AL-MALIK AL-ZAHIR RUKN AL-DIN BIBARS AL-BUNDUKDARI AND THE SIXTEEN CAPTAINS OF POLICE. [FN#1]
There was once in the climes [FN#2] of Egypt and the city of Cairo, under the Turks, a king of the valiant kings and the exceeding mighty Soldans, hight Al-Malik al-Záhir Rukn al-Din Bibars al-Bundukdári, [FN#3] who was used to storm the Islamite sconces and the strongholds of "The Shore" [FN#4] and the Nazarene citadels. His Chief of Police in the capital of his kingdom, was just to the folk, all of them; and Al-Malik al-Zahir delighted in stories of the common sort and of that which men purposed in thought; and he loved to see this with his own eyes and to hear their sayings with his own ears. Now it fortuned that he heard one night from a certain of his nocturnal reciters [FN#5] that among women are those who are doughtier than the doughtiest men and prower of prowess, and that among them are some who will engage in fight singular with the sword and others who beguile the quickest-witted of Walis and baffle them and bring down on them all manner of miseries; wherefore said the Soldan, "I would lief hear this of their legerdemain from one of those who have had to do with it, so I may hearken unto him and cause him discourse." And one of the story-tellers said, "O king, send for the Chief of Police of this thy city." Now 'Alam al-Din [FN#6] Sanjar was at that time Wali and he was a man of experience, in affairs well versed; so the king sent for him and when he came before him, he discovered to him that which was in his mind. Quoth Sanjar, "I will do my endeavour for that which our lord seeketh." Then he arose and returning to his house, summoned the Captains of the watch and the Lieutenants of the ward and said to them, "Know that I purpose to marry my son and make him a bridal banquet, and I desire that ye assemble, all of you, in one place. I also will be present, I and my company, and do ye relate that which you have heard of rare occurrences and that which hath betided you of experiences." And the Captains and Runners and Agents of Police answered him, "'Tis well: Bismillah--in the name of Allah! We will make thee see all this with thine own eyes and hear it with thine own ears." Then the Chief of Police arose and going up to Al-Malik al-Zahir, informed him that the assembly would meet on such a day at his house; and the Soldan said, "'Tis well," and gave him somewhat of coin for his spending-money. When the appointed day came the Chief of Police set apart for his officers and constables a saloon, which had latticed casements ranged in order and giving upon the flower-garden, and Al-Malik al-Zahir came to him, and he seated himself and the Soldan, in the alcove. Then the tables were spread for them with food and they ate: and when the bowl went round amongst them and their souls were gladdened by meat and drink, they mutually related that which was with them and, revealed their secrets from concealment. The first to discourse was a man, a Captain of the Watch, hight Mu'ín al-Din [FN#7] whose heart was wholly occupied with the love of fair women; and he said, "Harkye, all ye people of high degree, I will acquaint you with an extraordinary affair which fortuned me aforetime." Then he began to tell
The First Constable's History. [FN#8]
Know ye that when I entered the service of this Emir, [FN#9] I had a great repute and every low fellow and lewd feared me most of all mankind, and when I rode through the city, each and every of the folk would point at me with their fingers and sign at me with their eyes. It happened one day, as I sat in the palace of the Prefecture, back-propped against a wall, considering in myself, suddenly there fell somewhat in my lap, and behold, it was a purse sealed and tied. So I hent it in hand and lo! it had in it an hundred dirhams, [FN#10] but I found not who threw it and I said, "Lauded be the Lord, the King of the Kingdoms!" [FN#11] Another day, as I sat in the same way, somewhat fell on me and startled me, and lookye, 'twas a purse like the first: I took it and hiding the matter, made as though I slept, albeit sleep was not with me. One day as I thus shammed sleep, I suddenly sensed in my lap a hand, and in it a purse of the finest; so I seized the hand and behold, 'twas that of a fair woman. Quoth I to her, "O my lady, who art thou?" and quoth she, "Rise and come away from here, that I may make myself known to thee." Presently I rose up and following her, walked on, without tarrying, till we stopped at the door of a high-builded house, whereupon I asked her, "O my lady, who art thou? Indeed, thou hast done me kindness, and what is the reason of this?" She answered, "By Allah, O Captain [FN#12] Mu'in, I am a woman on whom love and longing are sore for desire of the daughter of the Kazi Amín al-Hukm. [FN#13] Now there was between me and her what was and fondness for her fell upon my heart and I agreed upon an assignation with her, according to possibility and convenience; but her father Amin al-Hukm took her and went away, and my heart cleaveth to her and yearning and distraction waxed sore upon me for her sake." I said to her, marvelling the while at her words, "What wouldst thou have me do?" and said she, "O Captain Mu'in, I would have thee lend me a helping hand." Quoth I, "Where am I and where is the daughter of the Kazi Amin al-Hukm?" [FN#14] and quoth she "Be assured that I would not have thee intrude upon the Kazi's daughter, but I would fain work for the winning of my wishes. This is my will and my want which may not be wroughten save by thine aid." Then she added, "I mean this night to go with heart enheartened and hire me bracelets and armlets and anklets of price; then will I hie me and sit in the street wherein is the house of Amin al-Hukm; and when 'tis the season of the round and folk are asleep, do thou pass, thou and those who are with thee of the men, and thou wilt see me sitting and on me fine raiment and ornaments and wilt smell on me the odour of Ottars; whereupon do thou question me of my case and I will say, 'I hail from the Citadel and am of the daughters of the deputies [FN#15] and I came down into the town for a purpose; but night overtook me all unawares and the Zuwaylah Gate [FN#16] was shut against me and all the other portals and I knew not whither I should wend this night. Presently I saw this street and noting the goodly fashion of its ordinance and its cleanliness, I sheltered me therein against break of day.' When I speak these words to thee with complete self-possession, [FN#17] the Chief of the watch will have no ill suspicion of me, but will say, 'There's no help but that we leave her with one who will take care of her till morning.' Thereto do thou rejoin, ''Twere best that she night with Amin al-Hukm and lie with his wives [FN#18] and children until dawn of day.' Then straightway knock at the Kazi's door, and thus shall I have secured admission into his house, without inconvenience, and won my wish; and--the Peace!" I said to her, "By Allah, this is an easy matter." So, when the night was blackest, we rose to make our round, followed by men with girded swords, and went about the ways and compassed the city, till we came to the street [FN#19] where was the woman, and it was the middle of the night. Here we smelt mighty rich scents and heard the clink of rings: so I said to my comrades, "Methinks I espy a spectre;" and the Captain of the watch cried, "See what it is." Accordingly, I undertook the work and entering the thoroughfare presently came out again and said, "I have found a fair woman and she telleth me that she is from the Citadel and that dark night surprised her and she saw this street and noting its cleanness and goodly fashion of ordinance, knew that it belonged to a great man [FN#20] and that needs must there be in it a guardian to keep watch over it, so she sheltered her therein." Quoth the Captain of the watch to me, "Take her and carry her to thy house;" but quoth I, "I seek refuge with Allah! [FN#21] My house is no strong box [FN#22] and on this woman are trinkets and fine clothing. By Allah, we will not deposit the lady save with Amin al-Hukm, in whose street she hath been since the first starkening of the darkness; therefore do thou leave her with him till the break of day." He rejoined, "Do whatso thou willest." So I rapped at the Kazi's gate 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 day shall dawn, for that the lieutenant of the Emir Alam al-Din hath found her with trinkets and fine apparel on her, sitting at the door of your house, and we feared lest her responsibility be upon you; [FN#23] wherefore I suggested 'twere meetest she night with you." So the chattel opened and took her in with him. Now when the morning morrowed, the first who presented himself before the Emir was the Kazi Amin al-Hukm, leaning on two of his negro slaves; and he was crying out and calling for aid and saying, "O Emir, crafty and perfidious, yesternight thou depositedst with me a woman and broughtest her into my house and home, and she arose in the dark and took from me the monies of the little orphans my wards, [FN#24] six great bags, each containing a thousand dinars, [FN#25] and made off; but as for me, I will say no syllable to thee except in the Soldan's presence." [FN#26] When the Wali heard these words, he was troubled and rose and sat down in his agitation; then he took the Judge and placing 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 of that. They fixed the affair on me and said, "We know nothing of this matter but from Captain Mu'in al-Din." So the Kazi turned to me and said, "Thou wast of accord to practice upon me with this woman, for she said she came from the Citadel." As for me, I stood, with my head bowed ground-wards, forgetting both Sunnah and Farz, [FN#27] and remained sunk in thought, saying, "How came I to be the dupe of that randy wench?" Then cried the Emir to me, "What aileth thee that thou answerest not?" Thereupon I replied, "O my lord, 'tis a custom among the folk that he who hath a payment to make at a certain date is allowed three days' grace: do thou have patience with me so long, and if, at the end of that time, the culprit be not found, I will be responsible for that which is lost." When the folk heard my speech they all approved it as reasonable and the Wali turned to the Kazi and sware to him that he would do his utmost to recover the stolen monies adding, "And they shall be restored to thee." Then he went away, whilst I mounted without stay or delay and began to-ing and fro-ing about the world without purpose, and indeed I was become the underling of a woman without honesty or honour; and I went my rounds in this way all that my day and that my 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 silly;" for I was wandering in quest of a woman who knew me [FN#28] and I knew her not, she being veiled when I met her. Then I went round about the third day till the hour of mid-afternoon prayer, and sore waxed my cark and my care for I kenned that there remained to me of my life but the morrow, when the Chief of Police would send for me. However, as sundown-time came, I passed through one of the main streets, and saw a woman at a window; her door was ajar and she was clapping her hands and casting sidelong glances at me, as who should say, "Come up by the door." So I went up, without fear or suspicion, and when I entered, she rose and clasped me to her breast. I marvelled at the matter and quoth she to me, "I am she whom thou depositedst with Amin al-Hukm." Quoth I to her, "O my sister, I have been going round and round in request of thee, for indeed thou hast done a deed which will be chronicled and hast cast me into red death [FN#29] on thine account." She asked me, "Dost thou speak thus to me and thou a captain of men?" and I answered, "How should I not be troubled, seeing that I be in concern for an affair I turn over and over in mind, more by token that I continue my day long going about searching for thee and in the night I watch its stars and planets?" [FN#30] Cried she, "Naught shall betide save weal, and thou shalt get the better of him." [FN#31] So saying, she rose and going to a chest, drew out therefrom six bags full of gold and said to me, "This is what I took from Amin al-Hukm's house. So an thou wilt, restore it; else the whole is lawfully [FN#32] thine; and if thou desire other than this, thou shalt obtain it; for I have monies in plenty and I had no design herein save 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 wish for all this, nor do I want aught except to be quit of that wherein I am." Quoth she, "I came not forth of the Kazi's house without preparing for thine acquittance." Then said she to me, "When the morrow shall morn and Amin al-Hukm shall come to thee bear with him till he have made an end of his speech, and when he is silent, return him no reply; and if the Wali ask, 'What aileth thee that thou answerest me not?' do thou rejoin, 'O lord and master [FN#33] know that the two words are not alike, but there is no helper for the conquered one [FN#34] save Allah Almighty.' The Kazi will cry, 'What is the meaning of thy saying, The two words are not alike?' And do thou retort, 'I deposited with thee a damsel from the palace of the Sultan, and most likely some enemy of hers in thy household hath transgressed against her or she hath been secretly murdered. Verily, there were on her raiment and ornaments worth a thousand ducats, and hadst thou put to the question those who are with thee of slaves and slave-girls, needs must thou have litten on some traces of the crime.' When he heareth this from thee, his trouble will redouble and he will be amated and will make oath that thou hast no help for it but to go with him to his house: however, do thou say, 'That will I not do, for I am the party aggrieved, more especially because I am under suspicion with thee.' If he redouble in calling on Allah's aid and conjure thee by the oath of divorce saying, 'Thou must assuredly come,' do thou reply, 'By Allah, I will not go, unless the Chief also go with me.' Then, as soon as thou comest to the house, begin by searching the terrace-roofs; then rummage the closets and cabinets; and if thou find naught, humble thyself before the Kazi and be abject and feign thyself subjected, and after stand at the door and look as if thou soughtest a place wherein to make water, [FN#35] because there is a dark corner there. Then come forward, with heart harder than syenite-stone, and lay hold upon a jar of the jars and raise it from its place. Thou wilt find there under it a mantilla-skirt; bring it out publicly and call the Wali in a loud voice, before those who are present. Then open it and thou wilt find it full of blood, exceeding for freshness, and therein a woman's walking-boots and a pair of petticoat-trousers and somewhat of linen." When I heard from her these words, I rose to go out and she said to me, "Take these hundred sequins, so they may succour thee; and such is my guest-gift to thee." Accordingly I took them and leaving her door ajar returned to my lodging. Next morning, up came the Judge, with his face like the ox-eye, [FN#36] and asked, "In the name of Allah, where is my debtor and where is my property?" Then he wept and cried out and said to the Wali, "Where is that ill-omened fellow, who aboundeth in robbery and villainy?" Thereupon the Chief turned to me and said, "Why dost thou not answer the Kazi?" and I replied, "O Emir, the two heads [FN#37] are not equal, and I, I have no helper; [FN#38] but, an the right be on my side 'twill appear." At this the Judge grew hotter of temper and cried out, "Woe to thee, O ill-omened wight! How wilt thou make manifest that the right is on thy side?" I replied "O our lord the Kazi, I deposited with thee and in thy charge a woman whom we found at thy door, and on her raiment and ornaments of price. Now she is gone, even as yesterday is gone; [FN#39] and after this thou turnest upon us and suest me for six thousand gold pieces. By Allah, this is none other than a mighty great wrong, and assuredly some foe [FN#40] of hers in thy household hath transgressed against her!" With this the Judge's wrath redoubled and he swore by the most solemn of oaths that I should go with him and search his house. I replied, "By Allah I will not go, unless the Wali go with us; for, an he be present, he and the officers, thou wilt not dare to work thy wicked will upon me." So the Kazi rose and swore an oath, saying, "By the truth of Him who created mankind, we will not go but with the Emir!" Accordingly we repaired to the Judge's house, accompanied by the Chief, and going up, searched it through, but found naught; whereat fear fell upon me and the Wali turned to me and said, "Fie upon thee, O ill-omened fellow! thou hast put us to shame before the men." All this, 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 which the woman had mentioned and asked, "What is yonder dark place I see?" Then said I to the men, "Pull up [FN#41] this jar with me." They did my bidding and I saw somewhat appearing under the jar and said, "Rummage and look at what is under it." So they searched, and behold, they came upon a woman's mantilla and petticoat-trousers full of blood, which when I espied, I fell down in a fainting-fit. Now when the Wali 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 recovered, when I arose and accosting the Kazi (who was covered with confusion), said to him, "Thou seest that suspicion is fallen on thee, and indeed this affair is no light matter, because this woman's family will assuredly not sit down quietly under her loss." Therewith the Kazi's heart quaked and fluttered for that he knew the suspicion had reverted upon him, wherefore his colour yellowed and his limbs smote together; and he paid of his own money, after the measure of that he had lost, so we would quench that fire for him. [FN#42] Then we departed from him in peace, whilst I said within myself, "Indeed, the woman falsed me not." After that I tarried till three days had passed, when I went to the Hammam and changing my clothes, betook myself to her home, but found the door shut and covered with dust. So I asked the neighbours of her and they answered, "This house hath been empty of habitants these many days; but three days agone there came a woman with an ass, and at supper-time last night she took her gear and went away." Hereat I turned back, bewildered in my wit, and for many a day after I inquired of the dwellers in that street concerning her, but could happen on no tidings of her. And indeed I wondered at the eloquence of her tongue and the readiness of her talk; and this is the most admirable of all I have seen and of whatso hath betided me. When Al-Malik al-Zahir heard the tale of Mu'in al-Din, he marvelled thereat. Then rose another constable and said, "O lord, hear what befel me in bygone days."
The Second Constable's History.
I was once an overseer in the household of the Emir Jamál al-Din al-Atwash al-Mujhidi, who was made governor of the two provinces, Sharkíyah and Gharbíyah, [FN#43] and I was dear to his heart and he hid from me naught of whatso he desired to do; and he was eke master of his reason. [FN#44] It came to pass one day of the days that it was reported to him how the daughter of Such-an-one had a mint of monies and raiment and ornaments and at that present she loved a Jewish man, whom every day she invited to be private with her, and they passed the light hours eating and drinking in company and he lay the night with her. The Wali feigned not to believe a word of this story, but he summoned the watchmen of the quarter one night and questioned them of this tittle-tattle. Quoth one of them, "As for me, O my lord, I saw none save a Jew [FN#45] enter the street in question one night; but I have not made certain to whom he went in;" and quoth the Chief, "Keep thine eye on him from this time forward and note what place he entereth." So the watchman went out and kept his eye on the Judaean. One day as the Prefect sat in his house, the watchman came in to him and said, "O my lord, in very sooth the Jew goeth to the house of Such-an-one." Whereupon Al-Atwash sprang to his feet and went forth alone, taking with him none save myself." [FN#46] As he went along, he said to me, "Indeed, this girl is a fat piece of meat." [FN#47] And we gave not over going till we came to the door of the house and stood there until a hand-maid came out, as if to buy them something wanted. We waited till she opened the door, whereupon, without question or answer, 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 daVses, and cooking-pots and candles therein. When her eyes fell on the Wali, she knew him and rising to her feet, said, "Well come and welcome and fair cheer! By Allah, great honour hath betided me by my lord's visit and indeed thou dignifiest my dwelling." Hereat she carried him up to the dais 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 ornaments and tying them up in a kerchief, said to him, "O my lord, this is thy portion, all of it." Then she turned to the Jew and said to him, "Rise, thou also, and do even as I:" so he arose in haste and went out very hardly crediting his deliverance. [FN#48] When the girl was assured of his escape, she put out her hand to her clothes and jewels and taking them, said to the Chief, "O Emir, is the requital of kindness other than kindness? Thou hast deigned to visit me and eat of my bread and salt; so now arise and depart from us without ill-doing; or I will give a single outcry and all who are in the street will come forth." So the Emir went out from her, without having gotten a single dirham; and on this wise she delivered the Jew by the seemliness of her stratagem. The company admired this tale, and as for the Wali and Al-Malik al-Zahir, they said, "Ever devised any the like of this device?" and they marvelled with the utterest of marvel. Then arose a third constable and said, "Hear what betided me, for it is yet stranger and rarer."
The Third Constable's History.
I was one day abroad on business with certain of my comrades; and, as we walked along behold, we fell in with a company of women, as they were moons, and among them one, the tallest of them and the handsomest. When I saw her and she saw me, she lagged behind her companions and waited for me till I came up to her and bespake her. Quoth she, "O my lord (Allah favour thee!) I saw thee prolong thy looking on me and I fancied that thou knewest me. An it be thus, let me learn more of thee." Quoth I, "By Allah, I know thee not, save that the Most High Lord hath cast the love of thee into my heart and the goodliness of thy qualities hath confounded me; and that wherewith the Almighty hath gifted thee of those eyes that shoot with shafts hath captivated me." And she rejoined, "By Allah, indeed I feel the like of that which thou feelest; ay, and even more; so that meseemeth I have known thee from childhood." Then said I, "A man cannot well effect all whereof he hath need in the market-places." She asked me, "Hast thou a house?" and I answered, "No, by Allah, nor is this city my dwelling-place." Rejoined she, "By Allah, 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 [FN#49] and said to the Housekeeper, "Hast thou an empty room?" The other replied, "Yes:" [FN#50] and my mistress said, "Give us the key." So we took the key and going up to see the room, entered to inspect it; after which she went out to the Housekeeper and giving her a dirham, said to her "Take the douceur of the key [FN#51] for the chamber pleaseth us, and here is another dirham for thy trouble. Go, fetch us a gugglet of water, so we may refresh ourselves and rest till siesta-time pass and the heat decline, when the man will depart and bring our bag and baggage." Therewith the Housekeeper rejoiced and brought us a mat, two gugglets of water on a tray, a fan and a leather rug. We abode thus till the setting-in of mid-afternoon, when she said, "Needs must I make the Ghusl-ablution ere I fare." [FN#52] Said I, "Get water wherewith we may both wash," and drew forth from my pocket a score or so of dirhams, thinking to give them to her; but she cried, "Refuge with Allah!" and brought out of her pocket a handful of silver, saying, "But for destiny and that the Almighty hath caused the love of thee fall into my heart, there had not happened that which hath happened." Quoth I, "Accept this in requital of that which thou hast spent;" and quoth she, "O my lord, by and by, whenas mating is prolonged between us, thou wilt see if the like of me looketh unto money and means or no." Then the lady took a jar of water and going into the lavatory, made the Ghusl-ablution [FN#53] and presently coming forth, prayed the mid-afternoon prayer and craved pardon of Allah Almighty for the sin into which she had fallen. Now I had asked her name and she answered, "Rayhánah," [FN#54] and described to me her dwelling-place. When I saw her make the ablution, I said within myself, "This woman doth on this wise, and shall I not do the like of her doing?" Then quoth I to her, "Peradventure [FN#55] thou wilt seek us another jar of water?" Accordingly she went out to the Housekeeper and said to her, "O my sister, take this Nusf and fetch us for it water wherewith we may wash the flags." [FN#56] So the Housekeeper brought two jars of water and I took one of them and giving her my clothes, entered the lavatory and bathed. When I had made an end of bathing, I cried out, saying, "Harkye, my lady Rayhanah!" However none answered me. So I went out and found her not; but I did find that she had taken my clothes and all that was in them of silver, to wit, four hundred dirhams. She had also carried off my turband and my kerchief and I lacked the wherewithal to veil my shame; so I suffered somewhat than which death is less grievous and abode looking about the place, hoping that haply I might espy a rag wherewith to hide my nakedness. Then I sat a little and presently going up to the door, smote upon it; whereat up came the Housekeeper and I said to her, "O my sister, what hath Allah done with the woman who was here?" She replied, "The lady came down just now and said, 'I'm going to cover the boys with the clothes,' adding, 'and I have left him sleeping; an he awake, tell him not to stir till the clothes come to him.'" Then cried I, "O my sister, secrets are safe with the fair-dealing 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 of her to cover me, informing her that my private parts were clean unconcealed. She laughed and cried out to the women of the lodging-house, saying, "Ho, Fátimah! Ho, Khadíjah! Ho, Harífah! Ho, Sanínah!" Whereupon all those who were in the place of women and neighbours flocked to me and fell a-mocking me and saying, "O pimp, [FN#57] what hadst thou to do 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 liked thee and was in love with thee! What is there in thee to love?" A third said, "This is an old man without wisdom;" and all vied one with other in exercising their wits upon me, I suffering mighty sore chagrin. However, one of the women took compassion on me after a while, and brought me a rag of thin stuff and cast it on me. With this I covered my shame, and no more, and abode awhile thus: then said I in myself, "The husbands of these women will presently gather together upon me and I shall be disgraced." So I went out by another door of the lodging-house, and young and old crowded about me, running after me and crying, "A madman! A madman! [FN#58] till I came to my house and knocked at the door; whereupon out came my wife and seeing me naked, tall, bare of head, cried out and ran in again, saying, "This is a maniac, a Satan!" But, when my family and spouse 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 slay me; and when I assured them that the rogues would have slaughtered me, they praised Allah Almighty and gave me joy of my safety. So consider the craft this woman practised upon me, and I pretending to cleverness and wiliness. Those present marvelled at this story and at the doings of women; then came forward a fourth constable and said, Now that which hath betided me of strange adventures is yet stranger than this, and twas after the following fashion.
The Fourth Constable's History.
We were sleeping one night on the terrace-roof, when a woman made her way through the darkness 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 big with child and nigh upon her time of delivery; so, when she packed up the bundle and prepared to shoulder it and make off with it, she hastened the coming of the labour-pangs and bare a child in the dark. Then she sought for the fire-sticks and when they burned, kindled the lamp and went round about the house with the little one, and it was weeping. The wail awoke us, as we lay on the roof, and we marvelled. So we rose to see what was to do, and looking down through the opening of the saloon, [FN#59] saw a woman, who had lit the lamp, and heard the little one crying. As we were peering, she heard our words and raising her head to us, said, "Are ye not ashamed to deal thus with us and bare our shame? Wist 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 assuredly [FN#60] bring down the house upon you!" We doubted not but that she was of the Jinn and drew back our heads; but, when we rose on the morrow, we found that she had taken all that was with us and made off with it; [FN#61] 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 availed us naught. The company, hearing this tale, marvelled thereat with the utmost marvelling. Then the fifth constable, who was the lieutenant of the bench, [FN#62] came forward and said, "This is no wonder and there befel me a story which is rarer and stranger than this."
The Fifth Constable's History.
As I sat one day at the door of the Prefecture, behold, a woman suddenly entered and said as though consulting me. "O my lord, I am the wife of Such-an-one the Leach, and with him is a company of the notables [FN#63] of the city, drinking fermented drinks in such a place." When I heard this, I misliked to make a scandal; so I bluffed her off and sent her away unsatisfied. Then I rose and walked alone to the place in question and sat without till the door opened, when I rushed in and entering, found the company even as the woman aforesaid had set out, and she herself with them. I saluted them and they returned my salam and rising, treated me with honour and seated me and served me with meat. Then I informed them how one had denounced them to me, but I had driven him away and had come to them by myself; so they thanked me and praising me for my kindness, brought out to me from among them two thousand dirhams [FN#64] and I took them and went away. Now two months after this adventure, there came to me one of the Kazi's officers, with a paper, wherein was the judge's writ, summoning me to him. So I accompanied the officer and went in to the Kazi, whereupon the plaintiff, he who had taken out the summons, sued me for two thousand dirhams, declaring I had borrowed them of him as the agent or guardian of the woman. I denied the debt, but he produced against me a bond for that sum, attested by four of those who were in company on the occasion; and they were present and bore witness to the loan. 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 admired the goodliness of his tale and it pleased Al-Malik al-Zahir; and the Wali said, "By Allah, this is a strange story!" Then came forward the sixth constable and said to those present, "Hear my adventure and that which befel me, to wit, that which befel Such-an-one the Assessor, for 'tis rarer than this and finer."
The Sixth Constable's History.
A certain Assessor one day of the days was taken with a woman and much people assembled before his house and the Lieutenant of police and his posse came to him and rapped at the door. The Assessor peered from house-top and seeing the folk, said, "What do ye want?" Replied they, "Speak with the Lieutenant of police Such-an-one." So he came down and as he opened the door they cried to him, "Bring forth the woman who is with thee." "Are ye not ashamed? How shall I bring forth my wife?" "Is she thy wife by book [FN#65] or without marriage-lines?" "She is my wife according to the Book of Allah and the Institutes of His Apostle." "Where is the contract?" "Her lines are in her mother's house." "Arise thou and come down and show us the writ." "Go from her way, so she may come forth." Now, as soon as he got wind of the matter, he had written the bond and fashioned it after the fashion of his wife, [FN#66] to suit with the case, and he had written therein the names of certain of his friends to serve 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 a legal deed. [FN#67] Accordingly, when the woman was about to go out from him, he gave her the contract he had forged, and the Emir sent with her a servant of his, to carry her home to her father. So the servant went with her and when she was inside she said to him, "I will not return to the citation of the Emir: but let the Assessors present themselves and take my contract." Hereupon the servant carried this message to the Lieutenant of police, who was standing at the Assessor's door, and he said, "This is permissible." Then said the Assessor to the servant, "Fare, O eunuch, and fetch us Such-an-one the Notary;" for that he was his friend and 'twas he whose name he had forged as the drawer-up of the contract. [FN#68] So the Lieutenant 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, [FN#69] demand of her the contract and take it from her and bring it to us." And he signed to him, as much as to say, "Bear me out in the lie and screen me, for that she is a strange woman and I [FN#70] am in fear of the Lieutenant who standeth at the door; and we beseech Allah Almighty to screen us and you from the woes of this world. Amen." So the Notary went up to the Lieutenant, who was among the witnesses, and said, " 'Tis 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; whereat she brought him the forged contract and he took it and returned with it to the Lieutenant of police. [FN#71] When the officer had taken cognizance of the document and professed himself satisfied, the Assessor said to the Notary, "Go to our lord and master, the Kazi of the Kazis, and acquaint him with that which befalleth his Assessors." The Notary rose to go, but the Lieutenant feared for himself and was urgent in beseeching the Assessor and in kissing his hands till he forgave him; whereupon the Lieutenant went away in the utmost concern and affright. On such wise the Assessor ordered the case and carried out the forgery and feigned marriage with the woman; and thus escaped calumny and calamity by the seemliness of his stratagem. [FN#72] The folk marvelled at this with the uttermost marvel and the seventh constable said, "There befel me in Alexandria the God-guarded a wondrous thing, and 'twas this." [FN#73]
The Seventh Constable's History.
There came one day an old woman to the stuff-bazar, with a casket of mighty fine workmanship, containing trinkets, and she was accompanied by a young baggage big with child. The crone sat down at the shop of a draper and giving him to know that the girl was pregnant by the Prefect [FN#74] of Police of the city, took of him, on credit, stuffs to the value of a thousand diners 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 of price; so he trusted her with the goods and she farewelled him and carrying the stuffs to the girl 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 asked anent the woman of his household who had taken his stuffs on credit; but could obtain no tidings of her nor happen on any trace of her. Then he brought out the casket of jewellery and showed it to experts, who told him that the trinkets were gilt and that their worth was but an hundred dirhams. When he heard this, he was sore concerned thereat and presenting himself before the Deputy of the Sultan made his complaint to him; whereupon the official knew that a sleight had been served upon him and that the sons of Adam [FN#75] had cozened him and conquered him and cribbed his stuffs. Now the magistrate in question was a man of experience and judgment, well versed in affairs; so he said to the draper, "Remove somewhat from thy shop, including the casket, and to-morrow morning break the lock and cry out and come to me and complain that they have plundered all thy shop. [FN#76] Also mind thou call upon Allah for aid and wail aloud and acquaint the people, so that a world of folk may flock to thee and sight the breach of the lock and that which is missing from thy shop: and on this wise display it to every one who presenteth himself that 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 ever and anon in thy saying, 'My casket was the casket of 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 saying, say it; and the old woman will assuredly come to thee." The draper answered with "To hear is to obey" and going forth from the Deputy's presence, betook himself to his shop and brought out thence the casket and a somewhat making a great display, which he removed to his house. At break of day he arose and going to his shop, broke the lock and shouted and shrieked and called on Allah for aid, till each and every of 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 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 diners, the price of the stuffs, de mended the casket. [FN#77] When he saw her, he seized her and carried her to the Prefect of the city; and when she came before the Kazi, he said to her, "Woe to thee O Sataness; did not thy first deed suffice thee, but thou must come a second time?" She replied, "I am of those who seek their salvation [FN#78] in the cities, and we foregather every month: and, yesterday we foregathered." He asked her, "Canst thou cause me to catch them?" and she answered, "Yes; but, an thou wait till to-morrow, they will have dispersed; so I will deliver them to thee to-night." The Emir said to her, "Go;" and said she, "Send with me one who shall go with me to them and obey me in whatso I shall say to him, and all that I bid him he shall not gainsay and therein conform to my way." Accordingly, he gave her a company of men and she took them and bringing them to a certain door, said to them, "Stand ye here, at this door, and whoso cometh out to you seize him; and I will come out to you last of all." "Hearing and obeying," answered they and stood at the door, whilst the crone went in. They waited a whole hour, even as the Sultan's deputy had bidden them, but none came out to them and their standing waxed longsome, and when they were weary of waiting, they went up to the door and smote upon it a heavy blow and a violent, so that they came nigh to break the wooden bolt. Then one of them entered and was absent a long while, but found naught; so he returned to his comrades and said to them, "This is the door of a dark passage, leading to such a thoroughfare; and indeed she laughed at you and left you and went away.'' [FN#79] When they heard his words, they returned to the Emir and acquainted him with the case, whereby he knew that the old woman was a cunning craft-mistress and that she had mocked at them and cozened them and put a cheat on them, to save herself. Witness, then, the wiles of this woman and that which she contrived of guile, for all her lack of foresight in presenting herself a second time to the draper and not suspecting that his conduct was but a sleight; yet, when she found herself hard upon calamity, she straightway devised a device for her deliverance. When the company heard the seventh constable's story, they were moved to mirth galore, than which naught could be more; and Al-Malik al Zahir Bíbars rejoiced in that which he heard and said, "Verily, there betide things in this world wherefrom kings are shut out, by reason of their exalted degree!" Then came forward another person from amongst the company and said, "There hath reached me through one of my friends a similar story bearing on the malice of women and their wiles, and it is more wondrous and marvellous, more diverting and more delectable than all that hath been told to you." Quoth the company there present, "Tell us thy tale and expound it unto us, so we may see that which it hath of extraordinary." And he began to relate
The Eighth Constable's History.
Ye must know that a company, amongst whom was 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 who is he that liveth to see the like of this day? I desire that thou practice with us and disapprove not our proceedings, for that thou hast been accustomed to fall in with those who offer this." [FN#80] I consented thereto and their talk happened upon the like of this subject. [FN#81] Presently, my friend, who had invited me, arose from among them and said to them, Listen to me and I will acquaint you with an adventure which happened to me. There was a certain person who used to visit me in my shop, and I knew him not nor he knew me, nor ever in his life had he seen me; but he was wont, whenever he wanted a dirham or two, by way of loan, to come to me and ask me, without acquaintance or introduction between me and him, and I would give him what he required. I told none of him, and matters abode thus between us a long while till he began a-borrowing at a time ten or twenty dirhams, more or less. One day, as I stood in my shop, behold, a woman suddenly came up to me and stopped before me; and she was a presence as she were the full moon rising from among the constellations, and the place was a-light by her light. When I saw her, I fixed my eyes on her and stared in her face; and she fell to bespeaking me with soft voice. When I heard her words and the sweetness of her speech, I lusted after her; and as soon as she saw that I longed for her, she did her errand and promising me an assignation, went away, leaving my thoughts occupied with her and fire a-flame in my heart. Accordingly I abode, perplexed and pondering my affair, the fire still burning in my heart, till the third day, when she came again and I could hardly credit her coming. When I saw her, I talked with her and cajoled her and courted her and craved her favour with speech and invited her to my house; but, hearing all this, she only answered, "I will not go up into any one's house." Quoth I, "I will go with thee" and quoth she, "Arise and come with me." So I rose and putting into my sleeve a kerchief, wherein was a fair sum of silver and a considerable, followed the woman, who forwent me and ceased not walking till she brought me to a lane and to a door, which she bade me unlock. I refused and she opened it and led me into the vestibule. As soon as I had entered, she bolted the entrance door from within and said to me, "Sit here till I go in to the slave-girls and cause them enter a place whence they shall not see me." "'Tis well," answered I and sat down: whereupon she entered and was absent from me an eye-twinkling, after which she returned to me, without a veil, and straightway said, "Arise and enter in the name of Allah." So I arose and went in after her and we gave not over going till we reached a saloon. When I examined the place, I found it neither handsome nor pleasant, but desolate and dreadful without symmetry or cleanliness; indeed, it was loathsome to look upon and there was in it a foul smell. After this inspection I seated myself amiddlemost the saloon, misdoubting; and lo and behold! as I sat, there came down on me from the dais a body of seven naked men, without other clothing than leather belts about their waists. One of them walked up to me and took my turband, whilst another seized my kerchief that was in my sleeve, with my money, and a third stripped me of my clothes; after which a forth came and bound my hands behind my back with his belt. Then they all took me up, pinioned as I was, and casting me down, fell a-haling me towards a sink-hole that was there and were about to cut my throat, when suddenly there came a violent knocking at the door. As they heard the raps, they were afraid and their minds were diverted from me by affright; so the woman went out and presently returning, said to them, "Fear not; no harm shall betide you this day. 'Tis only your comrade who hath brought you your dinner." With this the new-comer entered, bringing with him a roasted lamb; and when he came in to them, he asked, "What is to do with you, that ye have tucked up sleeves and bag-trousers?" Replied they, "This is a head of game we've caught." As he heard these words, he came up to me and peering 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 pinion-bonds and bussed my head, and behold it was my friend who used to borrow silver of me. When I kissed his head, he kissed mine and said, "O my brother, be not affrighted;" and he called for my clothes and coin and restored all to me nor was aught missing. Also, he brought me a porcelain bowl full of sherbet of sugar, with lemons therein, and gave me to drink; 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 our case; but secrets with the noble are safe." I replied, 'As I am a lawfully-begotten child and a well-born, I will not name aught of this nor denounce you!" They assured themselves of me by an oath; then they brought me out and I went my way, very hardly crediting but that I was of the dead. I lay ill in my house a whole month; after which I went to the Hammam and coming out, opened my shop and sat selling and buying as was my wont, but saw no more of that man or that woman till, one day, there stopped before my shop a young Turkoman, [FN#82] as he were the full moon; and he was a sheep-merchant and had with him a leathern bag, wherein was money, the price of sheep he had sold. He was followed by the woman, and when he stopped over against my shop, she stood by his side and cajoled him, and indeed he inclined to her with great inclination. As for me, I was dying of solicitude for him and began casting furtive glances at him and winked at him, till he chanced to look round and saw me signing to him; whereupon the woman gazed at me and made a signal with her hand and went away. The Turkoman followed her and I deemed him dead without a doubt; wherefore I feared with exceeding fear and shut my shop. Then I journeyed for a year's space and returning, opened my shop; whereupon, behold, the woman as she walked by came up to me and said, "This is none other than a great absence." I replied, "I have been on a journey;" and she asked, "Why didst thou wink at the Turkoman?" I answered, "Allah forfend! I did not wink at him." Quoth she, "Beware lest thou thwart me;" and went away. Awhile after this a familiar of mine invited me to his house and when I came to him, we ate and drank and chatted. Then he asked me, "O my friend, hath there befallen thee aught of sore trouble in the length of thy life?" Answered I, "Tell me first, hath there befallen thee aught?" He rejoined, "Know that one day I espied a fair woman; so I followed her and sued her to come home with me. Quoth she, 'I will not enter any one's house but my own; so come thou to my home, an thou wilt, and be it on such a day.' Accordingly, on the appointed day, her messenger [FN#83] came to me, proposing to carry me to her; and when he announced his purpose I arose and went with him, till we arrived at a goodly house and a great door. He opened the door and I entered, whereupon he bolted it behind me and would have gone in; but I feared with exceeding fear and foregoing him to the second door, whereby he would have had me enter, bolted it and cried out at him, saying, 'By Allah, an thou open not to me, I will slay thee; [FN#84] for I am none of those whom thou canst readily cozen!' 'What deemest thou of cozening?' 'Verily, I am startled by the loneliness of the house and the lack of any keeper at its door; for I see none appear.' 'O my lord, this is a private door.' 'Private or public, open to me.' So he opened to me and I went out and had gone but a little way from the door when I met a woman, who said to me, 'A long life was fore-ordained to thee; else hadst thou never come forth of yonder house.' I asked, 'How so?' and she answered, 'Enquire of thy friend Such-an-one,' (naming thee), 'and he will acquaint thee with strange things.' So, Allah upon thee, O my friend, tell me what befel thee of wondrous and marvellous, for I have told thee what befel me." "O my brother, I am bound by a solemn oath." "O my friend, false thine oath and tell me." [FN#85] "Indeed, I dread the issue of this." But he urged me till I told him all, whereat he marvelled. Then I went away from him and abode a long while, without further news. One day, I met another of my friends who said to me, "A neighbour of mine hath invited me to hear singers" but I said:--"I will not foregather with any one." However, he prevailed upon me; so we repaired to the place and found there a person, who came to meet us and said, "Bismillah!" [FN#86] 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 be the singers' voices?" He replied, "They're within the house: this is but a private door; so be not amazed at the absence of the folk." My friend said to me, "Behold, we are two, and what can they dare to do with us?" Then he brought us into the house, and when we entered the saloon, we found it desolate exceedingly and dreadful of aspect. Quoth my friend, "We are fallen into a trap; but there is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!" And quoth I, "May God never requite thee for me with good!" [FN#87] Then we sat down on the edge of the dais and suddenly I espied a closet beside me; so I peered into it and my friend asked me, "What seest thou?" I answered, "I see there wealth in store and corpses of murdered men galore. Look." So he looked and cried, "By Allah, we are down among the dead!" and we fell a-weeping, I and he. As we were thus, behold, four men came in upon us, by the door at which we had entered, and they were naked, wearing only leather belts about their waists, and made for my friend. He ran at them and dealing one of them a blow with his swordpommel, knocked him down, whereupon the other three rushed upon him. I seized the opportunity to escape while they were occupied with him, and espying a door by my side, slipped into it and found myself in an underground room, without issue, even a window. So I made sure of death, and said, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!" Then I looked at the top of the vault and saw in it a range of glazed and coloured lunettes; [FN#88] so I clambered up for dear life, till I reached the lunettes, and I out of my wits for fear. I made shift to remove the glass and scrambling out through the setting, found behind them a wall which I bestrode. Thence I saw folk walking in the street; so I cast myself down on the ground and Allah Almighty preserved me, and when I reached the face of earth, unhurt, the folk flocked round me and I acquainted them with my adventure. Now as Destiny decreed, the Chief of Police was passing through the market-street; so the people told him what was to do and he made for the door and bade raise it off its hinges. We entered with a rush and found the thieves, as they had thrown my friend down and cut his throat; for they occupied not themselves with me, but said, "Whither shall yonder fellow wend? Verily, he is in our grasp." So the Wali hent them with the hand [FN#89] and questioned them of their case, 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 bolted from within; so he bade raise it and we entered and found another door. This also he caused pull up, enjoining his men to silence till the doors should be lifted, and we entered and found the band occupied with new game, whom the woman had just brought in and whose throat they were about to cut. The Chief released the man and gave him back whatso the thieves had taken from him; and he laid hands on the woman and the rest and took forth of the house a mint of money, with which they found the purse of the Turkoman sheep-merchant. They at once nailed up the thieves against the house-wall, whilst, as for the woman, they wrapped her in one of her mantillas and nailing her to a board, set her upon a camel and went round about the town with her. Thus Allah razed their dwelling-places and did away from me that which I feared from them. All this befel, whilst I looked on, and I saw not my friend who had saved me from them the first time, whereat I wondered to the utterest of wonderment. However, some days afterward, he came up to me, and indeed he had renounced the world and donned a Fakir's dress; and he saluted me and went away. [FN#90] Then he again began to pay me frequent visits and I entered into conversation with him and questioned him of the band and how he came to escape, he alone of them all. He replied "I left them from the day on which Allah the Most High delivered thee from them, for that they would not obey my say; so I sware I would no longer consort with them." Quoth I, "By Allah, I marvel at thee, for that assuredly thou wast the cause of my preservation!" Quoth he, "The world is full of this sort; and we beseech the Almighty to send us safety, for that these wretches practice upon men with every kind of malpractice." Then I said to him, "Tell me the rarest adventure of all that befel thee in this villainy thou wast wont to work." And he answered, "O my brother, I was not present when they did such deeds, for that my part with them was to concern myself with selling and buying and feeding them; but it hath reached me that the rarest thing which befel them was on this wise."
The Thief's Tale.
The woman who acted decoy for them and trapped their game and used to inveigle damsels from marriage-banquets, once caught them a woman from a bride-feast, under pretence that she had a wedding in her own house, and fixed for her a day when she should come to her. As soon as the appointed time arrived, the woman presented herself and the other carried her into the house by a door, declaring that it was a private wicket. When she entered the saloon, she saw men and braves [FN#91] and knew that she had fallen into a snare; so she looked at them and said, "Harkye, my fine fellows! [FN#92] I am a woman and in my slaughter there is no glory, nor have ye against me any feud of blood-wite wherefor ye should pursue me; and that which is upon me of raiment and ornaments ye are free to take as lawful loot." Quoth they, "We fear thy denunciation;" but quoth she, "I will abide with you, neither coming in nor going out." So 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 very best in their service, till they became familiar with her and felt assured of her faith. One night of the nights she plied them with drink and they drank till they became drunken; whereupon she arose and took her clothes and five hundred dinars from the Captain; after which she fetched a razor and shaved off all their beards. Then she took soot from the cooking-pots and blackening their faces [FN#93] opened the doors and fared forth; and when the thieves recovered from their drink, they abode confounded and knew that the woman had practiced upon them. All present marvelled at this his story and the ninth constable came forward and said, "I will tell you a right pleasant tale I heard at a wedding."
The Ninth Constable's History.
A certain singing-girl was fair of favour and bruited of repute, and it happened one day that she fared forth to a garden a-pleasuring. As she sat in the summer-house, behold, a man lopped of the hand stopped to beg of her, and suddenly entered in at the door. Then he touched her with his stump, saying, "An alms, for the love of Allah!" [FN#94] but she answered, "Allah open!" and insulted him. Many days after this, there came to her a messenger and gave her the hire of her going forth. [FN#95] So she took with her a hand-maid and an accompanyist; [FN#96] and when she came to the place appointed, the messenger brought her into a long passage, at the end whereof was a saloon. "So" (quoth she) "we entered therein and found nobody, but we saw the room made ready for an entertainment with candles, dried fruits and wine, and in another place we saw food and in a third beds. Thereupon 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, and when I sat a little longer, there entered a man, who filled the candelabra in the saloon and lit the waxen candles; and behold, he also was handlopped. Then flocked the folk and there entered none except he were lopped of the hand, and indeed the house was full of these companions. [FN#97] When the session was complete, the host came in 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 clothes, 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 hands and the host began casting at me furtive glances. 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 in friendly fashion with him who sought an alms of thee, and thou saidst to him, "How loathsome art thou!"'´ I considered him and behold, he was the lophand who had accosted me in my pleasance. [FN#98] So I asked, 'O my lord, what is this thou sayest?' and he answered, 'Wait; thou shalt 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 mantilla and walking-boots and laying them by his side, cried to me, 'Sing, O accursed!' Accordingly, I sang till I was tired out, what while they occupied themselves with their case and drank themselves drunk and the heat of their drink redoubled. Presently, the doorkeeper came to me and said, 'O my lady, fear not; but when thou hast a mind to go, let me know.' Quoth I, 'Thinkest thou to delude me?' and quoth he, 'Nay, by Allah! But I have ruth on thee for that our Captain and Chief purposeth thee no good and methinketh he will kill thee this night.' Said I to him, 'An thou be minded to do me a favour, now is its time;' and said he, 'When our Chief riseth to his need and goeth to the Chapel of Ease, I will precede him with the light and leave the door open; and do thou wend whithersoever thou wiliest.' Then I sang and the Captain cried, ''Tis good.' Replied I, 'Nay, but thou'rt loathsome.' He looked at me and rejoined, 'By Allah, thou shalt never more scent the odour of the world!' But his comrades said to him, 'Do it not,' and gentled him, till he added, 'An it must be so, and there be no help for it, she shall tarry here a whole year and not fare forth.' My answer was, 'I am content to submit to whatso pleaseth thee: if I have failed in respect to thee, thou art of the clement.' He shook his head and drank, then arose and went out to do his need, whilst his comrades were occupied with what they were about of merry-making and drunkenness and sport. So I winked to my friends and we all slipped out into the corridor. We found the door open and fled forth, unveiled [FN#99] and unknowing whither we went; nor did we halt till we had fared afar from the house and happened on a Cook cooking, of whom I asked, 'Hast thou a mind to quicken the dead?' He said, 'Come up;' so we went up into the shop, and he whispered, 'Lie down.' Accordingly, we lay down and he covered us with the Halfah grass, [FN#100] 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 asking, 'Hath any one passed by thee?' 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 reeds and said to us, 'Rise, for ye are delivered from death.' So we arose, and we were uncovered, sans veil or mantilla; but the Cook carried us up into his house and we sent to our homes and fetched us veils; and we repented to Allah Almighty and renounced singing, for indeed this was a mighty narrow escape after stress." [FN#101] Those present marvelled at this, and the tenth constable came forward and said, "As for me, there befel me that which was yet rarer than all ye have yet heard." Quoth Al-Malik al-Zahir, "What was that?" And quoth he, "Deign give ear to me."
The Tenth Constable's History.
A robbery of stuffs had been committed in the city and as it was a great matter I was cited, [FN#102] I and my fellows: they [FN#103] pressed hard upon us: but we obtained of them some days' grace and dispersed in search 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 found ourselves a parasang or two parasangs away from the city, we waxed athirst; and presently we came to a garden. There I went in alone and going up to the waterwheel, [FN#104] entered it and drank and made the Wuzu-ablution and prayed. Presently, up came the keeper of the garden and said to me, "Woe to thee! Who brought thee to this waterwheel?" and he smote me and squeezed my ribs [FN#105] till I was like to die. Then he bound me with one of his bulls and made me work the waterwheel, flogging me as I walked round with a cattle-whip [FN#106] he had with him, till my heart was a-fire; after which he loosed me and I went out, knowing not the way. Now when I came forth, I fainted: so I sat down till my trouble subsided; then I made for my comrades and said to them, "'I have found money and malefactor, and I affrighted him not neither troubled him, lest he should flee; but now, come, let us go to him, so we may contrive to lay hold upon him." Then I took them and we repaired to the keeper of the garden, who had tortured me with tunding, with the intent to make him taste the like of that which he had done with me and lie against him and cause him eat many a stick. So we rushed to the waterwheel and seized the keeper. Now there was with him a youth and, as we were pinioning the gardener, he said, "By Allah, I was not with him and indeed 'tis six months since I entered this city, nor did I set eyes on the stuffs until they were brought hither." Quoth we, "Show us the stuffs;" upon which he carried us to a place wherein was a pit, beside the waterwheel, and digging there, brought out the stolen goods with not a thread or a stitch of them missing. So we took them and carried the keeper to the Prefecture of Police where we stripped him and beat him with palm-rods till he confessed to thefts manifold. Now I did this by way of mockery against my comrades, and it succeeded. The company marvelled at this story with the utmost marvelling, and the eleventh constable rose and said, "I know a story yet stranger than this: but it happened not to myself."
The Eleventh Constable's History.
There was once in times of yore a Chief Officer of Police and there passed by him one day of the days a Jew, hending in hand a basket wherein were five thousand dinars; whereupon quoth that officer to one of his slaves, "Art able to take that money from yonder Jew's basket?" "Yes," quoth he, nor did he tarry beyond the next day ere he came to his lord, bringing the basket. "So" (said the officer) "I bade him 'Go, bury it in such a place;' whereupon he went and buried it and returned and told me. Hardly had he reported this when there arose a clamour like that of Doomsday and up came the Jew, with one of the King's officers, declaring that the gold pieces belonged to the Sultan and that he looked to none but us for it. We demanded of him three days' delay, according to custom and I said to him who had taken the money, 'Go and set in the Jew's house somewhat that shall occupy him with himself.' Accordingly he went and played a mighty fine trick, which was, 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 that basket under a slab in the Jew's home. Then we came and searched and found the basket, whereupon without a moment of delay we clapped the Jew in irons for the murder of a woman. As soon as it was the appointed time, there entered 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, [FN#107] and said, 'The Sultan sayeth to you, Nail up [FN#108] the Jew and bring the money, for there is no way by which five thousand gold pieces can be lost.' Wherefore we knew that our device did not suffice. So I went forth and finding a young man, a Hauráni, [FN#109] passing along the road, laid hands on him forthright and stripped him, and whipped him with palm-rods. Then I threw him in jail, ironed, and carrying him to the Prefecture, beat him again, saying to them, 'This be the robber who stole the coin.' And we strove to make him confess; but he would not. Accordingly, we beat him a third and a fourth time, till we were aweary and exhausted and he became unable to return a reply; but, when we had made an end of beating and tormenting him, he said, 'I will fetch the money this very moment.' Presently we went with him till he came to the place where my slave had buried the gold and he dug there and brought it out; whereat I marvelled with the utmost marvel and we carried it to the Prefect's house. When the Wali saw the money and made sure of it with his own eyes, he rejoiced with joy exceeding and bestowed on me a robe of honour. Then he restored the coin straightway to the Sultan and we left the youth in durance vile; whilst I said to my slave who had taken the money, 'Say me, did yonder young man see thee, what time thou buriedst the money?' and he replied, 'No, by Allah the Great!' So I went in to the young man, the prisoner, and plied him with wine [FN#110] till he recovered, when I said to him, 'Tell me how thou stolest the money?' Answered he, 'By Allah, 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 quoth he, 'Know that the cause of my falling into your hands was my parent's imprecation against me; because I entreated her evilly yesternight and beat her and she said to me, 'By Allah, O my son, the Lord shall assuredly gar the oppressor prevail over thee!' Now she is a pious woman. So I went out forthright and thou sawest me on my way and didst that which thou didst; and when beating was prolonged on me, my senses failed me and I heard a voice saying to me, 'Fetch it.' So I said to you what I said and the Speaker [FN#111] guided me till I came to the place and there befel what befel of the bringing out of the money.' I admired this with the utmost admiration and knew that he was of the sons of the pious. So I bestirred myself for his release and cured him and besought him of acquittance and absolution of responsibility." All those who were present marvelled at this story with the utmost marvel, and the twelfth constable came forward and said, "I will tell you a pleasant trait that I heard from a certain person, concerning an adventure which befel him with one of the thieves.
The Twelfth Constable's History.
I was passing one day in the market, when I found that a robber had broken into the shop of a shroff, a changer of monies, and thence taken a casket, wherewith he had made off to the burialground. Accordingly 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 you!" [FN#112] And he was startled at me; so 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 "men of violence," [FN#113] and he said to them, "Seize this man." So they laid hands on me and carried me to the Chief of Police, who said, "What hast thou to do with this wight?" The robber turned to me and looking a long while in my face, asked, "Who took this man?" and the officer answered, "Thou badest us take him; so we took him." And he cried, "I ask refuge of Allah! I know not this man, nor knoweth he me; and I said not that to you but of a person other than this." So they released me, and a while after the thief met me in the street and saluted me with the salam, saying, "O my lord, fright for fright! Hadst thou taken aught from me, thou hadst a part in the calamity." [FN#114] I replied to him, "Allah be the judge between thee and me!" [FN#115] And this is what I have to recount. Then came forward the thirteenth constable and said, "'I will tell you a tale which a man of my friends told me."
The Thirteenth Constable's History.
I went out one night of the nights to the house of a friend and when it was the middle of the night, I sallied forth alone to hie me home. When I came into the road, I espied a sort of thieves and they espied 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 afoot till I reached my home and knocked at the door, when they went away. Some few days after this, as I stood at the door of my house, behold, 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, an alms for the love of Allah!" I replied, "Allah open!" and he looked at me a long while and cried, "That which thou shouldst give me would not come to the worth of thy turband or thy waistcloth or what not else of thy habit, to say nothing of the gold and the silver which were about thy person." I asked, "And how so?" and he answered, "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 and only 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 Allah Almighty made easy to me. [FN#116] So he went his way; and this is all I have to say. Then came forward the fourteenth constable and said, "Know that the tale I have to tell is rarer and pleasanter than this; and 'tis as follows."
The Fourteenth Constable's History.
I had a draper's shop before I entered this corporation, [FN#117] and there used to come to me a person whom I know not, save by his face, and I would give him whatso he sought and have patience with him, till he could pay me. One night, I foregathered with certain of my friends and we sat down to liquor: so we drank and were merry and played at Táb; [FN#118] and we made one of us Wazir and another Sultan and a third Torchbearer or Headsman. [FN#119] Presently, there came in upon us a spunger, without bidding, and we went on playing, whilst he played with us. Then quoth the Sultan to the Wazir, "Bring the Parasite who cometh in to the folk, without leave or license, that we may enquire into his case; after which I will cut off his head;" so the headsmen 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 clotted curd; [FN#120] so the headsmen smote him therewith and his head flew from his body. When we saw this, the wine fled from our brains and we became in the foulest of plights. Then my friends lifted up the corpse 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 robber. When he saw me, he knew me and cried to me, "Such-an-one!" "Well?" said I, and he rejoined, "What is that thou hast with thee?" So I acquainted him with the case and he took the head from me. Then we fared on till we came to the river, where he washed the head and considering it straitly, exclaimed, "By Allah, verily this be my brother, the son of my sire, and he used to spunge upon the folk;" after which he threw that head into the river. As for me, I was like a dead man for dread; but he said to me, "Fear not, neither do thou grieve, for I acquit thee of my brother's blood." Presently, 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, "Allah never desolate thee! I am thy friend Such-an-one, who used to take of thee goods on credit, and I owe thee a kindness; but henceforward thou wilt never see me more." Then he went his ways. The company marvelled at the manliness of this man and his clemency [FN#121] and courtesy, and the Sultan said, "Tell us another of thy stories, O Shahrazad." [FN#122] She replied, " 'Tis well! They set forth [FN#123]
A Merry Jest of a Clever 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 tasse, and the thief buried himself in the corn and covered his head with the tasse, so that the folk found him not and went their ways; but as they were going, behold, there came a mighty great fart [FN#124] forth of the corn. So they went up to the tasse and raising it, discovered the thief and laid hands on him. Quoth he, "I have saved you the trouble of seeking me: for I purposed, in breaking wind, to direct you to my hiding place; wherefore do you be easy with me and have ruth on me, so may Allah have ruth on you!" Accordingly they let him go and harmed him not. "And for another story of the same kind" (she continued), "hearken to
The Tale of the Old Sharper.
There was once an old man renowned for clever roguery, and he went, he and his mates, to one of the markets and stole thence a quantity of stuffs: then they separated and returned each to his quarter. Awhile after this, the old man assembled a company of his fellows and, as they sat at drink, one of them pulled out a costly piece of cloth and said, "Is there any one of you will dare sell this in its own market whence it was stolen, that we may confess his superior subtlety?" Quoth the old man, "I will;" and they said, "Go, and Allah Almighty open to thee the door!" So early on the morrow, he took the stuff and carrying it to the market whence it had been stolen, sat down at the very shop out of which it had been purloined and gave it to the broker, who hent it in hand and cried it for sale. Its owner knew it and bidding for it, bought it and sent after the Chief of Police, who seized the Sharper and seeing him an old man of grave presence and handsomely clad said to him, "Whence hadst thou this piece of stuff?" Quoth he, "I had it from this market and from yonder shop where I was sitting." Quoth the Wali, "Did its owner sell it to thee?" and quoth the robber, "Not so; I stole it, this and other than it." Then said the Chief, "How camest thou to bring it for sale to the place whence thou stolest it?" "I will not tell my tale save to the Sultan, for that I have a profitable counsel wherewith I would fief bespeak him." "Name it!" "Art thou the Sultan?" "No!" "I'll not tell it save to himself." Accordingly the Wali carried him up to the Sultan and he said I have a counsel for thee, O my lord." Asked the Sultan, What is thy counsel?" 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." Cried the Sultan, "Give hum a robe of honour and accept his profession of penitence." So he went down from the presence and returning to his comrades, related to them that which had passed, when they confessed his subtlety and gave him that which they had promised him. Then he took the rest of the booty and went up therewith to the Sultan, who, seeing him, recognised him and he was magnified in the royal eyes and the king commanded that naught should be taken from him. After this, 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. Those present marvelled at this and the fifteenth constable came forward and said, "Know that among those who make a trade of trickery are those whom Allah Almighty taketh on their own testimony against themselves." It was asked him, "How so?" and he began to relate
The Fifteenth Constable's History. [FN#125]
It is told of a thieving person, one of the braves, that he used to rob and cut the way by himself upon caravans, and whenever the Chief of Police and the Governors sought him, he would flee from them and fortify himself in the mountains. Now it came to pass that a certain man journeyed along the road wherein was that robber, and this man was single-handed and knew not the sore perils besetting his way. So the highwayman came out upon him and said to him, "Bring out that which is with thee, for I mean to kill thee and no mistake. ' Quoth the traveller, "Kill me not, but annex these saddle-bags and divide that which is in them and take to thee the fourth part." And the thief answered, "I will not take aught but the whole. [FN#126] Rejoined the traveller, "Take half, and let me go;" but the robber replied, "I will have naught but the whole, and eke I will kill thee." So the wayfarer said, "Take it." Accordingly the highwayman took the saddle-bags and offered to slay the traveller, who said, "What is this? Thou hast against me no blood-feud that should make my slaughter incumbent." Quoth the other, "Needs must I kill thee;" whereupon the traveller dismounted from his horse and grovelled before him, beseeching the thief and bespeaking him fair. The man hearkened not to his prayers, but cast him to the ground; whereupon the traveller raised his eyes and seeing a francolin dying over him, said, in his agony, "O Francolin, [FN#127] bear testimony that this man slayeth me unjustly and wickedly; for indeed I have given him all that was with me and entreated him to let me go, for my children's sake; yet would he not consent. But be thou witness against him, for Allah is not unmindful of deeds which the oppressors do." The highwayman paid no heed to what he heard, but smote him and cut off his head. After this, the rulers compounded with the highwayman for his submission, and when he came before them, they enriched him and he became in such favour with the lieutenant of the Sultan that he used to eat and drink with him and there befel between them familiar converse which lasted a long while till in fine there chanced a curious chance. The lieutenant of the Sultan one day of the days made a banquet, and therein was a roasted francolin, which when the robber saw, he laughed a loud laugh. The lieutenant was angered against him and said to him, "What is the meaning of thy laughter? Seest thou any fault or dost thou mock at us, of thy lack of good manners?" Answered the highwayman, "Not so, by Allah, O my lord; but I saw yonder francolin, which brought to my mind an extraordinary thing; and 'twas on this wise. In the days of my youth, I used to cut the way, and one day I waylaid a man, who had with him a pair of saddle-bags and money therein. So I said to him, 'Leave these saddle-bags, for I mean to slay thee.' Quoth he, 'Take the fourth part of that which is in them and leave me the rest;' and quoth I, 'Needs must I take the whole and kill thee without mistake.' Then said he, 'Take the saddle bags and let me wend my way;' but I answered, 'There is no help but that I slay thee.' As we were in this contention, behold, he saw a francolin and turning to it, said, 'Bear testimony against him, O Francolin, that he slayeth me unjustly and letteth me not go to my children, for all he hath taken my money.' However, I had no pity on him neither hearkened to that which he said, but smote him and slew him and concerned not myself with the evidence of the francolin." His story troubled the lieutenant of the Sultan and he was enraged against him with sore rage; so he drew his sword and smiting him, cut off his head while he sat at table; whereupon a voice recited these couplets--
"An wouldst not be injured, injure not; * But do good and from Allah win goodly lot,
For what happeth by Allah is doomed to be * Yet shine acts are the root I would love thee wot." [FN#128]
Now this voice was the francolin which bore witness against him. The company present marvelled at this tale and all cried, "Woe to the oppressor!" Then came forward the sixteenth constable and said, "And I for another will tell you a marvellous story which is on this wise."
The Sixteenth Constables History.
I went forth one day of the days, intending to travel, and suddenly fell upon a man whose wont it was to cut the way. When he came up with me he offered to slay me and I said to him, I have naught with me whereby thou mayst profit. Quoth he, My profit shall be the taking of thy life. I asked, What is the cause of this? Hath there been enmity between us aforetime? and he answered, Nay; but needs must I slay thee. Thereupon I ran away from him to the river side; but he caught me up and casting me to the ground, sat down on my breast. So I sought help of the Shaykh of the Pilgrims [FN#129] and cried to him, Protect me from this oppressor! And indeed he had drawn a knife to cut my throat when, lo and behold! there came a mighty great crocodile forth of the river and snatching him up from off my breast plunged into the water, with him still hending knife in hand, even within the jaws of the beast: whilst I abode extolling Almighty Allah, and rendering thanks for my preservation to him who had delivered me from the hand of that wrong-doer. [FN#130]