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Payne: Hemmad the Bedouin's Story

[Go back to The History of King Omar Ben Ennuman and His Sons Sherkan and Zoulmekan (cont.)]

Awhile ago, I was sore wakeful one night and thought the dawn would never break: so, as soon as it was day, I rose and girding on my sword, mounted my steed and set my lance in rest. Then I rode out to hunt, and as I went along, a company of men accosted me and asked me whither I went. I told them, and they said, 'We will bear thee company.' So we all fared on together, and presently we saw an ostrich and gave chase; but it evaded us and spreading its wings, fled before us and drew us on after it, till it brought us to a desert, wherein there was neither grass nor water, nor was aught to be heard there save the hissing of serpents, the wailing of Jinn and the howling of ghouls. Here we lost sight of the ostrich, nor could we tell whether it had flown up into the sky or sunk into the ground. Then we turned our horses' heads and thought to go back; but found that our return would be toilsome and dangerous at that time of exceeding heat; for the heat was grievous to us, so that we were sore athirst and our horses stood still. So we made sure of death; but as we were in this case, we espied a spacious meadow afar off, wherein were gazelles frisking. There was a tent pitched and by the tent-side a horse tethered and a spear stuck in the earth, whose head glittered in the sun. When we saw this, our hearts revived, after we had despaired, and we turned our horses' heads towards the meadow and rode on, till we came to a spring, where we alighted and drank and watered our beasts. Then I was seized with a frenzy of curiosity and went up to the door of the tent, where I saw a young man like the new moon, without hair on his cheeks, and on his right hand a slender damsel, as she were a willow wand. No sooner did I set eyes on the girl, than love of her got hold upon my heart and I saluted the young man, who returned my greeting. Then said I to him, 'O brother of the Arabs, tell me who thou art and what is this damsel to thee?' With this, he bent down his head awhile, then raised it and replied, 'Tell me first who thou art and what are these horsemen with thee.' 'I am Hemmad, son of El Fezari,' answered I, 'the renowned cavalier, who is reckoned as five hundred horse among the Arabs. We went forth this morning to hunt and were overcome by thirst; so I came to the door of this tent, thinking to get of thee a draught of water.' When he heard this, he turned to the fair maiden and said to her, 'Bring this man water and what there is of food.' So she went in, trailing her skirts, whilst her feet stumbled in her long hair and the golden bangles tinkled on her ankles, and returned after a little, bearing in her right hand a silver vessel of cold water and in her left a bowl full of milk and dates and flesh of wild cattle. But, of the excess of my passion for her, I could take of her nor meat nor drink, and I recited to her the following verses, applying them to her:

The dye of the henna upon her hand doth show, As 'twere a raven new lighted on fresh-fall'n snow; And see the full moon and the sun beside her face, This dim and the other fearful for shame and woe.

Then, after I had eaten and drunk, I said to the youth, 'O chief of the Arabs, I have told thee truly who and what I am, and now I would fain have thee do the like by me and tell me the truth of thy case.' 'As for this damsel,' replied he, 'she is my sister.' Quoth I, 'It is my desire that thou give her to me to wife of free will: else will I slay thee and take her by force.' With this, he bowed his head awhile, then raised his eyes to me and answered, 'Thou sayest sooth in avouching thyself a renowned cavalier and a famous champion and the lion of the desert; but if ye all attack me treacherously and slay me and take my sister by force, it will be a stain upon your honour. If ye be, as thou sayest, cavaliers that are counted among the champions and fear not the shock of battle, give me time to don my armour and gird on my sword and set my lance in rest and mount my horse. Then will we go forth into the field and fight; and if I conquer you, I will kill you, every man of you; and if you overcome me and slay me, this damsel my sister is thine.' 'This is but just,' answered I, 'and we oppose it not.' Then I turned my horse's head, mad for love of the damsel, and rode back to my companions, to whom I set forth her beauty and grace, as also the comeliness of the young man and his valour and strength of soul and how he avouched himself a match for a thousand horse. Moreover, I described to them the tent and all the riches and rarities it contained and said to them, 'Be sure that this youth would not have taken up his abode alone in this desert place, were he not a man of great prowess: so I propose that whoso slays him shall take his sister.' And they agreed to this. Then we armed ourselves and mounting, rode to the tent, where we found the young man armed and mounted; but his sister ran up to him, with her veil drenched with tears, and laying hold of his stirrup, cried out, saying, 'Alas!' and 'Woe worth the day!' in her fear for her brother, and recited the following verses:

To God above I make my moan of sorrow and affright. Mayhap, the empyrean's Lord will smite them with dismay. They fain would kill thee, brother mine, with malice aforethought, Though never cause of anger was nor fault forewent the fray. Yet for a champion art thou known among the men of war, The doughtiest knight that East or West goes camping by the way. Thou wilt thy sister's honour guard, whose might is small, for thou Her brother art and she for thee unto the Lord doth pray Let not the foe possess my soul nor seize on me perforce And work their cruel will on me, without my yea or nay. By God His truth, I'll never live in any land where thou Art not albeit all the goods of plenty it display! But I will slay myself for love and yearning for thy sake And in the darksome tomb I'll make my bed upon the clay.

When he heard her words, he wept sore and turning his horse's head towards her, made answer with the following verses:

Stand by and see the wondrous deeds that I will do this day, Whenas we meet and I on them rain blows in the mellay. E'en though the lion of the war, the captain of the host, The stoutest champion of them all, spur out into the fray, I'll deal a Thaalebiyan blow at him and in his heart I'll let my spear, even to the shaft, its thirst for blood allay. If I defend thee not from all that seek thee, sister mine, May I be slaughtered and my corse given to the birds of prey! Ay, I will battle for thy sake, with all the might I may, And books shall story after me the marvels of this day.

Then said he, 'O my sister, give ear to what I shall enjoin on thee.' And she answered, 'I hear and obey.' Quoth he, 'If I fall, let none possess thee;' and she buffeted her face and said, 'God forbid, O my brother, that I should see thee laid low and yield myself to thine enemies!' With this he put out his hand to her and drew aside her veil, whereupon her face shone forth, like the sun from out clouds. Then he kissed her between the eyes and bade her farewell; after which he turned to us and said, 'Ho, cavaliers! Come ye as guests or are you minded to cut and thrust? If ye come as guests, rejoice in hospitality; and if ye covet the shining moon, come out against me, one by one, and fight.' Then came out to him a sturdy horseman, and the young man said to him, 'Tell me thy name and thy father's name, for I have sworn to fight with none whose name and whose father's name tally with mine and my father's, and if it be thus with thee, I will give thee up the girl.' 'My name is Bilal,' answered the other; and the young man repeated the following verses:

Thou liest when thou talkest of "benefits"; for lo, Thou comest with mischief and malice and woe! So, an thou be doughty, heed well what I say: I'm he who the braver in the battle lays low With a keen-cutting sword, like the horn of the moon; So look (and beware) for a hill-shaking blow!

Then they ran at one another, and the youth smote his adversary in the breast, that the lance-head issued from his back. With this, another came out, and the youth repeated the following verses:

O dog, that art noisome of stench and of sight, What is there of worth that to come by is light? 'Tis only the lion, of race and of might Right noble, recks little of life in the fight.

Nor was it long before he left him also drowned in his blood and cried out, 'Who will come out to me?' So a third horseman pricked out, reciting the following verses:

I come to thee, with a fire in my breast that blazes free, And call on my comrades all to the fight to follow me. Though thou hast slain the chiefs of the Arabs, yet, perdie, Thou shalt not 'scape this day from those that follow thee!

When the youth heard this, he answered him, saying:

Thou com'st, like theright evil fiend that thou art, With a lie on thy lips and a fraud at thy heart; This day shalt thou taste of a death-dealing dart And a spear that shall rid thee of life with its smart.

Then he smote him on the breast, that the spear-point issued from his back, and cried out, saying, 'Will another come out?' So a fourth came out and the youth asked him his name. He replied, 'My name is Hilal.' And the youth repeated these verses:

Thou err'st, that wouldst plunge in my sea of affray And thinkest to daunt me with lies and dismay. Lo, I, to whose chant thou hast hearkened this day, Thy soul, ere thou know'st it, will ravish away!

Then they drove at one another and exchanged blows; but the youth's stroke forewent that of his adversary and slew him: and thus he went on to kill all who sallied out against him. When I saw my comrades slain, I said in myself, 'If I fight with him, I shall not be able to withstand him, and if I flee, I shall become a byword among the Arabs.' However, the youth gave me no time to think, but ran at me and laying hold of me, dragged me from my saddle. I swooned away and he raised his sword to cut off my head; but I clung to his skirts and he lifted me in his hand, as I were a sparrow [in the clutches of a hawk]. When the maiden saw this, she rejoiced in her brother's prowess and coming up to him, kissed him between the eyes. Then he delivered me to her, saying, 'Take him and entreat him well, for he is come under our rule.' So she took hold of the collars of my coat-of-arms and led me away by them as one would lead a dog. Then she did off her brother's armour and clad him in a robe, after which she brought him a stool of ivory, on which he sat down, and said to him, 'May God whiten thine honour and make thee to be as a provision against the shifts of fortune!' And he answered her with the following verses:

My sister said, (who saw my lustrous forehead blaze Midmost the war, as shine the sun's meridian rays) "God bless thee for a brave, to whom, when he falls on, The desert lions bow in terror and amaze!" "Question the men of war," I answered her, "of me, Whenas the champions flee before my flashing gaze. I am the world-renowned for fortune and for might, Whose prowess I uplift to what a height of praise! O Hemmad, thou hast roused a lion, who shall show Thee death that comes as swift as vipers in the ways."

When I heard what he said, I was perplexed about my affair, and considering my condition and how I was become a captive, I was lessened in my own esteem. Then I looked at the damsel and said to myself, 'It is she who is the cause of all this trouble;' and I fell a-marvelling at her beauty and grace, till the tears streamed from my eyes and I recited the following verses:

Reproach me not, O friend, nor chide me for the past, For I will pay no heed to chiding and dispraise. Lo, I am clean distraught for one, whom when I saw, Fate in my breast forthright the love of her did raise. Her brother was my foe and rival in her love, A man of mickle might and dreadful in affrays.

Then the maiden set food before her brother, and he bade me eat with him, whereat I rejoiced and felt assured of my life. When he had made an end of eating, she brought him a flagon of wine and he drank, till the fumes of the wine mounted to his head and his face flushed. Then he turned to me and said, 'Harkye, Hemmad, dost thou know me?' 'By thy life,' answered I, 'I am rich in nought but ignorance!' Said he, 'I am Ibad ben Temim ben Thaalebeh, and indeed God giveth thee thy liberty and spareth thee confusion.' Then he drank to my health and gave me a cup of wine and I drank it off. Then he filled me a second and a third and a fourth, and I drank them all; and he made merry with me and took an oath of me that I would never betray him. So I swore to him a thousand oaths that I would never deal perfidiously with him, but would be a friend and a helper to him.

Then he bade his sister bring me ten dresses of silk; so she brought them and laid them on me, and this gown I have on my body is one of them. Moreover, he made her bring one of the best of the riding camels, laden with stuffs and victual, and a sorrel horse, and gave the whole to me. I abode with them three days, eating and drinking, and what he gave me is with me to this day. At the end of this time, he said to me, 'O Hemmad, O my brother, I would fain sleep awhile and rest myself. I trust myself to thee; but if thou see horsemen making hither, fear not, for they are of the Beni Thaalebeh, seeking to wage war on me.' Then he laid his sword under his head and slept; and when he was drowned in slumber, the devil prompted me to kill him; so I rose, and drawing the sword from under his head, dealt him a blow that severed his head from his body. His sister heard what I had done, and rushing out from within the tent, threw herself on his body, tearing her clothes and repeating the following verses:

Carry the tidings to the folk, the saddest news can be; But man from God His ordinance no whither hath to flee. Now art thou slaughtered, brother mine, laid prostrate on the earth, Thou whose bright face was as the round of the full moon to see. Indeed, an evil day it was, the day thou mettest them, And after many a fight, thy spear is shivered, woe is me! No rider, now that thou art dead, in horses shall delight Nor evermore shall woman bear a male to match with thee. Hemmad this day hath played thee false and foully done to death; Unto his oath and plighted faith a traitor base is he. He deemeth thus to have his will and compass his desire; But Satan lieth to his dupes in all he doth decree.

When she had ended, she turned to me and said, 'O man of accursed lineage, wherefore didst thou play my brother false and slay him, whenas he purposed to send thee back to thy country with gifts and victual and it was his intent also to marry thee to me at the first of the month?' Then she drew a sword she had with her, and planting it in the ground, with the point set to her breast, threw herself thereon and pressed upon it, till the blade issued from her back and she fell to the ground, dead. I mourned for her and wept and repented when repentance availed me nothing. Then I went in haste to the tent and taking whatever was light of carriage and great of worth, went my way: but in my haste and fear, I took no heed of my (dead) comrades, nor did I bury the maiden and the youth. This, then, is my story, and it is still more extraordinary than that of the serving-maid I kidnapped in Jerusalem."

[Resume The History of King Omar Ben Ennuman and His Sons Sherkan and Zoulmekan (cont.)]

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

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