The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

The Fellah and His Wicked Wife.466

There was of olden time in the land of Egypt a Fellah, or tiller of the ground, who had a fair woman to wife and she had another man to friend. The husband used to sow every year some fifty faddán467 of seeding-wheat wherein there was not one barley-grain, and grind it in the mill and pass this meal to his spouse who would sift it and bolt it. Then would she take the softest and best of the flour to make thereof either scones or cakes468 or something more toothsome which she would give to her friend and feed him therewith, whereas the refuse of the flour469 she would make into loaves for her husband so this bread would be ruddy-brown of hue.470 Now every day about dawn-time the Fellah was wont fare to his field either to ear or to delve and tarry there working till noon at which time the wife would send him the bread of bran and refuse flour, whilst to those beside him who wrought as he did would be brought from their homes white bread and clean. So they said, “Ho certain person! thy wheat is from fine sowing-seed, nor is there in it a barley-corn, how then be your bread like unto barley?” Quoth he, “I know not.” He remained in such case for a while of time whilst his wife fed her playmate with all the good food and served to her husband the vilest of diet, until one chance day of the days the Fellah took his plough and went off at early dawn to work and wrought till midday when his wife sent him his dinner of dirty bread. Hereupon he and his neighhours, who were earing in the same field, took seat and each one set before him white bread and seeing the Fellah’s scones brown as barley-meal they marvelled thereat. They had with them a scald-head boy who was sitting with them at the noon-meal, so they said to the peasant, “Take thee to servant this youngster and he shall manifest thee the case wherein thou art from the doings of thy dame.” He obeyed their bidding — And Shahrazad was suprised 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

466 On the margin of the W. M. MS. (vi. 92) J. Scott has written: “This story bears a faint resemblance to one in the Bahardanush.” He alludes to the tale I have already quoted. I would draw attention to “The Fellah and his Wicked Wife,” as it is a characteristic Fellah-story showing what takes place too often in the villages of Modern Egypt which the superficial traveller looks upon as the homes of peace and quiet. The text is somewhat difficult for technicalities and two of the pages are written with a badly nibbed reed-pen which draws the lines double.

467 The “Faddán” (here miswritten “Faddád”) = a plough, a yoke of oxen, a “carucate,” which two oxen can work in a single season. It is also the common land-measure of Egypt and Syria reduced from acre 1.1 to less than one acre. It is divided into twenty-four Kiráts (carats) and consists or consisted of 333 Kasabah (rods), each of these being 22-24 Kabzahs (fists with the thumb erect about = 6 1/2 inches). In old Algiers the Faddán was called “Zuijah” (= a pair, i.e. of oxen) according to Ibn Khaldun i. 404.

468 In text “Masbúbah.”

469 Arab. “Dashísh,” which the Dicts. make=wheat-broth to be sipped. [“Dashísh” is a popular corruption of the classical “Jashísh” = coarsely ground wheat (sometimes beans), also called “Sawík,” and “Dashíshah” is the broth made of it.-ST.]

470 In text “Ahmar” = red, ruddy-brown, dark brown.

The Seven Hundred and Seventy-eighth 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 Fellah obeyed their bidding and took with him the scald-head youngster for house-service and on the second day the lad fell to grinding at the mill and carried the meal to his mistress and sat beside her and anon she rose and sifted and bolted the flour; still he stayed by her stealthily watching her while she kneaded it and balled it and breaded it. After this he carried off the early meal for his master and faring to the field set it before him and when the Fellah looked upon it he cried, “O Boy, by Allah this bread is white and ’tis clean unlike the foregone.” Quoth he, “O my master, I have ground it with my own hands and I sat beside my mistress the while she got it ready, kneading it and baking it, wherefor she availed not to do aught else with it.” Now when the servant-lad had left the hut her lover came in asking, “Hast thou made bread for me?” and she answered, “Indeed the boy with the scald-head ceased not sitting beside me, nor was I able to bake aught for thee.” But when the lad had gone forth to the field with his master’s dinner he set it before him and returned in hot haste and hurry to the house, where he found the friend of his mistress conversing with her; so he hid himself behind the door and fell to overhearing them and to noting whatso they said. Amongst other things quoth she, “Take this quartern of good wheat and clean grain and grind it in this mill and I will make thee a platter of bread from handrubbed flour471 which I will send to thee on the morrow.” Asked he, “How shalt thou know the field?” and she answered, “Carry with thee a basket of bran and drop the contents as thou walkest along the highway; then leave it hard by the land belonging to thee and I will follow the traces and find thee a-field; and so do thou remain at rest.” All this and the scald-head boy was standing behind the door hearkening to their words until he had understood them all. On the next day the lad took a basket of bran which he scattered on the way to his master’s land and then sat with him whilst the wife, after baking the platter full of scones, carried it upon her head and fared forth intending for her lover in the field. She marked the traces of the bran which the scald-head had dropped and she ceased not following them until she came to her husband’s field. Hereupon the lad arose and taking the platter from her said, “By Allah, O my master, verily my mistress loveth thee and favoureth thee, for that she hath brought a bannock made from handrubbed grain;” and so saying he set it before him. Presently she looked out of the corner of her eye and saw her lover ploughing at a little distance from them; so she said to her husband, “Allah upon thee, O certain person, call aloud to so-and-so our neighbour that he may come and eat the noon meal with thee.” The man said, “’Tis well;” and presently added, “O Boy, go forth and shout to such-an-one.” Now the lad had brought with him a parcel of green dates, so he arose and scattered them at intervals upon the highway; and when he came to his mistress’s lover he cried aloud, “Do thou come dine with my master.” But the man refused so to do wherefore the scald-head returned and said, “He will not;” and hereupon the wife bade her husband go himself and fetch him. The Fellah trudged along the highway and finding thereon the scattered dates bowed himself downwards to gather them when the lover said to himself, “This one is picking up stones wherewith to beat me;’”472 and as he saw the man often stoop he fled and left the place, and the more the other cried to him, “Come hither, O certain person,” the faster sped he in his running. — And Shahrazad was suprised 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

471 In text “Kas’at (=a wooden platter, bowl) afrúkah.” [The “Mafrúkah,” an improvement upon the Fatírah, is a favourite dish with the Badawí, of which Dozy quotes lengthy descriptions from Vansleb and Thévenot. The latter is particularly graphical, and after enumerating all the ingredients says finally: “ils en font une grosse pâte dont ils prennent de gros morceaux. — ST.]

472 The Fellah will use in fighting anything in preference to his fists and a stone tied up in a kerchief or a rag makes no mean weapon for head-breaking.

The Seven Hundred and Seventy-ninth 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 more that man cried to the lover “Come,” the faster did he run away; so the Fellah returned and said, “He misliketh to come and he hath fled.” Hereupon he took seat together with the scald-head and the neighbours to dine off the scones of hand-rubbed grain, and the wife served to them whatso she had made for her lover’s eating and she would not touch aught thereof but left it for her spouse and for his servant and for the neighbours. On the following day the Fellah went forth betimes to plough whilst the boy, delaying purposely at home, hid himself behind the door when behold, the lover entered to her, and she said, “ ’Tis my desire that we forge a story whereby to slay my husband and Master Scald-head the servant.” Quoth he, “How wilt thou slay them?” and quoth she, “I will buy for them poison and make it up in cooked food, so they may devour it together and perish together; after which we will abide, I and thou, making merry, nor shall the dead disturb us any more.” He rejoined, “Do what thou willest,” and all this whilst the boy stood listening to them behind the door. But as soon as the lover went forth the house, the lad arose and retired; then, donning Jews’ garb he shouldered a pair of saddle-bags and went about crying, “Ho! Aloes good for use. Ho! Pepper473 good for use. Ho! Kohl good for use. Ho! Tutty good for use!” Now when the woman saw him she came forth the house and hailed him, “Ho thou the Jew!” and said he to her, “Yes, O my lady.” Then said she, “Hast thou with thee aught of poison?” and said he, “How, O my lady? Have I not with me poison of the hour?474 and whoever shall eat thereof in a mess of sweet milk475 and rice and clarified butter shall die within that time.” “Do thou take this dinar,” continued she, “and give me somewhat of it;” but he rejoined, “I do not trade for moneys, and I will sell it only for ornaments of precious metal.” Hereupon she pulled off one of her anklets and handed it to him and he, who had provided himself with half a loaf of Egyptian sugar,476 gave her the moiety thereof, saying, “Use it with sweet milk and rice and clarified butter.” She took it in high glee, and arising milked the she-buffalo, after which she boiled the loaf-sugar in the milk and then threw it into a sufficiency of the rice and the clarified butter, fancying the while that she was cooking a mortal meal,477 and lastly she ladled out the mess into a large platter. Now when it was sunset-time her husband returned from the field and was met about half-way by the boy who told him all that he had overheard and how he had sold her the sugar for one of her anklets, saying, “This be poison.” Then he charged him that, as soon as both of them should have swallowed the mess of milk and rice and clarified butter, they fall down and feign dead. So master and servant agreed upon this plan. And when the Fellah entered the hut she served to them the platter which contained their supper, and they ate the whole thereof, she sitting by intent upon their action and expecting their death. But they served her with a sleight; for suddenly the Fellah changed countenance and made as though he waxed ill and faint, and fell upon the ground like one in the last agony, and shortly after the boy rolled upon the floor on similar wise. Whenas she considered them she exclaimed, “May Allah have no mercy upon you; the wretches are dead!” Hereupon she went out and called aloud to her lover, and as he was coming cried, “Hie thee hither and enjoy the sight of these dead ones;” so he hastened up to them, and seeing them stretched upon the door said, “They’re dead.” Presently quoth she, “We two, I and thou, will now make merry;” and so saying she withdrew with him into another hut, intending at once to sleep together. Hereupon the husband arose and went in to them and smote the lover with a quarter-staff upon the neck and broke in his back bone,478 after which he turned to the wicked woman his wife and struck her and split open her head, and left the twain stone dead. And as soon as it was midnight he wrapped them in a single sheet and carried them forth outside the village, and after choosing a place,479 dug a hole and thrust them therein. And ever after that same Fellah had rest from his wife, and he bound himself by a strong oath not to interwed with womankind-never no more.480 And now (quoth Shahrazad) I will recount to you another tale touching the wiles of women; and thereupon she fell to relating the adventure of

473 The cries of an itinerant pedlar hawking about woman’s wares. See Lane (M. E.) chapt. xiv. “Flfl’a” (a scribal error?) may be “Filfil”=pepper or palm-fibre. “Tutty,” in low- Lat. “Tutia,” probably from the Pers. “Tutiyah,” is protoxide of zinc, found native in Iranian lands, and much used as an eye-wash.

474 In text “Samm Sá‘ah.”

475 “Laban halíb,” a trivial form=“sweet milk;” “Laban” being the popular word for milk artificially soured. See vols. vi. 201; vii. 360.

476 In text “Nisf ra’as Sukkar Misri.” “Sukkar” (from Pers. “Shakkar,” whence the Lat. Saccharum) is the generic term, and Egypt preserved the fashion of making loaf-sugar (Raas Sukkar) from ancient times. “Misri” here=local name, but in India it is applied exclusively to sugar-candy, which with Gúr (Molasses) was the only form used throughout the country some 40 years ago. Strict Moslems avoid Europe-made white sugar because they are told that it is refined with bullock’s blood, and is therefore unlawful to Jews and the True Believers.

477 Lit. “that the sugar was poison.”

478 In text “Kata’a Judúr-há” (for “hu”). [I refer the pronoun in “Judúr-há” to “Rakabah,” taking the “roots of the neck” to mean the spine.-ST.]

479 In text “Fahata” for “Fahasa” (?) or perhaps a clerical error for “Fataha”=he opened (the ground). [“Fahata,” probably a vulgarisation of “fahatha” (fahasa)=to investigate, is given by Bocthor with the meaning of digging, excavating. Nevertheless I almost incline to the reading “fataha,” which, however, I would pronounce with Tashdíd over the second radical, and translate: “he recited a ‘Fátihah’ for them,” the usual prayer over the dead before interment. The dative “la-hum,” generally employed with verbs of prayer, seems to favour this interpretation. It is true I never met with the word in this meaning, but it would be quite in keeping with the spirit of the language, and in close analogy with such expressions as “kabbara,” he said “Allabu akbar,” “Hallala,” he pronounced the formula of unity, and a host of others. Here it would, in my opinion, wind up the tale with a neat touch of peasant’s single-mindedness and loyal adherence to the injunctions of religion even under provoking circumstances. — ST.]

480 In the MS. we have only “Ending. And it is also told,” etc. I again supply the connection.

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