The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Volume 1

The Nazarene Broker’s Story

translated by

Richard F. Burton


O KING of the age, I came to this thy country with merchandise and Destiny stayed me here with you: but my place of birth was Cairo, in Egypt, where I also was brought up, for I am one of the Copts and my father was a broker before me. When I came to man’s estate he departed this life and I succeeded to his business. One day, as I was sitting in my shop, behold, there came up to me a youth as handsome as could be, wearing sumptuous raiment and riding a fine ass.1 When he saw me he saluted me, and I stood up to do him honour: then he took out a kerchief containing a sample of sesame and asked, “How much is this worth per Ardabb?”;2 whereto I answered, “An hundred dirhams.” Quoth he, “Take porters and gaugers and metesmen and come tomorrow to the Khan al-Jawáli,3 by the Gate of Victory quarter where thou wilt find me.” Then he fared forth leaving with me the sample of sesame in his kerchief; and I went the round of my customers and ascertained that every Ardabb would fetch an hundred and twenty dirhams. Next day I took four metesmen and walked with them to the Khan, where I found him awaiting me. As soon as he saw me he rose and opened his magazine, when we measured the grain till the store was empty; and we found the contents fifty Ardabbs, making five thousand pieces of silver. Then said he, “Let ten dirhams on every Ardabb be thy brokerage; so take the price and keep in deposit four thousand and five hundred dirhams for me; and, when I have made an end of selling the other wares in my warehouses, I will come to thee and receive the amount.” “I will well,” replied I and kissing his hand went away, having made that day a profit of a thousand dirhams. He was absent a month, at the end of which he came to me and asked, “Where be the dirhams?” I rose and saluted him and answered to him, “Wilt thou not eat somewhat in my house?” But he refused with the remark, “Get the monies ready and I will presently return and take them.” Then he rode away. So I brought out the dirhams and sat down to await him, but he stayed away for another month, when he came back and said to me, “Where be the dirhams?” I rose and saluting him asked, “Wilt thou not eat some thing in my house?” But he again refused adding, “Get me the monies ready and I will presently return and take them.” Then he rode off. So I brought out the dirhams and sat down to await his return; but he stayed away from me a third month, and I said, “Verily this young man is liberality in incarnate form.” At the end of the month he came up, riding a mare mule and wearing a suit of sumptuous raiment; he was as the moon on the night of fullness, and he seemed as if fresh from the baths, with his cheeks rosy bright, and his brow flower white, and a mole spot like a grain of ambergris delighting the sight; even as was said of such an one by the poet:—

Full moon with sun in single mansion
            ⚪ In brightest sheen and fortune rose and shone,
With happy splendour changing every sprite:
            ⚪ Hail to what guerdons prayer with blissful! boon!
Their charms and grace have gained perfection’s height,
            ⚪ All hearts have conquered and all wits have won.
Laud to the Lord for works so wonder strange,
            ⚪ And what th’ Almighty wills His hand hath done!

When I saw him I rose to him and invoking blessings on him asked, O my lord, wilt thou not take thy monies?” “Whence the hurry?”4 quoth he, “Wait till I have made an end of my business and then I will come and take them.” Again he rode away and I said to myself, “By Allah, when he comes next time needs must I make him my guest; for I have traded with his dirhams and have gotten large gains thereby.” At the end of the year he came again, habited in a suit of clothes more sumptuous than the former; and, when I conjured him by the Evangel to alight at my house and eat of my guest food, he said, “I consent, on condition that what thou expendest on me shall be of my monies still in thy hands. I answered, “So be it,” and made him sit down whilst I got ready what was needful of meat and drink and else besides; and set the tray before him, with the invitation “Bismillah”!5 Then he drew near the tray and put out his left hand6 and ate with me; and I marvelled at his not using the right hand. When we had done eating, I poured water on his hand and gave him wherewith to wipe it. Upon this we sat down to converse after I had set before him some sweetmeats; and I said to him, “O my master, prithee relieve me by telling me why thou eatest with thy left hand? Perchance something aileth thy other hand?” When he heard my words, he repeated these verses:—

Dear friend, ask not what burneth in my breast,
            ⚪ Lest thou see fiery pangs eye never saw:
Wills not my heart to harbour Salmá in stead
            ⚪ Of Layla’s7 love, but need hath ne’er a law!”

And he put out his right arm from his sleeve and behold, the hand was cut off, a wrist without a fist. I was astounded at this but he said, “Marvel not, and think not that I ate with my left hand for conceit and insolence, but from necessity; and the cutting off my right hand was caused by an adventure of the strangest.” Asked I, “And what caused it?”; and he answered:—“Know that I am of the sons of Baghdad and my father was of notables of that city. When I came to man’s estate I heard the pilgrims and wayfarers, travellers and merchants talk of the land of Egypt and their words sank deep into my mind till my parent died, when I took a large sum of money and furnished myself for trade with stuffs of Baghdad and Mosul and, packing them up in bales, set out on my wanderings; and Allah decreed me safety till I entered this your city. Then he wept and began repeating:—

The blear eyed ’scapes the pits
            ⚪ Wherein the lynx eyed fall:
A word the wise man slays
            ⚪ And saves the natural:
The Moslem fails of food
            ⚪ The Kafir feasts in hall:
What art or act is man’s?
            ⚪ God’s will obligeth all!

Now when he had ended his verse he said, So I entered Cairo and took off my loads and stored my stuffs in the Khan “Al-Masrúr.”8 Then I gave the servant a few silvers wherewith to buy me some food and lay down to sleep awhile. When I awoke I went to the street called “Bayn al-Kasrayn”—Between the two Palaces—and presently returned and rested my night in the Khan. When it was morning I opened a bale and took out some stuff saying to myself, “I will be off and go through some of the bazaars and see the state of the market.” So I loaded the stuff on some of my slaves and fared forth till I reached the Kaysariyah or Exchange of Jaharkas;9 where the brokers who knew of my coming came to meet me. They took the stuffs and cried them for sale, but could not get the prime cost of them. I was vexed at this, however the Shaykh of the brokers said to me, “O my lord, I will tell thee how thou mayest make a profit of thy goods. Thou shouldest do as the merchants do and sell thy merchandise at credit for a fixed period, on a contract drawn up by a notary and duly witnessed; and employ a Shroff to take thy dues every Monday and Thursday. So shalt thou gain two dirhams and more, for every one; and thou shalt solace and divert thyself by seeing Cairo and the Nile.” Quoth I, “This is sound advice,” and carried the brokers to the Khan. They took my stuffs and went with them on ’Change where I sold them well taking bonds for the value. These bonds I deposited with a Shroff, a banker, who gave me a receipt with which I returned to the Khan. Here I stayed a whole month, every morning breaking my fast with a cup of wine and making my meals on pigeon’s meat, mutton and sweetmeats, till the time came when my receipts began to fall due. So, every Monday and Thursday I used to go on ’Change and sit in the shop of one or other of the merchants, whilst the notary and money changer went round to recover the monies from the traders, till after the time of mid afternoon prayer, when they brought me the amount, and I counted it and, sealing the bags, returned with them to the Khan. On a certain day which happened to be a Monday,10 I went to the Hammam and thence back to my Khan, and sitting in my own room11 broke my fast with a cup of wine, after which I slept a little. When I awoke I ate a chicken and, perfuming my person, repaired to the shop of a merchant hight Badr al-Din al-Bostáni, or the Gardener,12 who welcomed me; and we sat talking awhile till the bazaar should open. Presently, behold, up came a lady of stately figure wearing a head-dress of the most magnificent, perfumed with the sweetest of scents and walking with graceful swaying gait; and seeing me she raised her mantilla allowing me a glimpse of her beautiful black eyes. She saluted Badr al-Din who returned her salutation and stood up, and talked with her; and the moment I heard her speak, the love of her got hold of my heart. Presently she said to Badr al-Din, “Hast thou by thee a cut piece of stuff woven with thread of pure gold?” So he brought out to her a piece from those he had bought of me and sold it to her for one thousand two hundred dirhams; when she said, “I will take the piece home with me and send thee its price.” “That is impossible, O my lady,” the merchant replied, “for here is the owner of the stuff and I owe him a share of profit.” “Fie upon thee!” she cried, “Do I not use to take from thee entire rolls of costly stuff, and give thee a greater profit than thou expectest, and send thee the money?” “Yes,” rejoined he; “but I stand in pressing need of the price this very day.” Hereupon she took up the piece and threw it back upon his lap, saying “Out on thee! Allah confound the tribe of you which estimates none at the right value;” and she turned to go. I felt my very soul going with her; so I stood up and stayed her, saying, “I conjure thee by the Lord, O my lady, favour me by retracing thy gracious steps.” She turned back with a smile and said, “For thy sake I return,” and took a seat opposite me in the shop. Then quoth I to Badr al-Din, “What is the price they asked thee for this piece?”; and quoth he, “Eleven hundred dirhams.” I rejoined, “The odd hundred shall be thy profit: bring me a sheet of paper and I will write thee a discharge for it.” Then I wrote him a receipt in my own handwriting and gave the piece to the lady, saying, “Take it away with thee and, if thou wilt, bring me its price next bazaar day; or better still, accept it as my guest gift to thee.” “Allah requite thee with good,” answered she, “and make thee my husband and lord and master of all I have!”13 And Allah favoured her prayer. I saw the Gates of Paradise swing open before me and said, “O my lady, let this piece of stuff be now thine and another like it is ready for thee, only let me have one look at thy face.” So she raised her veil and I saw a face the sight of which bequeathed to me a thousand sighs, and my heart was so captivated by her love that I was no longer ruler of my reason. Then she let fall her face veil and taking up the piece of stuff said, “O my lord make me not desolate by thine absence!” and turned away and disappeared from my sight. I remained sitting on ’Change till past the hour of after noon prayer, lost to the world by the love which had mastered me, and the violence of my passion compelled me to make enquiries concerning her of the merchant, who answered me, “This is a lady and a rich: she is the daughter of a certain Emir who lately died and left her a large fortune.” Then I took leave of him and returned home to the Khan where they set supper before me; but I could not eat for thinking of her and when I lay down to sleep, sleep came not near me. So I watched till morning, when I arose and donned a change of raiment and drank a cup of wine and, after breaking my fast on some slight matter, I went to the merchant’s shop where I saluted him and sat down by him. Presently up came the lady as usual, followed by a slave girl and wearing a dress more sumptuous than before; and she saluted me without noticing Badr al-Din and said in fluent graceful speech (never heard I voice softer or sweeter), “Send one with me to take the thousand and two hundred dirhams, the price of the piece.” “Why this hurry?” asked I and she answered, “May we never lose thee!”14 and handed me the money. Then I sat talking with her and presently I signed to her in dumb show, whereby she understood that I longed to enjoy her person,15 and she rose up in haste with a show of displeasure. My heart clung to her and I went forth from the bazaar and followed on her track. As I was walking suddenly a black slave girl stopped me and said, “O my master, come speak with my mistress.”16 At this I was surprised and replied, “There is none who knows me here;” but she rejoined, “O my lord, how soon hast thou forgotten her! My lady is the same who was this day at the shop of such a merchant.” Then I went with her to the Shroff’s, where I found the lady who drew me to her side and said, “O my beloved, thine image is firmly stamped upon my fancy, and love of thee hath gotten hold of my heart: from the hour I first saw thee nor sleep nor food nor drink hath given me aught of pleasure.” I replied, “The double of that suffering is mine and my state dispenseth me from complaint.” Then said she, “O my beloved, at thy house, or at mine?” “I am a stranger here and have no place of reception save the Khan, so by thy favour it shall be at thy house.” “So be it; but this is Friday17 night and nothing can be done till tomorrow after public prayers; go to the Mosque and pray; then mount thine ass, and ask for the Habbániyah18 quarter; and, when there, look out for the mansion of Al-Nakib19 Barakát, popularly known as Abu Shámah the Syndic; for I live there: so do not delay as I shall be expecting thee.” I rejoiced with still greater joy at this; and took leave of her and returned to my Khan, where I passed a sleepless night. Hardly was I assured that morning had dawned when I rose, changed my dress, perfumed myself with essences and sweet scents and, taking fifty dinars in a kerchief, went from the Khan Masrúr to the Zuwaylah20 gate, where I mounted an ass and said to its owner, “Take me to the Habbaniyah.” So he set off with me and brought up in the twinkling of an eye at a street known as Darb al-Munkari, where I said to him, “Go in and ask for the Syndic’s mansion.” He was absent a while and then returned and said, “Alight.” “Go thou before me to the house,” quoth I, adding, “Come back with the earliest light and bring me home;” and he answered, “In Allah’s name;” whereupon I gave him a quarter dinar of gold, and he took it and went his ways. Then I knocked at the door and out came two white slave girls, both young; high-bosomed virgins, as they were moons, and said to me, “Enter, for our mistress is expecting thee and she hath not slept the night long for her delight in thee.” I passed through the vestibule into a saloon with seven doors, floored with parti-coloured marbles and furnished with curtains and hangings of coloured silks: the ceiling was cloisonné with gold and corniced with inscriptions21 emblazoned in lapis lazuli; and the walls were stuccoed with Sultání gypsum22 which mirrored the beholder’s face. Around the saloon were latticed windows overlooking a garden full of all manner of fruits; whose streams were railing and riffling and whose birds were trilling and shrilling; and in the heart of the hall was a jetting fountain at whose corners stood birds fashioned in red gold crusted with pearls and gems and spouting water crystal clear. When I entered and took a seat.——And Shahrázád perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

 

When it was the Twenty-sixth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the young merchant continued, When I entered and took a seat, the lady at once came in crowned with a diadem23 of pearls and jewels; her face dotted with artificial moles in indigo,24 her eyebrows pencilled with Kohl and her hands and feet reddened with Henna. When she saw me she smiled in my face and took me to her embrace and clasped me to her breast; then she put her mouth to my mouth and sucked my tongue25 (and I did likewise) and said, “Can it be true, O my little darkling, thou art come to me?” adding, “Welcome and good cheer to thee! By Allah, from the day I saw thee sleep hath not been sweet to me nor hath food been pleasant.” Quoth I, “Such hath also been my case: and I am thy slave, thy negro slave.” Then we sat down to converse and I hung my head earthwards in bashfulness, but she delayed not long ere she set before me a tray of the most exquisite viands, marinated meats, fritters soaked in bee’s26 honeys and chickens stuffed with sugar and pistachio nuts, whereof we ate till we were satisfied. Then they brought basin and ewer and I washed my hands and we scented ourselves with rose water musk’d and sat down again to converse. So she began repeating these couplets27:

“Had we wist of thy coming, thy way had been strewn
    With the blood of our heart and the balls of our sight:
Our cheek as a foot-cloth to greet thee been thrown,
    That thy step on our eyelids should softly alight.”

And she kept plaining of what had befallen her and I of what had betided me; and love of her got so firm hold of my heart that all my wealth seemed a thing of naught in comparison with her. Then we fell to toying and groping and kissing till night fall, when the handmaidens set before us meats and a complete wine service, and we sat carousing till the noon of night, when we lay down and I lay with her; never in my life saw I a night like that night. When morning morrowed I arose and took leave of her, throwing under the carpet bed the kerchief wherein were the dinars28 and as I went out she wept and said, “O my lord, when shall I look upon that lovely face again?” “I will be with thee at sunset,” answered I, and going out found the donkey boy, who had brought me the day before, awaiting at the door. So I mounted ass and rode to the Khan of Masrur where I alighted and gave the man a half dinar, saying, “Return at sunset;” and he said “I will.” Then I breakfasted and went out to seek the price of my stuffs; after which I returned, and taking a roast lamb and some sweetmeats, called a porter and put the provision in his crate, and sent it to the lady paying the man his hire.29 I went back to my business till sunset, when the ass driver came to me and I took fifty dinars in a kerchief and rode to her house where I found the marble floor swept, the brasses burnisht, the branch lights burning, the wax candles ready lighted, the meat served up and the wine strained.30 When my lady saw me she threw her arms about my neck, and cried, “Thou hast desolated me by thine absence.” Then she set the tables before me and we ate till we were satisfied, when the slave girls carried off the trays and served up wine. We gave not over drinking till half the night was past; and, being well warmed with drink, we went to the sleeping chamber and lay there till morning. I then arose and fared forth from her leaving the fifty dinars with her as before; and, finding the donkey boy at the door, rode to the Khan and slept awhile. After that I went out to make ready the evening meal and took a brace of geese with gravy on two platters of dressed and peppered rice, and got ready colocasia31-roots fried and soaked in honey, and wax candles and fruits and conserves and nuts and almonds and sweet scented cowers; and I sent them all to her. As soon as it was night I again tied up fifty dinars in a kerchief and, mounting the ass as usual, rode to the mansion where we ate and drank and lay together till morning when I threw the kerchief and dinars to her32 and rode back to the Khan. I ceased not doing after that fashion till, after a sweet night, I woke one fine morning and found myself beggared, dinar-less and dirhamless. So said I to myself “All this be Satan’s work;” and began to recite these couplets:—

“Poverty dims the sheen of man whate’er his wealth has been,
            ⚪ E’en as the sun about to set shines with a yellowing light:
Absent he falls from memory, forgotten by his friends;
            ⚪ Present he shareth not their joys for none in him delight:
He walks the market shunned of all, too glad to hide his head,
            ⚪ In desert places tears he sheds and moans his bitter plight:
By Allah, ’mid his kith and kin a man, however good,
            ⚪ Waylaid by want and penury is but a stranger wight!”

I fared forth from the Khan and walked down “Between the Palaces” street till I came to the Zuwaylah Porte, where I found the people crowding and the gateway blocked for the much folk. And by the decree of Destiny I saw there a trooper against whom I pressed unintentionally, so that my hand came upon his bosom pocket and I felt a purse inside it. I looked and seeing a string of green silk hanging from the pocket knew it for a purse; and the crush grew greater every minute and just then, a camel laden with a load of fuel happened to jostle the trooper on the opposite side, and he turned round to fend it off from him, lest it tear his clothes; and Satan tempted me, so I pulled the string and drew out a little bag of blue silk, containing something which chinked like coin. But the soldier, feeling his pocket suddenly lightened, put his hand to it and found it empty; whereupon he turned to me and, snatching up his mace from his saddle bow, struck me with it on the head. I fell to the ground, whilst the people came round us and seizing the trooper’s mare by the bridle said to him, “Strikest thou this youth such a blow as this for a mere push!” But the trooper cried out at them, “This fellow is an accursed thief!” Whereupon I came to myself and stood up, and the people looked at me and said, “Nay, he is a comely youth: he would not steal anything;” and some of them took my part and others were against me and question and answer waxed loud and warm. The people pulled at me and would have rescued me from his clutches; but as fate decreed behold, the Governor, the Chief of Police, and the watch33 entered the Zuwaylah Gate at this moment and, seeing the people gathered together around me and the soldier, the Governor asked, “What is the matter?” “By Allah! O Emir,” answered the trooper, “this is a thief! I had in my pocket a purse of blue silk lined with twenty good gold pieces and he took it, whilst I was in the crush.” Quoth the Governor, “Was any one by thee at the time?”; and quoth the soldier, “No.” Thereupon the Governor cried out to the Chief of Police who seized me, and on this wise the curtain of the Lord’s. protection was withdrawn from me. Then he said “Strip him;” and, when they stripped me, they found the purse in my clothes. The Wali took it, opened it and counted it; and, finding in it twenty dinars as the soldier had said, waxed exceeding wroth and bade his guard bring me before him. Then said he to me, “Now, O youth, speak truly: didst thou steal this purse?”34 At this I hung my head to the ground and said to myself, “If I deny having stolen it, I shall get myself into terrible trouble.” So I raised my head and said, “Yes, I took it.” When the Governor heard these words he wondered and summoned witnesses who came forward and attested my confession. All this happened at the Zuwaylah Gate. Then the Governor ordered the link bearer to cut off my right hand, and he did so; after which he would have struck off my left foot also; but the heart of the soldier softened and he took pity on me and interceded for me with the Governor that I should not be slain.35 Thereupon the Wali left me, and went away and the folk remained round me and gave me a cup of wine to drink. As for the trooper he pressed the purse upon me, and said, “Thou art a comely youth and it befitteth not thou be a thief.” So I repeated these verses:—

I swear by Allah’s name, fair sir! no thief was I,
            ⚪ Nor, O thou best of men! was I a bandit bred:
But Fortune’s change and chance o’erthrew me suddenly,
            ⚪ And cark and care and penury my course misled:
I shot it not, indeed, ’twas Allah shot the shaft
            ⚪ That rolled in dust the Kingly diadem from my head.”36

The soldier turned away after giving me the purse; and I also went my ways having wrapped my hand in a piece of rag and thrust it into my bosom. My whole semblance had changed, and my colour had waxed yellow from the shame and pain which had befallen me. Yet I went on to my mistress’s house where, in extreme perturbation of spirit I threw myself down on the carpet bed. She saw me in this state and asked me, “What aileth thee and why do I see thee so changed in looks?”; and I answered, “My head paineth me and I am far from well.” Whereupon she was vexed and was concerned on my account and said, “Burn not my heart, O my lord, but sit up and raise thy head and recount to me what hath happened to thee today, for thy face tells me a tale.” “Leave this talk,” replied I. But she wept and said, “Me seems thou art tired of me, for I see thee contrary to thy wont.” But I was silent; and she kept on talking to me albeit I gave her no answer, till night came on. Then she set food before me, but I refused it fearing lest she see me eating with my left hand and said to her, “I have no stomach to eat at present.” Quoth she, “Tell me what hath befallen thee to day, and why art thou so sorrowful and broken in spirit and heart?” Quoth I, “Wait awhile; I will tell thee all at my leisure.” Then she brought me wine, saying, “Down with it, this will dispel thy grief: thou must indeed drink and tell me of thy tidings.” I asked her, “Perforce must I tell thee?”; and she answered, “Yes.” Then said I, “If it needs must be so, then give me to drink with thine own hand.” She filled and drank,37 and filled again and gave me the cup which I took from her with my left hand and wiped the tears from my eyelids and began repeating:

When Allah willeth aught befall a man
            ⚪ Who hath of ears and eyes and wits full share:
His ears He deafens and his eyes He blinds
            ⚪ And draws his wits e’en as we draw a hair38
Till, having wrought His purpose, He restores
            ⚪ Man’s wits, that warned more circumspect he fare.”

When I ended my verses I wept, and she cried out with an exceeding loud cry, “What is the cause of thy tears? Thou burnest my heart! What makes thee take the cup with thy left hand?” Quoth I, “Truly I have on my right hand a boil;” and quoth she, “Put it out and I will open it for thee.”39 “It is not yet time to open it,” I replied, “so worry me not with thy words, for I will not take it out of the bandage at this hour.” Then I drank off the cup, and she gave not over plying me with drink until drunkenness overcame me and I fell asleep in the place where I was sitting; whereupon she looked at my right hand and saw a wrist without a fist. So she searched me closely and found with me the purse of gold and my severed hand wrapped up in the bit of rag.40 With this such sorrow came upon her as never overcame any and she ceased not lamenting on my account till the morning. When I awoke I found that she had dressed me a dish of broth of four boiled chickens, which she brought to me together with a cup of wine. I ate and drank and laying down the purse, would have gone out; but she said to me, “Whither away?”; and I answered, “Where my business calleth me;” and said she, “Thou shalt not go: sit thee down.” So I sat down and she resumed, “Hath thy love for me so overpowered thee that thou hast wasted all thy wealth and hast lost thine hand on my account? I take thee to witness against me and also Allah be my witness that I will never part with thee, but will die under thy feet; and soon thou shalt see that my words are true.” Then she sent for the Kazi and witnesses and said to them, “Write my contract of marriage with this young man, and bear ye witness that I have received the marriage settlement.”41 When they had drawn up the document she said, “Be witness that all my monies which are in this chest and all I have in slaves and handmaidens and other property is given in free gift to this young man.” So they took act of this statement enabling me to assume possession in right of marriage; and then withdrew, after receiving their fees. Thereupon she took me by the hand and, leading me to a closet, opened a large chest and said to me, “See what is herein;” and I looked and behold, it was full of kerchiefs. Quoth she, “This is the money I had from thee and every kerchief thou gavest me, containing fifty dinars, I wrapped up and cast into this chest; so now take thine own, for it returns to thee, and this day thou art become of high estate. Fortune and Fate afflicted thee so that thou didst lose thy right hand for my sake; and I can never requite thee; nay, although I gave my life ’twere but little and I should still remain thy debtor.” Then she added, “Take charge of thy property.”; so I transferred the contents of her chest to my chest, and added my wealth to her wealth which I had given her, and my heart was eased and my sorrow ceased. I stood up and kissed her and thanked her; and she said, “Thou hast given thy hand for love of me and how am I able to give thee an equivalent? By Allah, if I offered my life for thy love, it were indeed but little and would not do justice to thy claim upon me.” Then she made over to me by deed all that she possessed in clothes and ornaments of gold and pearls, and goods and farms and chattels, and lay not down to sleep that night, being sorely grieved for my grief, till I told her the whole of what had befallen me. I passed the night with her. But before we had lived together a month’s time she fell sorely sick and illness increased upon her, by reason of her grief for the loss of my hand, and she endured but fifty days before she was numbered among the folk of futurity and heirs of immortality. So I laid her out and buried her body in mother earth and let make a pious perfection of the Koran42 for the health of her soul, and gave much money in alms for her; after which I turned me from the grave and returned to the house. There I found that she had left much substance in ready money and slaves, mansions, lands and domains, and among her store houses was a granary of sesame seed, whereof I sold part to thee; and I had neither time nor inclination to take count with thee till I had sold the rest of the stock in store; nor, indeed, even now have I made an end of receiving the price. So I desire thou baulk me not in what I am about to say to thee: twice have I eaten of thy food and I wish to give thee as a present the monies for the sesame which are by thee. Such is the cause of the cutting off my right hand and my eating with my left.” “Indeed,” said I, “thou hast shown me the utmost kindness and liberality.” Then he asked me, “Why shouldst thou not travel with me to my native country whither I am about to return with Cairene and Alexandrian stuffs? Say me, wilt thou accompany me?”; and I answered “I will.” So I agreed to go with him at the head of the month, and I sold all I had and bought other merchandise; then we set out and travelled, I and the young man, to this country of yours, where he sold his venture and bought other investment of country stuffs and continued his journey to Egypt But it was my lot to abide here, so that these things befell me in my strangerhood which befell last night, and is not this tale, O King of the age, more wondrous and marvellous than the story of the Hunchback? “Not so,” quoth the King, “I cannot accept it: there is no help for it but that you be hanged, every one of you.”——And Shahrázád perceived the dawn of day, and ceased saying her permitted say.

 

When it was the Twenty-seventh Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the King of China declared “There is no help for it but that you be hanged,” the Reeve of the Sultan’s Kitchen came forward and said, “If thou permit me I will tell thee a tale of what befell me just before I found this Gobbo, and, if it be more wondrous than his story, do thou grant us our lives.” And when the King answered “Yes” he began to recount

THE REEVE’S TALE.


1.    I need hardly note that this is an old Biblical practice. The ass is used for city-work as the horse for fighting and travelling, the mule for burdens and the dromedary for the desert. But the Badawi, like the Indian, despises the monture and sings:—

The back of the steed is a noble place
But the mule’s dishonour, the ass disgrace!

The fine white asses, often thirteen hands high, sold by the Banu Salíb and other Badawi tribes, will fetch £100, and more. I rode a little brute from Meccah to Jedda (42 miles) in one night and it came in with me cantering.    [back]

2.    A dry measure of about five bushels (Cairo). The classical pronunciation is Irdabb and it measured 24 sa’a (gallons) each filling four outstretched hands.    [back]

3.    “Al-Jawáli” should be Al-Jáwali (Al-Makrizi) and the Bab al-Nasr (Gate of Victory) is that leading to Suez. I lived in that quarter as shown by my Pilgrimage (i. 62).    [back]

4.    Arab. “Al-’ajalah,” referring to a saying in every Moslem mouth, “Patience is from the Protector (Allah): Hurry is from Hell.” That and “Inshallah bukra!” (Please God tomorrow.) are the traveller’s bêtes noires.    [back]

5.    Here it is a polite equivalent for “fall to!”    [back]

6.    The left hand is used throughout the East for purposes of ablution and is considered unclean. To offer the left hand would be most insulting and no man ever strokes his beard with it or eats with it: hence, probably, one never sees a left handed man throughout the Moslem east. In the Brazil for the same reason old-fashioned people will not take snuff with the right hand. And it is related of the Khataians that they prefer the left hand, “Because the heart, which is the Sultan of the city of the Body, hath his mansion on that side” (Rauzat al-Safá).    [back]

7.    Two feminine names as we might say Mary and Martha.    [back]

8.    It was near the Caliph’s two Palaces (Al Kasrayn); and was famous in the 15th century A. D. The Kazi’s Mahkamah (Court house) now occupies the place of the Two Palaces    [back]

9.    A Kaysariah is a superior kind of bazaar, a “bezestein.” That in the text stood to the east of the principal street in Cairo and was built in A. H. 502 (=1108-9) by a Circassian Emir, known as Fakhr al-Din Jahárkas, a corruption of the Persian “Chehárkas” = four persons (Lane, i. 422, from Al-Makrizi and Ibn Khallikan). For Jahárkas the Mac. Edit. has Jirjís (George) a common Christian name. I once lodged in a ‘Wakálah (the modern Khan) Jirjis.” Pilgrimage, i. 255.    [back]

10.    Arab. “Second Day,” i.e. after Saturday, the true Sabbath, so marvellously ignored by Christendom.    [back]

11.    Readers who wish to know how a traveller is lodged in a Wakálah, Khan, or Caravanserai, will consult my Pilgrimage, i. 60.    [back]

12.    The original occupation of the family had given it a name, as amongst us.    [back]

13.    The usual “chaff” or banter allowed even to modest women when shopping, and—many a true word is spoken in jest.    [back]

14.    “La adamnák” = Heaven deprive us not of thee, i.e. grant I see thee often!    [back]

15.    This is a somewhat cavalier style of advance; but Easterns under such circumstances go straight to the point, hating to filer the parfait amour.    [back]

16.    The peremptory formula of a slave delivering such a message.    [back]

17.    This would be our Thursday night, preceding the day of public prayers which can be performed only when in a state of ceremonial purity. Hence many Moslems go to the Hammam on Thursday and have no connection with their wives.    [back]

18.    Lane (i. 423) gives ample details concerning the Habbániyah, or grain-sellers’ quarter in the southern part of Cairo; and shows that when this tale was written (or transcribed?) the city was almost as extensive as it is now.    [back]

19.    Nakíb is a caravan-leader, a chief, a syndic; and “Abú Shámah”= Father of a cheek mole, while “Abú Shámmah” = Father of a smeller, a nose, a snout. The “Kuniyah,” bye-name, patronymic or matronymic, is necessary amongst Moslems whose list of names, all connected more or less with religion, is so scanty. Hence Buckingham the traveller was known as Abu Kidr, the Father of a Cooking-pot and Haj Abdullah as Abu Shawárib, Father of Mustachios (Pilgrimage, iii., 263).    [back]

20.    More correctly Bab Zawilah from the name of a tribe in Northern Africa. This gate dates from the same age as the Eastern or Desert gate, Bab al-Nasr (A.D. 1087) and is still much admired. M. Jomard describes it (Description, etc., ii. 670) and lately my good friend Yacoub Artin Pasha has drawn attention to it in the Bulletin de l’Inst. Egypt., Deuxième Série, No. 4, 1883.    [back]

21.    This ornament is still seen in the older saloons of Damascus: the inscriptions are usually religious sentences, extracts from the Koran, etc., in uncial characters. They take the place of our frescos; and, as a work of art, are generally far superior.    [back]

22.    Arab. “Bayáz al-Sultání,” the best kind of gypsum which shines like polished marble. The stucco on the walls of Alexandria, built by Alexander of the two Horns, was so exquisitely tempered and beautifully polished that men had to wear masks for fear of blindness.    [back]

23.    This Iklíl, a complicated affair, is now obsolete, its place having been taken by the “Kurs,” a gold plate, some five inches in diameter, set with jewels, etc. Lane (M. E. Appendix A) figures it.    [back]

24.    The woman-artist who applies the dye is called “Munakkishah.”    [back]

25.    “Kissing with th’ inner lip,” as Shakespeare calls it; the French langue fourrée: and Sanskrit “Samputa.” The subject of kissing is extensive in the East. Ten different varieties are duly enumerated in the “Ananga-Ranga;” or, The Hindu Art of Love (Ars Amoris Indica) translated from the Sanskrit, and annotated by A. F. F. and B. F. R It is also connected with unguiculation, or impressing the nails, of which there are seven kinds; morsication (seven kinds); handling the hair and lappings or pattings with the fingers and palm (eight kinds).    [back]

26.    Arab. “asal-nahl,” to distinguish it from “honey” i.e. syrup of sugar-cane and fruits.    [back]

27.    The lines have occurred in Night xii. By way of variety I give Torrens’ version p. 273.    [back]

28.    The way of carrying money in the corner of a pocket-handkerchief is still common.    [back]

29.    He sent the provisions not to be under an obligation to her in this matter. And she received them to judge thereby of his liberality    [back]

30.    Those who have seen the process of wine-making in the Libanus will readily understand why it is always strained.    [back]

31.    Arab. “Kulkasá,” a kind of arum or yam, eaten boiled like our potatoes.    [back]

32.    At first he slipped the money into the bed-clothes: now he gives it openly and she accepts it for a reason.    [back]

33.    Arab. Al-Zalamah lit. = tyrants, oppressors, applied to the police and generally to employés of Government. It is a word which tells a history.    [back]

34.    Moslem law is never completely satisfied till the criminal confess. It also utterly ignores circumstantial evidence and for the best of reasons: amongst so sharp-witted a people the admission would lead to endless abuses. I greatly surprised a certain Governor-General of India by giving him this simple information    [back]

35.    Cutting off the right hand is the Koranic punishment (chaps. v.) for one who robs an article worth four dinars, about forty francs to shillings. The left foot is to be cut off at the ankle for a second offence and so on; but death is reserved for a hardened criminal. The practice is now obsolete and theft is punished by the bastinado, fine or imprisonment. The old Guebres were as severe. For stealing one dirham’s worth they took a fine of two, cut off the ear-lobes, gave ten stick-blows and dismissed the criminal who had been subjected to an hour’s imprisonment. A second theft caused the penalties to be doubled; and after that the right hand was cut off or death was inflicted according to the proportion stolen.    [back]

36.    Koran viii. 17.    [back]

37.    A universal custom in the East, the object being originally to show that the draught was not poisoned.    [back]

38.    Out of paste or pudding.    [back]

39.    Boils and pimples are supposed to be caused by broken hair-roots and in Hindostani are called Bál-tor.    [back]

40.    He intended to bury it decently, a respect which Moslems always show even to the exuviæ of the body, as hair and nail parings. Amongst Guebres the latter were collected and carried to some mountain. The practice was intensified by fear of demons or wizards getting possession of the spoils.    [back]

41.    Without which the marriage was not valid. The minimum is ten dirhams (drachmas) now valued at about five francs to shillings; and if a man marry without naming the sum, the woman, after consummation, can compel him to pay this minimum.    [back]

42.    Arab. “Khatmah” = reading or reciting the whole Koran, by one or more persons, usually in the house, not over the tomb. Like the “Zikr,” Litany or Rogation, it is a pious act confined to certain occasions.    [back]


The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Volume 1 - Contents    |     The Reeve’s Tale


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