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My father was one of the chief merchants (of my native town) and God had vouchsafed him no other child than myself; but I had a cousin, the daughter of my father's brother, who was brought up with me in our house; for her father was dead and before his death, he had agreed with my father that I should marry her. So when I reached man's estate and she became a woman, they did not separate us, and we ceased not to sleep on the same couch, knowing no evil, albeit she was more thoughtful, more intelligent and quicker-witted than I, till at last, my father spoke to my mother and said, "This very year we will draw up the contract of marriage between Aziz and Azizeh." So they agreed upon this, and he betook himself to preparing victual for the marriage festivities. When he had made an end of his preparations and there remained nought but to draw up the contract and consummate the marriage, he appointed the wedding for a certain Friday, after the congregational prayers, and going round to his friends among the merchants and others, acquainted them with this, whilst my mother invited her female friends and kindred. When the day came, they cleaned the guest-chamber and washed the marble floor, then spread carpets about the house and set out thereon what was needful, after they had hung the walls with cloth of gold. Now the folk had agreed to come to our house after the Friday- prayers; so my father went and let make cates and dishes of sweetmeats, and there remained nothing to do but to draw up the contract. Then my mother sent me to the bath and sent after me a suit of new clothes of the richest kind which I put on, when I came out. The clothes were perfumed, and as I went along, there exhaled from them a delicious fragrance, that scented the way. I was about to repair to the mosque, when I bethought me of one of my friends and was minded to go in quest of him that he might be present at the drawing up of the contract, saying in myself, "This will occupy me till near the time of prayer." So I turned back and came to a by-street, that I had never before entered. Now I was in a profuse perspiration, from the effects of the bath and the new clothes on my body, and the sweat streamed from me, whilst the perfume of my clothes was wafted abroad: so I sat down to rest on a stone bench at the upper end of the street, spreading under me an embroidered handkerchief I had with me. The heat redoubled on me, so that my forehead sweated and the drops ran down on to my cheeks; but I could not wipe my face with my handkerchief, because I lay upon it. So I was about to take the skirt of my gaberdine and wipe my cheeks with it, when suddenly there fell on me from above a white handkerchief, softer to the feel than the zephyr and pleasanter to the sight than recovery to the sick. I seized on it and looking up to see whence it came, my eyes met those of the lady who gave me these gazelles. She was looking out of a wicket in a lattice of brass and never saw my eyes a fairer than she; my tongue fails to picture her beauty. When she saw me looking at her, she put her forefinger to her mouth, then joined her middle and index fingers and laid them on her bosom, between her breasts; after which she drew in her head and shut the wicket. With this, fire broke out and raged in my heart; the glance I had of her cost me a thousand sighs and I abode perplexed, having heard no word from her and understanding not the meaning of her signs. I looked again at the window, but found it shut and waited till sundown but heard no sound and saw no one. When I despaired of seeing her again, I rose and taking up the handkerchief, opened it, whereupon there exhaled from it a scent of musk, which caused me such ease that meseemed I was in Paradise. Then I spread it out before me and there dropped from it a little scroll of paper. I opened the scroll, which was scented with a delicious perfume, and found written therein the following verses:
I sent my love a scroll, complaining of desire Writ in a fine, small hand; for writings vary still. "Why is thy writing thus," my lover said to me, "Attenuate and small, uneath to read and ill?" Quoth I, "Because I too am wasted, ay, and thin. Thus should their writing be, who weary at Love's will."
Then, casting my eyes on the beauty of the handkerchief, I saw embroidered on one of its borders the following verses:
The down of his whiskers writes (good luck to it for A scribe!) Two lines, in the basil hand, on the table of his face. O the wilderment of the moon at him, when he appears! And O the shame of the branch at sight of his flexile grace!
And on the opposite border were the following verses:
The whiskers write upon his cheeks, with ambergris on pearl, Two lines, as 'twere with jet upon an apple, line for line. Death harbours in his languid eyes and slays with every glance; And in his cheeks is drunkenness, and not in any wine.
When I read what was written on the handkerchief, the flames of love raged in my heart, and longing and trouble redoubled on me. So I took the handkerchief and the scroll and went home, knowing no means to compass my desire, for that I was inexperienced in love affairs and unskilled in the interpretation of the language of signs used therein. The night was far spent before I reached my house, and when I entered, I found my cousin sitting weeping. As soon as she saw me, she wiped away her tears and coming up to me, took off my (outer) clothes and asked me the reason of my absence, saying, "All the folk, amirs and notables and merchants and others, assembled here, and the Cadi and the witnesses came also at the appointed time. They ate and sat awhile, awaiting thy coming for the drawing up of the contract, till they despaired of thee, when they dispersed and went their ways. And indeed," added she, "thy father was exceeding wroth, by reason of this, and swore that he would not celebrate our marriage till next year, for that he hath spent much money on this occasion. What hath befallen thee to make thee tarry till now?" "O my cousin," replied I, "do not ask me what hath befallen me." Then I told her all that had passed and showed her the handkerchief and the scroll. She took them and read what was written therein; whereupon the tears ran down her cheeks and she repeated the following verses:
Who says to thee, the first of love is free, Tell him, not so; but, on the contrary, 'Tis all constraint, wherein no blame can be. History indeed attests this verity; It does not style the good coin falsified. Say, if thou wilt, the taste of pain is sweet, Or to be spurned by Fortune's flying feet; Of need or vengeance, fortune or defeat, With joy or dole it makes the heart to beat: 'Twixt phrase and counterphrase I'm stupefied. But as for him whose happy days are light, Fair maids, whose lips with smiles are ever bright, Borne on the fragrant gales of their delight, Who hath his will, unhindered of despite, 'Tis not with him A craven heart may bide.
Then she asked me what she said and what signs she made to me. "She spoke not," answered I; "but put her index finger to her mouth, then joining it to her middle finger, laid them both on her bosom and pointed in the ground, after which she drew in her head and shut the wicket and I saw her no more. She took my heart with her and I sat till sundown, expecting her to appear again at the window; but she came not: so, when I despaired of her, I rose and went home. This is my story, and I beg thee to help me in this my affliction." With this, she raised her face to me and said, "O my cousin, if thou soughtest my eye, I would tear it from its socket for thee, and I cannot choose but help thee to thy desire and her also to hers; for she is passionately enamoured of thee, even as thou of her." "And what is the meaning of her signs?" asked I. "As for the putting her finger to her mouth," replied Azizeh, "it meant that thou art to her as her soul to her body and that she would bite upon union with thee with her wisdom-teeth. The handkerchief is the token of greeting from lover to beloved and the scroll is a sign that her heart is bound up in thee. As for the laying her two fingers between her breasts, it is as if she said to thee, 'Return hither after two days, that the sight of thy countenance may dispel my anguish.' For know, O my cousin, that she loves thee and trusts in thee. This is my reading of her signs, and could I come and go at will, I would quickly bring you and her together and cover you both with my skirt." I thanked her and said to myself, "I will wait two days." So I abode two days in the house, without going out, and ate not nor drank, but lay with my head in my cousin's lap, whilst she comforted me and bade me take heart and be of good cheer. When the two days were past, she said to me, "Take courage and dress thyself and go to her, according to the tryst." Then she rose and changed my clothes and perfumed me with incense. So I took heart and went out and walked on till I came to the by-street, where I sat down on the bench. After awhile, the wicket opened and I looked up and seeing the lady, fell down in a swoon. When I revived, I took courage to look again at her and again became insensible. Then I came to myself and looking at her, saw that she had a mirror and a red handkerchief in her hand. When she saw me, she bared her forearms and smote her breast with her palm and five fingers; after which she raised her hands and holding the mirror forth of the wicket, took the red handkerchief and retired with it, but immediately returned and putting out her hand with the handkerchief, lowered it towards the ground and raised it again three several times. Then she wrung it out and folded it in her hands, bowing her head the while; after which she drew in her head and shutting the window, went away, without saying a word, leaving me confounded and knowing not what she meant. I sat there till the evening and did not return home till near midnight, when I found my cousin sitting, weeping bitterly and repeating the following verses:
Ah me, what ails the censurer, that he at thee should flite? How shall I be consoled for thee, and thou a sapling slight? O thou, the splendour of whose sight has ta'en my heart by storm, Whose supple bending grace compels to passion's utmost height, Whose eyes, with Turkish languor caught, work havoc in the breast And leave such wounds as ne'er were made by falchion in the fight! Thou layst on me a heavy load of passion and desire, On me that am too weak to bear a shift upon me dight. Ay, tears of blood I weep, for that my censors say to me, "A sudden sword, from out his lids thou lovest, shall thee smite." Ah, would my heart were like to thine, even as my body is Like to thy waist, all thin and frail and dwindled for despite! Thou, that my prince in beauty art, a steward hast, whose rule Aggrieves me and a chamberlain that doth me foul upright. He lies who says, "All loveliness in Joseph was comprised." How many Josephs are there not within thy beauty bright! I force myself to turn from thee, for fear of spying eyes, Though sore it irks me to forswear the solace of thy sight.
At this, trouble and grief redoubled on me and I fell down in a corner; whereupon she sprang up and coming to me, lifted me up and took off my outer clothes and wiped my face with her sleeve. Then she asked me how I had fared, and I told her all that had happened. "O my cousin," said she, "as for her sign to thee with her palm and five fingers, it meant, 'Return after five days;' and her gestures with the mirror and the putting forth of her head and the lowering and raising of the red handkerchief meant, 'Sit in the dyer's shop, till my messenger come to thee.'" When I heard this, fire flamed up in my heart and I exclaimed, "O my cousin, by Allah, thou sayst sooth in this thine interpretation; for I saw the shop of a Jewish dyer in the street." Then I wept, and she said, "O my cousin, summon up resolution and be steadfast of heart: others are occupied with love for years and are constant to endure the ardour of passion, whilst thou hast but a week to wait; so why art thou thus impatient?" Then she went on to cheer me with comfortable talk and brought me food: so I took a mouthful, but could not eat and abstained from meat and drink and knew not the solace of sleep, till my colour paled and I lost my good looks; for I had never before been in love nor tasted the ardour of passion. So I fell sick and my cousin also sickened on my account; but every night she would divert me with stories of love and lovers, till I fell asleep; and whenever I awoke, I used to find her wakeful for my sake, with the tears running down her cheeks. Thus we did till the five days were past, when she rose and heating water, bathed me with it. Then she dressed me and said to me, "Go to her and may God fulfil your wish and bring thee to thy desire of thy beloved!" So I went out and walked on, till I came to the by-street. I found the dyer's shop shut, for it was Saturday, and sat before it, till I heard the call to afternoon-prayer. Then the sun turned pale, the Muezzins chanted the call to the prayer of sunset and the night came; but I saw no sign nor heard aught of her. With this, I feared for myself, sitting there alone; so I rose and went home, staggering like a drunken man. When I reached the house, I found my cousin Azizeh standing, with one hand grasping a peg driven into the wall and the other on her breast; and she was sighing heavily and repeating the following verses:
The longing of a Bedouin maid, whose folk are far away, Who yearns after the willow of the Hejaz and the hay, Whose tears, when she on travellers lights, might for their water serve And eke her passion, with its heat, their bivouac-fire purvey, Is not more fierce nor ardent than my longing for my love, Who deems that I commit a crime in loving him alway.
When she had finished, she turned and seeing me, wiped away her tears and mine with her sleeve. Then she smiled in my face and said, "O my cousin, God grant thee joy of that which He hath given thee! Why didst thou not pass the night with thy beloved and why hast thou not fulfilled thy desire of her?" When I heard what she said, I gave her a kick in the breast and she fell over on to the edge of the estrade and struck her forehead against a peg there. I looked at her and saw that her forehead was cut open and the blood running; but she was silent and did not utter a syllable. She made some tinder of rags and staunching the wound with it, bound her forehead with a bandage; after which she wiped up the blood that had fallen on the carpet, and it was as if nothing had happened. Then she came up to me and smiling in my face, said, with gentle speech, "By Allah, O my cousin, I had it not in my thought to mock at thee or at her! I was troubled with a pain in my head and thought to be let blood, but now thou hast eased my head and brow; so tell me what has befallen thee to-day." So I told her what had passed and she wept and said, "O my cousin, rejoice in the near fulfilment of thy desire and the attainment of thy hopes. Verily, this is a sign of acceptance; she only stayed away, because she wished to try thee and know if thou wert patient and sincere in thy love for her or not. To-morrow, do thou go to her at the old place and note what signs she makes to thee; for indeed thy gladness is near and the end of thy grief is at hand." And she went on to comfort me; but my trouble and affliction ceased not to increase on me. Presently, she brought me food, but I kicked the dishes away, so that their contents were scattered in all directions, and said, "Every lover is a madman; he inclines not to food neither enjoys sleep." "By Allah, O my cousin," answered she, "these are indeed the signs of love!" And the tears streamed down her cheeks, whilst she gathered the fragments of the dishes and wiped up the food; then she sat down by me and talked to me, whilst I prayed God to hasten the coming of the day. When, at last, the morning arose with its light and shone, I went out and hastening to the by-street in question, sat down on the bench, when behold, the wicket opened and she put out her head, laughing. Then she went in and returned with a mirror, a bag, a pot of flowering plants and a lamp. First, she took the mirror and putting it into the bag, tied it up and threw it back into the room; after which she let down her hair over her face and set the lamp an instant on the pot of flowers; then took up all the things and shutting the window, went away, without saying a word. My heart was tortured by her obscure signs and mysterious gestures, and passion and distraction redoubled on me. So I retraced my steps, tearful-eyed and mournful-hearted, and returning home, found Azizeh sitting, with her face to the wall; for her heart was on fire for grief and anxiety and jealousy; albeit the love she bore me forbade her to acquaint me with what she suffered, by reason of what she saw of the excess of my passion and distraction (for another). I looked at her and saw that she had two bandages on her head, one on account of the wound on her forehead, and the other over her eye, which pained her for excess of weeping; and she was in very sorry plight, weeping and repeating the following verses:
I count the nights, night after night, the weary nights and slow; Yet would I, once upon a time, unreckoned let them go. I have no knowledge, O my friend, of that which God ordains Of Leila or what He decrees to me, but this I know He to another her adjudged and cursed me with her love: So hath He not afflicted me with other than her woe.
When she had finished, she looked round and seeing me through her tears, wiped them away and came up to me, but could not speak for excess of emotion. So she was silent awhile, then said to me, "O my cousin, tell me what befell thee with her this time." So I told her all that had passed, and she said, "Be patient, for the time of thy delight is come, and thou hast won to the attainment of thy hopes. As for her sign with the mirror and the bag, it was as if she said to thee, 'When the sun is set;' and the letting down of her hair over her face signified, When the night is come and hath let fall the blackness of the dark and overmastered the daylight, come hither.' As for her gesture with the flower-pot and the lamp, it meant, 'When thou comest, enter the garden behind the street, and where as thou seest the lamp burning, go thither and seat thyself beneath it and wait for me; for the love of thee is killing me.'" When I heard this, I cried out for excess of passion and said, "How long wilt thou deceive me with promises and I go to her, but get not my will nor find any truth in thine interpreting?" At this, she laughed and replied, "Thou needest but have patience for the rest of the day, till the light depart and the night come with the darkness, and thou shalt enjoy fruition and accomplish thy hopes. And indeed this is true without leasing." And she repeated the following verses:
Let the days pass, as they list, and fare, And enter thou not the house of despair. Full oft when the quest of a thing is hard, The next hour brings us the end of our care.
Then she came to me and began to comfort me with soothing words, but dared not offer me food, fearing my wrath and seeking to make me incline to her: so she only took off my upper garment and said to me, "Sit, O my cousin, that I may entertain thee with talk, till the end of the day; and God willing, thou shalt be with thy beloved as soon as it is night." But I paid no heed to her and gave not over looking for the coming of the night, saying, "O Lord, hasten the coming of the night!" till the hour of the evening-prayer, when she wept sore and giving me a grain of pure musk, said to me, "O my cousin, put this in thy mouth, and when thou foregatherest with thy beloved and hast taken thy will of her and she hath granted thee thy desire, repeat to her this verse:
Tell me, O lovers, for God's sake, I do entreat of you, When love is sore upon a maid, alack! what shall she do?"
And she kissed me and made me swear not to repeat this to my mistress, till I should be about to leave her. Then I went out and walked on till I came to the garden. I found the door open; so I entered, and seeing a light in the distance, made towards it and came to a great pavilion, vaulted over with a dome of ivory and ebony, from the midst of which hung the lamp. The floor was spread with silken carpets, embroidered in gold and silver, and under the lamp stood a great candle, burning in a stand of gold. Midmost the pavilion was a fountain, adorned with all manner of figures; and by it stood a table of food, covered with a silken napkin, and a great porcelain vase full of wine, with a goblet of crystal, sprayed with gold. Near these was a great covered dish of silver, which I uncovered and found therein fruits of all kinds, figs and pomegranates and grapes and oranges and citrons and shaddocks, together with all manner sweet-scented flowers, such as roses and jasmine and myrtle and eglantine and narcissus and all kinds of sweet-smelling herbs; but I saw there not a living soul, no, not even a slave, male or female, to guard these things. I was transported with delight at what I saw, and my grief and anxiety ceased from me. So I sat down to await the coming of the beloved of my heart: but the first hour of the night passed by, and the second and the third, and still she came not. Then I grew sore an hungred, for that it was long since I had tasted food by reason of the violence of my passion: but when I found the garden even as my cousin had told me and saw the truth of her interpretation of my mistress's signs, my mind was set at rest and I made sure of attaining my desire, so that nature resumed its sway and I felt the pangs of hunger. Moreover the odour of the viands on the table excited in me a longing to eat: so I went up to the table, and lifting the cover, found in the middle a porcelain dish, containing four fricasseed fowls, seasoned with spices, round which were four smaller dishes, one containing sweetmeats, another conserve of pomegranate-seeds, a third almond patties and a fourth honey fritters, and the contents of these dishes were part sweet and part acid. So I ate of the fritters and a piece of meat, then went on to the almond patties and ate what I would of them; after which I attacked the sweetmeats, of which I ate a spoonful or two or three or four, ending with part of a fowl and a mouthful of bread. With this my stomach became full and my limbs heavy and I grew drowsy; so I laid my head on a cushion, after having washed my hands, and sleep overcame me; and I knew not what happened to me after this nor did I awake till the sun's heat burnt me, for that I had not tasted sleep for days. When I awoke, I found myself lying on the naked marble, with a piece of salt and another of charcoal on my stomach; so I stood up and shook my clothes and turned right and left, but could see no one. At this I was perplexed and afflicted; the tears ran down my cheeks and I mourned grievously for myself. Then I returned home, and when I entered, I found my cousin beating her bosom and weeping like the rain-clouds, as she repeated the following verses:
From out my loved one's land a breeze blows cool and sweet: The fragrance of its wafts stirs up the ancient heat. Blow, zephyr of the East! Each lover hath his lot, His heaven-appointed doom of fortune or defeat. Lo, if we might, we would embrace thee for desire, Even as a lover clips his mistress, when they meet. Whenas my cousin's face is absent, God forbids All pleasance [unto me] and all life has of sweet. Ah, would I knew his heart was even as is mine, All wasted and consumed by passion's flaming feet!
When she saw me, she rose in haste and wiping away her tears, accosted me with her soft speech, saying, "O my cousin, verily God hath been gracious to thee in thy love, in that she whom thou lovest loves thee, whilst I pass my time in weeping and lamenting my separation from thee that blamest and chidest me; but may God not reproach thee for my sake!" Then she smiled in my face, a sad smile, and caressed me; then taking off my outer clothes, she spread them out and said, "By Allah, this is not the scent of one who hath enjoyed his mistress! Tell me what has befallen thee, O my cousin." So I told her all that had passed, and she smiled again, a sad smile, and said, "Verily, my heart is full of pain; but may he not live who would hurt thy heart! Indeed, this woman makes herself extravagantly difficult to thee, and by Allah, I fear for thee from her. Know that the meaning of the salt is that thou wert drowned in sleep and she likens thee to insipid food, at which the soul sickens; and it is as if she said to thee, 'It behoves that thou be salted, lest nature reject thee. Thou professest to be of the true lovers, but sleep is forbidden to a lover; therefore, thy love is false.' But it is her love for thee that is false; for she saw thee asleep, yet awoke thee not, and were her love for thee sincere, she had aroused thee. As for the charcoal, it means, 'God blacken thy face, for that thou makest a lying presence of love, whereas thou art but a child and hast no concern but to eat and drink and sleep!' This is the interpretation of her signs, and may God the Most High deliver thee from her!" When I heard my cousin's words, I beat my breast with my hand and cried out, "By Allah, this is the truth, for I slept and lovers sleep not! Indeed, I have sinned against myself, for nought could have done me more hurt than eating and sleeping. What shall I do!" Then I wept sore and said to her, "Have compassion on me and tell me what to do, so may God have compassion on thee: else I shall die." Now my cousin loved me very dearly; so she replied, "On my head and eyes. But, O my cousin, as I have told thee often, could I go in and out at will, I would very soon bring you together and cover you both with my skirt: nor would I do this but hoping to win thy favour. God willing, I will do my utmost endeavour to bring about your union; but hearken thou to me and do as I bid thee. Go to the garden at nightfall and sit down in the same place and look thou eat not, for eating induces sleep; and beware of sleeping, for she will not come to thee, till a fourth part of the night be passed. And may God save thee from her mischief!" When I heard this, I rejoiced and besought God to hasten the night. As soon as it was dark, I rose to go, and my cousin said to me, "If thou foregather with her, repeat to her the verse I taught thee, at the time of leave-taking." "On my head and eyes," replied I, and going out, repaired to the garden, where I found all as on the previous night, with meat and drink spread ready, and dessert and flowers and so forth. I went up into the pavilion and smelt the odour of the viands and my soul lusted after them; but I forbore awhile, till at last I could no longer restrain my appetite. So I went up to the table, and raising the cover, found a dish of fowls, surrounded by four smaller dishes, containing various meats. I ate a mouthful of each dish and a piece of meat and as much as I would of the sweetmeat: then I tasted a dish of rice dressed with honey and saffron and liking it, supped of it by the spoonful, till I was satisfied and my belly was full. With this, my eyelids became heavy; so I took a cushion and put it under my head, saying, "Surely I can recline upon it, without going to sleep." Then I closed my eyes and slept, nor did I wake till the sun had risen, when I found myself lying on the bare marble, with a die of bone, a play-stick, a green date-stone and a carob-bean on my stomach. There was no furniture nor aught else in the place, and it was as if there had been nothing there yesterday. So I rose and shaking all these things off me, went out in a rage, and going home, found my cousin sighing and repeating the following verses:
Wasted body and heart a-bleeding for despair And tears that down my cheeks stream on and on for e'er, And a beloved one persistent in disdain; Yet all a fair one does must needs be right and fair. O cousin mine, thou'st filled my heart with longing pain And wounded are mine eyes with tears that never spare.
I chid her and reviled her, at which she wept; then wiping away her tears, she came up to me and kissed me and pressed me to her bosom, whilst I held back from her and blamed myself. Then she said to me, "O my cousin, meseems thou didst sleep again last night?" "Yes," replied I; "and when I awoke, I found on my stomach a die of bone, a play-stick, a green date-stone and a carob-bean, and I know not why she did this." Then I wept and said to her, "Expound to me her meaning in this and tell me what I shall do and help me in this my strait." "On my head and eyes," answered she. "Know then that, by the figure of the die and the play-stick, she says to thee, 'Thy body is present, but thy heart absent. Love is not thus: so do not reckon thyself among lovers.' As for the date-stone, it is as if she said to thee, 'If thou wert in love, thy heart would be on fire with passion and thou wouldst not taste the delight of sleep; for the sweet of love is like a green date and kindles a fire in the entrails.' As for the carob-bean, it signifies, 'The lover's heart is wearied; so be thou patient under our separation, even as Job was patient.'" When I heard this, fires raged in my entrails and grief redoubled upon my heart and I cried out, saying, "God ordained sleep to me, of my ill-fortune!" Then I said to her, "O my cousin, I conjure thee by my life, contrive me some device whereby I may win to her!" She wept and answered, "O Aziz, O my cousin, verily my heart is full of melancholy thought and I cannot speak: but go thou again to-night to the same place and look that thou sleep not, and thou shalt surely attain thy desire. This is my counsel and peace be on thee." "God willing," said I, "I will not sleep, but will do as thou biddest me." Then she rose and set food before me, saying, "Eat now what may suffice thee, that thy heart may be free." So I ate my fill, and when the night came, my cousin rose and bringing me a sumptuous suit of clothes, clad me therein. Then she made me promise to repeat the verse aforesaid to my mistress and bade me beware of sleeping. So I left her and repairing to the garden, went up into the pavilion, where I occupied myself with gazing on the garden, holding my eyes open with my fingers and wagging my head from side to side, as the night darkened on me. Presently I grew hungry with watching, and the smell of the meats, being wafted towards me, increased my hunger: so I went up to the table and taking off the cover, ate a piece of meat and a mouthful of every dish; after which I turned to the vessel of wine, saying in myself, "I will drink one cup." So I drank one cup and a second and a third, till I had drunk full half a score, when the air smote me and I fell to the earth like a dead man. I lay thus till day, when I awoke and found myself without the garden, with a large sharp knife and an iron dirhem on my stomach. I arose trembling and taking the knife and the dirhem, went home where I found my cousin saying, "Verily, I am in this house wretched and sorrowful, having no helper but weeping." When I entered, I fell down at full length and fainted, throwing the knife and the dirhem from my hand. As soon as I came to myself, I told her what had passed and said, "Indeed, I shall never enjoy my desire." The sight of my tears and my passion redoubled her distress on my account, and she said, "Verily, I can no more. I warned thee against sleeping; but thou wouldst not listen to my counsel, and my words profited thee nothing." "By Allah," cried I, "I conjure thee to explain to me the meaning of the knife and the dirhem." "By the dirhem," replied she, "she alludes to her right eye, and it is as if she said to thee, 'I swear, by the Lord of all creatures and by my right eye, that, if thou come here again and sleep, I will slay thee with this knife!' And indeed, O my cousin, I fear for thee from her malice; my heart is full of anguish for thee and I cannot speak. Nevertheless, if thou canst be sure of thyself not to sleep, return to her and thou shalt attain thy desire; but if thou sleep, according to thy wont, she will surely slay thee." "O my cousin," said I, "what shall I do? I conjure thee, by Allah, to help me in this my affliction!" "On my head and eyes," replied she. "If thou wilt hearken to me and do as I say, thou shalt have thy will." Quoth I, "I will indeed hearken to thee and do thy bidding." And she said, "When it is time for thee to go, I will tell thee." Then she pressed me to her bosom and laying me on the bed, rubbed my feet, till drowsiness overcame me and I was drowned in sleep; when she took a fan and seating herself at my head, ceased not to fan my face till the end of the day. Then she awoke me, and I found her sitting at my head weeping, with the fan in her hand and her clothes wet with tears. When she saw that I was awake, she wiped away her tears and fetching food, set it before me. I refused it, but she said to me, "Didst thou not promise to do my bidding? Eat." So I ate and did not cross her, and she proceeded to put the food into my mouth and I to eat, till I was full. Then she made me drink sherbet of jujube-fruit and sugar and washed my hands and dried them with a napkin; after which she sprinkled me with rose-water, and I sat with her awhile, restored to health and spirits. When the night had closed in, she dressed me and said to me, "O my cousin, watch all night and sleep not; for she will not come to thee this time till the last of the night, and God willing, thou shalt foregather with her this night: but do not forget my charge." Then she wept, and my heart was sore for her by reason of her much weeping, and I said to her, "What is the charge thou gavest me?" "When thou art about to take leave of her," replied she, "repeat to her the verse I taught thee." So I left her, full of gladness, and repairing to the garden, entered the pavilion, where I sat down satiated with food, and watched till a fourth part of the night was past. The night was tedious to me as it were a year: but I remained awake, till it was three quarters spent and the cocks cried out and I became sore an hungred for long watching. So I went up to the table and ate my fill, whereupon my head grew heavy and I was on the point of falling asleep, when I espied a light making towards me from afar. So I sprang up and washed my hands and mouth and roused myself; and before long, up came the lady, accompanied by ten damsels, in whose midst she shone, like the full moon among the stars. She was clad in a dress of green satin, embroidered with red gold, and she was as says the poet:
She lords it over her lovers in garments all of green, With open vest and collars and flowing hair beseen. "What is thy name?" I asked her, and she replied, "I'm she Who burns the hearts of lovers on coals of love and teen." I made my moan unto her of passion and desire; "Upon a rock," she answered, "thy plaints are wasted clean." "Even if thy heart," I told her, "be rock in very deed, Yet hath God made fair water well from the rock, I ween."
When she saw me, she laughed and said, "How is it that thou art awake and that sleep hath not overcome thee. Now that thou hast passed the night without sleep, I know that thou art in love, for it is the mark of a lover to watch the night for stress of longing." Then she signed to her women and they went away, whereupon she came up to me and strained me to her bosom and kissed me and sucked my upper lip, whilst I kissed her and sucked her lower lip. I put my hand to her waist and pressed it and we came to the ground at the same moment. Then she undid her trousers and they fell down to her anklets and we fell to clipping and toying and cricketing and speaking softly and biting and intertwining of legs and going round about the House and the corners thereof, till her senses failed her for delight and she swooned away. And indeed that night was heart-gladdening and eye-refreshing, even as says the poet:
The sweetest of all the nights that ever the world can show! The cup in it stinted never from hand to hand to go. Therein I did dissever mine eyes from sleep and made The ear-drop and the anklet foregather evermo'.
We lay together till the morning, when I would have gone away, but she stopped me, saying, "Stay, till I tell thee somewhat and give thee a charge." So I waited, whilst she undid a handkerchief and taking out this piece of linen, spread it out before me. I saw worked on it these two figures of gazelles and admired it exceedingly; and she said to me, "Keep this carefully, for it is my sister's work." "What is thy sister's name?" asked I, and she answered, "Nour el Huda." Then I took the piece of linen and went away, joyful, after we had agreed that I should visit her every night in the garden; but in my joy I forgot to repeat to her the verse my cousin had taught me. When I reached home, I found Azizeh lying down; but, as soon as she saw me, she rose, with the tears running from her eyes, and coming up to me, kissed me on the breast and said, "Didst thou repeat the verse to her, as I enjoined thee?" "I forgot it," answered I; "and here is what made me forget it." And I threw the piece of linen down before her. She rose and sat down again, but was unable to contain herself and her eyes ran over with tears, whilst she repeated the following verses:
O thou that seekest severance, forbear; Let not the fair delude thee with their sleight. Softly, for fortune's nature is deceit And parting is the end of love-delight.
Then she said, "O my cousin, give me this piece of linen." So I gave it to her, and she took it and unfolding it, saw what was therein. When the time came for my going to my mistress, she said to me, "Go and peace be with thee; and when thou art about to leave her, repeat to her the verse I taught thee and which thou forgottest." Quoth I, "Repeat it to me." So she repeated it. Then I went to the garden and entered the pavilion, where I found the lady awaiting me. When she saw me, she rose and kissed me and made me sit in her lap; and we ate and drank and did our desire as on the previous night. In the morning, I repeated to her my cousin's verse:
Tell me, O lovers, for God's sake I do entreat of you, When love is sore upon a maid, alack! what shall she do?
When she heard this, her eyes filled with tears and she answered with the following verse:
Against her passion she must strive and hide her case from view And humble and submissive be, whatever may ensue.
This I committed to memory and returned home, rejoiced at having done my cousin's errand. When I entered the house, I found Azizeh lying on the bed and my mother at her head, weeping over her condition. When the latter saw me, she said to me, "Out on thee for a cousin! How couldst thou leave the daughter of thine uncle in ill case and not ask what ailed her?" Azizeh, seeing me, raised her head and sat up and said, "O Aziz, didst thou repeat the verse to her?" "Yes," replied I; "and she wept and recited, in answer, another verse, which I remember." "Tell it me," said Azizeh. I did so; and she wept and repeated the following verses:
How shall she temper her desire, It doth her fire undo, And still with each recurring day her heart is cleft in two. Indeed, she strives for patience fair, but findeth nought in her Except a heart too weak to bear the love that makes her rue.
"When thou goest to thy mistress as of wont," added she, "repeat to her these verses also." "I hear and obey," answered I and betook myself, at the wonted time, to the garden, where there passed between my mistress and myself what the tongue fails to describe. As I was about to leave her, I repeated to her my cousin's verses; whereupon the tears streamed from her eyes and she replied:
If she her secret cannot hide and lack of patience due, I see no help for her but death, of all things old and new.
Then I returned home, where I found Azizeh fallen of a swoon and my mother sitting at her head. When she heard my voice, she opened her eyes and said, "O Aziz, didst thou repeat the verses to her?" "Yes," answered I; "and she replied with this verse." And I repeated it; whereupon my cousin swooned again, and when she came to herself, she recited the following verses:
"I hearken, I obey, I die; yet bear to one who slew My hopes of union and delight, my greeting and adieu. Fair fall the happy of their joy, alack! and fair befall The wretched lover of the cup that's set her lips unto."
When it was night, I repaired, as of wont, to the garden, where I found my mistress awaiting me. We sat down and ate and drank, after which we did our need and slept till the morning; and as I was going away, I repeated to her Azizeh's verses. When she heard them, she gave a loud cry and was greatly moved and exclaimed, "Alas! Alas! She who said these words is dead!" Then she wept and said to me, "Out on thee! What kin is she, who spoke thus, to thee?" "She is the daughter of my father's brother," replied I. "Thou liest," rejoined she. "By Allah, were she thy cousin, thou wouldst have loved her even as she loved thee! It is thou who hast killed her, and may God in like manner kill thee! By Allah, hadst thou told me thou hadst a cousin, I would not have admitted thee to my favours!" Quoth I, "Indeed, she is my cousin, and it was she who interpreted to me thy signs and taught me how to come at thee and how I should deal with thee; and but for her, I had never won to thee." "Did she then know of us?" asked she. "Yes," answered I; and she exclaimed, "God give thee sorrow of thy youth, even as thou hast wasted hers!" Then she said to me, "Go and see after her." So I went away, troubled at heart, and when I reached our street, I heard a sound of wailing, and asking about it, was answered, "We found Azizeh dead behind the door." I entered the house, and when my mother saw me, she said to me, "Her death lies at thy door, and may God not acquit thee of her blood! Out on thee for a cousin!" Then came my father, and we laid her out and did her the last offices and buried her. Moreover, we let make recitations of the Koran over her tomb and abode there three days, after which we returned home, grieving for her. When I entered the house, my mother came to me and said, "I would fain know what thou didst to her, to break her heart, for, O my son, I questioned her many times of the cause of her malady, but she would tell me nothing. So, God on thee, tell me what thou didst to her, that she died." Quoth I, "I did nothing." "May God avenge her on thee!" rejoined my mother. "She told me nothing, but kept her secret till she died, of her affection for thee. But when she died, I was with her, and she opened her eyes and said to me, 'O wife of my uncle, may God hold thy son guiltless of my blood and punish him not for that he hath done with me! And now He transporteth me from this transitory house of the world to the other and eternal dwelling-place.' 'O my daughter,' said I, 'God preserve thee and preserve thy youth!' And I questioned her of the cause of her illness; but she made me no answer. Then she smiled and said, 'O wife of my uncle, when my cousin is about to repair to the place whither he goes every day, bid him repeat these two words at his going away: "Faith is fair and perfidy foul." For this is of my tenderness over him, that I am solicitous for him in my lifetime and after my death.' Then she gave me somewhat for thee and made me swear that I would not give it to thee, till I should see thee weeping for her and lamenting her death. The thing is with me, and when I see thee as I have said, I will give it to thee." "Show it me," quoth I: but she would not. Then I gave myself up to my pleasures and thought no more of my cousin's death; for I was light-witted and would fain have been with my beloved day and night. So hardly had the night fallen, when I betook myself to the garden, where I found the lady sitting on coals of fire, for much waiting. As soon as she saw me, she ran to me and throwing her arms about my neck, enquired of my cousin. "She is dead," replied I; "and we have caused litanies and recitations of the Koran to be performed for her; and it is now four nights since she died." When she heard this, she shrieked aloud and wept, saying, "Did I not tell thee that thou hadst slain her? Hadst thou let me know of her before her death, I would have requited her the kindness she did me, in that she served me and brought thee to me; for but for her, we had never come together; and I fear lest some calamity befall thee by reason of thy sin against her." Quoth I, "She acquitted me before she died." And I repeated to her what my mother had told me. "God on thee," rejoined she, "when thou returnest to thy mother, learn what it is she hath for thee." Quoth I, "My mother also said to me, 'Before thy cousin died, she laid a charge upon me, saying, "When thy son is about to go whither of wont, teach him these two words, 'Faith is fair and perfidy foul.'" When my mistress heard this, she exclaimed, "The mercy of God the Most High be upon her! Indeed, she hath delivered thee from me, for I had it in mind to do thee a mischief, but now I will not hurt thee nor trouble thee." I wondered at this and said to her, "What then didst thou purpose to do with me, and we lovers?" Quoth she, "Thou art infatuated with me; for thou art young and witless; thy heart is free from guile and thou knowest not our perfidy and malice. Were she yet alive, she would protect thee, for she is the cause of thy preservation and hath delivered thee from destruction. And now I charge thee that thou speak not with neither accost any of our sex, young or old, for thou art young and simple and knowest not the wiles of women and their malice, and she who explained the signs to thee is dead. And indeed I fear for thee, lest thou fall into some calamity and find none to deliver thee from it, now that thy cousin is dead. Alas, the pity of her! Would God I had known her before her death, that I might have visited her and requited her the fair service she did me! The mercy of the Most High be upon her, for she kept her secret and revealed not what she suffered, and but for her, thou hadst never won to me! But there is one thing I desire of thee." "What is it?" said I. "It is," answered she, "that thou bring me to her grave, that I may visit her in the tomb wherein she is and write some verses thereon." "To-morrow," replied I, "if it be the will of God." Then I lay with her that night, and she ceased not, from time to time, to say, "Would thou hadst told me of thy cousin, before her death!" And I said to her, "What is the meaning of the two words she taught me?" But she made me no answer. As soon as it was day, she rose and taking a purse of dinars, said to me, "Come, show me her tomb, that I may visit it and grave some verses thereon and build a dome over it and commend her to the mercy of God and bestow these dinars in alms for her soul." "I hear and obey," replied I and went on before her, whilst she followed me, giving alms by the way and saying to all to whom she gave, "This is an alms for the soul of Azizeh, who kept her counsel, till she drank the cup of death, and discovered not the secret of her passion." And she stinted not thus to give alms and say, "For Azizeh's soul," till the purse was empty and we came to the burial-place. When she saw the tomb, she wept and threw herself upon it; then pulling out a graver of steel and a light mallet, she graved the following verses, in fine characters, upon the stone at the head of the tomb:
I passed by a ruined tomb, in the midst of a garden-way, Upon whose letterless stone seven blood-red anemones lay. "Who sleeps in this unmarked grave?" I said; and the earth, "Bend low; For a lover lies here and waits for the Resurrection Day." "God help thee, O victim of love," I cried, "and bring thee to dwell In the highest of all the heavens of Paradise, I pray! How wretched are lovers all, even in the sepulchre, When their very graves are covered with ruin and decay! Lo, if I might, I would plant thee a garden round about And with my streaming tears the thirst of its flowers allay!"
Then she returned to the garden, weeping, and I with her, and she said to me, "By Allah, thou shalt never leave me!" "I hear and obey," answered I. Then I devoted myself wholly to her and paid her frequent visits, and she was good and generous to me. As often as I passed the night with her, she would make much of me and ask me of the two words my cousin told my mother, and I would repeat them to her.
I abode thus a whole year, till, what with eating and drinking and dalliance and wearing change of rich raiment, I waxed stout and fat, so that I lost all thought of sorrow and anxiety and forgot my cousin Azizeh. At the end of this time, I went one day to the bath, where I refreshed myself and put on a rich suit of clothes, scented with various perfumes; then, coming out I drank a cup of wine and smelt the fragrance of my new clothes, whereupon my breast dilated, for I knew not the perfidy of fortune nor the calamities of events. When the hour of evening-prayer came, I thought to repair to my mistress; but being heated with wine, I knew not where I went, so that, on the way, my drunkenness turned me into a by-street called En Nekib, where, as I was going along, I met an old woman with a lighted flambeau in one hand and a folded letter in the other; and she was weeping and repeating the following verses:
O welcome, bearer of glad news, thrice welcome to my sight; How sweet and solaceful to me thy tidings of delight! Thou that the loved one's greeting bringst unto my longing soul, God's peace, what while the zephyr blows, dwell with thee day and night!
When she saw me, she said to me, "O my son, canst thou read?" And I, of my officiousness, answered, "Yes, O old aunt." "Then, take this letter," rejoined she, "and read it to me." So I took the letter, and unfolding it, read it to her. Now it contained the greetings of an absent man to his friends; and when she heard its purport, she rejoiced and was glad and called down blessings on me, saying, "May God dispel thine anxiety, as thou hast dispelled mine!" Then she took the letter and walked on. Meanwhile, I was seized with a pressing need and squatted down on my heels to make water. When I had finished, I stood up and cleansed myself with pebbles, then shaking down my clothes, was about to go my way, when the old woman came up to me again and bending down to kiss my hand, said, "O my lord, God give thee joy of thy youth! I entreat thee to go with me to yonder door, for I told them what thou readest to me of the letter, and they believe me not: so come with me two steps and read them the letter from behind the door and accept my devout prayers." "What is the history of this letter?" asked I; and she answered, "O my son, it is from my son, who hath been absent from us these ten years. He set out with merchandise and tarried long in foreign parts, till we lost hope of him, supposing him to be dead. Now comes this letter from him, and he has a sister, who weeps for him day and night; so I said to her, 'He is in good health and case.' But she will not believe and says, 'Thou must needs bring me one who will read the letter in my presence, that my heart may be set at rest and my mind eased.' Thou knowest, O my son, that those who love are prone to imagine evil: so do me the favour to go with me and read the letter, standing without the door, whilst I call his sister to listen behind the curtain, so shalt thou dispel our anxiety and fulfil our need. Quoth the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve), 'He who eases an afflicted one of one of the troubles of this world, God will ease him of a hundred troubles;' and according to another tradition, 'Whoso relieves his brother of one of the troubles of this world, God will relieve him of two-and-seventy troubles of the Day of Resurrection.' And I have betaken myself to thee; so do not disappoint me." "I hear and obey," replied I. "Do thou go before me." So she went on and I followed her a little way, till she came to the gate of a large handsome house, whose door was plated with copper. I stood without the door, whilst the old woman cried out in Persian, and before I could think, a damsel ran up, with a nimble and agile step. She had tucked up her trousers to her knees, so that I saw a pair of legs that confounded mind and eye, for they were like columns of alabaster, adorned with anklets of gold, set with jewels. As says the poet, describing her:
O thou who barest thy leg for lovers to look upon, That by the sight of the leg the rest they may infer, Who passest the cup around midst thy gallants, brisk and free, Nought seduces the folk but the cup and the cup-bearer.
She had seemingly been engaged in work of some kind, for she had tucked the end of her shift within the ribbon of her trousers and thrown the skirt of her robe over her arm. Her sleeves were rolled up to the elbows, so that I could see her white wrists and forearms, on which were two pairs of bracelets, with clasps of great pearls and round her neck was a collar of precious stones. Her ears were adorned with pendants of pearls and on her head she wore a kerchief of brocade, embroidered with jewels of price. When I saw her I was confounded at her beauty, for she was like the shining sun. Then she said, with clear and dulcet speech, never heard I sweeter, "O my mother, is this he who cometh to read the letter?" "It is," replied the old woman; and she put out her hand to me with the letter. Now she was standing about half a rod within the door; so I stretched out my hand and put my head and shoulders within the door, thinking to draw near her and read the letter, when behold, before I knew what she would be at, the old woman thrust her head into my back and pushed me forward, with the letter in my hand, so that before I could think, I found myself in the vestibule. Then she entered, swiftlier than the blinding lightning, and had but to shut the door. When the damsel saw me in the vestibule, she came up to me and straining me to her bosom, threw me to the floor, then knelt upon my breast and kneaded my belly with her hands, till I lost my senses. Then she took me by the hand and led me unable to resist, for the violence of her pressure, through seven vestibules, whilst the old woman went before us with the lighted candle, till we came to a great saloon, with four daises, in which a horseman might play at ball. Here she released me, saying, "Open thine eyes." So I opened them, still giddy for the excess of her pressing and pummelling, and saw that the whole place was built of the finest alabaster and hung and carpeted with stuffs of silk and brocade, with cushions and divans of the same. Therein also were two benches of brass and a couch of red gold set with pearls and jewels, befitting none save kings like unto thee. Then said she, "O Aziz, which wouldst thou rather, life or death?" "Life," answered I; and she said, "If life be liefer to thee, thou must marry me." Quoth I, "It were odious to me to marry the like of thee." "If thou marry me," rejoined she, "thou wilt at least be safe from the daughter of Delileh the crafty." "And who is she?" asked I. She laughed and replied, "How comes it that thou knowest her not, seeing that to-day thou hast companied with her a year and four months, may God the Most High destroy her and afflict her with one worse than herself! By Allah, there lives not a more perfidious than she! How many hath she not slain before thee and what deeds hath she not done! Nor can I understand how thou hast been so long in her company, yet hath she not killed thee nor done thee any hurt." When I heard this, I marvelled exceedingly and said, "Who made thee to know of her, O my lady?" "I know of her," said she, "as the age knows of its calamities: but now I would fain have thee tell me all that has passed between you, that I may know the cause of thy deliverance from her." So I told her all that had happened, including the story of my cousin Azizeh. When she heard of the latter's death, her eyes ran over with tears and she smote hand upon hand and cried out, "God have mercy on her, for she lost her youth in His service, and may He replace her to thee! By Allah, O Aziz, it was she who was the cause of thy preservation from the daughter of Delileh and but for her, thou hadst been lost! Now she is dead and I fear for thee from the other's perfidy and mischief; but my heart is full and I cannot speak." "By Allah," quoth I, "all this happened, even as thou sayest!" And she shook her head and said, "There lives not this day the like of Azizeh." "And when she was dying," continued I, "she bade me repeat to my mistress these two words, 'Faith is fair and perfidy foul.'" When she heard this, she exclaimed, "By Allah, O Aziz, it was this that saved thee from dying by her hand: and now my heart is at ease for thee from her for she will never slay thee and thy cousin preserved thee, both in her lifetime and after her death. By Allah, I have desired thee this many a day, but could not get at thee till now and except by a trick, which succeeded with thee for thou art inexperienced and knowest not the malice of women nor the wiles of old women." "No, by Allah!" rejoined I. Then said she to me, "Be of good cheer and take comfort; the dead is in the mercy of God and the living shall be fairly entreated. Thou art a handsome youth, and I do not desire thee but according to the ordinance of God and of His prophet, on whom be peace and salvation! Whatever thou desirest of money and stuff, thou shalt have without stint, and I will not impose any toil on thee, for there is with me always bread baked and water in the pitcher. All I ask of thee is that thou do with me even as the cock does." "And what is it the cock does?" asked I. At this she laughed and clapped her hands and fell over on her back for excess of laughter: then she sat up and said, "O light of my eyes, dost thou not know what the cock's business is?" "No, by Allah!" replied I; and she said, "The cock's business is to eat and drink and tread." I was abashed at her words and said, "Is that the cock's business?" "Yes," answered she; "and all I ask of thee now is to gird thy loins and strengthen thy resolution and swive thy best." Then she clapped her hands and cried out, saying, "O my mother, bring hither those who are with thee." Whereupon in came the old woman, carrying a veil of silk and accompanied by four lawful witnesses, who saluted me and sat down. Then she lighted four candles, whilst the young lady covered herself with the veil and deputed one of the witnesses to execute the contract on her behalf. So they drew up the marriage contract and she acknowledged to have received the whole of her dowry, both precedent and contingent, and to be indebted to me in the sum of ten thousand dirhems. Then he gave the witnesses their fee and they withdrew whence they came; whereupon she put off her clothes and abode in a shift of fine silk, laced with gold, after which she took me by the hand and carried me up to the couch, saying, "There is no blame in what is lawful." She lay down on her back and drawing me on to her breast, heaved a sigh and followed it up with an amorous gesture. Then she pulled up the shift above her breasts, and when I saw her thus, I could not choose but thrust into her, after I had sucked her lips, whilst she moaned and made a show of bashfulness and wept without tears. And indeed the case reminded me of the saying of the poet:
When I drew up her shift and discovered the terrace-roof of her kaze, I found it as strait as my humour or eke my worldly ways. So I drove it incontinent in, halfway; and she heaved a sigh. "For what dost thou sigh?" quoth I. "For the rest of it, sure," she says.
Then said she, "O my beloved, to it and do thy best, for I am thine handmaid. My life on thee, give it me, all of it, that I may take it in my hand and thrust it into my entrails!" And she ceased not to excite me with sobs and sighs and amorous gestures, in the intervals of kissing and clipping, till we attained the supreme felicity and the term of our desires. We lay together till the morning, when I would have gone out; but she came up to me, laughing, and said, "Thinkest thou that going out of the bath is the same as going in? Verily, I believe thou deemest me to be the like of the daughter of Delileh. Beware of such a thought, for thou art my husband by contract and according to law. If thou be drunken, return to thy right mind and know that this house is opened but one day in every year. Go down and look at the great door." So I went down and found the door locked and nailed up and returned and told her so. "Know, O Aziz," said she, "that we have in this house flour and grain and fruits and pomegranates and sugar and meat and sheep and fowls and so forth, enough to serve us for many years; and henceforth, the door will not be opened till after the lapse of a whole year, nor shalt thou find thyself without till then." Quoth I, "There is no power and no virtue but in God!" "And what can this irk thee," rejoined she, "seeing thou knowest the cock's craft, of which I told thee?" Then she laughed and I laughed too, and I conformed to what she said and abode with her, plying the cock's craft, eating and drinking and cricketing, twelve whole months, during which time she conceived by me and brought me a son. At the end of the year, I heard the door opened and men came in with manchets and flour and sugar. Thereupon, I would have gone out, but my wife said, "Wait till nightfall and go out as thou camest in." So I waited till the hour of evening-prayer, and was about to go forth in fear and trembling, when she stopped me, saying, "By Allah, I will not let thee go, except thou swear to return this night before the closing of the door." I agreed to this, and she made me take a solemn oath by sword and Koran and the oath of divorce to boot that I would return to her. Then I left her and going straight to the garden, found the door open as usual; whereat I was angry and said to myself, "I have been absent a whole year and come here at unawares and find the place open as of wont! I wonder, is the damsel still in her old case? Algates I must enter and see, before I go to my mother, more by token that it is now nightfall." So I entered and making for the pavilion, found the daughter of Delileh sitting there with her head on her knee and her hand to her cheek. Her colour was changed and her eyes sunken; but when she saw me, she exclaimed, "Praised be God for thy safety!" and would have risen, but fell down for joy. I was abashed before her and hung my head; but presently went up to her, and kissing her, said, "How knewest thou that I should come to thee to-night?" "I knew it not," replied she. "By Allah, this whole year past I have not tasted sleep, but have watched every night, expecting thee, from the day thou wentest out from me and I gave thee the new suit of clothes, and thou didst promise me to go to the bath and come back! So I abode awaiting thee that night and a second and a third; but thou camest not till now, and I ever expecting thy coming, for this is the way of lovers. And now I would have thee tell me what has been the cause of thine absence this year long." So I told her all that had happened: and when she knew that I was married, her colour paled. "I have come to thee to-night," added I; "but I must leave thee before day." Quoth she, "Doth it not suffice her to have tricked thee into marrying her and kept thee prisoner with her a whole year, but she must make thee take the oath of divorce to return to her before morning and not allow thee to divert thyself with thy mother or me nor suffer thee to pass one night with either of us, away from her? How, then, must it be with one from whom thou hast been absent a whole year, and I knew thee before she did? But may God have compassion on thy cousin Azizeh, for there befell her what never befell any and she endured what never any endured else and died, oppressed and rejected of thee; yet was it she protected thee against me. Indeed, I thought thou didst love me, so let thee take thine own way; else had I not let thee go safe and sound, when I had it in my power to hold thee in duresse and destroy thee." Then she wept and waxed wroth and shuddered in my face and looked at me with angry eyes. When I saw this, I was terrified at her and trembled in every nerve, for she was like a dreadful ghoul and I like a bean over the fire. Then said she, "Thou art of no use to me, now thou art married and hast a child, nor art thou any longer fit for my company. I care only for bachelors and not for married men; for they profit us nothing. Thou hast sold me for yonder stinking nosegay; but by Allah, I will make the baggage's heart ache for thee, for thou shalt not live either for me or for her!" Then she gave a loud cry, and ere I could think, up came ten damsels and threw me on the ground; whereupon she rose and taking a knife, said, "I will slaughter thee like a he-goat; and that will be less than thy desert, for thy behaviour to me and to thy cousin before me." When I found myself at the mercy of her women, with my cheeks stained with dust, and saw her sharpen the knife, I made sure of death and cried out to her for mercy. But she only redoubled in inhumanity and ordered the maids to bind my hands behind me, which they did, and throwing me on my back, sat down on my stomach and held my head. Then two of them sat on my shins, whilst other two held my hands, and she bade a third pair beat me. So they beat me till I lost my senses and my voice failed. When I revived, I said to myself, "It were easier and better for me to have my throat cut than to be beaten thus!" And I remembered how my cousin used to say to me, "God keep thee from her mischief!" and cried out and wept, till my voice failed and I remained without breath or motion. Then she sharpened the knife and said to the girls, "Uncover him." With this God inspired me to repeat to her the two words my cousin had bequeathed me, and I said, "O my lady, dost thou not know that faith is fair and perfidy foul?" When she heard this, she cried out and said, "God pity thee, Azizeh, and give thee Paradise in exchange for thy wasted youth! Verily, she served thee in her lifetime and after her death, and now she has saved thee alive out of my hands with these two words. Nevertheless, I cannot leave thee thus, but I must e'en set my mark on thee, to spite yonder shameless baggage, who has kept thee from me." Then she called out to the damsels and bade them bind my feet with cords and sit on me. They did her bidding, whilst I lay insensible, and she fetched a pan of copper and setting it on a brazier, poured into it oil of sesame, in which she fried cheese. Then she came up to me and unfastening my trousers, tied a cord round my cullions and giving it to two of her women, bade them pull at it. They did so, and I swooned away and was for excess of pain in a world other than this. Then she came with a steel scalpel and cut off my yard, so that I remained like a woman: after which she seared the wound with the boiling oil and rubbed it with a powder, and I the while unconscious. When I came to myself, the blood had ceased to flow; so she bade the damsels unbind me and gave me a cup of wine to drink. Then said she to me, "Go now to her whom thou hast married and who grudged me a single night, and the mercy of God be on thy cousin Azizeh, who discovered not her secret! Indeed she was the cause of thy preservation, for hadst thou not repeated those words to me, I had surely slain thee. Rise and go to whom thou wilt, for thou hadst nothing of mine, save what I have cut off, and now I have no part in thee, nor have I any further care or occasion for thee: so begone about thy business and bless thy cousin's memory!" With that, she gave me a push with her foot, and I rose, hardly able to walk, and went little by little, till I came to the door of my wife's house I found it open, so I threw myself within it and fell down in a swoon; whereupon my wife came out and lifting me up, carried me into the saloon and found that I was like unto a woman. Then I fell into a deep sleep; but when I awoke, I found myself thrown down at the gate of the garden. I rose, groaning for pain and misery, and made my way to my mother's house, where I found her weeping for me and saying, "O my son, would I knew where thou art!" So I drew near and threw myself upon her, and when she saw me, she knew that I was ill, for my face was at once pale and livid. Then I called to mind my cousin and all the kind offices she had been wont to do me and knew that she had indeed loved me; so I wept for her and my mother wept also. Presently, she said to me, "O my son, thy father is dead." At this my anguish redoubled, and I wept till I lost my senses. When I came to myself, I looked at the place where Azizeh had been used to sit and wept anew, till I all but fainted for excess of grief; and I ceased not to weep and lament thus till midnight, when my mother said to me, "Thy father has been dead these ten days." "I shall never think of any one but my cousin Azizeh," answered I; "and indeed I deserve all that hath befallen me, in that I abandoned her who loved me so dear." "What hath befallen thee?" asked my mother. So I told her all that had happened, and she wept awhile, then rose and set meat and drink before me. I ate a little and drank, after which I repeated my story to her, and she exclaimed, "Praised be God that she did but this to thee and forbore to slay thee!" Then she tended me and medicined me till I regained my health: and when my recovery was complete, she said to me, "O my son, I will now bring out to thee that which thy cousin committed to me in trust for thee; for it is thine. She made me swear not to give it thee, till I should see thee recalling her to mind and weeping over her and thine affections severed from other than her; and now I see these conditions fulfilled in thee." So she arose and opening a chest, took out the piece of linen, with the figures of gazelles worked thereon, which I had given Azizeh; and I opened it and found written therein the following verses:
Who moved thee, fairest one, to use this rigour of disdain And slay, with stress of love, the souls that sigh for thee in vain? If thou recall me not to mind beyond our parting-day, God knows the thought of thee with me for ever shall remain! Thou smitest me with cruel words, that yet are sweet to me: Wilt thou one day, though but in dreams, to look upon me deign? I had not thought the ways of Love were languishment and woe And stress of soul until, alas! to love thee I was fain. I knew not weariness till I the captive of thine eyes Became and all my soul was bound in passion's fatal chain. Even my foes have ruth on me and pity my distress: But thou, O heart of steel, wilt ne'er have mercy on my pain. By God, although I die, I'll ne'er forget thee, O my hope, Nor comfort take, though life itself for love should waste and wane!
When I read these verses, I wept sore and buffeted my face; then I unfolded the scroll, and there fell from it another. I opened it and found these words written therein: "Know, O my cousin, that I acquit thee of my blood and I beseech God to make accord between thee and her whom thou lovest: but if aught befall thee through the daughter of Delileh the crafty, return thou not to her neither resort to any other woman and bear thine affliction patiently, for were not the ordained term of thy life a long one, thou hadst perished long ago: but praised be God, who hath appointed my last day before thine! My peace be upon thee; preserve the cloth with the gazelles figured thereon and let it not leave thee, for it used to keep me company, whenas thou wert absent from me; but I conjure thee, by Allah, if thou chance to fall in with her who wrought these gazelles and it be in thy power to foregather with her, hold aloof from her and do not let her approach thee nor marry her; and if thou happen not on her and find no way to her, look thou company not with any other of her sex. Know that she who wrought these gazelles is the daughter of the King of the Camphor Islands and every year she works a like cloth and despatches it to far countries, that her report and the beauty of her broidery, which none in the world can match, may be bruited abroad, As for thy beloved, the daughter of Delileh, this cloth came to her hand, and she used to ensnare folk with it, showing it to them and saying, 'I have a sister who wrought this.' But she lied in this saying, may God bring her to shame! This, then, is my parting counsel to thee, and I have not charged thee thus, but because I know that, after my death, the world will be straitened on thee and belike, by reason of this, thou wilt leave thy native land and wander in foreign countries, and hearing of her who wrought these figures, be minded to foregather with her. Then wilt thou remember me and it shall not avail thee nor wilt thou know my value till after my death."
When I had read the scroll and understood what was written therein, I fell again to weeping, and my mother wept because I did; and I ceased not to gaze upon it and weep till nightfall. I abode thus a whole year, at the end of which time the merchants, with whom I am in this caravan, prepared to set out from my native town, and my mother counselled me to equip myself and journey with them, so haply I might find forgetfulness and my sorrow cease from me, saying, "Take comfort and put away from thee this mourning and travel for a year or two or three, till the caravan returns, when peradventure thy breast may be dilated and thy heart lightened." She ceased not to persuade me thus, till I provided myself with merchandise and set out with the caravan. But all the time of my journey, my tears have never ceased flowing; and at every station where we halt, I open this piece of linen and look on these gazelles and call to mind my cousin Azizeh and weep for her as thou hast seen, for indeed she loved me very dearly and died, oppressed and rejected of me; I did her nought but ill and she did me nought but good. When these merchants return from their journey, I shall return with them, by which time I shall have been a whole year absent; yet is my sorrow greater than ever and my grief and affliction were but increased by my visit to the Islands of Camphor and the Castle of Crystal. The islands in question are seven in number and are ruled by a king, Shehriman by name, who hath a daughter called Dunya; and I was told that it was she who wrought these gazelles and that this thou seest was of her broidery. When I knew this, yearning redoubled on me and I became a prey to consuming languor and drowned in the sea of melancholy thought; and I wept over myself, for that I was become even as a woman, without manly gear like other men, and that there was no recourse for me. From the day of my departure from the Camphor Islands, I have been tearful-eyed and sorrowful-hearted, and I know not whether it will be given me to return to my native land and die by my mother or not, for I am weary of the world.'
When the young merchant had made an end of telling his story, he wept and groaned and complained and gazed upon the figures wrought on the piece of linen, whilst the tears streamed down his cheeks and he repeated the following verses:
'Needs must thy sorrow have an end,' quoth many an one 'and cease And I, Needs must your chiding end and let me be at peace.' 'After awhile,' say they; and I, 'Who will ensure me life, O fools, until the hands of grief their grip of me release?'
And also these:
God knows that, since my severance from thee, full sore I've wept, So sore that needs my eyes must run for very tears in debt! 'Have patience,' quoth my censurers, 'and thou shalt win them yet.' And I, 'O thou that blamest me, whence should I patience get?'
Then said he, 'This, O prince, is my story: hast thou ever heard a stranger one?' Taj el Mulouk marvelled greatly at the young merchant's tale and said to him, 'By Allah, thou hast suffered that which never befell any but thyself, but thou hast life appointed to thee, which thou must needs fulfil; and now I would fain have thee tell me how thou sawest the lady who wrought these gazelles.' 'O my lord,' answered Aziz, 'I got me access to her by a stratagem, and it was this. When I entered her city with the caravan, I went forth and wandered about the gardens [till I came to one walled in and] abounding in trees, whose keeper was a venerable old man of advanced age. I asked him to whom the garden belonged, and he replied, "To the lady Dunya, the king's daughter. We are now beneath her palace," added he; "and when she is minded to divert herself, she opens the private door and walks in the garden and breathes the fragrance of the flowers." So I said to him, "Favour me by allowing me to sit in the garden till she comes; haply I may be fortunate enough to catch a sight of her as she passes." "There can be no harm in that," answered he. So I gave him money and said to him, "Buy us something to eat." He took the money joyfully and opening the door, admitted me into the garden and carried me to a pleasant spot, where he bade me sit down and await his return. Then he brought me fruit and leaving me, returned after awhile with a roasted lamb, of which we ate till we had enough, my heart yearning the while for a sight of the princess. Presently, as we sat, the postern opened and the keeper said to me, "Rise and hide thyself." I did so; and behold a black eunuch put out his head through the wicket and said, "O elder, is there any one with thee?" "No," answered he; and the eunuch said, "Shut the garden gate." So the keeper shut the gate, and the lady Dunya came in by the private door. When I saw her, methought the moon had risen above the horizon and was shining; so I looked at her a long while and longed for her, as a man athirst longs for water. After a time she withdrew and shut the door; whereupon I left the garden and sought my lodging, knowing that I could not win to her and that I was no mate for her, more by token that I was become like unto a woman, having no manly gear, and she was a king's daughter and I but a merchant; so how could I have access to the like of her or to any other woman? Accordingly, when my companions made ready for departure, I too made ready and set out with them, and we journeyed till we arrived at this place, where we met with thee. This then is my story, and peace be on thee!'
[Resume The Story of Taj El Mulouk and the Princess Dunya]
Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram 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