Richard Francis Burton.

The book of the thousand nights and a night; a plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights' entertainments, with introd., explanatory notes on the manners and customs of Moslem men and a terminal essay upon the history of the nights (Volume 9) online

. (page 25 of 38)
Online LibraryRichard Francis BurtonThe book of the thousand nights and a night; a plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights' entertainments, with introd., explanatory notes on the manners and customs of Moslem men and a terminal essay upon the history of the nights (Volume 9) → online text (page 25 of 38)
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protect thee), truth is thine inner garb and sincerity is thine
outer garment and none may speak otherwise than truly in:
thy presence." The Caliph bade him be seated and said, " Tell
us." So he began, " Know, O Commander of the Faithful,
that my father belonged .to the markets of the money-changers'
and druggists and linendrapers and had in each bazar a shop and
an agent and all kinds of goods. Moreover, behind the money-
changer's shop he had an apartment, where he might be private,
appointing the shop for buying and selling. His wealth was;

1 Tenth Abbaside (A.H. 234-247 = 848-861), grandson of Al-Rashid and born of
a slave-concubine. He was famous for his hatred of the Alides (he destroyed the tomb
<>f Al-Husayn) and claimed the pardon of Allah for having revised orthodox traditionary
doctrines. He compelled the Christians to wear collars of wood or leather and was
assassinated by five Turks.

z His father was Al-Mu' tasim bi 'llah (A.H. 218-227 = 833-842) the son of Al-Rashid
by Maridah a slave-concubine of foreign origin. He was brave and of high spirit,
but destitute t>f education ; and his personal strength was such that he could break a
man's elbow between his fingers. He imitated the apparatus of Persian kings ; and he
was called the " Octonary" because he was the 8th Abbaside ; the 8th in descent from
Abbas; the 8th son of Al-Rashid ; he began his reign in A.H. 218; lived 48 years;
was born under Scorpio (8th Zodiacal sign); was victorious in 8 expeditions ; slew
8 important foes and left 8 male and 8 female children. For his introducing Turks see,
iii. 81

Abu A I- Hasan of Khorasan. 233

beyond count and to his riches there was none amount ; but he

had no child other than myself, and he loved me and was tenderly

fain of me. When his last hour was at hand, he called me to him

and commended my mother to my care and charged me to fear

Almighty Allah. Then he died, may Allah have mercy upon him

and continue the Prince of True Believers on life ! And I gave

myself up to pleasure and eating and drinking and took to myself

comrades and intimates. My mother used to forbid me from this

and to blame me for it, bat I would not hear a word from her,

till my money was all gone, when I sold my lands and houses and

naught was left me save the mansion wherein I now dwell, and it

was a goodly stead, O Commander of the Faithful. So I said to

my mother, " I wish to sell the house ;" but she said, " O my son,

an thou sell it, thou wilt be dishonoured and wilt have no place

wherein to take shelter." Quoth I, " 'Tis worth five thousand

dinars, and with one thousand of its price I will buy me another

nouse and trade with the rest." Quoth she, " Wilt thou sell it to

me at that price ? "; and I replied, " Yes." Whereupon she went

to a coffer and opening it, took out a porcelain vessel, wherein

were five thousand dinars. When I saw this meseemed the house

was all of gold and she said to me, " O my son, think not that this is

of thy father's good. By Allah, O my son, it was of my own father's

money and I have treasured it up against a time of need ; for, in

thy father's day I was a wealthy woman and had no need of it."

I took the money from her, O Prince of True Believers, and fell

again to feasting and carousing and merrymaking with my friends,

unheeding my mother's words and admonitions, till the five

thousand dinars came to an end, when I said to her, " I wish to

sell the house." Said she, " O my son, I forbade thee from selling

it before, of my knowledge that thou hadst need of it ; so how

wilt thou sell it a second time ? >; Quoth I, " Be not longsome of

speech with me, for I must and will sell it ;" and quoth she,

' Then sell it to me for fifteen thousand dinars, on condition that

I take charge of thine affairs." So I sold her the house at that

price and gave up my affairs into her charge, whereupon she

sought out the agents of my father and gave each of them a

thousand dinars, keeping the rest in her own hands and ordering

the outgo and the income. Moreover she gave me money to

trade withal and said to me, " Sit thou in thy father's shop." So

I did her bidding, O Commander of the Faithful, and took up my

abode in the chamber behind the shop in the market of the money-

234 Alf Laylah wa Laylah.

changers, and my friends came and bought of me and I sold to
them ; whereby I made good cheape and my wealth increased.
When my mother saw me in this fair way, she discovered to me
that which she had treasured up of jewels and precious stones,
pearls, and gold, and I bought back my houses and lands that I
had squandered and my wealth became great as before. I abode
thus for some time, and the factors of my father came to me and
I gave them stock-in-trade, and I built me a second chamber
behind the shop. One day, as I sat there, according to my
custom, O Prince of True Believers, there came up to me a damsel,
never saw eyes a fairer than she of favour, and said, " Is this the
private shop of Abu al-Hasan AH ibn Ahmad al-Khorasani ? "
Answered I, " Yes," and she asked, " Where is he ? " " He am I,"
said I, and indeed my wit was dazed at the excess of her loveliness.
She sat down and said to me, " Bid thy page weigh me out three
hundred dinars." Accordingly I bade him give her that sum and
he weighed it out to her and she took it and went away, leaving
me stupefied. Quoth my man to me, " Dost thou know her ? ";
and quoth I, " No, by Allah ! " He asked, " Then why didst thou
bid me give her the money ? "; and I answered, " By Allah, I
knew not what I said, of my amazement at her beauty and love-
liness ! " Then he rose and followed her, without my knowledge,
but presently returned, weeping and with the mark of a blow on
his face. I enquired of him what ailed him, and he replied, " I
followed the damsel, to see whither she went ; but, when she was
aware of me, she turned and dealt me this blow and all but knocked
out my eye. After this, a month passed, without her coming, O
Commander of the Faithful, and I abode bewildered for love of
her ; but, at the end of this time, she suddenly appeared again
and saluted me, whereat I was like to fly for joy. She asked me
how I did and said to me, " Haply thou saidst to thyself, What
'manner of trickstress is this, who hath taken my money and made
off?" Answered I, " By Allah, O my lady, my money and my
life are all thy very own ! " With this she unveiled herself and sat
down to rest, with the trinkets and ornaments playing over her
face and bosom. Presently, she said to me, " Weigh me out three
hundred dinars." " Hearkening and obedience," answered I and
weighed out to her the money. She took it and went away and I
said to my servant, " Follow her." So he followed her, but
returned dumbstruck, and some time passed without my seeing
her. But, as I was sitting one day, behold, she came up to me

Abu A I- Hasan of Khorasan. 235

and after talking awhile, said to me, " Weigh me out five hundred
dinars, for 1 have need of them." I would have said to her, " Why
should I give thee my money? "; but my love immense hindered
me from utterance ; for, O Prince of True Believers, whenever I
saw her, I trembled in every joint and my colour paled and I
forgot what I would have said and became even as saith the
poet :

**Tis naught but this ! When a-sudden I see her o Mumchance I bide nor a
word can say her."

So I weighed out for her the five hundred ducats, and she took
them and went away ; whereupon I arose and followed her myself,
till she came to the jewel-bazar, where she stopped at a man's
shop and took of him a necklace. Then she turned and seeing
me, said, " Pay him five hundred dinars for me." When the
jeweller saw me, he rose to me and made much of me, and I said
to him, " Give her the necklace and set down the price to me."
He replied, " I hear and obey," and she took it and went away ;

And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying

her permitted say.

Nofo toftfn it foas tfjc Nine pjuntfrefc an& Sbixtg - first Xtg&t,

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abu
Hasan the Khorasani thus pursued his tale : So I said to the
jeweller, " Give her the necklace and set down the price to me."
Then she took it and went away ; but I followed her, till she came
to the Tigris and boarded a boat there, whereupon I signed with
my hand to the ground, as who should say, " I kiss it before thee."
She went off laughing, and I stood watching her, till I saw her
land and enter a palace, which when I considered, I knew it for
the palace of the Caliph Al-Mutawakkil. So I turned back, O
Commander of the Faithful, with all the cares in the world fallen
on my heart, for she had of me three thousand dinars, and I said
to myself, " She hath taken my wealth and ravished my wit, and
peradventure I shall lose my life for her love." Then I returned
home and told my mother all that had befallen me, and she said,
" O my son, beware how thou have to do with her after this, or
thou art lost." When I went to my shop, my factor in the drug-

236 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

market, who was a very old man, came to me and said, " my
lord, how is it that I see thee changed in case and showing marks
of chagrin ? Tell me what aileth thee." So I told him all that
had befallen me with her and he said, " O my son, this is indeed
one of the handmaidens of the palace of the Commander of the
Faithful and haply she is the Caliph's favourite concubine : so do
thou reckon the money as spent for the sake of Almighty Allah 1
and occupy thyself no more with her. An she come again, beware
lest she have to do with thee and tell me of this, that I may
devise thee some device lest perdition betide thee. J> Then he
fared forth and left me with a flame of fire in my heart. At the
end of the month behold, she came again and I rejoiced in her
with exceeding joy. Quoth she, " What ailed thee to follow me?";
and quoth I, " Excess of passion that is in my heart urged me to
this," and I wept beford her. She wept for ruth of me and said,
" By Allah, there is not in thy heart aught of love-longing but in
my heart is more ! Yet how shall I do ? By Allah, I have no
resource save to see thee thus once a month." Then she gave me
a bill saying, " Carry this to such an one of such a trade who is
my agent and take of him what is named therein." But I replied,
" I have no need of money ; be my wealth and my life thy
sacrifice ! " Quoth she, " I will right soon contrive thee a means of
access to me, whatever trouble it cost me." Then she farewelled me
and fared forth, whilst I repaired to the old druggist and told him
what had passed. He went with -me to the palace of Al-Muta-
wakkil which I knew for that which the damsel had entered ; but
the Shaykh was at a loss for a device. Presently he espied a
tailor sitting with his prentices at work in his shop, opposite the
lattice giving upon the river bank and said to me, " Yonder. is one
by whom thou shalt win thy wish ; but first tear thy pocket and
go to him and bid him sew it up. When he hath done this, give
him ten dinars." " I hear and obey," answered I and taking with
me two pieces 2 of Greek brocade, went to the tailor and bade him
make of them four suits, two with long-sleeved coats and two
without. When he had finished cutting them out and sewing
them, I gave him to his hire much more than of wont, and he put

1 i.e. as if it were given away in charity.

2 Arab. " Shukkah," a word much used in the Zanzibar trade where it means a piece
of long-cloth one fathom long. See my "Lake Regions of Central Africa," vol. i.
147, etc.

Abu A I- Hasan of Khorasan. 237

out his hand to me with the clothes ; but I said, " Take them for
thyself and for those who are with thee." And I fell to sitting
with him and sitting long : I also bespoke of him other clothes
and said to him, " Hang them out in front of thy shop, so the folk
may see them and buy them." He did as I bade him, and whoso
came forth of the Caliph's palace and aught of the clothes pleased
him, I made him a present thereof, even to the doorkeeper. One
day of the days the tailor said to me, " O my son, I would have
thee tell me the truth of thy case ; for thou hast bespoken of me
an hundred costly suits, each worth a mint of money, and hast
given the most of them to the folk. This is no merchant's
fashion, for a merchant calleth an account for every dirham, and
what can be the sum of thy capital that thou givest these gifts
and what thy gain every year ? Tell me the truth of thy case,
that I may assist thee to thy desire;" presently adding, "I
conjure thee by Allah, tell me, art thou not in love ? " " Yes,"
replied I ; and he said, " With whom ? " Quoth I, " With one of
the handmaids of the Caliph's palace ;" and quoth he, " Allah put
them to shame ! How long shall they seduce the folk ? Knowest
thou her name ? " Said I, " No ; " and said he, " Describe her to
me." So I described her to him and he cried, " Out on it ! This
is the lutanist of the Caliph Al-Mutawakkil and his pet concubine.
But she hath a Mameluke 1 and do thou make friends with him ; it
may be he shall become the means of thy having access to her."
Now as we were talking, behold, out walked the servant in
question from the palace, as he were a moon on the fourteenth
night ; and, seeing that I had before me the clothes which the
tailor had made me, and they were of brocade of all colours, he
began to look at them and examine them. Then he came up to
me and I rose and saluted him. He asked, " Who art thou ? "
and I answered, " I am a man of the merchants." Quoth he,
"Wilt thou sell these clothes?"; and quoth I, "Yes." So he
chose out five of them and said to me. " How much these five ?"
Said I, " They are a present to thee from me in earnest of friend-
ship between me and thee." At this he rejoiced and I went
home and fetching a suit embroidered with jewels and jacinths,
worth three thousand dinars, returned therewith and gave it to
him. He accepted it and carrying me into a room within the
palace, said to me, "What is thy name among the merchants?"

l _ He is afterwards called in two places " Khadim "= eunuch-

238 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

Said I, " I am a man of them. 1 " He continued, "Verily I mis-
doubt me of thine affair." I asked, " Why so ? " and he answered,
" Because thou hast bestowed on me a costly gift and won my
heart therewith, and I make certain that thou art Abu al-Hasan of
Khorasan the Shroff." With this I fell aweeping, O Prince of
True Believers ; and he said to me, " Why dost thou weep ? By
Allah, she for whom thou weepest is yet more longingly in love
with thee than thou with her ! And indeed her case with thee is
notorious among all the palace women. But what wouldst thou
have ? " Quoth I, " I would have thee succour me in my
calamity." So he appointed me for the morrow and I returned
home. As soon as I rose next morning, I betook myself to him
and waited in his chamber till he came in and said to me, " Know
that yesternight when, after having made an end of her service by
the Caliph, she returned to her apartment, I related to her all
that had passed between me and thee and she is minded to fore-
gather with thee. So stay with me till the end of the day."
Accordingly I stayed with him till dark, when the Mameluke
brought me a shirt of gold-inwoven stuff and a suit of the Caliph's
apparel and clothing me therein, incensed me 2 and I became like
the Commander of the Faithful. Then he brought me to a
gallery with rows of rooms on either side and said to me, " These
are the lodgings of the Chief of the slave-girls ; and when thou
passest along the gallery, do thou lay at each door a bean, for 'tis
the custom of the Caliph to do this every night - And Shah-
razad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted

foljcn it tons tfte Wnu f^untireti anfc &fxtg - secontr

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
Mameluke said to Abu Hasan, "When thou passest along the
gallery set down at each door a bean for 'tis the custom of the
Caliph so to do, till thou come to the second passage on thy right
hand, when thou wilt see a door with a marble threshold 3 Touch

1 A courteous way of saying, "Never mind my name : I wish to keep it hidden."
The formula is still popular.

2 Arab. " Bakhkharanf " i.e. fumigated me with burning aloes-wood, Calumba or
similar material.

3 In sign of honour. The threshold is important amongst Moslems : in one of the
Mameluke Soldans' sepulchres near Cairo I found a granite slab bearing the "cartouche"
(shield) of Khufu (Cheops) with the four hieroglyphs hardly effaced.

Abu Al-Hasan of Khorasan. 239

it with thy hand or, an thou wilt, count the doors which are so
many, and enter the one whose marks are thus and thus. There
thy mistress will see thee and take thee in with her. As for thy
coming forth, verily Allah will make it easy to me, though I carry
thee out in a chest." Then he left me and returned, whilst I went
on, counting the doors and laying at each a bean. When I had
reached the middle of the gallery, I heard a great clatter and saw
the light of flambeaux coming towards me. As the light drew
near me, I looked at it and behold, the Caliph himself, came sur-
rounded by the slave-girls carrying waxen lights, and I heard one
of the women 1 say to another, " O my sister, have we two Caliphs?
Verily, the Caliph whose perfumes- and essences I smelt, hath
already passed by my room and he hath laid the bean at my door,
as his wont ; and now I see the light of his flambeaux, and here
he cometh with them." Replied the other, '" Indeed this is a
wondrous thing, for disguise himself in the Caliph's habit none
would dare." Then the light drew near me, whilst I trembled in
every limb ; and up came an eunuch, crying out to the concubines
and saying, " Hither ! " Whereupon they turned aside to one of
the chambers and entered. Then they came out again and walked
on till they came to the chamber of my mistress and I heard the
Caliph say, " Whose chamber is this ? " They answered, " This is
the chamber of Shajarat al-Durr." And he said, "Call her." So
they called her and she came out and kissed the feet of the Caliph,
\vho said to her, " Wilt thou drink to-night ? " Quoth she, " But
for thy presence and the looking on thine auspicious countenance,
I would not drink, for I incline not to wine this night." Then
quoth the Commander of the Faithful to the eunuch, " Bid the
treasurer give her such necklace ; " and he commanded to enter
her chamber. So the waxen lights entered before him and he
followed them into the apartment. At the same moment, behold,
there came up a damsel, the lustre of whose face outshone that of
the flambeau in her hand, and drawing near she said, " Who is
this ? " Then she laid hold of me and carrying me into one of the
chambers, said to me, " Who art thou ? " I kissed the ground
before her saying, " I implore thee by Allah, O my lady, spare my
blood and have ruth on me and commend thyself unto Allah by
saving my life ! "; and I wept for fear of death. Quoth she,

1 i.e. One of the concubines by whose door he had passed.

240 A If Laylah wa Laylah.

" Doubtless, thou art a robber ; " and quoth I, " No, by Allah, I
am no robber. Seest thou on me the signs of thieves ? " Said she,
" Tell me the truth of thy case and I will put thee in safety." So
I said, " I am a silly lover and an ignorant> whom passion and my
folly have moved to do as thou seest, so that I am fallen into this
slough of despond." Thereat cried she, " Abide here till I come
back to thee ; " and going forth she presently returned with some
of her handmaid's clothes wherein she clad me and bade me follow
her ; so I followed her till she came to her apartment and com-
manded me to enter. I went in and she led me to a couch, where-
on was a mighty fine carpet, and said, " Sit down here : no harm
shall befal thee. Art thou not Abu al-Hasan Ali the Khorasani,
the Shroff?" I answered, "Yes," and she rejoined, "Allah spare
thy blood given thou speak truth ! An thou be a robber, thou art
lost, more by token that thou art dressed in the Caliph's habit and
incensed with his scents. But, an thou be indeed Abu al-Hasan,
thou art safe and no hurt shall happen to thee, for that thou art
the friend of Shajarat al-Durr, who is my sister and ceaseth never
to name thee and tell us how she took of thee money, yet wast
thou not chagrined, and how thou didst follow her to the river
bank and madest sign as thou wouldst kiss the earth in her honour ;
and her heart is yet more aflame for thee than is thine for her.
But how earnest thou hither ? Was it by her order or without it ?
She hath indeed imperilled thy life 1 . But what seekest thou in
this assignation with her ? " I replied, " By Allah, O my lady, 'tis
I who have imperilled my own life, and my aim in foregathering
with her is but to look on her and hear her pretty speech." She
said, " Thou hast spoken well ; " and I added, " O my lady, Allah
is my witness when I declare that my soul prompteth me to no
offence against her honour." Cried she, " In this intent may Allah
deliver thee ! Indeed compassion for thee hath gotten hold upon
my heart." Then she called her handmaid and said to her, " Go
to Shajarat al-Durr and say to her : Thy sister saluteth thee and
biddeth thee to her ; so favour her by coming to her this night,
according to thy custom, for her breast is straitened." The slave-
girl went out and presently returning, told her mistress that
Shajarat al-Durr said, "May Allah bless me with thy long life and
make me thy ransom ! By Allah, hadst thou bidden me to other

1 Epistasis without the prostasis, " An she ordered thee so to do : " the situation
justifies the rhetorical figure.

Abu Al-Hasan of Khorasan. 241

than this, I had not hesitated ; but the Caliph's migraine con-
straineth me and thou knowest my rank with him." But the other
said to her damsel, " Return to her and say : Needs must thou
come to my mistress upon a private matter between thee and her !"
So the girl went out again and presently returned with the damsel,
whose face shone like the full moon. Her sister met her and
embraced her ; then said she, " Ho, Abu al-Hasan, come forth to
her and kiss her hands ! " Now I was in a closet within the apart-
ment ; so I walked out, O Commander of the Faithful, and when
my mistress saw me, she threw herself upon me and strained me
to her bosom, saying, " How earnest thou in the Caliph's clothes
and his ornaments and perfumes ? Tell me what hath befallen
thee." So I related to her all that had befallen me and what I
had suffered for affright and so forth ; and she said, " Grievous to
me is what thou hast endured for my sake and praised be Allah who
hath caused the issue to be safety, and the fulfilment of safety is
in thy entering my lodging and that of my sister." Then she
carried me to her own apartment, saying to her sister, " I have
covenanted with him that I will not be united to him unlawfully;
but, as he hath risked himself and incurred these perils, I will be

earth for his treading and dust to his sandals ! " And Shahrazad

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

fo&m t't teas tfje Nine f^un&rcfc an* Jbtxtg-t&irt)

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that quoth the
damsel to her sister, " I have covenanted with him that I will not
be united to him unlawfully ; but, as he hath risked himself and
incurred these perils, I will be earth for his treading and dust to
his sandals ! " Replied her sister, " In this intent may Allah deliver
him ! "; and my mistress rejoined, " Soon shalt thou see how I will
do, so I may lawfully foregather with him and there is no help but
that I lavish my heart's blood to devise this." Now as we were
in talk, behold, we heard a great noise and turning, saw the Caliph
making for her chamber, so engrossed was he by the thought of her ;
whereupon she took me, O Prince of True Believers and hid me
in a souterrain ! and shut down the trap-door upon me. Then she

1 Arab. "Sardab " see vol. i, 340.

242 A If Lay I ah wa Laylak,

went out to meet the Caliph, who entered and sat down, whilst
she stood between his hands to serve him, and commanded to
bring wine. Now the Caliph loved a damsel by name Banjah,
who was the mother of Al-Mu'tazz bi 'llah ' ; but they had fallen
out and parted ; and in the pride of her beauty and loveliness she
would not make peace with him, nor would Al-Mutawakkil, for
the dignity of the Caliphate and the kingship, make peace with

Online LibraryRichard Francis BurtonThe book of the thousand nights and a night; a plain and literal translation of the Arabian nights' entertainments, with introd., explanatory notes on the manners and customs of Moslem men and a terminal essay upon the history of the nights (Volume 9) → online text (page 25 of 38)