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My father died when I was a youth, leaving my mother and myself with little property, but an old she-goat, which we sold, and with the price bought a calf, and nourished her as well as we could for a whole year; when my mother desired me to go and dispose of her in the market. Accordingly I went, and soon perceived that there was not a fatter or finer beast in the market. The company of butchers, composed of forty persons, fixed their eyes upon the calf, and supposing me an ignorant lad, resolved to have her for little or nothing, and feast themselves upon her flesh. After concerting among themselves, one of them coming up, said, "My lad, dost thou mean to sell this she-goat?" "Goat!" replied I, "it is a calf." "Nay," answered he, "surely thou must be blind or under enchantment; but, old as the goat is, if thou wilt sell it, I will give thee a koorsh for her." I angrily refused, and he went away; when presently up came another; and, in short, in regular succession the whole forty, the last of whom was the chief of the butchers. I perceived the connivance to cheat me, and resolving to be revenged, said, "I am convinced I am deceived, so you shall have the goat, if such she is, for the koorsh, provided you let me have her tail." This was agreed to, and it being cut off, I delivered my calf to the chief of the butchers, received the money, and returned home.
On my arrival at home, my mother asked if I had sold the calf; to which I replied, "Yes, for a koorsh, and her tail into the bargain." She thought me stupid or mad, and inquired what I would do with the latter. I answered, "I will be amply revenged on the sharpers, who pretended that my calf was a she-goat, and force from them, at least, a thousand times the price they gave me." After this, I skinned the tail, cut the leather into thongs, and twisted them into a whip with hard thick knots. I then disguised myself in female attire, taking pains to make myself look as handsome as possible with the assistance of my mother, who put soorma into my eyelids, and arranged my eyebrows, stained my hands with hinna, and directed me how to ogle and smile. In short, as I was then a beardless lad, and reckoned comely, I appeared as a very desirable maiden in my disguise.
On my arrival at the house of the chief of the butchers, I found him sitting with his companions in the court. The whole of my calf had been cooked in various ways, and they were just going to spread the cloth and feast upon it. On my entrance I made a profound salutation: upon which they all rose up to return it, and having *teated me welcomely, whispered one to another, saying, "By Allah, this will be a night of glorious festivity, illumined by so much beauty! however, our chief must have the preference, this night shall be his; after which we will all cast lots for his turn of enjoyment."
When we had feasted on my calf, and the night was far advanced, the butchers took leave, departed to their homes, and I remained alone with the chief, who began to entertain me with amusing conversation. Observing a rope hanging from the ceiling of an apartment, I, as if ignorant of its purpose, inquired the use of it; when the venerable chief of the butchers informed me it was for suspending animals to cut up; also, occasionally his dependants, whose crimes required the punishment of flogging. Upon this I expressed a great desire to be tied with the rope, drawn up, and swung for amusement. "My dear lady," replied he, "the cord will hurt thy delicate skin; but thou shall put it round me, draw me up, and see the use without injuring thyself."
I consented to the wish of the chief butcher, placed the cord under his arms, and drew him up till the ends of his toes scarcely touched the ground. I then secured the rope, and for some moments kept running playfully round him, and tickling his sides, which made him laugh with delight. At length, tired of his posture, he desired me to release him; but I refused, saying, "My dear chief, I have not yet finished my amusement;" after which I tore the clothes from his back, as if in merriment. When I had done this, I pulled out my whip, which was well knotted, saying, "This is the tail of a she-goat, and not of a calf." The butcher now began to be somewhat alarmed, asking me who I was, and whence I came? to which I replied, "I am the owner of the fat calf, of which thou and thy villanous companions so rascally cheated me." I then bared my arm to my elbow, and so belaboured his back and sides with my whip that he roared in agony; nor did I leave off till his skin was completely flayed, and he fainted from the pain. After this I searched the apartment, found a bag containing three hundred deenars, some handsome dresses, and other valuable articles, all of which I bundled up, and carried off; leaving the chief of the butchers, suspended, to his fate. When I had reached home, I gave my prize to my mother, saying, "This is only part of the value of my calf, which I have just received of the purchaser."
Early in the morning the butchers repaired, as usual, to the residence of their chief, and finding the door of the court-yard locked, joked one with another, saying, "Our old gentleman has been so fatigued with his happiness that he sleeps longer than ordinary." They waited till near noon, when they called out for admittance; but receiving no answer, became apprehensive of some disaster, and forcing the door, found their chief suspended, almost lifeless, and his scars dropping blood. To their inquiries into the cause of his doleful situation, he replied, "That pretended vixen was no woman, but a brawny youth, the owner of the calf; who, in return for our roguery, has flogged me thus, and carried off all he could find in my chamber worth having." The butchers vowed revenge, saying, "We will seize and put him to death;" but their chief requested them for the present to be patient, and carry him to a warm bath, that he might wash and get his wounds dressed.
I observed the chief butcher enter the bathing house alone, while his followers waited at the gate: upon which I went to a slaughter-house, poured over my back the blood of a sheep, dabbed it with plaisters of cotton, and leaning on a crutch, as if in agony of pain, repaired to the bath. At first the butchers refused me admittance, saying their chief was within; but on my entreating their compassion for my miserable condition, they at length permitted me to enter. Passing through the different rooms, I came to the bath, in which I found the unfortunate chief washing his scars. I pulled out my whip, and having said to him, "Shekh, this is the tail of my calf!" flogged him again so severely that he fainted; after which I made my escape by another entrance to the hummaum, which opened into a different street.
The butchers growing impatient at the long stay of their chief in the bath, at length entered, and found him in extreme agony. He informed them of this second revenge of the owner of the calf, and requested that he would take him into the country, pitch a tent for his reception, and remain to guard him till he should be cured of his wounds. They did so; but I watched their motions, and disguising myself, repaired in the evening towards the tent. Here I found a Bedouin Arab, whom I bribed with a piece of gold to cry out, "I am the owner of the calf, and will have the life of your chief!" cautioning him at the same time, after he had so exclaimed, to make his escape as quickly as possible from the butchers, who would pursue him. "I shall not heed them," replied he, "though they may be mounted on the fleetest coursers."
Having said this, the Bedouin went up close to the tents, bawling out vociferously, as I had direfted him: upon which all the butchers started up and pursued him, but in vain, to a great distance. I then entered the tent in which the chief was reposing alone, and pulling out my whip, once more flogged him till he roared with agony. When I was tired I bundled up such articles as I could lay my hands on; and returning home, presented them to my mother, saying, "Here is the balance of the price of our calf."
The butchers having attempted to overtake the Bedouin, till they were wearied with running, but in vain, returned to their chief, whom they found in a fainting fit from the pain of his wounds. Having sprinkled water on his face, they recovered him so far that he was able to inform them of what had happened; and to request them to convey him once more to his own house, to give out that he was dead of his wounds, and make a mock funeral; when, possibly, the owner of the calf, believing him departed this life, might cease to torment him.
The butchers obeyed the commands of their chief, and reporting that he was dead, laid him in a litter, and marched in mournful procession towards the burying ground, followed by a great concourse of people. Mixing with the crowd, in disguise, I at length stooped under the litter, and giving the chief, who lay extended in a winding sheet, a smart poke with a pointed stick, up he jumped, to the astonishment of the beholders; who cried out, "A miracle! a miracle! the dead is raised to life!" while I made my escape in the throng; but being fearful that the many tricks I had played, especially this last, might excite inquiry, and lead to a discovery, I fled from the city, and resolved to remain in this cave till curiosity should subside.
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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