Home - FAQ - Images - Bibliography | complete versions by Burton - Dixon - Lang - Payne - Scott

Burton: Khalifah The Fisherman Of Baghdad:The same from the Breslau Edition

[Go back to Khalifah The Fisherman Of Baghdad]

NOTE. I have followed the example of Mr. Payne and have translated in its entirety the Tale of Khalifah the Fisherman from the Breslau Edit. (Vol. iv. Pp. 315-365, Night ccxxi- ccxxxii.) in preference to the unsatisfactory process of amalgamating it with that of the Mac. Edit. given above.

There was once, in days of yore and in ages and times long gone before, in the city of Baghdad, a fisherman, by name Khalif, a man of muckle talk and little luck. One day, as he sat in his cell, he bethought himself and said, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! Would Heaven I knew what is my offence in the sight of my Lord and what caused the blackness of my fortune and my littleness of luck among the fishermen, albeit (and I say it who should not) in the city of Baghdad there is never a fisherman like myself." Now he lodged in a ruined place called a Khan, to wit, an inn, without a door, and when he went forth to fish, he would shoulder the net, without basket or fish-slicers, and when the folk would stare at him and say to him, "O Khalif, why not take with thee a basket, to hold the fish thou catchest?"; he would reply, "Even as I carry it forth empty, so would it come back, for I never manage to catch aught." One night he arose, in the darkness before dawn, and taking his net on his shoulder, raised his eyes to heaven and said, "Allah mine, O Thou who subjectedst the sea to Moses son of Imr n, give me this day my daily bread, for Thou art the best of bread-givers!" Then he went down to the Tigris and spreading his net, cast it into the river and waited till it had settled down, when he haled it in and drew it ashore, but behold, it held naught save a dead dog. So he cast away the carcase, saying, "O morning of ill doom! What a handsel is this dead hound, after I had rejoiced in its weight!" Then he mended the rents in the net, saying, "Needs must there after this carrion be fish in plenty, attracted by the smell," and made a second cast. After awhile, he drew up and found in the net the hough of a camel, that had caught in the meshes and rent them right and left. When Khalif saw his net in this state, he wept and said, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! I wonder what is my offence and the cause of the blackness of my fortune and the littleness of my luck, of all folk, so that I catch neither cat-fish nor sprat, that I may broil on the embers and eat, for all I dare say there is not in the city of Baghdad a fisherman like me." Then with a Bismillah he cast his net a third time, and presently drawing it ashore found therein an ape scurvy and one-eyed, mangy, and limping, hending an ivory rod in forehand. When Khalif saw this, he said, "This is indeed a blessed opening! What art thou, O ape?" "Dost thou not know me?" "No, by Allah, I have no knowledge of thee!" "I am thine ape!" "What use is there in thee, O my ape?" "Every day I give thee good-morrow, so Allah may not open to thee the door of daily bread." "Thou failest not of this, O one-eye of ill-omen! May Allah never bless thee! Needs must I pluck out thy sound eye and cut off thy whole leg, so thou mayst become a blind cripple and I be quit of thee. But what is the use of that rod thou hendest in hand?" "O Khalif, I scare the fish therewith, so they may not enter thy net." "Is it so?: then this very day will I punish thee with a grievous punishment and devise thee all manner torments and strip thy flesh from thy bones and be at rest from thee, sorry bit of goods that thou art!" So saying, Khalif the Fisherman unwound from his middle a strand of rope and binding him to a tree by his side, said, "Lookee, O dog of an ape! I mean to cast the net again and if aught come up therein, well and good; but, if it come up empty, I will verily and assuredly make an end of thee, with the cruellest tortures and be quit of thee, thou stinking lot." So he cast the net and drawing it ashore, found in it another ape and said, "Glory be to God the Great! I was wont to pull naught but fish out of this Tigris, but now it yieldeth nothing but apes." Then he looked at the second ape and saw him fair of form and round of face with pendants of gold in his ears and a blue waistcloth about his middle, and he was like unto a lighted taper. So he asked him, "What art thou, thou also, O ape?"; and he answered, saying, "O Khalif, I am the ape of Ab£ al-Sa' d t the Jew, the Caliph's Shroff. Every day, I give him good-morrow, and he maketh a profit of ten gold pieces." Cried the Fisherman, "By Allah, thou art a fine ape, not like this ill-omened monkey o' mine!" So saying, he took a stick and came down upon the sides of the ape, till he broke his ribs and he jumped up and down. And the other ape, the handsome one, answered him, saying, "O Khalif, what will it profit thee to beat him, though thou belabour him till he die?" Khalif replied, "How shall I do? Shall I let him wend his ways that he may scare me the fish with his hang-dog face and give me good-even and good-morrow every day, so Allah may not open to me the door of daily bread? Nay, I will kill him and be quit of him and I will take thee in his stead; so shalt thou give me good-morrow and I shall gain ten golden dinars a day." Thereupon the comely ape made answer, "I will tell thee a better way than that, and if thou hearken to me, thou shalt be at rest and I will become thine ape in lieu of him." Asked the Fisherman, "And what dost thou counsel me?"; and the ape answered, saying, "Cast thy net and thou shalt bring up a noble fish, never saw any its like, and I will tell thee how thou shalt do with it." Replied Khalif, "Lookee, thou too! An I throw my net and there come up therein a third ape, be assured that I will cut the three of you into six bits." And the second ape rejoined, "So be it, O Khalif. I agree to this thy condition." Then Khalif spread the net and cast it and drew it up, when behold, in it was a fine young barbel with a round head, as it were a milking-pail, which when he saw, his wits fled for joy and he said, "Glory be to God! What is this noble creature? Were yonder apes in the river, I had not brought up this fish." Quoth the seemly ape, "O Khalif, an thou give ear to my rede, 'twill bring thee good fortune"; and quoth the Fisherman, "May God damn him who would gainsay thee henceforth!" Thereupon the ape said, "O Khalif, take some grass and lay the fish thereon in the basket and cover it with more grass and take also somewhat of basil from the green grocer's and set it in the fish's mouth. Cover it with a kerchief and push thee through the bazar of Baghdad. Whoever bespeaketh thee of selling it, sell it not but fare on, till thou come to the market street of the jewellers and money-changers. Then count five shops on the right-hand side and the sixth shop is that of Abu al-Sa'adat the Jew, the Caliph's Shroff. When thou standest before him, he will say to thee, 'What seekest thou?'; and do thou make answer, 'I am a fisherwight, I threw my net in thy name and took this noble barbel, which I have brought thee as a present.' If he give thee aught of silver, take it not, be it little or mickle, for it will spoil that which thou wouldst do, but say to him, 'I want of thee naught save one word, that thou say to me, 'I sell thee my ape for thine ape and my luck for thy luck.' An the Jew say this, give him the fish and I shall become thine ape and this crippled, mangy and one-eyed ape will be his ape." Khalif replied, "Well said, O ape," nor did he cease faring Baghdad-wards and observing that which the ape had said to him, till he came to the Jew's shop and saw the Shroff seated, with eunuchs and pages about him, bidding and forbidding and giving and taking. So he set down his basket, saying, "O Sultan of the Jews, I am a fisher-wight and went forth to-day to the Tigris and casting my net in thy name, cried, 'This is for the luck of Abu al-Sa'adat;' and there came up to me this Banni which I have brought thee by way of present." Then he lifted the grass and discovered the fish to the Jew, who marvelled at its make and said, "Extolled be the perfection of the Most Excellent Creator!" Then he gave the fisherman a dinar, but he refused it and he gave him two. This also he refused and the Jew stayed not adding to his offer, till he made it ten dinars; but he still refused and Abu al-Sa'adat said to him, "By Allah, thou art a greedy one. Tell me what thou wouldst have, O Moslem!" Quoth Khalif, "I would have of thee but a single word. " When the Jew heard this , he changed colour and said, "Wouldst thou oust me from my faith? Wend thy ways;" and Khalif said to him, "By Allah, O Jew, naught mattereth an thou become a Moslem or a Nazarene!" Asked the Jew, "Then what wouldst thou have me say?"; and the fisherman answered, "Say, I sell thee my ape for thy ape and my luck for thy luck." The Jew laughed, deeming him little of wit, and said by way of jest, "I sell thee my ape for thy ape and my luck for thy luck. Bear witness against him, O merchants! By Allah, O unhappy, thou art debarred from further claim on me!" So Khalif turned back, blaming himself and saying, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! Alas that I did not take the gold!" and fared on blaming himself in the matter of the money till he came to the Tigris, but found not the two apes, whereupon he wept and slapped his face and strewed dust on his head, saying, "But that the second ape wheedled me and put a cheat on me, the one-eyed ape had not escaped." And he gave not over wailing and weeping, till heat and hunger grew sore on him: so he took the net, saying, "Come, let us make a cast, trusting in Allah's blessing; belike I may catch a cat-fish or a barbel which I may boil and eat." So he threw the net and waiting till it had settled, drew it ashore and found it full of fish, whereat he was consoled and rejoiced and busied himself with unmeshing the fish and casting them on the earth. Presently, up came a woman seeking fish and crying out, "Fish is not to be found in the town." She caught sight of Khalif, and said to him, "Wilt thou sell this fish, O Master?" Answered Khalif, "I am going to turn it into clothes, 'tis all for sale, even to my beard. Take what thou wilt." So she gave him a dinar and he filled her basket. Then she went away and behold, up came another servant, seeking a dinar's worth of fish; nor did the folk cease till it was the hour of mid-afternoon prayer and Khalif had sold ten golden dinars' worth of fish. Then, being faint and famisht, he folded and shouldered his net and, repairing to the market, bought himself a woollen gown, a calotte with a plaited border and a honey-coloured turband for a dinar receiving two dirhams by way of change, wherewith he purchased fried cheese and a fat sheep's tail and honey and setting them in the oilman's platter, ate till he was full and his ribs felt cold from the mighty stuffing. Then he marched off to his lodgings in the magazine, clad in the gown and the honey-coloured turband and with the nine golden dinars in his mouth, rejoicing in what he had never in his life seen. He entered and lay down, but could not sleep for anxious thoughts and abode playing with the money half the night. Then said he in himself, "Haply the Caliph may hear that I have gold and say to Ja'afar, 'Go to Khalif the Fisherman and borrow us some money of him.' If I give it him, it will be no light matter to me, and if I give it not, he will torment me; but torture is easier to me than the giving up of the cash. However, I will arise and make trial of myself if I have a skin proof against stick or not." So he put off his clothes and taking a sailor's plaited whip, of an hundred and sixty strands, ceased not beating himself, till his sides and body were all bloody, crying out at every stroke he dealt himself and saying "O Moslems! I am a poor man! O Moslems, I am a poor man! O Moslems, whence should I have gold, whence should I have coin?" till the neighbours, who dwelt with him in that place, hearing him crying and saying, "Go to men of wealth and take of them," thought that thieves were torturing him, to get money from him, and that he was praying for aidance. Accordingly they flocked to him each armed with some weapon and finding the door of his lodging locked and hearing him roaring out for help, deemed that the thieves had come down upon him from the terrace-roof; so they fell upon the door and burst it open. Then they entered and found him mother-naked and bareheaded with body dripping blood, and altogether in a sad pickle; so they asked him, "What is this case in which we find thee? Hast thou lost thy wits and hath Jinn-madness betided thee this night?" And he answered them, "Nay; but I have gold with me and I feared lest the Caliph send to borrow of me and it were no light matter to give him aught; yet, an I gave not to him 'tis only too sure that he would put me to the torture; wherefore I arose to see if my skin were stick-proof or not." When they heard these words they said to him, "May Allah not assain thy body, unlucky madman that thou art! Of a surety thou art fallen mad to-night! Lie down to sleep, may Allah never bless thee! How many thousand dinars hast thou, that the Caliph should come and borrow of thee?" He replied, "By Allah, I have naught but nine dinars." And they all said, "By Allah, he is not otherwise than passing rich!" Then they left him wondering at his want of wit, and Khalif took his cash and wrapped it in a rag, saying to himself, "Where shall I hide all this gold? An I bury it, they will take it, and if I put it out on deposit, they will deny that I did so, and if I carry it on my head, they will snatch it, and if I tie it to my sleeve, they will cut it away." Presently, he espied a little breast-pocket in the gown and said, "By Allah, this is fine! 'Tis under my throat and hard by my mouth: if any put out his hand to hend it, I can come down on it with my mouth and hide it in my throttle." So he set the rag containing the gold in the pocket and lay down, but slept not that night for suspicion and trouble and anxious thought. On the morrow, he fared forth of his lodging on fishing intent and, betaking himself to the river, went down into the water, up to his knees. Then he threw the net and shook it with might and main; whereupon the purse fell down into the stream. So he tore off gown and turband and plunged in after it, saying, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!" Nor did he give over diving and searching the stream-bed, till the day was half spent, but found not the purse. Now one saw him from afar diving and plunging and his gown and turband lying in the sun at a distance from him, with no one by them; so he watched him, till he dived again when he dashed at the clothes and made off with them. Presently, Khalif came ashore and, missing his gown and turband, was chagrined for their loss with passing cark and care and ascended a mound, to look for some passer-by, of whom he might enquire concerning them, but found none. Now the Caliph Harun al-Rashid had gone a-hunting and chasing that day; and, returning at the time of the noon heat, was oppressed thereby and thirsted; so he looked for water from afar and seeing a naked man standing on the mound said to Ja'afar, "Seest thou what I see?" Replied the Wazir, "Yes, O Commander of the Faithful; I see a man standing on a hillock." Al-Rashid asked, "What is he?"; and Ja'afar answered, "Haply he is the guardian of a cucumber-plot." Quoth the Caliph, "Perhaps he is a pious man; I would fain go to him, alone, and desire of him his prayers; and abide ye where you are." So he went up to Khalif and saluting him with the salam said to him, "What art thou, O man?" Replied the fisherman, "Dost thou not know me? I am Khalif the Fisherman;" and the Caliph rejoined, "What? The Fisherman with the woollen gown and the honey-coloured turband?" When Khalif heard him name the clothes he had lost, he said in himself, "This is he who took my duds: belike he did but jest with me." So he came down from the knoll and said, "Can I not take a noontide nap but thou must trick me this trick? I saw thee take my gear and knew that thou wast joking with me." At this, laughter got the better of the Caliph and he said; "What clothes hast thou lost? I know nothing of that whereof thou speakest, O Khalif." Cried the Fisherman, "By God the Great, except thou bring me back the gear, I will smash thy ribs with this staff!" (For he always carried a quarterstaff.) Quoth the Caliph, "By Allah, I have not seen the things whereof thou speakest!"; and quoth Khalif "I will go with thee and take note of thy dwelling-place and complain of thee to the Chief of Police, so thou mayst not trick me this trick again. By Allah, none took my gown and turband but thou, and except thou give them back to me at once, I will throw thee off the back of that she-ass thou ridest and come down on thy pate with this quarterstaff, till thou canst not stir!" Thereupon he tugged at the bridle of the mule so that she reared up on her hind legs and the Caliph said to himself, "What calamity is this I have fallen into with this madman?" Then he pulled off a gown he had on, worth an hundred dinars, and said to Khalif, "Take this gown in lieu of thine own." He took it and donning it saw it was too long; so he cut it short at the knees and turbanded his head with the cut-off piece; then said to the Caliph, "What art thou and what is thy craft? But why ask? Thou art none other than a trumpeter." Al-Rashid asked, "What showed thee that I was a trumpeter by trade?"; and Khalif answered, "Thy big nostrils and little mouth." Cried the Caliph, "Well guessed! Yes, I am of that craft." Then said Khalif, "An thou wilt hearken to me, I will teach thee the art of fishing: 'twill be better for thee than trumpeting and thou wilt eat lawfully." Replied the Caliph, "Teach it me so that I may see whether I am capable of learning it." And Khalif said, "Come with me, O trumpeter." So the Caliph followed him down to the river and took the net from him, whilst he taught him how to throw it. Then he cast it and drew it up, when, behold, it was heavy, and the fisherman said, "O trumpeter, an the net be caught on one of the rocks, drag it not too hard, or I twill break and by Allah, I will take thy she-ass in payment thereof!" The Caliph laughed at his words and drew up the net, little by little, till he brought it ashore and found it full of fish; which when Khalif saw, his reason fled for joy and presently he cried, "By Allah, O trumpeter, thy luck is good in fishing! Never in my life will I part with thee! But now I mean to send thee to the fish-bazar, where do thou enquire for the shop of Humayd the fisherman and say to him, 'My master Khalif saluteth thee and biddeth thee send him a pair of frails and a knife, so he may bring thee more fish than yesterday.' Run and return to me forthright!" The Caliph replied (and indeed he was laughing), "On my head, O master!" and, mounting his mule, rode back to Ja'afar, who said to. him, "Tell me what hath betided thee." So the Caliph told him all that had passed between Khalif the Fisherman and himself, from first to last, adding, "I left him awaiting my return to him with the baskets and I am resolved that he shall teach me how to scale fish and clean them." Quoth Ja'afar, "And I will go with thee to sweep up the scales and clean out the shop." And the affair abode thus, till presently the Caliph cried, "O Ja'afar, I desire of thee that thou despatch the young Mamelukes, saying to them, 'Whoso bringeth me a fish from before yonder fisherman, I will give him a dinar;' for I love to eat of my own fishing." Accordingly Ja'afar repeated to the young white slaves what the Caliph had said and directed them where to find the man. They came down upon Khalif and snatched the fish from him; and when he saw them and noted their goodliness, he doubted not but that they were of the black-eyed Houris of Paradise: so he caught up a couple of fish and ran into the river, saying, "O Allah mine, by the secret virtue of these fish, forgive me!" Suddenly, up came the chief eunuch, questing fish, but he found none; so seeing Khalif ducking and rising in the water, with the two fish in his hands, called out to him, saying, "O Khalif, what hast thou there?" Replied the fisherman, "Two fish," and the eunuch said, "Give them to me and take an hundred dinars for them." Now when Khalif heard speak of an hundred dinars, he came up out of the water and cried, "Hand over the hundred dinars." Said the eunuch, "Follow me to the house of Al-Rashid and receive thy gold, O Khalif; and, taking the fish, made off to the Palace of the Caliphate. Meanwhile Khalif betook himself to Baghdad, clad as he was in the Caliph's gown, which reached only to above his knees, turbanded with the piece he had cut off therefrom and girt about his middle with a rope, and he pushed through the centre of the city. The folk fell a-laughing and marvelling at him and saying, "Whence hadst thou that robe of honour?" But he went on, asking, "Where is the house of Al-Rash d?;" and they answered, "Say, 'The house of Al-Rashid';" and he rejoined, "'Tis all the same," and fared on, till he came to the Palace of the Caliphate. Now he was seen by the tailor, who had made the gown and who was standing at the door, and when he noticed it upon the Fisherman, he said to him, "For how many years hast thou had admission to the palace?" Khalif replied "Ever since I was a little one;" and the tailor asked, "Whence hadest thou that gown thou hast spoilt on this wise?" Khalif answered, "I had it of my apprentice the trumpeter." Then he went up to the door, where he found the Chief Eunuch sitting with the two fishes by his side: and seeing him sable-black of hue, said to him, "Wilt thou not bring the hundred dinars, O uncle Tulip?" Quoth he, "On my head, O Khalif," when, behold, out came Ja'afar from the presence of the Caliph and seeing the fisherman talking with the Eunuch and saying to him, "This is the reward of goodness, O nuncle Tulip," went in to Al-Rashid and said to him, "O Commander of the Faithful, thy master the Fisherman is with the Chief Eunuch, dunning him for an hundred dinars." Cried the Caliph, "Bring him to me, O Ja'afar;" and the Minister answered, "Hearing and obeying." So he went out to the Fisherman and said to him, "O Khalif, thine apprentice the trumpeter biddeth thee to him;" then he walked on, followed by the other till they reached the presence-chamber, where he saw the Caliph seated, with a canopy over his head. When he entered, Al-Rashid wrote three scrolls and set them before him, and the Fisherman said to him, "So thou hast given up trumpeting and turned astrologer!" Quoth the Caliph to him, "Take thee a scroll." Now in the first he had written, "Let him be given a gold piece," in the second, "An hundred dinars," and in the third, "Let him be given an hundred blows with a whip." So Khalif put out his hand and by the decree of the Predestinator, it lighted on the scroll wherein was written, "Let him receive an hundred lashes," and Kings, whenas they ordain aught, go not back therefrom. So they threw him prone on the ground and beat him an hundred blows, whilst he wept and roared for succour, but none succoured him, and said, "By Allah, this is a good joke O trumpeter! I teach thee fishing and thou turnest astrologer and drawest me an unlucky lot. Fie upon thee, in thee is naught of good!" When the Caliph heard his speech, he fell fainting in a fit of laughter and said, "O Khalif, no harm shall betide thee: fear not. Give him an hundred gold pieces." So they gave him an hundred dinars, and he went out, and ceased not faring forth till he came to the trunk-market, where he found the folk assembled in a ring about a broker, who was crying out and saying, "At an hundred dinars, less one dinar! A locked chest!" So he pressed on and pushed through the crowd and said to the broker, "Mine for an hundred dinars!" The broker closed with him and took his money, whereupon there was left him nor little nor much. The porters disputed awhile about who should carry the chest and presently all said, "By Allah, none shall carry this chest but Zurayk!" And the folk said, "Blue-eyes hath the best right to it." So Zurayk shouldered the chest, after the goodliest fashion, and walked a-rear of Khalif. As they went along, the Fisherman said in himself, "I have nothing left to give the porter; how shall I rid myself of him? Now I will traverse the main streets with him and lead him about, till he be weary and set it down and leave it, when I will take it up and carry it to my lodging." Accordingly, he went round about the city with the porter from noontide to sundown, till the man began to grumble and said, "O my lord, where is thy house?" Quoth Khalif, "Yesterday I knew it, but to-day I have forgotten it." And the porter said, "Give me my hire and take thy chest." But Khalif said, "Go on at thy leisure, till I bethink me where my house is," presently adding, "O Zurayk, I have no money with me. 'Tis all in my house and I have forgotten where it is." As they were talking, there passed by them one who knew the Fisherman and said to him, "O Khalif, what bringeth thee hither?" Quoth the porter, "O uncle, where is Khalif's house?" and quoth he, "'Tis in the ruined Khan in the Raw sin Quarter." Then said Zurayk to Khalif, "Go to; would Heaven thou hadst never lived nor been!" And the Fisherman trudged on, followed by the porter, till they came to the place when the Hammal said, "O thou whose daily bread Allah cut off in this world, have we not passed this place a score of times? Hadst thou said to me, 'Tis in such a stead, thou hadst spared me this great toil; but now give me my wage and let me wend my way." Khalif replied "Thou shalt have silver, if not gold. Stay here, till I bring thee the same." So he entered his lodging and taking a mallet he had there, studded with forty nails (wherewith an he smote a camel, he had made an end of it), rushed upon the porter and raised his forearm to strike him therewith; but Zurayk cried out at him, saying, "Hold thy hand! I have no claim on thee," and fled. Now having got rid of the Hammal, Khalif carried the chest into the Khan, whereupon the neighbours came down and flocked about him, saying, "O Khalif, whence hadst thou this robe and this chest?" Quoth he, "From my apprentice Al-Rashid who gave them to me," and they said, "The pimp is mad! Al-Rashid will assuredly hear of his talk and hang him over the door of his lodging and hang all in the Khan on account of the droll. This is a fine farce!" Then they helped him to carry the chest into his lodging and it filled the whole closet. Thus far concerning Khalif; but as for the history of the chest, it was as follows: The Caliph had a Turkish slave-girl, by name Kut al-Kul£b, whom he loved with love exceeding and the Lady Zubaydah came to know of this from himself and was passing jealous of her and secretly plotted mischief against her. So, whilst the Commander of the Faithful was absent a-sporting and a-hunting, she sent for Kut al-Kulub and, inviting her to a banquet, set before her meat and wine, and she ate and drank. Now the wine was drugged with Bhang; so she slept and Zubaydah sent for her Chief Eunuch and putting her in a great chest, locked it and gave it to him, saying, "Take this chest and cast it into the river." Thereupon he took it up before him on a he-mule and set out with it for the sea, but found it unfit to carry; so, as he passed by the trunk-market, he saw the Shaykh of the brokers and salesmen and said to him, "Wilt thou sell me this chest, O uncle?" The broker replied, "Yes, we will do this much." "But," said the Eunuch, "look thou sell it not except locked;" and the other, "'Tis well; we will do that also." So he set down the chest, and they cried it for sale, saying, "Who will buy this chest for an hundred dinars?"; and behold, up came Khalif the Fisherman and bought the chest after turning it over right and left; and there passed between him and the porter that which hath been before set out. Now as regards Khalif the Fisherman; he lay down on the chest to sleep, and presently Kut al-Kulub awoke from her Bhang and finding herself in the chest, cried out and said, "Alas!" Whereupon Khalif sprang off the chest-lid and cried out and said, "Ho, Moslems! Come to my help! There are Ifrits in the chest." So the neighbours awoke from sleep and said to him, "What mattereth thee, O madman?" Quoth he, "The chest is full of Ifrits;" and quoth they, "Go to sleep; thou hast troubled our rest this night may Allah not bless thee! Go in and sleep, without madness." He ejaculated, "I cannot sleep;" but they abused him and he went in and lay down once more. And behold, Kut al-Kulub spoke and said, "Where am I?" Upon which Khalif fled forth the closet and said, "O neighbours of the hostelry, come to my aid!" Quoth they, "What hath befallen thee? Thou troublest the neighbours' rest." "O folk, there be Ifrits in the chest, moving and speaking." "Thou liest: what do they say?" "They say, 'Where am I?'" "Would Heaven thou wert in Hell! Thou disturbest the neighbours and hinderest them of sleep. Go to sleep, would thou hadst never lived nor been!" So Khalif went in fearful because he had no place wherein to sleep save upon the chest-lid when lo! as he stood, with ears listening for speech, Kut al-Kulub spake again and said, "I'm hungry." So in sore affright he fled forth and cried out, "Ho neighbours! ho dwellers in the Khan, come aid me!" Said they, "What is thy calamity now?" And he answered, "The Ifrits in the chest say, 'We are hungry.'" Quoth the neighbours one to other, "'Twould seem Khalif is hungry; let us feed him and give him the supper-orts; else he will not let us sleep to-night." So they brought him bread and meat and broken victuals and radishes and gave him a basket full of all kinds of things, saying, "Eat till thou be full and go to sleep and talk not, else will we break thy ribs and beat thee to death this very night." So he took the basket with the provaunt and entered his lodging. Now it was a moonlight night and the moon shone in full sheen upon the chest and lit up the closet with its light, seeing this he sat down on his purchase and fell to eating of the food with both hands. Presently Kut al-Kulub spake again and said, "Open to me and have mercy upon me, O Moslems!" So Khalif arose and taking a stone he had by him, broke the chest open and behold, therein lay a young lady as she were the sun's shining light with brow flower-white, face moonbright, cheeks of rose-hue exquisite and speech sweeter than sugar-bite, and in dress worth a thousand dinars and more bedight. Seeing this his wits flew from his head for joy and he said, "By Allah, thou art of the fair!" She asked him, "What art thou, O fellow?" and he answered, "O my lady, I am Khalif the Fisherman." Quoth she, "Who brought me hither?"; and quoth he, "I bought thee, and thou art my slave-girl." Thereupon said she, "I see on thee a robe of the raiment of the Caliph." So he told her all that had betided him, from first to last, and how he had bought the chest; wherefore she knew that the Lady Zubaydah had played her false; and she ceased not talking with him till the morning, when she said to him, "O Khalif, seek me from some one inkcase and reed-pen and paper and bring them to me." So he found with one of the neighbours what she sought and brought it to her, whereupon she wrote a letter and folded it and gave it to him, saying, "O Khalif, take this paper and carry it to the jewel-market, where do thou enquire for the shop of Abu al-Hasan the jeweller and give it to him." Answered the Fisherman, "O my lady, this name is difficult to me; I cannot remember it." And she rejoined, "Then ask for the shop of Ibn al-'Uk b." Quoth he, "O my lady, what is an 'Ukab?"; and quoth she, "'Tis a bird which folk carry on fist with eyes hooded." And he exclaimed, "O my lady, I know it." Then he went forth from her and fared on, repeating the name, lest it fade from his memory; but, by the time he reached the jewel-market, he had forgotten it. So he accosted one of the merchants and said to him, "Is there any here named after a bird?" Replied the merchant, "Yes, thou meanest Ibn al-Ukab." Khalif cried, "That's the man I want," and making his way to him, gave him the letter, which when he read and knew the purport thereof, he fell to kissing it and laying it on his head; for it is said that Abu al-Hasan was the agent of the Lady Kut al-Kulub and her intendant over all her property in lands and houses. Now she had written to him, saying, "From Her Highness the Lady Kut al-Kulub to Sir Abu al-Hasan the jeweller. The instant this letter reacheth thee, set apart for us a saloon completely equipped with furniture and vessels and negro-slaves and slave-girls and what not else is needful for our residence and seemly, and take the bearer of the missive and carry him to the bath. Then clothe him in costly apparel and do with him thus and thus." So he said "Hearing and obeying," and locking up his shop, took the Fisherman and bore him to the bath, where he committed him to one of the bathmen, that he might serve him, according to custom. Then he went forth to carry out the Lady Kut al-Kulub's orders. As for Khalif, he concluded, of his lack of wit and stupidity, that the bath was a prison and said to the bathman, "What crime have I committed that ye should lay me in limbo?" They laughed at him and made him sit on the side of the tank, whilst the bathman took hold of his legs, that he might shampoo them. Khalif thought he meant to wrestle with him and said to himself, "This is a wrestling-place and I knew naught of it." Then he arose and seizing the bathman's legs, lifted him up and threw him on the ground and broke his ribs. The man cried out for help, whereupon the other bathmen came in a crowd and fell upon Khalif and overcoming him by dint of numbers, delivered their comrade from his clutches and tunded him till he came to himself. Then they knew that the Fisherman was a simpleton and served him till Abu al-Hasan came back with a dress of rich stuff and clad him therein; after which he brought him a handsome she-mule, ready saddled, and taking him by the hand, carried him forth of the bath and said to him, "Mount." Quoth he, "How shall I mount? I fear lest she throw me and break my ribs into my belly." Nor would he back the mule, save after much travail and trouble, and they stinted not faring on, till they came to the place which Abu al-Hasan had set apart for the Lady Kut al-Kulub. Thereupon Khalif entered and found her sitting, with slaves and eunuchs about her and the porter at the door, staff in hand, who when he saw the Fisherman sprang up and kissing his hand, went before him, till he brought him within the saloon. Here the Fisherman saw what amazed his wit, and his eye was dazzled by that which he beheld of riches past count and slaves and servants, who kissed his hand and said, "May the bath be a blessing to thee!" When he entered the saloon and drew near unto Kut al-Kulub, she sprang up to him and taking him by the hand, seated him on a high-mattrassed divan. Then she brought him a vase of sherbet of sugar, mingled with rosewater and willow-water, and he took it and drank it off and left not a single drop. Moreover, he ran his finger round the inside of the vessel and would have licked it, but she forbade him, saying, "That is foul." Quoth he, "Silence; this is naught but good honey;" and she laughed at him and set before him a tray of meats, whereof he ate his sufficiency. Then they brought an ewer and basin of gold, and he washed his right hand and abode in the gladdest of life and the most honourable. Now hear what befel the Commander of the Faithful. When he came back from his journey and found not Kut al-Kulub, he questioned the Lady Zubaydah of her and she said, "She is verily dead, may thy head live, O Prince of True Believers!" But she had bidden dig a grave amiddlemost the Palace and had built over it a mock tomb, for her knowledge of the love the Caliph bore to Kut al-Kulub: so she said to him, "O Commander of the Faithful, I made her a tomb amiddlemost the Palace and buried her there." Then she donned black, a mere sham and pure pretence; and feigned mourning a great while. Now Kut al-Kulub knew that the Caliph was come back from his hunting excursion; so she turned to Khalif and said to him, "Arise; hie thee to the bath and come back." So he rose and went to the Hammam-bath, and when he returned, she clad him in a dress worth a thousand dinars and taught him manners and respectful bearing to superiors. Then said she to him, "Go hence to the Caliph and say to him, 'O Commander of the Faithful, 'tis my desire that this night thou deign be my guest.'" So Khalif arose and mounting his she-mule, rode, with pages and black slaves before him, till he came to the Palace of the Caliphate. Quoth the wise, "Dress up a stick and 'twill look chique." And indeed his comeliness was manifest and his goodliness and the folk marvelled at this. Presently, the Chief Eunuch saw him, the same who had given him the hundred dinars that had been the cause of his good fortune; so he went in to the Caliph and said to him, "O Commander of the Faithful, Khalif the Fisherman is become a King, and on him is a robe of honour worth a thousand dinars." The Prince of True Believers bade admit him; so he entered and said, "Peace be with thee, O Commander of the Faithful and Vice-regent of the Lord of the three Worlds and Defender of the folk of the Faith! Allah Almighty prolong thy days and honour thy dominion and exalt thy degree to the highmost height!" The Caliph looked at him and marvelled at him and how fortune had come to him at unawares; then he said to him, "O Khalif, whence hadst thou that robe which is upon thee?" He replied, "O Commander of the Faithful, it cometh from my house." Quoth the Caliph, "Hast thou then a house?"; and quoth Khalif, "Yea, verily! and thou, O Commander of the Faithful, art my guest this day." Al-Rashid said, "I alone, O Khalif, or I and those who are with me?"; and he replied, "Thou and whom thou wilt." So Ja'afar turned to him and said, "We will be thy guests this night;" whereupon he kissed ground again and withdrawing, mounted his mule and rode off, attended by his servants and suite of Mamelukes leaving the Caliph marvelling at this and saying to Ja'afar, "Sawest thou Khalif, with his mule and dress, his white slaves and his dignity? But yesterday I knew him for a buffoon and a jester." And they marvelled at this much. Then they mounted and rode, till they drew near Khalif's house, when the Fisherman alighted and, taking a bundle from one of his attendants, opened it and pulled out therefrom a piece of tabby silk and spread it under the hoofs of the Caliph's she-mule; then he brought out a piece of velvet-Kimcob and a third of fine satin and did with them likewise; and thus he spread well nigh twenty pieces of rich stuffs, till Al-Rashid and his suite had reached the house; when he came forward and said, "Bismillah, O Commander of the Faithful!" Quoth Al-Rashid to Ja'afar, "I wonder to whom this house may belong," and quoth he, "It belongeth to a man hight Ibn al-Ukab, Syndic of the jewellers." So the Caliph dismounted and entering, with his courtiers, saw a high-builded saloon, spacious and boon, with couches on dais and carpets and divans strown in place. So he went up to the couch that was set for himself on four legs of ivory, plated with glittering gold and covered with seven carpets. This pleased him and behold, up came Khalif, with eunuchs and little white slaves, bearing all manner sherbets, compounded with sugar and lemon and perfumed with rose and willow-water and the purest musk. The Fisherman advanced and drank and gave the Caliph to drink, and the cup-bearers came forward and served the rest of the company with the sherbets. Then Khalif brought a table spread with meats of various colours and geese and fowls and other birds, saying, "In the name of Allah!" So they ate their fill; after which he bade remove the tables and kissing the ground three times before the Caliph craved his royal leave to bring wine and music. He granted him permission for this and turning to Ja'afar, said to him, "As my head liveth, the house and that which is therein is Khalif's; for that he is ruler over it and I am in admiration at him, whence there came to him this passing prosperity and exceeding felicity! However, this is no great matter to Him who saith to a thing, 'Be!' and it becometh; what I most wonder at is his understanding, how it hath increased, and whence he hath gotten this loftiness and this lordliness; but, when Allah willeth weal unto a man, He amendeth his intelligence before bringing him to worldly affluence." As they were talking, behold, up came Khalif, followed by cup-bearer lads like moons, belted with zones of gold, who spread a cloth of siglaton and set thereon flagons of chinaware and tall flasks of glass and cups of crystal and bottles and hanaps of all colours; and those flagons they filled with pure clear and old wine, whose scent was as the fragrance of virgin musk and it was even as saith the poet,

"Ply me and also my mate be plied * With pure wine prest in the olden tide.
Daughter of nobles they lead her forth * In raiment of goblets beautified.
They belt her round with the brightest gems, * And pearls and unions, the Ocean's pride;
So I by these signs and signets know * Wherefore the Wine is entitled 'Bride.'"

And round about these vessels were confections and flowers, such as may not be surpassed. When Al-Rashid saw this from Khalif, he inclined to him and smiled upon him and invested him with an office; so Khalif wished him continuance of honour and endurance of days and said, "Will the Commander of the Faithful deign give me leave to bring him a singer, a lute-player her like was never heard among mortals ever?" Quoth the Caliph, "Thou art permitted!" So he kissed ground before him and going to a secret closet, called Kut al-Kulub, who came after she had disguised and falsed and veiled herself, tripping in her robes and trinkets; and she kissed ground before the Commander of the Faithful. Then she sat down and tuning the lute, touched its strings and played upon it, till all present were like to faint for excess of delight; after which she improvised these verses,

"Would Heaven I wot, will ever Time bring our beloveds back again? * And, ah! will Union and its bliss to bless two lovers deign?
Will Time assure to us united days and joinŠd joy, * While from the storms and stowres of life in safety we remain?
Then O Who bade this pleasure be, our parting past and gone, * And made one house our meeting-stead throughout the Nights contain;
By him, draw near me, love, and closest cling to side of me * Else were my wearied wasted life, a vanity, a bane."

When the Caliph heard this, he could not master himself, but rent his raiment and fell down a-swoon; whereupon all who were present hastened to doff their dress and throw it over him, whilst Kut al-Kulub signed to Khalif and said to him, "Hie to yonder chest and bring us what is therein;" for she had made ready therein a suit of the Caliph's wear against the like of such hour as this. So Khalif brought it to her and she threw it over the Commander of the Faithful, who came to himself and knowing her for Kut al- Kulub, said, "Is this the Day of Resurrection and hath Allah quickened those who are in the tombs; or am I asleep and is this an imbroglio of dreams?" Quoth Kut al-Kulub, "We are on wake, not on sleep, and I am alive, nor have I drained the cup of death." Then she told him all that had befallen her, and indeed, since he lost her, life had not been light to him nor had sleep been sweet, and he abode now wondering, then weeping and anon afire for longing. When she had made an end of her story, the Caliph rose and took her by the hand, intending for her palace, after he had kissed her inner lips, and had strained her to his bosom; whereupon Khalif rose and said, "By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful! Thou hast already wronged me once, and now thou wrongest me again." Quoth Al-Rashid, "Indeed thou speakest sooth, O Khalif," and bade the Wazir Ja'afar give him what should satisfy him. So he straightway gifted him with all for which he wished and assigned him a village, the yearly revenues whereof were twenty thousand dinars. Moreover Kut al-Kulub generously presented him the house and all that was therein of furniture and hangings and white slaves and slave-girls and eunuchs great and small. So Khalif became possessed of this passing affluence and exceeding wealth and took him a wife, and prosperity taught him gravity and dignity, and good fortune overwhelmed him. The Caliph enrolled him among his equerries and he abode in all solace of life and its delights till he deceased and was admitted to the mercy of Allah. Furthermore they relate a tale anent...

[Go to Masrur and Zayn Al-Mawasif]

Burton, Richard (1821-1890). The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. London. 1885-1888. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. VII. Gutenberg Vol. VIII. Gutenberg Vol. IX. Gutenberg Vol. X. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.

1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM

powered by FreeFind