STORY OF THE LADY OF CAIRO AND HER FOUR GALLANTS.
A virtuous lady of Cairo, who seldom left her house but upon urgent business, one day returning from the bath, passed by the tribunal of the cauzee just as it was breaking up, when the magistrate perceived her, and struck with her dignity and elegance of gait, from which he judged of her beauty, called her to him, and in a soft whisper expressed his desire of a private interview. The lady being resolved to punish him for his unworthy conduct, seemingly consented, and desired him to repair to her house that evening, which he gladly promised. She then pursued her route homewards, but was on the way accosted by three other men, who made her similar proposals, all which she accepted, and fixed that evening for receiving their visits. The first of these gallants was the customs tax-collector of Cairo, the second the chief of the butchers, and the third a rich merchant.
When the lady returned to her house she informed her husband of what had happened, and begged him to permit her to execute a stratagem that she had formed to punish their insolence, which would not only afford himself and her much laughable amusement, but solid advantage, as doubtless the lovers would each bring with him a handsome present. The husband, who knew he could trust the virtue of his wife, readily consented, and the lady having prepared a handsome entertainment, adorned herself in her richest apparel, and seated herself to receive her guests. Evening had just shut in, when the venerable cauzee having finished his sunset devotions, impatiently repaired first to his mistress and knocked at the door, which the lady opened and led him upstairs, where he presented her with a rosary of valuable pearl; after which she made him undress, and in place of his robes put on a loose vest of yellow muslin, and a parti-coloured cap, her husband all the while looking at them through the door of a closet, and ready to burst his sides with laughter as he beheld the tender grimaces of the enamoured magistrate. The happiness of the venerable gallant was however soon changed to frightful alarm, for he had scarcely sat down and begun to partake of some refreshment, when a loud rap was heard at the door; upon which the lady starting up in well-affected terror, cried out, "Mahummud protect us! for this is my husband's knock, and if he finds you here, he will put us both to death." The cauzee's heart sank within him, and he became more dead than alive; but the lady somewhat revived him by thrusting him into her bed-chamber, desiring him to remain still, as possibly a way might be found for his escape. He gladly retired, secretly vowing that if spared from his present threatening distress, Satan should no more tempt him to make love or break the sacred law.
The lady having disposed of the cauzee, hastened to the door, where she found the expecting tax-collector, who brought with him, as a present, a set of jewels. She shewed him upstairs, took off his rich clothes, and made him put on a crimson vest, and a green cap with black spots. He had scarcely sat down when the door again resounded, and she played over the same game as she had done with the cauzee, who on his also entering the bed-chamber was somewhat pleased at seeing a brother magistrate in the same ridiculous plight with himself. The venerable lovers condoled by signs with each other, but dared not speak for fear of discovery. The chief of the butchers, on his arrival, was next ushered up stairs, and his present received, then made to undress and put on a blue vest with a scarlet cap, ornamented with sea shells and bits of tinsel; but he had scarce time to finish, when a fourth loud rap was heard at the door, the scene of alarm was renewed, and the frightened gallant hurried into the room to keep company with his rivals. Now appeared the respectable merchant, who presented the cunning lady with several rich veils, pieces of silk, and embroidered muslins, after which he was asked to undress and enrobe himself in a sky coloured vest and a cap striped with red and white; which he had hardly put on when a thundering knock at the gate put an end to his transports, and the wife pretending great alarm, as it was her husband's rap, forced him into the bed-chamber, where, to his surprise he discovered three of his intimate acquaintance.
The husband, who had left his hiding place and knocked at the door, now entered, and after saluting his wife, sat down, when having partaken of the refreshments provided for the gallants, the happy couple entered into conversation loud enough to be overheard by the wretched inamorati, who were quaking for fear of discovery. "Light of my eyes," said the husband, "didst thou meet with any thing amusing to-day in thy visit to the bath? and if so, divert me with an account of it." "I did, indeed," said the lady, "for I met with four antic creatures, whom" (at hearing this the unfortunate lovers gave themselves over for lost) "I had a great inclination to bring home with me" (here they recovered a little from their alarm) "to divert us, but fearful of your displeasure I did not; however, if agreeable, we can send for them to-morrow." The frighted gallants now indulged some hope of escape through the kindness of their cunning mistress, and began to breathe a little freer, but very short was the suspension of their fears. "I am sorry thou didst not bring them," said the husband, "because business will to-morrow call me from home, and I shall be absent for some days." Upon this, the lady laughing, said, "Well, then, you must know that in fact I have brought them, and was diverting myself with them when you came in, but fearful you might suspect something wrong I hurried them into our bed-chamber, in order to conceal them till I had tried your temper, hoping, should you not be in good humour, to find some means of letting them out undiscovered." It is impossible to describe the alarm into which the wretched gallants were now plunged, especially when the husband commanded his wife to bring them out one by one, saying, "Let each entertain us with a dance and then recite a story, but if they do not please me, I will strike off their heads." "Heaven protect us," said the cauzee, "how can men of our gravity dance? but there is no resisting the decrees of fate, nor do I see any chance of escape from this artful baggage and her savage husband but by performing as well as we can." His companions were of the same opinion, and mustered what courage they could to act as they should be ordered.
The wife now entered the chamber, and putting a tambourine into the cauzee's hands, led him out and began to play a merry tune upon her lute, to which the affrighted magistrate danced with a thousand antics and grimaces like an old baboon, beating time with the tambourine, to the great delight of the husband, who every now and then jeeringly cried out, "Really wife, if I did not know this fellow was a buffoon, I should take him for our cauzee; but God forgive me, I know our worthy magistrate is either at his devotions, or employed in investigating cases for to-morrow's decision." Upon this the cauzee danced with redoubled vigour, and more ridiculous gestures, in hopes of evading discovery. At length he was overpowered by such unusual exercise; but the husband had no mercy upon his sufferings, and made him continue capering by threatening the bastinado, till the tired judge was exhausted, and fainted upon the floor in a bath of perspiration, when they held him up, and pouring a goblet of wine down his throat it somewhat revived him. He was now suffered to breathe a little, and something given him to eat, which, with a second cup of liquor, recovered his strength. The husband now demanded his story; and the cauzee, assuming the gesture of a coffee-house droll, began as follows.
The Cauzee's Story.
A young tailor, whose shop was opposite the house of an officer, was so attracted from his work by the appearance of a beautiful young lady, his wife, in her balcony, that he became desperately in love, and would sit whole days waiting her coming, and when she showed herself make signs of his passion. For some time his ridiculous action diverted her, but at length she grew tired of the farce she had kept up by answering his signals, and of the interruption it gave to her taking the fresh air, so that she resolved to punish him for his presumption, and oblige him to quit his stall. Having laid her plan, one day when her husband was gone out for a few hours she dispatched a female slave to invite the tailor to drink coffee. To express the rapture of the happy snip is impossible. He fell at the feet of the slave, which he kissed as the welcome messengers of good tidings, gave her a piece of gold, and uttered some nonsensical verses that he had composed in praise of his beloved; then dressing himself in his best habit, he folded his turban in the most tasty manner, and curled his mustachios to the greatest advantage, after which he hastened exultingly to the lady's house, and was admitted to her presence. She sat upon a rich musnud, and gracefully lifting up her veil welcomed the tailor, who was so overcome that he had nearly fainted away with excess of rapture. She desired him to be seated, but such was his bashfulness that he would not approach farther than the corner of the carpet. Coffee was brought in, and a cup presented him; but not being used to such magnificence and form, and his eyes, also, being staringly fixed on the beauties of the lady, instead of carrying the cup to his mouth, he hit his nose and overthrew the liquid upon his vest. The lady smiled, and ordered him another cup; but while he was endeavouring to drink it with a little more composure, a loud knock was heard at the door, and she starting up, cried out with great agitation, "Good heavens! this is my husband's knock; if he finds us together he will sacrifice us to his fury!" The poor tailor, in terror, fell flat upon the carpet, when the lady and her slave threw some cold water upon his face, and when a little recovered hurried him away to a chamber, into which they forced him, and desired him to remain quiet, as the only means of saving his life. Here he remained quivering and trembling, more alive than dead, but perfectly cured of his love, and vowing never again to look up at a balcony.
When the tailor was disposed of, the lady again sat down upon her stool, and ordered her slave to open the gate. Upon her husband's entering the room he was surprised at beholding things set out for an entertainment, and inquired who had been with her; when she replied tartly, "A lover." "And where is he now?" angrily replied the officer. "In yonder chamber, and if you please you may sacrifice him to your fury, and myself afterwards." The officer demanded the key, which she gave him; but while this was passing, the agony of the unfortunate tailor was worse than death; he fully expecting every moment to have his head struck off: in short, he was in a most pitiable condition. The officer went to the door, and had put the key into the lock, when his wife burst suddenly into a fit of laughter: upon which he exclaimed angrily, "Who do you laugh at?" "Why, at yourself, to be sure, my wise lord," replied the lady; "for who but yourself could suppose a woman serious when she told him where to find out a concealed lover? I wanted to discover how far jealousy would carry you, and invented this trick for the purpose," The officer, upon this, was struck with admiration of his wife's pleasantry and his own credulity, which so tickled his fancy that he laughed immoderately, begged pardon for his foolish conduct, and they spent the evening cheerfully together; after which, the husband going to the bath, his wife charitably released the almost dead tailor, and reproving him for his impertinence, declared if he ever again looked up at her balcony she would contrive his death. The tailor, perfectly cured of love for his superior in life, made the most abject submission, thanked her for his deliverance, hurried home, prayed heartily for his escape, and the very next day took care to move from so dangerous a neighbourhood.
The husband and wife were highly diverted with the cauze's story, and after another dance permitted him to depart, and get home as well as he could in his ridiculous habit. How he got there, and what excuse he was able to make for so unmagisterial an appearance, we are not informed; but strange whispers went about the city, and the cauzee's dance became the favourite one or the strolling drolls, whom he had often the mortification of seeing taking him off as he passed to and from the tribunal, and not unfrequently in causes of adultery the evidences and culprits would laugh in his face. He, however, never again suffered Satan to tempt him, and was scarcely able to look at a strange woman, so great was his fear of being led astray.
When the cauzee was gone, the lady, repairing to the apartment, brought out the grave tax-collector, whom her husband addressed by name, saying, "Venerable sir, how long have you turned droll? can you favour me with a dance?" The tax-collector made no reply, but began capering, nor was he permitted to stop till quite tired. He was then allowed to sit, some refreshment was given him, and when revived he was desired to tell a story: knowing resistance vain, he complied. After having finished he was dismissed, and the other gallants were brought in and treated in a like manner.