The Trick of the Wife of the Superintendent of Police.

THE narrator of this tale causes the rose-bud of his rhetoric to blossom from the dew of composition as follows: When the wife of the superintendent of police was apprised that her turn had come, she revolved and meditated for some time what trick she was to play off upon her lord, and after coming to a con­clusion she said to him one evening: “To-morrow I wish that we should both enjoy ourselves at home without interruption, and I mean to prepare some cakes.” He replied: “Very well, my dear; I have longed for such an occasion.” The lady had a servant who was very obedient and always covered with the mantle of attachment to her. Next morning she called this lad and said to him: “I have long con­templated the Hyacinth* grove of thy symmetrical stature. I know that thou travelest constantly and faithfully on the road of compliance with all my wishes, and that thou seekest to serve me. I have a little business which I wish thee to do for me.” The lad answered: “I shall be happy to comply.” Then the lady gave him a thousand dínars and said: “Go to the convent which is in our neighbourhood, give this money to one of the Kalandars,* and say: ‘A prisoner whom the Amír had surrendered to the police escaped last night. He resembles thee greatly; and as the superintendent of police is unable to give account of his prisoner to the Amír, he has despatched a man to take thee instead of the escaped criminal. I have compassion for thee and mean to rescue thee. Take this sum of money; give me thy dress, and flee from this town; for if thou remainest till the morning thou wilt be subject to torture and lose thy life.’”

The lad acted as he was ordered; brought the Kalandar's garments and handed them to his mistress. When it was morning the lady said to her husband: “I know you have long wished to eat sweetmeats, and, if you will allow me, I will make some to-day.” He said: “Very well.” His wife then made all things ready and began to bake the sweetmeats, when the superintendent of police said: “Last night a theft was committed in such a place and I sat up late to extort confessions; and as I have had a sleepless night, I feel tired and wish to repose a little.” The lady answered: “Very well;” so her husband reclined on the pillow of rest; and when the sweetmeats were ready she took a portion, and after putting an opiate into one she roused him, saying: “How long will you sleep? This is a day of feasting and pleasure, not of sleep and laziness. Lift up your head and see if I have made the sweets according to your taste.” He raised his head and ate a piece of the hot cake and presently a deep sleep overcame him. The lady at once undressed her husband and put on him the Kalandar's garments, and the slave-boy shaved his beard and made tattoo marks on his body.

When night had set in the lady called to the slave-boy: “Hyacinth, take the superintendent on thy back and carry him to the convent in the place of that Kalandar, and should he wish to return home in the morning do not allow him.” The lad obeyed; and towards morning the superintendent recovered his senses a little, but as the opiate had made his palate very bitter he became extremely thirsty. He fancied he was in his own house and bawled out: “Narcissus,* bring water.” The other Kalandars awoke, and after hearing several shouts of this kind they concluded he was under the effects of bhang and said: “Poor fellow! The narcissus is in the garden. This is the convent of sufferers, and there are green garments enough here. Arise and sober thyself; for the morning and harbinger of benefits, as well as of the acquisition of victuals for subsistence, is approaching.” When the superintendent heard these words he thought they were in a dream, for he had not yet fully recovered his senses. He sat quietly, but was amazed on beholding the vaults and ceiling of the convent. He got up, looked at the clothes in which he was dressed, and at the marks tattooed on his body, and began to doubt whether he was awake or asleep. He washed his face, and per­ceived that the caravan of his mustachios had likewise departed from the plain of his countenance. In this state of perplexity he went out of the monastery and proceeded to his house. There his wife and servants had made their arrangements and were expecting his arrival. Approaching the door and knocking for admission, Hyacinth demanded: “Whom seekest thou, O Kalandar?” “I want to enter the house.” Quoth the slave-boy: “Evidently thou hast taken thy morning draught of bhang more copiously than usual, since thou hast thus foolishly mistaken the road to thy convent. Depart! This is not the place in which vagabond Kalandars are harboured. This is the mansion of the superintendent of the police, and if the símurgh should look uncivilly at this place from his fastness in the west of Mount Káf,* the wings of his impertinence would be at once singed.” The superintendent replied: “What nonsense is this thou art speaking? Get out of my way, for I do not relish thy imbecile prattle.” But when he would have entered, Hyacinth dealt him a blow on the shoulder with a bludgeon, which the superintendent returned with a box on the ear, and they began to wrestle together. Just then the lady and her slave-girls rushed forth from the rear and assailed the superintendent with sticks and stones, shouting: “This Kalandar wishes in broad daylight to force his way into the house of the superintendent, who is unfortunately sick, else he would have hanged the rascal.” By this time all the neighbours were assembled before the house, and on seeing the Kalandar's shameless proceedings they exclaimed: “Look at that impudent Kalandar, who wants forcibly to enter the house of the superin­tendent!” Ultimately the crowd amounted to more than five hundred persons, and the superintendent was put to flight, pursued by all the boys of the town, who pelted him with stones.

At a distance of three farsangs from the town was a village, where the superintendent concealed himself in a corner of the mosque. In the evenings he went from house to house and begged for food to sustain life, until his beard grew again and the tattoo marks began to disappear. Whenever any one inquired for the superintendent at his house, the answer was, that the gentleman was sick. After a month had passed, the grief of separation and the misery of his condition had again drawn the superintendent back to the city. He went to the monastery because fear hindered him from going to his own house. His wife happened one day to catch a glimpse of him from a window, and perceived him sitting in the same dress with a com­pany of Kalandars. She felt compassion for him, and thought: “He has had enough of this!” Making a loaf and putting an opiate into it, she said to the slave-boy: “When all the Kalandars are asleep, go and place this loaf under the head of the superintendent,” which he did accordingly. When the superintendent awoke during the night and found the loaf, he supposed it had been placed there by one of his companions, and ate part of it and fell into a deep sleep. Some hours afterwards, the slave-boy, as directed by his mistress, went to the convent, and taking the superintendent on his back carried him home.

When it was morning the lady took off the Kalandar's dress from her husband and clothed him in his own garments, and then began to bake sweetmeats as on the former occasion. After some time the gentleman began to move, and his wife exclaimed: “O superintendent, do not sleep so much. I have told you that we are to spend this day in joy and festivity, and it was not right of you to pass the time in this lazy manner. Lift up your head and see the beautiful sweetmeats I have baked for you.” When the superintendent opened his eyes and saw himself dressed in his own clothes, the rose-bush of his amazement again brought forth the flowers of astonishment, and he cried: “God be praised! What has happened to me?” He sat up, and said: “Wife, things have occurred to me which I can hardly describe.” Quoth the lady: “From your uneasy motions during sleep, it appears that you have had very strange dreams.” “Strange dreams!” echoed the husband. “From the moment I lay down I have experienced the most extraordinary adventures.” The lady rejoined: “Assuredly! Last night you ate food which disagreed with your stomach, and to-day its vapours seem to have ascended into your brains, causing you all this distress.” Said he: “You are right. Last evening I was with a party at the house of Serjeant Bahman, where I heartily partook of a pillau, and it has surely been the cause of all my trouble.”

When the three companions in the lists of deceit had executed their different stratagems, they went according to arrangement to the same bath, in order to state their cases to the old hag who had promised to award the ring to the most cunning of the three ladies; but to their surprise and chagrin they learned that she had departed to another country, thus out­witting them all, and kept the coveted ring for herself.