The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

When it was the Two Hundred and Fifty-seventh Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the young lady rejoined to Ala al-Din, “And when they send thee at an early hour a serjeant of the Ecclesiastical–Court, and the Kazi and my father bid thee divorce me, do thou reply, By what law is it lawful and right that I should marry at nightfall and divorce in the morning? Then kiss the Kazi’s hand and give him a present, and in like manner kiss the Assessors’ hands and give each of them ten gold pieces. So they will all speak with thee, and if they ask thee, ‘Why dost thou not divorce her and take the thousand dinars and the mule and suit of clothes, according to contract duly contracted?’ do thou answer, ‘Every hair of her head is worth a thousand ducats to me and I will never put her away, neither will I take a suit of clothes nor aught else.’ And if the Kazi say to thee, ‘Then pay down the marriage-settlement,’ do thou reply, ‘I am short of cash at this present;’ whereupon he and the Assessors will deal in friendly fashion with thee and allow thee time to pay.” Now whilst they were talking, behold, the Kazi’s officer knocked at the door; so Ala al-Din went down and the man said to him, “Come, speak the Efendi,1 for thy fatherinlaw summoneth thee.” So Ala al-Din gave him five dinars and said to him, “O Summoner, by what law am I bound to marry at nightfall and divorce next morning?” The serjeant answered, “By no law of ours at all, at all; and if thou be ignorant of the religious law, I will act as thine advocate.” Then they went to the divorce court and the Kazi said to Ala al-Din, “Why dost thou not put away the woman and take what falleth to thee by the contract?” Hearing this he went up to the Kazi; and, kissing his hand, put fifty dinars in it and said, “O our lord the Kazi, by what law is it lawful and right that I should marry at nightfall and divorce in the morning in my own despite?” The Kazi, answered, “Divorce as a compulsion and by force is sanctioned by no school of the Moslems.” Then said the young lady’s father, “If thou wilt not divorce, pay me the ten thousand dinars, her marriage-settlement.” Quoth Ala al-Din, “Give me a delay of three days;” but the Kazi, said, “Three days is not time enough; he shall give thee ten.” So they agreed to this and bound him after ten days either to pay the dowry or to divorce her. And after consenting he left them and taking meat and rice and clarified butter2 and what else of food he needed, returned to the house and told the young woman all that had passed; whereupon she said, “‘Twixt night and day, wonders may display; and Allah bless him for his say:—

‘Be mild when rage shall come to afflict thy soul;

Be patient when calamity breeds ire;

Lookye, the Nights are big with child by Time,

Whose pregnancy bears wondrous things and dire.’”

Then she rose and made ready food and brought the tray, and they two ate and drank and were merry and mirthful. Presently Ala al-Din besought her to let him hear a little music; so she took the lute and played a melody that had made the hardest stone dance for glee, and the strings cried out in present ecstacy, “O Loving One!’’;3 after which she passed from the adagio into the presto and a livelier measure. As they thus spent their leisure in joy and jollity and mirth and merriment, behold, there came a knocking at the door and she said to him; “Go see who is at the door.” So he went down and opened it and finding four Dervishes standing without, said to them, “What want ye?” They replied, “O my lord, we are foreign and wandering religious mendicants, the viands of whose souls are music and dainty verse, and we would fain take our pleasure with thee this night till morning cloth appear, when we will wend our way, and with Almighty Allah be thy reward; for we adore music and there is not one of us but knoweth by heart store of odes and songs and ritornellos.”4 He answered, “There is one I must consult;” and he returned and told Zubaydah who said, “Open the door to them.” So he brought them up and made them sit down and welcomed them; then he fetched them food, but they would not eat and said, “O our lord, our meat is to repeat Allah’s name in our hearts and to hear music with our ears: and bless him who saith,

‘Our aim is only converse to enjoy,

And eating joyeth only cattle-kind.’5

And just now we heard pleasant music in thy house, but when we entered, it ceased; and fain would we know whether the player was a slave-girl, white or black, or a maiden of good family.” He answered, “It was this my wife,” and told them all that had befallen him, adding, “Verily my father-in-law hath bound me to pay a marriage-settlement of ten thousand dinars for her, and they have given me ten days’ time.” Said one of the Dervishes, “Have no care and think of naught but good; for I am Shaykh of the Convent and have forty Dervishes under my orders. I will presently collect from them the ten thousand dinars and thou shalt pay thy father-in-law the wedding settlement. But now bid thy wife make us music that we may be gladdened and pleasured; for to some folk music is meat, to others medicine and to others refreshing as a fan.” Now these four Dervishes were none other than the Caliph Harun al-Rashid, his Wazir Ja’afar the Barmecide, Abu al-Nowás al-Hasan son of Háni6 and Masrur the sworder; and the reason of their coming to the house was that the Caliph, being heavy at heart, had summoned his Minister and said, “O Wazir! it is our will to go down to the city and pace its streets, for my breast is sore straitened.” So they all four donned dervish dress and went down and walked about, till they came to that house where, hearing music, they were minded to know the cause. They spent the night in joyance and harmony and telling tale after tale until morning dawned, when the Caliph laid an hundred gold pieces under the prayer-carpet and all taking leave of Ala al-Din, went their way. Now when Zubaydah lifted the carpet she found beneath it the hundred dinars and she said to her husband, “Take these hundred dinars which I have found under the prayer-carpet; assuredly the Dervishes when about to leave us laid them there, without our knowledge.” So Ala al-Din took the money and, repairing to the market, bought therewith meat and rice and clarified butter and all they required. And when it was night, he lit the wax-candles and said to his wife, “The mendicants, it is true, have not brought the ten thousand dinars which they promised me; but indeed they are poor men.” As they were talking, behold, the Dervishes knocked at the door and she said, “Go down and open to them.” So he did her bidding and bringing them up, said to them, “Have you brought me the ten thousand dinars you promised me?” They answered, “We have not been able to collect aught thereof as yet; but fear nothing: Inshallah, tomorrow we will compound for thee some alchemical-cookery. But now bid thy wife play us her very best pieces and gladden our hearts for we love music.” So she took her lute and made them such melody that had caused the hardest rocks to dance with glee; and they passed the night in mirth and merriment, converse and good cheer, till morn appeared with its sheen and shone, when the Caliph laid an hundred gold pieces under the prayer-carpet and all, after taking leave of Ala al-Din, went their way. And they ceased not to visit him thus every night for nine nights; and each morning the Caliph put an hundred dinars under the prayer carpet, till the tenth night, when they came not. Now the reason of their failure to come was that the Caliph had sent to a great merchant, saying to him, “Bring me fifty loads of stuffs, such as come from Cairo,”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 This use of a Turkish title “Efendi” being=our esquire, and inferior to a Bey, is a rank anachronism, probably of the copyist.

2 Arab. “Samn”=Hind. “Ghi” butter melted, skimmed and allowed to cool.

3 Arab. “Ya Wadúd,” a title of the Almighty: the Mac. Edit. has “O David!”

4 Arab. “Muwashshahah;” a complicated stanza of which specimens have occurred. Mr. Payne calls it a “ballad,” which would be a “Kunyat al-Zidd.”

5 Arab. “Baháim” (plur. of Bahímah=Heb. Behemoth), applied in Egypt especially to cattle. A friend of the “Oppenheim” house, a name the Arabs cannot pronounce was known throughout Cairo as “Jack al-baháim” (of the cows).

6 Lit. “The father of side-locks,” a nickname of one of the Tobba Kings. This “Hasan of: the ringlets” who wore two long pig-tails hanging to his shoulders was the Rochester or Piron of his age: his name is still famous for brilliant wit, extempore verse and the wildest debauchery. D’Herbelot’s sketch of his life is very meagre. His poetry has survived to the present day and (unhappily) we shall hear more of “Abu Nowás.” On the subject of these patronymics Lane (Mod. Egypt, chaps. iv.) has a strange remark that “Abu Dáúd i’ not the Father of Dáúd or Abu Ali the Father of Ali, but whose Father is (or was) Dáúd or Ali.” Here, however, he simply confounds Abu = father of (followed by a genitive), with Abu-h (for Abu-hu) = he, whose father.

When it was the Two Hundred and Fifty-eighth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Prince of True Believers said to that merchant, “Bring me fifty loads of stuffs such as come from Cairo, and let each one be worth a thousand dinars, and write on each bale its price; and bring me also a male Abyssinian slave.” The merchant did the bidding of the Caliph who committed to the slave a basin and ewer of gold and other presents, together with the fifty loads; and wrote a letter to Ala al-Din as from his father Shams al-Din and said to him, “Take these bales and what else is with them, and go to such and such a quarter wherein dwelleth the Provost of the merchants and say, ‘Where be Ala al-Din Abu al Shamat?’ till folk direct thee to his quarter and his house.” So the slave took the letter and the goods and what else and fared forth on his errand. Such was his case; but as regards Zubaydah’s cousin and first husband, he went to her father and said to him, “Come let us go to Ala al-Din and make him divorce the daughter of my uncle.” So they set out both together and, when they came to the street in which the house stood, they found fifty he mules laden with bales of stuffs, and a blackamoor riding on a she mule. So they said to him, “Whose loads are these?” He replied, “They belong to my lord Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat; for his father equipped him with merchandise and sent him on a journey to Baghdad-city; but the wild Arabs came forth against him and took his money and goods and all he had. So when the ill news reached his father, he despatched me to him with these loads, in lieu of those he had lost; besides a mule laden with fifty thousand dinars, a parcel of clothes worth a power of money, a robe of sables1 and a basin and ewer of gold.” Whereupon the lady’s father said, “He whom thou seekest is my son-in-law and I will show thee his house.” Meanwhile Ala al-Din was sitting at home in huge concern, when lo! one knocked at the door and he said, “O Zubaydah, Allah is all-knowing! but I fear thy father hath sent me an officer from the Kazi or the Chief of Police.” Quoth she, “Go down and see what it is.” So he went down; and, opening the door, found his father-in-law, the Provost of the merchants with an Abyssinian slave, dusky complexioned and pleasant of favour, riding on a mule. When the slave saw him he dismounted and kissed his hands, and Ala al-Din said, “What dost thou want?” He replied, “I am the slave of my lord Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat, son of Shams al-Din, Consul of the merchants for the land of Egypt, who hath sent me to him with this charge.” Then he gave him the letter and Ala al-Din opening it found written what followeth:2

“Ho thou my letter! when my friend shall see thee,

Kiss thou the ground and buss his sandal-shoon:

Look thou hie softly and thou hasten not,

My life and rest are in those hands so boon.

“After hearty salutations and congratulations and high estimation from Shams al-Din to his son, Abu al-Shamat. Know, O my son, that news hath reached me of the slaughter of thy men and the plunder of thy monies and goods; so I send thee herewith fifty loads of Egyptian stuffs, together with a suit of clothes and a robe of sables and a basin and ewer of gold. Fear thou no evil, and the goods thou hast lost were the ransom of thy life; so regret them not and may no further grief befall thee. Thy mother and the people of the house are doing well in health and happiness and all greet thee with abundant greetings. Moreover, O my son, it hath reached me that they have married thee, by way of intermediary, to the lady Zubaydah the lutist and they have imposed on thee a marriage-settlement of ten thousand dinars; wherefore I send thee also fifty thousand dinars by the slave Salím.”3 Now when Ala al-Din had made an end of reading the letter, he took possession of the loads and, turning to the Provost, said to him, “O my father-in-law, take the ten thousand dinars, the marriage-settlement of thy daughter Zubaydah, and take also the loads of goods and dispose of them, and thine be the profit; only return me the cost price.” He answered, “Nay, by Allah, I will take nothing; and, as for thy wife’s settlement, do thou settle the matter with her.” Then, after the goods had been brought in, they went to Zuhaydah and she said to her sire, “O my father, whose loads be these?” He said, “These belong to thy husband, Ala al-Din: his father hath sent them to him instead of those whereof the wild Arabs spoiled him. Moreover, he hath sent him fifty thousand dinars with a parcel of clothes, a robe of sables, a she mule for riding and a basin and ewer of gold. As for the marriage-settlement that is for thy recking.” Thereupon Ala al-Din rose and, opening the money box, gave her her settlement and the lady’s cousin said, “O my uncle, let him divorce to me my wife;” but the old man replied, “This may never be now; for the marriage tie is in his hand.” Thereupon the young man went out, sore afflicted and sadly vexed and, returning home, fell sick, for his heart had received its death blow; so he presently died. But as for Ala al-Din, after receiving his goods he went to the bazar and buying what meats and drinks he needed, made a banquet as usual — against the night, saying to Zubaydah, “See these lying Dervishes; they promised us and broke their promises.” Quoth she, “Thou art the son of a Consul of the merchants, yet was thy hand short of half a dirham; how then should it be with poor Dervishes?” Quoth he, “Almighty Allah hath enabled us to do without them; but if they come to us never again will I open the door to them.” She asked, “Why so, whenas their coming footsteps brought us good luck; and, moreover, they put an hundred dinars under the prayer carpet for us every night? Perforce must thou open the door to them an they come.” So when day departed with its light and in gloom came night, they lighted the wax candles and he said to her, “Rise, Zubaydah, make us music;” and behold, at this moment some one knocked at the door, and she said, “Go and look who is at the door.” So he went down and opened it and seeing the Dervishes, said, “Oh, fair welcome to the liars! Come up.” Accordingly they went up with him and he seated them and brought them the tray of food; and they ate and drank and became merry and mirthful, and presently said to him, “O my lord, our hearts have been troubled for thee: what hath passed between thee and thy father-in-law?” He answered, “Allah compensated us beyond and above our desire.” Rejoined they, “By Allah, we were in fear for thee”. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Samúr,” applied in slang language to cats and dogs, hence the witty Egyptians converted Admiral–Seymour (Lord Alcester) into “Samúr.”

2 The home-student of Arabic may take this letter as a model even in the present day; somewhat stiff and old-fashioned, but gentlemanly and courteous.

3 Arab. “Salím” (not Sé-lim) meaning the “Safe and sound.”

When it was the Two Hundred and and Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Dervishes thus addressed Ala al-Din, “By Allah, we were in fear for thee and naught kept us from thee but our lack of cash and coin.” Quoth he, “Speedy relief hath come to me from my Lord; for my father hath sent me fifty thousand dinars and fifty loads of stuffs, each load worth a thousand dinars; besides a riding-mule, a robe of sables, an Abyssinian slave and a basin and ewer of gold. Moreover, I have made my peace with my father-in-law and my wife hath become my lawful wife by my paying her settlement; so laud to Allah for that!” Presently the Caliph rose to do a necessity; whereupon Ja’afar bent him towards Ala al-Din and said, “Look to thy manners, for thou art in the presence of the Commander of the Faithful “ Asked he, “How have I failed in good breeding before the Commander of the Faithful, and which of you is he?” Quoth Ja’afar, “He who went out but now to make water is the Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, and I am the Wazir Ja’afar; and this is Masrur the executioner and this other is Abu Nowas Hasan bin Hani.. And now, O Ala al-Din, use thy reason and bethink thee how many days’ journey it is between Cairo and Baghdad.” He replied, “Five and forty days’ journey;” and Ja’afar rejoined, “Thy baggage was stolen only ten days ago; so how could the news have reached thy father, and how could he pack thee up other goods and send them to thee five-and-forty days’ journey in ten days’ time?” Quoth Ala al-Din, “O my lord and whence then came they?” “From the Commander of the Faithful,” replied Ja’afar, “of his great affection for thee.” As they were speaking, lo! the Caliph entered and Ala al-Din rising, kissed the ground before him and said, “Allah keep thee, O Prince of the Faithful, and give thee long life; and may the lieges never lack thy bounty and beneficence!” Replied the Caliph, “O Ala al-Din, let Zubaydah play us an air, by way of house-warming1 for thy deliverance.” Thereupon she played him on the lute so rare a melody that the very stones shook for glee, and the strings cried out for present ecstasy, “O Loving One!” They spent the night after the merriest fashion, and in the morning the Caliph said to Ala al-Din, “Come to the Divan to-morrow.” He answered, “Hearkening and obedience, O Commander of the Faithful; so Allah will and thou be well and in good case!” On the morrow he took ten trays and, putting on each a costly present, went up with them to the palace; and the Caliph was sitting on the throne when, behold, Ala al-Din appeared at the door of the Divan, repeating these two couplets,

“Honour and Glory wait on thee each morn!

Thine enviers’ noses in the dust be set!

Ne’er cease thy days to be as white as snow;

Thy foeman’s days to be as black as jet!”

“Welcome, O Ala Al–Din!” said the Caliph, and he replied, “O Commander of the Faithful, the Prophet (whom Allah bless and assain!)2 was wont to accept presents; and these ten trays, with what is on them, are my offering to thee.” The Caliph accepted his gift and, ordering him a robe of honour, made him Provost of the merchants and gave him a seat in the Divan. And as he was sitting behold, his father-in-law came in and, seeing Ala al-Din seated in his place and clad in a robe of honour, said to the Caliph, “O King of the age, why is this man sitting in my place and wearing this robe of honour?” Quoth the Caliph, “I have made him Provost of the merchants, for offices are by investiture and not in perpetuity, and thou art deposed.” Answered the merchant, “Thou hast done well, O Commander of the Faithful, for he is ours and one of us. Allah make the best of us the managers of our affairs! How many a little one hath become great!” Then the Caliph wrote Ala al-Din a Firman3 of investiture and gave it to the Governor who gave it to the crier,4 and the crier made proclamation in the Divan saying, “None is Provost of the merchants but Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat, and his word is to be heard, and he must be obeyed with due respect paid, and he meriteth homage and honour and high degree!” Moreover, when the Divan broke up, the Governor went down with the crier before Ala Al–Din!” and the crier repeated the proclamation and they carried Ala al-Din through the thoroughfares of Baghdad, making proclamation of his dignity. Next day, Ala al-Din opened a shop for his slave Salim and set him therein, to buy and sell, whilst he himself rode to the palace and took his place in the Caliph’s Divan. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 Arab. “Haláwah”=sweetmeat, meaning an entertainment such as men give to their friends after sickness or a journey. it is technically called as above, “The Sweetmeat of Safety.”

2 Arab. “Salát” which from Allah means mercy, from the Angels intercession and pardon; and from mankind blessing. Concerning the specific effects of blessing the Prophet, see Pilgrimage (ii. 70). The formula is often slurred over when a man is in a hurry to speak: an interrupting friend will say “ Bless the Prophet!” and he does so by ejaculating “Sa’am.”

3 Persian, meaning originally a command: it is now applied to a Wazirial-order as opposed to the “ Irádah,” the Sultan’s order.

4 Arab. “ Mashá‘ilí” lit. the cresses-bearer who has before appeared as hangman.

When it was the Two Hundred and Sixtieth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ala al-Din rode to the palace and took his place in the Caliph’s Divan. Now it came to pass one day, when he sat in his stead as was his wont, behold, one said to the Caliph, “O Commander of the Faithful, may thy head survive such an one the cup-companion!; for he is gone to the mercy of Almighty Allah, but be thy life prolonged!”1 Quoth the Caliph, “Where is Ala al-Din Abu al-al-Shamat?” So he went up to the Commander of the Faithful, who at once clad him in a splendid dress of honour and made him his boon-companion; appointing him a monthly pay and allowance of a thousand dinars. He continued to keep him company till, one day, as he sat in the Divan, according to his custom attending upon the Caliph, lo and behold! an Emir came up with sword and shield in hand and said, “O Commander of the Faithful, may thy head long outlive the Head of the Sixty, for he is dead this day;” whereupon the Caliph ordered Ala al-Din a dress of honour and made him Chief of the Sixty, in place of the other who had neither wife nor son nor daughter. So Ala al-Din laid hands on his estate and the Caliph said to him, “Bury him in the earth and take all he hath left of wealth and slaves and handmaids.”2 Then he shook the handkerchief 3 and dismissed the Divan, whereupon Ala al-Din went forth, attended by Ahmad al-Danaf, captain of the right, and Hasan Shúmán, captain of the left, riding at his either stirrup, each with his forty men.4 Presently, he turned to Hasan Shuman and his men and said to them, “Plead ye for me with the Captain Ahmad al-Danaf that he please to accept me as his son by covenant before Allah.” And Ahmad assented, saying, “I and my forty men will go before thee to the Divan every morning.” Now after this Ala al-Din continued in the Caliph’s service many days; till one day it chanced that he left the Divan and returning home, dismissed Ahmad al-Danaf and his men and sat down with his wife Zubaydab, the lute-player, who lighted the wax candles and went out of the room upon an occasion. Suddenly he heard a loud shriek; so he rose up and running in haste to see what was the matter, found that it was his wife who had cried out. She was lying at full length on the ground and, when he put his hand to her breast, he found her dead. Now her father’s house faced that of Ala al-Din, and he, hearing the shriek, came in and said, “What is the matter, O my lord Ala al-Din?” He replied, “O my father, may thy head outlive thy daughter Zubaydah! But, O my father, honour to the dead is burying them.” So when the morning dawned, they buried her in the earth and her husband and father condoled with and mutually consoled each other. Thus far concerning her; but as regards Ala al-Din he donned mourning dress and declined the Divan, abiding tearful-eyed and heavy-hearted at home. After a while, the Caliph said to Ja’afar, “O Watir, what is the cause of Ala al-Din’s absence from the Divan?” The Minister answered, “O Commander of the Faithful, he is in mourning for his wife Zubaydah; and is occupied in receiving those who come to console him;” and the Caliph said, “It behoveth us to pay him a visit of condolence.” “I hear and I obey,” replied Ja’afar. So they took horse, the Caliph and the Minister and a few attendants, and rode to Ala al-Din’s house and, as he was sitting at home, behold, the party came in upon him; whereupon he rose to receive them and kissed the ground before the Caliph, who said to him, “Allah make good thy loss to thee!” Answered Ala Al–Din, “May Allah preserve thee to us, O Commander of the Faithful!” Then said the Caliph, “O Ala al-Din, why hast thou absented thyself from the Divan?” And he replied, “Because of my mourning for my wife, Zubaydah, O Commander of the Faithful.” The Caliph rejoined, “Put away grief from thee: verily she is dead and gone to the mercy of Almighty Allah and mourning will avail thee nothing; no, nothing.” But Ala al-Din said “O Commander of the Faithful, I shall never leave mourning for her till I die and they bury me by her side.” Quoth the Caliph, “In Allah is compensation for every decease, and neither device nor riches can deliver from death; and divinely gifted was he who said,

‘All sons of woman, albe long preserved,

Are borne upon the bulging bier some day.5

How then shall ‘joy man joy or taste delight,

Upon whose cheeks shall rest the dust and clay?’”

When the Caliph had made an end of condoling with him, he charged him not to absent himself from the Divan and returned to his palace. And Ala Al–Din, after a last sorrowful night, mounted early in the morning and, riding to the court, kissed the ground before the Commander of the Faithful who made a movement if rising from the throne6 to greet and welcome him; and bade him take his appointed place in the Divan, saying, “O Ala al-Din, thou art my guest to-night.” So presently he carried him into his serraglio and calling a slave-girl named Kút al-Kulúb, said to her, “Ala al-Din had a wife called Zubaydah, who used to sing to him and solace him of cark and care; but she is gone to the mercy of Almighty Allah, and now I would have thee play him an air upon the lute,”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 Another polite formula for announcing a death.

2 As he died heirless the property lapsed to the Treasury.

3This shaking the kerchief is a signal to disperse and the action suggests its meaning. Thus it is used in an opposite sense to “throwing the kerchief,” a pseudo-Oriental practice whose significance is generally understood in Europe.

4 The body-guard being of two divisions.

5 Arab. “Hadbá,” lit. “hump-backed;” alluding to the Badawi bier; a pole to which the corpse is slung (Lane). It seems to denote the protuberance of the corpse when placed upon the bier which before was flat. The quotation is from Ka’ab’s Mantle–Poem (Burdah v. 37), “Every son of a female, long though his safety may be, is a day borne upon a ridged implement,” says Mr. Redhouse, explaining the latter as a “bier with a ridged lid.” Here we differ: the Janázah with a lid is not a Badawi article: the wildlings use the simplest stretcher; and I would translate the lines,

“The son of woman, whatso his career

One day is borne upon the gibbous bier.”

6 This is a high honour to any courtier.

When it was the Two Hundred and Sixty-first Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph said to the damsel Kut al-Kulub, “I would have thee play him upon the lute an air, of fashion sweet and rare, that he may be solaced of his cark and care.” So she rose and made sweet music; and the Caliph said to Ala al-Din, “What sayst thou of this damsel’s voice?” He replied, “Verily, O Commander of the Faithful, Zubaydah’s voice was the finer; but she is skilled in touching the lute cunningly and her playing would make a rock dance with glee.” The Caliph asked, “Doth she please thee?’’ and he answered, “She doth, O Commander of the Faithful;” whereupon the King said, “By the life of my head and the tombs of my forefathers, she is a gift from me to thee, she and her waiting- women!” Ala al-Din fancied that the Caliph was jesting with him; but, on the morrow, the King went in to Kut al-Kulub and said to her, “I have given thee to Ala Al–Din, whereat she rejoiced, for she had seen and loved him. Then the Caliph returned from his serraglio palace to the Divan; and, calling porters, said to them, “Set all the goods of Kut al-Kulub and her waiting-women in a litter, and carry them to Ala al-Din’s home.” So they conducted her to the house and showed her into the pavilion, whilst the Caliph sat in the hall of audience till the dose of day, when the Divan broke up and he retired to his harem. Such was his case; but as regards Kut al-Kulub, when she had taken up her lodging in Ala al-Din’s mansion, she and her women, forty in all, besides the eunuchry, she called two of these caponised slaves and said to them, “Sit ye on stools, one on the right and another on the left hand of the door; and, when Ala al-Din cometh home, both of you kiss his hands and say to him, “Our mistress Kut al-Kulub requesteth thy presence in the pavilion, for the Caliph hath given her to thee, her and her women.” They answered, “We hear and obey;” and did as she bade them. So, when Ala al-Din returned, he found two of the Caliph’s eunuchs sitting at the door and was amazed at the matter and said to himself, “Surely, this is not my own house; or else what can have happened?” Now when the eunuchs saw him, they rose to him and, kissing his hands, said to him, “We are of the Caliph’s household and slaves to Kut al-Kulub, who saluteth thee, giving thee to know that the Caliph hath bestowed her on thee, her and her women, and requesteth thy presence.” Quoth Ala al-Din, “Say ye to her, ‘Thou art welcome; but so long as thou shalt abide with me, I will not enter the pavilion wherein thou art, for what was the master’s should not become the man’s;’ and furthermore ask her, ‘What was the sum of thy day’s expenditure in the Caliph’s palace?’” So they went in and did his errand to her, and she answered, “An hundred dinars a day;” whereupon quoth he to himself, “There was no need for the Caliph to give me Kut al-Kulub, that I should be put to such expense for her; but there is no help for it.” So she abode with him awhile and he assigned her daily an hundred dinars for her maintenance; till, one day, he absented himself from the Divan and the Caliph said to Ja’afar, “O Watir, I gave not Kut al-Kulub unto Ala al-Din but that she might console him for his wife; why, then, doth he still hold aloof from us?” Answered Ja’afar, “O Commander of the Faithful, he spake sooth who said, ‘Whoso findeth his fere, forgetteth his friends.’” Rejoined the Caliph, “Haply he hath not absented himself without excuse, but we will pay him a visit.” Now some days before this, Ala al-Din had said to Ja’afar, “I complained to the Caliph of my grief and mourning for the loss of my wife Zubaydah and he gave me Kut al-Kulub;” and the Minister replied, “Except he loved thee, he had not given her to thee. Say hast thou gone in unto her, O Ala al-Din?” He rejoined, “No, by Allah! I know not her length from her breadth.” He asked “And why?” and he answered, “O Wazir, what befitteth the lord befitteth not the liege.” Then the Caliph and Ja’afar disguised themselves and went privily to visit Ala al-Din; but he knew them and rising to them kissed the hands of the Caliph, who looked at him and saw signs of sorrow in his face. So he said to him, “O Al–Din, whence cometh this sorrow wherein I see thee? Hast thou not gone in unto Kut al-Kulub?” He replied, “O Commander of the Faithful, what befitteth the lord befitteth not the thrall. No, as yet I have not gone in to visit her nor do I know her length from her breadth; so pray quit me of her.” Quoth the Caliph, “I would fain see her and question her of her case;” and quoth Ala al-Din, “I hear and I obey, O Commander of the Faithful.” So the Caliph went in — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Sixty-second Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph went in to Kut al-Kulub, who rose to him on sighting him and kissed the ground between his hands; when he said to her, “Hath Ala al-Din gone in unto thee?” and she answered, “No, O Commander of the Faithful, I sent to bid him come, but he would not.” So the Caliph bade carry her back to the Harim and saying to Ala Al–Din, “Do not absent thyself from us,” returned to his palace. Accordingly, next morning, Ala Al–Din, mounted and rode to the Divan, where he took his seat as Chief of the Sixty. Presently the Caliph ordered his treasurer to give the Wazir Ja’afar ten thousand dinars and said when his order was obeyed, “I charge thee to go down to the bazar where handmaidens are sold and buy Ala Al–Din, a slave-girl with this sum.” So in obedience to the King, Ja’afar took Ala al-Din and went down with him to the bazar. Now as chance would have it, that very day, the Emir Khálid, whom the Caliph had made Governor of Baghdad, went down to the market to buy a slave-girl for his son and the cause of his going was that his wife, Khátún by name, had borne him a son called Habzalam Bazázah,1 and the same was foul of favour and had reached the age of twenty, without learning to mount horse; albeit his father was brave and bold, a doughty rider ready to plunge into the Sea of Darkness.2 And it happened that on a certain night he had a dream which caused nocturnal-pollution whereof he told his mother, who rejoiced and said to his father, “I want to find him a wife, as he is now ripe for wedlock.” Quoth Khálid, “The fellow is so foul of favour and withal-so rank of odour, so sordid and beastly that no woman would take him as a gift.” And she answered, “We will buy him a slave-girl.” So it befell, for the accomplishing of what Allah Almighty had decreed, that on the same day, Ja’afar and Ala al-Din, the Governor Khálid and his son went down to the market and behold, they saw in the hands of a broker a beautiful girl, lovely faced and of perfect shape, and the Wazir said to him, “O broker, ask her owner if he will take a thousand dinars for her.” And as the broker passed by the Governor with the slave, Hahzalam Bazazah cast at her one glance of the eyes which entailed for himself one thousand sighs; and he fell in love with her and passion got hold of him and he said, “O my father, buy me yonder slave-girl.” So the Emir called the broker, who brought the girl to him, and asked her her name. She replied, “My name is Jessamine;” and he said to Hahzalam Bazazah, “O my son, as she please thee, do thou bid higher for her.” Then he asked the broker, “What hath been bidden for her?” and he replied, “A thousand dinars.” Said the Governor’s son, “She is mine for a thousand pieces of gold and one more;” and the broker passed on to Ala al-Din who bid two thousand dinars for her; and as often as the Emir’s son bid another dinar, Ala al-Din bid a thousand. The ugly youth was vexed at this and said, “O broker! who is it that outbiddeth me for the slave-girl?” Answered the broker, “It is the Wazir Ja’afar who is minded to buy her for Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat.” And Ala al-Din continued till he brought her price up to ten thousand dinars, and her owner was satisfied to sell her for that sum. Then he took the girl and said to her, “I give thee thy freedom for the love of Almighty Allah;” and forthwith wrote his contract of marriage with her and carried her to his house. Now when the broker returned, after having received his brokerage, the Emir’s son summoned him and said to him, “Where is the girl?” Quoth he, “She was bought for ten thousand dinars by Ala al-Din, who hath set her free and married her.” At this the young man was greatly vexed and cast down and, sighing many a sigh, returned home, sick for love of the damsel; and he threw himself on his bed and refused food, for love and longing were sore upon him. Now when his mother saw him in this plight, she said to him, “Heaven assain thee, O my son! What aileth thee?” And he answered, “Buy me Jessamine, O my mother.” Quoth she, “When the flower-seller passeth I will buy thee a basketful of jessamine.” Quoth he, “It is not the jessamine one smells, but a slave-girl named Jessamine, whom my father would not buy for me.” So she said to her husband, “Why and wherefore didest thou not buy him the girl?” and he replied, “What is fit for the lord is not fit for the liege and I have no power to take her: no less a man bought her than Ala Al–Din, Chief of the Sixty.” Then the youth’s weakness redoubled upon him, till he gave up sleeping and eating, and his mother bound her head with the fillets of mourning. And while in her sadness she sat at home, lamenting over her son, behold, came in to her an old woman, known as the mother of Ahmad Kamákim3 the arch-thief, a knave who would bore through a middle wall and scale the tallest of the tall and steal the very kohl off the eye-ball.4 From his earliest years he had been given to these malpractices, till they made him Captain of the Watch, when he stole a sum of money; and the Chief of Police, coming upon him in the act, carried him to the Caliph, who bade put him to death on the common execution-ground.5 But he implored protection of the Wazir whose intercession the Caliph never rejected, so he pleaded for him with the Commander of the Faithful who said, “How canst thou intercede for this pest of the human race?” Ja’afar answered, “O Commander of the Faithful, do thou imprison him; whoso built the first jail was a sage, seeing that a jail is the grave of the living and a joy for the foe.” So the Caliph bade lay him in bilboes and write thereon, “Appointed to remain here until death and not to be loosed but on the corpse washer’s bench;” and they cast him fettered into limbo. Now his mother was a frequent visitor to the house of the Emir Khálid, who was Governor and Chief of Police; and she used to go in to her son in jail and say to him, “Did I not warn thee to turn from thy wicked ways?’’6 And he would always answer her, “Allah decreed this to me; but, O my mother, when thou visitest the Emir’s wife make her intercede for me with her husband.” So when the old woman came into the Lady Khatun, she found her bound with the fillets of mourning and said to her, “Wherefore dost thou mourn?” She replied, “For my son Habzalam Bazazah;” and the old woman exclaimed, “Heaven assain thy son!; what hath befallen him?” So the mother told her the whole story, and she said, “What thou say of him who should achieve such a feat as would save thy son?” Asked the lady, “And what feat wilt thou do?” Quoth the old woman, “I have a son called Ahmad Kamakim, the arch-thief, who lieth chained in jail and on his bilboes is written, ‘Appointed to remain till death’; so do thou don thy richest clothes and trick thee out with thy finest jewels and present thyself to thy husband with an open face and smiling mien; and when he seeketh of thee what men seek of women, put him off and baulk him of his will and say, ‘By Allah, ’tis a strange thing! When a man desireth aught of his wife he dunneth her till she doeth it; but if a wife desire aught of her husband, he will not grant it to her.’ Then he will say, ‘What dost thou want?’; and do thou answer, ‘First swear to grant my request.’ If he swear to thee by his head or by Allah, say to him, ‘Swear to me the oath of divorce’, and do not yield to him, except he do this. And whenas he hath sworn to thee the oath of divorce, say to him, ‘Thou keepest in prison a man called Ahmad Kamakim, and he hath a poor old mother, who hath set upon me and who urgeth me in the matter and who saith, ‘Let thy husband intercede for him with the Caliph, that my son may repent and thou gain heavenly guerdon.’” And the Lady Khatun replied, “I hear and obey.” So when her husband came into her — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 “Khatun” in Turk. means any lady: mistress, etc., and follows the name, e.g. Fátimah Khatun. Habzalam Bazazah is supposed to be a fanciful compound, uncouth as the named; the first word consisting of “Habb” seed, grain; and “Zalam” of Zulm=seed of tyranny. Can it be a travesty of “Absalom” (Ab Salám, father of peace)? Lane (ii. 284) and Payne (iii. 286) prefer Habazlam and Hebezlem.

2 Or night. A metaphor for rushing into peril.

3 Plur. of kumkum, cucurbite, gourd-shaped vessel, jar.

4 A popular exaggeration for a very expert thief.

5 Arab. “Buka’at Ad-bum”: lit. the “low place of blood” (where it stagnates): so Al–Buká‘ah = Cœlesyria.

6 That common and very unpleasant phrase, full of egotism and self-esteem, “I told you so,” is even more common in the naïve East than in the West. In this case the son’s answer is far superior to the mother’s question.

When it was the Two Hundred and Sixty-third Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Governor came in to his wife, who spoke to him as she had been taught and made him swear the divorce-oath before she would yield to his wishes. He lay with her that night and, when morning dawned, after he had made the Ghusl-ablution and prayed the dawn-prayer, he repaired to the prison and said, “O Ahmad Kamakim, O thou arch-thief, dost thou repent of thy works?”; whereto he replied, “I do indeed repent and turn to Allah and say with heart and tongue, ‘I ask pardon of Allah.’” So the Governor took him out of jail and carried him to the Court (he being still in bilboes) and, approaching the Caliph, kissed ground before him. Quoth the King, “O Emir Khálid, what seekest thou?”; whereupon he brought forward Ahmad Kamakim, shuffling and tripping in his fetters, and the Caliph said to him, “What! art thou yet alive, O Kamakim?” He replied, “O Commander of the Faithful, the miserable are long-lived.” Quoth the Caliph to the Emir, “Why hast thou brought him hither?”; and quoth he, “O Commander of the Faithful, he hath a poor old mother cut off from the world who hath none but this son and she hath had recourse to thy slave, imploring him to intercede with thee to strike off his chains, for he repenteth of his evil courses; and to make him Captain of the Watch as before.” The Caliph asked Ahmad Kamakim, “Doss thou repent of thy sins?” “I do indeed repent me to Allah, O Commander of the Faithful,” answered he; whereupon the Caliph called for the blacksmith and made him strike off his irons on the corpse-washer’s bench.1 Moreover, he restored him to his former office and charged him to walk in the ways of godliness and righteousness. So he kissed the Caliph’s hands and, being invested with the uniform of Captain of the Watch, he went forth, whilst they made proclamation of his appointment. Now for a long time he abode in the exercise of his office, till one day his mother went in to the Governor’s wife, who said to her, “Praised be Allah who hath delivered thy son from prison and restored him to health and safety! But why dost thou not bid him contrive some trick to get the girl Jessamine for my son Hahzalam Bazazah?” “That will I,” answered she and, going out from her, repaired to her son. She found him drunk with wine and said to him, “O my son, no one caused thy release from jail but the wife of the Governor, and she would have thee find some means to slay Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat and get his slave-girl Jessamine for her son Habzalam Bazazah.” He answered, “That will be the easiest of things; and I must needs set about it this very night.” Now this was the first night of the new month, and it was the custom of the Caliph to spend that night with the Lady Zubaydah, for the setting free of a slave-girl or a Mameluke or something of the sort. Moreover, on such occasions he used to doff his royal-habit, together with his rosary and dagger-sword and royal-signet, and set them all upon a chair in the sitting-saloon: and he had also a golden lanthorn, adorned with three jewels strung on a wire of gold, by which he set great store; and he would commit all these things to the charge of the eunuchry, whilst he went into the Lady Zubaydah’s apartment. So arch-thief Ahmad Kamakin waited till midnight, when Canopus shone bright, and all creatures to sleep were dight whilst the Creator veiled them with the veil of night. Then he took his drawn sword in his right and his grappling hook in his left and, repairing to the Caliph’s sitting-saloon planted his scaling ladder and cast his grapnel on to the side of the terrace-roof; then, raising the trap-door, let himself down into the saloon, where he found the eunuchs asleep. He drugged them with hemp-fumes;2 and, taking the Caliph’s dress; dagger, rosary, kerchief, signet-ring and the lanthorn whereupon were the pearls, returned whence he came and betook himself to the house of Ala al-Din, who had that night celebrated his wedding festivities with Jessamine and had gone in unto her and gotten her with child. So arch-thief Ahmad Kamakim climbed over into his saloon and, raising one of the marble slabs from the sunken part of the floor,3 dug a hole under it and laid the stolen things therein, all save the lanthorn, which he kept for himself. Then he plastered down the marble slab as it before was, and returning whence he came, went back to his own house, saying, “I will now tackle my drink and set this lanthorn before me and quaff the cup to its light.”4 Now as soon as it was dawn of day, the Caliph went out into the sitting-chamber; and, seeing the eunuchs drugged with hemp, aroused them. Then he put his hand to the chair and found neither dress nor signet nor rosary nor dagger-sword nor kerchief nor lanthorn; whereat he was exceeding wroth and donning the dress of anger, which was a scarlet suit,5 sat down in the Divan. So the Wazir Ja’afar came forward and kissing the ground before him, said, “Allah avert all evil from the Commander of the Faithful!” Answered the Caliph, “O Wazir, the evil is passing great!” Ja’afar asked, “What has happened?” so he told him what had occurred; and, behold, the Chief of Police appeared with Ahmad Kamakim the robber at his stirrup, when he found the Commander of the Faithful sore enraged. As soon as the Caliph saw him, he said to him, “O Emir Khálid, how goes Baghdad?” And he answered, “Safe and secure.” Cried he “Thou liest!” “How so, O Prince of True Believers?” asked the Emir. So he told him the case and added, “I charge thee to bring me back all the stolen things.” Replied the Emir, “O Commander of the Faithful, the vinegar worm is of and in the vinegar, and no stranger can get at this place.”6 But the Caliph said, “Except thou bring me these things, I will put thee to death.” Quoth he, “Ere thou slay me, slay Ahmad Kamakim, for none should know the robber and the traitor but the Captain of the Watch.” Then came forward Ahmad Kamakim and said to the Caliph, “Accept my intercession for the Chief of Police, and I will be responsible to thee for the thief and will track his trail till I find him; but give me two Kazis and two Assessors for he who did this thing feareth thee not, nor cloth he fear the Governor nor any other.” Answered the Caliph, “Thou shalt have what thou wantest; but let search be made first in my palace and then in those of the Wazir and the Chief of the Sixty.” Rejoined Ahmad Kamakim, “Thou sayest well, O Commander of the Faith ful; belike the man that did this ill deed be one who hath been reared in the King’s household or in that of one of his officers.” Cried the Caliph, “As my head liveth, whosoever shall have done the deed I will assuredly put him to death, be it mine own son!” Then Ahmad Kamakim received a written warrant to enter and perforce search the houses; — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 In order to keep his oath to the letter.

2 “Tabannuj; “ literally “hemping” (drugging with hemp or henbane) is the equivalent in Arab medicine of our “anæsthetics.” These have been used in surgery throughout the East for centuries before ether and chloroform became the fashion in the civilised West.

3 Arab. “Durká‘ah,” the lower part of the floor, opposed to the “liwán” or daïs. Liwán =Al–Aywán (Arab. and Pers.) the hall (including the daïs and the sunken parts)

4 i.e. he would toast it as he would a mistress.

5 This till very late years was the custom in Persia, and Fath Ali Shah never appeared in scarlet without ordering some horrible cruelties. In Dar–For wearing a red cashmere turban was a sign of wrath and sending a blood red dress to a subject meant that he would be slain.

6 That is, this robbery was committed in the palace by some one belonging to it. References to vinegar are frequent; that of Egypt being famous in those days. “Optimum et laudatissimum acetum a Romanis habebatur Ægyptum” (Facciolati); and possibly it was sweetened: the Gesta (Tale xvii.) mentions “must and vinegar.” In Arab Proverbs, One mind by vinegar and another by wine”=each mind goes its own way, (Arab. Prov.. 628); or, “with good and bad,” vinegar being spoilt wine.

When it was the Two Hundred and Sixty-fourth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ahmad Kamakim got what he wanted, and received a written warrant to enter and perforce search the houses; so he fared forth, taking in his hand a rod1 made of bronze and copper, iron and steel, of each three equal-parts. He first searched the palace of the Caliph, then that of the Wazir Ja’afar; after which he went the round of the houses of the Chamberlains and the Viceroys till he came to that of Ala al-Din. Now when the Chief of the Sixty heard the clamour before his house, he left his wife Jessamine and went down and, opening the door, found the Master of Police without in the midst of a tumultuous crowd. So he said, “What is the matter, O Emir Khálid?” Thereupon the Chief told him the case and Ala al-Din said, “Enter my house and search it.” The Governor replied, “Pardon, O my lord; thou art a man in whom trust is reposed and Allah forfend that the trusty turn traitor!” Quoth Ala al-Din, “There is no help for it but that my house be searched.” So the Chief of Police entered, attended by the Kazi and his Assessors; whereupon Ahmad Kamakim went straight to the depressed floor of the saloon and came to the slab, under which he had buried the stolen goods and let the rod fall upon it with such violence that the marble broke in sunder and behold something glittered underneath. Then said he, “Bismillah; in the name of Allah! Mashallah; whatso Allah willeth! By the blessing of our coming a hoard hath been hit upon, wait while we go down into this hiding-place and see what is therein.” So the Kazi and Assessors looked into the hole and finding there the stolen goods, drew up a statement2 of how they had discovered them in Ala al-Din’s house, to which they set their seals. Then, they bade seize upon Ala al-Din and took his turban from his head, and officially registered all his monies and effects which were in the mansion. Meanwhile, arch-thief Ahmad Kamakim laid hands on Jessamine, who was with child by Ala al-Din, and committed her to his mother, saying, “Deliver her to Khatun, the Governor’s lady:” so the old woman took her and carried her to the wife of the Master of Police. Now as soon as Habzalam Bazazah saw her, health and heart returned to him and he arose without stay or delay and joyed with exceeding joy and would have drawn near her; but she plucks a dagger from her girdle and said, “Keep off from me, or I will kill thee and kill myself after.” Exclaimed his mother, “O strumpet, let my son have his will of thee!” But Jessamine answered “O bitch, by what law is it lawful for a woman to marry two men; and how shall the dog be admitted to the place of the lion?” With this, the ugly youth’s love-longing redoubled and he sickened for yearning and unfulfilled desire; and refusing food returned to his pillow. Then said his mother to her, “O harlot, how canst thou make me thus to sorrow for my son? Needs must I punish thee with torture, and as for Ala al-Din, he will assuredly be hanged.” “And I will die for love of him,” answered Jessamine. Then the Governor’s wife arose and stripped her of her jewels and silken raiment and, clothing her in petticoat-trousers of sack-cloth and a shift of hair-cloth, sent her down into the kitchen and made her a scullery-wench, saying, “The reward for thy constancy shall be to break up fire-wood and peel onions and set fire under the cooking-pots.” Quoth she, “I am willing to suffer all manner of hardships and servitude, but I will not suffer the sight of thy son.” However, Allah inclined the hearts of the slave-girls to her and they used to do her service in the kitchen. Such was the case with Jessamine; but as regards Ala al-Din they carried him, together with the stolen goods, to the Divan where the Caliph still sat upon his throne. And behold, the King looked upon his effects and said, “Where did ye find them?” They replied, “In the very middle of the house belonging to Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat;” whereat the Caliph was filled with wrath and took the things, but found not the lanthorn among them and said, “O Ala al-Din, where is the lanthorn?” He answered “I stole it not, I know naught of it; I never saw it; I can give no information about it!” Said the Caliph, “O traitor, how cometh it that I brought thee near unto me and thou hast cast me out afar, and I trusted in thee and thou betrayest me?” And he commanded to hang him. So the Chief of Police took him and went down with him into the city, whilst the crier preceded them proclaiming aloud and saying, “This is the reward and the least of the reward he shall receive who doth treason against the Caliphs of True Belief!” And the folk flocked to the place where the gallows stood. Thus far concerning him; but as regards Ahmad al-Danaf, Ala al-Din’s adopted father, he was sitting making merry with his followers in a garden, and carousing and pleasuring when lo! in came one of the water-carriers of the Divan and, kissing the hand of Ahmad al-Danaf, said to him, “O Captain Ahmad, O Danaf! thou sittest at thine ease with water flowing at thy feet,3 and thou knowest not what hath happened.” Asked Ahmad, “What is it?” and the other answered, “They have gone down to the gallows with thy son Ala al-Din, adopted by a covenant before Allah!” Quoth Ahmad, “What is the remedy here, O Hasan Shuuman, and what sayst thou of this?” He replied, “Assuredly Ala al-Din is innocent and this blame hath come to him from some one enemy.”4 Quoth Ahmad, “What counsellest thou?” and Hasan said, “We must rescue him, Inshallah!” Then he went to the jail and said to the gaolor, “Give us some one who deserveth death.” So he gave him one that was likest of men to Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat; and they covered his head and carried him to the place of execution between Ahmad al-Danaf and Ali al-Zaybak of Cairo.5 Now they had brought Ala al-Din to the gibbet, to hang him, but Ahmad al-Danaf came forward and set his foot on that of the hangman, who said, “Give me room to do my duty.” He replied, “O accursed, take this man and hang him in Ala al-Din’s stead; for he is innocent and we will ransom him with this fellow, even as Abraham ransomed Ishmael with the ram.”6 So the hangman seized the man and hanged him in lieu of Ala al-Din; whereupon Ahmad and Ali took Ala al-Din and carried him to Ahmad’s quarters and, when there, Ala al-Din turned to him and said, “O my sire and chief, Allah requite thee with the best of good!” Quoth he, “O Ala al-Din”— And Shahrazed perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

1 We have not heard the last of this old “dowsing rod”: the latest form of rhabdomancy is an electrical-rod invented in the United States.

2 This is the procès verbal always drawn up on such occasions.

3 The sight of running water makes a Persian long for strong drink as the sight of a fine view makes the Turk feel hungry.

4 Arab. “Min wahid aduww “ a peculiarly Egyptian or rather Cairene phrase.

5 Al–Danaf=the Distressing Sickness: the title would be Ahmad the Calamity. Al–Zaybak (the Quicksilver)=Mercury Ali Hasan “Shuuman”=a pestilent fellow. We shall meet all these worthies again and again: see the Adventures of Mercury Ali of Cairo, Night dccviii., a sequel to The Rogueries of Dalilah, Night dcxcviii.

6 For the “Sacrifice-place of Ishmael” (not Isaac) see my Pilgrimage (iii. 306). According to all Arab ideas Ishmael, being the eldest son, was the chief of the family after his father. I have noted that this is the old old quarrel between the Arabs and their cousins the Hebrews.

When it was the Two Hundred and Sixty-fifth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Calamity Ahmad cried, “O Ala al-Din, what is this deed thou hast done? The mercy of Allah be on him who said, ‘Whoso trusteth thee betray him not, e’en if thou be a traitor.’ Now the Caliph set thee in high place about him and styled thee ‘Trusty’ and ‘Faithful’; how then couldst thou deal thus with him and steal his goods?” “By the Most Great Name, O my father and chief,” replied Ala al-Din, “I had no hand in this, nor did I such deed, nor know I who did it.” Quoth Ahmad, “Of a surety none did this but a manifest enemy and whoso doth aught shall be requited for his deed; but, O Ala al-Din, thou canst sojourn no longer in Baghdad, for Kings, O my son, may not pass from one thing to another, and when they go in quest of a man, ah! longsome is his travail.” “Whither shall I go, O my chief?” asked Ala al-Din; and he answered, “O my son, I will bring thee to Alexandria, for it is a blessed place; its threshold is green and its sojourn is agreeable.” And Ala al-Din rejoined, “I hear and I obey, O my chief.” So Ahmad said to Hasan Shuuman, “Be mindful and, when the Caliph asketh for me, say, ‘He is gone touring about the provinces’.” Then, taking Ala al-Din, he went forth of Baghdad and stayed not going till they came to the outlying vineyards and gardens, where they met two Jews of the Caliph’s tax-gatherers, riding on mules. Quoth Ahmad Al–Danaf to these, “Give me the black-mail.”1 and quoth they, “Why should we pay thee black mail?” whereto he replied, “Because I am the watchman of this valley.” So they gave him each an hundred gold pieces, after which he slew them and took their mules, one of which he mounted, whilst Ala al-Din bestrode the other. Then they rode on till they came to the city of Ayás2 and put up their beasts for the night at the Khan. And when morning dawned, Ala al-Din sold his own mule and committed that of Ahmad to the charge of the door-keeper of the caravanserai, after which they took ship from Ayas port and sailed to Alexandria. Here they landed and walked up to the bazar and behold, there was a broker crying a shop and a chamber behind it for nine hundred and fifty dinars. Upon this Ala al-Din bid a thousand which the broker accepted, for the premises belonged to the Treasury; and the seller handed over to him the keys and the buyer opened the shop and found the inner parlour furnished with carpets and cushions. Moreover, he found there a store-room full of sails and masts, cordage and seamen’s chests, bags of beads and cowrie3-shells, stirrups, battle-axes, maces, knives, scissors and such matters, for the last owner of the shop had been a dealer in second-hand goods.4ook his seat in the shop and Ahmad al-Danaf said to him, “O my son, the shop and the room and that which is therein are become thine; so tarry thou here and buy and sell; and repine not at thy lot for Almighty Allah blesseth trade.” After this he abode with him three days and on the fourth he took leave of him, saying, “Abide here till I go back and bring thee the Caliph’s pardon and learn who hath played thee this trick.” Then he shipped for Ayas, where he took the mule from the inn and, returning to Baghdad met Pestilence Hasan and his followers, to whom said he, “Hath the Caliph asked after me?”; and he replied, “No, nor hast thou come to his thought.” So he resumed his service about the Caliph’s person and set himself to sniff about for news of Ala al-Din’s case, till one day he heard the Caliph say to the Watir, “See, O Ja’afar, how Ala al-Din dealt with me!” Replied the Minister, “O Commander of the Faithful, thou hast requited him with hanging and hath he not met with his reward?” Quoth he, “O Wazir, I have a mind to go down and see him hanging;” and the Wazir answered, “Do what thou wilt, O Commander of the Faithful.” So the Caliph, accompanied by Ja’afar, went down to the place of execution and, raising his eyes, saw the hanged man to be other than Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat, surnamed the Trusty, and said, “O Wazir, this is not Ala al-Din!” “How knowest thou that it is not he?” asked the Minister, and the Caliph answered, “Ala al-Din was short and this one is tall “ Quoth Ja’afar, “Hanging stretcheth.” Quoth the Caliph, “Ala al-Din was fair and this one’s face is black.” Said Ja’afar “Knowest thou not, O Commander of the Faithful, that death is followed by blackness?” Then the Caliph bade take down the body from the gallows tree and they found the names of the two Shaykhs, Abu Bakr and Omar, written on its heels5 whereupon cried the Caliph, “O Wazir, Ala al Din was a Sunnite, and this fellow is a Rejecter, a Shi’ah.” He answered, “Glory be to Allah who knoweth the hidden things, while we know not whether this was Ala al-Din or other than he.” Then the Caliph bade bury the body and they buried it; and Ala al-Din was forgotten as though he never had been. Such was his case; but as regards Habzalam Bazazah, the Emir Khálid’s son, he ceased not to languish for love and longing till he died and they joined him to the dust. And as for the young wife Jessamine, she accomplished the months of her pregnancy and, being taken with labour-pains, gave birth to a boy-child like unto the moon. And when her fellow slave-girls said to her, “What wilt thou name him?” she answered, “Were his father well he had named him; but now I will name him Aslán.”6 She gave him suck for two successive years, then weaned him, and he crawled and walked. Now it so came to pass that one day, whilst his mother was busied with the service of the kitchen, the boy went out and, seeing the stairs, mounted to the guest-chamber.7 And the Emir Khálid who was sitting there took him upon his lap and glorified his Lord for that which he had created and fashioned then closely eyeing his face, the Governor saw that he was the likest of all creatures to Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat. Presently, his mother Jessamine sought for him and finding him not, mounted to the guest-chamber, where she saw the Emir seated, with the child playing in his lap, for Allah had inclined his heart to the boy. And when the child espied his mother, he would have thrown himself upon her; but the Emir held him tight to his bosom and said to Jessamine, “Come hither, O damsel.” So she came to him, when he said to her, “Whose son is this?”; and she replied, “He is my son and the fruit of my vitals.” “And who is his father?” asked the Emir; and she answered, “His father was Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat, but now he is become thy son.” Quoth Khálid, “In very sooth Ala al-Din was a traitor.” Quoth she, “Allah deliver him from treason! the Heavens forfend and forbid that the ‘Trusty’ should be a traitor!” Then said he, “When this boy shall grow up and reach man’s estate and say to thee, ‘Who is my father?’ say to him, ‘Thou art the son of the Emir Khálid, Governor and Chief of Police.’” And she answered, “I hear and I obey.” Then he circumcised the boy and reared him with the goodliest rearing, and engaged for him a professor of law and religious science, and an expert penman who taught him to read and write; so he read the Koran twice and learnt it by heart and he grew up, saying to the Emir, “O my father!” Moreover, the Governor used to go down with him to the tilting-ground and assemble horsemen and teach the lad the fashion of fight and fray, and the place to plant lance-thrust and sabre-stroke; so that by the time he was fourteen years old, he became a valiant wight and accomplished knight and gained the rank of Emir. Now it chanced one day that Aslan fell in with Ahmad Kamakim, the arch-thief, and accompanied him as cup-companion to the tavern8 and behold, Ahmad took out the jewelled lanthorn he had stolen from the Caliph and, setting it before him, pledged the wine cup to its light, till he became drunken. So Aslan said to him, “O Captain, give me this lanthorn;” but he replied, “I cannot give it to thee.” Asked Aslan, “Why not?”; and Ahmad answered, “Because lives have been lost for it.” “Whose life?” enquired Aslan; and Ahmad rejoined, “There came hither a man who was made Chief of the Sixty; he was named Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat and he lost his life through this lanthorn.” Quoth Aslan, “And what was that story, and what brought about his death?” Quoth Ahmad Kamakim, “Thou hadst an elder brother by name Hahzalam Bazazah, and when he reached the age of sixteen and was ripe for marriage, thy father would have bought him a slave-girl named Jessamine.” And he went on to tell him the whole story from first to last of Habzalam Bazazah’s illness and what befell Ala al-Din in his innocence. When Aslan heard this, he said in thought, “Haply this slave-girl was my mother Jessamine, and my father was none other than Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat.” So the boy went out from him sorrowful, and met Calamity Ahmad, who at sight of him exclaimed, “Glory be to Him unto whom none is like!” Asked Hasan the Pestilence, “Whereat dost thou marvel, O my chief?” and Ahmad the Calamity replied, “At the make of yonder boy Aslan, for he is the likest of human creatures to Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat.” Then he called the lad and said to him, “O Aslan what is thy mother’s name?”; to which he replied, “She is called the damsel Jessamine;” and the other said, “Harkye, Aslan, be of good cheer and keep thine eyes cool and clear; for thy father was none other than Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat: but, O my son, go thou in to thy mother and question her of thy father.” He said, “Hearkening and obedience,” and, going in to his mother put the question; whereupon quoth she, “Thy sire is the Emir Khálid!” “Not so,” rejoined he, “my father was none other than Ala al-Din Abu al Shamat.” At this the mother wept and said, “Who acquainted thee with this, O my son?” And he answered “Ahmad al-Danaf, Captain of the Guard.” So she told him the whole story, saying, “O my son, the True hath prevailed and the False hath failed:9 know that Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat was indeed thy sire, but it was none save the Emir Khálid who reared thee and adopted thee as his son. And now, O my child, when thou seest Ahmad al-Danaf the captain, do thou say to him, ‘I conjure thee, by Allah, O my chief, take my blood-revenge on the murderer of my father Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat!’” So he went out from his mother — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

1 This black-mail was still paid to the Badawin of Ramlah (Alexandria) till the bombardment in 1881.

2 The famous Issus of Cilicia, now a port-village on the Gulf of Scanderoon.

3 Arab. “ Wada’á” = the concha veneris, then used as small change.

4 Arab. “Sakati”=a dealer in “castaway” articles, such es old metal,damaged goods, the pluck and feet of animals, etc.

5 The popular tale of Burckhardt’s death in Cairo was that the names of the three first Caliphs were found written upon his slipper-soles and that he was put to death by decree of the Olema. It is the merest nonsense, as the great traveller died of dysentery in the house of my old friend John Thurburn and was buried outside the Bab al-Nasr of Cairo where his tomb was restored by the late Rogers Bey (Pilgrimage i. 123).

6 Prob. a mis-spelling for Arslán, in Turk. a lion, and in slang a piastre.

7 Arab. “Maka’ad;” lit. = sitting-room.

8 Arab. “Khammárah”; still the popular term throughout Egypt for a European Hotel. It is not always intended to be insulting but it is, meaning the place where Franks meet to drink forbidden drinks.

9 A reminiscence of Mohammed who cleansed the Ka’abah of its 360 idols (of which 73 names are given by Freytag, Einleitung, etc. pp. 270, 342–57) by touching them with his staff, whereupon all fell to the ground; and the Prophet cried (Koran xvii. 84), “Truth is come, and falsehood is vanished: verily, falsehood is a thing that vanisheth” (magna est veritas, etc.). Amongst the “idols” are said to have been a statue of Abraham and the horns of the ram sacrificed in lieu of Ishmael, which (if true) would prove conclusively that the Abrahamic legend at Meccah is of ancient date and not a fiction of Al–Islam. Hence, possibly, the respect of the Judaising Tobbas of Hiwyarland for the Ka’abah. (Pilgrimage, iii. 295.)

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52