The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

Mohammed the Shalabi and His Mistress and His Wife.455

It is told among the many things which happened in Cairo the God-guarded that therein dwelt a man who was an Emir and who had a son Mohammed Shalabi456 hight, a youth in his day unique for beauty and loveliness, nor in his time was there his peer for comeliness and seemlihead amongst women or amongst men. Now when he had attained the age of ten and was approaching puberty, his sire betrothed him and wedded him to a fair wife who loved him with fondest love even after marriage. There was also in Misr a Kazi al-‘Askar, a Judge of the Army, who had a daughter singular for form and favour and bloom and brilliancy, and stature and symmetric grace and she was known as Sitt al-Husn — the Lady of Loveliness. Now one chance day of the days she went forth together with her mother and the handmaidens to the Baths and when they reached the half way behold, they were confronted by the young Shalabi whose glance fell upon the girl and her glance lit upon the youth, wherefrom love and affection for him settled in her heart and it was with him after the same fashion. Presently she began to send him messages and letters and he to do on like guise, yet could neither win possession of other nor indeed could the twain meet privately in one place. This endured for the space of three years therefore were their hearts melted in fire of mutual love-longing, until on a certain day when desire in the girl surged high for her lover and likewise did his yearning for his beloved; withal neither availed to win union. Hereupon befel them sore travail and trouble and the young lady sent an old woman to her dearling praying him to meet her in such a site; and when the go-between had informed him thereof, he arose to obey her without stay or delay, unknowing what was hidden from him in the Secret Purpose. He fared till he came to the place in question when it was the hour of sunset and here the Shalabi forgathered with the Kazi’s daughter who had kept tryst with him accompanied by her handmaidens; and anon the twain, he and she, repaired to a retired spot. Now by the decree of the Decreer which is written upon the foreheads and the brows of mankind, one of the folk belonging to the Chief of Police was loitering about the place when the couple entered that secret stead; and as soon as they had settled themselves comfortably, each began complaining to other of the pangs of separation. After this the handmaidens brought to them food, meat and wine, and they ate and drank and toyed and were cheered and made merry from set of sun till the noon o’ night and they conversed together as boon companions until either was fulfilled of other and the pains of parting had vanished from their hearts. Such was the case with the lover and the beloved; but as regards the Wali’s man who was looking upon them and listening, he well knew the place wherein the couple had retired and having noted it and certified himself thereof, he went to the Chief of Police and made his report saying, “In such a site of such a ward are a man and a maid whereupon show the signs of affluence, and doubtless an thou seize them thou shalt easily get from each and either some fifteen purses.” The Wali hearing these words forthwith led out his party and marched with them to the spot appointed; and he ceased not wending for half the night until they all came to the trysting place. Then he pushed forward axe457 in hand and smote the door and broke it down; and forthright he rushed into the room without being expected by the youth or the young lady whom he found sitting together in the very height of enjoyment. But when they saw him suddenly appear they were consterned and confounded and confused as to their affair, so he arrested them and led them off and carried them to his house, where he placed them in prison.458 Forthwith the bruit concerning the youth went abroad and reached his family; to wit, how Mohammed Shalabi had been seized by the Chief of Police, together with the girl his beloved. Now after imprisoning them the Wali said, “This pair shall remain with me for a day or two days and until I catch them in their robbery;”459 but quoth one of the party, “Indeed thou knowest not and thou hast not learnt that this damsel is the daughter of the Kazi of the Army who throughout the past year wrought for the slaying of thee by the Sultan.” And hardly had the Wali heard these words than his heart was filled with joy and he exclaimed, “By Allah, needs must I have his wench disgraced and proclaimed by bell460 about the thoroughfares of Cairo and him dishonoured in the presence of the Sultan and degraded from his degree.” Now when it was morning-tide a rumour flew about town that the Judge’s daughter had been seized by the Wali and the watch together with the young Shalabi in a certain place and presently the report reached her father who cried, “There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! O Saving God, save me! Oh, vile disgrace and foul dishonour before Sultan and subjects who shall say the Kazi’s daughter hath been seduced and abused. However may the Veiler enveil me!” On his part the Wali went up to the Palace and sought the Sovran to acquaint him therewith; but, finding that he had business, he sat him down to await its ending when he purposed informing him concerning the daughter of his enemy the Chief Kazi. On such wise it befel him; but as regards the wife of the youth who was lover to the girl, as soon as the rumour reached her that the Shalabi had been arrested by the Wali and the watch, she arose to her feet without stay and delay and doffing whatso of woman’s dress was upon her — 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

455 This tale is of a kind not unfrequent amongst Moslems, exalting the character of the wife, whilst the mistress is a mere shadow.

456 Here written “Jalabí” (whence Scott’s “Julbee,” p. 461) and afterwards (p. 77, etc.) “Shalabí”: it has already been noticed in vol. i. 22 and elsewhere.

457 In text “Baltah” for Turk. “Báltah”==an axe, a hatchet. Hence “Baltah-ji” a pioneer, one of the old divisions of the Osmanli troops which survives as a family name amongst the Levantines and semi-European Perotes of Constantinople.

458 Here the public gaol is in the Head Policeman’s house. So in modern times it is part of the Wali or Governor’s palace and is included in the Maroccan “Kasbah” or fortalice.

459 In text “Naakhaz bi-lissati-him;” “Luss” is after a fashion {Greek letters} but the Greek word included piracy which was honourable, whenas the Arab. term is mostly applied to larcenists and similar blackguards. [I would read the word in the text “Balsata-hum,” until I have received their “ransom."— ST.]

460 In the text “Tajrís” which I have rendered by a circumlocution. [For the exact meaning of “Tajrís,” see Dozy, Suppl.s.v. “jarras,” where an interesting passage from “Mas’údí” is quoted. — ST.]

The Seven Hundred and Seventy-fourth 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 as soon as the Shalabi’s wife was informed touching her husband how the Wali had seized him in company with the Kazi’s daughter, she arose forthright and doffing whatso of woman’s dress was upon her and donning man’s disguise provided herself with somewhat of provaunt461 and went forth intending for the gaol in the Wali’s house. She asked for the road as she went and a man of the people directed her to the office until she reached the place carrying her victuals; then she enquired for the gaoler. So they made him meet her and quoth she, “Open to me the prison wherein they have gaoled the Shalabi and the maiden,” and she promised him by signs a gold piece; hereupon he admitted her and she passed into the room where lay her spouse and the girl and set meat before him. But he knew her not and cried, “Indeed I will nor eat nor drink, and do thou fare from me and leave me in this my plight.” Quoth she, “Nay, thou must eat and gladness shall befal thee.” Accordingly he came forward and ate a small matter and she after sitting with him for an hour or so, arose and doffed her man’s dress. Then she stripped the Kazi’s daughter of all the clothes she was wearing and garbed her in the masculine garb wherewith she had entered to the twain. The young lady did as she was bidden and showed likest to the Shalabi’s wife who lastly served her with what remained of the meat and said to her, “Up with thee and hie thee home.” So the Kazi’s daughter fared forth under the disguise of a dainty youth such an one as he who anon had entered the gaol; and as soon as she had wended her way the wife took seat beside her husband. When he saw her habited in the habit of the Kazi’s daughter he recognised her and knew her for his spouse; so he asked of her, “What hath brought thee hither?” and she answered, “I have come with this contrivance for the purpose of saving thee and of saving the honour of the girl thou lovest.” But as soon as the Kazi’s daughter had departed in her disguise the gaoler was deaf to entreaty and closed the prison doors upon the pair and the Shalabi and his spouse sat down together and his heart was satisfied and his secret was safe-directed,462 and fell from him all the sorrow which had settled upon his heart. Such was the case with these two; but as regards the Chief of Police, when he went up to the Sultan and saw that he was busied he took patience until the work was ended, after which he came forward and kissed ground before him and salam’d to him and blessed him. The King returned his salute and then said, “What is to do?” and said he, “O King of the Age. I found during the past night the Lady Sitt al-Husn, daughter to the Kazi al-‘Askar, companying with her lover a certain Mohammed Shalabi son of the Emir Such-and-such; so I seized the couple and confined them by me and now I myself come to report the case in thy presence.” When the Sultan heard these words, he was wroth with exceeding wrath and his eyes flashed red and his outer jugulars463 swelled and he foamed at the mouth and roaring cried, “How can it be that the daughter of the Kazi al-Islam companieth with a lover and alloweth herself to be debauched? By Allah, needs must I slay her and slay her father and slay the youth her lover.” Thus befel it with the Sultan and the Wali; but as regards the matter of the girl Sitt al-Husn, when she went forth the prison in the dress of a Shalabi, a dainty youth, she ceased not wending till she reached her paternal home. Here she repaired to a place which was private and having doffed her man’s dress garbed her in maidenly garments, then retiring secretly to her own room lay her down and her heart was heartened and trouble and turmoil and travail of mind fell from her. Now at that time her mother was lamenting like a funeral mourner and buffeting her face and her breast and kept crying out, “Oh the shame of us! Oh the dishonour of us! When they shall have informed the Sultan of this, he shall surely slay her sire.” And the Kazi waxed distraught and full of thought and he also said in his mind, “How shall I remain Kazi al-Islam when the folk of Cairo say, ‘Verily the daughter of our Lord High Chancellor hath been debauched?’” With these words he kept visiting his wife’s apartment and sitting with her for awhile, then faring forth and coming in from place to place464 and he wandered about like one bewildered of wits. When behold, a handmaid of the handmaidens entered the room wherein lay the Kazi’s daughter and finding her strown upon her bed looked upon her and recognised her. So she left her and running in her haste hied her to the mistress and cried, “O my lady, indeed Sitt al-Husn of whom you are talking is lying down in such a room of the Harem.” Thereupon the mother arose and went and came upon her daughter, so she rejoiced in her and returning to the Kazi in his apartment acquainted him therewith. He also repaired to his daughter’s bower and finding her therein quoth he, “Where hast thou been?” Quoth she, “O my father, my head began to ache after sunset-time, so I lay me down in this place.” Hereupon without stay or delay the Kazi took horse, he and his Officials, and repaired to the Sultan — 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

461 In Moslem lands prisoners are still expected to feed themselves, as was the case in England a century ago and is still to be seen not only in Al-Islam, Egypt and Syria, but even in Madeira and at Goa.

462 In text “Hudá Sirru-hu,” i.e. his secret sin was guided (by Allah) to the safety of concealment. [A simpler explanation of this passage would perhaps be: “wa hadá Sirru-hu,"== and his mind was at rest. — ST.]

463 Arab. “Audáj” (plur. of “Wadaj”) a word which applies indiscriminately to the carotid arteries and jugular veins. The latter, especially the external pair, carry blood from the face and are subject abnormally to the will: the late lamented Mr. Charley Peace, who murdered and “burgled” once too often, could darken his complexion and even change it by arresting jugular circulation. The much-read Mr. F. Marion Crawford (Saracinesca, chapt. xii.) makes his hero pass a foil through his adversary’s throat, “without touching the jugular artery (which does not exist)or the spine.” But what about larynx and pharynx? It is to be regretted that realistic writers do not cultivate a little more personal experience. No Englishman says “in guard” for “on guard.” “Colpo del Tancredi” is not==“Tancred’s lunge” but “the thrust of the (master) Tancredi:” it is quite permissible and to say that it loses half its dangers against a left-handed man is to state what cannot be the fact as long as the heart is more easily reached from the left than from the right flank.

464 Lit. “Then faring forth and sitting in his own place.” I have modified the too succinct text which simply means that he was anxious and agitated.

The Seven Hundred and Seventy-sixth 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 of the Army repaired to the Sultan, he and the whole of his officials, and he ceased not wending until he entered the presence, where he salam’d and said, “O King of the Age, is it lawful and allowed of Allah Almighty that thy Wali charge us with calumnious charge and false?” As the Chief of Police was standing hard by, the Sultan asked him, “How can the Wali have misspoken thee and thy daughter when she is still imprisoned by him and in his house?” whereto the Chief of Police added, “’Tis true! his daughter is surely with us in durance vile, she along with her lover, for indeed I found the pair in such a place.” Said the Kazi, “O King of the Age, I will abide here beside thee and do thou let the Wali go down and bring before thee that which is with him in gaol, and the case shall be made manifest, because hearing with the ear is not like eyeing with the eye.” The Sultan replied, “This rede is right,” whereupon the Chief of Police returned to his house and ordered the gaoler to open the gaol and bring thereout the maiden Sitt al-Husn and her lover the youth Mohammed Shalabi. The man did his bidding and leading forth of prison the couple committed them to the Chief of Police who took them and fared with them to the Sovran, rejoicing the while with all joy. The citizens of Cairo heard of all this, so they flocked in crowds to solace them with the spectacle; and when the Wali reached the presence, the maiden and the young man being with him, he set them before the Sultan. Presently the King asked the youth saying, “Who mayest thou be, O young man, and who is thy father?” and answered he, “I am son of such an Emir;” when the King who believed that she was the daughter of the Chief Kazi continued, “And this maiden that is with thee, who may she be and whose daughter?” The youth replied, “This is my wife, O King of the Age,” and the King rejoined, “How can she be thy wife?” So the youth retorted, “Indeed she is; and Such-an-one and So-and-so and Such-another together with a host of thy favoured courtiers wot right well that she is my spouse and that she is the daughter of So-and-so.” Hereupon they accosted her and bespoke her and she bespake them, so they recognised her and were certified that she was lawful wife to the Shalabi. Then asked the King, “How is it that the Wali arrested thee and her?” and the youth answered, “O King of the Age, I went out with this my wife intending to enjoy ourselves and, finding a place that was cheerful and pleasant we tarried there until midnight when the Wali broke in upon us and seized us, scandalously declaring that I was companying with the Kazi’s daughter. Then he carried us off and gaoled us in his house and now (Alham-dolillah!) here we are between thy hands. So do thou whatso thou will and command according to Holy Law and whoever shall deserve chastisement deal it to him, for thou art the lord of our necks and the master of our good.” Now when the youth spake these words the King bade put to death the Chief of Police and harry his house and enslave his women and he commanded the Crier before the execution to cry about the thoroughfares of Cairo in front of the Wali that he was being led to die and declare, “This is the award of him who dishonoureth the noble and chargeth the folk with lying charges and false!” After that they slew the Chief of Police and thus carried out the King’s commandment. — 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

The Seven Hundred and Seventy-seventh 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 after the Wali had been put to death the Sultan bestowed his good upon Mohammed Shalabi and having gifted him with munificent gifts sent him home with his spouse in all honour. And when the youth returned to his quarters he fell to kissing his wife’s hands and feet, for that he had been saved at her hands by the stratagem she had wrought for him and she had preserved the honour of the Kazi’s daughter and had enabled her father to prevail over his enemy the Wali.465 “And now I will relate to thee” (quoth Shahrazad) “another tale touching the wiles of women;” and thereupon she fell to recounting the story of

465 After this in the text we have only, “End of the Adventure of the Kazi’s Daughter. It is related among the many wiles of women that there was a Fellah-man, etc.” I have supplied the missing link.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/burton/richard/b97b/v15.17.html

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