The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

The Cairene Youth, the Barber, and the Captain.

It is related that in Misr there was a Youth, a Shalabí,343 sans peer for semblance and excellence, and he had to friend a lovely woman whose husband was a Yúzbáshí344 or captain. Now whenever that young man or his playmate would fain conjoin, each with other, union proved almost impossible and yet his heart was always hanging to her love and she was in similar state and even more enamoured for that he was passing fair of form and feature. One day of the days the Captain returned home and said to his wife, “I am invited to such a place this afternoon, therefore an thou require aught ask it of me ere I go.” Cried they,345 “We want nothing save thy safety;” yet were they delighted therewith, and the youth’s friend said, “Alhamdolillah — Glory to God — this day we will send to a certain person and bring him hither and we will make merry he and I.” As soon as the husband fared forth his home in order to visit the gardens according to his invitation, the wife said to a small boy which was an eunuch beside her, “Ho boy, hie thee to Such-an-one (the Shalabi) and seek him till thou forgather with him and say to him, ‘My lady salameth to thee and saith, Come to her house at this moment.’ “ So the little slave went from his mistress and ceased not wending to seek the Shalabi (her friend) till he found him in a barber’s booth where at that time it was his design to have his head shaved and he had ordered the shaver so to do. The man said to him, “O, my lord, may this our day be blessed!” whereupon he brought out from his budget a clean towel, and going up to the Shalabi dispread it all about his breast. Then he took his turband and hung it to a peg346 and placing a basin before him washed his pate, and was about to poll it when behold, the boy slave passed within softly pacing, and inclining to him whispered in his ear confidentially between them twain so that none might overhear them, “My lady So-and-so sendeth thee many salams and biddeth me let thee know that to-day the coast is clear, the Captain being invited out to a certain place. Do thou come to her at once and if thou delay but a little thou mayst not avail to possess her nor may she possess thee, and if thou be really minded to forgather with her come with all speed.” Hearing these words of the boy the lover’s wits were wildered and he could not keep patience; no, not for a minute; and he cried to the Barber, “Dry my head this instant and I will return to thee, for I am in haste to finish a requirement.” With these words he put his hand into his breast pouch and pulling out an ashrafi gave it to the Barber, who said in himself, “An he have given me a gold-piece for wetting his poll, how will it be when I shall have polled him? Doubtless he will then gift me with half a score of dinars!” Hereupon the youth went forth from the Barber who followed him saying, “Allah upon thee, O my lord, when thou shalt have ended thy business, return to me that I may shave thy scalp and ’twere better that thou come to the shop.” “Right well,” said the youth, “we will presently return to thee,” and he continued walking until he drew near the place of his playmate when suddenly the Barber caught him up a second time — 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

343 A dandy, a macaroni, from the Turk. Chelebi, see vol i 22. Here the word is thoroughly Arabised. In old Turk. it means, a Prince of the blood; in mod. times a gentleman, Greek or European.

344 In the text “Úzbáshá” or “Uzbáshá,” a vile Egyptianism for Yúzbashi-head of a hundred (men) centurion, captain.

345 Scil. the household, the Harem, etc. As usual, the masc. is used for the fem.

346 [Ar. “Al-Rashákah,” a word is not found in the common lexicons. In Dozy and “Engelmann’s Glossary of Spanish and Portuguese words derived from the Arabic,” it is said to be a fork with three prongs, here probably a hat-stand in the shape of such a fork. — ST.]

The Seven Hundred and Thirty-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 when the youth approached the house of his friends, suddenly the Barber caught him up hard by thereto and placing himself in front said, “Allah upon thee, O my lord, do not forget me, but be sure of return to the shop that I may poll thee.” Quoth the youth to him in his folly, “ ’Tis well, O Man, I will certainly come back to thee and will not forget thy shop.” So the lover left him and ganged his gait and presently went up to the home of his friend, whilst the Barber stayed expecting him and remained standing at the door; and of the denseness of the tonsorial wits would not budge from that place and would await the youth that he might shave him. Such was the case with them; but as regards the Yuzbashi, when he went forth from his house bent upon seeking his friend who had invited him, he found that a serious matter of business347 would hinder his giving the entertainment, so the host said to the Captain, “Allah upon thee, O my lord, pardon me for I have this day a matter which will prevent my going forth to the garden and Inshallah — God willing — on the morrow we will there meet and enjoy ourselves, we and thou, free and with hearts at rest; for a man who hath work in hand may not take his pleasure and his thoughts will remain ever preoccupied.” Hereupon quoth the Captain, “Sooth thou hast said, O Such-and-such, and herein there is naught to excuse of harm or hindrance, and the day’s engagement between us if it be not to-morrow will come after to-morrow.” So he farewelled his host and left him and returned homewards. Now that Yuzbashi was a man of honour and sagacity and pluck and spunk and by nature a brave. He ceased not wending until he had reached his home where he found the Barber standing at the house door and the fellow came up to him and said, “Allah upon thee, O my lord, when thou goest within do thou send me down a handsome youth who went upstairs into this dwelling.” The Yuzbashi turned upon him with a face fiery as ruddy sparks and cried to him, “What, O Man, dost thou say that one hath gone up to my house, O pimp, O pander?348 What manner of man can enter therein and I absent?” Quoth the Barber, “By Allah, O my lord, one did go up whilst I stood awaiting him the while he passed out of my sight; so when thou art abovestairs do thou send him down to me, saying, ‘Thine own Barber awaiteth thee at the entrance below.’ “ Now when the Yuzbashi heard these words, he waxed wroth with exceeding wrath and going up into his house with haste and hurry knocked at the inner door which defended the Harem. The inmates heard him and knew that it was he, and the Youth fell to piddling in his bag-trowsers; but the woman took him and hid him in the shaft of the cistern349 and going forth opened the door to her husband. Cried the Yuzbashi, “Of a truth, hath any right or reason to say that here in this house is a man?”350 and she replied, “Oh, the shame of me! How ever, O my lord, can there be here a man?”351 So the Yuzbashi went about seeking and searching but he came not upon any; then he went down to the Barber wight and cried, “O Man, I have found none upstairs save the womenkind;” but the Barber replied, “By Allah, O my lord, he went up before my eyes and I am still awaiting him.” Then the Captain hurried away a second time and rummaged about, high and low, and left no place whereinto he did not pry and spy, yet he came upon no one. He was perplext at his affair and again going down to the Barber said to him, “O Man, we have found none.” Still the fellow said to him doggedly, “Withal a man did go within, whilst I who am his familiar here stand expecting him, and thou sayest forsooth he is not there, albeit he be abovestairs and after he went in he never came out until this tide.” Hereupon the Captain returned to his Harem a third time and a fourth time unto the seventh time; but he found no one; so he was dazed and amazed and the going in and faring out were longsome to him. All this and the youth concealed in the cistern shaft lay listening to their dialogue and he said, “Allah ruin this rascal Barber!” but he was sore afraid and he quaked with fright lest the Yuzbashi slay him and also slay his wife. Now after the eighth time the Captain came down to the Barber and said to him, “An thou saw him enter, up along with me and seek for him.” The man did accordingly, but when the two had examined every site, they came upon no one; so the Barber was stupefied and said to himself, “Whoso went up before me and I looking upon him, whither can he have wended?” Then he fell to pondering and presently said, “By Allah, verily this is a wondrous matter that we have not discovered him;” but the Yuzbashi cried fiercely, “By the life of my head and by Him who created all creatures and numbered the numberings thereof, an I find not this fellow needs must I do thee die.” The Barber of his exceeding terror fell to rummaging all the places but it fortuned that he did not look into the shaft of the cistern; however at last he said, “There remaineth for us only the cistern shaft;"—-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

347 In text “Shá‘il” copyist’s error for “Shághil,” act. part. of “Shughl” = business, affairs. [Here it stands probably for the fuller “Shughl shághil,” an urgent business. — ST.]

348 In text “Yá ‘Ars, yá Mu’arras”: vol. i. 338.

349 In Syria most houses have a rain cistern or tank into which the terrace-roof drains and which looks from above like a well with a cover. The water must have been low when the lover hid himself in the reservoir.

350 [In the MS. “Min Hakk la-hu Asl an ‘and-ná huná Rájil,” a thoroughly popular phrase. “Min Hakk” and “min Hakkan,” where in the adverbial meaning of Hakkan its grammatical form as an accusative is so far forgotten that it allows itself to be governed by the preposition “min,” is rendered by Bocthor “tout de bon,” “sérieusement.” “Asl” = root has here the meaning of foundation in fact. The literal translation of the passage would therefore be: “Forsooth, is there any truth in it that a man is here in our house?” “Min Hakk” has occurred page 183, where the text, quoted in the note, may perhaps be translated: “Of a truth, is this saying soothfast?"— ST.]

351 [The MS. has: “Yá Gháratí a-Zay má huná Rájil;” “Yá Gháratí” will recur presently, p. 195, along with “yá Musíbatí” = Oh my calamity! I take it therefore to be an exclamation of distress from “Ghárat” = invasion, with its incidents of devastation, rapine and ruin. It would be the natural outcry of the women left helpless in an unprotected camp when invaded by a hostile tribe. In “a-Zay má” the latter particle is not the negative, but the pronoun, giving to “a-Zay” = “in what manner,” “how?” the more emphatical sense of “how ever?” In the same sense we find it again, infra, Night 754, “a-Zay má tafútní” = how canst thou quit me? I would therefore render: “Woe me I am undone, how ever should there be a man here?” or something to that purpose. — ST.]

The Seven Hundred and Thirty-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 the Barber wight, after he and the Captain had finished their search without finding anyone, said, “There remaineth to us only the cistern shaft;” so he went and peered therein, but he could not use his sight overwell. Hereat the Yuzbashi came up behind him and cuffed him with a mighty cuff upon the neck and laid him prostrate and insensible at the mouth of the shaft. Now when the woman heard the Barber saying, “Let us explore the door which openeth upon the cistern shaft,” she feared from the Yuzbashi, so coming up to him she said, “O my lord, how is it that thou art a Captain and that thy worth and thy length and thy breadth are on such wise; withal thou obeyest the word of a fellow Jinn-mad352 and sayest that there is a man in thine own house. This is indeed a reproach to thee.” So the Yuzbashi of his stupidity believed her, and approaching the Barber on the edge of the cistern shaft cuffed him with a cuff whose excess of violence dazed him and he fell upon the floor retaining naught of his senses. When the woman saw this she cried to her husband, “Pinion his elbows at this moment and suffer me take my due of him by a sound drubbing, and then let him go.” “This is the right rede,“quoth he and after all was done she cried to her husband, “Come with us above that we enjoy our pleasure, and Alhamdolillah that thou didst not go to the place of invitation for I should have been desolate by thine absence this day.” So they ascended and sat together, each beside other, and they sported and were gladdened and rejoiced; and after that the Captain lay down and was presently drowned in slumber. Seeing this the wife arose and repaired to the cistern shaft wherefrom she released her beloved and finding all his clothes in a filthy state from the excess of what had befallen him of affright penetrating into his heart by reason of the Yuzbashi, she doffed his dress and bringing a bundle of clean clothing garbed him therein, after which his fear was calmed and his heart comforted and he was set on the right way. Then she led him to a private stead, wherein they twain, he and she, took their joyance and had their pleasure and made merry for the space of three hours, till such time as each had had fullest will of other. After this he went forth from her and the Veiler veiled him. On such wise were the wife’s doings; but as regards what befel the Barber-man, he ceased not to remain strown on the ground and dazed by the stress of the blow and he abode there pinioned for a while. About mid-afternoon the Yuzbashi’s wife went to her husband and awaking him from sleep made for him coffee which he drank and felt cheered; and he knew nothing anent that his spouse had done with her beloved during the while he slumbered like unto a he goat. So she said to him, “Rise up and go we to the man and do thou drub him with the soundest drubbing and turn him out.” Quoth he, “Yes indeed, by Allah, verily he deserveth this, the pimp! the pander! the procurer!” Accordingly he went to him and finding him lying upon the ground raised him and said to him, “Up with thee and let us seek the man whereof thou spakest.” Hereupon the Barber arose and went down into the cistern shaft where he found none and therewith the Captain laid the fellow upon his back; and, baring his arms to his elbows, seized a Nabbút353 and beat him till he made water in his bag-trowsers; after which he let him go. So the Barber arose and he in doleful dumps, and went off from the house and ceased not wending until he reached his shop about sunset, hardly believing in his own safety.

352 In Persian he would be called “Parí-stricken,"— smitten by the Fairies.

353 A quarter-staff (vols. i, 234; viii. 186) opp. to the “Dabbús,” or club-stick of the Badawin, the Caffres’ “Knob-kerry,” which is also called by the Arabs “Kaná,” pron. “Ganá.”

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