[Go back to El Melik en Nasir and His Vizier]
There lived in the Khalifate of Haroun er Reshid two men named Ahmed ed Denef and Hassan Shouman, past masters in trick and cunning, who had done rare things in their time; wherefore the Khalif invested them with dresses of honour and made them captains of the watch for Baghdad, Ahmed of the right hand and Hassan of the left hand. Moreover, to Ahmed he committed the ward of [the district] without [the city walls] and appointed each of them a stipend of a thousand dinars a month and forty men to be at their commandment. So Ahmed and Hassan went forth in company of the Amir Khalid, the Master of Police, attended each by his forty followers on horseback and preceded by the crier, proclaiming aloud and saying, 'By order of the Khalif, none is captain of the watch of the right hand but Ahmed ed Denef and none is captain of the watch of the left hand but Hassan Shouman, and it behoveth all to give ear to their word and pay them respect.'
Now there was in the city an old woman called Delileh the Crafty, who had a daughter by name Zeyneb the Trickstress. They heard the proclamation aforesaid and Zeyneb said to her mother, 'O my mother, see yonder fellow, Ahmed ed Denef. He came hither from Cairo, a fugitive, and played the double-dealer in Baghdad till he foisted himself into the Khalif's favour and is now become captain of the watch of the right hand, whilst that mangy knave Hassan Shouman is captain of the left hand, and each has a monthly wage of a thousand dinars and a table spread morning and evening, whilst we abide unemployed and neglected in this house, without estate and without honour, and have none to ask of us.'
Now Delileh was a past mistress in all manner of craft and trickery and double-dealing; she could wile the very serpents out of their holes and Iblis himself might have learnt deceit of her. Her father had been governor of the carrier-pigeons to the Khalif and used to rear them to carry letters and messages, wherefore each bird in time of need was dearer to the Khalif than one of his sons; and in this capacity he had a stipend of a thousand dinars a month. Moreover, her husband had been town captain of Baghdad and had a monthly wage from the Khalif of a thousand dinars; but he died, leaving two daughters, one of whom was married and had a son, by name Ahmed el Lekit, and the other, Zeyneb, unmarried. So Zeyneb said to her mother, 'Up and play off some trick that may make us notorious in Baghdad, so haply we may get our father's stipends for ourselves.' 'As thy head liveth, O my daughter,' answered the old woman, 'I will play off such rogueries in Baghdad as never did Ahmed ed Denef nor Hassan Shouman!'
So saying, she rose and bound her face with the chinveil and donned clothes such as the Soufi Fakirs wear, trousers of white wool falling over her heels, and a gown of the like stuff and a broad girdle. Moreover, she took an ewer and filled it to the neck with water; after which she set three dinars in the mouth and stopped it up with palm fibre. Then she threw round her neck a rosary as big as a load of firewood and taking in her hand a flag, made of parti-coloured rags, red and yellow and green, went out, saying, 'Allah! Allah!' with tongue celebrating the praises of God, whilst her heart galloped in the race-course of abominations, seeking how she might play some sharping trick in the town. She fared on from street to street, till she came to an alley swept and watered and paved with marble, where she saw a vaulted gateway, with a threshold of alabaster, and a Moorish porter standing at the door, which was of sandal-wood, plated with brass and furnished with a ring of silver.
Now this house belonged to the Chief of the Khalif's Ushers, a man of great wealth in lands and houses and stipends, and he was called the Amir Hassan Sherr et Teric for that his blow forewent his word. He was married to a handsome girl, whom he loved and who had made him swear, on the night of his going in to her, that he would take none other to wife nor lie abroad from her a night. One day, he went to the Divan and saw that each Amir had with him a son or two. Then he entered the bath and looking at his face in the mirror, saw that the white hairs in his beard outnumbered the black and said in himself, 'Will not He who took thy father vouchsafe thee a son?' So he went in to his wife, in an angry mood, and she said to him, 'Good-even to thee.' 'Away from my sight!' answered he. 'From the day I saw thee I have seen nothing of good.' 'How so?' asked she. Quoth he, 'On the night of my going in to thee, thou madest me swear to take no other wife than thee, and to-day I have seen each Amir with a son and some with two. So I bethought me of death and called to mind that I had been blessed with neither son nor daughter and that he who leaves no male child is not remembered. This, then, is the reason of my anger, for thou art barren and conceivest not by me.' 'The name of God be upon thee!' answered she. 'Indeed, I have worn out the mortars with beating wool and pounding drugs, and I am not to blame; the fault of my barrenness is with thee, for that thou art a snub-nosed mule and thy sperm is thin and impregnateth not neither getteth children.' Quoth he, 'When I return from my journey, I will take another wife.' And she said, 'My portion is with God!' Then he went out from her and each of them repented of the sharp words spoken to the other.
As the Amir's wife looked forth of her lattice, as she were a bride of the treasures, for the jewellery upon her, Delileh espied her and seeing her clad in costly clothes and ornaments, said to herself, 'O Delileh, it would be a rare trick to entice yonder young lady from her husband's house and strip her of all her clothes and jewels and make off with them!' So she took up her stand under the windows of the Amir's house, and fell to calling aloud upon the name of God and saying, 'Be present, O ye friends of God!' Whereupon all the women of the street looked from their lattices and seeing the old woman clad, after the Soufi manner, in clothes of white wool, as she were a pavilion of light, said, 'God vouchsafe us a blessing by the intermission of this pious old woman, from whose face issueth light!' And Khatoun, the wife of the Amir Hassan, wept and said to her maid, 'Go down and kiss the hand of Sheikh Abou Ali, the porter, and say to him, " Let yonder pious old woman enter, so haply we may get a blessing of her."' So she went down to the porter and kissing his hand, said to him, 'Quoth my mistress to thee, "Let yonder pious old woman come in to her, so she may get a blessing of her;" and belike her benediction may extend to us likewise.' Accordingly, he went up to Delileh and kissed her hand, but she forbade him, saying, 'Away from me, lest my ablution be avoided! Thou, also, O Abou Ali, art absorbed [in the contemplation of the Deity,] one of the elect of God and under His especial guardianship. Verily, He shall deliver thee from this servitude.'
Now the Amir owed the porter three months' wage and he was straitened for want thereof, but knew not how to recover it from him; so he said to the old woman, 'O my mother, give me to drink from thy pitcher, so I may have a blessing through thee.' So she took the pitcher from her shoulder and waved it in the air, so that the stopper flew out and the three diners fell to the ground. The porter saw them and picked them up, saying in himself, 'Glory to God! This old woman is one of the saints that have hidden treasures at their commandment! It hath been revealed to her that I am in want of money; so she hath conjured me these three diners out of the air.' Then said he to her, 'O my aunt, take these three diners that fell from thy pitcher.' 'Away with them from me!' answered she. 'I am of the folk that occupy not themselves with the things of the world. Take them and use them for thine own benefit, in lieu of those the Amir owes thee.' Quoth he, 'Glory to Allah for succour! This is of the chapter of revelation!'
Then the maid accosted her and kissing her hands; carried her up to her mistress, whom she found as she were a treasure, whose guardian spells had been done away; and Khatoun bade her welcome and kissed her hand. 'O my daughter,' said Delileh, 'I come not to thee but by God's [especial] advertisement.' Then Khatoun set food before her; but she said, 'O my daughter, I eat but of the food of Paradise and fast continually, breaking my fast but five days in the year. But I see thee troubled and desire that thou tell me the cause of thy trouble.' 'O my mother,' answered Khatoun, 'I made my husband swear, on my wedding-night, that he would take none other than me to wife, and he saw others with children and longed for them and said to me, " Thou art barren." And I answered, " Thou art a mule that begetteth not." Whereupon he left me in anger, saying, "When I come back from my journey, I will take another wife." So, O my mother, I fear lest he put me away and take another wife, for he hath houses and lands and stipends galore, and if he have children by another, they will possess the property from me.' 'O my daughter,' said Delileh, 'knowest thou not of my master, the Sheikh Abouihemlat, whom if a debtor visit, God quiteth him his debt, and if a barren woman, she conceiveth?' 'O my mother,' answered Khatoun, 'since the day of my wedding, I have not gone forth the house, no, not even to pay visits of congratulation or condolence.' Quoth the old woman, 'I will carry thee to him and do thou cast thy burden on him and make a vow to him; so peradventure, when thy husband returns from his journey, he will lie with thee and thou shalt conceive by him and bear a girl or a boy: but, be it male or female, it shall be a dervish of the Sheikh Aboulhemlat.'
So Khatoun rose and arraying herself in her richest clothes, donned all her jewellery and said to her maid, 'Keep thou an eye on the house.' And she said, 'I hear and obey, O my lady.' Then she went down and the porter met her and said to her, 'Whither away, O my lady?' 'I go to visit the Sheikh Aboulhemlat,' answered she; and he said, 'Be a year's fast incumbent on me! Verily yon old woman is of the saints of God and full of holiness! Moreover, O my lady, she hath hidden treasure at her commandment, for she gave me three diners of red gold and divined my case, without my asking her, and knew that I was needy.' Then the old woman went out with Khatoun, saying to her, 'God willing, O my daughter, when thou hast visited the Sheikh Aboulhemlat, there shall betide thee solace of soul and by God's leave thou shalt conceive, and thy husband shall love thee by the blessing of the Sheikh and shall never again say a despiteful word to thee.' Quoth Khatoun, 'I will go with thee to him, O my mother!' But Delileh said in herself, 'Where shall I strip her and take her clothes and jewellery, with the folk coming and going?' Then she said to her, 'O my daughter, walk thou behind me, within sight of me, for thy mother is a woman sorely burthened; every one who hath a burden casteth it on me and all who have pious offerings to make give them to me and kiss my hand.'
So the lady followed her at a distance, whilst her anklets tinkled and the coins and ornaments plaited in the tresses of her hair clinked as she went, till they reached the bazaar of the merchants. Presently, they came to the shop of a young merchant, by name Sidi Hassan, who had no hair on his face and was very handsome. He saw the lady coming and fell to casting stolen glances at her, which when the old woman saw, she beckoned to her and said, 'Sit down in this shop, till I return to thee.' So Khatoun sat down before the shop of the young merchant, who cast one glance at her, that cost him a thousand sighs. Then the old woman accosted him and saluted him, saying, 'Is not thy name Sidi Hassan,son of the merchant Muhsin?' 'Yes,' answered he; 'who told thee my name?' Quoth she, 'Folk of repute directed me to thee. Know that this young lady is my daughter and her father was a merchant, who died and left her much good. She is come of marriageable age and the wise say, " Offer thy daughter in marriage and not thy son; " and all her life she hath not come forth the house till this day. Now I have had a divine advertisement and it hath been commanded me in secret to marry her to thee; so, if thou art poor, I will give thee capital and will open thee two shops, instead of one.'
When the young merchant heard this, he said in himself, 'I asked God for a bride, and He hath given me three things, coin and caze and clothing.' Then he said to the old woman, 'O my mother, that which thou proposest to me is well; but this long while my mother saith to me, " I wish to marry thee," and I reply, " I will not marry, except on the sight of mine own eyes."' 'Rise and follow me,' answered Delileh, 'and I will show her to thee, naked.' So he rose and shut his shop and took a purse of a thousand diners, saying in himself, 'Belike we may need to buy somewhat or pay the fees for drawing up the [marriage] contract.' The old woman bade him walk behind rhe young lady, so as to keep her in sight, and said to herself, 'Where shall I carry the young merchant and the lady, that I may strip them?'
Then she walked on and Khatoun after her, followed by the young merchant, till she came to a dyery, kept by a master-dyer, by name Hajj Mohammed, a man of ill repute, cutting male and female, like the colocasia seller's knife, and loving to eat both figs and pomegranates.' He heard the tinkle of the ankle-rings and raising his head, saw the lady and the young man. Presently the old woman came up to him and said, 'Art thou not Hajj Mohammed?' 'Yes,' answered he. 'What dost thou want?' Quoth she, 'Folk of repute have directed me to thee. Look at yonder handsome girl, who is my daughter, and that comely beardless youth, who is my son. I brought them both up and spent much money on them. Now I have an old ruinous house, which I have shored up with wood, and the builder says to me, "Go and live in some other place, till this be repaired, lest perchance it fall upon thee." So I went forth to seek me a lodging, and people of worth directed me to thee, and I wish to lodge my son and daughter with thee.'Quoth the dyer in himself, 'Verily, here is fresh butter upon muffins come to me.' But he said to the old woman, 'True is it I have a house and saloon and upper chamber; but I cannot spare any part thereof, for I want it all for guests and for the indigo-growers [who come to me from time to time].' 'O my son,' answered she, 'it will but be for a month or two at the most, till our house be repaired, and we are strangers. Let the guest-chamber be shared between us and thee, and if thou desire that thy guests be ours, we will welcome them and eat and sleep with them.' So he gave her the keys, one big and one small and one crooked, and said to her, 'The big key is that of the house, the crooked one that of the saloon and the little one that of the upper chamber.'
Delileh took the keys and fared on, followed by the lady and the young merchant, till she came to the street in which was the house. She opened the door and entered, followed by the lady, to whom said she, 'O my daughter, this,' pointing to the saloon, 'is the lodging of the Sheikh Aboulhemlat; but go thou into the upper chamber and loose thy veil and wait till I come to thee.' So she went up and sat down. Presently up came the young merchant, whom Delileh carried into the saloon, saying, 'Sit down, whilst I fetch my daughter and show her to thee.' So he sat down and the old woman went up to Khatoun, who said to her, 'I wish to visit the Sheikh, before the folk come.' 'O my daughter,' said the old woman, 'we fear for thee.' 'Why so?' asked Khatoun. 'Because,' answered Delileh, 'here is a son of mine, a natural who knows not summer from winter, but goes ever naked. He is the Sheikh's deputy, and if he saw a girl like thee come to visit him, he would snatch her earrings and wound her ears and tear her silken clothes . So do thou doff thy jewellery and clothes and I will keep them for thee, till thou hast made thy visit.' So she did off her [upper] clothes and jewels and gave them to the old woman, who said, 'I will lay them for thee on the Sheikh's curtain, that a blessing may betide thee.'
Then she went out, leaving the lady in her shift and trousers, and hid the clothes and jewels in a place on the stairs; after which she betook herself to the young merchant, whom she found awaiting the girl, and he said, 'Where is thy daughter, that I may see her?' But she smote upon her breast and he said, 'What ails thee?' 'Would there were no such thing as ill and envious neighbours!' answered she. 'My neighbours saw thee enter the house with me and asked me of thee; and I said, "This is a bridegroom I have found for my daughter." They envied me on shine account and said to my daughter, "Is thy mother tired of maintaining thee, that she marries thee to a leper?" So I swore to her that she should see thee naked.' Quoth he, 'I take refuge with God from the envious!' and bearing his fore-arm, showed her that it was like silver. 'Have no fear,' said she; 'thou shalt see her naked, even as she shall see thee.' And he said, 'Let her come and see me.' Then he put off his sable pelisse and girdle and dagger and the rest of his clothes, except his shirt and trousers, and laid the purse of a thousand dinars with them. Quoth Delileh, 'Give them to me, that I may take care of them.' So she took them and fetching the girl's clothes and jewellery, went out with the whole and locked the door upon them.
She deposited her purchase with a druggist of her acquaintance and returned to the dyer, whom she found sitting, awaiting her. Quoth he, 'God willing, the house pleaseth thee?' 'There is a blessing in it,' answered she,'and I go now to fetch porters to carry our goods and bedding thither. But my children would have me bring them meat-patties; so do thou take this dinar and buy the patties and go and eat the morning meal with them.' 'Who shall guard the dyery meanwhile and the people's goods that are therein?' asked the dyer. 'Thy boy,' answered the old woman. 'So be it,' rejoined he and taking a covered dish, went out to do her bidding. As soon as he was gone, she fetched the clothes and jewels she had left with the druggist and going back to the dyery, said to the boy, 'Run after thy master, and I will not stir hence till you both return.' 'I hear and obey,' answered he and went away.
Presently, there came up an ass-driver, a scavenger, who had been out of work for a week, and she called to him, saying, 'Hither, O ass-driver!' So he came to her and she said, 'Knowest thou my son the dyer?' 'Yes,' answered he; 'I know him.' And she said, 'The poor fellow is insolvent and loaded with debts, and as often as he is put in prison, I set him free. Now they are about to declare him bankrupt and I am going to return the goods to their owners; so do thou lend me thine ass for that purpose and take this dinar to his hire. When I am gone, take the handsaw and empty out the vats and jars and break them, that, if there come an officer from the Cadi's court, he may find nothing in the dyery.' Quoth he, 'I owe the Hajj a kindness and will do somewhat for the love of God.'
So she laid the things on the ass and made for her own house; and [God] the Protector protected her, so that she arrived there in safety and went in to her daughter Zeyneb, who said to her, 'O my mother, my heart has been with thee! What hast thou done by way of roguery?' 'I have played off four tricks on four people,' answered Delileh; the wife of the Chief Usher, a young merchant, a dyer and an ass-driver, and have brought thee all their spoil on the latter's ass.' 'O my mother,' said Zeyneb, 'thou wilt nevermore be able to go about the town, for fear of the Chief Usher, whose wife's clothes and jewellery thou hast taken, and the merchant whom thou hast stripped, and the dyer whose customer's goods thou hast stolen and the owner of the ass.' 'Pshaw, my daughter!' rejoined the old woman, 'I reck not of them, save the ass-driver, who knows me.'
Meanwhile, the dyer bought the meat-patties and set out for the house, followed by his servant, bearing the food on his head. On his way thither, he passed his shop, where he found the ass-man breaking the vats and jars and saw that there was neither stuff nor liquor left in them and that the shop was in ruins. So he said to him, 'Hold thy hand, O ass-driver!' Whereupon the latter desisted and said, 'Praised be God for thy safety, O Hajj! Indeed, my heart was with thee.' 'Why so?' asked the dyer. 'Thou art become bankrupt and they have filed a docket of thine insolvency.' 'Who told thee this?' asked the dyer. 'Thy mother told me,' answered the other, 'and bade me break the jars and empty the vats, that the apparitors might find nothing in the shop, if they should come.' 'God confound thee!' cried the dyer. 'My mother died long ago.' And he beat his breast, saying, 'Alas for the loss of my goods and those of the folk!' The ass-man also wept and said, 'Alas, for the loss of my ass!' And he said to the dyer, 'Give me back my ass, that thy mother stole from me.' The dyer laid hold of him by the throat and fell to pummelling him, saying, 'Bring me the old woman;' whilst the other pummelled him back, saying, 'Give me back my ass.' So they beat and cursed each other, till the folk collected round them and one of them said, 'What is the matter, O Hajj Mohammed?' Quoth the ass-driver, 'I will tell thee the case,' and related to them his story, saying, 'I thought I was doing the dyer a good turn; but, when he saw me, he said, " My mother is dead," and beat his breast. And now I require my ass of him, for that it is he who hath put this trick on me, that he might make me lose my beast.'
Then said the folk to the dyer, 'O Hajj Mohammed, cost thou know this old woman, that thou didst trust her with the dyery and what was therein?' And he answered, saying, 'I know her not; but she took lodgings with me to-day, she and her son and daughter.' Quoth one, 'In my judgment, the dyer is bound to indemnify the ass-driver.' 'Why so?' asked another. 'Because, replied the first, 'he trusted not the old woman nor gave her his ass, but because he saw that the dyer had entrusted her with the dyery and its contents.' And a third said, 'O Hajj, since thou hast lodged her with thee, it behoves thee to get the man back his ass.' Then they made for the house, and the tale will come round to them again.
Meanwhile, the young merchant abode awaiting the old woman's coming with her daughter, but she came not; whilst the lady in like manner sat expecting her return with leave from her son, the possessed, the Sheikh's deputy, to go in to him. When she was weary of waiting, she rose to visit the Sheikh by herself and went down into the saloon, where she found the young merchant, who said to her, 'Come: where is thy mother, who brought me hither to marry thee?' 'My mother is dead,' answered she; 'art thou the old woman's son the ecstatic, the deputy of the Sheikh Aboulhemlat?' Quoth he, 'The swindling old beldam is no mother of mine; she hath cheated me and taken my clothes and a thousand dinars.' 'And me also hath she swindled,' said Khatoun; 'for she brought me to see the Sheikh Aboulhemlat and stripped me.' Quoth he, 'I look to thee for my clothes and my thousand dinars.' 'And I,' answered she, 'look to thee to make good my clothes and jewellery.'
At this moment in came the dyer and seeing them both stripped of their clothes, said to them, 'Tell me where your mother is.' So they told him their several cases and he exclaimed, 'Alas, for the loss of my goods and those of the folk!' And the ass-driver said, 'Alas for my ass! Give me my ass, O dyer!' Then said the dyer, 'This old woman is a sharper. Come forth, that I may lock the door.' Quoth the young merchant, 'It were a disgrace to thee that we should enter thy house, clothed, and leave it, naked.' So the dyer clad him and the damsel and sent her back to her house. Then he shut the dyery and said to the young merchant, 'Come, let us go and search for the old woman and hand her over to the chief of the police.' So they and the ass-man repaired to the house of the master of police and made their complaint to him. Quoth he, 'How many old women are there not in the town! Go and seek for her and lay hands on her and bring her to me, and I will torture her for you and make her confess.' So they went out and sought for her all round the town; and so we will leave them for the present.
Presently, Delileh said to her daughter, 'I have a mind to play off another trick.' 'O my mother,' answered Zeyneb, 'I fear for thee;' but the old woman said, 'I am like bean-husks, proof against fire and water.' So she rose and donning a handmaid's habit, of such as serve people of condition, went out to look for some one to swindle. Presently she came to a by-street, spread with carpets and lighted with hanging lamps, and heard a noise of singing-women and beating of tambourines. Here she saw a slave-girl, bearing on her shoulder a boy, clad in trousers embroidered with silver and velvet jacket, with a pearl-embroidered cap on his head and a collar of gold set with jewels about his neck. Now the house belonged to the Provost of the Merchants of Baghdad, and the boy was his son. Moreover, he had a virgin daughter, to boot, who was promised in marriage, and it was her betrothal they were celebrating that day. There was with her mother a company of ladies and singing-women, and whenever she went up or down, the boy clung to her. So she called the slave-girl and said to her, 'Take thy young master and play with him, till the company break up.'
Said Delileh to the maid, 'What festivities are these in your mistress's house?' 'She celebrates her daughter's betrothal to-day,' answered the girl, 'and she hath singing-women with her.' Quoth the old woman to herself, 'O Delileh, the thing to do is to spirit away the boy from the maid.' And she cried out, saying, 'O disgrace! O ill luck!' Then, pulling out a brass token, resembling a dinar, she said to the maid, who was a simpleton, 'Take this diner and go in to thy mistress and say to her, " Umm el Khair rejoices with thee and is beholden to thee for thy favours, and she and her daughters will visit thee on the day of the assembly and handsel the tiring-women."' 'O my mother,' said the girl, 'my young master here catches hold of his mother, whenever he sees her.' 'Give him to me,' answered the old woman, 'whilst thou goest in and comest back.'
So she gave her the child and taking the token, went in; whereupon Delileh made off with the boy to a by-lane, where she stripped him of his clothes and jewels, saying to herself, 'O Delileh, it would indeed be a fine trick, even as thou hast cheated the maid and taken the boy from her, so now to pawn him for a thousand dinars' worth.' So she repaired to the jewel-bazaar, where she saw a Jew goldsmith seated, with a tray full of jewellery before him, and said to herself, 'It would be a rare trick to get a thousand dinars' worth of jewellery from this Jew and leave the boy in pledge with him for it.' Presently the Jew looked at them and seeing the boy, knew him for the son of the Provost of the Merchants.
Now he was a man of great wealth, but would envy his neighbour, if he sold and he himself did not; so, when he saw Delileh, he said to her, 'What seekest thou, O my mistress?' 'Art thou Master Azariah the Jew?' asked she, having first enquired his name; and he answered, 'Yes.' Quoth she, 'This boy's sister, the Provost's daughter of the Merchants, is a promised bride, and to-day they celebrate her betrothal; and she hath need of jewellery. So give me two pairs of gold ankle-rings and a pair of gold bracelets and a girdle and pearl ear-drops and a poignard and seal-ring.' Accordingly, he brought out to her what she sought and she took of him a thousand dinars' worth of jewellery, saying, 'I will take these on approval; and what pleases them, they will keep and I will bring thee the price and leave the boy with thee till then.' 'Be it as thou wilt,' answered he. So she took the jewellery and made off to her own house, where her daughter asked her how she had sped. She told her all she had done and Zeyneb said, 'Thou wilt never be able to walk abroad again in the town.'
Meanwhile, the maid went in to her mistress and said to her, 'O my lady, Umm el Khair salutes thee and rejoices with thee, and will come, she and her daughters, on the day of the assembly and give the customary presents.' Quoth her mistress, 'Where is thy young master?' 'I left him with her,' answered the maid, 'lest he should cling to thee, and she gave me this, as largesse for the singing-women.' So the lady said to the chief of the singers, 'Take thy money ;' and she took it and found it a brass token; whereupon quoth the lady to the maid, 'O baggage, go down and look to thy young master.' Accordingly, she went down and finding neither boy nor old woman, shrieked aloud and fell on her face, and their joy was changed into mourning.
When the Provost came in, his wife told him what had befallen and he went out in quest of the child, whilst the other merchants also went forth and sought, each his own road. Presently, the Provost espied the boy seated, naked, in the Jew's shop and said to the latter, 'This is my son.' 'It is well,' answered the Jew. So he took him up, without asking for his clothes, of the excess of his joy at finding him; but the Jew laid hold of him, saying, 'God succour the Khalif against thee!' Quoth the Provost,'What ails thee, O Jew?' And he answered, saying, 'The old woman took of me a thousand dinars' worth of jewellery for thy daughter, and left the boy in pledge for the price; and I had not trusted her, but that I knew the child for thy son.' 'My daughter needs no jewellery,' said the Provost; 'give me the boy's clothes.'
The Jew cried out, saying, 'Come to my aid, O Muslims!' but at that moment up came the dyer and the ass-man and the young merchant, who were going about, seeking the old woman, and enquired the cause of their quarrel. So they told them the case and they said, 'This old woman is a cheat, who has cheated us before you.' Then they told them how she had dealt with them, and the Provost said, 'Since I have found my son, be his clothes his ransom! If I come upon the old woman, I will require them of her.' And he carried the child home to his mother, who rejoiced in his safety. Then said the Jew to the three others, 'Whither go ye?' And they answered, saying, 'We go to look for her.' Quoth the Jew, 'Take me with you. Is there any one of you knows her?' 'I know her,' answered the ass-driver; and the Jew said, 'If we go all together, we shall never catch her; for she will flee from us. Let us each take a different road, and be our rendezvous at the shop of Hajj Mesaoud, the Moorish barber.' They agreed to this and set off, each in a different direction.
Presently, Delileh sallied forth again in quest of prey, and the ass-driver met her and knew her. So he caught hold of her and said to her, 'Out on thee! Hast thou been long at this trade?' 'What ails thee?' asked she; and he answered, 'Give me back my ass.' 'O my son,' said she, 'cover what God covers! Dost thou seek thine ass and the people's things?' Quoth he, 'I want my ass; that's all.' And she said, 'I saw that thou wast poor; so I deposited thine ass for thee with the Moorish barber. Stand off, whilst I speak him fair, that he may give thee the beast.' So she went up to the barber and kissed his hand and wept. He asked her what ailed her and she said, 'O my son, look at my son who stands yonder. He was ill and exposed himself to the air, which corrupted his wit. He used to buy asses and now, whether he sit or stand or walk, he saith nothing but "My ass!" Now I have been told by a certain physician that his mind is disordered and that nothing will cure him but drawing two of his grinders and cauterizing him twice on the temples. So do thou take this dinar and call him to thee, saying," Thine ass is with me."' 'May I fast for a year,' said the barber, 'if I do not give him his ass in his fist! 'Now he had with him two journeymen; so he said to one of them, 'Heat the irons.'
Then the old woman went her way and the barber called to the ass-driver, saying, 'Harkye, good fellow! Thine ass is with me; come and take him, and as thou livest, I will give him into thy hand.' So he came to him and the barber carried him into a dark room, where he knocked him down and the journeymen bound him hand and foot. Then he pulled out two of his grinders and cauterized him on both temples; after which he let him go, and he rose and said, 'O Moor, why hast thou used me thus?' Quoth the barber, 'Thy mother told me that thou hadst taken cold, whilst ill, and lost thy reason, so that, whether sitting or standing or walking, thou wouldst say nothing but "My ass!" So here is thine ass in thy fist.' 'God requite thee,' said the other, 'for pulling out my teeth!' Then the barber told him all that the old woman had said and he exclaimed, 'May God torment her!' And the two went out, disputing, and left the shop. When the barber returned, he found his shop empty, for, whilst he was absent, the old woman had taken all that was therein and made off with it to her daughter, to whom she told all that had befallen. The barber, seeing this, caught hold of the ass-driver and said to him, 'Bring me thy mother.' But he answered, saying, 'She is not my mother, but a sharper, who has swindled much people and stolen my ass.'
At this moment up came the dyer and the Jew and the young merchant, who, seeing the barber holding on to the ass-driver and the latter cauterized on both temples, said to him, 'What hath befallen thee, O ass driver?' So he told them what had happened to him and the barber did the like; and the others in turn related to the Moor the tricks the old woman had served them. Then he shut up his shop and went with them to the Master of police, to whom they said, 'We look to thee for compensation.' Quoth he, 'How many old women are there not in Baghdad! Doth any of you know her?' 'I do,' answered the ass-man; 'give me ten of thine officers.' So he gave them half a score men and they all five went out, followed by the sergeants, and patrolled the city, till they met the old woman, when they laid hands on her and carrying her to the house of the Master of police, stood waiting without, till he should come forth.
Presently the officers fell asleep, for excess of watching with their chief, and Delileh feigned to follow their example, till the ass-man and his fellows slept also, when she stole away from them and going in to the harem of the Master of police, kissed the hand of the mistress of the house and said to her, 'Where is the Chief of the police?' 'He is asleep,' answered the lady; 'what wouldst thou with him?' Quoth Delileh, 'My husband is a slave-merchant and gave me five slaves to sell, whilst he went on a journey. The Master of police met me and bought them of me for a thousand dinars and two hundred for myself, saying, " Bring them to my house." So I have brought them.'
Now the Master of police had given his wife a thousand dinars, saying, 'Keep them by thee, that we may buy male slaves with them.' So she believed the old woman's story and said to her, 'Where are the slaves?' 'They are asleep under the window,' replied Delileh; whereupon the lady looked out and seeing the barber clad in a Levantine habit and the young merchant as he were a drunken white slave and the Jew and the dyer and the ass-driver as they were shaven white slaves, said in herself, 'Each of these is worth more than a thousand dinars.' So she opened a chest and gave the old woman the thousand dinars, saying, 'Come back anon and when my husband wakes, I will get thee the other two hundred from him.' 'O my lady,' answered the old woman, 'a hundred of them are thine, under the sherbet-gugglet whereof thou drinkest, and the other hundred do thou keep for me till I come back. Now let me out by the private door.' So she let her out, and [God] the Protector protected her and she made her way home to her daughter, to whom she related all that had passed, saying, 'The one that troubles me most is the ass-driver, for he knows me.' 'O my mother,' said Zeyneb, 'abide quiet [awhile] and let what thou hast done suffice thee, for not always comes the pitcher off unbroken.'
When the Chief of the police awoke, his wife said to him, 'I give thee joy of the five slaves thou hast bought of the old woman.' 'What slaves?' asked he. 'Why dost thou mock me?' answered she. 'God willing, they shall become people of condition like unto thee.' 'As my head liveth,' rejoined he, 'I have bought no slaves! Who saith this?' 'The old woman, the brokeress,' replied she,'from whom thou boughtest them; and thou didst promise her a thousand dinars for them and two hundred for herself.' Quoth he, 'Didst thou give her the money?' 'Yes,' answered she; 'for I saw the slaves with my own eyes, and on each is a suit of clothes worth a thousand dinars; so I sent out to bid the sergeants have an eye to them.'
So he went out and said to the officers, 'Where are the five slaves we bought for a thousand dinars of the old woman?' 'There are no slaves here,' answered they; 'only these five men, who found the old woman and brought her hither. We fell asleep, whilst waiting for thee, and she stole away and entered the harem. Presently out came a maid and said to us, 'Are the five with you with whom the old woman came?' And we answered, 'Yes.' 'By Allah,' cried the Master of police, 'this is a rare great swindle!' And the five men said, 'We look to thee for our goods.' Quoth the Master of police, 'The old woman, your mistress, sold you to me for a thousand dinars.' 'That were not allowed of God,' answered they: 'we are free-born men and may not be sold, and we appeal from thee to the Khalif.' 'None showed her the way to the house save you,' rejoined the Master of police, 'and I will sell you to the galleys for two hundred dinars apiece.'
Just then, up came the Amir Hassan Sherr et Teric, who, on his return from his journey, had found his wife stripped of her clothes and jewellery and heard from her all that had passed; whereupon quoth he, 'The Master of police shall answer me this;' and repairing to him, said, 'Dost thou suffer old women to go round about the town and cozen folk of their goods? This is thy business and I look to thee for my wife's property.' Then said he to the five men, 'What is to do with you?' So they told him their stories and he said, 'Ye are oppressed,' and turning to the Master of police, said to him, 'Why dost thou detain them?' 'It was they who brought her to my house,' answered he, 'so that she took a thousand dinars of my money and sold them to my women.' 'O Amir Hassan,' cried the five men, 'be thou our advocate in this affair.'
Then said the Master of police to the Amir, 'Thy wife's goods are at my charge and I will be surety for the old woman. But which of you knows her?' 'We all know her,' answered they. 'Send ten men with us, and we will take her.' So he gave them ten men, and the ass-driver said to them, 'Follow me, for I should know her with blue eyes." Then they went out and presently they met the old woman coming out of a by-street: so they laid hands on her and brought her to the master of the police, who said to her, 'Where are the people's goods?' And she answered, saying, 'I have neither taken them nor seen them.' Then said he to the gaoler, 'Take her and clap her into prison till the morning' But he said, 'I will not take her, lest she play a trick on me and I be answerable for her.' So the Master of police took horse and rode out with Delileh and the rest to the bank of the Tigris, where he bade the executioner crucify her by her hair. So he bound her on the cross and drew her up by the pulley; after which the Master of police set ten men to guard her and went home. Presently, the night fell down and sleep overcame the watchmen.
Now a certain Bedouin heard one man say to another, 'Praised be God for thy safe return! Where hast thou been?' 'In Baghdad,' answered the other, 'where I breakfasted on honey-fritters.' Quoth the Bedouin to himself, 'Needs must I go to Baghdad and eat honey-fritters;' for in all his life he had never entered Baghdad nor seen fritters of the sort. So he mounted his horse and rode on towards Baghdad, saying in himself, 'It is a fine thing to eat honey-fritters! On the honour of an Arab, I will not break my fast on nothing else!' till he came to the place where Delileh was crucified and she heard him saying this. So he went up to her and said to her, 'What art thou?' Quoth she, 'O Sheik of the Arabs, I throw myself on thy protection!' 'May God indeed protect thee!' answered he. 'But what is the cause of thy crucifixion?' Said she, 'I have an enemy, an oilman, who fries fritters, and I stopped to buy of him, when I chanced to spit and the spittle fell on the fritters. So he made his complaint to the judge, who commanded to crucify me, saying, "I adjudge that ye take ten pounds of honey-fritters and feed her therewith. If she eat them, let her go, but if not, leave her hanging." And my stomach will not brook sweet things.' 'By the honour of the Arabs,' cried the Bedouin, 'I departed not the camp but that I might eat honey-fritters! I will eat them for thee.' Quoth she, 'None may eat them, except he be hung up in my place.' He fell into the trap and unbound her; whereupon she bound him in her room, after she had stripped him of his clothes and turban and put them on; then, mounting his horse, she rode to her house, where Zeyneb said to her, 'What meaneth this plight?' And she answered, saying, 'They crucified me :' and told her all that had befallen her.
To return to the watchmen; the first who woke roused his companions and they saw that the day had risen. So one of them raised his eyes and said, 'Delileh!' 'By Allah!' answered the Bedouin, 'I have not eaten all night. Have ye brought the honey-fritters?' And they said, 'This is a man and a Bedouin.' Then said one of them to him, 'O Bedouin, where is Delileh and who loosed her?' 'It was I,' answered he; 'she shall not eat the honey-fritters against her will; for her soul abhorreth them.' So they knew that he was a man ignorant of her case, whom she had cozened, and said to one another, 'Shall we flee or abide the accomplishment of that which God hath decreed to us?'
As they were talking, up came the chief of the police, with all the folk whom the old woman had cheated, and said to the guards, 'Arise, loose Delileh.' Quoth the Bedouin, 'We have not eaten to-night. Hast thou brought the honey-fritters?' Whereupon the Master of police raised his eyes and seeing the Bedouin strung up in place of the old woman, said to the watchmen, 'What is this?' 'Pardon, O our lord!' cried they; and he said, 'Tell me what has happened' 'We were weary with watching with thee on guard,' answered they, 'and said, " Delileh is crucified." So we fell asleep, and when we awoke, we found the Bedouin strung up in her stead; and we are at thy mercy.' 'God's pardon be upon you!' answered the master of police. 'She is indeed a clever cheat!' Then they unbound the Bedouin, who laid hold of the master of police, saying, 'God succour the Khalif against thee! I look to none but thee for my horse and clothes! So the chief of the police questioned him and he told him what had passed between Delileh and himself. 'Why didst thou release her?' asked the magistrate, and the Bedouin said, 'I knew not that she was a swindler.' Then said the others, 'O chief of the police, we look to thee for our goods; for we delivered the old woman into thy hands and she was in thy guard; and we cite thee before the Divan of the Khalif.'
Now the Amir Hassan had gone up to the Divan, when in came the master of police with the Bedouin and the five others, saying, 'We are wronged men!' 'Who hath wronged you?' asked the Khalif. So each came forward in turn and told his story, after which said the master of police, 'O Commander of the Faithful, the old woman cheated me also and sold me these five men as slaves for a thousand dinars, albeit they are free-born.' Quoth Er Reshid, 'I take upon myself all that you have lost.' Then he said to the master of police, 'I charge thee with the old woman.' But he shook his collar, saying, 'O Commander of the Faithful, I will not answer for her; for, after I had strung her up on the cross, she tricked this Bedouin and tied him up in her room and made off with his clothes and horse.' Quoth the Khalif, 'Whom but thee shall I charge with her?' Charge Ahmed ed Denef,' answered the Master of police; 'for he has a thousand dinars a month and one-and-forty followers, at a monthly wage of a hundred dinars each.' So the Khalif said, 'Harkye, Captain Ahmed!' 'At thy service, O Commander of the Faithful,' answered he; and the Khalif said, 'I charge thee to bring the old woman before me.' 'I will answer for her,' replied Ahmed.
Then the Khalif kept the Bedouin and the five complainants with him, whilst Ahmed and his men went down to their hall, saying to one another, 'How shall we lay hands on her, seeing that there are many old women in the town?' [And Ahrned said to Hassan Shouman, 'What counsellest thou?'] Whereupon quoth one of them, by name Ali Kitf el Jemel, to Ed Denef, 'Of what dost thou take counsel with Hassan Shouman? Is he any great matter?' 'O Ali,' said Hassan, 'why dost thou disparage me? By the Mighty Name, I will not company with thee at this time!' And he rose and went out in anger. Then said Ahmed, 'O lads, let each sergeant take ten men and search for Delileh, each in his own quarter.' And they agreed to rendezvous in such a place.
It was noised abroad in the city that Ahmed ed Denef had undertaken to lay hands on Delileh the Crafty, and Zeyneb said to her mother, 'O my mother, if thou be indeed a trickstress, do thou befool Ahmed ed Denef and his company.' 'I fear none but Hassan Shouman,' answered Delileh; and Zeyneb said, 'By my browlock, I will get thee the clothes of all the one-and-forty.' Then she dressed and veiled herself and going to a druggist, who had a saloon with two doors, gave him a dinar and said to him, 'Let me thy saloon till the end of the day and take this dinar to its hire.' So he gave her the keys and she fetched carpets and so forth on the stolen ass and furnishing the place, set in each estrade a table of meat and wine. Then she went out and stood at the door, with her face uncovered.
Presently, up came Ali Kitf and his men, and she kissed his hand. He fell in love with her, seeing her to be a handsome girl, and said to her, 'What dost thou want?' Quoth she, 'Art thou Captain Ahmed ed Denef?' 'No, answered he; 'but I am of his company and my name is Ali Kitf el Jemel.' 'Whither go you?' asked she, and he said, 'We go in quest of a sharkish old woman, who has stolen the people's goods, and we mean to lay hands on her. But who art thou and what is thy business?' Quoth she, 'My father was a vintner at Mosul and he died and left me much money. So I came hither, for fear of the judges, and asked the people who would protect me, to which they replied, " None but Ahmed et Denef"' 'From this day forth,' said the men, 'thou art under his protection;' and she said, 'Favour me by eating a morsel and drinking a draught.' They consented and entering, ate and drank till they were drunken, when she drugged them with henbane and stripped them of their clothes and arms; and on like wise she did with the three other companies.
Presently, Ahmed ed Denef went out to look for Delileh' but found her not, neither set eyes on any of his followers, and went on till he came to the door where Zeyneb was standing. She kissed his hand and he looked on her and fell in love with her. Quoth she, 'Art thou Captain Ahmed ed Denef?' 'Yes,' answered he. 'Who art thou?' And she said, 'I am a stranger. My father was a vintner at Mosul and he died and left me much wealth, with which I came to this city, for fear of the judges, and opened this wine-shop. The Master of police hath imposed a tax on me, but it is my desire to put myself under thy protection and pay thee what the police would take of me, for thou hast the better right to it.' Quoth he, 'Thou shalt have my protection and welcome: do not pay him aught.' Then said she, 'Heal my heart and eat of my victual.' So he entered and ate and drank, till he could not sit upright, when she drugged him and took his clothes and arms. Then she loaded her purchase on the ass and the Bedouin's horse and made off with it, after she had aroused Ali Kitf. The latter awoke and found himself naked and saw Ahmed and his men drugged and stripped. So he revived them with the counter-drug and they awoke and saw themselves naked. Quoth Ahmed, 'O lads, what is this? We were going about to catch her, and lo, this strumpet hath caught us! How Hassan Shouman will crow over us! But we will wait till it is dark and then go away.'
Meanwhile Hassan Shouman said to the hall-keeper, 'Where are the men?' As he spoke, up they came, naked; and he recited the following verses:Men in their purpose are alike and what they hope and fear: 'Tis in the issues, 'twixt the folk, that difference doth appear.
Then he said to them, 'Who hath played you this trick?' and they answered, saying, 'We were in quest of an old woman, and a handsome girl stripped us.' 'She hath done well,' said Hassan. 'Dost thou know her?' asked they. 'Yes,' answered Hassan; 'I know her and the old woman too.' Quoth they, 'What shall we say to the Khalif?' And he said, 'O Denef, do thou shake thy collar before him, and if he ask why thou hast not caught her, say thou, " We know her not; but charge Hassan Shouman with her." And if he give her into my charge, I will lay hands on her.'
So they slept that night and on the morrow they repaired to the Khalif's Divan and kissed the earth before him. Quoth he, 'Where is the old woman, O Captain Ahmed?' But he shook his collar. The Khalif asked him why he did so, and he answered, 'I know her not; but charge Hassan Shouman to lay hands on her, for he knows her and her daughter also.' Then Hassan interceded for her with the Khalif, saying, 'Indeed, she hath played off these tricks, not because she coveted the folk's goods, but to show her address and that of her daughter, to the intent that thou shouldst continue to her her husband's stipend and that of her father to her daughter. So, if thou wilt spare her life, I will fetch her to thee.' 'By the life of my ancestors,' said Er Reshid, 'if she restore the people's goods, I will pardon her, on thine intercession!' And he gave him the handkerchief of pardon.
So Hassan repaired to Delileh's house and called to her. Her daughter Zeyneb answered him and he said to her, 'Where is thy mother?' 'Upstairs,' answered she; and he said, 'Bid her take the people's goods and come with me to the Khalif; for I have brought her the handkerchief of pardon, and if she will not come with a good grace, let her blame none but herself.' So Delileh tied the kerchief [of truce] about her neck and coming down, gave him the people's goods on the ass and the Bedouin's horse. Quoth he, 'There remain the clothes of my chief and his men.' 'By the Most Great Name,' replied she, 'it was not I who stripped them!' 'Thou sayst sooth,' rejoined Hassan; 'it was thy daughter Zeyneb's doing, and this was a good turn she did thee.' Then he carried her to the Divan and laid the people's goods before the Khalif, who, as soon as he saw the old woman, commanded to throw her down on the carpet of blood. Quoth she, 'I cast myself on thy protection, O Shouman!' So he rose and kissing the Khalif's hands, said, 'Pardon, O Commander of the Faithful! Indeed, thou gavest me the handkerchief of pardon.' 'I pardon her for thy sake,' said Er Reshid. 'Come hither, O old woman; what is thy name?' 'My name is Delileh,' answered she, and the Khalif said, 'Thou art indeed crafty and full of artifice. Whence she was dubbed Delileh the Crafty.
Then said he, 'Why hast thou played all these tricks on the folk and wearied our hearts?' Quoth she, 'I did it not of desire for their goods, but because I had heard of the tricks which Ahmed ed Denef and Hassan Shouman played in Baghdad and said in myself, " I will do the like." And behold, I have returned the folk their goods.' But the ass-driver rose and said, 'I invoke the law of God between her and me; for it sufficed her not to take my ass, but she must needs egg on the barber to pull out my teeth and cauterize me on both temples.' The Khalif bade give him a hundred dinars and ordered the dyer the like, saying, 'Go; set up thy dyery again.' So they called down blessings on his head and went away. The Bedouin also took his clothes and horse and departed, saying, 'It is forbidden to me to enter Baghdad and eat honey-fritters.' And the others took their goods and went away.
Then said the Khalif, 'Ask a boon of me, O Delileh!' And she said, 'My father was governor of the carrier-pigeons to thee and I know how to rear them, and my husband was town-captain of Baghdad. Now I wish to have the reversion of my husband and my daughter wishes to have that of her father.' The Khalif granted their requests and she said, 'I ask of thee that I may be portress of thy khan.' Now he had built a khan of three stories, for the merchants to lodge in, and had assigned to its service forty slaves, which latter he had brought from the King of Suleimaniyeh, when he deposed him, and let make collars for them; and there was in the khan a cook-slave, who cooked for the slaves and fed the dogs. 'O Delileh,' said the Khalif, 'I will write thee a patent of guardianship of the khan, and if aught be lost therefrom, thou shalt be answerable for it.' 'It is well,' replied she; 'but do thou lodge my daughter in the pavilion at the door of the khan, for it hath terraced roofs, and carrier-pigeons may not be reared to advantage save in an open space.'
The Khalif granted her this also and she and her daughter removed to the pavilion in question, where Zeyneb hung up the one-and-forty dresses of Ahmed ed Denef and his company. Moreover, they delivered to Delileh the forty pigeons that carried the royal messages, and the Khalif appointed her mistress over the forty slaves and charged them to obey her. She made the place of her session behind the door of the khan, and every day she used to go up to the Khalif's Divan, lest he should need to send a message by pigeon-post, whilst the forty slaves abode on guard at the khan; nor did she return till ended day, when they loosed the forty dogs, that they might keep watch over the place by night.
[Go to The Adventures of Quicksilver Ali of Cairo: being a sequel to The Rogueries of Delileh the Crafty]
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