[Go back to Tale of the Hashish Eater]
And he said:--Know ye that a short while ago, I was sore wakeful one night and thought the morn would never dawn; so, as soon as it was break of day I rose, without stay or delay; and, slinging over my shoulder my sword, mounted horse and set my lance in rest. Then I rode out to sport and hunt and, as I went along, a company of men accosted me and asked me whither I was bound I told them and they said, "We will keep thee company." So we all fared on together, and, whilst we were faring, lo and behold! up started an ostrich and we gave her chase, but she escaped our pursuit and spreading wings ceased not to fly before us (and we following by sight) till she lost us in a desert wherein there was neither grass nor water, nor heard we aught therein save hiss of snake and wail of Jinn and howl of Ghul; and when we reached that place the ostrich disappeared nor could we tell whether she had flown up into the sky or into the ground had gone down. Then we turned our horses' heads and thought to return; but found that to retrace our steps at that time of burning heat would be toilsome and dangerous; for the sultry air was grievous to us, so that we thirsted with sore thirst and our steeds stood still. We made sure of death; but while we were in this case we suddenly espied from afar a spacious mead where gazelles were frisking Therein was a tent pitched and by the tent side a horse tethered and a spear was planted with head glittering in the sun. Upon this our hearts revived after we had despaired, and we turned our horses' heads towards that tent making for the meadow and the water which irrigated it; and all my comrades fared for it and I at their head, and we ceased not faring till we reached the mead. Then we alighted at the spring and watered our beasts. But I was seized with a fever of foolish curiosity and went up to the door of that tent, wherein I saw a young man, without hair on his cheeks, who fellowed the new moon; and on his right hand was a slender-waisted maid, as she were a willow-wand. No sooner did I set eyes on her than love get hold upon my heart and I saluted the youth, who returned my greeting. Then said I, "O my brother, tell me who thou art and what to thee is this damsel sitting by thy side?" Thereupon the youth bent his head groundwards awhile, then raised it and replied, "Tell me first who thou art and what are these horsemen with thee?" Answered I, "I am Hammad son of al-Fazari, the renowned knight, who is reckoned among the Arabs as five hundred horse. We went forth from our place this morning to sport and chase and were overcome by thirst; so I came to the door of this tent, thinking haply to get of thee a draught of water." When he heard these my words, he turned to the fair maiden and said, "Bring this man water and what food there is ready." So she arose trailing her skirts, whilst the golden bangles tinkled on her ankles and her feet stumbled in her long locks, and she disappeared for a little while. Presently she returned bearing in her right hand a silver vessel full of cold water and in her left hand a bowl brimming with milk and dates, together with some flesh of wild cattle. But I could take of her nor meat nor drink for the excess of my passion, and I applied to her these two couplets, saying,
"It was as though the sable dye upon her palms, * Were raven perching on a swathe of freshest snow;
Thou seest Sun and Moon conjoined in her face, * While Sun fear-dimmed and Moon fright-pallid show."
After I had eaten and drunk I said to the youth, "Know thou, O Chief of the Arabs, that I have told thee in all truth who and what I am, and now I would fain have thee do the like by me and tell me the truth of thy case." Replied the young man, "As for this damsel she is my sister." Quoth I, "It is my desire that thou give me her to wife of thy free will: else will I slay thee and take her by force." Upon this, he bowed his head groundwards awhile, then he raised his eyes to me and answered, "Thou sayest sooth in avouching thyself a renowned knight and famed in fight and verily thou art the lion of the desert; but if ye all attack me treacherously and slay me in your wrath and take my sister by force, it will be a stain upon your honour. An you be, as ye aver, cavaliers who are counted among the Champions and reck not the shock of foray and fray, give me a little time to don my armour and sling on my sword and set lance in rest and mount war steed. Then will we go forth into the field of fight, I and you; and, if I conquer you, I will kill you to the last man; but if you overcome me and slay me, this damsel, my sister, is yours." Hearing such words I replied, "This is only just, and we oppose it not." Then I turned back my horse's head (for my love for the damsel waxed hotter and hotter) and returned to my companions, to whom I set forth her beauty and loveliness as also the comeliness of the young man who was with her, together with his velour and strength of soul and how he had avouched himself a match for a thousand horse. Moreover, I described to my company the tent and all the riches and rarities therein and said to them, "Know ye that this youth would not have cut himself off from society and have taken up his abode alone in this place, were he not a man of great prowess: so I propose that whoso slayeth the younker shall take his sister." And they said, "This contenteth us." Then my company armed themselves and mounting, rode to the tent, where we found that the young man had donned his gear and backed his steed; but his sister ran up to him (her veil being drenched with tears), and took hold of his stirrup and cried out, saying, "Alas!" and, "Woe worth the day!" in her fear for her brother, and recited these couplets,
"To Allah will I make my moan of travail and of woe, * Maybe Ilah of Arsh will smite their faces with affright:
Fain would they slay thee, brother mine, with purpose felon-fell; * Albe no cause of vengeance was, nor fault forewent the fight.
Yet for a rider art thou known to those who back the steed, * And twixt the East and West of knights thou art the prowess knight:
Thy sister's honour thou shalt guard though little might be hers, * For thou'rt her brother and for thee she sueth Allah's might:
Then let not enemy possess my soul nor 'thrall my frame, * And work on me their will and treat thy sister with despight.
I'll ne'er abide, by Allah's truth, in any land or home * Where thou art not, though dight it be with joyance and delight
For love and yearning after thee myself I fain will slay, * And in the gloomy darksome tomb spread bed upon the clay."
But when her brother heard her verse he wept with sore weeping and turned his horse's head towards his sister and made this answer to her poetry,
"Stand by and see the derring-do which I to-day will show, * When meet we and I deal them blows that rend and cleave and split;
E'en though rush out to seek a bout the lion of the war, * The stoutest hearted brave of all and eke the best in wit;
To him I'll deal without delay a Sa'alabiyan blow, * And dye my cane-spear's joint in blood by wound of foe bespit:
If all I beat not off from thee, O sister, may this frame * Be slain, and cast my corpse to birds, for so it would befit:
Yes, for thy dearest sake I'll strike my blows with might and main, * And when we're gone shall this event in many a book be writ."
And when he had ended his verse, he said, "O my sister, give ear to what I shall enjoin on thee"; whereto she replied, "Hearkening and obedience." Quoth he, "If I fall, let none possess thy person;" and thereupon she buffeted her face and said, "Allah forbid, O my brother, that I should see thee laid low and yield myself to thy foe!" With this the youth put out his hand to her and withdrew her veil from her face, whereupon it shone forth as the sun shineth out from the white clouds. Then he kissed her between the eyes and bade her farewell; after which he turned to us and said, "Holla, Knights! Come ye as guests or crave ye cuts and thrusts? If ye come to us as your hosts, rejoice ye in the guest rite; and, if ye covet the shining moon, come ye out against me, knight by knight, into this plain and place of fight." There upon rushed out to him a doughty rider and the young man said to him, "Tell me thy name and thy father's name, for I am under an oath not to slay any whose name tallies with mine and whose father's name is that of my father; and if this be the case with thee, I will give thee up the maid." Quoth the horseman, "My name is Bilal;" and the young man answered him, saying,
"Thou liest when speaking of 'benefits,' while * Thou comest to front with shine evillest will
An of prowess thou'rt prow, to my words give ear, * I'm he who make' champions in battle-field reel
With keen blade, like the horn of the cusped moon, * So 'ware thrust the, shall drill through the duress hill!"
Then they charged down, each at each, and the youth thrust his adversary in the breast so that the lance head issued from his back. With tints, another came out, and the youth cried,
"Ho thou hound, who art rotten with foulness in grain, * What high meed is there easy for warrior to gain?
'Tis none save the lion of strain purest pure * Who uncareth for life in the battle plain!"
Nor was it long before the youth left him drowned in his blood and cried out, "Who will come forth to me?" So a third horse man rushed out upon the youth and began saying,
"To thee come I forth with my heart a-flame, * And summon my friends and my comrades by name:
When thou slewest the chief of the Arabs this day, * This day thou remainest the pledge of my claim."
Now when the youth heard this he answered him in these words,
"Thou liest, O foulest of Satans that are, * And with easings calumnious thou comest to war
This day thou shalt fall by a death dealing point * Where the lances lunge and the scymitars jar!"
Then he so foined him in the breast that the spear-point issued from his back and he cried out, saying, "Ho! will none come out? So a fourth fared forwards and the youth asked him his name and he answered, "My name is Hilal, the New Moon." And the youth began repeating,
"Thou hast failed who would sink me in ruin sea, * Thou who camest in malice with perfidy:
I, whose verses hast heard from the mouth of me, * Will ravish thy soul though unknown to thee."
Then they drave at each other and delivered two cuts, but the youth's stroke devanced that of the rider his adversary and slew him: and thus he went on to kill all who sallied out against him. Now when I saw my comrades slain, I said to myself, "If I go down to fight with him, I shall not be able to prevail against him; and, if I flee, I shall become a byword of shame among the Arabs." But the youth gave me no time to think, for he ran at me and dragged me from my saddle and hurled me to the ground. I fainted at the fall and he raised his sword designing to cut off my head; but I clung to his skirts, and he lifted me in his hand as though I were a sparrow. When the maiden saw this, she rejoiced in her brother's prowess and coming up to him, kissed him between the eyes. Then he delivered me to her, saying, "Take him and look to him and entreat him hospitably, for he is come under our rule." So she took hold of the collar of my hauberk and led me away by it as one would lead a dog. Then she did off her brother's coat of mail and clad him in a robe, and set for him a stool of ivory, on which he sat down; and she said to him, "Allah whiten thy honour and prevent from thee the shifts of fortune!" And he answered her with these couplets,
"My sister said, as saw she how I stood * In fight, when sun-rays lit my knightlihood
'Allah assain thee for a Brave of braves * To whom in vale bow lions howso wood!'
Quoth I, 'Go ask the champions of my case, * When feared the Lords of war my warrior mood!
My name is famed for fortune and for force, * And soared my spirit to such altitude,'
Ho thou, Hammad, a lion hast upstirred, * Shall show thee speedy death like viper brood."
Now when I heard his verse, I was perplexed as to my case and considering my condition and how I was become a captive, I was lowered in my own esteem. Then I looked at the damsel, his sister, and seeing her beauty I said to myself, "'Tis she who caused all this trouble"; and I fell a-marvelling at her loveliness till the tears streamed from my eyes and I recited these couplets,
"Dear friend! ah leave thy loud reproach and blame; * Such blame but irks me yet may not alarm:
I'm clean distraught for one whom saw I not * Without her winning me by winsome charm
Yestreen her brother crossed me in her love, * A Brave stout-hearted and right long of arm."
Then the maiden set food before her brother and he bade me eat with him, whereat I rejoiced and felt assured that I should not be slain. And when he had ended eating, she brought him a flagon of pure wine and he applied him to it till the fumes of the drink mounted to his head and his face flushed red. Then he turned to me and said, "Woe to thee, O Hammad! dost thou know me or not?" Replied I, "By thy life, I am rich in naught save ignorance!' Quoth he, "O Hammad, I am 'Abbad bin Tamim bin Sa'labah and indeed Allah giveth thee thy liberty and leadeth thee to a happy bride and spareth thee confusion." Then he drank to my long life and gave me a cup of wine and I drank it off; and presently he filled me a second and a third and a fourth, and I drained them all; while he made merry with me and swore me never to betray him. So I sware to him one thousand five hundred oaths that I would never deal perfidiously with him at any time, but that I would be a friend and a helper to him. Thereupon he bade his sister bring me ten suits of silk, so she brought them and laid them on my person, and this dress I have on my body is one of them. Moreover, he made bring one of the best of his she- dromedaries carrying stuffs and provaunt, he bade her also bring a sorrel horse, and when they were brought he gave the whole of them to me. I abode with them three days, eating and drinking, and what he gave me of gifts is with me to this present. At the end of the three days he said to me, "O Hammad, O my brother, I would sleep awhile and take my rest and verily I trust my life to thee; but, if thou see horsemen making hither, fear not, for know that they are of the Banu Sa'labah, seeking to wage war on me." Then he laid his sword under his head-pillow and slept; and when he was drowned in slumber Iblis tempted me to slay him; so I arose in haste, and drawing the sword from under his head, dealt him a blow that made his head fall from his body. But his sister knew what I had done, and rushing out from within the tent, threw herself on his corpse, rending her raiment and repeating these couplets,
"To kith and kin bear thou sad tidings of our plight; * From doom th' All-wise decreed shall none of men take flight:
Low art thou laid, O brother! strewn upon the stones, * With face that mirrors moon when shining brightest bright!
Good sooth, it is a day accurst, thy slaughter-day * Shivering thy spear that won the day in many a fight!
Now thou be slain no rider shall delight in steed, * Nor man child shall the breeding woman bring to light.
This morn Hammad uprose and foully murthered thee, * Falsing his oath and troth with foulest perjury."
When she had ended her verse she said to me, "O thou of accursed forefathers, wherefore didst thou play my brother false and slay him when he purposed returning thee to thy native land with provisions; and it was his intent also to marry thee to me at the first of the month?" Then she drew a sword she had with her, and planting the hilt in the earth, with the point set to her breast, she bent over it and threw herself thereon till the blade issued from her back and she fell to the ground, dead. I mourned for her and wept and repented when repentance availed me naught. Then I arose in haste and went to the tent and, taking whatever was light of load and weighty of worth, went my way; but in my haste and horror I took no heed of my dead comrades, nor did I bury the maiden and the youth. And this my tale is still more wondrous than the story of the serving-girl I kidnapped from the Holy City, Jerusalem. But when Nuzhat al-Zaman heard these words from the Badawi, the light was changed in her eyes to night.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
[Resume The Tale of King Omar Bin Al-Nu'uman and His Sons Sharrkan and Zau Al-Makan]
Burton, Richard (1821-1890). The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. London. 1885-1888. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. V. Gutenberg Vol. VII. Gutenberg Vol. VIII. Gutenberg Vol. IX. Gutenberg Vol. X. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.
1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM