The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night

The Goodwife of Cairo and Her Four Gallants.354

It is said that in Misr lived a woman, a model of beauty and loveliness and stature and perfect grace, who had a difficulty with a man which was a Kazi and after this fashion it befel. She was the wife of an Emir355 and she was wont to visit the Baths once a month; and when the appointed term for her going forth had come, she adorned herself and perfumed herself and beautified herself and hastened, tripping and stumbling,356 to the Hammám. Now her path passed by the Kazi’s court-house where she saw many a man357 and she stopped to enjoy the spectacle, upon which the judge himself glanced at her with a glance of eyes that bequeathed to him a thousand sighs and he asked her saying, “O woman, hast thou any want?” “No indeed,” answered she, “I have none.” Then he inclined to her and drawing near her said, “O lady mine and O light of these eyne, is union possible between us twain?” She replied, “’Tis possible,” and he enquired of her when it could be, and she made an appointment with him saying, “Do thou come to me after supper-time,”— 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

354 Scott’s “Story of the Lady of Cairo and her four Gallants” (vol. vi. 380): Gauttier, Histoire d’ une Dame du Caire et de ses Galans (vi. 400). This tale has travelled over the Eastern world. See in my vol. vi. 172 “The Lady and her Five Suitors,” and the “Story of the Merchant’s Wife and her Suitors” in Scott’s “Tales, Anecdotes, and Letters” (Cadell, London, 1800), which is in fact a garbled version of the former, introduced into the répertoire of “The Seven Wazírs.” I translate the W. M. version of the tale because it is the most primitive known to me; and I shall point out the portions where it lacks finish.

355 This title does not appear till p. 463 (vol. v.) of the MS., and it re-appears in vol. vi. 8.

356 i.e. in her haste: the text has “Kharrat.” The Persians who rhetorically exaggerate everything say “rising and sinking like the dust of the road.” [I doubt whether “Kharrat” could have the meaning given to it in the translation. The word in the MS. has no Tashdíd and I think the careless scribe meant it for “Kharajat,” she went out. — ST.]

357 I read “Nás malmumín=assembled men, a crowd of people.”— ST.]

The Seven Hundred and Thirty-ninth 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 Goodwife said to the Kazi, “Do thou come to me after supper-time,” and went her ways and entered the Hammam, where she washed herself and cleaned herself; then, coming out thence, she determined to go home. But she was met on her road by a Gentleman358 who was Sháhbandar of the Trader-guild, and he seeing her set his affections upon her; so he accosted her, saying, “Is’t possible that we ever be merry together?” Hereat she appointed him to come when supper was done, after which she left him and ganged her gait. As she neared her home she was met by a Butcher whose heart inclined to her, so he addressed her saying, “Is union possible?” and she appointed him to visit her an hour after supper had been eaten. Then she went home and mounting the stairs took seat in the upper saloon open to the air, where she doffed her head-veil359 and all that was upon her head. Now in the neighbourhood of her house was a Trader and he had mounted to the terrace-roof for a reason; so when the woman bared her hair and taking up a comb began to dry and prepare it for dressing, his eyes fell upon her whilst so engaged, and his heart was engrossed with her love. Presently he sent to her an old woman; and she returned him a reply and appointed him to visit her house during the night after supper-tide. On this wise she had promised herself to four men.360 Now the Kazi had got ready for her a Kohl-style and the Gentleman had prepared for her a fine suit of clothes and the Butcher had led for her a full-sized ram and the Trader had set apart for her two pieces of silk. As soon as it was supper-time, behold, the Kazi repaired to her in privacy bringing his gift and knocked at the door which he found unbolted and she cried to him, “Come in.” Accordingly he entered to her and presented to her that which was with him, but hardly had he settled himself comfortably in his seat when the Gentleman arrived and also rapped. Quoth the Kazi to the Goodwife, “Who may this be?” and quoth she, ‘Fear thou nothing, but arise and doff thy dress;” so he stripped himself altogether and she garbed him in a gaberdine and bonnet361 and hid him in a closet and went to open the door. Hereupon appeared the Consul and she let him in and accepted what he had brought and seated him beside her. But hardly had he settled down when, behold, there came a knock at the door and he cried, “Who may that be?” Said she, “Fear nothing but up and doff thy dress;” so he arose and stripped himself and she disguised him in a gaberdine and bonnet and hid him in another closet all alone. Then she hastened to the door and suddenly the Flesher-man appeared and she let him in and led him within and having accepted his present seated him; but hardly was he at his case when the door was again knocked, whereat he was overcome and affrighted: however, she said to him, “Fear nothing, but arise and doff thy dress in order that I may hide thee.” So he threw off his clothes and she invested him in a gaberdine and a bonnet and thrust him into a third cabinet. After this she went and opened the door when there came to her the Trader who was her neighbour, so she let him in and took what was with him, and seated him; and he was proceeding to sit down in comfort when behold, some one knocked at the door and he said, “Who may that be?” Hereupon she cried, “O my honour! O my calamity! This is my husband who but yesterday362 killed off four men; however do thou rise up and doff thy dress.” He did as she bade him, upon which she garbed him in a gaberdine and a bonnet and laid him in a fourth closet. So these four one and all found themselves in as many cabinets363 sorely sorrowful and fearful; but she went forth and suddenly her mate the Emir came in and took seat upon a chair that was in the house. Hereat all four sensed that she had opened to her husband and had admitted him; and they said in their minds, “Yesterday he killed four men and now he will kill me.” And each and every considered his own affair and determined in his mind what should happen to him from the husband. Such was the case with these four; but as regards the housemaster, when he took seat upon the chair, he fell to chatting with his wife and asking her saying, “What hast thou seen this day during thy walk to the Hammam?” Said she, “O my lord, I have witnessed four adventures and on every one hangeth a wondrous tale!” Now when the four heard the Goodwife speaking these words each of them said to himself, “Indeed I am a dead man and ’tis the intention of this woman to peach upon me.” Presently her husband asked her, “What be these four histories?” and answered she, “I saw four men each and every of whom was an antic fellow, a droll, a buffoon; furthermore, O my lord, one and all of them were garbed in gaberdine and bonnet.”— 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

358 “Rajul Khwájá:” see vol. vi. 46, etc. For “Sháhbandar”=king of the port, a harbourmaster, whose post I have compared with our “Consul,” see vol. iv. 29. It is often, however, applied to Government officials who superintend trade and levy duties at inland marts.

359 Arab. “Khimár,” a veil or rather a covering for the back of the head. This was the especial whorishness with which Shahrazad taxes the Goodwife: she had been too prodigal of her charms, for the occiput and the “back hair” should not be displayed even to the moon.

360 These four become five in the more finished tale — the King, the Wazir, the Kazi, the Wali or Chief of Police and the Carpenter. Moreover each one is dressed in different costume, gowns yellow, blue, red and patched with headgear equally absurd.

361 In text “Turtúr”=the Badawi’s bonnet: vol. ii. 143. Mr. Doughty (i. 160) found at Al-Khuraybah the figure of an ancient Arab wearing a close tunic to the knee and bearing on poll a coif. At Al-’Ula he was shown an ancient image of a man’s head cut in sandstone: upon the crown was a low pointed bonnet. “Long caps” are also noticed in i. 562; and we are told that they were “worn in outlandish guise in Arabia.”

362 In text “Embárah” (pron. ’Márah); pop. for Al-bárihah=the last part of the preceding day or night, yesterday. The vulgar Egyptian uses it as if it were a corruption of the Pers. “in bár”=this time. The Arab Badawin pronounce it El-beyrih (with their exaggerated “Imálah”) and use it not only for “yesterday,” but also for the past afternoon.

363 This device is far inferior in comic effect to the carpenter’s press or cabinet of five compartments, and it lacks the ludicrous catastrophe in which all the lovers make water upon one another’s heads.

The Seven Hundred and Forty-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 said to her husband, “Moreover each of the four was habited in gaberdine and bonnet.” But when the amourists heard these words every one of them said to himself, “Here be a judgment this strumpet of a woman hath wrought upon us, the whore! the witch!” and her husband understanding what she told him asked, “Wherefore didst thou not bring them hither that the sight might solace us?” “O my lord,” answered she, “had I brought them what hadst thou said to them? indeed I fear me thou wouldst have slain them!” And he, “No indeed; I would not have killed them, for they are but buffoon-folk, and we should have enjoyed their harlequinades and would have made them dance to us a wee and all and some tell us tales to gladden our minds; after which we would have suffered them depart and go about their own business.” The wife enquired, “And given that they knew neither dancing nor story-telling what hadst thou done with them?” and replied he, “Had the case been as thou sayest and they ignorant of all this, verily we would have killed them and cast them into the chapel of case.” The four men hearing such threatening words muttered to themselves, “There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great;” but the Kazi said in his mind, “How remain Judge of this city when I shall have been found garbed in gaberdine and bonnet and dancing and tale-telling? and indeed this is the greater death. Allah bring to ruin this adulteress of a woman!” Then the Flesher took thought as follows, “How shall I continue to be Chief of the Butchers when I prance about with a bonnet on my pate? this is indeed a painful penalty!” Then quoth the Gentleman, the Consul, “How shall it be with me when I am seen dancing and donning a bonnet? indeed death by the sword were lighter than this!” Then muttered the Trader which was the woman’s neighbour, “’Tis easier to kill myself with my own hand than to endure all such ill.” Anon the woman said to her husband, “Inshallah — God willing — on the morrow we will bring them hither to thy house that we may solace ourselves therewith;” but said he, “Walláhi, hadst thou brought them this night ’twere better, for that to-morrow evening I have business in the house of the Chief Emir.” Quoth she to him, “Now grant me immunity and give me permission and I will arise and bring them to thee at this moment, but each must come to thee alone and by himself.” Quoth he, “O Woman, leave I do give thee and immunity I do grant thee;” whereupon she rose without stay or delay and went to the closet wherein was the Judge. Then she opened it and entered, and taking him by the hand dragged him forward and came out with him and set him before her spouse garbed as he was in gaberdine and bonnet. The house-master scrutinised him and was certified of his being the Kazi and said to him, “Blessed be to thee, O our lord, this bonnet and this gaberdine which become thee passing well.” But the Judge, as he stood before the presence of the woman’s husband, bowed his front downwards and was clothed as with a garment in the sweat of shame and was sore abashed, when the Emir said to him, “O our lord the Kazi, do thou dance for us a wee the baboon dance and rejoice us; after which performance do thou tell us a tale that our breasts may thereby be broadened.” But when the man said this to him, the Judge feared for his life because he had heard and well remembered the words of the householder and he fell to clapping his palms and prancing to right and left. Hereupon the Emir laughed consumedly, he and his wife, and they signed and signalled each to other deriding the judicial dance, and the Kazi ceased not skipping until he fell to the floor for his fatigue. Hereupon the man said to him, “Basta! Now tell us thy tale that we may rejoice thereat; then do thou rise up and go about thy business.” “Hearkening and obedience,” said the Judge and forthright he began to relate the adventure of

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