Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night With Notes Anthropological and Explanatory-Volume 1

Author: Unknown

The Tale of the Two Sharpers Who Each Cozened His Compeer.

There was once, in the city of Baghdad, a man hight
Al-Marwazí, [FN#452] who was a sharper and ruined the folk with
his rogueries and he was renowned in all quarters for knavery. He
went out one day, carrying a load of sheep’s droppings, and sware
to himself that he would not return to his lodging till he had
sold it at the price of raisins. Now there was in another city a
second sharper, hight Al-Rází, [FN#453] one of its worst, who went
out the same day, bearing a load of goat’s droppings, [FN#454]
anent which he had sworn to himself that he would not sell it but
at the price of sundried figs. So the twain fared on with that
which was by them and ceased not going till they met in one of
the khans [FN#455] and one complained to other of what he had
suffered on travel in quest of gain and of the little demand for
his wares. Now each of them had it in mind to cheat his fellow;
so the man of Marw said to the man of Rayy, "Wilt thou sell me
that?" He said, "Yes," and the other continued, "And wilt thou
buy that which is with me?" The man of Rayy consented; so they
agreed upon this and each of them sold to his mate that which was
with him in exchange for the other’s; after which they bade
farewell and both fared forth. As soon as the twain were out of
sight, they examined their loads, to see what was therein, and
one of them found that he had a load of sheep’s droppings and the
other that he had a load of goat’s droppings; whereupon each of
them turned back in quest of his fellow. They met again in the
khan and laughing at each other cancelled their bargain; then
they agreed to enter into partnership and that all they had of
money and other good should be in common, share and share alike.
Then quoth Al-Razi to Al-Marwazi, "Come with me to my city, for
that ’tis nearer than thine." So he went with him, and when he
arrived at his quarters, he said to his wife and household and
neighbours, "This is my brother, who hath been absent in the land
of Khorasan and is come back." And he abode with him in all
honour for a space of three days. On the fourth day, Al-Razi said
to him, "Know, O my brother, that I purpose to do something." The
other asked, "What is it?" and the first answered, "I mean to
feign myself dead and do thou go to the bazar and hire two
porters and a bier. Then take me up and go about the streets and
markets with my body and collect alms on my account." [FN#456]
Accordingly the Marw man repaired to the market and, fetching
that which he sought, returned to the Rayy man’s house, where he
found his fellow cast down in the entrancepassage, with his beard
tied and his eyes shut, and his complexion was paled and his
belly was blown and his limbs were loose. So he deemed him really
dead and shook him but he spoke not; then he took a knife and
pricked his feet, but he budged not. Presently said Al-Razi,
"What is this, O fool?" and said Al-Marwazi, "I deemed thou wast
dead in very deed." Al-Razi cried, "Get thee to business, and
leave funning." So he took him up and went with him to the market
and collected alms for him that day till eventide, when he bore
him back to his abode and waited till the morrow. Next morning,
he again took up the bier and walked round with it as before, in
quest of charity. Presently, the Chief of Police, who was of
those who had given him alms on the previous day, met him; so he
was angered and fell on the porters and beat them and took the
dead body, saying, "I will bury him and win reward in
Heaven." [FN#457] So his followers took him up and carrying him to
the Police-officer, fetched gravediggers, who dug him a grave.
Then they brought him a shroud and perfumes [FN#458] and fetched
an old man of the quarter, to wash him: so the Shaykh recited
over him the appointed prayers [FN#459] and laying him on the
bench, washed him and shrouded him. After he had been shrouded he
skited; [FN#460] so the grey-beard renewed the washing and went
away to make the Wuzu-ablution, whilst all the folk departed to
do likewise, before the orisons of the funeral. When the dead man
found himself alone, he sprang up, as he were a Satan; and,
donning the corpse-washer’s dress, [FN#461] took the cups and
water-can [FN#462] and wrapped them up in the napkins; then he
clapped his shroud under his armpit and went out. The doorkeepers
thought that he was the washer and asked him, "Hast thou made an
end of the washing, so we may acquaint the Emir?" The sharper
answered "Yes," and made off to his abode, where he found the
Marw man a-wooing his wife and saying to her, "By thy life, thou
wilt never again look upon his face for the best reason that by
this time he is buried: I myself escaped not from them but after
toil and trouble, and if he speak, they will do him to death."
Quoth she, "And what wouldst thou have of me?" and quoth he,
"Satisfy my desire and heal my disorder, for I am better than thy
husband." And he began toying with her as a prelude to
possession. Now when the Rayy man heard this, he said, "Yonder
wittol-pimp lusteth after my wife; but I will at once do him a
damage." Then he rushed in upon them, and when Al-Marwazi saw
him, he wondered at him and said to him, "How didst thou make
thine escape?" Accordingly he told him the trick he had played
and they abode talking of that which they had collected from the
folk, and indeed they had gotten great store of money. Then said
the man of Marw, "In very sooth, mine absence hath been prolonged
and lief would I return to my own land." Al-Razi said, "As thou
willest;" and the other rejoined, "Let us divide the monies we
have made and do thou go with me to my home, so I may show thee
my tricks and my works." Replied the man of Rayy, "Come
to-morrow, and we will divide the coin." So the Marw man went
away and the other turned to his wife and said to her, "We have
collected us great plenty of money, and the dog would fain take
the half of it; but such thing shall never be, for my mind hath
been changed against him, since I heard him making love to thee;
now, therefore, I propose to play him a trick and enjoy all the
money; and do thou not oppose me." She replied, "’Tis well;" and
he said to her, "To-morrow, at peep o’ day I will feign myself
dead, and do thou cry aloud and tear thy hair, whereupon the folk
will flock to me. Then lay me out and bury me; and, when the folk
are gone away from the grave, dig down to me and take me; and
fear not for me, as I can abide without harm two days in the
tomb-niche." [FN#463] Whereto she made answer, "Do e’en whatso
thou wilt." Accordingly, when it was the dawn-hour, she bound his
beard and spreading a veil over him, shrieked aloud, whereupon
the people of the quarter flocked to her, men and women.
Presently, up came AlMarwazi, for the division of the money, and
hearing the keening asked, "What may be the news?" Quoth they,
"Thy brother is dead;" and quoth he in himself, "The accursed
fellow cozeneth me, so he may get all the coin for himself, but I
will presently do with him what shall soon requicken him." Then
he tare the bosom of his robe and bared his head, weeping and
saying, "Alas, my brother, ah! Alas, my chief, ah! Alas, my lord,
ah!" Then he went in to the men, who rose and condoled with him.
Then he accosted the Rayy man’s wife and said to her, "How came
his death to occur?" Said she, "I know nothing except that, when
I arose in the morning, I found him dead." Moreover, he
questioned her of the money which was with her, but she cried, "I
have no knowledge of this and no tidings." So he sat down at his
fellow-sharper’s head, and said to him, "Know, O Razi, that I
will not leave thee till after ten days with their nights,
wherein I will wake and sleep by thy grave. So rise and don’t be
a fool." But he answered him not, and the man of Marw drew his
knife and fell to sticking it into the other’s hands and feet,
purposing to make him move; but he stirred not and he presently
grew weary of this and determined that the sharper was really
dead. However, he still had his suspicions and said to himself,
"This fellow is falsing me, so he may enjoy all the money."
Therewith he began to prepare the body for burial and bought for
it perfumes and whatso was needed. Then they brought him to the
washing-place and Al-Marwazi came to him; and, heating water till
it boiled and bubbled and a third of it was evaporated, fell to
pouring it on his skin, so that it turned bright red and lively
blue and was blistered; but he abode still on one case. [FN#464]
Presently they wrapped him in the shroud and set him on the bier,
which they took up and bearing him to the burial-place, placed
him in the grave-niche and filled in the earth; after which the
folk dispersed. But the Marw man and the widow abode by the tomb,
weeping, and ceased not sitting till sundown, when the woman said
to him, "Come, let us hie us home, for this weeping will not
profit us, nor will it restore the dead." He replied to her, "By
Allah, I will not budge hence till I have slept and waked by this
tomb ten days with their nights!" When she heard this his speech,
she feared lest he should keep his word and his oath, and so her
husband perish; but she said in her mind, "This one dissembleth:
an I leave him and return to my house, he will tarry by him a
little while and go away." And Al-Marwazi said to her, "Arise,
thou, and hie thee home." So she arose and repaired to her house,
whilst the man of Marw abode in his place till the night was half
spent, when he said to himself, "How long? Yet how can I let this
knavish dog die and lose the money? Better I open the tomb on him
and bring him forth and take my due of him by dint of grievous
beating and torment." Accordingly, he dug him up and pulled him
forth of the grave; after which he betook himself to a garden
hard by the burial-ground and cut thence staves and
palmfronds. [FN#465] Then he tied the dead man’s legs and laid on
to him with the staff and beat him a grievous beating; but the
body never budged. When the time grew longsome on him, his
shoulders became a-weary and he feared lest some one of the watch
passing on his round should surprise and seize him. So he took up
Al-Razi and carrying him forth of the cemetery, stayed not till
he came to the Magians’ mortuary place and casting him down in a
Tower of Silence, [FN#466] rained heavy blows upon him till his
shoulders failed him, but the other stirred not. Then he seated
him by his side and rested; after which he rose and renewed the
beating upon him; and thus he did till the end of the night, but
without making him move. Now, as Destiny decreed, a band of
robbers whose wont it was, when they had stolen any, thing, to
resort to that place and there divide their loot, came thither in
early-dawn, according to their custom; they numbered ten and they
had with them much wealth which they were carrying. When they
approached the Tower of Silence, they heard a noise of blows
within it and their captain cried, "This is a Magian whom the
Angels [FN#467] are tormenting." So they entered the cemetery and
as soon as they arrived over against him, the man of Marw feared
lest they should be the watchmen come upon him, therefore he fled
and stood among the tombs. [FN#468] The robbers advanced to the
place and finding a man of Rayy bound by the feet and by him some
seventy sticks, wondered at this with exceeding wonder and said,
"Allah confound thee! This was a miscreant, a man of many crimes;
for earth hath rejected him from her womb, and by my life, he is
yet fresh! This is his first night in the tomb and the Angels
were tormenting him but now; so whoso of you hath a sin upon his
soul, let him beat him, by way of offering to Almighty Allah."
The robbers said, "We be sinners one and all;" so each of them
went up to the corpse and dealt it about an hundred blows, one
saying the while, "This is for my father!" [FN#469] and another
laid on to him crying, "This is for my grandfather!" whilst a
third muttered, "This is for my brother!" and a fourth exclaimed,
"This is for my mother!" And they gave not over taking turns at
him and beating him till they were weary, whilst Al-Marwazi stood
laughing and saying in self, "’Tis not I alone who have entered
into default against him. There is no Majesty and there is no
Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!" [FN#470] Then the
robbers applied themselves to sharing their loot wherein was a
sword which caused them to fall out anent the man who should take
it. Quoth the Captain, "’Tis my rede that we make proof of it;
so, an it be a fine blade, we shall know its worth, and if it be
worthless we shall know that;" whereto they said, "Try it on this
corpse, for it is fresh." So the Captain took the sword, and
drawing it, brandished and made a false cut with it; but, when
the man of Rayy saw this, he felt sure of death and said in his
mind, "I have borne the washing-slab and the boiling water and
the pricking with the knife-point and the grave-niche and its
straitness and all this, trusting in Allah that I might be
delivered from death, and indeed I have been delivered; but the
sword I may not suffer seeing that one stroke of it will make me
a dead man." So saying, he sprang to his feet and seizing a
thigh-bone of one departed, shouted at the top of his voice, "O
ye dead ones, take them to yourselves!" And he smote one of them,
whilst his mate of Marw smote another and they cried out at them
and buffeted them on their neck-napes: whereupon the robbers left
that which was with them of loot and ran away; and indeed their
wits took flight for terror and they ceased not running till they
came forth of the Magians’ mortuary-ground and left it a
parasang’s length behind them, when they halted, trembling and
affrighted for the muchness of that which had befallen them of
fear and awe of the dead. [FN#471] As for Al-Razi and AlMarwazi,
they made peace each with other and sat down to share the spoil.
Quoth the man of Marw, "I will not give thee a dirham of this
money, till thou pay me my due of the monies that be in thy
house." And quoth the man of Rayy, "I will do naught of the
kind, [FN#472] nor will I withdraw this from aught of my due." So
they fell out thereupon and disputed each with other and either
of the twain went saying to his fellow, "I will not give thee a
dirham!" Wherefore words ran high between them and the brawl was
prolonged. Meanwhile, when the robbers halted, one of them said
to the others, "Let us go back and see;" and the Captain said,
"This thing is impossible of the dead: never heard we that they
came to life in such way. Return we and take our monies, for that
the dead have no need of money." And they were divided in opinion
as to returning: but presently one said, "Indeed, our weapons are
gone and we may not prevail against them and will not draw near
the place: only let one of us go look at it, and if he hear no
sound of them, let him suggest to us what we shall do." At this
they agreed that they should send a man of them and assigned him
for such mission two parts of the plunder. Accordingly he
returned to the burial-ground and gave not over going till he
stood at the door of the Tower of Silence, when he heard the
words of Al-Marwazi to his fellow, "I will not give thee a single
dirham of the money!" The other said the same and they were
occupied with brawling and abuse and talk. So the robber returned
in haste to his mates, who said, "What is behind thee?" [FN#473]
Quoth he, "Get you gone and run for your lives, O fools, and save
yourselves: much people of the dead are come to life and between
them are words and brawls." Hereat the robbers fled, whilst the
two sharpers returned to the man of Rayy’s house and made peace
and added the robbers’ spoil to the monies they had gained and
lived a length of time. "Nor, O king of the age" (continued the
Wazir), "is this stranger or rarer than the story of the Four
Sharpers with the Shroff and the Ass." When the king heard this
story, he smiled and it pleased him and he bade the Minister to
his own house.

The Twenty-second Night of the Month.

When the evening evened, King Shah Bakht summoned the Wazir and
required of him the hearing of the story. So Al-Rahwan said,
"Hearkening and obedience. Give ear, O King, to


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Chicago: Unknown, "The Tale of the Two Sharpers Who Each Cozened His Compeer.," Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night With Notes Anthropological and Explanatory-Volume 1, trans. Burton, Richard Francis, Sir, 1821-1890 in Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night With Notes Anthropological and Explanatory-Volume 1 (Benares: Kamashastra Society, 1885), Original Sources, accessed September 25, 2023,

MLA: Unknown. "The Tale of the Two Sharpers Who Each Cozened His Compeer." Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night With Notes Anthropological and Explanatory-Volume 1, translted by Burton, Richard Francis, Sir, 1821-1890, in Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night With Notes Anthropological and Explanatory-Volume 1, Benares, Kamashastra Society, 1885, Original Sources. 25 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: Unknown, 'The Tale of the Two Sharpers Who Each Cozened His Compeer.' in Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night With Notes Anthropological and Explanatory-Volume 1, trans. . cited in 1885, Supplemental Nights to the Thousand Nights and a Night With Notes Anthropological and Explanatory-Volume 1, Kamashastra Society, Benares. Original Sources, retrieved 25 September 2023, from