[Go back to The Hunchback's Tale (cont.)]
Quoth Shahrazad :--It hath reached me, O auspicious King of intelligence penetrating, that there was, amongst the Kings of Bassorah, a King who loved the poor and needy and cherished his lieges, and gave of his wealth to all who believed in Mohammed (whom Allah bless and assain!), and he was even as one of the poets described him,
"A King who when hosts of the foe invade, * Receives them with lance-lunge and sabre-sway;
Writes his name on bosoms in thin red lines, * And scatters the horsemen in wild dismay."
His name was King Mohammed bin Sulayman al-Zayni, and he had two Wazirs, one called Al-Mu'in, son of Sawi and the other Al-Fazl son of Khakan. Now Al-Fazl was the most generous of the people of his age, upright of life, so that all hearts united in loving him and the wise flocked to him for counsel; whilst the subjects used to pray for his long life, because he was a compendium of the best qualities, encouraging the good and lief, and preventing evil and mischief. But the Wazir Mu'in bin Sawi on the contrary hated folk and loved not the good and was a mere compound of ill; even as was said of him,
"Hold to nobles, sons of nobles! 'tis ever Nature's test * That nobles born of nobles shall excel in noble deed:
And shun the mean of soul, meanly bred, for 'tis the law, * Mean deeds come of men who are mean of blood and breed."
And as much as the people loved and fondly loved Al-Fazl bin Khakan, so they hated and thoroughly hated the mean and miserly Mu'in bin Sawi. It befel one day by the decree of the Decreer, that King Mohammed bin Sulayman al-Zayni, being seated on his throne with his officers of state about him, summoned his Wazir Al-Fazl and said to him, "I wish to have a slave-girl of passing beauty, perfect in loveliness, exquisite in symmetry and endowed with all praiseworthy gifts." Said the courtiers, "Such a girl is not to be bought for less than ten thousand gold pieces:" whereupon the Sultan called out to his treasurer and said, "Carry ten thousand dinars to the house of Al-Fazl bin Khakan." The treasurer did the King's bidding; and the Minister went away, after receiving the royal charge to repair to the slave-bazar every day, and entrust to brokers the matter aforesaid. Moreover the King issued orders that girls worth above a thousand gold pieces should not be bought or sold without being first displayed to the Wazir. Accordingly no broker purchased a slave-girl ere she had been paraded before the minister; but none pleased him, till one day a dealer came to the house and found him taking horse and intending for the palace. So he caught hold of his stirrup saying,
"O thou, who givest to royal state sweet savour, * Thou'rt a Wazir shalt never fail of favour!
Dead Bounty thou hast raised to life for men; * Ne'er fail of Allah's grace such high endeavour!"
Then quoth he, "O my lord, that surpassing object for whom the gracious mandate was issued is at last found; " and quoth the Wazir, "Here with her to me!" So he went away and returned after a little, bringing a damsel in richest raiment robed, a maid spear-straight of stature and five feet tall; budding of bosom with eyes large and black as by Kohl traced, and dewy lips sweeter than syrup or the sherbet one sips, a virginette smooth cheeked and shapely faced, whose slender waist with massive hips was engraced; a form more pleasing than branchlet waving upon the top-most trees, and a voice softer and gentler than the morning breeze, even as saith one of those who have described her,
"Strange is the charm which dights her brows like Luna's disk that shine; * O sweeter taste than sweetest Robb or raisins of the vine.
A throne th'Empyrean keeps for her in high and glorious state, * For wit and wisdom, wandlike form and graceful bending line:
She in the Heaven of her face the seven-fold stars displays, * That guard her cheeks as satellites against the spy's design:
If man should cast a furtive glance or steal far look at her, * His heart is burnt by devil-bolts shot by those piercing eyne."
When the Wazir saw her she made him marvel with excess of admiration, so he turned, perfectly pleased, to the broker and asked, "What is the price of this girl?"; whereto he answered, "Her market-value stands at ten thousand dinars, but her owner swears that this sum will not cover the cost of the chickens she hath eaten, the wine she hath drunken and the dresses of honour bestowed upon her instructor: for she hath learned calligraphy and syntax and etymology; the commentaries of the Koran; the principles of law and religion; the canons of medicine, and the calendar and the art of playing on musical instruments." Said the Wazir, "Bring me her master." So the broker brought him at once and, behold, he was a Persian of whom there was left only what the days had left; for he was as a vulture bald and scald and a wall trembling to its fall. Time had buffetted him with sore smart, yet was he not willing this world to depart; even as said the poet,
"Time hath shattered all my frame, * Oh! how time hath shattered me.
Time with lordly might can tame * Manly strength and vigour free.
Time was in my youth, that none * Sped their way more fleet and fast:
Time is and my strength is gone, * Youth is sped, and speed is past."
The Wazir asked him, "Art thou content to sell this slave-girl to the Sultan for ten thousand dinars?"; and the Persian answered, "By Allah, if I offer her to the King for naught, it were but my devoir." So the Minister bade bring the monies and saw them weighed out to the Persian, who stood up before him and said, "By the leave of our lord the Wazir, I have somewhat to say;" and the Wazir replied, "Out with all thou hast!" "It is my opinion," continued the slave-dealer, "that thou shouldst not carry the maid to the King this day; for she is newly off a journey; the change of air hath affected her and the toils of trouble have fretted her. But keep her quiet in thy palace some ten days, that she may recover her looks and become again as she was. Then send her to the Hammam and clothe her in the richest of clothes and go up with her to the Sultan: this will be more to thy profit." The Wazir pondered the Persian's words and approved of their wisdom; so he carried her to his palace, where he appointed her private rooms, and allowed her every day whatever she wanted of meat and drink and so forth. And on this wise she abode a while. Now the Wazir Al-Fazl had a son like the full moon when sheeniest dight, with face radiant in light, cheeks ruddy bright, and a mole like a dot of ambergris on a downy site; as said of him the poet and said full right,
"A moon which blights you if you dare behold; * A branch which folds you in its waving fold:
Locks of the Zanj and golden glint of hair; * Sweet gait and form a spear to have and hold:
Ah! hard of heart with softest slenderest waist, * That evil to this weal why not remould?
Were thy form's softness placed in thy heart, * Ne'er would thy lover find thee harsh and cold:
Oh thou accuser! be my love's excuser, * Nor chide if love-pangs deal me woes untold!
I bear no blame: 'tis all my hear and eyne; * So leave thy blaming, let me yearn and pine."
Now the handsome youth knew not the affair of the damsel; and his father had enjoined her closely, saying, "Know, O my daughter, that I have bought thee as a bedfellow for our King, Mohammed bin Sulayman al-Zayni; and I have a son who is a Satan for girls and leaves no maid in the neighbourhood without taking her maidenhead; so be on thy guard against him and beware of letting him see thy face or hear they voice." "Hearkening and obedience," said the girl; and he left her and fared forth. Some days after this it happened by decree of Destiny, that the damsel repaired to the baths in the house, where some of the slave women bathed her; after which she arrayed herself in sumptuous raiment; and her beauty and loveliness were thereby redoubled. Then she went in to the Wazir's wife and kissed her hand; and the dame said to her, "Naiman! May it benefit thee, O Anis al- Jalis! Are not our baths handsome?" "O my mistress," she replied, "I lacked naught there save thy gracious presence." Thereupon the lady said to her slave-women, "Come with us to the Hammam, for it is some days since we went there:" they answered, "To hear is to obey!" and rose and all accompanied her. Now she had set two little slave-girls to keep the door of the private chamber wherein was Anis al-Jalis and had said to them, "Suffer none go in to the damsel." Presently, as the beautiful maiden sat resting in her rooms, suddenly came in the Wazir's son whose name was Nur al-Din Ali, and asked after his mother and her women, to which the two little slave-girls replied, "They are in the Hammam." But the damsel, Anis al-Jalis, had heard from within Nur al-Din Ali's voice and had said to herself, "O would Heaven I saw what like is this youth against whom the Wazir warned me, saying that he hath not left a virgin in the neighbourhood without taking her virginity: by Allah, I do long to have sight of him!" So she sprang to her feet with the freshness of the bath on her and, stepping to the door, looked at Nur al-Din Ali and saw a youth like the moon in its full and the sight bequeathed her a thousand sighs. The young man also glanced at her and the look make him heir to a thousand thoughts of care; and each fell into Love's ready snare. Then he stepped up to the two little slave-girls and cried aloud at them; whereupon both fled before him and stood afar off to see what he would do. And behold, he walked to the door of the damsel's chamber and, opening it, went in and asked her "Art thou she my father bought for me?" and she answered "Yes." Thereupon the youth, who was warm with wine, came up to her and embraced her; then he took her legs and passed them round his waist and she wound her arms about his neck, and met him with kisses and murmurs of pleasure and amorous toyings. Next he sucked her tongue and she sucked his, and lastly, he loosed the strings of her petticoat-trousers and abated her maidenhead. When the two little slave-girls saw their young master get in unto the damsel, Anis al-Jalis, they cried out and shrieked; so as soon as the youth had had his wicked will of her, he rose and fled forth fearing the consequences of his ill-doing. When the Wazir's wife heard the slave-girls' cries, she sprang up and came out of the baths with the perspiration pouring from her face, saying, "What is this unseemly clamour in the house?" Then she came up to the two little slave- girls and asked them saying, "Fie upon you! what is the matter?"; and both answered, "Verily our lord Nur al-Din came in and beat us, so we fled; then he went up to Anis al-Jalis and threw his arms round her and we know not what he did after that; but when we cried out to thee he ran away." Upon this the lady went to Anis al-Jalis and said to her, "What tidings?" "O my lady," she answered, "as I was sitting here lo! a handsome young man came in and said to me:--Art thou she my father bought for me?; and I answered Yes; for, by Allah, O mistress mine, I believed that his words were true; and he instantly came in and embraced me." "Did he nought else with thee but this?" quoth the lady, and quoth she, "Indeed he did! But he did it only three times." "He did not leave thee without dishonouring thee!" cried the Wazir's wife and fell to weeping and buffetting her face, she and the girl and all the handmaidens, fearing lest Nur al-Din's father should kill him. Whilst they were thus, in came the Wazir and asked what was the matter, and his wife said to him, "Swear that whatso I tell thee thou wilt attend to it." "I will," answered he. So she related to him what his son had done, whereat he was much concerned and rent his raiment and smote his face till his nose bled, and plucked out his beard by the handful. "Do not kill thyself," said his wife, "I will give thee ten thousand dinars, her price, of my own money." But he raised his head and cried, "Out upon thee! I have no need of her purchase-money: my fear is lest life as well as money go." "O my lord, and how is that?" "Wottest thou not that yonder standeth our enemy Al Mu'in bin Sawi who, as soon as he shall hear of this matter, will go up to the Sultan"--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Thirty-fifth Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Wazir said to his wife, "Wottest thou not that yonder standeth our enemy Al-Mu'in bin Sawi who, as soon as he hears of this matter will go up to the Sultan and say to him, 'Thy Wazir who, thou wilt have it loveth thee, took from thee ten thousand ducats and bought therewith a slave-girl whose like none ever beheld; but when he saw her, she pleased him and he said to his son, 'Take her: thou art worthier of her than the Sultan.' So he took her and did away with her virginity and she is now in his house.' The King will say, 'Thou liest!' to which he will reply, 'With thy leave I will fall upon him unawares and bring her to thee.' The King will give him warranty for this and he will come down upon the house and will take the girl and present her to the Sultan, who will question her and she will not be able to deny the past. Then mine enemy will say, 'O my lord, thou wottest that I give thee the best of counsel; but I have not found favour in thine eyes.' Thereupon the Sultan will make an example of me, and I shall be a gazing-stock to all the people and my life will be lost." Quoth his wife, "Let none know of this thing which hath happened privily, and commit thy case to Allah and trust in Him to save thee from such strait; for He who knoweth the future shall provide for the future." With this she brought the Wazir a cup of wine and his heart was quieted, and he ceased to feel wrath and fear. Thus far concerning him; but as regards his son Nur al-Din Ali, fearing the consequence of his misdeed he abode his day long in the flower garden and came back only at night to his mother's apartment where he slept; and, rising before dawn, returned to the gardens. He ceased not to do thus for two whole months without showing his face to his parent, till at last his mother said to his father, "O my lord, shall we lose our boy as well as the girl? If matters continue long in this way he will flee from us." "And what to do?" asked he; and she answered, "Do thou watch this night; and, when he cometh, seize on him and frighten him: I will rescue him from thee and do thou make peace with him and give him the damsel to wife, for she loveth him as he loveth her. And I will pay thee her price." So the Minister say up that night and, when his son came, he seized him and throwing him down knelt on his breast and showed as thou he would cut his throat; but his mother ran to the youth's succour and asked her husband, "What wouldest thou do with him?" He answered her, "I will split his weasand." Said the son to the father, "Is my death, then, so light a matter to thee?"; and his father's eyes welled with tears, for natural affection moved him, and he rejoined, "O my son, how light was to thee the loss of my good and my life!" Quoth Nur al-Din, "Hear, O my father, what the poet hath said,
'Forgive me! thee-ward sinned I, but the wise * Ne'er to the sinner shall deny his grace:
Thy foe may pardon sue when lieth he * In lowest, and thou holdest highest place!'"
Thereupon the Wazir rose from off his son's breast saying, "I forgive thee!"; for his heart yearned to him; and the youth kissed the hand of his sire who said, "O my son, were I sure that thou wouldest deal justly by Anis al-Jalis, I would give her to thee." "O my father, what justice am I to do to her?" "I enjoin thee, O my son, not to take another wife or concubine to share with her, nor sell her." "O my father! I swear to thee that verily I will not do her injustice in either way." Having sworn to that effect Nur al-Din went in to the damsel and abode with her a whole year, whilst Allah Almighty caused the King to forget the matter of the maiden; and Al-Mu'in, though the affair came to his ears, dared not divulge it by reason of the high favour in which his rival stood with the Sultan. At the end of the year Al-Fazl went one day to the public baths; and, as he came out whilst he was still sweating, the air struck him and he caught a cold which turned to a fever; then he took to his bed. His malady gained ground and restlessness was longsome upon him and weakness bound him like a chain; so he called out, "Hither with my son;" and when Nur al-Din Ali came he said to him, "O my son, know that man's lot and means are distributed and decreed; and the end of days by all must be dree'd; and that every soul drain the cup of death is nature's need." The he repeated these lines,
"I die my death, but He alone is great who dieth not! * And well I wot, soon shall I die, for death was made my lot:
A King there's not that dies and holds his kingdom in his hand, * For Sovranty the Kingdom is of Him who dieth not."
Then he continued, "O my son, I have no charge to leave thee save that thou fear Allah and look to the issues of thine acts and bear in mind my injunctions anent Anis al-Jalis." "O my father!" said Nur al-Din, "who is like unto thee? Indeed thou art famed for well doing and preachers offer prayers for thee in their pulpits!" Quoth Al-Fazl, "O my son, I hope that Allah Almighty may grant me acceptance!" Then he pronounced the Two Testimonies, or Professions of the Faith, and was recorded among the blessed. The palace was filled with crying and lamentation and the news of his death reached the King, and the city-people wept, even those at their prayers and women at household cares and the school-children shed tears for Bin- Khakan. Then his son Nur al-Din Ali arose and made ready his funeral, and the Emirs and Wazirs and high Officers of State and city-notables were present, amongst them the Wazir al-Mu'in bin Sawi. And as the bier went forth from the house some one in the crowd of mourners began to chant these lines,
"On the fifth day I quitted al my friends for evermore, * And they laid me out and washed me on a slab without my door:
They stripped me of the clothes I was ever wont to wear, * And they clothed me in the clothes which till then I never wore.
On four men's necks they bore me and carried me from home * To chapel; and some prayed for him on neck they bore:
They prayed for me a prayer that no prostration knows; * They prayed for me who praised me and were my friends of yore;
And they laid me in a house with a ceiling vaulted o'er, * And Time shall be no more ere it ope to me its door."
When they had shovelled in the dust over him and the crowd had dispersed, Nur al-Din returned home and he lamented with sobs and tears; and the tongue of the case repeated these couplets,
"On the fifth day at even-tide they went away from me: * farewelled them as faring they made farewell my lot:
But my spirit as they went, with them went and so I cried, * 'Ah return ye!' but replied she, 'Alas! return is not
To a framework lere and lorn that lacketh blood and life, * A frame whereof remaineth naught but bones that rattle and rot:
Mine eyes are blind and cannot see quencht by the flowing tear! * Mine ears are dull and lost to sense: they have no power to hear!'"
He abode a long time sorrowing for his father till, one day, as he was sitting at home, there came a knocking at the door; so he rose in haste and opening let in a man, one of his father's intimates and who had been the Wazir's boon-companion. The visitor kissed Nur al-Din's hand and said to him, "O my lord, he who hath left the like of thee is not dead; and this way went also the Chief of the Ancients and the Moderns. O my lord Ali, be comforted and leave sorrowing." Thereupon Nur al-Din rose and going to the guest-saloon transported thither all he needed. Then he assembled his companions and took his handmaid again; and, collecting round him ten of the sons of the merchants, began to eat meat and drink wine, giving entertainment after entertainment and lavishing his presents and his favours. One day his Steward came to him and said, "O my lord Nur al-Din, hast thou not heard the saying, Whoso spendeth and reckoneth not, to poverty wendeth and recketh not?" And he repeated what the poet wrote,
"I look to my money and keep it with care, * For right well I wot 'tis my buckler and brand:
Did I lavish my dirhams on hostilest foes, * I should truck my good luck by mine ill luck trepanned:
So I'll eat it and drink it and joy in my wealth; * And no spending my pennies on others I'll stand:
I will keep my purse close 'gainst whoever he be; * And a niggard in grain a true friend ne'er I fand:
Far better deny him than come to say:--Lend, * And five-fold the loan shall return to thy hand!
And he turns face aside and he sidles away, * While I stand like a dog disappointed, unmanned,
Oh, the sorry lot his who hath yellow-boys none, * Though his genius and virtues shine bright as the sun!
O my master," continued the Steward, "this lavish outlay and these magnificent gifts waste away wealth." When Nur al-Din Ali heard these words he looked at his servant and cried, "Of all thou hast spoken I will not heed one single word, for I have heard the saying of the poet who saith,
'An my palm be full of wealth and my wealth I ne'er bestow, * A palsy take my hand and my foot ne'er rise again!
Show my niggard who by niggardise e'er rose to high degree, * Or the generous gifts generally hath slain.'"
And he pursued, "Know, O Steward, it is my desire that so long as thou hast money enough for my breakfast, thou trouble me not with taking thought about my supper." Thereupon the Steward asked, "Must it be so?"; and he answered, "It must." So the honest man went his way and Nur al-Din Ali devoted himself to extravagance; and, if any of his cup-companions chanced to say, "This is a pretty thing;" he would reply, "'Tis a gift to thee!"; or if another said, "O my lord, such a house is handsome;" he would answer, "Take it: it is thine!" After this reckless fashion he continued to live for a whole year, giving his friends a banquet in the morning and a banquet in the evening and a banquet at midnight, till one day, as the company was sitting together, the damsel Anis al-Jalis repeated these lines,
"Thou deemedst well of Time when days went well, * And feardest not what ills might deal thee Fate:
Thy nights so fair and restful cozened thee, * For peaceful nights bring woes of heavy weight."
When she had ended her verse behold, somebody knocked at the door. So Nur al-Din rose to open it and one of his boon- companions followed him without being perceived. At the door he found his Steward and asked him, "What is the matter?"; and he answered, "O my lord, what I dreaded for thee hath come to pass!" "How so?" "Know that there remains not a dirham's worth, less or more in my hands. Here are my Daftars and account books showing both income and outlay and the registers of thine original property." When Nur al-Din heard these words he bowed his head and said, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah!" When the man who had followed him privily to spy on him heard the Steward's words, he returned to his friends and warned them saying, "Look ye well to what ye do: Nur al-Din is penniless;" and, as the young host came back to his guests, vexation showed itself in his face. Thereupon one of the intimates rose; and, looking at the entertainer, said to him, "O my lord, may be thou wilt give me leave to retire?" "And why so early retirement this day?"; asked he and the other answered him, "My wife is in childbirth and I may not be absent from her: indeed I must return and see how she does." So he gave him leave, whereupon another rose and said, "O my lord Nur al-Din, I wish now to go to my brother's for he circumciseth his son to- day." In short each and every asked permission to retire on some pretence or other, till all the ten were gone leaving Nur al-Din alone. Then he called his slave-girl and said to her, "O Anis al-Jalis, hast thou seen what case is mine?" And he related to her what the Steward had told him. Then quoth she, "O my lord, for many nights I had it in my mind to speak with thee of this matter, but I heard thee repeating,
'When the World heaps favours on thee, pass on * Thy favours to friends ere her hand she stay:
Largesse never let her when fain she comes, * Nor niggardise kept her from turning away!'
When I heard these verses I held my peace and cared not to exchange a word with thee." "O Anis al-Jalis," said Nur al-Din, "thou knowest that I have not wasted my wealth save on my friends, especially these ten who have now left me a pauper, and I think they will not abandon and desert me without relief." "By Allah," replied she, "they will not profit thee with aught of aid." Said he, "I will rise at once and go to them and knock at their doors; it may be I shall get from them somewhat wherewith I may trade and leave pastime and pleasuring." So he rose without stay or delay, and repaired to a street wherein all his ten friends lived. He went up to the nearest door and knocked; whereupon a handmaid came out and asked him, "Who art thou?"; and he answered, "Tell thy master that Nur al-Din Ali standeth at the door and saith to him, 'Thy slave kisseth thy hand and awaiteth thy bounty.'" The girl went in and told her master, who cried at her, "Go back and say, 'My master is not at home.'" So she returned to Nur al-Din, and said to him, "O my lord, my master is out." Thereupon he turned away and said to himself, "If this one be a whoreson knave and deny himself, another may not prove himself such knave and whoreson." Then he went up to the next door and sent in a like message to the house-master, who denied himself as the first had done, whereupon he began repeating,
"He is gone who when to his gate thou go'st, * Fed thy famisht maw with his boiled and roast."
When he had ended his verse he said, "By Allah, there is no help but that I make trial of them all: perchance there be one amongst them who will stand me in the stead of all the rest." So he went the round of the ten, but not one of them would open his door to him or show himself or even break a bit of bread before him; whereupon he recited,
"Like a tree is he who in wealth doth wone, * And while fruits he the folk to his fruit shall run:
But when bared the tree of what fruit it bare, * They leave it to suffer from dust and sun.
Perdition to all of this age! I find * Ten rogues for every righteous one."
Then he returned to his slave-girl and his grief had grown more grievous and she said to him, "O my lord, did I not tell thee, none would profit thee with aught of aid?" And he replied, "By Allah, not one of them would show me his face or know me!" "O my lord," quoth she, "sell some of the moveables and household stuff, such as pots and pans, little by little; and expend the proceeds until Allah Almighty shall provide." So he sold all of that was in the house till nothing remained when he turned to Anis al-Jalis and asked her "What shall we do now?"; and she answered, "O my lord, it is my advice that thou rise forthwith and take me down to the bazar and sell me. Thou knowest that they father bought me for ten thousand dinars: haply Allah may open thee a way to get the same price, and if it be His will to bring us once more together, we shall meet again." "O Anis al- Jalis," cried he, "by Allah it is no light matter for me to be parted from thee for a single hour!" "By Allah, O my lord," she replied, "nor is it easy to me either, but Need hath its own law, as the poet said,
'Need drives a man into devious roads, * And pathways doubtful of trend and scope:
No man to a rope will entrust his weight, * Save for cause that calleth for case of rope.'"
Thereupon he rose to his feet and took her, whilst the tears rolled down his cheek like rain; and he recited with the tongue of the case these lines,
"Stay! grant one parting look before we part, * Nerving my heart this severance to sustain:
But, an this parting deal thee pain and bane, * Leave me to die of love and spare thee pain!"
Then he went down with her to the bazar and delivered her to the broker and said to him, "O Hajj Hasan, I pray thee note the value of her thou hast to cry for sale." "O my lord Nur al- Din," quoth the broker, "the fundamentals are remembered;" adding, "Is not this the Anis al-Jalis whom thy father bought of me for ten thousand dinars?" "Yes," said Nur al-Din. Thereupon the broker went round to the merchants, but found that all had not yet assembled. So he waited till the rest had arrived and the market was crowded with slave-girls of all nations, Turks, Franks and Circassians; Abyssinians, Nubians and Takruris; Tartars, Georgians and others; when he came forward and standing cried aloud, "O merchants! O men of money! every round thing is not a walnut and every long thing a banana is not; all reds are not meat nor all whites fat, nor is every brown thing a date! O merchants, I have here this union-pearl that hath no price: at what sum shall I cry her?" "Cry her at four thousand five hundred dinars," quoth one of the traders. The broker opened the door of sale at the sum named and, as he was yet calling, lo! the Wazir Al-Mu'in bin Sawi passed through the bazar and, seeing Nur al-Din Ali waiting at one side, said to himself, "Why is Khakan's son standing about here? Hath this gallows-bird aught remaining wherewith to buy slave-girls?" Then he looked round and, seeing the broker calling out in the market with all the merchants around him, said to himself, "I am sure that he is penniless and hath brought hither the damsel Anis al-Jalis for sale;" adding, "O how cooling and grateful is this to my heart!" Then he called the crier, who came up and kissed the ground before him; and he said to him, "I want this slave-girl whom thou art calling for sale." The broker dared not cross him, so he answered, "O my lord, Bismillah! in Allah's name so be it;" and led forward the damsel and showed her to him. She pleased him much whereat he asked, "O Hasan, what is bidden for this girl?" and he answered, "Four thousand five hundred dinars to open the door of sale." Quoth Al-Mu'in, "Four thousand five hundred is MY bid." When the merchants heard this, they held back and dared not bid another dirham, wotting what they did of the Wazir's tyranny, violence and treachery. So Al-Mu'in looked at the broker and said to him, "Why stand still? Go and offer four thousand dinars for me and the five hundred shall be for thyself." Thereupon the broker went to Nur al-Din and said, "O my lord, thy slave is going for nothing!" "And how so?" asked he. The broker answered, "We had opened the biddings for her at four thousand five hundred dinars; when that tyrant, Al-Mu'in bin Sawi, passed through the bazar and, as he saw the damsel she pleased him, so he cried to me, 'Call me the buyer at four thousand dinars and thou shalt have five hundred for thyself.' I doubt not but that he knoweth that the damsel if thine, and if he would pay thee down her price at once it were well; but I know his injustice and violence; he will give thee a written order upon some of his agents and will send after thee to say to them, 'Pay him nothing.' So as often as though shalt go in quest of the coin they will say, 'We'll pay thee presently!' and they will put thee off day after day, and thou art proud of spirit; till at last, when they are wearied with thine importunity, they will say, 'Show us the cheque.' Then, as soon as they have got hold of it they will tear it up and so thou wilt lose the girl's price." When Nur al-Din heard this he looked at the broker and asked him, "How shall this matter be managed?"; and he answered, "I will give thee a counsel which, if thou follow, it shall bring thee complete satisfaction." "And what is that?" quoth Nur al-Din. Quoth the broker, "Come thou to me anon when I am standing in the middle of the market and, taking the girl from my hand, give her a sound cuffing and say to her, 'Thou baggage, I have kept my vow and brought thee down to the slave-market, because I swore an oath that I would carry thee from home to the bazar, and make brokers cry thee for sale.' If thou do this, perhaps the device will impose upon the Wazir and the people, and they will believe that thou broughtest her not to the bazar, but for the quittance of thine oath." He replied, "Such were the best way." Then the broker left him and, returning into the midst of the market, took the damsel by the hand, and signed to the Wazir and said, "O my lord, here is her owner." With this up came Nur al-Din Ali and, snatching the girl from the broker's hand, cuffed her soundly and said to her, "Shame on thee, O thou baggage! I have brought thee to the bazar for quittance of mine oath; now get thee home and thwart me no more as is thy wont. Woe to thee! do I need thy price, that I should sell thee? The furniture of my house would fetch thy value many times over!" When Al-Mu'in saw this he said to Nur al-Din, "Out on thee! Hast thou anything left for selling or buying?" And he would have laid violent hands upon him, but the merchants interposed (for they all loved Nur al-Din), and the young man said to them, "Here am I in your hands and ye all know his tyranny." "By Allah," cried the Wazir, "but for you I had slain him!" Then all signed with significant eyes to Nur al-Din as much as to say, "Take thy wreak of him; not one of us will come between thee and him." Thereupon Nur al-Din, who was stout of heart as he was stalwart of limb, went up to the Wazir and, dragging him over the pommel of his saddle, threw him to the ground. Now there was in that place a puddling- pit for brick- clay, into the midst of which he fell, and Nur al-Din kept pummelling and fisti-cuffing him, and one of the blows fell full on his teeth, and his beard was dyed with his blood. Also there were with the minister ten armed slaves who, seeing their master entreated after this fashion, laid hand on sword-hilt and would have bared blades and fallen on Nur al-Din to cut him down; but the merchants and bystanders said to them, "This is a Wazir and that is the son of a Wazir; haply they will make friends some time or other, in which case you will forfeit the favour of both. Or perchance a blow may befal your lord, and you will all die the vilest of deaths; so it were better for you not to interfere." Accordingly they held aloof and, when Nur al-Din had made an end of thrashing the Wazir, he took his handmaid and fared homewards. Al-Mu'in also went his ways at once, with his raiment dyed of three colours, black with mud, red with blood and ash coloured with brick-clay. When he saw himself in this state, he bound a bit of matting round his neck and, taking in hand two bundles of coarse Halfah-grass, went up to the palace and standing under the Sultan's windows cried aloud, "O King of the age, I am a wronged man! I am foully wronged!" So they brought him before the King who looked at him; and behold, it was the chief Minister; whereupon he said, "O Wazir who did this deed by thee?" Al-Mu'in wept and sobbed and repeated these lines,
"Shall the World oppress me when thou art in't? * In the lion's presence shall wolves devour?
Shall the dry all drink of thy tanks and I * Under rain-cloud thirst for the cooling shower?"
"O my lord," cried he, "the like will befal every one who loveth and serveth thee well." "Be quick with thee," quoth the Sultan, "and tell me how this came to pass and who did this deed by one whose honour is part of my honour." Quoth the Wazir, "Know, O my lord, that I went out this day to the slave-market to buy me a cookmaid, when I saw there a damsel, never in my life long saw I a fairer; and I designed to buy her for our lord the Sultan; so I asked the broker of her and of her owner, and he answered, "She belongeth to Ali son of Al-Fazl bin Khakan. Some time ago our lord the Sultan gave his father ten thousand dinars wherewith to buy him a handsome slave-girl, and he bought this maiden who pleased him; so he grudged her to our lord the Sultan and gave her to his own son. When the father died, the son sold all he had of houses and gardens and household gear, and squandered the price till he was penniless. Then he brought the girl to the market that he might sell her, and he handed her over to the broker to cry and the merchants bid higher and higher on her, until the price reached four thousand dinars; whereupon quoth I to myself, 'I will buy this damsel for our lord the Sultan, whose money was paid for her.' So I said to Nur al-Din, 'O my son, sell her to me for four thousand dinars.' When he heard my words he looked at me and cried, 'O ill-omened oldster, I will sell her to a Jew or to a Nazarene, but I will not sell her to thee!' 'I do not buy her for myself,' said I, 'I buy her for our lord and benefactor the Sultan.' Hearing my words he was filled with rage; and, dragging me off my horse (and I a very old man), beat me unmercifully with his fists and buffeted me with his palms till he left me as thou seest, and all this hath befallen me only because I thought to buy this damsel for thee!" Then the Wazir threw himself on the ground and lay there weeping and shivering. When the Sultan saw his condition and heard his story, the vein of rage started out between his eyes and he turned to his body-guard who stood before him, forty white slaves, smiters with the sword, and said to them, "Go down forthright to the house built by the son of Khakan and sack it and raze it and bring to me his son Nur al-Din with the damsel; and drag them both on their faces with their arms pinioned behind them." They replied, "To hear is to obey;" and, arming themselves, they set out for the house of Nur al-Din Ali. Now about the Sultan was a Chamerlain, Alam al-Din Sanjar hight, who had aforetime been Mameluke to Al-Fazl; but he had risen in the world and the Sultan had advanced him to be one of his Chamberlains. When he heard the King's command and saw the enemies make them ready to slay his old master's son, it was grievous to him: so he went out from before the Sultan and, mounting his beast, rode to Nur al- Din's house and knocked at the door. Nur al-Din came out and knowing him would have saluted him: but he said, "O my master this is no time for greeting or treating. Listen to what the poet said,
'Fly, fly with thy life if by ill overtaken!
Let thy house speak thy death by its builder forsaken!
For a land else than this land thou may'st reach, my brother,
But thy life tho'lt ne'er find in this world another.'"
"O Alam al-Din what cheer?" asked Nur al-Din, and he answered, "Rise quickly and fly for thy life, thou and the damsel; for Al- Mu'in hath set a snare for you both; and, if you fall into his hands, he will slay you. The Sultan hath despatched forty sworders against you and I counsel you to flee ere harm can hurt you." Then Sanjar put his hand to his purse and finding there forty gold pieces took them and gave them to Nur al-Din, saying, "O my lord receive these and journey with them. Had I more I would give them to thee, but this is not the time to take exception." Thereupon Nur al-Din went in to the damsel and told her what had happened, at which she wrung her hands. Then they fared forth at once from the city, and Allah spread over them His veil of protection, so that they reached the river-bank where they found a vessel ready for sea. Her skipper was standing amidships and crying, "Whoso hath aught to do, whether in the way of provisioning or taking leave of his people; or whoso hath forgotten any needful thing, let him do it at once and return, for we are about to sail"; and all of them saying, "There is naught left to be done by us, O captain!", he cried to his crew, "Hallo there! cast off the cable and pull up the mooring- pole!" Quoth Nur al-Din, "Whither bound, O captain?" and quoth he, "To the House of Peace, Baghdad," -And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
When it was the Thirty-sixth Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the skipper answered, "To the House of Peace, Baghdad," Nur al-Din Ali and the damsel went on board, and they launched the craft and shook out the sails, and the ship sped forth as though she were a bird on wing; even as said one of them and said right well,
"Watch some tall ship, she'll joy the sight of thee, * The breeze outstripping in her haste to flee;
As when a bird, with widely-spreading wings, * Leaveth the sky to settle on the sea."
So the vessel sailed on her fastest and the wind to her was fairest. Thus far concerning them; but as regards the Mamelukes, they went to Nur al-Din's mansion and, breaking open the doors, entered and searched the whole place, but could find no trace of him and the damsel; so they demolished the house and, returning to the Sultan, reported their proceedings; whereupon quoth he, "Make search for them both, wherever they may be;" and they answered, "Hearing is obeying." The Wazir Al-Mu'in had also gone home after the Sultan had bestowed upon him a robe of honour, and had set his heart at rest by saying, "None shall take blood-wreak for thee save I;" and he had blessed the King and prayed for his long life and prosperity. Then the Sultan bade proclaim about the city, "Oyez, O ye lieges one and all! It is the will of our lord the Sultan that whoso happeneth on Nur al-Din Ali son of Al- Fazl bin Khakan, and bringeth him to the Sultan, shall receive a robe of honour and one thousand gold pieces; and he who hideth him or knoweth his abiding place and informeth not, deserveth whatsoever pains and penalties shall befal him." So all began to search for Nur al-Din Ali, but they could find neither trace nor tidings of him. Meanwhile he and his handmaid sailed on with the wind right aft, till they arrived in safety at Baghdad, and the captain said to them, "This is Baghdad and 'tis the city where security is to be had: Winter with his frosts hath turned away and Prime hath come his roses to display; and the flowers are a- glowing and the trees are blowing and the streams are flowing." So Nur al-Din landed, he and his handmaid and, giving the captain five dinars, walked on a little way till the decrees of Destiny brought them among the gardens, and they came to a place swept and sprinkled, with benches along the walls and hanging jars filled with water. Overhead was a trellis of reed-work and canes shading the whole length of the avenue, and at the upper end was a garden gate, but this was locked. "By Allah," quoth Nur al-Din to the damsel, "right pleasant is this place!"; and she replied, "O my lord sit with me a while on this bench and let us take our ease." So they mounted and sat them down on the bench, after which they washed their faces and hands; and the breeze blew cool on them and they fell asleep and glory be to Him who never sleepeth! Not this garden was named the Garden of Gladness and therein stood a belvedere hight the Palace of Pleasure and the Pavilion of Pictures, the whole belonging to the Caliph Harun al-Rashid who was wont, when his breast was straitened with care, to frequent garden and palace and there to sit. The palace had eighty latticed windows and fourscore lamps hanging round a great candelabrum of gold furnished with wax- candles; and, when the Caliph used to enter, he would order the handmaids to throw open the lattices and light up the rooms; and he would bid Ishak bin Ibrahim the cup-companion and the slave- girls to sing till his breast was broadened and his ailments were allayed. Now the keeper of the garden, Shaykh Ibrahim, was a very old man, and he had found from time to time, when he went out on any business, people pleasuring about the garden gate with their bona robas; at which he was angered with exceeding anger. But he took patience till one day when the Caliph came to his garden; and he complained of this to Harun al-Rashid who said, "Whomsoever thou surprisest about the door of the garden, deal with him as thou wilt." Now on this day the Gardener chanced to be abroad on some occasion and returning found these two sleeping at the gate covered with a single mantilla; whereupon said he, "By Allah, good! These twain know not that the Caliph hath given me leave to slay anyone I may catch at the door; but I will give this couple a shrewd whipping, that none may come near the gate in future." So he cut a green palm-frond and went up to them and, raising his arm till the white of his arm-pit appeared, was about to strike them, when he bethought himself and said, "O Ibrahim, wilt thou beat them unknowing their case? Haply they are strangers or of the Sons of the Road, and the decrees of Destiny have thrown them here. I will uncover their faces and look at them." So he lifted up the mantilla from their heads and said, "They are a handsome couple; it were not fitting that I should beat them." Then he covered their faces again and, going to Nur al-Din's feet, began to rub and shampoo them, whereupon the youth opened his eyes and, seeing an old man of grave and reverend aspect rubbing his feet, he was ashamed and drawing them in, sat up. Then he took Shaykh Ibrahim's hand and kissed it. Quoth the old man, "O my son, whence art thou?"; and quoth he, "O my lord, we two are strangers," and the tears started from his eyes. "O my son," said Shaykh Ibrahim, "know that the Prophet (whom Allah bless and preserve!) hath enjoined honour to the stranger;" and added, "Wilt not thou arise, O my son, and pass into the garden and solace thyself by looking at it and gladden thy heart?" "O my lord," said Nur al-Din, "to whom doth this garden belong?;" and the other replied, "O my son, I have inherited it from my folk." Now his object in saying this was to set them at their ease and induce them to enter the garden. So Nur al-Din thanked him and rose, he and the damsel, and followed him into the garden; and lo! it was a garden, and what a garden! The gate was arched like a great hall and over walls and roof ramped vines with grapes of many colours; the red like rubies and the black like ebonies; and beyond it lay a bower of trelliced boughs growing fruits single and composite, and small birds on branches sang with melodious recite, and the thousand-noted nightingale shrilled with her varied shright; the turtle with her cooing filled the site; the blackbird whistled like human wight and the ring-dove moaned like a drinker in grievous plight. The trees grew in perfection all edible growths and fruited all manner fruits which in pairs were bipartite; with the camphor- apricot, the almond-apricot and the apricot "Khorasani" hight; the plum, like the face of beauty, smooth and bright; the cherry that makes teeth shine clear by her sleight, and the fig of three colours, green, purple and white. There also blossomed the violet as it were sulphur on fire by night; the orange with buds like pink coral and marguerite; the rose whose redness gars the loveliest cheeks blush with despight; and myrtle and gilliflower and lavender with the blood-red anemone from Nu'uman hight. The leaves were all gemmed with tears the clouds had dight; the chamomile smiled showing teeth that bite, and Narcissus with his negro eyes fixed on Rose his sight; the citrons shone with fruits embowled and the lemons like balls of gold; earth was carpeted with flowers tinctured infinite; for Spring was come brightening the place with joy and delight; and the streams ran ringing, to the birds' gay singing, while the rustling breeze upspringing attempered the air to temperance exquisite. Shaykh Ibrahim carried them up into the pavilion, and they gazed on its beauty, and on the lamps aforementioned in the latticed windows; and Nur al-Din, remembering his entertainments of time past, cried, "By Allah, this is a pleasant place; it hath quenched in me anguish which burned as a fire of Ghaza-wood." Then they sat down and Shaykh Ibrahim set food before them; and they ate till they were satisfied and washed their hands: after which Nur al-Din went up to one of the latticed windows, and, calling to his handmaid fell to gazing on the trees laden with all manner fruits. Presently he turned to the Gardener and said to him, "O Shaykh Ibrahim hast thou no drink here, for folk are wont to drink after eating?" The Shaykh brought him sweet water, cool and pleasant, but he said, "This is not the kind of drink I wanted." "Perchance thou wishest for wine?" "Indeed I do, O Shaykh!" "I seek refuge from it with Allah: it is thirteen years since I did this thing, for the Prophet (Abhak) cursed its drinker, presser, seller and carrier!" "Hear two words of me." "Say on." "If yon cursed ass which standeth there be cursed, will aught of his curse alight upon thee?" "By no means!" "Then take this dinar and these two dirhams and mount yonder ass and, halting afar from the wine-shop, call the first man thou seest buying liquor and say to him, 'Take these two dirhams for thyself, and with this dinar buy me some wine and set it on the ass.' So shalt thou be neither the presser, nor the buyer, nor the carrier; and no part of the curse will fall upon thee." At this Shaykh Ibrahim laughed and said, "By Allah, O my son, I never saw one wilier of wit than thou art, nor heard aught sweeter than thy speech." So he did as he was bidden by Nur al- Din who thanked him and said, "We two are now dependent on thee, and it is only meet that thou comply with our wishes; so bring us here what we require." "O my son," replied he, "this is my buttery before thee" (and it was the store-room provided for the Commander of the Faithful); "so go in, and take whatso thou wilt, for there is over and above what thou wantest." Nur al-Din then entered the pantry and found therein vessels of gold and silver and crystal set with all kinds of gems, and was amazed and delighted with what he saw. Then he took out what he needed and set it on and poured the wine into flagons and glass ewers, whilst Shaykh Ibrahim brought them fruit and flowers and aromatic herbs. Then the old man withdrew and sat down at a distance from them, whilst they drank and made merry, till the wine got the better of them, so that their cheeks reddened and their eyes wantoned like the gazelle's; and their locks became dishevelled and their brightness became yet more beautiful. Then said Shaykh Ibrahim to himself, "What aileth me to sit apart from them? Why should I not sit with them? When shall I ever find myself in company with the like of these two that favour two moons?" So he stepped forward and sat down on the edge of the dais, and Nur al- Din said to him, "O my lord, my life on thee, come nearer to us!" He came and sat by them, when Nur al-Din filled a cup and looked towards the Shaykh and said to him, "Drink, that thou mayest try the taste of it!" "I take refuge from it with Allah!" replied he; "for thirteen years I have not done a thing of the kind." Nur al-Din feigned to forget he was there and, drinking off the cup, threw himself on the ground as if the drink had overcome him; whereupon Anis al-Jalis glanced at him and said, "O Shaykh Ibrahim see how this husband of mine treateth me;" and he answered, "O my lady, what aileth him?" "This is how he always serveth me," cried she, "he drinketh awhile, then falleth asleep and leaveth me alone with none to bear me company over my cup nor any to whom I may sing when the bowl goeth round." Quoth the Shaykh (and his mien unstiffened for that his soul inclined towards her), "By Allah, this is not well!" Then she crowned a cup and looking towards him said, "By my life thou must take and drink it, and not refuse to heal my sick heart!" So he put forth his hand and took it and drank it off and she filled a second and set it on the chandelier and said, "O master mine, there is still this one left for thee." "By Allah, I cannot drink it;" cried he, "what I have already drunk is enough for me;" but she rejoined, "By Allah, there is no help for it." So he took the cup and drank; and she filled him a third which he took and was about to drink when behold, Nur al-Din rolled round and sat upright,--And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Thirty-seventh Night,
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Nur al-Din sat upright and said, "Ho, Shaykh Ibrahim, what is this? Did I not adjure thee a while ago and thou refusedst, saying, 'What I! 'tis thirteen years ago since I have done such a thing!'" "By Allah," quoth the Shaykh (and indeed he was abashed), "no sin of mine this, she forced me to do it." Nur al-Din laughed and they sat down again to wine and wassail, but the damsel turned to her master and said in a whisper, "O my lord, drink and do not press him, that I may show thee some sport with him." Then she began to fill her master's cup and he hers and so they did time after time, till at last Shaykh Ibrahim looked at them and said, "What fashion of good fellowship is this? Allah curse the glutton who keepeth the cup to himself! Why dost thou not give me to drink, O my brother? What manners are these, O blessed one?" At this the two laughed until they fell on their backs; then they drank and gave him to drink and ceased not their carousal till a third part of the night was past. Then said the damsel, "O Shaykh Ibrahim, with thy leave I will get up and light one of these candles." "Do so," he replied, "but light no more than one." So she sprang to her feet and, beginning with one candle, lighted all the eighty and sat down again. Presently Nur al-Din said, "O Shaykh Ibrahim, in what favour am I with thee? May I not light one of these lamps?" "Light one," replied he, "and bother me no more in thy turn!" So he rose and lighted one lamp after another, till he had lighted the whole eight and the palace seemed to dance with brilliancy. Quoth the Shaykh (and indeed intoxication had overcome him), "Ye two are bolder than I am." Then he rose to his feet and opened all the lattices and sat down again; and they fell to carousing and reciting verses till the place rang with their noisy mirth. Now Allah, the Decreer who decreeth all things and who for every effect appointeth a cause, had so disposed that the Caliph was at that moment sitting in the light of the moon at one of the windows of his palace overlooking the Tigris. He saw the blaze of the lamps and wax candles reflected in the river and, lifting his eyes, perceived that it came from the Garden Palace which was all ablaze with brilliancy. So he cried, "Here to me with Ja'afar the Barmaki!"; and the last word was hardly spoken ere the Wazir was present before the Commander of the Faithful, who cried at him, "O dog of a Minister, hast thou taken from me this city of Baghdad without saying aught to me?" "What words are these words?" asked Ja'afar; and the Caliph answered, "If Baghdad city were not taken from me, the Palace of Pictures would not be illuminated with lamps and candles, nor would its windows be thrown open. Woe to thee! who durst do a deed like this except the Caliphate had been taken from me?" Quoth Ja'afar (and indeed his side-muscles trembled as he spoke), "Who told thee that the Palace of Pictures was illuminated and the windows thrown open?" "Come hither and see," replied the Caliph. Then Ja'afar came close to the Caliph and, looking towards the garden, saw the palace blazing with illumination that rayed through the gloom of the night; and, thinking that this might have been permitted by the keeper for some reason of his own, he wished to make an excuse for him; so quoth he, "O Commander of the Faithful, Shaykh Ibrahim said to me last week, 'O my lord Ja'afar, I much wish to circumcise my sons during the life of the Commander of the Faithful and thy life.' I asked, 'What dost thou want?'; and he answered, 'Get me leave from the Caliph to hold the festival in the Garden Palace.' So said I to him, 'Go circumcise them and I will see the Caliph and tell him.' Thereupon he went away and I forgot to let thee know." "O Ja'afar," said the Caliph, "thou hast committed two offences against me; first in that thou didst no report to me, secondly, thou didst not give him what he sought; for he came and told thee this only as excuse to ask for some small matter of money, to help him with the outlay; and thou gavest him nothing nor toldest me." "O Commander of the Faithful," said Ja'afar, "I forgot." "Now by the rights of my forefathers and the tombs of my forbears," quoth the Caliph, "I will not pass the rest of this night save in company with him; for truly he is a pious man who frequenteth the Elders of the Faith and the Fakirs and other religious mendicants and entertaineth them; doubtless they are not assembled together and it may be that the prayer of one of them will work us weal both in this world and in the next. Besides, my presence may profit and at any rate be pleasing to Shaykh Ibrahim." "O Commander of the Faithful," quoth Ja'afar, "the greater part of the night is passed, and at this time they will be breaking up." Quoth the Caliph, "It matters not: I needs must go to them." So Ja'afar held his peace, being bewildered and knowing not what to do. Then the Caliph rose to his feet and, taking with him Ja'afar and Masrur the eunuch sworder, the three disguised themselves in merchants' gear and leaving the City-palace, kept threading the streets till they reached the garden. The Caliph went up to the gate and finding it wide open, was surprised and said, "See, O Ja'afar, how Shaykh Ibrahim hath left the gate open at this hour contrary to his custom!" They went in and walked on till they came under the pavilion, when the Caliph said, "O Ja'afar, I wish to look in upon them unawares before I show myself, that I may see what they are about and get sight of the elders; for hitherto I have heard no sound from them, nor even a Fakir calling upon the name of Allah." Then he looked about and, seeing a tall walnut-tree, said to Ja'afar, "I will climb this tree, for its branches are near the lattices and so look in upon them." Thereupon he mounted the tree and ceased not climbing from branch to branch, till he reached a bough which was right opposite one of the windows, and here he took seat and looked inside the palace. He saw a damsel and a youth as they were two moons (glory be to Him who created them and fashioned them!), and by them Shaykh Ibrahim seated cup in hand and saying, "O Princess of fair ones, drinking without music is nothing worth; indeed I have heard a poet say,
'Round with bit and little, the bowl and cup, * Take either than moon in his sheen hath crowned:
Nor drink without music, for oft I've seen, * The horse drink best to the whistle's sound!'"
When the Caliph saw this, the vein of wrath started up between his eyes and he came down and said to the Wazir, "O Ja'afar, never beheld I yet men of piety in such case; so do thou mount this tree and look upon them, lest the blessings of the blest be lost to thee." Ja'afar, hearing the words of the Commander of the Faithful and being confounded by them, climbed to the tree- top and looking in, saw Nur al-Din and the damsel, and Shaykh Ibrahim holding in his hand a brimming bowl. At this sight he made sure of death and, descending, stood before the Commander of the Faithful, who said to him, "O Ja'afar, praise be to Allah who hath made us of those that observe external ordinances of Holy Law and hath averted from us the sin of disguising ourselves after the manner of hypocrites!" But Ja'afar could not speak a word for excess of confusion; so the Caliph looked at him and said, "I wonder how they came hither, and who admitted them into my pavilion! But aught like the beauty of this youth and this damsel my eyes never yet saw!" "Thou sayest sooth, O our Lord the Sultan!" replied Ja'afar (and he hoped to propitiate the Caliph Harun al-Rashid). Then quoth the Caliph, "O Ja'afar, let us both mount the branch opposite the window, that we may amuse ourselves with looking at them." So the two climbed the tree and, peering in, heard Shaykh Ibrahim say, "O my lady, I have cast away all gravity mine by the drinking of wine, but 'tis not sweet save with the soft sounds of the lute-strings it combine." "By Allah," replied Anis al-Jalis, "O Shaykh Ibrahim, an we had but some instrument of music our joyance were complete." Hearing this he rose to his feet and the Caliph said to Ja'afar, "I wonder what he is about to do!" and Ja'afar answered, "I know not." The Shaykh disappeared and presently reappeared bringing a lute; and the Caliph took not of it and knew it for that of Abu Ishak the Cup-companion. "By Allah," said the Caliph, "if this damsel sing ill I will crucify all of you; but if she sing well I will forgive them and only gibbet thee." "O Allah cause her to sing vilely!" quoth Ja'afar. Asked the Caliph, "Why so?"; and he answered, "If thou crucify us all together, we shall keep one another company." The Caliph laughed at his speech. Presently the damsel took the lute and, after looking at it and tuning it, she played a measure which made all hearts yearn to her; then she sang these lines,
"O ye that can aid me, a wretched lover, * Whom longing burns nor can rest restore me!
Though all you have done I have well deserved, * I take refuge with you, so exult not o'er me:
True, I am weak and low and vile, * But I'll bear your will and whatso you bore me:
My death at your hands what brings it of glory? * I fear but your sin which of life forlore me!"
Quoth the Caliph, "By Allah, good! O Ja'afar, never in my life have I heard a voice so enchanting as this." "Then haply the Caliph's wrath hath passed away," said Ja'afar, and he replied, "Yes, 'tis gone." Thereupon they descended from the tree, and the Caliph said to Ja'afar, "I wish to go in and sit with them and hear the damsel sing before me." "O Commander of the Faithful," replied Ja'afar, "if thou go in to them they will be terribly troubled, and Shaykh Ibrahim will assuredly die of fright." But the Caliph answered, "O Ja'afar, thou must teach me some device wherewith to delude them and whereby I can foregather with them without their knowing me." So they walked towards the Tigris pondering the matter, and presently came upon a fisherman who stood fishing under the pavilion windows. Now some time before this, the Caliph (being in the pavilion) had called to Shaykh Ibrahim and asked him, "What noise is this I hear under the windows?" and he had answered, "It is voices of fisher folk catching fish:" so quoth the Caliph, "Go down and forbid them this place;" and he forbade them accordingly. However that night a fisherman named Karim, happening to pass by and seeing the garden gate open, said to himself, "This is a time of negligence; and I will take advantage of it to do a bit of fishing." So he took his net and cast it, but he had hardly done so when behold, the Caliph come up single-handed and, standing hard by, knew him and called aloud to him, "Ho, Karim!" The fisherman, hearing himself named, turned round, and seeing the Caliph, trembled and his side-muscles quivered, as he cried, "By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I did it not in mockery of the mandate; but poverty and a large family drove me to what thou seest!" Quoth the Caliph, "Make a cast in my name." At this the fisherman was glad and going to the bank threw his net, then waiting till it had spread out at full stretch and settled down, hauled it up and found in it various kinds of fish. The Caliph was pleased and said, "O Karim, doff thy habit." So he put off a gaberdine of coarse woollen stuff patched in an hundred places whereon the lice were rampant, and a turband which had never been untwisted for three years but to which he had sown every rag he came upon. The Caliph also pulled off his person two vests of Alexandrian and Ba'lbak silk, a loose inner robe and a long-sleeved outer coat, and said to the fisherman, "Take them and put them on," while he assumed the foul gaberdine and filthy turband and drew a corner of the head-cloth as a mouth-veil before his face. Then said he to the fisherman, "Get thee about thy business!; and the man kissed the Caliph's feet and thanked him and improvised the following couplets,
"Thou hast granted more favours than ever I craved; * Thou hast satisfied needs which my heart enslaved:
I will thank thee and thank whileas life shall last, * And my bones will praise thee in grave engraved!"
Hardly had the fisherman ended his verse, when the lice began to crawl over the Caliph's skin, and he fell to catching them on his neck with his right and left and throwing them from him, while he cried, "O fisherman, woe to thee! what be this abundance of lice on thy gaberdine." "O my lord," replied he, "they may annoy thee just at first, but before a week is past thou wilt not feel them nor think of them." The Caliph laughed and said to him, "Out on thee! Shall I leave this gaberdine of thine so long on my body?" Quoth the fisherman, "I would say a word to thee but I am ashamed in presence of the Caliph!"; and quoth he, "Say what thou hast to say." "It passed through my thought, O Commander of the Faithful," said the fisherman, "that, since thou wishest to learn fishing so thou mayest have in hand an honest trade whereby to gain thy livelihood, this my gaberdine besitteth thee right well." The Commander of the Faithful laughed at this speech, and the fisherman went his way. Then the Caliph took up the basket of fish and, strewing a little green grass over it, carried it to Ja'afar and stood before him. Ja'afar thinking him to be Karim the fisherman feared for him and said, "O Karim, what brought thee hither? Flee for thy life, for the Caliph is in the garden to-night and, if he see thee, thy neck is gone." At this the Caliph laughed and Ja'afar recognized him and asked, "Can it be thou, our lord the Sultan?"; and he answered, "Yes, O Ja'afar, and thou art my Wazir and I and thou came hither together; yet thou knowest me not; so how should Shaykh Ibrahim know me, and he drunk? Stay here, till I came back to thee." "To hear is to obey," said Ja'afar. Then the Caliph went up to the door of the pavilion and knocked a gentle knock, whereupon said Nur al-Din," O Shaykh Ibrahim, some one taps at the door." "Who goes there?" cried the Shaykh and the Caliph replied, "It is I, O Shaykh Ibrahim!" "Who art thou," quoth he, and quoth the other, "I am Karim the fisherman: I hear thou hast a feast, so I have brought thee some fish, and of a truth 'tis good fish." When Nur al-Din heard the mention of fish, he was glad, he and the damsel, and they both said to the Shaykh, "O our lord, open the door and let him bring us his fish." So Shaykh Ibrahim opened and the Caliph came in (and he in fisherman guise), and began by saluting them. Said Shaykh Ibrahim, "Welcome to the blackguard, the robber, the dicer! Let us see thy fish." So the Caliph showed them his catch and behold, the fishes were still alive and jumping, whereupon the damsel exclaimed, "By Allah! O my lord, these are indeed fine fish: would they were fried!" and Shaykh Ibrahim rejoined, "By Allah, O my lady, thou art right." Then said he to the Caliph, "O fisherman, why didst thou not bring us the fish ready fried? Up now and cook them and bring them back to us." "On my head be thy commands!" said the Caliph, "I will fry thee a dish and bring it." Said they, "Look sharp." Thereupon he went and ran till he came up to Ja'afar when he called to him, "Hallo, Ja'afar!"; and he replied, "Here am I, O Commander of the Faithful, is all well?" "They want the fish fried," said the Caliph, and Ja'afar answered, "O Commander of the Faithful, give it to me and I'll fry it for them." "By the tombs of my forbears," quoth the Caliph, "none shall fry it but I, with mine own hand!" So he went to the gardener's hut, where he searched and found all that he required, even to salt and saffron and wild marjoram and else besides. Then he turned to the brasier and, setting on the frying-pan, fried a right good fry. When it was done, he laid it on a banana-leaf, and gathering from the garden wind-fallen fruits, limes and lemons, carried the fish to the pavilion and set the dish before them. So the youth and the damsel and Shaykh Ibrahim came forward and ate; after which they washed their hands and Nur al-Din said to the Caliph, "By Allah, O fisherman, thou hast done us a right good deed this night." Then he put hand in pouch and, taking out three of the dinars which Sanjar had given him, said, "O fisherman, excuse me. By Allah had I known thee before that which hath lately befallen me, I had done away the bitterness of poverty from thy heart; but take thou this as the best I can do for thee." Then he threw the gold pieces to the Caliph, who took them and kissed them and put them in pouch. Now his sole object in doing all this was to hear the damsel sing; so he said to Nur al-Din, "Thou hast rewarded me most liberally, but I beg of thy boundless bounty that thou let this damsel sing an air, that I may hear her." So Nur al- Din said, "O Anis al-Jalis!" and she answered "Yes!" and he continued, "By my life, sing us something for the sake of this fisherman who wisheth so much to hear thee." Thereupon she took the lute and struck the strings, after she had screwed them tight and tuned them, and sang these improvised verses,
"The fawn of a maid hent her lute in hand * And her music made us right mettlesome:
For her song gave hearing to ears stone-deaf, * While Brava! Brava! exclaimed the dumb."
Then she played again and played so ravishingly, that she charmed their wits and burst out improvising and singing these couplets,
"You have honoured us visiting this our land, * And your splendour illumined the glooms that blent:
So 'tis due that for you I perfume my place * With rose-water, musk and the camphor-scent!"
Hereupon the Caliph was agitated, and emotion so overpowered him that he could not command himself for excess of pleasure, and he exclaimed, "By Allah, good! by Allah, good! by Allah, good!" Asked Nur al-Din, "O fisherman, doth this damsel please thee?" and the Caliph answered, "Ay, by Allah!" Whereupon said Nur al-Din, "She is a gift to thee, a gift of the generous who repenteth him not of his givings and who will never revoke his gift!" Then he sprang to his feet and, taking a loose robe, threw it over the fisherman and bade him receive the damsel and be gone. But she looked at him and said, "O my lord, art thou faring forth without farewell? If it must be so, at least stay till I bid thee good-bye and make known my case." And she began versifying in these verses,
"When love and longing and regret are mine, * Must not this body show of ills a sign?
My love! say not, 'Thou soon shalt be consoled'; * When state speaks state none shall allay my pine.
If living man could swim upon his tears, * I first should float on waters of these eyne:
O thou, who in my heart infusedst thy love, * As water mingles in the cup with wine,
This was the fear I feared, this parting blow. * O thou whose love my heart-core ne'er shall tyne!
O Bin Khakan! my sought, my hope, my will, * O thou whose love this breast make wholly thine!
Against thy lord the King thou sinn'dst for me, * And winnedst exile in lands peregrine:
Allah ne'er make my lord repent my loss * To cream o' men thou gavest me, one right digne."
When she had ended her verses, Nur al-Din answered her with these lines,
"She bade me farewell on our parting day, * And she wept in the fire of our bane and pains:
'What wilt thou do when fro' thee I'm gone?' * Quoth I, 'say this to whom life remains!'"
When the Caliph heard her saying in her verse,
"To Karim, the cream of men thou gavest me;"
his inclination for her redoubled and it seemed a hard matter and a grievous to part them; so quoth he to the youth, "O my lord, truly the damsel said in her verses that thou didst transgress against her master and him who owned her; so tell me, against whom didst thou transgress and who is it hath a claim on thee?" "By Allah, O fisherman," replied Nur al-Din, "there befel me and this damsel a wondrous tale and a marvellous matter: an 't were graven with needle-gravers on the eye-corners it would be a warner to whoso would be warned." Cried the Caliph, "Wilt thou not tell me thy story and acquaint me with thy case? Haply it may bring thee relief, for Allah's aid is ever nearhand." "O fisherman," said Nur al-Din, "Wilt thou hear our history in verse or in prose?" "Prose is a wordy thing, but verses," rejoined the Caliph, "are pearls on string." Then Nur al-Din bowed his head, and made these couplets,
"O my friend! reft of rest no repose I command, * And my grief is redoubled in this far land:
Erst I had a father, a kinder ne'er was; * But he died and to Death paid the deodand:
When he went from me, every matter went wrong * Till my heart was nigh-broken, my nature unmanned:
He bought me a handmaid, a sweeting who shamed * A wand of the willow by Zephyr befanned:
I lavisht upon her mine heritage, * And spent like a nobleman puissant and grand:
Then to sell her compelled, my sorrow increased; * The parting was sore but I mote not gainstand:
Now as soon as the crier had called her, there bid * A wicked old fellow, a fiery brand:
So I raged with a rage that I could not restrain, * And snatched her from out of his hireling's hand;
When the angry curmudgeon made ready for blows, * And the fire of a fight kindled he and his band,
I smote him in fury with right and with left, * And his hide, till well satisfied, curried and tanned:
Then in fear I fled forth and lay hid in my house, * To escape from the snares which my foeman had spanned:
So the King of the country proclaimed my arrest; * When access to me a good Chamberlain fand:
And warned me to flee from the city afar, * Disappear, disappoint what my enemies planned:
Then we fled from our home 'neath the wing of the night, * And sought us a refuge by Baghdad strand:
Of my riches I've nothing on thee to bestow, * O Fisher, except the fair gift thou hast scanned:
The loved of my soul, and when I from her part, * Know for sure that I give thee the blood of my heart."
When he had ended his verse, the Caliph said to him, "O my lord Nur al-Din, explain to me thy case more fully," So he told him the whole story from beginning to end, and the Caliph said to him, "Whither dost thou now intend?" "Allah's world is wide," replied he. Quoth the Caliph, "I will write thee a letter to carry to the Sultan Mohammed bin Sulayman al-Zayni, which when he readeth, he will not hurt nor harm thee in aught." -And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
When it was the Thirty-eighth Night,
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Caliph said to Nur al-Din Ali, "I will write thee a letter to carry to the Sultan Mohammed bin Sulayman al-Zayni, which when he readeth, he will not hurt nor harm thee in aught," Nur al-Din asked "What! is there in the world a fisherman who writeth to Kings? Such a thing can never be!"; and the Caliph answered, "Thou sayest sooth, but I will tell thee the reason. Know that I and he learnt in the same school under one schoolmaster, and that I was his monitor. Since that time Fortune befriended him and he is become a Sultan, while Allah hath abased me and made me a fisherman; yet I never send to him to ask aught but he doeth my desire; nay, though I should ask of him a thousand favours every day, he would comply." When Nur al-Din heard this he said, "Good! write that I may see." So the Caliph took ink-case and reed-pen and wrote as follows,--"In the name of Allah, the Compassionating, the Compassionate! But after. This letter is written by Harun al-Rashid, son of Al-Mahdi, to his highness Mohammed bin Sulayman al-Zayni, whom I have encompassed about with my favour and made my viceroy in certain of my dominions. The bearer of these presents is Nur al-Din Ali, son of Fazl bin Khakan the Wazir. As soon as they come to thy hand divest thyself forthright of the kingly dignity and invest him therewith; so oppose not my commandment and peace be with thee." He gave the letter to Nur al-Din, who took it and kissed it, then put it in his turband and set out at once on his journey. So far concerning him; but as regards the Caliph, Shaykh Ibrahim stared to him (and he still in fisher garb) and said, "O vilest of fishermen, thou hast brought us a couple of fish worth a score of half-dirhams, and hast gotten three dinars for them; and thinkest thou to take the damsel to boot?" When the Caliph heard this, he cried out at him, and signed to Masrur who discovered himself and rushed in upon him. Now Ja'afar had sent one of the gardener-lads to the doorkeeper of the palace to fetch a suit of royal raiment for the Prince of the Faithful; so the man went and, returning with the suit, kissed the ground before the Caliph and gave it him. Then he threw of the clothes he had on and donned kingly apparel. Shaykh Ibrahim was still sitting upon his chair and the Caliph tarried to behold what would come next. But seeing the Fisherman become the Caliph, Shaykh Ibrahim was utterly confounded and he could do nothing but bite his finger- ends and say, "Would I knew whether am I asleep or am I awake!" At last the Caliph looked at him and cried, "O Shaykh Ibrahim, what state is this in which I see thee?" Thereupon he recovered from his drunkenness and, throwing himself upon the ground, repeated these verses,
"Pardon the sinful ways I did pursue; * Ruth from his lord to every slave is due:
Confession pays the fine that sin demands; * Where, then, is that which grace and mercy sue?"
The Caliph forgave him and bade carry the damsel to the city- palace, where he set apart for her an apartment and appointed slaves to serve her, saying to her, "Know that we have sent thy lord to be Sultan in Bassorah and, Almighty Allah willing, we will dispatch him the dress of investiture and thee with it." Meanwhile, Nur al-Din Ali ceased not travelling till he reached Bassorah, where he repaired to the Sultan's palace and he shouted a long shout. The Sultan heard him and sent for him; and when he came into his presence, he kissed the ground between his hands and, producing the letter, presented it to him. Seeing the superscription in the writing of the Commander of the Faithful, the Sultan rose to his feet and kissed it three times; and after reading it said, "I hear and I obey Allah Almighty and the Commander of the Faithful!" Then he summoned the four Kazis and the Emirs and was about to divest himself of the rule royal, when behold, in came Al Mu'in bin Sawi. The Sultan gave him the Caliph's letter and he read it, then tore it to pieces and putting it into his mouth, chewed it and spat it out. "Woe to thee," quoth the Sultan (and indeed he was sore angered); "what induced thee to do this deed?" "Now by thy life! O our lord the Sultan," replied Mu'in, "this man hath never foregathered with the Caliph nor with his Wazir; but he is a gallows-bird, a limb of Satan, a knave who, having come upon a written paper in the Caliph's hand, some idle scroll, hath made it serve his own end. The Caliph would surely not send him to take the Sultanate from thee without the imperial autograph and the diploma of investiture, and he certainly would have despatched with him a Chamberlain or a Minister. But he hath come alone and he never came from the Caliph, no, never! never! never!" "What is to be done?" asked the Sultan, and the Minister answered, "Leave him to me and I will take him and keep him away from thee, and send him in charge of a Chamberlain to Baghdad-city. Then, if what he says be sooth, they will bring us back autograph and investiture; and if not, I will take my due out of this debtor." When the Sultan heard the Minister's words he said, "Hence with thee and him too." Al Mu'in took trust of him from the King and, carrying him to his own house, cried out to his pages who laid him flat and beat him till he fainted. Then he let put upon his feet heavy shackles and carried him to the jail, where he called the jailor, one Kutayt, who came and kissed the ground before him. Quoth the Wazir, "O Kutayt, I wish thee to take this fellow and throw him into one of the underground cells in the prison and torture him night and day." "To hear is to obey," replied the jailor and, taking Nur al-Din into the prison, locked the door upon him. Then he gave orders to sweep a bench behind the door and, spreading on it a sitting-rug and a leather-cloth, seated Nur al-Din thereon and loosed his shackles and entreated him kindly. The Wazir sent every day enjoining the jailor to beat him, but he abstained from this, and so continued to do for forty days. On the forty-first day there came a present from the Caliph; which when the Sultan saw, it pleased him and he consulted his Ministers on the matter, when one of them said, "Perchance this present was for the new Sultan." Cried Al-Mu'in, "We should have done well had we put him to death at his first coming;" and the Sultan cried "By Allah, thou hast reminded me of him! Go down to the prison and fetch him, and I will strike off his head." "To hear is to obey," replied Al-Mu'in: then he stood up and said, "I will make proclamation in the city:--Whoso would solace himself with seeing the beheading of Nur al-Din bin al-Fazl bin Khakan, let him repair to the palace! So follower and followed, great and small will flock to the spectacle, and I shall heal my heart and harm my foe." "Do as thou wilt," said the Sultan. The Wazir went off (and he was glad and gay), and ordered the Chief of Police to make the afore-mentioned proclamation. When the people heard the crier, they all sorrowed and wept, even the little ones at school and the traders in their shops; and some strove to get places for seeing the sight, whilst others went to the prison with the object of escorting him thence. Presently, the Wazir came with ten Mamelukes to the jail and Kutayt the jailor asked him, "Whom seekest thou, O our lord the Wazir?"; whereto he answered, "Bring me out that gallows- bird." But the jailor said, "He is in the sorriest of plights for the much beating I have given him." Then he went into the prison and found Nur al-Din repeating these verses,
"Who shall support me in calamities, * When fail all cures and greater cares arise?
Exile hath worm my heart, my vitals torn; The World to foes hath turned my firm allies.
O folk, will not one friend amidst you all * Wail o'er my woes, and cry to hear my cries?
Death and it agonies seem light to me, * Since life has lost all joys and jollities:
O Lord of Mustafa, that Science-sea, * Sole Intercessor, Guide all-ware, all-wise!
I pray thee free me and my fault forego, * And from me drive mine evil and my woe."
The jailor stripped off his clean clothes and, dressing him in two filthy vests, carried him to the Wazir. Nur al-Din looked at him and saw it was his foe that sought to compass his death; so he wept and said, "Art thou, then, so secure against the World? Hast thou not heard the saying of the poet,
'Kisras and Caesars in a bygone day * Stored wealth; where it is, and ah! where are they?'
O Wazir," he continued, "know that Allah (be He extolled and exalted!) will do whatso He will!" "O Ali," replied he, "thinkest thou to frighten me with such talk? I mean this very day to smite thy neck despite the noses of the Bassorah folk and I care not; let the days do as they please; nor will I turn me to thy counsel but rather to what the poet saith,
'Leave thou the days to breed their ban and bate, * And make thee strong t' upbear the weight of Fate.'
And also how excellently saith another,
'Whoso shall see the death-day of his foe, * One day surviving, wins his bestest wish.'"
Then he ordered his attendants to mount Nur al-Din upon the bare back of a mule; and they said to the youth (for truly it was irksome to them), "Let us stone him and cut him down thou our lives go for it." But Nur al-Din said to them, "Do not so: have ye not heard the saying of the poet,
'Needs must I bear the term by Fate decreed, * And when that day be dead needs must I die:
If lions dragged me to their forest-lair, * Safe should I live till draw my death-day nigh.'"
Then they proceeded to proclaim before Nur al-Din, "This is the least of the retribution for him who imposeth upon Kings with forgeries." And they ceased not parading him round about Bassorah, till they made him stand beneath the palace-windows and set him upon the leather of blood, and the sworder came up to him and said, "O my lord, I am but a slave commanded in this matter: an thou have any desire, tell it me that I may fulfil it, for now there remaineth of they life only so much as may be till the Sultan shall put his face out of the lattice." Thereupon Nur al-Din looked to the right and to the left, and before him and behind him and began improvising,
"The sword, the sworder and the blood-skin waiting me I sight, * And cry, Alack, mine evil fate! ah, my calamity!
How is't I see no loving friend with eye of sense or soul? * What! no one here? I cry to all: will none reply to me?
The time is past that formed my life, my death term draweth nigh, * Will no man win the grace of God showing me clemency;
And look with pity on my state, and clear my dark despair, * E'en with a draught of water dealt to cool death's agony?"
The people fell to weeping over him; and the headsman rose and brought him a draught of water; but the Wazir sprang up from his place and smote the gugglet with his hand and broke it: then he cried out at the executioner and bade him strike off Nur al-Din's head. So he bound the eyes of the doomed man and folk clamoured at the Wazir and loud wailings were heard and much questioning of man and man. At this moment behold, rose a dense dust-cloud filling sky and wold; and when the Sultan, who was sitting in the palace, descried this, he said to his suite, "Go and see what yon cloud bringeth:" Replied Al Mu'in, "Not till we have smitten this fellow's neck;" but the Sultan said, "Wait ye till we see what this meaneth." Now the dust-cloud was the dust of J'afar the Barmecide, Wazir to the Caliph, and his host; and the cause of his coming was as follows. The Caliph passed thirty days without calling to mind the matter of Nur al-Din Ali, and none reminded him of it, till one night, as he passed by the chamber of Anis al-Jalis, he heard her weeping and singing with a soft sweet voice these lines of the poet,
"In thought I see thy form when farthest far or nearest near; * And on my tongue there dwells a name which man shall ne'er unhear."
Then her weeping redoubled; when lo! the Caliph opened the door and, entering the chamber, found Anis al-Jalis in tears. When she saw him she fell to the ground and kissing his feet three times repeated these lines,
"O fertile root and noble growth of trunk; * Ripe-fruitful branch of never sullied race;
I mind thee of what pact thy bounty made; * Far be 't from thee thou should'st forget my case!"
Quoth the Caliph, "Who art thou?" and she replied, "I am she whom Ali bin Khakan gave thee in gift, and I wish the fulfilment of thy promise to send me to him with the robe of honour; for I have now been thirty days without tasting the food of sleep." Thereupon the Caliph sent for Ja'afar and said to him, "O Ja'afar, 'tis thirty days since we have had news of Nur al-Din bin Khakan, and I cannot suppose that the Sultan hath slain him; but, by the life of my head and by the sepulchres of my forefathers, if aught of foul play hath befallen him, I will surely make an end of him who was the cause of it, though he be the dearest of all men to myself! So I desire that thou set out for Bassorah within this hour and bring me tidings of my cousin, King Mohammed bin Sulayman al-Zayni, and how he had dealt with Nur al-Din Ali bin Khakan;" adding, "If thou tarry longer on the road than shall suffice for the journey, I will strike off they head. Furthermore, do thou tell the son of my uncle the whole story of Nur al-Din, and how I sent him with my written orders; and if thou find, O my cousin, that the King hath done otherwise than as I commanded, bring him and the Wazir Al-Mu'in bin Sawi to us in whatsoever guise thou shalt find them." "Hearing and obedience," replied Ja'afar and, making ready on the instant, he set out for Bassorah where the news of his coming had foregone him and had reached to the ears of King Mohammed. When Ja'afar arrived and saw the crushing and crowding of the lieges, he asked, "What means all this gathering?" so they told him what was doing in the matter of Nur al-Din; whereupon he hastened to go to the Sultan and saluting him, acquainted him with the cause why he came and the Caliph's resolve, in case of any foul play having befallen the youth, to put to death whoso should have brought it about. Then he took into custody the King and the Wazir and laid them in ward and, giving order for the release of Nur al-Din Ali, enthroned him as Sultan in the stead of Mohammed bin Sulayman. After this Ja'afar abode three days in Bassorah, the usual guest-time, and on the morning of the fourth day, Nur al-Din Ali turned to him and said, "I long for the sight of the Commander of the Faithful." Then said Ja'afar to Mohammed bin Sulayman, "Make ready to travel, for we will say the dawn-prayer and mount Baghdad-wards;" and he replied, "To hear is to obey." Then they prayed and they took horse and set out, all of them, carrying with them the Wazir, Al-Mu'in bin Sawi, who began to repent him of what he had done. Nur al-Din rode by Ja'afar's side and they stinted not faring on till they arrived at Baghdad, the House of Peace, and going in to the Caliph told him how they had found Nur al-Din nigh upon death. Thereupon the Caliph said to the youth, "Take this sword and smite with it the neck of thine enemy." So he took the sword from his hand and stepped up to Al-Mu'in who looked at him and said, "I did according to my mother's milk, do thou according to thine." Upon this Nur al-Din cast the sword from his hand and said to the Caliph, "O Commander of the Faithful, he hath beguiled me with his words;" and he repeated this couplet, "By craft and sleight I snared him when he came; * A few fair words aye trap the noble-game!"
"Leave him then," cried the Caliph and, turning to Masrur said, "Rise thou and smite his neck." So Masrur drew his sword and struck off his head. Then quoth the Caliph to Nur al-Din Ali, "Ask a boon of me." "O my lord," answered he, "I have no need of the Kingship of Bassorah; my sole desire is to be honoured by serving thee and by seeing the countenance." "With love and gladness," said the Caliph. Then he sent for the damsel, Anis al-Jalis, and bestowed plentiful favours upon them both and gave them one of his palaces in Baghdad, and assigned stipends and allowances, and made Nur al-Din Ali bin Fazl bin Khakan, one of his cup-companions; and he abode with the Commander of the Faithful enjoying the pleasantest of lives till death overtook him. "Yet (continued Shahrazad) is not his story in any wise more wondrous than the history of the merchant and his children." The King asked "And what was that?" and Shahrazad began to relate the...
[Go to Tale of Ghanim Bin Ayyub, The Distraught, The Thrall O' Love]
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