The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

Abu Kir the Dyer and Abu Sir the Barber.

There dwelt once, in Alexandria city, two men, of whom one was a dyer, by name Abú Kír, and the other a barber Abú Sír1; and they were neighbours in the market-street, where their shops stood side by side. The dyer was a swindler and a liar, an exceeding wicked wight, as if indeed his head-temples were hewn out of a boulder rock or fashioned of the threshold of a Jewish synagogue, nor was he ashamed of any shameful work he wrought amongst the folk. It was his wont, when any brought him cloth for staining, first to require of him payment under pretence of buying dyestuffs therewith. So the customer would give him the wage in advance and wend his ways, and the dyer would spend all he received on meat and drink; after which he would sell the cloth itself as soon as ever its owner turned his back and waste its worth in eating and drinking and what not else, for he ate not but of the daintiest and most delicate viands nor brank but of the best of that which doth away the with of man. And when the owner of the cloth came to him, he would say to him, “Return to me to-morrow before sunrise and thou shalt find thy stuff dyed.” So the customer would go away, saying to himself, “One day is near another day,” and return next day at the appointed time, when the dyer would say to him, “Come to-morrow; yesterday I was not at work, for I had with me guests and was occupied with doing what their wants required till they went: but to-morrow before sunrise come and take thy cloth dyed.” So he would fare forth and return on the third day, when Abu Kir would say to him, “Indeed yesterday I was excusable, for my wife was brought to bed in the night and all day I was busy with manifold matters; but to-morrow, without fail, come and take thy cloth dyed.” When the man came again at the appointed time, he would put him off with some other pretence, it mattered little what, and would swear to him; — Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 Abú Sír is a manifest corruption of the old Egyptian Pousiri, the Busiris of our classics, and it gives a name to sundry villages in modern Egypt where it is usually pronounced “Búsír”. Abú Kír lit. = the Father of Pitch, is also corrupted to Abou Kir (Bay); and the townlet now marks the site of jolly old Canopus, the Chosen Land of Egyptian debauchery.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Thirty-first Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that every time the owner of an article came to the dyer he would put him off with any pretext1 and would swear to him; nor would he cease to promise and swear to him, as often as he came, till the customer lost patience and said, “How often wilt thou say to me, ‘To-morrow?’ Give me my stuff: I will not have it dyed.” Whereupon the dyer would make answer, “By Allah, O my brother, I am abashed at thee; but I must tell the truth and may Allah harm all who harm folk in their goods!” The other would exclaim, “Tell me what hath happened;” and Abu Kir would reply, “As for thy stuff I dyed that same on matchless wise and hung it on the drying rope but ’twas stolen and I know not who stole it.” If the owner of the stuff were of the kindly he would say, “Allah will compensate me;” and if he were of the ill-conditioned, he would haunt him with exposure and insult, but would get nothing of him, though he complained of him to the judge. He ceased not doing thus till his report was noised abroad among the folk and each used to warn other against Abu Kir who became a byword amongst them. So they all held aloof from him and none would be entrapped by him save those who were ignorant of his character; but, for all this, he failed not daily to suffer insult and exposure from Allah’s creatures. By reason of this his trade became slack and he used to go to the shop of his neighbour the barber Abu Sir and sit there, facing the dyery and with his eyes on the door. Whenever he espied any one who knew him not standing at the dyery-door, with a piece of stuff in his hand, he would leave the barber’s booth and go up to him saying, “What seekest thou, O thou?”; and the man would reply, “Take and dye me this thing.” So the dyer would ask, “What colour wilt thou have it?” For, with all his knavish tricks his hand was in all manner of dyes; but he was never true to any one; wherefore poverty had gotten the better of him. Then he would take the stuff and say, “Give me my wage in advance and come to-morrow and take the stuff.” So the stranger would advance him the money and wend his way; whereupon Abu Kir would carry the cloth to the market-street and sell it and with its price buy meat and vegetables and tobacco2 and fruit and what not else he needed; but, whenever he saw any one who had given him stuff to dye standing at the door of his shop, he would not come forth to him or even show himself to him. On this wise he abode years and years, till it fortuned one day that he received cloth to dye from a man of wrath and sold it and spent the proceeds. The owner came to him every day, but found him not in his shop; for, whenever he espied any one who had claim against him, he would flee from him into the shop of the barber Abu Sir. At last, that angry man finding that he was not to be seen and growing weary of such work, repaired to the Kazi and bringing one of his serjeants to the shop, nailed up the door, in presence of a number of Moslems, and sealed it, for that he saw therein naught save some broken pans of earthenware to stand him instead of his stuff; after which the serjeant took the key, saying to the neighbours, “Tell him to bring back this man’s cloth then come to me3 and take his shop key;” and went his way, he and the man. Then said Abu Sir to Abu Kir, “What ill business is this?4 Whoever bringeth thee aught thou losest it for him. What hath become of this angry man’s stuff?” Answered the dyer, “O my neighbour, ’twas stolen from me.” “Prodigous!” exclaimed the barber. “Whenever any one giveth thee aught, a thief stealeth it from thee! Art thou then the meeting-place of every rogue upon town? But I doubt me thou liest: so tell me the truth.” Replied Abu Kir, “O my neighbour, none hath stolen aught from me.” Asked Abu Sir, “What then dost thou with the people’s property?”; and the dyer answered, “Whenever any one giveth me aught to dye, I sell it and spend the price.” Quoth Abu Sir, “Is this permitted thee of Allah?” and quoth Abu Kir, “I do this only out of poverty, because business is slack with me and I am poor and have nothing.”5 And he went on to complain to him of the dulness of his trade and his lack of means. Abu Sir in like manner lamented the little profit of his own calling, saying, “I am a master of my craft and have not my equal in this city; but no one cometh to me to be polled, because I am a pauper; and I loathe this art and mystery, O my brother.” Abu Kir replied, “And I also loathe my own craft, by reason of its slackness; but, O my brother, what call is there for abiding in this town? Let us depart from it, I and thou, and solace ourselves in the lands of mankind, carrying in our hands our crafts which are in demand all the world over; so shall we breathe the air and rest from this grievous trouble.” And he ceased not to commend travel to Abu Sir, till the barber became wishful to set out; so they agreed upon their route — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 It is interesting to note the superior gusto with which the Eastern, as well as the Western tale-teller describes his scoundrels and villains whilst his good men and women are mostly colourless and unpicturesque. So Satan is the true hero of Paradise–Lost and by his side God and man are very ordinary; and Mephistopheles is much better society than Faust and Margaret.

2 Arab. “Dukhán,” lit. = smoke, here tobacco for the Chibouk, “Timbák” or “Tumbák” being the stronger (Persian and other) variety which must be washed before smoking in the Shíshah or water pipe. Tobacco is mentioned here only and is evidently inserted by some scribe: the “weed” was not introduced into the East before the end of the sixteenth century (about a hundred years after coffee), when it radically changed the manners of society.

3 Which meant that the serjeant, after the manner of such officials, would make him pay dearly before giving up the key. Hence a very severe punishment in the East is to “call in a policeman” who carefully fleeces all those who do not bribe him to leave them in freedom.

4 Arab. “Má Dáhiyatak?” lit. “What is thy misfortune?” The phrase is slighting if not insulting.

5 Amongst Moslems the plea of robbing to keep life and body together would be accepted by a good man like Abu Sir, who still consorted with a self-confessed thief.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Thirty-second Night,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abu Kir ceased not his praises of wayfaring to Abu Sir till the barber became wishful to depart; so they agreed upon their route, at which decision Abu Kir rejoiced and improvised these lines,

“Leave thy home for abroad an wouldst rise on high,

And travel whence benefits five-fold rise;

The soothing of sorrow and winning of bread,

Knowledge, manners and commerce with good men and wise.

An they say that in travel are travail and care,

And disunion of friends and much hardship that tries;

Yet to generous youth death is better than life

In the house of contempt betwixt haters and spies.”

When they agreed to travel together Abu Kir said to Abu Sir, “O my neighbour, we are become brethren and there is no difference between us, so it behoveth us to recite the Fátihah1 that he of us who gets work shall of his gain feed him who is out of work, and whatever is left, we will lay in a chest; and when we return to Alexandria, we will divide it fairly and equally.” “So be it,” replied Abu Sir, and they repeated the Opening Chapter of the Koran on this understanding. Then Abu Sir locked up his shop and gave the key to its owner, whilst Abu Kir left his door locked and sealed and let the key lie with the Kazi’s serjeant; after which they took their baggage and embarked on the morrow in a galleon2 upon the salt sea. They set sail the same day and fortune attended them, for, of Abu Sir’s great good luck, there was not a barber in the ship albeit it carried an hundred and twenty men, besides captain and crew. So, when they loosed the sails, the barber said to the dyer, “O my brother, this is the sea and we shall need meat and drink; we have but little provaunt with us and haply the voyage will be long upon us; wherefore methinks I will shoulder my budget and pass among the passengers, and may be some one will say to me, ‘Come hither, O barber, and shave me,’ and I will shave him for a scone or a silver bit or a draught of water: so shall we profit by this, I and thou too.” “There’s no harm in that,” replied the dyer and laid down his head and slept, whilst the barber took his gear and water-tasse3 and throwing over his shoulder a rag, to serve as napkin (because he was poor), passed among the passengers. Quoth one of them, “Ho, master, come and shave me.” So he shaved him, and the man gave him a half-dirham;4 whereupon quoth Abu Sir, “O my brother, I have no use for this bit; hadst thou given me a scone ’twere more blessed to me in this sea, for I have a shipmate and we are short of provision.” So he gave him a loaf and a slice of cheese and filled him the tasse with sweet water. The barber carried all this to Abu Kir and said, “Eat the bread and cheese and drink the water.” Accordingly he ate and drank, whilst Abu Sir again took up his shaving gear and, tasse in hand and rag on shoulder, went round about the deck among the passengers. One man he shaved for two scones and another for a bittock of cheese, and he was in demand, because there was no other barber on board. Also he bargained with every one who said to him, “Ho, master, shave me!” for two loaves and a half dirham, and they gave him whatever he sought, so that, by sundown, he had collected thirty loaves and thirty silvers with store of cheese and olives and botargoes.5 And besides these he got from the passengers whatever he asked for and was soon in possession of things galore. Amongst the rest he shaved the Captain,6 to whom he complained of his lack of victual for the voyage, and the skipper said to him, “Thou art welcome to bring thy comrade every night and sup with me and have no care for that so long as ye sail with us.” Then he returned to the dyer, whom he found asleep; so he roused him; and when Abu Kir awoke, he saw at his head an abundance of bread and cheese and olives and botargoes and said, “Whence gottest thou all this?” “From the bounty of Allah Almighty,” replied Abu Sir. Then Abu Kir would have fallen to, but the barber said to him, “Eat not of this, O my brother; but leave it to serve us another time; for know that I shaved the Captain and complained to him of our lack of victual: whereupon quoth he, ‘Welcome to thee! Bring thy comrade and sup both of ye with me every night.’ And this night we sup with him for the first time.” But Abu Kir replied, “My head goeth round with sea-sickness and I cannot rise from my stead; so let me sup off these things and fare thou alone to the Captain.” Abu Sir replied, “There is no harm in that;” and sat looking at the other as he ate, and saw him hew off gobbets, as the quarryman heweth stone from the hill-quarries and gulp them down with the gulp of an elephant which hath not eaten for days, bolting another mouthful ere he had swallowed the previous one and glaring the while at that which was before him with the glowering of a Ghul, blowing and blowing as bloweth the hungry bull over his beans and bruised straw. Presently up came a sailor and said to the barber, “O craftsmaster, the Captain biddeth thee come to supper and bring thy comrade.” Quoth the barber to the dyer, “Wilt thou come with us?”; but quoth he, “I cannot walk.” So the barber went by himself and found the Captain sitting before a tray whereon were a score or more of dishes and all the company were awaiting him and his mate. When the Captain saw him he asked, “Where is thy friend?”; and Abu Sir answered, “O my lord, he is sea-sick.” Said the skipper, “That will do him no harm; his sickness will soon pass off; but do thou carry him his supper and come back, for we tarry for thee.” Then he set apart a porringer of Kabábs and putting therein some of each dish, till there was enough for ten, gave it to Abu Sir, saying, “Take this to thy chum.” He took it and carried it to the dyer, whom he found grinding away with his dog-teeth7 at the food which was before him, as he were a camel, and heaping mouthful on mouthful in his hurry. Quoth Abu Sir, “Did I not say to thee, ‘Eat not of this’? Indeed the Captain is a kindly man. See what he hath sent thee, for that I told him thou wast sea-sick.” “Give it here,” cried the dyer. So the barber gave him the platter, and he snatched it from him and fell upon his food, ravening for it and resembling a grinning dog or a raging lion or a Rukh pouncing on a pigeon or one well-nigh dead for hunger who seeing meat falls ravenously to eat. Then Abu Sir left him and going back to the Captain, supped and enjoyed himself and drank coffee8 with him; after which he returned to Abu Kir and found he had eaten all that was in the porringer and thrown it aside, empty. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 To make their agreement religiously binding. See vol. iv. 36.

2 Arab. “Ghaliyún”; many of our names for craft seem connected with Arabic: I have already noted “Carrack” = harrák: to which add Uskuf in Marocco pronounced ‘Skuff = skiff; Katírah = a cutter; Bárijah = a barge; etc. etc.

3 The patient is usually lathered in a gib gasin of tinned brass, “Mambrino’s helmet” with a break in the rim to fit the throat; but the poorer classes carry only a small cup with water instead of soap and water ignoring the Italian proverb, “Barba ben saponata mezza fatta” = well lathered is half shaved. A napkin fringed at either end is usually thrown over the Figaro’s shoulder and used to wipe the razor.

4 Arab. “Nusf.” See vol. ii. 37.

5 Arab. “Batárikh” the roe (sperm or spawn) of the salted Fasíkh (fish) and the Búrí (mugil cephalus) a salt-water fish caught in the Nile and considered fair eating. Some write Butárghá from the old Egyptian town Burát, now a ruin between Tinnis and Damietta (Sonnini).

6 Arab. “Kaptán,” see vol. iv. 85.

7 Arab. “Anyáb,” plur. of Náb applied to the grinder teeth but mostly to the canines or eye teeth, tusks of animals, etc. (See vol. vii. p. 339) opp. To Saniyah, one of the four central incisors, a camel in the sixth year and horse, cow, sheep and goat in fourth year.

8 The coffee (see also vol. viii. 274) like the tobacco is probably due to the scribe; but the tale appears to be comparatively modern. In The Nights men eat, drink and wash their hands but do not smoke and sip coffee like the moderns. See my Terminal Essay §2.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Thirty-third Night,

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Abu Sir returned to Abu Kir he saw that he had eaten all that was in the porringer and had thrown it aside empty. So he took it up and gave it to one of the Captain’s servants, then went back to Abu Kir and slept till the morning. On the morrow, he continued to shave, and all he got by way of meat and drink he gave to his shipmate, who ate and drank and sat still, rising not save to do what none could do for him, and every night the barber brought him a full porringer from the Captain’s table. They fared thus twenty days until the galleon cast anchor in the harbour of a city; whereupon they took leave of the skipper and landing, entered the town and hired them a closet in a Khan. Abu Sir furnished it and buying a cooking pot and a platter and spoons1 and what else they needed, fetched meat and cooked it; but Abu Kir fell asleep the moment he entered the Caravanserai and awoke not till Abu Sir aroused him and set a tray of food2 before him. When he awoke, he ate and saying to Abu Sir, “Blame me not, for I am giddy,” fell asleep again. Thus he did forty days, whilst, every day, the barber took his gear and making the round of the city, wrought for that which fell to his lot,3 and returning, found the dyer asleep and aroused him. The moment he awoke he fell ravenously upon the food, eating as one who cannot have his fill nor be satisfied; after which he went asleep again. On this wise he passed other forty days and whenever the barber said to him, “Sit up and be comfortable4 and go forth and take an airing in the city, for ’tis a gay place and a pleasant and hath not its equal among the cities,” he would reply, “Blame me not, for I am giddy.” Abu Sir cared not to hurt his feelings nor give him hard words; but, on the forty-first day, he himself fell sick and could not go abroad; so he engaged the porter of the Khan to serve them both, and he did the needful for them and brought them meat and drink whilst Abu Kir would do nothing but eat and sleep. The man ceased not to wait upon them on this wise for four days, at the end of which time the barber’s malady redoubled on him, till he lost his senses for stress of sickness; and Abu Kir, feeling the sharp pangs of hunger, arose and sought in his comrade’s clothes, where he found a thousand silver bits. He took them and, shutting the door of the closet upon Abu Sir, fared forth without telling any; and the doorkeeper was then at market and thus saw him not go out. Presently Abu Kir betook himself to the bazar and clad himself in costly clothes, at a price of five hundred half-dirhams; then he proceeded to walk about the streets and divert himself by viewing the city which he found to be one whose like was not among cities; but he noted that all its citizens were clad in clothes of white and blue, without other colour. Presently he came to a dyer’s and seeing naught but blue in his shop, pulled out to him a kerchief and said, “O master, take this and dye it and win thy wage.” Quoth the dyer, “The cost of dyeing this will be twenty dirhams;” and quoth Abu Kir, “In our country we dye it for two.” “Then go and dye it in your own country! As for me, my price is twenty dirhams and I will not bate a little thereof.” “What colour wilt thou dye it?” “I will dye it blue.” “But I want it dyed red.” “I know not how to dye red.” “Then dye it green.” “I know not how to dye green.” “Yellow.” “Nor yet yellow.” Thereupon Abu Kir went on to name the different tints to him, one after other, till the dyer said, “We are here in this city forty masterdyers, not one more nor one less; and when one of us dieth, we teach his son the craft. If he leave no son, we abide lacking one, and if he leave two sons, we teach one of them the craft, and if he die, we teach his brother. This our craft is strictly ordered, and we know how to dye but blue and no other tine whatsoever.” Then said Abu Kir, “Know that I too am a dyer and wot how to dye all colours; and I would have thee take me into thy service on hire, and I will teach thee everything of my art, so thou mayst glory therein over all the company of dyers.” But the dyer answered, “We never admit a stranger into our craft.” Asked Abu Kir, “And what if I open a dyery for myself?”; whereto the other answered, “We will not suffer thee to do that on any wise;” whereupon he left him and going to a second dyer, made him the like proposal; but he returned him the same answer as the first; and he ceased not to go from one to other, till he had made the round of the whole forty masters; but they would not accept him either to master or apprentice. Then he repaired to the Shaykh of the Dyers and told him what had passed, and he said, “We admit no strangers into our craft.” Hereupon Abu Kir became exceeding wroth and going up to the King of that city, made complaint to him, saying, “O King of the age, I am a stranger and a dyer by trade”; and he told him whatso had passed between himself and the dyers of the town, adding, “I can dye various kinds of red, such as rose-colour and jujubel-colour5 and various kinds of green, such as grass-green and pistachio-green and olive and parrot’s wing, and various kinds of black, such as coal-black and Kohl-black, and various shades of yellow, such as orange and lemon-colour,” and went on to name to him the rest of the colours. Then said he, “O King of the age, all the dyers in thy city can not turn out of hand any one of these tincts, for they know not how to dye aught but blue; yet will they not admit me amongst them, either to master or apprentice.” Answered the King, “Thou sayst sooth for that matter, but I will open to thee a dyery and give thee capital and have thou no care anent them; for whoso offereth to do thee let or hindrance, I will hang him over his shop-door.” Then he sent for builders and said to them, “Go round about the city with this master-dyer, and whatsoever place pleaseth him, be it shop or Khan or what not, turn out its occupier and build him a dyery after his wish. Whatsoever he biddeth you, that do ye and oppose him not in aught.” And he clad him in a handsome suit and gave him two white slaves to serve him, and a horse with housings of brocade and a thousand dinars, saying, “Expend this upon thyself against the building be completed.” Accordingly Abu Kir donned the dress and mounting the horse, became as he were an Emir. Moreover the King assigned him a house and bade furnish it; so they furnished it for him. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Mi’lakah” (Bresl. Edit. x, 456). The fork is modern even in the East and the Moors borrow their term for it from fourchette. But the spoon, which may have begun with a cockle-shell, dates from the remotest antiquity.

2 Arab. “Sufrah” properly the cloth or leather upon which food is placed. See vol. i. 178.

3 i.e. gaining much one day and little another.

4 Lit. “Rest thyself” i.e. by changing posture.

5 Arab. “Unnábi” = between dark yellow and red.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Thirty-fourth Night,

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the King assigned a house to Abu Kir and bade furnish it and he took up his abode therein. On the morrow he mounted and rode through the city, whilst the architects went before him; and he looked about him till he saw a place which pleased him and said, “This stead is seemly;” whereupon they turned out the owner and carried him to the King, who gave him as the price of his holding, what contented him and more. Then the builders fell to work, whilst Abu Kir said to them, “Build thus and thus and do this and that,” till they built him a dyery that had not its like; whereupon he presented himself before the King and informed him that they had done building the dyery and that there needed but the price of the dye-stuffs and gear to set it going. Quoth the King, “Take these four thousand dinars to thy capital and let me see the first fruits of thy dyery.” So he took the money and went to the market where, finding dye-stuffs1 plentiful and well-nigh worthless, he bought all he needed of materials for dyeing; and the King sent him five hundred pieces of stuff, which he set himself to dye of all colours and then he spread them before the door of his dyery. When the folk passed by the shop, they saw a wonder-sight whose like they had never in their lives seen; so they crowded about the entrance, enjoying the spectacle and questioning the dyer and saying, “O master, what are the names of these colours?” Quoth he, “This is red and that yellow and the other green” and so on, naming the rest of the colours. And they fell to bringing him longcloth and saying to him, “Dye it for us like this and that and take what hire thou seekest.” When he had made an end of dyeing the King’s stuffs, he took them and went up with them to the Divan; and when the King saw them he rejoiced in them and bestowed abundant bounty on the dyer. Furthermore, all the troops brought him stuffs, saying, “Dye for us thus and thus;” and he dyed for them to their liking, and they threw him gold and silver. After this his fame spread abroad and his shop was called the Sultan’s Dyery. Good came in to him at every door and none of the other dyers could say a word to him, but they used to come to him kissing his hands and excusing themselves to him for past affronts they had offered him and saying, “Take us to thine apprentices.” But he would none of them for he had become the owner of black slaves and handmaids and had amassed store of wealth. On this wise fared it with Abu Kir; but as regards Abu Sir, after the closet door had been locked on him and his money had been stolen, he abode prostrate and unconscious for three successive days, at the end of which the Concierge of the Khan, chancing to look at the door, observed that it was locked and bethought himself that he had not seen and heard aught of the two companions for some time. So he said in his mind, “Haply they have made off, without paying rent,2 or perhaps they are dead, or what is to do with them?” And he waited till sunset, when he went up to the door and heard the barber groaning within. He saw the key in the lock; so he opened the door and entering, found Abu Sir lying, groaning, and said to him, “No harm to thee: where is thy friend?” Replied Abu Sir, “By Allah, I came to my senses only this day and called out; but none answered my call. Allah upon thee, O my brother, look for the purse under my head and take from it five half-dirhams and buy me somewhat nourishing, for I am sore anhungered.” The porter put out his hand and taking the purse, found it empty and said to the barber, “The purse is empty; there is nothing in it.” Whereupon Abu Sir knew that Abu Kir had taken that which was therein and had fled and he asked the porter, “Hast thou not seen my friend?” Answered the doorkeeper, “I have not seen him these three days; and indeed methought you had departed, thou and he.” The barber cried, “Not so; but he coveted my money and took it and fled seeing me sick.” Then he fell a-weeping and a-wailing but the doorkeeper said to him, “No harm shall befal thee, and Allah will requite him his deed.” So he went away and cooked him some broth, whereof he ladled out a plateful and brought it to him; nor did he cease to tend him and maintain him with his own monies for two months’ space, when the barber sweated3 and the Almighty made him whole of his sickness. Then he stood up and said to the porter, “An ever the Most High Lord enable me, I will surely requite thee of thy kindness to me; but none requiteth save the Lord of His bounty!” Answered the porter, “Praised be He for thy recovery! I dealt not thus with thee but of desire for the face of Allah the Bountiful.” Then the barber went forth of the Khan and threaded the market-streets of the town, till Destiny brought him to the bazar wherein was Abu Kir’s dyery, and he saw the vari-coloured stuffs dispread before the shop and a jostle of folk crowding to look upon them. So he questioned one of the townsmen and asked him, “What place is this and how cometh it that I see the folk crowding together?”; whereto the man answered, saying, “This is the Sultan’s Dyery, which he set up for a foreigner Abu Kir hight; and whenever he dyeth new stuff, we all flock to him and divert ourselves by gazing upon his handiwork, for we have no dyers in our land who know how to stain with these colours; and indeed there befel him with the dyers who are in the city that which befel.”4 And he went on to tell him all that had passed between Abu Kir and the master-dyers and how he had complained of them to the Sultan who took him by the hand and built him that dyery and give him this and that: brief, he recounted to him all that had occurred. At this the barber rejoiced and said in himself, “Praised be Allah who hath prospered him, so that he is become a master of his craft! And the man is excusable, for of a surety he hath been diverted from thee by his work and hath forgotten thee; but thou actedst kindly by him and entreatedst him generously, what time he was out of work; so, when he seeth thee, he will rejoice in thee and entreat thee generously, even as thou entreatedst him.” According he made for the door of the dyery and saw Abu Kir seated on a high mattress spread upon a bench beside the doorway, clad in royal apparel and attended by four blackamoor slaves and four white Mamelukes all robed in the richest of raiment. Moreover, he saw the workmen, ten negro slaves, standing at work; for, when Abu Kir bought them, he taught them the craft of dyeing, and he himself sat amongst his cushions, as he were a Grand Wazir or a mighty monarch putting his hand to naught, but only saying to the men, “Do this and do that.” So the barber went up to him and stood before him, deeming he would rejoice in him when he saw him and salute him and entreat him with honour and make much of him; but, when eye fell upon eye, the dyer said to him, “O scoundrel, how many a time have I bidden thee stand not at the door of the workshop? Hast thou a mind to disgrace me with the folk, thief5 that thou art? Seize him.” So the blackamoors ran at him and laid hold of him; and the dyer rose up from his seat and said, “Throw him.” Accordingly they threw him down and Abu Kir took a stick and dealt him an hundred strokes on the back; after which they turned him over and he beat him other hundred blows on his belly. Then he said to him, “O scoundrel, O villian, if ever again I see thee standing at the door of this dyery, I will forthwith send thee to the King, and he will commit thee to the Chief of Police, that he may strike thy neck. Begone, may Allah not bless thee!” So Abu Sir departed from him, broken-hearted by reason of the beating and shame that had betided him; whilst the bystanders asked Abu Kir, “What hath this man done?” He answered, “The fellow is a thief, who stealeth the stuffs of folk.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Nílah” lit. = indigo, but here applied to all the materials for dyeing. The word is Sanskrit, and the growth probably came from India, although during the Crusaders’ occupation of Jerusalem it was cultivated in the valley of the lower Jordan. I need hardly say that it has nothing to do with the word “Nile” whose origin is still sub judice. And yet I lately met a sciolist who pompously announced to me this philological absurdity as a discovery of his own.

2 Still a popular form of “bilking” in the Wakálahs or Caravanserais of Cairo: but as a rule the Bawwáb (porter or doorkeeper) keeps a sharp eye on those he suspects. The evil is increased when women are admitted into these places; so periodical orders for their exclusion are given to the police.

3 Natives of Egypt always hold this diaphoresis a sign that the disease has abated and they regard it rightly in the case of bilious remittents to which they are subject, especially after the hardships and sufferings of a sea-voyage with its alternations of fasting and over-eating.

4 Not simply, “such and such events happened to him” (Lane); but, “a curious chance befel him.”

5 Arab. “Harámi,” lit. = one who lives on unlawful gains; popularly a thief.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Thirty-fifth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Abu Kir beat Abu Sir and thrust him forth he said to those present, “He is a thief who stealeth the stuffs of folk; he hath robbed me of cloth, how many a time! and I still said in myself, ‘Allah forgive him!’ He is a poor man; and I cared not to deal roughly with him; so I used to give my customers the worth of their goods and forbid him gently; but he would not be forbidden: and if he come again, I will send him to the King, who will put him to death and rid the people of his mischief.” And the bystanders fell to abusing the barber after his back was turned. Such was the behaviour of Abu Kir; but as regards Abu Sir, he returned to the Khan, where he sat pondering that which the dyer had done by him and he remained seated till the burning of the beating subsided, when he went out and walked about the markets of the city. Presently, he bethought him to go to the Hammam bath; so he said to one of the townsfolk, “O my brother, which is the way to the Baths?” Quoth the man, “And what manner of thing may the Baths be?” and quoth Abu Sir, “’Tis a place where people wash themselves and do away their dirt and defilements, and it is of the best of the good things of the world.” Replied the townsman, “Get thee to the sea,” but the barber rejoined, “I want the Hammam-baths.” Cried the other, “We know not what manner of this is the Hammam, for we all resort to the sea; even the King, when he would wash, betaketh himself to the sea.” When Abu Sir was assured that there was no bath in the city and that the folk knew not the Baths nor the fashion thereof, he betook himself to the King’s Divan and kissing ground between his hands called down blessings on him and said, “I am a stranger and a Bath-man by trade, and I entered thy city and thought to go to the Hammam; but found not one therein. How cometh a city of this comely quality to lack a Hammam, seeing that the bath is of the highest of the delights of this world?” Quoth the King, “What manner of thing is the Hammam?” So Abu Sir proceeded to set forth to him the quality of the bath, saying, “Thy capital will not be a perfect city till there be a Hammam therein.” “Welcome to thee!” said the King and clad him in a dress that had not its like and gave him a horse and two blackamoor slaves, presently adding four handmaids and as many white Mamelukes: he also appointed him a furnished house and honoured him yet more abundantly than he had honoured the dyer. After this he sent builders with him saying to them, “Build him a Hammam in what place soever shall please him.” So he took them and went with them through the midst of the city, till he saw a stead that suited him. He pointed it out to the builders and they set to work, whilst he directed them, and they wrought till they builded him a Hammam that had not its like. Then he bade them paint it, and they painted it rarely, so that it was a delight to the beholders; after which Abu Sir went up to the King and told him that they had made an end of building and decorating the Hammam, adding, “There lacketh naught save the furniture.” The King gave him ten thousand dinars wherewith he furnished the Bath and ranged the napkins on the ropes; and all who passed by the door stared at it and their mind confounded at its decorations. So the people crowded to this spectacle, whose like they had never in their lives seen, and solaced themselves by staring at it and saying, “What is this thing?” To which Abu Sir replied, “This is a Hammam;” and they marvelled thereat. Then he heated water and set the bath aworking,1 and he made a jetting fountain in the great basin, which ravished the wit of all who saw it of the people of the city. Furthermore, he sought of the King ten Mamelukes not yet come to manhood, and he gave him ten boys like moons; whereupon Abu Sir proceeded to shampoo them, saying, “Do in this wise with the bathers.” Then he burnt perfumes and sent out a crier to cry aloud in the city, saying, “O creatures of Allah, get ye to the Baths which be called the Sultan’s Hammam!” So the lieges came thither and Abu Sir bade the slave-boys wash their bodies. The folk went down into the tank and coming forth, seated themselves on the raised pavement, whilst the boys shampooed them, even as Abu Sir had taught them; and they continued to enter the Hammam and do their need therein gratis and go out, without paying, for the space of three days. On the fourth day the barber invited the King, who took horse with his Grandees and rode to the Baths, where he put off his clothes and entered; then Abu Sir came in to him and rubbed his body with the bag-gloves, peeling from his skin dirt-rolls like lamp-wicks and showing them to the King, who rejoiced therein, and clapping his hand upon his limbs heard them ring again for very smoothness and cleanliness2; after which thorough washing Abu Sir mingled rose-water with the water of the tank and the King went down therein. When he came forth, his body was refreshed and he felt a lightness and liveliness such as he had never known in his life. Then the barber made him sit on the dais and the boys proceeded to shampoo him, whilst the censers fumed with the finest lign-aloes.3 Then said the King, “O master is this the Hammam?”; and Abu Sir said, “Yes.” Quoth the King, “As my head liveth, my city is not become a city indeed but by this Bath,” presently adding, “But what pay takest thou for each person?” Quoth Abu Sir, “That which thou biddest will I take;” whereupon the King cried, “Take a thousand gold pieces for every one who washeth in thy Hammam.” Abu Sir, however, said, “Pardon, O King of the age! All men are not alike, but there are amongst them rich and poor, and if I take of each a thousand dinars, the Hammam will stand empty, for the poor man cannot pay this price.” Asked the King, “How then wilt thou do for the price!”; and the barber answered, “I will leave it to their generosity.4 Each who can afford aught shall pay that which his soul grudgeth not to give, and we will take from every man after the measure of his means. On this wise will the folk come to us and he who is wealthy shall give according to his station and he who is wealth-less shall give what he can afford. Under such condition the Hammam will still be at work and prosper exceedingly; but a thousand dinars is a Monarch’s gift, and not every man can avail to this.” The Lords of the Realm confirmed Abu Sir’s words, saying, “This is the truth, O King of the age! Thinkest thou that all folk are like unto thee, O glorious King5?” The King replied, “Ye say sooth; but this man is a stranger and poor and ’tis incumbent on us to deal generously with him, for that he hath made in our city this Hammam whose like we have never in our lives seen and without which our city were not adorned nor hath gotten importance; wherefore, an we favour him with increase of fee ’twill not be much.” But the Grandees said, “An thou wilt guerdon him be generous with thine own monies, and let the King’s bounty be extended to the poor by means of the low price of the Hammam, so the lieges may bless thee; but, as for the thousand dinars, we are the Lords of thy Land, yet do our souls grudge to pay it; and how then should the poor be pleased to afford it?” Quoth the King, “O my Grandees, for this time let each of you give him an hundred dinars and a Mameluke, a slave girl and a blackamoor;” and quoth they, “’Tis well; we will give it; but after to-day whoso entereth shall give him only what he can afford, without grudging.” “No harm in that,” said the King; and they gave him the thousand gold pieces and three chattels. Now the number of the Nobles who were washed with the King that day was four hundred souls; — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 i.e. he turned on the water, hot and cold.

2 Men are often seen doing this in the Hammam. The idea is that the skin when free from sebaceous exudation sounds louder under the clapping. Easterns judge much by the state of the perspiration, especially in horse-training, which consists of hand-gallops for many successive miles. The sweat must not taste over salt and when held between thumb and forefinger and the two are drawn apart must not adhere in filaments.

3 Lit. “Aloes for making Nadd;” see vol. i. 310. “Eagle-wood” (the Malay Aigla and Agallochum the Sansk. Agura) gave rise to many corruptions as lignum aloes, the Portuguese Páo d’ Aguila etc. “Calamba” or “Calambak” was the finest kind. See Colonel Yule in the “Voyage of Linschoten” (vol. i. 120 and 150). Edited for the Hakluyt Soc. (1885) by my learned and most amiable friend, the late Arthur Cooke Burnell.

4 The Hammam is one of those unpleasant things which are left “Alà júdi-k” = to thy generosity; and the higher the bather’s rank the more he or she is expected to pay. See Pilgrimage i. 103. In 1853 I paid at Cairo 3 piastres and twenty paras, something more than sixpence, but now five shillings would be asked.

5 This is something like the mythical duchess in England who could not believe that the poor were starving when sponge-cakes were so cheap.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Thirty-sixth Night,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the number of the Nobles who were washed with the King that day were four hundred souls; so that the total of that which they gave him was forty thousand dinars, besides four hundred Mamelukes and a like number of negroes and slave-girls.1 Moreover the King gave him ten thousand dinars, besides ten white slaves and ten hand-maidens and a like number of blackamoors; whereupon coming forward Abu Sir kissed the ground before him and said, “O auspicious Sovereign, lord of justice, what place will contain me all these women and slaves?” Quoth the King, “O weak o wit, I bade not my nobles deal thus with thee but that we might gather together unto thee wealth galore; for may be thou wilt bethink thee of thy country and family and repine for them and be minded to return to thy mother-land; so shalt thou take from our country muchel of money to maintain thyself withal, what while thou livest in thine own country.” And quoth Abu Sir, “O King of the age, (Allah advance thee!) these white slaves and women and negroes befit only Kings and hadst thou ordered me ready money, it were more profitable to me than this army; for they must eat and drink and dress, and whatever betideth me of wealth, it will not suffice for their support.” The King laughed and said, “By Allah thou speakest sooth! They are indeed a mighty host, and thou hast not the wherewithal to maintain them; but wilt thou sell them to me for an hundred dinars a head?” Said Abu Sir, “I sell them to thee at that price.” So the King sent to his treasurer for the coin and he brought it and gave Abu Sir the whole of the price without abatement2 and in full tale; after which the King restored the slaves take them; for they are a gift from me to you.” So they obeyed his bidding and took each what belonged to him; whilst Abu Sir said to the King, “Allah ease thee, O King of the age, even as thou hast eased me of these Ghuls, whose bellies none may fill save Allah3!” The King laughed, and said he spake sooth; then, taking the Grandees of his Realm from the Hammam returned to his palace; but the barber passed the night in counting out his gold and laying it up in bags and sealing them; and he had with him twenty black slaves and a like number of Mamelukes and four slave girls to serve him. Now when morning morrowed, he opened the Hammam and sent out a crier to cry, saying, “Whoso entereth the Baths and washeth shall give that which he can afford and which his generosity requireth him to give.” Then he seated himself by the pay-chest4 and customers flocked in upon him, each putting down that which was easy to him, nor had eventide evened ere the chest was full of the good gifts of Allah the Most High. Presently the Queen desired to go to the Hammam, and when this came to Abu Sir’s knowledge, he divided the day on her account into two parts, appointing that between dawn and noon to men and that between midday and sundown to women.5 As soon as the Queen came, he stationed a handmaid behind the pay-chest; for he had taught four slave-girls the service of the Hammam, so that they were become expert bathwomen and tire-women. When the Queen entered, this pleased her and her breast waxed broad and she laid down a thousand dinars. Thus his report was noised abroad in the city, and all who entered the bath he entreated with honour, were they rich or poor; good came in upon him at every door and he made acquaintance with the royal guards and got him friends and intimates. The King himself used to come to him one day in every week, leaving with him a thousand dinars and the other days were for rich and poor alike; and he was wont to deal courteously with the folk and use them with the utmost respect. It chanced that the King’s sea-captain came in to him one day in the bath; so Abu Sir did off his dress and going in with him, proceeded to shampoo him and entreated him with exceeding courtesy. When he came forth, he made him sherbet and coffee; and when he would have given him somewhat, he swore that he would not accept him from aught. So the captain was under obligation to him, by reason of his exceeding kindness and courtesy and was perplexed how to requite the bath-man his generous dealing. Thus fared it with Abu Sir: but as regards Abu Kir, hearing all the people recounting wonders of the Baths and saying, “Verily, this Hammam is the Paradise of this world! Inshallah, O such an one, thou shalt go with us to-morrow to this delightful bath,” he said to himself, “Needs must I fare like the rest of the world, and see this bath that hath taken folk’s wits.” So he donned his richest dress and mounting a she-mule and bidding the attendance of four white slaves and four blacks, walking before and behind him, he rode to the Hammam. When he alighted at the door, he smelt the scent of burning aloes-wood and found people going in and out and the benches full of great and small. So he entered the vestibule and saw Abu Sir, who rose to him and rejoiced in him: but the dyer said to him, “Is this the way of well-born men? I have opened me a dyery and am become master-dyer of the city and acquainted with the King and have risen to prosperity and authority: yet camest thou not to me nor askest of me nor saidst, Where’s my comrade? For my part I sought thee in vain and sent my slaves and servants to make search for thee in all the Khans and other places; but they knew not whither thou hadst gone, nor could any one give me tidings of thee.” Said Abu Sir, “Did I not come to thee and didst thou not make me out a thief and bastinado me and dishonour me before the world?” At this Abu Kir made a show of concern and asked, “What manner of talk is this? Was it thou whom I beat?”; and Abu Sir answered, “Yes, ’twas I.” Whereupon Abu Kir swore to him a thousand oaths that he knew him not and said, “There was a fellow like thee, who used to come every day and steal the people’s stuff, and I took thee for him.” And he went on to pretend penitence, beating hand upon hand and saying, “There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great? Indeed we have sinned against thee; but would that thou hadst discovered thyself to me and said, I am such an one! Indeed the fault is with thee, for that thou madest not thyself known unto me, more especially seeing that I was distracted for much business.” Replied Abu Sir, “Allah pardon thee,6 O my comrade! This was foreordained in the Secret Purpose, and reparation is with Allah. Enter and put off thy clothes and bathe at thine ease.” Said the dyer, “I conjure thee, by Allah, O my brother, forgive me!”; and said Abu Sir, “Allah acquit thee of blame and forgive thee! Indeed this thing was decreed to me from all eternity.” Then asked Abu Kir, “Whence gottest thou this high degree?”; and answered Abu Sir, “He who prospered thee prospered me; for I went up to the King and described to him the fashion of the Hammam and he bade me build one.” And the dyer said, “Even as thou art beknown of the King, so also am I;”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 This magnificent “Bakhshish” must bring water into the mouths of all the bath-men in the coffee-house assembly.

2 i.e. the treasurer did not, as is the custom of such gentry, demand and receive a large “Bakhshish” on the occasion.

3 A fair specimen of clever Fellah chaff.

4 In the first room of the Hammam, called the Maslakh or stripping-place, the keeper sits by a large chest in which he deposits the purses and valuables of his customers and also makes it the caisse for the pay. Something of the kind is now done in the absurdly called “Turkish Baths” of London.

5 This is the rule in Egypt and Syria and a clout hung over the door shows that women are bathing. I have heard, but only heard, that in times and places when eunuchs went in with the women youths managed by long practice to retract the testicles so as to pass for castratos. It is hard to say what perseverance may not effect in this line; witness Orsini and his abnormal development of hearing, by exercising muscles which are usually left idle.

6 This reference to Allah shows that Abu Sir did not believe his dyer-friend.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Thirty-seventh Night,

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Abu Kir and Abu Sir were exchanging reproof and excuse, the dyer said to him, “Even as thou art beknown of the King, so also am I; and, Inshallah,-God willing-I will make him love and favour thee more than ever, for my sake, he knoweth not that thou art my comrade, but I will acquaint him of this and commend thee to him.” But Abu Sir said, “There needeth no commendation; for He who moveth man’s heart to love still liveth; and indeed the King and all his court affect me and have given me this and that.” And he told him the whole tale and said to him, “Put off thy clothes behind the chest and enter the Hammam, and I will go in with thee and rub thee down with the glove.” So he doffed his dress and Abu Sir, entering the bath with him, soaped him and gloved him and then dressed him and busied himself with his service till he came forth, when he brought him dinner and sherbets, whilst all the folk marvelled at the honour he did him. Then Abu Kir would have given him somewhat; but he swore that he would not accept aught from him and said to him, “Shame upon such doings! Thou art my comrade, and there is no difference between us.” Then Abu Kir observed, “By Allah, O my comrade, this is a mighty fine Hammam of thine, but there lacketh somewhat in its ordinance.” Asked Abu Sir, “And what is that?” and Abu Kir answered, “It is the depilatory,1 to wit, the paste compounded of yellow arsenic and quicklime which removeth the hair with comfort. Do thou prepare it and next time the King cometh, present it to him, teaching him how he shall cause the hair to fall off by such means, and he will love thee with exceeding love and honour thee.” Quoth Abu Sir, “Thou speakest sooth, and Inshallah, I will at once make it.” Then Abu Kir left him and mounted his mule and going to the King said to him, “I have a warning to give thee, O King of the age!” “And what is thy warning?” asked the King; and Abu Kir answered, “I hear that thou hast built a Hammam.” Quoth the King, “Yes: there came to me a stranger and I builded the Baths for him, even as I builded the dyery for thee; and indeed ’tis a mighty fine Hammam and an ornament to my city;” and he went on to describe to him the virtues of the bath. Quoth the dyer, “Hast thou entered therein?”; and quoth the King, “Yes.” Thereupon cried Abu Kir, “Alhamdolillah-praised be God,-who save thee from the mischief of yonder villain and foe of the Faith, I mean the bathkeeper!” The King enquired, “And what of him?”; and Abu Kir replied, “Know, O King of the age that, an thou enter the Hammam again, after this day, thou wilt surely perish.” “How so?” said the King; and the dyer said, “This bath-keeper is thy foe and the foe of the Faith, and he induced thee not to stablish this Bath but because he designed therein to poison thee. He hath made for thee somewhat and he will present it to thee when thou enterest the Hammam, saying, ‘This is a drug which, if one apply to his parts below the waist, will remove the hair with comfort.’ Now it is no drug, but a drastic dreg and a deadly poison; for the Sultan of the Christians hath promised this obscene fellow to release to him his wife and children, an he will kill thee; for they are prisoners in the hands of that Sultan. I myself was captive with him in their land, but I opened a dyery and dyed for them various colours, so that they conciliated the King’s heart to me and he bade me ask a boon of him. I sought of him freedom and he set me at liberty, whereupon I made my way to this city and seeing yonder man in the Hammam, said to him, ‘How didst thou effect thine escape and win free with thy wife and children?’ Quoth he, ‘We ceased not to be in captivity, I and my wife and children, till one day the King of the Nazarenes held a court whereat I was present, amongst a number of others; and as I stood amongst the folk, I heard them open out on the Kings and name them, one after other, till they came to the name of the King of this city, whereupon the King of the Christians cried out ‘Alas!’ and said, ‘None vexeth me2 in the world, but the King of such a city!3 Whosoever will contrive me his slaughter I will give him all he shall ask.’ So I went up to him and said, ‘An I compass for thee his slaughter, wilt thou set me free, me and my wife and my children?’ The King replied ‘Yes; and I will give thee to boot whatso thou shalt desire.’ So we agreed upon this and he sent me in a galleon to this city, where I presented myself to the King and he built me this Hammam. Now, therefore, I have nought to do but to slay him and return to the King of the Nazarenes, that I may redeem my children and my wife and ask a boon of him.’ Quoth I, “And how wilt thou go about to kill him?’; and quoth he, ‘By the simplest of all devices; for I have compounded him somewhat wherein is poison; so, when he cometh to the bath, I shall say to him, ‘Take this paste and anoint therewith thy parts below the waist for it will cause the hair4 to drop off.’ So he will take it and apply it to himself and the poison will work in him a day and a night, till it reacheth his heart and destroyeth him; and meanwhile I shall have made off and none will know that it was I slew him.’” “When I heard this,” added Abu Kir, “I feared for thee, my benefactor, wherefore I have told thee of what is doing.” As soon as the King heard the dyer’s story, he was wroth with exceeding wrath and said to him, “Keep this secret.” Then he resolved to visit the Hammam, that he might dispel doubt by supplying certainty; and when he entered, Abu Sir doffed his dress and betaking himself as of wont to the service of the King, proceeded to glove him; after which he said to him, “O King of the age, I have made a drug which assisteth in plucking out the lower hair.” Cried the King, “Bring it to me”: so the barber brought it to him and the King, finding it nauseous of smell, was assured that it was poison; wherefore he was incensed and called out to his guards, saying, “Seize him!” Accordingly they seized him and the King donned his dress and returned to his palace, boiling with fury, whilst none knew the cause of his indignation; for, of the excess of his wrath he had acquainted no one therewith and none dared ask him. Then he repaired to the audience-chamber and causing Abu Sir to be brought before him, with his elbows pinioned, sent for his Sea-captain and said to him, “Take this villain and set him in a sack with two quintals of lime unslacked and tie its mouth over his head. Then lay him in a cock-boat and row out with him in front of my palace, where thou wilt see me sitting at the lattice. Do thou say to me, ‘Shall I cast him in?’ and if I answer, ‘Cast him!’ throw the sack into the sea, so the quick-lime may be slaked on him to the intent that he shall die drowned and burnt.”5 “Hearkening and obeying;” quoth the Captain and taking Abu Sir from the presence carried him to an island facing the King’s palace, where he said to him, “Ho thou, I once visited thy Hammam and thou entreatedst me with honour and accomplishedst all my needs and I had great pleasure of thee: moreover, thou swarest that thou wouldst take no pay of me, and I love thee with a great love. So tell me how the case standeth between thee and the King and what abominable deed thou hast done with him that he is wroth with thee and hath commanded me that thou shouldst die this foul death.” Answered Abu Sir, “I have done nothing, nor weet I of any crime I have committed against him which meriteth this!”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Dawá” (lit. remedy, medicine) the vulgar term: see vol. iv. 256: also called Rasmah, Núrah and many other names.

2 Arab. “Má Kahara-ní” = or none hath overcome me.

3 Bresl. Edit. “The King of Isbániya.” For the “Ishbán” (Spaniards) an ancient people descended from Japhet son of Noah and who now are no more, see Al–Mas’udi (Fr. Transl. I. 361). The “Herodotus of the Arabs” recognises only the “Jalálikah” or Gallicians, thus bearing witness to the antiquity and importance of the Gallego race.

4 Arab. “Sha’r,” properly, hair of body, pile, especially the pecten. See Bruckhardt (Prov. No. 202), “grieving for lack of a cow she made a whip of her bush,” said of those who console themselves by building Castles in Spain. The “parts below the waist” is the decent Turkish term for the privities.

5 The drowning is a martyr’s death, the burning is a foretaste of Hell-fire.

plate47
So the Captain set the sack in the boat and paddled till he came unto the palace, where he saw the King seated at the lattice

When it was the Nine Hundred and Thirty-eighth Night,

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Sea-captain asked Abu Sir the cause of the King’s wrath with him, he replied, “By Allah, O my brother I have committed no crime against him which meriteth this!” Rejoined the Captain, “Verily, thou wast high in rank with the King, such as none ever won before thee, and all who are prosperous are envied. Haply some one was jealous of thy good fortune and threw out certain hints concerning thee to the King, by reason whereof he is become enraged against thee with rage so violent: but be of good cheer; no harm shall befal thee; for, even as thou entreatedst me generously, without acquaintanceship between me and thee, so now I will deliver thee. But, an if I release thee, thou must abide with me on this island till some galleon sail from our city to thy native land, when I will send thee thither therein.” Abu Sir kissed his hand and thanked him for that; after which the Captain fetched the quicklime and set it in a sack, together with a great stone, the size of a man, saying, “I put my trust in Allah!”1 Then he gave the barber a net, saying, “Cast this net into the sea, so haply thou mayst take somewhat of fish. For I am bound to supply the King’s kitchen with fish every day; but to-day I have been distracted from fishing by this calamity which hath befallen thee, and I fear lest the cook’s boys come to me in quest of fish and find none. So, an thou take aught, they will find it and thou wilt veil my face,2 whilst I go and play off my practice in front of the palace and feign to cast thee into the sea.” Answered Abu Sir, “I will fish the while; go thou and God help thee!” So the Captain set the sack in the boat and paddled till he came under the palace, where he saw the King seated at the lattice and said to him, “O King of the age, shall I cast him in?” “Cast him!” cried the King, and signed to him with his hand, when lo and behold!; something flashed like leven and fell into the sea. Now that which had fallen into the water was the King’s seal-ring; and the same was enchanted in such way that, when the King was wroth with any one and was minded to slay him, he had but to sign to him with his right hand, whereon was the signet-ring, and therefrom issued a flash of lightning, which smote the object, and thereupon his head fell from between his shoulders; and the troops obeyed him not, nor did he overcome the men of might save by means of the ring. So, when it dropped from his finger, he concealed the matter and kept silence, for that dared not say, “My ring is fallen into the sea,” for fear of the troops, lest they rise against him and slay him. On this wise it befel the King; but as regards Abu Sir, after the Captain had left him on the island he took the net and casting it into the sea presently drew it up full of fish; nor did he cease to throw it and pull it up full, till there was a great mound of fish before him. So he said in himself, “By Allah, his long while I have not eaten fish!”; and chose himself a large fat fish, saying, “When the Captain cometh back, I will bid him fry it for me, so I may dine on it.” Then he cut its throat with a knife he had with him; but the knife stuck in its gills and there he saw the King’s signet-ring; for the fish had swallowed it and Destiny had driven it to that island, where it had fallen into the net. He took the ring and drew it on his little finger,3 not knowing its peculiar properties. Presently, up came two of the cook’s boys in quest of fish and seeing Abu Sir, said to him, “O man, whither is the Captain gone?” “I know not,” said he and signed to them with his right hand; when, behold, the heads of both underlings dropped off from between their shoulders. At this Abu Sir was amazed and said, “Would I wot who slew them!” And their case was grievous to him and he was still pondering it, when the Captain suddenly returned and seeing the mound of fishes and two men lying dead and the seal-ring on Abu Sir’s finger, said to him, “O my brother, move not thy hand whereon is the signet-ring; else thou wilt kill me.” Abu Sir wondered at this speech and kept his hand motionless; whereupon the Captain came up to him and said, “Who slew these two men?” “By Allah, O my brother I wot not!” “Thou sayst sooth; but tell me whence hadst thou that ring?” “I found it in this fish’s gills.” “True,” said the Captain, “for I saw it fall flashing from the King’s palace and disappear in the sea, what time he signed towards thee,4 saying, Cast him in. So I cast the sack into the water, and it was then that the ring slipped from his finger and fell into the sea, where this fish swallowed it, and Allah drave it to thee, so that thou madest it thy prey, for this ring was thy lot; but kennest thou its property?” Said Abu Sir, “I knew not that it had any properties peculiar to it;” and the Captain said, “Learn, then, that the King’s troops obey him not save for fear of this signet-ring, because it is spelled, and when he was wroth with any one and had a mind to kill him, he would sign at him therewith and his head would drop from between his shoulders; for there issued a flash of lightning from the ring and its ray smote the object of his wrath, who died forthright.” At this, Abu Sir rejoiced with exceeding joy and said to the Captain, “Carry me back to the city;” and he said, “That will I, now that I no longer fear for thee from the King; for, wert thou to sign at him with thy hand, purposing to kill him, his head would fall down between thy hands; and if thou be minded to slay him and all his host, thou mayst slaughter them without let or hindrance.” So saying, he embarked him in the boat and bore him back to the city; — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 Meaning that if the trick had been discovered the Captain would have taken the barber’s place. We have seen (vol. i. 63) the Prime Minister superintending the royal kitchen and here the Admiral fishes for the King’s table. It is even more naïve than the Court of Alcinous.

2 Bresl. Edit. xi. 32: i.e. save me from disgrace.

3 Arab. “Khinsir” or “Khinsar,” the little finger or the middle finger. In Arabic each has its own name or names which is also that of the corresponding toe, e.g. Ibhám (thumb); Sabbábah, Musabbah or Da’áah (fore-finger); Wastá (medius); Binsir (annularis ring-finger) and Khinsar (minimus). There are also names for the several spaces between the fingers. See the English Arabic Dictionary (London, Kegan Paul an Co., 1881) by the Revd. Dr. Badger, a work of immense labour and research but which I fear has been so the learned author a labour of love not of profit.

4 Meaning of course that the King signed towards the sack in which he supposed the victim to be, but the ring fell off before it could take effect. The Eastern story-teller often balances his multiplicity of words and needless details by a conciseness and an elliptical style which make his meaning a matter of divination.

When it was the Nine Hundred and Thirty-ninth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Captain embarked with Abu Sir he bore him back to the city, so Abu Sir landed and going up to the palace, entered the council-chamber, where he found the King seated facing his officers, in sore cark and care by reason of the seal-ring and daring not tell any of his folk anent its loss. When he saw Abu Sir, he said to him, “Did we not cast thee into the sea? How hast thou contrived to come forth of it?” Abu Sir replied, “O King of the age, whenas thou badest throw me into the sea, thy Captain carried me to an island and asked me of the cause of thy wrath against me, saying, ‘What hast thou done with the King, that he should decree thy death?’ I answered, ‘By Allah, I know not that I have wrought him any wrong!’ Quoth he, ‘Thou wast high in rank with the King, and haply some one envied thee and threw out certain hints concerning htee to him, so that he is become incensed against thee. But when I visited thee in thy Hammam, thou entreatedst me honourably, and I will requite thee thy hospitality to me by setting thee free and sending thee back to thine own land.’ Then he set a great stone in the sack in my stead and cast it into the sea; but, when thou signedst to him to throw me in, thy seal-ring dropped from thy finger into the main, and a fish swallowed it. Now I was on the island a-fishing, and this fish came up in the net with the others; whereupon I took it, intending to broil it; but, when I opened its belly, I found the signet-ring therein; so I took it and put it on my finger. Presently, up came two of the servants of the kitchen, questing fish, and I signed to them with my hand, knowing not the property of the seal-ring, and their heads fell off. Then the Captain came back, and seeing the ring on my finger, acquainted me with its spell; and behold, I have brought it back to thee, for that thou dealtest kindly by me and entreatedst me with the utmost honour, nor is that which thou hast done me of kindness lost upon me. Here is thy ring; take it! But an I have done with thee aught deserving of death, tell me my crime and slay me and thou shalt be absolved of sin in shedding my blood.” So saying, he pulled the ring from his finger and gave it to the King who, seeing Abu Sir’s noble conduct, took the ring and put it on and felt life return to him afresh. Then he rose to his feet and embracing the barber, said to him, “O man, thou art indeed of the flower of the well-born! Blame me not, but forgive me the wrong I have done thee. Had any but thou gotten hold of this ring, he had never restored it to me.” Answered Abu Sir, “O King of the age, an thou wouldst have me forgive thee, tell me what was my fault which drew down thine anger upon me, so that thou commandedst to do me die.” Rejoined the King, “By Allah, ’tis clear to me that thou art free and guiltless in all things of offence since thou hast done this good deed; only the dyer denounced thee to me in such and such words;” and he told him all that Abu Kir had said. Abu Sir replied, “By Allah, O King of the age, I know no King of the Nazarenes nor during my days have ever journeyed to a Christian country, nor did it ever come into my mind to kill thee. But this dyer was my comrade and neighbour in the city of Alexandria where life was straitened upon us; therefore we departed thence, to seek our fortunes, by reason of the narrowness of our means at home, after we had recited the Opening Chapter of the Koran together, pledging ourselves that he who got work should feed him who lacked work; and there befel me with him such and such things.” Then he went on to relate to the King all that had betided him with Abu Kir the dyer; how he had robbed him of his dirhams and had left him alone and sick in the Khan-closet and how the door-keeper had fed him of his own monies till Allah recovered him of his sickness, when he went forth and walked about the city with his budget, as was his wont, till he espied a dyery, about which the folk were crowding; so he looked at the door and seeing Abu Kir seated on a bench there, went in to salute him, whereupon he accused him of being a thief and beat him a grievous beating; brief, he told him his whole tale, from first to last, and added, “O King of the age, ’twas he who counselled me to make the depilatory and present it to thee, saying, ‘The Hammam is perfect in all things but that it lacketh this’; and know, O King of the age, that this drug is harmless and we use it in our land where ’tis one of the requisites of the bath; but I had forgotten it: so, when the dyer visited the Hammam I entreated him with honour and he reminded me of it, and enjoined me to make it forthwith. But do thou send after the porter of such a Khan and the workmen of the dyery and question them all of that which I have told thee.” Accordingly the King sent for them and questioned them one and all and they acquainted him with the truth of the matter. Then he summoned the dyer, saying, “Bring him barefooted, bareheaded and with elbows pinioned!” Now he was sitting in his house, rejoicing in Abu Sir’s death; but ere he could be ware, the King’s guards rushed in upon him and cuffed him on the nape, after which they bound him and bore him into the presence, where he saw Abu Sir seated by the King’s side and the door-keeper of the Khan and workmen of the dyery standing before him. Quoth the door-keeper to him, “Is no this thy comrade whom thou robbedst of his silvers and leftest with me sick in the closet doing such and such by him?” And the workmen said to him, “Is not this he whom thou badest us seize and beat?” Therewith Abu Kir’s baseness was made manifest to the King and he was certified that he merited torture yet sorer than the torments of Munkar and Nakír.1 So he said to his guards, “Take him and parade him about the city and the markets;”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 See vol. v. 111.

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