[Go back to Tale of Kamar Al-Zaman]
There lived once in the city of Cufa a man called Al-Rabí'a bin Hátim, who was one of the chief men of the town, a wealthy and a healthy, and Heaven had vouchsafed him a son, whom he named Ni'amah Allah. One day, being in the slave-brokers' mart, he saw a woman exposed for sale with a little maid of wonderful beauty and grace on her arm. So he beckoned to the broker and asked him, "How much for this woman and her daughter?" He answered "Fifty dinars." Quoth Al-Rabi'a "Write the contract of sale and take the money and give it to her owner." Then he gave the broker the price and his brokerage and taking the woman and her child, carried them to his house. Now when the daughter of his uncle who was his wife saw the slave, she said to her husband, "O my cousin, what is this damsel?" He replied, "Of a truth, I bought her for the sake of the little one on her arm; for know that, when she groweth up, there will not be her like for beauty, either in the land of the Arabs or the Ajams." His wife remarked, "Right was thy rede", and said to the woman "What is thy name?" She replied, "O my lady, my name is Tauflík." "And what is thy daughter's name?" asked she? Answered the slave, "Sa'ad, the happy." Rejoined her mistress; "Thou sayst sooth, thou art indeed happy, and happy is he who hath bought thee." Then quoth she to her husband, "O my cousin, what wilt thou call her?"; and quoth he, "Whatso thou chooses"; so she said, "Then let us call her Naomi," and he rejoined "Good is thy device." The little Naomi was reared with Al-Rabi'a's son Ni'amah in one cradle, so to speak, till the twain reached the age of ten and each grew handsomer than the other; and the boy used to address her, "O my sister!" and she, "O my brother!", till they came to that age when Al-Rabi'a said to Ni'amah, "O my son, Naomi is not thy sister but thy slave. I bought her in thy name whilst thou wast yet in the cradle; so call her no more sister from this day forth." Quoth Ni'amah, "If that be so, I will take her to wife." Then he went to his mother and told her of this, and she said to him, "O my son, she is thy handmaid." So he wedded and went in unto Naomi and loved her; and two years passed over them whilst in this condition, nor was there in all Cufa a fairer girl than Naomi, or a sweeter or a more graceful. As she grew up she learnt the Koran and read works of science and excelled in music and playing upon all kinds of instruments; and in the beauty of her singing she surpassed all the folk of her time. Now one day as she sat with her husband in the wine chamber, she took the lute, tightened the strings, and sang these two couplets,
"While thou'rt my lord whose bounty's my estate, * A sword whereby my woes to annihilate,
Recourse I never need to Amru or Zayd, * Nor aught save thee if way to me grow strait!"
Ni'amah was charmed with these verses and said to her, "By my life, O Naomi, sing to us with the tambourine and other instruments!" So she sang these couplets to a lively measure,
"By His life who holds my guiding rein, I swear * I'll meet on love ground parlous foe nor care:
Good sooth I'll vex revilers, thee obey * And quit my slumbers and all joy forswear:
And for thy love I'll dig in vitals mine * A grave, nor shall my vitals weet 'tis there!"
And Ni'amah exclaimed, "Heaven favoured art thou, O Naomi!" But whilst they led thus the most joyous life, behold! Al-Hajjáj, the Viceroy of Cufa said to himself, "Needs must I contrive to take this girl named Naomi and send her to the Commander of the Faithful, Abd al-Malik bin Marwán, for he hath not in his palace her like for beauty and sweet singing." So he summoned an old woman of the duennas of his wives and said to her, "Go to the house of Al-Rabi'a and foregather with the girl Naomi and combine means to carry her off; for her like is not to be found on the face of the earth." She promised to do his bidding; the next morning she donned the woollen clothes of a devotee and hung around her neck a rosary of beads by the thousand; and, henting in hand a staff and a leather water bottle of Yamani manufacture.-- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Thirty-eighth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the old woman promised to do the bidding of Al-Hajjaj, and whenas it was morning she donned the woollen clothes of a devotee and hung around her neck a rosary of beads by the thousand and hent in hand a staff and a leather water bottle of Yamani manufacture and fared forth crying, "Glory be to Allah! Praised be Allah! There is no god but the God! Allah is Most Great! There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!" Nor did she leave off her lauds and her groaning in prayer whilst her heart was full of guile and wiles, till she came to the house of Ni'amah bin al-Rabi'a at the hour of noon prayer, and knocked at the door. The doorkeeper opened and said to her, "What dost thou want?" Quoth she, "I am a poor pious woman, whom the time of noon prayer hath overtaken, and fief would I pray in this blessed place." Answered the porter, "O old woman, this is no mosque nor oratory, but the house of Ni'amah son of al Rabi'a." She replied, "I know there is neither cathedral-mosque nor oratory like the house of Ni'amah bin al-Rabi'a. I am a chamberwoman of the palace of the Prince of True Believers and am come out for worship and the visitation of Holy Places." But the porter rejoined, "Thou canst not enter;" and many words passed between them, till at last she caught hold and hung to him saying, "Shall the like of me be denied admission to the house of Ni'amah bin al-Rabi'a, I who have free access to the houses of Emirs and Grandees?" Anon, out came Ni'amah and, hearing their loud language, laughed and bade the old woman enter after him. So she followed him into the presence of Naomi, whom she saluted after the godliest and goodliest fashion, and, when she looked on her, she was confounded at her exceeding seemliness and said to her, "O my lady, I commend thee to the safeguard of Allah, who made thee and thy lord fellows in beauty and loveliness!" Then she stood up in the prayer niche and betook herself to inclination and prostration and prayer, till day departed and night darkened and starkened, when Naomi said to her, "O my mother, rest thy legs and feet awhile." Replied the old woman "O my lady, whoso seeketh the world to come let him weary him in this world, and whoso wearieth not himself in this world shall not attain the dwellings of the just in the world to come." Then Naomi brought her food and said to her, "Eat of my bread and pray Heaven to accept my penitence and to have mercy on me." But she cried, "O my lady, I am fasting. As for thee, thou art but a girl and it befitteth thee to eat and drink and make merry; Allah be indulgent to thee!; for the Almighty saith: All shall be punished except him who shall repent and believe and shall work a righteous work." So Naomi continued sitting with the old woman in talk and presently said to Ni'amah, "O my lord, conjure this ancient dame to sojourn with us awhile, for piety and devotion are imprinted on her countenance." Quoth he, "Set apart for her a chamber where she may say her prayers; and suffer no one to go in to her: peradventure, Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) shall prosper us by the blessing of her presence and never separate us." So the old woman passed her night in praying and reciting the Koran; and when Allah caused the morn to dawn, she went in to Ni'amah and Naomi and, giving them good morning, said to them, "I pray Allah have you in His holy keeping!" Quoth Naomi, "Whither away, O my mother? My lord hath bidden me set apart for thee a chamber, where thou mayst seclude thee for thy devotions." Replied the old woman, "Allah give him long life, and continue His favour to you both! But I would have you charge the doorkeeper not to stay my coming in to you; and, Inshallah! I will go the round of the Holy Places and pray for you two at the end of my devotions every day and night." Then she went out (whilst Naomi wept for parting with her knowing not the cause of her coming), and returned to Al-Hajjaj who said to her, "As thou do my bidding soon, thou shalt have of me abundant good." Quoth she, "I ask of thee a full month;" and quoth he "Take the month." Thereupon the old hag fell to daily visiting Ni'amah's house and frequented his slave-wife, Naomi.-- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Thirty-ninth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the old hag fell to visiting daily Ni'amah's house and frequenting his slave wife, Naomi; and both ceased not to honour her, and she used to go in to them morning and evening and all in the house respected her till, one day, being alone with Naomi, she said to her, "O my lady! by Allah, when I go to the Holy Places, I will pray for thee; and I only wish thou wert with me, that thou mightest look on the Elders of the Faith who resort thither, and they should pray for thee, according to thy desire." Naomi cried, "I conjure thee by Allah take me with thee!"; and she replied, "Ask leave of thy mother in law, and I will take thee." So Naomi said to her husband's mother, "O my lady, ask my master to let us go forth, me and thee, one day with this my old mother, to prayer and worship with the Fakirs in the Holy Places." Now when Ni'amah came in and sat down, the old woman went up to him and would have kissed his hand, but he forbade her; so she invoked blessings on him and left the house. Next day she came again, in the absence of Ni'amah, and she addressed Naomi, saying, "We prayed for thee yesterday; but arise now and divert thyself and return ere thy lord come home." So Naomi said to her mother-in-law, "I beseech thee, for Allah's sake, give me leave to go with this pious woman, that I may sight the saints of Allah in the Holy Places, and return speedily ere my lord come back." Quoth Ni'amah's mother, "I fear lest thy lord know;" but said the old woman, "By Allah, I will not let her take seat on the floor; no, she shall look, standing on her feet, and not tarry." So she took the damsel by guile and, carrying her to Al-Hajjaj's palace, told him of her coming, after placing her in a lonely chamber; whereupon he went in to her and, looking upon her, saw her to be the loveliest of the people of the day, never had he beheld her like. Now when Naomi caught sight of him she veiled her face from him; but he left her not till he had called his Chamberlain, whom he commanded to take fifty horsemen; and he bade him mount the damsel on a swift dromedary, and bear her to Damascus and there deliver her to the Commander of the Faithful, Abd al-Malik bin Marwan. Moreover, he gave him a letter for the Caliph, saying, "Bear him this letter and bring me his answer and hasten thy return to me." So the Chamberlain, without losing time, took the damsel (and she tearful for separation from her lord) and, setting out with her on a dromedary, gave not over journeying till he reached Damascus. There he sought audience of the Commander of the Faithful and, when it was granted, the Chamberlain delivered the damsel and reported the circumstance. The Caliph appointed her a separate apartment and going into his Harim, said to his wife, "Al Hajjaj hath bought me a slave-girl of the daughters of the Kings of Cufa for ten thousand dinars, and hath sent me this letter."-- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Fortieth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Caliph acquainted his wife with the story of the slave-girl, she said to him, "Allah increase to thee His favour!" Then the Caliph's sister went in to the supposed slave-girl and, when she saw her, she said, "By Allah, not unlucky is the man who hath thee in his house, were thy cost an hundred thousand dinars!" And Naomi replied, "O fair of face, what King's palace is this, and what is the city?" She answered, "This is the city of Damascus, and this is the palace of my brother, the Commander of the Faithful, Abd al-Malik bin Marwan." Then she resumed, "Didst thou not know all this?" Naomi said, "By Allah, O my lady, I had no knowledge of it!"; when the other asked, "And he who sold thee and took thy price did he not tell thee that the Caliph had bought thee?" Now when Naomi heard these words, she shed tears and said to herself, "Verily, I have been tricked and the trick hath succeeded," adding to herself, "If I speak, none will credit me; so I will hold my peace and take patience, for I know that the relief of Allah is near." Then she bent her head for shame, and indeed her cheeks were tanned by the journey and the sun. So the Caliph's sister left her that day and returned to her on the morrow with clothes and necklaces of jewels, and dressed her; after which the Caliph came in to her and sat down by her side, and his sister said to him, "Look on this handmaid in whom Allah hath conjoined every perfection of beauty and loveliness." So he said to Naomi, "Draw back the veil from thy face;" but she would not unveil, and he beheld not her face. However, he saw her wrists and love of her entered his heart; and he said to his sister, "I will not go in unto her for three days, till she be cheered by thy converse." Then he arose and left her, but Naomi ceased not to brood over her case and sigh for her separation from her master, Ni'amah, till she fell sick of a fever during the night and ate not nor drank; and her favour faded and her charms were changed. They told the Caliph of this and her condition grieved him; so he visited her with physicians and men of skill, but none could come at a cure for her. This is how it fared with her; but as regards Ni'amah, when he returned home he sat down on his bed and cried, "Ho, Naomi!" But she answered not; so he rose in haste and called out, yet none came to him, as all the women in the house had hidden themselves for fear of him. Then he went out to his mother, whom he found sitting with her cheek on her hand, and said to her, "O my mother, where is Naomi?" She answered, "O my son, she is with one who is worthier than I to be trusted with her, namely, the devout old woman; she went forth with her to visit devotionally the Fakirs and return." Quoth Ni'amah, "Since when hath this been her habit and at what hour went she forth?" Quoth his mother, "She went out early in the morning." He asked, "And how camest thou to give her leave for this?"; and she answered, "O my son, 'twas she persuaded me." "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!" exclaimed Ni'amah and, going forth from his home in a state of distraction, he repaired to the Captain of the Watch to whom said he, "Doss thou play tricks upon me and steal-my slave-girl away from my house? I will assuredly complain of thee to the Commander of the Faithful." Said the Chief of Police, "Who hath taken her?" and Ni'amah replied, "An old woman of such and such a mien, clad in woollen raiment and carrying a rosary of beads numbered by thousands." Rejoined the other, "Find me the old woman and I will get thee back thy slave-girl." "And who knows the old woman?" retorted Ni'amah. "And who knows the hidden things save Allah (may He be extolled and exalted!)?" cried the Chief, who knew her for Al-Hajjaj's procuress. Cried Ni'amah, "I look to thee for my slave-girl, and Al-Hajjaj shall judge between thee and me;" and the Master of Police answered, "Go to whom thou wilt." So Ni'amah went to the palace of Al-Hajjaj, for his father was one of the chief men of Cufa; and, when he arrived there, the Chamberlain went in to the Governor and told him the case; whereupon Al-Hajjaj said, "Hither with him!" and when he stood before him enquired, "What be thy business?" Said Ni'amah, "Such and such things have befallen me;" and the Governor said, "Bring me the Chief of Police, and we will commend him to seek for the old woman." Now he knew that the Chief of Police was acquainted with her; so, when he came, he said to him, "I wish thee to make search for the slave-girl of Ni'amah son of Al-Rabi'a." And he answered, "None knoweth the hidden things save Almighty Allah." Rejoined Al-Hajjaj, "There is no help for it but thou send out horsemen and look for the damsel in all the roads, and seek for her in the towns."--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Forty-First Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Al-Hajjaj said to the Captain of the Watch, "There is no help for it but thou send out horsemen, and look for the damsel on all the roads and seek for her in the towns." Then he turned to Ni'amah and said to him, "And thy slave-girl return not, I will give thee ten slave-girls from my house and ten from that of the Chief of Police." And he again bade the Captain of the Watch, "Go and seek for the girl." So he went out, and Ni'amah returned home full of trouble and despairing of life; for he had now reached the age of fourteen and there was yet no hair on his side cheeks. So he wept and lamented and shut himself up from his household; and ceased not to weep and lament, he and his mother, till the morning, when his father came in to him and said, "O my son, of a truth, Al-Hajjaj hath put a cheat upon the damsel and hath taken her; but from hour to hour Allah giveth relief." However grief redoubled on Ni'amah, so that he knew not what he said nor knew he who came in to him, and he fell sick for three months his charms were changed, his father despaired of him and the physicians visited him and said, "There is no remedy for him save the damsel." Now as his father was sitting one day, behold he heard tell of a skillful Persian physician, whom the folk gave out for perfect in medicine and astrology and geomancy. So Al-Rabi'a sent for him and, seating him by his side, entreated him with honour and said to him, "Look into my son's case." Thereupon quoth he to Ni'amah, "Give me thy hand." The young man gave him his hand and he felt his pulse and his joints and looked in his face; then he laughed and, turning to his father, said, "Thy son's sole ailment is one of the heart." He replied, Thou sayest sooth, O sage, but apply thy skill to his state and case, and acquaint me with the whole thereof and hide naught from me of his condition." Quoth the Persian, "Of a truth he is enamoured of a slave-girl and this slave-girl is either in Bassorah or Damascus; and there is no remedy for him but reunion with her." Said Al-Rabi'a, "An thou bring them together, thou shalt live all thy life in wealth and delight." Answered the Persian, "In good sooth this be an easy matter and soon brought about," and he turned to Ni'amah and said to him, "No hurt shall befall thee; so be of good cheer and keep thine eyes cool and clear." Then quoth he to Al-Rabi'a, "Bring me out four thousand dinars of your money;" so he gave them to him, and he added, "I wish to carry thy son with me to Damascus; and Almighty Allah willing, I will not return thence but with the damsel." Then he turned to the youth and asked, "What is thy name?"; and he answered "Ni'amah." Quoth the Persian, "O Ni'amah, sit up and be of good heart, for Allah will reunite thee with the damsel." And when he sat up the leach continued, "Be of good cheer for we set out for Damascus this very day: put thy trust in the Lord and eat and drink and be cheerful so as to fortify thyself for travel." Upon this the Persian began making preparation of all things needed, such as presents and rarities; and he took of Al-Rabi'a in all the sum of ten thousand dinars, together with horses and camels and beasts of burden and other requisites. Then Ni'amah farewelled his father and mother and journeyed with the physician to Aleppo. They could find no news of Naomi there so they fared on to Damascus, where they abode three days, after which the Persian took a shop and he adorned even the shelves with vessels of costly porcelain, with covers of silver, and with gildings and stuffs of price. Moreover, he set before himself vases and flagons of glass full of all manner of ointments and ups, and he surrounded them with cups of crystal--and, placing astrolabe and geomantic tablet facing him, he donned a physician's habit and took his seat in the shop. Then he set Ni'amah standing before him clad in a shirt and gown of silk and, girding his middle with a silken kerchief gold-embroidered, said to him, "O Ni'amah, henceforth thou art my son; so call me naught but sire, and I will call thee naught but son." And he replied, "I hear and I obey." Thereupon the people of Damascus flocked to the Persian's shop that they might gaze on the youth's goodliness and the beauty of the shop and its contents, whilst the physician spoke to Ni'amah in Persian and he answered him in the same tongue, for he knew the language, after the wont of the sons of the notables. So that Persian doctor soon became known among the townsfolk and they began to acquaint him with their ailments, and he to prescribe for them remedies. Moreover, they brought him the water of the sick in phials, and he would test it and say, "He, whose water this is, is suffering from such and such a disease," and the patient would declare, "Verily this physician sayeth sooth." So he continued to do the occasions of the folk and they to flock to him, till his fame spread throughout the city and into the houses of the great. Now, one day as he sat in his-shop, behold, there came up an old woman riding on an ass with a stuffed saddle of brocade embroidered with jewels; and, stopping before the Persian's shop, drew rein and beckoned him, saying, "Take my hand." He took her hand, and she alighted and asked him "Art thou the Persian physician from Irak?" "Yes," answered he, and she said, "Know that I have a sick daughter." Then she brought out to him a phial--and the Persian looked at it and said to her, "O my mistress, tell me thy daughter's name, that I may calculate her horoscope and learn the hour in which it will befit her to drink medicine." She replied, "O my brother the Persian, her name is Naomi."-- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Forty-second Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Persian heard the name of Naomi, he fell to calculating and writing on his hand and presently said, "O my lady, I cannot prescribe a medicine for her till I know what country woman she is, because of the difference of climate: so tell me in what land she was brought up and what is her age." The old woman replied "She is fourteen years old and she was brought up in Cufa of Irak." He asked, "And how long hath she sojourned in this country?" "But a few months," answered she. Now when Ni'amah heard the old woman's words and recognised the name of his slave- girl, his heart fluttered and he was like to faint. Then said the Persian, "Such and such medicines will suit her case;" and the old woman rejoined, "Then make them up and give me what thou hast mentioned, with the blessing of Almighty Allah." So saying, she threw upon the shop board ten gold pieces, and he looked at Ni'amah and bade him prepare the necessary drugs; whereupon she also looked at the youth and exclaimed, "Allah have thee in his keeping, O my son! Verily, she favoureth thee in age and mien." Then said she to the physician, "O my brother the Persian, is this thy slave or thy son?" "He is my son," answered he. So Ni'amah put up the medicine and, placing it in a little box, took a piece of paper and wrote thereon these two couplets,
"If Naomi bless me with a single glance, * Let Su'adá sue and Juml joy to
They said, "Forget her: twenty such thou'lt find." * But none is like her--I will not forget!"
He pressed the paper into the box and, sealing it up, wrote upon the cover the following words in Cufic characters, "I am Ni'amah of al-Rabi'a of Cufa." Then he set it before the old woman who took it and bade them farewell and returned to the Caliph's palace, and when she went up with the drugs to the damsel she placed the little box of medicine at her feet, saying, "O my lady, know that there is lately come to our town a Persian physician, than whom I never saw a more skilful nor a better versed in matters of malady. I told him thy name, after showing him the water-bottle, and forthwith he knew thine ailment and prescribed a remedy. Then he bade his son make thee up this medicine; and there is not in Damascus a comelier or a seemlier youth than this lad of his, nor hath anyone a shop the like of his shop." So Naomi took the box and, seeing the names of her lord and his father written on the cover, changed colour and said to herself, "Doubtless, the owner of this shop is come in search of me." So she said to the old woman, "Describe to me this youth." Answered the old woman, "His name is Ni'amah, he hath a mole on his right eyebrow, is richly clad and is perfectly handsome." Cried Naomi, "Give me the medicine, whereon be the blessing and help of Almighty Allah!" So she drank off the potion (and she laughing) and said, "Indeed, it is a blessed medicine!" Then she sought in the box and, finding the paper, opened it, read it, understood it and knew that this was indeed her lord, whereas her heart was solaced and she rejoiced. Now when the old woman saw her laughing, she exclaimed, "This is indeed a blessed day!"; and Naomi said, "O nurse, I have a mind for something to eat and drink." The old woman said to the serving women, "Bring a tray of dainty viands for your mistress;" whereupon they set food before her and she sat down to eat. And behold in came the Caliph who, seeing her sitting at meat, rejoiced; and the old woman said to him, "O Commander of the Faithful, I give thee joy of thy hand maid Naomi's recovery! And the cause is that there is lately come to this our city a physician than whom I never saw a better versed in diseases and their remedies. I fetched her medicine from him and she hath drunken of it but once and is restored to health." Quoth he, "Take a thousand dinars and apply thyself to her treatment, till she be completely recovered." And he went away, rejoicing in the damsel's recovery, whilst the old woman betook herself to the Persian's house and delivered the thousand dinars, giving him to know that she was become the Caliph's slave and also handing him a letter which Naomi had written. He took it and gave the letter to Ni'amah, who at first sight knew her hand and fell down in a swoon. When he revived he opened the letter and found these words written therein: "From the slave despoiled of her Ni'amah, her delight; her whose reason hath been beguiled and who is parted from the core of her heart. But afterwards of a truth thy letter hath reached me and hath broadened my breast, and solaced my soul, even as saith the poet,
"Thy note came: long lost hungers wrote that note, * Till drop they sweetest scents for what they wrote:
Twas Moses to his mother's arms restored; * 'Twas Jacob's eye-sight cured by Joseph's coat!"
When Ni'amah read these verses, his eyes ran over with tears and the old woman said to him, "What maketh thee to weep, O my son? Allah never cause thine eye to shed tears!" Cried the Persian, "O my lady, how should my son not weep, seeing that this is his slave-girl and he her lord, Ni'amah son of al-Rabi'a of Cufa; and her health dependeth on her seeing him, for naught aileth her but loving him.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Forty-third Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Persian cried out to the old woman, "How shall my son not weep, seeing that this is his slave-girl and he her lord, Ni'amah son of al-Rabi'a of Cufa; and the health of this damsel dependeth on her seeing him and naught aileth her but loving him. So, do thou, O my lady, take these thousand dinars to thyself and thou shalt have of me yet more than this; only look on us with eyes of rush; for we know not how to bring this affair to a happy end save through thee." Then she said to Ni'amah, "Say, art thou indeed her lord?" He replied, "Yes," and she rejoined, "Thou sayest sooth; for she ceaseth not continually to name thee." Then he told her all that had passed from first to last, and she said, "O youth, thou shalt owe thy reunion with her to none but myself." So she mounted and, at once returning to Naomi, looked in her face and laughed saying, "It is just, O my daughter, that thou weep and fall sick for thy separation from thy master, Ni'amah, son of Al-Rabi'a of Cufa." Quoth Naomi, "Verily, the veil hath been withdrawn for thee and the truth revealed to thee." Rejoined the old woman, "Be of good cheer and take heart, for I will assuredly bring you together, though it cost me my life." Then she returned to Ni'amah and said to him, "I went to thy slave- girl and conversed with her, and I find that she longeth for thee yet more than thou for her; for although the Commander of the Faithful is minded to become intimate with her, she refuseth herself to him. But if thou be stout of purpose and firm of heart, I will bring you together and venture my life for you, and play some trick and make shift to carry thee into the Caliph's palace, where thou shalt meet her, for she cannot come forth." And Ni'amah answered, "Allah requite thee with good!" Then she took leave of him and went back to Naomi and said, "Thy lord is indeed dying of love for thee and would fain see thee and foregather with thee. What sayest thou?" Naomi replied, "And I too am longing for his sight and dying for his love." Whereupon the old woman took a parcel of women's clothes and ornaments and, repairing to Ni'amah, said to him, "Come with me into some place apart." So he brought her into the room behind the shop where she stained his hands and decked his wrists and plaited his hair, after which she clad him in a slave-girl's habit and adorned him after the fairest fashion of woman's adornment, till he was as one of the Houris of the Garden of Heaven, and when she saw him thus she exclaimed, "Blessed be Allah, best of Creators! By Allah, thou art handsomer than the damsel. Now, walk with thy left shoulder forwards and thy right well behind, and sway thy hips from side to side." So he walked before her, as she bade him; and, when she saw he had caught the trick of woman's gait, she said to him, "Expect me tomorrow night, and Allah willing, I will take and carry thee to the palace. But when thou seest the Chamberlains and the Eunuchs be bold, and bow thy head and speak not with any, for I will prevent their speech; and with Allah is success!" Accordingly, when the morning dawned, she returned and, carrying him to the palace, entered before him and he after her step by step. The Chamberlain would have stopped his entering, but the old woman said to him, "O most ill omened of slaves, this is the handmaid of Naomi, the Caliph's favourite. How durst thou stay her when she would enter?" Then said she, "Come in, O damsel!"; and the old woman went in and they ceased not faring on, till they drew near the door leading to the inner piazza of the palace, when she said to him, "O Ni'amah, hearten thyself and take courage and enter and turn to the left: then count five doors and pass through the sixth, for it is that of the place prepared for thee. Fear nothing, and if any speak to thee, answer not, neither stop." Then she went up with him to the door, and the Chamberlain there on guard accosted her, saying "What damsel is this?"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Forty-fourth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Chamberlain accosted the old woman, saying, "What damsel is this?"; quoth the ancient dame, "Our lady hath a mind to buy her;" and he rejoined, "None may enter save by leave of the Commander of the Faithful; so do thou go back with her. I can not let her pass for thus am I commanded." Replied the old woman, "O Chief Chamberlain, use thy reason. Thou knowest that Naomi, the Caliph's slave-girl, of whom he is enamoured, is but now restored to health and the Commander of the Faithful hardly yet crediteth her recovery. She is minded to buy this hand maid; so oppose thou not her entrance, lest haply it come to Naomi's knowledge and she be wroth with thee and suffer a relapse and this cause thy head to be cut off." Then said she to Ni'amah, "Enter, O damsel; pay no heed to what he saith and tell not the Queen-consort that her Chamberlain opposed thine entrance." So Ni'amah bowed his head and entered the palace, and would have turned to the left, but mistook the direction and walked to his right; and, meaning to count five doors and enter the sixth, he counted six and entering the seventh, found himself in a place whose floor was carpeted with brocade and whose walls were hung with curtains of gold- embroidered silk. And therein stood censers of aloes-wood and ambergris and strong-scented musk, and at the upper end was a couch bespread with cloth of gold on which he seated himself, marvelling at the magnificence he saw and knowing not what was written for him in the Secret Purpose. As he sat musing on his case, the Caliph's sister, followed by her handmaid, came in upon him; and, seeing the youth seated there took him for a slave-girl and accosted him and said, "Who art thou O damsel? and what is thy case and who brought thee hither?" He made no reply, and was silent, when she continued, "O damsel! if thou be one of my brother's concubines and he be wroth with thee, I will intercede with him for thee and get thee grace." But he answered her not a word; so she said to her slave-girl, "Stand at the door and let none enter." Then she went up to Ni'amah and looking at him was amazed at his beauty and said to him, "O lady, tell me who thou art and what is thy name and how thou camest here; for I have never seen thee in our palace." Still he answered not, whereat she was angered and, putting her hand to his bosom, found no breasts and would have unveiled him, that she might know who he was; but he said to her, "O my lady, I am thy slave and I cast myself on thy protection: do thou protect me." She said, "No harm shall come to thee, but tell me who thou art and who brought thee into this my apartment." Answered he, "O Princess, I am known as Ni'amah bin al-Rabi'a of Cufa and I have ventured my life for the sake of my slave-girl, Naomi, whom Al-Hajjaj took by sleight and sent hither." Said she, "Fear not: no harm shall befall thee;" then, calling her maid, she said to her, "Go to Naomi's chamber and send her to me." Meanwhile the old woman went to Naomi's bedroom and said to her, "Hath thy lord come to thee?" "No, by Allah!" answered Naomi, and the other said, "Belike he hath gone astray and entered some chamber other than thine and lost himself." So Naomi cried, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! Our last hour is come and we are all lost." And while they were sitting and sadly enough pondering their case, in came the Princess's handmaid and saluting Naomi said to her, "My lady biddeth thee to her banquet." "I hear and I obey," answered the damsel and the old woman said, "Belike thy lord is with the Caliph's sister and the veil of secrecy hath been rent." So Naomi at once sprang up and betook herself to the Princess, who said to her, "Here is thy lord sitting with me; it seemeth he hath mistaken the place; but, please Allah, neither thou nor he has any cause for fear." When Naomi heard these words, she took heart of grace and went up to Ni'amah; and her lord when he saw her.--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Forty-fifth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Ni'amah saw his handmaid Naomi, he rose to meet her and strained her to his bosom and both fell to the ground fainting. As soon as they came to themselves, the Caliph's sister said to them, "Sit ye down and take we counsel for your deliverance from this your strait." And they answered, "O our lady, we hear and obey: it is thine to command." Quoth she, "By Allah, no harm shall befall you from us!" Then she bade her handmaids bring meat and drink which was done, and they sat down and ate till they had enough, after which they sat drinking. Then the cup went round amongst them and their cares ceased from them; but Ni'amah said, "Would I knew how this will end." The Princess asked, "O Ni'amah, dost thou love thy slave Naomi?"; and he answered, "Of a truth it is my passion for her which hath brought me to this state of peril for my life." Then said she to the damsel, "O Naomi, dost thou love thy lord Ni'amah?"; and she replied, "O my lady, it is the love of him which hath wasted my body and brought me to evil case." Rejoined the Princess, "By Allah, since ye love each other thus, may he not be who would part you! Be of good cheer and keep your eyes cool and clear." At this they both rejoiced and Naomi called for a lute and, when they brought it, she took it and tuned it and played a lively measure which enchanted the hearers, and after the prelude sang these couplets,
"When the slanderers cared but to part us twain, * We owed no blood-debt could raise their ire
And they poured in our ears all the din of war, * And aid failed and friends, when my want was dire:
I fought them hard with mine eyes and tears; * With breath and sword, with the stream and fire!"
Then Naomi gave the lute to her master, Ni'amah, saying, "Sing thou to us some verse." So he took it and playing a lively measure, intoned these couplets,
"Full Moon if unfreckled would favour thee, * And Sun uneclipsed would reflect thy blee:
I wonder (but love is of wonders full * And ardour and passion and ecstasy)
How short the way to my love I fare, * Which, from her faring, so long I see."
Now when he had made an end of his song, Naomi filled the cup and gave it to him, and he took it and drank it off; then she filled again and gave the cup to the Caliph's sister who also emptied it; after which the Princess in her turn took the lute and tightened the strings and tuned it and sang these two couplets,
"Grief, cark and care in my heart reside, * And the fires of love in my breast
My wasted form to all eyes shows clear; * For Desire my body hath mortified."
Then she filled the cup and gave it to Naomi, who drank it off and taking the lute, sang these two couplets,
"O to whom I gave soul which thou tortures", * And in vain I'd recover from fair
Unfaith Do grant thy favours my care to cure * Ere I die, for this be my latest breath."
And they ceased not to sing verses and drink to the sweet sound of the strings, full of mirth and merriment and joy and jollity till behold! in came the Commander of the Faithful. Now when they saw him, they rose and kissed the ground before him; and he, seeing Naomi with the lute in her hand, said to her, "O Naomi, praised be Allah who hath done away from thee sickness and suffering!" Then he looked at Ni'amah (who was still disguised as a woman), and said to the Princess, "O my sister, what damsel is this by Naomi's side?" She replied, "O Commander of the Faithful, thou hast here a handmaid, one of thy concubines and the bosom friend of Naomi who will neither eat nor drink without her." And she repeated the words of the poet,
"Two contraries, and both concur in opposite charms, * And charms so contraried by contrast lovelier show."
Quoth the Caliph, "By Allah Omnipotent, verily she is as handsome as Naomi, and to-morrow I will appoint her a separate chamber beside that of her friend and send her furniture and stuffs and all that befitteth her, in honour of Naomi." Then the Princess called for food and set it before her brother, who ate and made himself at home in their place and company. Then filling a cup he signed to Naomi to sing; so she took the lute, after draining two of them and sang these two couplets,
"Since my toper-friend in my hand hath given * Three cups that brim and bubble, e'er since
I've trailed my skirts throughout night for pride * As tho', Prince of the Faithful, I were thy Prince!"
The Prince of True Believers was delighted and filling another cup, gave it to Naomi and bade her sing again; so after draining the cup and sweeping the strings, she sang as follows:--
"O most noble of men in this time and stound, * Of whom none may boast he is equal-found!
O matchless in greatness of soul and gifts, * O thou Chief, O thou King amongst all renowned:
Lord, who dealest large boons to the Lords of Earth, * Whom thou vexest not nor dost hold them bound
The Lord preserve thee, and spoil thy foes, * And ne'er cease thy lot with good Fortune crowned!"
Now when the Caliph heard these couplets, he exclaimed, "By Allah, good! By Allah, excellent! Verily the Lord hath been copious to thee, O Naomi! How clever is thy tongue and how dear is thy speech!" And they ceased not their mirth and good cheer till midnight, when the Caliph's sister said to him, "Give ear, O Commander of the Faithful to a tale I have read in books of a certain man of rank." "And what is this tale?" quoth he. Quoth she "Know, O Prince of the Faithful that there lived once in the city of Cufa a youth called Ni'amah, son of Al-Rabi'a, and he had a slave-girl whom he loved and who loved him. They had been reared in one bed; but when they grew up and mutual-love get hold of them, Fortune smote them with her calamities and Time, the tyrant, brought upon them his adversity and decreed separation unto them. Thereupon designing and slanderous folk enticed her by sleight forth of his house and, stealing her away from his home, sold her to one of the Kings for ten thousand dinars. Now the girl loved her lord even as he loved her, so he left kith and kin and house and home and the gifts of fortune, and set out to search for her and when she was found he devised means to gain access to her".--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Two Hundred and Forty-sixth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph's sister said, "And Ni'amah ceased not absenting himself from his kith and kin and patrial-stead, that he might gain access to his handmaid, and he incurred every peril and lavished his life till he gained access to her, and her name was Naomi, like this slave-girl. But the interview was short; they had not been long in company when in came the King, who had bought her of her kidnapper, and hastily ordered them to be slain, without doing justice by his own soul and delaying to enquire into the matter before the command was carried out. Now what sayest thou, O Commander of the Faithful, of this King's wrongous conduct?" Answered the Caliph; "This was indeed a strange thing: it behoved that King to pardon when he had the power to punish; and he ought to have regarded three things in their favour. The first was that they loved each other; the second that they were in his house and in his grasp; and the third that it befitteth a King to be deliberate in judging and ordering between folk, and how much more so in cases where he himself is concerned! Wherefore this King thus did an unkingly deed." Then said his sister, "O my brother, by the King of the heavens and the earth, I conjure thee, bid Naomi sing and hearken to that she shall sing!" So he said "O Naomi, sing to me;" whereupon she played a lively measure and sang these couplets,
"Beguiled us Fortune who her guile displays, * Smiting the heart, bequeathing thoughts that craze
And parting lovers whom she made to meet, * Till tears in torrent either cheek displays:
They were and I was and my life was glad, * While Fortune often joyed to join our ways;
I will pour tear flood, will rain gouts of blood, * Thy loss bemoaning through the nights and days!"
Now when the Commander of the Faithful heard this verse, he was moved to great delight and his sister said to him, "O my brother, whoso decideth in aught against himself, him it behoveth to abide by it and do according to his word; and thou hast judged against thyself by this judgement." Then said she, "O Ni'amah, stand up and do thou likewise up stand, O Naomi!" So they stood up and she continued, "O Prince of True Believers, she who standeth before thee is Naomi the stolen, whom Al-Hajjaj bin Yusuf al-Sakafi kidnapped and sent to thee, falsely pretending in his letter to thee that he had bought her for ten thousand gold pieces. And this other who standeth before thee is her lord, Ni'amah, son of Al-Rabi'a; and I beseech thee, by the honour of thy pious forebears and by Hamzah and Ukayl and Abbas, to pardon them both and overlook their offence and bestow them one on the other, that thou mayst win rich reward in the next world of thy just dealing with them; for they are under thy hand and verily they have eaten of thy meat and drunken of thy drink; and behold, I make intercession for them and beg of thee the boon of their blood." Thereupon quoth the Caliph, "Thou speakest sooth: I did indeed give judgement as thou sayst, and I am not one to pass sentence and to revoke it." Then said he, "O Naomi, say, be this thy lord?" And she answered "Even so, O Commander of the Faithful." Then quoth he, "No harm shall befall you, I give you each to other;" adding to the young man, "O Ni'amah, who told thee where she was and taught thee how to get at this place?" He replied, "O Commander of the Faithful, hearken to my tale and give ear to my history; for, by the virtue of thy pious forefathers, I will hide nothing from thee!" And he told him all that had passed between himself and the Persian physician and the old nurse, and how she had brought him into the palace and he had mistaken the doors; whereat the Caliph wondered with exceeding wonder and said, "Fetch me the Persian." So they brought him into the presence and he was made one of his chief officers. Moreover the King bestowed on him robes of honour and ordered him a handsome present, saying, "When a man hath shown like this man such artful management, it behoveth us to make him one of our chief officers." The Caliph also loaded Ni'amah and Naomi with gifts and honours and rewarded the old nurse; and they abode with him seven days in joy and content and all delight of life, when Ni'amah craved leave to return to Cufa with his slave-girl. The Caliph gave them permission and they departed and arrived in due course at Cufa, where Ni'amah was restored to his father and mother, and they abode in all the joys and jollities of life, till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and the Sunderer of societies. Now when Amjad and As'ad heard from Bahram this story, they marvelled with extreme marvel and said, "By Allah, this is indeed a rare tale!"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
[Go to Conclusion of the Tale of Kamar Al-Zaman]
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