CÈLEBS THE DROLL AND HIS WIFE AND HER FOUR LOVERS.
There lived at the Court of a certain King a man wherewith he was wont to jest and this droll was unmated. So one day of the days the Sultan said to him, "O Man, thou art a bachelor, so suffer us to marry thee," and said the buffoon, "No, O King of the Age; allow me to remain in single blessedness, for in womankind there is no rest and they work many a wile, and indeed I fear lest haply we fall upon one who shall be of the fornicatresses, the adulteresses." Quoth the King, "There is no help but that thou wed;" and quoth the Droll, "'Tis well, O King of the Age." Hereupon the Sultan sent to summon the Wazir and bade him betroth the man to a woman of righteous conduct and come of decent folk. Now the Minister had with him an old nurse, and he commanded her to find a match for the Sultan's Jester; whereupon she rose and went out from him and engaged for the man a beautiful woman. And presently the marriage-tie was tied between these twain and he went in unto the bride and she tarried with him a while of time even half a year or may be seven months. Now one day of the days the King's Jester went forth his house ere the dawn-prayer had been called on some business for the Sultan, intending to return before rise of sun. Such was the case with him; but as regards his wife, she had known when yet unmarried four men who to her were the liefest of her companions and who, during the earlier days of her wedding, had not been able to possess her. However, on the morning when her husband fared forth from her before the call to dawn-prayers, each and every of these four favoured lovers made up their minds to visit their playmate. Now one of them was a Pieman [FN#409] and the second was an Herbalist [FN#410], the third was a Flesher and the fourth was the Shaykh of the Pipers [FN#411]. When the Droll went forth from his wife behold, the Pieman came and rapped at the door, whereat she opened to him and said, "Thou hast come betimes," and said he, "I have minced the meat and I desired to work it up when I found that the hour was too early and that no one was in the market. So I said to myself, 'Up with thee and go to Such-and-such a woman'" "'Tis well," quoth she; but when they desired to make merry together, of a sudden the door was knocked; so quoth he to her, "Who is this?" and quoth she to him, "I know not, but do thou hie and hide thee in yonder closet." He did her bidding, whereupon she went forth and threw open the door when behold, it was the Herbalist and she said to him, "This is a time betimes." Said he, "By Allah, I was nighting in the garden and I have brought these sweet-scented herbs, and as the hour was over-early I said to myself, 'Go thou to Such-and-such a woman and make merry, thou and she, for a wee.'" So she let him in; but hardly had he settled himself in his seat when suddenly the door was again rapped and he asked her, "Who is this?" and she answered, "I know not, but do thou hie and hide thee in yonder closet." So he went in and found the Pieman there seated and said to him, "What thing mayest thou be?" [FN#412] and said the other, "I and thou are each like other." Meanwhile the woman had gone forth and opened the door when behold, she was met by the Flesher whom she led within and then said to him, "This is a time betimes." Quoth he, "By Allah, I arose from sleep and slaughtered a ram [FN#413] and prepared the flesh for selling when I found that the hour was over-early and said I to myself, 'Take thee a piece of mutton flesh and go thou in to a certain person and enjoy yourselves, thou and she, until the Bazar shall have opened.'" But hardly had he taken seat when came a fourth knock at the door and as he heard this he was wonderstruck; so she said to him, "Fear not, but hie thee and hide thee within yonder closet." Accordingly he went in and found the Pieman and the Herbalist there sitting and he salam'd to the twain who returned his salute; then he asked them, "What hath brought you hither?" and they answered, "That which brought us brought also thee." He took seat with them while the woman went and threw open the door and behold, she was met by her friend the Shaykh of the Pipers belonging to the Sultan, so she brought him in and said to him, "Indeed thy time is betimes." Said he, "Walláhi, I went forth my home intending to fare and prepare the band [FN#414] in the Royal Palace when I found the hour was over-early, so said I to myself, 'Hie thee to a certain person and make ye merry, thou and she, until the sun shall rise and thou art bound to wend palace- wards.'" "'Tis well," quoth she and seated him and designed to take seat beside him when behold, came a rap at the door and he cried, "Who is that?" and she replied, "Allah only is Omniscient, but haply 'tis my husband." So he was startled and afeard, and when she whispered to him, "Up and enter yon closet," he did her bidding and found a facing him therein the Pieman and the Herbalist and the Flesher to whom he said, "Peace be upon you," and when they returned his greeting he asked them, "Ye, who brought you?" They answered him saying, "That which brought us also brought thee." After this he sat beside them and the four remained seated in the closet and huddled together, whilst each addressed himself saying, "What now wilt thou do?" Meanwhile the woman suddenly went forth and opened the door when behold, it was her mate the Droll who walked in and took seat; whereupon she asked him, "And thou, why hast thou come at such an hour? 'tis not often thy wont to return early from the King's presence. Haply thou art unwell, for thy custom is not to appear until near supper-tide and now thou hast forestalled our meeting-time and hast returned a-morn. I suspect that he hath bespoken thee concerning some matter of urgent matters that thou comest home at this hour; but haply thou wilt finish off such business and hie thee back to the Sultan." Quoth he, "By Allah, O Woman, when I fared forth hence and went to the King I found that he had many and important affairs to settle, so he said, 'Hie thee to thy home and abide therein nor return to me till after the third day.'"--And Shahrazad was surprised by the dawn of day and fell silent, and ceased saying her permitted say. Then quoth her sister Dunyazad, "How sweet and tasteful is thy tale, O sister mine, and how enjoyable and delectable!" Quoth she, "And where is this compared with that I would relate to you on the coming night an the Sovran suffer me to survive?" Now when it was the next night and that was
The Seven Hundred and Fifty-eighth Night,
Dunyazad said to her, "Allah upon thee, O my sister, an thou be other than sleepy, finish for us thy tale, that we may cut short the watching of this our latter night!" She replied, "With love and good will!" It hath reached me, O auspicious King, the director, the right-guiding, lord of the rede which is benefiting and of deeds fair-seeming and worthy celebrating, that when the King's Jester went in to his wife she said, "Thou, wherefore hast thou come so early?" and said he, "By Allah, the Sultan hath much and important business and said to me, 'Hie thee home, and tarry there and return not to me save after the third day.'" Now when the four men who were closeted together heard these words they were perplext as to their affair, and said one to other, "What shall we do? Indeed we are unable to sit out three days in this stead." Hereupon the Pieman said to them, "Nay, rather let us play a prank whereby we may escape," and said they, "What may be the device thou wouldest devise?" Quoth he, "Whatso I do that do ye look upon and then act in like guise," and so speaking he arose and taking his minced meat fell to sticking it upon his skin until he was like a leper covered with sores. [FN#415] Then he went forth the closet to the husband of the mistress, and cried, "The Peace be upon you!" The man returned his salute and asked him, "What art thou?" to which he made answer "I am the Prophet Job the Ulcered, where is the way out of this?" "Here," cried the Jester, upon which Job passed out of the door and went about his business and on such wise made his escape. Next the Herbalist stood up and opening his basket brought out fragrant herbs and fell to scattering them over his sconce and about it and over his ears, [FN#416] till such time as all his face was hidden in greens, after which he also went out and accosting the house-master said, "The Peace be upon you!" And when the man returned the salam he asked him, "Hath Job the Ulcered passed by thee on this path?" "Indeed he hath," said the other; "but what mayst thou be?" "I am Al-Khizr, the Green Prophet" (upon whom be The Peace), [FN#417] and so saying he brushed by the Droll and passed through the door. Now when the second lover had gone forth and escaped, the Flesher arose and donning the ram's skin set its horns upon his head and began crawling out of the closet upon all fours, hands and knees, until he stood before the husband of his beloved, and said to him, "The Peace be upon you!" "And upon you be The Peace," returned the other, "What mayst thou be?" "I am Iskandar, Lord of the Two Horns," cried the other; "say me, have there passed by thee Job the Ulcered and Al-Khizr the Green Prophet (upon whom be The Peace)?" Quoth the house-master, "They went by this place and forewent thee." So the third lover passed through the doorway and escaped, and presently the Shaykh of the Pipers rose to his feet and applying the mouthpiece of his pipe to his lips went up to his mistress's mate and said, "The Peace be upon you!" and on the man returning his salam, asked him, "Hath it so happened that Job the Ulcered and Al Khizr the Green Prophet and Iskandar Lord of the Two Horns passed this way?" "They have," answered the other, "What art thou?" Cried he, "I am Israfil, [FN#418] and 'tis my design forthright to blow the Last Trump." Hereupon the Droll straightway arose and laid hands upon him crying, "Yállah, Yállah, [FN#419] O my brother, blow not at all until we shall have gone, I and thou, to the Sultan." So saying he took him by the hand and fared forth with him and ceased not faring until he had carried him into the presence, when the King asked, "Wherefore hast thou arrested this man?" Answered he, "O King of the Age, this is our Lord Israfil and 'twas his intent to blow the Last Trump, so I forbade him therefrom until such time as I had brought him for thee to look upon, lest haply he might so have done without thy knowledge, and said I to myself, 'By Allah, better set him before the Sultan ere he sound his Trumpet.' Furthermore I do pray for thy welfare, O King of the Age, inasmuch as thou hast married me to this dame because I had fear of her lest she company with strange men. But I found her a saintly woman who admitted none of mankind save that to-day when I went forth from thee at morning-tide I turned me homewards and going into my house caught with her three Prophets and one Archangel and this is he who intended to blow the Last Trump." Hereupon quoth the Sultan to him, "O Man, art thou Jinn mad? How canst thou have found with thy spouse any of the Prophets as thou sayest?" And quoth he, "By Allah, O King of the Age, whatso hath befallen me that I have reported to thee nor have I hidden from thee aught." The King asked, "Which was he of the Prophets thou foundest beside thy wife?" and he answered, "The Prophet Job (on whom be The Peace) and after him came forth to me from a closet the Prophet Al-Khizr (on whom be the Peace!), and after him Iskandar Lord of the Two Horns (on whom be the Peace!) and lastly this the fourth is the Archangel Israfil." The Sultan marvelled at his words, and exclaimed, "Laud to the Lord! Verily this man whom thou entitlest Israfil is naught but the Shaykh of my Pipers." "I wist naught, O King of the Age," said the other, "but I have related to thee what hath occurred and what I beheld and eyewitnessed." Hereupon the Sultan understood that the wife had friends who forgathered with her, and who had served her husband with such sleight, so he said to the musician, "O man, unless thou tell me truly what happened I will cut off thy head." Thereupon the Shaykh of the Pipers arose, and kissing ground before the Sultan, said to him, "O King of the Age, give me promise of immunity and I will relate to thee all that befel." Quoth the King, "'Tis upon condition that thou tell no lies;" and quoth the other, "O King of the Age, verily, I will shun leasing." [FN#420] So the King gave him a pledge of safety, and the Shaykh described everything that had been done and kept nothing back, and when the King heard the story and the trick which had been wrought by the woman's friends he marvelled thereat and cried, "Allah kill all womankind, [FN#421] the fornicatresses, the adulteresses, the traitresses!" After which he despatched a posse of the Chamberlains to bring into his presence the four persons.--And Shahrazad was surprised by the dawn of day and fell silent and ceased to say her permitted say. Then quoth her sister Dunyazad, "How sweet is thy story, O sister mine, and how enjoyable and delectable!" Quoth she, "And where is this compared with that I would relate to you on the coming night an the King suffer me to survive?" Now when it was the next night and that was
The Seven Hundred and Sixtieth Night,
Dunyazad said to her, "Allah upon thee, O my sister, an thou be other than sleepy, finish for us thy tale that we may cut short the watching of this our latter night!" She replied, "With love and good will!" It hath reached me, O auspicious King, the director, the right-guiding, lord of the rede which is benefiting and of deeds fair-seeming and worthy celebrating, that the King despatched a posse of his Chamberlains to bring into his presence the four persons who were lovers to the Droll's wife, and he found the first to be a Pieman who had claimed the rank of our lord Job (on whom be The Peace!), and the second to be a Market-Gardener who sold savoury herbs and all manner fragrant growths, and he had made himself out to be Al-Khizr (on whom be The Peace!), and the third to be a Butcher who had passed himself off as Iskandar, Lord of the Two Horns (on whom be The Peace!); whilst the fourth, whom the Jester had brought, and who declared that he was the Archangel Israfil, and was about to blow the Last Trump, proved to be the Shaykh of the Pipers. Now when the four were before the King he gave orders to castrate them all save the Shaykh [FN#422] this being the award of him who lewdly frequenteth the women of the royal household. Hereupon they gelded them, and each one who was made a eunuch died without stay and delay; and the Droll divorced his wife and sent her about her business.
I have also by me (said Shahrazad) another tale concerning the wiles of womankind, and it is that of