When it was the Twenty-fifth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Tailor's wife gave the Hunchback that mouthful of fish which ended his term of days he died on the instant. Seeing this the Tailor cried aloud, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah! Alas, that this poor wretch should have died in so foolish fashion at our hands!" and the woman rejoined, "Why this idle talk? Hast thou not heard his saying who said:—
Why then waste I my time in grief, until I * find no friend to bear my weight of woe How sleep upon a fire that flames unquenched? * Upon the flames to rest were hard enow!"
Asked her husband, "And what shall I do with him?"; and she answered, "Rise and take him in thine arms and spread a silken kerchief over him; then I will fare forth, with thee following me this very night and if thou meet any one say, 'This is my son, and his mother and I are carrying him to the doctor that he may look at him.'" So he rose and taking the Hunchback in his arms bore him along the streets, preceded by his wife who kept crying, "O my son, Allah keep thee! what part paineth thee and where hath this small-pox[FN#497] attacked thee?" So all who saw them said "'Tis a child sick of small-pox." [FN#498] They went along asking for the physician's house till folk directed them to that of a leach which was a Jew. They knocked at the door, and there came down to them a black slave girl who opened and, seeing a man bearing a babe, and a woman with him, said to them, "What is the matter?" "We have a little one with us," answered the Tailor's wife, "and we wish to show him to the physician: so take this quarter dinar and give it to thy master and let him come down and see my son who is sore sick." The girl went up to tell her master, whereupon the Tailor's wife walked into the vestibule and said to her husband, "Leave the Hunchback here and let us fly for our lives." So the Tailor carried the dead man to the top of the stairs and propped him upright against the wall and ran away, he and his wife. Meanwhile the girl went in to the Jew and said to him, "At the door are a man and a woman with a sick child and they have given me a quarter dinar for thee, that thou mayest go down and look at the little one and prescribe for it." As soon as the Jew saw the quarter dinar he rejoiced and rose quickly in his greed of gain and went forth hurriedly in the dark; but hardly had he made a step when he stumbled on the corpse and threw it over, when it rolled to the bottom of the staircase. So he cried out to the girl to hurry up with the light, and she brought it, whereupon he went down and examining the Hunchback found that he was stone dead. So he cried out, "O for Esdras![FN#499] O for Moses! O for Aaron! O for Joshua, son of Nun! O the Ten Commandments! I have stumbled against the sick one and he hath fallen downstairs and he is dead! How shall I get this man I have killed out of my house? O by the hoofs of the ass of Esdras!" Then he took up the body and, carrying it into the house, told his wife what had happened and she said to him, "Why dost thou sit still? If thou keep him here till day break we shall both lose our lives. Let us two carry him to the terrace roof and throw him over into the house of our neighbour, the Moslem, for if he abide there a night the dogs will come down on him from the adjoining terraces and eat him up." Now his neighbour was a Reeve, the controller of the Sultan's kitchen, and was wont to bring back great store of oil and fat and broken meats; but the cats and rats used to eat it, or, if the dogs scented a fat sheep's tail they would come down from the nearest roofs and tear at it; and on this wise the beasts had already damaged much of what he brought home. So the Jew and his wife carried the Hunchback up to the roof; and, letting him down by his hands and feet through the wind-shaft[FN#500] into the Reeve's house, propped him up against the wall and went their ways. Hardly had they done this when the Reeve, who had been passing an evening with his friends hearing a recitation of the Koran, came home and opened the door and, going up with a lighted candle, found a son of Adam standing in the corner under the ventilator. When he saw this, he said, "Wah! by Allah, very good forsooth! He who robbeth my stuff is none other than a man." Then he turned to the Hunchback and said, "So 'tis thou that stealest the meat and the fat! I thought it was the cats and dogs, and I kill the dogs and cats of the quarter and sin against them by killing them. And all the while 'tis thou comest down from the house terrace through the wind shaft. But I will avenge myself upon thee with my own hand!" So he snatched up a heavy hammer and set upon him and smote him full on the breast and he fell down. Then he examined him and, finding that he was dead, cried out in horror, thinking that he had killed him, and said, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!" And he feared for his life, and added "Allah curse the oil and the meat and the grease and the sheep's tails to boot! How hath fate given this man his quietus at my hand!" Then he looked at the body and seeing it was that of a Gobbo, said, "Was it not enough for thee to be a hunchback,[FN#501] but thou must likewise be a thief and prig flesh and fat! O thou Veiler,[FN#502] deign to veil me with Thy curtain of concealment!" So he took him up on his shoulders and, going forth with him from his house about the latter end of the night, carried him to the nearest end of the bazaar, where he set him up on his feet against the wall of a shop at the head of a dark lane, and left him and went away. After a while up came a Nazarene,[FN#503] the Sultan's broker who, much bemused with liquor, was purposing for the Hammam bath as his drunkenness whispered in his ear, "Verily the call to matins[FN#504] is nigh." He came plodding along and staggering about till he drew near the Hunchback and squatted down to make water[FN#505] over against him; when he happened to glance around and saw a man standing against the wall. Now some person had snatched off the Christian's turband[FN#506] in the first of the night; so when he saw the Hunchback hard by he fancied that he also meant to steal his headdress. Thereupon he clenched his fist and struck him on the neck, felling him to the ground, and called aloud to the watchman of the bazaar, and came down on the body in his drunken fury and kept on belabouring and throttling the corpse. Presently the Charley came up and, finding a Nazarene kneeling on a Moslem and frapping him, asked, "What harm hath this one done?"; and the Broker answered, "The fellow meant to snatch off my turband." "Get up from him," quoth the watch man. So he arose and the Charley went up to the Hunchback and finding him dead, exclaimed, "By Allah, good indeed! A Christian killing a Mahometan!" Then he seized the Broker and, tying his hands behind his back, carried him to the Governor's house,[FN#507] and all the while the Nazarene kept saying to himself, "O Messiah! O Virgin! how came I to kill this fellow? And in what a hurry he must have been to depart this life when he died of a single blow!" Presently, as his drunkenness fled, came dolour in its stead. So the Broker and the body were kept in the Governor's place till morning morrowed, when the Wali came out and gave order to hang the supposed murderer and commanded the executioner[FN#508] make proclamation of the sentence. Forthwith they set up a gallows under which they made the Nazarene stand and the torch bearer, who was hangman, threw the rope round his neck and passed one end through the pulley, and was about to hoist him up[FN#509] when lo! the Reeve, who was passing by, saw the Broker about to be hanged; and, making his way through the people, cried out to the executioner, "Hold! Hold! I am he who killed the Hunchback!" Asked the Governor, "What made thee kill him?"; and he answered, "I went home last night and there found this man who had come down the ventilator to steal my property; so I smote him with a hammer on the breast and he died forthright. Then I took him up and carried him to the bazaar and set him up against the wall in such a place near such a lane;" adding, "Is it not enough for me to have killed a Moslem without also killing a Christian? So hang none other but me." When the Governor heard these words he released the Broker and said to the torch bearer, "Hang up this man on his own confession." So he loosed the cord from the Nazarene's neck and threw it round that of the Reeve and, making him stand under the gallows tree, was about to string him up when behold, the Jewish physician pushed through the people and shouted to the executioner, "Hold! Hold! It was I and none else killed the Hunchback! Last night I was sitting at home when a man and a woman knocked at the door carrying this Gobbo who was sick, and gave my handmaid a quarter dinar, bidding her hand me the fee and tell me to come down and see him. Whilst she was gone the man and the woman brought him into the house and, setting him on the stairs, went away; and presently I came down and not seeing him, for I was in the dark, stumbled over him and he fell to the foot of the staircase and died on the moment. Then we took him up, I and my wife, and carried him on to the top terrace; and, the house of this Reeve being next door to mine, we let the body down through the ventilator. When he came home and found the Hunchback in his house, he fancied he was a thief and struck him with a hammer, so that he fell to the ground, and our neighbour made certain that he had slain him. Now is it not enough for me to have killed one Moslem unwittingly, without burdening myself with taking the life of another Moslem wittingly?" When the Governor heard this he said to the hangman, "Set free the Reeve and hang the Jew." Thereupon the torch bearer took him and slung the cord round his neck when behold, the Tailor pushed through the people, and shouted to the executioner, "Hold! Hold! It was I and none else killed the Hunchback; and this was the fashion thereof. I had been out a pleasuring yesterday and, coming back to supper, fell in with this Gobbo, who was drunk and drumming away and singing lustily to his tambourine. So I accosted him and carried him to my house and bought a fish, and we sat down to eat. Presently my wife took a fid of fish and, making a gobbet of it,[FN#510] crammed it into his mouth; but some of it went down the wrong way or stuck in his gullet and he died on the instant. So we lifted him up, I and my wife, and carried him to the Jew's house where the slave girl came down and opened the door to us and I said to her, 'Tell thy master that there are a man and a woman and a sick person for thee to see!' I gave her a quarter dinar and she went up to tell her master; and, whilst she was gone, I carried the Hunchback to the head of the staircase and propped him up against the wall, and went off with my wife. When the Jew came down he stumbled over him and thought that he had killed him." Then he asked the Jew, "Is this the truth?"; and the Jew answered, "Yes." Thereupon the Tailor turned to the Governor, and said, "Leave go the Jew and hang me." When the Governor heard the Tailor's tale he marvelled at the matter of this Hunchback and exclaimed. "Verily this is an adventure which should be recorded in books!" Then he said to the hangman, "Let the Jew go and hang the Tailor on his own confession." The executioner took the Tailor and put the rope around his neck and said, "I am tired of such slow work: we bring out this one and change him for that other, and no one is hanged after all!" Now the Hunchback in question was, they relate, jester to the Sultan of China who could not bear him out of his sight; so when the fellow got drunk and did not make his appearance that night or the next day till noon, the Sultan asked some of his courtiers about him and they answered, "O our lord, the Governor hath come upon him dead and hath ordered his murderer to be hanged; but, as the hangman was about to hoist him up there came a second and a third and a fourth and each one said, 'It is I, and none else killed the Hunchback!' and each gave a full and circumstantial account of the manner of the jester being killed." When the King heard this he cried aloud to the Chamberlain in waiting, "Go down to the Governor and bring me all four of them." So the Chamberlain went down at once to the place of execution, where he found the torch bearer on the point of hanging the Tailor and shouted to him, "Hold! Hold!" Then he gave the King's command to the Governor who took the Tailor, the Jew, the Nazarene and the Reeve (the Hunchback's body being borne on men's shoulders) and went up with one and all of them to the King. When he came into the presence, he kissed the ground and acquainted the ruler with the whole story which it is needless to relate for, as they say, There is no avail in a thrice told tale. The Sultan hearing it marvelled and was moved to mirth and commanded the story to be written in letters of liquid gold, saying to those present, "Did ye ever hear a more wondrous tale than that of my Hunchback?" Thereupon the Nazarene broker came forward and said, "O King of the age, with thy leave I will tell thee a thing which happened to myself and which is still more wondrous and marvellous and pleasurable and delectable than the tale of the Hunchback." Quoth the King "Tell us what thou hast to say!" So he began in these words
The Nazarene Broker's Story.
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.[FN#511] 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?";[FN#512] whereto I answered, "An hundred dirhams." Quoth he, "Take porters and gaugers and metesmen and come tomorrow to the Khan al-Jawali,[FN#513] 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?"[FN#514] 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"![FN#515] Then he drew near the tray and put out his left hand[FN#516] 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 Salma in stead * Of Layla's[FN#517] 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- Masrur."[FN#518] 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;[FN#519] 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,[FN#520] I went to the Hammam and thence back to my Khan, and sitting in my own room[FN#521] 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-Bostani, or the Gardener,[FN#522] 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!"[FN#523] 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!"[FN#524] 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,[FN#525] 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."[FN#526] At this I was surprised and replied, "There is none who knows me here;" but she rejoined, "0 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 Friday[FN#527] 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 Habbaniyah[FN#528] quarter; and, when there, look out for the mansion of Al-Nakib[FN#529] Barakat, popularly known as Abu Shamah 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 Masrur to the Zuwaylah[FN#530] 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 cloisonne with gold and corniced with inscriptions[FN#531] emblazoned in lapis lazuli; and the walls were stuccoed with Sultani gypsum[FN#532] 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 Shahrazad 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 diadem[FN#533] of pearls and jewels; her face dotted with artificial moles in indigo,[FN#534] 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 tongue[FN#535] (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's[FN#536] 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 couplets[FN#537]:
"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 dinars[FN#538] 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.[FN#539] 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.[FN#540] 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 colocasia[FN#541]-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 her[FN#542] 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 watch[FN#543] 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?"[FN#544] 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.[FN#545] 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."[FN#546]
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,[FN#547] 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 hair[FN#548] 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."[FN#549] "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.[FN#550] 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."[FN#551] 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 Koran[FN#552] 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 Shahrazad 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.
Know, O King, that last night I was at a party where they made a perfection of the Koran and got together doctors of law and religion skilled in recitation and intoning; and, when the readers ended, the table was spread and amongst other things they set before us was a marinated ragout[FN#553] flavoured with cumin seed. So we sat down, but one of our number held back and refused to touch it. We conjured him to eat of it but he swore he would not; and, when we again pressed him, he said, "Be not instant with me; sufficeth me that which hath already befallen me through eating it", and he began reciting:
"Shoulder thy tray and go straight to thy goal; * And, if suit thee this Kohl why,-use this Kohl!"[FN#554]
When he ended his verse we said to him, "Allah upon thee, tell us thy reason for refusing to eat of the cumin ragout?" ''If so it be," he replied, "and needs must I eat of it, I will not do so except I wash my hand forty times with soap, forty times with potash and forty times with galangale,[FN#555] the total being one hundred and twenty washings." Thereupon the hospitable host bade his slaves bring water and whatso he required; and the young man washed his hand as afore mentioned. Then he sat down, as if disgusted and frightened withal, and dipping his hand in the ragout, began eating and at the same time showing signs of anger. And we wondered at him with extreme wonderment, for his hand trembled and the morsel in it shook and we saw that his thumb had been cut off and he ate with his four fingers only. So we said to him, "Allah upon thee, what happened to thy thumb? Is thy hand thus by the creation of God or hath some accident befallen it?" "O my brothers," he answered, "it is not only thus with this thumb, but also with my other thumb and with both my great toes, as you shall see." So saying he uncovered his left hand and his feet, and we saw that the left hand was even as the right and in like manner that each of his feet lacked its great toe. When we saw him after this fashion, our amazement waxed still greater and we said to him, "We have hardly patience enough to await thy history and to hear the manner of the cutting off of thy thumbs, and the reason of thy washing both hands one hundred and twenty times." Know then, said he, that my father was chief of the merchants and the wealthiest of them all in Baghdad city during the reign of the Caliph Harun al Rashid; and he was much given to wine drinking and listening to the lute and the other instruments of pleasaunce; so that when he died he left nothing. I buried him and had perlections of the Koran made for him, and mourned for him days and nights: then I opened his shop and found that he had left in it few goods, while his debts were many. However I compounded with his creditors for time to settle their demands and betook myself to buying and selling, paying them something from week to week on account; and I gave not over doing this till I had cleared off his obligations in full and began adding to my principal. One day, as I sat in my shop, suddenly and unexpectedly there appeared before me a young lady, than whom I never saw a fairer, wearing the richest raiment and ornaments and riding a she mule, with one negro slave walking before her and another behind her. She drew rein at the head of the exchange bazaar and entered followed by an eunuch who said to her, "O my lady come out and away without telling anyone, lest thou light a fire which will burn us all up." Moreover he stood before her guarding her from view whilst she looked at the merchants' shops. She found none open but mine; so she came up with the eunuch behind her and sitting down in my shop saluted me; never heard I aught fairer than her speech or sweeter than her voice. Then she unveiled her face, and I saw that she was like the moon and I stole a glance at her whose sight caused me a thousand sighs, and my heart was captivated with love of her, and I kept looking again and again upon her face repeating these verses:—
"Say to the charmer in the dove hued veil, * Death would be welcome to abate thy bale! Favour me with thy favours that I live: * See, I stretch forth my palm to take thy vail!
When she heard my verse she answered me saying:—
"I've lost all patience by despite of you; * My heart knows nothing save love plight to you! If aught I sight save charms so bright of you; * My parting end not in the sight of you! I swear I'll ne'er forget the right of you; * And fain this breast would soar to height of you: You made me drain the love cup, and I lief * A love cup tender for delight of you: Take this my form where'er you go, and when * You die, entomb me in the site of you: Call on me in my grave, and hear my bones * Sigh their responses to the shright of you: And were I asked 'Of God what wouldst thou see?' * I answer, 'first His will then Thy decree!'
When she ended her verse she asked me, "O youth, hast thou any fair stuffs by thee?"; and I answered, "O my lady, thy slave is poor; but have patience till the merchants open their shops, and I will suit thee with what thou wilt." Then we sat talking, I and she (and I was drowned in the sea of her love, dazed in the desert[FN#556] of my passion for her), till the merchants opened their shops; when I rose and fetched her all she sought to the tune of five thousand dirhams. She gave the stuff to the eunuch and, going forth by the door of the Exchange, she mounted mule and went away, without telling me whence she came, and I was ashamed to speak of such trifle. When the merchants dunned me for the price, I made myself answerable for five thousand dirhams and went home, drunken with the love of her. They set supper before me and I ate a mouthful, thinking only of her beauty and loveliness, and sought to sleep, but sleep came not to me. And such was my condition for a whole week, when the merchants required their monies of me, but I persuaded them to have patience for another week, at the end of which time she again appeared mounted on a she mule and attended by her eunuch and two slaves. She saluted me and said, "O my master, we have been long in bringing thee the price of the stuffs; but now fetch the Shroff and take thy monies." So I sent for the money changer and the eunuch counted out the coin before him and made it over to me. Then we sat talking, I and she, till the market opened, when she said to me, "Get me this and that." So I got her from the merchants whatso she wanted, and she took it and went away without saying a word to me about the price. As soon as she was out of sight, I repented me of what I had done; for the worth of the stuffs bought for her amounted to a thousand dinars, and I said in my soul, "What manner of love is this? She hath brought me five thousand dirhams, and hath taken goods for a thousand dinars."[FN#557] I feared lest I should be beggared through having to pay the merchants their money, and I said, "They know none other but me; this lovely lady is naught but a cheat and a swindler, who hath diddled me with her beauty and grace; for she saw that I was a mere youth and laughed at me for not asking her address." I ceased not to be troubled by these doubts and fears, as she was absent more than a month, till the merchants pestered me for their money and were so hard upon me that I put up my property for sale and stood on the very brink of ruin. However, as I was sitting in my shop one day, drowned in melancholy musings, she suddenly rode up and, dismounting at the bazaar gate, came straight towards me. When I saw her all my cares fell from me and I forgot every trouble. She came close up to me and greeted me with her sweet voice and pleasant speech and presently said, "Fetch me the Shroff and weigh thy money."[FN#558] So she gave me the price of what goods I had gotten for her and more, and fell to talking freely with me, till I was like to die of joy and delight Presently she asked me, "Hast thou a wife?"; and I answered "No, indeed: I have never known woman"; and began to shed tears. Quoth she "Why weepest thou?" Quoth I "It is nothing!" Then giving the eunuch some of the gold pieces, I begged him to be go between[FN#559] in the matter; but he laughed and said, "She is more in love with thee than thou with her: she hath no occasion for the stuffs she hath bought of thee and did all this only for the love of thee; so ask of her what thou wilt and she will deny thee nothing." When she saw me giving the dinars to the eunuch, she returned and sat down again; and I said to her, "Be charitable to thy slave and pardon him what he is about to say." Then I told her what was in my mind and she assented and said to the eunuch, "Thou shalt carry my message to him," adding to me, "And do thou whatso the eunuch biddeth thee." Then she got up and went away, and I paid the merchants their monies and they all profited; but as for me, regret at the breaking off of our intercourse was all my gain; and I slept not the whole of that night. However, before many days passed her eunuch came to me, and I entreated him honourably and asked him after his mistress. "Truly she is sick with love of thee," he replied and I rejoined, "Tell me who and what she is." Quoth he, "The Lady Zubaydah, queen consort of Harun al-Rashid, brought her up as a rearling[FN#560] and hath advanced her to be stewardess of the Harim, and gave her the right of going in and out of her own sweet will. She spoke to her lady of thee and begged her to marry her to thee; but she said, 'I will not do this, till I see the young man; and, if he be worthy of thee, I will marry thee to him.' So now we look for the moment to smuggle thee into the Palace and if thou succeed in entering privily thou wilt win thy wish to wed her; but if the affair get wind, the Lady Zubaydah will strike off thy head.[FN#561] What sayest thou to this?" I answered, "I will go with thee and abide the risk whereof thou speakest." Then said he, "As soon as it is night, go to the Mosque built by the Lady Zubaydah on the Tigris and pray the night prayers and sleep there." "With love and gladness," cried I. So at nightfall I repaired to the Mosque, where I prayed and passed the night. With earliest dawn, behold, came sundry eunuchs in a skiff with a number of empty chests which they deposited in the Mosque; then all of them went their ways but one, and looking curiously at him, I saw he was our go between. Presently in came the handmaiden, my mistress, walking straight up to us; and I rose to her and embraced her while she kissed me and shed tears.[FN#562] We talked awhile; after which she made me get into one of the chests which she locked upon me. Presently the other eunuchs came back with a quantity of packages and she fell to stowing them in the chests, which she locked down, one by one, till all were shut. When all was done the eunuchs embarked the chests in the boat and made for the Lady Zubaydah's palace. With this, thought began to beset me and I said to myself, "Verily thy lust and wantonness will be the death of thee; and the question is after all shalt thou win to thy wish or not?" And I began to weep, boxed up as I was in the box and suffering from cramp; and I prayed Allah that He deliver me from the dangerous strait I was in, whilst the boat gave not over going on till it reached the Palace gate where they lifted out the chests and amongst them that in which I was. Then they carried them in, passing through a troop of eunuchs, guardians of the Harim and of the ladies behind the curtain, till they came to the post of the Eunuch in Chief[FN#563] who started up from his slumbers and shouted to the damsel "What is in those chests?" "They are full of wares for the Lady Zubaydah!" "Open them, one by one, that I may see what is in them." "And wherefore wouldst thou open them?" "Give me no words and exceed not in talk! These chests must and shall be opened." So saying, he sprang to his feet, and the first which they brought to him to open was that wherein I was; and, when I felt his hands upon it, my senses failed me and I bepissed myself in my funk, the water running out of the box. Then said she to the Eunuch in Chief, "O steward! thou wilt cause me to be killed and thyself too, for thou hast damaged goods worth ten thousand dinars. This chest contains coloured dresses, and four gallon flasks of Zemzem water;[FN#564] and now one of them hath got unstoppered and the water is running out over the clothes and it will spoil their colours." The eunuch answered, "Take up thy boxes and get thee gone to the curse of God!" So the slaves carried off all the chests, including mine; and hastened on with them till suddenly I heard the voice of one saying, "Alack, and alack! the Caliph! the Caliph !" When that cry struck mine ears I died in my skin and said a saying which never yet shamed the sayer, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! I and only I have brought this calamity upon myself." Presently I heard the Caliph say to my mistress, "A plague on thee, what is in those boxes?"; and she answered, "Dresses for the Lady Zubaydah";[FN#565] whereupon he, "Open them before me!" When I heard this I died my death outright and said to myself, "By Allah, today is the very last of my days in this world: if I come safe out of this I am to marry her and no more words, but detection stares me in the face and my head is as good as stricken off." Then I repeated the profession of Faith, saying, "There is no god but the God, and Mohammed is the Apostle of God!"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Twenty-eighth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the young merchant continued as follows: Now when I testified, "I bear witness that there is no god save the God," I heard my mistress the handmaid declare to the Caliph, "These chests, O Commander of the Faithful, have been committed to my charge by the Lady Zubaydah, and she doth not wish their contents to be seen by any one." "No matter!" quoth the Caliph, "needs must they be opened, I will see what is in them"; and he cried aloud to the eunuchs, "Bring the chests here before me." At this I made sure of death (without benefit of a doubt) and swooned away. Then the eunuchs brought the chests up to him one after another and he fell to inspecting the contents, but he saw in them only otters and stuffs and fine dresses; and they ceased not opening the chests and he ceased not looking to see what was in them, finding only clothes and such matters, till none remained unopened but the box in which I was boxed. They put forth their hands to open it, but my mistress the handmaid made haste and said to the Caliph, "This one thou shalt see only in the presence of the Lady Zubaydah, for that which is in it is her secret." When he heard this he gave orders to carry in the chests; so they took up that wherein I was and bore it with the rest into the Harim and set it down in the midst of the saloon; and indeed my spittle was dried up for very fear.[FN#566] Then my mistress opened the box and took me out, saying, "Fear not: no harm shall betide thee now nor dread; but broaden thy breast and strengthen thy heart and sit thee down till the Lady Zubaydah come, and surely thou shalt win thy wish of me." So I sat down and, after a while, in came ten hand maidens, virgins like moons, and ranged themselves in two rows, five facing five; and after them twenty other damsels, high bosomed virginity, surrounding the Lady Zubaydah who could hardly walk for the weight of her raiment and ornaments. As she drew near, the slave girls dispersed from around her, and I advanced and kissed the ground between her hands. She signed to me to sit and, when I sat down before her chair, she began questioning me of my forbears and family and condition, to which I made such answers that pleased her, and she said to my mistress, "Our nurturing of thee, O damsel, hath not disappointed us." Then she said to me, "Know that this handmaiden is to us even as our own child and she is a trust committed to thee by Allah." I again kissed the ground before her, well pleased that I should marry my mistress, and she bade me abide ten days in the palace. So I abode there ten days, during which time I saw not my mistress nor anybody save one of the concubines, who brought me the morning and evening meals. After this the Lady Zubaydah took counsel with the Caliph on the marriage of her favourite handmaid, and he gave leave and assigned to her a wedding portion of ten thousand gold pieces. So the Lady Zubaydah sent for the Kazi and witnesses who wrote our marriage contract, after which the women made ready sweetmeats and rich viands and distributed them among all the Odahs[FN#567] of the Harim. Thus they did other ten days, at the end of which time my mistress went to the baths.[FN#568] Meanwhile, they set before me a tray of food where on were various meats and among those dishes, which were enough to daze the wits, was a bowl of cumin ragout containing chickens breasts, fricandoed[FN#569] and flavoured with sugar, pistachios, musk and rose water. Then, by Allah, fair sirs, I did not long hesitate; but took my seat before the ragout and fell to and ate of it till I could no more. After this I wiped my hands, but forgot to wash them; and sat till it grew dark, when the wax candles were lighted and the singing women came in with their tambourines and proceeded to display the bride in various dresses and to carry her in procession from room to room all round the palace, getting their palms crossed with gold. Then they brought her to me and disrobed her. When I found myself alone with her on the bed I embraced her, hardly believing in our union; but she smelt the strong odours of the ragout upon my hands and forth with cried out with an exceeding loud cry, at which the slave girls came running to her from all sides. I trembled with alarm, unknowing what was the matter, and the girls asked her, "What aileth thee, O our sister?" She answered them, "Take this mad man away from me: I had thought he was a man of sense!" Quoth I to her, "What makes thee think me mad?" Quoth she, "Thou madman' what made thee eat of cumin ragout and forget to wash thy hand? By Allah, I will requite thee for thy misconduct. Shall the like of thee come to bed with the like of me with unclean hands?"[FN#570] Then she took from her side a plaited scourge and came down with it on my back and the place where I sit till her forearms were benumbed and I fainted away from the much beating; when she said to the handmaids, "Take him and carry him to the Chief of Police, that he may strike off the hand wherewith he ate of the cumin ragout, and which he did not wash." When I heard this I said, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah! Wilt thou cut off my hand, because I ate of a cumin ragout and did not wash?" The handmaidens also interceded with her and kissed her hand saying, "O our sister, this man is a simpleton, punish him not for what he hath done this nonce;" but she answered, "By Allah, there is no help but that I dock him of somewhat, especially the offending member." Then she went away and I saw no more of her for ten days, during which time she sent me meat and drink by a slave girl who told me that she had fallen sick from the smell of the cumin ragout. After that time she came to me and said, "O black of face![FN#571] I will teach thee how to eat cumin ragout without washing thy hands!" Then she cried out to the handmaids, who pinioned me; and she took a sharp razor and cut off my thumbs and great toes; even as you see, O fair assembly! Thereupon I swooned away, and she sprinkled some powder of healing herbs upon the stumps and when the blood was stanched, I said, "Never again will I eat of cumin ragout without washing my hands forty times with potash and forty times with galangale and forty times with soap!" And she took of me an oath and bound me by a covenant to that effect. When, therefore, you brought me the cumin ragout my colour changed and I said to myself, "It was this very dish that caused the cutting off of my thumbs and great toes;" and, when you forced me, I said, "Needs must I fulfil the oath I have sworn." "And what befell thee after this?" asked those present; and he answered, "When I swore to her, her anger was appeased and I slept with her that night. We abode thus awhile till she said to me one day, "Verily the Palace of the Caliph is not a pleasant place for us to live in, and none ever entered it save thyself; and thou only by grace of the Lady Zubaydah. Now she hath given me fifty thousand dinars," adding, "Take this money and go out and buy us a fair dwelling house." So I fared forth and bought a fine and spacious mansion, whither she removed all the wealth she owned and what riches I had gained in stuffs and costly rarities. Such is the cause of the cutting off of my thumbs and great toes. We ate (continued the Reeve), and were returning to our homes when there befell me with the Hunchback that thou wottest of. This then is my story, and peace be with thee! Quoth the King; "This story is on no wise more delectable than the story of the Hunchback; nay, it is even less so, and there is no help for the hanging of the whole of you." Then came forward the Jewish physician and kissing the ground said, "O King of the age, I will tell thee an history more wonderful than that of the Hunchback." "Tell on," said the King of China; so he began the
Tale of the Jewish Doctor.
Right marvellous was a matter which came to pass to me in my youth. I lived in Damascus of Syria studying my art and, one day, as I was sitting at home behold, there came to me a Mameluke from the household of the Sahib and said to me, "Speak with my lord!" So I followed him to the Viceroy's house and, entering the great hall, saw at its head a couch of cedar plated with gold whereon lay a sickly youth beautiful withal; fairer than he one could not see. I sat down by his head and prayed to Heaven for a cure; and he made me a sign with his eyes, so I said to him, "O my lord! favour me with thy hand, and safety be with thee!"[FN#572] Then he put forth his left hand and I marvelled thereat and said, "By Allah, strange that this handsome youth, the son of a great house, should so lack good manners. This can be nothing but pride and conceit!" However I felt his pulse and wrote him a prescription and continued to visit him for ten days, at the end of which time he recovered and went to the Hammam,[FN#573] whereupon the Viceroy gave me a handsome dress of honour and appointed me superintendent of the hospital which is in Damascus.[FN#574] I accompanied him to the baths, the whole of which they had kept private for his accommodation; and the servants came in with him and took off his clothes within the bath, and when he was stripped I saw that his right hand had been newly cut off, and this was the cause of his weakliness At this I was amazed and grieved for him: then, looking at his body, I saw on it the scars of scourge stripes whereto he had applied unguents. I was troubled at the sight and my concern appeared in my face. The young man looked at me and, comprehending the matter, said, "O Physician of the age, marvel not at my case; I will tell thee my story as soon as we quit the baths." Then we washed and, returning to his house, ate somewhat of food and took rest awhile; after which he asked me, "What sayest thou to solacing thee by inspecting the supper hall?"; and I answered "So let it be." Thereupon he ordered the slaves to carry out the carpets and cushions required and roast a lamb and bring us some fruit. They did his bidding and we ate together, he using the left hand for the purpose. After a while I said to him, "Now tell me thy tale." "O Physician of the age," replied he, "hear what befell me. Know that I am of the sons of Mosul, where my grandfather died leaving nine children of whom my father was the eldest. All grew up and took to them wives, but none of them was blessed with offspring except my father, to whom Providence vouchsafed me. So I grew up amongst my uncles who rejoiced in me with exceeding joy, till I came to man's estate. One day which happened to be a Friday, I went to the Cathedral mosque of Mosul with my father and my uncles, and we prayed the congregational prayers, after which the folk went forth, except my father and uncles, who sat talking of wondrous things in foreign parts and the marvellous sights of strange cities. At last they mentioned Egypt, and one of my uncles said, "Travellers tell us that there is not on earth's face aught fairer than Cairo and her Nile;" and these words made me long to see Cairo. Quoth my father, "Whoso hath not seen Cairo hath not seen the world. Her dust is golden and her Nile a miracle holden; and her women are as Houris fair; puppets, beautiful pictures; her houses are palaces rare; her water is sweet and light[FN#575] and her mud a commodity and a medicine beyond compare, even as said the poet in this his poetry:—
The Nile[FN#576] flood this day is the gain you own; * You alone in such gain and bounties wone: The Nile is my tear flood of severance, * And here none is forlorn but I alone.
Moreover temperate is her air, and with fragrance blent, Which surpasseth aloes wood in scent; and how should it be otherwise, she being the Mother of the World? And Allah favour him who wrote these lines:—
An I quit Cairo and her pleasaunces, * Where can I wend to find so gladsome ways? Shall I desert that site, whose grateful scents * Joy every soul and call for loudest praise? Where every palace, as another Eden, * Carpets and cushions richly wrought displays; A city wooing sight and sprite to glee, * Where Saint meets Sinner and each 'joys his craze; Where friend meets friend, by Providence united * In greeny garden and in palmy maze: People of Cairo, and by Allah's doom * I fare, with you in thoughts I wone always! Whisper not Cairo in the ear of Zephyr, * Lest for her like of garden scents he reave her,[FN#577]
And if your eyes saw her earth, and the adornment thereof with bloom, and the purfling of it with all manner blossoms, and the islands of the Nile and how much is therein of wide spread and goodly prospect, and if you bent your sight upon the Abyssinian Pond,[FN#578] your glance would not revert from the scene quit of wonder; for nowhere would you behold the fellow of that lovely view; and, indeed, the two arms of the Nile embrace most luxuriant verdure,[FN#579] as the white of the eye encompasseth its black or like filigreed silver surrounding chrysolites. And divinely gifted was the poet who there anent said these couplets:—
By th' Abyssinian Pond, O day divine!* In morning twilight and in sunny shine: The water prisoned in its verdurous walls, * Like sabre flashes before shrinking eyne: And in The Garden sat we while it drains * Slow draught, with purfled sides dyed finest fine: The stream is rippled by the hands of clouds; * We too, a-rippling, on our rugs recline, Passing pure wine, and whoso leaves us there * Shall ne'er arise from fall his woes design: Draining long draughts from large and brimming bowls, * Administ'ring thirst's only medicine—wine.
And what is there to compare with the Rasad, the Observatory, and its charms whereof every viewer as he approacheth saith, 'Verily this spot is specialised with all manner of excellence!' And if thou speak of the Night of Nile full,[FN#580] give the rainbow and distribute it![FN#581] And if thou behold The Garden at eventide, with the cool shades sloping far and wide, a marvel thou wouldst see and wouldst incline to Egypt in ecstasy. And wert thou by Cairo's river side,[FN#582] when the sun is sinking and the stream dons mail coat and habergeon[FN#583] over its other vestments, thou wouldst be quickened to new life by its gentle zephyrs and by its all sufficient shade." So spake he and the rest fell to describing Egypt and her Nile. As I heard their accounts, my thoughts dwelt upon the subject and when, after talking their fill, all arose and went their ways, I lay down to sleep that night, but sleep came not because of my violent longing for Egypt; and neither meat pleased me nor drink. After a few days my uncles equipped themselves for a trade journey to Egypt; and I wept before my father till he made ready for me fitting merchandise, and he consented to my going with them, saying however, "Let him not enter Cairo, but leave him to sell his wares at Damascus." So I took leave of my father and we fared forth from Mosul and gave not over travelling till we reached Aleppo[FN#584] where we halted certain days. Then we marched onwards till we made Damascus and we found her a city as though she were a Paradise, abounding in trees and streams and birds and fruits of all kinds. We alighted at one of the Khans, where my uncles tarried awhile selling and buying; and they bought and sold also on my account, each dirham turning a profit of five on prime cost, which pleased me mightily. After this they left me alone and set their faces Egyptwards; whilst I abode at Damascus, where I had hired from a jeweller, for two dinars a month, a mansion[FN#585] whose beauties would beggar the tongue. Here I remained, eating and drinking and spending what monies I had in hand till, one day, as I was sitting at the door of my house be hold, there came up a young lady clad in costliest raiment never saw my eyes richer. I winked[FN#5886 at her and she stepped inside without hesitation and stood within. I entered with her and shut the door upon myself and her; whereupon she raised her face veil and threw off her mantilla, when I found her like a pictured moon of rare and marvellous loveliness; and love of her gat hold of my heart. So I rose and brought a tray of the most delicate eatables and fruits and whatso befitted the occasion, and we ate and played and after that we drank till the wine turned our heads. Then I lay with her the sweetest of nights and in the morning I offered her ten gold pieces; when her face lowered and her eye brows wrinkled and shaking with wrath she cried, "Fie upon thee, O my sweet companion! dost thou deem that I covet thy money?" Then she took out from the bosom of her shift[FN#587] fifteen dinars and, laying them before me, said, "By Allah! unless thou take them I will never come back to thee." So I accepted them and she said to me, "O my beloved! expect me again in three days' time, when I will be with thee between sunset and supper tide; and do thou prepare for us with these dinars the same entertainment as yesternight." So saying, she took leave of me and went away and all my senses went with her. On the third day she came again, clad in stuff weft with gold wire, and wearing raiment and ornaments finer than before. I had prepared the place for her ere she arrived and the repast was ready; so we ate and drank and lay together, as we had done, till the morning, when she gave me other fifteen gold pieces and promised to come again after three days. Accordingly, I made ready for her and, at the appointed time, she presented herself more richly dressed than on the first and second occasions, and said to me, "O my lord, am I not beautiful?" "Yea, by Allah thou art!" answered I, and she went on, "Wilt thou allow me to bring with me a young lady fairer than I, and younger in years, that she may play with us and thou and she may laugh and make merry and rejoice her heart, for she hath been very sad this long time past, and hath asked me to take her out and let her spend the night abroad with me?" "Yea, by Allah!" I replied; and we drank till the wine turned our heads and slept till the morning, when she gave me other fifteen dinars, saying, "Add something to thy usual provision on account of the young lady who will come with me." Then she went away, and on the fourth day I made ready the house as usual, and soon after sunset behold, she came, accompanied by another damsel carefully wrapped in her mantilla. They entered and sat down; and when I saw them I repeated these verses:—
"How dear is our day and how lucky our lot, * When the cynic's away with his tongue malign! When love and delight and the swimming of head * Send cleverness trotting, the best boon of wine. When the full moon shines from the cloudy veil, * And the branchlet sways in her greens that shine: When the red rose mantles in freshest cheek, * And Narcissus[FN#588] opeth his love sick eyne: When pleasure with those I love is so sweet, * When friendship with those I love is complete!"
I rejoiced to see them, and lighted the candles after receiving them with gladness and delight. They doffed their heavy outer dresses and the new damsel uncovered her face when I saw that she was like the moon at its full never beheld I aught more beautiful. Then I rose and set meat and drink before them, and we ate and drank; and I kept giving mouthfuls to the new comer, crowning her cup and drinking with her till the first damsel, waxing inwardly jealous, asked me, "By Allah, is she not more delicious than I?"; whereto I answered, "Ay, by the Lord!" "It is my wish that thou lie with her this night; for I am thy mistress but she is our visitor. Upon my head be it, and my eyes." Then she rose and spread the carpets for our bed[FN#589] and I took the young lady and lay with her that night till morning, when I awoke and found myself wet, as I thought, with sweat. I sat up and tried to arouse the damsel; but when I shook her by the shoulders my hand became crimson with blood and her head rolled off the pillow. Thereupon my senses fled and I cried aloud, saying, "O All powerful Protector, grant me Thy protection!" Then finding her neck had been severed, I sprung up and the world waxed black before my eyes, and I looked for the lady, my former love, but could not find her. So I knew that it was she who had murdered the damsel in her jealousy,[FN#590] and said, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! What is to be done now?" I considered awhile then, doffing my clothes, dug a hole in the middle of the court yard, wherein I laid the murdered girl with her jewellery and golden ornaments; and, throwing back the earth on her, replaced the slabs of the marble[FN#591] pavement. After this I made the Ghusl or total ablution,[FN#592] and put on pure clothes; then, taking what money I had left, locked up the house and summoned courage and went to its owner to whom I paid a year's rent, saying, "I am about to join my uncles in Cairo." Presently I set out and, journeying to Egypt, foregathered with my uncles who rejoiced in me, and I found that they had made an end of selling their merchandise. They asked me, "What is the cause of thy coming?"; and I answered "I longed for a sight of you;" but did not let them know that I had any money with me. I abode with them a year, enjoying the pleasures of Cairo and her Nile,[FN#593] and squandering the rest of my money in feasting and carousing till the time drew near for the departure of my uncles, when I fled from them and hid myself. They made enquiries and sought for me, but hearing no tidings they said, "He will have gone back to Damascus." When they departed I came forth from my hiding place and abode in Cairo three years, until naught remained of my money. Now every year I used to send the rent of the Damascus house to its owner, until at last I had nothing left but enough to pay him for one year's rent and my breast was straitened. So I travelled to Damascus and alighted at the house whose owner, the jeweller, was glad to see me and I found everything locked up as I had left it. I opened the closets and took out my clothes and necessaries and came upon, beneath the carpet bed whereon I had lain that night with the girl who had been beheaded, a golden necklace set with ten gems of passing beauty. I took it up and, cleansing it of the blood, sat gazing upon it and wept awhile. Then I abode in the house two days and on the third I entered the Hammam and changed my clothes. I had no money by me now; so Satan whispered temptation to me that the Decree of Destiny be carried out. Next day I took the jewelled necklace to the bazaar and handed it to a broker who made me sit down in the shop of the jeweller, my landlord, and bade me have patience till the market was full,[FN#594] when he carried off the ornament and proclaimed it for sale, privily and without my knowledge. The necklet was priced as worth two thousand dinars, but the broker returned to me and said, "This collar is of copper, a mere counterfeit after the fashion of the Franks[FN#595] and a thousand dirhams have been bidden for it." "Yes," I answered, "I knew it to be copper, as we had it made for a certain person that we might mock her: now my wife hath inherited it and we wish to sell it; so go and take over the thousand dirhams."—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Twenty-ninth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the beautiful youth said to the broker, "Take over the thousand dirhams;" and when the broker heard this, he knew that the case was suspicious. So he carried the collar to the Syndic of the bazaar, and the Syndic took it to the Governor who was also prefect of police, and said to him falsely enough, "This necklet was stolen from my house, and we have found the thief in traders' dress." So before I was aware of it the watch got round me and, making me their prisoner, carried me before the Governor who questioned me of the collar. I told him the tale I had told to the broker; but he laughed and said, "These words are not true." Then, before I knew what was doing, the guard stripped off my clothes and came down with palm rods upon my ribs, till for the smart of the stick I confessed, "It was I who stole it;" saying to myself, "'Tis better for thee to say, I stole it, than to let them know that its owner was murdered in thy house, for then would they slay thee to avenge her." So they wrote down that I had stolen it and they cut off my hand and scalded the stump in oil,[FN#596] when I swooned away for pain; but they gave me wine to drink and I recovered and, taking up my hand, was going to my fine house, when my landlord said to me, "Inasmuch, O my son, as this hath befallen thee, thou must leave my house and look out for another lodging for thee, since thou art convicted of theft. Thou art a handsome youth, but who will pity thee after this?" "O my master" said I, "bear with me but two days or three, till I find me another place." He answered, "So be it." and went away and left me. I returned to the house where I sat weeping and saying, How shall I go back to my own people with my hand lopped off and they know not that I am innocent? Perchance even after this Allah may order some matter for me." And I wept with exceeding weeping, grief beset me and I remained in sore trouble for two days; but on the third day my landlord came suddenly in to me, and with him some of the guard and the Syndic of the bazaar, who had falsely charged me with stealing the necklet. I went up to them and asked, "What is the matter?" however, they pinioned me with out further parley and threw a chain about my neck, saying, "The necklet which was with thee hath proved to be the property of the Wazir of Damascus who is also her Viceroy;" and they added, "It was missing from his house three years ago at the same time as his younger daughter." When I heard these words, my heart sank within me and I said to myself, "Thy life is gone beyond a doubt! By Allah, needs must I tell the Chief my story; and, if he will, let him kill me, and if he please, let him pardon me." So they carried me to the Wazir's house and made me stand between his hands. When he saw me, he glanced at me out of the corner of his eye and said to those present, "Why did ye lop off his hand? This man is unfortunate, and there is no fault in him; indeed ye have wronged him in cutting off his hand." When I heard this, I took heart and, my soul presaging good, I said to him, "By Allah, O my lord, I am no thief; but they calumniated me with a vile calumny, and they scourged me midmost the market, bidding me confess till, for the pain of the rods, I lied against myself and confessed the theft, albeit I am altogether innocent of it." "Fear not," quoth the Viceroy, "no harm shall come to thee." Then he ordered the Syndic of the bazaar to be imprisoned and said to him, "Give this man the blood money for his hand; and, if thou delay I will hang thee and seize all thy property." Moreover he called to his guards who took him and dragged him away, leaving me with the Chief. Then they loosed by his command the chain from my neck and unbound my arms; and he looked at me, and said, "O my son, be true with me, and tell me how this necklace came to thee." And he repeated these verses:—
"Truth best befits thee, albeit truth * Shall bring thee to burn on the threatened fire."
"By Allah, O my lord," answered I, "I will tell thee nothing but the truth." Then I related to him all that had passed between me and the first lady, and how she had brought me the second and had slain her out of jealousy, and I detailed for him the tale to its full. When he heard my story, he shook his head and struck his right hand upon the left,[FN#597] and putting his kerchief over his face wept awhile and then repeated:—