of the cookery, than she knew who had dressed it, and she screamed and fell down fainting. The Wazir, sorely started, sprinkled rose-water upon her and after a time she recovered and said, “If my son be yet of this world, none dressed this conserve of pomegranate-grains but he; and this Cook is my very son Badr al-Din Hasan; there is no doubt of it nor can there be any mistake, for only I and he knew how to prepare it and I taught him.” When the Wazir heard her words he joyed with exceeding joy and said, “O the longing of me for a sight of my brother’s son! I wonder if the days will ever unite us with him! Yet it is to Almighty Allah alone that we look for bringing about this meeting.” Then he rose without stay or delay and, going to his suite said to them, “Be off, some fifty of you with sticks and staves to the Cook’s shop and demolish it; then pinion his arms behind him with his own turband, saying, ‘It was thou madest that foul mess of pomegranate-grains!’ and drag him here perforce but without doing him a harm.” And they replied, “It is well.” Then the Wazir rode off without losing an instant to the Palace and, foregathering with the Viceroy of Damascus, showed him the Sultan’s orders. After careful perusal he kissed the letter, and placing it upon his head said to his visitor, “Who is this offender of thine?” Quoth the Wazir, “A man who is a cook.” So the Viceroy at once sent his apparitors to the shop; which they found demolished and everything in it broken to pieces; for whilst the Wazir was riding to the palace his men had done his bidding. Then they awaited his return from the audience, and Hasan of Bassorah who was their prisoner kept saying, “I wonder what they have found in the conserve of pomegranate-grains to bring things to this pass!” 6 When the Wazir returned to them, after his visit to the Viceroy who had given him formal permission to take up his debtor and depart with him, on entering the tents he called for the Cook. They brought him forward pinioned with his turband; and, when Badr al-Din Hasan saw his uncle, he wept with excessive weeping and said, “O my lord, what is my offence against thee?” “Art thou the man who dressed that conserve of pomegranate-grains?”; asked the Wazir, and he answered “Yes! didst thou find in it aught to call for the cutting off of my head?” Quoth the Wazir, “That were the least of thy deserts!” Quoth the cook, “O my lord, wilt thou not tell me my crime and what aileth the conserve of pomegranate-grains?” “Presently,” replied the Wazir and called aloud to his men, “Bring hither the camels.” So they struck the tents and by the Wazir’s orders the servants took Badr al-Din Hasan, and set him in a chest which they padlocked and put on a camel. Then they departed and stinted not journeying till nightfall, when they halted and ate some victual, and took Badr al-Din Hasan out of his chest and gave him a meal and locked him up again. They set out once more and travelled till they reached Kimrah, where they took him out of the box and brought him before the Wazir who asked him, “Art thou he who dressed that conserve of pomegranate-grains?” He answered “Yes, O my lord!”; and the Wazir said “Fetter him!” So they fettered him and returned him to the chest and fared on again till they reached Cairo and lighted at the quarter called Al–Raydaniyah.7 Then the Wazir gave order to take Badr al-Din Hasan out of the chest and sent for a carpenter and said to him, “Make me a cross of wood 8 for his fellow!” Cried Badr al-Din Hasan “And what wilt thou do with it?”; and the Wazir replied, “I mean to crucify thee thereon, and nail thee thereto and parade thee all about the city.” “And why wilt thou use me after this fashion?” “Because of thy villanous cookery of conserved pomegranate-grains; how durst thou dress it and sell it lacking pepper?” “And for that it lacked pepper wilt thou do all this to me? Is it not enough that thou hast broken my shop and smashed my gear and boxed me up in a chest and fed me only once a day?” “Too little pepper! too little pepper! this is a crime which can be expiated only upon the cross!” Then Badr al-Din Hasan marvelled and fell a-mourning for his life; whereupon the Wazir asked him, “Of what thinkest thou?”; and he answered him, “Of maggoty heads like thine; 9 for an thou had one ounce of sense thou hadst not treated me thus.” Quoth the Wazir, “It is our duty to punish thee lest thou do the like again.” Quoth Badr al-Din Hasan, “Of a truth my offense were over-punished by the least of what thou hast already done to me; and Allah damn all conserve of pomegranate-grains and curse the hour when I cooked it and would I had died ere this!” But the Wazir rejoined, “There is no help for it; I must crucify a man who sells conserve of pomegranate-grains lacking pepper.” All this time the carpenter was shaping the wood and Badr al-Din looked on; and thus they did till night, when his uncle took him and clapped him into the chest, saying, “The thing shall be done to-morrow!” Then he waited until he knew Badr al-Din “Hasan to be asleep, when he mounted; and taking the chest up before him, entered the city and rode on to his own house, where he alighted and said to his daughter, Sitt al-Husn, “Praised be Allah who hath reunited thee with thy husband, the son of thine uncle! Up now, and order the house as it was on thy bridal night.” So the servants arose and lit the candles; and the Wazir took out his plan of the nuptial chamber, and directed them what to do till they had set everything in its stead, so that whoever saw it would have no doubt but it was the very night of the marriage. Then he bade them put down Badr al-Din Hasan’s turband on the settle, as he had deposited it with his own hand, and in like manner his bag-trousers and the purse which were under the mattress: and told daughter to undress herself and go to bed in the private chamber as on her wedding-night, adding, “When the son of thine uncle comes in to thee, say to him:— Thou hast loitered while going to the privy; and call him to lie by thy side and keep him in converse till daybreak, when we will explain the whole matter to him.” Then he bade take Badr al-Din Hasan out of the chest, after loosing the fetters from his feet and stripping off all that was on him save the fine shirt of blue silk in which he had slept on his wedding-night; so that he was well-nigh naked and trouserless. All this was done whilst he was sleeping on utterly unconscious. Then, by doom of Destiny, Badr al-Din Hasan turned over and awoke; and, finding himself in a lighted vestibule, said to himself, “Surely I am in the mazes of some dream.” So he rose and went on to a little to an inner door and looked in and lo! he was in the very chamber wherein the bride had been displayed to him; and there he saw the bridal alcove and the settle and his turband and all his clothes. When he saw this he as confounded and kept advancing with one foot, and retiring with the other, saying, “Am I sleeping or waking?” And he began rubbing his forehead and saying (for indeed he was thoroughly astounded), “By Allah, verily this is the chamber of the bride who was displayed before me! Where am I then? I was surely but now in a box!” Whilst he was talking with himself, Sitt al-Husn suddenly lifted the corner of the chamber-curtain and said, “O my lord, wilt thou not come in? Indeed thou hast loitered long in the water-closet.” When he heard her words and saw her face he burst out laughing and said, “Of a truth this is a very nightmare among dreams!” Then he went in sighing, and pondered what had come to pass with him and was perplexed about his case, and his affair became yet more obscure to him when he saw his turband and bag-trousers and when, feeling the pocket, he found the purse containing the thousand gold pieces. So he stood still and muttered, “Allah is all knowing! Assuredly I am dreaming a wild waking dream!” Then said the Lady of Beauty to him, “What ails thee to look puzzled and perplexed?”; adding, “Thou wast a very different man during the first of the night!” He laughed and asked her, “How long have I been away from thee?”; and she answered him, “Allah preserve thee and His Holy Name be about thee! Thou didst but go out an hour ago for an occasion and return. Are thy wits clean gone?” When Badr al-Din Hasan heard this, he laughed, 10 and said, “Thou hast spoken truth; but, when I went out from thee, I forgot myself awhile in the draught-house and dreamed that I was a cook at Damascus and abode there ten years; and there came to me a boy who was of the sons of the great, and with him an Eunuch.” Here he passed his hand over his forehead and, feeling the scar, cried, “By Allah, O my lady, it must have been true, for he struck my forehead with a stone and cut it open from eye-brow to eye-brow; and here is the mark: so it must have been on wake.” Then he added, “But perhaps I dreamt it when we fell asleep, I and thou, in each other’s arms, for meseems it was as though I travelled to Damascus without tarbush and trousers and set up as a cook there.” Then he was perplexed and considered for awhile, and said, “By Allah, I also fancied that I dressed a conserve of pomegranate-grains and put too little pepper in it. By Allah, I must have slept in the numerocent and have seen the whole thing in a dream; but how long was that dream!” “Allah upon thee,” said Sitt al-Husn, “and what more sawest thou?” So he related all to her; and presently said, “By Allah had I not woke up they would have nailed me to a cross of wood!” “Wherefore?” asked she; and he answered, “For putting too little pepper in the conserve of pomegranate-grains, and meseemed they demolished my shop and dashed to pieces my pots and pans, destroyed all my stuff and put me in a box; they then sent for the carpenter to fashion a cross for me and would have crucified me thereon. Now Alhamdolillah! thanks be to Allah, for that all this happened to me in sleep, and not on wake.” Sitt al-Husn laughed and clasped him to her bosom and he her to his: then he thought again and said, “By Allah, it could not be save while I was awake: truly I know not what to think of it.” Then he lay him down and all the night he was bewildered about his case, now saying, “I was dreaming!” and then saying, “I was awake!”, till morning, when his uncle Shams al-Din, the Wazir, came to him and saluted him. When Badr al-Din Hasan saw him he said, “By Allah, art thou not he who bade bind my hands behind me and smash my shop and nail me to a cross on a matter of conserved pomegranate-grains because the dish lacked a sufficiency of pepper?” Whereupon the Wazir said to him, “Know, O my son, that truth hath shown it soothfast and the concealed hath been revealed! 11 Thou art the son of my brother, and I did all this with thee to certify myself that thou wast indeed he who went in unto my daughter that night. I could not be sure of this, till I saw that thou knewest the chamber and thy turband and thy trousers and thy gold and the papers in thy writing and in that of thy father, my brother; for I had never seen thee afore that and knew thee not; and as to thy mother I have prevailed upon her to come with me from Bassorah.” So saying, he threw himself on his nephew’s breast and wept for joy; and Badr al-Din Hasan, hearing these words from his uncle, marvelled with exceeding marvel and fell on his neck and also shed tears for excess of delight. Then said the Wazir to him, “O my son, the sole cause of all this is what passed between me and thy sire;” and all that had occurred to part them. Lastly the Wazir sent for Ajib; and when his father saw him he cried, “And this is he who struck me with the stone!” Quoth the Wazir, “This is thy son!” And Badr al-Din Hasan threw himself upon his boy and began repeating:—

“Long have I wept o’er severance ban and bane,

Long from mine eyelids tear-rills rail and rain:

And vowed I if Time re-union bring

My tongue from name of “Severance” I’ll restrain:

Joy hath o’ercome me to this stress that I

From joy’s revulsion to shed tears am fain:

Ye are so trained to tears, O eyne of me!

You weep with pleasure as you weep with pain.” 12

When he had ended his verse his mother came in and threw herself upon him and began reciting:—

“When we met we complained,

Our hearts were sore wrung:

But plaint is not pleasant

Fro’ messenger’s tongue.”

Then she wept and related to him what had befallen her since his departure, and he told her what he had suffered, and they thanked Allah Almighty for their reunion. Two days after his arrival the Wazir Shams al-din went in to the Sultan and, kissing the ground between his hands, greeted him with the greeting due to Kings. The Sultan rejoiced at his return and his face brightened and, placing him hard by his side, 13 asked him to relate all he had seen in his wayfaring and whatso had betided him in his going and coming. So the Wazir told him all that had passed from first to last and the Sultan said, “Thanks be to Allah for thy victory 14 and the winning of thy wish and thy safe return to thy children and thy people! And now I needs must see the son of thy brother, Hasan of Bassorah, so bring him to the audience-hall to-morrow.” Shams al-Din replied, “Thy slave shall stand in thy presence to-morrow, Inshallah, if it be God’s will.” Then he saluted him and, returning to his own house, informed his nephew of the Sultan’s desire to see him, whereto replied Hasan, whilome the Bassorite, “The slave is obedient to the orders of his lord.” And the result was that next day he accompanied his uncle, Shams al-Din, to the Divan; and, after saluting the Sultan and doing him reverence in most ceremonious obeisance and with most courtly obsequiousness, he began improvising these verses:—

“The first in rank to kiss the ground shall deign

Before you, and all ends and aims attain:

You are Honour’s fount; and all that hope of you,

Shall gain more honour than Hope hoped to gain.”

The Sultan smiled and signed to him to sit down. So he took a seat close to his uncle, Shams al-Din, and the King asked him his name. Quoth Badr al-Din Hasan, “The meanest of thy slaves is known as Hasan the Bassorite, who is instant in prayer for thee day and night.” The Sultan was pleased at his words and, being minded to test his learning and prove his good breeding, asked him, “Dost thou remember any verses in praise of the mole on the cheek?” He answered, “I do,” and began reciting:—

“When I think of my love and our parting-smart,

My groans go forth and my tears upstart:

He’s a mole that reminds me in colour and charms

O’ the black o’ the eye and the grain 15 of the heart.”

The King admired and praised the two couplets and said to him, “Quote something else; Allah bless thy sire and may thy tongue never tire!” So he began:—

“That cheek-mole’s spot they evened with a grain

Of musk, nor did they here the simile strain:

Nay, marvel at the face comprising all

Beauty, nor falling short by single grain.”

The King shook with pleasure 16 and said to him, “Say more: Allah bless thy days!” So he began:—

“O you whose mole on cheek enthroned recalls

A dot of musk upon a stone of ruby,

Grant me your favours! Be not stone at heart!

Core of my heart whose only sustenance you be!”

Quoth the King, “Fair comparison, O Hasan! 17 thou hast spoken excellently well and hast proved thyself accomplished in every accomplishment! Now explain to me how many meanings be there in the Arabic language 18 for the word Khal or mole.” He replied, “Allah keep the King! Seven and fifty and some by tradition say fifty.” Said the Sultan, “Thou sayest sooth,” presently adding, “Hast thou knowledge as to the points of excellence in beauty?” “Yes,” answered Badr al-Din Hasan, “Beauty consisteth in brightness of face, clearness of complexion, shapeliness of nose, gentleness of eyes, sweetness of mouth, cleverness of speech, slenderness of shape and seemliness of all attributes. But the acme of beauty is in the hair and, indeed, al-Shihab the Hijazi hath brought together all these items in his doggrel verse of the metre Rajaz, 19 and it is this:

Say thou to skin “Be soft,” to face “Be fair,”

And gaze, nor shall they blame howso thou stare:

Fine nose in Beauty’s list is high esteemed;

Nor less an eye full, bright and debonnair:

Eke did they well to laud the lovely lips

(Which e’en the sleep of me will never spare);

A winning tongue, a stature tall and straight; 20

A seemly union of gifts rarest rare:

But Beauty’s acme in the hair one views it;

So hear my strain and with some few excuse it!”

The Sultan was captivated by his converse and, regarding him as a friend, asked, “What meaning is there in the saw ‘Shurayh is foxier than the fox’?” And he answered, “Know, O King (whom Almighty Allah keep!) that the legist Shurayh 21 was wont, during the days of the plague, to make a visitation to Al–Najaf; and, whenever he stood up to pray, there came a fox which would plant himself facing him and which, by mimicking his movements, distracted him from his devotions. Now when this became longsome to him, one day he doffed his shirt and set it upon a cane and shook out the sleeves; then placing his turband on the top and girding its middle with a shawl, he stuck it up in the place where he used to pray. Presently up trotted the fox according to his custom and stood over against the figure, whereupon Shurayh came behind him, and took him. Hence the sayer saith, ‘Shurayh foxier than the fox.’” When the Sultan heard Badr al-Din Hasan’s explanation he said to his uncle, Shams al-Din, “Truly this the son of thy brother is perfect in courtly breeding and I do not think that his like can be found in Cairo.” At this Hasan arose and kissed the ground before him and sat down again as a Mameluke should sit before his master. When the Sultan had thus assured himself of his courtly breeding and bearing and his knowledge of the liberal arts and belles-lettres, he joyed with exceeding joy and invested him with a splendid robe of honour and promoted him to an office whereby he might better his condition. 22 Then Badr al-Din Hasan arose and, kissing the ground before the King, wished him continuance of glory and asked leave to retire with his uncle, the Wazir Shams al-Din. The Sultan gave him leave and he issued forth and the two returned home, where food was set before them and they ate what Allah had given them. After finishing his meal Hasan repaired to the sitting-chamber of his wife, the Lady of Beauty, and told her what had past between him and the Sultan; whereupon quoth she, “He cannot fail to make thee a cup-companion and give thee largess in excess and load thee with favours and bounties; so shalt thou, by Allah’s blessing, dispread, like the greater light, the rays of thy perfection wherever thou be, on shore or on sea.” Said he to her, “I purpose to recite a Kasidah, an ode, in his praise, that he may redouble in affection for me.” “Thou art right in thine intent,” she answered, “so gather thy wits together and weigh thy words, and I shall surely see my husband favoured with his highest favour.” Thereupon Hasan shut himself up and composed these couplets on a solid base and abounding in inner grace and copies them out in a hand-writing of the nicest taste. They are as follows:—

Mine is a Chief who reached most haught estate,

Treading the pathways of the good and great:

His justice makes all regions safe and sure,

And against froward foes bars every gate:

Bold lion, hero, saint, e’en if you call

Seraph or Sovran 23 he with all may rate!

The poorest supplicant rich from him returns,

All words to praise him were inadequate.

He to the day of peace is saffron Morn,

And murky Night in furious warfare’s bate.

Bow ‘neath his gifts our necks, and by his deeds

As King of freeborn 24 souls he ‘joys his state:

Allah increase for us his term of years,

And from his lot avert all risks and fears!

When he had finished transcribing the lines, he despatched them, in charge of one of his uncle’s slaves, to the Sultan, who perused them and his fancy was pleased; so he read them to those present and all praised them with the highest praise. Thereupon he sent for the writer to his sitting-chamber and said to him, “Thou art from this day forth my boon-companion and I appoint to thee a monthly solde of a thousand dirhams, over and above that I bestowed on thee aforetime.” So Hasan rose and, kissing the ground before the King several times, prayed for the continuance of his greatness and glory and length of life and strength. Thus Badr al-Din Hasan the Bassorite waxed high in honour and his fame flew forth to many regions and he abode in all comfort and solace and delight of life with his uncle and his own folk till Death overtook him. When the Caliph Harun al-Rashid heard this story from the mouth of his Wazir, Ja’afar the Barmecide, he marvelled much and said, “It behoves that these stories be written in letters of liquid gold.” Then he set the slave at liberty and assigned to the youth who had slain his wife such a monthly stipend as sufficed to make his life easy; he also gave him a concubine from amongst his own slave-girls and the young man became one of his cup-companions. “Yet this story,” (continued Shahrazad) “is in no wise stranger than the tale of the Tailor and the Hunchback and the Jew and the Reeve and the Nazarene, and what betided them.” Quoth the King, “And what may that be?” So Shahrazad began, in these words,25

1 For “grandson” as being more affectionate. Easterns have not yet learned that clever Western saying:— The enemies of our enemies are our friends.

2 This was a simple bastinado on the back, not the more ceremonious affair of beating the feet-soles. But it is surprising what the Egyptians can bear; some of the rods used in the time of the Mameluke Beys are nearly as thick as a man’s wrist.

3 The woman-like spite of the eunuch intended to hurt the grandmother’s feelings.

4 The usual Cairene “chaff.”

5 A necessary precaution against poison (Pilgrimage i. 84, and iii. 43).

6 The Bresl. Edit. (ii. 108) describes the scene at greater length.

7 The Bul. Edit. gives by mistake of diacritical points, “Zabdaniyah:” Raydaniyah is or rather was a camping ground to the North of Cairo.

8 Arab. “La’abat” = a plaything, a puppet, a lay figure. Lane (i. 326) conjectures that the cross is so called because it resembles a man with arms extended. But Moslems never heard of the fanciful ideas of mediæval Christian divines who saw the cross everywhere and in everything. The former hold that Pharaoh invented the painful and ignominious punishment. (Koran, chapt. vii.).

9 Here good blood, driven to bay, speaks out boldly. But, as a rule, the humblest and mildest Eastern when in despair turns round upon his oppressors like a wild cat. Some of the criminals whom Fath Ali Shah of Persia put to death by chopping down the fork, beginning at the scrotum, abused his mother till the knife reached their vitals and they could no longer speak.

10 These repeated “laughs” prove the trouble of his spirit. Noble Arabs “show their back-teeth” so rarely that their laughter is held worthy of being recorded by their biographers.

11 A popular phrase, derived from the Koranic “Truth is come, and falsehood is vanished: for falsehood is of short continuance” (chapt. xvii.). It is an equivalent of our adaptation from 1 Esdras iv. 41, “Magna est veritas et prævalebit.” But the great question still remains, What is Truth?

12 In Night lxxv. these lines will occur with variants.

13 This is always mentioned: the nearer seat the higher the honour.

14 Alluding to the phrase “Al-safar zafar” = voyaging is victory (Pilgrimage i., 127).

15 Arab. “Habb;” alluding to the black drop in the human heart which the Archangel Gabriel removed from Mohammed by opening his breast.

16 This phrase, I have said, often occurs: it alludes to the horripilation (Arab. Kush’arírah), horror or gooseflesh which, in Arab as in Hindu fables, is a symptom of great joy. So Boccaccio’s “pelo arriciato” v., 8: Germ. Gänsehaut.

17 Arab. “Hasanta ya Hasan” = Bene detto, Benedetto! the usual word-play vulgarly called “pun”: Hasan (not Hassan, as we will write it) meaning “beautiful.”

18 Arab. “Loghah” also = a vocabulary, a dictionary; the Arabs had them by camel-loads.

19 The seventh of the sixteen “Bahr” (metres) in Arabic prosody; the easiest because allowing the most license and, consequently, a favourite for didactic, homiletic and gnomic themes. It means literally “agitated” and was originally applied to the rude song of the Cameleer. De Sacy calls this doggrel “the poet’s ass” (Torrens, Notes xxvi.). It was the only metre in which Mohammed the Apostle ever spoke: he was no poet (Koran xxxvi., 69) but he occasionally recited a verse and recited it wrongly (Dabistan iii., 212). In Persian prosody Rajaz is the seventh of nineteen and has six distinct varieties (pp. 79–81), “Gladwin’s Dissertations on Rhetoric,” etc. Calcutta, 1801). I shall have more to say about it in the Terminal Essay.

20 “Her stature tall — I hate a dumpy woman” (Don Juan).

21 A worthy who was Kazi of Kufah (Cufa) in the seventh century. Al–Najaf, generally entitled “Najaf al-Ashraf” (the Venerand) is the place where Ali, the son-in-law of Mohammed, lies or is supposed to lie buried, and has ever been a holy place to the Shi’ahs. I am not certain whether to translate “Sa’alab” by fox or jackal; the Arabs make scant distinction between them. “Abu Hosayn” (Father of the Fortlet) is certainly the fox, and as certainly “Sha’arhar” is the jackal from the Pehlevi Shagál or Shaghál.

22 Usually by all manner of extortions and robbery, corruption and bribery, the ruler’s motto being

Fiat injustitia ruat Cœlum.

There is no more honest man than the Turkish peasant or the private soldier; but the process of deterioration begins when he is made a corporal and culminates in the Pasha. Moreover official dishonesty is permitted by public opinion, because it belongs to the condition of society. A man buys a place (as in England two centuries ago) and retains it by presents to the heads of offices. Consequently he must recoup himself in some way, and he mostly does so by grinding the faces of the poor and by spoiling the widow and the orphan. The radical cure is high pay; but that phase of society refuses to afford it.

23 Arab. “Malik” (King) and “Malak” (angel) the words being written the same when lacking vowels and justifying the jingle.

24 Arab. “Hurr”; the Latin “ingenuus,” lit. freeborn; metaph. noble as opp. to a slave who is not expected to do great or good deeds. In pop. use it corresponds, like “Fatá,” with our “gentleman.”

25 This is one of the best tales for humour and movement, and Douce and Madden show what a rich crop of fabliaux, whose leading incident was the disposal of a dead body, it produced.

The Hunchback’s Tale.

It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that there dwelt during times of yore, and years and ages long gone before, in a certain city of China,1 a Tailor who was an open handed man that loved pleasuring and merry making; and who was wont, he and his wife, to solace themselves from time to time with public diversions and amusements. One day they went out with the first of the light and were returning in the evening when they fell in with a Hunchback, whose semblance would draw a laugh from care and dispel the horrors of despair. So they went up to enjoy looking at him and invited him to go home with them and converse and carouse with them that night. He consented and accompanied them afoot to their home; whereupon the Tailor fared forth to the bazaar (night having just set in) and bought a fried fish and bread and lemons and dry sweetmeats for dessert; and set the victuals before the Hunchback and they ate. Presently the Tailor’s wife took a great fid of fish and gave it in a gobbet to the Gobbo, stopping his mouth with her hand and saying, “By Allah, thou must down with it at a single gulp; and I will not give thee time to chew it.” So he bolted it; but therein was a stiff bone which stuck in his gullet and, his hour being come, he died. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 Other editions read, “at Bassorah” and the Bresl. (ii. 123) “at Bassorah and Kájkár” (Káshghár): somewhat like in Dover and Sebastopol. I prefer China because further off and making the improbabilities more notable.

When it was the Twenty-fifth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Tailor’s wife gave the Hunchback that mouthful of fish which ended his term of days he died on the instant. Seeing this the Tailor cried aloud, “There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah! Alas, that this poor wretch should have died in so foolish fashion at our hands!” and the woman rejoined, “Why this idle talk? Hast thou not heard his saying who said:—

Why then waste I my time in grief, until

I find no friend to bear my weight of woe

How sleep upon a fire that flames unquenched?

Upon the flames to rest were hard enow!”

Asked her husband, “And what shall I do with him?”; and she answered, “Rise and take him in thine arms and spread a silken kerchief over him; then I will fare forth, with thee following me this very night and if thou meet any one say, ‘This is my son, and his mother and I are carrying him to the doctor that he may look at him.’” So he rose and taking the Hunchback in his arms bore him along the streets, preceded by his wife who kept crying, “O my son, Allah keep thee! what part paineth thee and where hath this small-pox1 attacked thee?” So all who saw them said “’Tis a child sick of small-pox.” 2 They went along asking for the physician’s house till folk directed them to that of a leach which was a Jew. They knocked at the door, and there came down to them a black slave girl who opened and, seeing a man bearing a babe, and a woman with him, said to them, “What is the matter?” “We have a little one with us,” answered the Tailor’s wife, “and we wish to show him to the physician: so take this quarter dinar and give it to thy master and let him come down and see my son who is sore sick.” The girl went up to tell her master, whereupon the Tailor’s wife walked into the vestibule and said to her husband, “Leave the Hunchback here and let us fly for our lives.” So the Tailor carried the dead man to the top of the stairs and propped him upright against the wall and ran away, he and his wife. Meanwhile the girl went in to the Jew and said to him, “At the door are a man and a woman with a sick child and they have given me a quarter dinar for thee, that thou mayest go down and look at the little one and prescribe for it.” As soon as the Jew saw the quarter dinar he rejoiced and rose quickly in his greed of gain and went forth hurriedly in the dark; but hardly had he made a step when he stumbled on the corpse and threw it over, when it rolled to the bottom of the staircase. So he cried out to the girl to hurry up with the light, and she brought it, whereupon he went down and examining the Hunchback found that he was stone dead. So he cried out, “O for Esdras!3 O for Moses! O for Aaron! O for Joshua, son of Nun! O the Ten Commandments! I have stumbled against the sick one and he hath fallen downstairs and he is dead! How shall I get this man I have killed out of my house? O by the hoofs of the ass of Esdras!” Then he took up the body and, carrying it into the house, told his wife what had happened and she said to him, “Why dost thou sit still? If thou keep him here till day break we shall both lose our lives. Let us two carry him to the terrace roof and throw him over into the house of our neighbour, the Moslem, for if he abide there a night the dogs will come down on him from the adjoining terraces and eat him up.” Now his neighbour was a Reeve, the controller of the Sultan’s kitchen, and was wont to bring back great store of oil and fat and broken meats; but the cats and rats used to eat it, or, if the dogs scented a fat sheep’s tail they would come down from the nearest roofs and tear at it; and on this wise the beasts had already damaged much of what he brought home. So the Jew and his wife carried the Hunchback up to the roof; and, letting him down by his hands and feet through the wind-shaft4 into the Reeve’s house, propped him up against the wall and went their ways. Hardly had they done this when the Reeve, who had been passing an evening with his friends hearing a recitation of the Koran, came home and opened the door and, going up with a lighted candle, found a son of Adam standing in the corner under the ventilator. When he saw this, he said, “Wah! by Allah, very good forsooth! He who robbeth my stuff is none other than a man.” Then he turned to the Hunchback and said, “So ’tis thou that stealest the meat and the fat! I thought it was the cats and dogs, and I kill the dogs and cats of the quarter and sin against them by killing them. And all the while ’tis thou comest down from the house terrace through the wind shaft. But I will avenge myself upon thee with my own hand!” So he snatched up a heavy hammer and set upon him and smote him full on the breast and he fell down. Then he examined him and, finding that he was dead, cried out in horror, thinking that he had killed him, and said, “There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!” And he feared for his life, and added “Allah curse the oil and the meat and the grease and the sheep’s tails to boot! How hath fate given this man his quietus at my hand!” Then he looked at the body and seeing it was that of a Gobbo, said, “Was it not enough for thee to be a hunchback,5 but thou must likewise be a thief and prig flesh and fat! O thou Veiler,6 deign to veil me with Thy curtain of concealment!” So he took him up on his shoulders and, going forth with him from his house about the latter end of the night, carried him to the nearest end of the bazaar, where he set him up on his feet against the wall of a shop at the head of a dark lane, and left him and went away. After a while up came a Nazarene,7 the Sultan’s broker who, much bemused with liquor, was purposing for the Hammam bath as his drunkenness whispered in his ear, “Verily the call to matins8 is nigh.” He came plodding along and staggering about till he drew near the Hunchback and squatted down to make water9 over against him; when he happened to glance around and saw a man standing against the wall. Now some person had snatched off the Christian’s turband10 in the first of the night; so when he saw the Hunchback hard by he fancied that he also meant to steal his headdress. Thereupon he clenched his fist and struck him on the neck, felling him to the ground, and called aloud to the watchman of the bazaar, and came down on the body in his drunken fury and kept on belabouring and throttling the corpse. Presently the Charley came up and, finding a Nazarene kneeling on a Moslem and frapping him, asked, “What harm hath this one done?”; and the Broker answered, “The fellow meant to snatch off my turband.” “Get up from him,” quoth the watch man. So he arose and the Charley went up to the Hunchback and finding him dead, exclaimed, “By Allah, good indeed! A Christian killing a Mahometan!” Then he seized the Broker and, tying his hands behind his back, carried him to the Governor’s house,11 and all the while the Nazarene kept saying to himself, “O Messiah! O Virgin! how came I to kill this fellow? And in what a hurry he must have been to depart this life when he died of a single blow!” Presently, as his drunkenness fled, came dolour in its stead. So the Broker and the body were kept in the Governor’s place till morning morrowed, when the Wali came out and gave order to hang the supposed murderer and commanded the executioner12 make proclamation of the sentence. Forthwith they set up a gallows under which they made the Nazarene stand and the torch bearer, who was hangman, threw the rope round his neck and passed one end through the pulley, and was about to hoist him up13 when lo! the Reeve, who was passing by, saw the Broker about to be hanged; and, making his way through the people, cried out to the executioner, “Hold! Hold! I am he who killed the Hunchback!” Asked the Governor, “What made thee kill him?”; and he answered, “I went home last night and there found this man who had come down the ventilator to steal my property; so I smote him with a hammer on the breast and he died forthright. Then I took him up and carried him to the bazaar and set him up against the wall in such a place near such a lane;” adding, “Is it not enough for me to have killed a Moslem without also killing a Christian? So hang none other but me.” When the Governor heard these words he released the Broker and said to the torch bearer, “Hang up this man on his own confession.” So he loosed the cord from the Nazarene’s neck and threw it round that of the Reeve and, making him stand under the gallows tree, was about to string him up when behold, the Jewish physician pushed through the people and shouted to the executioner, “Hold! Hold! It was I and none else killed the Hunchback! Last night I was sitting at home when a man and a woman knocked at the door carrying this Gobbo who was sick, and gave my handmaid a quarter dinar, bidding her hand me the fee and tell me to come down and see him. Whilst she was gone the man and the woman brought him into the house and, setting him on the stairs, went away; and presently I came down and not seeing him, for I was in the dark, stumbled over him and he fell to the foot of the staircase and died on the moment. Then we took him up, I and my wife, and carried him on to the top terrace; and, the house of this Reeve being next door to mine, we let the body down through the ventilator. When he came home and found the Hunchback in his house, he fancied he was a thief and struck him with a hammer, so that he fell to the ground, and our neighbour made certain that he had slain him. Now is it not enough for me to have killed one Moslem unwittingly, without burdening myself with taking the life of another Moslem wittingly?” When the Governor heard this he said to the hangman, “Set free the Reeve and hang the Jew.” Thereupon the torch bearer took him and slung the cord round his neck when behold, the Tailor pushed through the people, and shouted to the executioner, “Hold! Hold! It was I and none else killed the Hunchback; and this was the fashion thereof. I had been out a pleasuring yesterday and, coming back to supper, fell in with this Gobbo, who was drunk and drumming away and singing lustily to his tambourine. So I accosted him and carried him to my house and bought a fish, and we sat down to eat. Presently my wife took a fid of fish and, making a gobbet of it,14 crammed it into his mouth; but some of it went down the wrong way or stuck in his gullet and he died on the instant. So we lifted him up, I and my wife, and carried him to the Jew’s house where the slave girl came down and opened the door to us and I said to her, ‘Tell thy master that there are a man and a woman and a sick person for thee to see!’ I gave her a quarter dinar and she went up to tell her master; and, whilst she was gone, I carried the Hunchback to the head of the staircase and propped him up against the wall, and went off with my wife. When the Jew came down he stumbled over him and thought that he had killed him.” Then he asked the Jew, “Is this the truth?”; and the Jew answered, “Yes.” Thereupon the Tailor turned to the Governor, and said, “Leave go the Jew and hang me.” When the Governor heard the Tailor’s tale he marvelled at the matter of this Hunchback and exclaimed. “Verily this is an adventure which should be recorded in books!” Then he said to the hangman, “Let the Jew go and hang the Tailor on his own confession.” The executioner took the Tailor and put the rope around his neck and said, “I am tired of such slow work: we bring out this one and change him for that other, and no one is hanged after all!” Now the Hunchback in question was, they relate, jester to the Sultan of China who could not bear him out of his sight; so when the fellow got drunk and did not make his appearance that night or the next day till noon, the Sultan asked some of his courtiers about him and they answered, “O our lord, the Governor hath come upon him dead and hath ordered his murderer to be hanged; but, as the hangman was about to hoist him up there came a second and a third and a fourth and each one said, ‘It is I, and none else killed the Hunchback!’ and each gave a full and circumstantial account of the manner of the jester being killed.” When the King heard this he cried aloud to the Chamberlain in waiting, “Go down to the Governor and bring me all four of them.” So the Chamberlain went down at once to the place of execution, where he found the torch bearer on the point of hanging the Tailor and shouted to him, “Hold! Hold!” Then he gave the King’s command to the Governor who took the Tailor, the Jew, the Nazarene and the Reeve (the Hunchback’s body being borne on men’s shoulders) and went up with one and all of them to the King. When he came into the presence, he kissed the ground and acquainted the ruler with the whole story which it is needless to relate for, as they say, There is no avail in a thrice told tale. The Sultan hearing it marvelled and was moved to mirth and commanded the story to be written in letters of liquid gold, saying to those present, “Did ye ever hear a more wondrous tale than that of my Hunchback?” Thereupon the Nazarene broker came forward and said, “O King of the age, with thy leave I will tell thee a thing which happened to myself and which is still more wondrous and marvellous and pleasurable and delectable than the tale of the Hunchback.” Quoth the King “Tell us what thou hast to say!” So he began in these words

1 Arab. “Judri,” lit. “small stones” from the hard gravelly feeling of the pustules (Rodwell, p. 20). The disease is generally supposed to be the growth of Central Africa where it is still a plague and passed over to Arabia about the birth-time of Mohammed. Thus is usually explained the “war of the elephant” (Koran, chaps. cv.) when the Abyssinian army of Abrahah, the Christian, was destroyed by swallows (Abábíl which Major Price makes the plural of Abilah = a vesicle) which dropped upon them “stones of baked clay,” like vetches (Pilgrimage ii. 175). See for details Sale (in loco) who seems to accept the miraculous defence of the Ka’abah. For the horrors of small-pox in Central Intertropical Africa the inoculation, known also to the Badawin of Al–Hijáz and other details, readers will consult “The Lake Regions of Central Africa” (ii. 318). The Hindus “take the bull by the horns” and boldly make “Sítlá” (small-pox) a goddess, an incarnation of Bhawáni, deëss of destruction-reproduction. In China small-pox is believed to date from B.C. 1200; but the chronology of the Middle Kingdom still awaits the sceptic.

2 In Europe we should add “and all fled, especially the women.” But the fatalism inherent in the Eastern mind makes the great difference.

3 Arab. “Uzayr.” Esdras was a manner of Ripp van Winkle. He was riding over the ruins of Jerusalem when it had been destroyed by the Chaldeans and he doubted by what means Allah would restore it; whereupon he died and at the end of a hundred years he revived. He found his basket of figs and cruse of wine as they were; but of his ass only the bones remained. These were raised to life as Ezra looked on and the ass began at once to bray. Which was a lesson to Esdras. (Koran, chaps. ii.) The oath by the ass’s hoofs is to ridicule the Jew. Mohammed seems to have had an idée fixe that “the Jews say, Ezra is the son of God” (Koran ix.); it may have arisen from the heterodox Jewish belief that Ezra, when the Law was utterly lost, dictated the whole anew to the scribes of his own memory. His tomb with the huge green dome is still visited by the Jews of Baghdad.

4 Arab. “Bádhanj,” the Pers. Bád. (wind) — gír (catcher): a wooden pent-house on the terrace-roof universal in the nearer East.

5 The hunchback, in Arabia as in Southern Europe, is looked upon by the vulgar with fear and aversion. The reason is that he is usually sharper-witted than his neighbours.

6Arab. “Yá Sattár” = Thou who veilest the discreditable secrets of Thy creatures.

7 Arab. “Nasráni,” a follower of Him of Nazareth and an older name than “Christian” which (Acts xi., 26) was first given at Antioch about A.D. 43. The cry in Alexandria used to be “Ya Nasráni, Kalb awáni!”=O Nazarene! O dog obscene! (Pilgrimage i., 160).). “Christian” in Arabic can be expressed only by “Masíhi” = follower of the Messiah.

8 Arab. “Tasbíh,” = Saluting in the Subh (morning).

9 In the East women stand on minor occasions while men squat on their hunkers in a way hardly possible to an untrained European. The custom is old. Herodotus (ii., 35) says, “The women stand up when they make water, but the men sit down.” Will it be believed that Canon Rawlinson was too modest to leave this passage in his translation? The custom was perpetuated by Al–Islam because the position prevents the ejection touching the clothes and making them ceremonially impure; possibly they borrowed it from the Guebres. Dabistan, Gate xvi. says, “It is improper, whilst in an erect posture, to make water, it is therefore necessary to sit at squat and force it to some distance, repeating the Avesta mentally.”

10 This is still a popular form of the “Kinchin lay,” and as the turbands are often of fine stuff, the petite industrie pays well.

11Arab. “Wali” =Governor; the term still in use for the Governor General of a Province as opposed to the “Muháfiz,” or district-governor. In Eastern Arabia the Wali is the Civil Governor opposed to the Amir or Military Commandant. Under the Caliphate the Wali acted also as Prefect of Police (the Indian Fanjdár), who is now called “Zábit.” The older name for the latter was “Sáhib al-Shartah” (=chief of the watch) or “Mutawalli”; and it was his duty to go the rounds in person. The old “Charley,” with his lantern and cudgel, still guards the bazaars in Damascus.

12 Arab. “Al–Mashá ilí” = the bearer of a cresses (Mash’al) who was also Jack Ketch. In Anglo–India the name is given to a lower body-servant. The “Mash’al” which Lane (M. E., chaps. vi.) calls “Mesh’al” and illustrates, must not be confounded with its congener the “Sha’ilah” or link (also lamp, wick, etc.).

13 I need hardly say that the civilised “drop” is unknown to the East where men are strung up as to a yardarm. This greatly prolongs the suffering.

14 Arab. “Lukmah”; = a mouthful. It is still the fashion amongst Easterns of primitive manners to take up a handful of rice, etc., ball it and put it into a friend’s mouth honoris causâ. When the friend is a European the expression of his face is generally a study.

The Nazarene Broker’s Story.

O King of the age, I came to this thy country with merchandise and Destiny stayed me here with you: but my place of birth was Cairo, in Egypt, where I also was brought up, for I am one of the Copts and my father was a broker before me. When I came to man’s estate he departed this life and I succeeded to his business. One day, as I was sitting in my shop, behold, there came up to me a youth as handsome as could be, wearing sumptuous raiment and riding a fine ass.1 When he saw me he saluted me, and I stood up to do him honour: then he took out a kerchief containing a sample of sesame and asked, “How much is this worth per Ardabb?”;2 whereto I answered, “An hundred dirhams.” Quoth he, “Take porters and gaugers and metesmen and come to morrow to the Khan al-Jawáli,3 by the Gate of Victory quarter where thou wilt find me.” Then he fared forth leaving with me the sample of sesame in his kerchief; and I went the round of my customers and ascertained that every Ardabb would fetch an hundred and twenty dirhams. Next day I took four metesmen and walked with them to the Khan, where I found him awaiting me. As soon as he saw me he rose and opened his magazine, when we measured the grain till the store was empty; and we found the contents fifty Ardabbs, making five thousand pieces of silver. Then said he, “Let ten dirhams on every Ardabb be thy brokerage; so take the price and keep in deposit four thousand and five hundred dirhams for me; and, when I have made an end of selling the other wares in my warehouses, I will come to thee and receive the amount.” “I will well,” replied I and kissing his hand went away, having made that day a profit of a thousand dirhams. He was absent a month, at the end of which he came to me and asked, “Where be the dirhams?” I rose and saluted him and answered to him, “Wilt thou not eat somewhat in my house?” But he refused with the remark, “Get the monies ready and I will presently return and take them.” Then he rode away. So I brought out the dirhams and sat down to await him, but he stayed away for another month, when he came back and said to me, “Where be the dirhams?” I rose and saluting him asked, “Wilt thou not eat some thing in my house?” But he again refused adding, “Get me the monies ready and I will presently return and take them.” Then he rode off. So I brought out the dirhams and sat down to await his return; but he stayed away from me a third month, and I said, “Verily this young man is liberality in incarnate form.” At the end of the month he came up, riding a mare mule and wearing a suit of sumptuous raiment; he was as the moon on the night of fullness, and he seemed as if fresh from the baths, with his cheeks rosy bright, and his brow flower white, and a mole spot like a grain of ambergris delighting the sight; even as was said of such an one by the poet:—

Full moon with sun in single mansion

In brightest sheen and fortune rose and shone,

With happy splendour changing every sprite:

Hail to what guerdons prayer with blissful! boon!

Their charms and grace have gained perfection’s height,

All hearts have conquered and all wits have won.

Laud to the Lord for works so wonder strange,

And what th’ Almighty wills His hand hath done!

When I saw him I rose to him and invoking blessings on him asked, O my lord, wilt thou not take thy monies?” “Whence the hurry?”4 quoth he, “Wait till I have made an end of my business and then I will come and take them.” Again he rode away and I said to myself, “By Allah, when he comes next time needs must I make him my guest; for I have traded with his dirhams and have gotten large gains thereby.” At the end of the year he came again, habited in a suit of clothes more sumptuous than the former; and, when I conjured him by the Evangel to alight at my house and eat of my guest food, he said, “I consent, on condition that what thou expendest on me shall be of my monies still in thy hands. I answered, “So be it,” and made him sit down whilst I got ready what was needful of meat and drink and else besides; and set the tray before him, with the invitation “Bismillah”!5 Then he drew near the tray and put out his left hand6 and ate with me; and I marvelled at his not using the right hand. When we had done eating, I poured water on his hand and gave him wherewith to wipe it. Upon this we sat down to converse after I had set before him some sweetmeats; and I said to him, “O my master, prithee relieve me by telling me why thou eatest with thy left hand? Perchance something aileth thy other hand?” When he heard my words, he repeated these verses:—

“Dear friend, ask not what burneth in my breast,

Lest thou see fiery pangs eye never saw:

Wills not my heart to harbour Salma in stead

Of Layla’s7 love, but need hath ne’er a law!”

And he put out his right arm from his sleeve and behold, the hand was cut off, a wrist without a fist. I was astounded at this but he said, “Marvel not, and think not that I ate with my left hand for conceit and insolence, but from necessity; and the cutting off my right hand was caused by an adventure of the strangest.” Asked I, “And what caused it?”; and he answered:—“Know that I am of the sons of Baghdad and my father was of notables of that city. When I came to man’s estate I heard the pilgrims and wayfarers, travellers and merchants talk of the land of Egypt and their words sank deep into my mind till my parent died, when I took a large sum of money and furnished myself for trade with stuffs of Baghdad and Mosul and, packing them up in bales, set out on my wanderings; and Allah decreed me safety till I entered this your city. Then he wept and began repeating:—

The blear eyed ’scapes the pits

Wherein the lynx eyed fall:

A word the wise man slays

And saves the natural:

The Moslem fails of food

The Kafir feasts in hall:

What art or act is man’s?

God’s will obligeth all!

Now when he had ended his verse he said, So I entered Cairo and took off my loads and stored my stuffs in the Khan “Al-Masrúr.”8 Then I gave the servant a few silvers wherewith to buy me some food and lay down to sleep awhile. When I awoke I went to the street called “Bayn al-Kasrayn”— Between the two Palaces — and presently returned and rested my night in the Khan. When it was morning I opened a bale and took out some stuff saying to myself, “I will be off and go through some of the bazaars and see the state of the market.” So I loaded the stuff on some of my slaves and fared forth till I reached the Kaysariyah or Exchange of Jaharkas;9 where the brokers who knew of my coming came to meet me. They took the stuffs and cried them for sale, but could not get the prime cost of them. I was vexed at this, however the Shaykh of the brokers said to me, “O my lord, I will tell thee how thou mayest make a profit of thy goods. Thou shouldest do as the merchants do and sell thy merchandise at credit for a fixed period, on a contract drawn up by a notary and duly witnessed; and employ a Shroff to take thy dues every Monday and Thursday. So shalt thou gain two dirhams and more, for every one; and thou shalt solace and divert thyself by seeing Cairo and the Nile.” Quoth I, “This is sound advice,” and carried the brokers to the Khan. They took my stuffs and went with them on ‘Change where I sold them well taking bonds for the value. These bonds I deposited with a Shroff, a banker, who gave me a receipt with which I returned to the Khan. Here I stayed a whole month, every morning breaking my fast with a cup of wine and making my meals on pigeon’s meat, mutton and sweetmeats, till the time came when my receipts began to fall due. So, every Monday and Thursday I used to go on ‘Change and sit in the shop of one or other of the merchants, whilst the notary and money changer went round to recover the monies from the traders, till after the time of mid afternoon prayer, when they brought me the amount, and I counted it and, sealing the bags, returned with them to the Khan. On a certain day which happened to be a Monday,10 I went to the Hammam and thence back to my Khan, and sitting in my own room11 broke my fast with a cup of wine, after which I slept a little. When I awoke I ate a chicken and, perfuming my person, repaired to the shop of a merchant hight Badr al-Din al-Bostáni, or the Gardener,12 who welcomed me; and we sat talking awhile till the bazaar should open. Presently, behold, up came a lady of stately figure wearing a head-dress of the most magnificent, perfumed with the sweetest of scents and walking with graceful swaying gait; and seeing me she raised her mantilla allowing me a glimpse of her beautiful black eyes. She saluted Badr al-Din who returned her salutation and stood up, and talked with her; and the moment I heard her speak, the love of her got hold of my heart. Presently she said to Badr al-Din, “Hast thou by thee a cut piece of stuff woven with thread of pure gold?” So he brought out to her a piece from those he had bought of me and sold it to her for one thousand two hundred dirhams; when she said, “I will take the piece home with me and send thee its price.” “That is impossible, O my lady,” the merchant replied, “for here is the owner of the stuff and I owe him a share of profit.” “Fie upon thee!” she cried, “Do I not use to take from thee entire rolls of costly stuff, and give thee a greater profit than thou expectest, and send thee the money?” “Yes,” rejoined he; “but I stand in pressing need of the price this very day.” Hereupon she took up the piece and threw it back upon his lap, saying “Out on thee! Allah confound the tribe of you which estimates none at the right value;” and she turned to go. I felt my very soul going with her; so I stood up and stayed her, saying, “I conjure thee by the Lord, O my lady, favour me by retracing thy gracious steps.” She turned back with a smile and said, “For thy sake I return,” and took a seat opposite me in the shop. Then quoth I to Badr al-Din, “What is the price they asked thee for this piece?”; and quoth he, “Eleven hundred dirhams.” I rejoined, “The odd hundred shall be thy profit: bring me a sheet of paper and I will write thee a discharge for it.” Then I wrote him a receipt in my own handwriting and gave the piece to the lady, saying, “Take it away with thee and, if thou wilt, bring me its price next bazaar day; or better still, accept it as my guest gift to thee.” “Allah requite thee with good,” answered she, “and make thee my husband and lord and master of all I have!”13 And Allah favoured her prayer. I saw the Gates of Paradise swing open before me and said, “O my lady, let this piece of stuff be now thine and another like it is ready for thee, only let me have one look at thy face.” So she raised her veil and I saw a face the sight of which bequeathed to me a thousand sighs, and my heart was so captivated by her love that I was no longer ruler of my reason. Then she let fall her face veil and taking up the piece of stuff said, “O my lord make me not desolate by thine absence!” and turned away and disappeared from my sight. I remained sitting on ‘Change till past the hour of after noon prayer, lost to the world by the love which had mastered me, and the violence of my passion compelled me to make enquiries concerning her of the merchant, who answered me, “This is a lady and a rich: she is the daughter of a certain Emir who lately died and left her a large fortune.” Then I took leave of him and returned home to the Khan where they set supper before me; but I could not eat for thinking of her and when I lay down to sleep, sleep came not near me. So I watched till morning, when I arose and donned a change of raiment and drank a cup of wine and, after breaking my fast on some slight matter, I went to the merchant’s shop where I saluted him and sat down by him. Presently up came the lady as usual, followed by a slave girl and wearing a dress more sumptuous than before; and she saluted me without noticing Badr al-Din and said in fluent graceful speech (never heard I voice softer or sweeter), “Send one with me to take the thousand and two hundred dirhams, the price of the piece.” “Why this hurry?” asked I and she answered, “May we never lose thee!”14 and handed me the money. Then I sat talking with her and presently I signed to her in dumb show, whereby she understood that I longed to enjoy her person,15 and she rose up in haste with a show of displeasure. My heart clung to her and I went forth from the bazaar and followed on her track. As I was walking suddenly a black slave girl stopped me and said, “O my master, come speak with my mistress.”16 At this I was surprised and replied, “There is none who knows me here;” but she rejoined, “0 my lord, how soon hast thou forgotten her! My lady is the same who was this day at the shop of such a merchant.” Then I went with her to the Shroff’s, where I found the lady who drew me to her side and said, “O my beloved, thine image is firmly stamped upon my fancy, and love of thee hath gotten hold of my heart: from the hour I first saw thee nor sleep nor food nor drink hath given me aught of pleasure.” I replied, “The double of that suffering is mine and my state dispenseth me from complaint.” Then said she, “O my beloved, at thy house, or at mine?” “I am a stranger here and have no place of reception save the Khan, so by thy favour it shall be at thy house.” “So be it; but this is Friday17 night and nothing can be done till tomorrow after public prayers; go to the Mosque and pray; then mount thine ass, and ask for the Habbániyah18 quarter; and, when there, look out for the mansion of Al–Nakib19 Barakát, popularly known as Abu Shámah the Syndic; for I live there: so do not delay as I shall be expecting thee.” I rejoiced with still greater joy at this; and took leave of her and returned to my Khan, where I passed a sleepless night. Hardly was I assured that morning had dawned when I rose, changed my dress, perfumed myself with essences and sweet scents and, taking fifty dinars in a kerchief, went from the Khan Masrúr to the Zuwaylah20 gate, where I mounted an ass and said to its owner, “Take me to the Habbaniyah.” So he set off with me and brought up in the twinkling of an eye at a street known as Darb al-Munkari, where I said to him, “Go in and ask for the Syndic’s mansion.” He was absent a while and then returned and said, “Alight.” “Go thou before me to the house,” quoth I, adding, “Come back with the earliest light and bring me home;” and he answered, “In Allah’s name;” whereupon I gave him a quarter dinar of gold, and he took it and went his ways. Then I knocked at the door and out came two white slave girls, both young; high-bosomed virgins, as they were moons, and said to me, “Enter, for our mistress is expecting thee and she hath not slept the night long for her delight in thee.” I passed through the vestibule into a saloon with seven doors, floored with parti-coloured marbles and furnished with curtains and hangings of coloured silks: the ceiling was cloisonné with gold and corniced with inscriptions21 emblazoned in lapis lazuli; and the walls were stuccoed with Sultání gypsum22 which mirrored the beholder’s face. Around the saloon were latticed windows overlooking a garden full of all manner of fruits; whose streams were railing and riffling and whose birds were trilling and shrilling; and in the heart of the hall was a jetting fountain at whose corners stood birds fashioned in red gold crusted with pearls and gems and spouting water crystal clear. When I entered and took a seat. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 I need hardly note that this is an old Biblical practice. The ass is used for city-work as the horse for fighting and travelling, the mule for burdens and the dromedary for the desert. But the Badawi, like the Indian, despises the monture and sings:—

The back of the steed is a noble place

But the mule’s dishonour, the ass disgrace!

The fine white asses, often thirteen hands high, sold by the Banu Salíb and other Badawi tribes, will fetch £100, and more. I rode a little brute from Meccah to Jedda (42 miles) in one night and it came in with me cantering.

2 A dry measure of about five bushels (Cairo). The classical pronunciation is Irdabb and it measured 24 sa’a (gallons) each filling four outstretched hands.

3 “Al–Jawáli” should be Al-Jáwali (Al–Makrizi) and the Bab al-Nasr (Gate of Victory) is that leading to Suez. I lived in that quarter as shown by my Pilgrimage (i. 62).

4 Arab. “Al-‘ajalah,” referring to a saying in every Moslem mouth, “Patience is from the Protector (Allah): Hurry is from Hell.” That and “Inshallah bukra!” (Please God tomorrow.) are the traveller’s bêtes noires.

5 Here it is a polite equivalent for “fall to!”

6 The left hand is used throughout the East for purposes of ablution and is considered unclean. To offer the left hand would be most insulting and no man ever strokes his beard with it or eats with it: hence, probably, one never sees a left handed man throughout the Moslem east. In the Brazil for the same reason old-fashioned people will not take snuff with the right hand. And it is related of the Khataians that they prefer the left hand, “Because the heart, which is the Sultan of the city of the Body, hath his mansion on that side” (Rauzat al-Safá).

7 Two feminine names as we might say Mary and Martha.

8 It was near the Caliph’s two Palaces (Al Kasrayn); and was famous in the 15th century A. D. The Kazi’s Mahkamah (Court house) now occupies the place of the Two Palaces

9 A Kaysariah is a superior kind of bazaar, a “bezestein.” That in the text stood to the east of the principal street in Cairo and was built in A. H. 502 (=1108–9) by a Circassian Emir, known as Fakhr al-Din Jahárkas, a corruption of the Persian “Chehárkas” = four persons (Lane, i. 422, from Al–Makrizi and Ibn Khallikan). For Jahárkas the Mac. Edit. has Jirjís (George) a common Christian name. I once lodged in a ‘Wakálah (the modern Khan) Jirjis.” Pilgrimage, i. 255.

10Arab. “Second Day,” i.e. after Saturday, the true Sabbath, so marvellously ignored by Christendom.

11 Readers who wish to know how a traveller is lodged in a Wakálah, Khan, or Caravanserai, will consult my Pilgrimage, i. 60.

12 The original occupation of the family had given it a name, as amongst us.

13 The usual “chaff” or banter allowed even to modest women when shopping, and — many a true word is spoken in jest.

14 “La adamnák” = Heaven deprive us not of thee, i.e. grant I see thee often!

15 This is a somewhat cavalier style of advance; but Easterns under such circumstances go straight to the point, hating to filer the parfait amour.

16 The peremptory formula of a slave delivering such a message.

17 This would be our Thursday night, preceding the day of public prayers which can be performed only when in a state of ceremonial purity. Hence many Moslems go to the Hammam on Thursday and have no connection with their wives.

18 Lane (i. 423) gives ample details concerning the Habbániyah, or grain-sellers’ quarter in the southern part of Cairo; and shows that when this tale was written (or transcribed?) the city was almost as extensive as it is now.

19 Nakíb is a caravan-leader, a chief, a syndic; and “Abú Shámah”= Father of a cheek mole, while “Abú Shámmah” = Father of a smeller, a nose, a snout. The “Kuniyah,” bye-name, patronymic or matronymic, is necessary amongst Moslems whose list of names, all connected more or less with religion, is so scanty. Hence Buckingham the traveller was known as Abu Kidr, the Father of a Cooking-pot and Haj Abdullah as Abu Shawárib, Father of Mustachios (Pilgrimage, iii., 263).

20 More correctly Bab Zawilah from the name of a tribe in Northern Africa. This gate dates from the same age as the Eastern or Desert gate, Bab al-Nasr (A.D. 1087) and is still much admired. M. Jomard describes it (Description, etc., ii. 670) and lately my good friend Yacoub Artin Pasha has drawn attention to it in the Bulletin de l’Inst. Egypt., Deuxième Série, No. 4, 1883.

21 This ornament is still seen in the older saloons of Damascus: the inscriptions are usually religious sentences, extracts from the Koran, etc., in uncial characters. They take the place of our frescos; and, as a work of art, are generally far superior.

22 Arab. “Bayáz al-Sultání,” the best kind of gypsum which shines like polished marble. The stucco on the walls of Alexandria, built by Alexander of the two Horns, was so exquisitely tempered and beautifully polished that men had to wear masks for fear of blindness.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burton/richard/b97b/part9.html

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