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Burton: The Man of Upper Egypt and His Frankish Wife

[Go back to Ali Nur Al-Din and Miriam the Girdle-Girl]

We lay one night in the house of a man of the Sa'id or Upper Egypt, and he entertained us and entreated us hospitably. Now he was a very old man with exceeding swarthiness, and he had little children, who were white, of a white dashed with red. So we said to him, "Harkye, such an one, how cometh it that these thy children are white, whilst thou thyself art passing swart?" and he said, "Their mother was a Frankish woman, whom I took prisoner in the days of Al-Malik al-Nasir Salah al-Din, after the battle of Hattin, when I was a young man." We asked, "And how gottest thou her?" and he answered, "I had a rare adventure with her." Quoth we, "Favour us with it;" and quoth he, "With all my heart! You must know that I once sowed a crop of flax in these parts and pulled it and scutched it and spent on it five hundred gold pieces; after which I would have sold it, but could get no more than this therefor, and the folk said to me, 'Carry it to Acre: for there thou wilt haply make good gain by it.' Now Acre was then in the hands of the Franks; so I carried my flax thither and sold part of it at six months' credit. One day, as I was selling, behold, there came up a Frankish woman (now 'tis the custom of the women of the Franks to go about with market streets with unveiled faces), to buy flax of me, and I saw of her beauty what dazed my wits. So I sold her somewhat of flax and was easy with her concerning the price; and she took it and went away. Some days after, she returned and bought somewhat more flax of me and I was yet easier with her about the price; and she repeated her visits to me, seeing that I was in love with her. Now she was used to walk in company of an old woman to whom I said, "I am sore enamoured of thy mistress. Canst thou contrive for me to enjoy her?" Quoth she, 'I will contrive this for thee; but the secret must not go beyond us three, me, thee and her; and there is no help but that thou be lavish with money, to boot.' And I answered, saying, 'Though my life were the price of her favours 'twere no great matter.'" -- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Eight Hundred and Ninety-Fifth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the old woman said to the man, "However the secret must not go beyond us three, to wit me, thee and her; and there is no help but thou be lavish of thy money to boot." He replied, "Though my life were the price of her favours 'twere no great matter." "So it was agreed" (continued the man of Upper Egypt), "that I should pay her fifty dinars and that she should come to me; whereupon I procured the money and gave it to the old woman. She took it and said, 'Make ready a place for her in thy house, and she will come to thee this night.' Accordingly I went home and made ready what I could of meat and drink and wax candles and sweetmeats. Now my house overlooked the sea and 'twas the season of summer; so I spread the bed on the terrace roof. Presently, the Frank woman came and we ate and drank, and the night fell dark. We lay down under the sky, with the moon shining on us, and fell to watching the shimmering of the stars in the sea: and I said to myself, 'Art not ashamed before Allah (to whom belong Might and Majesty!) and thou a stranger, under the heavens and in presence of the deep waters, to disobey Him with a Nazarene woman and merit the torment of Fire?' Then said I, 'O my God, I call Thee to witness that I abstain from this Christian woman this night, of shamefastness before Thee and fear of Thy vengeance!' So I slept till the morning, and she arose at peep of day full of anger and went away. I walked to my shop and sat there; and behold, presently she passed, as she were the moon, accompanied by the old woman who was also angry; whereat my heart sank within me and I said to myself, 'Who art thou that thou shouldst refrain from yonder damsel? Art thou Sari al-Sakati or Bishr Barefoot or Junayd of Baghdad or Fuzayl bin 'Iyaz?' then I ran after the old woman and coming up with her said to her, 'Bring her to me again;' and said she, 'By the virtue of the Messiah, she will not return to thee but for an hundred ducats!' Quoth I, 'I will give thee a hundred gold pieces.' So I paid her the money and the damsel came to me a second time; but no sooner was she with me than I returned to my whilome way of thinking and abstained from her and forbore her for the sake of Allah Almighty. Presently she went away and I walked to my shop, and shortly after the old woman came up, in a rage. Quoth I to her, 'Bring her to me again;' and quoth she, 'By the virtue of the Messiah, thou shalt never again enjoy her presence with thee, except for five hundred ducats, and thou shalt perish in thy pain!' At this I trembled and resolved to spend the whole price of my flax and therewith ransom my life. But, before I could think I heard the crier proclaiming and saying, 'Ho, all ye Moslems, the truce which was between us and you is expired, and we give all of you Mahometans who are here a week from this time to have done with your business and depart to your own country.' Thus her visits were cut off from me and I betook myself to getting in the price of the flax which men had bought upon credit, and to bartering what remained in my hands for other goods. Then I took with me fair merchandise and departed Acre with a soul full of affection and love-longing for the Frankish woman, who had taken my heart and my coin. So I journeyed until I made Damascus, where I sold the stock in trade I had brought from Acre, at the highest price, because of the cutting off of communication by reason of the term of truce having expired; and Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) vouchsafed me good gain. Then I fell to trading in captive slave- girls, thinking thus to ease my heart of its pining for the Frankish woman, and in this traffic engaged I abode three years, till there befel between Al-Malik al-Nasir and the Franks what befel of the action of Hattin and other encounters and Allah gave him the victory over them, so that he took all their Kings prisoners and he opened the coast cities by His leave. Now it fortuned one day after this, that a man came to me and sought of me a slave-girl for Al-Malik al-Nasir. Having a handsome handmaid I showed her to him and he bought her of me for an hundred dinars and gave me ninety thereof, leaving ten still due me, for that there was no more found in the royal treasury that day, because he had expended all his monies in waging war against the Franks. Accordingly they took counsel with him and he said, 'Carry him to the treasury where are the captives' lodging and give him his choice among the damsels of the Franks, so he may take one of them for the ten dinars,'" -- And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Eight Hundred and Ninety-sixth Night,

She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that whenas Al-Malik al-Nasir said, " 'Give him his choice to take one of the girls for the ten dinars that are due to him;' they brought me to the captives' lodging and showed me all who were therein, and I saw amongst them the Frankish damsel with whom I had fallen in love at Acre and knew her right well. Now she was the wife of one of the cavaliers of the Franks. So I said, 'Give me this one,' and carrying her to my tent, asked her, 'Dost thou know me?' She answered, 'No;' and I rejoined, 'I am thy friend, the sometime flax-merchant with whom thou hadst to do at Acre and there befel between us what befel. Thou tookest money of me and saidest, 'Thou shalt never again see me but for five hundred dinars.' And now thou art become my property for ten ducats.' Quoth she, 'This is a mystery. Thy faith is the True Faith and I testify that there is no god but the God and that Mohammed is the Messenger of God!' And she made perfect profession of Al-Islam. Then said I to myself, 'By Allah, I will not go in unto her till I have set her free and acquainted the Kazi.' So I betook myself to Ibn Shaddad and told him what had passed and he married me to her. Then I lay with her that night and she conceived; after which the troops departed and we returned to Damascus. But within a few days there came an envoy from the King of the Franks, to seek the captives and the prisoners, according to the treaty between the Kings. So Al-Malik al-Nasir restored all the men and women captive, till there remained but the woman who was with me and the Franks said, 'The wife of such an one the Knight is not here.' Then they asked after her and making strict search for her, found that she was with me; whereupon they demanded her of me and I went in to her sore concerned and with colour changed; and she said to me, 'What aileth thee and what evil assaileth thee?' Quoth I, 'A messenger is come from the King to take all the captives, and they demand thee of me.' Quoth she, 'Have no fear, bring me to the King and I know what to say before and to him.' I carried her into the presence of the Sultan Al-Malik al- Nasir, who was seated, with the envoy of the King of the Franks on his right hand, and I said to him, 'This is the woman that is with me.' Then quoth the King and the envoy to her, 'Wilt thou go to thy country or to thy husband? For Allah hath loosed thy bonds and those of thy fellow captives.' Quoth she to the Sultan, 'I am become a Moslemah and am great with child, as by my middle ye may see, and the Franks shall have no more profit of me.' The envoy asked, 'Whether is dearer to thee, this Moslem or thy first husband and knight such an one?;' and she answered him even as she had answered the Sultan. Then said the envoy to the Franks with him, 'Heard ye her words?' They replied, 'Yes.' And he said to me, 'Take thy wife and depart with her.' So I took her and went away; but the envoy sent after me in haste and cried, 'Her mother gave me a charge for her, saying, 'My daughter is a captive and naked; and I would have thee carry her this chest.' Take it thou and deliver it to her.' Accordingly I carried the chest home and gave it to her. She opened it and found in it all her raiment as she had left it and therein I saw the two purses of fifty and an hundred dinars which I had given her, untouched and tied up with my own tying, wherefore I praised Almighty Allah. There are my children by her and she is alive to this day and 'twas she dressed you this food." We marvelled at his story and at that which had befallen him of good fortune, and Allah is All-knowing. But men also tell a tale anent the...

[Go to The Ruined Man of Baghdad and his Slave-Girl]

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

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