The Trick of the Kází's Wife.

IN the first place, the wife of the Kází sat down in the court of meditation and arrangement, and having for the purpose of solving this problem opened the directory of falsehood, she perused it with great diligence, scanning it from paragraph to paragraph, from the preface to the conclusion. It so happened that a carpenter who was the Kází's neighbour had long paid attentions to the wife of the latter. He chopped the tablet of his heart with the axe of un­easiness, and scratched the board of his body with the plane of lamentation; he was in constant motion like a saw, and though all his limbs were like a grating turned into eyes, and he was sitting on the chair of expectation, he was not able to attain his object; so that the hatchet of longing and burning felled the palm-tree of his patience and equanimity, and his heart was perforated by the auger of this grief. As the wife of the Kází was aware of the sufferings of the carpenter, she called her confidential slave-girl and said to her: “O thou Violet* of the garden of har­mony, the flower of whose body I have so long cher­ished in the parterre of education! I have a little business which I mean to discharge this day by the aid of thy intimacy. If thou wilt accomplish it cheerfully, I shall ransom thee with my own money, and rejoice thy heart with various gifts.” The girl replied: “Whatever my mistress orders, it is my duty to perform.” The wife of the Kází said: “Go, un­observed by any one, to the carpenter and tell him that the flame of his love has taken effect on my heart; that I am aware of his having suffered tor­ments on account of my unkindness; and that on the day of resurrection I shall have to answer for the sufferings I have caused to him: I am quite em­barrassed in this matter, and, in order to remove this awful responsibility, I am prepared now to make good my past transgressions, and to meet him if he will dig an underground passage between this house and his own, so that we may be enabled to pluck the roses of mutual love whenever we choose, and com­municate freely by means of this passage.” The maid went to the carpenter, and caused by the nectar of her eloquence this message to bloom in his garden of hope. He presented the girl with a thousand dínars* and said:

“I would ransom thee with my life,
O idol of the garden of purity!
I shall gird my loins for thy service
In a hundred thousand places.

It is a lifetime since I began to burn on the thread of exclusion and separation, and put the collyrium of longing into the eye of desire to behold that paragon of the world.

Melancholy for thee inspires my breast;
Desire for thee permeates my heart!
Thy behests I shall never disobey;
Thy will I shall follow with my soul.”

The carpenter dug a spacious passage between the two houses, and the lady arrived by means of it in her lover's domicile. When the carpenter beheld the Jacob's house of mourning of his heart illuminated by the Joseph's lamp of the coveted interview, he said:

“Welcome, my faithful idol!
My hut is the envy of Paradise.
Come, moon-like mistress, come!
Come, tender sweetheart, come!
Thy elegant speech is coquetry;
Thy gait is graceful as the rose:
Thou art the cynosure of love!
Thou art the model of tenderness!”

After mutual congratulations and compliments, that title-page of the ledger of amorous intrigues said to the carpenter: “To-morrow I shall come here, and you must bring the Kází to marry me to you.” When the lady had explained the particulars of this matter to him, he drew the hand of obedience over the eyes of compliance; and when on the next day the kází of the morn placed the seal of brilliancy upon the volume of the firmament, and the shaykh-sun seated himself upon the carpet of the Orient and manifested himself by the consequence of light and brightness, the Kází hastened from his haram to the court of justice. His tender mistress, however, betook herself to the house of the carpenter, who forgot the grief of separation, dressed himself in gaudy clothes, and waiting on the Kází said: “O spreader of the super­ficies of the law, and strengthener of the pillars of the affairs of mankind,

No matter in this world can be
Arranged without thy intervention.”

When the Kází perceived from this allocution that the carpenter came on business, and concluded that it might be something profitable, he replied: “Greeting to you! And may the mercy of God be upon your fathers and ancestors, fortunate and blessed man! Welcome! Rest yourself awhile; smoke tobacco and drink coffee, whilst you are acquainting me with your intentions.” The carpenter said: “O Kází, I am a bridegroom and am very restless to-day on that account: my bride is sitting in the house. As the moon is this day in the first mansion of the Balance, and in the two hours and nine minutes that are elapsing of the day it has a triangular aspect with the sun, a hexagonal one with Jupiter, is in opposition to Mercury, out of the influence of the Scorpion and the remaining ill-boding influences, therefore I am of good cheer; and as the hour to tie the matrimonial knot is quite propitious, I request your lordship quickly to perform the ceremony.”*

As soon as the Kází heard about a wedding, he put the turban of covetousness on his head, took the rosary of thanksgivings into his hand, and went with the carpenter to the house of the latter. When he entered he exclaimed: “Open, O opener of portals!” but when his eyes alighted on the bride and he recognised in her the mistress of his own haram, a thousand suspicions beset him; nevertheless he composed him­self as well as he was able, but could not help thinking: “This is a very wonderful business; and I have never seen two persons resembling each other so much.” While he thus plunged the pen of his mind into the inkstand of meditation and amazement, the carpenter exclaimed: “My lord, the time is passing, and what is the use of delaying?” The Kází looked up, and again scrutinised the lady, but found no difference between her and his wife, so he cried: “Praise be to God! There is no power nor strength but by his will!” Then putting his hand to his breast he said: “What memory is this?” and arose from his place. The carpenter asked: “O Kází, where are you going?” The Kází replied: “My good fellow, my ‘Key of prosperity’ has been left in the house, and there is a prayer in it that must be recited before pronouncing the matrimonial formula, in order to procure the mutual enjoyment of the newly married couple.” Accordingly he went to the house, but was forestalled by his spouse, who entered it through the secret passage and lay down on her bed. When the Kází arrived and saw his wife in this position he said: “I ask pardon of God from all that displeases him in words, deeds, thoughts, or intentions! To what a strange suspicion have I given way! May God forgive me!” His wife, on hearing these exclamations, yawned and turned from one side to the other, and said: “Violet, did I not tell you to allow no one to enter this room, so that I might repose for a time?” Quoth the Kází: “Beloved partner! there is no stranger. Excuse me, and pardon me for having harboured evil suspicions concerning thee.” The wife replied: “Perhaps you have become mad!”

The Kází again returned to the carpenter's house, but his wife had preceded him and was sitting in her former place. As soon as he looked at her the same suspicions overwhelmed him, and he exclaimed in amazement: “O Lord of glory! I have fallen into a strange predicament, and am, as it were, between two screws of the horns of a dilemma that presses me, on the one hand, quickly to perform the ceremony, and, on the other hand, rather to defer it.” Then said the carpenter: “My lord Kází, I see you despondent and hesitating in this business; and although you ought not to expect anything from me because I am your neighbour, yet I will give you these thousand dínars to hasten your proceedings, because the time is elapsing.” No sooner did the Kází see the money than he put it at once into his pocket and began: “In the name of God, the Merciful, the Clement,” and continued to read the matrimonial formula till he arrived at the words, “I marry,” when he perceived a black mole on the corner of his wife's lip, which he had so often kissed. He felt uneasy, and the sugar of the thousand dínars was bitter in the palate of his greediness, he again lowered his head into the collar of meditation and said within himself: “O assembly of genii and men! are you able to withdraw yourselves from the precincts of heaven and earth?” The car­penter exclaimed: “O Kází, I really do not know the reason of your delay, nor from the fountain of what pretence the water of this procrastination is gushing.” The Kází smiled and thus replied: “O carpenter, we are the sureties of legal affairs, the successors of the prophets, and the pontiffs of the laws and canons of the ways of guidance. In every affair that we perform we must attentively consider a thousand subtleties, lest we should become liable to blame in the next world by the commission of a fault. Why are you in such haste? All affairs in this world succeed only by civility and patience, and not by confusion and impatience. Thou resemblest that shepherd who was one day engaged in pasturing his flock and became very thirsty. As a village was very near, he left his sheep and entered it to look for water. He happened to pass near a tree under the shadow of which a schoolmaster was teaching a crowd of boys. After looking for a while, he perceived the teacher reposing and issuing orders, and the boys humbly obeying him in all things and occupied in melodiously rehearsing their lessons. This sort of employment disgusted the shepherd with his own calling, and he thought: ‘While I am able to learn this trade, I do not see why I should spend my whole life to no profit by running about the fields with a lot of sheep. I must change the profession of a shepherd for that of a schoolmaster, and then I shall spend my days in comfort, like this man.’ Accordingly he stepped forward and said: ‘My good master, I have a great inclination to learn your business; please instruct me in it.’ When the master looked at the figure and aspect of the shepherd, he was astonished, and saw he was an ignorant fellow who had no capacity. For the sake of fun, however, he took a piece of paper, wrote the alphabet on it, and said to the man: ‘Be seated, and read this.’ The shepherd asked: ‘Why do you not teach me from these large books?’ Said the master: ‘You are but a beginner, and you cannot read books till you have learned the alphabet.’ Quoth the shepherd: ‘Master, what letters are you speaking about? Please fill me with them now, for my flock roams about without a shepherd, and I have no time to sit down and learn the alphabet.’ The school­master smiled at this and drove the shepherd away. O carpenter,” continued the Kází, “do not fancy every business to be easy. Now I meditate and study how to divide the possessions of a certain wealthy man, who died yesterday, among thirty-two men who have inherited them. This has just occurred to my mind, and I was engaged in multiplication and division.” Then the Kází again glanced at the lady, and beginning to feel uneasy arose once more. The carpenter asked: “O Kází, what fancy is moving you now, and causes you to look so confused?” Said the Kází: “This transaction is one of the greatest importance according to the religious law. It cannot be performed unless after the general ablution, about the completeness of which a doubt has just arisen in my mind; therefore I must return to my house and renew it.” The car­penter answered: “You can wash yourself here.” Quoth the Kází: “No, by God! I never perform my ablutions with water which I have not seen before, and I have all the arrangements for purification in my house.”

The Kází returned to his house accordingly, but his wife went before him through the passage, and was reading a book when he entered her room. He exclaimed: “I ask forgiveness from God, and I repent of all my sins and transgressions.” The lady looked at him in astonishment, and said: “This day I perceive the neck of your intellect confined in the halter of a lunatic fit. How many times have you come and again gone away after holding a soliloquy as madmen are wont to do! If you have become subject to such a distemper, and do not take the proper steps to cure it, I shall not be your nurse.” Said the Kází: “O Bilkís* of the compact of pru­dence and innocence, to-day I have indulged in a suspicion regarding thee: I have made a mistake— forgive me!” The wife answered: “The worst people in the world are those who indulge in evil imputations, and those of yours must be expiated.” She then gave a few dínars to Violet, bidding her distribute them among the poor as a penitential expiation. After this the Kází took an apple from his pocket, cut it in twain, and gave one moiety to his wife, saying: “Though apples have many qualities, the chief of them is to increase conjugal love: I intend to go to the bath.”

Putting the other half of the apple in his pocket, the Kází returned to the house of the carpenter. His wife preceded him as usual, and sat down in her place. When he drew near he saw the half of the apple in her hand, and was greatly amazed, but said nothing, for fear of offending the carpenter, who cried out: “O Kází, tell me for God's sake what you have to say, and why is all this going and coming and all this delay? If this affair is disagreeable to you, I shall bring Shaykh Jahtás, or Mullah Allam-Abhuda, the servant of the college, to perform the matrimonial ceremony. O Kází, I expected more kindness from you as a neighbour. This business is not worth so much haggling about, and if you wish more than the thousand, take these five hundred dínars.” When the Kází saw this additional sum of money he was overpowered by covetousness and exclaimed: “I take refuge with God from the lapidated Satan!* I marry and couple!” Then his eye again alighted on the countenance of his wife and he saw she wore the ruby necklace which he had bought for three thousand dínars. He shook his head and said: “Every now and then I must somehow stop: I do not know what is again distracting my attention,” and he glanced once more at his wife. Quoth the carpenter: “O Kází, your amorous looks have convinced me that your desires are centred in the possession of this lady, for your eyes constantly wander over her coun­tenance. If this be the case, do not make a secret of it, that we may consult her opinion on the matter.” The Kází thought within himself, that, as the car­penter was an ignorant and illiterate man, he might play a trick on him, and recite something else instead of the marriage formula, so that, if his suspicions proved to be well-founded, he might be able to annul the marriage. So he sat down on his haunches and recited: “Iazghára, Iajargára Aftanys Salanká, Dáma Talkuvára,” etc. Then he spoke to the carpenter: “Say, ‘I agree.’” But as the carpenter had frequently heard the marriage formula, he answered: “Kází, this is a formula read to country fellows and retainers. I have given thee one thousand five hundred dínars to marry me like one of the grandees. I am not a child to be thus played with: this formula is not worth twenty dínars. Either return me the money or recite the proper manly formula.” Quoth the Kází: “You are but a working man, carpenter, why then do you entertain such high pretensions? I have just now read to you the formula which I made use of in marrying Mullah Abdullah, the householder in the market, yet you want a formula used for grandees, scholars, and judges, and to give me a headache!” The carpenter replied: “I also covet science and distinction.” Said the Kází: “How will you convince me of that?” The carpenter continued: “I know the story of the ‘Sun and Moon.’* I have heard the tale of ‘Sayf ul-Mulúk and Badya'á ul-Jumal.’ I have likewise seen ‘The Road to the Mosque.’ My father used to pass once every day near the school­house of Mullah Namatullah Kylak.” Said the Kází: “There is no science or perfection higher than this. I did not know the degree or limit which thou hast attained.”* In consequence of this irony of the Kází, the carpenter put a feather in his bonnet* and said: “There is no excuse.” Once more the Kází attempted to begin the formula, but when he looked at the half of the apple that was in the lady's hand, he cried: “Woman, give me that half-apple!” She complied, and the Kází took the other half from his pocket, and by placing the two halves together he found them to fit exactly. The carpenter exclaimed: “Kází, apparently some jugglery is going on here! What delusion are you subject to every moment?” The Kází replied: “I have done this simply to produce conjugal love between you.” Then he again rose and wanted to go to his house for the purpose of verifying his surmises, but the lady turned to the carpenter and said: “Foolish man, hast thou brought me here to marry me, or to make a laughing-stock of me? I have never before seen such proceedings. I think his eyes have become subject to [the disease called] pearl-water.” The Kází took no notice of these remarks, but hastened to his house, where his wife met him with these words: “O Kází, thou resemblest those people who have the pearl-water in their eyes.” Said he: “There is no God but the God! The other woman has spoken the same thing. Tell me at all events what is the distemper called pearl-water.” His wife answered: “Pearl-water is a humour caused by heavy particles in the stomach rising into the head, and from thence descending into the eyelids, which injures the eyes, so that different persons appear to be the same, and cannot be dis­tinguished from each other. If this malady is not cured it degenerates into blindness.” Quoth the Kází: “Perhaps this is because I have not kept my depraved appetite in subjection. Several days ago I was with the superintendent of police in the house of Kávas the Armenian, who had died; we went there to take an inventory of his goods and chattels for the Amír. The children of Khoja Kávas had, by way of a sweetmeat, something baked in hog's blood; as I was hungry and this food happened to be delicious, I ate somewhat freely of it; and as it had been pre­pared from the property of the deceased man, it may possibly have had its consequences.”*

A third time the Kází returned to the carpenter's house, and when he beheld his wife, and glanced stealthily at her, the lady was wroth and said to the carpenter: “This fellow is every now and then casting amorous glances at me, and through my connection with thee I have lost my reputation. Either drive him away or forfeit my company.” Quoth the Kází: “Respectable virgin and honourable lady, in all matters consideration is useful.” The carpenter lost his patience and exclaimed: “You have nearly killed me with your folly and loquacity. I do not wish any longer for marriage. If thou hast considered this woman worthy of thy haram, why hast thou for so long a time been undecided?” Whilst the carpenter was thus talking, they heard the voice of the muezzin, and he exclaimed: “Alas, it is noon* —the propitious hour has elapsed!” Said the Kází: “You are a carpenter; you know how to handle the saw and the axe, to make windows and doors. But what idea have you of the rotation of the spheres—about good and bad stars and hours? This science belongs to our profession.” Then taking an almanac from his pocket and opening it, he said: “The moon is a luminary of quick motion. Yesterday she entered the sign of the Balance, but has so quickly travelled through the degrees that she feels tired to-day and is still reposing, and will not travel to-morrow. From hour to hour till to-morrow, inclusive, wedding dinners and other feasts are pro­pitious. I shall now go to my house and prepare a medicine for the pearl-water of my eyes, as it will probably hinder me from studying.” But the carpenter and the lady seized the Kází, one on either side, and said: “Mayhap the affairs of this world are only a play! By Allah, we shall not let thee go ere thou hast tied the matrimonial knot.” Quoth the Kází: “Let me go, else I shall immediately write a mandate for the capital punishment of both of you.” They rejoined: “May the columns of the house of Khoja Ratyl, the merchant, fall upon you, if you do us the least harm!” Upon this the Kází turned his face upwards and prayed: “O Judge of the court of justice of destiny, protect me from the evil of all mad persons and from all malefactors, and grant me health and peace! Thou judgest—thou art the sovereign Judge!” As he had no alternative now but to marry the lady to the carpenter, and as at that time it was customary for the bride to kiss the hand of the Kází after the termination of the ceremony, the lady stepped forward for this purpose; but the Kází was so anxious to mark his wife for identification afterwards, that he struck her such a blow on the cheek with his clenched hand as to cause her to bleed profusely. Then he ran into his own house, where he found his wife disfiguring her face and crying out: “I renounce such an adulterous husband, who is carrying on an intrigue with the car­penter's wife.” She and her maids then took him by the throat and pulled off his turban, and he fled into the street. The carpenter, who had heard the noise, came out, and seeing him with his head uncovered placed his own turban on it, and said: “O Kází, women are of an imperfect understanding, and quarrels between husbands and wives have taken place at all times. If you have lost your senses, this can easily be remedied by taking up your lodging for a few days in a madhouse, until your spouse repents of her deed.” And so the Kází went to repose himself in a lunatic asylum.

The secret-knowing bulbul of the musical-hall of narratives, namely, the pen, thus continues its melody: After the wife of the Kází had severed the robe of his conjugal authority with the scissors of deceit, she again stitched it with the needle of fraud, and invested with it the bosom of the wretched Kází's imbecility by means of the above-narrated tricks. Then she sent word to her two accomplices, that she had drawn the bow of machination to its utmost extent by the exertion of her skill, that she had with the arrow thereof hit the target of the conditions stipulated, and that now the field was free to them for the display of their cunning.