[Go back to The Merchant of Oman]
El Khesib, lord of Egypt, had a son named Ibrahim, there was none goodlier than he, and of his fear for him, he suffered him not to go forth, save to the Friday prayers. One day, as he was returning from the mosque, he happened upon an old man, with whom were many books; so he lighted down from his horse and seating himself beside him, fell to turning over the books and examining them. In [one of] them he saw the portrait of a woman, that all but spoke, never was seen on the earth's face a fairer than she; and this captivated his reason and confounded his wit. So he said to the old man, 'O elder, sell me this picture.' And the bookseller kissed the earth before him and said, 'O my lord, [it is thine,] without price.' Ibrahim gave him a hundred dinars and taking the book in which was the picture, fell to gazing upon it and weeping night and day, abstaining from meat and drink and sleep.
Then said he in himself, 'If I ask the bookseller of the painter of the picture, belike he will tell me; and if the original be on life, I will cast about to win to her; but, if it be an imaginary portrait, I will leave doting upon it and torment myself no more for a thing that hath no reality.' So, on the following Friday, he betook himself to the bookseller, who rose to receive him, and said to him, 'O uncle, tell me who painted this picture.' And he answered, saying, 'O my lord, a man of the people of Baghdad painted it, by name Aboulcasim es Sendelani; [he dwells] in a quarter called El Kerkh; but I know not of whom it is the portrait.' So Ibrahim left him and return to the palace, after praying the Friday prayers, without acquainting any of his household with his case.
Then he took a bag and filling it with gold and jewels, to the value of thirty thousand dinars, waited till the morning, when he went out, without telling any, and presently overtook a caravan. Here he saw a Bedouin and said to him, 'O uncle, how far am I from Baghdad?' 'O my son,' replied the other, 'what hast thou to do with Baghdad? Verily, between thee and it is two months' journey.' Quoth Ibrahim, 'O uncle, an thou wilt bring me to Baghdad, I will give thee a hundred dinars and this mare under me, that is worth other thousand.' ['Agreed!'] answered the Bedouin. 'And God be witness of what we say! Thou shalt not lodge this night but with me.'
Ibrahim agreed to this and passed the night with him. At break of day, the Bedouin took him and fared on with him in haste by a near road, in his eagerness for the promised reward; nor did they leave journeying till they came to the walls of Baghdad, when he said, 'Praised be God for safety! O my lord, this is Baghdad.' Whereat Ibrahim rejoiced with an exceeding joy and alighting from the mare, gave her to the Bedouin, together with the hundred dinars. Then he took the bag and [entering the city], walked on, enquiring for the Kerkh quarter and the abiding-place of the merchants, till destiny led him to a by-street, wherein were ten houses, five facing five, and at the farther end was a [gateway with a] two-leaved door and a ring of silver. In the porch stood two benches of marble, spread with the finest carpets, and on one of them sat a, man of comely and reverend aspect, clad in sumptuous apparel and attended by eve white slaves, like moons.
When Ibrahim saw the street, he knew it by the description the bookseller had given him; so he saluted the man, who returned his greeting and bidding him welcome, made him sit down and asked him of his case. Quoth Ibrahim, 'I am a stranger and desire of thy favour that thou look me out a house in this street where I may take up my abode.' With this the other cried out, saying, 'Ho, Ghezaleh!' And there came forth to him a slave-girl, who said, 'At thy service, O my lord!' 'Take some servants,' said her master, 'and go to such a house and clean it and furnish it with all that is needful for this well-favoured youth.'
So she went forth and did as he bade her; whilst the old man took the youth and showed him the house; and he said, 'O my lord, what is the rent of this house?' 'O bright of face,' answered the other, 'I will take no rent of thee, what while thou abidest there.' Ibrahim thanked him for this and the old man called another slave-girl, whereupon there came forth to him a damsel like the sun, to whom said he, 'Bring chess.' So she brought it and one of the servants set the board; whereupon said his host to Ibrahim, 'Wilt thou play with me?' And he answered, 'Yes.' So they played several games and Ibrahim beat him. 'Well done, O youth!' exclaimed the other. 'Thou art indeed perfect in qualities. By Allah, there is not one in Baghdad can beat me, and yet thou hast beaten me!'
When they had made ready the house and furnished it with all that was needful, the old man delivered the keys to Ibrahim and said to him, 'O my lord, wilt thou not enter my house and honour me by eating of my bread?' He assented and entering with him, found it a handsome and godly house, decorated with gold and full of all manner pictures and furniture and other things, such as the tongue availeth not to set out. The old man welcomed him and called for food, whereupon they brought a table of the make of Senaa of Yemen and spread it with all manner rare meats, than which there was nought costlier nor more delicious. So Ibrahim ate till he was satisfied, after which be washed his hands and proceeded to look at the house and furniture. Presently, he turned to look for the leather bag, but found it not and said, [in himself,] 'There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme! I have eaten a morsel worth a dirhem or two and have lost a bag wherein is thirty thousand dinars' worth: but I seek aid of God.' And he was silent and could not speak for the greatness of his trouble.
Presently his host brought the chess and said to him, 'Wilt thou play with me?' And he said, 'Yes.' So they played and the old man beat him. 'Well done!' said Ibrahim and left playing and rose; whereupon said his host, 'What ails thee, O youth?' And he answered, 'I want the bag.' So the old man rose and brought it out to him, saying, 'Here it is, O my lord. Wilt thou now return to playing with me?' 'Yes,' replied Ibrahim. So they played and the young man beat him. Quoth the other, 'When thy thought was occupied with the bag, I beat thee: but, now I have brought it back to thee, thou beatest me. But, tell me, O my son, what countryman art thou.' 'I am from Egypt,' answered Ibrahim. 'And what is the cause of thy coming to Baghdad?' asked the other; whereupon Ibrahim brought out the portrait and said to him, 'Know, O uncle, that I am the son of El Khesib, lord of Egypt, and I saw with a bookseller this picture, which ravished my wit. I asked him who painted it and he said, "He who wrought it is a man, Aboulcasim es Sendelani by name, who dwells in a street called the Street of Saffron in the Kerkh quarter of Baghdad." So I took with me somewhat of money and came hither alone, none knowing of my case; and I desire of the fulness of thy bounty that thou direct me to Aboulcasim, so I may ask him of the manner of his painting this picture and whose portrait it is. And whatsoever he desireth of me, that will I give him.'
'By Allah, O my son,' said his host, 'I am Aboulcasim es Sendelani, and this is an extraordinary thing how fate hath thus led thee to me!' When Ibrahim heard this, he rose to him, and embraced him and kissed his head and hands, saying, 'God on thee, tell me whose portrait it is.' 'I hear and obey,' answered the other and rising, opened a closet and brought out a number of books, in which he had painted the same picture. Then said he, 'Know, O my son, that the original of this portrait is the daughter of my father's brother, whose name is Aboulleith. She dwells in Bassora, of which city her father is governor, and her name is Jemileh. There is not a fairer than she on the face of the earth; but she is averse from men and cannot hear speak of them in her company. Now I once repaired to my uncle, to the intent that he should marry her to me, and was lavish of wealth to him; but he would not consent; and when his daughter knew of my offer, she was enraged and sent to me to say, amongst other things, "If thou have wit, tarry not in this city; else wilt thou perish and thy blood will be on thine own head." For she is a virago of viragoes. So I left Bassora, broken-hearted, and limned this portrait of her in books and scattered them abroad in various countries, so haply they might fall into the hands of a comely youth like thyself and he contrive to win to her and peradventure she might fall in love with him, purposing to take a promise of him that, when he should have gotten possession of her, he would show her to me, though but for a moment from afar off.'
When Ibrahim heard this, he bowed his head awhile in thought and Es Sendelani said to him, 'O my son, I have not seen in Baghdad a comelier than thou, and meseems tent, when she sees thee, she will love thee. Art thou willing, therefore, in case thou foregather with her and get possession of her, to show her to me, if but for a moment from afar?' 'Yes,' answered Ibrahim, and the painter rejoined, 'This being so, abide with me till thou set out.' 'I cannot tarry longer,' replied the youth; 'for my heart is all afire with love of her.' 'Have patience three days,' said Es Sendelani, 'till I fit thee out a ship, wherein thou mayst go to Bassora.' So he waited whilst the painter equipped him a ship and stored it with all that he needed of meat and drink and so forth.
When the three days were past, he said to Ibrahim, 'Make ready for the voyage; for I have equipped thee a ship and furnished it with all thou requireth. The ship is my property and the sailors are of my servants. In the vessel is what will suffice thee till thy return, and I have charged the crew to serve thee till thou come back in safety.' So Ibrahim took leave of his host and embarking, sailed down the river till he came to Bassora, where he took out a hundred dinars and offered them to the sailors; but they said, 'We have gotten our hire of our master.' 'Take this by way of largesse,' answered he; 'and I will not acquaint him therewith.' So they took it and blessed him.
Then he landed and entering the town, enquired for the merchants' lodging and was directed to a khan called the Khan of Hemdan. So he betook himself to the market where stood the khan in question, and all eyes were attracted to him by reason of his exceeding beauty and grace. He entered the khan, with one of the sailors in his company, and enquiring for the porter, was directed to an old man of reverend aspect. He saluted him and the porter returned his greeting; after which Ibrahim said to him, 'O uncle, hast thou a decent chamber?' 'Yes,' answered he and taking him and the sailor, opened to them an elegant chamber, decorated with gold, and said, 'O youth, this chamber befitteth thee.' Ibrahim pulled out two dinars and gave them to him, saying, 'Take these as key-money.' And the porter took them and blessed him.
Then Ibrahim sent the sailor back to the ship and entered the chamber, where the porter abode with him and served him, saying, 'O my lord, thy coming hath brought us joy.' Ibrahim gave him a, dinar, saying, 'Buy us bread and meat and wine and sweetmeats with this.' So the porter went to the market and buying ten dirhems' worth of victual, brought it back to Ibrahim and gave him the other ten dirhems. But he said to him, 'Spend them on thyself;' whereat the porter rejoiced mightily. Then he ate a cake of bread, with a little seasoning, and gave the rest to the porter, saying, 'Carry this to the people of thy household.' So the porter carried it to his family and said to them, 'Methinketh there is not on the face of the earth a more generous than the young man who is come to lodge with us this day, nor yet a pleasanter than he. If he abide with us, we shall grow rich.'
Then he returned to Ibrahim and found him weeping; so he sat down and began to rub his feet and kiss them, saying, 'O my lord, why weepest thou? May God not make thee weep!' 'O uncle,' said Ibrahim, 'I have a mind to drink with thee this night.' And the porter answered, 'I hear and obey.' So he gave him ten dinars, saying, 'Buy up fruit and wine and dessert, and flowers and five fat fowls and bring me a lute.' The porter went out and buying what he had ordered, said to his wife, 'Strain this wine and cook us this food and look thou dress it daintily, for this young man overwhelms us with his bounties.' So she did as he bade her, to the utmost of desire; and he took the victuals and carried them to Ibrahim. Then they ate and drank and made merry; and Ibrahim wept and repeated the following verses:O friend, though I should barter life for travail all in vain, And all my wealth and all the world and that it doth contain
Then he gave a great sob and fell down in a swoon. The porter sighed, and when he came to himself, he said to him, 'O my lord, what is it makes thee weep and who is she to whom thou alludest in these verses? Indeed, she cannot be but as dust to thy feet.' Ibrahim made him no answer, but, rising, brought out a parcel of the richest women's clothes and said to him, 'Take this to thy harem.' So he carried it to his wife and she returned with him to the young man's lodging and found him weeping, whereupon quoth the porter to him, 'Verily, thou breakest our hearts! Tell us what fair one thou desirest, and she shall be thy handmaid.' 'O uncle,' answered he, 'know that I am the son of El Khesib, lord of Egypt, and I am enamoured of Jemileh, daughter of the lord Aboulleith.' 'Allah! Allah!' exclaimed the porter's wife. 'O my brother, leave this talk, lest any hear of us and we perish. For there is not on the face of the earth a more masterful than she nor may any name to her the name of a man, for she is averse from men. Wherefore, O my son, turn from her to other than her.'
When Ibrahim heard this, he wept sore, and the porter said to him, 'I have nothing save my life; but that I will venture for thy love and contrive thee a means of bringing thee to thy desire.' Then they went out from him and on the morrow, he betook himself to the bath and donned a suit of royal raiment, after which he returned to his lodging. Presently the porter and his wife came in to him and said, 'Know, O my lord, that there is a humpbacked tailor here who sews for the lady Jemileh. Go thou to him and acquaint him with thy case; peradventure he will put thee in the way of attaining thy desire.'
So Ibrahim arose and betaking himself to the shop of the humpbacked tailor, went in to him and found with him ten white slaves, as they were moons. He saluted them and they returned his greeting and made him sit down; and indeed they rejoiced in him and were amazed at his beauty and grace. Now he had torn his pocket with intent and he said to the hunchback, 'I desire that thou sew me up my pocket.' So the tailor took a needleful of silk and sewed up his pocket; whereupon Ibrahim gave him five dinars and returned to his lodging. Quoth the tailor, 'What have I done for this youth, that he should give me five dinars?' And he passed the night pondering his beauty and generosity.
On the morrow Ibrahim returned to the shop and saluted the tailor, who returned his greeting and welcomed him and made much of him. Then he sat down and said to the hunchback, 'O uncle, sew up my pocket, for I have torn it again.' 'On my head and eyes, O my son,' answered the tailor and sewed it up; whereupon Ibrahim gave him ten dinars and he took them, amazed at his beauty and generosity. Then said he, 'By Allah, O youth, needs must there be a reason for this conduct of thine, for this is no matter of sewing up a pocket. Tell me the truth of thy case. If thou be enamoured of one of these boys, by Allah, there is not among them a comelier than thou, for they are all as the dust of thy feet; and behold, they are all thy slaves and at thy disposal. Or if it be other than this, tell me.' 'O uncle,' replied Ibrahim, 'this is no place for talk, for my case is strange and my affair extraordinary.' 'If it be so,' rejoined the tailor, 'come with me to a privy place.' So saying, he took the youth by the hand and carrying him into a chamber behind the shop, said, 'Now tell me.'
So Ibrahim related his whole story to the tailor, who was amazed at his speech and said, 'O my son, fear God [and have mercy] on thyself, for she of whom thou speakest is a virago and averse from men. Wherefore, O my brother, do thou guard thy tongue, or thou wilt destroy thyself.' When Ibrahim heard the hunchback's words, he wept sore and clinging to the tailor's skirts, said, 'Help me, O my lord, or I am a dead man; for I have left my kingdom and the kingdom of my father and grandfather and am become a stranger and lonely in the lands; nor can I endure without her.' When the tailor saw how it was with him, he had compassion on him and said, 'O my son, I have but my life and that I will venture for thy love, for thou makest my heart ache. [Come again] to-morrow [and meanwhile] I will contrive thee somewhat whereby thy heart shall be solaced.' Ibrahim called down blessings on him and returning to the khan, told the porter what the tailor had said, and he answered, 'Indeed, he hath dealt kindly with thee.'
Next morning, the youth donned his richest clothes and taking a purse of money, repaired to the tailor and saluted him. Then he sat down and said, 'O uncle, fulfil thy promise to me.' Quoth the hunchback, 'Arise forthright and take three fat fowls and three ounces of sugar-candy and two small jugs of wine and a cup. Lay all these in a bag and to-morrow, after the morning-prayers, take boat with them, bidding the boatman row thee down the river below Bassora. If he say to thee, "I cannot go farther than a parasang [from the city]," do thou answer, "As thou wilt;" but, when he shall have come so far, tempt him with money to carry thee farther; and the first garden thou wilt see after this will be that of the lady Jemileh. Go up to the gate and there thou wilt see two high steps, carpeted with brocade, and seated thereon a hunchback like unto me. Do thou complain to him of thy case and solicit his favour: it may be he will have compassion on thee and bring thee to the sight of her, though but for a moment from afar. This is all I can do for thee; and except he be moved to pity for thee, we are dead men, thou and I. This then is my counsel, and the matter rests with God the Most High.' Quoth Ibrahim, 'I seek aid of God; what He wills, is; and there is no power and no virtue save in Him!' Then he returned to his lodging and taking the things the tailor had named, laid them in a small bag.
On the morrow, as soon as it was day, he went down to the bank of the Tigris, where he found a boatman asleep; so he awoke him and giving him ten dinars, bade him row him down the river below Bassora. 'O my lord,' answered the man, '[it must be] on condition that I go no farther than a parasang; for if I overpass that distance by a span, I am a lost man, and thou too.' 'Be it as thou wilt,' said Ibrahim. So he took him and dropped down the river with him till he drew near the garden, when he said to him, 'O my son, I can go no farther; for, if I overpass this limit, we are both dead men.' Whereupon Ibrahim pulled out other ten dinars and gave them to him, saying, 'Take this spending-money and better thy case therewithal.' The boatman was ashamed to refuse him and fared on with him, saying, 'I commit the affair to God the Most High!' When they came to the garden, the youth arose, in his joy, whilst the boat was yet a spear's cast from the land, and springing ashore, cast himself down, whilst the boatman turned and fled.
Then Ibrahim went up to the garden-gate, which stood open, and saw in the porch a couch of ivory, whereon sat a humpbacked man of pleasant favour, clad in gold-laced clothes and bearing in his hand a mace of silver, plated with gold. So he hastened up to him and seizing his hand, kissed it; whereupon quoth the hunchback, 'O my son, who art thou and whence comest thou and who brought thee hither?' And indeed, when he saw the youth, he was amazed at his beauty. 'O uncle,' answered Ibrahim, 'I am an ignorant boy and a stranger;' and he wept The hunchback took pity on him and taking him up on the couch, wiped away his tears and said to him, 'No harm shall come to thee. If thou be in debt, may God quit thy debt; and if thou be in fear, may He appease thy fear!' 'O uncle,' replied Ibrahim, 'I am neither in fear nor in debt, but have wealth in plenty, thanks to God.' 'Then, O my son,' rejoined the other, 'what is thine occasion, that thou ventureth thyself and thy beauty to a place, wherein is destruction?'
So he told him his story and discovered to him his case, whereupon he bowed his head awhile, then said to him, 'Was it the humpbacked tailor who directed thee to me?' 'Yes,' answered Ibrahim, and the keeper said, 'This is my brother, and he is a blessed man. But, O my son, had not the love of thee gotten hold upon my heart and had I not taken compassion on thee, verily thou wert lost, thou and my brother and the porter of the khan and his wife. For know that this garden hath not its like on the face of the earth and that it is called the Garden of the Pearl, nor hath any entered it in all my life, except the Sultan and myself and its mistress Jemileh; and I have dwelt here twenty years and never yet saw any else come dither. Every forty days the lady Jemileh comes hither in a bark and lands in the midst of her women, under a canopy of satin, whose skirts ten damsels hold up with hooks of gold, whilst she enters, and I see nothing of her. Nevertheless, I have but my life and I will venture it for thy sake.'
Ibrahim kissed his hands and the keeper said to him, 'Abide with me, till I contrive somewhat for thee.' Then he took him by the hand and carried him into the garden, which when he saw, he deemed it Paradise, for therein were trees intertwining and tall palms and watery welling and birds carolling with various voices. Presently, the keeper brought him to a pavilion and said to him, 'This is where the lady Jemileh sitteth.' So he examined it and found it of the rarest of pleasure-places, full of all manner paintings in gold and ultramarine. It had four doors, to which one mounted by five steps, and in its midst was a basin of water, to which led down steps of gold, set with precious stones. Midmost the pool was a fountain of gold, with figures, large and small, and water pouring from their mouths; and when, by reason of the issuing forth of the water, they piped and whistled in various tones, it seemed to the hearer as though he were in Paradise. Round the pavilion ran a channel of water, with conduits of silver, and it was covered with brocade. To the left of the pavilion was a lattice of silver, giving upon a green park, wherein were all manner wild cattle and gazelles and hares, and on the right hand was another lattice, overlooking a meadow full of birds of all sorts, warbling in various voices and bewildering the hearers with delight.
The youth was ravished at all he saw and sat down in the doorway by the gardener, who said to him, 'How deemest thou of my garden?' Quoth Ibrahim, 'It is the Paradise of the world.' Whereat the gardener laughed and rising, was absent awhile and presently returned with a tray, full of fowls and quails and sweetmeats of sugar and other dainties, which he set before Ibrahim, saying, 'Eat thy fill.' So he ate till he had enough, whereat the keeper rejoiced and said, 'By Allah, this is the fashion of kings and kings' sons!' Then said he, 'O Ibrahim, what hast thou in yonder bag?' So he opened it before him and the keeper said, 'Take it with thee; it will serve thee when the lady Jemileh cometh; for, when once she is come, I shall not be able to bring thee food..
Then he rose and taking the youth by the hand, brought him to a place over against the pavilion, where he made him a bower among the trees and said to him, 'Get thee up here, and when she comes, thou wilt see her and she will not see thee. When she sings, drink thou to her singing, and when she departs, God willing, thou shalt return in safety whence thou camest. This is the best I can do for thee and on God be our dependence!' Ibrahim thanked him and would have kissed his hand, but he forbade him. Then he laid the bag in the bower and the keeper said to him, 'O Ibrahim, walk about and take thy pleasure in the garden and eat of its fruits, for thy mistress's coming is appointed for to-morrow.' So he took his pleasure in the garden and ate of its fruits; after which he passed the night with the keeper.
When the morning arose and gave forth its light and shone, he prayed the morning-prayer and presently the keeper came to him with a pale face, and said to him, 'Rise, O my son, and go up into the bower; for the slave-girls are come, to set the place in order, and she cometh after them; and beware lest thou spit or sneeze or blow thy nose; else we are dead men, thou and I.' So Ibrahim rose and went up into the bower, whilst the keeper went away, saying, 'God grant thee safety, O my son!'
Presently up came four slave-girls, whose like none ever saw, and entering the pavilion, put off their clothes and washed it. Then they sprinkled it with rose-water and incensed it with ambergris and aloes-wood and spread it with brocade. After these came other fifty damsels, with instruments of music, and amongst them Jemileh, within a canopy of red brocade, the skirts whereof the slave-girls bore up with hooks of gold, till she had entered the pavilion, so that Ibrahim saw nought of her nor of her dress. So he said in himself, 'By Allah, all my labour is lost! But needs must I wait to see how the case will be.' Then the damsels brought meat and drink and they ate and drank and washed their hands, after which they set her a stool and she sat down. Then they all played on instruments of music and sang with ravishing voices, without compare.
Presently, out came an old woman, a duenna and clapped her hands and danced, whilst the girls pulled her hither and thither, till the curtain was lifted and out came Jemileh, laughing. She was clad in [costly] robes and ornaments, and on her head was a crown set with pearls and jewels. About her neck she wore a necklace of pearls and her waist was clasped with a girdle of chrysolite bugles, with tassels of rubies and pearls. The damsels kissed the earth before her, and when Ibrahim saw her, he took leave of his senses and his wit was dazed and his thought confounded for amazement at the sight of loveliness whose like is not on the face of the earth. He fell into a swoon and coming to himself weeping-eyed, recited the following verses:I see thee nor mine eyes I shut, lest for a space My lids should veil from me the vision of thy face;
Then said the old woman to the girls, 'Let ten of you arise and dance and sing.' And Ibrahim said in himself, 'I wish the lady Jemileh would dance.' When the damsels had made an end of their dance, they came round the princess and said to her, 'O my lady, we would have thee dance amongst us, so the measure of our joy may be filled, for never saw we a more delightful day than this.' Quoth Ibrahim to himself, 'Doubtless the gates of heaven are open and God hath granted my prayer.'
Then the damsels kissed her feet and said to her, 'By Allah, we never saw thee light of heart as to-day!' Nor did they cease to importune her, till she put off her [outer] clothes and abode in a shift of cloth of gold, broidered with various jewels, discovering breasts that stood out like pomegranates and unveiling a face as it were the moon on the night of its full. Then she began to dance, and Ibrahim beheld motions whose like he had never in his life seen, for she showed such rare skill and wonderful invention, that she made men forget the dancing of the bubbles in the wine-cups and called to mind the inclining of the turbans from the heads; even as saith of her the poet:As she would, she was created, after such a wise that lo, She in beauty's mould was fashioned, perfect, neither less nor mo'.
And as saith another:A dancer, like a willow-wand her shape; her movements sweet When I behold, for ravishment my soul is like to fleet.
As he gazed upon her, she chanced to look up and saw him, whereupon her face changed and she said to her women, 'Sing ye till I come back to you.' Then, taking up a knife half a cubit long. she made towards him, saying, 'There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme!'
When Ibrahim saw this, he [well-nigh] lost his wits; But, when she drew near him and her eyes fell upon his face, the knife dropped from her hand, and she exclaimed, 'Glory to Him who turneth hearts!' Then said she to him, 'O youth, be of good cheer, for thou art safe from that thou fearest!' Whereupon Ibrahim fell to weeping and she to wiping away his tears with her hand and saying, 'O youth, tell me who thou art, and what brought thee hither.' He kissed the earth before her and clung to her skirt; and she said, 'No harm shall come to thee; for, by Allah, no male hath ever filled mine eyes but thyself! Tell me, then, who thou art.'
So he told her his story from first to last, whereat she marvelled and said to him, 'O my lord, I conjure thee by Allah, tell me if thou be Ibrahim ben el Khesib?' 'I am,' answered he, and she threw herself upon him, saying, 'O my lord, it was thou madest me averse from men; for, when I heard that there was in the land of Egypt a youth than whom there was no goodlier on the face of the earth, I fell in love with thee by report and my heart became enamoured of thee, for that which was told me of thy surpassing comeliness, so that I was, in respect of thee, even as saith the poet:My ear my eye prevented in loving him, trow I; For whiles the ear, it chances, doth love before the eye.
So praised be God who hath shown me thy face! But, by Allah, had it been other than thou, I had crucified the keeper of the garden and the porter of the khan and the tailor and him who had recourse to them! But how shall I contrive for somewhat thou mayst eat, without the knowledge of my women?' Quoth Ibrahim, 'I have here what we may eat and drink.' And he opened the bag before her. She took a fowl and began to feed him and he to feed her; which when he saw, it seemed to him that this was a dream. Then be brought out wine and they drank what while the damsels sang on; nor did they leave to do thus from morn to noon, when she rose and said, 'Go now and get thee a boat and await me in such a place, till I come to thee; for I have no patience left to brook separation from thee.' 'O my lady,' answered he, 'I have with me a ship of my own, whose crew are in my hire, and they await me.' 'This is as we would have it,' rejoined she and returning to her women, said to them, 'Come, let us go back to our palace.' 'Why should we return now,' asked they, 'seeing that we used to abide here three days?' Quoth she, 'I feel an exceeding oppression in myself, as I were sick, and I fear lest this increase upon me.'
So they answered, 'We hear and obey,' and donning their clothes, went down to the river-bank and embarked; whereupon, the keeper of the garden came up to Ibrahim and said to him, knowing not what had happened, 'O Ibrahim, thou hast not had the luck to enjoy the sight of her, and I fear lest she have seen thee, for it is her custom to abide here three days.' 'She saw me not, nor I her,' replied Ibrahim; 'for she came not forth of the pavilion.' 'True, O my son,' rejoined the keeper; 'for, had she seen thee, we were both dead men: but tarry with me till she come again next week, and thou shalt see her and take thy fill of looking on her.' 'O my lord,' replied the prince, 'I have with me good and fear for it. Moreover, I left men behind me and I fear lest they take advantage of my absence.' 'O my son,' said the keeper, 'it is grievous to me to part with thee;' and he embraced him and bade him farewell.
Then Ibrahim returned to the khan where he lodged, and foregathering with the doorkeeper, took of him his good [that he had left with him]. Quoth the latter, 'Good news, if it be the will of God!' But Ibrahim said, 'l found no way to my desire, and now I am minded to return to my people.' Whereupon the porter wept; then taking up his goods, he carried them to the ship and bade him farewell. Ibrahim repaired to the place which Jemileh had appointed him and awaited her there till it grew dark, when she came up, disguised as a swash-buckler, with a round beard and her waist bound with a girdle. In one hand she held a bow and arrows and in the other a drawn sword, and she said to him, 'Art thou Ibrahim, son of El Khesib, lord of Egypt?' 'I am he,' answered the prince; and she said, 'What good-for-nought art thou, that comest to debauch kings' daughters? Come; speak with the Sultan.'
Therewith he fell down in a swoon and the sailors well-nigh died in their skins for fear; but, when she saw what had betided her lover, she pulled off her beard and throwing down her sword, unbound the girdle from her waist, whereupon he knew her for the lady Jemileh and said to her, 'By Allah, thou hast rent my heart in sunder!' Then said he to the boatmen, 'Hasten she vessel's course.' So they spread the sail and putting off, fared on with all diligence; nor was it many days before they reached Baghdad, where they saw a ship lying by the river-bank. When the sailors saw them, they cried out to the crew, saying, 'Ho, such an one and such an one, we give you joy of your safety!' Then they drove their ship against Ibrahim's and he looked and beheld Aboulcasim es Sendelani in the other boat.
When the latter saw them, he exclaimed, 'This is what I sought,' and he said to Ibrahim, 'Praised be God for safety! Hast thou accomplished thine errand?' 'Yes,' answered the young man. Now Aboulcasim had a flambeau before him; so he brought it near unto Ibrahim's boat, and when Jemileh saw him, she was troubled and her colour changed: but, when he saw her, he said, 'Go ye in God's safe keeping. I am bound to Bassora, on an errand to the Sultan; but the gift is for him who is present.' Then he brought out a box of sweetmeats, wherein was henbane, and threw it into the boat: whereupon quoth Ibrahim to Jemileh, 'O solace of mine eyes, eat of this.' But she wept and said, 'O Ibrahim, knowest thou who that is?' 'Yes,' answered he, 'it is such an one.' Quoth she, 'He is my father's brother's son and sought me aforetime in marriage of my father; but I would not accept of him. And now he is gone to Bassora and most like he will tell my father of us.' 'O my lady,' rejoined Ibrahim, 'he will not reach Bassora, till we are at Mosul.' But they knew not what lurked for them in the secret purpose of God.
Then he ate of the sweetmeat, but hardly had it reached his stomach when he smote the ground with his head. [He lay insensible till] near dawn, when he sneezed and the henbane issued from his nostrils. With this, he opened his eyes and found himself naked and cast out among ruins; so he buffeted his face and said, 'Doubtless
this is a trick that Es Sendelani hath played me.' And he knew not whither he should go, for he had upon him nothing but his trousers. However, he rose and walked on a little, till he espied the prefect of police coming towards him, with a company of men with swords and staves; whereat he took fright and seeing a ruined bath, hid himself there. Presently, his foot stumbled at something; so he put his hand on it, and it became befouled with blood. He wiped his hand upon his trousers, unknowing what had befouled it, and put it out a second time, when, behold, it fell upon a dead body, and the head came up in his hand. He threw it down, saying, 'There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High!' and took refuge in one of the cabinets of the bath.
Presently, the prefect stopped at the door of the bath and said, 'Enter this place and search.' So ten of them entered with cressets, and Ibrahim of his fear retired behind a wall and looking upon the dead body, saw it to be that of a young lady with a face like the full moon. She was clad in costly raiment and her head lay on one side and her body on the other; and when he saw this, terror got hold upon his heart. Then the prefect of police entered and said, 'Search the corners of the bath.' So they entered the place where Ibrahim was, and one of them, seeing him, came up to him with a knife, half a cubit long, in his hand. When he drew near him, he said, 'Glory be to God, the Creator of this fair face! O youth, whence art thou?' Then he took him by the hand and said, 'O youth, why slewest thou this woman?' 'By Allah,' replied Ibrahim, 'I slew her not, nor know I who slew her, and I entered not this place but in fear of you!' And he told him his case, saying, 'God on thee, do me no wrong, for I am in concern for myself!' Then he took him and carried him to the prefect, who, seeing the marks of blood on his hands, said, 'This needs no proof: strike off his head.' When Ibrahim heard this, he wept sore and recited the following verses, with the tears streaming from his eyes:We tread the steps to us of destiny forewrit, For he to whom a way's decreed must needs submit
Then he gave a sob and fell down in a swoon; and the headsman's heart was moved to pity for him and he exclaimed, 'By Allah, this is no murderer's face!' But the prefect said, 'Strike off his head.' So they seated him on the carpet of blood and bound his eyes; after which the headsman drew his sword and asking leave of the prefect, was about to strike of his head, whilst he cried out, saying, 'Alas, my strangerhood!' when he heard a noise of horse coming up and one cried out, saying, 'Leave him! Stay thy hand, O headsman!'
Now there was for this a rare reason and an extraordinary cause; and it was thus. El Khesib, lord of Egypt, had sent his chamberlain to the Khalif Haroun er Reshid with presents and a letter, saying, 'My son hath been missing this year past, and I hear that he is in Baghdad; wherefore I crave of the bounty of the Vicar of God that he make search for tidings of him and do his endeavour to and him and send him back to me by the chamberlain.' When the Khalif read the letter, he commanded the chief of the police to search out the truth of the matter, and he accordingly proceeded to enquire after Ibrahim, till it was told him that he was at Bassora, whereupon he informed the Khalif, who wrote a letter [to the viceroy] and giving it to the Chamberlain of Egypt, bade him repair to Bassora and take with him a company of the vizier's followers. So, of his solicitude for the son of his lord, the chamberlain set out forthright and happened [by the way] upon Ibrahim, as he sat upon the carpet of blood.
When the prefect saw the chamberlain, he alighted to him, and the latter said, 'What young man is that and what is his case?' The prefect told him how the matter stood and the chamberlain said (and indeed he knew him not for the son of the Sultan, for that his charms were wasted [and his favour changed] by reason of the much terror and affliction he had suffered), 'Verily this young man hath no murderer's face.' And he bade loose him and bring him to him. So they loosed him and brought him to the chamberlain, who said to him, 'O youth, tell me thy case and how comes this slain woman with thee.' Ibrahim looked at him and knowing him, said to him, 'Out on thee! Dost thou not know me? Am I not Ibrahim, son of thy lord? Belike thou art come in quest of me.'
With this the chamberlain considered him straitly and knowing him right well, threw himself at his feet; which when the prefect saw, his colour changed; and the chamberlain said to him, 'Out on thee, O tyrant! Was it thine intent to kill the son of my master El Khesib, lord of Egypt?' The prefect kissed his skirt, saying, 'O my lord, how should I know him? We found him in this plight and saw the damsel lying slain by his side.' 'Out on thee!' rejoined the chamberlain. 'Thou art not fit for the prefectship. This is a lad of fifteen and he hath not killed a sparrow; so how should he be a murderer? Why didst thou not have patience with him and question him of his case?'
Then the chamberlain and the prefect commanded to make search for the young lady's murderer. So they re-entered the bath and finding him, brought him to the prefect who carried him to the Khalif and acquainted him with that which had happened. Er Reshid bade put the murderer to death and sending for Ibrahim, smiled in his face and said to him, 'Tell me thy story and that which hath betided thee.' So he told him his story from first to last, and it was grievous to the Khalif, who called Mesrour, his swordbearer, and said to him, 'Go straightway and fall upon the house of Aboulcasim es Sendelani and bring me him and the young lady.' So he went forth at once and breaking into the house, found Jemileh bound with her hair and nigh upon death. So he loosed her and taking the painter, carried them both to the Khalif, who marvelled at Jemileh's beauty. Then he turned to Es Sendelani and said, 'Take him and cut off his hands, wherewith he beat this young lady; then crucify him and deliver his goods and possessions to Ibrahim.'
They did his bidding, and as they were thus, in came Aboulleith, governor of Bassora, the lady Jemileh's father, seeking aid of the Khalif against Ibrahim ben el Khesib and complaining to him that the latter had taken his daughter. Quoth Er Reshid, 'He hath been the means of delivering her from torture and death.' Then he sent for Ibrahim, and when he came, he said to Aboulleith, 'Wilt thou not accept of this young man, son of the Sultan of Egypt, as husband to thy daughter?' 'Hearkening and obedience [are due] to God and to thee, O Commander of the Faithful,' replied Aboulleith; whereupon the Khalif summoned the Cadi and the witnesses and married the young lady to Ibrahim. Moreover, he gave him all Es Sendelani's good and equipped him for his return to his own country, where he abode with Jemileh in the utmost of delight and the most perfect of contentment, till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and the Sunderer of Companies; and glory be to the [Ever-]Living One who dieth not!
[Go to Aboulhusn of Khorassan]
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