The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

The Concubine and the Caliph.463

One day of the days, as I stood at the door of my house, and the heat was excessive, behold, I saw a fair woman approaching, and with her a slave-girl carrying a parcel. They gave not over going till they came up to me, when the woman stopped and asked me, “Hast thou a draught of water?” answered I, “Yes, enter the vestibule, O my lady, so thou mayest drink.” Accordingly she came in and I went up into the house and fetched two gugglets of earthenware, smoked with musk464 and full of cold water. She took one of them and discovered her face, the better to drink; whereupon I saw that she was as the rising moon or the resplendent sun and said to her, “O my lady, wilt thou not come up into the house, so thou mayst rest thyself till the air cool and afterwards fare thee to thine own place?” quoth she, “Is there none with thee?” and quoth I, “Indeed I am a bachelor and have none belonging tome, nor is there a wight in the site;465 whereupon she said, “An thou be a stranger, thou art he in quest of whom I was going about.” So she went up into the house and doffed her walking-dress and I found her as she were the full moon. I brought her what I had by me of food and drink and said to her, “O my lady, excuse me: this is all that is ready;” and said she, “This is right good466 and indeed ’tis what I sought.” Then she ate and gave the slave-girl that which was left; after which I brought her a casting-bottle of musked rose-water, and she washed her hands and abode with me till the season of mid-afternoon prayer, when she brought out of the parcel she had with her a shirt and trousers and an upper garment467 and a gold-worked kerchief and gave them to me; saying, “Know that I am one of the concubines of the Caliph, and we be forty concubines, each of whom hath a cicisbeo who cometh to her as often as she would have him; and none is without a lover save myself, wherefore I came forth this day to get me a gallant and now I have found thee. thou must know that the Caliph lieth each night with one of us, whilst the other nine-and-thirty concubines take their ease with the nine-and-thirty masculines, and I would have thee company on such a day, when do thou come up to the palace of the Caliph and sit awaiting me in such a place, till a little eunuch come out to thee and say to thee a certain watch-word which is, ‘Art thou Sandal?’ Answer ‘Yes,’ and wend thee with him.” Then she took leave of me and I of her, after I had strained her to my bosom and thrown my arms round her neck and we had exchanged kisses awhile. So she fared forth and I abode patiently expecting the appointed day, till it came, when I arose and went out, intending for the trysting place; but a friend of mine met me by the way and made me go home with him. I accompanied him and when I came up into his sitting-chamber he locked the door on me and walked out to fetch what we might eat and drink. He was absent until midday, then till the hour of mid-afternoon prayer, whereat I was chagrined with sore concern. Then he was missing until sundown, and I was like to die of vexation and impatience; and indeed he returned not and I passed my night on wake, nigh upon death, for the door was locked on me, and my soul was like to depart my body on account of the assignation. At daybreak, my friend returned and opening the door, came in, bringing with him meat-pudding468 and fritters and bees’ honey, and said to me, “By Allah, thou must needs excuse me, for that I was with a company and they locked the door on me and have let me go but this very moment.” I returned him no reply; however, he set before me that which was with him and I ate a single mouthful and went out running at speed so haply I might overtake the rendezvous which had escaped me. when I came to the palace, I saw over against it eight-and-thirty gibbets set up, whereon were eight-and-thirty men crucified, and under them eight-and-thirty469 concubines as they were moons. So I asked the cause of the crucifixion of the men and concerning the women in question, and it was said unto me, “The men thou seest crucified the Caliph found with yonder damsels, who be his bed-fellows.” When I heard this, I prostrated myself in thanksgiving to Allah and said, “The Almighty require thee with all good, O my friend!” for had he not invited me and locked me up in his house that night, I had been crucified with these men, wherefore Alhamdolillah — laud to the Lord! “On this wise” (continued Shahrazad), “none is safe from the calamities of the world and the vicissitudes of Time, and in proof of this, I will relate unto thee yet another story still rarer and stranger than this. Know, O king, that one said to me: A friend of mine, a merchant, told me the following tale:

463 The title is from the Bresl. Edit. (vol. xii. pp. 398-402). Mr. Payne calls it “The Favourite and her Lover.”

464 The practice of fumigating gugglets is universal in Egypt (Lane, M. E., chapt. v.); but I never heard of musk being so used.

465 Arab. “Laysa fi ’l-diyári dayyár”— a favourite jingle.

466 Arab. “Khayr Kathir” (pron. Katír) which also means “abundant kindness.”

467 Dozy says of “Hunayní” (Haíní), Il semble Ltre le nom d’un vLtement. On which we may remark, Connu!

468 Arab. Harísah: see vol. i. 131. Westerns make a sad mess of this dish when they describe it as une sorte d’olla podrida (the hotch-pot), une pâtée de viandes, de froment et de légumes secs (Al-Mas’udi viii. 438). Whenever I have eaten it, it was always a meat-pudding, for which see vol. i. 131.

469 Evidently one escaped because she was sleeping with the Caliph, and a second because she had kept her assignation.

plate61
Up came the guards and eunuchs escorting the women, who were weeping and shrieking and farewelling one another . . . . Now each of them was shackled

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burton/richard/b97b/v12.7.html

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