Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night— Volume 7

Author: Unknown

The Adventures of Mercury Ali of Cairo.[Fn#214]

Now as regards the works of Mercury ’Ali; there lived once at Cairo,[FN#215] in the days of Salah the Egyptian, who was Chief of the Cairo Police and had forty men under him, a sharper named Ali, for whom the Master of Police used to set snares and think that he had fallen therein; but, when they sought for him, they found that he had fled like zaybak, or quicksilver, wherefore they dubbed him Ali Zaybak or Mercury Ali of Cairo. Now one day, as he sat with his men in his hall, his heart became heavy within him and his breast was straitened. The hall-keeper saw him sitting with frowning face and said to him, "What aileth thee, O my Chief? If thy breast be straitened take a turn in the streets of Cairo, for assuredly walking in her markets will do away with thy irk." So he rose up and went out and threaded the streets awhile, but only increased in cark and care. Presently, he came to a wine-shop and said to himself, "I will go in and drink myself drunken." So he entered and seeing seven rows of people in the shop, said, "Harkye, taverner! I will not sit except by myself." Accordingly, the vintner placed him in a chamber alone and set strong pure wine before him whereof he drank till he lost his senses. Then he sallied forth again and walked till he came to the road called Red, whilst the people left the street clear before him, out of fear of him. Presently, he turned and saw a water-carrier trudging along, with his skin and gugglet, crying out and saying, "O exchange! There is no drink but what raisins make, there is no love-delight but what of the lover we take and none sitteth in the place of honour save the sensible freke[FN#216]!" So he said to him, "Here, give me to drink!" The water-carrier looked at him and gave him the gugglet which he took and gazing into it, shook it up and lastly poured it out on the ground. Asked the water-carrier, "Why dost thou not drink?"; and he answered, saying, "Give me to drink." So the man filled the cup a second time and he took it and shook it and emptied it on the ground; and thus he did a third time. Quoth the water-carrier, "An thou wilt not drink, I will be off." And Ali said, "Give me to drink." So he filled the cup a fourth time and gave it to him; and he drank and gave the man a dinar. The water-carrier looked at him with disdain and said, belittling him, "Good luck to thee! Good luck to thee, my lad! Little folk are one thing and great folk another!"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say,

When it was the Seven Hundred and Ninth Night,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the water-carrier receiving the dinar, looked at the giver with disdain and said "Good luck to thee! Good luck to thee! Little folk are one thing and great folk another." Now when Mercury Ali heard this, he caught hold of the man’s gaberdine and drawing on him a poignard of price, such an one as that whereof the poet speaketh in these two couplets,

"Watered steel-blade, the world perfection calls, * Drunk with
the viper poison foes appals, Cuts lively, burns the blood whene’er it falls; * And picks up
gems from pave of marble halls;"[FN#217]

cried to him, "O Shaykh, speak reasonably to me! Thy waterskin is worth if dear three dirhams, and the gugglets I emptied on the ground held a pint or so of water." Replied the water-carrier "’Tis well," and Ali rejoined, "I gave thee a golden ducat: why, then dost thou belittle me? Say me, hast thou ever seen any more valiant than I or more generous than I?" Answered the water-carrier; "I have indeed, seen one more valiant than thou and eke more generous than thou; for, never, since women bare children, was there on earth’s face a brave man who was not generous." Quoth Ali, "And who is he thou deemest braver and more generous than I?" Quoth the other, "Thou must know that I have had a strange adventure. My father was a Shaykh of the Water-carriers who give drink in Cairo and, when he died, he left me five male camels, a he-mule, a shop and a house; but the poor man is never satisfied; or, if he be satisfied he dieth. So I said to myself, ’I will go up to Al-Hijaz’; and, taking a string of camels, bought goods on tick, till I had run in debt for five hundred ducats, all of which I lost in the pilgrimage. Then I said in my mind, ’If I return to Cairo the folk will clap me in jail for their goods.’ So I fared with the pilgrimscaravan of Damascus to Aleppo and thence I went on to Baghdad, where I sought out the Shaykh of the Water-carriers of the city and finding his house I went in and repeated the opening chapter of the Koran to him. He questioned me of my case and I told him all that had betided me, whereupon he assigned me a shop and gave me a water-skin and gear. So I sallied forth a-morn trusting in Allah to provide, and went round about the city. I offered the gugglet to one, that he might drink; but he cried, ’I have eaten naught whereon to drink; for a niggard invited me this day and set two gugglets before me; so I said to him, ’O son of the sordid, hast thou given me aught to eat that thou offerest me drink after it?’ Wherefore wend thy ways, O water-carrier, till I have eaten somewhat: then come and give me to drink.’ Thereupon I accosted another and he said, ’Allah provide thee!’ And so I went on till noon, without taking hansel, and I said to myself, ’Would Heaven I had never come to Baghdad!’ Presently, I saw the folk running as fast as they could; so I followed them and behold, a long file of men riding two and two and clad in steel, with double neck-rings and felt bonnets and burnouses and swords and bucklers. I asked one of the folk whose suite this was, and he answered, ’That of Captain Ahmad al-Danaf.’ Quoth I, ’And what is he?’ and quoth the other, ’He is town-captain of Baghdad and her Divan, and to him is committed the care of the suburbs. He getteth a thousand dinars a month from the Caliph and Hasan Shuman hath the like. More-over, each of his men draweth an hundred dinars a month; and they are now returning to their barrack from the Divan.’ And lo! Calamity Ahmad saw me and cried out, ’Come give me drink.’ So I filled the cup and gave it him, and he shook it and emptied it out, like unto thee; and thus he did a second time. Then I filled the cup a third time and he took a draught as thou diddest; after which he asked me, ’O watercarrier, whence comest thou?’ And I answered, ’From Cairo,’ and he, ’Allah keep Cairo and her citizens! What may bring thee thither?’ So I told him my story and gave him to understand that I was a debtor fleeing from debt and distress. He cried, ’Thou art welcome to Baghdad’; then he gave me five dinars and said to his men, ’For the love of Allah be generous to him.’ So each of them gave me a dinar and Ahmad said to me, ’O Shaykh, what while thou abidest in Baghdad thou shalt have of us the like every time thou givest us to drink.’ Accordingly, I paid them frequent visits and good ceased not to come to me from the folk till, one day, reckoning up the profit I had made of them, I found it a thousand dinars and said to myself, ’The best thing thou canst do is to return to Egypt.’ So I went to Ahmad’s house and kissed his hand, and he said, ’What seekest thou?’ Quoth I, ’I have a mind to depart’; and I repeated these two couplets,

’Sojourn of stranger, in whatever land, * Is like castle based
upon the wind: The breaths of breezes level all he raised. * And so on
homeward-way’s the stranger’s mind.’

I added, ’The caravan is about to start for Cairo and I wish to return to my people.’ So he gave me a she-mule and an hundred dinars and said to me, ’I desire to send somewhat by thee, O Shaykh! Dost thou know the people of Cairo?’ ’Yes,’ answered I";—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Seven Hundred and Tenth Night,

She pursued, It bath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Ahmad al-Danaf had given the water-carrier a she-mule and an hundred dinars and said to him, "I desire to send a trust by thee. Dost thou know the people of Cairo?" "I answered (quoth the water-carrier), ’Yes’; and he said, ’Take this letter and carry it to Ali Zaybak of Cairo and say to him, ’Thy Captain saluteth thee and he is now with the Caliph.’ So I took the letter and journeyed back to Cairo, where I paid my debts and plied my water-carrying trade; but I have not delivered the letter, because I know not the abode of Mercury Ali." Quoth Ali, "O elder, be of good cheer and keep thine eyes cool and clear: I am that Ali, the first of the lads of Captain Ahmad: here with the letter!" So he gave him the missive and he opened it and read these two couplets,

"O adornment of beauties to thee write I * On a paper that
flies as the winds go by: Could I fly, I had flown to their arms in desire, * But a bird
with cut wings; how shall ever he fly?"

"But after salutation from Captain Ahmad al-Danaf to the eldest of his sons, Mercury Ali of Cairo. Thou knowest that I tormented Salah al-Din the Cairene and befooled him till I buried him alive and reduced his lads to obey me, and amongst them Ali Kitf al-Jamal; and I am now become town-captain of Baghdad in the Divan of the Caliph who hath made me over-seer of the suburbs. An thou be still mindful of our covenant, come to me; haply thou shalt play some trick in Baghdad which may promote thee to the Caliph’s service, so he may appoint thee stipends and allowances and assign thee a lodging, which is what thou wouldst see and so peace be on thee." When Ali read this letter, he kissed it and laying it on his head, gave the water-carrier ten dinars; after which he returned to his barracks and told his comrades and said to them, "I commend you one to other." Then he changed all his clothes and, donning a travelling cloak and a tarboosh, took a case, containing a spear of bamboo-cane, four-and-twenty cubits long, made in several pieces, to fit into one another. Quoth his lieutenant, "Wilt thou go a journey when the treasury is empty?"; and quoth Ali, "When I reach Damascus I will send you what shall suffice you." Then he set out and fared on, till he overtook a caravan about to start, whereof were the Shah-bandar, or Provost of the Merchants, and forty other traders. They had all loaded their beasts, except the Provost, whose loads lay upon the ground, and Ali heard his caravan-leader, who was a Syrian, say to the muleteers, "Bear a hand, one of you!" But they reviled him and abused him. Quoth Ali in himself, "None will suit me so well to travel withal as this leader." Now Ali was beardless and wellfavoured; so he went up to and saluted the leader who welcomed him and said, "What seekest thou?" Replied Ali, "O my uncle, I see thee alone with forty mule-loads of goods; but why hast thou not brought hands to help thee?" Rejoined the other, "O my son, I hired two lads and clothed them and put in each one’s pocket two hundred dinars; and they helped me till we came to the Dervishes’ Convent,[FN#218] when they ran away." Quoth Ali, "Whither are you bound?" and quoth the Syrian, "to Aleppo," when Ali said, "I will lend thee a hand." Accordingly they loaded the beasts and the Provost mounted his she-mule and they set out he rejoicing in Ali; and presently he loved him and made much of him and on this wise they fared on till nightfall, when they dismounted and ate and drank. Then came the time of sleep and Ali lay down on his side and made as if he slept; whereupon the Syrian stretched himself near him and Ali rose from his stead and sat down at the door of the merchant’s pavilion. Presently the Syrian turned over and would have taken Ali in his arms, but found him not and said to himself, "Haply he hath promised another and he hath taken him; but I have the first right and another night I will keep him." Now Ali continued sitting at the door of the tent till nigh upon daybreak, when he returned and lay down near the Syrian, who found him by his side, when he awoke, and said to himself, "If I ask him where he hath been, he will leave me and go away." So he dissembled with him and they went on till they came to a forest, in which was a cave, where dwelt a rending lion. Now whenever a caravan passed, they would draw lots among themselves and him on whom the lot fell they would throw to the beast. So they drew lots and the lot fell not save upon the Provost of the Merchants. And lo! the lion cut off their way awaiting his prey, wherefore the Provost was sore distressed and said to the leader, "Allah disappoint the fortunes[FN#219] of the far one and bring his journey to naught! I charge thee, after my death, give my loads to my children." Quoth Ali the Clever One, "What meaneth all this?" So they told him the case and he said, "Why do ye run from the tom-cat of the desert? I warrant you I will kill him." So the Syrian went to the Provost and told him of this and he said, "If he slay him, I will give him a thousand dinars," and said the other merchants, "We will reward him likewise one and all." With this Ali put off his mantle and there appeared upon him a suit of steel; then he took a chopper of steel[FN#220] and opening it turned the screw; after which he went forth alone and standing in the road before the lion, cried out to him. The lion ran at him, but Ali of Cairo smote him between the eyes with his chopper and cut him in sunder, whilst the caravan-leader and the merchants looked on. Then said he to the leader, "Have no fear, O nuncle!" and the Syrian answered, saying, "O my son, I am thy servant for all future time." Then the Provost embraced him and kissed him between the eyes and gave him the thousand dinars, and each of the other merchants gave him twenty dinars. He deposited all the coin with the Provost and they slept that night till the morning, when they set out again, intending for Baghdad, and fared on till they came to the Lion’s Clump and the Wady of Dogs, where lay a villain Badawi, a brigand and his tribe, who sallied forth on them. The folk fled from the highwaymen, and the Provost said, "My monies are lost!"; when, lo! up came Ali in a buff coat hung with bells, and bringing out his long lance, fitted the pieces together. Then he seized one of the Arab’s horses and mounting it cried out to the Badawi Chief, saying, "Come out to fight me with spears!" Moreover he shook his bells and the Arab’s mare took fright at the noise and Ali struck the Chief’s spear and broke it. Then he smote him on the neck and cut off his head.[FN#221] When the Badawin saw their chief fall, they ran at Ali, but he cried out, saying, "Allaho Akbar—God is Most Great!"—and, falling on them broke them and put them to flight. Then he raised the Chief’s head on his spear-point and returned to the merchants, who rewarded him liberally and continued their journey, till they reached Baghdad. Thereupon Ali took his money from the Provost and committed it to the Syrian caravan-leader, saying, "When thou returnest to Cairo, ask for my barracks and give these monies to my deputy." Then he slept that night and on the morrow he entered the city and threading the streets enquired for Calamity Ahmad’s quarters; but none would direct him thereto.[FN#222] So he walked on, till he came to the square Al-Nafz, where he saw children at play, and amongst them a lad called Ahmad al-Lakit,[FN#223] and said to himself, "O my Ali, thou shalt not get news of them but from their little ones." Then he turned and seeing a sweet-meat-seller bought Halwa of him and called to the children; but Ahmad al-Lakit drove the rest away and coming up to him, said, "What seekest thou?" Quoth Ali, "I had a son and he died and I saw him in a dream asking for sweetmeats: wherefore I have bought them and wish to give each child a bit." So saying, he gave Ahmad a slice, and he looked at it and seeing a dinar sticking to it, said "Begone! I am no catamite: seek another than I." Quoth Ali, "O my son, none but a sharp fellow taketh the hire, even as he is a sharp one who giveth it. I have sought all day for Ahmad al-Danaf’s barrack, but none would direct me thereto; so this dinar is thine an thou wilt guide me thither." Quoth the lad, "I will run before thee and do thou keep up with me, till I come to the place, when I will catch up a pebble with my foot[FN#224] and kick it against the door; and so shalt thou know it." Accordingly he ran on and Ali after him, till they came to the place, when the boy caught up a pebble between his toes and kicked it against the door so as to make the place known.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Seven Hundred and Eleventh Night,

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Ahmad the Abortion had made known the place, Ali laid hold of him and would have taken the dinar from him, but could not; so he said to him, "Go: thou deservest largesse for thou art a sharp fellow, whole of wit and stout of heart. Inshallah, if I become a captain to the Caliph, I will make thee one of my lads." Then the boy made off and Ali Zaybak went up to the door and knocked; whereupon quoth Ahmad al-Danaf, "O doorkeeper, open the door; that is the knock of Quicksilver Ali the Cairene." So he opened the door and Ali entered and saluted with the salam Ahmad who embraced him, and the Forty greeted him. Then Calamity Ahmad gave him a suit of clothes, saying, "When the Caliph made me captain, he clothed my lads and I kept this suit[FN#225] for thee." Then they seated him in the place of honour and setting on meat they ate well and drink they drank hard and made merry till the morning, when Ahmad said to Ali, "Beware thou walk not about the streets of Baghdad, but sit thee still in this barrack." Asked Ali, "Why so? Have I come hither to be shut up? No, I came to look about me and divert myself." Replied Ahmad, "O my son, think not that Baghdad be like Cairo. Baghdad is the seat of the Caliphate; sharpers abound therein and rogueries spring therefrom as worts spring out of earth." So Ali abode in the barrack three days when Ahmad said to him, "I wish to present thee to the Caliph, that he may assign thee an allowance." But he replied, "When the time cometh." So he let him go his own way. One day, as Ali sat in the barrack, his breast became straitened and his soul troubled and he said in himself, "Come, let us up and thread the ways of Baghdad and broaden my bosom." So he went out and walked from street to street, till he came to the middle bazar, where he entered a cook-shop and dined;[FN#226] after which he went out to wash his hands. Presently he saw forty slaves, with felt bonnets and steel cutlasses, come walking, two by two; and last of all came Dalilah the Wily, mounted on a she-mule, with a gilded helmet which bore a ball of polished steel, and clad in a coat of mail, and such like. Now she was returning from the Divan to the Khan of which she was portress; and when she espied Ali, she looked at him fixedly and saw that he resembled Calamity Ahmad in height and breadth. Moreover, he was clad in a striped Aba-cloak and a burnous, with a steel cutlass by his side and similar gear, while valour shone from his eyes, testifying in favour of him and not in disfavour of him. So she returned to the Khan and going in to her daughter, fetched a table of sand, and struck a geomantic figure, whereby she discovered that the stranger’s name was Ali of Cairo and that his fortune overcame her fortune and that of her daughter. Asked Zaynab, "O my mother, what hath befallen thee that thou hast recourse to the sand-table?" Answered Dalilah, "O my daughter, I have seen this day a young man who resembleth Calamity Ahmad, and I fear lest he come to hear how thou didst strip Ahmad and his men and enter the Khan and play us a trick, in revenge for what we did with his chief and the forty; for methinks he has taken up his lodging in Al- Danaf’s barrack." Zaynab rejoined, "What is this? Methinks thou hast taken his measure." Then she donned her fine clothes and went out into the streets. When the people saw her, they all made love to her and she promised and sware and listened and coquetted and passed from market to market, till she saw Ali the Cairene coming, when she went up to him and rubbed her shoulder against him. Then she turned and said "Allah give long life to folk of discrimination!" Quoth he, "How goodly is thy form! To whom dost thou belong?"; and quoth she, "To the gallant[FN#227] like thee;" and he said, "Art thou wife or spinster?" "Married," said she. Asked Ali, "Shall it be in my lodging or thine?[FN#228] and she answered, "I am a merchant’s daughter and a merchant’s wife and in all my life I have never been out of doors till to-day, and my only reason was that when I made ready food and thought to eat, I had no mind thereto without company. When I saw thee, love of thee entered my heart: so wilt thou deign solace my soul and eat a mouthful with me?" Quoth he, "Whoso is invited, let him accept." Thereupon she went on and he followed her from street to street, but presently he bethought himself and said, "What wilt thou do and thou a stranger? Verily ’tis said, ’Whoso doth whoredom in his strangerhood, Allah will send him back disappointed.’ But I will put her off from thee with fair words." So he said to her, "Take this dinar and appoint me a day other than this;" and she said, "By the Mighty Name, it may not be but thou shalt go home with me as my guest this very day and I will take thee to fast friend." So he followed her till she came to a house with a lofty porch and a wooden bolt on the door and said to him, "Open this lock."[FN#229] Asked he "Where is the key?"; and she answered, "’Tis lost." Quoth he, "Whoso openeth a lock without a key is a knave whom it behoveth the ruler to punish, and I know not how to open doors without keys?"[FN#230] With this she raised her veil and showed him her face, whereat he took one glance of eyes that cost him a thousand sighs. Then she let fall her veil on the lock and repeating over it the names of the mother of Moses, opened it without a key and entered. He followed her and saw swords and steel-weapons hanging up; and she put off her veil and sat down with him. Quoth he to himself, "Accomplish what Allah bath decreed to thee," and bent over her, to take a kiss of her cheek; but she caught the kiss upon her palm, saying, "This beseemeth not but by night." Then she brought a tray of food and wine, and they ate and drank; after which she rose and drawing water from the well, poured it from the ewer over his hands, whilst he washed them. Now whilst they were on this wise, she cried out and beat upon her breast, saying, "My husband had a signet-ring of ruby, which was pledged to him for five hundred dinars, and I put it on; but ’twas too large for me, so I straitened it with wax, and when I let down the bucket,[FN#231] that ring must have dropped into the well. So turn thy face to the door, the while I doff my dress and go down into the well and fetch it." Quoth Ali, "’Twere shame on me that thou shouldst go down there I being present; none shall do it save I." So he put off his clothes and tied the rope about himself and she let him down into the well. Now there was much water therein and she said to him, "The rope is too short; loose thyself and drop down." So he did himself loose from the rope and dropped into the water, in which he sank fathoms deep without touching bottom; whilst she donned her mantilla and taking his clothes, returned to her mother— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When is was the Seven Hundred and Twelfth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Ali of Cairo was in the well, Zaynab donned her mantilla and, taking his clothes, returned to her mother and said, "I have stripped Ali the Egyptian and cast him into the Emir Hasan’s well, whence alas for his chance of escaping!"[FN#232] Presently, the Emir Hasan, the master of the house, who had been absent at the Divan, came home and, finding the door open, said to his Syce, "Why didst thou not draw the bolt?" "O my lord," replied the groom, "indeed I locked it with my own hand." The Emir cried, "As my head liveth, some robber hath entered my house!" Then he went in and searched, but found none and said to the groom, "Fill the ewer, that I may make the Wuzu-ablution." So the man lowered the bucket into the well but, when he drew it up, he found it heavy and looking down, saw something therein sitting; whereupon he let it fall into the water and cried out, saying, "O my lord, an Ifrit came up to me out of the well!" Replied the Emir, "Go and fetch four doctors of the law, that they may read the Koran over him, till he go away." So he fetched the doctors and the Emir said to them, "Sit round this well and exorcise me this Ifrit." They did as he bade them; after which the groom and another servant lowered the bucket again and Ali clung to it and hid himself under it patiently till he came near the top, when he sprang out and landed among the doctors, who fell a-cuffing one another and crying out, "Ifrit! Ifrit!" The Emir looked at Ali and seeing him a young man, said to him, "Art thou a thief?" "No," replied Ali; "Then what dost thou in the well?" asked the Emir; and Ali answered, "I was asleep and dreamt a wet dream;[FN#233] so I went down to the Tigris to wash myself and dived, whereupon the current carried me under the earth and I came up in this well." Quoth the other, "Tell the truth."[FN#234] So Ali told him all that had befallen him, and the Emir gave him an old gown and let him go. He returned to Calamity Ahmad’s lodging and related to him all that had passed. Quoth Ahmad, "Did I not warn thee that Baghdad is full of women who play tricks upon men?" And quoth Ali Kitf al-Jamal, "I conjure thee by the Mighty Name, tell me how it is that thou art the chief of the lads of Cairo and yet hast been stripped by a girl?" This was grievous to Ali and he repented him of not having followed Ahmad’s advice. Then the Calamity gave him another suit of clothes and Hasan Shuman said to him, "Dost thou know the young person?" "No," replied Ali; and Hasan rejoined, "’Twas Zaynab, the daughter of Dalilah the Wily, the portress of the Caliph’s Khan; and hast thou fallen into her toils, O Ali?" Quoth he, "Yes," and quoth Hasan, "O Ali, ’twas she who took thy Chief’s clothes and those of all his men." "This is a disgrace to you all!" "And what thinkest thou to do?" "I purpose to marry her." "Put away that thought far from thee, and console thy heart of her." "O Hasan, do thou counsel me how I shall do to marry her." "With all my heart: if thou wilt drink from my hand and march under my banner, I will bring thee to thy will of her." "I will well." So Hasan made Ali put off his clothes; and, taking a cauldron heated therein somewhat as it were pitch, wherewith he anointed him and he became like unto a blackamoor slave. Moreover, he smeared his lips and cheeks and pencilled his eyes with red Kohl.[FN#235] Then he clad him in a slave’s habit and giving him a tray of kabobs and wine, said to him, "There is a black cook in the Khan who requires from the bazar only meat; and thou art now become his like; so go thou to him civilly and accost him in friendly fashion and speak to him in the blacks’ lingo, and salute him, saying, "Tis long since we met in the beer-ken.’ He will answer thee, ’I have been too busy: on my hands be forty slaves, for whom I cook dinner and supper, besides making ready a tray for Dalilah and the like for her daughter Zaynab and the dogs’ food.’ And do thou say to him, ’Come, let us eat kabobs and lush swipes.’[FN#236] Then go with him into the saloon and make him drunken and question him of his service, how many dishes and what dishes he hath to cook, and ask him of the dogs’ food and the keys of the kitchen and the larder; and he will tell thee; for a man, when he is drunken, telleth all he would conceal were he sober. When thou hast done this drug him and don his clothes and sticking the two knives in thy girdle, take the vegetable-basket and go to the market and buy meat and greens, with which do thou return to the Khan and enter the kitchen and the larder and cook the food. Dish it up and put Bhang in it, so as to drug the dogs and the slaves and Dalilah and Zaynab and lastly serve up. When all are asleep, hie thee to the upper chamber and bring away every suit of clothes thou wilt find hanging there. And if thou have a mind to marry Zaynab, bring with thee also the forty carrier-pigeons." So Ali went to the Khan and going in to the cook, saluted him and said, "’Tis long since I have met thee in the beer-ken." The slave replied, "I have been busy cooking for the slaves and the dogs." Then he took him and making him drunken, questioned him of his work. Quoth the kitchener, "Every day I cook five dishes for dinner and the like for supper; and yesterday they sought of me a sixth dish,[FN#237] yellow rice,[FN#238] and a seventh, a mess of cooked pomegranate seed." Ali asked, "And what is the order of thy service?" and the slave answered, "First I serve up Zaynab’s tray, next Dalilah’s; then I feed the slaves and give the dogs their sufficiency of meat, and the least that satisfies them is a pound each." But, as fate would have it, he forgot to ask him of the keys. Then he drugged him and donned his clothes; after which he took the basket and went to the market. There he bought meat and greens.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Seven Hundred and Thirteenth Night,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ali of Cairo, after drugging the cook-slave with Bhang, took the two knives which he stuck in his belt and, carrying the vegetable-basket, went to the market where he bought meat and greens; and, presently returning to the Khan, he saw Dalilah seated at the gate, watching those who went in and came out, and the forty slaves with her, armed. So he heartened his heart and entered; but Dalilah knew him and said to him, "Back, O captain of thieves! Wilt thou play a trick on me in the Khan?" Thereupon he (dressed as a slave) turned and said to her, "What sayest thou, O portress?" She asked, "What hast thou done with the slave, our cook?; say me if thou hast killed or drugged him?" He answered, "What cook? Is there here another slave-cook than I?" She rejoined, "Thou liest, thou art Mercury Ali the Cairene." And he said to her, in slaves’ patois, "O portress, are the Cairenes black or white? I will slave for you no longer." Then said the slaves to him, "What is the matter with thee, O our cousin?" Cried Dalilah, "This is none of your uncle’s children, but Ali Zaybak the Egyptian; and meseems he hath either drugged your cousin or killed him." But they said, "Indeed this is our cousin Sa’adu’llah the cook;" and she, "Not so, ’tis Mercury Ali, and he hath dyed his skin." Quoth the sharper, "And who is Ali? I am Sa’adu’llah." Then she fetched unguent of proof, with which she anointed Ali’s forearm and rubbed it; but the black did not come off; whereupon quoth the slaves "Let him go and dress us our dinner." Quoth Dalilah, "If he be indeed your cousin, he knoweth what you sought of him yesternight[FN#239] and how many dishes he cooketh every day." So they asked him of this and he said, "Every day I cook you five dishes for the morning and the like for the evening meal, lentils and rice and broth and stew[FN#240] and sherbet of roses; and yesternight ye sought of me a sixth dish and a seventh, to wit yellow rice and cooked pomegranate seed." And the slaves said "Right!" Then quoth Dalilah, "In with him and if he know the kitchen and the larder, he is indeed your cousin; but, if not, kill him." Now the cook had a cat which he had brought up, and whenever he entered the kitchen it would stand at the door and spring to his back, as soon as he went in. So, when Ali entered, the cat saw him and jumped on his shoulders; but he threw it off and it ran before him to the door of the kitchen and stopped there. He guessed that this was the kitchen door; so he took the keys and seeing one with traces of feathers thereon, knew it for the kitchen key and therewith opened the door. Then he entered and setting down the greens, went out again, led by the cat, which ran before him and stopped at another door. He guessed that this was the larder and seeing one of the keys marked with grease, knew it for the key and opened the door therewith; where-upon quoth the slaves, "O Dalilah, were he a stranger, he had not known the kitchen and the larder, nor had he been able to distinguish the keys thereof from the rest; verily, he is our cousin Sa’adu’llah." Quoth she, "He learned the places from the cat and distinguished the keys one from the other by the appearance: but this cleverness imposeth not upon me." Then he returned to the kitchen where he cooked the dinner and, carrying Zaynab’s tray up to her room, saw all the stolen clothes hanging up; after which he went down and took Dalilah her tray and gave the slaves and the dogs their rations. The like he did at sundown and drugged Dalilah’s food and that of Zaynab and the slaves. Now the doors of the Khan were opened and shut with the sun. So Ali went forth and cried out, saying, "O dwellers in the Khan, the watch is set and we have loosed the dogs; whoso stirreth out after this can blame none save himself." But he had delayed the dogs’ supper and put poison therein; consequently when he set it before them, they ate of it and died while the slaves and Dalilah and Zaynab still slept under Bhang. Then he went up and took all the clothes and the carrier-pigeons and, opening the gate made off to the barrack of the Forty, where he found Hasan Shuman the Pestilence who said to him, "How hast thou fared?" Thereupon he told him what had passed and he praised him. Then he caused him to put off his clothes and boiled a decoction of herbs wherewith he washed him, and his skin became white as it was; after which he donned his own dress and going back to the Khan, clad the cook in the habit he had taken from him and made him smell to the counter-drug; upon which the slave awoke and going forth to the greengrocer’s, bought vegetables and returned to the Khan. Such was the case with Al-Zaybak of Cairo; but as regards Dalilah the Wily, when the day broke, one of the lodgers in the Khan came out of his chamber and, seeing the gate open and the slaves drugged and the dogs dead, he went in to her and found her lying drugged, with a scroll on her neck and at her head a sponge steeped in the counter-drug. He set the sponge to her nostrils and she awoke and asked, "Where am I?" The merchant answered, "When I came down from my chamber I saw the gate of the Khan open and the dogs dead and found the slaves and thee drugged." So she took up the paper and read therein these words, "None did this deed save Ali the Egyptian." Then she awoke the slaves and Zaynab by making them smell the counter-Bhang and said to them, "Did I not tell you that this was Ali of Cairo?"; presently adding to the slaves, "But do ye conceal the matter." Then she said to her daughter, "How often have I warned thee that Ali would not forego his revenge? He hath done this deed in requital of that which thou diddest with him and he had it in his power to do with thee other than this thing; but he refrained therefrom out of courtesy and a desire that there should be love and friendship between us." So saying, she doffed her man’s gear and donned woman’s attire[FN#241] and, tying the kerchief of peace about her neck, repaired to Ahmad al-Danaf’s barrack. Now when Ali entered with the clothes and the carrier-pigeons, Hasan Shuman gave the hall-keeper the price of forty pigeons and he bought them and cooked them amongst the men. Presently there came a knock at the door and Ahmad said, "That is Dalilah’s knock: rise and open to her, O hall-keeper." So he admitted her and—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Seven Hundred and Fourteenth Night,

She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Dalilah was admitted, Hasan asked her, "What bringeth thee hither, O ill-omened old woman? Verily, thou and thy brother Zurayk the fishmonger are of a piece!"; and she answered, "O captain I am in the wrong and this my neck is at thy mercy; but tell me which of you it was that played me this trick?" Quoth Calamity Ahmad, "’Twas the first of my lads." Rejoined Dalilah, "For the sake of Allah intercede with him to give me back the carrier-pigeons and what not, and thou wilt lay me under great obligation." When Hasan heard this he said, "Allah requite thee, O Ali! Why didst thou cook the pigeons?"; and Ali answered, "I knew not that they were carrier-pigeons." Then said Ahmad, "O hall-keeper bring us the cooked pigeons." So he brought them and Dalilah took a piece and tasting it, said, "This is none of the carrierpigeons’ flesh, for I fed them on grains of musk and their meat is become even as musk." Quoth Shuman, "An thou desire to have the carrier-pigeons, comply with Ali’s will." Asked she "What is that?" And Hasan answered, "He would have thee marry him to thy daughter Zaynab." She said, "I have not command over her except of affection"; and Hasan said to Ali the Cairene "Give her the pigeons." So he gave them to her, and she took them and rejoiced in them. Then quoth Hasan to her, "There is no help but thou return us a sufficient reply"; and Dalilah rejoined, "If it be indeed his wish to marry her, it availed nothing to play this clever trick upon us: it behoveth him rather to demand her in marriage of her mother’s brother and her guardian, Captain Zurayk, him who crieth out, saying, ’Ho! a pound of fish for two farthings!’ and who hangeth up in his shop a purse containing two thousand dinars." When the Forty heard this, they all rose and cried out, saying, "What manner of blather is this, O harlot? Dost thou wish to bereave us of our brother Ali of Cairo?" Then she returned to the Khan and said to her daughter, "Ali the Egyptian seeketh thee in marriage." Whereat Zaynab rejoiced, for she loved him because of his chaste forbearance towards her,[FN#242] and asked her mother what had passed. So she told her, adding, "I made it a condition that he should demand thy hand of thine uncle, so I might make him fall into destruction." Meanwhile Ali turned to his fellows and asked them, "What manner of man is this Zurayk?"; and they answered, "He was chief of the sharpers of Al-Irak land and could all but pierce mountains and lay hold upon the stars. He would steal the Kohl from the eye and, in brief, he had not his match for roguery; but he hath repented his sins and foresworn his old way of life and opened him a fishmonger’s shop. And now he hath amassed two thousand dinars by the sale of fish and laid them in a purse with strings of silk, to which he hath tied bells and rings and rattles of brass, hung on a peg within the doorway. Every time he openeth his shop he suspendeth the said purse and crieth out, saying, ’Where are ye, O sharpers of Egypt, O prigs of Al-Irak, O tricksters of Ajam-land? Behold, Zurayk the fishmonger hath hung up a purse in front of his shop, and whoso pretendeth to craft and cunning, and can take it by sleight, it is his.’ So the long fingered and greedy-minded come and try to take the purse, but cannot; for, whilst he frieth his fish and tendeth the fire, he layeth at his feet scone-like circles of lead; and whenever a thief thinketh to take him unawares and maketh a snatch at the purse he casteth at him a load of lead and slayeth him or doeth him a damage. So O Ali, wert thou to tackle him, thou wouldst be as one who jostleth a funeral cortege, unknowing who is dead;[FN#243] for thou art no match for him, and we fear his mischief for thee. Indeed, thou hast no call to marry Zaynab, and he who leaveth a thing alone liveth without it." Cried Ali, "This were shame, O comrades; needs must I take the purse: but bring me a young lady’s habit." So they brought him women’s clothes and he clad himself therein and stained his hands with Henna, and modestly hung down his veil. Then he took a lamb and killing it, cut out the long intestine[FN#244] which he cleaned and tied up below; moreover he filled it with the blood and bound it between his thighs; after which he donned petticoat-trousers and walking boots. He also made himself a pair of false breasts with birds’ crops and filled them with thickened milk and tied round his hips and over his belly a piece of linen, which he stuffed with cotton, girding himself over all with a kerchief of silk well starched. Then he went out, whilst all who saw him exclaimed, "What a fine pair of hind cheeks!" Presently he saw an ass-driver coming, so he gave him a dinar and mounting, rode till he came to Zurayk’s shop, where he saw the purse hung up and the gold glittering through it. Now Zurayk was frying fish, and Ali said, "O assman, what is that smell?" Replied he, "It’s the smell of Zurayk’s fish." Quoth Ali, "I am a woman with child and the smell harmeth me; go, fetch me a slice of the fish." So the donkey-boy said to Zurayk, "What aileth thee to fry fish so early and annoy pregnant women with the smell? I have here the wife of the Emir Hasan Sharr al-Tarik, and she is with child; so give her a bit of fish, for the babe stirreth in her womb. O Protector, O my God, avert from us the mischief of this day!" Thereupon Zurayk took a piece of fish and would have fried it, but the fire had gone out and he went in to rekindle it. Meanwhile Ali dismounted and sitting down, pressed upon the lamb’s intestine till it burst and the blood ran out from between his legs. Then he cried aloud, saying, "O my back! O my side!" Whereupon the driver turned and seeing the blood running, said, "What aileth thee, O my lady?" Replied Ali, "I have miscarried"; where-upon Zurayk looked out and seeing the blood fled affrighted into the inner shop. Quoth the donkey-driver, "Allah torment thee, O Zurayk! The lady hath miscarried and thou art no match for her husband. Why must thou make a stench so early in the morning? I said to thee, ’Bring her a slice,’ but thou wouldst not." Thereupon, he took his ass and went his way and, as Zurayk still did not appear, Ali put out his hand to the purse; but no sooner had he touched it than the bells and rattles and rings began to jingle and the gold to chink. Quoth Zurayk, who returned at the sound, "Thy perfidy hath come to light, O gallows-bird! Wilt thou put a cheat on me and thou in a woman’s habit? Now take what cometh to thee!" And he threw a cake of lead at him, but it went agley and lighted on another; whereupon the people rose against Zurayk and said to him, "Art thou a trades-man or a swashbuckler? An thou be a tradesman, take down thy purse and spare the folk thy mischief." He replied, "Bismillah, in the name of Allah! On my head be it." As for Ali, he made off to the barrack and told Hasan Shuman what had happened, after which he put off his woman’s gear and donning a groom’s habit which was brought to him by his chief took a dish and five dirhams. Then he returned to Zurayk’s shop and the fishmonger said to him, "What dost thou want, O my master?"[FN#245] He showed him the dirhams and Zurayk would have given him of the fish in the tray, but he said, "I will have none save hot fish." So he set fish in the earthen pan and finding the fire dead, went in to relight it; whereupon Ali put out his hand to the purse and caught hold of the end of it. The rattles and rings and bells jingled and Zurayk said, "Thy trick hath not deceived me. I knew thee for all thou art disguised as a groom by the grip of thy hand on the dish and the dirhams."— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Seven Hundred and Fifteenth Night,

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Ali of Egypt put out his hand to the purse, the bells and rings jingled and Zurayk said, "Thy trick hath not deceived me for all thou comest disguised as a groom I knew thee by the grip of thy hand on the dish and the dirhams!" So saying, he threw the lead at him, but he avoided it and it fell into the pan full of hot fish and broke it and overturned it, fat and all, upon the breast and shoulders of the Kazi, who was passing. The oil ran down inside his clothes to his privy parts and he cried out, "O my privities! What a sad pickle you are in! Alas, unhappy I! Who hath played me this trick?" Answered the people, "O our lord, it was some small boy that threw a stone into the pan: but for Allah’s word, it had been worse." Then they turned and seeing the loaf of lead and that it was Zurayk who had thrown it, rose against him and said to him, "O Zurayk, this is not allowed of Allah! Take down the purse or it shall go ill for thee." Answered he, "I will take it down, Inshallah!" Meanwhile Ali returned to the barrack and told his comrades who cried, "Where is the purse?", all that had passed and they said, "Thou hast exhausted twothirds of his cunning." Then he changed his groom’s dress for the garb of a merchant and going out, met a snake-charmer, with a bag of serpents and a wallet containing his kit to whom said he, "O charmer, come and amuse my lads, and thou shalt have largesse." So he accompanied him to the barrack, where he fed him and drugging him with Bhang, doffed his clothes and put them on. Then he took the bags and repairing to Zurayk’s shop began to play the reed-pipe. Quoth Zurayk, "Allah provide thee!" But Ali pulled out the serpents and cast them down before him; whereat the fishseller, who was afraid of snakes, fled from them into the inner shop. Thereupon Ali picked up the reptiles and, thrusting them back into the bag, stretched out his hand and caught hold of the end of the purse. The rings again rang and the bells and rattles jangled, and Zurayk cried, "Wilt thou never cease to play me tricks? Now thou feignest thyself a serpent-charmer!" So saying, he took up a piece of lead, and hurled it at Ali; but it missed him and fell on the head of a groom, who was passing by, following his master, a trooper, and knocked him down. Quoth the soldier, "Who felled him?"; and the folk said, "’Twas a stone fell from the roof." So the soldier passed on and the people, seeing the piece of lead, went up to Zurayk and cried to him, "Take down the purse!"; and he said, "Inshallah, I will take it down this very night!" Ali ceased not to practice upon Zurayk till he had made seven different attempts but without taking the purse. Then he returned the snake-charmer his clothes and kit and gave him due benevolence; after which he went back to Zurayk’s shop and heard him say, "If I leave the purse here to-night, he will dig through the shop-wall and take it; I will carry it home with me." So he arose and shut the shop; then he took down the purse and putting it in his bosom set out home, till he came near his house, when he saw a wedding in a neighbour’s lodging and said to himself, "I will hie me home and give my wife the purse and don my fine clothes and return to the marriage." And Ali followed him. Now Zurayk had married a black girl, one of the freed women of the Wazir Ja’afar and she had borne him a son, whom he named Abdallah, and he had promised her to spend the money in the purse on the occasion of the boy’s circumcision and of his marriageprocession. So he went into his house and, as he entered, his wife saw that his face was overcast and asked him, "What hath caused thy sadness?" Quoth he, "Allah hath afflicted me this day with a rascal who made seven attempts to get the purse, but without avail;" and quoth she, "Give it to me, that I may lay it up against the boy’s festival-day." (Now Ali, who had followed him lay hidden in a closet whence he could see and hear all.) So he gave her the purse and changed his clothes, saying, "Keep the purse safely, O Umm Abdallah, for I am going to the wedding." But she said, "Take thy sleep awhile." So he lay down and fell asleep. Presently, Ali rose and going on tiptoe to the purse, took it and went to the house of the wedding and stood there, looking on at the fun. Now meanwhile, Zurayk dreamt that he saw a bird fly away with the purse and awaking in affright, said to his wife, "Rise; look for the purse." So she looked and finding it gone, buffeted her face and said, "Alas the blackness of thy fortune, O Umm Abdallah! A sharker hath taken the purse." Quoth Zurayk, "By Allah it can be none other than rascal Ali who hath plagued me all day! He hath followed me home and seized the purse; and there is no help but that I go and get it back." Quoth she, "Except thou bring it, I will lock on thee the door and leave thee to pass the night in the street." So he went up to the house of the wedding, and seeing Ali looking on, said to himself, "This is he who took the purse; but he lodgeth with Ahmad al-Danaf." So he forewent him to the barrack and, climbing up at the back, dropped down into the saloon, where he found every one asleep. Presently there came a rap at the door and Zurayk asked, "Who is there!" "Ali of Cairo," answered the knocker; and Zurayk said, "Hast thou brought the purse?" So Ali thought it was Hasan Shuman and replied, "I have brought it;[FN#246] open the door." Quoth Zurayk, "Impossible that I open to thee till I see the purse; for thy chief and I have laid a wager about it." Said Ali, "Put out thy hand." So he put out his hand through the hole in the side-door and Ali laid the purse in it; whereupon Zurayk took it and going forth, as he had come in, returned to the wedding. Ali stood for a long while at the door, but none opened to him; and at last he gave a thundering knock that awoke all the men and they said, "That is Ali of Cairo’s peculiar rap." So the hall-keeper opened to him and Hasan Shuman said to him, "Hast thou brought the purse?" Replied Ali, "Enough of jesting, O Shuman: didst thou not swear that thou wouldest not open to me till I showed thee the purse, and did I not give it thee through the hole in the side door? And didst thou not say to me, ’I am sworn never to open the door till thou show me the purse?’" Quoth Hasan? "By Allah, ’twas not I who took it, but Zurayk!" Quoth Ali, "Needs must I get it again," and repaired to the house of the wedding, where he heard the buffoon[FN#247] say, "Bravo,[FN#248] O Abu Abdallah! Good luck to thee with thy son!" Said Ali, "My luck is in the ascendant," and going to the fishmonger’s lodging, climbed over the back wall of the house and found his wife asleep. So he drugged her with Bhang and clad himself in her clothes. Then he took the child in his arms and went round, searching, till he found a palm-leaf basket containing buns,[FN#249] which Zurayk of his niggardliness, had kept from the Greater Feast. Presently, the fishmonger returned and knocked at the door, whereupon Ali imitated his wife’s voice and asked, "Who is at the door?" "Abu Abdallah," answered Zurayk and Ali said, "I swore that I would not open the door to thee, except thou broughtest back the purse." Quoth the fish-monger, "I have brought it." Cried All, "Here with it into my hand before I open the door;" and Zurayk answered, saying, "Let down the basket and take it therein." So Sharper Ali let down the basket and the other put the purse therein, whereupon Ali took it and drugged the child. Then he aroused the woman and making off by the back way as he had entered, returned with the child and the purse and the basket of cakes to the barrack and showed them all to the Forty, who praised his dexterity. There-upon he gave them cakes, which they ate, and made over the boy to Hasan Shuman, saying, "This is Zurayk’s child; hide it by thee." So he hid it and fetching a lamb, gave it to the hall-keeper who cooked it whole, wrapped in a cloth, and laid it out shrouded as it were a dead body. Meanwhile Zurayk stood awhile, waiting at the door, then gave a knock like thunder and his wife said to him, "Hast thou brought the purse?" He replied, "Didst thou not take it up in the basket thou diddest let down but now?"; and she rejoined, "I let no basket down to thee, nor have I set eyes on the purse." Quoth he, "By Allah the sharper hath been beforehand with me and hath taken the purse again!" Then he searched the house and found the basket of cakes gone and the child missing and cried out, saying, "Alas, my child!" Where-upon the woman beat her breast and said, "I and thee to the Wazir, for none hath killed my son save this sharper, and all because of thee." Cried Zurayk, "I will answer for him." So he tied the kerchief of truce about his neck and going to Ahmad al-Danaf’s lodging, knocked at the door. The hallkeeper admitted him and as he entered Hasan Shuman asked him, "What bringeth thee here?" He answered, "Do ye intercede with Ali the Cairene to restore me my child and I will yield to him the purse of gold." Quoth Hasan, "Allah requite thee, O Ali! Why didst thou not tell me it was his child?" "What hath befallen him?" cried Zurayk, and Hasan replied, "We gave him raisins to eat, and he choked and died and this is he." Quoth Zurayk "Alas, my son! What shall I say to his mother?" Then he rose and opening the shroud, saw it was a lamb barbecued and said, "Thou makest sport of me, O Ali!" Then they gave him the child and Calamity Ahmad said to him, "Thou didst hang up the purse, proclaiming that it should be the property of any sharper who should be able to take it, and Ali hath taken it; so ’tis the very property of our Cairene." Zurayk answered "I make him a present of it;" but Ali said to him, "Do thou accept it on account of thy niece Zaynab." And Zurayk replied, "I accept it." Then quoth the Forty, "We demand of thee Zaynab in marriage for Ali of Cairo;" but quoth he, "I have no control over her save of kindness." Hasan asked, "Dost thou grant our suit?"; and he answered, "Yes, I will grant her in marriage to him who can avail to her mahr or marriage-settlement." "And what is her dowry?" enquired Hasan; and Zurayk replied, "She hath sworn that none shall mount her breast save the man who bringeth her the robe of Kamar, daughter of Azariah the Jew and the rest of her gear."—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Seven Hundred and Sixteenth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Zurayk replied to Shuman, "She hath sworn that none shall ride astraddle upon her breast save the man who bringeth her the clothes of Kamar, daughter of Azariah the Jew and her crown and girdle and pantoufle[FN#250] of gold," Ali cried, "If I do not bring her the clothes this very night, I renounce my claim to her." Rejoined Zurayk, "O Ali, thou art a dead man if thou play any of thy pranks on Kamar." "Why so?" asked Ali and the other answered, "Her father, Jew Azariah, is a skilful, wily, perfidious magician who hath the Jinn at his service. He owneth without the city a castle, whose walls are one brick of gold and one of silver and which is visible to the folk only whilst he is therein: when he goeth forth, it disappeareth. He brought his daughter this dress I speak of from an enchanted treasure, and every day he layeth it in a charger of gold and, opening the windows of the palace, crieth out, ’Where are the sharpers of Cairo, the prigs of Al-Irak, the master-thieves of Ajam-land? Whoso prevaileth to take this dress, ’tis his.’ So all the longfingered ones essayed the adventure, but failed to take it, and he turned them by his magic into apes and asses." But Ali said, "I will assuredly take it, and Zaynab shall be displayed therein."[FN#251] So he went to the shop of the Jew and found him a man of stern and forbidding aspect, seated with scales and stone-weights and gold and silver and nests of drawers and so forth before him, and a she-mule tethered hard by. Presently he rose and shutting his shop, laid the gold and silver in two purses, which he placed in a pair of saddle-bags and set on the she-mule’s back. Then he mounted and rode till he reached the city-outskirts followed, with-out his knowledge, by Ali, when he took out some dust from a pocket-purse and, muttering over it, sprinkled it upon the air. No sooner had he done this than sharper Ali saw a castle which had not its like, and the Jew mounted the steps upon his beast which was a subject Jinni; after which he dismounted and taking the saddle-bags off her back, dismissed the she-mule and she vanished. Then he entered the castle and sat down. Presently, he arose and opening the lattices, took a wand of gold, which he set up in the open window and, hanging thereto a golden charger by chains of the same metal, laid in it the dress, whilst Ali watched him from behind the door, and presently he cried out, saying, "Where are the sharpers of Cairo? Where are the prigs of Al-Irak, the master-thieves of the Ajam-land? Whoso can take this dress by his sleight, ’tis his!" Then he pronounced certain magical words and a tray of food spread itself before him. He ate and conjured a second time, whereupon the tray disappeared; and yet a third time, when a table of wine was placed between his hands and he drank. Quoth Ali, "I know not how I am to take the dress except if he be drunken." Then he stole up behind the Jew whinger in grip; but the other turned and conjured, saying to his hand, "Hold with the sword;" whereupon Ali’s right arm was held and abode half-way in the air hending the hanger. He put out his left hand to the weapon, but it also stood fixed in the air, and so with his right foot, leaving him standing on one foot. Then the Jew dispelled the charm from him and Ali became as before. Presently Azariah struck a table of sand and found that the thief’s name was Mercury Ali of Cairo; so he turned to him and said, "Come nearer! Who art thou and what dost thou here?" He replied, "I am Ali of Cairo, of the band of Ahmad al-Danaf. I sought the hand of Zaynab, daughter of Dalilah the Wily, and she demanded thy daughter’s dress to her dowry; so do thou give it to me and become a Moslem, an thou wouldst save thy life." Rejoined the Jew, "After thy death! Many have gone about to steal the dress, but failed to take it from me; wherefore an thou deign be advised, thou wilt begone and save thyself; for they only seek the dress of thee, that thou mayst fall into destruction; and indeed, had I not seen by geomancy that thy fortune overrideth my fortunes I had smitten thy neck." Ali rejoiced to hear that his luck overcame that of the Jew and said to him, "There is no help for it but I must have the dress and thou must become a True Believer." Asked the Jew, "Is this thy will and last word," and Ali answered, "Yes." So the Jew took a cup and filling it with water, conjured over it and said to Ali, "Come forth from this shape of a man into the form of an ass." Then he sprinkled him with the water and straightway he became a donkey, with hoofs and long ears, and fell to braying after the manner of asinines. The Jew drew round him a circle which became a wall over against him, and drank on till the morning, when he said to Ali, "I will ride thee to-day and give the she-mule a rest." So he locked up the dress, the charger, the rod and the charms in a cupboard[FN#252] and conjured over Ali, who followed him. Then he set the saddle-bags on his back and mounting, fared forth of the Castle, whereupon it disappeared from sight and he rode into Baghdad, till he came to his shop, where he alighted and emptied the bags of gold and silver into the trays before him. As for Ali, he was tied up by the shopdoor, where he stood in his asinine form hearing and understanding all that passed, without being able to speak. And behold, up came a young merchant with whom fortune had played the tyrant and who could find no easier Way of earning his livelihood than water-carrying. So he brought his wife’s bracelets to the Jew and said to him, "Give me the price of these bracelets, that I may buy me an ass." Asked the Jew, "What wilt thou do with him?"; and the other answered, "O master, I mean to fetch water from the river on his back, and earn my living thereby." Quoth the Jew, "Take this ass of mine." So he sold him the bracelets and received the assshaped Ali of Cairo in part payment and carried him home. Quoth Ali to himself, "If the Ass-man clap the pannel on thee and load thee with water-skins and go with thee half a score journeys a day he will ruin thy health and thou wilt die." So, when the water-carrier’s wife came to bring him his fodder, he butted her with his head and she fell on her back; whereupon he sprang on her and smiting her brow with his mouth, put out and displayed that which his begetter left him. She cried aloud and the neighbours came to her assistance and beat him and raised him off her breast. When her husband the intended water-carrier came home, she said to him, "Now either divorce me or return the ass to his owner." He asked, "What hath happened?"; and she answered, "This is a devil in the guise of a donkey. He sprang upon me, and had not the neighbours beaten him off my bosom he had done with me a foul thing." So he carried the ass back to the Jew, who said to him, "Wherefore hast thou brought him back?" and he replied, "He did a foul thing with my wife." So the Jew gave him his money again and he went away; and Azariah said to Ali, "Hast thou recourse to knavery, unlucky wretch that thou art, in order that"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Seven Hundred and Seventeenth Night,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the water-carrier brought back the ass, its Jew owner returned to him the monies and turning to Ali of Cairo said, "Hast thou recourse to knavery, unlucky wretch that thou art, in order that he may return thee to me? But since it pleaseth thee to be an ass, I will make thee a spectacle and a laughing stock to great and small." Then he mounted him and rode till he came without the city, when he brought out the ashes in powder and conjuring over it sprinkled it upon the air and immediately the Castle appeared. He entered and taking the saddle-bags off the ass’s back set up the rod and hung to it the charger wherein were the clothes proclaiming aloud, "Where be the clever ones of all quarters who may avail to take this dress?" Then he conjured as before and meat was set before him and he ate and then wine when he drank; after which he took a cup of water and muttering certain words thereover, sprinkled it on the ass Ali, saying, "Quit this form and return to thy former shape." Ali straightway became a man once more and Azariah said to him, "O Ali, take good advice and be content with my mischief. Thou hast no call to marry Zaynab nor to take my daughter’s dress, for ’tis no easy matter for thee: so leave greed and ’twill be better for thee; else will I turn thee into a bear or an ape or set on thee an Ifrit, who will cast thee behind the Mountain Kaf." He replied, "I have engaged to take the dress and needs must I have it and thou must Islamise or I will slay thee." Rejoined the Jew, "O Ali, thou art like a walnut; unless it be broken it cannot be eaten." Then he took a cup of water and conjuring over it, sprinkled Ali with somewhat thereof, saying, "Take thou shape of bear;" whereupon he instantly became a bear and the Jew put a collar about his neck, muzzled him and chained him to a picket of iron. Then he sat down and ate and drank, now and then throwing him a morsel of his orts and emptying the dregs of the cup over him, till the morning, when he rose and laid by the tray and the dress and conjured over the bear, which followed him to the shop. There the Jew sat down and emptied the gold and silver into the trays before Ali, after binding him by the chain; and the bear there abode seeing and comprehending but not able to speak. Presently up came a man and a merchant, who accosted the Jew and said to him, "O Master, wilt thou sell me yonder bear? I have a wife who is my cousin and is sick; and they have prescribed for her to eat bears’ flesh and anoint herself with bears’ grease." At this the Jew rejoiced and said to himself, "I will sell him to this merchant, so he may slaughter him and we be at peace from him." And Ali also said in his mind, "By Allah, this fellow meaneth to slaughter me; but deliverance is with the Almighty." Then said the Jew, "He is a present from me to thee." So the merchant took him and carried him into the butcher, to whom he said, "Bring thy tools and company me." The butcher took his knives and followed the merchant to his house, where he bound the beast and fell to sharpening his blade: but, when he went up to him to slaughter him, the bear escaped from his hands and rising into the air, disappeared from sight between heaven and earth; nor did he cease flying till he alighted at the Jew’s castle. Now the reason thereof was on this wise. When the Jew returned home, his daughter questioned him of Ali and he told her what had happened; whereupon she said, "Summon a Jinni and ask him of the youth, whether he be indeed Mercury Ali or another who seeketh to put a cheat on thee." So Azariah called a Jinni by conjurations and questioned him of Ali; and he replied, "’Tis Ali of Cairo himself. The butcher hath pinioned him and whetted his knife to slaughter him." Quoth the Jew, "Go, snatch him up and bring him hither, ere the butcher cut his throat." So the Jinni flew off and, snatching Ali out of the butcher’s hands, bore him to the palace and set him down before the Jew, who took a cup of water and conjuring over it, sprinkled him therewith, saying, "Return to thine own shape." And he straightway became a man again as before. The Jew’s daughter Kamar,[FN#253] seeing him to be a handsome young man, fell in love with him and he fell in love with her; and she said to him, "O unlucky one, why dost thou go about to take my dress, enforcing my father to deal thus with thee?" Quoth he, "I have engaged to get it for Zaynab the Coney-catcher, that I may wed her therewith." And she said, "Others than thou have played pranks with my father to get my dress, but could not win to it," presently adding, "So put away this thought from thee." But he answered, "Needs must I have it, and thy father must become a Moslem, else I will slay him." Then said the Jew, "See, O my daughter, how this unlucky fellow seeketh his own destruction," adding, "Now I will turn thee into a dog." So he took a cup graven with characters and full of water and conjuring over it, sprinkled some of it upon Ali, saying, "Take thou form of dog." Whereupon he straight-way became a dog, and the Jew and his daughter drank together till the morning, when the father laid up the dress and charger and mounted his mule. Then he conjured over the dog, which followed him, as he rode towards the town, and all dogs barked at Ali[FN#254] as he passed, till he came to the shop of a broker, a seller of second-hand goods, who rose and drove away the dogs, and Ali lay down before him. The Jew turned and looked for him, but finding him not, passed onwards. Presently, the broker shut up his shop and went home, followed by the dog, which, when his daughter saw enter the house, she veiled her face and said, "O my papa, dost thou bring a strange man in to me?" He replied, "O my daughter, this is a dog." Quoth she, "Not so, ’tis Ali the Cairene, whom the Jew Azariah hath enchanted;" and she turned to the dog and said to him, "Art not Ali of Cairo?" And he signed to her with his head, "Yes." Then her father asked her, "Why did the Jew enchant him?"; and she answered, "Because of his daughter Kamar’s dress; but I can release him." Said the broker, "An thou canst indeed do him this good office, now is the time," and she, "If he will marry me, I will release him." And he signed to her with his head, "Yes." So she took a cup of water, graven with certain signs and conjuring over it, was about to sprinkle Ali therewith, when lo and behold! she heard a great cry and the cup fell from her hand. She turned and found that it was her father’s handmaid, who had cried out; and she said to her, "O my mistress, is’t thus thou keepest the covenant between me and thee? None taught thee this art save I, and thou didst agree with me that thou wouldst do naught without consulting me and that whoso married thee should marry me also, and that one night should be mine and one night thine." And the broker’s daughter said, "’Tis well." When the broker heard the maid’s words, he asked his daughter, "Who taught the maid?"; and she answered, "O my papa, enquire of herself." So he put the question and she replied, "Know, O my lord, that, when I was with Azariah the Jew, I used to spy upon him and listen to him, when he performed his gramarye; and when he went forth to his shop in Baghdad, I opened his books and read in them, till I became skilled in the Cabbala-science. One day, he was warm with wine and would have me lie with him, but I objected, saying, ’I may not grant thee this except thou become a Moslem.’ He refused and I said to him, ’Now for the Sultan’s market.’[FN#255] So he sold me to thee and I taught my young mistress, making it a condition with her that she should do naught without my counsel, and that whoso might wed her should wed me also, one night for me and one night for her." Then she took a cup of water and conjuring over it, sprinkled the dog therewith; saying, "Return thou to form of man." And he straightway was restored to his former shape; whereupon the broker saluted him with the salam and asked him the reason of his enchantment. So Ali told him all that had passed—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Seven Hundred and Eighteenth Night,

She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the broker, having saluted Ali of Cairo with the salam, asked him the reason of his enchantment and what had befallen him; and he answered by telling him all that had passed, when the broker said to him, "Will not my daughter and the handmaid suffice thee?" but he answered, "Needs must I have Zaynab also." Now suddenly there came a rap at the door and the maid said, "Who is at the door?" The knocker replied, "Kamar, daughter of Azariah the Jew; say me, is Ali of Cairo with you?" Replied the broker’s daughter, "O thou daughter of a dog! If he be with us, what wilt thou with him? Go down, O maid, and open to her." So the maid let her in, and when she looked upon Ali and he upon her, he said, "What bringeth thee hither O dog’s daughter?" Quoth she, "I testify that there is no god but the God and I testify that Mohammed is the Apostle of God." And, having thus Islamised, she asked him, "Do men in the Faith of Al-Islam give marriage portions to women or do women dower men?" Quoth he, "Men endow women." "Then," said she, "I come and dower myself for thee, bringing thee, as my marriage-portion, my dress together with the rod and charger and chains and the head of my father, the enemy of thee and the foeman of Allah." And she threw down the Jew’s head before him. Now the cause of her slaying her sire was as follows. On the night of his turning Ali into a dog, she saw, in a dream, a speaker who said to her, "Become a Moslemah." She did so; and as soon as she awoke next morning she expounded Al-Islam to her father who refused to embrace the Faith; so she drugged him with Bhang and killed him. As for Ali, he took the gear and said to the broker, "Meet we to-morrow at the Caliph’s Divan, that I may take thy daughter and the handmaid to wife." Then he set out rejoicing, to return to the barrack of the Forty. On his way he met a sweetmeat seller, who was beating hand upon hand and saying, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! Folk’s labour hath waxed sinful and man is active only in fraud!" Then said he to Ali, "I conjure thee, by Allah, taste of this confection!" So Ali took a piece and ate it and fell down senseless, for there was Bhang therein; whereupon the sweetmeat-seller seized the dress and the charger and the rest of the gear and thrusting them into the box where he kept his sweetmeats hoisted it up and made off. Presently he met a Kazi, who called to him, saying, "Come hither, O sweet-meat seller!" So he went up to him and setting down his sack laid the tray of sweetmeats upon it and asked, "What dost thou want?" "Halwa and dragees,[FN#256]" answered the Kazi and, taking some in his hand, said, "Both of these are adulterated." Then he brought out sweetmeats from his breast-pocket[FN#257] and gave them to the sweetmeat-seller, saying, "Look at this fashion; how excellent it is! Eat of it and make the like of it." So he ate and fell down senseless, for the sweetmeats were drugged with Bhang, whereupon the Kazi bundled him into the sack and made off with him, charger and chest and all, to the barrack of the Forty. Now the Judge in question was Hasan Shuman and the reason of this was as follows. When Ali had been gone some days in quest of the dress and they heard no news of him, Calamity Ahmad said to his men, "O lads, go and seek for your brother Ali of Cairo." So they sallied forth in quest of him and among the rest Hasan Shuman the Pestilence, disguised in a Kazi’s gear. He came upon the sweetmeat-seller and, knowing him for Ahmad al-Lakit[FN#258] suspected him of having played some trick upon Ali; so he drugged him and did as we have seen. Mean-while, the other Forty fared about the streets and highways making search in different directions, and amongst them Ali Kitf al-Jamal, who espying a crowd, made towards the people and found the Cairene Ali lying drugged and senseless in their midst. So he revived him and he came to himself and seeing the folk flocking around him asked, "Where am I?" Answered Ali Camel-shoulder and his comrades, "We found thee lying here drugged but know not who drugged thee." Quoth Ali, "’Twas a certain sweetmeat-seller who drugged me and took the gear from me; but where is he gone?" Quoth his comrades, "We have seen nothing of him; but come, rise and go home with us." So they returned to the barrack, where they found Ahmad al-Danaf, who greeted Ali and enquired if he had brought the dress. He replied, "I was coming hither with it and other matters, including the Jew’s head, when a sweetmeat-seller met me and drugged me with Bhang and took them from me." Then he told him the whole tale ending with, "If I come across that man of goodies again, I will requite him." Presently Hasan Shuman came out of a closet and said to him, "Hast thou gotten the gear, O Ali?" So he told him what had befallen him and added, "If I know whither the rascal is gone and where to find the knave, I would pay him out. Knowest thou whither he went?" Answered Hasan, "I know where he is," and opening the door of the closet, showed him the sweetmeat-seller within, drugged and senseless. Then he aroused him and he opened his eyes and finding himself in presence of Mercury Ali and Calamity Ahmad and the Forty, started up and said, "Where am I and who hath laid hands on me?" Replied Shuman, "’Twas I laid hands on thee;" and Ali cried, "O perfidious wretch, wilt thou play thy pranks on me?" And he would have slain him: but Hasan said to him, "Hold thy hand for this fellow is become thy kinsman." "How my kinsman?" quoth Ali; and quoth Hasan, "This is Ahmad al- Lakit son of Zaynab’s sister." Then said Ali to the prisoner, "Why didst thou thus, O Lakit?" and he replied, "My grandmother, Dalilah the Wily, bade me do it; only because Zurayk the fishmonger fore-gathered with the old woman and said, ’Mercury Ali of Cairo is a sharper and a past master in knavery, and he will certainly slay the Jew and bring hither the dress.’ So she sent for me and said to me, ’O Ahmad, dost thou know Ali of Cairo?’ Answered I, ’Indeed I do and ’twas I directed him to Ahmad al-Danaf’s lodging when he first came to Baghdad.’ Quoth she, ’Go and set thy nets for him, and if he have brought back the gear, put a cheat on him and take it from him.’ So I went round about the highways of the city, till I met a sweetmeat-seller and buying his clothes and stock-in-trade and gear for ten dinars, did what was done." Thereupon quoth Ali, "Go back to thy grandmother and Zurayk, and tell them that I have brought the gear and the Jew’s head and tell them to meet me to-morrow at the Caliph’s Divan, there to receive Zaynab’s dowry." And Calamity Ahmad rejoiced in this and said, "We have not wasted our pains in rearing thee, O Ali!" Next morning Ali took the dress, the charger, the rod and the chains of gold, together with the head of Azariah the Jew mounted on a pike, and went up, accompanied by Ahmad al-Danaf and the Forty, to the Divan, where they kissed ground before the Caliph—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Seven Hundred and Nineteenth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Ali the Cairene went up to the Caliph’s Divan, accompanied by his uncle Ahmad al-Danaf and his lads they kissed ground before the Caliph who turned and seeing a youth of the most valiant aspect, enquired of Calamity Ahmad concerning him and he replied, "O Commander of the Faithful, this is Mercury Ali the Egyptian captain of the brave boys of Cairo, and he is the first of my lads." And the Caliph loved him for the valour that shone from between his eyes, testifying for him and not against him. Then Ali rose; and, casting the Jew’s head down before him, said, "May thine every enemy be like this one, O Prince of True Believers!" Quoth Al-Rashid, "Whose head is this?"; and quoth Ali, "’Tis the head of Azariah the Jew." "Who slew him?" asked the Caliph. So Ali related to him all that had passed, from first to last, and the Caliph said, "I had not thought thou wouldst kill him, for that he was a sorcerer." Ali replied, "O Commander of the Faithful, my Lord made me prevail to his slaughter." Then the Caliph sent the Chief of Police to the Jew’s palace, where he found him lying headless; so he laid the body on a bier,[FN#259] and carried it to Al-Rashid, who commanded to burn it. Whereat, behold, up came Kamar and kissing the ground before the Caliph, informed him that she was the daughter of Jew Azariah and that she had become a Moslemah. Then she renewed her profession of Faith before the Commander of the Faithful and said to him "Be thou my intercessor with Sharper Ali that he take me to wife." She also appointed him her guardian to consent to her marriage with the Cairene, to whom he gave the Jew’s palace and all its contents, saying, "Ask a boon of me." Quoth Ali, "I beg of thee to let me stand on thy carpet and eat of thy table;" and quoth the Caliph, "O Ali, hast thou any lads?" He replied, "I have forty lads; but they are in Cairo." Rejoined the Caliph, "Send to Cairo and fetch them hither," presently adding, "But, O Ali, hast thou a barrack for them?" "No," answered Ali; and Hasan Shuman said, "I make him a present of my barrack with all that is therein, O Commander of the Faithful." However, the Caliph retorted, saying, "Thy lodging is thine own, O Hasan;" and he bade his treasurer give the court architect ten thousand dinars, that he might build Ali a hall with four daises and forty sleeping-closets for his lads. Then said he, "O Ali, hast thou any further wish, that we may command its fulfilment?". and said Ali, "O King of the age, be thou my intercessor with Dalilah the Wily that she give me her daughter Zaynab to wife and take the dress and gear of Azariah’s girl in lieu of dower." Dalilah accepted the Caliph’s intercession and accepted the charger and dress and what not, and they drew up the marriage contracts between Ali and Zaynab and Kamar, the Jew’s daughter and the broker’s daughter and the handmaid. Moreover, the Caliph assigned him a solde with a table morning and evening, and stipends and allowances for fodder; all of the most liberal. Then Ali the Cairene fell to making ready for the wedding festivities and, after thirty days, he sent a letter to his comrades in Cairo, wherein he gave them to know of the favours and honours which the Caliph had bestowed upon him and said, "I have married four maidens and needs must ye come to the wedding." So, after a reasonable time the forty lads arrived and they held high festival; he homed them in his barrack and entreated them with the utmost regard and presented them to the Caliph, who bestowed on them robes of honour and largesse. Then the tiring-women displayed Zaynab before Ali in the dress of the Jew’s daughter, and he went in unto her and found her a pearl unthridden and a filly by all save himself unridden. Then he went in unto the three other maidens and found them accomplished in beauty and loveliness. After this it befel that Ali of Cairo was one night on guard by the Caliph who said to him, "I wish thee O Ali, to tell me all that hath befallen thee from first to last with Dalilah the Wily and Zaynab the Coney-catcher and Zurayk the Fishmonger." So Ali related to him all his adventures and the Commander of the Faithful bade record them and lay them up in the royal muniment-rooms. So they wrote down all that had befallen him and kept it in store with other histories for the people of Mohammed the Best of Men. And Ali and his wives and comrades abode in all solace of life, and its joyance, till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Societies; and Allah (be He extolled and exalted!) is Allknowing![FN#260] And also men relate the tale of


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Chicago: Unknown, "The Adventures of Mercury Ali of Cairo," Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night— Volume 7, trans. Burton, Richard Francis, Sir, 1821-1890 in Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night—Volume 7 Original Sources, accessed April 16, 2024,

MLA: Unknown. "The Adventures of Mercury Ali of Cairo." Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night— Volume 7, translted by Burton, Richard Francis, Sir, 1821-1890, in Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night—Volume 7, Original Sources. 16 Apr. 2024.

Harvard: Unknown, 'The Adventures of Mercury Ali of Cairo' in Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night— Volume 7, trans. . cited in , Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night—Volume 7. Original Sources, retrieved 16 April 2024, from