She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the old woman had taken the property of the young merchant and the damsel and wended her ways, having locked the door upon them, she deposited her spoils with a druggist of her acquaintance and returned to the dyer, whom she found sitting, awaiting her. Quoth he, “Inshallah, the house pleaseth thee?”; and quoth she, “There is a blessing in it; and I go now to fetch porters to carry hither our goods and furniture. But my children would have me bring them a panade with meat; so do thou take this dinar and buy the dish and go and eat the morning meal with them.” Asked the dyer, “Who shall guard the dyery meanwhile and the people’s goods that be therein?”; and the old woman answered, “Thy lad!” “So be it,” rejoined he, and taking a dish and cover, went out to do her bidding. So far concerning the dyer who will again be mentioned in the tale; but as regards the old woman, she fetched the clothes and jewels she had left with the druggist and going back to the dyery, said to the lad, “Run after thy master, and I will not stir hence till you both return.” “To hear is to obey,” answered he and went away, while she began to collect all the customers’ goods. Presently, there came up an ass-driver, a scavenger, who had been out of work for a week and who was an Hashish-eater to boot; and she called him, saying, “Hither, O donkey-boy!” So he came to her and she asked, “Knowest thou my son the dyer?”; whereto he answered, “Yes, I know him.” Then she said, “The poor fellow is insolvent and loaded with debts, and as often as he is put in prison, I set him free. Now we wish to see him declared bankrupt and I am going to return the goods to their owners; so do thou lend me thine ass to carry the load and receive this dinar to its hire. When I am gone, take the handsaw and empty out the vats and jars and break them, so that if there come an officer from the Kází‘s court, he may find nothing in the dyery.” Quoth he, “I owe the Hajj a kindness and will do something for Allah’s love.” So she laid the things on the ass and, the Protector protecting her, made for her own house; so that she arrived there in safety and went in to her daughter Zaynab, who said to her, “O my mother, my heart bath been with thee! What hast thou done by way of roguery?” Dalilah replied, “I have played off four tricks on four wights; the wife of the Serjeant-usher, a young merchant, a dyer and an ass-driver, and have brought thee all their spoil on the donkey-boy’s beast.” Cried Zaynab, “O my mother, thou wilt never more be able to go about the town, for fear of the Serjeant-usher, whose wife’s raiment and jewellery thou hast taken, and the merchant whom thou hast stripped naked, and the dyer whose customers’ goods thou hast stolen and the owner of the ass.” Rejoined the old woman, “Pooh, my girl! I reck not of them, save the donkey-boy, who knoweth me.” Meanwhile the dyer bought the meat-panade and set out for the house, followed by his servant with the food on head. On his way thither, he passed his shop, where he found the donkey-boy breaking the vats and jars and saw that there was neither stuff nor liquor left in them and that the dyery was in ruins. So he said to him, “Hold thy hand, O ass-driver;” and the donkey-boy desisted and cried, “Praised be Allah for thy safety, O master! Verily my heart was with thee.” “Why so?” “Thou art become bankrupt and they have filed a docket of thine insolvency.” “Who told thee this?” “Thy mother told me, and bade me break the jars and empty the vats, that the Kazi’s officers might find nothing in the shop, if they should come.” “Allah confound the far One!”1 cried the dyer; “My mother died long ago.” And he beat his breast, exclaiming, “Alas, for the loss of my goods and those of the folk!” The donkey-boy also wept and ejaculated, “Alas, for the loss of my ass!”; and he said to the dyer, “Give me back my beast which thy mother stole from me.” The dyer laid hold of him by the throat and fell to buffeting him, saying, “Bring me the old woman;” whilst the other buffeted him in return saying, “Give me back my beast.” So they beat and cursed each other, till the folk collected around them — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 In English, “God damn everything an inch high!”
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the dyer caught hold of the donkey-boy and the donkey-boy caught hold of the dyer and they beat and cursed each other till the folk collected round them and one of them asked, “What is the matter, O Master Mohammed?” The ass-driver answered, “I will tell thee the tale,” and related to them his story, saying, “I deemed I was doing the dyer a good turn; but, when he saw me he beat his breast and said, ‘My mother is dead.’ And now, I for one require my ass of him, it being he who hath put this trick on me, that he might make me lose my beast.” Then said the folk to the dyer, “O Master Mohammed, dost thou know this matron, that thou didst entrust her with the dyery and all therein?” And he replied, “I know her not; but she took lodgings with me to-day, she and her son and daughter.” Quoth one, “In my judgment, the dyer is bound to indemnify the ass-driver.” Quoth another, “Why so?” “Because,” replied the first, “he trusted not the old Woman nor gave her his ass save only because he saw that the dyer had entrusted her with the dyery and its contents.” And a third said, “O master, since thou hast lodged her with thee, it behoveth thee to get the man back his ass.” Then they made for the house, and the tale will come round to them again. Mean-while, the young merchant remained awaiting the old woman’s coming with her daughter, but she came not nor did her daughter; whilst the young lady in like manner sat expecting her return with leave from her son, the God-attended one, the Shaykh’s deputy, to go in to the holy presence. So weary of waiting, she rose to visit the Shaykh by herself and went down into the saloon, where she found the young merchant, who said to her, “Come hither! where is thy mother, who brought me to marry thee?” She replied, “My mother is dead, art thou the old woman’s son, the ecstatic, the deputy of the Shaykh Abu al-Hamlat?” Quoth he, “The swindling old trot is no mother of mine; she hath cheated me and taken my clothes and a thousand dinars.” Quoth Khatun, “And me also hath she swindled for she brought me to see the Shaykh Abu al-Hamlat and in lieu of so doing she hath stripped me.” Thereupon he, “I look to thee to make good my clothes and my thousand dinars;” and she, “I look to thee to make good my clothes and jewellery.” And, behold, at this moment in came the dyer and seeing them both stripped of their raiment, said to them, “Tell me where your mother is.” So the young lady related all that had befallen her and the young merchant related all that had betided him, and the Master-dyer exclaimed, “Alas, for the loss of my goods and those of the folk!”; and the ass-driver ejaculated, “Alas, for my ass! Give me, O dyer, my ass!” Then said the dyer, “This old woman is a sharper. Come forth, that I may lock the door.” Quoth the young merchant, “’Twere a disgrace to thee that we should enter thy house dressed and go forth from it undressed.” So the dyer clad him and the damsel and sent her back to her house where we shall find her after the return of her husband. Then he shut the dyery and said to the young merchant, “Come, let us go and search for the old woman and hand her over to the Wali,1 the Chief of Police.” So they and the ass-man repaired to the house of the master of police and made their complaint to him. Quoth he, “O folk, what want ye?” and when they told him he rejoined, “How many old women are there not in the town! Go ye and seek for her and lay hands on her and bring her to me, and I will torture her for you and make her confess.” So they sought for her all round the town; and an account of them will presently be given.2 As for old Dalilah the Wily, she said, “I have a mind to play off another trick,” to her daughter who answered, “O my mother, I fear for thee;” but the beldam cried, “I am like the bean husks which fall, proof against fire and water.” So she rose, and donning a slave-girl’s dress of such as serve people of condition, went out to look for some one to defraud. Presently she came to a by-street, spread with carpets and lighted with hanging lamps, and heard a noise of singing-women and drumming of tambourines. Here she saw a handmaid bearing on her shoulder a boy, clad in trousers laced with silver and a little Abá-cloak of velvet, with a pearl embroidered Tarbush-cap on his head, and about his neck a collar of gold set with jewels. Now the house belonged to the Provost of the Merchants of Baghdad, and the boy was his son. He had a virgin daughter, to boot, who was promised in marriage, and it was her betrothal they were celebrating that day. There was with her mother a company of noble dames and singing-women, and whenever she went upstairs or down, the boy clung to her. So she called the slave-girl and said to her, “Take thy young master and play with him, till the company break up.” Seeing this, Dalilah asked the handmaid, “What festivities are these in your mistress’s house;” and was answered “She celebrates her daughter’s betrothal this day, and she hath singing-women with her.” Quoth the old woman to herself, “O Dalilah, the thing to do is to spirit away this boy from the maid,”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Burckhardt notes that the Wali, or chief police officer at Cairo, was exclusively termed Al–Aghá and quotes the proverb (No. 156) “One night the whore repented and cried:— What! no Wali (Al–Aghá) to lay whores by the heels?” Some of these Egyptian by-words are most amusing and characteristic; but they require literal translation, not the timid touch of the last generation. I am preparing, for the use of my friend, Bernard Quaritch, a bonâ fide version which awaits only the promised volume of Herr Landberg.
2 Lit. for “we leave them for the present”: the formula is much used in this tale, showing another hand, author or copyist.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the old trot said to herself, “O Dalilah, the thing to do is to spirit away this boy from the maid!” she began crying out, “O disgrace! O ill luck!” Then pulling out a brass token, resembling a dinar, she said to the maid, who was a simpleton, “Take this ducat and go in to thy mistress and say to her, ‘Umm al-Khayr rejoiceth with thee and is beholden to thee for thy favours, and on the day of assembly she and her daughters will visit thee and handsel the tiring-women with the usual gifts.’” Said the girl, “O my mother, my young master here catcheth hold of his mamma, whenever he seeth her;” and she replied “Give him to me, whilst thou goest in and comest back.” So she gave her the child and taking the token, went in; whereupon Dalilah made off with the boy to a by-lane, where she stripped him of his clothes and jewels, saying to herself, “O Dalilah, ‘twould indeed be the finest of tricks, even as thou hast cheated the maid and taken the boy from her, so now to carry on the game and pawn him for a thousand dinars.” So she repaired to the jewel-bazar, where she saw a Jew goldsmith seated with a cage full of jewellery before him, and said to herself, “‘Twould be a rare trick to chouse this Jew fellow and get a thousand gold pieces worth of jewellery from him and leave the boy in pledge for it.” Presently the Jew looked at them and seeing the boy with the old woman, knew him for the son of the Provost of the Merchants. Now the Israelite was a man of great wealth, but would envy his neighbour if he sold and himself did not sell; so espying Dalilah, he said to her, “What seekest thou, O my mistress?” She asked, “Art thou Master Azariah1 the Jew?” having first enquired his name of others; and he answered, “Yes.” Quoth she, “This boy’s sister, daughter of the Shahbandar of the Merchants, is a promised bride, and to-day they celebrate her betrothal; and she hath need of jewellery. So give me two pair of gold ankle-rings, a brace of gold bracelets, and pearl ear-drops, with a girdle, a poignard and a seal-ring.” He brought them out and she took of him a thousand dinars’ worth of jewellery, saying, “I will take these ornaments on approval; and whatso pleaseth them, they will keep and I will bring thee the price and leave this boy with thee till then.” He said, “Be it as thou wilt!” So she took the jewellery and made off to her own house, where her daughter asked her how the trick had sped. She told her how she had taken and stripped the Shahbandar’s boy, and Zaynab said, “Thou wilt never be able to walk abroad again in the town.” Meanwhile, the maid went in to her mistress and said to her, “O my lady, Umm al-Khayr saluteth thee and rejoiceth with thee and on assembly-day she will come, she and her daughters, and give the customary presents.” Quoth her mistress, “Where is thy young master?” Quoth the slave-girl, “I left him with her lest he cling to thee, and she gave me this, as largesse for the singing-women.” So the lady said to the chief of the singers, “Take thy money;” and she took it and found it a brass counter; whereupon the lady cried to the maid, “Get thee down, O whore, and look to thy young master.” Accordingly, she went down and finding neither boy nor old woman, shrieked aloud and fell on her face. Their joy was changed into annoy, and behold, the Provost came in, when his wife told him all that had befallen and he went out in quest of the child, whilst the other merchants also fared forth and each sought his own road. Presently, the Shahbandar, who had looked every-where, espied his son seated, naked, in the Jew’s shop and said to tile owner, “This is my son.” “’Tis well,” answered the Jew. So he took him up, without asking for his clothes, of the excess of his joy at finding him; but the Jew laid hold of him, saying, “Allah succour the Caliph against thee!”2 The Provost asked, “What aileth thee, O Jew?”; and he answered, “Verily the old woman took of me a thousand dinars’ worth of jewellery for thy daughter, and left this lad in pledge for the price; and I had not trusted her, but that she offered to leave the child whom I knew for thy Son.” Said the Provost, “My daughter needeth no jewellery, give me the boy’s clothes.” Thereupon the Jew shrieked out, “Come to my aid, O Moslems!” but at that moment up came the dyer and the ass-man and the young merchant, who were going about, seeking the old woman, and enquired the cause of their jangle. So they told them the case and they said, “This old woman is a cheat, who hath cheated us before you.” Then they recounted to them how she had dealt with them, and the Provost said, “Since I have found my son, be his clothes his ransom! If I come upon the old woman, I will require them of her.” And he carried the child home to his mother, who rejoiced in his safety. Then the Jew said to the three others “Whither go ye?”; and they answered, “We go to look for her.” Quoth the Jew, “Take me with you,” presently adding, “Is there any one of you knoweth her?” The donkey-boy cried, “I know her;” and the Jew said, “If we all go forth together, we shall never catch her; for she will flee from us. Let each take a different road, and be our rendezvous at the shop of Hajj Mas’úd, the Moorish barber.” They agreed to this and set off, each in a different direction. Presently, Dalilah sallied forth again to play her tricks and the ass-driver met her and knew her. So he caught hold of her and said to her, “Woe to thee! Hast thou been long at this trade?” She asked, “What aileth thee?”; and he answered, “Give me back my ass.” Quoth she, “Cover what Allah covereth, O my son! Dost thou seek thine ass and the people’s things?” Quoth he, “I want my ass; that’s all;” and quoth she, “I saw that thou wast poor: so I deposited thine ass for thee with the Moorish barber. Stand off, whilst I speak him fair, that he may give thee the beast.” So she went up to the Maghrabi and kissed his hand and shed tears. He asked her what ailed her and she said, “O my son, look at my boy who standeth yonder. He was ill and exposed himself to the air, which injured his intellect. He used to buy asses and now, if he stand he saith nothing but, My ass! if he sit he crieth, My ass! and if he walk he crieth, My ass! Now I have been told by a certain physician that his mind is disordered and that nothing will cure him but drawing two of his grinders and cauterising him twice on either temple. So do thou take this dinar and call him to thee, saying, ‘Thine ass is with me.’” Said the barber, “May I fast for a year, if I do not give him his ass in his fist!” Now he had with him two journeymen, so he said to one of them “Go, heat the irons.” Then the old woman went her way and the barber called to the donkey-boy,3 saying, “Thine ass is with me, good fellow! come and take him, and as thou livest, I will give him into thy palm.” So he came to him and the barber carried him into a dark room, where he knocked him down and the journeymen bound him hand and foot. Then the Maghrabi arose and pulled out two of his grinders and fired him on either temple; after which he let him go, and he rose and said, “O Moor, why hast thou used me with this usage?” Quoth the barber, “Thy mother told me that thou hadst taken cold whilst ill, and hadst lost thy reason, so that, whether sitting or standing or walking, thou wouldst say nothing but My ass! So here is thine ass in thy fist.” Said the other, “Allah requite thee for pulling out my teeth.” Then the barber told him all that the old woman had related and he exclaimed, “Allah torment her!”; and the twain left the shop and went out, disputing. When the barber returned, he found his booth empty, for, whilst he was absent, the old woman had taken all that was therein and made off with it to her daughter, whom she acquainted with all that had befallen and all she had done. The barber, seeing his place plundered, caught hold of the donkey-boy and said to him, “Bring me thy mother” But he answered, saying, “She is not my mother; she is a sharper who hath cozened much people and stolen my ass.” And lo! at this moment up came the dyer and the Jew and the young merchant, and seeing the Moorish barber holding on to the ass-driver who was fired on both temples, they said to him, “What hath befallen thee, O donkey-boy?” So he told them all that had betided him and the barber did the like; and the others in turn related to the Moor the tricks the old woman had played them. Then he shut up his shop and went with them to the office of the Police-master to whom they said, “We look to thee for our case and our coin.”4 Quoth the Wali, “And how many old women are there not in Baghdad! Say me, doth any of you know her?” Quoth the ass-man, “I do; so give me ten of thine officers.” He gave them half a score archers and they all five went out, followed by the sergeants, and patrolled the city, till they met the old woman, when they laid hands on her and carrying her to the house of the Chief of Police, stood waiting under his office windows till he should come forth. Presently, the warders fell asleep, for excess of watching with their chief, and old Dalilah feigned to follow their example, till the ass-man and his fellows slept likewise, when she stole away from them and, going in to the Wali’s Harim, kissed the hand of the mistress of the house and asked her “Where is the Chief of Police?” The lady answered, “He is asleep; what wouldst thou with him?” Quoth Dalilah, “My husband is a merchant of chattels and gave me five Mamelukes to sell, whilst he went on a journey. The Master of Police met me and bought them of me for a thousand dinars and two hundred for myself, saying, ‘Bring them to my house.’ So I have brought them.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 Arab. “Uzrah.”
2 i.e. “Thou art unjust and violent enough to wrong even the Caliph!”
3 I may note that a “donkey-boy” like our “post-boy” can be of any age in Egypt.
4 They could legally demand to be recouped but the chief would have found some pretext to put off payment. Such at least is the legal process of these days.
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the old woman, entering the Harim of the Police–Master, said to his wife, “Verily the Wali bought of me five slaves for one thousand ducats and two hundred for myself, saying, ‘Bring them to my quarters.’ So I have brought them.” Hearing the old woman’s story she believed it and asked her, “Where are the slaves?” Dalilah replied, “O my lady, they are asleep under the palace window”; whereupon the dame looked out and seeing the Moorish barber clad in a Mameluke habit and the young merchant as he were a drunken Mameluke1 and the Jew and the dyer and the ass-driver as they were shaven Mamelukes, said in herself, “Each of these white slaves is worth more than a thousand dinars.” So she opened her chest and gave the old woman the thousand ducats, saying, “Fare thee forth now and come back anon; when my husband waketh, I will get thee the other two hundred dinars from him.” Answered the old woman, “O my lady, an hundred of them are thine, under the sherbert-gugglet whereof thou drinkest,2 and the other hundred do thou keep for me against I come back,” presently adding, “Now let me out by the private door.” So she let her out, and the Protector protected her and she made her way home to her daughter, to whom she related how she had gotten a thousand gold pieces and sold her five pursuers into slavery, ending with, “O my daughter, the one who troubleth me most is the ass-driver, for he knoweth me.” Said Zaynab, “O my mother, abide quiet awhile and let what thou hast done suffice thee, for the crock shall not always escape the shock.” When the Chief of Police awoke, his wife said to him, “I give thee joy of the five slaves thou hast bought of the old woman.” Asked he, “What slaves?” And she answered, “Why dost thou deny it to me? Allah willing, they shall become like thee people of condition.” Quoth he, “As my head liveth, I have bought no slaves! Who saith this?” Quoth she, “The old woman, the brokeress, from whom thou boughtest them; and thou didst promise her a thousand dinars for them and two hundred for herself.” Cried he, “Didst thou give her the money?” And she replied, “Yes; for I saw the slaves with my own eyes, and on each is a suit of clothes worth a thousand dinars; so I sent out to bid the sergeants have an eye to them.” The Wali went out and, seeing the five plaintiffs, said to the officers, “Where are the five slaves we bought for a thousand dinars of the old woman?” Said they, “There are no slaves here; only these five men, who found the old woman, and seized her and brought her hither. We fell asleep, whilst waiting for thee, and she stole away and entered the Harim. Presently out came a maid and asked us, ‘Are the five with you with whom the old woman came?’; and we answered, ‘Yes.’” Cried the Master of Police, “By Allah, this is the biggest of swindles!”; and the five men said, “We look to thee for our goods.” Quoth the Wali, “The old woman, your mistress, sold you to me for a thousand gold pieces.” Quoth they, “That were not allowed of Allah; we are free-born men and may not be sold, and we appeal from thee to the Caliph.” Rejoined the Master of Police, “None showed her the way to the house save you, and I will sell you to the galleys for two hundred dinars apiece.” Just then, behold, up came the Emir Hasan Sharr al-Tarik who, on his return from his journey, had found his wife stripped of her clothes and jewellery and heard from her all that had passed; whereupon quoth he, “The Master of Police shall answer me this” and repairing to him, said “Dost thou suffer old women to go round about the town and cozen folk of their goods? This is thy duty and I look to thee for my wife’s property.” Then said he to the five men, “What is the case with you?” So they told him their stories and he said, “Ye are wronged men,” and turning to the Master of Police, asked him, “Why dost thou arrest them?” Answered he, “None brought the old wretch to my house save these five, so that she took a thousand dinars of my money and sold them to my women.” Whereupon the five cried, “O Emir Hasan, be thou our advocate in this cause.” Then said the Master of Police to the Emir, “Thy wife’s goods are at my charge and I will be surety for the old woman. But which of you knoweth her?” They cried, “We all know her: send ten apparitors with us, and we will take her.” So he gave them ten men, and the ass-driver said to them, “Follow me, for I should know her with blue eyes.”3 Then they fared forth and lo! they meet old Dalilah coming out of a by-street: so they at once laid hands on her and brought her to the office of the Wali who asked her, “Where are the people’s goods?” But she answered, saying, “I have neither gotten them nor seen them.” Then he cried to the gaoler, “Take her with thee and clap her in gaol till the morning;” but he replied, “I will not take her nor will I imprison her lest she play a trick on me and I be answerable for her.” So the Master of Police mounted and rode out with Dalilah and the rest to the bank of the Tigris, where he bade the lamp-lighter crucify her by her hair. He drew her up by the pulley and bound her on the cross; after which the Master of Police set ten men to guard her and went home. Presently, the night fell down and sleep overcame the watchmen. Now a certain Badawi had heard one man say to a friend, “Praise be to Allah for thy safe return! Where hast thou been all this time?” Replied the other, “In Baghdad where I broke my fast on honey-fritters.”4 Quoth the Badawi to himself “Needs must I go to Baghdad and eat honey-fritters therein”; for in all his life he had never entered Baghdad nor seen fritters of the sort. So he mounted his stallion and rode on towards Baghdad, saying in his mind, “’Tis a fine thing to eat honey-fritters! On the honour of an Arab, I will break my fast with honey-fritters and naught else!”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 i.e. drunk with the excess of his beauty.
2 A delicate way of offering a fee. When officers commanding regiments in India contracted for clothing the men, they found these douceurs under their dinner-napkins. All that is now changed; but I doubt the change being an improvement: the public is plundered by a “Board” instead of an individual.
3 This may mean, I should know her even were my eyes blue (or blind) with cataract and the Bresl. Edit. ix. 231, reads “Ayní”=my eye; or it may be, I should know her by her staring, glittering, hungry eyes, as opposed to the “Hawar” soft-black and languishing (Arab. Prov. i. 115, and ii. 848). The Prophet said “blue-eyed (women) are of good omen.” And when one man reproached another saying “Thou art Azrak” (blue-eyed!) he retorted, “So is the falcon!” “Zurk-an” in Kor. xx. 102, is translated by Mr. Rodwell “leaden eyes.” It ought to be blue-eyed, dim-sighted, purblind.
4 Arab, “Zalábiyah bi-‘Asal.”
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the wild Arab mounted horse and made for Baghdad saying in his mind, “’Tis a fine thing to eat honey-fritters! On the honour of an Arab I will break my fast with honey-fritters and naught else;” and he rode on till he came to the place where Dalilah was crucified and she heard him utter these words. So he went up to her and said to her, “What art thou?” Quoth she, “I throw myself on thy protection, O Shaykh of the Arabs!” and quoth lie, “Allah indeed protect thee! But what is the cause of thy crucifixion?” Said she, “I have an enemy, an oilman, who frieth fritters, and I stopped to buy some of him, when I chanced to spit and my spittle fell on the fritters. So he complained of me to the Governor who commanded to crucify me, saying, ‘I adjudge that ye take ten pounds of honey-fritters and feed her therewith upon the cross. If she eat them, let her go, but if not, leave her hanging.’ And my stomach will not brook sweet things.” Cried the Badawi, “By the honour of the Arabs, I departed not the camp but that I might taste of honey-fritters! I will eat them for thee.” Quoth she, “None may eat them, except he be hung up in my place.” So he fell into the trap and unbound her; whereupon she bound him in her stead, after she had stripped him of his clothes and turband and put them on; then covering herself with his burnouse and mounting his horse, she rode to her house, where Zaynab asked her, “What meaneth this plight?”; and she answered, “They crucified me;” and told her all that had befallen her with the Badawi. This is how it fared with her; but as regards the watchmen, the first who woke roused his companions and they saw that the day had broken. So one of them raised his eyes and cried, “Dalilah.” Replied the Badawi, “By Allah! I have not eaten all night. Have ye brought the honey-fritters?” All exclaimed, “This is a man and a Badawi, and one of them asked him, “O Badawi, where is Dalilah and who loosed her?” He answered, “’Twas I; she shall not eat the honey-fritters against her will; for her soul abhorreth them.” So they knew that the Arab was ignorant of her case, whom she had cozened, and said to one another, “Shall we flee or abide the accomplishment of that which Allah hath written for us?” As they were talking, up came the Chief of Police, with all the folk whom the old woman had cheated, and said to the guards, “Arise, loose Dalilah.” Quoth the Badawi, “We have not eaten to-night. Hast thou brought the honey-fritters?” Whereupon the Wali raised his eyes to the cross and seeing the Badawi hung up in the stead of the old woman, said to the watchmen, “What is this?” “Pardon, O our lord!” “Tell me what hath happened” “We were weary with watching with thee on guard and, ‘Dalilah is crucified.’ So we fell asleep, and when we awoke, we found the Badawi hung up in her room; and we are at thy mercy.” “O folk, Allah’s pardon be upon you! She is indeed a clever cheat!” Then they unbound the Badawi, who laid hold of the Master of Police, saying, “Allah succour the Caliph against thee! I look to none but thee for my horse and clothes!” So the Wali questioned him and he told him what had passed between Dalilah and himself. The magistrate marvelled and asked him, “Why didst thou release her?”; and the Badawi answered, “I knew not that she was a felon.” Then said the others, “O Chief of Police, we look to thee in the matter of our goods; for we delivered the old woman into thy hands and she was in thy guard; and we cite thee before the Divan of the Caliph.” Now the Emir Hasan had gone up to the Divan, when in came the Wali with the Badawi and the five others, saying, “Verily, we are wronged men!” “Who hath wronged you?” asked the Caliph; so each came forward in turn and told his story, after which said the Master of Police, “O Commander of the Faithful, the old woman cheated me also and sold me these five men as slaves for a thousand dinars, albeit they are free-born.” Quoth the Prince of True Believers, “I take upon myself all that you have lost”; adding to the Master of Police, “I charge thee with the old woman.” But he shook his collar, saying, “O Commander of the Faithful, I will not answer for her; for, after I had hung her on the cross, she tricked this Badawi and, when he loosed her, she tied him up in her room and made off with his clothes and horse.” Quoth the Caliph, “Whom but thee shall I charge with her?”; and quoth the Wali, “Charge Ahmad al-Danaf, for he hath a thousand dinars a month and one-and-forty followers, at a monthly wage of an hundred dinars each.” So the Caliph said, “Harkye, Captain Ahmad!” “At thy service, O Commander of the Faithful,” said he; and the Caliph cried, “I charge thee to bring the old woman before us.” Replied Ahmad, “I will answer for her.” Then the Caliph kept the Badawi and the five with him — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Caliph said to Calamity Ahmad, “I charge thee to bring the old woman before us,” he said, “I will answer for her O Commander of the Faithful!” Then the Caliph kept the Badawi and the five with him, whilst Ahmad and his men went down to their hall,1 saying to one another, “How shall we lay hands on her, seeing that there are many old women in the town?” And quoth Ahmad to Hasan Shuman, “What counsellest thou?” Whereupon quoth one of them, by name Ali Kitf al-Jamal,2 to Al–Danaf, “Of what dost thou take counsel with Hasan Shuman? Is the Pestilent one any great shakes?” Said Hasan, “O Ali, why dost thou disparage me? By the Most Great Name, I will not company with thee at this time!”; and he rose and went out in wrath. Then said Ahmad, “O my braves, let every sergeant take ten men, each to his own quarter and search for Dalilah.” All did his bidding, Ali included, and they said, “Ere we disperse let us agree to rendezvous in the quarter Al–Kalkh.” It was noised abroad in the city that Calamity Ahmad had undertaken to lay hands on Dalilah the Wily, and Zaynab said to her, “O my mother, an thou be indeed a trickstress, do thou befool Ahmad al-Danaf and his company.” Answered Dalilah, “I fear none save Hasan Shuman;” and Zaynab said, “By the life of my browlock, I will assuredly get thee the clothes of all the one-and-forty.” Then she dressed and veiled herself and going to a certain druggist, who had a saloon with two doors, salamed to him and gave him an ashrafi and said to him, “Take this gold piece as a douceur for thy saloon and let it to me till the end of the day.” So he gave her the keys and she fetched carpets and so forth on the stolen ass and furnishing the place, set on each raised pavement a tray of meat and wine. Then she went out and stood at the door, with her face unveiled and behold, up came Ali Kitf al-Jamal and his men. She kissed his hand; and he fell in love with her, seeing her to be a handsome girl, and said to her, “What dost thou want?” Quoth she, “Art thou Captain Ahmad al-Danaf?”; and quoth he, “No, but I am of his company and my name is Ali Camel-shoulder.” Asked she, “Whither fare you?”; and he answered, “We go about in quest of a sharkish old woman, who hath stolen folk’s good, and we mean to lay hands on her. But who art thou and what is thy business?” She replied, “My father was a taverner at Mosul and he died and left me much money. So I came hither, for fear of the Dignities, and asked the people who would protect me, to which they replied, ‘None but Ahmad al-Danaf.’” Said the men, “From this day forth, thou art under his protection”; and she replied, “Hearten me by eating a bit and drinking a sup of water.”3 They consented and entering, ate and drank till they were drunken, when she drugged them with Bhang and stripped them of their clothes and arms; and on like wise she did with the three other companions. Presently, Calamity Ahmad went out to look for Dalilah, but found her not, neither set eyes on any of his followers, and went on till he came to the door where Zaynab was standing. She kissed his hand and he looked on her and fell in love with her. Quoth she, “Art thou Captain Ahmad al- Danaf?”; and quoth he, “Yes: who art thou?” She replied, “I am a stranger from Mosul. My father was a vintner at that place and he died and left me much money wherewith I came to this city, for fear of the powers that be, and opened this tavern. The Master of Police hath imposed a tax on me, but it is my desire to put myself under thy protection and pay thee what the police would take of me, for thou hast the better right to it.” Quoth he, “Do not pay him aught: thou shalt have my protection and welcome.” Then quoth she, “Please to heal my heart and eat of my victual,” So he entered and ate and drank wine, till he could not sit upright, when she drugged him and took his clothes and arms. Then she loaded her purchase on the Badawi’s horse and the donkey-boy’s ass and made off with it, after she had aroused Ali Kitf al-Jamal. Camel-shoulder awoke and found himself naked and saw Ahmad and his men drugged and stripped: so he revived them with the counter-drug and they awoke and found themselves naked. Quoth Calamity Ahmad, “O lads, what is this? We were going to catch her, and lo! this strumpet hath caught us! How Hasan Shuman will rejoice over us! But we will wait till it is dark and then go away.” Meanwhile Pestilence Hasan said to the hall-keeper, “Where are the men?”; and as he asked, up they came naked; and he recited these two couplets4,
“Men in their purposes are much alike,
But in their issues difference comes to light:
Of men some wise are, others simple souls;
As of the stars some dull, some pearly bright.
Then he looked at them and asked, “Who hath played you this trick and made you naked?”; and they answered, “We went in quest of an old woman, and a pretty girl stripped us.” Quoth Hasan, “She hath done right well.” They asked, “Dost thou know her?”; and he answered, “Yes, I know her and the old trot too.” Quoth they, “What shall we say to the Caliph?”; and quoth he, “O Danaf, do thou shake thy collar before him, and he will say, ‘Who is answerable for her’; and if he ask why thou hast not caught her; say thou, ‘We know her not; but charge Hasan Shuman with her.’ And if he give her into my charge, I will lay hands on her.” So they slept that night and on the morrow they went up to the Caliph’s Divan and kissed ground before him. Quoth he, “Where is the old woman, O Captain Ahmad?” But he shook his collar. The Caliph asked him why he did so, and he answered, “I know her not; but do thou charge Hasan Shuman to lay hands on her, for he knoweth her and her daughter also.” Then Hasan interceded for her with the Caliph, saying, “Indeed, she hath not played off these tricks, because she coveted the folk’s stuff, but to show her cleverness and that of her daughter, to the intent that thou shouldst continue her husband’s stipend to her and that of her father to her daughter. So an thou wilt spare her life I will fetch her to thee.” Cried the Caliph, “By the life of my ancestors, if she restore the people’s goods, I will pardon her on thine intercession!” And said the Pestilence, “Give me a pledge, O Prince of True Believers!” Whereupon Al–Rashid gave him the kerchief of pardon. So Hasan repaired to Dalilah’s house and called to her. Her daughter Zaynab answered him and he asked her, “Where is thy mother?” “Upstairs,” she answered; and he said, “Bid her take the people’s goods and come with me to the presence of the Caliph; for I have brought her the kerchief of pardon, and if she will not come with a good grace, let her blame only herself.” So Dalilah came down and tying the kerchief about her neck gave him the people’s goods on the donkey-boy’s ass and the Badawi’s horse. Quoth he, “There remain the clothes of my Chief and his men”; and quoth she, “By the Most Great Name, ’twas not I who stripped them!” Rejoined Hasan, “Thou sayst sooth, it was thy daughter Zaynab’s doing, and this was a good turn she did thee.” Then he carried her to the Divan and laying the people’s goods and stuff before the Caliph, set the old trot in his presence. As soon as he saw her, he bade throw her down on the carpet of blood, whereat she cried, “I cast myself on thy protection, O Shuman.”’ So he rose and kissing the Caliph’s hands, said, “Pardon, O Commander of the Faithful! Indeed, thou gavest me the kerchief of pardon.” Said the Prince of True Believers, “I pardon her for thy sake: come hither, O old woman; what is thy name?” “My name is Wily Dalilah,” answered she, and the Caliph said “Thou art indeed crafty and full of guile.” Whence she was dubbed Dalilah the Wily One. Then quoth he, “Why hast thou played all these tricks on the folk and wearied our hearts?” and quoth she, “I did it not of lust for their goods, but because I had heard of the tricks which Ahmad al-Danaf and Hasan Shuman played in Baghdad and said to myself, ‘I too will do the like.’ And now I have returned the folk their goods.” But the ass-driver rose and said “I invoke Allah’s law5 between me and her; for it sufficed her not to take my ass, but she must needs egg on the Moorish barber to tear out my eye-teeth and fire me on both temples.”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Arab. “Ká‘ah,” their mess-room, barracks.
2 i.e. Camel shoulder-blade.
3 So in the Brazil you are invited to drink a copa d’agua and find a splendid banquet. There is a smack of Chinese ceremony in this practice which lingers throughout southern Europe; but the less advanced society is, the more it is fettered by ceremony and “etiquette.”
4 The Bresl. edit. (ix. 239) prefers these lines:—
Some of us be hawks and some sparrow-hawks,
And vultures some which at carrion pike;
And maidens deem all alike we be
But, save in our turbands, we’re not alike.
5 Arab. Shar a=holy law; here it especially applies to Al–Kisás=lex talionis, which would order her eye-tooth to be torn out.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the donkey-boy rose and cried out, “I invoke Allah’s law between me and her; for it sufficed her not to take my ass, but she must needs egg on the barber to tear out my eye-teeth and fire me on both temples;” thereupon the Caliph bade give him an hundred dinars and ordered the dyer the like, saying, “Go; set up thy dyery again.” So they called down blessings on his head and went away. The Badawi also took his clothes and horse and departed, saying, “’Tis henceforth unlawful and forbidden me to enter Baghdad and eat honey-fritters.” And the others took their goods and went away. Then said the Caliph, “Ask a boon of me, O Dalilah!”; and she said, “Verily, my father was governor of the carrier-pigeons to thee and I know how to rear the birds; and my husband was town-captain of Baghdad. Now I wish to have the reversion of my husband and my daughter wisheth to have that of her father.” The Caliph granted both their requests and she said, “I ask of thee that I may be portress of thy Khan.” Now he had built a Khan of three stories, for the merchants to lodge in, and had assigned to its service forty slaves and also forty dogs he had brought from the King of the Sulaymániyah,1 when he deposed him; and there was in the Khan a cook-slave, who cooked for the chattels and fed the hounds for which he let make collars. Said the Caliph, “O Dalilah, I will write thee a patent of guardianship of the Khan, and if aught be lost therefrom, thou shalt be answerable for it. “’Tis well,” replied she; “but do thou lodge my daughter in the pavilion over the door of the Khan, for it hath terraced roofs, and carrier-pigeons may not be reared to advantage save in an open space.” The Caliph granted her this also and she and her daughter removed to the pavilion in question, where Zaynab hung up the one-and-forty dresses of Calamity Ahmad and his company. Moreover, they delivered to Dalilah the forty pigeons which carried the royal messages, and the Caliph appointed the Wily One mistress over the forty slaves and charged them to obey her. She made the place of her sitting behind the door of the Khan, and every day she used to go up to the Caliph’s Divan, lest he should need to send a message by pigeon-post and stay there till eventide whilst the forty slaves stood on guard at the Khan; and when darkness came on they loosed the forty dogs that they might keep watch over the place by night. Such were the doings of Dalilah the Wily One in Baghdad and much like them were
1 i.e., of the Afghans. Sulaymáni is the Egypt and Hijazi term for an Afghan and the proverb says “Sulaymáni harámi”— the Afghan is a villainous man. See Pilgrimage i. 59, which gives them a better character. The Bresl. Edit. simply says, “King Sulaymán.”
Now as regards the works of Mercury ‘Alí; there lived once at Cairo,2 in the days of Saláh the Egyptian, who was Chief of the Cairo Police and had forty men under him, a sharper named Ali, for whom the Master of Police used to set snares and think that he had fallen therein; but, when they sought for him, they found that he had fled like zaybak, or quicksilver, wherefore they dubbed him Ali Zaybak or Mercury Ali of Cairo. Now one day, as he sat with his men in his hall, his heart became heavy within him and his breast was straitened. The hall-keeper saw him sitting with frowning face and said to him, “What aileth thee, O my Chief? If thy breast be straitened take a turn in the streets of Cairo, for assuredly walking in her markets will do away with thy irk.” So he rose up and went out and threaded the streets awhile, but only increased in cark and care. Presently, he came to a wine-shop and said to himself, “I will go in and drink myself drunken.” So he entered and seeing seven rows of people in the shop, said, “Harkye, taverner! I will not sit except by myself.” Accordingly, the vintner placed him in a chamber alone and set strong pure wine before him whereof he drank till he lost his senses. Then he sallied forth again and walked till he came to the road called Red, whilst the people left the street clear before him, out of fear of him. Presently, he turned and saw a water-carrier trudging along, with his skin and gugglet, crying out and saying, “O exchange! There is no drink but what raisins make, there is no love-delight but what of the lover we take and none sitteth in the place of honour save the sensible freke3!” So he said to him, “Here, give me to drink!” The water-carrier looked at him and gave him the gugglet which he took and gazing into it, shook it up and lastly poured it out on the ground. Asked the water-carrier, “Why dost thou not drink?”; and he answered, saying, “Give me to drink.” So the man filled the cup a second time and he took it and shook it and emptied it on the ground; and thus he did a third time. Quoth the water-carrier, “An thou wilt not drink, I will be off.” And Ali said, “Give me to drink.” So he filled the cup a fourth time and gave it to him; and he drank and gave the man a dinar. The water-carrier looked at him with disdain and said, belittling him, “Good luck to thee! Good luck to thee, my lad! Little folk are one thing and great folk another!”— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say,
1 This is a sequel to the Story of Dalilah and both are highly relished by Arabs. The Bresl. Edit. ix. 245, runs both into one.
2 Arab. “Misr” (Masr), the Capital, says Savary, applied alternately to Memphis, Fostat and Grand Cairo each of which had a Jízah (pron. Gízah), skirt, angle, outlying suburb.
3 For the curious street-cries of old Cairo see Lane (M. E. chapt. xiv.) and my Pilgrimage (i. 120): here the rhymes are of Zabíb (raisins), habíb (lover) and labíb (man of sense).
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the water-carrier receiving the dinar, looked at the giver with disdain and said “Good luck to thee! Good luck to thee! Little folk are one thing and great folk another.” Now when Mercury Ali heard this, he caught hold of the man’s gaberdine and drawing on him a poignard of price, such an one as that whereof the poet speaketh in these two couplets,
“Watered steel-blade, the world perfection calls,
Drunk with the viper poison foes appals,
Cuts lively, burns the blood whene’er it falls;
And picks up gems from pave of marble halls;”1
cried to him, “O Shaykh, speak reasonably to me! Thy water-skin is worth if dear three dirhams, and the gugglets I emptied on the ground held a pint or so of water.” Replied the water-carrier “’Tis well,” and Ali rejoined, “I gave thee a golden ducat: why, then dost thou belittle me? Say me, hast thou ever seen any more valiant than I or more generous than I?” Answered the water-carrier; “I have indeed, seen one more valiant than thou and eke more generous than thou; for, never, since women bare children, was there on earth’s face a brave man who was not generous.” Quoth Ali, “And who is he thou deemest braver and more generous than I?” Quoth the other, “Thou must know that I have had a strange adventure. My father was a Shaykh of the Water-carriers who give drink in Cairo and, when he died, he left me five male camels, a he-mule, a shop and a house; but the poor man is never satisfied; or, if he be satisfied he dieth. So I said to myself, ‘I will go up to Al–Hijaz’; and, taking a string of camels, bought goods on tick, till I had run in debt for five hundred ducats, all of which I lost in the pilgrimage. Then I said in my mind, ‘If I return to Cairo the folk will clap me in jail for their goods.’ So I fared with the pilgrims-caravan of Damascus to Aleppo and thence I went on to Baghdad, where I sought out the Shaykh of the Water-carriers of the city and finding his house I went in and repeated the opening chapter of the Koran to him. He questioned me of my case and I told him all that had betided me, whereupon he assigned me a shop and gave me a water-skin and gear. So I sallied forth a-morn trusting in Allah to provide, and went round about the city. I offered the gugglet to one, that he might drink; but he cried, ‘I have eaten naught whereon to drink; for a niggard invited me this day and set two gugglets before me; so I said to him, ‘O son of the sordid, hast thou given me aught to eat that thou offerest me drink after it?’ Wherefore wend thy ways, O water-carrier, till I have eaten somewhat: then come and give me to drink.’ Thereupon I accosted another and he said, ‘Allah provide thee!’ And so I went on till noon, without taking hansel, and I said to myself, ‘Would Heaven I had never come to Baghdad!’ Presently, I saw the folk running as fast as they could; so I followed them and behold, a long file of men riding two and two and clad in steel, with double neck-rings and felt bonnets and burnouses and swords and bucklers. I asked one of the folk whose suite this was, and he answered, ‘That of Captain Ahmad al-Danaf.’ Quoth I, ‘And what is he?’ and quoth the other, ‘He is town-captain of Baghdad and her Divan, and to him is committed the care of the suburbs. He getteth a thousand dinars a month from the Caliph and Hasan Shuman hath the like. More-over, each of his men draweth an hundred dinars a month; and they are now returning to their barrack from the Divan.’ And lo! Calamity Ahmad saw me and cried out, ‘Come give me drink.’ So I filled the cup and gave it him, and he shook it and emptied it out, like unto thee; and thus he did a second time. Then I filled the cup a third time and he took a draught as thou diddest; after which he asked me, ‘O water-carrier, whence comest thou?’ And I answered, ‘From Cairo,’ and he, ‘Allah keep Cairo and her citizens! What may bring thee thither?’ So I told him my story and gave him to understand that I was a debtor fleeing from debt and distress. He cried, ‘Thou art welcome to Baghdad’; then he gave me five dinars and said to his men, ‘For the love of Allah be generous to him.’ So each of them gave me a dinar and Ahmad said to me, ‘O Shaykh, what while thou abidest in Baghdad thou shalt have of us the like every time thou givest us to drink.’ Accordingly, I paid them frequent visits and good ceased not to come to me from the folk till, one day, reckoning up the profit I had made of them, I found it a thousand dinars and said to myself, ‘The best thing thou canst do is to return to Egypt.’ So I went to Ahmad’s house and kissed his hand, and he said, ‘What seekest thou?’ Quoth I, ‘I have a mind to depart’; and I repeated these two couplets,
‘Sojourn of stranger, in whatever land,
Is like castle based upon the wind:
The breaths of breezes level all he raised.
And so on homeward-way’s the stranger’s mind.’
I added, ‘The caravan is about to start for Cairo and I wish to return to my people.’ So he gave me a she-mule and an hundred dinars and said to me, ‘I desire to send somewhat by thee, O Shaykh! Dost thou know the people of Cairo?’ ‘Yes,’ answered I”; — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 The Mac. and Bul. Edits. give two silly couplets of moral advice:—
Strike with thy stubborn steel, and never fear
Aught save the Godhead of Allmighty Might;
And shun ill practices and never show
Through life but generous gifts to human sight.
The above is from the Bresl. Edit. ix. 247.
She pursued, It bath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Ahmad al-Danaf had given the water-carrier a she-mule and an hundred dinars and said to him, “I desire to send a trust by thee. Dost thou know the people of Cairo?” “I answered (quoth the water-carrier), ‘Yes’; and he said, ‘Take this letter and carry it to Ali Zaybak of Cairo and say to him, ‘Thy Captain saluteth thee and he is now with the Caliph.’ So I took the letter and journeyed back to Cairo, where I paid my debts and plied my water-carrying trade; but I have not delivered the letter, because I know not the abode of Mercury Ali.” Quoth Ali, “O elder, be of good cheer and keep thine eyes cool and clear: I am that Ali, the first of the lads of Captain Ahmad: here with the letter!” So he gave him the missive and he opened it and read these two couplets,
“O adornment of beauties to thee write I
On a paper that flies as the winds go by:
Could I fly, I had flown to their arms in desire,
But a bird with cut wings; how shall ever he fly?”
“But after salutation from Captain Ahmad al-Danaf to the eldest of his sons, Mercury Ali of Cairo. Thou knowest that I tormented Salah al-Din the Cairene and befooled him till I buried him alive and reduced his lads to obey me, and amongst them Ali Kitf al-Jamal; and I am now become town-captain of Baghdad in the Divan of the Caliph who hath made me over-seer of the suburbs. An thou be still mindful of our covenant, come to me; haply thou shalt play some trick in Baghdad which may promote thee to the Caliph’s service, so he may appoint thee stipends and allowances and assign thee a lodging, which is what thou wouldst see and so peace be on thee.” When Ali read this letter, he kissed it and laying it on his head, gave the water-carrier ten dinars; after which he returned to his barracks and told his comrades and said to them, “I commend you one to other.” Then he changed all his clothes and, donning a travelling cloak and a tarboosh, took a case, containing a spear of bamboo-cane, four-and-twenty cubits long, made in several pieces, to fit into one another. Quoth his lieutenant, “Wilt thou go a journey when the treasury is empty?”; and quoth Ali, “When I reach Damascus I will send you what shall suffice you.” Then he set out and fared on, till he overtook a caravan about to start, whereof were the Shah-bandar, or Provost of the Merchants, and forty other traders. They had all loaded their beasts, except the Provost, whose loads lay upon the ground, and Ali heard his caravan-leader, who was a Syrian, say to the muleteers, “Bear a hand, one of you!” But they reviled him and abused him. Quoth Ali in himself, “None will suit me so well to travel withal as this leader.” Now Ali was beardless and well-favoured; so he went up to and saluted the leader who welcomed him and said, “What seekest thou?” Replied Ali, “O my uncle, I see thee alone with forty mule-loads of goods; but why hast thou not brought hands to help thee?” Rejoined the other, “O my son, I hired two lads and clothed them and put in each one’s pocket two hundred dinars; and they helped me till we came to the Dervishes’ Convent,1 when they ran away.” Quoth Ali, “Whither are you bound?” and quoth the Syrian, “to Aleppo,” when Ali said, “I will lend thee a hand.” Accordingly they loaded the beasts and the Provost mounted his she-mule and they set out he rejoicing in Ali; and presently he loved him and made much of him and on this wise they fared on till nightfall, when they dismounted and ate and drank. Then came the time of sleep and Ali lay down on his side and made as if he slept; whereupon the Syrian stretched himself near him and Ali rose from his stead and sat down at the door of the merchant’s pavilion. Presently the Syrian turned over and would have taken Ali in his arms, but found him not and said to himself, “Haply he hath promised another and he hath taken him; but I have the first right and another night I will keep him.” Now Ali continued sitting at the door of the tent till nigh upon daybreak, when he returned and lay down near the Syrian, who found him by his side, when he awoke, and said to himself, “If I ask him where he hath been, he will leave me and go away.” So he dissembled with him and they went on till they came to a forest, in which was a cave, where dwelt a rending lion. Now whenever a caravan passed, they would draw lots among themselves and him on whom the lot fell they would throw to the beast. So they drew lots and the lot fell not save upon the Provost of the Merchants. And lo! the lion cut off their way awaiting his prey, wherefore the Provost was sore distressed and said to the leader, “Allah disappoint the fortunes2 of the far one and bring his journey to naught! I charge thee, after my death, give my loads to my children.” Quoth Ali the Clever One, “What meaneth all this?” So they told him the case and he said, “Why do ye run from the tom-cat of the desert? I warrant you I will kill him.” So the Syrian went to the Provost and told him of this and he said, “If he slay him, I will give him a thousand dinars,” and said the other merchants, “We will reward him likewise one and all.” With this Ali put off his mantle and there appeared upon him a suit of steel; then he took a chopper of steel3 and opening it turned the screw; after which he went forth alone and standing in the road before the lion, cried out to him. The lion ran at him, but Ali of Cairo smote him between the eyes with his chopper and cut him in sunder, whilst the caravan-leader and the merchants looked on. Then said he to the leader, “Have no fear, O nuncle!” and the Syrian answered, saying, “O my son, I am thy servant for all future time.” Then the Provost embraced him and kissed him between the eyes and gave him the thousand dinars, and each of the other merchants gave him twenty dinars. He deposited all the coin with the Provost and they slept that night till the morning, when they set out again, intending for Baghdad, and fared on till they came to the Lion’s Clump and the Wady of Dogs, where lay a villain Badawi, a brigand and his tribe, who sallied forth on them. The folk fled from the highwaymen, and the Provost said, “My monies are lost!”; when, lo! up came Ali in a buff coat hung with bells, and bringing out his long lance, fitted the pieces together. Then he seized one of the Arab’s horses and mounting it cried out to the Badawi Chief, saying, “Come out to fight me with spears!” Moreover he shook his bells and the Arab’s mare took fright at the noise and Ali struck the Chief’s spear and broke it. Then he smote him on the neck and cut off his head.4 When the Badawin saw their chief fall, they ran at Ali, but he cried out, saying, “Allaho Akbar — God is Most Great!”— and, falling on them broke them and put them to flight. Then he raised the Chief’s head on his spear-point and returned to the merchants, who rewarded him liberally and continued their journey, till they reached Baghdad. Thereupon Ali took his money from the Provost and committed it to the Syrian caravan-leader, saying, “When thou returnest to Cairo, ask for my barracks and give these monies to my deputy.” Then he slept that night and on the morrow he entered the city and threading the streets enquired for Calamity Ahmad’s quarters; but none would direct him thereto.5 So he walked on, till he came to the square Al–Nafz, where he saw children at play, and amongst them a lad called Ahmad al-Lakít,6 and said to himself, “O my Ali, thou shalt not get news of them but from their little ones.” Then he turned and seeing a sweet-meat-seller bought Halwá of him and called to the children; but Ahmad al-Lakit drove the rest away and coming up to him, said, “What seekest thou?” Quoth Ali, “I had a son and he died and I saw him in a dream asking for sweetmeats: wherefore I have bought them and wish to give each child a bit.” So saying, he gave Ahmad a slice, and he looked at it and seeing a dinar sticking to it, said “Begone! I am no catamite: seek another than I.” Quoth Ali, “O my son, none but a sharp fellow taketh the hire, even as he is a sharp one who giveth it. I have sought all day for Ahmad al-Danaf’s barrack, but none would direct me thereto; so this dinar is thine an thou wilt guide me thither.” Quoth the lad, “I will run before thee and do thou keep up with me, till I come to the place, when I will catch up a pebble with my foot7 and kick it against the door; and so shalt thou know it.” Accordingly he ran on and Ali after him, till they came to the place, when the boy caught up a pebble between his toes and kicked it against the door so as to make the place known. — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
1 Arab. “Al–Khanakah” now more usually termed a Takíyah. (Pilgrim. i. 124.)
2 Arab. “Ka’b al-ba’íd” (Bresl. Edit. ix. 255)=heel or ankle, metaph. for fortune, reputation: so the Arabs say the “Ka’b of the tribe is gone!” here “the far one”=the caravan-leader.
3 Arab. “Sharít,” from Sharata=he Scarified; “Mishrat”=a lancet and “Sharítah”=a mason’s rule. Mr. Payne renders “Sharít” by whinyard: it must be a chopper-like weapon, with a pin or screw (laulab) to keep the blade open like the snap of the Spaniard’s cuchillo. Dozy explains it=epée, synonyme de Sayf.
4 Text “Dimágh,” a Persianism when used for the head: the word properly means brain or meninx.
5 They were afraid even to stand and answer this remarkable ruffian.
6 Ahmad the Abortion, or the Foundling, nephew (sister’s son) of Zaynab the Coneycatcher. See supra, p. 145.
7 Here the sharp lad discovers the direction without pointing it out. I need hardly enlarge upon the prehensile powers of the Eastern foot: the tailor will hold his cloth between his toes and pick up his needle with it, whilst the woman can knead every muscle and at times catch a mosquito between the toes. I knew an officer in India whose mistress hurt his feelings by so doing at a critical time when he attributed her movement to pleasure.
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Ahmad the Abortion had made known the place, Ali laid hold of him and would have taken the dinar from him, but could not; so he said to him, “Go: thou deservest largesse for thou art a sharp fellow, whole of wit and stout of heart. Inshallah, if I become a captain to the Caliph, I will make thee one of my lads.” Then the boy made off and Ali Zaybak went up to the door and knocked; whereupon quoth Ahmad al-Danaf, “O doorkeeper, open the door; that is the knock of Quicksilver Ali the Cairene.” So he opened the door and Ali entered and saluted with the salam Ahmad who embraced him, and the Forty greeted him. Then Calamity Ahmad gave him a suit of clothes, saying, “When the Caliph made me captain, he clothed my lads and I kept this suit1 for thee.” Then they seated him in the place of honour and setting on meat they ate well and drink they drank hard and made merry till the morning, when Ahmad said to Ali, “Beware thou walk not about the streets of Baghdad, but sit thee still in this barrack.” Asked Ali, “Why so? Have I come hither to be shut up? No, I came to look about me and divert myself.” Replied Ahmad, “O my son, think not that Baghdad be like Cairo. Baghdad is the seat of the Caliphate; sharpers abound therein and rogueries spring therefrom as worts spring out of earth.” So Ali abode in the barrack three days when Ahmad said to him, “I wish to present thee to the Caliph, that he may assign thee an allowance.” But he replied, “When the time cometh.” So he let him go his own way. One day, as Ali sat in the barrack, his breast became straitened and his soul troubled and he said in himself, “Come, let us up and thread the ways of Baghdad and broaden my bosom.” So he went out and walked from street to street, till he came to the middle bazar, where he entered a cook-shop and dined;2 after which he went out to wash his hands. Presently he saw forty slaves, with felt bonnets and steel cutlasses, come walking, two by two; and last of all came Dalilah the Wily, mounted on a she-mule, with a gilded helmet which bore a ball of polished steel, and clad in a coat of mail, and such like. Now she was returning from the Divan to the Khan of which she was portress; and when she espied Ali, she looked at him fixedly and saw that he resembled Calamity Ahmad in height and breadth. Moreover, he was clad in a striped Abá-cloak and a burnous, with a steel cutlass by his side and similar gear, while valour shone from his eyes, testifying in favour of him and not in disfavour of him. So she returned to the Khan and going in to her daughter, fetched a table of sand, and struck a geomantic figure, whereby she discovered that the stranger’s name was Ali of Cairo and that his fortune overcame her fortune and that of her daughter. Asked Zaynab, “O my mother, what hath befallen thee that thou hast recourse to the sand-table?” Answered Dalilah, “O my daughter, I have seen this day a young man who resembleth Calamity Ahmad, and I fear lest he come to hear how thou didst strip Ahmad and his men and enter the Khan and play us a trick, in revenge for what we did with his chief and the forty; for methinks he has taken up his lodging in Al-Danaf’s barrack.” Zaynab rejoined, “What is this? Methinks thou hast taken his measure.” Then she donned her fine clothes and went out into the streets. When the people saw her, they all made love to her and she promised and sware and listened and coquetted and passed from market to market, till she saw Ali the Cairene coming, when she went up to him and rubbed her shoulder against him. Then she turned and said “Allah give long life to folk of discrimination!” Quoth he, “How goodly is thy form! To whom dost thou belong?”; and quoth she, “To the gallant3 like thee;” and he said, “Art thou wife or spinster?” “Married,” said she. Asked Ali, “Shall it be in my lodging or thine?4 and she answered, “I am a merchant’s daughter and a merchant’s wife and in all my life I have never been out of doors till to-day, and my only reason was that when I made ready food and thought to eat, I had no mind thereto without company. When I saw thee, love of thee entered my heart: so wilt thou deign solace my soul and eat a mouthful with me?” Quoth he, “Whoso is invited, let him accept.” Thereupon she went on and he followed her from street to street, but presently he bethought himself and said, “What wilt thou do and thou a stranger? Verily ’tis said, ‘Whoso doth whoredom in his strangerhood, Allah will send him back disappointed.’ But I will put her off from thee with fair words.” So he said to her, “Take this dinar and appoint me a day other than this;” and she said, “By the Mighty Name, it may not be but thou shalt go home with me as my guest this very day and I will take thee to fast friend.” So he followed her till she came to a house with a lofty porch and a wooden bolt on the door and said to him, “Open this lock.”5 Asked he “Where is the key?”; and she answered, “’Tis lost.” Quoth he, “Whoso openeth a lock without a key is a knave whom it behoveth the ruler to punish, and I know not how to open doors without keys?”6 With this she raised her veil and showed him her face, whereat he took one glance of eyes that cost him a thousand sighs. Then she let fall her veil on the lock and repeating over it the names of the mother of Moses, opened it without a key and entered. He followed her and saw swords and steel-weapons hanging up; and she put off her veil and sat down with him. Quoth he to himself, “Accomplish what Allah bath decreed to thee,” and bent over her, to take a kiss of her cheek; but she caught the kiss upon her palm, saying, “This beseemeth not but by night.” Then she brought a tray of food and wine, and they ate and drank; after which she rose and drawing water from the well, poured it from the ewer over his hands, whilst he washed them. Now whilst they were on this wise, she cried out and beat upon her breast, saying, “My husband had a signet-ring of ruby, which was pledged to him for five hundred dinars, and I put it on; but ’twas too large for me, so I straitened it with wax, and when I let down the bucket,7 that ring must have dropped into the well. So turn thy face to the door, the while I doff my dress and go down into the well and fetch it.” Quoth Ali, “’Twere shame on me that thou shouldst go down there I being present; none shall do it save I.” So he put off his clothes and tied the rope about himself and she let him down into the well. Now there was much water therein and she said to him, “The rope is too short; loose thyself and drop down.” So he did himself loose from the rope and dropped into the water, in which he sank fathoms deep without touching bottom; whilst she donned her mantilla and taking his clothes, returned to her mother — And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
1 Arab. “Hullah”=dress. In old days it was composed of the Burd or Ridá, the shoulder-cloth from 6 to 9 or 10 feet long, and the Izár or waistcloth which was either tied or tucked into a girdle of leather or metal. The woman’s waistcloth was called Nitáh and descended to the feet while the upper part was doubled and provided with a Tikkah or string over which it fell to the knees, overhanging the lower folds. This doubling of the “Hujrah,” or part round the waist, was called the “Hubkah.”
2 Arab. “Taghaddá,” the dinner being at eleven a.m. or noon.
3 Arab. Ghandúr for which the Dictionaries give only “fat, thick.” It applies in Arabia especially to a Harámi, brigand or freebooter, most honourable of professions, slain in foray or fray, opposed to “Fatís” or carrion (the corps crévé of the Klephts), the man who dies the straw-death. Pilgrimage iii. 66.
4 My fair readers will note with surprise how such matters are hurried in the East. The picture is, however, true to life in lands where “flirtation” is utterly unknown and, indeed, impossible.
5 Arab. “Zabbah,” the wooden bolt (before noticed) which forms the lock and is opened by a slider and pins. It is illustrated by Lane (M. E. Introduction).
6 i.e. I am not a petty thief.
7 Arab. Satl=kettle, bucket. Lat. Situla (?).
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52