The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

The Gate-Keeper of Cairo and the Cunning she-Thief.423

It is related that in Misr of Káhir there was a man who had reached the age of fourscore and ten years, and he was a chief-watchman of the ward in the service of the Wáli; a brave man withal, and one not wont to be startled or afeard. Now one night as he was going around about the city with the Chief of Police, and he was returning to the guard-house424 before break o’ day that he might perform the Wuzú-ablution, and at the call to dawn-prayers he might rise and repeat them, it so fortuned that when he was about to stand up to his orisons, according to the custom of him, suddenly a purse fell before him upon the ground. As soon as he had done with his devotions he arose and gazed around to see who had thrown him that bag of money, but he could find nobody; so he took it up and opened it, when an hundred dinars met his sight. Hereat he wondered; but on the following day when he had washed and was praying, behold, a second purse was cast at his feet; so he waited until he had finished his orisons and then stood up and looked around to see who had thrown it. Thereupon, as he failed to find any, he took it up and opened it and again beheld an hundred dinars, a matter which filled him with wonder. This continued till the third day at morning-tide, when he had washed as was his wont and stood up to his prayers, and lo and behold! another purse was dropped at his feet. Herewith he cut short his devotions, and turning him round saw beside him a girl whose years had reached fifteen; so he seized her and said, “Who art thou, and what is the reason of thy throwing at my feet every day a purse of an hundred gold pieces, and this is the third time; argal the sum amounteth to three hundred. What may be this case?” Said she, “O my lord, my name is Fátimah, and my wish and will is a matter which thou canst bring to an end for me by means of thy tongue!” Quoth he, “What is’t thou wantest of me?” and quoth she, “’Tis my intent that on the morrow I sham drunkenness with wine and cast myself before the mansion of the Kazi of the Army.425 Thou shalt find me there strown upon the ground and dressed in all the best of my clothes and finest ornaments. So when thou shalt come to that quarter and espy me lying there in drink do thou bid the Linkman move the links to and fro; then come forward, O Mukaddam,426 and investigate the case and examine me, and say the Wali, ‘This girl is in liquor.’ The Chief of Police shall reply to thee, ‘Take her and carry her to the watch-house and keep her there till day-break.’"— And Shahrazad was surprised by the dawn of day, and fell silent and ceased saying her permitted say. Then quoth her sister Dunyazad, “How sweet and tasteful is thy tale, O sister mine, and how enjoyable and delectable!” Quoth she, “And where is this compared with that I would relate to you on the coming night an the Sovran suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night, and that was

423 This tale is a variant of “The First Constable’s History:” Suppl. Nights, vol. ii. 3-11.

424 In text “Al-Bawwábah”=a place where door-keepers meet, a police-station; in modern tongue “Karakol,” for “Karaghol-khánah”=guard-house.

425 In text ‘Kází al-‘Askar”=the great legal authority of a country: vol. vi. 131.

426 Anglo-Indice “Mucuddum”=overseer, etc., vol. iv. 42.

The Seven Hundred and Sixty-first Night,

Dunyazad said to her, “Allah upon thee, O my sister, an thou be other than sleepy, finish for us thy tale that we may cut short the watching of this our latter night!” She replied, “With love and good will!” It hath reached me, O auspicious King, the director, the right-guiding, lord of the rede which is benefiting and of deeds fair-seeming and worthy celebrating, that quoth the girl to the Mukaddam, “And when thou shalt have found me drunken with wine, the Wali shall bid thee, ‘Take her to the watch-house and there keep her till daybreak.’ Hereto do thou object, ‘No! this were not suitable: I will cry upon someone of the quarter and will awake the Kazi of the Army, for that she belongeth to his ward.’ Then assemble all thy folk and say to them, ‘Verily this girl is in liquor and not mistress of herself at such time; needs must she be of a great family and daughter to grandees; therefore ’twere not proper that we take her with us to the watch-house; nor let any hold her in his charge save the Kazi of the Army till morning and until such time as she shall have recovered her senses and can fare to her own folk.’” Hereupon quoth the Mukaddam to her, “Easy enough!” and quoth she, “An thou act on this wise and my success be from thy hand, I will give thee five hundred dinars besides the three hundred.” “This matter is not far to us,”427 said he; so she left him and went away. Now when it was the season after night-prayers, the Chief of Police came forth his quarters and, repairing to the watch-house and taking the Mukaddam and his men, would have threaded the highways of Cairo as was his wont, but the head Gate-Keeper forewent him and took the direction of the quarter wherein dwelt the Kazi of the Army; the Wali unknowing the while what was in the man’s thought. They ceased not faring until they entered that part of the town wherein stood the Judge’s house, and when they approached it, lo and behold! the Mukaddam found a something strown upon the ground. So said he to the Linkman who carried the light, “O my son, do thou shake the torch,” and when he moved the link to and fro it illumined the whole quarter. Then the Gate-Keeper came forward; and, looking at what was lying there, found it to be a damsel in liquor dressed out with sumptuous dress and adorned with all her ornaments: so he said to the Wali, “O my Chief,428 this girl is drunken with wine and hath fallen on the ground;” and said the Chief of Police, “Take her up and carry her to the watch-house until morning.” Hereupon quoth the Mukaddam, “No! this were not fitting; nor is it possible for the like of this girl. She is in the ward of the Kazi al’-Askar, to whose household haply she belongeth or to some great man in the quarter, and we fear lest befal her of evil matters some matter and we shall come to be transgressors.” Hereupon, after applying some remedy to the damsel, they made her sit up and presently they called aloud upon the people of the quarter and awoke the Judge and when all the folk came out in a body the Wali said to them, “Look ye upon this girl; peradventure you may know whose daughter she is.” They came forward and examined her and found her garbed in sumptuous garments and trickt out with the whole of her ornaments, whereupon the Chief of Police and the Mukaddam of the Watchmen said to them, “Indeed ’tis not possible for us to remove yon maiden from this place; so do you take her to your homes until morning-tide when she shall recover and be able to care for herself and then fare to her own folk.” Hereat they made agreement that none should lodge her in his house save the Kazi of the Army; so a party of the servants raised her and led her to his mansion and set her in a chamber hard by the open saloon; after which each and every of them fared forth to sleep in his own place. On this wise it befel the Wali and the Mukaddam and the Kazi and the folk of the ward; but as regards the affair of the damsel whom they found stretched on the ground as one drunken, she on entering the Kazi’s abode pulled herself together and recovered herself, for that she had wrought all this wily work for the special purpose of being led into the house there to carry out her wish and will. Presently the Judge lay down and was drowned in slumber and knew not what Allah had destined to him from the plans and projects of the girl who, rising up at midnight, opened the door of her chamber leading into the saloon where the Kazi al-‘Askar kept all his hoards and coin429 and dresses and belongings. Now she had appointed her people to meet her at that house, so they came and carried off the whole of what was in the saloon nor did they leave aught therein, at all, at all, save only the matting. And when dawned the morn, the Kazi of the Army arose and repaired to the saloon, as was his wont, for the purpose of dressing, but he found therein nothing except the matting. So he buffeted his face with his palms and wailed aloud whereat a party of his servants came to him and asked, “What is the matter with thee, O our lord the Kazi?” then, on going into the saloon they remarked that it had been gutted of everything. So they went from him and threw open the door of the chamber wherein they had placed the damsel but they found her nowhere. — And Shahrazad was surprised by the dawn of day and fell silent and ceased to say her permitted say. Then quoth her sister Dunyazad, “How sweet is thy story, O sister mine, and how enjoyable and delectable!” Quoth she, “And where is this compared with that I would relate to you on the coming night an the King suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night and that was

427 i.e. is not beyond our reach.

428 In text “Yá Sultán-am” with the Persian or Turkish suffixed possessional pronoun.

429 In text “mál,” for which see vol. vi. 267. Amongst the Badawin it is also applied to hidden treasure.

The Seven Hundred and Sixty-third Night,

Dunyazad said to her, “Allah upon thee, O my sister, an thou be other than sleepy, finish for us thy tale that we may cut short the watching of this our latter night!” She replied, “With love and good will!” It hath reached me, O auspicious King, the director, the right-guiding, lord of the rede which is benefiting and of deeds fair-seeming and worthy celebrating, that the Kazi’s folk went and threw open the door of the chamber wherein the damsel had slept; and, when they found nothing therein, they were certified it was she who had carried away the goods. After such fashion it happened to these; but as regards the action of the Judge, he took horse and wended his way to the Sultan, and he ceased not wending till he had entered the presence and salam’d and blessed the Sovran who returned his salute. Then cried he, “O King of the Age, there hath befallen me that which is so-and-so, and I have a claim on the Chief of Police and the Mukaddam of the watch, for that indeed they were the men who bade me admit the girl into my home, and this guest of mine hath left me nor muchel nor little.” Hereupon the King bade summon the men with their many, and when they came before him, he bade strike off the heads of the two head men; but they said to him, “O King of the Age, grant us three days’ respite and, if aught discover itself to us and we rid ourselves of the responsibility, we shall be saved; but an we avail not thereto, the sword of the Sultan is long.” “Go forth,” cried the King; “I have granted you a three days’ delay; if you bring the offender ’tis well, and if not, your heads shall be in lieu thereof and eke so your families and your properties.” Hearing this they sued for dismissal, and the Wali went forth to search in this way and wander in one direction and the Mukaddam in another. They roamed about Cairo for two full-told days, but naught happened to them until the third about the call to noontide-prayers, when the Mukaddam entered a narrow street on the side of the city to the west, and behold, a door opened and a speaker spake saying, “O Mukaddam, who is behind the door?” So he turned towards the sound and said, “’Tis well,” and the other cried, “Come thou and draw near to me.” He did so and approached the entrance when suddenly he saw the damsel who had shammed drunkenness430 and whom they had introduced into the Kazi al-‘Askar’s house. Now when he accosted her and recognised her, he seized her and she asked him, “Wherefore dost thou arrest me and what is thine intent to do with me?” “We will carry thee to the Sultan,” answered he, “and I and the Wali shall be set free. During the last three days I have done nothing but wander about in search of thee who hast wrought for us such work and after hast fled from us.” Quoth the girl, “O clever one, had I designed the ruin of you I had never made myself manifest to thee, nor couldst thou have met me or forgathered with me: however, I will now work at freeing you from the hands of the Sultan, that both thou and the Wali may escape and that you twain may take from the Judge of the Army whatever of good you want and will.” Quoth he, “How shall we do?” and quoth she, “I have by me a white slave-girl the very likeness of myself and at this time I have dressed her in my dresses and decorations and have cut her throat, and by my cleverness and force of heart I have caused her to be carried to a ruin hard by the Kazi’s house and have had her buried therein and have set over her a slab. So do thou fare hence and taking the Wali seek the Sultan and say to him, ‘We have wandered about Misr, the whole thereof, but we have found naught of our want, and now nothing remaineth to us save the house of the Kazi al-‘Askar; so we desire to search therein and, if we find that damsel murthered, we will gather together the folk of the quarter who saw us before that they may look upon her; and be the Judge also standing by that we may ask the people, ‘What say ye concerning this maiden?’ when haply they may reply, ‘This is the girl which was drunken with wine.’ And as soon as they shall bear witness that it is the same, you twain shall stay behind to converse with the Judge as ye desire and take from him whatever you wish and will; and he shall sue you for grace and for aidance. Then will he go up to the King and report to him saying, ‘I have found my debtor and I have recovered from him all my good;’ whereupon you shall be set free and eke I shall be freed. And finally do ye come hither to me and we will divide all the plunder I have taken from the Kazi’s house.” Now when the damsel had made the old Watchman understand these words, he left her, and going to the Wali, informed him of the whole affair and reported all that the girl had communicated to him of treachery and plottings, whereupon the Chief of Police took horse, and accompanied by the Mukaddam, rode to the Palace — And Shahrazad was surprised by the dawn of day and fell silent and ceased saying her permitted say. Then quoth her sister Dunyazad, “How sweet and tasteful is thy story, O sister mine, and how enjoyable and delectable!” Quoth she, “And where is this compared with that I would relate to you on the coming night an the Sovran suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night and that was

430 I carefully avoid the obnoxious term “intoxication” which properly means “poisoning,” and should be left to those amiable enthusiasts the “Teetotallers.”

The Seven Hundred and Sixty-fifth Night,

Dunyazad said to her, “Allah upon thee, O my sister, an thou be other than sleepy, finish for us thy tale that we may cut short the watching of this our latter night!” She replied, “With love and good will!” It hath reached me, O auspicious King, the director, the right-guiding, lord of the rede which is benefiting and of deeds fair-seeming and worthy celebrating, that the Wali rode to the Palace, he and the chief Watchman, seeking the Sultan, and they ceased not riding until they entered the presence and saluted the Sovran, praying for the endurance of his glory and the continuance of his life-tide. He returned their salute and asked concerning the affair of his Judge and they answered him, “O King of the Age, verily we have wandered about Misr and the entirety thereof, without finding any and now there remaineth for our search naught save the quarters occupied by the Kali al-‘Askar. So we design to examine it that if aught be found therein we may be set free, and if not that thou work upon us thine own intent.” Hereupon the Sultan sent to summon the Judge; and, when he made act of presence, commanded him suffer the Wali and the Mukaddam to search his quarters and he replied, “Hearing and obeying.” The whole forty then fared from the Palace and reaching the Judge’s mansion rummaged it until they came upon the ruined stead described by the damsel; so thither they went and seeing a slab newly laid, pulled it up and found beneath it a white girl full-dressed and ornamented.431 The Watchman fared forth and summoned all the ward-folk who considered narrowly the corpse of the murthered damsel, and they all cried with a single voice, “Indeed this be the girl which was drunken with wine and which was carried into the Kazi’s quarters.” And they bore official testimony to such effect what while the Judge, who was standing in that stead looking and listening, said to himself, “How can such case have occurred to us without cause?” And when this business was finished, the Wali turned to the Kazi and said “O Shaykh of Islam,432 we left this damsel in thy charge and to thine honour until morning-tide, deeming that haply she might be the daughter of a grandee house and yet hast thou cut her throat and hidden her within thy premises.” But the Judge could return to him no reply nor attempt any address, for he feared lest the King should hear thereof; so he inclined to the Master of Police and got ready for him an hundred purses and twenty for the Mukaddam that they might keep silence and not report such matter of scandal to the Sultan. Accordingly they accepted that amount of money from him and the Kazi went forth from him and took horse and informed the Sultan that he had found his debtor and had recovered his due; but he spoke not these words save for fear of the Chief of Police and the Head of the Watchmen lest they inform the King that they had found the murthered damsel within his demesne. Then the Mukaddam repaired to the house where the She-thief had bespoken him and standing at the door knocked thereat when those inside asked, “Who mayest thou be?” and he answered, “I am seeking Fatimah!” “Who is Fatimah?” cried they, “we have here nor Fatimah nor Halímah.”433 Thereupon quoth the Mukaddam, “Indeed this Fornicatress, this Adulteress hath wrought upon us and hath escaped us; but, seeing that we also have won free by virtue of the wile she pointed out to us, we will leave her to time and doubtless during the length of days we twain shall forgather again.” On this wise endeth the story (quoth Shahrazad); but I will now relate a very different adventure and ’tis the

431 A sign of foul play; the body not having been shrouded and formally buried.

432 For the title, the office and the date see vol. ix. 289.

433 The names are=Martha and Mary.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burton/richard/b97b/v15.15.html

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