She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the woman told the King where her house was and appointed him for the same time as the Wali, the Kazi and the Wazir. Then she left him and betaking herself to a man which was a carpenter, said to him, “I would have thee make me a cabinet with four compartments one above other, each with its door for locking up. Let me know thy hire and I will give it thee.” Replied he, “My price will be four dinars; but, O noble lady and well-protected, if thou wilt vouchsafe me thy favours, I will ask nothing of thee.” Rejoined she, “An there be no help but that thou have it so, then make thou five compartments with their padlocks;” and she appointed him to bring it exactly on the day required. Said he, “It is well; sit down, O my lady, and I will make it for thee forthright, and after I will come to thee at my leisure.” So she sat down by him, whilst he fell to work on the cabinet, and when he had made an end of it she chose to see it at once carried home and set up in the sitting-chamber. Then she took four gowns and carried them to the dyer, who dyed them each of a different colour; after which she applied herself to making ready meat and drink; fruits, flowers and perfumes. Now when the appointed trysting day came, she donned her costliest dress and adorned herself and scented herself, then spread the sitting-room with various kinds of rich carpets and sat down to await who should come. And behold, the Kazi was the first to appear, devancing the rest, and when she saw him, she rose to her feet and kissed the ground before him; then, taking him by the hand, made him sit down by her on the couch and lay with him and fell to jesting and toying with him. By and by, he would have her do his desire, but she said, “O my lord, doff thy clothes and turband and assume this yellow cassock and this head-kerchief,1 whilst I bring thee meat and drink; and after thou shalt win thy will.” So saying, she took his clothes and turband and clad him in the cassock and the kerchief; but hardly had she done this, when lo! there came a knocking at the door. Asked he, “Who is that rapping at the door?” and she answered, “My husband.” Quoth the Kazi, “What is to be done, and where shall I go?” Quoth she, “Fear nothing, I will hide thee in this cabinet;” and he, “Do as seemeth good to thee.” So she took him by the hand and pushing him into the lowest compartment, locked the door upon him. Then she went to the house-door, where she found the Wali; so she bussed ground before him and taking his hand brought him into the saloon, where she made him sit down and said to him, “O my lord, this house is thy house; this place is thy place, and I am thy handmaid: thou shalt pass all this day with me; wherefore do thou doff thy clothes and don this red gown, for it is a sleeping gown.” So she took away his clothes and made him assume the red gown and set on his head an old patched rag she had by her; after which she sat by him on the divan and she sported with him while he toyed with her awhile, till he put out his hand to her. Whereupon she said to him, “O our lord, this day is thy day and none shall share in it with thee; but first, of thy favour and benevolence, write me an order for my brother’s release from gaol that my heart may be at ease.” Quoth he, “Hearkening and obedience: on my head and eyes be it!”; and wrote a letter to his treasurer, saying, “As soon as this communication shall reach thee, do thou set such an one free, without stay or delay; neither answer the bearer a word.” Then he sealed it and she took it from him, after which she began to toy again with him on the divan when, behold, some one knocked at the door. He asked, “Who is that?” and she answered, “My husband.” “What shall I do?” said he, and she, “Enter this cabinet, till I send him away and return to thee.” So she clapped him into the second compartment from the bottom and padlocked the door on him; and meanwhile the Kazi heard all they said. Then she went to the house-door and opened it, whereupon lo! the Wazir entered. She bussed the ground before him and received him with all honour and worship, saying, “O my lord, thou exaltest us by thy coming to our house; Allah never deprive us of the light of thy countenance!” Then she seated him on the divan and said to him, “O my lord, doff thy heavy dress and turband and don these lighter vestments.” So he put off his clothes and turband and she clad him in a blue cassock and a tall red bonnet, and said to him, “Erst thy garb was that of the Wazirate; so leave it to its own time and don this light gown, which is better fitted for carousing and making merry and sleep.” Thereupon she began to play with him and he with her, and he would have done his desire of her; but she put him off, saying, “O my lord, this shall not fail us.” As they were talking there came a knocking at the door, and the Wazir asked her, “Who is that?”: to which she answered, “My husband.” Quoth he, “What is to be done?” Quoth she, “Enter this cabinet, till I get rid of him and come back to thee and fear thou nothing.” So she put him in the third compartment and locked the door on him, after which she went out and opened the house-door when lo and behold! in came the King. As soon as she saw him she kissed ground before him, and taking him by the hand, led him into the saloon and seated him on the divan at the upper end. Then said she to him, “Verily, O King, thou dost us high honour, and if we brought thee to gift the world and all that therein is, it would not be worth a single one of thy steps us-wards.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1When Easterns sit down to a drinking bout, which means to get drunk as speedily and pleasantly as possible, they put off dresses of dull colours and robe themselves in clothes supplied by the host, of the brightest he may have, especially yellow, green and red of different shades. So the lady’s proceeding was not likely to breed suspicion: al — though her tastes were somewhat fantastic and like Miss Julia’s — peculiar.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the King entered the lady’s house she said to him, “Had we brought thee to gift the world and all which is therein, it would not be worth a single one of thy steps us-wards.” And when he had taken his seat upon the divan she said, “Give me leave to speak one word.” “Say what thou wilt,” answered he, and she said, “O my lord, take thine ease and doff thy dress and turband.” Now his clothes were worth a thousand dinars; and when he put them off she clad him in a patched gown, worth at the very most ten dirhams, and fell to talking and jesting with him; all this while the folk in the cabinet hearing everything that passed, but not daring to say a word. Presently, the King put his hand to her neck and sought to do his desire of her; when she said, “This thing shall not fail us, but I had first promised myself to entertain thee in this sitting-chamber, and I have that which shall content thee.” Now as they were speaking, some one knocked at the door and he asked her, “Who is that?” “My husband,” answered she, and he, “Make him go away of his own good will, or I will fare forth to him and send him away perforce.” Replied she, “Nay, O my lord, have patience till I send him away by my skilful contrivance.” “And I, how shall I do!” enquired the King; whereupon she took him by the hand and making him enter the fourth compartment of the cabinet, locked it upon him. Then she went out and opened the house-door when behold, the carpenter entered and saluted her. Quoth she, “What manner of thing is this cabinet thou hast made me?” “What aileth it, O my lady?” asked he, and she answered, “The top compartment is too strait.” Rejoined he, “Not so;” and she, “Go in thyself and see; it is not wide enough for thee.” Quoth he, “It is wide enough for four,” and entered the fifth compartment, whereupon she locked the door on him. Then she took the letter of the Chief of Police and carried it to the treasurer who, having read and understood it, kissed it and delivered her lover to her. She told him all she had done and he said, “And how shall we act now?” She answered, “We will remove hence to another city, for after this work there is no tarrying for us here.” So the twain packed up what goods they had and, loading them on camels, set out forthright for another city. Meanwhile, the five abode each in his compartment of the cabinet without eating or drinking three whole days, during which time they held their water until at last the carpenter could retain his no longer; so he staled on the King’s head, and the King urined on the Wazir’s head, and the Wazir piddled on the Wali and the Wali pissed on the head of the Kazi; whereupon the Judge cried out and said, “What nastiness1 is this? Doth not what strait we are in suffice us, but you must make water upon us?”’ The Chief of Police recognised the Kazi’s voice and answered, saying aloud, “Allah increase thy reward, O Kazi!” And when the Kazi heard him, he knew him for the Wali. Then the Chief of Police lifted up his voice and said, “What means this nastiness?” and the Wazir answered, saying, “Allah increase thy reward, O Wali!” whereupon he knew him to be the Minister. Then the Wazir lifted up his voice and said, “What means this nastiness?” But when the King heard and recognised his Minister’s voice, he held his peace and concealed his affair. Then said the Wazir, “May God damn2 this woman for her dealing with us! She hath brought hither all the Chief Officers of the state, except the King.” Quoth the King, “Hold your peace, for I was the first to fall into the toils of this lewd strumpet.” Whereat cried the carpenter, “And I, what have I done? I made her a cabinet for four gold pieces, and when I came to seek my hire, she tricked me into entering this compartment and locked the door on me.” And they fell to talking with one another, diverting the King and doing away his chagrin. Presently the neighbours came up to the house and, seeing it deserted, said one to other, “But yesterday our neighbour, the wife of such an one, was in it; but now no sound is to be heard therein nor is soul to be seen. Let us break open the doors and see how the case stands, lest it come to the ears of the Wali or the King and we be cast into prison and regret not doing this thing before.” So they broke open the doors and entered the saloon, where they saw a large wooden cabinet and heard men within groaning for hunger and thirst. Then said one of them, “Is there a Jinni in this cabinet?” and his fellow, “Let us heap fuel about it and burn it with fire.” When the Kazi heard this, he bawled out to them, “Do it not!”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Arab. “Najásah,” meaning anything unclean which requires ablution before prayer. Unfortunately mucus is not of the number, so the common Moslem is very offensive in the matter of nose.
2 Here the word “la’an” is used which most Moslems express by some euphemism. The vulgar Egyptian says “Na’al” (Sapré and Sapristi for Sacré and Sacristie), the Hindostani express it “I send him the three letters”— lám, ayn and nún.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the neighbours proposed to heap fuel about the cabinet and to burn it the Kazi bawled out to them, “Do it not!” And they said to one another, “Verily the Jinn make believe to be mortals and speak with men’s voices.” Thereupon the Kazi repeated somewhat of the Sublime Koran and said to the neighbours, “Draw near to the cabinet wherein we are.” So they drew near, and he said, “I am so and so the Kazi, and ye are such an one and such an one, and we are here a company.” Quoth the neighbours, “Who brought you here?” And he told them the whole case from beginning to end. Then they fetched a carpenter, who opened the five doors and let out Kazi, Wazir, Wali, King and carpenter in their queer disguises; and each, when he saw how the others were accoutred, fell a-laughing at them. Now she had taken away all their clothes; so every one of them sent to his people for fresh clothes and put them on and went out, covering himself therewith from the sight of the folk. “Consider, therefore, O our lord the King” (said the Wazir), “what a trick this woman played off upon the folk! And I have heard tell also a tale of
A certain man had longed all his life to look upon the Night of Power,2 and one night it befel that he gazed at the sky and saw the angels, and Heaven’s gates thrown open; and he beheld all things prostrating themselves before their Lord, each in its several stead. So he said to his wife, “Harkye, such an one, verily Allah hath shown me the Night of Power, and it hath been proclaimed to me, from the invisible world, that three prayers will be granted unto me; so I consult thee for counsel as to what shall I ask.” Quoth she, “O man, the perfection of man and his delight is in his prickle; therefore do thou pray Allah to greaten thy yard and magnify it.” So he lifted up his hands to heaven and said, “O Allah, greaten my yard and magnify it.” Hardly had he spoken when his tool became as big as a column and he could neither sit nor stand nor move about nor even stir from his stead; and when he would have carnally known his wife, she fled before him from place to place. So he said to her, “O accursed woman, what is to be done? This is thy list, by reason of thy lust.” She replied, “No, by Allah, I did not ask for this length and huge bulk, for which the gate of a street were too strait. Pray Heaven to make it less.” So he raised his eyes to Heaven and said, “O Allah, rid me of this thing and deliver me therefrom.” And immediately his prickle disappeared altogether and he became clean smooth. When his wife saw this, she said, “I have no occasion for thee, now thou are become pegless as a eunuch, shaven and shorn;” and he answered her, saying, “All this comes of thine ill-omened counsel and thine imbecile judgment. I had three prayers accepted of Allah, wherewith I might have gotten me my good, both in this world and in the next, and now two wishes are gone in pure waste, by thy lewd will, and there remaineth but one.” Quoth she, “Pray Allah the Most High to restore thee thy yard as it was.” So he prayed to his Lord and his prickle was restored to its first estate. Thus the man lost his three wishes by the ill counsel and lack of wit in the woman; “And this, O King” (said the Wazir), “have I told thee, that thou mightest be certified of the thoughtlessness of women and their inconsequence and silliness and see what cometh of hearkening to their counsel. Wherefore be not persuaded by them to slay thy son, thy heart’s core, who shall cause thy remembrance to survive thee.” The King gave ear to his Minister’s words and forbore to put his son to death; but, on the seventh day, the damsel came in, shrieking, and after lighting a great fire in the King’s presence, made as she would cast herself therein; whereupon they laid hands on her and brought her before him. He asked her, “Why hast thou done this?”; and she answered, “Except thou do me justice on thy son, I will cast myself into this very fire and accuse thee of this on the Day of Resurrection, for I am a-weary of my life, and before coming into thy presence I wrote my last will and testament and gave alms of my goods and resolved upon death. And thou wilt repent with all repentance, even as did the King of having punished the pious woman who kept the Hammam.” Quoth the King, “How was that?” and quoth she, “I have heard tell, O King, this tale concerning
1 The Mac. Edit. is here very concise; better the Bresi. Edit. (xii. 326). Here we have the Eastern form of the Three Wishes which dates from the earliest ages and which amongst us has been degraded to a matter of “black pudding.” It is the grossest and most brutal satire on the sex, suggesting that a woman would prefer an additional inch of penis to anything this world or the next can offer her. In the Book of Sindibad it is the story of the Peri and Religious Man; his learning the Great Name; and his consulting with his wife. See also La Fontaine’s “Trois Souhaits,” Prior’s “Ladle,” and “Les quatre Souhaits de Saint–Martin.”
2 Arab. “Laylat al-Kadr”= Night of Power or of Divine Decrees. It is “better than a thousand months” (Koran xcvii. 3), but unhappily the exact time is not known although all agree that it is one of the last ten in Ramazan. The latter when named by Kiláb ibn Murrah, ancestor of Mohammed, about two centuries before Al-lslam, corresponded with July–August and took its name from “Ramzá” or intense heat. But the Prophet, in the tenth Hijrah year, most unwisely forbade “Nasy”= triennial intercalation (Koran ix. 36) and thus the lunar month went round all the seasons. On the Night of Power the Koran was sent down from the Preserved Tablet by Allah’s throne, to the first or lunar Heaven whence Gabriel brought it for opportunest revelation to the Apostle (Koran xcvii.). Also during this night all Divine Decrees for the ensuing year are taken from the Tablet and are given to the angels for execution whilst, the gates of Heaven being open, prayer (as in the text) is sure of success. This mass of absurdity has engendered a host of superstitions everywhere varying. Lane (Mod. Egypt, chapt. xxv.) describes how some of the Faithful keep tasting a cup of salt water which should become sweet in the Night of Nights. In (Moslem) India not only the sea becomes sweet, but all the vegetable creation bows down before Allah. The exact time is known only to Prophets; but the pious sit through the Night of Ramazan 27th (our 26th) praying and burning incense-pastilles. In Stambul this is officially held to be the Night of Power. So in mediæval Europe on Christmas Eve the cattle worshipped God in their stalls and I have met peasants in France and Italy who firmly believed that brute beasts on that night not only speak but predict the events of the coming year.
There was once a devotee, a recluse, a woman who had devoted herself to religion. Now she used to resort to a certain King’s palace,1 whose dwellers were blessed by her presence and she was held of them in high honour. One day she entered that palace according to her custom and sat down beside the King’s wife. Presently the Queen gave her a necklace, worth a thousand dinars, saying, “Keep this for me, O woman, whilst I go to the Hammam.” So she entered the bath, which was in the palace, and the pious woman remaining in the place where the Queen was and awaiting her return laid the necklace on the prayer-carpet and stood up to pray. As she was thus engaged, there came a magpie2 which snatched up the necklace, while she went out to obey a call of nature and carrying it off, hid it inside a crevice in a corner of the palace-walls. When the Queen came out of the bath, she sought the necklace of the recluse, who also searched for it, but found it not nor could light on any trace of it; so she said to the King’s wife, “By Allah, O my daughter, none hath been with me. When thou gavest me the necklace, I laid it on the prayer-carpet, and I know not if one of the servants saw it and took it without my heed, whilst I was engaged in prayer. Almighty Allah only knoweth what is come of it!” When the King heard what had happened, he bade his Queen put the bath-woman to the question by fire and grievous blows, — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 Hence the misfortune befel her; the pious especially avoid temporal palaces.
2 This is our tale of “The Maid and the Magpie;” the Mac. Edit. does not specify the “Tayr” (any bird) but the Bresl. Edit. has Ak’ak, a pie. The true Magpie (C. Pica) called Buzarái (?) and Zaghzaghán Abú Mássah (=the Sweeper, from its tail) is found on the Libanus and Anti–Libanus (Unexplored Syria ii. 77–143), but I never saw it in other parts of Syria or in Arabia. It is completely ignored by the Reverend Mr. Tristram in his painfully superficial book “The Natural History of the Bible,” published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (or rather Ignorance), London, 1873.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the King bade his Queen question the bath-woman with fire and grievous blows, they tortured her with all manner tortures, but could not bring her to confess or to accuse any. Then he commanded to cast her into prison and manacle and fetter her; and they did as he bade. One day, after this, as the King sat in the inner court of his palace, with the Queen by his side and water flowing around him, he saw the pie fly into a crevice in a corner of the wall and pull out the necklace, whereupon he cried out to a damsel who was with him, and she caught the bird and took the necklace from it. By this the King knew that the pious bath-woman had been wronged and repented of that he had done with her. So he sent for her to the presence and fell to kissing her head and with many tears sought pardon of her. Moreover, he commanded much treasure to be given to her, but she refused and would none of it. However, she forgave him and went away, swearing never again to enter any one’s house. So she betook herself to wandering in the mountains and valleys and worshipped God until she died, and Almighty Allah have mercy upon her! “And for an instance of the malice of the male sex” (continued the damsel), “I have heard, O King, tell this tale of
A pair of pigeons once stored up wheat and barley in their nest during the winter, and when the summer came, the grain shrivelled and became less; so the male pigeon said to his wife, “Thou hast eaten of this grain.” Replied she, “No, by Allah, I have never touched it!” But he believed not her words and beat her with his wings and pecked her with his bill, till he killed her. When the cold season returned, the corn swelled out and became as before, whereupon he knew that he had slain his wife wrongously and wickedly, and he repented whenas repentance availed him naught. Then he lay down by her side, mourning over her and weeping for grief, and left meat and drink, till he fell sick and died. “But” (added the damsel), “I know a story of the malice of men more extraordinary than either of these.” Quoth the King, “Let us hear what thou hast to tell;” and quoth she, “I have heard tell, O King, this
1 This is “The Story of the Two Partridges,” told at great length in the Book of Sindibad. See De Sacy’s text in the Kalilah wa Damnah, quoted in the “Book of Kalilah and Damnah” (p. 306).
There was once a King’s daughter, who had no equal in her time for beauty and loveliness and symmetrical stature and grace, brilliancy, amorous lace and the art of ravishing the wits of the masculine race and her name was Al–Datmá. She used to boast, “Indeed there is none like me in this age.” Nor was there one more accomplished than she in horsemanship and martial exercises and all that behoveth a cavalier. So all the Kings’ sons sought her to wife; but she would take none of them, saying, “No man shall marry me except he overcome me at lunge of lance and stroke of sword in fair field and patent plain. If any can do this, I will willingly wed him; but, if I overcome him, I will take his horse and clothes and arms and write with fire upon his forehead, ‘This is the freed man of Al–Datma.’” Now the sons of the Kings flocked to her from every quarter far and near, and she overcame them and put them to shame, stripping them of their arms and branding them with fire. Presently the son of a King of the Kings of the Persians, by name Behram ibn Tájí, heard of her and journeyed from afar to her father’s court, bringing with him men and horses and great store of wealth and royal treasures. When he drew near the city, he sent her parent a rich present and the King came out to meet him and honoured him with the utmost honour. Then the King’s son sent a message to him by his Wazir, demanding his daughter’s hand in marriage; but the King answered, saying, “O my son, as regards my daughter Al–Datma, I have no power over her, for she hath sworn by her soul to marry none except he overcome her in the listed field.” Quoth the Prince, “I journeyed hither from my father’s court with no other object but this; I came here to woo and for thine alliance to sue;” quoth the King, “Thou shalt meet her tomorrow.” So next day he sent to bid his daughter who, making ready for battle, donned her harness of war, and the folk, hearing of the coming joust, flocked from all sides to the field. Presently the Princess rode into the lists, armed cap-à-pie and belted and with vizor down, and the Persian King’s son came out singlehanded to meet her, equipped at all points after the fairest of fashions. Then they drove at each other and fought a great while, wheeling and falsing, advancing and retreating, till the Princess, finding in him such courage and cavalarice as she had seen in none else, began to fear for herself lest he put her to shame before the bystanders and knew that he would assuredly overcome her. So she resolved to trick him and, raising her vizor, lo! her face appeared more brilliant than the full moon, which when he saw, he was confounded by her beauty and his strength failed and his spirit faltered. When she perceived this, she fell upon him unawares in his moment of weakness, and tare him from his saddle, and he became in her hands as he were a sparrow in the clutches of an eagle, knowing not what was done with him for amazement and confusion. So she took his steed and clothes and armour and, branding him with fire, let him wend his ways. When he recovered from his stupor, he abode several days without meat or drink or sleep for despite and love of the girl which had taken hold upon his heart. Then he sent a letter by certain of his slaves to his father, advising him that he could not return home till he had won his will of the Princess or died for want of her. When his sire got the letter, he was sore concerned for his son and would have succoured him by sending troops and soldiers; but his Wazirs dissuaded him from this and exhorted him to patience; so he committed his affair to Almighty Allah. Meanwhile, the Prince cast about for a means of coming to his desire; and presently, disguising himself as a decrepit old man, with a white beard over his own black beard repaired to a garden of the Princess wherein she used to walk most of her days. Here he sought out the gardener and said to him, “I am a stranger from a far country and from my youth upwards I have been a gardener, and in the grafting of trees and the culture of fruits and flowers and care of the vine none is more skilled than I.” When the gardener heard this, he rejoiced in him with exceeding joy and carried him into the garden, where he commended him to his underlings, and the Prince betook himself to the service of the garden and the tending of the trees and the bettering of their fruits and improving the Persian water-wheels and disposing the irrigation-channels. One day, as he was thus employed, lo! he saw some slaves enter the garden, leading mules laden with carpets and vessels, and asked them the meaning of this, to which they answered, “The Princess is minded to take her pleasure.” When he heard these words he hastened to his lodging and, fetching some of the jewels and ornaments he had brought with him from home, sat down in the garden and spread somewhat of them out before him, shaking and making a show of extreme old age — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the son of the Persian King, after disguising himself as an old man shotten in years and taking a seat in the garden, spread out somewhat of the jewels and ornaments before him and made a show of shaking and trembling as if for decrepitude and the weakness of extreme senility. After an hour or so a company of damsels and eunuchs entered with the Princess in their midst, as she were the moon among the stars, and dispersed about the garden, plucking the fruits and diverting themselves. Presently they espied a man sitting under one of the trees; and, making towards him (who was the Prince), found him a very old man, whose hands and feet trembled for decrepitude, and before him store of precious jewels and royal ornaments. So they marvelled at his case and asked him what he did there with the jewels; when he answered, “With these trinkets I would fain buy me to wife one of you.” They laughed together at him and said, “If one of us marry thee, what wilt thou do with her?” Said he, “I will give her one kiss and divorce her.” Then quoth the Princess, “I give thee this damsel to wife.” So he rose and coming up to her, leaning on his staff and shivering and staggering, kissed her and gave her the jewels and ornaments; whereat she rejoiced and they, laughing at him, went their way. Next day, they came again to the garden, and finding him seated in the same place, with more jewels and ornaments than before spread in front of him, asked him, “O Shaykh, what wilt thou do with this jewellery?”; and he answered, saying, “I wish therewith to take one of you to wife even as yesterday.” So the Princess said, “I marry thee to this damsel;” and he came up to her and kissed her and gave her the jewels, and they all went their ways. But, seeing such generosity to her handmaids, the Princess said in herself, “I have more right to all these fine things than these baggages, and no harm can betide me.” So when morning morrowed she went down from her chamber singly into the garden, in the habit of one of her damsels, and presenting herself privily before the Prince, said to him, “O Shaykh, the King’s daughter hath sent me to thee, that thou mayst marry me.” He looked at her and knew her; so he answered, “With love and gladness,” and gave her jewels and ornaments of the finest and costliest. Then he rose to kiss her, and she off her guard and fearing nothing but, when he came up to her, he suddenly laid hold of her with a strong hand and instantly throwing her down, on the ground abated her maidenhead.1 Then he pulled the beard from his face and said to her, “Dost thou not know me?” Asked she, “Who art thou?” and he answered, “I am Behram, the King’s son of Persia, who have changed my favour and am become a stranger to my people and estate for thy sake and have lavished my treasures for thy love.” So she rose from under him in silence and answered not his address nor spake a word of reply to him, being dazed for what had befallen her and seeing nothing better than to be silent, for fear of shame; and she bethought herself and said, “If I kill myself it will be useless and if I do him die, his death will profit me naught;” and presently added, “Nothing will serve me but that I elope with him to his own country.” Then she gathered together her monies and treasures and sent to him, acquainting him therewith, to the intent that he also might equip himself with his wealth and needs; and they agreed upon a night on which to depart. So, at the appointed time, they mounted race-horses and set out under cover of the gloom, nor did morning morrow till they had traversed a great distance; and they ceased not faring forwards till they drew near his father’s capital in the land of the Persians. When the King heard of his son’s coming, he rode out to meet him with his troops and rejoiced in him with exceeding joy. Then, after a few days, he sent the Princess’s father a splendid present, and a letter to the effect that his daughter was with him and demanding her wedding equipage. Al–Datma’s father came out to meet the messengers with the greatest gladness (for that he had deemed his daughter lost and had grieved sore for her loss): after which he made bride-feasts and, summoning the Kazi and the witnesses, let draw up the marriage-contract between his daughter and the Prince of Persia. He invested the envoys with robes of honour, then he made ready her equipage and despatched it to her; and Prince Behram abode with her till death sundered their union. “See therefore, O King” (continued the favourite), “the malice of men in their dealing with women. As for me, I will not go back from my due till I die.” So the King once more commanded to put his son to death; but the seventh Wazir came in to him and kissing the ground before him, said, “O King, have patience with me whilst I speak these words of good counsel to thee; how many patient and slow-moving men unto their hope attain, and how many who are precipitate fall into shameful state! Now I have seen how this damsel hath profligately excited the King by lies to horrible and unnatural cruelties; but I his Mameluke, whom he hath overwhelmed with his favours and bounties, do proffer him true and loyal rede; for that I, O King, know of the malice of women that which none knoweth save myself; and in particular there hath reached me, on this subject, the story of the old woman and the son of the merchant with its warning instances.” Asked the King, “And what fell out between them, O Wazir?” and the seventh Wazir answered, “I have heard tell, O King, the tale of
1 This extremely wilful young person had rendered rape excusable. The same treatment is much called for by certain heroines of modern fiction — let me mention Princess Napraxine.
A wealthy merchant had a son who was very dear to him and who said to him one day, “O my father, I have a boon to beg of thee.” Quoth the merchant, “O my son, what is it, that I may give it thee and bring thee to thy desire, though it were the light of mine eyes.” Quoth the youth, “Give me money, that I may journey with the merchants to the city of Baghdad and see its sights and sail on the Tigris and look upon the palace of the Caliphs2; for the sons of the merchants have described these things to me and I long to see them for myself.” Said the father, “O my child, O my little son, how can I endure to part from thee?” But the youth replied, ‘ I have said my say and there is no help for it but I journey to Baghdad with thy consent or e’en without it: such a longing for its sight hath fallen upon me as can only be assuaged by the going hither.” — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the merchant’s son said to his sire, “There is no help for it but that I journey to Baghdad.” Now when the father saw that there was no help for it, he provided his son with goods to the value of thirty thousand gold pieces and sent him with certain merchants in whom he trusted, committing him to their charge. Then he took leave of the youth, who journeyed with his friends the merchants till they reached Baghdad, the House of Peace, where he entered the market and hired him a house, so handsome and delectable and spacious and elegant that on seeing it he well nigh lost his wits for admiration; for therein were pavilions facing one another, with floors of coloured marbles and ceilings inlaid with gold and lapis lazuli, and its gardens were full of warbling birds. So he asked the door keeper1 what was its monthly rent, and he replied, “Ten dinars.” Quoth the young man, “Speakest thou soothly or dost thou but jest with me?” Quoth the porter, “By Allah, I speak naught but the truth, for none who taketh up his abode in This house lodgeth in it more than a week2 or two.” “And how is that?” quoth the youth; and quoth the porter, “O my son, whoso dwelleth in this house cometh not forth of it, except sick or dead, wherefore it is known amongst all the folk of Baghdad so that none offereth to inhabit it, and thus cometh it that its rent is fallen so low.” Hearing this the young merchant marvelled with exceeding marvel and said, “Needs must there be some reason for this sickening and perishing.” However after considering awhile and seeking refuge with Allah from Satan the Stoned, he rented the house and took up his abode there. Then he put away apprehension from his thought and busied himself with selling and buying; and some days passed by without any such ill case befalling him in the house, as the doorkeeper had mentioned. One day as he sat upon the bench before his door, there came up a grizzled crone, as she were a snake speckled white and black, calling aloud on the name of Allah, magnifying Him inordinately and, at the same time, putting away the stones and other obstacles from the path.3 Seeing the youth sitting there, she looked at him and marvelled at his case; where upon quoth he to her, “O woman, dost thou know me or am I like any thou knowest?” When she heard him speak, she toddled up to him and saluting him with the salaam, asked, “How long hast thou dwelt in this house?” Answered he, “Two months, O my mother;” and she said, “It was hereat I marvelled; for I, O my son, know thee not, neither dost thou know me, nor yet art thou like unto any one I know; but I marvelled for that none other than thou hath taken up his abode in this house but hath gone forth from it, dead or dying, saving thee alone. Doubtless, O my son, thou hast periled thy young years; but I suppose thou hast not gone up to the upper story neither looked out from the belvedere there.” So saying, she went her way and he fell a pondering her words and said to himself, “I have not gone up to the top of the house; nor did I know that there was a belvedere there.” Then he arose forthright and going in, searched the by ways of the house till he espied, in a wall corner among the trees, a narrow door between whose posts4 the spider had woven her webs, and said in himself, “Haply the spider hath not webbed over the door, but because death and doom is within.” However, he heartened himself with the saying of God the Most High, “Say, nothing shall befall us but what Allah hath written for us;”5 and opening the door, ascended a narrow flight of stairs, till he came to the terrace roof, where he found a belvedere, in which he sat down to rest and solace himself with the view. Presently, he caught sight of a fine house and a well cared for hard by, surmounted by a lofty belvedere, over looking the whole of Baghdad, in which sat a damsel fair as a Houri. Her beauty took possession of his whole heart and made away with his reason, bequeathing to him the pains and patience of Job and the grief and weeping of Jacob. And as he looked at her and considered her curiously, an object to enamour an ascetic and make a devotee lovesick, fire was lighted in his vitals and he cried, “Folk say that whoso taketh up his abode in this house dieth or sickeneth. An this be so, yon damsel is assuredly the cause. Would Heaven I knew how I shall win free of this affair, for my wits are clean gone!” Then he descended from the terrace, pondering his case, and sat down in the house, but being unable to rest, he went out and took his seat at the door, absorbed in melancholy thought when, behold, up came the old woman afoot, praising and magnifying Allah as she went. When he saw her, he rose and accosting her with a courteous salaam and wishes for her life being prolonged said to her, “O my mother, I was healthy and hearty till thou madest mention to me of the door leading to the belvedere; so I opened it and ascending to the top Of the house, saw thence what stole away my senses; and now methinks I am a lost man, and I know no physician for me but thyself.” When she heard this, she laughed and said, “No harm shall befall thee Inshallah so Allah please!” Whereupon he rose and went into the house and coming back with an hundred dinars in his sleeve, said to her, “Take this, O my mother, and deal with me the dealing of lords with slaves and succour me quickly for, if I die, a claim for my blood will meet thee on the Day of Doom.” Answered she, “With love and gladness; but, O my son, I expect thou lend me thine aid in some small matter, whereby hangs the winning of thy wish.” Quoth he, “What wouldst thou have me do, O my mother?” Quoth she, “Go to the silk market and enquire for the shop of Abú al-Fath bin Kaydám. Sit thee down on his counter and salute him and say to him, ‘Give me the face veil6 thou hast by thee orfrayed with gold:’ for he hath none handsomer in his shop. Then buy it of him, O my son, at his own price however high and keep it till I come to thee to morrow, Allah Almighty willing.” So saying, she went away and he passed the night upon live coals of the Ghazá7-wood. Next morning he took a thousand ducats in his pocket and repairing to the silk market, sought out the shop of Abu al-Fath to whom he was directed by one of the merchants. He found him a man of dignified aspect, surrounded by pages, eunuchs and attendants; for he was a merchant of great wealth and consideration befriended by the Caliph; and of the blessings which Allah the Most High had bestowed upon him was the damsel who had ravished the young man’s heart. She was his wife and had not her match for beauty, nor was her like to be found with any of the sons of the Kings. The young man saluted him and Abu al-Fath returned his salaam and bade him be seated. So he sat down by him and said to him, “O merchant, I wish to look at such a face veil.” Accordingly he bade his slave bring him a bundle of silk from the inner shop And opening it, brought out a number of veils, whose beauty amazed the youth. Among them was the veil he sought; so he bought it for fifty gold pieces and bore it home well pleased. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Arab. “Bawwáb,” a personage as important as the old French concierge and a man of trust who has charge of the keys and with letting vacant rooms. In Egypt the Berber from the Upper Nile is the favourite suisse; being held more honest or rather less rascally than the usual Egyptian. These Berbers, however, are true barbarians, overfond of Búzah (the beer of Osiris) and not unfrequently dangerous. They are supposed by Moslems to descend from the old Syrians expelled by Joshua. For the favourite chaff against them, eating the dog (not the puppy-pie), see Pilgrimage i. 93. They are the “paddies’, of Egypt to whom all kinds of bulls and blunders are attributed.
2 Arab. “Juma’ah,” which means either Friday or a week. In pre-Moslem times it was called Al–Arúbah (the other week-days being Shiyár or Saturday, Bawal, Bahan Jabar, Dabar and Fámunís or Thursday). Juma’ah, literally = “Meeting” or Congregation (-day), was made to represent the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Sunday because on that day Allah ended the work of creation; it was also the date of Mohammed’s entering Al–Medinah. According to Al–Bayzáwí, it was called Assembly day because Ka’ab ibn Lowa, one of the Prophet’s ancestors, used to gather the people before him on Fridays. Moslems are not forbidden to do secular work after the congregational prayers at the hour when they must “hasten to the commemoration of Allah and leave merchandising.” (Koran, chaps. Ixii. 9.)
3 This is done only by the very pious: if they see a bit of bread they kiss it, place it upon their heads and deposit it upon a wall or some place where it will not be trodden on. She also removed the stones lest haply they prove stumbling-blocks to some Moslem foot.
4 Arab. “Ashjár,” which may mean either the door-posts or the wooden bolts. Lane (iii. 174) translates it “among the trees” in a room!
5 Koran (ix. 51), when Mohammed reproaches the unbelievers for not accompanying him to victory or martyrdom.
6 Arab. “Kiná,” a true veil, not the “Burká “ or “nose bag” with the peep-holes. It is opposed to the “Tarkah” or “head veil.” Europeans inveigh against the veil which represents the loup of Louis Quatorze’s day: it is on the contrary the most coquettish of contrivances, hiding coarse skins, fleshy noses, wide mouths and vanishing chins, and showing only lustrous and liquid black eyes. Moreover a pretty woman, when she wishes, will always let you see something under the veil. (Pilgrimage i. 337.)
7 A yellow-flowered artemisia or absinthe whose wood burns like holm-oak. (Unexplored Syria ii. 43.) See vol. ii. 24 for further details.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the youth after buying the veil of the merchant bore it home; but hardly had he reached the house when lo! up came the old woman. He rose to her and gave her his purchase when she bade him bring a live coal, with which she burnt one of the corners of the veil, then folded it up as before and, repairing to Abu al-Fath’s house, knocked at the door. Asked the damsel, “Who is there?”; and she answered, “I, such an one.” Now the damsel knew her for a friend of her mother so, when she heard her voice, she came out and opening the door to her, said, “What brought thee here, O my mother? My mamma hath left me and gone to her own house.” Replied the old woman, “O my daughter, I know thy mother is not with thee, for I have been with her in her home, and I come not to thee, but because I fear to pass the hour of prayer; wherefore I desire to make my Wuzu-ablution with thee, for I know thou art clean and thy house pure.”1 The damsel admitted the old trot who saluted her and called down blessings upon her. Then she took the ewer and went into the wash house, where she made her ablutions and prayed in a place there. Presently, she came out again and said to the damsel, “O my daughter, I suspect thy handmaidens have been in yonder place and defiled it; so do thou show me another place where I may pray, for the prayer I have prayed I account null and void.” Thereupon the damsel took her by the hand and said to her, “O my mother, come and pray on my carpet, where my husband sits.” So she stood there and prayed and worshipped, bowed and prostrated; and presently, she took the damsel unawares and made shift to slip the veil under the cushion, unseen of her. Then she blessed her and went her ways. Now as the day was closing Abu al-Fath came home and sat down upon the carpet, whilst his wife brought him food and he ate of it his sufficiency and washed his hands; after which he leant back upon the cushion. Presently, he caught sight of a corner of the veil protruding from under the cushion; so he pulled it out and considered it straitly, when, knowing it for that he had sold to the young man, he at once suspected his wife of unchastity. Thereupon he called her and said, “Whence hadst thou this veil?” And she swore an oath to him, saying, “None hath come to me but thou.” The merchant was silent for fear of scandal, and said to himself, “If I open up this chapter, I shall be put to shame before all Baghdad;” for he was one of the intimates of the Caliph and so he could do nothing save hold his peace. So he asked no questions, but said to his wife, whose name was Mahzíyah, “It hath reached me that thy mother lieth ill of heart ache2 and all the women are with her, weeping over her; wherefore I order thee to go to her.” Accordingly, she repaired to her mother’s house and found her in the best of health; and she asked her daughter, “What brings thee here at this hour?” So she told her what her husband had said and sat with her awhile; when behold, up came porters, who brought her clothes from her husband’s house, and transporting all her paraphernalia and what not else belonged to her of goods and vessels, deposited them in her mother’s lodging. When the mother saw this, she said to her daughter, “Tell me what hath passed between thee and thy husband, to bring about this.” But she swore to her that she knew not the cause thereof and that there had befallen nothing between them to call for this conduct. Quoth her mother, “Needs must there be a cause for this.” And she answered, saying, “I know of none, and after this, with Almighty Allah be it to make provision!” Whereupon her mother fell a weeping and lamented her daughter’s separation from the like of this man, by reason of his sufficiency and fortune and the greatness of his rank and dignity. On this wise things abode some days, after which the curst, ill omened old woman, whose name was Miryam the Koranist,3 paid a visit to Mahziyah, in her mother’s house and saluted her cordially, saying, “What ails thee, O my daughter, O my darling? Indeed, thou hast troubled my mind.” Then she went in to her mother and said to her, “O my sister, what is this business about thy daughter and her husband? It hath reached me that he hath divorced her! What hath she done to call for this?” Quoth the mother, “Belike her husband will return to her by the blessed influence of thy prayers, O Háfizah; so do thou pray for her, O my sister, for thou art a day faster and a night prayer.” Then the three fell to talking together and the old woman said to the damsel, “O my daughter, grieve not for, if Allah please, I will make peace between thee and thy husband before many days.” Then she left them and going to the young merchant, said to him, “Get ready a handsome entertainment for us, for I will bring her to thee this very night.” So he sprang up and went forth and provided all that was fitting of meat and drink and so forth, then sat down to await the twain; whilst the old woman returned to the girl’s mother and said to her, “O my sister, we have a splendid bride feast to night; so let thy daughter go with me, that she may divert herself and make merry with us and throw off her cark and care, and forget the ruin of her home. I will bring her back to thee even as I took her away.” The mother dressed her daughter in her finest dress and costliest jewels and accompanied her to the door, where she commended her to the old woman’s charge, saying, “ ‘Ware lest thou let any of Almighty Allah’s creatures look upon her, for thou knowest her husband’s rank with the Caliph; and do not tarry, but bring her back to me as soon as possible.” The old woman carried the girl to the young man’s house which she entered, thinking it the place where the wedding was to be held: but as soon as she came into the sitting saloon — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 The Farz or obligatory prayers, I have noted, must be recited (if necessary) in the most impure place; not so the other orisons. Hence the use of the “Sajjádah” or prayer-rug an article too well known to require description.
2 Anglicè a stomach-ache, a colic.
3 Arab. “Al-Háfizah” which has two meanings. Properly it signifies the third order of Traditionists out of a total of five or those who know 300,000 traditions and their ascriptions. Popularly “one who can recite the Koran by rote.” There are six great Traditionists whose words are held to be prime authorities; (1) Al–Bokhári, (2) Muslim, and these are entitled Al–Sahíhayn, The (two true) authorities. After them (3) Al–Tirmidi; and (4) Abu Daúd: these four being the authors of the “Four Sunan,” the others are (5) Al — Nasái and (6) Ibn Májah (see Jarrett’s Al–Siyuti pp. 2, 6; and, for modern Arab studies, Pilgrimage i. 154 et seq.).
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that as soon as the damsel entered the sitting saloon, the youth sprang up to her and flung his arms round her neck and kissed her hands and feet. She was confounded at his loveliness, as well as at the beauty of the place and the profusion of meat and drink, flowers and perfumes that she saw therein, and deemed all was a dream. When the old woman saw her amazement, she said to her, “The name of Allah be upon thee, O my daughter! Fear not; I am here sitting with thee and will not leave thee for a moment. Thou art worthy of him and he is worthy of thee.” So the damsel sat down shame-fast and in great confusion; but the young man jested and toyed with her and entertained her with laughable stories and loving verses, till her breast broadened and she became at her ease. Then she ate and drank and growing warm with wine, took the lute and sang these couplets,
“My friend who went hath returned once more;
Oh, the welcome light that such beauty shows!
And but for the fear of those arrowy eyes,
From his lovely cheek I had culled the rose.”
And when the youth saw that she to his beauty did incline he waxt drunken without wine and his life was a light matter to him compared with his love.1 Presently the old woman went out and left them alone together to enjoy their loves till the next morning, when she went into them and gave them both good morrow2 and asked the damsel, “How hast thou passed the night, O my lady?” Answered the girl, “Right well, thanks to thy adroitness and the excellence of thy going between.”3 Then said the old woman, ‘‘Up, let us go back to thy mother.” At these words the young man pulled out an hundred sequins and gave them to her, saying, “Take this and leave her with me to night.” So she left them and repaired to the girl’s mother, to whom quoth she, “Thy daughter saluteth thee, and the bride’s mother hath sworn her to abide with her this night.” Replied the mother, “O my sister, bear her my salaam, and, if it please and amuse the girl, there is no harm in her staying the night; so let her do this and divert herself and come back to me at her leisure, for all I fear for her is chagrin on account of an angry husband.” The old woman ceased not to make excuse after excuse to the girl’s mother and to put off cheat upon cheat upon her, till Mahziyah had tarried seven days with the young man, of whom she took an hundred dinars each day for herself; while he enjoyed all the solace of life and coition. But at the end of this time, the girl’s mother said to her, “Bring my daughter back to me forthright; for I am uneasy about her, because she hath been so long absent, and I misdoubt me of this.” So the old woman went out saying, “Woe to thee! shall such words be spoken to the like of me?”; and, going to the young man’s house, took the girl by the hand and carried her away (leaving him lying asleep on his bed, for he was drunken with wine) to her mother. She received her with pleasure and gladness and seeing her in redoubled beauty and brilliancy rejoiced in her with exceeding joy, saying, “O my daughter, my heart was troubled about thee and in my uneasiness I offended against this my sister the Koranist with a speech that wounded her.” Replied Mahziyah, “Rise and kiss her hands and feet, for she hath been to me as a servant in my hour of need, and if thou do it not thou art no mamma of mine, nor am I thy girl.” So the mother went up at once to the old woman and made her peace with her. Meanwhile, the young man recovered from his drunkenness and missed the damsel, but congratulated himself on having enjoyed his desire. Presently Miryam the old Koranist came in to him and saluted him, saying, “What thinkest thou of my feat?” Quoth he, “Excellently well conceived and contrived of thee was that same.” Then quoth she, “Come, let us mend what we have marred and restore this girl to her husband, for we have been the cause of their separation and it is unrighteous.” Asked he, “How shall I do?” and she answered, “Go to Abu al-Fath’s shop and salute him and sit down by him, till thou seest me pass by, when do thou rise in haste and catch hold of my dress and abuse me and threaten me, demanding of me the veil. And do thou say to the merchant, ‘Thou knowest, O my lord, the face veil I bought of thee for fifty dinars? It so chanced that my handmaid put it on and burnt a corner of it by accident; so she gave it to this old woman, who took it, promising to get it fine-drawn4 and return it, and went away, nor have I seen her from that day to this.’” “With joy and good will,” replied the young man, and rising forthright, walked to the shop of the silk merchant, with whom he sat awhile till behold, the old woman passed telling her beads on a rosary she held in hand; whereupon he sprang up and laying hold of her dress began to abuse and rail at her, whilst she answered him with fair words, saying, “Indeed, my son, thou art excusable.” So the people of the bazaar flocked round the two, saying, “What is the matter?” and he replied, “O folk, I bought of this merchant a veil for fifty dinars and gave it to my slave girl, who wore it awhile, then sat down to fumigate it with perfume. Presently a spark flew out of the censer and, lighting on the edge of the veil, burnt a hole in it. So we committed it to this pestilent old woman, that she might give it to who should fine-draw it and return it to us; but from that time we have never set eyes on her again till this day.” Answered the old woman, “This young man speaks sooth. I had the veil from him, but I took it with me into one of the houses where I am wont to visit and forgot it there, nor do I know where I left it; and, being a poor woman, I feared its owner and dared not face him.” Now the girl’s husband was listening to all they said — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Lane (iii. 176) marries the amorous couple, thus making the story highly proper and robbing it of all its point.
2 Arab. “Sabbahat,” i.e. Sabbah-ak’ Allah bi’l khayr = Allah give thee good morning: still the popular phrase.
3 Arab. “Ta’rísak,” with the implied hint of her being a “Mu’arrisah” or she pander. The Bresl. Edit. (xii. 356) bluntly says “Kivádatak” thy pimping.
4 Arab. “Rafw”: the “Rafu-gar” or fine-drawer in India, who does this artistic style of darning, is famed for skill.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the young man seized the old woman and spoke to her of the veil as she had primed him, the girl’s husband was listening to all they said, from beginning to end, and when he heard the tale which the crafty old woman had contrived with the young man, he rose to his feet and said, “Allah Almighty! I crave pardon of the Omnipotent One for my sins and for what my heart suspected!” And he praised the Lord who had discovered to him the truth. Then he accosted the old woman and said to her, “Dost thou use to visit us?”1 Replied she, “O my son, I visit you and other than you, for the sake of alms; but from that day to this, none hath given me news of the veil.” Asked the merchant, “Hast thou enquired at my house?” and she answered, “O my lord, I did indeed go to thy house and ask; but they told me that the person of the house2 had been divorced by the merchant; so I went away and asked no farther; nor have I enquired of anybody else until this day.” Hereupon the merchant turned to the young man and said, “Let the old woman go her way; for the veil is with me.” So saying he brought it out from the shop and gave it to the fine-drawer before all present. Then he betook himself to his wife and, giving her somewhat of money, took her to himself again, after making abundance of excuses to her and asking pardon of Allah, because he knew not what the old woman had done. (Said the Wazir), “This then, O King, is an instance of the malice of women and for another to the same purport, I have heard tell the following tale anent
A certain King’s son was once walking alone for his pleasure, when he came to a green meadow, abounding in trees laden with fruit and birds singing on the boughs, and a river running athwart it. The place pleased him; so he sat down there and taking out some dried fruits he had brought with him, began to eat, when lo! he espied a great smoke rising up to heaven and, taking fright, he climbed up into a tree and hid himself among the branches. Thence he saw an Ifrit rise out of the midst of the stream bearing on his head a chest of marble, secured by a padlock. He set down the chest on the meadow-sward and opened it and there came forth a damsel of mortal race like the sun shining in the sheeny sky. After seating her he solaced himself by gazing on her awhile, then laid his head in her lap and fell asleep, whereupon she lifted up his head and laying it on the chest, rose and walked about. Presently, she chanced to raise her eyes to the tree wherein was the Prince, and seeing him, signed to him to come down. He refused, but she swore to him, saying, “Except thou come down and do as I bid thee, I will wake the Ifrit and point thee out to him, when he will straightway kill thee.” The King’s son fearing she would do as she said, came down, whereupon she kissed his hands and feet and besought him to do her need. To this he consented and, when he had satisfied her wants, she said to him, “Give me this seal ring I see on thy finger.” So he gave her his signet and she set it in a silken kerchief she had with her, wherein were more than four score others. When the Prince saw this, he asked her, “What dost thou with all these rings?”; and she answered, “In very sooth this Ifrit carried me off from my father’s palace and shut me in this box, which he beareth about on his head wherever he goeth, with the keys about him; and he hardly leaveth me one moment alone of the excess of his jealousy over me, and hindereth me from what I desire. When I saw this, I swore that I would deny my last favours to no man whatsoever, and these rings thou seest are after the tale of the men who have had me; for after coition I took from each a seal ring and laid it in this kerchief.” Then she added, “And now go thy ways, that I may look for another than thyself, for the Ifrit will not awake yet awhile.” Hardly crediting what he had heard, the Prince returned to his father’s palace, but the King knew naught of the damsel’s malice (for she feared not this and took no count thereof), and seeing that his son had lost his ring, he bade put him to death.2 Then he rose from his place and entered his palace; but his Wazirs came in to him and prevailed with him to abandon his purpose. The same night, the King sent for all of them and thanked them for having dissuaded him from slaying his son; and the Prince also thanked them, saying, “It was well done of you to counsel my father to let me live and Inshallah! I will soon requite you abundantly.” Then he related to them how he had lost the ring, and they offered up prayers for his long life and advancement and withdrew. “See then, O King,” (said the Wazir), “the malice of women and what they do unto men.” The King hearkened to the Minister’s counsel and again countermanded his order to slay his son. Next morning, it being the eighth day, as the King sat in his audience chamber in the midst of his Grandees and Emirs and Wazirs and Olema, the Prince entered, with his hand in that of his governor, Al Sindibad, and praised his father and his Ministers and lords and divines in the most eloquent words and thanked them for having saved his life; so that all who were present wondered at his eloquence and fluency of speech. His father rejoiced in him with exceeding, all surpassing joy, and calling him to him, kissed him between the eyes. Then he called his preceptor, al-Sindibad, and asked him why his son had kept silence these seven days, to which he replied, “O our lord, the truth is, it was I who enjoined him to this, in my fear for him of death: I knew this from the day of his birth; and, when I took his nativity, I found it written in the stars that, if he should speak during this period, he would surely die; but now the danger is over, by the King’s fortune.” At this the King was glad and said to his Wazirs, “If I had killed my son, would the fault have fallen on me or the damsel or on the preceptor, al-Sindibad?” But all present refrained from replying, and al-Sindibad said to the Prince, “Answer thou, O my son.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Al–Sindibad said, “Answer thou, O my son,” the Prince replied, “I have heard tell that a merchant at whose house certain guests once alighted sent his slave girl to the market to buy a jar of clotted milk.1 So she bought it and set out on her return home; but on the way there passed over her a kite, holding and squeezing a serpent in its claws, and a drop of the serpent’s venom fell into the milk jar, unknown of the girl. So, when she came back, the merchant took the milk from her and drank of it, he and his guests; but hardly had it settled in their stomachs when they all died.2 Now consider, O King, whose was the fault in this matter?” Thereupon some present said, “It was the fault of the company who drank the milk without examining it.” And other some, “That of the girl, who left the jar without cover.” But al-Sindibad asked the Prince, “What sayest thou, O my son?” Answered he, “I say that the folk err; it was neither the fault of the damsel nor of the company, for their appointed hour was come, their divinely decreed provision was exhausted and Allah had fore ordained them to die thus.”3 When the courtiers heard this, they marvelled greatly and lifted up their voices, blessing the King’s son, and saying, “O our lord, thou hast made a reply sans peur, and thou art the sagest man of thine age sans reproche.” “Indeed, I am no sage,” answered the Prince; “the blind Shaykh and the son of three years and the son of five years were wiser than I.” Said the bystanders, “O youth, tell us the stories of these three who were wiser than thou art, O youth.” Answered he, “With all my heart. I have heard tell this tale concerning the
1 Arab. and Heb. “Laban” (opp. to “laban-halíb,” or simply “halíb” = fresh milk), milk artificially soured, the Dahin of India, the Kisainá of the Slavs and our Corstophine cream. But in The Nights, contrary to modern popular usage, “Laban” is also applied to Fresh milk. The soured form is universally in the East eaten with rice and enters into the Salátah or cucumber-salad. I have noted elsewhere that all the Galactophagi, the nomades who live on milk, use it in the soured never in the fresh form. The Badawi have curious prejudices about it: it is a disgrace to sell it (though not to exchange it), and “Labbán,” or “milk-vendor,” is an insult. The Bráhni and Beloch pomades have the same pundonor possibly learnt from the Arabs (Pilgrimage i. 363). For ‘Igt (Akit), Mahir, Saribah, Jamídah and other lacteal preparations, see ibid. i. 362.
2 I need hardly say that the poison would have been utterly harmless, unless there had been an abrasion of the skin. The slave — girl is blamed for carrying the jar uncovered because thus it would attract the evil eye. In the Book of Sindibad the tale appears as the Story of the Poisoned Guest; and the bird is a stork.
3 The Prince expresses the pure and still popular Moslem feeling; and yet the learned and experienced Mr Redhouse would confuse this absolute Predestination with Providence. A friend tells me that the idea of absolute Fate in The Nights makes her feel as if the world were a jail.
There once lived an exceeding rich merchant, who was a great traveller and who visited all manner of places. One day, being minded to journey to a certain city, he asked those who came thence, saying, “What kind of goods brought most profit there?” and they answered, “Chanders-wood; for it selleth at a high price.” So he laid out all his money in sandal and set out for that city; and arriving there at close of day, behold, he met and old woman driving her sheep. Quoth she to him, “Who art thou, O man? and quoth he, “I am a stranger, a merchant.” “Beware of the townsfolk,” said she, “for they are cheats, rascals, robbers who love nothing more than imposing on the foreigner that they may get the better of him and devour his substance. Indeed I give thee good counsel.” Then she left him and on the morrow there met him one of the citizens who saluted him and asked him, “O my lord, whence comest thou?” Answered the merchant, “From such a place.” “And what merchandise hast thou brought with thee?” enquired the other; and replied he, “Chanders-wood, for it is high of price with you.” Quoth the townsman, “He blundered who told thee that; for we burn nothing under our cooking-pots save sandal-wood, whose worth with us is but that of fuel.” When the merchant heard this he sighed and repented and stood balanced between belief and unbelief. Then he alighted at one of the khans of the city, and, when it was night, he saw a merchant make fire of chanders-wood under his cooking pot. Now this was the man who had spoken with him and this proceeding was a trick of his. When the townsman saw the merchant looking at him, he asked, “Wilt thou sell me thy sandal-wood for a measure2 of whatever thy soul shall desire?” “I sell it to thee,” answered the merchant; and the buyer transported all the wood to his own house and stored it up there; whilst the seller purposed to take an equal quantity of gold for it. Next morning the merchant, who was a blue-eyed man, went out to walk in the city but, as he went along, one of the townsfolk, who was blue-eyed and one-eyed to boot, caught hold of him, saying, “Thou are he who stole my eye and I will never let thee go.”3 The merchant denied this, saying, “I never stole it: the thing is impossible.” Whereupon the folk collected round them and besought the one-eyed man to grant him till the morrow, that he might give him the price of his eye. So the merchant procured one to be surety for him, and they let him go. Now his sandal had been rent in the struggle with the one-eyed man; so he stopped at a cobbler’s stall and gave it to him, saying, “Mend it and thou shalt have of me what shall content thee.” Then he went on, till he came to some people sitting at play of forfeits and sat down with them, to divert his cark and care. They invited him to play with them and he did so; but they practised on him and overcoming him, offered him his choice,4 either to drink up the sea or disburse all the money he had. “Have patience with me till to-morrow,” said he, and they granted him the delay he sought; whereupon he went away, sore concerned for what had betided him and knowing not how he should do, and sat down in a solitary place heart-heavy, care-full, thought-opprest. And behold, the old woman passed by and seeing him thus, said to him, “Peradventure the townsfolk have gotten the better of thee, for I see the troubled at that which hath befallen thee: recount to me what aileth thee.” So he told her all that had passed from first to last, and she said, “As for him who diddled thee in the matter of the chanders-wood, thou must know that with us it is worth ten gold pieces a pound. But I will give thee a rede, whereby I trust thou shalt deliver thyself; and it is this. Go to such and such a gate whereby lives a blind Shaykh, a cripple, who is knowing, wise as a wizard and experienced; and all resort to him and ask him what they require, when he counsels them what will be their advantage; for he is versed in craft5 and magic and trickery. Now he is a sharper and the sharpers resort to him by night; therefore, I repeat, go thou to his lodging and hide thyself from thine adversaries, so thou mayst hear what they say, unseen of them; for he telleth them which party got the better and which got the worse; and haply thou shalt learn from them some plan which may avail to deliver thee from them.” — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 In the Book of Sindibad this is the Story of the Sandal-wood Merchant and the Advice of the Blind Old Man. Mr. Clouston (p. 163) quotes a Talmudic joke which is akin to the Shaykh’s advice and a reply of Tyl Eulenspiegel, the arch-rogue, which has also a family resemblance.
2 Arab. “Sá‘a,” a measure of corn, etc., to be given in alms. The Kamus makes it = four mudds (each being 1/3 lbs.); the people understand by it four times the measure of a man’s two open hands.
3 i.e. till thou restore my eye to me. This style of prothesis without apodosis is very common in Arabic and should be preserved in translation, as it adds a naïveté to the style. We find it in Genesis iii. 2, “And now lest he put forth his hand,” etc.
4 They were playing at Muráhanah, like children amongst us. It is also called “Hukm wa Rizá” = order and consent. The penalty is usually something ridiculous, but here it was villainous.
5 Every Moslem capital has a “Shaykh of the thieves” who holds a regular levées and who will return stolen articles for consideration; and this has lasted since the days of Diodorus Siculus (Pilgrimage i. 91).
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:48