[Go back to The Bang-eater and the Cauzee]
There lived formerly, near Bagdad, a half-witted fellow, who was much addicted to the use of bang. Being reduced to poverty, he was obliged to sell his stock. One day he went to the market to dispose of a cow; but the animal being in bad order, no one would bid for it, and after waiting till he was weary he returned homewards. On the way he stopped to repose himself under a tree, and tied the cow to one of the branches while he ate some bread, and drank of an infusion of his beloved bang, which he always carried with him. In a short time it began to operate, so as to bereave him of the little sense he possessed, and his head was filled with ridiculous reveries. While he was musing, a magpie beginning to chatter from her nest in the tree, he fancied it was a human voice, and that some woman had asked to purchase his cow: upon which he said, "Reverend mother of Solomon, dost thou wish to buy my cow?" The bird croaked again. "Well," replied he," what wilt thou give if I will sell her a bargain." The bird repeated her croak. "Never mind," said the foolish fellow, "for though thou hast forgotten to bring thy purse, yet, as I dare say thou art an honest woman, and hast bidden me ten deenars, I will trust thee with the cow, and call on Friday for the money." The bird renewed her croaking, which he fancied to be thanks for his confidence; so leaving the cow tied to the branch of the tree, he returned home exulting in the good bargain he had made for the animal.
When he entered the house, his wife inquired what he had gotten for the cow; to which he replied, that he had sold her to an honest woman named Am Solomon, who had promised to pay him on the next Friday ten pieces of gold. The wife was contented, and when Friday arrived, her idiot of a husband having, as usual, taken a dose of bang, repaired to the tree, and hearing the bird chattering, as before, said, "Well, my good mother, hast thou brought the gold?" The bird croaked. Supposing the imaginary woman refused to pay him, he became angry, and threw up his spade, which frightening the bird, it flew from the nest, and alighted on a heap of soil at some distance. He fancied that Am Solomon had desired him to take his money from the heap, into which he dug with his spade, and found a brazen vessel full of gold coin. This discovery convinced him he was right, and being, notwithstanding his weakness, naturally honest, he only took ten pieces; then replacing the soil, said, "May Allah requite thee for thy punctuality, good mother!" and returned to his wife, to whom he gave the money, informing her at the same time of the great treasure his friend Am Solomon possessed, and where it was concealed. The wife waited till night, when she went and brought away the pot of gold; which her husband observing, said, "It is dishonest to rob one who has paid us so punctually, and if thou dost not return it to its place, I will inform the (walee) officer of police."
The wife laughed at his folly; but fearing the ill consequences of his executing his threat, she planned a stratagem to prevent them. Going to the market, she purchased some broiled meat and fish ready dressed, which she brought privately home, and concealed in the house. At night, the husband having regaled himself with his beloved bang, retired to sleep off his intoxication; but about midnight she strewed the provisions she had brought at the door, and awakening her partner, cried out, in pretended astonishment, "Dear husband, a most wonderful phenomenon has occurred; there has been a violent storm while you slept, and, strange to tell, it has rained pieces of broiled meat and fish, which now lie at the door!" The husband, still in a state of stupefaction from the bang, got up, went to the door, and seeing the provisions, was persuaded of the truth of his wife's story. The fish and flesh were gathered up, and he partook with much glee of the miraculous treat; but he still threatened to inform the walee of her having stolen the treasure of the good old woman Am Solomon.
In the morning the foolish bang-eater actually repaired to the walee, and informed him that his wife had stolen a pot of gold, which she had still in her possession. The walee upon this apprehended the woman, who denied the accusation, when she was threatened with death. She then said, "My lord, the power is in your hands; but I am an injured woman, as you wili find by questioning my unfortunate husband; who, alas! is deranged in his intellects. Ask him when I committed the theft." The walee did so; to which he replied, "It was on the evening of that night on which it rained broiled flesh and fish ready dressed." "Wretch!" exclaimed the walee, "dost thou dare to utter falsehoods before me? Who ever saw it rain any thing but water?" "As I hope for life, my lord," replied the bang-eater, "I speak the truth; for my wife and myself ate of the fish and flesh which fell from the clouds." The woman being appealed to, denied the assertion of her husband.
The walee being now convinced that the man was crazy, released his wife, and sent the husband to the madhouse; where he remained some days, till the wife, pitying his condition, contrived to get him released by the following stratagem. She visited her husband, and desired him when any one inquired of him if he had seen it rain flesh and fish, to answer, "No: who ever saw it rain any thing but water?" She then informed the keeper that he was come to his senses, and desired him to put the question. On his answering properly he was released.
The fisherman had not long been in the service of the sultan, when walking one day near the house of a principal merchant, his daughter chanced to look through a window, and the buffoon was so struck with her beauty that he became devoted to love. Daily did he repair to the same spot for weeks together in hopes of once seeing her, but in vain; for she did not again appear at the window. At length, his passion had such an effect upon him that he fell sick, kept his bed, and began to rave, exclaiming, "Ah! what charming eyes, what a beautiful complexion, what a graceful stature has my beloved!" In this situation he was attended by an old woman, who, compassionating his case, desired him to reveal the cause of his uneasiness.
"My dear mother," replied he, "I thank thee for thy kindness; but unless thou canst asssist me I must soon die." He then related what he had seen, and described to her the house of the merchant. When she said, "Son, be of good cheer; for no one could so readily have assisted thee in this dilemma as myself. Have patience, and I will speedily return with intelligence of thy beloved." Having spoken thus, she departed, and upon reaching her own house disguised herself as a devotee. Throwing over her shoulders a coarse woollen gown, holding in one hand a long string of beads, in the other a walking staff, she proceeded to the merchant's house, at the gate of which she cried, "God is God, there is no God but God; may his holy name be praised, and may God be with you," in a most devout tone.
The merchant's daughter, on hearing this devout ejaculation, came to the door, saluted the old woman with great respect, and said, "Dear mother, pray for me:" when she exclaimed, "May Allah protect thee, my beloved child, from all injury!" The young lady then introduced her into the house, seated her in the most honourable place, and with her mother sat down by her. They conversed on religious subjects till noon, when the old woman called for water, performed her ablutions, and recited prayers of an unusual length: upon which the mother and daughter remarked to one another that the aged matron must certainly be a most religious character. When prayers were ended, they set a collation before her; but she declined partaking, saying, "I am to day observing a fast." This increased their respect and admiration of her sanctity, so that they requested her to remain with them till sunset, and break her fast with them, to which she consented. At sunset she prayed again, after which she ate a little, and then uttered many pious exhortations. In short, the mother and daughter were so pleased with her, that they invited her to stay all night. In the morning, she rose early, made her ablutions, prayed for a considerable time, and concluded with a blessing upon her entertainers in learned words, which they could not understand. When she rose up, they supported her by the arms respectfully, and entreated her longer stay; but she declined it, and having taken leave, departed; promising, however, with the permission of Allah, to make them soon another visit.
On the second day following, the old woman repaired again to the merchant's house, and was joyfully received by the mother and daughter; who, kissing her hands and feet, welcomed her return. She behaved the same as before, and inspired them with stronger veneration for her sandity. Her visits now grew frequent, and she was always a welcome guest in the merchant's family. At length, one evening she entered, and said, "I have an only daughter, whose espousals are now celebrating, and this night the bride goes in state to her husband's house. My desire is that my good young lady should attend the ceremony, and receive the benefit of my prayers." The mother replied, "I am unwilling to let her go, lest some accident should befall her:" upon which the pretended religious exclaimed, "What canst thou fear, while I and other devout women shall be with her?" The daughter expressing great eagerness to attend the nuptials, her mother at length consented.
When the merchant's daughter had adorned herself in her richest habit, she accompanied the old woman; who, after leading her through several streets, conducted her to the lodging of the late fisherman, but now favourite to the sultan, who was eagerly expecting her arrival. The young lady was astonished on her entrance at beholding a comely looking man; who, she saw, could hardly restrain his raptures at the sight of her. Her first alarm was great at finding herself betrayed into such a snare by the hypocritical beldam; but having naturally much presence of mind, she concealed her fears, and considered how she might escape. She sat down, and after looking round the apartment affected to laugh, saying to the gallant, "It is commonly usual when a lover invites his mistress to his house to have an entertainment prepared; for what is love without the accompaniment of a feast? If you wish, therefore, that I should spend the evening here, go and bring in some good cheer, that our joy may be complete. I will with my good mother wait your return."
The gallant, rejoiced at her commands, exclaimed, "Thou hast spoken truly, and to hear is to obey;" after which, he went towards the market to order a splendid entertainment. When he was gone, the young lady locked the door after him, and thanking the old woman for introducing her to so handsome a lover, threw her off her guard, while she walked about the apartment meditating her escape. At length she found in one corner of it a sharp sabre, and drawing up her sleeve to her elbow, she grasped the weapon, which she struck with such force at her false friend, who was reclining on a sofa, as to cleave the head of the abandoned procuress in two, and she fell down weltering in her blood, to rise no more.
The merchant's daughter now searched the room, and finding a rich dress which the favourite usually wore when he visited the sultan, rolled it up in a bundle, and carrying it under her veil, unlocked the door, and hastened homewards. Luckily she reached her father's house without interruption. Her mother welcomed her with joy; but on perceiving the bundle, said, "My dear daughter, what can have been given thee at the nuptials of a poor religious?" The daughter, whose mind had been over agitated with her late adventure, was not able to answer; her spirits sunk at the recollection of her narrow escape, and she fainted away. The mother shrieked aloud with affright, which brought in her husband and attendants, who used various means for the young lady's recovery; and at length, having regained her senses, she related what had passed. The merchant having cursed the memory of the old woman for her hypocritical deception, comforted his virtuous daughter, and taking up the dress which he knew, and to whom it belonged, hastened to make his complaint to the sultan.
When the sultan had heard the complaint of the merchant, he was enraged against his unworthy favourite, and commanded him to be apprehended; but he could no where be found, for having on his return home seen the old woman weltering in her blood, he guessed what had happened; and apprehensive of being called to an account, putting on a mean disguise, made his escape from the city. Fortunately for him a caravan was just taking its departure, and with it he travelled for five days successively, with a mind tortured by disappointed love, and the fear of discovery. At length the caravan passed the confines of his late master, and encamped before a large city, which he entered, and having hired a room at a caravanserai, he resolved to repose, and seek out for some employment less dangerous than making love, or serving princes.
When he had rested himself for some days, he repaired to a market, where labourers stood to be hired; and had not waited long, when a woman coming up asked if he wanted work, to which he replied in the affirmative. She then said, "Part of the wall round the court of my house is so much decayed, that I must have it taken down and rebuilt, and if thou art willing to undertake the job I will employ thee." On his consenting, she led him to her house, and shewing him the wall, gave him a pick-axe, directing him as he went on to place the stones in one heap and the rubbish in another. He replied, "To hear is to obey." She then brought him some provision and water, when he refreshed himself, and having thanked God that he had escaped, and was able to get his living, began his task, which he continued till sunset. His employer paid him ten pieces of silver for his day's work, and he returned contented to his lodging.
The following morning he again went to labour, and was treated with the same kindness as before. About noon, as he was stocking up the foundation of the wall he found a copper vessel, which upon examination proved to be full of golden coin. He carried the vessel to his lodging, where he counted the money, upwards of a hundred deenars, and returned to his work. As he was coming home in the evening, he saw a crowd following a man who carried upon his head a large chest, which he offered for sale at a hundred deenars, but refused to mention the contents.
The fisherman was seized with an irresistible impulse to purchase the chest, and having a small silver coin of not more value than a silver penny, said to himself, "I will try my fate, possibly it may contain something valuable; but if not, I will disregard the disappointment;" ordered it to be conveyed to his lodging, and paid the price demanded. He then locked his door and opened the chest, when, to his astonishment, he beheld in it a beautiful girl very richly dressed, but apparently lifeless. However, on putting his hand to her mouth, he perceived that she breathed, and was only in a deep sleep, from which he endeavoured to awake her, but in vain. He then took her out of the chest, laid her gently on his carpet, and continued to gaze at her charms; till at length about midnight she awoke, and in an exclamation of alarm and surprise exclaimed, "Gracious Allah, where am I?"
When the lady's first alarm had subsided, she asked the fisherman how he had brought her to his lodging, and on being informed of the circumstances her mind became easy; for he behaved towards her with respectful attention. Concealing for the present her condition and adventures, she said, "This lodging is too mean, on the morrow you must hire a better. Serve me with fidelity, do as I desire, and you shall be amply rewarded." The fisherman, who, cautioned by his last love adventure, was fearful of taking liberties, and awed by her dignified demeanour, made a profound obeisance, and professed himself her slave. He set before her the best refreshments he could procure, and when she had supped left her, and retired to sleep in a separate chamber.
Early the next morning he went and hired a decent house, to which he conveyed her in a covered litter, and did not cease to attend upon her in all her commands for twenty days, she supplying him with money to purchase necessaries.
It is proper now to mention, that the lady bought by the fisherman in the chest was the favourite mistress of the sultan: having deserted for her all his other women, they had become envious; but the sultana, who, before the arrival of Koout al Koolloob (for such was her name) had presided over the haram, was more mortified than the rest, and had resolved to effect her removal. For this a favourable opportunity soon occurred, owing to the sultan's departure for twenty days upon a hunting excursion. In a day or two after his absence, the sultana invited Koout al Koolloob to an entertainment, and having mixed a strong soporific in some sherbet, presented it her to drink. The effect of the potion was instantaneous, and she sunk into a trance; when the sultana putting her into the chest, commanded it to be given to a broker, and sold without examination of the contents, for a hundred deenars; hoping, that whoever might be the purchaser, he would be so fascinated with the charms of the beautiful Koout al Koolloob, as to enjoy his good fortune in secrecy; and that she should thus get rid of a rival without the crime of assassination.
When the sultan returned from his excursion, immediately on entering the palace he inquired for his favourite; when the sultana entering with affected sadness, said, "Alas! my lord, the beautiful and affectionate Koout al Koolloob, unable to bear the pangs of absence, three days after your departure fell sick, and having lingered for seven days, was gathered to the mercy of the Almighty." The sultan, on hearing this, burst into an agony of grief, and exclaimed, "There is no asylum or refuge but with God; from God we came, and to God we must return." He was overcome with affliction, and remained the whole night involved in melancholy. In the morning he sent for his vizier, and commanded him to look out for a spot on the bank of the river for the erection of a building in which he might sit retired, and meditate on his beloved Koout al Koolloob.
The vizier replied, "To hear is to obey;" and taking with him an architect, fixed upon a pleasant spot, on which he ordered him to mark out a space of ninety yards in length and seventy in breadth for the intended building. The necessary materials, of stone and marbles, were soon collected, and the work was begun upon; which the minister for two days superintended in person. On the third the sultan came to view the progress. He approved of the plan, and said, "It is truly beautiful; but, alas! only worthy of the residence of Koout al Koolloob;" after which he wept bitterly. Seeing the distress of the sultan, his vizier said, "My lord, be resigned under distress; for the wise have written, ‘Be moderate when prosperity occurs, and when calamity afflicts thee exercise patience.'"
The sultan replied, "It is true, O vizier, that resignation is praiseworthy, and impatience blamable; for a poet has justly said, ‘Be calm under adversity; for calmness can alone extricate from danger.' To affliction joy often succeeds, and after trouble we generally enjoy repose; but, alas! human nature cannot divest itself of feeling; and Koout al Koolloob was so dear to me, and so delighted my soul, that I dread I shall never find another mistress her equal in beauty and accomplishments." The vizier consoled his master, and at length prevailed upon him to submit to his misfortune with some degree of resignation.
The sultan and vizier daily repaired to view the progress of the new edifice, the report of which had spread through the city, and at length reached Koout al Koolloob, who said to the fisherman, "We are every day expending our money, and getting nothing: suppose, therefore, you seek employment in the building which the sultan is erecting. Report says that he is liberal, so that possibly advantage may accrue. "The fisherman replied, "My dear mistress, how shall I bear the least absence from you?" for he loved her, and she perceiving it, often dreaded that he would have made advances; but the remembrance of what he had endured from the conduct of the merchant's daughter had made him cautious. She replied, "Dost thou really love me?" "Canst thou doubt it?" answered he; "thou art my life, and the light of my eyes!" "If so," exclaimed she, "take this necklace, and when you think of me as you are working, look at it, and it will console you till your return home."
The fisherman obeyed the commands of Koout al Koolloob, repaired to the spot where the edifice was erecting, and beheld the sultan and vizier observing the workmen. The former inquired if he wanted employment, to which he replied in the affirmative, and was hired. He began his labour; but so much was his mind engaged with his mistress, that every now and then, dropping his implements, he drew out the necklace, and looking upon it heaved a deep sigh, which the sultan observing, said to his vizier, "This man, perchance, is more unhappy than myself; let us call him to us, and inquire into his circumstances." The vizier brought him to the presence, and desired him to tell honestly why he had sighed so deeply. "Alas!" replied he, "I am absent from my beloved, who gave me this necklace to look at whenever I might think upon her; and my mind is so taken up with her, that I cannot help laying down my tools, and admiring it constantly."
When the sultan saw the necklace, he recollected that it was one which he had purchased for Koout al Koolloob for a thousand deenars. He concealed his agitation, and said, "To whom does this necklace belong?" "To my slave," replied the labourer, "whom I purchased for a hundred deenars." "Canst thou admit us to thy lodging," rejoined the sultan, "that we may see her?" "I dread," answered the labourer, "that her modesty may be offended; but I will consult her, and if she assents, I will invite you to my lodging." "That is but just," said the sultan, "and no more than what is proper."
The labourer at sunset returned home, and informed Koout al Koolloob of his adventure, when she desired him on the morrow to purchase what was requisite for a decent entertainment, at the same time giving him five deenars. In the morning he bought what she had desired, and going to his work, informed the sultan and vizier that they were welcome to his homely fare, and to see his slave; or rather, said he, "My divinity, for as such I have at humble distance adored her."
The sultan and vizier accompanied the labourer to his house where they were astonished to find prepared an elegant collation, of which they partook; after which they drank sherbet and coffee. The sultan then desired to see his slave, who just made her appearance, but retired immediately. However, the sultan knew her; and said to the labourer, "Wilt thou dispose of this damsel?" "I cannot, my lord," replied the labourer, "for my soul is wholly occupied with her love, though as yet unreturned." "May thy love be rewarded!" exclaimed the sultan; "but bring her with thee at sunset to the palace." "To hear is to obey," replied the labourer.
At sunset the labourer conducted his slave to the palace, when the eunuchs attended, and would have led her into the haram; but he clung round her, and exclaimed, "She is my beloved, and I cannot part with her." Upon this the sultan related the circumstances of his having lost her; and requested him to give her up. Knowing that he durst not oppose the sovereign, he submitted to his commands with resignation, when the sultan presented him with fifteen hundred deenars, and a beautiful slave, also a rich dress, at the same time receiving him among the most distinguished of his officers. So well did he conduct himself in his new station, that in a short time he was promoted to the rank of prime minister, and fulfilled the duties of it with such ability and integrity, that he became celebrated by the title of the Just Vizier.
Such was the celebrity of the vizier's decisions, that in a short time appeals were made from the most distant provinces to his judgment. One of the most remarkable cases was the following. Two women belonging to one man conceived on the same day, and were delivered, one of a boy, the other of a girl, at the same time, and in one apartment. The female infant died, when each laid claim to the male child. The magistrates, unable to decide between the mothers, referred the decision to the just vizier; who, on hearing the circumstances, commanded two eggs to be brought, and the contents to be drawn out without breaking the shells; after which he ordered them to be filled with milk from the breast of each woman. This being done, he placed the shells in separate scales, and finding one outweigh the other, declared that she whose milk was heaviest must be the mother of the male child; but the other woman was not satisfied with this decision, and still affirmed she was the mother of the boy.
The vizier, vexed at her obstinacy, now commanded the infant to be cut in two; when she, whom he had said was the mother, fell into agonies, and besought its life; but the other was unmoved, and assented to the death of the child. He then ordered her to be severely punished, and committed the boy to its afflicted mother. On being asked on what proofs he had grounded his decision, he replied, "On two: the first, because the milk of a woman having produced a male child is always heavier than that of the mother of a female infant: the second, because the pretended mother consented to the boy's death; and I supposed it impossible for a woman to agree to the destruction of her offspring, which is a part of herself."
[Go to The Sultan and the Traveller Mhamood Al Hyjemmee]
Scott, Jonathan (1754-1829). The Arabian Nights Entertainments. London: Pickering and Chatto, 1890. 4 Volumes. Project Gutenberg.
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