Richard Francis Burton.

A plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights' entertainments, now entituled The book of the thousand nights and a night : with introduction, explanatory notes on the manners and customs of Moslem men, and a terminal essay upon the history of The nights (Volume 7) online

. (page 19 of 40)
Online LibraryRichard Francis BurtonA plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights' entertainments, now entituled The book of the thousand nights and a night : with introduction, explanatory notes on the manners and customs of Moslem men, and a terminal essay upon the history of The nights (Volume 7) → online text (page 19 of 40)
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Provost of the Merchants. And lo ! the lion cut off their way
awaiting his pray, wherefore the Provost was sore distressed
and said to the leader, " Allah disappoint the fortunes* of the far
one and bring his journey to naught ! I charge thee, after my
death, give my loads to my children." Quoth Ali the Clever
One, " What meaneth all this ?" So they told him the case and
he said, " Why do ye run from the tom-cat of the desert ? I
warrant you I will kill him." So the Syrian went to the Provost
and told him of this and he said, " If he slay him, I will give him

1 Arab. M Al-Khanakah " now more usually termed a Takfyah (Pilgrim, i. 124)*

3 Arab. " Ka'b al-ba'id " (Bresl. Edit. ix. 255) = heel or ankle, melaph. for fortune,

reputation : so the Arabs say the " Ka'b of the tribe is gone ! " here " the far one "

r= the caravan-leader.


178 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

a thousand dinars," and said the other merchants, "We will
reward him likewise one and all." With this AH put off
his mantle and there appeared upon him a suit of steel ; then he
took a chopper of steel l and opening it turned the screw ; after
which he went forth alone and standing in the road before the
lion, cried out to him, The lion ran at him, but Ali of Cairo
smote him between the eyes with his chopper and cut him in
sunder, whilst the caravan-leader and the merchants looked on.
Then said he to the leader, " Have no fear, O nuncle ! " and the
Syrian answered, saying, " O my son, I am thy servant for all
future time." Then the Provost embraced him and kissed him
between the eyes and gave him the thousand dinars, and each of
the other merchants gave him twenty dinars. He deposited all
the coin with the Provost and they slept that night till the morning,
when they set out again, intending for Baghdad, and fared on
till they came to the Lion's Clump and the Wady of Dogs, where
lay a villain Badawi, a brigand and his tribe, who sallied forth on
them. The folk fled from the highwaymen, and the Provost said,
" My monies are lost ! "; when, lo ! up came Ali in a buff coat
hung with bells> and bringing out his long lance, fitted the pieces
together. Then he seized one of the Arab's horses and mounting
it cried out to the Badawi Chief, saying, " Come out to fight me
with spears ! " Moreover he shook his bells and the Arab's mare
took fright at the noise and Ali struck the chiefs spear and broke
it. Then he smote him on the neck and cut off his head. 2 When
the Badawin saw their chief fall, they ran at Ali, but he cried out,,
saying," Allaho Akbar God is Most Great! " and, falling on them
broke them and put them to flight. Then he raised the Chief's head
on his spear-point and returned to the merchants, who rewarded
him liberally and continued their journey, till they reached
Baghdad. Thereupon Ali took his money from the Provost and
committed it to the Syrian caravan-leader, saying, " When thou
returnest to Cairo, ask for my barracks and give these monies to
my deputy." Then he slept that night and on the morrow he
entered the city and threading the streets enquired for Calamity

1 Arab. "Shan't," from Sharata = he Scarified; " Mishrat " = a lancet and
" Sharifah " = a mason's rule. Mr. Payne renders " Sharlt " by whinyard : it must be
a chopper-like weapon, with a pin or screw (laulab) to keep the blade open like the
snap of the Spaniard's cuchillo. Dozy explains it = epee, synonyme de Sayf.

z Text " Dimagh," a Persianism when used for the head : the word properly means.
brain or meninx.

The Adventures of Mercury All of Cairo. 179

Ahmad's quarters; but none would direct him thereto. 1 So he'
walked on, till he came to the square Al-Nafz, where he saw
children at play, and amongst them a lad called Ahmad al-Lakft, 2
and said to himself, " O my Ali, thou shalt not get news of them
but from their little ones." Then he turned and seeing a sweet-
meat-seller bought Halwd of him and called to the children ; but
Ahmad al-Lakit drove the rest away and coming up to him, said,
" What seekest thou ? " Quoth Ali, " I had a son a'nd he died and
I saw him in a dream asking for sweetmeats : wherefore I have
bought them and wish to give each child a bit." So saying, he
gave Ahmad a slice, and he looked at it and seeing a dinar
sticking to it, said, " Begone ! I am no catamite : seek another
than I." Quoth Ali, " O my son, none but a sharp fellow taketh
the hire, even as he is a sharp one who giveth it. I have sought
all day for Ahmad al-Danafs barrack, but none would direct me
thereto ; so this dinar is thine an thou wilt guide me thither."
Quoth the lad, " I will run before thee and do thou keep up with
me, till I come to the place, when I will catch up a pebble with
my foot 3 and kick it against the door ; and so shalt thou know it."
Accordingly he ran on and Ali after him, till they came to the
place, when the boy caught up a pebble between his toes and

kicked it against the door so as to make the place known. And

Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her
permitted say.

Wofo fofcen it foas tfje &rf>m f^unfctrt atrtr lElebnttf) Nfgijt,

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when
Ahmad the Abortion had made known the place, Ali laid hold of
him and would have taken the dinar from him, but could not ; so-
he said to him, " Go : thou deservest largesse for thou art a sharp
fellow, whole of wit and stout of heart. Inshallah, if I become a

1 They were afraid even to stand and answer this remarkable ruffian.

2 Ahmad the Abortion, or the Foundling, nephew (sister's son) of Zaynab the Coney-
catcher. See supra, p. 145.

3 Here the sharp lad discovers the direction without pointing it out. I need hardly
enlarge upon the prehensile powers of the Eastern foot : the tailor will hold his cloth
between his toes and pick up his needle with it, whilst the woman can knead every
muscle and at times catch a mosquito between the toes. I knew an officer in India
whose mistress hurt his feelings by so doing at a critical time when he attributed hei
movement to pleasure.

i8o A If Laylah wa Laylah.

captain to the Caliph, I will make thee one of my lads." Then
the boy made off and Ali Zaybak went up to the door and knocked ;
whereupon quoth Ahmad al-Danaf, "O doorkeeper, open the
door ; that is the knock of Quicksilver Ali the Cairene." So he
opened the door and Ali entered and saluted with the salam
Ahmad who embraced him, and the Forty greeted him. Then
Calamity Ahmad gave him a suit of clothes, saying, " When the
Caliph made me captain, he clothed my lads and I kept this suit l
for thee." Then they seated him in the place of honour and
setting on meat they ate well and drink they drank hard and
made merry till the morning, when Ahmad said to Ali, " Beware
thou walk not about the streets of Baghdad, but sit thee still in
this barrack." Asked Ali, " Why so ? Have I come hither to be
shut up ? No, I came to look about me and divert myself."
Replied Ahmad, " O my son, think not that Baghdad be like
Cairo. Baghdad is the seat of the Caliphate ; sharpers abound
therein and rogueries spring therefrom as worts spring out of
earth." So Ali abode in the barrack three days when Ahmad
said to him, " I wish to present thee to the Caliph, that he
may assign thee an allowance." But he replied, " When the
time cometh." So he let him go his own way. One day, as
Ali sat in the barrack, his breast became straitened and his soul
troubled and he said in himself, " Come, let us up and thread the
ways of Baghdad and broaden my bosom." So he went out and
walked from street to street, till he came to the middle bazar,
where he entered a cook-shop and dined ; 2 after which he went out
to wash his hands. Presently he saw forty slaves, with felt bon-
nets and steel cutlasses, come walking, two by two ; and last of all
came Dalilah the Wily, mounted on a she-mule, with a gilded
helmet which bore a ball of polished steel, and clad in a coat of
mail, and such like. Now she was returning from the Divan to
the Khan of which she was portress ; and when she espied Ali,
she looked at him fixedly and saw that he resembled Calamity
Ahmad in height and breadth. Moreover, he was clad in a striped

1 Arab. " Hullah " = dress.* In old days it was composed of the Burd or Rida, the
shoulder-cloth from 6 to 9 or lo feet long, and the Izar or waistcloth which was either
tied or tucked into a girdle of leather or metal. The woman's waistcloth was called
Nitah and descended to the feet while the upper part was doubled and provided with a
Tikkah or string over which it fell to the knees overhanging the lower folds. This
doubling of the " Hujrah," or part round the waist, was called the " Hubkah."

* Arab " Taghadda," the dinner being at eleven a.m. or noon.

The Adventures of Mercury Ali of Cairo. 181

Aba-cloak and a burnous, with a steel cutlass by his side and
similar gear, while valour shone from his eyes, testifying in favour
of him and not in disfavour of him. So she returned to the Khan
and going in to her daughter, fetched a table of sand, and struck
a geomantic figure, whereby she discovered that the stranger's
name was Ali of Cairo and that his fortune overcame her fortune
and that of her daughter. Asked Zaynab, " O my mother, what
hath befallen thee that thou hast recourse to the sand-table?"
Answered Dalilah, " O my daughter, I have seen this day a young
man who resembleth Calamity Ahmad, and I fear lest he come to
hear how thou didst strip Ahmad and his men and enter the Khan
and play us a trick, in revenge for what we did with his chief and
the forty ; for methinks he has taken up his lodging in Al-Danaf s
barrack.'"' Zaynab rejoined, " What is this ? Methinks thou hast
taken his measure." Then she donned her fine clothes and went
out into the streets. When the people saw her, they all made love
to her and she promised and sware and listened and coquetted and
passed from market to market, till she saw Ali the Cairene coming,
when she went up to him and rubbed her shoulder against him.
Then she turned and said, " Allah give long life to folk of dis-
crimination ! " Quoth he, " How goodly is thy form ! To whom
dost thou belong ? " ; and quoth she, " To the gallant 1 like thee ; "
and he said, " Art thou wife or spinster ? " " Married," said she.
Asked Ali, "Shall it be in my lodging or thine?" 2 and she
answered, " I am a merchant's daughter and a merchant's wife
and in all my life I have never been out of doors till to-day, and
my only reason was that when I made ready food and thought to
eat, I had no mind thereto without company. When I saw thee,
love of thee entered my heart : so wilt thou deign solace my soul
and eat a mouthful with me ? " Quoth he, " Whoso is invited, let
him accept." Thereupon she went on and he followed her from
street to street, but presently he bethought himself and said,
" What wilt thou do and thou a stranger ? Verily 'tis said :
Whoso doth whoredom in his strangerhood, Allah will send him

1 Arab. Ghandur for which the Dictionaries give only "fat, thick." It applies in
Arabia especially to a Harami, brigand or freebooter, most honourable of professions,
slain in foray or fray, opposed to " Fatis" or carrion (the (orps crfvf of the Klephts),
the man who dies the straw-death. Pilgrimage iii. 66.

2 My fair readers will note with surprise how such matters are hurried in the East.
The picture is, however, true to life in lands where "flirtation" is utterly unknown and,
indeed, impossible.

1 82 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

back disappointed. But I will put her off from thee with fair
words." So he said to her, " Take this dinar and appoint me a
day other than this ; " and she said, " By the Mighty Name, it
may not be but thou shalt go home with me as my guest this very
day and I will take thee to fast friend." So he followed her till
she came to a house with a lofty porch and a wooden bolt on the
door and said to him, " Open this lock." J Asked he " Where is
the key ? " ; and she answered, " Tis lost." Quoth he, " Whoso
openeth a lock without a key is a knave whom it behoveth the
ruler to punish, and I know not how to open doors without keys ? 2 "
With this she raised her veil and showed him her face, whereat he
took one glance of eyes that cost him a thousand sighs. Then she
let fall her veil on the lock and repeating over it the names of the
mother of Moses, opened it without a key and entered. He fol-
lowed her and saw swords and steel-weapons hanging up ; and she
put off her veil and sat down with him. Quoth he to himself,
" Accomplish what Allah hath decreed to thee," and bent over her,
to take a kiss of her cheek ; but she caught the kiss upon her palm,
saying, " This beseemeth not but by night." Then she brought a
tray of food and wine, and they ate and drank ; after which she
rose and drawing water from the well, poured it from the ewer over
his hands, whilst he washed them. Now whilst they were on this
wise, she cried out and beat upon her breast, saying, " My husband
had a signet-ring of ruby, which was pledged to him for five
hundred dinars, and I put it on ; but 'twas too large for me, so I
straitened it with wax, and when I let down the bucket/ that
ring must have dropped into the well So turn thy face to the
door, the while I doff my dress and go down into the well and
fetch it." Quoth Ali, " 'Twere shame on me that thou shouldst
go down there I being present ; none shall do it save I." So he
put off his clothes and tied the rope about himself and she let him
down into the well. Now there was mudi water therein and she
said to him, " The rope is too short ; loose thyself and drop down."
So he did himself loose from the rope and dropped into the
water, in which he sank fathoms deep without touching bottom ;
whilst she donned her mantilla and taking his clothes, returned to

her mother And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and

ceased to say her permitted say.

1 Arab. "Zabbah," the wooden bolt (before noticed) which forms the lock and is
opened by a slider and pins. It is illustrated by Lane (M. E. Introduction).

2 i.e. 1 am not a petty thief. * Arab. Sail = kettle, bucket. Lat. Situla (?)

The Adventures of Mercury Ali of Cairo. 183

fo&en ft teas t&f &eben pjuntrretr nntr fodft&

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Ali
of Cairo was in the well, Zaynab donned her mantilla and, taking
his clothes, returned to her mother and said, " I have stripped Ali
the Egyptian and cast him into the Emir Hasan's well, whence
alas for his chance of escaping ! " * Presently, the Emir Hasan,
the master of the house, who had been absent at the Divan, came
home and, finding the door open, said to his Syce, " Why didst
thou not draw the bolt?" "O my lord," replied the groom,
" indeed I locked it with my own hand." The Emir cried, " As
my head liveth, some robber hath entered my house ! " Then he
went in and searched, but found none and said to the groom,
" Fill the ewer, that I may make the Wuzu-ablution." So the
man lowered the bucket into the well but, when he drew it up, he
found it heavy and looking down, saw something therein sitting ;
whereupon he let it fall into the water and cried out, saying, " O
my lord, an Ifrit came up to me out of the well ! " Replied the
Emir, " Go and fetch four doctors of the law, that they may read
the Koran over him, till he go away." So he fetched the doctors
and the Emir said to them, " Sit round this well and exorcise me
this Ifrit." They did as he bade them ; after which the groom and
another servant lowered the bucket again and Ali clung to it and
hid himself under it patiently till he came near the top, when he
sprang out and landed among the doctors, who fell a-cuffing one
another and crying out, " Ifrit ! Ifrit ! " The Emir looked at Ali
and seeing him a young man, said to him, "Art thou a thief?"
" No," replied Ali ; " Then what dost thou in the well ? " asked
the Emir ; and Ali answered, " I was asleep and dreamt a wet
dream ; 2 so I went down to the Tigris to wash myself and dived,
whereupon the current carried me under the earth and I came up
in this well." Quoth the other, "Tell the truth." 3 So Ali told
him all that had befallen him, and the Emir gave him an old

1 *'.*. "there is no chance of 'his escaping." It may also mean, "And far from him
(Hayhat) is escape."

2 Arab. "Ihtilam," the sign of puberty in boy or girl; this, like all emissions of
semen, voluntary or involuntary, requires the Ghuzl or total ablution before prayers can
be said, etc. See vol. v. 199, in the Tale of Tawaddud.

3 This is the way to take an Eastern when he tells a deliberate lie ; and it often
Surprises him into speaking the truth.

184 A If Laylah iva Laylah.

gown and let him go. He returned to Calamity Ahmad's lodging
and related to him all that had passed. Quoth Ahmad, " Did I
not warn thee that Baghdad is full of women who play tricks upon
men ? " And quoth AH Kitf al-Jamal, " I conjure thee by the
Mighty Name, tell me how it is that thou art the chief of the lads
of Cairo and yet hast been stripped by a girl ? " This was
grievous to Ali and he repented him of not having followed
Ahmad's advice. Then the Calamity gave him another suit of
clothes and Hasan Shuman said to him, " Dost thou know the
young person ? " " No," replied Ali ; and Hasan rejoined,
" 'Twas Zaynab, the daughter of Dalilah the Wily, the portress of
the Caliph's Khan ; and hast thou fallen into her toils, O Ali ? "
Quoth he, " Yes," and quoth Hasan, " O Ali, 'twas she who took
thy Chiefs clothes and those of all his men." " This is a disgrace
to you all ! " "And what thinkest thou to do ?" " I purpose to
marry her." " Put away that thought far from thee, and console thy
heart of her." " O Hasan, do thou counsel me how I shall do to
marry her." " With all my heart : if thou wilt drink from my
hand and march under my banner, I will bring thee to thy will of
her." " I will well." So Hasan made Ali put off his clothes ;
and, taking a cauldron heated therein somewhat as it were pitch,
wherewith he anointed him and he became like unto a blackamoor
slave. Moreover, he smeared his lips and cheeks and pencilled
his eyes with red Kohl. 1 Then he clad him in a slave's habit and
giving him a tray of kabobs and wine, said to him, " There is a
black cook in the Khan who requires from the bazar only meat ;
and thou art now become his like ; so go thou to him civilly and
accost him in friendly fashion and speak to him in the blacks'
lingo, and salute him, saying, 'Tis long since we met in the
beer-ken. He will answer thee, I have been too busy : on my
hands be forty slaves, for whom I cook dinner and supper, besides
making ready a tray for Dalilah and the like for her daughter
Zaynab and the dogs' food. And do thou say to him, Come, let
us eat kabobs and lush swipes. 2 Then go with him into the
saloon and make him drunken and question him of his service,
how many dishes and what dishes he hath to cook, and ask him of

1 The conjunctiva in Africans is seldom white ; often it is red and more frequently

3 So in the texts, possibly a clerical error for the wine which he had brought with the
kabobs. But beer is the especial tipple of African slaves in Egypt.

The Adventures of Mercury All of Cairo. 185

the dogs' food and the keys of the kitchen and the larder ; and he
will tell thee ; for a man, when he is drunken, telleth all he would
conceal were he sober. When thou hast done this drug him and
don his clothes and sticking the two knives in thy girdle, take the
vegetable-basket and go to the market and buy meat and greens,
with which do thou return to the Khan and enter the kitchen and
the larder and cook the food. Dish it up and put Bhang in it, so
as to drug the dogs and the slaves and Dalilah and Zaynab and
lastly serve up. When all are asleep, hie thee to the upper
chamber and bring away every suit of clothes thou wilt find
hanging there. And if thou have a mind to marry Zaynab, bring
with thee also the forty carrier-pigeons." So Ali went to the
Khan and going in to the cook, saluted him and said, " Tis long
since I have met thee in the beer-ken," The slave replied, " I
have been busy cooking for the slaves and the dogs." Then he
took him and making him drunken, questioned him of his work.
Quoth the kitchener, " Every day I cook five dishes for dinner
and the like for supper ; and yesterday they sought of me a sixth
dish, 1 yellow rice, 2 and a seventh, a mess of cooked pomegranate
seed." Ali asked, " And what is the order of thy service ? " and
the slave answered, " First I serve up Zaynab's tray, next Dalilah's ;
then I feed the slaves and give the dogs their sufficiency of meat,
and the least that satisfies them is a pound each." But, as fate
would have it, he forgot to ask him of the keys. Then he drugged
him and donned his clothes ; after which he took the basket and

went to the market. There he bought meat and greens. And

Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her
permitted say.

fo&en it teas tfje &eben f^unimfc anfc

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ali of
Cairo, after drugging the cook-slave with Bhang, took the two
knives which he stuck in his belt and, carrying the vegetable-

1 Arab. Laun, prop. = color, hue ; but applied to species and genus, our " kind "j
and especially to dishes which differ in appearance ; whilst in Egypt it means any dish.

2 Arab. " Zardah "= rice dressed with honey and saffron. Vol. ii. 313. The word u
still common in Turkey.

1 86 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

basket, went to the market where he bought meat and greens ;
and, presently returning to the Khan, he saw Dalilah seated at the
gate, watching those who went in and came out, and the forty
slaves with her, armed. So he heartened his heart and entered ;
but Dalilah knew him and said to him, " Back, O captain of
thieves ! Wilt thou play a trick on me in the Khan ? " Thereupon
he (dressed as a slave) turned and said to her, " What sayest thou,

portress ? " She asked, " What hast thou done with the slave,
our cook ? ; say me if thou hast killed or drugged him ? " He
answered, " What cook ? Is there here another slave-cook than

1 ? " She rejoined, " Thou liest, thou art Mercury Ali the Cairene."
And he said to her, in slaves' patois, " O portress, are the Cairenes
black or white ? I will slave for you no longer." Then said the
slaves to him, " What is the matter with thee, O our cousin ? "
Cried Dalilah, " This is none of your uncle's children, but Ali
Zaybak the Egyptian ; and meseems he hath either drugged your
cousin or killed him." But they said, " Indeed this is our cousin
Sa'adu'llah the cook ; " and she, " Not so, 'tis Mercury Ali, and
he hath dyed his skin." Quoth the sharper, " And who is Ali ? I
am Sa'adu'llah." Then she fetched unguent of proof, with which
she anointed Ali's forearm and rubbed it ; but the black did not
come off; whereupon quoth the slaves, " Let him go and dress us
our dinner." Quoth Dalilah, " If he be indeed your cousin, he
knoweth what you sought of him yesternight 1 and how many
dishes he cooketh every day." So they asked him of this and he
said, " Every day I cook you five dishes for the morning and the
like for the evening meal, lentils and rice and broth and stew 2 and
sherbet of roses ; and yesternight ye sought of me a sixth dish and
a seventh, to wit yellow rice and cooked pomegranate seed." And
the slaves said " Right ! " Then quoth Dalilah, " In with him and
if he know the kitchen and the larder, he is indeed your cousin ;
but, if not, kill him." Now the cook had a cat which he had
brought up, and whenever he entered the kitchen it would stand
at the door and spring to his back, as soon as he went in. So,
when Ali entered, the cat saw him and jumped on his shoulders ;
but he threw it off and it ran before him to the door of the kitchen

1 Arab. " Laylat Ams," the night of yesterday (Al-barihah) not our " last night " which
would be the night of the day spoken of.

2 Arab. "Yakhni," a word much used in Persia and India and properly applied to
the complicated broth prepared for the rice and meat. For a good recipe see Herklots,
Appendix xxix.

The Adventures of Mercury All of Cairo. 187

and stopped there. He guessed that this was the kitchen door ; so
he took the keys and seeing one with traces of feathers thereon,
knew it for the kitchen key and therewith opened the door. Then
he entered and setting down the greens, went out again, led by the
cat, which ran before him and stopped at another door. He guessed
that this was the larder and seeing one of the keys marked with

Online LibraryRichard Francis BurtonA plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights' entertainments, now entituled The book of the thousand nights and a night : with introduction, explanatory notes on the manners and customs of Moslem men, and a terminal essay upon the history of The nights (Volume 7) → online text (page 19 of 40)