EL MELIK EZ ZAHIR RUKNEDDIN BIBERS EL BUNDUCDARI AND THE SIXTEEN OFFICERS OF POLICE. (83)
There was once in the land [of Egypt and] the city of Cairo, [under the dynasty] of the Turks, (84) a king of the valiant kings and the exceeding mighty Sultans, by name El Melik ez Zahir Rukneddin Bibers el Bunducdari. (85) He was used to storm the Islamite strongholds and the fortresses of the Coast (86) and the Nazarene citadels, and the governor of his [capital] city was just to the folk, all of them. Now El Melik ez Zahir was passionately fond of stories of the common folk and of that which men purposed and loved to see this with his eyes and hear their sayings with his ears, and it befell that he heard one night from one of his story-tellers (87) that among women are those who are doughtier than men of valour and greater of excellence and that among them are those who will do battle with the sword and others who cozen the quickest-witted of magistrates and baffle them and bring down on them all manner of calamity; whereupon quoth the Sultan, 'I would fain hear this of their craft from one of those who have had to do theiewith, so I may hearken unto him and cause him tell.' And one of the story-tellers said, 'O king, send for the chief of the police of the town.'
Now Ilmeddin Senjer was at that time Master of Police and he was a man of experience, well versed in affairs: so the king sent for him and when he came before him, he discovered to him that which was in his mind. Quoth Ilmeddin Senjer, 'I will do my endeavour for that which our lord the Sultan seeketh.' Then he arose and returning to his house, summoned the captains of the watch and the lieutenants of police and said to them, 'Know that I purpose to marry my son and make him a bride-feast, and it is my wish that ye assemble, all of you, in one place. I also will be present, I and my company, and do ye relate that which ye have heard of extraordinary occurrences and that which hath betided you of experiences.' And the captains and sergeants and agents of police made answer to him, saying, 'It is well: in the name of God! We will cause thee see all this with thine eyes and hear it with thine ears.' Then the master of police arose and going up to El Melik ez Zahir, informed him that the assembly would take place on such a day at his house; and the Sultan said, 'It is well,' and gave him somewhat of money for his expenses.
When the appointed day arrived, the chief of the police set apart for his officers a saloon, that had windows ranged in order and giving upon the garden, and El Melik ez Zahir came to him, and he seated himself, he and the Sultan, in the alcove. Then the tables were spread unto them for eating and they ate; and when the cup went round amongst them and their hearts were gladdened with meat and drink, they related that which was with them and discovered their secrets from concealment. The first to relate was a man, a captain of the watch, by name Muineddin, whose heart was engrossed with the love of women; and he said, 'Harkye, all ye people of [various] degree, I will acquaint you with an extraordinary affair which befell me aforetime. Know that
THE FIRST OFFICER'S STORY.
When I entered the service of this Amir, (88) I had a great repute and every lewd fellow feared me of all mankind, and whenas I rode through the city, all the folk would point at me with their fingers and eyes. It befell one day, as I sat in the house of the prefecture, with my back against a wall, considering in myself, there fell somewhat in my lap, and behold, it was a purse sealed and tied. So I took it in my hand and behold, it had in it a hundred dirhems, (89) but I found not who threw it and I said, "Extolled be the perfection of God, the King of the Kingdoms!" (90) Another day, [as I sat on like wise,] somewhat fell on me and startled me, and behold, it was a purse like the first. So I took it and concealing its affair, made as if I slept, albeit sleep was not with me.
One day, as I was thus feigning sleep, I felt a hand in my lap, and in it a magnificent purse. So I seized the hand and behold, it was that of a fair woman. Quoth I to her, "O my lady, who art thou?" And she said, "Rise [and come away] from here, that I may make myself known to thee." So I arose and following her, fared on, without tarrying, till she stopped at the door of a lofty house, whereupon quoth I to her,"O my lady, who art thou? Indeed, thou hast done me kindness, and what is the reason of this?" "By Allah," answered she, "O Captain Mum, I am a woman on whom desire and longing are sore for the love of the daughter of the Cadi Amin el Hukm. Now there was between us what was and the love of her fell upon my heart and I agreed with her upon meeting, according to possibility and convenience. But her father Amin el Hukm took her and went away, and my heart cleaveth to her and love-longing and distraction are sore upon me on her account."
I marvelled at her words and said to her, "What wouldst thou have me do?" And she answered, "O Captain Muin, I would have thee give me a helping hand." Quoth I, "What have I to do with the daughter of the Cadi Amin el Hukm?" And she said, "Know that I would not have thee intrude upon the Cadi's daughter, but I would fain contrive for the attainment of my wishes.' This is my intent and my desire, and my design will not be accomplished but by thine aid." Then said she, "I mean this night to go with a stout heart and hire me trinkets of price; then will I go and sit in the street wherein is the house of Amin el Hukm; and when it is the season of the round and the folk are asleep, do thou pass, thou and those who are with thee of the police, and thou wilt see me sitting and on me fine raiment and ornaments and wilt smell on me the odour of perfumes; whereupon do thou question me of my case and I will say, 'I come from the Citadel and am of the daughters of the deputies (91) and I came down [into the town,] to do an occasion; but the night overtook me at unawares and the Zuweyleh gate was shut against me and all the gates and I knew not whither I should go this night Presently I saw this street and noting the goodliness of its ordinance and its cleanness, took shelter therein against break of day.' When I say this to thee with all assurance (92) the chief of the watch will have no suspicion of me, but will say, 'Needs must we leave her with one who will take care of her till morning.' And do thou rejoin, 'It were most fitting that she pass the night with Amin el Hukm and lie with his family and children till the morning.' Then do thou straightway knock at the Cadi's door, and thus shall I have gained admission into his house, without inconvenience, and gotten my desire; and peace be on thee!" And I said to her, "By Allah, this is an easy matter."
So, when the night darkened, we sallied forth to make our round, attended by men with sharp swords, and went round about the streets and compassed the city, till we came to the by-street where was the woman, and it was the middle of the night Here we smelt rich scents and heard the clink of earrings; so I said to my comrades, "Methinks I spy an apparition," And the captain of the watch said, "See what it is." So I came forward and entering the lane, came presently out again and said, "I have found a fair woman and she tells me that she is from the Citadel and that the night surprised her and she espied this street and seeing its cleanness and the goodliness of its ordinance, knew that it appertained to a man of rank and that needs must there be in it a guardian to keep watch over it, wherefore she took shelter therein." Quoth the captain of the watch to me, "Take her and carry her to thy house." But I answered, "I seek refuge with Allah! (93) My house is no place of deposit (94) and on this woman are trinkets and apparel [of price]. By Allah, we will not deposit her save with Amin el Hukrn, in whose street she hath been since the first of the darkness; wherefore do thou leave her with him till the break of day." And he said, "As thou wilt." Accordingly, I knocked at the Cadi's door and out came a black slave of his slaves, to whom said I, "O my lord, take this woman and let her be with you till break of day, for that the lieutenant of the Amir Ilmeddin hath found her standing at the door of your house, with trinkets and apparel [of price] on her, and we feared lest her responsibility be upon you; (95) wherefore it is most fit that she pass the night with you." So the slave opened and took her in with him.
When the morning morrowed, the first who presented himself before the Amir was the Cadi Amin el Hukm, leaning on two of his black slaves; and he was crying out and calling [on God] for aid and saying, "O crafty and perfidious Amir, thou depositedst with me a woman [yesternight] and broughtest her into my house and my dwelling-place, and she arose [in the night] and took from me the good of the little orphans, (96) six great bags, [containing each a thousand dinars, (97) and made off;] but as for me, I will say no more to thee except in the Sultan's presence." (98) When the Master of the Police heard these words, he was troubled and rose and sat down; then he took the Cadi and seating him by his side, soothed him and exhorted him to patience, till he had made an end of talk, when he turned to the officers and questioned them. They fixed the affair on me and said, "We know nothing of this affair but from Captain Muineddin." So the Cadi turned to me and said, "Thou wast of accord with this woman, for she said she came from the Citadel."
As for me, I stood, with my head bowed to the earth, forgetting both Institutes and Canons, (99) abode sunk in thought, saying, "How came I to be the dupe of yonder worthless baggage?" Then said the Amir to me, "What aileth thee that thou answerest not?" And I answered, saying, "O my lord, it is a custom among the folk that he who hath a payment to make at a certain date is allowed three days' grace; [so do thou have patience with me so long,] and if, [by the end of that time,] the culprit be not found, I will be answerable for that which is lost." When the folk heard my speech, they all deemed it reasonable and the Master of Police turned to the Cadi and swore to him that he would do his utmost endeavour to recover the stolen money and that it should be restored to him. So he went away, whilst I mounted forthright and fell to going round about the world without purpose, and indeed I was become under the dominion of a woman without worth or honour; and I went round about on this wise all that my day and night, but happened not upon tidings of her; and thus I did on the morrow.
On the third day I said to myself, "Thou art mad or witless!" For I was going about in quest of a woman who knew me and I knew her not, seeing that indeed she was veiled, [whenas I saw her]. Then I went round about the third day till the hour of afternoon prayer, and sore was my concern and my chagrin, for I knew that there abode to me of my life but [till] the morrow, when the chief of the police would seek me. When it was the time of sundown, I passed through one of the streets, and beheld a woman at a window. Her door was ajar and she was clapping her hands and casting furtive glances at me, as who should say, "Come up by the door." So I went up, without suspicion, and when I entered, she rose and clasped me to her breast 1 marvelled at her affair and she said to me, "I am she whom thou depositedst with Amin el Hukm." Quoth I to her, "O my sister, I have been going round and round in quest of thee, for indeed thou hast done a deed that will be chronicled in history and hast cast me into slaughter (100) on thine account." "Sayst thou this to me," asked she, "and thou captain of men?" And I answered, "How should I not be troubled, seeing that I am in concern [for an affair] that I turn over and over [in my mind], more by token that I abide my day long going about [searching for thee] and in the night I watch its stars [for wakefulness]?" Quoth she, "Nought shall betide but good, and thou shalt get the better of him."
So saying, she rose [and going] to a chest, took out therefrom six bags full of gold and said to me, "This is what I took from Amin el Hukm's house. So, if thou wilt, restore it; else the whole is lawfully thine; and if thou desire other than this, [thou shalt have it;] for I have wealth in plenty and I had no design in this but to marry thee." Then she arose and opening [other] chests, brought out therefrom wealth galore and I said to her, "O my sister, I have no desire for all this, nor do I covet aught but to be quit of that wherein I am." Quoth she, "I came not forth of the [Cadi's] house without [making provision for] thine acquittance."
Then said she to me, "To-morrow morning, when Amin el Hukm cometh, have patience with him till he have made an end of his speech, and when he is silent, return him no answer; and if the prefect say to thee, 'What ailest thee that thou answereth him not?' do thou reply, 'O lord, know that the two words are not alike, but there is no [helper] for him who is undermost (101), save God the Most High.' (102) The Cadi will say, 'What is the meaning of thy saying," The two words are not alike"?' And do thou make answer, saying, 'I deposited with thee a damsel from the palace of the Sultan, and most like some losel of thy household hath transgressed against her or she hath been privily murdered. Indeed, there were on her jewels and raiment worth a thousand dinars, and hadst thou put those who are with thee of slaves and slave-girls to the question, thou hadst assuredly lit on some traces [of the crime].' When he heareth this from thee, his agitation will redouble and he will be confounded and will swear that needs must thou go with him to his house; but do thou say, 'That will I not do, for that I am the party aggrieved, more by token that I am under suspicion with thee.' If he redouble in calling [on God for aid] and conjure thee by the oath of divorce, saying, 'Needs must thou come,' do thou say, 'By Allah, I will not go, except the prefect come also.'
When thou comest to the house, begin by searching the roofs; then search the closets and cabinets; and if thou find nought, humble thyself unto the Cadi and make a show of abjection and feign thyself defeated, and after stand at the door and look as if thou soughtest a place wherein to make water, for that there is a dark corner there. Then come forward, with a heart stouter than granite, and lay hold upon a jar of the jars and raise it from its place. Thou wilt find under it the skirt of a veil; bring it out publicly and call the prefect in a loud voice, before those who are present. Then open it and thou wilt find it full of blood, exceeding of redness, (103) and in it [thou wilt find also] a woman's shoes and a pair of trousers and somewhat of linen." When I heard this from her, I rose to go out and she said to me, "Take these hundred dinars, so they may advantage thee; and this is my guest-gift to thee." So I took them and bidding her farewell, returned to my lodging.
Next morning, up came the Cadi, with his face like the ox-eye, (104) and said, "In the name of God, where is my debtor and where is my money?" Then he wept and cried out and said to the prefect, "Where is that ill-omened fellow, who aboundeth in thievery and villainy?" Therewith the prefect turned to me and said, "Why dost thou not answer the Cadi?" And I replied, "O Amir, the two heads (105) are not equal, and I, I have no helper but God; but, if the right be on my side, it will appear." At this the Cadi cried out and said, "Out on thee, O ill-omened fellow! How wilt thou make out that the right is on thy side?" "O our lord the Cadi," answered I, "I deposited with thee a trust, to wit, a woman whom we found at thy door, and on her raiment and trinkets of price. Now she is gone, even as yesterday is gone; and after this thou turnest upon us and makest claim upon me for six thousand dinars. By Allah, this is none other than gross unright, and assuredly some losel of thy household hath transgressed against her!"
With this the Cadi's wrath redoubled and he swore by the most solemn of oaths that I should go with him and search his house. "By Allah," replied I, "I will not go, except the prefect be with us; for, if he be present, he and the officers, thou wilt not dare to presume upon me." And the Cadi rose and swore an oath, saying, "By Him who created mankind, we will not go but with the Amir!" So we repaired to the Cadi's house, accompanied by the prefect, and going up, searched high and low, but found nothing; whereupon fear gat hold upon me and the prefect turned to me and said, "Out on thee, O ill-omened fellow! Thou puttest us to shame before the men." And I wept and went round about right and left, with the tears running down my face, till we were about to go forth and drew near the door of the house. I looked at the place [behind the door] and said, "What is yonder dark place that I see?" And I said to the sergeants, "Lift up this jar with me." They did as I bade them and I saw somewhat appearing under the jar and said, "Rummage and see what is under it." So they searched and found a woman's veil and trousers full of blood, which when I beheld, I fell down in a swoon.
When the prefect saw this, he said, "By Allah, the captain is excused!" Then my comrades came round about me and sprinkled water on my face, [till I came to myself,] when I arose and accosting the Cadi, who was covered with confusion, said to him, "Thou seest that suspicion is fallen on thee, and indeed this affair is no light matter, for that this woman's family will assuredly not sit down under her loss." Therewith the Cadi's heart quaked and he knew that the suspicion had reverted upon him, wherefore his colour paled and his limbs smote together; and he paid of his own money, after the measure of that which he had lost, so we would hush up the matter for him. (106) Then we departed from him in peace, whilst I said in myself, "Indeed, the woman deceived me not."
After that I tarried till three days had elapsed, when 1 went to the bath and changing my clothes, betook myself to her house, but found the door locked and covered with dust. So I questioned the neighbours of her and they said, "This house hath been empty these many days; but three days agone there came a woman with an ass, and yesternight, at eventide, she took her gear and went away." So I turned back, confounded in my wit, and every day [after this, for many a day,] I inquired of the inhabitants [of the street] concerning her, but could light on no tidings of her. And indeed I marvelled at the eloquence of her tongue and [the readiness of] her speech; and this is the most extraordinary of that which hath betided me.'
When El Melik ez Zahir heard Muineddin's story, he marvelled thereat Then rose another officer and said, 'O lord, bear what befell me in bygone days.
THE SECOND OFFICER'S STORY.
I was once an officer in the household of the Amir Jemaleddin El Atwesh El Mujhidi, who was invested with the governance of the Eastern and Western districts, (107) and I was dear to his heart and he concealed from me nought of that which he purposed to do; and withal he was master of his reason. (108) It chanced one day that it was reported to him that the daughter of such an one had wealth galore and raiment and jewels and she loved a Jew, whom every day she invited to be private with her, and they passed the day eating and drinking in company and he lay the night with her. The prefect feigned to give no credence to this story, but one night he summoned the watchmen of the quarter and questioned them of this. Quoth one of them, "O my lord, I saw a Jew enter the street in question one night; but know not for certain to whom he went in." And the prefect said, "Keep thine eye on him henceforth and note what place he entereth." So the watchman went out and kept his eye on the Jew.
One day, as the prefect sat [in his house], the watchman came in to him and said, "O my lord, the Jew goeth to the house of such an one." Whereupon El Atwesh arose and went forth alone, taking with him none but myself. As he went along, he said to me, "Indeed, this [woman] is a fat piece of meat." (109) And we gave not over going till we came to the door of the house and stood there till a slave-girl came out, as if to buy them somewhat. We waited till she opened the door, whereupon, without further parley, we forced our way into the house and rushed in upon the girl, whom we found seated with the Jew in a saloon with four estrades, and cooking-pots and candles therein. When her eyes fell on the prefect, she knew him and rising to her feet, said, "Welcome and fair welcome! Great honour hath betided me by my lord's visit and indeed thou honourest my dwelling."
Then she carried him up [to the estrade] and seating him on the couch, brought him meat and wine and gave him to drink; after which she put off all that was upon her of raiment and jewels and tying them up in a handkerchief, said to him, "O my lord, this is thy portion, all of it." Moreover she turned to the Jew and said to him, "Arise, thou also, and do even as I." So he arose in haste and went out, scarce crediting his deliverance. When the girl was assured of his escape, she put out her hand to her clothes [and jewels] and taking them, said to the prefect, "Is the requital of kindness other than kindness? Thou hast deigned [to visit me and eat of my victual]; so now arise and depart from us without ill-[doing]; or I will give one cry and all who are in the street will come forth." So the Amir went out from her, without having gotten a single dirhem; and on this wise she delivered the Jew by the excellence of her contrivance.'
The folk marvelled at this story and as for the prefect and El Melik ez Zahir, they said, 'Wrought ever any the like of this device?' And they marvelled with the utterest of wonderment Then arose a third officer and said, 'Hear what betided me, for it is yet stranger and more extraordinary.
THE THIRD OFFICER'S STORY
I was one day abroad on an occasion with certain of my comrades, and as we went along, we fell in with a company of women, as they were moons, and among them one, the tallest and handsomest of them. When I saw her and she saw me, she tarried behind her companions and waited for me, till I came up to her and bespoke her. Quoth she, "O my lord, (God favour thee!) I saw thee prolong thy looking on me and imagined that thou knewest me. If it be thus, vouchsafe me more knowledge of thee." "By Allah," answered I, "I know thee not, save that God the Most High hath cast the love of thee into my heart and the goodliness of thine attributes hath confounded me and that wherewith God hath gifted thee of those eyes that shoot with arrows; for thou hast captivated me." And she rejoined, "By Allah, I feel the like of that which thou feelest; so that meseemeth I have known thee from childhood."
Then said I, "A man cannot well accomplish all whereof he hath need in the market-places." "Hast thou a house?" asked she. "No, by Allah," answered I; "nor is this town my dwelling-place." "By Allah," rejoined she, "nor have I a place; but I will contrive for thee." Then she went on before me and I followed her till she came to a lodging-house and said to the housekeeper, "Hast thou an empty chamber?" "Yes," answered she; and my mistress said, "Give us the key." So we took the key and going up to see the room, entered it; after which she went out to the housekeeper and [giving her a dirhem], said to her, "Take the key-money, (110) for the room pleaseth us, and here is another dirhem for thy trouble. Go, fetch us a pitcher of water, so we may [refresh ourselves] and rest till the time of the noonday siesta pass and the heat decline, when the man will go and fetch the [household] stuff." Therewith the housekeeper rejoiced and brought us a mat and two pitchers of water on a tray and a leather rug.
We abode thus till the setting-in of the time of mid-afternoon, when she said, "Needs must I wash before I go." Quoth I, "Get water wherewithal we may wash," and pulled out from my pocket about a score of dirhems, thinking to give them to her; but she said, "I seek refuge with God!" and brought out of her pocket a handful of silver, saying, "But for destiny and that God hath caused the love of thee fall into my heart, there had not happened that which hath happened." Quoth I, "Take this in requital of that which thou hast spent;" and she said, "O my lord, by and by, whenas companionship is prolonged between us, thou wilt see if the like of me looketh unto money and gain or no." Then she took a pitcher of water and going into the lavatory, washed (111) and presently coming forth, prayed and craved pardon of God the Most High for that which she had done.
Now I had questioned her of her name and she answered, "My name is Rihaneh," and described to me her dwelling-place. When I saw her make the ablution, I said in myself, "This woman doth on this wise, and shall I not do the like of her?" Then said I to her, "Belike thou wilt seek us another pitcher of water?" So she went out to the housekeeper and said to her, "Take this para and fetch us water therewith, so we may wash the flags withal." Accordingly, the housekeeper brought two pitchers of water and I took one of them and giving her my clothes, entered the lavatory and washed.
When I had made an end of washing, I cried out, saying, "Harkye, my lady Rihaneh!" But none answered me. So I went out and found her not; and indeed she had taken my clothes and that which was therein of money, to wit, four hundred dirhems. Moreover, she had taken my turban and my handkerchief and I found not wherewithal to cover my nakedness; wherefore I suffered somewhat than which death is less grievous and abode looking about the place, so haply I might espy wherewithal to hide my shame. Then I sat a little and presently going up to the door, smote upon it; whereupon up came the housekeeper and I said to her, "O my sister, what hath God done with the woman who was here?" Quoth she, "She came down but now and said, 'I am going to cover the boys with the clothes and I have left him sleeping. If he awake, tell him not to stir till the clothes come to him.'" Then said I, "O my sister, secrets are [safe] with the worthy and the freeborn. By Allah, this woman is not my wife, nor ever in my life have I seen her before this day!" And I recounted to her the whole affair and begged her to cover me, informing her that I was discovered of the privities.
She laughed and cried out to the women of the house, saying, "Ho, Fatimeh! Ho, Khedijeh! Ho, Herifeh! Ho, Senineh!" Whereupon all those who were in the place of women and neighbours flocked to me and fell a-laughing at me and saying, "O blockhead, what ailed thee to meddle with gallantry?" Then one of them came and looked in my face and laughed, and another said, "By Allah, thou mightest have known that she lied, from the time she said she loved thee and was enamoured of thee? What is there in thee to love?" And a third said, "This is an old man without understanding." And they vied with each other in making mock of me, what while I suffered sore chagrin.
However, after awhile, one of the women took pity on me and brought me a rag of thin stuff and cast it on me. With this I covered my privities, and no more, and abode awhile thus. Then said I in myself, "The husbands of these women will presently gather together on me and I shall be disgraced." So I went out by another door of the house, and young and old crowded about me, running after me and saying, "A madman! A madman!" till I came to my house and knocked at the door; whereupon out came my wife and seeing me naked, tall, bareheaded, cried out and ran in again, saying,"This is a madman, a Satan!" But, when she and my family knew me, they rejoiced and said to me, "What aileth thee?" I told them that thieves had taken my clothes and stripped me and had been like to kill me; and when I told them that they would have killed me, they praised God the Most High and gave me joy of my safety. So consider the craft of this woman and this device that she practised upon me, for all my pretensions to sleight and quickwittedness.'
The company marvelled at this story and at the doings of women. Then came forward a fourth officer and said, 'Verily, that which hath betided me of strange adventures is yet more extraordinary than this; and it was on this wise.
THE FOURTH OFFICER'S STORY.
We were sleeping one night on the roof, when a woman made her way into the house and gathering into a bundle all that was therein, took it up, that she might go away with it. Now she was great with child and near upon her term and the hour of her deliverance; so, when she made up the bundle and offered to shoulder it and make off with it, she hastened the coming of the pangs of labour and gave birth to a child in the dark. Then she sought for the flint and steel and striking a light, kindled the lamp and went round about the house with the little one, and it was weeping. [The noise awoke us,] as we lay on the roof, and we marvelled. So we arose, to see what was to do, and looking down through the opening of the saloon, (112) saw a woman, who had kindled the lamp, and heard the little one weeping. She heard our voices and raising her eyes to us, said, "Are ye not ashamed to deal with us thus and discover our nakedness? Know ye not that the day belongeth to you and the night to us? Begone from us! By Allah, were it not that ye have been my neighbours these [many] years, I would bring down the house upon you!" We doubted not but that she was of the Jinn and drew back our heads; but, when we arose on the morrow, we found that she had taken all that was with us and made off with it; wherefore we knew that she was a thief and had practised [on us] a device, such as was never before practised; and we repented, whenas repentance advantaged us not.'
When the company heard this story, they marvelled thereat with the utmost wonderment. Then the fifth officer, who was the lieutenant of the bench, (113) came forward and said, '[This is] no wonder and there befell me that which is rarer and more extraordinary than this.
THE FIFTH OFFICER'S STORY.
As I sat one day at the door of the prefecture, a woman entered and said to me privily, "O my lord, I am the wife of such an one the physician, and with him is a company of the notables (114) of the city, drinking wine in such a place." When I heard this, I misliked to make a scandal; so I rebuffed her and sent her away. Then I arose and went alone to the place in question and sat without till the door opened, when I rushed in and entering, found the company engaged as the woman had set out, and she herself with them. I saluted them and they returned my greeting and rising, entreated me with honour and seated me and brought me to eat. Then I informed them how one had denounced them to me, but I had driven him (115) away and come to them by myself; wherefore they thanked me and praised me for my goodness. Then they brought out to me from among them two thousand dirhems (116) and I took them and went away.
Two months after this occurrence, there came to me one of the Cadi's officers, with a scroll, wherein was the magistrate's writ, summoning me to him. So I accompanied the officer and went in to the Cadi, whereupon the plaintiff, to wit, he who had taken out the summons, sued me for two thousand dirhems, avouching that I had borrowed them of him as the woman's agent. (117) I denied the debt, but he produced against me a bond for the amount, attested by four of those who were in company [on the occasion]; and they were present and bore witness to the loan. So I reminded them of my kindness and paid the amount, swearing that I would never again follow a woman's counsel. Is not this marvellous?'
The company marvelled at the goodliness of his story and it pleased El Melik ez Zahir; and the prefect said, 'By Allah, this story is extraordinary!' Then came forward the sixth officer and said to the company, 'Hear my story and that which befell me, to wit, that which befell such an one the assessor, for it is rarer than this and stranger.
THE SIXTH OFFICER'S STORY.
A certain assessor was one day taken with a woman and much people assembled before his house and the lieutenant of police and his men came to him and knocked at the door. The assessor looked out of window and seeing the folk, said, "What aileth you?" Quoth they, "[Come,] speak with the lieutenant of police such an one." So he came down and they said to him, "Bring forth the woman that is with thee." Quoth he, "Are ye not ashamed? How shall I bring forth my wife?" And they said, "Is she thy wife by contract (118) or without contract?" ["By contract,"] answered he, "according to the Book of God and the Institutes of His Apostle." "Where is the contract?" asked they; and he replied, "Her contract is in her mother's house." Quoth they, "Arise and come down and show us the contract." And he said to them, "Go from her way, so she may come forth." Now, as soon as he got wind of the matter, he had written the contract and fashioned it after her fashion, to suit with the case, and written therein the names of certain of his friends as witnesses and forged the signatures of the drawer and the wife's next friend and made it a contract of marriage with his wife and appointed it for an excuse. (119) So, when the woman was about to go out from him, he gave her the contract that be had forged, and the Amir sent with her a servant of his, to bring her to her father. So the servant went with her and when she came to her door, she said to him, "I will not return to the citation of the Amir; but let the witnesses (120) present themselves and take my contract."
Accordingly, the servant carried this message to the lieutenant of police, who was standing at the assessor's door, and he said, "This is reasonable." Then said [the assessor] to the servant, "Harkye, O eunuch! Go and fetch us such an one the notary;" for that he was his friend [and it was he whose name he had forged as the drawer-up of the contract]. So the lieutenant of police sent after him and fetched him to the assessor, who, when he saw him, said to him, "Get thee to such an one, her with whom thou marriedst me, and cry out upon her, and when she cometh to thee, demand of her the contract and take it from her and bring it to us." And he signed to him, as who should say, "Bear me out in the lie and screen me, for that she is a strange woman and I am in fear of the lieutenant of police who standeth at the door; and we beseech God the Most High to screen us and you from the trouble of this world. Amen."
So the notary went up to the lieutenant, who was among the witnesses, and said "It is well. Is she not such an one whose marriage contract we drew up in such a place?" Then he betook himself to the woman's house and cried out upon her; whereupon she brought him the [forged] contract and he took it and returned with it to the lieutenant of police. When the latter had taken cognizance [of the document and professed himself satisfied, the assessor] said [to the notary,] "Go to our lord and master, the Cadi of the Cadis, and acquaint him with that which befalleth his assessors." The notary rose to go, but the lieutenant of police feared [for himself] and was profuse in beseeching the assessor and kissing his hands, till he forgave him; whereupon the lieutenant went away in the utterest of concern and affright. On this wise the assessor ordered the case and carried out the forgery and feigned marriage with the woman; [and thus was calamity warded off from him] by the excellence of his contrivance." (121)
The folk marvelled at this story with the utmost wonderment and the seventh officer said, 'There befell me in Alexandria the [God-]guarded a marvellous thing, [and it was that one told me the following story].
THE SEVENTH OFFICER'S STORY.
There came one day an old woman [to the stuff-market], with a casket of precious workmanship, containing trinkets, and she was accompanied by a damsel great with child. The old woman sat down at the shop of a draper and giving him to know that the damsel was with child by the prefect of police of the city, took of him, on credit, stuffs to the value of a thousand dinars and deposited with him the casket as security. [She opened the casket and] showed him that which was therein; and he found it full of trinkets [apparently] of price; [so he trusted her with the goods] and she took leave of him and carrying the stuffs to the damsel, who was with her, [went her way]. Then the old woman was absent from him a great while, and when her absence was prolonged, the draper despaired of her; so he went up to the prefect's house and enquired of the woman of his household, [who had taken his stuffs on credit;] but could get no tidings of her nor lit on aught of her trace.
Then he brought out the casket of jewellery [and showed it to an expert,] who told him that the trinkets were gilt and that their worth was but an hundred dirhems. When he heard this, he was sore concerned thereat and presenting himself before the Sultan's deputy, made his complaint to him; whereupon the latter knew that a trick had been put off upon him and that the folk had cozened him and gotten the better of him and taken his stuffs. Now the magistrate in question was a man of good counsel and judgment, well versed in affairs; so he said to the draper, "Remove somewhat from thy shop, [and amongst the rest the casket,] and on the morrow break the lock and cry out and come to me and complain that they have plundered all thy shop. Moreover, do thou call [upon God for succour] and cry aloud and acquaint the folk, so that all the people may resort to thee and see the breach of the lock and that which is missing from thy shop; and do thou show it to every one who presenteth himself, so the news may be noised abroad, and tell them that thy chief concern is for a casket of great value, deposited with thee by a great man of the town and that thou standest in fear of him. But be thou not afraid and still say in thy converse, 'My casket belonged to such an one, and I fear him and dare not bespeak him; but you, O company and all ye who are present, I call you to witness of this for me.' And if there be with thee more than this talk, [say it;] and the old woman will come to thee."
The draper answered with "Hearkening and obedience" and going forth from the deputy's presence, betook himself to his shop and brought out thence [the casket and] somewhat considerable, which he removed to his house. At break of day he arose and going to his shop, broke the lock and cried out and shrieked and called [on God for help,] till the folk assembled about him and all who were in the city were present, whereupon he cried out to them, saying even as the prefect had bidden him; and this was bruited abroad. Then he made for the prefecture and presenting himself before the chief of the police, cried out and complained and made a show of distraction.
After three days, the old woman came to him and bringing him the [thousand dinars, the] price of the stuffs, demanded the casket. (122) When he saw her, he laid hold of her and carried her to the prefect of the city; and when she came before the Cadi, he said to her, "O Sataness, did not thy first deed suffice thee, but thou must come a second time?" Quoth she, "I am of those who seek their salvation (123) in the cities, and we foregather every month; and yesterday we foregathered." "Canst thou [bring me to] lay hold of them?" asked the prefect; and she answered, "Yes; but, if thou wait till to-morrow, they will have dispersed. So I will deliver them to thee to-night." Quoth he to her, "Go;" and she said, "Send with me one who shall go with me to them and obey me in that which I shall say to him, and all that I bid him he shall give ear unto and obey me therein." So he gave her a company of men and she took them and bringing them to a certain door, said to them, "Stand at this door, and whoso cometh out to you, lay hands on him; and I will come out to you last of all." "Hearkening and obedience," answered they and stood at the door, whilst the old woman went in. They waited a long while, even as the Sultan's deputy had bidden them, but none came out to them and their standing was prolonged. When they were weary of waiting, they went up to the door and smote upon it heavily and violently, so that they came nigh to break the lock. Then one of them entered and was absent a long while, but found nought; so he returned to his comrades and said to them,"This is the door of a passage, leading to such a street; and indeed she laughed at you and left you and went away."When they heard his words, they returned to the Amir and acquainted him with the case, whereby he knew that the old woman was a crafty trickstress and that she had laughed at them and cozened them and put a cheat on them, to save herself. Consider, then, the cunning of this woman and that which she contrived of wiles, for all her lack of foresight in presenting herself [a second time] to the draper and not apprehending that his conduct was but a trick; yet, when she found herself in danger, she straightway devised a shift for her deliverance.'
When the company heard the seventh officer's story, they were moved to exceeding mirth, and El Melik ez Zahir Bibers rejoiced in that which he heard and said, 'By Allah, there betide things in this world, from which kings are shut out, by reason of their exalted station!" Then came forward another man from amongst the company and said, 'There hath reached me from one of my friends another story bearing on the malice of women and their craft, and it is rarer and more extraordinary and more diverting than all that hath been told to you."
Quoth the company, 'Tell us thy story and expound it unto us, so we may see that which it hath of extraordinary.' And he said 'Know, then, that
THE EIGHTH OFFICER'S STORY.
A friend of mine once invited me to an entertainment; so I went with him, and when we came into his house and sat down on his couch, he said to me, "This is a blessed day and a day of gladness, and [blessed is] he who liveth to [see] the like of this day. I desire that thou practise with us and deny (124) us not, for that thou hast been used to hearken unto those who occupy themselves with this." (125) I fell in with this and their talk happened upon the like of this subject. (126) Presently, my friend, who had invited me, arose from among them and said to them, "Hearken to me and I will tell you of an adventure that happened to me. There was a certain man who used to visit me in my shop, and I knew him not nor he me, nor ever in his life had he seen me; but he was wont, whenever he had need of a dirhem or two, by way of loan, to come to me and ask me, without acquaintance or intermediary between me and him, [and I would give him what he sought]. I told none of him, and matters abode thus between us a long while, till he fell to borrowing ten at twenty dirhems [at a time], more or less.
One day, as I stood in my shop, there came up to me a woman and stopped before me; and she as she were the full moon rising from among the stars, and the place was illumined by her light. When I saw her, I fixed my eyes on her and stared in her face; and she bespoke me with soft speech. When I heard her words and the sweetness of her speech, I lusted after her; and when she saw that I lusted after her, she did her occasion and promising me [to come again], went away, leaving my mind occupied with her and fire kindled in my heart. Then I abode, perplexed and pondering my affair, whilst fire flamed in my heart, till the third day, when she came again and I scarce credited her coming. When I saw her, I talked with her and cajoled her and courted her and strove to win her favour with speech and invited her [to my house]; but she answered, saying, 'I will not go up into any one's house.' Quoth I, 'I will go with thee;' and she said, 'Arise and come with me.'
So I arose and putting in my sleeve a handkerchief, wherein was a good sum of money, followed the woman, who went on before me and gave not over walking till she brought me to a by-street and to a door, which she bade me open. I refused and she opened it and brought me into the vestibule. As soon as I had entered, she locked the door of entrance from within and said to me, 'Sit [here] till I go in to the slave-girls and cause them enter a place where they shall not see me.' 'It is well,' answered I and sat down; whereupon she entered and was absent from me a moment, after which she returned to me, without a veil, and said, 'Arise, [enter,] in the name of God.' (127) So I arose and went in after her and we gave not over going till we entered a saloon. When I examined the place, I found it neither handsome nor agreeable, but unseemly and desolate, without symmetry or cleanliness; nay, it was loathly to look upon and there was a foul smell in it.
I seated myself amiddleward the saloon, misdoubting, and as I sat, there came down on me from the estrade seven naked men, without other clothing than leather girdles about their waists. One of them came up to me and took my turban, whilst another took my handkerchief, that was in my sleeve, with my money, and a third stripped me of my clothes; after which a fourth came and bound my hands behind me with his girdle. Then they all took me up, pinioned as I was, and casting me down, fell a-dragging me towards a sink-hole that was there and were about to cut my throat, when, behold, there came a violent knocking at the door. When they heard this, they were afraid and their minds were diverted from me by fear; so the woman went out and presently returning, said to them, 'Fear not; no harm shall betide you this day. It is only your comrade who hath brought you your noon-meal.' With this the new-comer entered, bringing with him a roasted lamb; and when he came in to them, he said to them, 'What is to do with you, that ye have tucked up [your sleeves and trousers]?' Quoth they, '[This is] a piece of game we have caught.'
When he heard this, he came up to me and looking in my face, cried out and said, 'By Allah, this is my brother, the son of my mother and father! Allah! Allah!' Then he loosed me from my bonds and kissed my head, and behold it was my friend who used to borrow money of me. When I kissed his head, he kissed mine and said, 'O my brother, be not affrighted.' Then he called for my clothes [and money and restored to me all that had been taken from me] nor was aught missing to me. Moreover, he brought me a bowl full of [sherbet of] sugar, with lemons therein, and gave me to drink thereof; and the company came and seated me at a table. So I ate with them and he said to me, 'O my lord and my brother, now have bread and salt passed between us and thou hast discovered our secret and [become acquainted with] our case; but secrets [are safe] with the noble.' Quoth I, 'As I am a lawfully-begotten child, I will not name aught [of this] neither denounce [you!*]' And they assured themselves of me by an oath. Then they brought me out and I went my way, scarce crediting but that I was of the dead.
I abode in my house, ill, a whole month; after which I went to the bath and coming out, opened my shop [and sat selling and buying as usual], but saw no more of the man or the woman, till, one day, there stopped before my shop a young man, [a Turcoman], as he were the full moon; and he was a sheep-merchant and had with him a bag, wherein was money, the price of sheep that he had sold. He was followed by the woman, and when he stopped at my shop, she stood by his side and cajoled him, and indeed he inclined to her with a great inclination. As for me, I was consumed with solicitude for him and fell to casting furtive glances at him and winked at him, till he chanced to look round and saw me winking at him; whereupon the woman looked at me and made a sign with her hand and went away. The Turcoman followed her and I counted him dead, without recourse; wherefore I feared with an exceeding fear and shut my shop. Then I journeyed for a year's space and returning, opened my shop; whereupon, behold, the woman came up to me and said, 'This is none other than a great absence.' Quoth I, 'I have been on a journey;' and she said, 'Why didst thou wink at the Turcoman?' 'God forbid!' answered I. 'I did not wink at him.' Quoth she, 'Beware lest thou cross me;' and went away.
Awhile after this a friend of mine invited me to his house and when I came to him, we ate and drank and talked. Then said he to me, 'O my friend, hath there befallen thee in thy life aught of calamity?' 'Nay,' answered I; 'but tell me [first], hath there befallen thee aught?' ['Yes,'] answered he. 'Know that one day I espied a fair woman; so I followed her and invited her [to come home with me]. Quoth she, "I will not enter any one's house; but come thou to my house, if thou wilt, and be it on such a day." Accordingly, on the appointed day, her messenger came to me, purposing to carry me to her; so I arose and went with him, till we came to a handsome house and a great door. He opened the door and I entered, whereupon he locked the door [behind me] and would have gone in, but I feared with an exceeding fear and foregoing him to the second door, whereby he would have had me enter, locked it and cried out at him, saying, "By Allah, an thou open not to me, I will kill thee; for I am none of those whom thou canst cozen!" Quoth he, "What deemest thou of cozenage?" And I said, "Verily, I am affrighted at the loneliness of the house and the lack of any at the door thereof; for I see none appear." "O my lord," answered he, "this is a privy door." "Privy or public," answered I, "open to me."
So he opened to me and I went out and had not gone far from the house when I met a woman, who said to me, "Methinks a long life was fore-ordained to thee; else hadst thou not come forth of yonder house." "How so?" asked I, and she answered, "Ask thy friend [such an one," naming thee,] "and he will acquaint thee with strange things." So, God on thee, O my friend, tell me what befell thee of wonders and rarities, for I have told thee what befell me.' 'O my brother,' answered I, 'I am bound by a solemn oath.' And he said, 'O my friend, break thine oath and tell me.' Quoth I, 'Indeed, I fear the issue of this.' [But he importuned me] till I told him all, whereat he marvelled. Then I went away from him and abode a long while, [without farther news].
One day, another of my friends came to me and said 'A neighbour of mine hath invited me to hear [music]. [And he would have me go with him;] but I said, 'I will not foregather with any one.' However, he prevailed upon me [to accompany him]; so we repaired to the place and found there a man, who came to meet us and said, '[Enter,] in the name of God!' Then he pulled out a key and opened the door, whereupon we entered and he locked the door after us. Quoth I, 'We are the first of the folk; but where are their voices?' (128) '[They are] within the house,' answered he. 'This is but a privy door; so be not amazed at the absence of the folk.' And my friend said to me, 'Behold, we are two, and what can they avail to do with us?' [Then he brought us into the house,] and when we entered the saloon, we found it exceeding desolate and repulsive of aspect Quoth my friend, 'We are fallen [into a trap]; but there is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme!' And I said, 'May God not requite thee for me with good!'
Then we sat down on the edge of the estrade and presently I espied a closet beside me; so I looked into it and my friend said to me, 'What seest thou?' Quoth I, 'I see therein good galore and bodies of murdered folk. Look.' So he looked and said, 'By Allah, we are lost men!' And we fell a-weeping, I and he. As we were thus, behold, there came in upon us, by the door at which we had entered, four naked men, with girdles of leather about their middles, and made for my friend. He ran at them and dealing one of them a buffet, overthrew him, whereupon the other three fell all upon him. I seized the opportunity to escape, what while they were occupied with him, and espying a door by my side, slipped into it and found myself in an underground chamber, without window or other issue. So I gave myself up for lost and said, 'There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme!' Then I looked to the top of the vault and saw in it a range of glazed lunettes; so I clambered up for dear life, till I reached the lunettes, and I distracted [for fear]. I made shift to break the glass and scrambling out through the frames, found a wall behind them. So I bestrode the wall and saw folk walking in the road; whereupon I cast myself down to the ground and God the Most High preserved me, so that I reached the earth, unhurt. The folk flocked round me and I acquainted them with my story.
As fate would have it, the chief of the police was passing through the market; so the people told him [what was to do] and he made for the door and burst it open. We entered with a rush and found the thieves, as they had overthrown my friend and cut his throat; for they occupied not themselves with me, but said, 'Whither shall yonder fellow go? Indeed, he is in our grasp.' So the prefect took them with the hand (129) and questioned them, and they confessed against the woman and against their associates in Cairo. Then he took them and went forth, after he had locked up the house and sealed it; and I accompanied him till he came without the [first] house. He found the door locked from within; so he bade break it open and we entered and found another door. This also he caused burst in, enjoining his men to silence till the doors should be opened, and we entered and found the band occupied with a new victim, whom the woman had just brought in and whose throat they were about to cut.
The prefect released the man and gave him back all that the thieves had taken from him; and he laid hands on the woman and the rest and took forth of the house treasures galore. Amongst the rest, they found the money-bag of the Turcoman sheep-merchant. The thieves they nailed up incontinent against the wall of the house, whilst, as for the woman, they wrapped her in one of her veils and nailing her [to a board, set her] upon a camel and went round about the town with her. Thus God razed their dwelling-places and did away from me that which I feared. All this befell, whilst I looked on, and I saw not my friend who had saved me from them the first time, whereat I marvelled to the utterest of marvel. However, some days afterward, he came up to me, and indeed he had renounced (130) [the world] and donned a fakir's habit; and he saluted me and went away.
Then he again began to pay me frequent visits and I entered into converse with him and questioned him of the band and how he came to escape, he alone of them all. Quoth he, 'I left them from the day on which God the Most High delivered thee from them, for that they would not obey my speech; wherefore I swore that I would no longer consort with them.' And I said, 'By Allah, I marvel at thee, for that thou wast the cause of my preservation!' Quoth he, 'The world is full of this sort [of folk]; and we beseech God the Most High for safety, for that these [wretches] practise upon men with every kind of device.' Then said I to him, 'Tell me the most extraordinary adventure of all that befell thee in this villainy thou wast wont to practise.' And he answered, saying, 'O my brother, I was not present when they did on this wise, for that my part with them was to concern myself with selling and buying and [providing them with] food; but I have heard that the most extraordinary thing that befell them was on this wise.
THE THIEF'S STORY.
The woman who used to act as decoy for them once caught them a woman from a bride-feast, under pretence that she had a wedding toward in her own house, and appointed her for a day, whereon she should come to her. When the appointed day arrived, the woman presented herself and the other carried her into the house by a door, avouching that it was a privy door. When she entered [the saloon], she saw men and champions (131) [and knew that she had fallen into a trap]; so she looked at them and said, "Harkye, lads! (132) I am a woman and there is no glory in my slaughter, nor have ye any feud of blood-revenge against me, wherefore ye should pursue me; and that which is upon me of [trinkets and apparel] ye are free to take." Quoth they, "We fear thy denunciation." But she answered, saying, "I will abide with you, neither coming in nor going out." And they said, "We grant thee thy life."
Then the captain looked on her [and she pleased him]; so he took her for himself and she abode with him a whole year, doing her endeavour in their service. till they became accustomed to her [and felt assured of her]. One night she plied them with drink and they drank [till they became intoxicated]; whereupon she arose and took her clothes and five hundred dinars from the captain; after which she fetched a razor and shaved all their chins. Then she took soot from the cooking-pots and blackening their faces withal, opened the doors and went out; and when the thieves awoke, they abode confounded and knew that the woman had practised upon them.'"'
The company marvelled at this story and the ninth officer came forward and said, 'I will tell you a right goodly story I heard at a wedding.
THE NINTH OFFICER'S STORY.
A certain singing-woman was fair of favour and high in repute, and it befell one day that she went out apleasuring. As she sat, (133) behold, a man lopped of the hand stopped to beg of her, and he entered in at the door. Then he touched her with his stump, saying, "Charity, for the love of God!" but she answered, "God open [on thee the gate of subsistence]!" and reviled him. Some days after this, there came to her a messenger and gave her the hire of her going forth. (134) So she took with her a handmaid and an accompanyist; (135) and when she came to the appointed place, the messenger brought her into a long passage, at the end whereof was a saloon. So (quoth she) we entered and found none therein, but saw the [place made ready for an] entertainment with candles and wine and dessert, and in another place we saw food and in a third beds.
We sat down and I looked at him who had opened the door to us, and behold he was lopped of the hand. I misliked this of him, and when I had sat a little longer, there entered a man, who filled the lamps in the saloon and lit the candles; and behold, he also was handlopped. Then came the folk and there entered none except he were lopped of the hand, and indeed the house was full of these. When the assembly was complete, the host entered and the company rose to him and seated him in the place of honour. Now he was none other than the man who had fetched me, and he was clad in sumptuous apparel, but his hands were in his sleeves, so that I knew not how it was with them. They brought him food and he ate, he and the company; after which they washed their hands and the host fell to casting furtive glances at me.
Then they drank till they were drunken, and when they had taken leave [of their wits], the host turned to me and said, "Thou dealtest not friendly with him who sought an alms of thee and thou saidst to him, 'How loathly thou art!'" I considered him and behold, he was the lophand who had accosted me in my pleasaunce. So I said, "O my lord, what is this thou sayest?" And he answered, saying, "Wait; thou shall remember it." So saying, he shook his head and stroked his beard, whilst I sat down for fear. Then he put out his hand to my veil and shoes and laying them by his side, said to me, "Sing, O accursed one!" So I sang till I was weary, whilst they occupied themselves with their case and intoxicated themselves and their heat redoubled. (136) Presently, the doorkeeper came to me and said, "Fear not, O my lady; but, when thou hast a mind to go, let me know." Quoth I, "Thinkest thou to delude me?" And he said, "Nay, by Allah! But I have compassion on thee for that our captain and our chief purposeth thee no good and methinketh he will slay thee this night." Quoth I to him, "An thou be minded to do good, now is the time." And he answered, saying, "When our chief riseth to do his occasion and goeth to the draught-house, I will enter before him with the light and leave the door open; and do thou go whithersoever thou wilt."
Then I sang and the captain said, "It is good," Quoth I, "Nay, but thou art loathly." He looked at me and said, "By Allah, thou shalt never more scent the odour of the world!" But his comrades said to him, "Do it not," and appeased him, till he said, "If it must be so, she shall abide here a whole year, not going forth." And I said, "I am content to submit to whatsoever pleaseth thee. If I have erred, thou art of those to whom pertaineth clemency." He shook his head and drank, then arose and went out to do his occasion, what while his comrades were occupied with what they were about of merry-making and drunkenness and sport. So I winked to my fellows and we slipped out into the corridor. We found the door open and fled forth, unveiled and knowing not whither we went; nor did we halt till we had left the house far behind and happened on a cook cooking, to whom said I, "Hast thou a mind to quicken dead folk?" And he said, "Come up." So we went up into the shop, and he said, 'Lie down." Accordingly, we lay down and he covered us with the grass, (137) wherewith he was used to kindle [the fire] under the food.
Hardly had we settled ourselves in the place when we heard a noise of kicking [at the door] and people running right and left and questioning the cook and saying, "Hath any one passed by thee?" "Nay," answered he; "none hath passed by me." But they ceased not to go round about the shop till the day broke, when they turned back, disappointed. Then the cook removed the grass and said to us, "Arise, for ye are delivered from death." So we arose, and we were uncovered, without mantle or veil; but the cook carried us up into his house and we sent to our lodgings and fetched us veils; and we repented unto God the Most High and renounced singing, (138) for indeed this was a great deliverance after stress.'
The company marvelled at this story and the tenth officer came forward and said, 'As for me, there befell me that which was yet more extraordinary than all this.' Quoth El Melik ez Zahir, 'What was that?' And he said,
THE TENTH OFFICER'S STORY.
'A great theft had been committed in the city and I was cited, (139) I and my fellows. Now it was a matter of considerable value and they (140) pressed hard upon us; but we obtained of them some days' grace and dispersed in quest of the stolen goods. As for me, I sallied forth with five men and went round about the city that day; and on the morrow we fared forth [into the suburbs]. When we came a parasang or two parasangs' distance from the city, we were athirst; and presently we came to a garden. So I went in and going up to the water-wheel, (141) entered it and drank and made the ablution and prayed. Presently up came the keeper of the garden and said to me, "Out on thee! Who brought thee into this water-wheel?" And he cuffed me and squeezed my ribs till I was like to die. Then he bound me with one of his bulls and made me turn in the water-wheel, flogging me the while with a cattle whip he had with him, till my heart was on fire; after which he loosed me and I went out, knowing not the way.
When I came forth, I swooned away: so I sat down till my trouble subsided; then I made for my comrades and said to them, "I have found the booty and the thief, and I affrighted him not neither troubled him, lest he should flee; but now, come, let us go to him, so we may make shift to lay hold upon him." Then I took them and repaired to the keeper of the garden, who had tortured me with beating, meaning to make him taste the like of that which he had done with me and lie against him and cause him eat stick. So we rushed into the water-wheel and seizing the keeper, pinioned him.
Now there was with him a youth and he said, "By Allah, I was not with him and indeed it is six months since I entered the city, nor did I set eyes on the stuffs until they were brought hither." Quoth we, "Show us the stuffs." So he carried us to a place wherein was a pit, beside the water-wheel, and digging there, brought out the stolen goods, with not a stitch of them missing. So we took them and carried the keeper to the prefecture, where we stripped him and beat him with palm-rods till he confessed to thefts galore. Now I did this by way of mockery against my comrades, and it succeeded.' (142)
The company marvelled at this story with the utmost wonderment, and the eleventh officer rose and said, 'I know a story yet rarer than this: but it happened not to myself.
THE ELEVENTH OFFICER'S STORY.
There was once aforetime a chief officer [of police] and there passed by him one day a Jew, with a basket in his hand, wherein were five thousand dinars; whereupon quoth the officer to one of his slaves, "Canst thou make shift to take that money from yonder Jew's basket?" "Yes," answered he, nor did he tarry beyond the next day before he came to his master, with the basket in his hand. So (quoth the officer) I said to him, "Go, bury it in such a place." So he went and buried it and returned and told me. Hardly had he done this when there arose a clamour and up came the Jew, with one of the king's officers, avouching that the money belonged to the Sultan and that he looked to none but us for it. We demanded of him three days' delay, as of wont, and I said to him who had taken the money, "Go and lay somewhat in the Jew's house, that shall occupy him with himself." So he went and played a fine trick, to wit, he laid in a basket a dead woman's hand, painted [with henna] and having a gold seal- ring on one of the fingers, and buried the basket under a flagstone in the Jew's house. Then came we and searched and found the basket, whereupon we straightway clapped the Jew in irons for the murder of a woman.
When it was the appointed time, there came to us the man of the Sultan's guards, [who had accompanied the Jew, when he came to complain of the loss of the money,] and said, "The Sultan biddeth you nail up (143) the Jew and bring the money, for that there is no way by which five thousand dinars can be lost." Wherefore we knew that our device sufficed not. So I went forth and finding a young man, a Haurani, (144) passing the road, laid hands on him and stripped him and beat him with palm-rods. Then I clapped him in irons and carrying him to the prefecture, beat him again, saying to them, "This is the thief who stole the money." And we strove to make him confess; but he would not confess. So we beat him a third and a fourth time, till we were weary and exhausted and he became unable to return an answer. But, when we had made an end of beating and tormenting him, he said, "I will fetch the money forthright."
So we went with him till he came to the place where my slave had buried the money and dug there and brought it out; whereat I marvelled with the utmost wonder and we carried it to the prefect's house. When the latter saw the money, he rejoiced with an exceeding joy and bestowed on me a dress of honour. Then he restored the money straightway to the Sultan and we left the youth in prison; whilst I said to my slave who had taken the money, "Did yonder young man see thee, what time thou buriedst the money?" "No, by the Great God!" answered he. So I went in to the young man, the prisoner, and plied him with wine till he recovered, when I said to him, "Tell me how thou stolest the money." "By Allah," answered he, "I stole it not, nor did I ever set eyes on it till I brought it forth of the earth!" Quoth I, "How so?" And he said, "Know that the cause of my falling into your hands was my mother's imprecation against me; for that I evil entreated her yesternight and beat her and she said to me, 'By Allah, O my son, God shall assuredly deliver thee into the hand of the oppressor!' Now she is a pious woman. So I went out forthright and thou sawest me in the way and didst that which thou didst; and when beating was prolonged on me, my senses failed me and I heard one saying to me, 'Fetch it.' So I said to you what I said and he (145) guided me till I came to the place and there befell what befell of the bringing out of the money."
I marvelled at this with the utmost wonderment and knew that he was of the sons of the pious. So I bestirred myself for his release and tended him [till he recovered] and besought him of quittance and absolution of responsibility.'
All those who were present marvelled at this story with the utmost marvel, and the twelfth officer came forward and said, 'I will tell you a pleasant trait that I had from a certain man, concerning an adventure that befell him with one of the thieves. (Quoth he)
THE TWELFTH OFFICER'S STORY.
As I was passing one day in the market, I found that a thief had broken into the shop of a money-changer and taken thence a casket, with which he had made off to the burial-grounds. So I followed him thither [and came up to him, as] he opened the casket and fell a-looking into it; whereupon I accosted him, saying, "Peace be on thee!" And he was startled at me. Then I left him and went away from him.
Some months after this, I met him again under arrest, in the midst of the guards and officers of the police, and he said to them, "Seize yonder man." So they laid hands on me and carried me to the chief of the police, who said, "What hast thou to do with this fellow?" The thief turned to me and looking a long while in my face, said, "Who took this man?" Quoth the officers, "Thou badest us take him; so we took him." And he said, "I seek refuge with God! I know not this man, nor knoweth he me; and I said not that to you but of a man other than this." So they released me, and awhile afterward the thief met me in the street and saluted me, saying, "O my lord, fright for fright! Hadst thou taken aught from me, thou hadst had a part in the calamity." (146) And I said to him, "God [judge] between thee and me!" And this is what I have to tell'
Then came forward the thirteenth officer and said, 'I will tell you a story that a man of my friends told me. (Quoth he)
THE THIRTEENTH OFFICER'S STORY.
I went out one night to the house of one of my friends and when it was the middle of the night, I sallied forth alone [to go home]. When I came into the road, I espied a sort of thieves and they saw me, whereupon my spittle dried up; but I feigned myself drunken and staggered from side to side, crying out and saying, "I am drunken." And I went up to the walls right and left and made as if I saw not the thieves, who followed me till I reached my house and knocked at the door, when they went away.
Some days after this, as I stood at the door of my house, there came up to me a young man, with a chain about his neck and with him a trooper, and he said to me, "O my lord, charity for the love of God!" Quoth I, "God open!" (147) and he looked at me a long while and said, "That which thou shouldst give me would not come to the value of thy turban or thy waistcloth or what not else of thy raiment, to say nothing of the gold and the silver that was about thee." "How so?" asked I, and he said, "On such a night, when thou fellest into peril and the thieves would have stripped thee, I was with them and said to them, 'Yonder man is my lord and my master who reared me.' So was I the cause of thy deliverance and thus I saved thee from them." When I heard this, I said to him, "Stop;" and entering my house, brought him that which God the Most High made easy [to me]. (148) So he went his way. And this is my story.'
Then came forward the fourteenth officer and said, 'Know that the story I have to tell is pleasanter and more extraordinary than this; and it is as follows.
THE FOURTEENTH OFFICER'S STORY.
Before I entered this corporation, (149) I had a draper's shop and there used to come to me a man whom I knew not, save by his face, and I would give him what he sought and have patience with him, till he could pay me. One day, I foregathered with certain of my friends and we sat down to drink. So we drank and made merry and played at Tab; (150) and we made one of us Vizier and another Sultan and a third headsman.
Presently, there came in upon us a spunger, without leave, and we went on playing, whilst he played with us. Then quoth the Sultan to the Vizier, "Bring the spunger who cometh in to the folk, without leave or bidding, that we may enquire into his case. Then will I cut off his head." So the headsman arose and dragged the spunger before the Sultan, who bade cut off his head. Now there was with them a sword, that would not cut curd; (151) so the headsman smote him therewith and his head flew from his body. When we saw this, the wine fled from our heads and we became in the sorriest of plights. Then my friends took up the body and went out with it, that they might hide it, whilst I took the head and made for the river.
Now I was drunken and my clothes were drenched with the blood; and as I passed along the road, I met a thief. When he saw me, he knew me and said to me, "Harkye, such an one!" "Well?" answered I, and he said, "What is that thou hast with thee?" So I acquainted him with the case and he took the head from me. Then we went on till we came to the river, where he washed the head and considering it straitly, said, "By Allah, this is my brother, my father's son. and he used to spunge upon the folk." Then he threw the head into the river. As for me, I was like a dead man [for fear]; but he said to me, "Fear not neither grieve, for thou art quit of my brother's blood."
Then he took my clothes and washed them and dried them, and put them on me; after which he said to me, "Get thee gone to thy house." So I returned to my house and he accompanied me, till I came thither, when he said to me, "May God not forsake thee! I am thy friend [such an one, who used to take of thee goods on credit,] and I am beholden to thee for kindness; but henceforward thou wilt never see me more."'
The company marvelled at the generosity of this man and his clemency (152) and courtesy, and the Sultan said, 'Tell us another of thy stories.' (153) 'It is well,' answered the officer, 'They avouch that
A MERRY JEST OF A THIEF.
A thief of the thieves of the Arabs went [one night] to a certain man's house, to steal from a heap of wheat there, and the people of the house surprised him. Now on the heap was a great copper measure, and the thief buried himself in the corn and covered his head with the measure, so that the folk found him not and went away; but, as they were going, behold, there came a great crack of wind forth of the corn. So they went up to the measure and [raising it], discovered the thief and laid hands on him. Quoth he, "I have eased you of the trouble of seeking me: for I purposed, [in letting wind], to direct you to my [hiding-]place; wherefore do ye ease me and have compassion on me, so may God have compassion on you!" So they let him go and harmed him not.
And for another story of the same kind,' continued the officer,
STORY OF THE OLD SHARPER.
'There was once an old man renowned for roguery, and he went, he and his mates, to one of the markets and stole thence a parcel of stuffs. Then they separated and returned each to his quarter. Awhile after this, the old man assembled a company of his fellows and one of them pulled out a costly piece of stuff and said, "Will any one of you sell this piece of stuff in its own market whence it was stolen, that we may confess his [pre-eminence in] sharping?" Quoth the old man, "I will;" and they said, "Go, and God the Most High prosper thee!"
So on the morrow, early, he took the stuff and carrying it to the market whence it had been stolen, sat down at the shop whence it had been stolen and gave it to the broker, who took it and cried it for sale. Its owner knew it and bidding for it, [bought it] and sent after the chief of the police, who seized the sharper and seeing him an old man of venerable appearance, handsomely clad, said to him, "Whence hadst thou this piece of stuff?" "I had it from this market," answered he, "and from yonder shop where I was sitting." Quoth the prefect, "Did its owner sell it to thee?" "Nay," replied the thief; "I stole it and other than it." Then said the magistrate, "How camest thou to bring it [for sale] to the place whence thou stolest it?" And he answered, "I will not tell my story save to the Sultan, for that I have an advertisement (154) wherewith I would fain bespeak him." Quoth the prefect, "Name it." And the thief said, "Art thou the Sultan?" "No," replied the other; and the old man said, "I will not tell it but to himself."
So the prefect carried him up to the Sultan and he said, "I have an advertisement for thee, O my lord." "What is thine advertisement?" asked the Sultan; and the thief said, "I repent and will deliver into thy hand all who are evildoers; and whomsoever I bring not, I will stand in his stead." Quoth the Sultan, "Give him a dress of honour and accept his profession of repentance." So he went down from the presence and returning to his comrades, related to them that which had passed and they confessed his subtlety and gave him that which they had promised him. Then he took the rest of the stolen goods and went up with them to the Sultan. When the latter saw him, he was magnified in his eyes and he commanded that nought should be taken from him. Then, when he went down, [the Sultan's] attention was diverted from him, little by little, till the case was forgotten, and so he saved the booty [for himself].' The folk marvelled at this and the fifteenth officer came forward and said, 'Know that among those who make a trade of knavery are those whom God the Most High taketh on their own evidence against themselves.' 'How so?' asked they; and he said.
THE FIFTEENTH OFFICER'S STORY.
'It is told of a certain doughty thief, that he used to rob and stop the way by himself upon caravans, and whenever the prefect of police and the magistrates sought him, he would flee from them and fortify himself in the mountains. Now it befell that a certain man journeyed along the road wherein was the robber in question, and this man was alone and knew not the perils that beset his way. So the highwayman came out upon him and said to him, "Bring out that which is with thee, for I mean to slay thee without fail." Quoth the traveller, "Slay me not, but take these saddle-bags and divide [that which is in] them and take the fourth part [thereof]." And the thief answered, "I will not take aught but the whole." "Take half," rejoined the traveller, "and let me go." But the robber replied, "I will take nought but the whole, and I will slay thee [to boot]." And the traveller said, "Take it."
So the highwayman took the saddle-bags and offered to kill the traveller, who said, "What is this? Thou hast no blood-feud against me, that should make my slaughter incumbent [on thee]. Quoth the other, "Needs must I slay thee;" whereupon the traveller dismounted from his horse and grovelled on the earth, beseeching the robber and speaking him fair. The latter hearkened not to his prayers, but cast him to the ground; whereupon the traveller [raised his eyes and seeing a francolin flying over him,] said, in his agony," O francolin, bear witness that this man slayeth me unjustly and wickedly; for indeed I have given him all that was with me and besought him to let me go, for my children's sake; yet would he not consent unto this. But be thou witness against him, for God is not unmindful of that which is done of the oppressors." The highwayman paid no heed to this speech, but smote him and cut off his head.
After this, the authorities compounded with the highwayman for his submission, and when he came before them, they enriched him and he became in such favour with the Sultan's deputy that he used to eat and drink with him and there befell familiar converse between them. On this wise they abode a great while, till, one day, the Sultan's deputy made a banquet, and therein, for a wonder, was a roasted francolin, which when the robber saw, he laughed aloud. The deputy was angered against him and said to him, "What is the meaning of thy laughter? Seest thou default [in the entertainment] or dost thou mock at us, of thy lack of breeding?" "Not so, by Allah, O my lord," answered the highwayman. "But I saw yonder francolin and bethought myself thereanent of an extraordinary thing; and it was on this wise. In the days of my youth, I used to stop the way, and one day I fell in with a man, who had with him a pair of saddle-bags and money therein. So I said to him, 'Leave these bags, for I mean to kill thee.' Quoth he, 'Take the fourth part of [that which is in] them and leave [me] the rest.' And I said, 'Needs must I take the whole and slay thee, to boot.' Then said he, 'Take the saddle-bags and let me go my way.' But I answered, 'Needs must I slay thee.' As we were in this contention, he and I, behold, he saw a francolin and turning to it, said, 'Bear witness against him, O francolin, that he slayeth me unjustly and letteth me not go to my children, for all he hath gotten my money.' However, I took no pity on him neither hearkened to that which he said, but slew him and concerned not myself with the francolin's testimony."
His story troubled the Sultan's deputy and he was sore enraged against him; so he drew his sword and smiting him, cut off his head; whereupon one recited the following verses:
Now this (155) was the francolin that bore witness against him.'
The company marvelled at this story and said all, 'Woe to the oppressor!' Then came forward the sixteenth officer and said, 'And I also will tell you a marvellous story, and it is on this wise.
THE SIXTEENTH OFFICER'S STORY.
I went forth one day, purposing to make a journey, and fell in with a man whose wont it was to stop the way. When he came up with me, he offered to slay me and I said to him, "I have nothing with me whereby thou mayst profit." Quoth he, "My profit shall be the taking of thy life." "What is the cause of this?" asked I. "Hath there been feud between us aforetime?" And he answered, "No; but needs must I slay thee." Therewithal I fled from him to the river-side; but he overtook me and casting me to the ground, sat down on my breast. So I sought help of the Sheikh El Hejjaj (156) and said to him, "Protect me from this oppressor!" And indeed he had drawn a knife, wherewith to cut my throat, when, behold, there came a great crocodile forth of the river and snatching him up from off my breast, plunged with him into the water, with the knife still in his hand; whilst I abode extolling the perfection of God the Most High and rendering thanks for my preservation to Him who had delivered me from the hand of that oppressor.'