She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Caliph said to Nur al-Din Ali, “I will write thee a letter to carry to the Sultan Mohammed bin Sulayman al-Zayni, which when he readeth, he will not hurt nor harm thee in aught,” Nur al-Din asked “What! is there in the world a fisherman who writeth to Kings? Such a thing can never be!”; and the Caliph answered, “Thou sayest sooth, but I will tell thee the reason. Know that I and he learnt in the same school under one schoolmaster, and that I was his monitor. Since that time Fortune befriended him and he is become a Sultan, while Allah hath abased me and made me a fisherman; yet I never send to him to ask aught but he doeth my desire; nay, though I should ask of him a thousand favours every day, he would comply.” When Nur al-Din heard this he said, “Good! write that I may see.” So the Caliph took ink-case and reed-pen and wrote as follows — “In the name of Allah, the Compassionating, the Compassionate! But after.1 This letter is written by Harun al-Rashid, son of Al–Mahdi, to his highness Mohammed bin Sulayman al-Zayni, whom I have encompassed about with my favour and made my viceroy in certain of my dominions. The bearer of these presents is Nur al-Din Ali, son of Fazl bin Khákán the Wazir. As soon as they come to thy hand divest thyself forthright of the kingly dignity and invest him therewith; so oppose not my commandment and peace be with thee.” He gave the letter to Nur al-Din, who took it and kissed it, then put it in his turband and set out at once on his journey. So far concerning him; but as regards the Caliph, Shaykh Ibrahim stared to him (and he still in fisher garb) and said, “O vilest of fishermen, thou hast brought us a couple of fish worth a score of half-dirhams,2 and hast gotten three dinars for them; and thinkest thou to take the damsel to boot?” When the Caliph heard this, he cried out at him, and signed to Masrur who discovered himself and rushed in upon him. Now Ja’afar had sent one of the gardener-lads to the doorkeeper of the palace to fetch a suit of royal raiment for the Prince of the Faithful; so the man went and, returning with the suit, kissed the ground before the Caliph and gave it him. Then he threw of the clothes he had on3 and donned kingly apparel. Shaykh Ibrahim was still sitting upon his chair and the Caliph tarried to behold what would come next. But seeing the Fisherman become the Caliph, Shaykh Ibrahim was utterly confounded and he could do nothing but bite his finger-ends4 and say, “Would I knew whether am I asleep or am I awake!” At last the Caliph looked at him and cried, “O Shaykh Ibrahim, what state is this in which I see thee?” Thereupon he recovered from his drunkenness and, throwing himself upon the ground, repeated these verses,
“Pardon the sinful ways I did pursue;
Ruth from his lord to every slave is due:
Confession pays the fine that sin demands;
Where, then, is that which grace and mercy sue?”5
The Caliph forgave him and bade carry the damsel to the city-palace, where he set apart for her an apartment and appointed slaves to serve her, saying to her, “Know that we have sent thy lord to be Sultan in Bassorah and, Almighty Allah willing, we will dispatch him the dress of investiture and thee with it.” Meanwhile, Nur al-Din Ali ceased not travelling till he reached Bassorah, where he repaired to the Sultan’s palace and he shouted a long shout.6 The Sultan heard him and sent for him; and when he came into his presence, he kissed the ground between his hands and, producing the letter, presented it to him. Seeing the superscription in the writing of the Commander of the Faithful, the Sultan rose to his feet and kissed it three times; and after reading it said, “I hear and I obey Allah Almighty and the Commander of the Faithful!” Then he summoned the four Kazis7 and the Emirs and was about to divest himself of the rule royal, when behold, in came Al Mu’ín bin Sáwí. The Sultan gave him the Caliph’s letter and he read it, then tore it to pieces and putting it into his mouth, chewed it8 and spat it out. “Woe to thee,” quoth the Sultan (and indeed he was sore angered); “what induced thee to do this deed?” “Now by thy life! O our lord the Sultan,” replied Mu’ín, “this man hath never foregathered with the Caliph nor with his Wazir; but he is a gallows-bird, a limb of Satan, a knave who, having come upon a written paper in the Caliph’s hand, some idle scroll, hath made it serve his own end. The Caliph would surely not send him to take the Sultanate from thee without the imperial autograph9 and the diploma of investiture, and he certainly would have despatched with him a Chamberlain or a Minister. But he hath come alone and he never came from the Caliph, no, never! never! never!” “What is to be done?” asked the Sultan, and the Minister answered, “Leave him to me and I will take him and keep him away from thee, and send him in charge of a Chamberlain to Baghdad-city. Then, if what he says be sooth, they will bring us back autograph and investiture; and if not, I will take my due out of this debtor.” When the Sultan heard the Minister’s words he said, “Hence with thee and him too.” Al Mu’ín took trust of him from the King and, carrying him to his own house, cried out to his pages who laid him flat and beat him till he fainted. Then he let put upon his feet heavy shackles and carried him to the jail, where he called the jailor, one Kutayt,10 who came and kissed the ground before him. Quoth the Wazir, “O Kutayt, I wish thee to take this fellow and throw him into one of the underground cells11 in the prison and torture him night and day.” “To hear is to obey,” replied the jailor and, taking Nur al-Din into the prison, locked the door upon him. Then he gave orders to sweep a bench behind the door and, spreading on it a sitting-rug and a leather-cloth, seated Nur al-Din thereon and loosed his shackles and entreated him kindly. The Wazir sent every day enjoining the jailor to beat him, but he abstained from this, and so continued to do for forty days. On the forty-first day there came a present from the Caliph; which when the Sultan saw, it pleased him and he consulted his Ministers on the matter, when one of them said, “Perchance this present was for the new Sultan.” Cried Al–Mu’ín, “We should have done well had we put him to death at his first coming;” and the Sultan cried “By Allah, thou hast reminded me of him! Go down to the prison and fetch him, and I will strike off his head.” “To hear is to obey,” replied Al–Mu’ín: then he stood up and said, “I will make proclamation in the city:— Whoso would solace himself with seeing the beheading of Nur al-Din bin al-Fazl bin Khákán, let him repair to the palace! So follower and followed, great and small will flock to the spectacle, and I shall heal my heart and harm my foe.” “Do as thou wilt,” said the Sultan. The Wazir went off (and he was glad and gay), and ordered the Chief of Police to make the afore-mentioned proclamation. When the people heard the crier, they all sorrowed and wept, even the little ones at school and the traders in their shops; and some strove to get places for seeing the sight, whilst others went to the prison with the object of escorting him thence. Presently, the Wazir came with ten Mamelukes to the jail and Kutayt the jailor asked him, “Whom seekest thou, O our lord the Wazir?”; whereto he answered, “Bring me out that gallows — bird.” But the jailor said, “He is in the sorriest of plights for the much beating I have given him.” Then he went into the prison and found Nur al-Din repeating these verses,
“Who shall support me in calamities,
When fail all cures and greater cares arise?
Exile hath worm my heart, my vitals torn;
The World to foes hath turned my firm allies.
O folk, will not one friend amidst you all
Wail o’er my woes, and cry to hear my cries?
Death and it agonies seem light to me,
Since life has lost all joys and jollities:
O Lord of Mustafa,12 that Science-sea,
Sole Intercessor, Guide all-ware, all-wise!
I pray thee free me and my fault forego,
And from me drive mine evil and my woe.”
The jailor stripped off his clean clothes and, dressing him in two filthy vests, carried him to the Wazir. Nur al-Din looked at him and saw it was his foe that sought to compass his death; so he wept and said, “Art thou, then, so secure against the World? Hast thou not heard the saying of the poet,
‘Kisras and Caesars in a bygone day
Stored wealth; where it is, and ah! where are they?’
O Wazir,” he continued, “know that Allah (be He extolled and exalted!) will do whatso He will!” “O Ali,” replied he, “thinkest thou to frighten me with such talk? I mean this very day to smite thy neck despite the noses of the Bassorah folk and I care not; let the days do as they please; nor will I turn me to thy counsel but rather to what the poet saith,
‘Leave thou the days to breed their ban and bate,
And make thee strong t’ upbear the weight of Fate.’
And also how excellently saith another,
‘Whoso shall see the death-day of his foe,
One day surviving, wins his bestest wish.’”
Then he ordered his attendants to mount Nur al-Din upon the bare back of a mule; and they said to the youth (for truly it was irksome to them), “Let us stone him and cut him down thou our lives go for it.” But Nur al-Din said to them, “Do not so: have ye not heard the saying of the poet,
‘Needs must I bear the term by Fate decreed,
And when that day be dead needs must I die:
If lions dragged me to their forest-lair,
Safe should I live till draw my death-day nigh.’”
Then they proceeded to proclaim before Nur al-Din, “This is the least of the retribution for him who imposeth upon Kings with forgeries.” And they ceased not parading him round about Bassorah, till they made him stand beneath the palace-windows and set him upon the leather of blood,13 and the sworder came up to him and said, “O my lord, I am but a slave commanded in this matter: an thou have any desire, tell it me that I may fulfil it, for now there remaineth of they life only so much as may be till the Sultan shall put his face out of the lattice.” Thereupon Nur al-Din looked to the right and to the left, and before him and behind him and began improvising,
“The sword, the sworder and the blood-skin waiting me I sight,
And cry, Alack, mine evil fate! ah, my calamity!
How is’t I see no loving friend with eye of sense or soul?
What! no one here? I cry to all: will none reply to me?
The time is past that formed my life, my death term draweth nigh,
Will no man win the grace of God showing me clemency;
And look with pity on my state, and clear my dark despair,
E’en with a draught of water dealt to cool death’s agony?”
The people fell to weeping over him; and the headsman rose and brought him a draught of water; but the Wazir sprang up from his place and smote the gugglet with his hand and broke it: then he cried out at the executioner and bade him strike off Nur al-Din’s head. So he bound the eyes of the doomed man and folk clamoured at the Wazir and loud wailings were heard and much questioning of man and man. At this moment behold, rose a dense dust-cloud filling sky and wold; and when the Sultan, who was sitting in the palace, descried this, he said to his suite, “Go and see what yon cloud bringeth:” Replied Al Mu’ín, “Not till we have smitten this fellow’s neck;” but the Sultan said, “Wait ye till we see what this meaneth.” Now the dust-cloud was the dust of J’afar the Barmecide, Wazir to the Caliph, and his host; and the cause of his coming was as follows. The Caliph passed thirty days without calling to mind the matter of Nur al-Din Ali,14 and none reminded him of it, till one night, as he passed by the chamber of Anis al-Jalis, he heard her weeping and singing with a soft sweet voice these lines of the poet,
“In thought I see thy form when farthest far or nearest near;
And on my tongue there dwells a name which man shall ne’er unhear.”
Then her weeping redoubled; when lo! the Caliph opened the door and, entering the chamber, found Anis al-Jalis in tears. When she saw him she fell to the ground and kissing his feet three times repeated these lines,
“O fertile root and noble growth of trunk;
Ripe-fruitful branch of never sullied race;
I mind thee of what pact thy bounty made;
Far be ‘t from thee thou should’st forget my case!”
Quoth the Caliph, “Who art thou?” and she replied, “I am she whom Ali bin Khákán gave thee in gift, and I wish the fulfilment of thy promise to send me to him with the robe of honour; for I have now been thirty days without tasting the food of sleep.” Thereupon the Caliph sent for Ja’afar and said to him, “O Ja’afar, ’tis thirty days since we have had news of Nur al-Din bin Khákán, and I cannot suppose that the Sultan hath slain him; but, by the life of my head and by the sepulchres of my forefathers, if aught of foul play hath befallen him, I will surely make an end of him who was the cause of it, though he be the dearest of all men to myself! So I desire that thou set out for Bassorah within this hour and bring me tidings of my cousin, King Mohammed bin Sulayman al-Zayni, and how he had dealt with Nur al-Din Ali bin Khákán;” adding, “If thou tarry longer on the road than shall suffice for the journey, I will strike off they head. Furthermore, do thou tell the son of my uncle the whole story of Nur al-Din, and how I sent him with my written orders; and if thou find, O my cousin,15 that the King hath done otherwise than as I commanded, bring him and the Wazir Al–Mu’ín bin Sáwí to us in whatsoever guise thou shalt find them.”16 “Hearing and obedience,” replied Ja’afar and, making ready on the instant, he set out for Bassorah where the news of his coming had foregone him and had reached to the ears of King Mohammed. When Ja’afar arrived and saw the crushing and crowding of the lieges, he asked, “What means all this gathering?” so they told him what was doing in the matter of Nur al-Din; whereupon he hastened to go to the Sultan and saluting him, acquainted him with the cause why he came and the Caliph’s resolve, in case of any foul play having befallen the youth, to put to death whoso should have brought it about. Then he took into custody the King and the Wazir and laid them in ward and, giving order for the release of Nur al-Din Ali, enthroned him as Sultan in the stead of Mohammed bin Sulayman. After this Ja’afar abode three days in Bassorah, the usual guest-time, and on the morning of the fourth day, Nur al-Din Ali turned to him and said, “I long for the sight of the Commander of the Faithful.” Then said Ja’afar to Mohammed bin Sulayman, “Make ready to travel, for we will say the dawn-prayer and mount Baghdad-wards;” and he replied, “To hear is to obey.” Then they prayed and they took horse and set out, all of them, carrying with them the Wazir, Al–Mu’ín bin Sáwí, who began to repent him of what he had done. Nur al-Din rode by Ja’afar’s side and they stinted not faring on till they arrived at Baghdad, the House of Peace, and going in to the Caliph told him how they had found Nur al-Din nigh upon death. Thereupon the Caliph said to the youth, “Take this sword and smite with it the neck of thine enemy.” So he took the sword from his hand and stepped up to Al–Mu’ín who looked at him and said, “I did according to my mother’s milk, do thou according to thine.”17 Upon this Nur al-Din cast the sword from his hand and said to the Caliph, “O Commander of the Faithful, he hath beguiled me with his words;” and he repeated this couplet,
“By craft and sleight I snared him when he came;
A few fair words aye trap the noble-game!”
“Leave him then,” cried the Caliph and, turning to Masrur said, “Rise thou and smite his neck.” So Masrur drew his sword and struck off his head. Then quoth the Caliph to Nur al-Din Ali, “Ask a boon of me.” “O my lord,” answered he, “I have no need of the Kingship of Bassorah; my sole desire is to be honoured by serving thee and by seeing the countenance.” “With love and gladness,” said the Caliph. Then he sent for the damsel, Anis al-Jalis, and bestowed plentiful favours upon them both and gave them one of his palaces in Baghdad, and assigned stipends and allowances, and made Nur al-Din Ali bin Fazl bin Khákán, one of his cup-companions; and he abode with the Commander of the Faithful enjoying the pleasantest of lives till death overtook him. “Yet (continued Shahrazad) is not his story in any wise more wondrous than the history of the merchant and his children.” The King asked “And what was that?” and Shahrazad began to relate the
1 Arab. “Ammá ba’ad” or (Wa ba’ad), an initiatory formula attributed to Koss ibn Sa’idat al-Iyadi, bishop of Najrán (the town in Al–Yaman which D’Herbelot calls Negiran) and a famous preacher in Mohammed’s day, hence “more eloquent than Koss” (Maydání, Arab. Prov., 189). He was the first who addressed letters with the incept, “from A. to B.”; and the first who preached from a pulpit and who leant on a sword or a staff when discoursing. Many Moslems date Ammá ba’ad from the Prophet David, relying upon a passage of the Koran (xxxviii. 19).
2 Arab. “Nusf”=half (a dirham): vulgarly pronounced “nuss,” and synonymous with the Egypt. “Faddah” (=silver), the Greek “Asper,” and the Turkish “paráh.” It is the smallest Egyptian coin, made of very base metal and, there being forty to the piastre, it is worth nearly a quarter of a farthing.
3 The too literal Torrens and Lane make the Caliph give the gardener-lad the clothes in which he was then clad, forgetting, like the author or copier, that he wore the fisherman’s lousy suit.
4 In sign of confusion, disappointment and so forth: not “biting his nails,” which is European and utterly un-Asiatic.
5 See lines like these in Night xiii. (i. 136); the sentiment is trite.
6 The Arab will still stand under his ruler’s palace and shout aloud to attract his attention. Sayyid Sa’íd known as the “Imán of Muskat” used to encourage the patriarchal practice. Mohammed repeatedly protested against such unceremonious conduct (Koran xciv. 11, etc.). The “three times of privacy” (Koran cv. 57) are before the dawn prayer, during the Siesta (noon) and after the even-prayer.
7 The Judges of the four orthodox schools.
8 That none might see it or find it ever after.
9 Arab. “Khatt Sharíf”=a royal autographical letter: the term is still preserved in Turkey, but Europeans will write “Hatt.”
10 Meaning “Little tom-cat;” a dim. of “Kitt” vulg. Kutt or Gutt.
11 Arab. “Matmúrah”— the Algerine “Matamor”— a “silo,” made familiar to England by the invention of “Ensilage.”
12 The older “Mustapha”=Mohammed. This Intercession-doctrine is fiercely disputed. (Pilgrimage ii. 77.) The Apostle of Al-Islam seems to have been unable to make up his mind upon the subject: and modern opinion amongst Moslems is apparently borrowed from the Christians.
13 Lane (i. 486) curiously says, “The place of the stagnation of blood:” yet he had translated the word aright in the Introduction (i. 41). I have noticed that the Nat’a is made like the “Sufrah,” of well-tanned leather, with rings in the periphery, so that a thong passed through turns it into a bag. The Sufrah used for provisions is usually yellow, with a black border and small pouches for knives or spoons. (Pilgrimage i. 111.)
14 This improbable detail shows the Caliph’s greatness.
15 “Cousin” is here a term of familiarity, our “coz.”
16 i.e. without allowing them a moment’s delay to change clothes.
17 i.e. according to my nature, birth, blood, de race.
It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that in times of yore and in years and ages long gone before, there lived in Damascus a merchant among the merchants, a wealthy man who had a son like the moon on the night of his fulness2 and withal sweet of speech, who was named Ghánim bin ‘Ayyúb, surnamed the Distraught, the Thrall o’ Love. He had also a daughter, own sister to Ghanim, who was called Fitnah, a damsel unique in beauty and loveliness. Their father died and left them abundant wealth. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Our “Job.” The English translators of the Bible, who borrowed Luther’s system of transliteration (of A.D. 1522), transferred into English the German “j” which has the sound of “i” or “y”; intending us to pronounce Yacob (or Yakob), Yericho, Yimnites, Yob (or Hiob) and Yudah. Tyndall, who copied Luther (A.D. 1525–26), preserved the true sound by writing lacob, Ben Iamin and Iudas. But his successors unfortunately returned to the German; the initial I, having from the xiii century been ornamentally lengthened and bent leftwards, became a consonant. The public adopted the vernacular sound of “j” (da) and hence our language and our literature are disgraced by such barbarisms as “Jehovah” and “Jesus”; Dgehovah and Dgeesus for Yehovah and Yesus. Future generations of school-teachers may remedy the evil; meanwhile we are doomed for the rest of our days to hear
Gee-rusalem! Gee-rusalem! etc.
Nor is there one word to be said in favour of the corruption except that, like the Protestant mispronunciation of Latin and the Erasmian ill-articulation of Greek, it has become English, and has lent its little aid in dividing the Britons from the rest of the civilised world.
2 The moon, I repeat, is masculine in the so-called “Semitic” tongues.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the merchant left his two children abundant wealth and amongst other things an hundred loads1 of silks and brocades, musk pods and mother o’ pearl; and there was written on every bale, “This is of the packages intended for Baghdad,” it having been his purpose to make the journey thither, when Almighty Allah took him to Himself, which was in the time of the Caliph Harun al-Rashid. After a while his son took the loads and, bidding farewell to his mother and kindred and townsfolk, went forth with a company of merchants, putting his trust in Allah Almighty, who decreed him safety, so that he arrived without let or stay at Baghdad. There he hired for himself a fair dwelling house which he furnished with carpets and cushions, curtains and hangings; and therein stored his bales and stabled his mules and camels, after which he abode a while resting. Presently the merchants and notables of Baghdad came and saluted him, after which he took a bundle containing ten pieces of costly stuffs, with the prices written on them, and carried it to the merchants’ bazar, where they welcomed and saluted him and showed him all honour; and, making him dismount from his beast, seated him in the shop of the Syndic of the market, to whom he delivered the package. He opened it and, drawing out the pieces of stuff, sold them for him at a profit of two diners on every diner of prime cost. At this Ghanim rejoiced and kept selling his silks and stuffs one after another, and ceased not to do on this wise for a full year. On the first day of the following year he went, as was his wont, to the Exchange which was in the bazar, but found the gate shut; and enquiring the reason was told, “One of the merchants is dead and all the others have gone to follow his bier,2 and why shouldst thou not win the meed of good deeds by walking with them?”3 He replied “Yes,” and asked for the quarter where the funeral was taking place, and one directed him thereto. So he purified himself by the Wuzu-ablution4 and repaired with the other merchants to the oratory, where they prayed over the dead, then walked before the bier to the burial place, and Ghanim, who was a bashful man, followed them being ashamed to leave them. They presently issued from the city, and passed through the tombs until they reached the grave where they found that the deceased’s kith and kin had pitched a tent over the tomb and had brought thither lamps and wax candles. So they buried the body and sat down while the readers read out and recited the Koran over the grave; and Ghanim sat with them, being overcome with bashfulness and saying to himself “I cannot well go away till they do.” They tarried listening to the Koranic perfection till nightfall, when the servants set supper and sweetmeats5 before them and they ate till they were satisfied; then they washed their hands and again took their places. But Ghanim’s mind was preoccupied with his house and goods, being in fear of robbers, and he said to himself, “I am a stranger here and supposed to have money; if I pass the night abroad the thieves will steal my money bags and my bales to boot.” So when he could no longer control his fear he arose and left the assembly, having first asked leave to go about some urgent business; and following the signs of the road he soon came to the city gate. But it was midnight and he found the doors locked and saw none going or coming nor heard aught but the hounds baying and the wolves howling. At this he exclaimed, “There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah! I was in fear for my property and came back on its account, but now I find the gate shut and I am in mortal fear for my life!” Then he turned back and, looking out for a place where he could sleep till morning, presently found a Santon’s tomb, a square of four walls with a date-tree in the central court and a granite gateway. The door was wide open; so he entered and would fain have slept, but sleep came not to him; and terror and a sense of desolation oppressed him for that he was alone amidst the tombs. So he rose to his feet and, opening the door, looked out and lo! he was ware of a light afar off in the direction of the city gate; then walking a little way towards it, he saw that it was on the road whereby he had reached the tomb. This made him fear for his life, so he hastily shut the door and climbed to the top of the dale tree where he hid himself in the heart of the fronds. The light came nearer and nearer till it was close to the tomb; then it stopped and he saw three slaves, two bearing a chest and one with a lanthorn, an adze and a basket containing some mortar. When they reached the tomb, one of those who were carrying the case said, “What aileth thee O Sawáb?”; and said the other, “What is the matter O Káfúr?”6 Quoth he, “Were we not here at supper tide and did we not leave the door open?” “Yes,” replied the other, “that is true.’’ “See,” said Kafur, “now it is shut and barred.” “How weak are your wits!” cried the third who bore the adze and his name was Bukhayt,7 “know ye not that the owners of the gardens use to come out from Baghdad and tend them and, when evening closes upon them, they enter this place and shut the door, for fear lest the wicked blackmen, like ourselves, should catch them and roast ’em and eat ’em.”8 “Thou sayest sooth,” said the two others, “but by Allah, however that may be, none amongst us is weaker of wits than thou.” “If ye do not believe me,” said Bukhayt, “let us enter the tomb and I will rouse the rat for you; for I doubt not but that, when he saw the light and us making for the place, he ran up the date tree and hid there for fear of us.” When Ghanim heard this, he said in himself, “O curstest of slaves! May Allah not have thee in His holy keeping for this thy craft and keenness of wit! There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! How shall I win free of these blackamoors?” Then said the two who bore the box to him of the adze, “Swarm up the wall and open the gate for us, O Bukhayt, for we are tired of carrying the chest on our necks; and when thou hast opened the gate thou shalt have one of those we catch inside, a fine fat rat which we will fry for thee after such excellent fashion that not a speck of his fat shall be lost.” But Bukhayt answered, “I am afraid of somewhat which my weak wits have suggested to me: we should do better to throw the chest over the gateway; for it is our treasure.” “If we throw it ’twill break,” replied they; and he said, “I fear lest there be robbers within who murder folk and plunder their goods, for evening is their time of entering such places and dividing their spoil.” “O thou weak o’ wits,” said both the bearers of the box, “how could they ever get in here!”9 Then they set down the chest and climbing over the wall dropped inside and opened the gate, whilst the third slave (he that was called Bukhayt) stood by them holding the adze, the lanthorn and the hand basket containing the mortar. After this they locked the gate and sat down; and presently one of them said, “O my brethren, we are wearied with walking and with lifting up and setting down the chest, and with unlocking and locking the gate; and now ’tis midnight, and we have no breath left to open a tomb and bury the box: so let us rest here two or three hours, then rise and do the job. Meanwhile each of us shall tell how he came to be castrated and all that befel him from first to last, the better to pass away our time while we take our rest.” Thereupon the first, he of the lanthorn and whose name was Bukhayt, said, “I’ll tell you my tale.” “Say on,” replied they; so he began as follows the
1 i.e. camel loads, about lbs. 300; and for long journeys lbs. 250.
2 Arab. “Janázah,” so called only when carrying a corpse; else Na’ash, Sarír or Tábút: Irán being the large hearse on which chiefs are borne. It is made of plank or stick work; but there are several varieties. (Lane, M. E. chaps. xxviii.)
3 It is meritorious to accompany the funeral cortège of a Moslem even for a few paces.
4 Otherwise he could not have joined in the prayers.
5 Arab. “Halwá” made of sugar, cream, almonds, etc. That of Maskat is famous throughout the East.
6 i.e. “Camphor” to a negro, as we say “Snowball,” by the figure antiphrase.
7 “Little Good Luck,” a dim. form of “bakht”=luck, a Persian word naturalized in Egypt.
8 There are, as I have shown, not a few cannibal tribes in Central Africa and these at times find their way into the slave market.
9 i.e. After we bar the door.
Know, O my brothers, that when I was a little one, some five years old, I was taken home from my native country by a slave driver who sold me to a certain Apparitor.1 My purchaser had a daughter three years old, with whom I was brought up; and they used to make mock of me, letting me play with her and dance for her2 and sing to her, till I reached the age of twelve and she that of ten; and even then they did not forbid me seeing her. One day I went in to her and found her sitting in an inner room, and she looked as if she had just come out of the bath which was in the house; for she was scented with essences and reek of aromatic woods, and her face shone like a circle of the moon on the fourteenth night. She began to sport with me, and I with her. Now I had just reached the age of puberty; so my prickle stood at point, as it were a huge key. Then she threw me on my back and, mounting astraddle on my breast, fell a wriggling and a bucking upon me till she had uncovered my yard. When she saw it standing with head erect, she hent it in hand and began rubbing it upon the lips of her little slit3 outside her petticoat trousers. Thereat hot lust stirred in me and I threw my arms round her, while she wound hers about my neck and hugged me to her with all her might, till, before I knew what I did, my pizzle split up her trousers and entered her slit and did away her maiden head. When I saw this, I ran off and took refuge with one of my comrades. Presently her mother came in to her; and, seeing her in this case, fainted clean away. However she managed the matter advisedly and hid it from the girl’s father out of good will to me; nor did they cease to call to me and coax me, till they took me from where I was. After two months had passed by, her mother married her to a young man, a barber who used to shave her papa, and portioned and fitted her out of her own monies; whilst the father knew nothing of what had passed. On the night of consummation they cut the throat of a pigeon poult and sprinkled the blood on her shift.4 After a while they seized me unawares and gelded me; and, when they brought her to her bridegroom, they made me her Agha,5 her eunuch, to walk before her wheresoever she went, whether to the bath or to her father’s house. I abode with her a long time enjoying her beauty and loveliness by way of kissing and clipping and coupling with her,6 till she died, and her husband and mother and father died also; when they seized me for the Royal Treasury as being the property of an intestate, and I found my way hither, where I became your comrade. This, then, O my brethren, is the cause of my cullions being cut off; and peace be with you! He ceased and his fellow began in these words the
1 Arab. “Jáwísh” from Turk. Cháwúsh, Chiaoosh, a sergeant, poursuivant, royal messenger. I would suggest that this is the word “Shálish” or “Jálish” in Al–Siynti’s History of the Caliphs (p. 501) translated by Carlyle “milites,” by Schultens “Sagittarius” and by Jarett “picked troops.”
2 This familiarity with blackamoor slave-boys is common in Egypt and often ends as in the story: Egyptian blood is sufficiently mixed with negro to breed inclination for miscegenation. But here the girl was wickedly neglected by her mother at such an age as ten.
3 Arab. “Farj”; hence a facetious designation of the other sex is “Zawi’l-furuj” (grammatically Zawátu’l — furúj)=habentes rimam, slit ones.
4 This ancient and venerable practice of inspecting the marriage-sheet is still religiously preserved in most parts of the East, and in old-fashioned Moslem families. It is publicly exposed in the Harem to prove that the “domestic calamity” (the daughter) went to her husband a clean maid. Also the general idea is that no blood will impose upon the exerts, or jury of matrons, except that of a pigeon-poult which exactly resembles hymeneal blood — when not subjected to the microscope. This belief is universal in Southern Europe and I have heard of it in England. Further details will be given in Night ccxi.
5 “Agha” Turk.=sir, gentleman, is, I have said, politely addressed to a eunuch.
6 As Bukhayt tells us he lost only his testes, consequently his erectio et distensio penis was as that of a boy before puberty and it would last as long as his heart and circulation kept sound. Hence the eunuch who preserves his penis is much prized in the Zenanah where some women prefer him to the entire man, on account of his long performance of the deed of kind. Of this more in a future page.
Know, O my brothers that, when beginning service as a boy of eight, I used to tell the slave dealers regularly and exactly one lie every year, so that they fell out with one another, till at last my master lost patience with me and, carrying me down to the market, ordered the brokers to cry, “Who will buy this slave, knowing his blemish and making allowance for it?” He did so and they asked him, “Pray, what may be his blemish?” and he answered, “He telleth me one single lie every year.” Now a man that was a merchant came up and said to the broker, “How much do they allow for him with his blemish?” “They allow six hundred dirhams,” he replied; and said the other, “Thou shalt have twenty dirhams for thyself.” So he arranged between him and the slave dealer who took the coin from him and the broker carried me to the merchant’s house and departed, after receiving his brokerage. The trader clothed me with suitable dress, and I stayed in his service the rest of my twelvemonth, until the new year began happily. It was a blessed season, plenteous in the produce of the earth, and the merchants used to feast every day at the house of some one among them, till it was my master’s turn to entertain them in a flower garden without the city. So he and the other merchants went to the garden, taking with them all that they required of provaunt and else beside, and sat eating and carousing and drinking till mid day, when my master, having need of some matter from his home, said to me, “O slave, mount the she mule and hie thee to the house and bring from thy mistress such and such a thing and return quickly.” I obeyed his bidding and started for the house but, as I drew near it, I began to cry out and shed tears, whereupon all the people of the quarter collected, great and small; and my master’s wife and daughters, hearing the noise I was making, opened the door and asked me what was the matter. Said I, “My master was sitting with his friends beneath an old wall, and it fell on one and all of them; and when I saw what had happened to them, I mounted the mule and came hither in haste to tell you.” When my master’s daughters and wife heard this, they screamed and rent their raiment and beat their faces, whilst the neighbours came around them. Then the wife over turned the furniture of the house, one thing upon another, and tore down the shelves and broke the windows and the lattices and smeared the walls with mud and indigo, saying to me, “Woe to thee, O Kafur! come help me to tear down these cupboards and break up these vessels and this china ware,1 and the rest of it.” So I went to her and aided her to smash all the shelves in the house with whatever stood upon them, after which I went round about the terrace roofs and every part of the place, spoiling all I could and leaving no china in the house unbroken till I had laid waste the whole, crying out the while “Well away! my master!” Then my mistress fared forth bare faced wearing a head kerchief and naught else, and her daughters and the children sallied out with her, and said to me, “O Kafur, go thou before us and show us the place where thy master lieth dead, that we may take him from under the fallen wall and lay him on a bier and bear him to the house and give him a fine funeral.” So I went forth before them crying out, “Slack, my master!”; and they after me with faces and heads bare and all shrieking, “Alas! Alas for the man!” Now there remained none in the quarter, neither man nor woman, nor epicene, nor youth nor maid, nor child nor old trot, but went with us smiting their faces and weeping bitterly, and I led them leisurely through the whole city. The folk asked them what was the matter, whereupon they told them what they had heard from me, and all exclaimed, “There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah!” Then said one of them, “He was a personage of consequence; so let us go to the Governor and tell him what hath befallen him.” When they told the Governor — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 It is or rather was the custom in Egypt and Syria to range long rows of fine China bowls along the shelves running round the rooms at the height of six or seven feet, and they formed a magnificent cornice. I bought many of them at Damascus till the people, learning their value, asked prohibitive prices.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when they told the Governor, he rose and mounted and, taking with him labourers, with spades and baskets, went on my track, with many people behind him; and I ran on before them, howling and casting dust on my head and beating my face, followed by my mistress and her children keening for the dead. But I got ahead of them and entered the garden before them, and when my master saw me in this state, I smiting my face and saying, “Well away! my mistress! Alas! Alas! Alas! who is left to take pity on me, now that my mistress is gone? Would I had been a sacrifice for her!”, he stood aghast and his colour waxed yellow and he said to me, “What aileth thee O Kafur! What is the matter?” “O my lord,” I replied, “when thou sentest me to the house, I found that the saloon wall had given way and had fallen like a layer upon my mistress and her children!” “And did not thy mistress escape?” “No, by Allah, O my master; not one of them was saved; the first to die was my mistress, thine elder daughter!” “And did not my younger daughter escape?”; “No, she did not!” “And what became of the mare mule I use to ride, is she safe?” “No, by Allah, O my master, the house walls and the stable walls buried every living thing that was within doors, even to the sheep and geese and poultry, so that they all became a heap of flesh and the dogs and cats are eating them and not one of them is left alive.” “And hath not thy master, my elder son, escaped?” “No, by Allah! not one of them was saved, and now there is naught left of house or household, nor even a sign of them: and, as for the sheep and geese and hens, the cats and dogs have devoured them.” When my master heard this the light became night before his sight; his wits were dazed and he so lost command of his senses that he could not stand firm on his feet: he was as one struck with a sudden palsy and his back was like to break. Then he rent his raiment and plucked out his beard and, casting his turband from off his head, buffeted his face till the blood ran down and he cried aloud, “Alas, my children! Alas, my wife! Alas, my calamity! To whom ever befel that which hath befallen me?” The merchants, his friends, also cried aloud at his crying and wept for his weeping and tore their clothes, being moved to pity of his case; and so my master went out of the garden, smiting his face with such violence that from excess of pain he staggered like one drunken with wine. As he and the merchants came forth from the garden gate, behold, they saw a great cloud of dust and heard a loud noise of crying and lamentation; so they looked and lo! it was the Governor with his attendants and the townsfolk, a world of people, who had come out to look on, and my master’s family following them, all screaming and crying aloud and weeping exceeding sore weeping. The first to address my owner were his wife and children; and when he saw them he was confounded and laughed2 and said to them, “How is it with all of you and what befel you in the house and what hath come to pass to you?” When they saw him they exclaimed, “Praise be to Allah for thy preservation!” and threw themselves upon him and his children hung about him crying, “Slack, our father! Thanks to Allah for thy safety, O our father!” And his wife said to him, “Art thou indeed well! Laud to Allah who hath shown us thy face in safety!” And indeed she was confounded and her reason fled when she saw him, and she asked, “O, my lord, how didst thou escape, thou and thy friends the merchants?”; and he answered her, “And how fared it with thee in the house?” Quoth they, “We were all well, whole and healthy, nor hath aught of evil befallen us in the house, save that thy slave Kafur came to us, bareheaded with torn garments and howling, ‘Alas, the master! Alas the master!’ So we asked him, ‘What tidings, O Kafur?’ and he answered ‘A wall of the garden hath fallen on my master and his friends the merchants, and they are all crushed and dead!’’’ “By Allah,” said my master, “he came to me but now howling, ‘Alas, my mistress! Alas, the children of the mistress!’, and said, ‘My mistress and her children are all dead, every one of them!’” Then he looked round and seeing me with my turband rent in rags round my neck, howling and weeping with exceeding weeping and throwing dust upon my head, he cried out at me. So I came to him and he said, “Woe to thee, O ill omened slave! O whoreson knave! O thou damned breed! What mischief thou hast wrought? By Allah! I will flog thy skin from thy flesh and cut thy flesh from thy bones!” I rejoined, “By Allah, thou canst do nothing of the kind with me, O my lord, for thou boughtest me with my blemish; and there are honest men to bear witness against thee that thou didst so accepting the condition, and that thou knewest of my fault which is to tell one lie every year. Now this is only a half lie, but by the end of the year I will tell the other half, then will the lie stand whole and complete.” “O dog, son of a dog!”, cried my master, “O most accursed of slaves, is this all of it but a half lie? Verily if it be a half lie ’tis a whole calamity! Get thee from me, thou art free in the face of Allah!” “By Allah,” rejoined I, if thou free me, I will not free thee till my year is completed and I have told thee the half lie which is left. When this is done, go down with me to the slave market and sell me as thou boughtest me to whoso will buy me with my blemish; but thou shalt not manumit me, for I have no handicraft whereby to gain my living;3 and this my demand is a matter of law which the doctors have laid down in the Chapter of Emancipation.”4 While we were at these words, up came the crowd of people, and the neighbours of the quarter, men, women and children, together with the Governor and his suite offering condolence. So my master and the other merchants went up to him and informed him of the adventure, and how this was but a half lie, at which all wondered, deeming it a whole lie and a big one. And they cursed me and reviled me, while I stood laughing and grinning at them, till at last I asked, “How shall my master slay me when he bought me with this my blemish?” Then my master returned home and found his house in ruins, and it was I who had laid waste the greater part of it,5 having broken things which were worth much money, as also had done his wife, who said to him, “’Twas Kafur who broke the vessels and chinaware.” Thereupon his rage redoubled and he struck hand upon hand exclaiming, “By Allah! in my life never saw I a whoreson like this slave; and he saith this is but a half lie! How, then, if he had told me a whole lie? He would ruin a city, aye or even two.” Then in his fury he went to the Governor, and they gave me a neat thing in the bastinado-line and made me eat stick till I was lost to the world and a fainting fit came on me; and, whilst I was yet senseless, they brought the barber who docked me and gelded me6 and cauterised the wound. When I revived I found myself a clean eunuch with nothing left, and my master said to me, “Even as thou hast burned my heart for the things I held dearest, so have I burnt thy heart for that of thy members whereby thou settest most store!” Then he took me and sold me at a profit, for that I was become an eunuch. And I ceased not bringing trouble upon all, wherever I was sold, and was shifted from lord to lord and from notable to notable, being sold and being bought, till I entered the palace of the Commander of the Faithful. But now my spirit is broken and my tricks are gone from me, so alas! are my ballocks. When the two slaves heard his history, they laughed at him and chaffed him and said, “Truly thou art skite7 and skite-son! Thou liedest an odious lie.” Then quoth they to the third slave, “Tell us thy tale.” “O sons of my uncle,” quoth he, “all that ye have said is idle: I will tell you the cause of my losing my testicles, and indeed I deserved to lose even more, for I futtered both my mistress and my master’s eldest son and heir: but my story is a long one and this is not the time to tell it; for the dawn, O my cousins, draweth near and if morning come upon us with this chest still unburied, we shall get into sore disgrace and our lives will pay for it. So up with you and open the door and, when we get back to the palace, I will tell you my story and the cause of my losing my precious stones.” Then he swarmed up and dropped down from the wall inside and opened the door, so they entered and, setting down the lantern, dug between four tombs a hole as long as the chest and of the same breadth. Kafur plied the spade and Sawab removed the earth by baskets full till they reached the depth of the stature of a man;8 when they laid the chest in the hole and threw back the earth over it: then they went forth and shutting the door disappeared from Ghanim’s eyes. When all was quiet and he felt sure that he was left alone in the place, his thought was busied about what the chest contained and he said to himself, “Would that I knew the contents of that box!” However, he waited till day broke, when morning shone and showed her sheen: whereupon he came down from the date tree and scooped away the earth with his hands, till the box was laid bare and disengaged from the ground. Then he took a large stone and hammered at the lock till he broke it and, opening the lid, behold a young lady, a model of beauty and loveliness, clad in the richest of garments and jewels of gold and such necklaces of precious stones that, were the Sultan’s country evened with them, it would not pay their price. She had been drugged with Bhang, but her bosom, rising and falling, showed that her breath had not departed. When Ghanim saw her, he knew that some one had played her false and hocussed her; so he pulled her out of the chest and laid her on the ground with her face upwards. As soon as she smelt the breeze and the air entered her nostrils, mouth and lungs, she sneezed and choked and coughed; when there fell from out her throat a pill of Cretan Bhang, had an elephant smelt it he would have slept from night to night. Then she opened her eyes and glancing around said, in sweet voice and gracious words, “Woe to thee O wind! there is naught in thee to satisfy the thirsty, nor aught to gratify one whose thirst is satisfied! Where is Zhar al-Bostan?” But no one answered her, so she turned her and cried out, “Ho Sabíhah! Shajarat al-Durr! Núr al-Hudá! Najmat al-Subh! be ye awake? Shahwah, Nuzhab, Halwá, Zarífah, out on you, speak!9’’ But no one answered; so she looked all around and said, “Woe’s me! have they entombed me in the tombs? O Thou who knowest what man’s thought enwombs and who givest compensation on the Day of Doom, who can have brought me from amid hanging screens and curtains veiling the Harim rooms and set me down between four tombs?” All this while Ghanim was standing by: then he said to her, “O my lady, here are neither screened rooms nor palace Harims nor yet tombs; only the slave henceforth devoted to thy love, Ghanim bin Ayyub, sent to thee by the Omniscient One above, that all thy troubles He may remove and win for thee every wish that cloth behove!” Then he held his peace. She was reassured by his words and cried, “I testify that there is no god but the God and I testify that Mohammed is the Apostle of God!”; then she turned to Ghanim and, placing her hands before her face, said to him in the sweetest speech, “O blessed youth, who brought me hither? See, I am now come to myself.” “O my lady,” he replied, “three slave eunuchs came here bearing this chest;” and related to her the whole of what had befallen him, and how evening having closed upon him had proved the cause of her preservation, otherwise she had died smothered.10 Then he asked her who she was and what was her story, and she answered, “O youth, thanks be to Allah who hath cast me into the hands of the like of thee! But now rise and put me back into the box; then fare forth upon the road and hire the first camel driver or muleteer thou findest to carry it to thy house. When I am there, all will be well and I will tell thee my tale and acquaint thee with my adventures, and great shall be thy gain by means of me.” At this he rejoiced and went outside the tomb. The day was now dazzling bright and the firmament shone with light and the folk had begun to circulate; so he hired a man with a mule and, bringing him to the tomb, lifted the chest wherein he had put the damsel and set it on the mule. Her love now engrossed his heart and he fared homeward with her rejoicing, for that she was a girl worth ten thousand gold pieces and her raiment and ornaments would fetch a mint of money. As soon as he arrived at his house he carried in the chest and opening it — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 The tale is interesting as well as amusing, excellently describing the extravagance still practiced in middle-class Moslem families on the death of the pater familias. I must again note that Arab women are much more unwilling to expose the back of the head covered by the “Tarhah” (head-veil) than the face, which is hidden by the “Burke” or nose bag.
2 The usual hysterical laughter of this nervous race.
3 Here the slave refuses to be set free and starve. For a master so to do without ample reasons is held disgraceful. I well remember the weeping and wailing throughout Sind when an order from Sir Charles Napier set free the negroes whom British philanthropy thus doomed to endure if not to die of hunger.
4 Manumission, which is founded upon Roman law, is an extensive subject discussed in the Hidáyah and other canonical works. The slave here lays down the law incorrectly but his claim shows his truly “nigger” impudence.
5 This is quite true to nature. The most remarkable thing in the wild central African is his enormous development of “destructiveness.” At Zanzibar I never saw a slave break a glass or plate without a grin or a chuckle of satisfaction.
6 Arab. “Khassá-ni”; Khusyatáni (vulg.) being the testicles, also called “bayzatán” the two eggs) a double entendre which has given rise to many tales. For instance in the witty Persian book “Dozd o Kazi” (The Thief and the Judge) a footpad strips the man of learning and offers to return his clothes if he can ask him a puzzle in law or religion. The Kazi (in folk-lore mostly a fool) fails, and his wife bids him ask the man to supper for a trial of wits on the same condition. She begins with compliments and ends by producing five eggs which she would have him distribute equally amongst the three; and, when he is perplexed, she gives one to each of the men taking three for herself. Whereupon the “Dozd” wends his way, having lost his booty as his extreme stupidity deserved. In the text the eunuch, Kafur, is made a “Sandal” or smooth-shaven, so that he was of no use to women.
7 Arab. “Khara,” the lowest possible word: Yá Khara! is the commonest of insults, used also by modest women. I have heard one say it to her son.
8 Arab. “Kámah,” a measure of length, a fathom, also called “Bá‘a.” Both are omitted in that sadly superficial book, Lane’s Modern Egyptians, App. B.
9 Names of her slave-girls which mean (in order), Garden-bloom, Dawn (or Beautiful), Tree o’ Pearl (P. N. of Saladin’s wife), Light of (right) Direction, Star o’ the Morn Lewdness (= Shahwah, I suppose this is a chaff), Delight, Sweetmeat and Miss Pretty.
10 This mode of disposing of a rival was very common in Harems. But it had its difficulties and on the whole the river was (and is) preferred.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Ghanim son of Ayyub arrived with the chest at his house, he opened it and took out the young lady, who looked about her and, seeing that the place was handsome, spread with carpets and dight with cheerful colours and other deckings; and noting the stuffs up piled and packed bales and other else than that, knew that he was a substantial merchant and a man of much money. There upon she uncovered her face and looked at him, and lo! he was a fair youth; so when she saw him she loved him and said, “O my lord, bring us something to eat.” “On my head and mine eyes!” replied he; and, going down to the bazar, bought a roasted lamb and a dish of sweetmeats and with these dry fruits and wax candles, besides wine and whatsoever was required of drinking materials, not forgetting perfumes. With all this gear he returned to the house; and when the damsel saw him she laughed and kissed him and clasped his neck. Then she began caressing him, which made his love wax hotter till it got the mastery of his heart. They ate and drank and each had conceived the fondest affection; for indeed the two were one in age and one in loveliness; and when night came on Ghanim bin Ayyub, the Distraught, the Thrall o’ Love, rose and lit the wax candles and lamps till the place blazed with light;1 after which he produced the wine service and spread the table. Then both sat down again, he and she, and he kept filling and giving her to drink, and she kept filling and giving him to drink, and they played and toyed and laughed and recited verses; whilst their joy increased and they dove in closer love each to each (glory be to the Uniter of Hearts!). They ceased not to carouse after this fashion till near upon dawn when drowsiness overcame them and they slept where they were, apart each from other, till the morning.2 Then Ghanim arose and going to the market, bought all they required of meat and vegetables and wine and what not, and brought them to the house; whereupon both sat down to eat and ate their sufficiency, when he set on wine. They drank and each played with each, till their cheeks flushed red and their eyes took a darker hue and Ghanim’s soul longed to kiss the girl and to lie with her and he said, “O my lady, grant me one kiss of that dear mouth: per chance ‘t will quench the fire of my heart.” “O Ghanim,” replied she, “wait till I am drunk and dead to the world; then steal a kiss of me, secretly and on such wise that I may not know thou hast kissed me.” Then she rose and taking off her upper dress sat; in a thin shift of fine linen and a silken head kerchief.3 At this passion inflamed Ghanim and he said to her, “O my lady, wilt thou not vouchsafe me what I asked of thee?” “By Allah,” she replied, “that may not be thine, for there is written upon my trouser string4 a hard word!” Thereupon Ghanim’s heart sank and desire grew on him as its object offered difficulties; and he improvised these verses,
“I asked the author of mine ills
To heal the wound with one sweet kiss:
No! No! she cried,5 for ever no!
But I, soft whispering, urged yes:
Quoth she, Then take it by my leave,
When smiles shall pardon thine amiss:
By force, cried I? Nay, she replied
With love and gladness eke I wis.
Now ask me not what next occurred
Seek grace of God and whist of this!
Deem what thou wilt of us, for love
By calumnies the sweeter is
Nor after this care I one jot
Whether my foe be known or not.”
Then his affection increased and love fires rose hotter in his heart, while she refused herself to him saying, “Thou canst not possess me.” They ceased not to make love and enjoy their wine and wassail, whilst Ghanim was drowned in the sea of love and longing; but she redoubled in coyness and cruelty till the night brought on the darkness and let fall on them the skirts of sleep. Thereupon Ghanim rose and lit the lamps and wax candles and refreshed the room and removed the table; then he took her feet and kissed them and, finding them like fresh cream, pressed his face6 on them and said to her, “O my lady, take pity on one thy love hath ta’en and thine eyes hath slain; for indeed I were heart whole but for thy bane!” And he wept somewhat. “O my lord, and light of my eyes,” quoth she, “by Allah, I love thee in very sooth and I trust to thy truth, but I know that I may not be thine.” “And what is the obstacle?” asked he; when she answered, “Tonight I will tell thee my tale, that thou mayst accept my excuse.” Then she threw herself upon him and winding her arms like a necklace about his neck, kissed him and caressed him and promised him her favours; and they ceased not playing and laughing till love get the firmest hold upon both their hearts. And so it continued a whole month, both passing the night on a single carpet bed, but whenever he would enjoy her, she put him off; whilst mutual love increased upon them and each could hardly abstain from other. One night, as he lay by her side, and both were warm with wine Ghanim passed his hand over her breasts and stroked them; then he slipped it down to her waist as far as her navel. She awoke and, sitting up, put her hand to her trousers and finding them fast tied, once more fell asleep. Presently, he again felt her and sliding his hand down to her trouser string, began pulling at it, whereupon she awoke and sat upright. Ghanim also sat up by her side and she asked him, “What dost thou want?” “I want to lie with thee,” he answered, “and that we may deal openly and frankly with each other.” Quoth she, “I must now declare to thee my case, that thou mayst know my quality; then will my secret be disclosed to thee and my excuse become manifest to thee.” Quoth he, “So be it!” Thereat she opened the skirt of her shift and taking up her trouser string, said to him, “O my lord, read what is worked on the flat of this string:” so he took it in hand, and saw these words broidered on it in gold, “I am thine, and thou art mine, O cousin of the Apostle!’’7 When he read this, he withdrew his hand and said to her, “Tell me who thou art!” “So be it,” answered she; “know that I am one of the concubines of the Commander of the Faithful, and my name is Kút al-Kulúb the Food of Hearts. I was brought up in his palace and, when I grew to woman’s estate, he looked on me and, noting what share of beauty and loveliness the Creator had given me, loved me with exceeding love, and assigned me a separate apartment, and gave me ten slave girls to wait on me and all these ornaments thou seest me wearing. On a certain day he set out for one of his provinces, and the Lady Zubaydah came to one of the slave girls in my service and said to her, ‘I have something to require of thee.’ ‘What is it, O my lady?’ asked she and the Caliph’s wife answered, ‘When thy mistress Kut al-Kulub is asleep, put this piece of Bhang into her nostrils or drop it into her drink, and thou shalt have of me as much money as will satisfy thee.’ ‘With love and gladness;’ replied the girl and took the Bhang from her, being a glad woman because of the money and because aforetime she had been one of Zubaydah’s slaves. So she put the Bhang in my drink, and when it was night drank, and the drug had no sooner settled in my stomach than I fell to the ground, my head touching my feet, and knew naught of my life but that I was in another world. When her device succeeded, she bade put me in this chest, and secretly brought in the slaves and the doorkeepers and bribed them; and, on the night when thou wast perched upon the date tree, she sent the blacks to do with me as thou sawest. So my delivery was at thy hands, and thou broughtest me to this house and hast entreated me honourably and with thy kindest. This is my story, and I wot not what is become of the Caliph during my absence. Know then my condition and divulge not my case.” When Ghanim heard her words and knew that she was a concubine of the Caliph, he drew back, for awe of the Caliphate beset him, and sat apart from her in one of the corners of the place, blaming himself and brooding over his affair and patiencing his heart bewildered for love of one he could not possess. Then he wept for excess of longing, and plained him of Fortune and her injuries, and the world and its enmities (and praise be to Him who causeth generous hearts to be troubled with love and the beloved, and who endoweth not the minds of the mean and miserly with so much of it as eveneth a grain-weight!). So he began repeating,
“The lover’s heart for his beloved must meet
Sad pain, and from her charms bear sore defeat:
What is Love’s taste? They asked and answered I,
Sweet is the taste but ah! ’tis bitter sweet.”
Thereupon Kut al-Kulub arose and took him to her bosom and kissed him; for the love of him was firm fixed in her heart, so that she disclosed to him her secret and all the affection she felt; and, throwing her arms round Ghanim’s neck like a collar of pearls, kissed him again and yet again. But he held off from her in awe of the Caliph. Then they talked together a long while (and indeed both were drowned in the sea of their mutual love); and, as the day broke, Ghanim rose and donned his clothes and going to the bazar, as was his wont, took what the occasion required and returned home. He found her weeping; but when she saw him she checked herself and, smiling through her tears, said, “Thou hast desolated me, O beloved of my heart. By Allah, this hour of absence hath been to me like a year!8 I have explained to thee my condition in the excess of my eager love for thee; so come now near me, and forget the past and have thy will of me.” But he interrupted her crying, “I seek refuge with Allah! This thing may never be. How shall the dog sit in the lion’s stead? What is the lord’s is unlawful to the slave!” So he with-drew from her, and sat down on a corner of the mat. Her passion for him increased with his forbearance; so she seated herself by his side and caroused and played with him, till the two were flushed with wine, and she was mad for her own dishonour. Then she sang these verses,
“The lover’s heart is like to break in twain:
Till when these coy denials ah! till when?
O thou who fliest me sans fault of mine,
Gazelles are wont at times prove tame to men:
Absence, aversion, distance and disdain,
How shall young lover all these ills sustain?”
Thereupon Ghanim wept and she wept at his weeping, and they ceased not drinking till nightfall, when he rose and spread two beds, each in its place. “For whom is this second bed?” asked she, and he answered her, “One is for me and the other is for thee: from this night forth we must not sleep save thus, for that which is the lord’s is unlawful to the thrall.” “O my master!” cried she, “let us have done with this, for all things come to pass by Fate and Fortune.” But he refused, and the fire was lighted in her heart and, as her longing waxed fiercer, she clung to him and cried, “By Allah, we will not sleep save side by side!” “Allah forefend!” he replied and prevailed against her and lay apart till the morning, when love and longing redoubled on her and distraction and eager thirst of passion. They abode after this fashion three full told months, which were long and longsome indeed, and every time she made advances to him, he would refuse himself and say, “Whatever belongeth to the master is unlawful to the man.” Now when time waxed tiresome and tedious to her and anguish and distress grew on her, she burst out from her oppressed heart with these verses,
“How long, rare beauty! wilt do wrong to me?
Who was it bade thee not belong to me?
With outer charms thou weddest inner grace
Comprising every point of piquancy:
Passion thou hast infused in every heart,
From eyelids driven sleep by deputy:
Erst was (I wet) the spray made thin of leaf.
O Cassia spray! Unlief thy sin I see:9
The hart erst hunted I: how is ‘t I spy
The hunter hunted (fair my hart!) by thee?
Wondrouser still I tell thee aye that I
Am trapped while never up to trap thou be!
Ne’er grant my prayer! For if I grudge thyself
To thee, I grudge my me more jealously
And cry so long as life belong to me,
Rare beauty how, how long this wrong to me?”
They abode in this state a long time, and fear kept Ghanim aloof from her. So far concerning these two; but as regards the Lady Zubaydah, when, in the Caliph’s absence she had done this deed by Kut al-Kulub she became perplexed, saying to herself, “What shall I tell my cousin when he comes back and asks for her? What possible answer can I make to him?” Then she called an old woman, who was about her and discovered her secret to her saying, “How shall I act seeing that Kut al-Kulub died by such untimely death?” “O my lady,” quoth the old crone, “the time of the Caliph’s return is near; so do thou send for a carpenter and bid him make thee a figure of wood in the form of a corpse. We will dig a grave for it midmost the palace and there bury it: then do thou build an oratory over it and set therein lighted candles and lamps, and order each and every in the palace to be clad in black.10 Furthermore command thy handmaids and eunuchs as soon as they know of the Caliph’s returning from his journey, to spread straw over the vestibule floors and, when the Commander of the Faithful enters and asks what is the matter, let them say:— Kut al-Kulub is dead, and may Allah abundantly compensate thee for the loss of her!11; and, for the high esteem in which she was held of our mistress, she hath buried her in her own palace. When he hears this he will weep and it shall be grievous to him; then will he cause perfections of the Koran to be made for her and he will watch by night at her tomb. Should he say to himself, ‘Verily Zubaydah, the daughter of my uncle, hath compassed in her jealousy the death of Kut al-Kulub’; or, if love longing overcome him and he bid her be taken out of her tomb, fear thou not; for when they dig down and come to the image in human shape he will see it shrouded in costly grave clothes; and, if he wish to take off the winding sheet that he may look upon her, do thou forbid him or let some other forbid him, saying, ‘The sight of her nakedness is unlawful.’ The fear of the world to come will restrain him and he will believe that she is dead and will restore the figure to its place and thank thee for thy doings; and thus thou shalt escape, please Almighty Allah, from this slough of despond.” When the Lady Zubaydah heard her words, she commended the counsel and gave her a dress of honour and a large sum of money, ordering her to do all she had said. So the old woman set about the business forthright and bade the carpenter make her the afore said image; and, as soon as it was finished, she brought it to the Lady Zubaydah, who shrouded it and buried it and built a sepulchre over it, wherein they lighted candles and lamps, and laid down carpets about the tomb. Moreover she put on black and she spread abroad in the Harim that Kut al-Kulub was dead. After a time the Caliph returned from his journey and went up to the palace, thinking only of Kut al-Kulub. He saw all the pages and eunuchs and handmaids habited in black, at which his heart fluttered with extreme fear; and, when he went in to the Lady Zubaydah, he found her also garbed in black. So he asked the cause of this and they gave him tidings of the death of Kut al-Kulub, whereon he fell a swooning. As soon as he came to himself, he asked for her tomb, and the Lady Zubaydah said to him, “Know, O Prince of the Faithful, that for especial honour I have buried her in my own palace.” Then he repaired in his travelling garb12 to the tomb that he might wail over her, and found the carpets spread and the candles and lamps lighted. When he saw this, he thanked Zubaydah for her good deed and abode perplexed, halting between belief and unbelief till at last suspicion overcame him and he gave order to open the grave and take out the body. When he saw the shroud and would have removed it to look upon her, the fear of Allah Almighty restrained him, and the old woman (taking advantage of the delay) said, “Restore her to her place.” Then he sent at once for Fakirs and Koran readers, and caused perfections to be made over her tomb and sat by the side of the grave, weeping till he fainted; and he continued to frequent the tomb and sit there for a whole month — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 An Eastern dislikes nothing more than drinking in a dim dingy place: the brightest lights seem to add to his “drinkitite.”
2 He did not sleep with her because he suspected some palace-mystery which suggested prudence, she also had her reasons.
3 This as called in Egypt “Allah.” (Lane M. E. chaps. i.)
4 It would be a broad ribbon-like band upon which the letters could be worked.
5 In the Arab. “he cried.” These “Yes, Yes!” and “No! No!” trifles are very common amongst the Arabs.
6 Arab. “Maragha” lit. rubbed his face on them like a fawning dog. Ghanim is another “softy” lover, a favourite character in Arab tales; and by way of contrast, the girl is masterful enough.
7 Because the Abbaside Caliphs descend from Al–Abbas, paternal uncle of Mohammed, text means more explicitly, “O descendant of the Prophet’s uncle!”
8 The most terrible part of a belle passion in the East is that the beloved will not allow her lover leave of absence for an hour.
9 It is hard to preserve these wretched puns. In the original we have “O spray (or branch) of capparis-shrub (aráki) which has been thinned of leaf and fruit (tujna, i.e., whose fruit, the hymen, has been plucked before and not by me) I see thee (aráka) against me sinning (tajní).
10 Apparently the writer forgets that the Abbaside banners and dress were black, originally a badge of mourning for the Imám Ibrahim bin Mohammed put to death by the Ommiade Caliph Al–Marwan. The modern Egyptian mourning, like the old Persian, is indigo-blue of the darkest; but, as before noted, the custom is by no means universal.
11 Koran, chaps. iv. In the East as elsewhere the Devil quotes Scripture.
12 A servant returning from a journey shows his master due honour by appearing before him in travelling suit and uncleaned.
Last updated Monday, September 7, 2015 at 12:07