The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

The Woman who Humoured Her Lover at Her Husband’s Expense.481

There was a man in Cairo and he had a wife who ever boasted of her gentle blood and her obedience and her docility and her fear of the Lord. Now she happened to have in the house a pair of fatted ganders482 and she also had a lover whom she kept in the background. Presently the man came to visit her and seeing beside her the plump birds felt his appetite sharpened by them, so he said to her, “O Such-an-one, needs must thou let cook these two geese with the best of stuffing so that we may make merry over them, for that my mind is bent upon eating goose flesh.” Quoth she, “’Tis right easy; and by thy life, O So-and-so, I will slaughter them and stuff them and thou shalt take them and carry them home with thee and eat them, nor shall this pimp my husband taste of them or even smell them.” “How wilt thou do?” asked he, and she answered, “I will serve him a sleight shall enter into his brains and then give them to thee, for none is dear to me as thyself, O thou light of mine eyes; whereas this pander my mate shall not touch a bittock thereof.” Upon this agreement the lover went from her and when her husband returned at sunset-tide she said to him, “Ho Man, how canst thou ever call thyself a man when thou never invitest anybody to thy house and no day of the days thou sayest me, ‘I have a guest coming to us,’ even as another would do; and folk surely will talk of thee and declare thou art a miser and unknowing the ways of generosity.” “O Woman,” said he, “this were for me an easy business and to-morrow morning (Inshallah!) I will buy for thee flesh and rice and thou shalt let cook for us or dinner or supper, whereto I will invite one of my intimates.” Quoth she to him, “Nay, O Man; rather do thou buy for me a pound of mince-meat; then slaughter the two geese and I will stuff them and fry them, for that nothing is more savoury to set before guests.” Said he, “Upon my head and mine eye be it!” and as soon as it was dawn he slaughtered the geese and went forth and bought a Rotolo of meat which he minced and took all was required of rice and hot spices and what not else. These he carried home to his wife and said to her, “Do thou finish off thy cooking before midday when I will bring my guests,” and presently he fared forth from her. Then she arose and cleaned out the geese and stuffed them with minced meat and a portion of rice and almonds and raisins;483 and fried them until they were well cooked; after which she sent for her lover and as soon as he came she and he made merry together, and she gave him the geese which he took up and left her. — 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

481 Scott does not translate this tale, but he has written on the margin (MS. vi. 101), “A story which bears a strong resemblance to that I have read (when a boy) of the Parson’s maid giving the roasted goose to her Lover and frightening away the guests, lest he should geld them.”

482 In text “Zakarayn Wizz (ganders) simán”; but afterwards “Wizzatayn”=geese.

483 These dried fruits to which pistachios are often added, form the favourite “filling” of lamb and other meats prepared in “puláo” (pilaff).

The Seven Hundred and Eighty-first 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 woman gave to her lover the geese which she had fried and he took the twain and fared away with them. Now when it was noon suddenly her husband came home accompanied by a friend and knocked at the door; so she arose and opened to him and admitted them. Then she asked, “And hast thou brought only one man?484 hie thee forth and fetch at least two or better still three.” “’Tis well,” said he and went off to do her bidding. Then the woman accosted the guest who came first and cried, “Oh the pity of it! By Allah thou art lost and the Lá Haul of Allah485 is upon thee and doubtless thou hast no children.” Now when the man heard these words he exclaimed, “Why, O Woman?” for indeed fear and affright had sunk deep into his heart. She rejoined, “Verily my husband hath not brought thee hither save with the intention of cutting off thy precious stones the honours of thy yard486 and of gelding thee to a Castrato; and heigho and alas for thee whether thou die or whether thou live, and Oh the pity of it for thee!” Now when the man heard this speech, he arose in haste and hurry and rushed out by the door, when behold, the husband came bringing with him two of his familiars. So the wife met him at the entrance and said to him, “O Man, O miserablest of men, O thou disappointed, O thou dissatisfied,487 thou hast brought to me a fellow which was a thief, a ne’er-do-well like unto thyself.” “How so?” asked he, and she answered, “The man stole the two geese and stole away.” Thereupon the husband went out and catching sight of the guest running off shouted to him, “Come back! Come back! even although thou bring only one with thee and take the other.” Cried the man in reply, “An thou catch me do thou take thee the two. But the house-master meant the two geese whilst the man who was running away thought only of himself, saying in his mind, “This one speaketh of my ballocks, meaning that he will take only one of my stones488 and leave me the other.” So he ceased not running and the other followed after him, but being unable to catch him he returned to his guests and served them with somewhat of bread and so forth, whilst the woman kept blaming him and nagging about the matter of the geese which she said had been carried off, but which had been given by her to her lover. The husband enjoined her to silence; however she would not hold her peace489 and on this wise he was balked of the meal to feed his wife’s friend. And now (quoth Shahrazad) I will relate to you somewhat of the wiles of an honest woman, and thereupon she fell to recounting the adventure of

484 “Anta jáib(un) bas rájul (an) wáhid (an)"— veritable and characteristic peasant’s jargon.

485 i.e., it is a time when men should cry for thy case. “Lá Haula”=there is no Majesty, etc. An ejaculation of displeasure, disappointments, despair.

486 In text “Maháshima-k”=good works, merits; in a secondary sense beard and mustachios. The word yard (etymologically a rod) is medical English, and the young student is often surprised to see, when a patient is told to show his yard, a mere inchlet of shrunken skin. [“Maháshim,” according to Bocthor, is a plural without singular, meaning: les parties de la génération. Pedro de Alcala gives “Hashshúm,” pl. “Hasháshim,” for the female parts, and both words are derived from the verb “hasham, yahshím,” he put to shame. — ST.]

487 Characteristic words of abuse, “O thou whose fate is always to fail, O thou whose lot is ever subject to the accidents of Fortune!”

488 Arab. “Bayzah”=an egg, a testicle. See “Bayza’áni,” vol. ii. 55.

489 Here the text ends with the tag, “Concluded is the story of the Woman with her Husband and her Lover. It is related of a man which was a Kazi,” etc. I have supplied what the writer should have given.

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