The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

The Tailor and the Lady and the Captain.364

It is related that a Tailor was sitting in his shop facing a tall house tenanted by a Yúzbáshi, and this man had a wife who was unique for beauty and loveliness. Now one day of the days as she looked out at the latticed window the Snip espied her and was distraught by her comeliness and seemlihead. So he became engrossed by love of her and remained all day a-gazing at the casement disturbed and perturbed, and as often as she approached the window and peered out therefrom, he would stare at her and say to her, “O my lady and O core of my heart, good morning to thee; and do thou have mercy upon one sore affected by his affection to thee; one whose eyes sleep not by night for thy fair sake.” “This pimp be Jinn-mad!” quoth the Captain’s wife, “and as often as I look out at the window he dareth bespeak me: haply the folk shall say, ‘Indeed she must needs be his mistress.’” But the Tailor persevered in this proceeding for a while of days until the lady was offended thereby and said in her mind, “Walláhi, there is no help but that I devise for him a device which shall make unlawful to him this his staring and casting sheep’s eyes at my casement; nay more, I will work for ousting him from his shop.” So one day of the days when the Yuzbashi went from home, his wife arose and adorned and beautified herself, and donning the bestest of what dresses and decorations she had, despatched one of her slave-girls to the Tailor instructing her to say to him, “My lady salameth to thee and biddeth thee come and drink coffee with her.” The handmaiden went to his shop and delivered the message; and he, when hearing these words,365 waxed bewildered of wits and rose up quivering in his clothes; — And Shahrazad was surprised by the dawn of day and fell silent and ceased to say her permitted say. Then quoth her sister Dunyazad, “How sweet is thy story, O sister mine, and how enjoyable and delectable!” Quoth she, “And where is this compared with that I would relate to you on the coming night an the King suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night and that was

364 Scott (vi. 386) “The Cauzee’s story:” Gauttier (vi. 406) does not translate it.

365 In the text the message is delivered verbatim: this iteration is well fitted for oral work, with its changes of tone and play of face, and varied “gag”; but it is most annoying for the more critical reader.

The Seven Hundred and Forty-third Night,

Dunyazad said to her, “Allah upon thee, O my sister, an thou be other than sleepy, finish for us thy tale that we may cut short the watching of this our latter night!” She replied, “With love and good will!” It hath reached me, O auspicious King, the director, the right-guiding, lord of the rede which is benefiting and of deeds fair-seeming and worthy celebrating, that when the Tailor heard the girl’s words, he quivered in his clothes; but indeed he recked not aught of the wiles of womankind. So after padlocking his shop he went with her to the house and walked upstairs, where he was met by the lady with a face like the rondure of the moon and she greeted him right merrily, and taking him by the hand led him to a well-mattressed Divan and bade her slave-girl serve him with coffee, and as he drank it she sat facing him. Presently the twain fell to conversing, she and he; and she soothed him with sweet speech, whilst he went clean out of his mind for the excess of her beauty and loveliness. This lasted until near midday, when she bade serve the dinner-trays, and took seat in front of him, and he began picking up morsels366 designed for his lips and teeth, but in lieu thereof thrust them into his eye. She laughed at him, but hardly had he swallowed the second mouthful and the third when behold, the door was knocked, whereupon she looked out from the casement and cried, “Oh my honour! this is my husband.” Hereat the man’s hands and knees began to quake, and he said to her, “Whither shall I wend?” Said she, “Go into this closet,” and forthright she thrust him into a cabinet and shot the bolt upon him and taking the key she tare out one of its teeth367 and put it in her pocket. After this she went down and opened the door to her husband who walked upstairs; and finding the dinner trays bespread, asked her, “What is this?” She answered, “I and my lover have been dining together.” “And what may be thy lover?” “Here he is.”368 “Where may he be?” to which she replied, “He is inside this closet.” Now as soon as the Tailor heard her say this say, he piddled in his bag-breeches and befouled himself and he was in a filthy state with skite and piss.369 Hereupon the Captain asked, “And where’s the key?” and she answered, “Here it is with me.”370 “Bring it out,” said he, so she pulled it from her pocket and handed it to him. The Captain took the key from his spouse and applying it to the wooden bolt of the cabinet rattled it to and fro371 but it would not open; so the wife came up to him and cried, “Allah upon thee, O my lord, what wilt thou do with my playmate?” Said he, “I will slay him!” and said she, “No, ’tis my opinion that thou hadst better pinion him and bind him as if crucified to the pillar in the court floor and then smite him with thy sword upon the neck and cut off his head; for I, during my born days, never saw a criminal put to death and now ’tis my desire to sight one done to die.” “Sooth is thy speech,” quoth he: so he took the key and fitting it into the wooden bolt would have drawn it back, but it could not move because a tooth had been drawn therefrom and the while he was rattling at the bolt his wife said to him, “O my lord,’tis my desire that thou lop off his hands and his feet until he shall become marked by his maims;372 and after do thou smite his neck.” “A sensible speech,” cried the husband and during the whole time her mate was striving to pull the bolt she kept saying to him, “Do this and do that with the fellow,” and he ceased not saying to her, “’Tis well.” All this and the Tailor sat hearkening to their words and melting in his skin; but at last the wife burst out laughing until she fell upon her back and her husband asked her, “Whereat this merriment?” Answered she, “I make mock of thee for that thou art wanting in wits and wis.dom.” Quoth he, “Wherefore?” and quoth she, “O my lord, had I a lover and had he been with me should I have told aught of him to thee? Nay; I said in my mind, ‘Do such and such with the Captain and let’s see whether he will believe or disbelieve.’ Now when I spake thou didst credit me and it became apparent to me that thou art wanting in wits.” Cried he to her, “Allah disappoint thee! Dost thou make jibe and jape of me? I also said in my thoughts, ‘How can a man be with her and she speak of him in the face of me?’” So he arose and took seat with her, the twain close together, at the dinner-tray and she fell to morselling him and he to morselling her, and they laughed and ate until they had their sufficiency and were filled; then they washed their hands and drank coffee. After this they were cheered and they toyed together and played the two-backed beast until their pleasure was fulfilled and this was about mid-afternoon — And Shahrazad was surprised by the dawn of day and fell silent and ceased saying her permitted say. Then quoth her sister Dunyazad, “How sweet and tasteful is thy tale, O sister mine, and how enjoyable and delectable!” Quoth she, “And where is this compared with that I would relate to you on the coming night an the Sovran suffer me to survive?” Now when it was the next night, and that was

366 Arab. “Lukmah”=a balled mouthful: vols. i. 261, vii. 367.

367 The “Miftáh” (prop. “Miftah”) or key used throughout the Moslem East is a bit of wood, 7–14 inches long, and provided with 4–10 small iron pins which correspond with an equal number of holes in the “Dabbah” or wooden bolt. If one of these teeth be withdrawn the lock will not open. Lane (M.E. Introduction) has a sketch of the “Miftah” and “Dabbah.”

368 In text “Ayoh” which is here, I hold, a corruption of “í (or Ayy) hú”=”yes indeed he.” [I take “aywah” (as I would read the word) to be a different spelling for “aywa”=yes indeed, which according to Spitta Bey, Gr. p. 168 is a contraction of “Ay (í) wa’lláhi,” yes by Allah. “What? thy lover?” asks the husband, and she emphatically affirms the fact, to frighten the concealed tailor — ST.]

369 In the Arab. “Al-Ashkhakh,” plur. of “Shakhkh” and literally “the stales” meaning either dejection. [I read: “bi ’l-Shakhákh,” the usual modern word for urine. “’Alayya Shakhákh” is: I want to make water. See Dozy Suppl. s.v.-ST.]

370 In text “Ahú ma’í”— pure Fellah speech.

371 In the Arab. “laklaka-há”— an onomatopoeia.

372 In text “Ilà an yasír Karmu-hu.” Karm originally means cutting a slip of skin from the camel’s nose by way of mark, in lieu of the normal branding.

The Seven Hundred and Forty-fifth Night,

Dunyazad said to her, “Allah upon thee, O my sister, an thou be other than sleepy, finish for us thy tale, that we may cut short the watching of this our latter night!” She replied, “With love and good will!” It hath reached me, O auspicious King, the director, the right-guiding, lord of the rede which is benefiting and of deeds fair-seeming and worthy celebrating, that the Yuzbashi fell to toying with his wife, and thrusting and foining at her cleft,373 her solution of continuity, and she wriggled to and fro to him, and bucked up and down, after which he tumbled her and both were in gloria.374 This lasted until near mid-afternoon when he arose and went forth to the Hammam. But as soon as he left the house she opened the cabinet and brought out the Tailor, saying, “Hast thou seen what awaiteth thee, O pander, O impure? Now by Allah, an thou continue staring at the windows or durst bespeak me with one single word it shall be the death of thee. This time I have set thee free, but a second time I will work to the wasting of thy heart’s blood.” Cried he, “I will do so no more; no, never!” Thereupon said she to her slave-girl, “O handmaid, open to him the door;” and she did so, and he fared forth (and he foully bewrayed as to his nether garments) until he had returned to his shop. Now when the Emir heard the tale of the Kazi, he rejoiced thereat and said to him, “Up and gang thy gait!” so the judge went off garbed in his gaberdine and bonnet. Then said the house-master to his wife, “This be one of the four, where’s Number Two?” Hereat she arose and opened the closet in which was the Gentleman and led him out by the hand till he stood before her husband, who looked hard at him and was certified of him and recognised him as the Sháhbandar; so he said to him, “O Khwájah, when didst thou make thee a droll?”375 but the other returned to him neither answer nor address and only bowed his brow groundwards. Quoth the house-master to him, “Dance for us a wee and when thou shalt have danced do thou tell us a tale.” So he fell perforce to clapping his hands and skipping about until he fell down of fatigue when he said, “O my lord, there is with me a rare story, and an exceeding strange if thou of thy grace accord attention to my words.” “Tell on and I will listen to thee,” quoth the other, whereupon said the Gentleman, “’Tis concerning the wiles of womankind,” and fell to relating the adventures of

373 In text “Yazghaz-há fí shikkati-ha,” the verb being probably a clerical error for “Yazaghzagh,” from “Zaghzagha,”=he opened a skin bag.

374 This is the far-famed balcony-scene in “Fanny” (of Ernest Feydeau translated into English and printed by Vizetelly and Co.) that phenomenal specimen of morbid and unmasculine French (or rather Parisian) sentiment, which contrasts so powerfully with the healthy and manly tone of The Nights. Here also the story conveys a moral lesson and, contrary to custom, the husband has the best of the affair. To prove that my judgment is not too severe, let me quote the following passages from a well-known and popular French novelist, translated by an English littérateur and published by a respectable London firm.

In “A Ladies’ Man:” by Guy de Maupassant, we read:—

Page 62. — And the conversation, descending from elevated theories concerning love, strayed into the flowery garden of polished blackguardism. It was the moment of clever, double meanings; veils raised by words, as petticoats are lifted by the wind; tricks of language, cleverly disguised audacities; sentences which reveal nude images in covered phrases, which cause the vision of all that may not be said to flit rapidly before the eyes of the mind, and allow well-bred people the enjoyment of a kind of subtle and mysterious love, a species of impure mental contact, due to the simultaneous evocations of secret, shameful and longed-for pleasures.

Page 166. — George and Madeleine amused themselves with watching all these couples, the woman in summer toilette and the man darkly outlined beside her. It was a huge flood of lovers flowing towards the Bois, beneath the starry and heated sky. No sound was heard save the dull rumble of wheels. They kept passing by, two by two in each vehicle, leaning back on the seat, clasped one against the other, lost in dreams of desire, quivering with the anticipation of coming caresses. The warm shadow seemed full of kisses. A sense of spreading lust rendered the air heavier and more suffocating. All the couples, intoxicated with the same idea, the same ardour, shed a fever about them.

Page 187 — As soon as she was alone with George, she clasped him in her arms, exclaiming: “Oh! my darling Pretty-boy, I love you more and more every day.”

The cab conveying them rocked like a ship.

“It is not so nice as our own room,” said she.

He answered; “Oh, no.” But he was thinking of Madame Waller.

Page 198. — He kissed her neck, her eyes, her lips with eagerness, without her being able to avoid his furious caresses, and whilst repulsing him, whilst shrinking from his mouth, she, despite herself, returned his kisses. All at once she ceased to struggle, and, vanquished, resigned, allowed him to undress her. One by one he neatly and rapidly stripped off the different articles of clothing with the light fingers of a lady’s maid. She had snatched her bodice from his hands to hide her face in it, and remained standing amidst the garments fallen at her feet. He seized her in his arms and bore her towards the couch. Then she murmured in his ear in a broken voice, “I swear to you, I swear to you, that I have never had a lover.”

And he thought, “That is all the same to me.”

375 In text “Ant’ amilta maskhará (for maskharah) matah (for matà),” idiomatical Fellah-tongue.

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