[Go back to Harun Al-Rashid and Abu Hasan, The Merchant of Oman]
Al-Khasib, Wazir of Egypt, had a son named Ibrahim, than whom there was none goodlier, and of his fear for him, he suffered him not to go forth, save to the Friday prayers. One day, as the youth was returning from the mosque, he came upon an old man, with whom were many books; so he lighted down from his horse and seating himself beside him, began to turn over the tomes and examine them. In one of them he espied the semblance of a woman which all but spoke, never was seen on the earth's face one more beautiful; and as this captivated his reason and confounded his wit, he said to the old man, "O Shaykh, sell me this picture." The bookseller kissed ground between his hands and said, "O my lord, 'tis thine without price." Ibrahim gave him an hundred dinars and taking the book in which was the picture, fell to gazing upon it and weeping night and day, abstaining from meat and drink and sleep. Then said he in his mind, "An I ask the book seller of the painter of this picture, haply he will tell me; and if the original be living, I will seek access to her; but, if it be only a picture, I will leave doting upon it and plague myself no more for a thing which hath no real existence."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Fifty-third Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the youth Ibrahim said in his mind, "An I ask the bookseller of the painter of this picture, haply he will tell me; and, if it be only a picture, I will leave doting upon it and plague myself no more for a thing which hath no real existence." So on the next Friday he betook himself to the bookseller, who sprang up to receive him, and said to him, "Oh uncle, tell me who painted this picture." He replied, "O my lord, a man of the people of Baghdad painted it, by name Abu al-Kasim al-Sandalani who dwelleth in a quarter called Al-Karkh; but I know not of whom it is the portraiture." So Ibrahim left him without acquainting any of his household with his case, and returned to the palace, after praying the Friday prayers. Then he took a bag and filling it with gold and gems to the value of thirty thousand dinars, waited till the morning, when he went out, without telling any, and presently overtook a caravan. Here he saw a Badawi and asked him, "O uncle, what distance is between me and Baghdad?"; and the other answered, O my son, where art thou, and where is Baghdad? Verily, between thee and it is two months' journey." Quoth Ibrahim, O nuncle, an thou wilt guide me to Baghdad, I will give thee an hundred dinars and this mare under me that is worth other thousand gold pieces;" and quoth the Badawi, "Allah be witness of what we say! Thou shalt not lodge this night but with me." So Ibrahim agreed to this and passed the night with him. At break of dawn, the Badawi took him and fared on with him in haste by a near road, in his greed for the mare and the promised good; nor did they leave wayfaring till they came to the walls of Baghdad, when said the wildling, "Praised be Allah for Safety! O my lord, this is Baghdad." Whereat Ibrahim rejoiced with exceeding joy and alighting from the mare, gave her to the Desert man, together with the hundred dinars. Then he took the bag and entering the city walked on, enquiring for the quarter al-Karkh and the station of the merchants, till Destiny drave him to a by-way, wherein were ten houses, five fronting five, and at the farther end was a two-leaved door with a silver ring. By the gate stood two benches of marble, spread with the finest carpets, and on one of them sat a man of handsome aspect and reverend, clad in sumptuous clothing and attended by five Mamelukes like moons. When the youth Ibrahim saw the street, he knew it by the description the bookseller had given him; so he salaamed to the man, who returned his salutation and bidding him welcome, made him sit down and asked him of his case. Quoth Ibrahim, "I am a stranger man and desire of thy favour that thou look me out a house in this street where I may take up my abode." With this the other cried out, saying, "Ho, Ghazalah!"; and there came forth to him a slave-girl, who said, "At thy service, O my lord!" Said her master, "Take some servants and fare ye all and every to such a house and clean it and furnish it with whatso is needful for this handsome youth." So she went forth and did his bidding; whilst the old man took the youth and showed him the house; and he said, "O my lord, how much may be the rent of this house?" The other answered, "O bright of face, I will take no rent of thee whilst thou abidest therein." Ibrahim thanked him for this and the old man called another slave-girl, whereupon there came forth to him a damsel like the sun, to whom said he, "Bring chess." So she brought it and one of the servants set the cloth; where upon said the Shaykh to Ibrahim, "Wilt thou play with me?"; and he answered, "Yes." So they played several games and Ibrahim beat him, when his adversary exclaimed, "Well done, O youth! Thou art indeed perfect in qualities. By Allah, there is not one in Baghdad can beat me, and yet thou hast beaten me!" Now when they had made ready the house and furnished it with all that was needful, the old man delivered the keys to Ibrahim and said to him, "O my lord, wilt thou not enter my place and eat of my bread?" He assented and walking in with him, found it a handsome house and a goodly, decorated with gold and full of all manner pictures and furniture galore and other things, such as tongue faileth to set out. The old man welcomed him and called for food, whereupon they brought a table of the make of Sana'a of al-Yaman and spread it with all manner rare viands, than which there was naught costlier nor more delicious. So Ibrahim ate his sufficiency, after which he washed his hands and proceeded to inspect the house and furniture. Presently, he turned to look for the leather bag, but found it not and said in himself, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! I have eaten a morsel worth a dirham or two and have lost a bag wherein is thirty thousand dinars' worth: but I seek aid of Allah!" And he was silent and could not speak,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Fifty-fourth Night,
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the youth Ibrahim saw that his bag was lost, he was silent and could not speak for the greatness of his trouble. Presently his host brought the chess and said to him, "Wilt thou play with me?"; and he said, "Yes." So they played and the old man beat him. Ibrahim cried, "Well done!" and left playing and rose: upon which his host asked him, "What aileth thee, O youth?" whereto he answered, "I want the bag." Thereupon the Shaykh rose and brought it out to him, saying, "Here it is, O my lord. Wilt thou now return to playing with me?" "Yes," replied Ibrahim. Accordingly they played and the young man beat him. Quoth the Shaykh, "When thy thought was occupied with the bag, I beat thee: but, now I have brought it back to thee, thou beatest me. But, tell me, O my son, what countryman art thou." Quoth Ibrahim, "I am from Egypt," and quoth the oldster, "And what is the cause of thy coming to Baghdad?"; whereupon Ibrahim brought out the portrait and said to him, "Know, O uncle, that I am the son of Al-Kasib, Wazir of Egypt, and I saw with a bookseller this picture, which bewildered my wit. I asked him who painted it and he said, 'He who wrought it is a man, Abu al-Kasim al-Sandalani hight, who dwelleth in a street called the Street of Saffron in the Karkh quarter of Baghdad.' So I took with me somewhat of money and came hither alone, none knowing of my case; and I desire of the fullness of thy favour that thou direct me to Abu al-Kasim, so I may ask him of the cause of his painting this picture and whose portrait it is. And whatso ever he desireth of me, I will give him that same." Said his host, "By Allah, O my son, I am Abu al-Kasim al Sandalani, and this is a prodigious thing how Fate hath thus driven thee to me!" Now when Ibrahim heard these words, he rose to him and embraced him and kissed his head and hands, saying, "Allah upon thee, tell me whose portrait it is!" The other replied, "I hear and I obey," and rising, opened a closet and brought out a number of books, wherein he had painted the same picture. Then said he, "Know, O my son, that the original of this portrait is my cousin, the daughter of my father's brother, whose name is Abu al-Lays. She dwelleth in Bassorah of which city her father is governor, and her name is Jamilah--the beautiful. There is not on the face of the earth a fairer than she; but she is averse from men and cannot hear the word 'man' pronounced in her presence. Now I once repaired to my uncle, to the intent that he should marry me to her, and was lavish of wealth to him; but he would not consent thereto: and when his daughter knew of this she was indignant and sent to me to say, amongst other things, 'An thou have wit, tarry not in this town; else wilt thou perish and thy sin shall be on shine own neck.' For she is a virago of viragoes. Accordingly I left Bassorah, brokenhearted, and limned this likeness of her in books and scattered them abroad in various lands, so haply they might fall into the hands of a comely youth like thyself and he contrive access to her and peradventure she might fall in love with him, purposing to take a promise of him that, when he should have possession of her, he would show her to me, though I look but for a moment from afar off." When Ibrahim son of al-Kasib heard these words, he bowed his head awhile in thought and al-Sandalani said to him, "O my son, I have notseen in Baghdad a fairer than thou, and meseems that, when she seeth thee, she will love thee. Art thou willing, therefore, in case thou be united with her and get possession of her, to show her to me, if I look but for a moment from afar?" Ibrahim replied, Yes; and the painter rejoined, "This being so, tarry with me till thou set out." But the youth retorted, "I cannot tarry longer; for my heart with love of her is all afire." "Have patience three days," said the Shaykh, "till I fit thee out a ship, wherein thou mayst fare to Bassorah." Accordingly he waited whilst the old man equipped him a craft and stored therein all that he needed of meat and drink and so forth. When the three days were past, he said to Ibrahim, "Make thee ready for the voyage; for I have prepared thee a packet-boat furnished with all thou requirest. The craft is my property and the seamen are of my servants. In the vessel is what will suffice thee till thy return, and I have charged the crew to serve thee till thou come back in safety." Thereupon Ibrahim farewelled his host and embarking sailed down the river till he came to Bassorah, where he pulled out an hundred dinars for the sailors, but they said, "We have gotten our hire of our lord." However he replied, "Take this by way of largesse; and I will not acquaint him therewith." So they took it and blessed him. Then the youth landed and entering the town asked, "Where do the merchants lodge?" and was answered, "In a Khan called the Khan of Hamadan." So he walked to the market wherein stood the Khan, and all eyes were fixed upon him and men's sight was attracted to him by reason of his exceeding beauty and loveliness. He entered the caravanserai, with one of the sailors in his company; and, asking for the porter, was directed to an aged man of reverend aspect. He saluted him and the doorkeeper returned his greeting; after which Ibrahim said to him, ' O uncle, hast thou a nice chamber?" He replied, 'Yes," and taking him and the sailor, opened to them a handsome room decorated with gold, and said, "O youth, this chamber befitteth thee." Ibrahim pulled out two dinars and gave them to him, saying, "Take these to key-money." And the porter took them and blessed him. Then the youth Ibrahim sent the sailor back to the ship and entered the room, where the doorkeeper abode with him and served him, saying, "O my lord, thy coming hath brought us joy!" Ibrahim gave him a dinar, and said, "Buy us herewith bread and meat and sweetmeats and wine." Accordingly the doorkeeper went to the market; and, buying ten dirhams' worth of victual, brought it back to Ibrahim and gave him the other ten dirhams. But he cried to him, "Spend them on thyself;" whereat the porter rejoiced with passing joy. Then he ate a scone with a little kitchen and gave the rest to the concierge, adding, "Carry this to the people of thy household." The porter carried it to his family and said to them, "Methinketh there is not on the face of the earth a more generous than the young man who has come to lodge with us this day, nor yet a pleasanter than he. An he abide with us, we shall grow rich." Then he returned to Ibrahim and found him weeping; so he sat down and began to rub his feet and kiss them, saying, "O my lord, wherefore weepest thou? May Allah not make thee weep!" Said Ibrahim, "O uncle, I have a mind to drink with thee this night;" and the porter replied, "Hearing and obeying!" So he gave him five dinars and said, "Buy us fresh fruit and wine;" and presently added other five, saying, "With these buy also for us dessert and flowers and five fat fowls and bring me a lute." The doorkeeper went out and, buying what he had ordered, said to his wife, "Strain this wine and cook us this food and look thou dress it daintily, for this young man overwhelmeth us with his bounties." She did as he bade her, to the utmost of desire; and he took the victuals and carried them to Ibrahim son of the Sultan.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Fifty-fifth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that then they ate and drank and made merry, and Ibrahim wept and repeated the following verses,
"O my friend! an I rendered my life, my sprite, * My wealth and whatever the world can unite;
Nay, th' Eternal Garden and Paradise * For an hour of Union my heart would buy't!"
Then he sobbed a great sob and fell down a-swoon. The porter sighed, and when he came to himself, he said to him, "O my lord, what is it gars thee weep and who is she to whom thou alludest in these verses? Indeed, she cannot be but as dust to thy feet." But Ibrahim arose and for all reply brought out a parcel of the richest raiment that women wear and said to him, "Take this to thy Harim." So he carried it to his wife and she returned with him to the young man's lodging and behold, she found him weeping, quoth the doorkeeper to him, "Verily, thou breakest our hearts! Tell us what fair one thou desirest, and she shall be naught save thy handmaid." Quoth he, "O uncle, know that I am the son of al-Kasib, Wazir of Egypt, and I am enamoured of Jamilah, daughter of Abu al-Lays the Governor." Exclaimed the porter's wife, "Allah! Allah! O my brother, leave this talk, lest any hear of us and we perish. Verily there is not on earth's face a more masterful than she, nor may any name to her the word man, for she is averse from men. Wherefore, O my son, turn from her to other than her." Now when Ibrahim heard this, he wept with sore weeping and the doorkeeper said to him, "I have nothing save my life; but that I will risk for thy love and find thee a means of winning thy will." Then the twain went out from him, and on the morrow he betook himself to the Hammam and donned a suit of royal raiment, after which he returned to his lodging, when behold, the porter and his wife came in to him and said, "Know, O my lord, that there is a humpbacked tailor here who seweth for the lady Jamilah. Go thou to him and acquaint him with thy case; haply he will show thee the way of attaining shine aim." So the youth Ibrahim arose and betaking himself to the shop of the humpbacked tailor, went in to him and found with him ten Mamelukes as they were moons. He saluted them with the Salam, and they returned his greeting and bade him welcome and made him sit down; and indeed they rejoiced in him and were amazed at his charms and loveliness, especially the hunchback who was confounded at his beauty of form and favour. Presently he said to the Gobbo, "I desire that thou sew me up my pocket;" and the tailor took a needleful of silk and sewed up his pocket which he. had torn purposely; whereupon Ibrahim gave him five dinars and returned to his lodging. Quoth the tailor, "What thing have I done for this youth, that he should give me five gold pieces?" And he passed the night, pondering his beauty and generosity. And when morning morrowed Ibrahim repaired to the shop and saluted the tailor, who returned his Salam and welcomed him and made much of him. Then he sat down and said to the hunchback, "O uncle, sew up my pocket, for I have rent it again." Replied the tailor, "On my head and eyes, O my son," and sewed it up; whereupon Ibrahim gave him ten ducats and he took them, amazed at his beauty and generosity. Then said he, "By Allah, O youth, for this conduct of thine needs must be a cause, this is no matter of sewing up a pocket. But tell me the truth of thy case. An thou be in love with one of these boys, by Allah, there is not among them a comelier than thou, for they are each and every as the dust at thy feet; and behold, they are all thy slaves and at thy command. Or if it be other than this, tell me." Replied Ibrahim, "O uncle, this is no place for talk, for my case is wondrous and my affair marvellous." Rejoined the tailor, "An it be so, come with me to a place apart." So saying, he rose up in haste and took the youth by the hand and carrying him into a chamber behind the shop, said, "Now tell me thy tale, O youth!" Accordingly Ibrahim related his story first and last to the tailor, who was amazed at his speech and cried, "O youth, fear Allah for thyself : indeed she of whom thou speakest is a virago and averse from men. Wherefore, O my brother, do thou guard thy tongue, else thou wilt destroy thyself." When Ibrahim heard the hunchback's words, he wept with sore weeping and clinging to the tailor's skirts said, "Help me, O my uncle, or I am a dead man; for I have left my kingdom and the kingdom of my father and grandfather and am become a stranger in the lands and lonely; nor can I endure without her." When the tailor saw how it was with him, he pitied him and said, "O my son, I have but my life and that I will venture for thy love, for thou makest my heart ache. But by to- morrow I will contrive thee somewhat whereby thy heart shall be solaced. Ibrahim blessed him and returning to the khan, told the doorkeeper what The hunchback had said, and he answered, "Indeed, he hath dealt kindly with thee." Next morning, the youth donned his richest dress and taking a purse of gold, repaired to the Gobbo and saluted him. Then he sat down and said, "O uncle, keep thy word with me." Quoth the hunchback, "Arise forthright and take thee three fat fowls and three ounces of sugar- candy and two small jugs which do thou fill with wine; also a cup. Lay all these in a budget and to-morrow, after the morning-prayers, take boat with them, saying to the boatman, 'I would have thee row me down the river below Bassorah.' An he say to thee, 'I cannot go farther than a parasang' do thou answer, 'As thou wilt;' but, when he shall have come so far, lure him on with money to carry thee farther; and the first flower-garden thou wilt descry after this will be that of the lady Jamilah. Go up to the gate as soon as thou espiest it and there thou wilt see two high steps, carpeted with brocade, and seated thereon a Quasimodo like me. Do thou complain to him of thy case and crave his favour: belike he will have compassion on thy condition and bring thee to the sight of her, though but for a moment from afar. This is all I can do for thee; and unless he be moved to pity for thee, we be dead men, I and thou. This then is my rede and the matter rests with the Almighty." Quoth Ibrahim, "I seek aid of Allah; whatso He willeth becometh; and there is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah!" Then he left the hunchback tailor and returned to his lodging where, taking the things his adviser had named, he laid them in a bag. On the morrow, as soon as it was day, he went down to Tigris bank, where he found a boatman asleep; so he awoke him and giving him ten sequins, bade him row him down the river below Bassorah. Quoth the man, "O my lord, it must be on condition that I go no farther than a parasang; for if I pass that distance by a span, I am a lost man, and thou too." And quoth Ibrahim, "Be it as thou wilt." Thereupon he took him and dropped down the river with him till he drew near the flower garden, when he said to him, "O my son, I can go no farther; for, if I pass this limit, we are both dead men." Hereat Ibrahim pulled out other ten dinars and gave them to him, saying, "Take this spending-money and better thy case therewithal." The boatman was ashamed to refuse him and fared on with him crying "I commit the affair to Allah the Almighty!"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Fifty-sixth Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the youth Ibrahim gave the boatman other ten dinars, the man took them, saying, "I commit the affair to Allah the Almighty!" and fared on with him down stream. When they came to the flower garden, the youth sprang out of the boat, in his joy, a spring of a spear's cast from the land, and cast himself down, whilst the boatman turned and fled. Then Ibrahim fared forward and found all as it had been described by the Gobbo: he also saw the garden- gate open, and in the porch a couch of ivory, whereon sat a hump backed man of pleasant presence, clad in gold-laced clothes and hending in hand a silvern mace plated with gold. So he hastened up to him and seizing his hand kissed it; whereupon asked the hunchback, "Who art thou and whence comest thou and who brought thee hither, O my son?" And indeed, when the man saw Ibrahim Khasib-son, he was amazed at his beauty. He answered, "O uncle, I am an ignorant lad and a stranger," and he wept. The hunchback had pity on him and taking him up on the couch, wiped away his tears and said to him, "No harm shall come to thee. An thou be in debt, may Allah settle thy debt: and if thou be in fear, may Allah appease thy fear!" Replied Ibrahim, "O uncle, I am neither in fear nor am I in debt, but have money in plenty, thanks to Allah." Rejoined the other, "Then, O my son, what is thy need that thou venturest thyself and thy loveliness to a place wherein is destruction?" So he told him his story and disclosed to him his case, whereupon the man bowed his head earthwards awhile, then said to him, "Was he who directed thee to me the humpbacked tailor?" "Yes," answered Ibrahim, and the keeper said, "This is my brother, and he is a blessed man!" presently adding, "But, O my son, had not affection for thee sunkinto my heart, and had I not taken compassion on thee, verily thou wert lost, thou and my brother and the doorkeeper of the Khan and his wife. For know that this flower-garden hath not its like on the face of the earth and that it is called the Garden of the Wild Heifer, nor hath any entered it in all my life long, save the Sultan and myself and its mistress Jamilah; and I have dwelt here twenty years and never yet saw any else attain to this stead. Every forty days the Lady Jamilah cometh hither in a bark and landeth in the midst of her women, under a canopy of satin, whose skirts ten damsels hold up with hooks of gold, whilst she entereth, and I see nothing of her. Natheless, I have but my life and I will risk it for the sake of thee." Herewith Ibrahim kissed his hand and the keeper said to him, "Sit by me, till I devise somewhat for thee." Then he took him by the hand and carried him into the flower-garden which, when he saw, he deemed it Eden, for therein were trees intertwining and palms high towering and waters welling and birds with various voices carolling. Presently, the keeper brought him to a domed pavilion and said to him, "This is where the Lady Jamilah sitteth." So he examined it and found it of the rarest of pleasances, full of all manner paintings in gold and lapis lazuli. It had four doors, whereto man mounted by five steps, and in its centre was a cistern of water, to which led down steps of gold all set with precious stones. Amiddlewards the basin was a fountain of gold, with figures, large and small, and water jetting in gerbes from their mouths; and when, by reason of the issuing forth of the water, they attuned themselves to various tones, it seemed to the hearer as though he were in Eden. Round the pavilion ran a channel of water, turning a Persian wheel whose buckets were silvern covered with brocade. To the left of the pavilion was a lattice of silver, giving upon a green park, wherein were all manner wild cattle and gazelles and hares, and on the right hand was another lattice, overlooking a meadow full of birds of all sorts, warbling in various voices and bewildering the hearers' wits. Seeing all this the youth was delighted and sat down in the doorway by the gardener, who said to him, "How seemeth to thee my garden?" Quoth Ibrahim "'Tis the Paradise of the world!" Whereat the gardener laughed. Then he rose and was absent awhile and presently returned with a tray, full of fowls and quails and other dainties including sweet-meats of sugar, which he set before Ibrahim, saying, "Eat thy sufficiency" So he ate his fill, whereat the keeper rejoiced and cried, "By Allah, this is the fashion of Kings and sons of Kings!" Then said he, "O Ibrahim, what hast thou in yonder bag?" Accordingly he opened it before him and the keeper said, "Carry it with thee; 'twill serve thee when the Lady Jamilah cometh; for when once she is come, I shall not be able to bring thee food." Then he rose and taking the youth by the hand, brought him to a place fronting the pavilion, where he made him an arbour among the trees and said to him, "Get thee up here, and when she cometh thou wilt see her and she will not see thee. This is the best I can do for thee and on Allah be our dependence! Whenas she singeth, drink thou to her singing, and whenas she departeth thou shalt return in safety whence thou camest, Inshallah!" Ibrahim thanked him and would have kissed his hand, but he forbade him. Then the youth laid the bag in the arbour and the keeper said to him, "O Ibrahim, walk about and take thy pleasure in the garth and eat of its fruits, for thy mistress's coming is appointed to be to- morrow." So he solaced himself in the garden and ate of its fruits; after which he righted with the keeper. And when morning morrowed and showed its sheen and shone, he prayed the dawn- prayer and presently the keeper came to him with a pale face, and said to him, "Rise, O my son, and go up into the arbour: for the slave-girls are come to order the place, and she cometh after them;"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Fifty-seventh Night,
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the keeper came to Ibrahim Khasib-son in the Garden he said to him, "Rise, O my son, and go up into the arbour; for the slave-girls are come to order the place and she cometh after them. So beware lest thou spit or sneeze or blow thy nose; else we are dead men, I and thou." Hereupon Ibrahim rose and went up into his nest, whilst the keeper fared forth, saying, "Allah grant thee safety, O my son!" Presently behold, up came four slave-girls, whose like none ever saw, and entering the pavilion, doffed their outer dresses and washed it. Then they sprinkled it with rose- water and incensed it with ambergris and aloes-wood and spread it with brocade. After these came fifty other damsels, with instruments of music, and amongst them Jamilah, within a canopy of red brocade, whose skirts the handmaidens bore up with hooks of gold, till she had entered the pavilion, so that Ibrahim saw naught of her nor of her raiment. So he said to himself, "By Allah, all my travail is lost! But needs must I wait to see how the case will be." Then the damsels brought meat and drink and they ate and drank and washed their hands, after which they set her a royal chair and she sat down; and all played on instruments of music and with ravishing voices incomparably sang. Presently, out ran an old woman, a duenna, and clapped hands and danced, whilst the girls pulled her about, till the curtain was lifted and forth came Jamilah laughing. Ibrahim gazed at her and saw that she was clad in costly robes and ornaments, and on her head was a crown set with pearls and gems. About her long fair neck she wore a necklace of unions and her waist was clasped with a girdle of chrysolite bugles, with tassels of rubies and pearls. The damsels kissed ground before her, and, 'When I considered her" (quoth Ibrahim), "I took leave of my senses and wit and I was dazed and my thought was confounded for amazement at the sight of loveliness whose like is not on the face of the earth. So I fell into a swoon and coming to myself, weeping eyed, recited these two couplets,
'I see thee and close not mine eyes for fear * Lest their lids prevent me beholding thee:
An I gazed with mine every glance these eyne * Ne'er could sight all the loveliness moulding thee.'"
Then said the old Kahramanah to the girls, "Let ten of you arise and dance and sing." And Ibrahim when looking at them said in himself, "I wish the lady Jamilah would dance." When the handmaidens had made an end of their pavane, they gathered round the Princess and said to her, "O my lady, we long for thee to dance amongst us, so the measure of our joy may be fulfilled, for never saw we a more delicious day than this." Quoth Ibrahim to himself, "Doubtless the gates of Heaven are open and Allah hath granted my prayer." Then the damsels bussed her feet and said to her, "By Allah, we never saw thee broadened of breast as to day!" Nor did they cease exciting her, till she doffed her outer dress and stood in a shift of cloth of gold, broidered with various jewels, showing breasts which stood out like pomegranates and unveiling a face as it were the moon on the night of fullness. Then she began to dance, and Ibrahim beheld motions he had never in his life seen their like, for she showed such wondrous skill and marvellous invention, that she made men forget the dancing of bubbles in wine-cups and called to mind the inclining of the turbands from head-tops: even as saith of her the poet,
"A dancer whose form is like branch of Ban! * Flies my soul well nigh as his steps I greet:
While he dances no foot stands still and meseems * That the fire of my heart is beneath his feet."
And as quoth another,
"A dancer whose figure is like a willow-branch: my soul almost quitteth me at the sight of her movements. No foot can remain stationary at her dancing, she is as though the fire of my heart were beneath her feet."
Quoth Ibrahim, "As I gazed upon her, she chanced to look up and caught sight of me whereupon her face changed and she said to her women, 'Sing ye till I come back to you.' Then, taking up a knife half a cubit long, she made towards me, crying, 'There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious the Great!' Now when I saw this, I well-nigh lost my wits but, whenas she drew near me and face met face, the knife dropped from her hand, and she exclaimed, 'Glory to Him who changeth men's hearts!' Then said she to me, 'O youth, be of good cheer, for thou art safe from what thou dost fear!' Whereupon I fell to weeping, and she to wiping away my tears with her hand and saying, 'O youth, tell me who thou art, and what brought thee hither' I kissed the ground before her and seized her skirt; and she said, No harm shall come to thee; for, by Allah, no male hath ever filled mine eyes but thyself! Tell me, then, who thou art.' So I recited to her my story from first to last, whereat she marvelled and said to me, 'O my lord, I conjure thee by Allah, tell me if thou be Ibrahim bin al-Khasib?' I replied, 'Yes!' and she threw herself upon me, saying, 'O my lord, 'twas thou madest me averse from men; for, when I heard that there was in the land of Egypt a youth than whom there was none more beautiful on earth's face, I fell in love with thee by report, and my heart became enamoured of thee, for that which reached me of thy passing comeliness, so that I was, in respect of thee, even as saith the poet,
'Mine ear forewent mine eye in loving him; * For ear shall love before the eye at times.'
'So praised be Allah who hath shown thy face! But, by the almighty, had it been other than thou, I had crucified the keeper of the garden and the porter of the Khan and the tailor and him who had recourse to them!' And presently she added, 'But how shall I contrive for somewhat thou mayst eat, without the knowledge of my women?' Quoth I, 'With me is somewhat we may eat and drink;' and I opened the bag before her. She took a fowl and began to morsel me and I to morsel her; which when I saw, it seemed to me that this was a dream. Then I brought out wine and we drank, what while the damsels sang on; nor did they leave to do thus from morn to noon, when she rose and said, 'Go now and get thee a boat and await me in such a place, till I come to thee: for I have no patience left to brook severance.' I replied, 'O my lady, I have with me a ship of my own, whose crew are in my hire, and they await me.' Rejoined she, 'This is as we would have it,' and returning to her women,"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Fifty-eighth Night,
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Lady Jamilah returned to her women, she said to them, "Come, let us go back to our palace." They replied, "Why should we return now, seeing that we use to abide here three days?" Quoth she, "I feel an exceeding oppression in myself, as though I were sick, and I fear lest this increase upon me." So they answered, "We hear and obey," and donning their walking dresses went down to the river-bank and embarked in a boat; whereupon behold, the keeper of the garden came up to Ibrahim and said to him, knowing not what had happened, "O Ibrahim, thou hast not had the luck to enjoy the sight of her, and I fear lest she have seen thee, for 'tis her wont to tarry here three days." Replied Ibrahim, "She saw me not nor I her; for she came not forth of the pavilion." Rejoined the keeper, "True, O my son, for, had she seen thee, we were both dead men: but abide with me till she come again next week, and thou shalt see her and take thy fill of looking at her." Replied the Prince, "O my lord, I have with me money and fear for it: I also left men behind me and I dread lest they take advantage of my absence." He retorted, "O my son 'tis grievous to me to part with thee;" and he embraced and farewelled him. Then Ibrahim returned to the Khan where he lodged, and foregathering with the doorkeeper, took of him all his property and the porter said, "Good news, Inshallah!" But Ibrahim said, "I have found no way to my want, and now I am minded to return to my people." Whereupon the porter wept; then taking up his baggage, he carried them to the ship and abade him adieu. Ibrahim repaired to the place which Jamilah had appointed him and awaited her there till it grew dark, when, behold, she came up, disguised as a bully-boy with rounded beard and waist bound with a girdle. In one hand she held a bow and arrows and in the other a bared blade, and she asked him, "Art thou Ibrahim, son of al-Khasib, lord of Egypt?" "He I am," answered the Prince; and she said, "What ne'er-do-well art thou, who comes to debauch the daughters of Kings? Come: speak with the Sultan." "Therewith" (quoth Ibrahim) "I fell down in a swoon and the sailors died in their skins for fear; but, when she saw what had betided me, she pulled off her beard and throwing down her sword, ungirdled her waist whereupon I knew her for the Lady Jamilah and said to her, 'By Allah, thou hast rent my heart in sunder!' adding to the boatmen, 'Hasten the vessel's speed.' So they shook out the sail and putting off, fared on with all diligence; nor was it many days ere we made Baghdad, where suddenly we saw a ship lying by the river-bank. When her sailors saw us, they cried out to our crew, saying, 'Ho, such an one and such an one, we give you joy of your safety!' Then they drave their ship against our craft and I looked and in the other boat beheld Abu al-Kasim al-Sandalani who when he saw us exclaimed 'This is what I sought: go ye in God's keeping; as for me, I have a need to be satisfied!' Then he turned to me and said, 'Praised be Allah for safety! Hast thou accomplished shine errand? I replied, 'Yes!' Now Abu al-Kasim had a flambeau before him; so he brought it near our boat, and when Jamilah saw him, she was troubled and her colour changed: but, when he saw her, he said, 'Fare ye in Allah's safety. I am bound to Bassorah on business for the Sultan; but the gift is for him who is present.' Then he brought out a box of sweetmeats, wherein was Bhang and threw it into our boat: whereupon quoth I to Jamilah, 'O coolth of mine eyes, eat of this.' But she wept and said, 'O Ibrahim, wottest thou who that is?' and said I, 'Yes, 'tis such an one.' Replied she, 'He is my first cousin, son of my father's brother who sought me aforetime in marriage of my sire; but I would not accept of him. And now he is gone to Bassorah and most like he will tell my father of us.' I rejoined, 'O my lady he will not reach Bassorah, till we are at Mosul.' But we knew not what lurked for us in the Secret Purpose. "Then" (continued Ibrahim) "I ate of the sweetmeat, but hardly had it reached my stomach when I smote the ground with my head; and lay there till near dawn, when I sneezed and the Bhang issued from my nostrils. With this, I opened my eyes and found myself naked and cast out among ruins; so I buffeted my face and said in myself, 'Doubtless this is a trick al-Sandalani hath played me.' But I knew not whither I should wend, for I had upon me naught save my bag-trousers. However, I rose and walked on a little, till I suddenly espied the Chief of Police coming towards me, with a posse of men with swords and targes; whereat I took fright and seeing a ruined Hammam hid myself there. Presently, my foot stumbled upon something; so I put my hand to it, and it became befouled with blood. I wiped my hand upon my bag-trousers, unknowing what had befouled it, and put it out a second time, when it fell upon a corpse whose head came up in my hand. I threw it down, saying, 'There is no Majesty and there is no Might in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!'; and I took refuge in one of the corner-cabinets of the Hammam. Presently the Wali stopped at the bath-door and said, 'Enter this place and search.' So ten of them entered with cressets, and I of my fear retired behind a wall and looking upon the corpse, saw it to be that of a young lady with a face like the full moon; and her head lay on one side and her body clad in costly raiment on the other. When I saw this, my heart fluttered with affright. Then the Chief of Police entered and said, 'Search the corners of the bath.' So they entered the place wherein I was, and one of them seeing me came up hending in hand a knife half a cubit long. When he drew near me, he cried, 'Glory be to God, the Creator of this fair face! O youth, whence art thou?' Then he took me by the hand and said, 'O youth, why slewest thou this woman?' Said I, 'By Allah, I slew her not, nor wot I who slew her, and I entered not this place but in fear of you!' And I told him my case, adding, 'Allah upon thee, do me no wrong, for I am in concern for myself!' Then he took me and carried me to the Wali who, seeing the marks of blood on my hand said, 'This needeth no proof: strike off his head!'--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Nine Hundred and Fifty-ninth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ibrahim continued, 'Then they carried me before the Wali and he, seeing the bloodstains on my hand, cried, 'This needeth no proof: strike off his head!' Now hearing these words, I wept with sore weeping the tears streaming from my eyes and recited these two couplets,
'We trod the steps that for us were writ, * And whose steps are written he needs must tread
And whose death is decreed in one land to be * He ne'er shall perish in other stead.'
Then I sobbed a single sob and fell a-swoon; and the headsman's heart was moved to ruth for me and he exclaimed, 'By Allah, this is no murtherer's face!' But the Chief said, 'Smite his neck.' So they seated me on the rug of blood and bound my eyes; after which the sworder drew his sword and asking leave of the Wali, was about to strike off my head, whilst I cried out, 'Alas, my strangerhood!' when lo and behold! I heard a noise of horse coming up and a voice calling aloud, 'Leave him! Stay thy hand, O Sworder!'"--Now there was for this a wondrous reason and a marvellous cause; and 'twas thus. al-Khasib, Wazir of Egypt, had sent his Head Chamberlain to the Caliph Harun al, Rashid with presents and a letter, saying, "My son hath been missing this year past, and I hear that he is in Baghdad; where fore I crave of the bounty of the Vicegerent of Allah that he make search for tidings of him and do his endeavour to find him and send him back to me with the Chamberlain." When the Caliph read the missive, he commanded the Chief of Police to search out the truth of the matter, and he ceased not to enquire after Ibrahim, till it was told him that he was at Bassorah, where upon he informed the Caliph, who wrote a letter to the viceroy and giving it to the Chamberlain of Egypt, bade him repair to Bassorah and take with him a company of the Wazir's followers. So, of his eagerness to find the son of his lord, the Chamberlain set out forthright and happened by the way upon Ibrahim, as he stood on the rug of blood. When the Wali saw the Chamberlain, he recognised him and alighted to him and as he asked, "What young man is that and what is his case?" The Chief told him how the matter was and the Chamberlain said (and indeed he knew him not for the son of the Sultan) "Verily this young man hath not the face of one who murthereth." And he bade loose his bonds; so they loosed him and the Chamberlain said, "Bring him to me!" and they brought him, but the officer knew him not his beauty being all gone for the horrors he had endured. Then the Chamberlain said to him, "O youth, tell me thy case and how cometh this slain woman with thee." Ibrahim looked at him and knowing him, said to him, "Woe to thee! Dost thou not know me? Am I not Ibrahim, son of thy lord? Haply thou art come in quest of me." With this the Chamberlain considered him straitly and knowing him right well, threw himself at his feet; which when the Wali saw, his colour changed, and the Chamber lain cried to him, "Fie upon thee, O tyrant! Was it shine intent to slay the son of my master al-Khasib, Wazir of Egypt?" The Chief of Police kissed his skirt, saying "O my lord, how should I know him? We found him in this plight and saw the girl lying slain by his side." Rejoined the Chamberlain, "Out on thee! Thou art not fit for the office. This is a lad of fifteen and he hath not slain a sparrow; so how should he be a murtherer? Why didst thou not have patience with him and question him of his case?" Then the Chamberlain and the Wali cried to the men, "Make search for the young lady's murtherer." So they re-entered the bath and finding him, brought him to the Chief of Police, who carried him to the Caliph and acquainted him with that which had occurred. al-Rashid bade slay the slayer and sending for Ibrahim, smiled in his face and said to him, "Tell me thy tale and that which hath betided thee." So he recounted to him his story from first to last, and it was grievous to the Caliph, who called Masrur his Sworder, and said to him, "Go straightway and fall upon the house of Abu al-Kasim al-Sandalani and bring me him and the young lady." The eunuch went forth at once and breaking into the house, found Jamilah bound with her own hair and nigh upon death; so he loosed her and taking the painter, carried them both to the Caliph, who marvelled at Jamilah's beauty. Then he turned to Al- Sandalani and said, "Take him and cut off his hands, wherewith he beat this young lady; then crucify him and deliver his monies and possessions to Ibrahim." They did his bidding, and as they were thus, behold, in came Abu al-Lays governor of Bassorah, the Lady Jamilah's father, seeking aid of the Caliph against Ibrahim bin al- Khasib Wazir of Egypt and complaining to him that the youth had taken his daughter. Quoth al-Rashid, "He hath been the means of delivering her from torture and slaughter." Then he sent for Ibrahim, and when he came, he said to Abu al-Lays, "Wilt thou not accept of this young man, son of the Soldan of Egypt, as husband to thy daughter? ' Replied Abu al-Lays, "I hear and I obey Allah and thee, O Commander of the Faithful;" whereupon the Caliph summoned the Kazi and the witnesses and married the young lady to Ibrahim. Furthermore, he gave him all Al Sandalani's wealth and equipped him for his return to his own country, where he abode with Jamilah in the utmost of bliss and the most perfect of happiness, till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and the Sunderer of societies; and glory be to the Living who dieth not! They also relate, O auspicious King, a tale anent...
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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