The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

The Three Princes of China.303

Whilome there was a King in the land of Al-Sín and he had three male children to whose mother befel a mysterious malady. So they summoned for her Sages and leaches of whom none could understand her ailment and she abode for a while of time strown upon her couch. At last came a learned physician to whom they described her disorder and he declared, “Indeed this sickness cannot be healed save and except by the Water of Life, a treasure that can be trove only in the land Al-‘Irák.” When her sons heard these words they said to their sire, “There is no help but that we make our best endeavour and fare thither and thence bring for our mother the water in question.” Hereupon the King gat ready for them a sufficiency of provaunt for the way and they farewelled him and set forth intending for Barbarian-land.304 The three Princes ceased not travelling together for seven days, at the end of which time one said to other, “Let us separate and let each make search in a different stead, so haply shall we hit upon our need.” So speaking they parted after dividing their viaticum and, bidding adieu to one another, each went his own way. Now the eldest Prince ceased not wending over the wastes and none directed him to a town save after a while when his victual was exhausted and he had naught remaining to eat. At that time he drew near to one of the cities where he was met at the entrance by a Jewish man who asked him saying, “Wilt thou serve, O Moslem?” Quoth the youth to himself, “I will take service and haply Allah shall discover to me my need.” Then said he aloud, “I will engage myself to thee;” and said the Jew, “Every day thou shalt serve me in yonder Synagogue, whose floor thou shalt sweep and clean its mattings and rugs and thou shalt scour the candlesticks.” “‘Tis well,” replied the Prince, after which he fell to serving in the Jew’s house, until one day of the days when his employer said to him, “O Youth, I will bargain with thee a bargain.” “And what may that be?” asked the young Prince, and the man answered, “I will condition with thee for thy daily food a scone and a half but the broken loaf thou shalt not devour nor shalt thou break the whole bread; yet do thou eat thy sufficiency and whoso doth contrary to our agreement we will flay305 his face. So, an it be thy desire to serve, thou art welcome.” Now of his inexperience the Prince said to him, “We will serve thee;” whereupon his employer rationed him with a scone and a half and went forth leaving him in the Synagogue. When it was noon the youth waxed anhungered so he ate the loaf and a half; and about mid-afternoon the Jew came to him and finding that he had devoured the bread asked him thereanent and the other answered, “I was hungry and I ate up all.” Cried the Jew, “I made compact with thee from the beginning that thou shouldst eat neither the whole nor the broken,” and so saying he fared forth from him and presently brought a party of Jews, who in that town numbered some fifty head, and they seized the youth and slew him and bundling up the body in a mat306 set it in a corner of the synagogue. Such was his case; but as regards the Cadet Prince, he ceased not wayfaring and wending from town to town until Fate at last threw him into the same place where his brother had been slain and perchance as he entered it he found the same Jew standing at the Synagogue-door. The man asked him, “Wilt thou serve, O Moslem?” and as the youth answered “Yea verily,” he led the new comer to his quarters. After this the Jew had patience for the first day and the second day — 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

303 Scott (vi. 366) “Adventures of the Three Princes, sons of the Sultan of China.”

304 In the text “‘Ajam,” for which see vol. i. 2, 120. Al-Irak, I may observe, was the head-quarters of the extensive and dangerous Khárijite heresy; and like Syria has ever a bad name amongst orthodox Moslems.

305 In the Arab. “Salkh,” meaning also a peculiar form of circumcision, for which see Pilgrimage iii. 80-81. The Jew’s condition was of course a trick, presenting an impossibility and intended as a mere pretext for murdering an enemy to his faith. Throughout the Eastern world this idea prevails, and both Sir Moses Montefiore and M. Cremieux were utterly at fault and certainly knew it when they declared that Europe was teaching it to Asia. Every Israelite community is bound in self-defence, when the murder of a Christian child or adult is charged upon any of its members, to court the most searching enquiry and to abate the scandal with all its might.

306 The text has “Fí Kíb,” which Scott (vol. vi. 367) renders “a mat.” [According to the Muhít “Kíb” is a small thick mat used to produce shade, pl. “Kiyáb” and “Akyáb.” The same authority says the word is of Persian origin, but this seems an error, unless it be related to “Keb” with the Yá majhúl, which in the Appendix to the Burháni Káti’ is given as synonymous with “Pech,” twist, fold. Under “Bardí"==papyrus the Muhít mentions that this is the material from which the mats known by the name of “Akyáb” are made.-ST.]

The Seven Hundred and Eleventh 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 which is benefiting and of deeds fair-seeming and worthy celebrating, that the King’s son tarried with the Jewish man the first day and the second day, after which his employer did with him even as he had done by his brother before him; to wit, he slew him and wrapping him in a mat placed his corpse beside that of the eldest Prince. On this wise it happed to these twain; but as regards the youngest of the three, he ceased not travelling from town to town and enduring excessive fatigue and hunger and nakedness until by decree of Destiny and by determination of the Predestinator he was thrown into the hands of the same Jew whom he found standing at the Synagogue-door. Here the man accosted him, saying, “Wilt thou serve, O Moslem?” and the Youth agreeing he imposed upon him the same pact which he had made with his two brothers, and the Prince said “’Tis well, O Master.” Then quoth the Jew, “Do thou sweep the Synagogue and cleanse it and shake out the mats and rugs;” and quoth the other, “Good!” But when the Prince left him and went into the building, his glance fell upon the two bundles of matting wherein were wrapped the corpses of his brothers, so he drew near to them and, raising a corner of the covering, found the bodies stinking and rotten. Hereat he arose and fared forth the Synagogue and opening a pit in the ground took up his brothers (and he sorrowing over them and weeping) and buried them. Then he returned to the building and, rolling up the mats, heaped them together and so with the rugs, after which he built a fire under them until the whole were burnt and after he took down the candlesticks one and all and brake them to bits. Now when it was mid-afternoon behold, the Jew came to the Synagogue and found a bonfire and all the furniture thereof lying in ashes and when he saw this he buffeted his face and cried, “Wherefore, O Moslem, hast thou done on such wise?” Replied the youth, “Thou hast defrauded me, O Master,” and rejoined the Jew, “I have not cheated thee of aught. However, O Moslem, hie thee home and bid thy mistress slaughter a meat-offering and cook it and do thou bring it hither forthright.” “‘Tis well, O my Master,” said the Prince. Now the Jew had two boy children in whom he delighted and the youth going to his house knocked at the door which was opened to him by the Jewess and she asked, “What needest thou?” Quoth the Prince to the Jew’s wife, “O my mistress, my master hath sent me to thee saying, ‘Do thou slaughter the two lambs that are with thee and fifty chickens and an hundred pair307 of pigeons,’ for all the masters are with him in the Synagogue and ’tis his desire to circumcise the boys.”308 The Jew’s wife replied to him, “And who shall slaughter me all this?” when he rejoined, “I will.” So she brought out to him the lambs and the chickens and the pigeons and he cut the throats of all. The Jewess hereupon arose and cried upon her neighbours to aid her in the cooking until the meats were well done and all were dished up. Then the youth hending the ten porcelain plates in hand went with them to a house in the Ghetto309 and rapped at the door and said, “My Master hath sent all these to you.” Meanwhile the Jew was in the Synagogue unknowing of such doings; and as the Prince was setting down the last of the plates which he carried with him, behold! the Jew came to that house because he had noticed his servant’s absence, so he repaired thither to see concerning the business of the meat offering wherewith he had charged him. He found his home in a state of pother and up-take and down-set and he asked the folk, “What is the matter?” They related the whole to him and said, “Thou sentest to demand such-and-such,” and when he heard this case he beat his face with his brogue310— 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

307 The text has here “Wasayah,” probably a clerical error for “wa Miah” (spelt Máyah”), and a hundred pair of pigeons. — ST.]

308 Showing utter ignorance of the Jewish rite which must always be performed by the Mohel, an official of the Synagogue duly appointed by the Sheliach==legatus; and within eight days after birth. The rite consists of three operations. Milah==the cut; Priah==tearing the foreskin and Messízah==applying styptics to the wound. The latter process has become a matter of controversy and the Israelite community of Paris, headed by the Chief Rabbi, M. Zadoc Kahin, has lately assembled to discuss the question. For the difference between Jewish and Moslem circumcision see vol. v. 209.

309 The Jewish quarter (Hárah), which the Israelites themselves call “Hazer,"==a court-yard, an enclosure. In Mayer’s valuable “Conversations-lexicon” the Italian word is derived from the Talmudic “Ghet”==divorce, separation (as parting the Hebrews from the rest of the population) and the Rev. S. R. Melli, Chief Rabbi of Trieste, has kindly informed me that the word is Chaldaic.

310 [Ar. “Sarmújah,” from Persian “Sar-múzah,” a kind of hose or gaiter worn over a boot. — ST.]

The Seven Hundred and Twelfth 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, when the Jew came to his home and looked around, he found it in the condition which the youth had contrived, so he beat his face with his brogue and cried, “O the ruin of my house!” Suddenly the prince entered and his employer asked him “Wherefore doest thou on such wise, O Moslem?” Answered the youth, “Verily thou hast defrauded me,” and rejoined the other, “No; I have not cheated thee on any wise.” Then said the Jew in his mind:—“Needs must I set a snare for this youth and slay him;” so he went in to his wife and said, “Spread for us our beds upon the terrace-roof; and we will take thereto the young Moslem, our servant, and cause him lie upon the edge, and when he is drowned in slumber we will push him between us and roll him along the floor till he fall down from the terrace and break to bits his neck.” Now by fiat of Fate the youth was standing and overhearing311 their words. As soon as it was night-time the woman arose and spread the beds upon the roof according as her husband had charged her do; but about midafternoon the Prince bought him half a pound of filberts and placed them with all care and circumspection in his breast-pocket. Presently the Jew said to him, “O Moslem, we design to sleep in the open air, for the weather is now summery;” and said he, “’Tis well, O my Master.” Hereupon the Jew and the Jewess and the children and the Prince their servant went up to the roof and the first who lay him down was the house-master, placing his wife and children beside him. Then said he to the youth, “Do thou sleep here upon the side,”312 when the Prince brought the filberts out of his breast-pocket and cracked them with his teeth, and as often as they repeated to him, “Arise, O Moslem, and take thy place on the couch,” he answered them, “Whenas I shall have eaten these filberts.” He ceased not watching them till all had lain down and were fast asleep, when he took his place on the bed between the mother and the two boys. Presently the Jew awoke, and thinking that the youth was sleeping on the edge, he pushed his wife, and his wife pushed the servant, and the servant pushed the children towards the terrace-marge, and both the little ones fell over and their brain-pans313 were broken and they died. The Jew hearing the noise of the fall fancied that none had tumbled save his servant the young Moslem; so he rose in joy and awoke his wife saying, “Indeed the youth hath rolled off the terrace-roof and hath been killed.” Hereat the woman sat up, and not finding her boys beside her, whilst the Prince still lay there she wailed and shrieked and buffeted her cheeks, and cried to her husband, “Verily none hath fallen save the children.” Hereat he jumped up and attempted to cast the youth from the roof; but he, swiftlier than the lightning, sprang to his feet and shouted at the Jew and filled him with fear, after which he stabbed him with a knife which was handy, and the other fell down killed and drowned in the blood he had spilled. Now the Jew’s wife was a model of beauty and of loveliness and stature and perfect grace, and when the King’s son turned upon her and designed to slay her, she fell at his feet, and kissing them, placed herself under his protection. Hereupon the youth left her alive, saying to himself, “This be a woman and indeed she must not be mishandled;”314 and the Jewess asked him, “O my lord, what is the cause of thy doing on this wise? At first thou camest to me and toldest me the untruth, such-and-such falsehoods, and secondly, thou wroughtest for the slaughter of my husband and children.” Answered he, “In truth thy man slew my two brothers wrongously and causelessly!” Now when the Jewess heard of this deed she enquired of him, “And art thou their very brother?” and he replied, “In good sooth they were my brethren;” after which he related to her the reason of their faring from their father to seek the Water of Life for their mother’s use. Hereat she cried, “By Allah, O my lord, the wrong was with my mate and not with thee; but the Decreed chevisance doth need, nor is there flight from it indeed; so do thou abide content. However, as regards the Water in question, it is here ready beside me, and if thou wilt carry me along with thee to thy country I will give thee that same, which otherwise I will withhold from thee; and haply my wending with thee may bring thee to fair end.” Quoth the Prince in his mind, “Take her with thee and peradventure she shall guide thee to somewhat of good:” and thereupon promised to bear her away. So she arose and led him into a closet where she showed him all the hoards of the Jew, ready moneys and jewellery and furniture and raiment; and everything that was with her of riches and resources she committed to the young Prince, amongst these being the Water of life. So they bore away the whole of that treasure and he also carried off the Jewess, who was beautiful exceedingly, none being her peer in that day. Then they crossed the wilds and the wastes, intending for the land of Al-Sín, and they persevered for a while of time. — 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

311 [Arab. “Yastanít,” aor. to the preter. “istanat,” which has been explained, supra, p. 24. — ST.]

312 The bed would be made of a carpet or thin mattress strewn upon the stucco flooring of the terrace-roof. But the ignorant scribe overlooks the fact that by Mosaic law every Jewish house must have a parapet for the “Sakf” (flat roof), a precaution neglected by Al-Islam.

313 Good old classical English. In the “Breeches Bible” (A.D. 1586) we read, “But a certaine woman cast a piece of millstone upon Abimelech’s head and broke his brain-panne” Judges ix. 33).

314 [The words “‘Irz,” protection, in the preceding sentence, “Hurmah” and “Shatáráh” explain each other mutually. The formula “fí ‘irzak” (vulg. “arzak”), I place myself under thy protection, implies an appeal to one’s honour ("‘Irz”). Therefore the youth says: “Inna házih Hurmah lam ‘alay-há Shatárah,” i.e. “Truly this one is a woman” (in the emphatic sense of a sacred or forbidden object; “this woman” would be “házih al-Hurmah”), “I must not act vilely or rashly towards her,” both vileness and rashness belonging to the many significations of “Shatárah,” which is most usually “cleverness.” — ST.]

The Seven Hundred and Fourteenth 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 young Prince ceased not wayfaring until the twain drew near to the capital of China315 where, by the fiat of Fate and the sealed decree of Destiny, on entering the walls he found that his father had fared to the mercy of Allah Almighty, and that the city, being Kingless, had become like unto a flock of sheep lacking shepherd. Moreover he was certified that the Lords of his father’s land and the Grandees of the realm and all the heges were in the uttermost confusion. He went up to the palace and forgathered with his mother, and seeing that she had not been healed of her sickness, he brought her out the Water of Life and gave her to drink some little thereof whereby health returned to her and she rose from her couch and took seat and salam’d to him and asked concerning his brethren. However he concealed his secret thereanent fearing lest it induce in her weakly state a fresh attack and discovered to her naught but said, “Verily, we parted at such a place in order to seek the Water of Life.” Then she looked upon his companion the Jewess (and she cast in the mould of loveliness) and she questioned him concerning the woman and he recounted to her the whole affair, first and last, still concealing for the reason aforesaid, the fate of his brothers. Now on the second day the bruit went abroad throughout the city that the King’s son had returned; so the Wazirs and Emirs and the Lords of the land and all who had their share in governance forgathered with him and they set him as King and Sultan in the stead of his sire. He took seat on the throne of his Kingship and bade and forbade and raised and deposed and so tarried for a while of time, until one day of the days when he determined to enjoy the hunt and chase and divert himself in pleasurable case.316 So he and his host rode forth the city when his glance fell upon a Badawi girl who was standing with the Shaykh her father considering his retinue; and the age of the maiden might have mastered thirteen years. But as soon as the King looked upon the girl love of her upon his heart alighted, and he was thereby engrossed, for she was perfect in beauty and comeliness. Hereupon he returned to his palace and sending for her father asked her of him in marriage; the Shaykh, however, answered saying, “O our lord the Sultan, I will not give up my daughter save to one who hath a handicraft of his own,317 for verily trade is a defence against poverty and folk say, ‘Handicraft an it enrich not still it veileth.’”318 Hereupon the King took thought in himself and said to the Shaykh, “O Man, I am Sovran and Sultan and with me is abundant good;” but the other replied, “O King of the Age, in King-craft there is no trust.” However, of his exceeding love to the girl the Sultan presently summoned the Shaykh of the Mat-makers and learnt from him the craft of plaiting and he wove these articles of various colours both plain and striped.319 After this he sent for the father of the damsel and recounted to him what he had done and the Shaykh said to him “O King of the Age, my daughter is in poor case and you are King and haply from some matter may befal a serious matter; moreover the lieges may say, ‘Our King hath wived with a Badawi girl.’” “O Shaykh,” replied the King, “all men are the sons of Adam and Eve.” Hereupon the Badawi granted to him his daughter and got ready her requisites in the shortest possible time and when the marriage-tie was tied the King went in unto her and found her like unto a pearl.320 So he rejoiced in her and felt his heart at rest and after tarrying with her a full-told year, one chance day of the days he determined to go forth in disguise and to wander about town and solace himself with its spectacles alone and unattended. So he went into the vestiary where the garments were kept and doffing his dress donned a garb which converted him into a Darwaysh. After this he fared forth in early morning to stroll around the streets and enjoy the sights of the highways and markets, yet he knew not what was hidden from him in the World of the Future. Now when it was noon-tide he entered a street which set off from the Bazar and yet was no thoroughfare,321 and this he followed up until he reached the head and end, where stood a cook322 making Kabábs. So he said to himself, “Enter yon shop and dine therein.” He did so and was met by sundry shopmen who seeing him in Darwaysh’s garb welcomed him and greeted him and led him within, when he said to them, “I want a dinner.” “Upon the head and the eyes be it,” they replied, and conducting him into a room within the shop showed him another till he came to the place intended, when they said to him, “Enter herein, O my lord.” So he pushed open the door and finding in the closet a matting and a prayer-rug323 spread thereupon he said to himself, “By Allah, this is indeed a secret spot, well concealed from the eyes of folk.” Then he went up to the prayer-rug and would have sat down upon it after pulling off his papooshes, but hardly had he settled himself in his seat when he fell through the floor for a depth of ten fathoms. And while falling he cried out, “Save me, O God the Saviour;” for now he knew that the people of that place only pretended to make Kababs and they had digged a pit within their premises. Also he was certified that each and every who came in asking for dinner were led to that place where they found the prayer-rug bespread and supposed that it was set therein for the use of the diners. But when the Sultan fell from his seat into the souterrain, he was followed by the thieves who designed to murther him and to carry off his clothes, even as they had done to many others. — 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

315 In the text “Sind,” still confounding this tale with the preceding.

316 In text “Intihába ‘l furas,” lit.==the snatching of opportunities, a jingle with “Kanas.”

317 [Compare with this episode the viith of Spitta Bey’s Tales: Histoire du Prince qui apprit un métier. — ST.]

318 i.e. enables a man to conceal the pressure of impecuniosity.

319 In text “Al-Sádah wa al-Khatáyát.”

320 Subaudi, “that hath not been pierced.” “The first night,” which is often so portentous a matter in England and upon the Continent (not of North America), is rarely treated as important by Orientals. A long theoretical familiarity with the worship of Venus

Leaves not much mystery for the nuptial night.

Such lore has been carefully cultivated by the “young person” with the able assistance of the ancient dames of the household, of her juvenile companions and co-evals and especially of the slave-girls. Moreover not a few Moslems, even Egyptians, the most lecherous and salacious of men, in all ranks of life from prince to peasant take a pride in respecting the maiden for a few nights after the wedding-feast extending, perhaps to a whole week and sometimes more. A brutal haste is looked upon as “low”; and, as sensible men, they provoke by fondling and toying Nature to speak ere proceeding to the final and critical act. In England it is very different. I have heard of brides over thirty years old who had not the slightest suspicion concerning what complaisance was expected of them: out of mauvaise honte, the besetting sin of the respectable classes, neither mother nor father would venture to enlighten the elderly innocents. For a delicate girl to find a man introducing himself into her bedroom and her bed, the shock must be severe and the contact of hirsute breast and hairy limbs with a satiny skin is a strangeness which must often breed loathing and disgust. Too frequently also, instead of showing the utmost regard for virginal modesty and innocence (alias ignorance), the bridegroom will not put a check upon his passions and precipitates matters with the rage of the bull, ruentis in venerem. Even after he hears “the cry” which, as the Arabs say, “must be cried,” he has no mercy: the newly made woman lies quivering with mental agitation and physical pain, which not a few describe as resembling the tearing out of a back-tooth, and yet he insists upon repeating the operation, never supposing in his stupidity, that time must pass before the patient can have any sensation of pleasure and before the glories and delights of the sensual orgasm bathe her soul in bliss. Hence complaints, dissatisfaction, disgust, mainly caused by the man’s fault, and hence not unfrequently a permanent distaste for the act of carnal congress. All women are by no means equally capable of such enjoyment, and not a few have become mothers of many children without ever being or becoming thoroughly reconciled to it. Especially in the case of highly nervous temperaments — and these seem to be increasing in the United States and notably in New England — the fear of nine months’ pains and penalties makes the sex averse to the “deed of kind.” The first child is perhaps welcomed, the second is an unpleasant prospect and there is a firm resolve not to conceive a third. But such conjugal chastity is incompatible, except in the case of “married saints,” with a bon ménage. The husband, scandalised and offended by the rejection and refusal of the wife, will seek a substitute more complaisant; and the spouse also may “by the decree of Destiny” happen to meet the right man, the man for whom and for whom only every woman will sweep the floor. And then adieu to prudence and virtue, honour and fair fame. For, I repeat, it is the universal custom of civilised and Christian Europeans to plant their womankind upon a pedestal exposed as butts to every possible temptation: and, if they fall, as must often be expected, to assail them with obloquy and contempt for succumbing to trials imposed upon them by the stronger and less sensitive sex. Far more sensible and practical, by the side of these high idealists, shows the Moslem who guards his jewel with jealous care and who, if his “honour,” despite every precaution, insist upon disgracing him, draws the sabre and cuts her down with the general approbation and applause of society.

321 [Arab. “‘Alà ghayri tarík,” which I would translate “out of the way,” like the Persian “bí-Ráh."— ST.]

322 In text “Kababjí” (for Kababji) seller of Kabábs, mutton or kid grilled in small squares and skewered: see vol. vi. 225.

323 In text “Sujjádah;” vol. vi. 193.

The Seven Hundred and Sixteenth 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 when the King fell into the pit (and he disguised in Darwaysh-garb) the thieves sought to slay him and carry off his clothes, when quoth he to them, “Wherefore kill me when my garments are not worth a thousand groats324 and I own not a single one? However, I have at hand a handicraft whereat I am ready to work sitting in this pit and do you take and sell my produce for a thousand faddahs; and every day I will labour for you, finishing one and requiring naught save my meat and drink and perpetual privacy in your quarters.” “At what craft art thou crafty?” asked they, and he answered, “At mat-weaving: so do ye bring me a piastre325 worth of rushes326 and the same of yarn.” Accordingly they fared forth and fetched him his need and presently he made a mat and said to them, “Take ye this and sell it not for less than a thousand faddahs.” They hied out and carried the work to the Bazar where, as soon as the folk caught sight thereof, they crowded about the seller, each man offering more until the price had risen to a thousand and two hundred silvern nusfs. Hereupon said the thieves to themselves, “By Allah, this Darwaysh can profit us with much profit and enrich us without other trade;” so every morning for ten days they brought him rushes and yarn and he wove for them a mat which they vended for a like sum. On this wise it happened to him; but as regards the Wazirs and Emirs and lords of the land, they went up to the Council-chamber327 for the first day and the second and the third until the week was ended and they awaited the coming of their King, but he came not, neither found they any tidings nor hit they upon any manifest traces and none knew whither he had wended. So they were sore exercised and confusion befel with much tittle-tattle of folk; each one said his own say nor were they guided by any to what they should do. Furthermore, as often as they asked of the Harem they were answered, “We have no tidings of him;” so they were perplext and at last they agreed, their King being clean lost, to set up a Sultan as his successor. However the Wazirs said, “Tarry ye until Allah shall open unto us a door whereby we shall be rightly directed to him.” Now the King had required from the people of the pit rushes of various colours, red and green, and when they fetched them he fell to weaving a mat like those of the striped sort, whereon he figured by marks and signs the name of the quarter wherein he was gaoled328 and discovered to his men the way thereto and the site itself; after which he said to the thieves, “Verily this mat misfitteth every save those in the Royal Palace and its price is seven thousand faddahs. Do you take it and hie with it to the Sultan who shall buy it of you and pay you the price.” They obeyed his bidding and wending to the palace of the Grand Wazir found him sitting with the Lords of the land and with the Nobles of the realm talking over the matter of the King when behold, those who brought the mat entered into his presence. Quoth the Minister, “What be that which is with you?” and quoth they, “A mat!” whereupon he bade them unroll it and they did so before him; and he, being sagacious, experienced in all affairs, looked thereat and fell to examining the bundle and turning it about, and considering it until suddenly he espied signs thereupon figured. He at once understood what they meant and he was rightly directed to the place where the King was confined; so he arose without delay and after ordering them to seize those who had brought the mat took with him a party and went forth, he and they, after mastering the marks which were upon the weft. He ceased not wending (and the people of the pit with him under arrest) until such time as he arrived at the place. Here they went in and opened the souterrain and brought out the King who was still in Darwaysh garb. Presently the Wazir sent for the Linkman and when he appeared they seized all who were in that place and struck off their heads; but as for the women they put them into large sacks329 of camel’s hair and drowned them in the river: furthermore, they spoiled all that was on that site and the Sultan gave orders to raze the house until it became level with the ground. When all this had been done they questioned the Sultan concerning the cause of that event and he informed them of what had befallen him from incept to conclusion and lastly he cried, “Walláhi! the cause of my escape from this danger was naught save the handicraft which I learnt; to wit, the making of mats, and the Almighty requite with welfare him who taught me because he was the means of my release; and, but for my learning this trade, ye had never known the way to discover me, seeing that Allah maketh for every effect a cause.” And having on such wise ended this tale Ibn Ahyam330 fell to relating to the King the history of

324 In text “Faddah” all through.

325 In text “Kirsh” (==piastre) a word before explained. See Lane (M.E.) Appendix B.

326 In Arab. “Samár;” from the Pers. “Sumar”==a reed, a rush.

327 In Arab. “Díwán:” vols. vii. 340; ix. 108.

328 Scott has (vol. vi. 373), “The desired articles were furnished, and the Sultan setting to work, in a few days finished a mat, in which he ingeniously contrived to plait in flowery characters, known only to himself and his vizier, the account of his situation.”

329 In Arab. “Ghirárah” (plur. “Gharáír”)==a sack. In Ibn Khall. (iv. pp. 90, 104) it is a large sack for grain and the especial name of a tax on corn.

330 In the text “Mohammed ibn Ibrahim,” another confusion with the last tale. This story is followed in the MS. by (1) “The History of the First Brave,” (2) “The History of the Second Brave,” and “The Tale of the Noodle and his Asses,” which I have omitted because too feeble for insertion.

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