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 7) online

. (page 21 of 40)
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 7) → online text (page 21 of 40)
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took it and drugged the child. Then he aroused the woman and
making off by the back way as he had entered, returned with the
child and the purse and the basket of cakes to the barrack and
showed them all to the Forty, who praised his dexterity. There-
upon he gave them cakes, which they ate, and made over the boy
to Hasan Shuman, saying, "This is Zurayk's child; hide it by
thee." So he hid it and fetching a lamb, gave it to the hall-keeper
who cooked it whole, wrapped in a cloth, and laid it out shrouded
as it were a dead body. Meanwhile Zurayk stood awhile, waiting
at the door, then gave a knock like thunder and his wife said to
him, " Hast thou brought the purse ? " He replied, " Didst thou
not take it up in the basket thou diddest let down but now?"; and
she rejoined, " I let no basket down to thee, nor have I set eyes
on the purse." Quoth he, " By Allah the sharper hath been
beforehand with me and hath taken the purse again ! " Then he
searched the house and found the basket of cakes gone and the
child missing and cried out, saying, "Alas, my child!" Where-
upon the woman beat her breast and said, " I and thee to the
Wazir, for none hath killed my son save this sharper, and all
because of thee." Cried Zurayk, " I will answer for him." So he
tied the kerchief of truce about his neck and going to Ahmad
al-Danaf's lodging, knocked at the door. The hall-keeper ad-
mitted him and as he entered Hasan Shuman asked him, " What
bringeth thee here?" He answered, "Do ye intercede with Ali
the Cairene to restore me my child and I will yield to him the
purse of gold." Quoth Hasan, " Allah requite thee, O Ali ! Why

1 Arab. " Ka'ak al-I'd : " the former is the Arab form of the Persian " Kahk " (still
retained in Egypt) whence I would derive our word " cake." It alludes to the sweet
cakes which are served up with dates, the quatre mendiants and sherbets during visits of
the Lesser (not the greater) Festival, at the end of the Ramazan fast. (Lane M.E. xxv).

The Adventures of Mercury Ali of Cairo. 197

didst thou not tell me it was his child ? " " What hath befallen
him ? " cried Zurayk, and Hasan replied, "We gave him raisins to
eat, and he choked and died ; 'and this is he." Quoth Zurayk
" Alas, my son ! What shall I say to his mother ? " Then he
rose and opening the shroud, saw it was a lamb barbecued and
said, " Thou makest sport of me, O Ali ! ' Then they gave him
the child and Calamity Ahmad said to him, " Thou didst hang up
the purse, proclaiming that it should be the property of any sharper
who should be able to take it, and Ali hath taken it ; so 'tis the
very property of our Cairene." Zurayk answered, " I make him
a present of it ;" but Ali said to him, " Do thou accept it on
account of thy niece Zaynab." And Zurayk replied, " I accept it."
Then quoth the Forty, " We demand of thee Zaynab in marriage
for Ali of Cairo ;" but quoth he, " I have no control over her save
of kindness." Hasan asked, "Dost thou grant our suit ?"; and he
answered, "Yes, I will grant her in marriage to him who can avail
to her mahr or marriage-settlement." " And what is her dowry ? "
enquired Hasan ; and Zurayk replied, " She hath sworn that none
shall mount her breast save the man who bringeth her the robe of
Kamar, daughter of Azariah the Jew and the rest of her gear."

And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to

say her permitted say.

fofjcn ft foas t&c Sfccbcn |DunUrcb anfc ^txteentf)

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when
Zurayk replied to Shuman, "She hath sworn that none shall
ride astraddle upon her breast save the man who bringeth her
the clothes of Kamar, daughter of Azariah the Jew and her
crown and girdle and pantoufle 1 of gold," Ali cried, " If I do
not bring her the clothes this very night, I renounce my claim to
her." Rejoined Zurayk, " O Ali, thou art a dead man if thou play
any of thy pranks on Kamar." " Why so ? " asked Ali and the
other answered, " Her father, Jew Azariah, is a skilful, wily, per-
fidious magician who hath the Jinn at his service. He owneth
without the city a castle, whose walls are one brick of gold and
one of silver and which is visible to the folk only whilst he is

1 Arab. " Tasumah," a rare word for a peculiar slipper. Dozy (s. v.) says only,

<spece de chaussure, sandale, pantoufle, soulier.

198 Alf Laylah iva Laylah.

therein : when he goeth forth, it disappeareth. He brought his
daughter this dress I speak of from an enchanted treasure, and
every day he layeth it in a charger of gold and, opening the
windows of the palace, crieth out : Where are the sharpers of
Cairo, the prigs of Al-Irak, the master-thieves of Ajam-land ?
Whoso prevaileth to take this dress, 'tis his. So all the long-
fingered ones essayed the adventure, but failed to take it, and he
turned them by his magic into apes and asses." But Ali said, " I
will assuredly take it, and Zaynab shall be displayed therein." !
So he went to the shop of the Jew and found him a man of stern
and forbidding aspect, seated with scales and stone-weights and
gold and silver and nests of drawers and so forth before him, and
a she-mule tethered hard by. Presently he rose and shutting his
shop, laid the gold and silver in two purses, which he placed in a
pair of saddle-bags and set on the she-mule's back. Then he
mounted and rode till he reached the city-outskirts followed, with-
out his knowledge, by Ali, when he took out some dust from a
pocket-purse and, muttering over it, sprinkled it upon the air. No
sooner had he done this than sharper Ali saw a castle which had
not its like, and the Jew mounted the steps upon his beast which
was a subject Jinni ; after which he dismounted and taking the
saddle-bags off her back, dismissed the she-mule and she vanished.
Then he entered the castle and sat down. Presently, he arose and
opening the lattices, took a wand of gold, which he set up in the
open window and, hanging thereto a golden charger by chains of
the same metal, laid in it the dress, whilst Ali watched him from
behind the door, and presently he cried out, saying, " Where are
the sharpers of Cairo ? Where are the prigs of Al-Irak, the
master-thieves of the Ajam-land ? Whoso can take this dress by
his sleight, 'tis his ! ' Then he pronounced certain magical words
and a tray of food spread itself before him. He ate and conjured
a second time, whereupon the tray disappeared ; and yet a third
time, when a table of wine was placed between his hands and he
drank. Quoth Ali, " I know not how I am to take the dress
except if he be drunken." Then he stole up behind the Jew
whinger in grip ; but the other turned and conjured, saying to his
hand, " Hold with the sword ;" whereupon Ali's right arm was held
and abode half-way in the air hending the hanger. He put out his

1 Arab. " Ijtila " = the displaying of the bride on her wedding night so often alluded
to in The Nights.

The Adventures of Mercury AH of Cairo. 199

left hand to the weapon, but it also stood fixed in the air, and so with
his right foot, leaving him standing on one foot. Then the Jew
dispelled the charm from him and AH became as before. Pre-
sently Azariah struck a table of sand and found that the thief's
name was Mercury Ali of Cairo ; so he turned to him and said,
" Come nearer ! Who art thou and what dost thou here ? ' He
replied, " I am Ali of Cairo, of the band of Ahmad al-Danaf. I
sought the hand of Zaynab, daughter of Dalilah the Wily, and
she demanded thy daughter's dress to her dowry ; so do thou give
it to me and become a Moslem, an thou wouldst save thy life."
Rejoined the Jew, " After thy death ! Many have gone about to
steal the dress, but failed to take it from me ; wherefore an thou
deign be advised, thou wilt begone and save thyself; for they only
seek the dress of thee, that thou mayst fall into destruction ; and
indeed, had I not seen by geomancy that thy fortune overrideth
my fortunes I had smitten thy neck." Ali rejoiced to hear that
his luck overcame that of the Jew and said to him, " There is no
help for it but I must have the dress and thou must become a True
Believer." Asked the Jew, " Is this thy will and last word," and
Ali answered, " Yes." So the Jew took a cup and filling it with
water, conjured over it and said to Ali, "Come forth from this
shape of a man into the form of an ass." Then he sprinkled him
with the water and straightway he became a donkey, with hoofs
and long ears, and fell to braying after the manner of asinines.
The Jew drew round him a circle which became a wall over
against him, and drank on till the morning, when he said to Ali,
" I will ride thee to-day and give the she-mule a rest." So he
locked up the dress, the charger, the rod and the charms in a
cupboard 1 and conjured over Ali, who followed him. Then he
set the saddle-bags on his back and mounting, fared forth of the
Castle, whereupon it disappeared from sight and he rode into
Baghdad, till he came to his shop, where he alighted and emptied
the bags of gold and silver into the trays before him. As for Ali,
he was tied up by the shop-door, where he stood in his asinine
form hearing and understanding all that passed, without being
able to speak. And behold, up came a young merchant with
whom fortune had played the tyrant and who could find no easier
way of earning his livelihood than water-carrying. So he brought

1 Arab. Khiskhanah ; a mixed word from Khaysh = canvass or stuffs generally and
Pers. Khanah = house room. Dozy (s.v.) says armoire, buffet.

2OO A If Laylah wa Laylah.

his wife's bracelets to the Jew and said to him, " Give me the
price of these bracelets, that I may buy me an ass." Asked the
Jew, "What wilt thou do with him?"; and the other answered,
" O master, I mean to fetch water from the river on his back, and
earn my living thereby." Quoth the Jew, " Take this ass of mine."
So he sold him the bracelets and received the ass-shaped Ali of
Cairo in part payment and carried him home. Quoth Ali to him-
self, " If the Ass-man clap the pannel on thee and load thee with
water-skins and go with thee half a score journeys a day he will
ruin thy health and thou wilt die." So, when the water-carrier's
wife came to bring him his fodder, he butted her with his head
and she fell on her back ; whereupon he sprang on her and smiting
her brow with his mouth, put out and displayed that which his
begetter left him. She cried aloud and the neighbours came to
her assistance and beat him and raised him off her breast. When
her husband the intended water-carrier came home, she said to
him, " Now either divorce me or return the ass to his owner." He
asked, " What hath happened ? "; and she answered, " This is a
devil in the guise of a donkey. He sprang upon me, and had not
the neighbours beaten him off my bosom he had done with me a
foul thing." So he carried the ass back to the Jew, who said
to him, " Wherefore hast thou brought him back ? " and he
replied, " He did a foul thing with my wife." So the Jew gave
him his money again and he went away; and Azariah said to Ali,
" Hast thou recourse to knavery, unlucky wretch that thou art, in

order that And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and

ceased saying her permitted say.

foljm it foas tfje ^ebcn $^unbwfc anfc

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when
the water-carrier brought back the ass, its Jew owner returned to
him the monies and turning to Ali of Cairo said, " Hast thou
recourse to knavery, unlucky wretch that thou art, in order that
he may return thee to me ? But since it pleaseth thee to be an
ass, I will make thee a spectacle and a laughing stock to great and
small." Then he mounted him and rode till he came without the
city, when he brought out the ashes in powder and conjuring over
it sprinkled it upon the air and immediately the Castle appeared.
He entered and taking the saddle-bags off the ass's back set up

The Adventures of Mercury All of Cairo. 20 1

the rod and hung to it the charger wherein were the clothes pro-
claiming aloud, " Where be the clever ones of all quarters who
may avail to take this dress?' 1 Then he conjured as before and
meat was set before him and he ate and then wine when he drank;
after which he took a cup of water and muttering certain words
thereover, sprinkled it on the ass Ali, saying, "Quit this form and
return to thy former shape." Ali straightway became a man once
more and Azariah said to him, " O Ali, take good advice and be
content with my mischief. Thou hast no call to marry Zaynab
nor to take my daughter's dress, for 'tis no easy matter for thee :
so leave greed and 'twill be better for thee ; else will I turn thee
into a bear or an ape or set on thee an I frit, who will cast thee
behind the Mountain Kaf." He replied, " I have engaged to take
the dress and needs must I have it and thou must Islamize or I
will slay thee." Rejoined the Jew, " O Ali, thou art like a walnut;
unless it be broken it cannot be eaten." Then he took a cup of
water and conjuring over it, sprinkled Ali with somewhat thereof,
saying, " Take thou shape of bear ; " whereupon he instantly be-
came a bear and the Jew put a collar about his neck, muzzled him
and chained him to a picket of iron. Then he sat down and ate
and drank, now and then throwing him a morsel of his orts and
emptying the dregs of the cup over him, till the morning, when he
rose and laid by the tray and the dress and conjured over the
bear, which followed him to the shop. There the Jew sat down
and emptied the gold and silver into the trays before Ali, after
binding him by the chain ; and the bear there abode seeing and
comprehending but not able to speak. Presently up came a man
and a merchant, who accosted the Jew and said to him, "O Master,
wilt thou sell me yonder bear? I have a wife who is my cousin
and is sick ; and they have prescribed for her to eat bears' flesh
and anoint herself with bears' grease." At this the Jew rejoiced
and said to himself, " I will sell him to this merchant, so he may
slaughter him and we be at peace from him." And Ali also said in
his mind, " By Allah, this fellow meaneth to slaughter me ; but
deliverance is with the Almighty." Then said the Jew, "He is a
present from me to thee." So the merchant took him and carried
him to the butcher, to whom he said, " Bring thy tools and com-
pany me." The butcher took his knives and followed the merchant
to his house, where he bound the beast and fell to sharpening his
blade : but, when he went up to him to slaughter him, the bear
escaped from his hands and rising into the air, disappeared from

202 A If Laylah iva Laylah.

sight between heaven and earth ; nor did he cease flying till he
alighted at the Jew's castle. Now the reason thereof was on this
wise. When the Jew returned home, his daughter questioned him
of AH and he told her what had happened ; whereupon she said,
" Summon a Jinni and ask him of the youth, whether he be indeed
Mercury Ali or another who sccketh to put a cheat on thee." So
Azariah called a Jinni by conjurations and questioned him of Ali ;
and he replied, " Tis Ali of Cairo himself. The butcher hath
pinioned him and whetted his knife to slaughter him." Ouoth the
Jew, " Go, snatch him up and bring him hither, ere the butcher cut
his throat." So the Jinni flew off and, snatching Ali out of the
butcher's hands, bore him to the palace and set him down before
the Jew, who took a cup of water and conjuring over it, sprinkled
him therewith, saying, " Return to thine own shape." And he
straightway became a man again as before. The Jew's daughter
Kamar, 1 seeing him to be a handsome young man, fell in love with
him and he fell in love with her ; and she said to him, "O unlucky
one, why dost thou go about to take my dress, enforcing my father
to deal thus with thee ?" Quoth he, (C I have engaged to get it for
Zaynab the Coney-catcher, that I may wed her therewith." And
she said, " Others than thou have played pranks with my father to
get my dress, but could not win to it," presently adding, " So put
away this thought from thee." But he answered, " Needs must I
have it, and thy father must become a Moslem, else I will slay
him." Then said the Jew, " See, O my daughter, how this un-
lucky fellow seeketh his own destruction," adding, " Now I will
turn thee into a dog." So he took a cup graven with characters
and full of water and conjuring over it, sprinkled some of it upon
Ali, saying, " Take thou form of dog." Whereupon he straight-
way became a dog, and the Jew and his daughter drank together
till the morning, when the father laid up the dress and charger
and mounted his mule. Then he conjured over the dog, which
followed him, as he rode towards the town, and all dogs barked at
Ali 2 as he passed, till he came to the shop of a broker, a seller of
second-hand goods, who rose and drove away the dogs, and Ali
lay down before him. The Jew turned and looked for him, but

1 The Bresl. Edit. " Kamadyah "= Moon-like (fern.) for Moon.

2 Every traveller describes the manners and customs of dogs in Eastern cities where
they furiously atlack all canine intruders. I have noticed the subject in writing of Al-
Mcdinah where the beasts are confined to the suburbs (Pilgrimage ii. 52-54).

The Adventures of Mercury All of Cairo. 203

finding him not, passed onwards. Presently, the broker shut up
his shop and went home, followed by the dog, which, when his
daughter saw enter the house, she veiled her face and said, " O my
papa, dost thou bring a strange man in to me ?" He replied, "O
my daughter, this is a dog." Quoth she, " Not so, 'tis Ali the
Cairene, whom the Jew Azariah hath enchanted ;" and she turned
to the dog and said to him, " Art not Ali of Cairo ? " And he
signed to her with his head, " Yes." Then her father asked her,
" Why did the Jew enchant him ? " ; and she answered, " Because
of his daughter Kamar's dress ; but I can release him." Said the
broker, " An thou canst indeed do him this good office, now is the
time," and she, " If he will marry me, I will release him." And
he signed to her with his head, " Yes." So she took a cup of
water, graven with certain signs and conjuring over it, was about
to sprinkle Ali therewith, when lo and behold ! she heard a great
cry and the cup fell from her hand. She turned and found that it
\vas her father's handmaid, who had cried out ; and she said to
her, " O my mistress, is't thus thou keepest the covenant between
me and thee ? None taught thee this art save I, and thou didst
agree with me that thou wouldst do naught without consulting
me and that whoso married thee should marry me also, and that
one night should be mine and one night thine." And the broker's
daughter said, " 'Tis well." When the broker heard the maid's
words, he asked his daughter, " Who taught the maid ? " ; and
she answered, "O my papa, enquire of herself." So he put the
question and she replied, " Know, O my lord, that, when I was
with Azariah the Jew, I used to spy upon him and listen to him,
when he performed his gramarye ; and when he went forth to his
shop in Baghdad, I opened his books and read in them, till I
became skilled in the Cabbala-science. One day, he was warm
with wine and would have me lie with him, but I objected, saying,
I may not grant thee this except thou become a Moslem. He
refused and I said to him, Now for the Sultan's market. 1 So he
sold me to thee and I taught my young mistress, making it a
condition with her that she should do naught without my counsel,
and that whoso might wed her should wed me also, one night for
me and one night for her." Then she took a cup of water and
conjuring over it, sprinkled the dog therewith ; saying, " Return

' She could legally compel him to sell her ; because, being an Infidel, he had attempted
to debauch a Moslemah.

204 Alf Laylali wa Laylah,

thou to form of man." And he straightway was restored to his
former shape ; whereupon the broker saluted him with the salam
and asked him the reason of his enchantment. So Ali told him

all that had passed And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day

and ceased to say her permitted say

J2ofo tcfjen it foas tfjc S>ebm ^unlrretf anfc lEigbtontf) ^tgf)t,

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the
broker, having saluted Ali of Cairo with the salam, asked him the
reason of his enchantment and what had befallen him ; and he
answered by telling him all that had passed, when the broker said
to him, " Will not my daughter and the handmaid suffice thee ?"
but he answered, " Needs must I have Zaynab also." Now
suddenly there came a rap at the door and the maid said, " Who
is at the door ? " The knocker replied, " Kamar, daughter of
Azariah the Jew ; say me, is Ali of Cairo with you ? '' Replied
the broker's daughter, " O thou daughter of a dog ! If he be
with us, what wilt thou with him ? Go down, O maid, and open
to her." So the maid let her in, and when she looked upon
Ali and he upon her, he said, " What bringeth thee hither
O dog's daughter ? " Quoth she, " I testify that there is no
god but the God and I testify that Mohammed is the Apostle
of God." And, having thus Islamised, she asked him. " Do men
in the Faith of Al-Islam give marriage portions to women or
do women dower men ? '' Quoth he, " Men endow women."
" Then," said she, " I come and dower myself for thee,
bringing thee, as my marriage-portion, my dress together with
the rod and charger and chains and the head of my father,
the enemy of thee and the foeman of Allah." And she threw
down the Jew's head before him. Now the cause of her
slaying her sire was as follows. On the night of his turning
Ali into a dog, she saw, in a dream, a speaker who said to her,
" Become a Moslemah." She did so ; and as soon as she awoke
next morning she expounded Al-Islam to her father who re-
fused to embrace the Faith ; so she drugged him with Bhang
and killed him. As for Ali, he took the gear and said to the
broker, " Meet we to-morrow at the Caliph's Divan, that I may
take thy daughter and the handmaid to wife." Then he set out
rejoicing, to return to the barrack of the Forty. On his way he
met a sweetmeat seller, who was beating hand upon hand and

The Adventures of Mercury AH of Cairo. 205

saying, " There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah,
the Glorious, the Great ! Folk's labour hath waxed sinful and
man is active only in fraud ! " Then said he to Ali, " I conjure
thee, by Allah, taste of this confection ! ' So Ali took a piece
and ate it and fell down senseless, for there was Bhang therein ;
whereupon the sweetmeat-seller seized the dress and the charger
and the rest of the gear and thrusting them into the box where
he kept his sweetmeats hoisted it up and made off. Presently he
met a Kazi, who called to him, saying, " Come hither, O sweet-
meat seller ! " So he went up to him and setting down his sack
laid the tray of sweetmeats upon it and asked, " What dost thou
want?" " Halwa and drage'es, 1 " answered the Kazi and, taking
some in his hand, said, " Both of these are adulterated.'' Then
he brought out sweetmeats from his breast-pocket 2 and gave them
to the sweetmeat-seller, saying, " Look at this fashion ; how
excellent it is ! Eat of it and make the like of it." So he ate
and fell down senseless, for the sweetmeats were drugged with
Bhang, whereupon the Kazi bundled him into the sack and made
off with him, charger and chest and all, to the barrack of the
Forty. Now the Judge in question was Hasan Shuman and the
reason of this was as follows. When Ali had been gone some
days in quest of the dress and they heard no news of him,
Calamity Ahmad said to his men, " O lads, go and seek for your
brother Ali of Cairo." So they sallied forth in quest of him and
among the rest Hasan Shuman the Pestilence, disguised in a Kazi's
gear. He came upon the sweetmeat-seller and, knowing him
for Ahmad al-Lakit 3 suspected him of having played some trick
upon Ali ; so he drugged him and did as we have seen. Mean-
while, the other Forty fared about the streets and highways
making search in different directions, and amongst them Ali
Kitf al-Jamal, who espying a crowd, made towards the people
and found the Cairene Ali lying drugged and senseless in their
midst. So he revived him and he came to himself and seeing the
folk flocking around him asked, " Where am I ? " Answered
Ali Camel-shoulder and his comrades, " We found thee lying here
drugged but know not who drugged thee." Quoth Ali, " 'Twas

1 Arab." Halawat waMulabbas "; the latter etymologically means one dressed or clothed.
Here it alludes to almonds, etc., clothed or coated with sugar. See Dozy s. v. " labas."

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 7) → online text (page 21 of 40)