THE ADVENTURES OF QUICKSILVER ALI OF CAIRO:
BEING A SEQUEL TO THE ROGUERIES OF DELILEH THE CRAFTY.
There lived once at Cairo, in the days of Selah the Egyptian, who was chief of the Cairo police and had forty men under him, a sharper named Ali, for whom the Master of Police used to set snares and think that he had fallen therein; but, when they sought for him, they found that he had fled like quicksilver, wherefore they dubbed him Quicksilver Ali. One day, as he sat with his men in his hall, his heart became heavy within him and his breast was straitened. The hall-keeper saw him sitting frowning-faced and said to him, 'What ails thee, O my thief? If thy breast be straitened, go out and take a turn in the streets of Cairo, for assuredly walking in its markets will do away thine oppression.' So he went out and walked the streets awhile, but only redoubled in dejection and heaviness of heart. Presently, he came to a wine-shop and said to himself, 'I will go in and drink wine.' So he went in and seeing seven rows of people in the shop, said to the tavern-keeper, 'Harkye, taverner! I will not sit but by myself.' Accordingly, the vintner seated him in a chamber by himself and set wine before him, of which he drank till he lost his senses. Then he sallied forth again and walked till he came to the street called Red, whilst the people left the road clear before him, out of fear of him.
Presently, he turned and saw a water-carrier going along, with his skin and mug, crying out and saying, 'O exchange! There is no drink but from raisins, there is no love-delight but of the beloved and none sitteth in the place of honour save the man of sense!" (84) So he said to him, 'Here, give me to drink!' The water-carrier looked at him and gave him the mug. He took it and looking into it, shook it up and poured it out on the ground. 'Why dost thou not drink?' asked the water-carrier; and he answered, saying, 'Give me to drink.' So the man filled the cup a second time and he took it and shook it and emptied it on the ground; and thus he did a third time. Quoth the water-carrier, 'If thou wilt not drink, begone.' And Ali said, 'Give me to drink.' So he filled the cup a fourth time and gave it him; and he drank and gave the man a dinar. The water-carrier looked at him with disdain and said, 'Good luck to thee! Good luck to thee! Little folk are one thing and great folk another!, When Ali heard this, he caught hold of the man's gown and drawing on him a poignard of price, such an one as that whereof the poet speaks when he says,A whittle of watered steel, perfect of temper and bright, With vipers poison it plies the folk whom it meets in fight;
said to him, 'O old man, speak reasonably to me! Thy water-skin is at the utmost worth three dirhems, and the cups I emptied on the ground held a pint or so of water.' 'It is well,' replied the water-carrier; and Ali said, 'I gave thee a dinar: why, then, dost thou belittle me? Hast thou ever seen any more valiant than I or more generous?' 'Ay,' answered the water-carrier; 'I have seen one more valiant than thou and eke more generous; for, never, since women have borne children, was there on the face of the earth a man of valour who was not generous.' 'And who is he whom thou deemest braver and more generous than I?' asked Ali.
'Know,' replied the other, 'that I had a strange adventure of late. My father was Sheikh of the water-carriers in Cairo, and when he died, he left me five camels and a mule and shop and house: but the poor man is never content; or, if he be content, he dieth. So I said to myself, "I will go to the Hejaz," and taking a file of camels, bought [goods] on credit, till I had run in debt for five hundred dinars, all of which I lost in the pilgrimage. Then I said in myself, "If I return to Cairo, the folk will put me in prison for their goods." So I returned with the Syrian pilgrims to Aleppo, and thence I went on to Baghdad, where I sought out the Sheikh of the water-carriers of the city and repeated the first chapter of the Koran to him. He questioned me of my case and I told him what had befallen me, whereupon he assigned me a shop and gave me a water-skin and gear. So I sallied forth, trusting in God to provide, and went round about the city. I offered the cup to one, that he might drink; but he said, "I have eaten nought whereon to drink; for a niggardly fellow invited me to-day and set two gugglets before me; so I said to him, 'O son of the sordid, hast thou given me aught to eat, that I should drink after it?' So go thy ways, O water-carrier, till I have eaten somewhat. Then come and give me to drink." Then I accosted another and he said, "God provide thee!" And so I went on till noon, without taking aught, and I said to myself, "Would I had never come to Baghdad I"
Presently, I saw the folk running; so I followed them and saw a long file of cavaliers, riding two and two and clad in steel, with double neck-rings and felt bonnets and burnouses and swords and bucklers. I asked one of the folk whose suite this was, and he answered, "That of Captain Ahmed ed Denef." Quoth I, "And what is he?" "He is town-captain of Baghdad," answered the other, "and to him is committed the care of the suburbs. He gets a thousand dinars a month from the Khalif and Hassan Shouman has the like. Moreover, each of his men gets a hundred dinars a month; and they are now returning to their barrack from the Divan." Ahmed saw me and cried out to me to give him to drink. So I filled the cup and gave it him, and he shook it and emptied it out, like unto thee; and thus he did a second time. Then I filled the cup a third time and he took a draught; after which he said to me, "O water-carrier, whence comest thou?" "From Cairo," answered I, and he, "May God keep Cairo and her people! What brings thee hither?" So I told him my story and gave him to know that I was a debtor fleeing from debt and distress. Quoth he, "Thou art welcome to Baghdad." Then he gave me five dinars and said to his men, "Be generous to him, for the love of God." So each of them gave me a dinar and Ahmed said to me, "What while thou abidest in Baghdad, thou shalt have of us the like every time thou givest us to drink."
Accordingly, I paid them frequent visits and good ceased not to come to me from the folk, till, one day, reckoning up the profit I had made of them, I found it a thousand dinars and said in myself, "The best thing I can do is to return to Egypt." So I went to Ahmed's house and kissed his hand, and he said, "What seekest thou?" Quoth I, "I have a mind to depart;" and I repeated the following verses:The stranger's sojourning in any land of lands Even as the building is of mansions on the wind.
"The caravan is about to start for Cairo," added I, "and I wish to return to my people." So he gave me a mule and a hundred dinars and said to me, "I desire to send somewhat by thee. Dost thou know the people of Cairo?" "Yes," answered I; and he said, "Take this letter and carry it to Quicksilver Ali of Cairo and say to him, 'Thy captain salutes thee and he is now with the Khalif."' So I took the letter and jouneyed back to Cairo, where I paid my debts and plied my trade of a water-carrier; but I have not delivered the letter, because I know not the abode of Quicksilver Ali.' Quoth Ali, 'o elder, be of good cheer: I am that Ali, the first of the lads of Captain Ahmed: give me the letter.' So he gave him the letter and he opened it and read as follows:'I've written unto thee, adornment of the fair, A letter that indeed the passing winds shall bear.
From Captain Ahmed ed Denef to the eldest of his sons, Quicksilver Ali of Cairo, greeting. Thou knowest that I tormented Selaheddin the Cairene and befooled him till I buried him alive and reduced his lads to obey me, and amongst them Ali Kitf el Jemel; and I am now become town-captain of Baghdad and overseer of the suburbs. If thou be still mindful of our love, come to me; haply thou shalt play some trick in Baghdad that may advance thee to the Khalif's service, so he may appoint thee stipends and allowances and assign thee a lodging, which is what thou desirest, and so peace be on thee.'
When Ali read this letter, he kissed it and laying it on his head, gave the water-carrier ten dinars; after which he returned to his lodging and told his comrades and commended them to one another. Then he changed his clothes and donning a tarboosh and a travelling cloak, took a case, containing a bamboo spear, four-and-twenty cubits long, made in several pieces, to fit into each other. Quoth his lieutenant, 'Wilt thou go a journey, whenas the treasury is empty?' 'When I reach Damascus,' answered Ali, 'I will send you what shall suffice you.' Then he set out and fared on, till he overtook a caravan about to start, whereof were the Provost of the Merchants and forty other merchants. They had all loaded their beasts, except the Provost, whose loads lay upon the ground, and Ali heard his caravan-leader, who was a Syrian, say to the muleteers, 'Help me, one of you!' But they mocked him and reviled him. Quoth Ali in himself, 'None will suit me so well to travel withal as this leader.'
Now Ali was beardless and well-favoured; so he went up to the leader and saluted him. The latter welcomed him and said, 'What seekest thou?' 'O my uncle,' replied Ali, 'I see thee alone with forty mule-loads of goods; but why hast thou not brought men to help thee?' 'O my son,' rejoined the other, 'I hired two lads and clothed them and put in each one's pocket two hundred dinars; and they helped me till we came to the Dervishes' Convent, (85)' when they ran away.' Quoth All, 'Whither are you bound?' 'To Aleppo,' answered the Syrian, and Ali said, 'I will help thee.' So they loaded the beasts and the Provost mounted his mule and they set out. The leader rejoiced in Ali and loved him and made much of him and they fared on till nightfall, when they halted and ate and drank. Then came the time of sleep and Ali lay down and made as if he slept; whereupon the Syrian laid himself near him and Ali rose and sat down at the door of the merchant's pavilion. Presently, the Syrian turned over and would have taken Ali in his arms, but found him not and said in himself, 'It would seem as though he had promised another and he hath taken him; but I have the first right and another night I will keep him.'
Ali sat at the door of the tent till nigh upon daybreak, when he returned and lay down near the Syrian, who found him by his side, when he awoke, and said in himself, 'If I ask him where he has been, he will leave me and go away.' So he dissembled with him and they went on till they came to a forest, in which was a cave, where dwelt a ferocious lion. Now, whenever a caravan passed, they would draw lots among themselves and throw him on whom the lot fell to the lion. So they drew lots and the lot fell upon the Provost of the Merchants. Now the lion stopped the way, awaiting his prey, wherefore the Provost was sore distressed and said to the leader, 'God disappoint thy enterprise and bring thy journey to nought! I charge thee, after my death, give my loads to my children.' Quoth Ali, 'What meaneth all this?' So they told him the case and he said, 'Why do ye run from the cat of the desert? I warrant you I will kill him.'
So the Syrian went to the Provost and told him of this and he said, 'If he kill him, I will give him a thousand dinars.' 'And we,' said the other merchants, 'will reward him likewise.' With this Ali put off his mantle and there appeared upon him armour of steel; then he took a whinyard of steel and [opening it] turned the ring; (86) after which he went forth alone and standing in the road before the lion, cried out at him. The lion ran at him, but Ali smote him between the eyes with his cutlass and cut him in sunder, whilst the caravan-leader and the merchants looked on. Then said he to the leader, 'Have no fear, o my uncle!' and the Syrian answered, saying, 'O my son, I am thy servant for all time.' Then the Provost embraced him and kissed him between the eyes and gave him the thousand dinars, and each of the other merchants gave him twenty dinars.
He deposited all the money with the Provost and they slept that night till the morning, when they set out again, intending for Baghdad, and fared on till they came to the Lion's Wood and the Valley of Dogs, where lay a Bedouin brigand and his tribe, who sallied forth on them. The folk fled from the highwaymen and the Provost said, 'My goods are lost!' When, behold, up came Ali in a coat of leather, full of bells, and bringing out his long lance, fitted it together. Then he seized one of the Arab's horses and mounting it, shook his bells and cried out to the Bedouin chief; saying, 'Come out to me with spears!' The Bedouin's mare took fright at the noise of the bells and Ali struck the chief's spear and broke it. Then he smote him on the neck and cut off his head. When the Bedouins saw their chief fall, they all ran at Ali, but he cried out, saying, 'God is Most Great!' and falling on them, put them to flight. Then he raised the chiefs head on the point of his spear and returned to the merchants, who rewarded him liberally and continued heir journey.
When they reached Baghdad, Au took his money from the Provost and committed it to the Syrian, saying, 'When thou returnest to Cairo, enquire for my lodging and give the money to my deputy.' Then he slept that night and on the morrow he entered the city and enquired for Ahmed ed Denefs lodging; but none would direct him thereto. (87) So he walked on, till he came to a square called En Nefz, where he saw children at play, and amongst them a lad called Ahmed el Lekit, (88) and said to himself, 'Thou shalt not get news of them but of their little ones.' Then be turned and seeing a sweetmeat-seller, bought cakes of him and called to the children; but Ahmed el Lekit drove the rest away and coming up to him, said, 'What seekest thou?' Quoth Ali, 'I had a son and he died and I saw him in a dream asking for sweetmeats: wherefore I have bought sweetmeats and wish to give each child some.' So saying, he gave Ahmed a cake, and he looked at it and seeing a dinar sticking to it, said, 'Begone! I am no catamite: seek another than I.' 'O my son,' answered Ali, 'it is a sharp fellow who takes the hire, even as is he who gives it. I have sought all day tor Ahmed ed Denef's barrack, but none would direct me thereto; so the dinar is thine, if thou wilt guide me thither.' Quoth the lad, 'I will run before thee, till I come to the place, when I will catch up a stone with my foot and kick it against the door; and so shalt thou know it.'
So he ran on and Ali after him, till they came to the place, when the boy caught up a pebble and kicked it against the door. Ali laid hold of him and would have taken the dinar from him, but could not; so he said to him, 'Go: thou deservest liberality, for thou art a sharp fellow, whole of wit and stout. God willing, if I become captain to the Khalif, I will make thee one of my lads.' Then the boy made off and Ali went up to the door and knocked; whereupon quoth Ahmed ed Denef to the doorkeeper, 'Open the door; that is the knock of Quicksilver Ali.' So he opened the door and Ali entered and saluted Ahmed, who embraced him, and the forty saluted him. And Ahmed gave him a suit of clothes, saying, 'When the Khalif made me captain, he clothed my lads and I kept this suit for thee.' Then they seated him in the place of honour and setting on meat and drink, ate and drank and made merry till the morning, when Ahmed said to Ali, 'Look thou walk not about Baghdad, but abide here.' 'Why so?' asked All. 'I came not hither to be shut up, but to look about me and divert myself' 'O my son,' rejoined Ahmed, 'think not that Baghdad is like Cairo. Baghdad is the seat of the Khalifate: sharpers abound in it and rogueries spring in it as plants spring in the earth.' So Ali abode in the barrack three days, at the end of which time Ahmed said to him, 'I wish to present thee to the Khalif; that he may assign thee an allowance.' But he answered, saying, 'When the time comes.' So he let him go his own way.
One day, as Ali sat in the barrack, his breast became straitened and his soul troubled and he said to himself, 'Come, let us walk awhile in Baghdad and lighten my heart.' So he went out and walked from street to street, till he came to the bazaar, where he entered a cookshop and ate the morning-meal; after which he went out to wash his hands. Presently, he saw forty slaves, with bonnets of felt and cutlasses of steel, come walking, two by two; and last of all came Delileh the Crafty, riding on a mule and clad in a coat of mail, with a gilded helmet on her head. Now she was returning from the Divan to the khan of which she was portress; and when she espied Ali, she looked at him fixedly and saw that he resembled Ahmed ed Denef in height and breadth. Moreover, he was clad in a striped cloak and a burnouse, with a steel cutlass by his side, and valour shone from his eyes, testifying for him and not against him. So she returned to the khan and going in to her daughter, fetched a table of sand, which she levelled and drew a geomantic figure, by which she discovered that the stranger's name was Ali of Cairo and that his fortune overrode her own and that of her daughter. 'O my mother,' said Zeyneb, 'what has befallen thee, that thou hast recourse to the table of sand?' 'O my daughter,' answered Delileh, 'I have seen this day a young man who resembles Ahmed ed Denef, and I fear lest he come to hear how thou didst strip Ahmed and his men and enter the khan and play us a trick, in revenge for what we did with his chief and the forty; for methinks he hath taken up his lodging with Ed Denef.' 'What is this?' rejoined Zeyneb. 'Methinks thou bast taken his measure.'
Then she donned her finest clothes and went out into the town. When the people saw her, they all made love to her and she promised and retracted and listened and coquetted and passed from market to market, till she saw Ali coming, when she went up to him and rubbed her shoulder against him. Then she turned and said, 'God preserve folk of discrimination!' Quoth he, 'How goodly is thy fashion! To whom dost thou belong?' 'To the gallant like thee,' answered she; and he said, 'Art thou married or single?' 'Married,' replied she. 'Shall it be in my lodging or thine?' asked Ali, and she said, 'I am a merchant's daughter and a merchant's wife and in all my life I have never been out of doors till to-day, when I made ready food and thought to eat, but found I had no mind thereto [without company]. When I saw thee, love of thee entered my heart: so wilt thou solace my soul and eat a mouthful with me?' Quoth he, 'Whoso is invited, let him accept.' So she went on and he followed her from street to street: but presently he bethought himself and said, 'What wilt thou do and thou a stranger? Verily it is said, "Whoso doth whoredom in his strangerhood, God will send him back disappointed." But I will put her off with fair words.' So he said to her, 'Take this dinar and appoint me a day other than this.' 'By the Mighty Name,' answered she, 'it may not be but thou shalt go home with me this very day and I will take thee to friend.'
So he followed her till she came to a house with a lofty porch and a padlock on the door and said to him, 'Open this lock.' 'Where is the key?' asked he. And she answered, 'It is lost.' Quoth he, 'He who opens a lock without a key is a knave, whom it behoves the judge to punish, and I know not how to open doors without keys.' With this she raised her veil and showed him her face, at which he took one look that cost him a thousand sighs. Then she let fall her veil on the lock and repeating over it the names of the mother of Moses, opened it without a key and entered. He followed her and saw swords and armour of steel hanging up; and she put off her veil and sat down with him. Quoth he to himself, '[Needs must thou] accomplish what God hath decreed to thee,' and bent to her, to take a kiss of her cheek; but she covered it with her hand, saying, 'This beseemeth not but by night.' Then she brought a tray of food and wine, and they ate and drank; after which she rose and drawing water from the well, poured from the ewer over his bands, whilst he washed them.
Presently, she cried out and beat upon her breast, saying, 'My husband had a signet ring of ruby, which was pledged to him for five hundred dinars, and I put it on ; but it was too large for me, so I straitened it with wax, and when I let down the bucket into the water, the ring [must have] dropped into the well. So turn thy face to the door, whilst I put off my clothes and go down into the well and fetch it.' Quoth Ali, 'It were shame on me that thou shouldst go down into the well, whilst I am present; none shall do it but I.' So saying, he put off his clothes and tied the rope about himself and she let him down into the well. Now there was much water therein and she said to him, 'The rope is too short; loose thyself and drop down.' So he did himself loose from the rope and dropped into the water, in which he sank fathoms deep, without touching the bottom of the well; wlilst she veiled herself and taking his clothes, returned to her mother, to whom said she, 'I have stripped Ali the Egyptian and cast him into the Amir Hassan's well, from which there is no chance of his escaping.'
Presently, the Amir Hassan, the master of the house, who had been absent at the Divan, came home and finding the door open, said to his groom, 'Why didst thou not lock the door?' 'O my lord,' answered the groom, 'indeed I locked it with my own hand.' Quoth the Amir, 'As my head liveth, some thief hath entered my house!' Then he went in and searched right and left, but found none and said to the groom, 'Fill the ewer, that I may make the ablution.' So the man lowered the bucket into the well; but, when he drew it up, he found it heavy and looking down, saw one sitting therein; whereupon he let it fall into the water and cried out, saying, 'O my lord, an Afrit came up to me out of the well!' Quoth the Amir, 'Go and fetch four doctors of the law, that they may read the Koran over him, till he go away.' So he fetched the doctors and the Amir said to them, 'Sit round the well and exorcise me this Afrit.' They did as he bade them; after which the groom and another servant lowered the bucket again and Ali clung to it and hid himself under it, till he came near the top, when he sprang out and landed among the doctors, who fell a-cuffing each other and crying out, 'Afrit! Afrit!'
The Amir looked at Ali and seeing him a young man, said to him, 'Art thou a thief?' 'No,' answered Ali. 'Then what dost thou in the well?' asked the Amir; and Ali said, 'I was asleep and dreamt a dream of dalliance; (89) so I went down to the Tigris to wash myself and dived, whereupon the current carried me under the earth and I came up in this well.' 'Tell the truth,' said the Amir. So Ali told him all that had befallen him, and the Amir gave him an old gown and let him go. He returned to Ahmed ed Denef's lodging and told him all that had passed. Quoth Ahmed, 'Did I not tell thee that Baghdad is full of women who play tricks upon men?' And Ali Kitf el Jemel said, 'I conjure thee by the Mighty Name, tell me how it is that thou art the chief of the lads of Cairo and yet hast been stripped by a girl?' This was grievous to Ali and he repented him of not having followed Ahmed's advice.
Then Ed Denef gave him another suit of clothes and Hassan Shouman said to him, 'Dost thou know the girl?' 'No,' answered Ali; and Hassan said, 'It was Zeyneb, the daughter of Delileh the Crafty, the portress of the Khalif's khan and hast thou fallen into her toils, O Ali?' 'Yes,' replied he; and Hassan said, 'O Ali, it was she who took thy chief's clothes and those of all his men.' Quoth Ali, 'This is a disgrace to you all.' Then said Hassan, 'And what thinkest thou to do?' And he answered, 'I purpose to marry her.' 'Put away that thought from thee,' rejoined the other, 'and console thy heart of her.' Quoth Ali, 'O Hassan, do thou counsel me how I shall do to marry her.' 'With all my heart,' replied his comrade. 'If thou wilt drink from my hand and march under my banner, I will bring thee to thy will of her.' And Ali answered, saying, 'I will well.'
So Hassan made him put off his clothes and taking a saucepan, heated therein somewhat as it were pitch, with which he anointed him, and he became like unto a black slave. Moreover, he anointed his lips and smeared his eyes with red kohL Then he clad him in a slave's habit and giving him a tray of kabobs and wine, said to him, 'There is a black cook in the khan, and thou art now become his like; so go thou to him and accost him in friendly fashion and speak to him in the blacks' lingo, saying, "It is long since we foregathered in the beer-shop." He will answer thee, "I have been too busy for this; for I have on my hands forty slaves, for whom I cook the morning and the evening meals, besides making ready a tray for Delileh and the like for her daughter Zeyneb and the dogs' food." And do thou say to him, "Come, let us eat kabobs and drink wine." Then go in with him into the saloon and make him drunk and question him of his service, how many and what dishes he has to cook, and ask him of the dogs' food and the keys of the kitchen and the larder; and he will tell thee, for a man, when he is drunk, tells all that he would conceal, were he sober. [When thou hast learned all this of him,] drug him and don his clothes and sticking the two knives in thy girdle, take the vegetable-basket and go to the market and buy meat and greens, with which do thou return to the khan and enter the kitchen and the larder and cook the food. Dish it up and put henbane in it, so as to drug the dogs and the slaves and Delileh and Zeyneb. Then serve up and when they are all asleep, go up into the upper chamber and bring away all the clothes thou wilt find hanging there. And if thou have a mind to marry Zeyneb, bring also the forty carrier-pigeons.'
So Ali went to the khan and going in to the cook, saluted him and said, 'It is long since I have foregathered with thee in the beer-shop.' Quoth the cook, 'I have been busy cooking for the slaves and the dogs.' Then he took him and making him drunk, questioned him of his duties. Said the cook, 'Every day I cook five dishes for the morning and the like for the evening meal; and yesterday they sought of me a sixth dish, rice dressed with honey and saffron, and a seventh, a mass of cooked pomegranate-seed.' 'And what is the order of thy service?' asked Ali. 'First,' answered the cook, 'I serve up Zeyneb's tray, then that of Delileh; then I serve the slaves and give the dogs their sufficiency of meat, and the least that satisfies them is a pound each.' But, as fate would have it, he forgot to ask him of the keys. Then he drugged him and donned his clothes; after which he took the basket and went to the market. There he bought meat and greens and returning to the khan, with the two knives stuck in his girdle, saw Delileh seated at the gate, watching those that went in and out, and the forty slaves with her, armed.
He took courage and entered; but Delileh knew him and said to him,'Back, O captain of thieves! Wilt thou play a trick on me in the khan?' When he heard this, he turned and said to her, 'What sayst thou, O portress?' 'What hast thou done with the cook?' asked she. 'What cook?' answered he. 'Is there here another cook than I?' 'Thou liest,' rejoined she; 'thou art Quicksilver Ali the Cairene.' And he said to her, in slaves' lingo, 'O portress, are Cairenes black or white? I have always been a servant.' Then said the slaves to him, 'What is the matter, cousin?' Quoth Delileh, 'This is none of your cousin, but Quicksilver Ali the Egyptian; and meseems he hath either killed your cousin or drugged him.' But they said, 'Indeed this is our cousin, Saadullah the cook.' 'Not so,' answered she; 'it is Quicksilver Ali, and he hath dyed his skin.' Quoth the sharper, 'And who is Ali? I am Saadullah.' Then she fetched ointment of proof, with which she anointed Ali's forearm and rubbed it; but the black did not come off; whereupon quoth the slaves, 'Let him go and dress us the morning meal.' 'If he be indeed your cousin,' said Delileh, 'he knows what you sought of him yesternight and how many dishes he cooks every day.' So they asked him of this and he said, 'Every day I cook you five dishes for the morning and the like for the evening meal, lentils and rice and broth and fricassee and sherbet of roses, and [yesternight ye sought of me] a sixth dish and a seventh, to wit, rice dressed with honey and saffron and cooked pomegranate-seed.' And the slaves said, 'Right.' Then said Delileh, 'Take him in, and if he knows the kitchen and the larder, he is indeed your cousin; but, if not, kill him.'
Now the cook had a cat, which he had brought up, and whenever he entered, it would stand at the door of the kitchen and spring on his shoulders, as soon as he went in. So, when Ali entered, the cat saw him and jumped on his shoulders; but he threw it off and it ran before him to the door of the kitchen and stopped there. He guessed that this was the kitchen-door; so he took the keys and seeing one with traces of feathers thereon, knew it for the key of the kitchen and opened the door therewith. Then he entered and setting down the greens, went out again, guided by the cat, which ran before him and stopped at another door. He guessed that this was the larder and seeing one of the keys with marks of grease thereon, knew it for the key and opened the door therewith; whereupon quoth the slaves, 'O Delileh, were he a stranger, he had not known the kitchen and the larder, nor had he been able to distinguish the keys thereof from the rest; verily, he is our cousin Saadullah.' Quoth she, 'He knew the places by the cat and distinguished the keys, one from the other, by their appearance: but this imposeth not upon me.' Then he returned to the kitchen, where he cooked the morning-meal and carrying Zeyneb's tray up to her apartment, saw all the stolen clothes hanging up; after which he went down and carried Delileh her tray and gave the slaves and the dogs their ration. The like he did at sundown and drugged Delileh's food and that of Zeyneb and the slaves.
Now the doors of the khan were opened and shut with the sun: so he went forth and cried out, saying, 'O dwellers in the khan, the watch is set and we have loosed the dogs; so whoso stirs out after this hath but himself to blame.' Now he had delayed the dogs' supper and put poison therein; so, when he set it before them, they ate of it and died. Then he went up and took all the clothes and the carrier-pigeons and opening the gate, made off to the barrack of the Forty, where he found Hassan Shouman, who asked him how he had fared. So he told him what had passed and he praised him. Then he caused him put off his clothes and made a decoction of herbs, with which he washed him, and his skin became white as before; after which he donned his own clothes and going back to the khan, clad the cook in the clothes he had taken from him and made him smell to the counter-drug: whereupon he awoke and going forth to the greengrocer's, bought vegetables and returned to the khan.
When the day broke, one of the lodgers in the khan came out of his chamber and seeing the gate open and the slaves drugged and the dogs dead, went in to Delileh, whom he found lying drugged, with a scroll on her neck and at her head a sponge steeped in the counter-drug. He set the sponge to her nostrils and she awoke and said, 'Where am I?' Quoth he, 'When I came down from my chamber, I saw the gate of the khan open and the dogs dead and found the slaves and thee drugged.' So she took up the scroll and read therein these words, 'None did this thing save Ali the Egyptian.' Then she awoke the slaves and Zeyneb by making them smell to the counter-drug and said to them, 'Did I not tell you that this was Ali of Cairo? But do ye conceal the matter.' Then she said to her daughter, 'How often have I told thee that Ali would not forego his revenge? He hath done this in requital of that which thou didst with him and he bad it in his power to do with thee other than this; but he refrained therefrom out of courtesy and a desire that there should be friendship between us.' So saying, she put off her man's clothes and donned woman's attire and tying the kerchief [of truce] about her neck, repaired to Ahmed ed Denef's lodging.
Now when Ali entered with the clothes and the carrier-pigeons, Hassan Shouman gave the hall-keeper the price of forty pigeons and he bought them and cooked them before the men. Presently there came a knock at the door and Ahmed ed Denef said to the hall-keeper, 'That is Delileh's knock: rise and open to her.' So he admitted her and Hassan said to her, 'What brings thee hither, O ill-omened old woman? Verily, thou and thy brother Zureic the fish-monger are of a piece!' 'O captain,' answered she, 'I am in the wrong and my neck is at your mercy; but tell me which of you it was that played me this trick?' Quoth Ahmed, 'It was the first of my lads.' 'For God's sake,' rejoined Delileh, 'intercede with him to give me back the carrier-pigeons and what not, and thou wilt lay me under great obligation.' When Hassan heard this, he said to Ali, 'God requite thee, O Ali! Why didst thou cook the pigeons?' And Ali answered, 'I knew not that they were carrier-pigeons.' Then said Ahmed to the hall-keeper, 'Bring us the cooked pigeons.' So he brought them and Delileh took a piece and tasting it, said, 'This is none of the carrier-pigeons' flesh, for I fed them on grains of musk and their flesh is become even as musk.' Quoth Hassan, 'An thou wilt have the carrier-pigeons, comply with Ali's desire.' 'What is that?' asked she, and Hassan answered, saying, 'He would have thee marry him to thy daughter Zeyneb.' 'I have no power over her except of affection,' said she; and Hassan said to Ali, 'Give her the pigeons.' So he gave them to her, and she took them and rejoiced in them.
Then said Hassan to her, 'Needs must thou give us a sufficient answer.' 'If it be indeed his wish to marry her,' replied Delileh, 'it availed nothing to play this trick upon us: it behoveth him rather to demand her in marriage of her uncle Captain Zureic, him who cries out, saying, "A pound of fish for two farthings!" and hangs up in his shop a nurse containing two thousand dinars; for he is her guardian.' When the forty heard this, they all rose and cried out, saying, 'What manner of talk is this, O strumpet? Dost thou wish to bereave us of our brother Ali of Cairo?' Then she returned to the khan and said to her daughter, 'Ali the Egyptian seeks thee in marriage.' Whereat Zeyneb rejoiced, for she loved him because of his forbearance towards her, and asked her mother what had passed. So she told her, adding, 'I made it a condition that he should demand thy hand of thine uncle, so I might make him fall into destruction.'
Meanwhile Ali turned to his fellows and said to them, 'What manner of man is this Zureic?' 'He was chief of the sharpers of the land of Irak,' answered they, 'and could all but pierce mountains and lay hold upon the stars. He would steal the very kohl from the eye and in brief, be had not his match for roguery; but he hath repented and forsworn his old way of life and opened him a fish shop. Moreover, he has amassed two thousand dinars by the sale of fish and laid them in a purse with strings of silk, to which he has tied bells and rings and rattles of brass. Every time he opens his shop, he hangs up the purse on a peg within the door and cries out, saying, "Where are ye, o sharpers of Egypt, O cutters of Irak, O tricksters of the land of the Persians? Behold, Zureic the fishmonger hath hung up a purse in front of his shop, and whoso pretendeth to sleight and cunning and can take it by craft, it is his." So the light-fingered gentry come and try to take the purse, but cannot; for he lays at his feet cakes of lead, whilst he fries his fish and tends the fire; and whenever a thief thinks to take him unawares and makes a snatch at the purse, he casts a disc of lead at him and kills him or does him a mischief. So, O Ali, wert thou to tackle him, thou wouldst be as one who jostles a funeral, unknowing who is dead; (90) for thou art no match for him, and we fear his mischief for thee. Indeed, thou hast no call to marry Zeyneb, and he who leaves a thing alone lives without it.' 'This were shame, O comrades,' answered Ali. 'Needs must I take the purse: but bring me a woman's habit.'
So they brought him women's clothes and he clad himself therein and stained his hands with henna. Then he took a lamb and killing it, took out the guts and filled them with the blood and bound them between his thighs; after which he donned women's trousers and walking boots. Moreover, he made himself a pair of false breasts with pelican's pouches and filled them with milk (91) and tied round his hips a piece of linen, which he stuffed with cotton, [to represent a big belly and buttocks], girding himself over all with a silk handkerchief well starched. Then he veiled himself and went out, whilst all who saw him exclaimed, 'What a fine pair of buttocks!' Presently he saw an ass-driver coming, so he gave him a dinar and mounting, rode till he came to Zureic's shop, where he saw the purse hung up and the gold glittering through the meshes. Now Zureic was frying fish, and Ali said to the ass-man, 'O driver, what is that smell?' 'It is the smell of Zureic's fish,' answered he. Quoth Ali, 'I am with child and the smell irketh me; go, fetch me a piece of the fish.' So the man said to Zureic, 'What ails thee to fry fish so early and annoy pregnant women with the smell? I have here the wife of the Amir Hassan Sherr et Teric, and she is with child; so give her a piece of fish, for the child stirs in her belly. O Protector, O my God, avert from us this day's mischief!' So Zureic took a piece of fish and would have fried it, but the fire had gone out and he went in, to rekindle it.
Meanwhile Ali dismounted and sitting down, pressed upon the lamb's gut till it burst and the blood ran out from between his legs. Then he cried out, saying, 'O my back! o my side!' Whereupon the driver turned and seeing the blood running, said, 'What ails thee, O my lady?' 'I have miscarried,' answered Ali, whereupon Zureic looked out and seeing the blood, was affrighted and fled into the [inner] shop. Quoth the driver, 'God torment thee, O Zureic! The lady has miscarried and thou art no match for her husband. Why must thou make a stench so early in the morning? I bade thee bring her a piece, but thou wouldst not.' So saying, he took his ass and went his way, whilst Ali put out his hand to the purse; but no sooner had he touched it than the bells and rings began to jingle and the gold to chink. Quoth Zureic, 'Thy perfidy is discovered, O gallows-bird! Wilt thou put a cheat on me and thou in a woman's habit? Take what cometh to thee!' And he threw a cake of lead at him, but it went askew and lighted on another; whereupon the people rose against Zureic and said to him, 'Art thou a tradesman or a swashbuckler? If thou be a tradesman, take down thy purse and spare the folk thy mischief.' 'In the name of God! On my head be it,' answered he.
As for Ali, he made off to the barrack and told Hassan Shouman what had happened, after which he put off his woman's clothes and donning a groom's habit, took a dish and five dirhems. Then he returned to Zureic's shop and the fishmonger said to him, 'What dost thou want, my master?' He showed him the five dirhems and Zureic would have given him of the fish in the tray, but he said, 'I must have hot fish.' So he put fish in the pan and finding the fire dead, went in to relight it; whereupon Ali put out his hand to the purse and caught hold of the end of it. The bells and rings and rattles jingled and Zureic said, 'Thy trick hath not deceived me. I knew thee by the grip of thy hand on the dish and the dirhems, for all thou art disguised as a groom.' So saying, he threw the lead at him, but he avoided it and it fell into the pan full of hot fish and broke it and overturned it, fat and all, upon the shoulders of the Cadi, who was passing. The fat ran down inside his clothes to his privy parts and he cried out, saying, 'O my privities! What a pickle you are in! Alas, unhappy that I am! Who hath played me this trick?' 'O my lord,' answered the people, 'it was some boy that threw a stone into the pan: but for God's protection, it had been worse.' Then they turned and seeing the piece of lead and that it was Zureic who had thrown it, said to him, 'O Zureic, this is not allowed of God! Take down the purse, or it will be the worse for thee.' 'If it please God,' answered he, 'I will take it down.'
Meanwhile, Ali returned to the barrack and told his comrades what had passed and they said, 'Thou hast exhausted two-thirds of his sharpness.' Then he changed his groom's dress for that of a merchant and going out, met a snake-charmer, with a bag of serpents and another of gear, to whom said he, 'O charmer, come and amuse my lads, and thou shalt have largesse.' So he accompanied him to the barrack, where he fed him and drugging him, took his clothes and put them on. Then he took the bagi and repairing to Zureic's shop, began to play the flute. Quoth Zureic, 'God provide thee!' But Ali took out the serpents and cast them down before him; whereat the fish-seller, who was afraid of snakes, fled from them into the [inner] shop. Then Ali picked up the snakes and thrusting them back into the bag, put out his hard and caught hold of the end of the purse. The bells rang and the rings and rattles jangled, and Zureic said, 'Wilt thou never cease to play me tricks? Now thou feignest thyself a serpent-charmer.' So saying, he took up a piece of lead and hurled it at Ali; [but he avoided it,] and it fell on the head of a groom, who was passing by, in attendance upon his master, a trooper, and knocked him down. Quoth the soldier, 'Who did that?' And the folk said, 'It was a stone fell from the roof.' So the soldier passed on and the people, seeing the piece of lead, went up to Zureic and said to him, Take down the purse;' and he said, 'God willing, I will take it down this very night.'
Ali ceased not to play tricks upon Zureic, till he had made seven different attempts for the purse, but without success. Then he returned the snake-charmer his clothes and gear and gave him a present; after which he went back to Zureic's shop and heard him say, 'If I leave the purse here to-night, he will break in and take it; I will carrry it home with me.' So he shut his shop and putting the purse in his sleeve, set out home, and Ali followed hin. till he came near his house, when he saw a wedding toward in a neighbour's house and said in himself, 'I will go home and give my wife the purse and change my clothes and return to the wedding.' Now he was married to a black girl, one of the freed women of the Vizier Jaafer, and she had borne him a son, whom he named Abdallah, and he had promised her to spend the money in the purse on the occasion of the boy's circumcision and marriage. So he went into his house and Ali, following him by stealth, stepped into a closet, whence he could hear and see all that passed. When Zureic entered, his wife saw that his face was overcast and asked him what had vexed him. Quoth he, 'God hath afflicted me this day with a sharking fellow, who hath made seven attempts to get the purse, but without avail' And she said, 'Give it to me, that I may lay it up against the boy's festival-day.' So he gave her the purse and changed his clothes, saying, 'Keep the purse safely, O Umm Abdallah, for I am going to the wedding.' But she said, 'Sleep awhile.' So he lay down and fell asleep. Presently, Ali rose and going on tiptoe to the purse, took it and went to the house of the wedding and stood there, looking on.
Meanwhile, Zureic dreamt that he saw a bird fly away with the purse and awaking in affright, said to his wife, 'Rise; look for the purse.' So she looked and finding it gone, buffeted her face and said, 'Alas, the blackness of thy fortune, O Umm Abdallah! A thief bath taken the purse.' 'By Allah,' quoth Zureic, 'it can be none othei than the rascal [who has plagued me all day!] He has followed me home and taken the purse; and needs must I go and get it back.' 'Except thou bring it,' answered his wife, 'I will lock the door on thee and leave thee to pass the night in the street.' So he went up to the house of the wedding, and seeing Ali looking on, said to himself, 'This is he who took the purse; but he lodges with Ahmed ed Denef.' So he ran on before him to the barrack and climbing up at the back, made his way into the saloon, where he found every one asleep. Presently there came a knock at the door and Zureic said, 'Who is there?' 'Ali of Cairo,' answered the knocker; and Zureic said, 'Hast thou brought the purse?' Ali thought it was Hassan Shouman and answered, 'Yes; open the door.' Quoth Zureic, 'I cannot open to thee till I see the purse; for the chief and I have laid a wager about it.' 'Put out thy hand,' said Ali. So he put out his hand through the hole of the door and Ali laid the purse in it; whereupon Zureic took it and going forth, as he had come in, returned to the wedding.
Ali stood awhile at the door, but none opened to him; and at last he gave a thundering knock that awoke all the men and they said, 'That was Ali of Cairo's knock.' So the hail-keeper opened to him and Hassan Shouman said to him, 'Hast thou brought the purse?' 'Enough of jesting, O Shouman,' replied All. 'Didst thou not swear that thou wouldst not open to me till I showed thee the purse, and did I not give it thee through the hole of the door?' 'By Allah,' said Hassan, 'it was not I who took it, but Zureic!' Quoth All, 'Needs must I get it again,' and repaired to the house of the wedding, where he heard the buffoon say, 'Largesse, O Abou Abdallah I Good luck to thee with thy son!' Quoth Ali, 'My luck is in the ascendant,' and going to the fishmonger's house, climbed over the back wall and found his wife asleep. So he drugged her and clad himself in her clothes. Then he took the child in his arms and went round, searching, till he found a basket containing gimblet-cakes, which Zureic, of his niggardliness, had kept from the Feast of the New Moon. Presently, the fishmonger returned and knocked at the door, whereupon Ali imitated his wife's voice and said, 'Who is at the door?' 'Abou Abdallah,' answered Zureic, and Ali said, 'I swore that I would not open the door to thee, except thou broughtest back the purse.' Quoth the fishmonger, 'I have brought it.' 'Then give it into my band,' said Ali, 'before I open the door;' and Zureic answered, saying, 'Let down the basket and take it therein.' So Ali let down the basket and the other put the purse therein, whereupon Ali 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. Then he gave them the cakes, which they ate, and delivered the boy to Hassan Shouman, saying, 'This is Zureic's child; hide it.' So he hid it and fetching a lamb, gave it to the hail-keeper, who cooked it whole, wrapped in a cloth, and laid it out, with a shroud over it, as it were a dead body.
Meanwhile Zureic stood awhile, waiting at the door then gave a thundering knock, and his wife said to him, 'Hast thou brought the purse?' 'Didst thou not take it up in the basket but now?' answered he, and she said, 'I let no basket down to thee, nor have I set eyes on the purse.' 'By Allah,' quoth he, '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!' Whereupon the woman beat her breast and said, 'I will complain of thee to the Vizier, for none has killed my child but this sharper, and all because of thee.' Quoth Zureic, 'I will answer for him.' So he tied the kerchief [of truce] about his neck and going to Ahmed ed Denef's lodging, knocked at the door. The hall-keeper admitted him and Hassan Shouman said to him, 'What brings thee here?' Quoth he, 'Do ye intercede with Ali the Cairene to restore me my child and I will give him the purse.' 'God requite thee, O Ali!' said Hassan. 'Why didst thou not tell me it was his child?' 'What has befallen him?' asked Zureic, and Hassan answered, saying, 'We gave him raisins to eat, and he choked and died; and here he is.' Quoth Zureic, 'Alas, my child! What shall I say to his mother?' Then he rose and opening the shroud, saw it was a lamb cooked whole and said, 'Thou makest sport of me, O Ali!' Then they gave him the child, and Ahmed ed Denef said to him, 'Thou didst hang up the purse, proclaiming that it should be the property of any sharper who should avail to take it, and Ali has taken it; so it is his.' Quoth Zureic, 'I make him a present of it.' But Ali said to him, 'Do thou accept it on account of thy niece Zeyneb.' And Zureic replied, 'I accept it.'
Then said the forty, 'We demand of thee Zeyneb in marriage for Ali of Cairo.' But he answered, saying, 'I have no control over her but of courtesy.' Quoth Hassan, 'Dost thou grant our suit?' 'Yes,' replied he; 'I will grant her in marriage to him who can avail to her dowry.' 'And what is her dowry?' asked Hassan. Quoth Zureic, 'She hath sworn that none shall mount her breast except he bring her the robe of Kemer, daughter of Azariah the Jew, and her crown and girdle and pantable of gold.' 'If I do not bring her the robe this very night,' said Ali, 'I renounce my claim to her.' 'O Ali,' rejoined Zureic, 'if thou play any tricks on Kemer, thou art a dead man.' 'Why so?' asked Ali, and the other said, 'Her father Azariah is a skilful magician, wily and perfidious, and has the Jinn at his service. He has without the city a palace, the walls whereof are one brick of gold and one of silver and which is only visible to the folk whilst he is therein: but, when he goes forth, it disappears. He brought his daughter this robe I speak of from an enchanted treasure, and every day he lays it in a dish of gold and opening the windows of the palace, cries out, saying, "Where are the sharpers of Cairo, the cutters of Irak, the master-thieves of the land of the Persians? Whoso availeth to take this robe, it is his." So all the light-fingered gentry essayed the adventure, but availed not to take it, and he turned them into apes and asses.' But Ali said, 'I will assuredly take it and Zeyneb shall be displayed therein.' (92)
So he went to the shop of the Jew and found him a man of stern and forbidding aspect, seated with scales and weights and gold and silver and nests of drawers and so forth before him, and a 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 mule's back. Then he mounted and rode, followed, without his knowledge, by Ali, till he came some way without the city, when he took out a little dust from a purse he carried in his pocket and muttering over it certain magical words, sprinkled it in the air. No sooner had he done this than there appeared a palace, which had not its like, and the Jew mounted the steps without alighting; after which he dismounted and taking the saddle-bags off the mule's back, dismissed the latter, which was a genie he had pressed into his service, and it vanished. Then he entered the palace and sat down, whilst Ali watched him from behind the door. 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 tray by chains of the same metal, laid in it the robe and cried out, saying, 'Where are the sharpers of Cairo? Where are the cutpurses of Irak, the master-thieves of the land of the Persians? Whoso can take this robe by practice, it is his!' Then he pronounced certain conjurations and behold, a tray of food spread itself before him. He ate and conjured a second time, whereupon the tray disappeared and a table of wine appeared in its stead, and he drank. Quoth Ali, 'I know not how I am to take the robe, except if he be drunken.'
Then he stole up behind the Jew, with his drawn sword in his hand; but the other turned and conjured, saying to his hand, 'Hold with the sword;' whereupon Ali's right arm was arrested and abode half-way in the air, holding the sword. He put out his left hand to the weapon, but it also abode 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 Ali became as before. Then Azariah levelled a table of sand and drew a geomantic figure, by which he found that the intruder's name was Quicksilver Ali of Cairo; so he turned to him and said, 'Who art thou and what dost thou here?' 'I am Ali of Cairo,' answered the sharper, 'of the band of Ahmed ed Denef. I sought the hand of Zeyneb, daughter of Delileh the Crafty, and she demanded thy daughter's robe to her dowry; give it to me and become a Muslim, if thou wouldst save thy life.' 'After thy death,' answered the Jew. 'Many have gone about to steal the robe, but could not avail thereto; so, if thou wilt take good advice, thou wilt begone and save thyself; for they only seek the robe of thee, that thou mayst fall into destruction; and indeed, had I not found by geomancy that thy fortune overritdeth my own, I had cut off thy head.'
Ali rejoiced to hear that his luck overrode that of the Jew and said to him, 'There is no help for it but I must have the robe and thou must become a true believer.' 'Is this thy last word?' asked the Jew, and Ali answered, 'Yes.' So the Jew took a cup and filling it with water, conjured over it and said to Ali, 'Quit this shape of a man for that of an ass.' Then he sprinkled him with the water and straightway he became an ass, with hoofs and long ears, and fell to braying after the manner of asses. The Jew drew a circle round him, which became a wall against him, and drank on till the morning, when he said to Ali, 'I will ride thee to-day and give the mule a rest.' So he locked up the robe and tray and rod in a cupboard and conjured over Ali, who followed him. Then he laid the saddle-bags on his back and mounting, rode forth of the palace, whereupon it disappeared 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 tied him up by the shop-door, where he stood, hearing and understanding all that passed, without being able to speak.
Presently, 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 his wife's bracelets to the Jew and said to him, 'Give me the worth of these bracelets, that I may buy me an ass.' 'What wilt thou do with him?' asked the Jew, and the other answered, '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 Ali of Cairo in part payment, in the shape of an ass, and carried him home. Quoth Ali in himself, 'If the ass-man clap the pannel on me and load me with water-skins and go half a score journeys a day with me, he will ruin my health and I shall 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 head with his mouth, put out that which his father left him. She cried out and the neighbours came to her assistance and beat him and drove him off her breast. When her husband came home, she said to him, 'Either divorce me or return the ass to [his former] owner.' 'What has happened?' asked he; and she answered, saying, 'This is a devil in the guise of an ass. He sprang upon me, and had not the neighbours beaten him off me, he had done a foul thing with me.'
So he carried the ass back to the Jew, who said to him, 'Why 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, 'Unlucky wretch that thou art, hast thou recourse to knavery to cause him return thee to me? But since it pleases thee to be an ass, I will make thee a laughing-stock to great and small.' Then he mounted him and rode till he came without the city, when he brought out the powder and conjuring over it, cast it abroad in the air, and immediately the palace appeared. He entered and taking the saddle-bags off the ass, set up the rod and dish and hung out the robe, proclaiming aloud as of his wont. Then he conjured, and meat and wine appeared before him and he ate and drank; after which he took a cup of water and pronouncing certain words thereover, sprinkled it on Ali, saying, 'Quit this shape and return to thy former one.' Ali straightway became a man again and Azariah said to him, 'O Ali, take good advice and be content with [what thou hast felt of] my mischief. Thou hast no call to marry Zeyneb nor to take my daughter's robe, for it is no easy matter for thee; so leave covetise and it will be better for thee. Else will I turn thee into a bear or an ape or set an Afrit on thee, who will cast thee behind the Mountain Caf.' 'O Azariah,' answered Ali, 'I have engaged to take the robe and needs must I have it and thou must become a Muslim; else I will kill thee.' 'O Ali,' rejoined the Jew, '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 it, saying, 'Take the shape of a bear;' whereupon he instantly became a bear and the Jew muzzled him and putting a collar about his neck, chained him to a picket of iron. Then he sat down and ate and drank, now and then throwing him a morsel and emptying the dregs of the cup over him, till the morning, when he rose and lay by the tray and the robe and conjured over the bear, which followed him to the shop. There he tied him up by the chain and he abode, hearing and seeing and understanding, but unable to speak, whilst the Jew sat down and emptied the gold and silver into the trays before him. Presently up came a merchant, who accosted the Jew and said to him, 'Wilt thou sell me yonder bear? I have a wife who is my cousin [and is sick;] and it hath been prescribed to her to eat bears' flesh and anoint herself with the grease.' At this the Jew rejoiced and said in himself, 'I will sell him to this merchant, so he may slaughter him and we be at peace from him,' And Ali thought in himself, 'By Allah, this fellow means to slaughter me; but deliverance is with God.' 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, 'Take thy tools and follow me.' So the butcher took his knives and followed the merchant to his house, where he bound the beast and fell to sharpening his knife; but when he went up to him to kill him, the bear escaped from his hands and rising into the air, disappeared from sight.
Now the reason of this was on this wise. When the Jew returned to his palace, his daughter questioned him of Ali and he told her what had happened; whereupon, 'Call a genie,' said she, 'and ask him of the youth, whether he be indeed Quicksilver Ali or another who seeketh to put a cheat on thee.' So Azariah called a genie and questioned him of Ali. And he answered, saying, 'It is Ali of Cairo himself. The butcher has bound him and whetted his knife to kill him.' Quoth the Jew, 'Go, snatch him up and bring him hither, ere the butcher slaughter him.' So the genie flew off and snatching Ali out of the butcher's hands, carried 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 Kemer, seeing him to be a handsome young man, fell in love with him and he with her; and she said to him, 'O unlucky one, why dost thou go about to take my robe and enforce my father deal thus with thee?' Quoth he, 'I have engaged to get it for Zeyneb the Trickstress, that I may wed her therewith.' And she said, 'Others than thou have gone about with my father to get the robe, but could not compass it: so put away this thought from thee.' But he answered, saying, 'Needs must I have it, and thy father must become a Muslim; or I will kill him.'
Then said the Jew, 'See, O my daughter, how this unlucky fellow seeks his own destruction. But I will turn him into a dog.' So he took a cup graven with characters and full of water and conjuring over it, sprinkled Ali therefrom, saying, 'Take the form of a dog.' Whereupon he straightway became a dog, and the Jew and his daughter drank together till the morning, when the former laid up the robe and tray and mounted his mule. Then he conjured over the dog, which followed him, as he rode towards the town, and all the dogs barked at Ali, as he passed, till he came to the shop of a broker, who rose and drove away the dogs, and Ali lay down before him. The Jew turned and looked for him, but finding him not, [rode on].
Presently, the broker shut up his shop and went home, followed by the dog. When his daughter saw the dog enter the house, she veiled her face and said, 'O my father, why dost thou bring a strange man in to me?' 'O my daughter,' answered the broker, 'this is a dog.' 'Not so,' quoth she, 'it is Ali of Cairo, whom the Jew Azariah hath enchanted.' And she turned to the dog and said to him, 'Art thou not Ali of Cairo?' And he signed to her with his head, as who should say, 'Yes.' Then said her father to her, 'Why did the Jew enchant him?' And she answered, 'Because of his daughter Kemer's robe; but I can release him.' 'If thou canst indeed do him this good office,' said the broker, 'now is the time.' Quoth she, 'If he will marry me, I will release him.' And he signed to her with his head, as who should say, 'Yes.' So she took a cup of water, graven with certain signs and characters, and conjuring over it, [was about to sprinkle Ali therewith,] when she heard a great cry and the cup fell from her hand. She turned and lo, it was her father's maid, who had cried out; and she said to her, 'O my mistress, is it thus thou keepest thy covenant between me and thee? None taught thee this fashion but I, and thou didst covenant with me that thou wouldst do nought without consulting me and that he who took thee to wife should marry me also, and that one night should be mine and one thine.' And the broker's daughter said, 'It is well.'
When the broker heard the maid's words, he said to his daughter, 'Who taught the maid?' And she answered, 'herself.' So he asked her and she said, '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 magical operations; and when he went forth to his shop in Baghdad, I opened his books and read in them, till I became skilled in the Cabala. One day, he was warm with wine and would have me lie with him, but I refused, saying, "I may not grant thee this except thou become a Muslim." He refused and I required him to carry me to the Sultan's market and sell me there. So he sold me to thee and I taught my young mistress, making it a condition with her that she should do nought, without taking counsel with me, and that whoso married her should marry me also, one night for her and one for me.' Then she took a cup of water and conjuring over it, sprinkled the dog therewith; saying, 'Return to the form of a man.' And he was straightway restored to his former shape; whereupon the broker saluted him and asked him the manner of his enchantment. So Ali told him all that had passed and the broker said to him, 'Will [not] my daughter and the maid suffice thee?' But he answered, saying, 'Needs must I have Zeyneb [also].'
At this moment there came a knock at the door and the maid said, 'Who is at the door?' 'Kemer, daughter of Azariah the Jew,' answered the new comer. 'Is Ali of Cairo with you?' 'O Jew's daughter,' answered the young lady, '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 Ali saw her, he said to her, 'What brings thee hither, O dog's daughter?' Quoth she, 'I testify that there is no god but God and that Mohammed is the Apostle of God. Do men in the faith of Islam give marriage-portions to women or women to men?' 'Men endow women,' answered Ali. 'Then,' said she, 'I come and dower myself for thee, bringing thee, as my marriage-portion, my robe, together with the rod and tray and chains and the head of my father, thine enemy and the enemy of God.' And she threw down the Jew's head before him. Now the manner of her killing her father was as follows. On the night of his turning Ali into a dog, she saw, in a dream, one who said to her, 'Become a Muslim.' And she did so. Next morning, as soon as she awoke, she expounded Islam to her father, but he refused to embrace the faith; so she drugged him and killed him. As for Ali, he took the gear and giving the broker rendezvous for the morrow at the Divan of the Khalif, that he might take his daughter and the maid to wife, 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 saying, 'There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme! Folk's labour is become sin and men are active but in fraud!, Then said he to Ali, 'I conjure thee, by Allah, taste of this marchpane!' So Ali took a piece and ate it and fell down senseless, for there was henbane therein; whereupon the sweetmeat-seller took the robe and the tray and the rest of the gear and thrusting them into the box in which he kept his sweetmeats, made off. Presently he met a cadi, who called to him, saying, 'Come hither, O sweetmeat-seller?' So he went up to him and setting down his sack, laid the tray of sweetmeats thereon and said, 'What dost thou want?' 'Marchpane and sugar-almonds,' answered the cadi and taking some in his hand, said, 'These are adulterated.' Then he brought out sweetmeats from his sleeve and gave them to the sweetmeat-seller, saying, 'Look at this ware; how excellent it is! Eat it and make the like.' So he ate and fell down senseless, for the sweet-meats were drugged, whereupon the sham cadi, who was none other than Hassan Shouman, bundled him into the sack and made off with him, tray and chest and all, to the barrack of the Forty. Now the reason of this was as follows. When Ali had been gone some days in quest of the robe and they heard no news of him, Ahmed ed Denef said to his men, 'O lads, go and seek for your brother Ali.' So they sallied forth in quest of him and among the rest Hassan Shouman, disguised in a cadi's habit. He came across the sweetmeat-seller and knowing him for Ahmed el Lekit [Delileh's grandson,] suspected him of having played some trick upon Ali; so be drugged him and did as we have seen.
Meanwhile, the other forty went about, making search in different directions, and amongst them Ali Kitf el Jemel, who, seeing a crowd of people, made towards them and found Quicksilver Ali lying drugged and senseless in their midst. So he revived him and he came to himself and said, 'Where am I?' 'We found thee lying here drugged,' answered El Jemel, 'but know not who drugged thee.' Quoth Ali, 'It was a certain sweetmeat-seller who drugged me and took the gear from me: but where is he gone?' 'We have seen nothing of him,' replied his comrades; 'but come, rise and go home with us.' So they returned to the barrack, where they found Ahmed ed Denef, who greeted Ali and enquired if he had brought the robe. Quoth he, 'I was coming hither with it and the Jew's head and what not else, when a sweetmeat-seller met me and drugged me and took them ftom me; but, if I come across him again, I will requite him.'
Presently Hassan Shouman came out of a closet and said to him, 'O Ali, hast thou gotten the gear?' So he told him what had befallen him and added, 'If I knew where to find the knave, I would pay him out.' 'Knowest thou whither he went?' 'Yes,' answered Hassan; 'I know where he is,' and opening the door of the closet, showed him the sweetmeat-seller within, drugged and senseless. Then he aroused him and he opened his eyes and finding himself in presence of Quicksilver Ali and Ahmed ed Denef and the Forty, started up and said, 'Where am I and who has laid hands on me?' 'It was I laid hands on thee,' answered Hassan; and Ali said, 'O perfidious wretch, wilt thou play thy tricks on me?' And he would have slain him: but Hassan said to him, 'Hold thy hand, for this fellow is become thy kinsman.' 'How so?' asked Ali; and Hassan said, 'This is Ahmed el Lekit, Zeyneb's sister's son.'
Then said Ali to the prisoner, 'Why didst thou thus, O Lekit?' and he answered, saying, 'My grandmother, Delileh the Crafty, bade me do it; because Zureic the fishmonger foregathered with her and said, "Quicksilver Ali is a sharper and a past master in craft and knavery, and he will certainly kill the Jew and bring back the robe." So she sent for me and said to me, "O Ahmed, dost thou know Ali of Cairo?" "Yes," answered I; "it was I who directed him to Ahmed ed Denef's lodging, when he first came to Baghdad." Quoth she, "Go and set thy snares for him, and if he have brought back the gear, put a cheat on him and take it from him." So I went round about the city, till I met a sweetmeat-seller and buying his clothes and stock-in-trade and gear for ten dinars, did with thee as thou knowest.' Quoth All, 'Go back to thy grandmother and Zureic and tell them that I have brought the gear and the Jew's head and bid them meet me to-morrow at the Khalif's Divan, to receive Zeyneb's dowry.' And Ahmed ed Denef rejoiced in this and said to Ali, 'Thou hast not disappointed our pains in rearing thee, O Ali!'
Next morning, Ali took the robe and tray and the rod and chains of gold, together with the Jew's head on a pike, and went up, accompanied by Ahmed ed Denef and the Forty, to the Divan, where they kissed the ground before the Khalif, who turned and seeing a youth of the most valiant aspect, enquired of Ahmed ed Denef concerning him. 'O Commander of the Faithful,' answered Ahmed, 'this is Quicksilver Ali the Egyptian, captain of the brave boys of Cairo, and he is the first of my lads.' And the Khalif loved him for the valour that shone from between his eyes, testifying for him and not against him. Then Ali rose and cast the Jew's head down before him, saying, 'May all thine enemies be like this one, O Commander of the Faithful!' Quoth Er Reshid, 'Whose head is this?' And Ali answered, 'It is the head of Azariah the Jew.' 'Who slew him?' asked the Khalif. So Ali related to him all that had passed, from first to last, and the Khalif said, 'I had not thought thou wouldst kill him, for that he was a sorcerer.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' rejoined Ali, 'my Lord made me able to his slaughter.' Then the Khalif sent the chief of the police to the Jew's palace, where he found him lying headless; so he laid the body on a bier, and carried it to Er Reshid, who commanded to burn it.
At this moment up came Kemer and kissing the earth before the Khalif, informed him that she was the Jew's daughter and that she had become a Muslim. Then she renewed her profession before the Commander of the Faithful and said to him, 'Be thou my intercessor with Quicksilver Ali that he take me to wife.' [So Er Reshid interceded with Ali] and she appointed him her guardian to consent to her marriage with the sharper, to whom he gave the Jew's palace and all its contents, saying, 'Ask a boon of me.' Quoth Ali, 'I beg of thee to let me stand on thy carpet and eat of thy table.' And the Khalif said, 'O Ali, hast thou any lads?' 'Yes,' answered he, 'I have forty lads; but they are in Cairo.' 'Send to Cairo,' said the Khalif' and fetch them hither. But hast thou a lodging for them?' 'No,' replied Ali; and Hassan Shouman said, 'O Commander of the Faithful, I make him a present of my barrack, with all that is therein.' But the Khalif answered, saying, 'O Hassan, thy lodging is thine own.' And bade his treasurer give the court architect ten thousand dinars, that he might build Ali a hall with four estrades and forty sleeping-closets for his lads. Then said he, 'O Ali, hast thou any further wish, that we may order its fulfilment?' 'O King of the age,' answered Ali, 'be thou my intercessor with Delileh the Crafty that she give me her daughter Zeyneb to wife and take the Jew's robe and gear in lieu of dower.' Delileh accepted the Khalif's intercession and took the robe and dish and what not, and they drew up the marriage contracts between Ali and Zeyneb and Kemer, the Jew's daughter and the broker's daughter and the maid. Moreover, the Khalif assigned him stipends and gratuities and a table morning and evening, together with allowances for fodder and what not.
Then Ali fell to making ready for the wedding festivities and after thirty days, he wrote a letter to his comrades in Cairo, wherein he gave them to know of the favours that the Khalif had bestowed upon him and said, 'I have married four girls and needs must ye come to the wedding.' So, after awhile, the forty lads arrived and they held high festival. Moreover, he lodged them in his barrack and entreated them with the utmost honour and presented them to the Khalif, who bestowed on them dresses of honour and largesse. Then the tiring-women displayed Zeyneb before Ali in the robe of the Jew's daughter, and he went in to her and found her an unpierced pearl and a filly that none but he had ridden. Then he went in to the three other girls and found them accomplished in beauty and grace.
After this, it befell that Ali was one night on guard by the Khalif and the latter said to him, 'O Ali, I wish thee to tell me all that has befallen thee from first to last.' So Ali related to him all his adventures and the Khalif bade record them and lay them up in the royal treasuries. So they wrote down all that had befallen him and laid it up with other histories for the people of the Best of Men. (93) And Ali and his wives and comrades abode in all delight and solace of life, till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Companies; and blessed and exalted be Allah, for He [alone] is All-knowing!