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Scott: The Lady of Cairo and Her Four Gallants

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A virtuous lady of Cairo, who seldom left her house but upon urgent business, one day returning from the bath, passed by the tribunal of the cauzee just as it was breaking up, when the magistrate perceived her, and struck with her dignity and elegance of gait, from which he judged of her beauty, called her to him, and in a soft whisper expressed his desire of a private interview. The lady being resolved to punish him for his unworthy conduct, seemingly consented, and desired him to repair to her house that evening, which he gladly promised. She then pursued her route homewards, but was on the way accosted by three other men, who made her similar proposals, all which she accepted, and fixed that evening for receiving their visits. The first of these gallants was the customs tax-collector of Cairo, the second the chief of the butchers, and the third a rich merchant.

When the lady returned to her house she informed her husband of what had happened, and begged him to permit her to execute a stratagem that she had formed to punish their insolence, which would not only afford himself and her much laughable amusement, but solid advantage, as doubtless the lovers would each bring with him a handsome present. The husband, who knew he could trust the virtue of his wife, readily consented, and the lady having prepared a handsome entertainment, adorned herself in her richest apparel, and seated herself to receive her guests. Evening had just shut in, when the venerable cauzee having finished his sunset devotions, impatiently repaired first to his mistress and knocked at the door, which the lady opened and led him upstairs, where he presented her with a rosary of valuable pearl; after which she made him undress, and in place of his robes put on a loose vest of yellow muslin, and a parti-coloured cap, her husband all the while looking at them through the door of a closet, and ready to burst his sides with laughter as he beheld the tender grimaces of the enamoured magistrate. The happiness of the venerable gallant was however soon changed to frightful alarm, for he had scarcely sat down and begun to partake of some refreshment, when a loud rap was heard at the door; upon which the lady starting up in well-affected terror, cried out, "Mahummud protect us! for this is my husband's knock, and if he finds you here, he will put us both to death." The cauzee's heart sank within him, and he became more dead than alive; but the lady somewhat revived him by thrusting him into her bed-chamber, desiring him to remain still, as possibly a way might be found for his escape. He gladly retired, secretly vowing that if spared from his present threatening distress, Satan should no more tempt him to make love or break the sacred law.

The lady having disposed of the cauzee, hastened to the door, where she found the expecting tax-collector, who brought with him, as a present, a set of jewels. She shewed him upstairs, took off his rich clothes, and made him put on a crimson vest, and a green cap with black spots. He had scarcely sat down when the door again resounded, and she played over the same game as she had done with the cauzee, who on his also entering the bed- chamber was somewhat pleased at seeing a brother magistrate in the same ridiculous plight with himself. The venerable lovers condoled by signs with each other, but dared not speak for fear of discovery. The chief of the butchers, on his arrival, was next ushered up stairs, and his present received, then made to undress and put on a blue vest with a scarlet cap, ornamented with sea shells and bits of tinsel; but he had scarce time to finish, when a fourth loud rap was heard at the door, the scene of alarm was renewed, and the frightened gallant hurried into the room to keep company with his rivals. Now appeared the respectable merchant, who presented the cunning lady with several rich veils, pieces of silk, and embroidered muslins, after which he was asked to undress and enrobe himself in a sky coloured vest and a cap striped with red and white; which he had hardly put on when a thundering knock at the gate put an end to his transports, and the wife pretending great alarm, as it was her husband's rap, forced him into the bed-chamber, where, to his surprise he discovered three of his intimate acquaintance.

The husband, who had left his hiding place and knocked at the door, now entered, and after saluting his wife, sat down, when having partaken of the refreshments provided for the gallants, the happy couple entered into conversation loud enough to be overheard by the wretched inamorati, who were quaking for fear of discovery. "Light of my eyes," said the husband, "didst thou meet with any thing amusing to-day in thy visit to the bath? and if so, divert me with an account of it." "I did, indeed," said the lady, "for I met with four antic creatures, whom" (at hearing this the unfortunate lovers gave themselves over for lost) "I had a great inclination to bring home with me" (here they recovered a little from their alarm) "to divert us, but fearful of your displeasure I did not; however, if agreeable, we can send for them to-morrow." The frighted gallants now indulged some hope of escape through the kindness of their cunning mistress, and began to breathe a little freer, but very short was the suspension of their fears. "I am sorry thou didst not bring them," said the husband, "because business will to-morrow call me from home, and I shall be absent for some days." Upon this, the lady laughing, said, "Well, then, you must know that in fact I have brought them, and was diverting myself with them when you came in, but fearful you might suspect something wrong I hurried them into our bed-chamber, in order to conceal them till I had tried your temper, hoping, should you not be in good humour, to find some means of letting them out undiscovered." It is impossible to describe the alarm into which the wretched gallants were now plunged, especially when the husband commanded his wife to bring them out one by one, saying, "Let each entertain us with a dance and then recite a story, but if they do not please me, I will strike off their heads." "Heaven protect us," said the cauzee, "how can men of our gravity dance? but there is no resisting the decrees of fate, nor do I see any chance of escape from this artful baggage and her savage husband but by performing as well as we can." His companions were of the same opinion, and mustered what courage they could to act as they should be ordered.

The wife now entered the chamber, and putting a tambourine into the cauzee's hands, led him out and began to play a merry tune upon her lute, to which the affrighted magistrate danced with a thousand antics and grimaces like an old baboon, beating time with the tambourine, to the great delight of the husband, who every now and then jeeringly cried out, "Really wife, if I did not know this fellow was a buffoon, I should take him for our cauzee; but God forgive me, I know our worthy magistrate is either at his devotions, or employed in investigating cases for to-morrow's decision." Upon this the cauzee danced with redoubled vigour, and more ridiculous gestures, in hopes of evading discovery. At length he was overpowered by such unusual exercise; but the husband had no mercy upon his sufferings, and made him continue capering by threatening the bastinado, till the tired judge was exhausted, and fainted upon the floor in a bath of perspiration, when they held him up, and pouring a goblet of wine down his throat it somewhat revived him. He was now suffered to breathe a little, and something given him to eat, which, with a second cup of liquor, recovered his strength. The husband now demanded his story; and the cauzee, assuming the gesture of a coffee-house droll, began as follows.

[Go to The Cauzee's Story]

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

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