Mother and Daughter | Part 2

In the meantime, Delilah removed the disguise of the Sufi beggar and put on the dress of a housemaid of the better type. Then she started on the second round of adventures to bring her some more fame. When she came to a particular street, she found a lot of bustle in one of the houses. There was a great display of lights, carpets, music, celebration and laughter. At the gate, an enslaved person stood holding a boy who wore diamond ornaments and an elegant dress embroidered with silver and gold lace.

The owner of the house was the leader of the merchants of Baghdad. His daughter was being betrothed that day, and many guests were invited. The merchant’s wife could not receive the guests and talk to them because her child held on to her dress and bugged her. So the lady gave the child into the keeping of the enslaved person and told her to keep him engaged till the guests were gone. Delilah obtained these facts and decided that she should rob the child.

She pushed through the crowd to the gate, saying, “Bless me, I am late!” Then she turned to the slave, slipped a counterfeit coin into her hand and said, “My dear, won’t you go in and tell the mistress that her old nurse, Umal Khair, has come to pay her respects?”

“I could,” said the enslaved person regretfully, “but the young master will begin to cry for her if he sees the mistress. How can I go?”

“Don’t worry,” said Delilah. “I shall hold the darling till you come back.” Taken in by these words, the enslaved person gave the child to Delilah and went in.

At once, Delilah took the boy into a deserted lane, where she removed all his ornaments and garments. Then she went with him to the shop of a famous jeweller. The jeweller recognised the boy and asked Delilah,

“What does your master want?” “This boy’s sister is being betrothed. I want a pair of gold bangles, two pairs of anklets, diamond earrings and a fine gold girdle of delicate artistry. Give me jewellery worth a thousand dinars. I shall take it home. If they are approved, I shall return the money. You can keep the boy here till I return.”

“You can take whatever you want,” said the jeweller, “There is no necessity of leaving the boy here.” Still, Delilah left the boy there, selected whatever jewellery she wanted and went straight to her house.

Meanwhile, at the house of the prominent merchant, all festivity turned into mourning. When the merchant arrived, the entire house echoed with shouting and wailing. The merchant’s wife was rolling on the floor in unbearable grief. No one seemed to know what happened to the boy. The merchant dispatched men all over the city, and at last, the child was discovered in the jeweller’s shop.

“Scoundrel,” roared the prominent merchant, “how dare you kidnap my son? What have you done with his ornaments and clothes?” “What about the jewellery worth a thousand dinars I sent to you for approval ?” the jeweller asked.

It took a long time for them to understand each other. By that time, the three others who Delilah had duped arrived. They compared notes with one another and concluded that they were all tricked by the same older woman.

“I shall not rest,” swore the prominent merchant, “till I see this old witch punished.” The jeweller told the others, “I shall join you in the hunt for the old hag. Let each of us go our own way. We shall meet at the Masood barber shop exactly at noon.”

The boy of the donkey was the first to come towards the barber’s shop. Luckily he met Delilah in the street and recognised her at once. “Ah, I have you, you witch!” he said to her triumphantly.

“What is it you say, my son ?” Delilah said innocently.

“My donkey! Give it back to me at once!” said the boy angrily.

“Why do you shout like that?’ Delilah said. “Do you think that I’ve stolen your donkey? I’ve kept it safe with Masood, the barber. Come with me, and you can have it right now.”

So the boy accompanied her to the barber’s shop. Delilah asked the boy to wait outside the shop, went in said to Masood tearfully, “O Masood! You alone can cure him!”

“What is it about, auntie ?” asked Masood bewildered.

“That is my son standing outside. He recovered from a terrible illness but has been mentally weak since then. A long time back, he had a donkey. Now he keeps asking for that donkey all the time. Cure him of this mania, and I shall be eternally indebted to you,”

“Leave that to me,” said the barber accepting the dinar she offered. “I shall shave his head and apply lemon juice to his scalp. In a couple of days, he will be a different boy.”

“Be gentle with him and talk to him coaxingly. I shall pay you for your trouble,” said Delilah.

Masood, the barber, stepped outside his shop and told the boy to enter. “My donkey!” the boy asked.

“I have your donkey with me. It won’t run away. Come inside for a moment,” said the barber.

No sooner than the boy came in than the assistants of the barber fell upon him, bound him hand and foot, shaved him and soaked his scalp with lemon juice. The boy howled all the time.

After finishing with the boy, Masood went into the interior of his shop and found no older woman there. He did not find any of his razors, mirrors, scissors, hair oils, shampoos, scents, benches, or chairs.

Masood returned, caught the boy by the throat and shouted, “Where is your mother?”

“My mother died long ago,” said the boy. “You promised to give me my donkey. Give it to me at once.”

While the two of them shouted at each other, the other victims of Delilah arrived as per their previous arrangement. It was evident that the old witch swin- dled one more victim. Masood, the barber, joined the others in their search for Delilah.

They scoured several streets till, at last, the boy of the donkey once again spotted Delilah and fell upon her, shouting, “Here is the witch! Hold her! Let her not fool us again!”

Dililah could not escape this time. They took her to the house of Khalid and told the servants at the gate, “We have to see Khalid at once.”

They were told that Khalid was having his afternoon nap and that they had to wait until he woke. The servants made the male members of the deputation wait in the courtyard while Delilah was shown into a room in the ladies’ wing of the house. Delilah went inside, crossed several rooms and went upstairs, where she saw Khalid’s wife and said to her, “Madam, I’ve brought my slaves whom your husband promised to buy for twelve hundred dinars. It appears he is having a nap. I’m afraid it will be some time before he wakes up.”

“My husband did mention. Something about buying enslaved people a long time back,” said Khalid’s wife. “I know nothing about your slaves. Where are they?”

“They are in the courtyard. You can see them through the window. I assure you they are all well-born,” said Delilah.

Khalid’s wife saw the men in the courtyard and was immensely satisfied. “I could have paid you,” she told Delilah, “but I’ve only a thousand dinars with me.”

“Since I already received two hundred in advance, “Delilah said, “thousand is all I get.” She took the money, saluted her, thanked her and said, “Madam, do me a favour. I cannot bear to see my slaves again. I shall be much happier if you can send me by the back door.” Khalid’s wife did so.

When Khalid woke up, his wife complimented him on his bargain and told him about the enslaved people.

“Enslaved people? Bargain? What is all this?” Khalid said, puzzled. “I never gave anyone any advance for buying slaves.”

“Why I paid the old woman the thousand dinars, and the slaves are below,” his wife said. Khalid hastily put on his dress, went downstairs and saw the shopkeeper, the dyer, the jeweller, the barber and the donkey boy all awaiting him.

“Are you the slaves I have bought?” he asked them.

“Is this the justice we get at your hands?” they exclaimed. “Do we look like slaves? Let us go and ask the Khalifa!”

Just at that moment, Mustafa also arrived. He had learnt how the older woman had duped his wife. “Under your jurisdiction,” Mustafa said in anger,” it appears that any old devil can get into any good house and trick the innocent ladies! What action do you propose against the old hag who has duped my wife?”

“Sir, I take upon myself the responsibility of punishing this old woman,” Khalid replied. “I shall also make reparations to each of you for the losses you have sustained on her account.” Then he turned to the five men and asked them, “Now, which one among you can recognise that old woman?”

“All of us can recognise her,” they replied. “Send ten guards with us, and we will bring her to you.”

They obtained the guards and started in search of Delilah. They were not gone far when they came across Delilah. She tried to give them the slip, but they chased her, caught her, tied her hands behind her and took her to Khalid.

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