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Payne: Story of the Eunuch Kafour

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From the time when I was eight years old, I was wont to tell the slave-merchants one lie every year, so that they fell out with one another, till at last my master lost patience with me and carrying me down to the market, delivered me to a broker and bade him cry me for sale, saying, "Who will buy this slave with his fault?" He did so, and it was asked him, "What is his fault?" Quoth he, "He tells one lie every year." Then came up one of the merchants and said to the broker, "How much have they bidden for this slave, with his fault?" "Six hundred dirhems," replied the broker. "And twenty dirhems for thyself," said the merchant. So he brought him to the slave-dealer, who took the money, and the broker carried me to my master's house and went away, after having received his brokerage. The merchant clothed me as befitted my condition, and I bode in his service the rest of the year, until the new year came in with good omen. It was a blessed season, rich in herbage and the fruits of the earth, and the merchants began to give entertainments every day, each bearing the cost in turn, till it came to my master's turn to entertain them in a garden without the city. So he and the other merchants repaired to the garden, taking with them all that they required of food and so forth, and sat, eating and drinking and carousing, till noon, when my master, having need of something from the house, said to me, "O slave, mount the mule and go to the house and get such and such a thing from thy mistress and return quickly." I did as he bade me and started for the house, but as I drew near, I began to cry out and weep copiously, whereupon all the people of the quarter collected, great and small; and my master's wife and daughters, hearing the noise I was making, opened the door and asked me what was the matter. Quoth I, "My master and his friends were sitting beneath an old wall, and it fell on them: and when I saw what had befallen them, I mounted the mule and came hither, in haste, to tell you." When my master's wife and daughters heard this, they shrieked aloud and tore their clothes and buffeted their faces, whilst the neighbours came round them. Then my mistress overturned the furniture of the house, pell-mell, tore down the shelves, broke up the casements and the lattices and smeared the walls with mud and indigo. Presently she said to me, "Out on thee, O Kafour! Come and help me tear down these cupboards and break up these vessels and porcelain!" So I went to her and helped her break up all the shelves in the house, with everything on them, after which I went round about the roofs and every part of the house, demolishing all I could and leaving not a single piece of china or the like in the house unbroken, till I had laid waste the whole place, crying out the while, "Alas, my master!" Then my mistress sallied forth, with her face uncovered and only her kerchief on, accompanied by her sons and daughters, and said to me, "Go thou before us and show us the place where thy master lies dead under the wall, that we may take him out from the ruins and lay him on a bier and carry him to the house and give him a goodly funeral." So I went on before them, crying out, "Alas, my master!" and they after me, bareheaded, crying out, "Alas! Alas for the man!" And there was not a man nor a woman nor a boy nor an old woman in the quarter but followed us, buffeting their faces and weeping sore. On this wise, I traversed the city with them, and the folk asked what was the matter, whereupon they told them what they had heard from me, and they exclaimed, "There is no power and no virtue but in God!" Then said one of them, "He was a man of consideration; so let us go to the chief of the police and tell him what has happened." So they repaired to the magistrate and told him, whereupon he mounted and taking with him workmen with spades and baskets, set out for the scene of the accident, following my track, with all the people after him. I ran on before them, buffeting my face and throwing dust on my head and crying out, followed by my mistress and her children, shrieking aloud. But I outran them and reached the garden before them, and when my master saw me in this state and heard me crying out, "Alas, my mistress! Alas! Alas! Who is left to take pity on me, now that my mistress is dead? Would God I had died instead of her!" he was confounded and his colour paled. Then said he to me, "What ails thee, O Kafour? What is the matter?" "O my lord," replied I, "When thou sentest me to the house, I found that the wall of the saloon had given way and the whole of it had fallen in upon my mistress and her children." "And did not thy mistress escape?" "No, by Allah, O my master!" answered I. "Not one of them was saved, and the first to die was my mistress, thine elder daughter." "Did not my younger daughter escape?" asked he. "No," replied I; and he said, "What became of the mule I use to ride? Was she saved?" "No, by Allah," answered I; "the walls of the house and of the stable fell in on all that were in the dwelling, even to the sheep and geese and fowls, so that they all became a heap of flesh and the dogs ate them: not one of them is saved." "Not even thy master, my elder son?" asked he. "No, by Allah!" repeated I. "Not one of them was saved, and now there remains neither house nor inhabitants nor any trace of them: and as for the sheep and geese and fowls, the dogs and cats have eaten them." When my master heard this, the light in his eyes became darkness and he lost command of his senses and his reason, so that he could not stand upon his feet, for he was as one taken with the rickets and his back was broken. Then he rent his clothes and plucked out his beard and casting his turban from his head, buffeted his face, till the blood streamed down, crying out, "Alas, my children! Alas, my wife! Alas, what a misfortune! To whom did there ever happen the like of what hath befallen me?" The other merchants, his companions, joined in his tears and lamentations and rent their clothes, being moved to pity of his case; and my master went out of the garden' buffeting his face and staggering like a drunken man, for stress of what had befallen him and the much beating he had given his face. As he came forth of the garden-gate, followed by the other merchants, behold, they saw a great cloud of dust and heard a great noise of crying and lamentation. They looked, and behold, it was the chief of the police with his officers and the townspeople who had come out to look on, and my master's family in front of them, weeping sore and shrieking and lamenting. The first to accost my master were his wife and children; and when he saw them, he was confounded and laughed and said to them, "How is it with you all and what befell you in the house?" When they saw him, they exclaimed, "Praised be God for thy safety!" and threw themselves upon him, and his children clung to him, crying, "Alas, our father! Praised be God for thy preservation, O our father!" Then said his wife, "Thou art well, praised be God who hath shown us thy face in safety!" And indeed she was confounded and her reason fled, when she saw him, and she said, "O my lord, how did you escape, thou and thy friends the merchants?" "And how fared it with thee in the house?" asked he. "We were all in good health and case," answered they; "nor has aught befallen us in the house, save that thy slave Kafour came to us, bareheaded, with his clothes torn and crying out, 'Alas, my master! Alas, my master!' So we asked what was the matter, and he said, 'The wall of the garden has fallen on my master and his friends, and they are all dead.'" "By Allah," said my master, "he came to me but now, crying out, 'Alas, my mistress! Alas, her children!' and said, 'My mistress and her children are all dead.'" Then he looked round and seeing me with my torn turban hanging down my neck, shrieking and weeping violently and strewing earth on my head, cried out at me. So I came to him and he said, "Woe to thee, O pestilent slave, O whore-son knave, O accurst of race! What mischiefs hast thou wrought! But I will strip thy skin from thy flesh and cut thy flesh off thy bones!" "By Allah," replied I, "thou canst do nothing with me, for thou boughtest me with my fault, with witnesses to testify against thee that thou didst so and that thou knewest of my fault, which is that I tell one lie every year. This is but half a lie, but by the end of the year, I will tell the other half, and it will then be a whole lie." "O dog, son of a dog," exclaimed my master, "O most accursed of slaves, is this but a half lie? Indeed, it is a great calamity! Go out from me; thou art free before God!" "By Allah," rejoined I, "if thou free me, I will not free thee, till I have completed my year and told the other half lie. When that is done, take me down to the market and sell me, as thou boughtest me, to whosoever will buy me with my fault: but free me not, for I have no handicraft to get my living by: and this my demand is according to the law, as laid down by the doctors in the chapter of Manumission." Whilst we were talking, up came the people of the quarter and others, men and women, together with the chief of the police and his suite. So my master and the other merchants went up to him and told him the story and how this was but half a lie, at which the people wondered and deemed the lie an enormous one. And they cursed me and reviled me, whilst I stood laughing and saying, "How can my master kill me, when he bought me with this fault?" Then my master returned home and found his house in ruins, and it was I who had laid waste the most part of it, having destroyed things worth much money, as had also done his wife, who said to him, "It was Kafour who broke the vessels and the china." Thereupon his rage redoubled and he beat hand upon hand, exclaiming, "By Allah, never in my life did I see such a son of shame as this slave; and he says this is only half a lie! How if he had told a whole one? He would have laid waste a city or two!" Then in his rage he went to the chief of the police, who made me eat stick till I fainted: and whilst I was yet senseless, they fetched a barber, who gelded me and cauterized the parts. When I revived, I found myself an eunuch, and my master said to me, "Even as thou hast made my heart bleed for the most precious things I had, so will I grieve thy heart for that of thy members by which thou settest most store." Then he took me and sold me at a profit, for that I was become an eunuch, and I ceased not to make trouble, wherever I came, and was shifted from Amir to Amir and notable to notable, being bought and sold, till I entered the palace of the Commander of the Faithful, and now my spirit is broken and I have abjured my tricks, having lost my manhood.'

[Resume Ghanim Ben Ayoub the Slave of Love]

Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram 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

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