[Go back to Ghanim Ben Ayoub the Slave of Love (cont.)]
There reigned once in the City of Peace, (Baghdad), before the Khalifate of Abdulmelik ben Merwan, a king called Omar ben Ennuman, who was of the mighty giants and had subdued the kings of Persia and the Emperors of the East, for none could warm himself at his fire nor cope with him in battle, and when he was angry, there came sparks out of his nostrils. He had gotten him the dominion over all countries, and God had subjected unto him all creatures; his commands were obeyed in all the great cities and his armies penetrated the most distant lands: the East and West came under his rule, with the regions between them, Hind and Sind and China and Hejaz and Yemen and the islands of India and China, Syria and Mesopotamia and the land of the blacks and the islands of the ocean and all the famous rivers of the earth, Jaxartes and Bactrus, Nile and Euphrates. He sent his ambassadors to the farthest parts of the earth, to fetch him true report, and they returned with tidings of justice and peace, bringing him assurance of loyalty and obedience and invocations of blessings on his head; for he was a right noble king and there came to him gifts and tribute from all parts of the world. He had a son called Sherkan, who was one of the prodigies of the age and the likest of all men to his father, who loved him with an exceeding love and had appointed him to be king after him. The prince grew up till he reached man's estate and was twenty years old, and God subjected all men to him, for he was gifted with great might and prowess in battle, humbling the champions and destroying all who made head against him. So, before long, this Sherkan became famous in all quarters of the world and his father rejoiced in him: and his might waxed, till he passed all bounds and magnified himself, taking by storm the citadels and strong places.
Now King Omar had four lawful wives, but God had vouchsafed him no son by them, except Sherkan, whom he had gotten of one of them, and the rest were barren. Moreover he had three hundred and threescore concubines, after the number of the days of the Coptic year, who were of all nations, and he had lodged them all within his palace. For he had built twelve pavilions, after the number of the months of the year, in each thirty chambers, and appointed to each of his concubines a night, which he lay with her and came not to her again for a full year. As providence would have it, one of them conceived and her pregnancy was made known, whereupon the King rejoiced with an exceeding joy, saying, "Mayhap it will be a son, in which case all my offspring will be males." Then he recorded the date of her conception and made much of her. But when the news came to Sherkan, he was troubled and it was grievous to him, for he said, "Verily, there cometh one who shall dispute the kingdom with me." So he said to himself, "If this damsel bear a male child, I will kill it." But he kept this his intent secret in his heart. Now the damsel in question was a Greek girl, by name Sufiyeh, whom the King of Roum, lord of Caesarea, had sent to King Omar as a present, together with great store of rarities. She was the fairest of face and most graceful of all his women and the most careful of his honour and was gifted with abounding wit and surpassing loveliness. She had served the King on the night of his lying with her, saying to him, "O King, I desire of the God of the heavens that He grant thee of me a male child, so I may rear him well and do my utmost endeavour to educate him and preserve him from harm." And her words pleased the King. She passed the time of her pregnancy in devout exercises, praying fervently to God to grant her a goodly male child and make his birth easy to her, till her months were accomplished and she sat down on the stool of delivery. Now the King had given an eunuch charge to let him know if the child she should bring forth were male or female; and in like manner his son Sherkan had sent one to bring him news of this. In due time, Sufiyeh was delivered of a child, which the midwives took and found to be a girl with a face more radiant than the moon. So they announced this to the bystanders, whereupon the eunuch carried the news to the King and Sherkan's messenger did the like with his master, who rejoiced with exceeding joy; but after these two had departed, Sufiyeh said to the midwives, "Wait with me awhile, for I feel there is yet somewhat in my entrails." Then she moaned and the pains of labour took her again but God made it easy to her and she gave birth to a second child. The midwives looked at it and found it a boy like the full moon, with flower-white forehead and rose-red cheeks; whereupon the damsel and her eunuchs and attendants rejoiced and she was delivered of the afterbirth, whilst all who were in the palace set up cries of joy. The other damsels heard of this and envied her; and the news came to Omar, who was glad and rejoiced. Then he rose and went to her and kissed her head, after which he looked at the boy and bending down to it, kissed it, whilst the damsels smote the tabrets and played on instruments of music; and he commanded that the boy should be named Zoulmekan and the girl Nuzbet ez Zeman, which was done accordingly. Then he appointed nurses, wet and dry, and eunuchs and attendants to serve them and assigned them rations of sugar and liquors and oil and other necessaries, such as the tongue fails to set out. Moreover the people of Baghdad heard of the children that God had vouchsafed to the King; so they decorated the city and made proclamation of the good news. Then came the amirs and viziers and grandees and wished the King joy of his son and daughter, wherefore he thanked them and bestowed dresses of honour and favours and largesse on them and on all who were present, gentle and simple. Then he bade carry great store of jewellery and apparel and money to Sufiyeh and charged her to rear the children carefully and educate them well. After this wise, four years passed by, during which time the King sent every few days to seek news of Sufiyeh and her children; but all this while, his son Sherkan knew not that a male child had been born to his father, having news only of the birth of his daughter Nuzhet ez Zeman, and they hid the thing from him, until years and days had passed by, whilst he was busied in contending with the men of war and tilting against the cavaliers.
One day, as the King was sitting on his throne, there came in to him his chamberlains, who kissed the earth before him and said, "O King, there be come ambassadors from the King of the Greeks, lord of Constantinople the mighty, and they desire to be admitted to pay their respects to thee: so if the King give them leave to enter, we will admit them, and if not, there is no appeal from his decree." He bade admit them, and when they entered, he turned to them and asked them how they did and the reason of their coming. They kissed the earth before him and replied, "O illustrious King and lord of the long arm, know that King Afridoun, lord of the lands of the Greeks and of the Nazarene armies, holding the empire of Constantinople, hath sent us to make known to thee that he is now waging grievous war with a fierce rebel, the lord of Caesarea; and the cause of this war is as follows. One of the kings of the Arabs, awhile since, chanced, in one of his conquests, upon a treasure of the time of Alexander, from which he carried away countless riches and amongst other things, three round jewels, of the bigness of an ostrich's egg, from a mine of pure white jewels, never was seen the like. Upon each of these jewels were graven talismans in the Greek character, and they had many properties and virtues, amongst the rest that if one of them were hung round the neck of a new-born child, no ailment would hurt him nor would he moan or be fevered, so long as it was about his neck. When they came to the hands of the Arabian King and he knew their virtues, he sent the three jewels, together with other presents and rarities, as a gift to King Afridoun, and to that end fitted out two ships, one bearing the treasure and presents and the other men to guard them against whoso should offer them hindrance on the sea, being nevertheless assured that none would dare waylay them, for that he was King of the Arabs, more by token that their way lay through the sea in the dominions of the King of Constantinople and they were bound to him, nor were there on the shores of that sea any but subjects of the most mighty King Afridoun. The ships set out and sailed till they drew near our city, when there sallied out on them certain corsairs of the country and amongst them troops of the King of Caesarea, who took all the treasures and rarities in the ships, together with the three jewels, and slew the men. When the news came to our King, he sent an army against them, but they defeated it; then he sent another army, stronger than the first, but they put this also to the rout; whereupon the King was wroth and swore that he would go out against them in person at the head of his whole army and not turn back from them, till he had left Caesarea in ruins and laid waste all the lands and cities over which its King held sway. So he craves of the lord of the age and the time, the King of Baghdad and Khorassan, that he succour us with an army, to the end that glory may redound to him; and he has sent by us somewhat of various kinds of presents and begs the King to favour him by accepting them and accord us his aid." Then they kissed the earth before King Omar and brought out the presents, which were fifty slave-girls of the choicest of the land of the Greeks, and fifty white male slaves in tunics of brocade, rich girdles of gold and silver and in their ears pendants of gold and fine pearls, worth a thousand dinars each. The damsels were adorned after the same fashion and clad in stuffs worth much money. When the King saw them, he rejoiced in them and accepted them. Then he commanded that the ambassadors should be honourably entreated and summoning his viziers, took counsel with them of what he should do. Accordingly, one of them, an old man named Dendan, arose and kissing the earth before King Omar, said, "O King, thou wouldst do well to equip numerous army and set over it thy son Sherkan, with us as his lieutenants; and to my mind it behoves thee to do thus, for two reasons: first, that the King of the Greeks hath appealed to thee for aid and hath sent thee presents, and thou hast accepted them; and secondly, that no enemy dares attack our country, and that if thy host succour the King of the Greeks and his foe be put to the rout, the glory will fall to thee and the news of it will be noised abroad in all cities and countries; and especially, when the tidings reach the islands of the ocean and the people of Western Africa, they will send thee presents and tribute." When the King heard the Vizier's speech, it pleased him and he approved his counsel: so he bestowed on him dress of honour and said to him, "It is with such as thee that kings take counsel and it befits that thou command the van of the army and my son Sherkan the main battle." Then he sent for Sherkan and expounded the matter to him, telling him what the ambassadors and the Vizier had said, and enjoined him to take arms and prepare to set out, charging him not to cross the Vizier Dendan in aught that he should do. Then he bade him choose from among his troops ten thousand horsemen armed cap-a-pie and inured to war and hardship. Accordingly, Sherkan rose at once and chose out ten thousand horsemen, in obedience to his father's commandment, after which he entered his palace and mustered his troops and distributed money to them, saying, "Ye have three days to make ready." They kissed the earth before him and proceeded at once to make their preparations for the campaign; whilst Sherkan repaired to the armouries and provided himself with all the arms and armour that he needed, and thence to the stables, whence he took horses of choice breeds and others. When the three days were ended, the troops marched out of Baghdad, and King Omar came forth to take leave of his son, who kissed the earth before him, and he gave him seven thousand purses. Then he turned to the Vizier Dendan and commended to his care his son Sherkan's army and charged the latter to consult the Vizier in all things, to which they both promised obedience. After this, the King returned to Baghdad and Sherkan commanded the officers to draw out the troops in battle array. So they mustered them and the number of the army was ten thousand horsemen, besides footmen and followers. Then they loaded the beasts and beat the drums and blew the clarions and unfurled the banners and the standards, whilst Sherkan mounted, with the Vizier Dendan by his side and the standards waving over them, and the army set out and fared on, with the ambassadors in the van, till the day departed and the night came, when they halted and encamped for the night. On the morrow, as soon as God brought in the day, they took horse and continued their march, nor did they cease to press onward, guided by the ambassadors, for the space of twenty days. On the twenty-first day, at nightfall, they came to a wide and fertile valley, whose sides were thickly wooded and covered with grass, and there Sherkan called a three days' halt. So they dismounted and pitched their tents, dispersing right and left in the valley, whilst the Vizier Dendan and the ambassadors alighted in the midst. As for Sherkan, when he had seen the tents pitched and the troops dispersed on either side and had commanded his officers and attendants to camp beside the Vizier Dendan, he gave reins to his horse, being minded to explore the valley and himself mount guard over the army, having regard to his father's injunctions and to the fact that they had reached the frontier of the land of Roum and were now in the enemy's country. So he rode on alone along the valley, till a fourth part of the night was passed, when he grew weary and sleep overcame him, so that he could no longer spur his horse. Now he was used to sleep on horseback; so when drowsiness got the better of him, he fell asleep and the horse paced on with him half the night and entered a forest; but Sherkan awoke not, till the steed smote the earth with his hoof. Then he started from sleep and found himself among trees; and the moon arose and lighted up the two horizons. He was troubled at finding himself alone in this place and spoke the words, which whoso says shall never be confounded, that is to say, "There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme!" But as he rode on, in fear of the wild beasts, behold, the trees thinned and the moon shone out upon a meadow as it were one of the meads of Paradise and he heard therein a noise of talk and pleasant laughter such as ravishes the wit of men. So King Sherkan dismounted and tying his horse to a tree, fared on a little way, till he espied a stream of running water and heard a woman talking and saying in Arabic, "By the virtue of the Messiah, this is not handsome of you! But whoso speaks a word, I will throw her down and bind her with her girdle." He followed in the direction of the voice and saw gazelles frisking and wild cattle pasturing and birds in their various voices expressing joy and gladness: and the earth was embroidered with all manner of flowers and green herbs, even as says of it the poet in the following verses:
Earth has no fairer sight to show than this its blossom-time, With all the gently running streams that wander o'er its face. It is indeed the handiwork of God Omnipotent, The Lord of every noble gift and Giver of all grace!
Midmost the meadow stood a monastery, and within the enclosure was a citadel that rose high into the air in the light of the moon. The stream passed through the midst of the monastery and therenigh sat ten damsels like moons, high-bosomed maids, clad in dresses and ornaments that dazzled the eyes, as says of them the poet:
The meadow glitters with the troops Of lovely ones that wander there. Its grace and beauty doubled are By these that are so passing fair. Virgins that, with their swimming gait, The hearts of all that see ensnare; Along whose necks, like trails of grapes, Stream down the tresses of their hair: Proudly they walk, with eyes that dart The shafts and arrows of despair, And all the champions of the world Are slain by their seductive air.
Sherkan looked at the ten girls and saw in their midst a lady like the moon at its full, with ringleted hair and shining forehead, great black eyes and curling brow-locks, perfect in person and attributes, as says the poet:
Her beauty beamed on me with glances wonder-bright: The slender Syrian spears are not so straight and slight: She laid her veil aside, and lo, her cheeks rose-red! All manner lovelyness was in their sweetest sight. The locks, that o'er her brow fell down, were like the night, From out of which there shines a morning of delight.
Then Sherkan heard her say to the girls, "Come on, that I may wrestle with you, ere the moon set and the dawn come." So they came up to her, one after another, and she overthrew them, one by one, and bound their hands behind them with their girdles. When she had thrown them all, there turned to her an old woman, who was before her, and said, as if she were wroth with her, "O wanton, dost thou glory in overthrowing these girls? Behold, I am an old woman, yet have I thrown them forty times! So what hast thou to boast of? But if thou have strength to wrestle with me, stand up that I may grip thee and put thy head between thy feet." The young lady smiled at her words, although her heart was full of anger against her, and said, "O my lady Dhat ed Dewahi, wilt indeed wrestle with me, or dost thou jest with me?" "I mean to wrestle with thee in very deed," replied she. "Stand up to me then," said the damsel, "if thou have strength to do so." When the old woman heard this, she was sore enraged and the hair of her body stood on end, like that of a hedge-hog. Then she sprang up, whilst the damsel confronted her, and said, "By the virtue of the Messiah, I will not wrestle with thee, except I be naked." "O baggage!" So she loosed her trousers and putting her hand under her clothes, tore them off her body; then, taking a handkerchief of silk, she bound it about her middle and became as she were a bald Afriteh or a pied snake. Then she turned to the young lady and said to her, "Do as I have done." All this time, Sherkan was watching them and laughing at the loathly favour of the old woman. So the damsel took a sash of Yemen stuff and doubled it about her waist, then tucked up her trousers and showed legs of alabaster and above them a hummock of crystal, soft and swelling, and a belly that exhaled musk from its dimples, as it were a bed of blood-red anemones, and breasts like double pomegranates. Then the old woman bent to her and they took hold of one another, whilst Sherkan raised his eyes to heaven and prayed to God that the damsel might conquer the old hag. Presently, the former bored in under the latter, and gripping her by the breech with the left hand and by the gullet with the right, hoisted her off the ground; whereupon the old woman strove to free herself and in the struggle wriggled out of the girl's hands and fell on her back. Up went her legs and showed her hairy tout in the moonlight, and she let fly two great cracks of wind, one of which smote the earth, whilst the other smoked up to the skies. At this Sherkan laughed, till he fell to the ground, and said, "He lied not who dubbed thee Lady of Calamities! Verily, thou sawest her prowess against the others." Then he arose and looked right and left, but saw none save the old woman thrown down on her back. So he drew near to hear what should pass between them; and behold, the young lady came up to the old one and throwing over her a veil of fine silk, helped her to dress herself, making excuses to her and saying, "O my lady Dhat ed Dewahi, I did not mean to throw thee so roughly, but thou wriggledst out of my hands; so praised be God for safety!" She returned her no answer, but rose in her confusion and walked away out of sight, leaving the young lady standing alone, by the other girls thrown down and bound. Then said Sherkan to himself, "To every fortune there is a cause. Sleep fell not on me nor did the steed bear me hither but for my good fortune; for of a surety this damsel and what is with her shall be my prize." So he turned back and mounted and drew his scimitar; then he gave his horse the spur and he started off with him, like an arrow from a bow, whilst he brandished his naked blade and cried out, "God is Most Great!" When the damsel saw him, she sprang to her feet and running to the bank of the river, which was there six cubits wide, made a spring and landed on the other side, where she turned and standing, cried out in a loud voice, "Who art thou, sirrah, that breakest in on our pastime, and that with thy whinger bared, as thou wert charging an army? Whence comest thou and whither art thou bound? Speak the truth, and it shall profit thee, and do not lie, for lying is of the loser's fashion. Doubtless thou hast strayed this night from thy road, that thou hast happened on this place. So tell me what thou seekest: if thou wouldst have us set thee in the right road, we will do so, or if thou seek help, we will help thee." When Sherkan heard her words, he replied, "I am a stranger of the Muslims, who am come out by myself in quest of booty, and I have found no fairer purchase this moonlit night than these ten damsels; so I will take them and rejoin my comrades with them." Quoth she, "I would have thee to know that thou hast not yet come at the booty: and as for these ten damsels, by Allah, they are no purchase for thee! Indeed, the fairest purchase thou canst look for is to win free of this place; for thou art now in a mead, where, if we gave one cry, there would be with us anon four thousand knights. Did I not tell thee that lying is shameful?" And he said, "The fortunate man is he to whom God sufficeth and who hath no need of other than Him." "By the virtue of the Messiah," replied she, "did I not fear to have thy death at my hand, I would give a cry that would fill the meadow on thee with horse and foot; but I have pity on the stranger: so if thou seek booty, I require of thee that thou dismount from thy horse and swear to me, by thy faith, that thou wilt not approach me with aught of arms, and we will wrestle, I and thou. If thou throw me, lay me on thy horse and take all of us to thy booty; and if I throw thee, thou shalt be at my commandment. Swear this to me, for I fear thy perfidy, since experience has it that, as long as perfidy is in men's natures, to trust in every one is weakness. But if thou wilt swear, I will come over to thee." Quoth Sherkan (and indeed he lusted after her and said to himself, "She does not know that I am a champion of the champions."), "Impose on me whatever oath thou deemest binding, and I will swear not to draw near thee till thou hast made thy preparations and sayest, 'Come and wrestle with me.' If thou throw me, I have wealth wherewith to ransom myself, and if I throw thee, I shall get fine purchase." Then said she, "Swear to me by Him who hath lodged the soul in the body and given laws to mankind, that thou wilt not beset me with aught of violence, but by way of wrestling; else mayst thou die out of the pale of Islam." "By Allah," exclaimed Sherkan, "if a Cadi should swear me, though he were Cadi of the Cadis, he would not impose on me the like of this oath!" Then he took the oath she required and tied his horse to a tree, sunken in the sea of reverie and saying in himself, "Glory to Him who fashioned her of vile water!" Then he girt himself and made ready for wrestling and said to her, "Cross the stream to me." Quoth she, "It is not for me to come to thee: if thou wilt, do thou cross over to me." "I cannot do that," replied he, and she said, "O boy, I will come to thee." So she gathered her skirts and making a spring, landed on the other side of the river by him; whereupon he drew near to her, wondering at her beauty and grace, and saw a form that the hand of Omnipotence had tanned with the leaves of the Jinn and which had been fostered by Divine solicitude, a form on which the zephyrs of fair fortune had blown and over whose creation favourable planets had presided. Then she called out to him, saying, "O Muslim, come and wrestle before the day break!" and tucked up her sleeves, showing a fore-arm like fresh curd; the whole place was lighted up by its whiteness and Sherkan was dazzled by it. Then he bent forward and clapped his hands and she did the like, and they took hold and gripped each other. He laid his hands on her slender waist, so that the tips of his fingers sank into the folds of her belly, and his limbs relaxed and he stood in the stead of desire, for there was displayed to him a body, in which was languishment of hearts, and he fell a-trembling like the Persian reed in the hurricane. So she lifted him up and throwing him to the ground, sat down on his breast with buttocks like a hill of sand, for he was not master of his reason. Then she said to him, "O Muslim, it is lawful among you to kill Christians; what sayst thou to my killing thee?" "O my lady," replied he, "as for killing me, it is unlawful; for our Prophet (whom God bless and preserve!) hath forbidden the slaying of women and children and old men and monks." "Since this was revealed unto your prophet," rejoined she, "it behoves us to be even with him therein; so rise: I give thee thy life, for beneficence is not lost upon men." Then she got off his breast and he rose and brushed the earth from his head, and she said to him, "Be not abashed; but, indeed, one who enters the land of the Greeks in quest of booty and to succour kings against kings, how comes it that there is no strength in him to defend himself against a woman?" "It was not lack of strength in me," replied he; "nor was it thy strength that overthrew me, but thy beauty: so if thou wilt grant me another bout, it will be of thy favour." She laughed and said, "I grant thee this: but these damsels have been long bound and their arms and shoulders are weary, and it were fitting I should loose them, since this next bout may peradventure be a long one." Then she went up to the girls and unbinding them, said to them in the Greek tongue, "Go and put yourselves in safety, till I have brought to nought this Muslim's craving for you." So they went away, whilst Sherkan looked at them and they gazed at him and the young lady. Then she and he drew near again and set breast against breast; but, when he felt her belly against his, his strength failed him, and she feeling this, lifted him in her hands, swiftlier than the blinding lightning, and threw him to the ground. He fell on his back, and she said to him, "Rise, I give thee thy life a second time. I spared thee before for the sake of thy prophet, for that he forbade the killing of women, and I do so this second time because of thy weakness and tender age and strangerhood; but I charge thee, if there be, in the army sent by King Omar ben Ennuman to the succour of the King of Constantinople, a stronger than thou, send him hither and tell him of me, for in wrestling there are divers kinds of strokes and tricks, such as feinting and the fore-tripe and the back-tripe and the leg-crick and the thigh-twist and the jostle and the cross-buttock." "By Allah, O my lady," replied Sherkan, (and indeed he was greatly incensed against her), "were I the chief Es Sefedi or Mohammed Caimal or Ibn es Seddi, I had not observed the fashion thou namest; for, by Allah, it was not by thy strength that thou overthrewest me, but by filling me with the desire of thy buttocks, because we people of Chaldaea love great thighs, so that nor wit nor foresight was left in me. But now if thou have a mind to try another fall with me, with my wits about me, I have a right to this one bout more, by the rules of the game, for my presence of mind has now returned to me." "Hast thou not had enough of wrestling, O conquered one?" rejoined she. "However, come, if thou wilt; but know that this bout must be the last." Then they took hold of each other and he set to in earnest and warded himself against being thrown down: so they strained awhile, and the damsel found in him strength such as she had not before observed and said to him, "O Muslim, thou art on thy guard!" "Yes," replied he; "thou knowest that there remaineth but this bout, and after each of us will go his own way." She laughed and he laughed too: then she seized the opportunity to bore in upon him unawares, and gripping him by the thigh, threw him to the ground, so that he fell on his back. She laughed at him and said, "Thou art surely an eater of bran; for thou art like a Bedouin bonnet, that falls at a touch, or a child's toy, that a puff of air overturns. Out on thee, thou poor creature! Go back to the army of the Muslims and send us other than thyself, for thou lackest thews, and cry us among the Arabs and Persians and Turks and Medes, 'Whoso has might in him, let him come to us.'" Then she made a spring and landed on the other side of the stream and said to Sherkan, laughing, "It goes to my heart to part with thee; get thee to thy friends, O my lord, before the morning, lest the knights come upon thee and take thee on the points of their lances. Thou hast not strength enough to defend thee against women; so how couldst thou make head against men and cavaliers?" And she turned to go back to the monastery. Sherkan was confounded and called out to her, saying, "O my lady, wilt thou go away and leave the wretched stranger, the broken-hearted slave of love?" So she turned to him, laughing, and said, "What wouldst thou? I grant thy prayer." "Have I set foot in thy country and tasted the sweetness of thy favours," replied Sherkan, "and shall I return without eating of thy victual and tasting thy hospitality? Indeed I am become one of thy servitors." Quoth she, "None but the base refuses hospitality; on my head and eyes be it! Do me the favour to mount and ride along the bank of the stream, abreast of me, for thou art my guest." At this Sherkan rejoiced and hastening back to his horse, mounted and rode along the river-bank, keeping abreast of her, till he came to a drawbridge, that hung by pulleys and chains of steel, made fast with hooks and padlocks. Here stood the ten damsels awaiting the lady, who spoke to one of them in the Greek tongue and said to her, "Go to him and take his horse's rein and bring him over to the monastery." So she went up to Sherkan and led him over the bridge to the other side and he followed her, amazed at what he saw and saying in himself, "Would the Vizier Dendan were with me, to look on these fair faces with his own eyes." Then he turned to the young lady and said to her, "O wonder of beauty, now art thou doubly bound to me, firstly, by the bond of comradeship, and secondly for that thou carriest me to thy house and I accept of thy hospitality and am at thy disposal and under thy protection. So do me the favour to go with me to the land of Islam, where thou shalt look upon many a lion-hearted prince and know who I am." His speech angered her and she said to him, "By the virtue of the Messiah, thou art keen of wit with me! But I see now what depravity is in thy heart and how thou allowest thyself to say a thing that proves thee a traitor. How should I do what thou sayest, when I know that, if I came to thy King Omar ben Ennuman, I should never win free of him? For he has not the like of me among his women nor in his palace, all lord of Baghdad and Khorassan as he is, with his twelve palaces, in number as the months of the year, and his concubines therein, in number as the days thereof; and if I come to him, he will not respect me, for that ye hold it lawful to take possession of the like of me, as it is said in your scripture, 'That which your right hand possesses.' So how canst thou speak thus to me? As for thy saying, 'Thou shalt look upon the champions of the Muslims,' by the Messiah, thou sayst that which is not true; for I saw your army, when it reached our country, these two days ago, and I did not see that your ordinance was that of kings, but beheld you only as a rabble of men collected together. And as for thy saying, 'Thou shalt know who I am,' I did not show thee courtesy of any intent to honour thee, but out of pride in myself; and the like of thee should not say this to the like of me, even though thou be Sherkan himself, King Omar ben Ennuman's son, who is renowned in these days." "And dost thou know Sherkan?" asked he. "Yes," replied she; "and I know of his coming with an army of ten thousand horse, for that he was sent by his father with these troops to the succour of the King of Constantinople." "O my lady," rejoined Sherkan, "I conjure thee, as thou believest in thy religion, tell me the cause of all this, that I may know truth from falsehood and with whom the fault lies." "By the virtue of thy faith," replied she, "were it not that I fear lest the news of me be bruited abroad that I am of the daughters of the Greeks, I would adventure myself and sally forth against the ten thousand horse and kill their chief, the Vizier Dendan, and take their champion Sherkan. Nor would there be any reproach to me in this, for I have read books and know the Arabic language and have studied good breeding and polite letters. But I have no need to vaunt my own prowess to thee, for thou hast tasted of my quality and proved my strength and skill and pre-eminence in wrestling; nor if Sherkan himself had been in thy place to-night and it had been said to him, 'Leap this river,' could he have done so. And I could wish well that the Messiah would throw him into my hands here in this monastery, that I might go forth to him in the habit of a man and pull him from his saddle and take him prisoner and lay him in fetters." When Sherkan heard this, pride and heat and warlike jealousy overcame him and he was minded to discover himself and lay violent hands on her but her beauty held him back from her, and he repeated the following verse:
Their charms, whatever fault the fair commit, A thousand intercessors bring for it.
So she went up, and he after her; whilst he looked at her back and saw her buttocks smiting against each other, like the billows in the troubled sea; and he recited the following verses:
In her face an advocate harbours, who blots out her every fault From the hearts of mankind, for he is mighty to intercede. Whenas I look at her face, I cry in my wonder aloud, "The moon of the skies in the night of her full is risen indeed!" If the Afrit of Belkis himself should wrestle a fall with her, Her charms would throw him forthright, for all his strength and speed.
They went on till they reached a vaulted gate, arched over with marble. This she opened and entered with Sherkan into a long vestibule, vaulted with ten arches from each of which hung a lamp of crystal, shining like the rays of the sun. The damsels met her at the end of the vestibule, bearing perfumed flambeaux and having on their heads kerchiefs embroidered with all manner jewels and went on before her, till they came to the inward of the monastery, where Sherkan saw couches set up all around, facing one another and overhung with curtains spangled with gold. The floor was paved with all kinds of variegated marbles, and in the midst was a basin of water, with four-and-twenty spouts of gold around it, from which issued water like liquid silver; whilst at the upper end stood a throne covered with silks of royal purple. Then said the damsel, "O my lord, mount this throne." So he seated himself on it, and she withdrew: and when she had been absent awhile, he asked the servants of her, and they said, "She hath gone to her sleeping-chamber; but we will serve thee as thou shalt order." So they set before him rare meats and he ate till he was satisfied, when they brought him a basin of gold and an ewer of silver, and he washed his hands. Then his mind reverted to his troops, and he was troubled, knowing not what had befallen them in his absence and thinking how he had forgotten his father's injunctions, so that he abode oppressed with anxiety and repenting of what he had done, till the dawn broke and the day appeared, when he lamented and sighed and became drowned in the sea of melancholy, repeating the following verses:
I lack not of prudence and yet in this case I've been fooled; so what shift shall avail unto me? If any could ease me of love and its stress, Of my might and my virtue I'd set myself free. But alas! my heart's lost in the maze of desire, And no helper save God in my strait can I see.
Hardly had he finished, when up came more than twenty damsels like moons, encompassing the young lady, who appeared amongst them as the full moon among stars. She was clad in royal brocade and girt with a woven girdle set with various kinds of jewels, that straitly clasped her waist and made her buttocks stand out as they were a hill of crystal upholding a wand of silver; and her breasts were like double pomegranates. On her head she wore a network of pearls, gemmed with various kinds of jewels, and she moved with a coquettish swimming gait, swaying wonder-gracefully, whilst the damsels held up her skirts. When Sherkan saw her beauty and grace, he was transported for joy and forgot his army and the Vizier Dendan end springing to his feet, cried out, "Beware, beware of that girdle rare!" and repeated the following verses:
Heavy of buttocks, languorous of gait, With limber shape and breasts right delicate, She hides what passion in her bosom burns; Yet cannot I my heat dissimulate. Her maidens, like strung pearls, behind her fare, Now all dispersed now knit in ordered state.
She fixed her eyes on him and considered him awhile, till she was assured of him, when she came up to him and said, "Indeed the place is honoured and illumined by thy presence, O Sherkan! How didst thou pass the night, O hero, after we went away and left thee? Verily lying is a defect and a reproach in kings, especially in great kings; and thou art Sherkan, son of King Omar ben Ennuman; so henceforth tell me nought but truth and strive not to keep the secret of thy condition, for falsehood engenders hatred and enmity. The arrow of destiny hath fallen on thee, and it behoves thee to show resignation and submission." When Sherkan heard what she said, he saw nothing for it but to tell her the truth so he said, "I am indeed Sherkan, son of Omar ben Ennuman, whom fortune hath afflicted and cast into this place: so now do whatsoever thou wilt." She bowed her head a long while, then turned to him and said, "Reassure thyself and be of good cheer; for thou art my guest, and bread and salt have passed between us; so art thou in my safeguard and under my protection. Have no fear; by the virtue of the Messiah, if all the people of the earth sought to harm thee, they should not come at thee till the breath had left my body for thy sake; for thou art under my protection and that of the Messiah." Then she sat down by his side and began to sport with him, till his alarm subsided and he knew that, had she been minded to kill him, she would have done so on the past night. After awhile, she spoke in the Greek tongue to one of her serving-women, who went away and returned in a little with a goblet and a tray of food; but Sherkan abstained from eating, saying in himself, "Maybe she hath put somewhat in this meat." She knew what was in his thought; so she turned to him and said, "By the virtue of the Messiah, the case is not as thou deemest, nor is there aught in this food of what thou suspectest! Were I minded to kill thee, I had done so before now." Then she came to the table and ate a mouthful of every dish, whereupon Sherkan came forward and fell to. She was pleased at this, and they both ate till they were satisfied, after which she let bring perfumes and sweet-smelling herbs and wines of all colours and kinds, in vessels of gold and silver and crystal. She filled a first cup and drank it off, before offering it to Sherkan, even as she had done with the food. Then she filled a second time and gave the cup to him. He drank and she said to him, "See, O Muslim, how thou art in the utmost delight and pleasure of life!" And she ceased not to drink and to ply him with drink, till he took leave of his wits, for the wine and the intoxication of love for her. Presently she said to the serving-maid, "O Merjaneh, bring us some instruments of music." "I hear and obey," replied Merjaneh, and going out, returned immediately with a lute, a Persian harp, a Tartar flute and an Egyptian dulcimer. The young lady took the lute and tuning it, sang to it in a dulcet voice, softer than the zephyr and sweeter than the waters of Tesnim, the following verses:
May Allah assoilzie thine eyes! How much is the blood they have shed! How great is the tale of the shafts thy pitiless glances have sped! I honour the mistress, indeed, that harshly her suitor entreats; 'Tis sin in the loved to relent or pity a lover misled. Fair fortune and grace to the eyes that watch the night, sleepless, for thee, And hail to the heart of thy slave, by day that is heavy as lead! 'Tis thine to condemn me to death, for thou art my king and my lord. With my life I will ransom the judge, who heapeth unright on my head.
Then each of the damsels rose and taking an instrument played and sang to it in the Greek language. The lady their mistress, sang also, to Sherkan's delight. Then she said to him, "O Muslim, dost thou understand what I say?" "No," replied he; "it was the beauty of thy finger-tips that threw me into ecstasies." She laughed and said, "If I sang to thee in Arabic, what wouldst thou do?" "I should lose the mastery of my reason," replied he. So she took an instrument and changing the measure, sang the following verses:
Parting must ever bitter be; How shall one bear it patiently? Three things are heavy on my heart, Absence, estrangement, cruelty. I love a fair to whom I'm thrall, And severance bitter is to me.
Then she looked at Sherkan and found he had lost his senses for delight: and he lay amongst them insensible awhile, after which he revived and recalling the singing inclined to mirth. Then they fell again to drinking and ceased not from sport and merriment till the day departed with the evening and the night let fall her wings. Thereupon she rose and retired to her chamber. Sherkan enquired after her and being told that she was gone to her bedchamber, said, "I commend her to the safe-keeping of God and to His protection!" As soon as it was day, a waiting-woman came to him and said, "My mistress bids thee to her." So he rose and followed her, and as he drew near her lodging, the damsels received him with smitten tabrets and songs of greeting and escorted him to a great door of ivory set with pearls and jewels. Here they entered and he found himself in a spacious saloon, at the upper end of which was a great estrade, carpeted with various kinds of silk, and round it open lattices giving upon trees and streams. About the place were figures, so fashioned that the air entered them and set in motion instruments of music within them, and it seemed to the beholder as if they spoke. Here sat the young lady, looking on the figures; but when she saw Sherkan, she sprang to her feet and taking him by the hand, made him sit down by her and asked him how he had passed the night. He blessed her and they sat talking awhile, till she said to him, "Knowest thou aught touching lovers and slaves of passion?" "Yes," replied he; "I know some verses on the subject." "Let me hear them," said she. So he repeated the following verses:
Pleasure and health, O Azzeh, and good digestion to thee! How with our goods and our names and our honours thou makest free! By Allah, whene'er I blow hot, she of a sudden blows cold, And no sooner do I draw near, than off at a tangent flies she! Indeed, as I dote upon Azzeh, as soon as I've cleared me of all That stands between us and our loves, she turns and abandons me; As a traveller that trusts in the shade of a cloud for his noontide rest, But as soon as he halts, the shade flits and the cloud in the distance cloth flee.
When she heard this, she said, "Verily Kutheiyir was a poet of renown and a master of chaste eloquence and attained rare perfection in praise of Azzeh, especially when he says:
'If Azzeh should before a judge the sun of morning cite, Needs must the umpire doom to her the meed of beauty bright; And women all, who come to me, at her to rail and flite, God make your cheeks the sandal-soles whereon her feet alight!'
"And indeed it is reported," added she, "that Azzeh was endowed with the extreme of beauty and grace." Then she said to Sherkan, "O king's son, dost thou know aught of Jemil's verses to Butheineh?" "Yes," replied he; "none knows Jemil's verses better than I." And he repeated the following:
"Up and away to the holy war, Jemil!" they say; and I, "What have I to do with waging war except among the fair?" For deed and saying with them alike are full of ease and cheer, And he's a martyr who tilts with them and falleth fighting there. If I say to Butheineh, "What is this love, that eateth my life away?" She answers, "Tis rooted fast in thy heart and will increase fore'er." Or if I beg her to give me back some scantling of my wit, Wherewith to deal with the folk and live, she answereth, "Hope it ne'er!" Thou willst my death, ah, woe is me! thou willst nought else but that; Yet I, I can see no goal but thee, towards which my wishes fare.
"Thou hast done well, O king's son," said she, "and Jemil also did excellently well. But what would Butheineh have done with him that he says, 'Thou wishest to kill me and nought else?'" "O my lady," replied he, "she sought to do with him what thou seekest to do with me, and even that will not content thee." She laughed at his answer, and they ceased not to carouse till the day departed and the night came with the darkness. Then she rose and went to her sleeping-chamber, and Sherkan slept in his place till the morning. As soon as he awoke, the damsels came to him with tambourines and other instruments of music, according to their wont, and kissing the earth before him, said to him, "In the name of God, deign to follow us; for our mistress bids thee to her." So he rose and accompanied the girls, who escorted him, smiting on tabrets and other instruments of music, to another saloon, bigger than the first and decorated with pictures and figures of birds and beasts, passing description. Sherkan wondered at the fashion of the place and repeated the following verses:
My rival plucks, of the fruits of the necklets branching wide, Pearls of the breasts in gold enchased and beautified With running fountains of liquid silver in streams And cheeks of rose and beryl, side by side. It seemeth, indeed, as if the violet's colour vied With the sombre blue of the eyes, with antimony dyed.
When the lady saw Sherkan, she came to meet him, and taking him by the hand, said to him, "O son of King Omar ben Ennuman, hast thou any skill in the game of chess?" "Yes," replied he; "but do not thou be as says the poet." And he repeated the following verses:
I speak, and passion, the while, folds and unfolds me aye; But a draught of the honey of love my spirits thirst could stay. I sit at the chess with her I love, and she plays with me, With white and with black; but this contenteth me no way. Meseemeth as if the king were set in the place of the rook And sought with the rival queens a bout of the game to play. And if I looked in her eyes, to spy the drift of her moves, The amorous grace of her glance would doom me to death straightaway.
Then she brought the chess-board and played with him; but instead of looking at her moves, he looked at her face and set the knight in the place of the elephant and the elephant in the place of the knight. She laughed and said to him, "If this be thy play, thou knowest nothing of the game." "This is only the first bout," replied he; "take no count of it." She beat him, and he replaced the pieces and played again with her; but she beat him a second time and a third and a fourth and a fifth. So she fumed to him and said, "Thou art beaten in everything." "O my lady," answered he, "how should one not be beaten, who plays with the like of thee?" Then she called for food, and they ate and washed their hands, after which the maids brought wine, and they drank. Presently, the lady took the dulcimer, for she was skilled to play thereon, and sang to it the following verses:
Fortune is still on the shift, now gladness and now woe; I liken it to the tide, in its ceaseless ebb and flow. So drink, if thou have the power, whilst it is yet serene, Lest it at unawares depart, and thou not know.
They gave not over carousing till nightfall, and this day was pleasanter than the first. When the night came, the lady went to her sleeping-chamber, leaving Sherkan with the damsels. So he threw himself on the ground and slept till the morning, when the damsels came to him with tambourines and other musical instruments, according to their wont. When he saw them, he sat up; and they took him and carried him to their mistress, who came to meet him and taking him by the hand, made him sit down by her side. Then she asked him how he had passed the night, to which he replied by wishing her long life; and she took the lute and sang the following verses:
Incline not to parting, I pray, For bitter its taste is alway. The sun at his setting grows pale, To think he must part from the day.
Hardly had she made an end of singing, when there arose of a sudden a great clamour, and a crowd of men and knights rushed into the place, with naked swords gleaming in their hands, crying out in the Greek tongue, "Thou hast fallen into our hands, O Sherkan! Be sure of death!" When he heard this, he said to himself, "By Allah, she hath laid a trap for me and held me in play, till her men should come! These are the knights with whom she threatened me: but it is I who have thrown myself into this peril." Then he turned to the lady to reproach her, but saw that she had changed colour; and she sprang to her feet and said to the new-comers, "Who are ye?" "O noble princess and unpeered pearl," replied the knight their chief, "dost thou know who is this man with thee?" "Not I," answered she. "Who is he?" Quoth the knight, "He is the despoiler of cities and prince of cavaliers, Sherkan, son of King Omar ben Ennuman. This is he who captures the citadels and masters the most impregnable strengths. The news of him reached King Herdoub, thy father, by the report of the old princess Dhat ed Dewahi; and thou hast done good service to the army of the Greeks by helping them to lay hands on this pestilent lion." When she heard this, she looked at the knight and said to him, "What is thy name?" And he answered, "My name is Masoureh son of thy slave Mousoureh ben Kasherdeh, chief of the nobles." Quoth she, "And how camest thou in to me without my leave?" "O our lady," replied he, "when I came to the gate, neither chamberlain nor porter offered me any hindrance; but all the gate-keepers rose and forewent me as of wont; though, when others come, they leave them standing at the gate, whilst they ask leave for them to enter. But this is no time for long talk, for the King awaits our return to him with this prince, who is the mainstay of the army of Islam, that he may kill him and that his troops may depart whence they came, without our having the toil of fighting them." "Thou sayest an ill thing," rejoined the princess. "Verily, the lady Dhat ed Dewahi lied; and she hath avouched a vain thing, of which she knows not the truth; for by the virtue of the Messiah, this man who is with me is not Sherkan, nor is he a captive, but a stranger, who came to us, seeking hospitality, and we received him as a guest. So, even were we assured that this was Sherkan and did we know that it was he beyond doubt, it would suit ill with my honour that I should deliver into your hands one who hath come under my safeguard. Betray me not, therefore, in the person of my guest, neither bring me into ill repute among men; but return to the King my father and kiss the earth before him and tell him that the case is not according to the report of the lady Dhat ed Dewahi." "O Abrizeh," replied the knight Masoureh, "I cannot go back to the King without his enemy." Quoth she (and indeed she was angry), "Out on thee! Return to him with the answer, and no blame shall fall on thee." But he said, "I will not return without him." At this her colour changed and she exclaimed, "A truce to talk and idle words; for of a verity this man would not have come in to us, except he were assured that he could of himself make head against a hundred horse; and if I said to him, 'Art thou Sherkan, son of King Omar ben Ennuman?' he would answer, 'Yes.' Nathless, it is not in your power to hinder him; for if ye beset him, he will not turn back from you, till he have slain all that are in the place. Behold, he is with me and I will bring him before you, with his sword and buckler in his hands." "If I be safe from thy wrath," replied Masoureh, "I am not safe from that of thy father, and when I see him, I shall sign to the knights to take him prisoner, and we will carry him, bound and abject, to the King." When she heard this, she said, "The thing shall not pass thus, for it would be a disgrace. This man is but one and ye are a hundred. So, an ye be minded to attack him, come out against him, one after one, that it may appear to the King which is the valiant amongst you." "By the Messiah," rejoined Masoureh, "thou sayest sooth, and none but I shall go out against him first!" Then she said, "Wait till I go to him and tell him and hear what he says. If he consent, it is well but if he refuse, ye shall not anywise come at him, for I and my damsels and all that are in the house will be his ransom." So she went to Sherkan and told him the case, whereat he smiled and knew that she had not betrayed him, but that the matter had been bruited abroad, till it came to the King, against her wish. So he laid all the blame on himself, saying, "How came I to venture myself in the country of the Greeks?" Then he said to her, "Indeed, to let them tilt against me, one by one, were to lay on them a burden more than they can bear. Will they not come out against me, ten by ten?" "That were knavery and oppression," replied she. "One man is a match for another." When he heard this, he sprang to his feet and made towards them, with his sword and battle-gear; and Masoureh also sprang up and rushed on him. Sherkan met him like a lion and smote him with his sword upon the shoulder, that the blade came out gleaming from his back and vitals. When the princess saw this, Sherkan's prowess was magnified in her eyes and she knew that she had not overthrown him by her strength, but by her beauty and grace. So she turned to the knights and said to them, "Avenge your chief!" Thereupon out came the slain man's brother, a fierce warrior, and rushed upon Sherkan, who delayed not, but smote him on the shoulders, and the sword came out, gleaming, from his vitals. Then cried the princess, "O servants of the Messiah, avenge your comrades!" So they ceased not to come out against him, one by one, and he plied them with the sword, till he had slain fifty knights, whilst the princess looked on. And God cast terror into the hearts of those who were left, so that they held back and dared not meet him in single combat, but rushed on him all at once; and he drove at them with a heart firmer than a rock and smote them as the thresher smiteth the corn, till he had driven sense and life forth of them. Then the princess cried out to her damsels, saying, "Who is left in the monastery?" "None but the porters," replied they; whereupon she went up to Sherkan and embraced him, and he returned with her to the saloon, after he had made an end of the mellay. Now there remained a few of the knights hidden in the cells of the convent, and when Abrizeh saw this, she rose and going away, returned, clad in a strait-ringed coat of mail and holding in her hand a scimitar of Indian steel. And she said, "By the virtue of the Messiah, I will not be grudging of myself for my guest nor will I abandon him, though for this I abide a reproach in the land of the Greeks!" Then she counted the dead and found that he had slain fourscore of the knights and other twenty had taken flight. When she saw how he had dealt with them, she said to him, "God bless thee, O Sherkan! The cavaliers may well glory in the like of thee!" Then he rose and wiping his sword of the blood of the slain, repeated the following verses:
How often in battle I've cleft the array And given the champions to wild beasts a prey! Ask all men what happened to me and to them, When I drove through the ranks on the sword-smiting day. I left ail their lions of war overthrown: On the sun-scorched sands of those countries they lay.
When he had finished, the princess came up to him and kissed his hand; then she put off her coat of mail, and he said to her, "O my lady, wherefore didst thou don that coat of mail and bare thy sabre?" "It was of my care for thee against yonder wretches," replied she. Then she called the porters and said to them, "How came you to let the king's men enter my house, without my leave!" "O princess," replied they, "we have not used to need to ask leave for the king's messengers, and especially for the chief of the knights." Quoth she, "I think you were minded to dishonour me and slay my guest." And she bade Sherkan strike off their heads. He did so and she said to the rest of her servants, "Indeed, they deserved more than that." Then turning to Sherkan, she said to him, "Now that there hath become manifest to thee what was hidden, I will tell thee my story. Know, then, that I am the daughter of Herdoub, King of Roum; my name is Abrizeh and the old woman called Dhat ed Dewahi is my grandmother, my father's mother. She it was who told my father of thee, and she will certainly cast about to ruin me, especially as thou hast slain my father's men and it is noised abroad that I have made common cause with the Muslims. Wherefore it were wiser that I should leave dwelling here, what while Dhat ed Dewahi is behind me; but I claim of thee the like kindness and courtesy I have shown thee, for my father and I are now become at odds on thine account. So do not thou omit to do aught that I shall say to thee, for indeed all this hath fallen out through thee." At this, Sherkan was transported for joy and his breast dilated, and he said, "By Allah, none shall come at thee, whilst my life lasts in my body! But canst thou endure the parting from thy father and thy folk?" "Yes," answered she. So Sherkan swore to her and they made a covenant of this. Then said she, "Now my heart is at ease; but there is one other condition I must exact of thee." "What is that?" asked Sherkan. "It is," replied she, "that thou return with thy troops to thine own country." "O my lady," said he, "my father, King Omar ben Ennuman, sent me to make war upon thy father, on account of the treasure he took from the King of Constantinople, and amongst the rest three great jewels, rich in happy properties." "Reassure thyself," answered she; "I will tell thee the truth of the matter and the cause of the feud between us and the King of Constantinople. Know that we have a festival called the Festival of the Monastery, for which each year the kings' daughters of various countries and the wives and daughters of the notables and merchants resort to a certain monastery and abide there seven days. I was wont to resort thither with the rest; but when there befell hostility between us, my father forbade me to be present at the festival for the space of seven years. One year, it chanced that amongst the young ladies who resorted to the Festival as of wont, there came the King's daughter of Constantinople, a handsome girl called Sufiyeh. They tarried at the monastery six days, and on the seventh, the folk went away; but Sufiyeh said, 'I will not return to Constantinople, but by sea.' So they fitted her out a ship, in which she embarked, she and her suite, and put out to sea; but as they sailed, a contrary wind caught them and drove the ship from her course, till, as fate and providence would have it, she fell in with a ship of the Christians from the Island of Camphor, with a crew of five hundred armed Franks, who had been cruising about for some time. When they sighted the sails of the ship in which were Sufiyeh and her maidens, they gave chase in all haste and coming up with her before long, threw grapnels on board and made fast to her. Then they made all sail for their own island and were but a little distant from it, when the wind veered and rent their sails and cast them on to a reef on our coast. Thereupon we sallied forth on them, and looking on them as booty driven to us by fate, slew the men and made prize of the ships, in which we found the treasures and rarities in question and forty damsels, amongst whom was Sufiyeh. We carried the damsels to my father, not knowing that the King's daughter of Constantinople was among them, and he chose out ten of them, including Sufiyeh, for himself, and divided the rest among his courtiers. Then he set apart Sufiyeh and four other girls and sent them to thy father, King Omar ben Ennuman, together with other presents, such as cloth and stuffs of wool and Grecian silks. Thy father accepted them and chose out from amongst the five girls the princess Sufiyeh, daughter of King Afridoun; nor did we hear aught more of the matter till the beginning of this year, when King Afridoun wrote to my father in terms which it befits not to repeat, reproaching and menacing him and saying to him, 'Two years ago, there fell into thy hands a ship of ours, that had been seized by a company of Frankish corsairs and in which was my daughter Sufiyeh, attended by near threescore damsels. Yet thou sentest none to tell me of this and I could not make the case public, lest disgrace fall on my repute among the kings, by reason of my daughter's dishonour. So I kept the affair secret till this year, when I communicated with certain of the Frankish pirates and sought news of my daughter from the kings of the islands. They replied, "By Allah, we carried her not forth of thy realm, but we have heard that King Herdoub took her from certain pirates." And they told me all that had befallen her. So now, except thou wish to be at feud with me and design to disgrace me and dishonour my daughter, thou wilt forthright, as soon as this letter reaches thee, send my daughter back to me. But if thou pay no heed to my letter and disobey my commandment, I will assuredly requite thee thy foul dealing and the baseness of thine acts.' When my father read this letter, it was grievous to him and he regretted not having known that Sufiyeh, King Afridoun's daughter, was amongst the captured damsels, that he might have sent her back to her father; and he was perplexed about the affair, for that, after the lapse of so long a time, he could not send to King Omar ben Ennuman and demand her back from him, the more that he had lately heard that God had vouchsafed him children by this very Sufiyeh. So when we considered the matter, we knew that this letter was none other than a great calamity; and nothing would serve but that my father must write an answer to it, making his excuses to King Afridoun and swearing to him that he knew not that his daughter was among the girls in the ship and setting forth how he had sent her to King Omar ben Ennuman and God had vouchsafed him children by her. When my father's reply reached King Afridoun, he rose and sat down and roared and foamed at the mouth, exclaiming, 'What! shall he make prize of my daughter and she become a slave-girl and be passed from hand to hand and sent for a gift to kings, and they lie with her without a contract? By the virtue of the Messiah and the true faith, I will not desist till I have taken my revenge for this and wiped out my disgrace, and indeed I will do a deed that the chroniclers shall chronicle after me.' So he took patience till he had devised a plot and laid great snares, when he sent an embassy to thy father King Omar, to tell him that which thou hast heard so that thy father equipped thee and an army with thee and sent thee to him, Afridoun's object being to lay hold of thee and thine army with thee. As for the three jewels of which he told thy father, he spoke not the truth of them; for they were with Sufiyeh and my father took them from her, when she fell into his hands, she and her maidens, and gave them to me, and they are now with me. So go thou to thy troops and turn them back, ere they fare farther into the land of the Franks and the country of the Greeks; for as soon as you are come far enough into the inward of the country, they will stop the roads upon you, and there will be no escape for you from their hands till the day of rewards and punishments. I know that thy troops are still where thou leftest them, because thou didst order them to halt there three days; and they have missed thee all this time and know not what to do." When Sherkan heard her words, he was absent awhile in thought then he kissed Abrizeh's hand and said, "Praise be to God who hath bestowed thee on me and appointed thee to be the cause of my salvation and that of those who are with me! But it is grievous to me to part from thee and I know not what will become of thee after my departure." Quoth she, "Go now to thy troops and lead them back, whilst ye are yet near your own country. If the ambassadors are still with them, lay hands on them, that the case may be made manifest to thee, and after three days I will rejoin thee and we will all enter Baghdad together; but forget thou not the compact between us." Then she rose to bid him farewell and assuage the fire of longing; so she took leave of him and embraced him and wept sore; whereupon passion and desire were sore upon him and he also wept and repeated the following verses:
I bade her farewell, whilst my right hand was wiping my eyes, And still with my left, the while, I held her in close embrace. Then, "Fearest thou not disgrace?" quoth she; and I answered, "No. Sure, on the parting-day, for lovers there's no disgrace!"
Then Sherkan left her and went without the monastery, where they brought him his horse and he mounted and rode down the bank of the stream, till he came to the bridge, and crossing it, entered the forest. As soon as he was clear of the trees and came to the open country, he was aware of three horsemen pricking towards him. So he drew his sword and rode on cautiously: but as they drew near he recognized them and behold, it was the Vizier Dendan and two of his officers. When they saw him and knew him, they dismounted and saluting him, asked the reason of his absence, whereupon he told them all that had passed between him and the princess Abrizeh from first to last. The Vizier returned thanks to God the Most High for his safety and said, "Let us at once depart hence, for the ambassadors that were with us are gone to inform their king of our arrival, and belike he will hasten to fall on us and seize us." So they rode on in haste, till they came to the camp, when Sherkan commanded to depart forthright, and the army set out and journeyed by forced marches for five days, at the end of which time they alighted in a thickly wooded valley, where they rested awhile. Then they set out again and fared on till they came to the frontiers of their own country. Here they felt themselves in safety and halted to rest; and the country people came out to them with guest-gifts and victual and fodder for the cattle. They lay there and rested two days; after which Sherkan bade the Vizier Dendan fare forward to Baghdad with his troops, and he did so. But Sherkan himself abode behind with a hundred horse, till the rest of the army had been gone a day, when he mounted, he and his men, and fared on two parasangs' space, till they came to a narrow pass between two mountains and behold, there arose a great cloud of dust in their front. So they halted their horses awhile, till the dust lifted and discovered a hundred cavaliers, as they were fierce lions, cased in complete steel As soon as they came within earshot of Sherkan and his men, they cried out to them, saying, "By John and Mary, we have gotten what we hoped! We have been following you by forced marches, night and day, till we forewent you in this place. So alight and lay down your arms and yield yourselves, that we may grant you your lives." When Sherkan heard this, his eyes rolled and his cheeks flushed and he said, "O dogs of Nazarenes, how dare ye enter our country and set foot on our earth? And doth not this suffice you, but ye must adventure yourselves and give us such words as these? Do ye think to escape out of our hands and return to your country?" Then he cried out to his hundred horse, saying, "Up and at these dogs, for they are even as you in number!" So saying, he drew his sword and drove at them, without further parley, he and his hundred men. The Franks received them with hearts stouter than stone, and they met, man to man. Then fell champion upon champion and there befell a sore strife and great was the terror and the roar of the battle; nor did they leave jousting and foining and smiting with swords, till the day departed and the night came with the darkness; when they drew apart, and Sherkan mustered his men and found them all unhurt, save four who were slightly wounded. Then said he to them, "By Allah, all my life I have waded in the surging sea of war and battle, but never saw I any so firm and stout in sword-play and shock of men as these warriors!" "Know, O King," replied they, "that there is among them a Frank cavalier, who is their leader, and indeed he is a man of valour and his strokes are terrible: but, by Allah, he spares us, great and small; for whoso falls into his hands, he lets him go and forbears to slay him. By Allah, an he would, he could kill us all!" When Sherkan heard this, he was confounded and said, "To-morrow, we will draw out and defy them to single combat, for we are a hundred to their hundred; and we will seek help against them from the Lord of the heavens." Meanwhile, the Franks came to their leader and said to him, "Of a truth, we have not come by our desire of these this day." "To-morrow," quoth he, "we will draw out and joust against them, one by one." So they passed the night in this mind, and both camps kept watch till the morning. As soon as God the Most High brought on the day, King Sherkan mounted, with his hundred horse, and they betook themselves to the field, where they found the Franks ranged in battle array, and Sherkan said to his men, "Verily, our enemies are of the same mind as we; so up and at them briskly." Then came forth a herald of the Franks and cried out, saying, "Let there be no fighting betwixt us to-day, except by way of single combat, a champion of yours against one of ours!" Thereupon one of Sherkan's men came out from the ranks and spurring between the two parties, cried out, "Who is for jousting? Who is for fighting? Let no laggard nor weakling come out against me to-day!" Hardly had he made an end of speaking, when there sallied forth to him a Frankish horseman, armed cap-a-pie and clad in cloth of gold, riding on a gray horse, and he had no hair on his cheeks. He drove his horse into the midst of the field and the two champions fell to cutting and thrusting, nor was it long before the Frank smote the Muslim with his lance and unhorsing him, took him prisoner and bore him off in triumph. At this, his comrades rejoiced and forbidding him to go out again, sent forth another to the field, to whom sallied out a second Muslim, the brother of the first. The two drove at each other and fought for a little, till the Frank ran at the Muslim and throwing him off his guard by a feint, smote him with the butt-end of his spear and unhorsed him and took him prisoner. After this fashion, the Muslims ceased not to come forth and the Franks to unhorse them and take them prisoner, till the day departed and the night came with the darkness. Now they had captured twenty cavaliers of the Muslims, and when Sherkan saw this, it was grievous to him, and he mustered his men and said to them, "What is this thing that hath befallen us? To-morrow morning, I myself will go out into the field and seek to joust with their chief and learn his reason for entering our country and warn him against fighting. If he persist, we will do battle with him, and if he proffer peace, we will make peace with him." They passed the night thus, and when God brought on the day, both parties mounted and drew out in battle array. Then Sherkan was about to sally forth, when behold, more than half of the Franks dismounted and marched on foot, before one of them, who was mounted, to the midst of the field. Sherkan looked at this cavalier and behold, he was their chief. He was clad in a tunic of blue satin and a close-ringed shirt of mail; his face was as the full moon at its rising and he had no hair on his cheeks. In his hand he held a sword of Indian steel, and he was mounted on a black horse with a white star, like a dirhem, on his forehead. He spurred into the midst of the field and signing to the Muslims, cried out with fluent speech in the Arabic tongue, saying, "Ho, Sherkan! Ho, son of Omar ben Ennuman, thou that stormest the citadels and layest waste the lands, up and out to joust and battle with him who halves the field with thee! Thou art prince of thy people and I am prince of mine; and whoso hath the upper hand, the other's men shall come under his sway." Hardly had he made an end of speaking, when out came Sherkan, with a heart full of wrath, and spurring his horse into the midst of the field, drove like an angry lion at the Frank, who awaited him with calm and steadfastness and met him as a champion should. Then they fell to cutting and thrusting, nor did they cease to wheel and turn and give and take, as they were two mountains clashing together or two seas breaking one against the other, till the day departed and the night brought on the darkness, when they drew apart and returned, each to his people. As soon as Sherkan reached his comrades, he said to them, "Never in my life saw I the like of this cavalier; and he has one fashion I never yet beheld in any. It is that, when he has a chance of dealing his adversary a deadly blow, he reverses his lance and smites him with the butt. Of a truth, I know not what will be the issue between him and me; but I would we had in our army his like and the like of his men." Then he passed the night in sleep, and when it was morning, the Frank spurred out to the mid-field, where Sherkan met him, and they fell to fighting and circling one about the other, whilst all necks were stretched out to look at them; nor did they cease from battle and swordplay and thrusting with spears, till the day departed and the night came with the darkness, when they drew asunder and returned each to his own camp. Then each related to his comrades what had befallen him with his adversary, and the Frank said to his men, "To-morrow shall decide the matter." So they both passed the night in sleep, and as soon as it was day, they mounted and drove at each other and ceased not to fight till the middle of the day. Then the Frank made a shift, first spurring his horse and then checking him with the bridle, so that he stumbled and threw him; whereupon Sherkan fell on him and was about to smite him with his sword and make an end of the long strife, when the Frank cried out, "O Sherkan, this is not the fashion of champions! It is only the beaten who deal thus with women." When Sherkan heard this, he raised his eyes to the Frank's face and looking straitly at him, knew him for none other than the princess Abrizeh, whereupon he threw the sword from his hand and kissing the earth before her, said to her, "What moved thee to do this thing?" Quoth she, "I was minded to prove thee in the field and try thy stoutness in battle. These that are with me are all of them my women, and they are all maids; yet have they overcome thy horsemen in fair fight; and had not my horse stumbled with me, thou shouldst have seen my strength and prowess." Sherkan smiled at her speech and said, "Praised be God for safety and for my reunion with thee, O queen of the age!" Then she cried out to her damsels to loose the prisoners and dismount. They did as she bade and came and kissed the earth before her and Sherkan, who said to them, "It is the like of you that kings treasure up against the hour of need." Then he signed to his comrades to salute the princess; so they dismounted all and kissed the earth before her, for they knew the story. After this, the whole two hundred mounted and rode day and night for six days' space, till they drew near to Baghdad when they halted and Sherkan made Abrizeh and her companions put off their male attire and don the dress of the women of the Greeks. Then he despatched a company of his men to Baghdad to acquaint his father with his arrival in company with the princess Abrizeh, daughter of King Herdoub, to the intent that he might send some one to meet her. They passed the night in that place, and when God the Most High brought on the day, Sherkan and his company took horse and fared on towards the city. On the way, they met the Vizier Dendan, who had come out with a thousand horse, by commandment of King Omar, to do honour to the princess Abrizeh and to Sherkan. When they drew near, the Vizier and his company dismounted and kissed the earth before the prince and princess, then mounted again and escorted them, till they reached the city and came to the palace. Sherkan went in to his father, who rose and embraced him and questioned him of what had happened. So he told him all that had befallen him, including what the princess Abrizeh had told him and what had passed between them and how she had left her father and her kingdom and had chosen to depart and take up her abode with them. And he said to his father, "Indeed, the King of Constantinople had plotted to do us a mischief, because of his daughter Sufiyeh, for that the King of Caesarea had made known to him her history and the manner of her being made a gift to thee, he not knowing her to be King Afridoun's daughter; else would he have restored her to her father. And of a verity, we were only saved from these perils by the lady Abrizeh, and never saw I a more valiant than she!" And he went on to tell his father of the wrestling and the jousting from beginning to end. When King Omar heard his son's story, Abrizeh was exalted in his eyes, and he longed to see her and sent Sherkan to fetch her. So Sherkan went out to her and said, "The king calls for thee." She replied, "I hear and obey;" and he took her and brought her in to his father, who was seated on his throne, attended only by the eunuchs, having dismissed his courtiers and officers. The princess entered and kissing the ground before him, saluted him in choice terms. He was amazed at her fluent speech and thanked her for her dealing with his son Sherkan and bade her be seated. So she sat down and uncovered her face, which when the king saw, his reason fled and he made her draw near and showed her especial favour, appointing her a palace for herself and her damsels and assigning them due allowances. Then he asked her of the three jewels aforesaid, and she replied, "O King of the age, they are with me." So saying, she rose and going to her lodging, opened her baggage and brought out a box, from which she took a casket of gold. She opened the casket and taking out the three jewels, kissed them and gave them to the King and went away, taking his heart with her. Then the king sent for his son Sherkan and gave him one of the three jewels. Sherkan enquired of the other two, and the King replied, "O my son, I mean to give one to thy brother Zoulmekan and the other to thy sister Nuzhet ez Zeman." When Sherkan heard that he had a brother (for up to that time he had only known of his sister) he turned to his father and said to him, "O King, hast thou a son other than myself?" "Yes," answered Omar, "and he is now six years old." And he told him that his name was Zoulmekan and that he and Nuzhet ez Zeman were twins, born at a birth. This news was grievous to Sherkan, but he hid his chagrin and said, "The blessing of God the Most High be upon them!" And he threw the jewel from his hand and shook the dust off his clothes. Quoth his father, "What made thee change colour, when I told thee of this, seeing that the kingdom is assured to thee after me? For, verily, the troops have sworn to thee and the Amirs and grandees have taken the oath of succession to thee; and this one of the three jewels is thine." At this, Sherkan bowed his head and was ashamed to bandy words with his father: so he accepted the jewel and went away, knowing not what to do for excess of anger, and stayed not till he reached the princess Abrizeh's palace. When she saw him, she rose to meet him and thanked him for what he had done and called down blessings on him and his father. Then she sat down and made him sit by her side. After awhile, she saw anger in his face and questioned him, whereupon he told her that God had vouchsafed his father two children, a boy and a girl, by Sufiyeh, and that he had named the boy Zoulmekan and the girl Nuzhet ez Zeman. "He has given me one of the jewels," continued he, "and kept the other two for them. I knew not of Zoulmekan's birth till this day, and he is now six years old. So when I learnt this, wrath possessed me and I threw down the jewel: and I tell thee the reason of my anger and hide nothing from thee. But I fear lest the King take thee to wife, for he loves thee and I saw in him signs of desire for thee: so what wilt thou say, if he wish this?" "Know, O Sherkan," replied the princess, "that thy father has no dominion over me, nor can he take me without my consent; and if he take me by force, I will kill myself. As for the three jewels, it was not my intent that he should give them to either of his children and I had no thought but that he would lay them up with his things of price in his treasury; but now I desire of thy favour that thou make me a present of the jewel that he gave thee, if thou hast accepted it." "I hear and obey," replied Sherkan and gave her the jewel. Then said she, "Fear nothing," and talked with him awhile. Presently she said, "I fear lest my father hear that I am with you and sit not down with my loss, but do his endeavour to come at me; and to that end he may ally himself with King Afridoun and both come on thee with armies and so there befall a great turmoil." "O my lady," replied Sherkan, "if it please thee to sojourn with us, take no thought of them, though all that be in the earth and in the ocean gather themselves together against us!" "It is well," rejoined she; "if ye entreat me well, I will tarry with you, and if ye deal evilly by me, I will depart from you." Then she bade her maidens bring food; so they set the tables, and Sherkan ate a little and went away to his own house, anxious and troubled.
Meanwhile, King Omar betook himself to the lodging of the lady Sufiyeh, who rose to her feet, when she saw him, and stood till he was seated. Presently, his two children, Zoulmekan and Nuzbet ez Zeman, came to him, and he kissed them and hung a jewel round each one's neck, at which they rejoiced and kissed his hands. Then they went to their mother, who rejoiced in them and wished the King long life; and he said to her, "Why hast thou not told me, all this time, that thou art King Afridoun's daughter, that I might have advanced thee and enlarged thee in dignity and used thee with increase of honour and consideration?" "O King," replied Sufiyeh, "what could I desire greater or more exalted than this my standing with thee, overwhelmed as I am with thy favours and thy goodness? And God to boot hath blessed me by thee with two children, a son and a daughter." Her answer pleased the King and he set apart for her and her children a splendid palace. Moreover, he appointed for their service eunuchs and attendants and doctors and sages and astrologers and physicians and surgeons and in every way redoubled in favour and munificence towards them. Nevertheless, he was greatly occupied with love of the princess Abrizeh and burnt with desire of her night and day; and every night, he would go in to her, and talk with her and pay his court to her, but she gave him no answer, saying only, "O King of the age, I have no desire for men at this present." When he saw that she repelled him, his passion and longing increased till, at last, when he was weary of this, he called his Vizier Dendan and opening his heart to him, told him how love for the princess Abrizeh was killing him and how she refused to yield to his wishes and he could get nothing of her. Quoth the Vizier, "As soon as it is dark night, do thou take a piece of henbane, the bigness of a diner, and go in to her and drink wine with her. When the hour of leave-taking draws near, fill a last cup and dropping the henbane in it, give it to her to drink, and she will not reach her sleeping chamber, ere the drug take effect on her. Then do thou go in to her and take thy will of her." "Thy counsel is good," said the King, and going to his treasury, took thence a piece of concentrated henbane, which if an elephant smelt, he would sleep from year to year. He put it in his bosom and waited till some little of the night was past, when he betook himself to the palace of the princess, who rose to receive him; but he bade her sit down. So she sat down, and he by her, and he began to talk with her of drinking, whereupon she brought the table of wine and set it before him. Then she set on the drinking-vessels, and lighted the candles and called for fruits and confections and sweetmeats and all that pertains to drinking. So they fell to drinking and ceased not to carouse, till drunkenness crept into the princess's head. When the King saw this, he took out the piece of henbane and holding it between his fingers, filled a cup and drank it off; then filled another cup, into which he dropped the henbane, unseen of Abrizeh, and saying, "Thy health!" presented it to her. She took it and drank it off; then rose and went to her sleeping-chamber. He waited awhile, till he was assured that the drug had taken effect on her and gotten the mastery of her senses, when he went in to her and found her lying on her back, with a lighted candle at her head and another at her feet. She had put off her trousers, and the air raised the skirt of her shift and discovered what was between her thighs. When the King saw this, he took leave of his senses for desire and Satan tempted him and he could not master himself, but put off his trousers and fell upon her and did away her maidenhead. Then he went out and said to one of her women, by name Merjaneh, "Go in to thy mistress, for she calls for thee." So she went in to the princess and found her lying on her back, with the blood running down her thighs; whereupon she took a handkerchief and wiped away the blood and tended her mistress and lay by her that night. As soon as it was day, she washed the princess's hands and feet and bathed her face and mouth with rose-water, whereupon she sneezed and yawned and cast up the henbane. Then she revived and washed her hands and mouth and said to Merjaneh, "Tell me what has befallen me." So she told her what had passed and how she had found her, lying on her back, with the blood running down her thighs, wherefore she knew that the King had played the traitor with her and had undone her and taken his will of her. At this she was afflicted and shut herself up, saying to her damsels, "Let no one come in to me and say to all that I am ill, till I see what God will do with me." The news of her illness came to the King, and he sent her cordials and sherbet of sugar and confections. Some months passed thus, during which time the King's flame subsided and his desire for her cooled, so that he abstained from her. Now she had conceived by him, and in due time, her pregnancy appeared and her belly swelled, wherefore the world was straitened upon her and she said to her maid Merjaneh, "Know that it is not the folk who have wronged me, but I who sinned against myself in that I left my father and mother and country. Indeed, I abhor life, for my heart is broken and I have neither courage nor strength left. I used, when I mounted my horse, to have the mastery of him, but now I have no strength to ride. If I be brought to bed in this place, I shall be dishonoured among my women, and every one in the palace will know that he has taken my maidenhead in the way of shame; and if I return to my father, with what face shall I meet him or have recourse to him? How well says the poet:
Wherewith shall I be comforted, that am of all bereft, To whom nor folk nor home nor friend nor dwelling-place is left?"
Quoth Merjaneh, "It is for thee to command; I will obey." And Abrizeh said, "I would fain leave this place privily, so that none shall know of me but thou, and return to my father and mother; for when flesh stinketh, there is nought for it but its own folk, and God shall do with me as He will." "It is well, O princess," replied Merjaneh. So she made ready in secret and waited awhile, till the King went out to hunt and Sherkan betook himself to certain of the fortresses to sojourn there awhile. Then she said to Merjaneh, "I wish to set out to-night, but how shall I do? For already I feel the pangs of labour, and if I abide other four or five days, I shall be brought to bed here, and how then can I go to my country? But this is what was written on my forehead." Then she considered awhile and said, "Look us out a man who will go with us and serve us by the way, for I have no strength to bear arms." "By Allah, O my lady," replied Merjaneh, "I know none but a black slave called Ghezban, who is one of the slaves of King Omar ben Ennuman; he is a stout fellow and keeps guard at the gate of our palace. The King appointed him to attend us, and indeed we have overwhelmed him with favours. I will go out and speak with him of the matter and promise him money and tell him that, if he have a mind to tarry with us, we will marry him to whom he will. He told me before to-day that he had been a highwayman; so if he consent, we shall have our desire and come to our own country." "Call him, that I may talk with him," said the princess. So Merjaneh went out and said to the slave, "O Ghezban, God prosper thee, do thou fall in with what my lady says to thee." Then she took him by the hand and brought him to Abrizeh. He kissed the princess's hands and when she saw him, her heart took fright at him, but she said to herself, "Necessity is imperious," and to him, "O Ghezban, wilt thou help us against the perfidies of fortune and keep my secret, if I discover it to thee?" When the slave saw her, his heart was taken by storm and he fell in love with her forthright, and could not choose but answer, "O my mistress, whatsoever thou biddest me do, I will not depart from it." Quoth she, "I would have thee take me and this my maid and saddle us two camels and two of the king's horses and set on each horse a saddle-bag of stuff and somewhat of victual, and go with us to our own country; where, if thou desire to abide with us, I will marry thee to her thou shalt choose of my damsels; or if thou prefer to return to thine own country, we will send thee thither, with as much money as will content thee." When Ghezban heard this, he rejoiced greatly and replied, "O my lady, I will serve thee faithfully and will go at once and saddle the horses." Then he went away, rejoicing and saying in himself, "I shall get my will of them; and if they will not yield to me, I will kill them and take their riches." But this his intent he kept to himself and presently returned, mounted on one horse and leading other two and two camels. He brought the horses to the princess, who mounted one and made Merjaneh mount the other, albeit she was suffering from the pains of labour and could scarce possess herself for anguish. Then they set out and journeyed night and day through the passes of the mountains, till there remained but a day's journey between them and their own country, when the pangs of travail came upon Abrizeh and she could no longer sit her horse. So she said to Ghezban, "Set me down, for the pains of labour are upon me," and cried to Merjaneh, saying, "Do thou alight and sit down by me and deliver me." They both drew rein and dismounting from their horses, helped the princess to alight, and she aswoon for stress of pain. When Ghezban saw her on the ground, Satan entered into him and he drew his sabre and brandishing it in her face, said, "O my lady, vouchsafe me thy favours." With this, she turned to him and said, "It were a fine thing that I should yield to black slaves, after having I refused kings and princes!" And she was wroth with him and said, "What words are these? Out on thee! Do not talk thus in my presence and know that I will never consent to what thou sayst, though I drink the cup of death. Wait till I have cast my burden and am delivered of the after-birth, and after, if thou be able thereto, do with me as thou wilt; but, an thou leave not lewd talk at this time, I will slay myself and leave the world and be at peace from all this." And she recited the following verses:
O Ghezban, unhand me and let me go freer Sure, fortune is heavy enough upon me. My Lord hath forbidden me whoredom. "The fire Shall be the transgressor's last dwelling," quoth He: So look not on me with the eye of desire, For surely to lewdness I may not agree; And if thou respect not mine honour and God Nor put away filthy behaviour from thee, I will call with my might on the men of my tribe And draw them ail hither from upland and lea. Were I hewn, limb from limb, with the Yemani sword, Yet never a lecher my visage should see Of the freeborn and mighty; so how then should I Let a whoreson black slave have possession of me?
When Ghezban heard this, he was exceeding angry; his eyes grew bloodshot and his face became of the colour of dust; his nostrils swelled, his lips protruded and the terrors of his aspect redoubled. And he repeated the following verses:
Abrizeh, have mercy nor leave me to sigh, Who am slain by the glance of thy Yemani eye! My body is wasted, my patience at end, And my heart for thy cruelty racked like to die. Thy glances with sorcery ravish all hearts; My reason is distant and passion is nigh. Though thou drewst to thy succour the world full of troops, I'd not stir till my purpose accomplished had I.
Thereupon Abrizeh wept sore and said to him, "Out on thee, O Ghezban! How darest thou demand this of me, O son of shame and nursling of lewdness? Dost thou think all folk are alike!" When the pestilent slave heard this, he was enraged and his eyes reddened: and he came up to her and smote her with the sword on her neck and killed her. Then he made off into the mountains, driving her horse before him with the treasure. In the agonies of death, she gave birth to a son, like the moon, and Merjaneh took him and laid him by her side, after doing him the necessary offices; and behold, the child fastened to its mother's breast, and she dead. When Merjaneh saw this, she cried out grievously and rent her clothes and cast dust on her head and buffeted her cheeks, till the blood came, saying, "Alas, my mistress! Alas, the pity of it! Thou art dead by the hand of a worthless black slave, after all thy prowess!" As she sat weeping, there arose a great cloud of dust and darkened the plain; but, after awhile, it lifted and discovered a numerous army. Now this was the army of King Herdoub, the princess Abrizeh's father, who, hearing that his daughter had fled to Baghdad, she and her maidens, and that they were with King Omar ben Ennuman, had come out with his troops to seek tidings of her from travellers who might have seen her with King Omar at Baghdad. When he had gone a day's journey from his capital, he espied three horsemen afar off and made towards them, thinking to ask whence they came and seek news of his daughter. Now these three were his daughter and Merjaneh and Ghezban; and when the latter saw the troops drawing near, he feared for himself; so he killed Abrizeh and fled. When they came up and King Herdoub saw his daughter lying dead and Merjaneh weeping over her, he threw himself from his horse and fell down in a swoon. So all his company dismounted and pitching the tents, set up a great pavilion for the King, without which stood the grandees of the kingdom. At the sight of her lord the King, Merjaneh's tears redoubled, and when he came to himself, he questioned her and she told him all that had passed, how he that had slain his daughter was a black slave, belonging to King Omar ben Ennuman, and how the latter had dealt with the princess. When King Herdoub heard this, the world grew black in his sight and he wept sore. Then he called for a litter and laying his dead daughter therein, returned to Caesarea and carried her into the palace. Then he went in to his mother Dhat ed Dewahi and said to her, "Shall the Muslims deal thus with my daughter? King Omar ben Ennuman despoiled her by force of her honour and after this, one of his black slaves slew her. By the Messiah, I will assuredly be revenged for her and clear away the stain from my honour! Else I shall kill myself with my own hand." And he wept passing sore. Quoth his mother, "It was none other than Merjaneh killed her, for she hated her in secret. But do not thou fret for taking revenge for thy daughter, for, by the virtue of the Messiah, I will not turn back from King Omar ben Ennuman, till I have slain him and his sons; and I will assuredly do a deed, passing the power of wise men and champions, of which the chroniclers shall tell in all countries and places: but needs must thou obey me in all I shall direct, for he who is firmly set on aught shall surely compass his desire." "By the virtue of the Messiah," replied he, "I will not cross thee in aught that thou shalt say!" Then said she, "Bring me a number of damsels, high-bosomed maids, and summon the wise men of the time and let them teach them philosophy and the art of conversation and making verses and the rules of behaviour before kings, and let them talk with them of all manner of science and edifying knowledge. The sages must be Muslims, that they may teach the damsels the language and traditions of the Arabs, together with the history of the Khalifs and the pedigree of the Kings of Islam; and if we persevere in this for the space of four years, we shall attain our end. So possess thy soul in patience and wait; for, as one of the Arabs says, 'It is a little thing to wait forty years for one's revenge.' When we have taught the girls these things, we shall be able to do our will with our enemy, for he is a doting lover of women and has three hundred and threescore concubines, to which are now added a hundred of the flower of thy damsels, that were with thy late daughter. So, as soon as we have made an end of their education, I will take them and set out with them." When the King heard his mother's words, he rejoiced and came up to her and kissed her head. Then he rose at once and despatched messengers and couriers to the ends of the earth, to fetch him Muslim sages. So they betook them to distant lands and brought him thence the sages and doctors whom he sought. When they were before him, he made much of them and bestowed on them dresses of honour, appointing them stipends and allowances and promising them much money, whenas they should have taught the damsels. Then he committed the latter to their charge, enjoining them to instruct them in all manner of knowledge, sacred and profane, and all polite accomplishments; and they set themselves to do his bidding.
As for King Omar ben Ennuman, when he returned from hunting, he sought the princess Abrizeh, but found her not nor could any give him news of her. This was grievous to him and he said, "How did she leave the palace, unknown of any? Had my kingdom been at stake in this, it were in a parlous case! Never again will I go a-hunting till I have sent to the gates those who shall keep good guard over them!" And he was sore vexed and heavy at heart for the loss of the princess Abrizeh. Presently, his son Sherkan returned from his journey; and he told him what had happened and how the princess had fled, whilst he was absent a-hunting, whereat he was greatly concerned. Then King Omar took to visiting his children every day and making much of them and brought them wise men and doctors, to teach them, appointing them stipends and allowances. When Sherkan saw this, he was exceeding wroth and jealous of his brother and sister, so that the signs of chagrin appeared in his face and he ceased not to languish by reason of this, till one day his father said to him, "What ails thee, that I see thee grown weak in body and pale of face?" "O my father," replied Sherkan, "every time I see thee fondle my brother and sister and make much of them, jealousy seizes on me, and I fear lest it grow on me, till I slay them and thou slay me in return. This is the reason of my weakness of body and change of colour. But now I crave of thy favour that thou give me one of thine outlying fortresses, that I may abide there the rest of my life, for as the byword says, 'It is better and fitter for me to be at a distance from my friend; for when the eye seeth not, the heart doth not grieve.'" And he bowed his head. When the King heard Sherkan's words and knew the cause of his ailment, he soothed him and said to him, "O my son, I grant thee this. I have not in my realm a greater than the fortress of Damascus, and the government of it is thine from this time." So saying, he called his secretaries of state and bade them make out Sherkan's patent of investiture to the viceroyalty of Damascus of Syria. Then he equipped Sherkan and formally invested him with the office and gave him his final instructions, enjoining him to policy and good government; and the prince took leave of his father and the grandees and officers of state and set out for his government, taking with him the Vizier Dendan. When he arrived at Damascus, the townspeople beat the drums and blew the trumpets and decorated the city and came out to meet him in great state, whilst all the notables and grandees walked in procession, each according to his rank.
Soon after Sherkan's departure, the governors of King Omar's children presented themselves before him and said to him, "O our lord, thy children's education is now complete and they are versed in all polite accomplishments and in the rules of manners and etiquette." At this the King rejoiced with an exceeding joy and conferred bountiful largesse upon the wise men, seeing Zoulmekan grown up and flourishing and skilled in horsemanship. The prince had now reached the age of fourteen and occupied himself with piety and devout exercises, loving the poor and wise men and the students of the Koran, so that all the people of Baghdad loved him, men and women. One day, the procession of the Mehmil of Irak passed round Baghdad, previously to the departure of the pilgrimage to the holy places and tomb of the Prophet. When Zoulmekan saw the procession, he was seized with longing to go on the pilgrimage; so he went in to his father and said to him, "I come to ask thy leave to make the pilgrimage."
But his father forbade him, saying, "Wait till next year, and I will go with thee." When Zoulmekan saw that the fulfilment of his desire was postponed, he betook himself to his sister Nuzhet ez Zeman, whom he found standing at prayer. As soon as she had made an end of her devotions, he said to her, "I am dying of desire to see the Holy House of God at Mecca and to visit the Prophet's tomb. I asked my father's leave, but he forbade me: so I mean to take somewhat of money and set out privily on the pilgrimage, without his knowledge." "I conjure thee by Allah," exclaimed she, "to take me with thee and that thou forbid me not to visit the tomb of the Prophet, whom God bless and preserve!" And he answered, "As soon as it is dark night, do thou leave this place, without telling any, and come to me." Accordingly, she waited till the middle of the night, when she donned a man's habit and went to the gate of the palace, where she found Zoulmekan with camels ready harnessed. So they mounted and riding after the caravan, mingled with the Irak pilgrims, and God decreed them a prosperous journey, so that they entered Mecca the Holy in safety, standing upon Arafat and performing the various rites of the pilgrimage. Then they paid a visit to the tomb of the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve) and thought to return with the pilgrims to their native land; but Zoulmekan said to his sister, "O my sister, it is in my mind to visit Jerusalem and the tomb of Abraham the friend of God (on whom be peace)." "I also desire to do this," replied she. So they agreed upon this, and he went out and took passage for himself and her and they made ready and set out with a company of pilgrims bound for Jerusalem. That very night she fell sick of an ague and was grievously ill, but presently recovered, after which her brother also sickened. She tended him during the journey, but the fever increased on him and he grew weaker and weaker, till they arrived at Jerusalem, where they alighted at a khan and hired a lodging there. Here they abode some time, whilst Zoulmekan's weakness increased on him, till he was wasted with sickness and became delirious. At this, his sister was greatly afflicted and exclaimed, "There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme! It is He who hath decreed this." They sojourned there awhile, his sickness ever increasing and she tending him, till all their money was spent and she had not so much as a dirhem left. Then she sent a servant of the khan to the market, to sell some of her clothes, and spent the price upon her brother; and so she sold all she had, piece by piece, till she had nothing left but an old rug; whereupon she wept and exclaimed, "God is the Orderer of the past and the future!" Presently, her brother said to her, "O my sister, I feel recovery drawing near and I long for a little roast meat." "O my brother," replied she, "I am ashamed to beg; but tomorrow I will enter some rich man's house and serve him and earn somewhat for our living." Then she bethought herself awhile and said, "It is hard to me to leave thee and thou in this state, but I must perforce go." "God forbid!" rejoined he. "Thou wilt be put to shame; but there is no power and no virtue but in God!" And he wept and she wept too. Then she said, "O my brother, we are strangers and this whole year have we dwelt here; yet none hath knocked at our door. Shall we then die of hunger? I know no resource but that I go out and earn somewhat to keep us alive, till thou recover from thy sickness; when we will return to our native land." She sat weeping with him awhile, after which she rose and veiling her head with a camel-cloth, which the owner had forgotten with them, embraced her brother and went forth, weeping and knowing not whither she should go. Zoulmekan abode, awaiting her return, till the evening; but she came not, and the night passed and the morning came, but still she returned not; and so two days went by. At this he was greatly troubled and his heart fluttered for her, and hunger was sore upon him. At last he left the chamber and calling the servant of the inn, bade him carry him to the bazaar. So he carried him to the market and laid him down there; and the people of Jerusalem came round him and were moved to tears at his condition. He signed to them for somewhat to eat; so they took money from some of the merchants and bought food and fed him therewith; after which they carried him to a shop, where they laid him on a mat of palm-leaves and set a vessel of water at his head. At nightfall, they all went away, sore concerned for him, and in the middle of the night, he called to mind his sister, and his sickness redoubled on him, so that he abstained from eating and drinking and became insensible. When the people of the market saw him thus, they took thirty dirhems for him from the merchants and hiring a camel, said to the driver, "Carry this sick man to Damascus and leave him at the hospital; peradventure he may be cured and recover his health." "On my head be it!" replied he; but he said to himself, "How shall I take this sick man to Damascus, and he nigh upon death?" So he carried him away and hid with him till the night, when he threw him down on the fuel-heap in the stoke-hole of a bath and went his way. In the morning, the stoker of the bath came to his work and finding Zoulmekan cast on his back on the fuel-heap, exclaimed, "Could they find no other place in which to throw this dead man?" So saying, he gave him a push with his foot, and he moved, whereupon quoth the stoker, "This is some one who has eaten hashish and thrown himself down at hazard." Then he looked at him and saw that he had no hair on his face and was endowed with grace and comeliness; so he took pity on him and knew that he was sick and a stranger. "There is no power and no virtue but in God!" said he "I have sinned against this youth; for indeed the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve!) enjoins hospitality to strangers." Then he lifted him up and carrying him to his own house, committed him to his wife and bade her tend him. So she spread him a bed and laid a cushion under his head, then heated water and washed his hands and feet and face. Meanwhile, the stoker went to the market and buying rose-water and sherbet of sugar, sprinkled Zoulmekan's face with the one and gave him to drink of the other. Then he fetched a clean shirt and put it on him. With this, Zoulmekan scented the breeze of recovery and life returned to him; and he sat up and leant against the pillow. At this the stoker rejoiced and exclaimed, "O my God, I beseech Thee, by Thy hidden mysteries, make the salvation of this youth to be at my hands!" And he nursed him assiduously for three days, giving him to drink of sherbet of sugar and willow-flower water and rose-water and doing him all manner of service and kindness, till health began to return to his body and he opened his eyes and sat up. Presently the stoker came in and seeing him sitting up and showing signs of amendment, said to him, "How dost thou now, O my son?" "Thanks be to God," replied Zoulmekan, "I am well and like to recover, if so He please." The stoker praised the Lord of All for this and going to the market, bought ten chickens, which he carried to his wife and said to her, "Kill two of these for him every day, one in the morning and the other at nightfall." So she rose and killed a fowl, then boiling it, brought it to him and fed him with the flesh and gave him the broth to drink. When he had done eating, she brought hot water and he washed his hands and lay back upon the pillow; whereupon she covered him up and he slept till the time of afternoon-prayer. Then she killed another fowl and boiled it; after which she cut it up and bringing it to Zoulmekan, said, "Eat, O my son!" Presently, her husband entered and seeing her feeding him, sat down at his head and said to him, "How is it with thee now, O my son?" "Thanks be to God for recovery!" replied he. "May He requite thee thy goodness to me!" At this the stoker rejoiced and going out, bought sherbet of violets and rose-water and made him drink it. Now his day's earnings at the bath were five dirhems, of which he spent every day two dirhems for Zoulmekan, one for sweet waters and sherbets and another for fowls; and he ceased not to entreat him thus kindly for a whole month, till the trace of illness ceased from him and he was quite recovered whereupon the stoker and his wife rejoiced and the former said to him, "O my son, wilt thou go with me to the bath?" "Willingly," replied he. So the stoker went to the market and fetched an ass, on which he mounted Zoulmekan and supported him in the saddle, till they came to the bath Then he made him alight and sit down, whilst he repaired to the market and bought lote-leaves and lupin-meal, with which he returned to the bath and said to Zoulmekan, "O my son, in the name of God, enter, and I will wash thy body." So they both entered the inner room of the bath, and the stoker fell to rubbing Zoulmekan's legs and was going on to wash his body with the lote-leaves and powder, when there came to them a bathman, whom the keeper of the bath had sent to Zoulmekan, and seeing the stoker rubbing and washing the latter, said to him, "This is trespassing on the keeper's rights." "By Allah," replied the stoker, "the master overwhelms us with his favours!" Then the bathman proceeded to shave Zoulmekan's head, after which he and the stoker washed and returned to the latter's house, where he clad Zoulmekan in a shirt of fine stuff and a tunic of his own and gave him a handsome turban and girdle and wound a silken kerchief about his neck. Meanwhile the stoker's wife had killed two chickens and cooked them for him; so, as soon as Zoulmekan entered and seated himself on the couch, the stoker arose and dissolving sugar in willow-flower water, made him drink it. Then he brought the tray of food and cutting up the chickens, fed him with the meat and broth, till he was satisfied, when he washed his hands and praised God for recovery, saying to the stoker, "It is to thee, under God the Most High, that I owe my life!" "Leave this talk," replied the stoker, "and tell us the manner of thy coming to this city and whence thou art; for I see signs of gentle breeding in thy face." "Tell me first how thou camest to fall in with me," said Zoulmekan; "and after I will tell thee my story." "As for that," rejoined the stoker, "I found thee lying on the rubbish-heap, by the door of the stoke-house, as I went to my work, near the morning, and knew not who had thrown thee down there. So I carried thee home with me; and this all I have to tell." Quoth Zoulmekan, "Glory to Him who quickens the bones, though they be rotten! Indeed, O my brother, thou hast not done good to one who is unworthy, and thou shalt reap the reward of this. But where am I now?" "In the city of Jerusalem," replied the stoker; whereupon Zoulmekan called to mind his strangerhood and his separation from his sister and wept. Then he discovered his secret to the stoker and told him his story, repeating the following verses:
They heaped up passion on my soul, beyond my strength to bear, And for their sake my heart is racked with weariness and care. Ah, be ye pitiful to me, O cruel that ye are, For e'en my foes do pity me, since you away did fare! Grudge not to grant unto mine eyes a passing glimpse of you, To ease the longing of my soul and lighten my despair. I begged my heart to arm itself with patience for your loss. "Patience was never of my wont," it answered; "so forbear."
Then he redoubled his weeping, and the stoker said to him, "Weep not, but rather praise God for safety and recovery." Quoth Zoulmekan, "How far is it hence to Damascus?" "Six days' journey," answered the stoker "Wilt thou send me thither?" asked Zoulmekan. "O my lord," replied the stoker, "how can I let thee go alone, and thou a young lad and a stranger? If thou be minded to make the journey to Damascus, I will go with thee; and if my wife will listen to me and accompany me, I will take up my abode there; for it goes to my heart to part with thee." Then said he to his wife, "Wilt thou go with me to Damascus or wilt thou abide here, whilst I bring this my lord thither and return to thee? For he is bent upon, going to Damascus, and by Allah, it is hard to me to part with him, and I fear for him from the highway robbers." Quoth she, "I will go with you." And he said, "Praised be God for accord!" Then he rose and selling all his own and his wife's gear, bought a camel and hired an ass for Zoulmekan; and they set out and reached Damascus at nightfall after six days' journey. They alighted there, and the stoker went to the market and bought meat and drink. They had dwelt but five days in Damascus, when his wife sickened and after a few days' illness, was translated to the mercy of God. The stoker mourned for her with an exceeding grief, and her death was no light matter to Zoulmekan, for she had tended him assiduously and he was grown used to her. Presently, he turned to the stoker and finding him mourning, said to him, "Do not grieve, for we must all go in at this gate." "God requite thee with good, O my son!" replied the stoker. "Surely He will compensate us with his bounties and cause our mourning to cease. What sayst thou, O my son? Shall we walk abroad to view Damascus and cheer our spirits?" "Thy will is mine," replied Zoulmekan. So the stoker took him by the hand, and they sallied forth and walked on, till they came to the stables of the Viceroy of Damascus, where they found camels laden with chests and carpets and brocaded stuffs and saddle-horses and Bactrian camels and slaves, white and black, and folk running to and fro and a great bustle. Quoth Zoulmekan, "I wonder to whom all these camels and stuffs and servants belong!" So he asked one of the slaves, and he replied, "These are presents that the Viceroy of Damascus is sending to King Omar ben Ennuman, with the tribute of Syria." When Zoulmekan heard his father's name, his eyes filled with tears and he repeated the following verses:
Ye that are far removed from my desireful sight, Ye that within my heart are sojourners for aye, Your comeliness is gone and life no more for me Is sweet, nor will the pains of longing pass away. If God one day decree reunion of our loves, How long a tale of woes my tongue will have to say!
Then he wept and the stoker said to him, "O my son, thou art hardly yet recovered; so take heart and do not weep, for I fear a relapse for thee." And he applied himself to comfort him and cheer him, whilst Zoulmekan sighed and bemoaned his strangerhood and separation from his sister and his family and repeated the following verses, with tears streaming from his eyes:
Provide thee for the world to come, for needs must thou be gone; Or soon or late, for every one the lot of death is drawn. Thy fortune in this world is but delusion and regret; Thy life in it but vanity and empty chaff and awn. The world, indeed, is but as 'twere a traveller's halting-place, Who makes his camels kneel at eve and fares on with the dawn.
And he continued to weep and lament, whilst the stoker wept too for the loss of his wife, yet ceased not to comfort Zoulmekan till the morning. When the sun rose, he said to him, "Meseems thou yearnest for thy native land?" "Even so," replied Zoulmekan, "and I may not tarry here; so I will commend thee to God's care and set out with these people and journey with them, little by little, till I come to my country." "And I with thee," said the stoker; "for I cannot bear to part with thee. I have done thee service, and I mean to complete it by tending thee on the way." At this, Zoulmekan rejoiced and said, "May God abundantly requite thee for me!" Then the stoker went out and selling the camel, bought another ass, which he brought to Zoulmekan, saying, "This is for thee to ride by the way; and when thou art weary of riding, thou canst dismount and walk." "May God bless thee and help me to requite thee!" said Zoulmekan. "Indeed, thou hast dealt with me more lovingly than one with his brother." Then the stoker provided himself with victual for the journey, and they waited till it was dark night, when they laid their provisions and baggage on the ass and set out on their journey.
To return to Nuzhet ez Zeman, when she left her brother in the khan and went out to seek service with some one, that she might earn wherewith to buy him the roast meat he longed for, she fared on, weeping and knowing not whither to go, whilst her mind was occupied with concern for her brother and with thoughts of her family and her native land. And she implored God the Most High to do away these afflictions from them and repeated the following verses:
The shadows darken and passion stirs up my sickness amain, And longing rouses within me the old desireful pain. The anguish of parting hath taken its sojourn in my breast, And love and longing and sorrow have maddened heart and brain. Passion hath made me restless and longing consumes my soul And tears discover the secret that else concealed had lain. I know of no way to ease me of sickness and care and woe, Nor can my weak endeavour reknit love's severed skein. The fire of my heart with yearnings and longing grief is fed And for its heat, the lover to live in hell is fain. O thou that thinkest to blame me for what betides me, enough; God knows I suffer with patience whate'er He doth ordain. I swear I shall ne'er find solace nor be consoled for love, The oath of the children of passion, whose oaths are ne'er in vain! Bear tidings of me, I prithee, O night, to the bards of love And that in thee I sleep not be witness yet again!
She walked on, weeping and turning right and left, as she went, till there espied her an old man who had come into the town from the desert with other five Bedouins. He took note of her and seeing that she was charming, but had nothing on her head but a piece of camel-cloth, marvelled at her beauty and said in himself, "This girl is pretty enough to dazzle the wit, but it is clear she is in poor case, and whether she be of the people of the city or a stranger, I must have her." So he followed her, little by little, till presently he came in front of her and stopping the way before her in a narrow lane, called out to her, saying, "Harkye, daughterling, art thou a freewoman or a slave?" When she heard this, she said to him, "By thy life, do not add to my troubles! "Quoth he, "God blessed me with six daughters, but five of them died and only one is left me, the youngest of them all; and I came to ask thee if thou wert of the people of this city or a stranger, that I might take thee and carry thee to her, to bear her company and divert her from mourning for her sisters, If thou hast no parents, I will use thee as one of them, and thou and she shall be as my two children." When she heard what he said, she bowed her head for bashfulness and said to herself, "Surely I may trust myself to this old man." Then she said to him, "O uncle, I am a girl of the Arabs (of Irak) and a stranger, and I have a sick brother; but I will go with thee to thy daughter on one condition; that is, that I may spend the day only with her and go to my brother at night. I am a stranger and was high in honour among my people, yet am I become cast down and abject. I came with my brother from the land of Hejaz and I fear lest he know not where I am." When the Bedouin heard this, he said to himself, "By Allah, I have gotten what I sought!" Then he turned to her and said, "There shall none be dearer to me than thou; I only wish thee to bear my daughter company by day, and thou shalt go to thy brother at nightfall. Or, if thou wilt, bring him to dwell with us." And he ceased not to give her fair words and coax her, till she trusted in him and agreed to serve him. Then he went on before her and she followed him, whilst he winked to his men to go on in advance and harness the camels and load them with food and water, ready for setting out as soon as he should come up. Now this Bedouin was a base-born wretch, a highway-robber and a brigand, a traitor to his friend and a past master in craft and roguery. He had no daughter and no son, and was but a wayfarer in Jerusalem, when, by the decree of God, he fell in with this unhappy girl. He held her in converse till they came without the city, where he joined his companions and found they had made ready the camels. So he mounted a camel, taking Nuzhet ez Zeman up behind him, and they rode on all night, making for the mountains, for fear any should see them. By this, she knew that the Bedouin's proposal was a snare and that he had tricked her; and she gave not over weeping and crying out the whole night long. A little before the dawn, they halted and the Bedouin came up to Nuzhet ez Zeman and said to her, "O wretch, what is this weeping! By Allah, an thou hold not thy peace, I will beat thee to death, city faggot that thou art!" When she heard this, she abhorred life and longed for death; so she turned to him and said, "O accursed old man, O greybeard of hell, did I trust in thee and hast thou played me false, and now thou wouldst torture me?" When he heard her words, he cried out, "O insolent wretch, dost thou dare to bandy words with me?" And he came up to her and beat her with a whip, saying, "An thou hold not thy peace, I will kill thee." So she was silent awhile, but she called to mind her brother and her former happy estate and wept in secret. Next day, she turned to the Bedouin and said to him, "How couldst thou deal thus perfidiously with me and lure me into these desert mountains, and what wilt thou do with me?" When he heard her words, he hardened his heart and said to her, "O pestilent baggage, wilt thou bandy words with me?" So saying, he took the whip and brought it down on her back, till she well-nigh fainted. Then she bowed down and kissed his feet; and he left beating her and began to revile her, saying, "By my bonnet, if I see or hear thee weeping, I will cut out thy tongue and thrust it up thy kaze, city strumpet that thou art!" So she was silent and made him no reply, for the beating irked her; but sat down, with her arms round her knees and bowing her head, fell a-musing on her case. Then she bethought her of her former ease and affluence and her present abasement, and called to mind her brother and his sickness and forlorn condition and how they were both strangers in a foreign land; whereat the tears coursed down her cheeks and she wept silently and repeated the following verses:
The tides of fate 'twixt good and ill shift ever to and fro, And no estate of life for men endureth evermo'. All things that to the world belong have each their destined end And to all men a term is set, which none may overgo. How long must I oppression bear and peril and distress! Ah, how I loathe this life of mine, that nought but these can show! May God not prosper them, these days, wherein I am oppressed of Fate, these cruel days that add abjection to my woe! My purposes are brought to nought, my loves are reft in twain By exile's rigour, and my hopes are one and all laid low. O ye, who pass the dwelling by, wherein my dear ones are, Bear them the news of me and say, my tears for ever flow.
When she had finished, the Bedouin came up to her and taking compassion on her, bespoke her kindly and wiped away her tears. Then he gave her a cake of barley-bread and said to her, "I do not love to be answered, when I am angry: so henceforth give me no more of these insolent words, and I will sell thee to an honest fellow like myself, who will use thee well, even as I have done." "It is well," answered she; and when the night was long upon her and hunger gnawed her, she ate a little of the barley-cake. In the middle of the night, the Bedouin gave the signal for departure; so they loaded the camels and he mounted one of them, taking Nuzhet ez Zeman up behind him. Then they set out and journeyed, without stopping, for three days, till they reached the city of Damascus, where they alighted at the Sultan's khan, hard by the Viceroy's Gate. Now she had lost her colour and her charms were changed by grief and the fatigue of the journey, and she ceased not to weep. So the Bedouin came up to her and said, "Hark ye, city wench! By my bonnet, an thou leave not this weeping, I will sell thee to a Jew!" Then he took her by the hand and carried her to a chamber, where he left her and went to the bazaar. Here he went round to the merchants who dealt in slave-girls and began to parley with them, saying, "I have with me a slave-girl, whose brother fell ill, and I sent him to my people at Jerusalem, that they might tend him till he was cured. The separation from him was grievous to her, and since then, she does nothing but weep. Now I purpose to sell her, and I would fain have whoso is minded to buy her of me speak softly to her and say to her, 'Thy brother is with me in Jerusalem, ill;' and I will be easy with him about her price." Quoth one of the merchants, "How old is she?" "She is a virgin, just come to the age of puberty," replied the Bedouin, "and is endowed with sense and breeding and wit and beauty and grace. But from the day I sent her brother to Jerusalem, she has done nothing but grieve for him, so that her beauty is fallen away and her value lessened." When the merchant heard this, he said, "O chief of the Arabs, I will go with thee and buy this girl of thee, if she be as thou sayest for wit and beauty and accomplishments; but it must be upon conditions, which if thou accept, I will pay thee her price, and if not, I will return her to thee." "If thou wilt," said the Bedouin, "take her up to Prince Sherkan, son of King Omar ben Ennuman, lord of Baghdad and of the land of Khorassan, and I will agree to whatever conditions thou mayst impose on me; for when he sees her, she will surely please him, and he will pay thee her price and a good profit to boot for thyself." "It happens," rejoined the merchant, "that I have just now occasion to go to him, that I may get him to sign me patent, exempting me from customs-dues, and I desire of him also a letter of recommendation to his father King Omar. So, if he take the girl, I will pay thee down her price at once." "I agree to this," answered the Bedouin. So they returned together to the khan, where the Bedouin stood at the door of the girl's chamber and called out, saying, "Ho, Najiyeh!" which was the name he had given her. When she heard him, she wept and made no answer. Then he turned to the merchant and said to him, "There she sits. Do thou go up to her and look at her and speak kindly to her, as I enjoined thee." So he went up to her courteously and saw that she was wonder-lovely and graceful especially as she was acquainted with the Arabic tongue; and he said to the Bedouin, "Verily she is even as thou saidst, and I shall get of the Sultan what I will for her." Then he said to her, "Peace be on thee, O daughterling! How dost thou?" She turned to him and replied, "This was written in the book of Destiny." Then she looked at him and seeing him to be a man of reverend appearance, with a handsome face, said to herself, "I believe this man comes to buy me. If I hold aloof from him, I shall abide with this tyrant, and he will beat me to death. In any case, this man is comely of face and makes me hope for better treatment from him than from this brute of a Bedouin. Mayhap he only comes to hear me talk; so I will give him a fair answer." All this while, she had kept her eyes fixed on the ground; then she raised them to him and said in a sweet voice, "And upon thee be peace, O my lord, and the mercy of God and His blessing! This is what is commanded of the Prophet, whom God bless and preserve! As for thine enquiry how I do, if thou wouldst know my condition, it is such as thou wouldst not wish but to thine enemies." And she was silent. When the merchant heard what she said, he was beside himself for delight in her and turning to the Bedouin, said to him, "What is her price, for indeed she is illustrious!" At this the Bedouin was angry and said, "Thou wilt turn me the girl's head with this talk! Why dost thou say that she is illustrious, for all she is of the scum of slave-girls and of the refuse of the people? I will not sell her to thee." When the merchant heard this, he knew he was dull-witted and said to him, "Calm thyself, for I will buy her of thee, notwithstanding the defects thou mentionest." "And how much wilt thou give me for her?" asked the Bedouin "None should name the child but its father," replied the merchant. "Name thy price for her." "Not so," rejoined the Bedouin; "do thou say what thou wilt give." Quoth the merchant in himself, "This Bedouin is an addle-pated churl. By Allah, I cannot tell her price, for she has mastered my heart with her sweet speech and her beauty: and if she can read and write, it will be the finishing touch to her good fortune and that of her purchaser. But this Bedouin does not know her value." Then he turned to the latter and said to him, "O elder of the Arabs, I will give thee two hundred dinars for her, in cash, clear of the tax and the Sultan's dues." When the Bedouin heard this, he flew into a violent passion and cried out at the merchant, saying, "Begone about thy business! By Allah, wert thou to offer me two hundred dinars for the piece of camel-cloth on her head, I would not sell it to thee! I will not sell her, but will keep her by me, to pasture the camels and grind corn." And he cried out to her, saying, "Come, thou stinkard, I will not sell thee." Then he turned to the merchant and said to him, "I thought thee a man of judgment; but, by my bonnet, if thou begone not from me, I will let thee hear what will not please thee!" "Verily," said the merchant to himself, "this Bedouin is mad and knows not the girl's value, and I will say no more to him about her price for the present; for by Allah, were he a man of sense, he would not say, 'By my bonnet!' By Allah, she is worth the kingdom of the Chosroes and I will give him what he will, though it be all I have." Then he said to him, "O elder of the Arabs, calm thyself and take patience and tell me what clothes she has with thee." "Clothes!" cried the Bedouin; "what should the baggage want with clothes? The camel-cloth in which she is wrapped is ample for her." "With thy leave," said the merchant, "I will lift her veil and examine her as folk examine girls whom they think of buying." "Up and do what thou wilt," replied the other, "and God keep thy youth! Examine her, inside and out, and if thou wilt, take off her clothes and look at her naked." "God forbid!" said the merchant; "I will but look at her face." Then he went up to her, confounded at her beauty and grace, and seating himself by her side, said to her, "O my mistress, what is thy name?" "Dost thou ask what is my name now," said she, "or what it was formerly?" "Hast thou then two names?" asked the merchant. "Yes," replied she, "my whilom name was Nuzhet ez Zeman; but my name at this present is Ghusset ez Zeman." When the merchant heard this, his eyes filled with tears, and he said to her, "Hast thou not a sick brother?" "Indeed, my lord, I have," answered she; "but fortune hath parted us, and he lies sick in Jerusalem." The merchant's heart was confounded at the sweetness of her speech, and he said to himself, "Verily, the Bedouin spoke the truth of her." Then she called to mind her brother and how he lay sick in a strange land, whilst she was parted from him and knew not what was become of him; and she thought of all that had befallen her with the Bedouin and of her severance from her father and mother and native land; and the tears ran down her cheeks and she repeated the following verses:
May God keep watch o'er thee, belov'd, where'er thou art, Thou that, though far away, yet dwellest in my heart! Where'er thy footsteps lead, may He be ever near, To guard thee from time's shifts and evil fortune's dart! Thou'rt absent, and my eyes long ever for thy sight, And at thy thought the tears for aye unbidden start. Would that I knew alas! what country holds thee now, In what abode thou dwell'st, unfriended and apart! If thou, in the green o the rose, still drink o' the water of life, My drink is nought but tears, since that thou didst depart. If sleep e'er visit thee, live coals of my unrest, Strewn betwixt couch and side, for aye my slumbers thwart All but thy loss to me were but a little thing, But that and that alone is sore to me, sweetheart.
When the merchant heard her verses, he wept and put out his hand to wipe away her tears; but she let down her veil, saying, "God forbid, O my master!" The Bedouin, who was sitting at a little distance, watching them, saw her cover her face and concluded that she would have hindered him from handling her: so he rose and running to her, dealt her such a blow on the shoulders with a camel's halter he had in his hand, that she fell to the ground on her face. Her eyebrow smote against a stone, which cut it open, and the blood streamed down her face; whereupon she gave a loud scream and fainted away. The merchant was moved to tears for her and said in himself, "I must and will buy this damsel, though I pay down her weight in gold, and deliver her from this tyrant." And he began to reproach the Bedouin, whilst Nuzhet ez Zeman lay insensible. When she came to herself, she wiped away her tears and bound up her head: then, raising her eyes to heaven, she sought her Lord with a sorrowful heart and repeated the following verses:
Have ruth on one who once was rich and great, Whom villainy hath brought to low estate. She weeps with never-ceasing tears and says, "There's no recourse against the laws of Fate."
Then she turned to the merchant and said to him, in a low voice, "By Allah, do not leave me with this tyrant, who knows not God the Most High! If I pass this night with him, I shall kill myself with my own hand: save me from him, and God will save thee from hell-fire." So the merchant said to the Bedouin, "O chief of the Arabs, this girl is none of thine affair; so do thou sell her to me for what thou wilt." "Take her," said the Bedouin, "and pay me down her price, or I will carry her back to the camp and set her to feed the camels and gather their droppings." Quoth the merchant, "I will give thee fifty thousand dinars for her." "God will open," replied the Bedouin. "Seventy thousand," said the merchant. "God will open," repeated the other; "she hath cost me more than that, for she hath eaten barley-bread with me to the value of ninety thousand dinars." Quoth the merchant, "Thou and all thy people and thy whole tribe in all your lives have not eaten a thousand dinars' worth of barley: but I will make thee one offer, which if thou accept not, I will set the Viceroy of Damascus on thee, and he will take her from thee by force." "Say on," rejoined the Bedouin. "A hundred thousand," said the merchant. "I will sell her to thee at that price," answered the Bedouin; "I shall be able to buy salt with that." The merchant laughed and going to his house, returned with the money and gave it to the Bedouin, who took it and made off, saying, "I must go to Jerusalem: it may be I shall happen on her brother, and I will bring him here and sell him." So he mounted and journeyed to Jerusalem, where he went to the khan and enquired for Zoulmekan, but could not find him.
Meanwhile, the merchant threw his gaberdine over Nuzhet ez Zeman and carried her to his house, where he dressed her in the richest clothes he could buy. Then he carried her to the bazaar, where he bought her what jewellery she chose and put it in a bag of satin, which he laid before her, saying, "This is all for thee, and I ask nothing of thee in return but that, when thou comest to the Viceroy of Damascus, thou tell him what I gave for thee and that it was little compared with thy value: and if he buy thee, tell him how I have dealt with thee and ask of him for me a royal patent, with a recommendation to his father King Omar Ben Ennuman, lord of Baghdad, to the intent that he may forbid the taking toll on my stuffs or other goods in which I traffic." When she heard his words, she wept and sobbed, and the merchant said to her, "O my mistress, I note that, every time I mention Baghdad, thine eyes fill with tears: is there any one there whom thou lovest? If it be a merchant or the like, tell me; for I know all the merchants and so forth there; and an thou wouldst send him a message, I will carry it for thee." "By Allah," replied she, "I have no acquaintance among merchants and the like! I know none there but King Omar ben Ennuman." When the merchant heard this, he laughed and was greatly rejoiced and said in himself, "By Allah, I have gotten my desire!" Then he said to her, "Hast thou then been shown to him?" "No," answered she; "but I was brought up with his daughter and he holds me dear and I have much credit with him; so if thou wouldst have him grant thee a patent of exemption, give me ink-horn and paper, and I will write thee a letter, which, when thou reachest Baghdad, do thou deliver into the King's own hand and say to him, 'Thy handmaid Nuzhet ez Zeman salutes thee and would have thee to know that the changing chances of the nights and days have smitten her, so that she has been sold from place to place and is now with the Viceroy of Damascus.'" The merchant wondered at her eloquence and his affection for her increased and he said to her, "I cannot think but that men have abused thine understanding and sold thee for money. Tell me, dost thou know the Koran?" "I do," answered she; "and I am also acquainted with philosophy and medicine and the Prolegomena and the commentaries of Galen the physician on the Canons of Hippocrates, and I have commented him, as well as the Simples of Ibn Beltar, and have studied the works of Avicenna, according to the canon of Mecca, as well as other treatises. I can solve enigmas and establish parallels and discourse upon geometry and am skilled in anatomy. I have read the books of the Shafiyi sect and the Traditions of the Prophet, I am well read in grammar and can argue with the learned and discourse of all manner of sciences. Moreover I am skilled in logic and rhetoric and mathematics and the making of talismans and calendars and the Cabala, and I understand all these branches of knowledge thoroughly. But bring me ink-horn and paper, and I will write thee a letter that will profit thee at Baghdad and enable thee to dispense with passports." When the merchant heard this, he cried out, "Excellent! Excellent! Happy he in whose palace thou shalt be!" Then he brought her ink-horn and paper and a pen of brass and kissed the earth before her, to do her honour. She took the pen and wrote the following verses:
"What ails me that sleep hath forsaken my eyes and gone astray? Have you then taught them to waken, after our parting day! How comes it your memory maketh the fire in my heart to rage? Is't thus with each lover remembers a dear one far away? How sweet was the cloud of the summer, that watered our days of yore! 'Tis flitted, before of its pleasance my longing I could stay. I sue to the wind and beg it to favour the slave of love, The wind that unto the lover doth news of you convey. A lover to you complaineth, whose every helper fails. Indeed, in parting are sorrows would rend the rock in sway.
"These words are from her whom melancholy destroys and whom watching hath wasted; in her darkness there are no lights found, and she knows not night from day. She tosses from side to side on the couch of separation and her eyes are blackened with the pencils of sleeplessness; she watches the stars and strains her sight into the darkness: verily, sadness and emaciation have consumed her and the setting forth of her case would be long. No helper hath she but tears and she reciteth the following verses:
"No turtle warbles on the branch, before the break of morn, But stirs in me a killing grief, a sadness all forlorn. No lover, longing for his loves, complaineth of desire, But with a doubled stress of woe my heart is overborne. Of passion I complain to one who hath no ruth on me. How soul and body by desire are, one from other, torn!"
Then her eyes brimmed over with tears, and she wrote these verses also:
"Love-longing, the day of our parting, my body with mourning smote, And severance from my eyelids hath made sleep far remote. I am so wasted for yearning and worn for sickness and woe, That, were it not for my speaking, thou'dst scarce my presence note."
Then she wept and wrote at the foot of the scroll, "This is from her who is far from her people and her native land, the sorrowful-hearted Nuzhet ez Zeman." She folded the letter and gave it to the merchant, who took it and reading what was written in it, rejoiced and exclaimed, "Glory to Him who fashioned thee!" Then he redoubled in kindness and attention to her all that day; and at nightfall, he sallied out to the market and bought food, wherewith he fed her; after which he carried her to the bath and said to the tire-woman, "As soon as thou hast made an end of washing her head, clothe her and send and let me know.' Meanwhile he fetched food and fruit and wax candles and set them on the dais in the outer room of the bath; and when the tire-woman had done washing her, she sent to tell the merchant, and Nuzhet ez Zeman went out to the outer room, where she found the tray spread with food and fruit. So she ate, and the tire-woman with her, and gave what was left to the people and keeper of the bath. Then she slept till the morning, and the merchant lay the night in a place apart. When he awoke, he came to her and waking her, presented her with a shift of fine silk, a kerchief worth a thousand dinars, a suit of Turkish brocade and boots embroidered with red gold and set with pearls and jewels. Moreover, he hung in each of her ears a circlet of gold, with a fine pearl therein, worth a thousand dinars, and threw round her neck a collar of gold, with bosses of garnet and a chain of amber beads, that hung down between her breasts to her middle. Now this chain was garnished with ten balls and nine crescents and each crescent had in its midst a beazel of ruby and each ball a beazel of balass ruby. The worth of the chain was three thousand dinars and each of the balls was worth twenty thousand dirhems, so that her dress in all was worth a great sum of money. When she had put these on, the merchant bade her make her toilet, and she adorned herself to the utmost advantage. Then he bade her follow him and walked on before her through the streets, whilst the people wondered at her beauty and exclaimed, "Blessed be God, the most excellent Creator! O fortunate man to whom she shall belong!" till they reached the Sultan's palace; when he sought an audience of Sherkan and kissing the earth before him, said, "O august King, I have brought thee a rare gift, unmatched in this time and richly covered with beauty and good qualities." "Let me see it," said Sherkan. So the merchant went out and returning with Nuzhet ez Zeman, made her stand before Sherkan. When the latter beheld her, blood drew to blood, though he had never seen her, having only heard that he had a sister called Nuzhet ez Zeman and a brother called Zoulmekan and not having made acquaintance with them, in his jealousy of them, because of the succession. Then said the merchant, "O King, not only is she without peer in her time for perfection of beauty and grace, but she is versed to boot in all learning, sacred and profane, besides the art of government and the abstract sciences." Quoth Sherkan, "Take her price, according to what thou gavest for her, and go thy ways." "I hear and obey," replied the merchant; "but first I would have thee write me a patent, exempting me for ever from paying tithe on my merchandise." "I will do this," said Sherkan; "but first tell me what you paid for her." Quoth the merchant, "I bought her for a hundred thousand dinars, and her clothes cost me as much more." When the Sultan heard this, he said, "I will give thee more than this for her," and calling his treasurer, said to him, "Give this merchant three hundred and twenty thousand dinars; so will he have a hundred and twenty thousand dinars profit." Then he summoned the four Cadis and paid him the money in their presence; after which he said to them, "I call you to witness that I free this my slave-girl and purpose to marry her." So the Cadis drew up the act of enfranchisement, and the Sultan scattered much gold on the heads of those present, which was picked up by the pages and eunuchs. Then they drew up the contract of marriage between Sherkan and Nuzhet ez Zeman, after which he bade write the merchant a perpetual patent, exempting him from tax and tithe upon his merchandise and forbidding all and several to do him let or hindrance in all his government, and bestowed on him a splendid dress of honour. Then all who were present retired, and there remained but the Cadis and the merchant; whereupon quoth Sherkan to the former, "I wish you to hear such discourse from this damsel as may prove her knowledge and accomplishment in all that this merchant avouches of her, that we may be certified of the truth of his pretensions." "Good," answered they; and he commanded the curtains to be drawn before Nuzhet ez Zeman and her attendants, who began to wish her joy and kiss her hands and feet, for that she was become the Viceroy's wife. Then they came round her and easing her of the weight of her clothes and ornaments, began to look upon her beauty and grace. Presently the wives of the Amirs and Viziers heard that King Sherkan had bought a damsel unmatched for beauty and accomplishments and versed in all branches of knowledge, at the price of three hundred and twenty thousand dinars, and that he had set her free and married her and summoned the four Cadis to examine her. So they asked leave of their husbands and repaired to the palace. When they came in to her, she rose and received them with courtesy, welcoming them and promising them all good. Moreover, she smiled in their faces and made them sit down in their proper stations, as if she had been brought up with them, so that their hearts were taken with her and they all wondered at her good sense and fine manners, as well as at her beauty and grace, and said to each other, "This damsel is none other than a queen, the daughter of a king." Then they sat down, magnifying her, and said to her, "O our lady, our city is illumined by thy presence, and our country and kingdom are honoured by thee. The kingdom indeed is thine and the palace is thy palace, and we all are thy handmaids; so do not thou shut us out from thy favours and the sight of thy beauty." And she thanked them for this. All this while the curtains were drawn between Nuzhet ez Zeman and the women with her, on the one side, and King Sherkan and the Cadis and merchant seated by him, on the other. Presently, Sherkan called to her and said, "O queen, the glory of thine age, this merchant describes thee as being learned and accomplished and asserts that thou art skilled in all branches of knowledge, even to astrology: so let us hear something of all this and give us a taste of thy quality."
"O King," replied she, "I hear and obey. The first subject of which I will treat is the art of government and the duties of kings and what behoves governors of lawful commandments and what is incumbent on them in respect of pleasing manners. Know then, O King, that all men's works tend either to religion or to worldly life, for none attains to religion save through this world, because it is indeed the road to the next world. Now the world is ordered by the doings of its people, and the doings of men are divided into four categories, government (or the exercise of authority), commerce, husbandry (or agriculture) and craftsmanship. To government are requisite perfect (knowledge of the science of) administration and just judgment; for government is the centre (or pivot) of the edifice of the world, which is the road to the future life since that God the Most High hath made the world to be to His servants even as victual to the traveller for the attainment of the goal: and it is needful that each man receive of it such measure as shall bring him to God, and that he follow not in this his own mind and desire. If the folk would take of the goods of the world with moderation and equity, there would be an end of contentions; but they take thereof with violence and iniquity and persist in following their own inclinations; and their licentiousness and evil behaviour in this give birth to strife and contention. So they have need of the Sultan, that he may do justice between them and order their affairs prudently, and if he restrain not the folk from one another, the strong will get the mastery over the weak. Ardeshir says that religion and the kingship are twin; religion is a treasure and the king its keeper; and the divine ordinances and men's own judgment indicate that it behoves the folk to adopt a ruler to hold the oppressor back from the oppressed and do the weak justice against the strong and to restrain the violence of the proud and the unjust. For know, O King, that according to the measure of the ruler's good morals, even so will be the time; as says the apostle of God (on whom be peace and salvation), 'There are two classes, who if they be virtuous, the people will be virtuous, and if they be depraved, the people also will be depraved: even princes and men of learning.' And it is said by a certain sage, 'There are three kinds of kings, the king of the Faith, the king who watches over and protects those things that are entitled to respect and honour, and the king of his own inclinations. The king of the Faith constrains his subjects to follow the laws of their faith, and it behoves that he be the most pious of them all, for it is by him that they take pattern in the things of the Faith; and the folk shall do obedience to him in what he commands in accordance with the Divine ordinances; but he shall hold the discontented in the same esteem as the contented, because of submission to the Divine decrees. As for the king of the second order, he upholds the things of the Faith and of the world and compels the folk to follow the Law of God and to observe the precepts of humanity; and it behoves him to conjoin the sword and the pen; for whoso goeth astray from what the pen hath written, his feet slip, and the king shall rectify his error with the edge of the sword and pour forth his justice upon all men. As for the third kind of king, he hath no religion but the following his own lusts and fears not the wrath of his Lord, who set him on the throne; so his kingdom inclines to ruin, and the end of his arrogance is in the House of Perdition.' And another sage says, 'The king has need of many people, but the folk have need of but one king; wherefore it behoves that he be well acquainted with their natures, to the end that he may reduce their difference to concord, that he may encompass them one and all with his justice and overwhelm them with his bounties.' And know, O King, that Ardeshir, styled Jemr Shedid, third of the Kings of Persia, conquered the whole world and divided it into four parts and let make for himself four seal-rings, one for each division of his realm. The first seal was that of the sea and the police and of prohibition, and on it was written, 'Alternatives.' The second was the seal of revenue and of the receipt of monies, and on it was written, 'Culture.' The third was the seal of the commissariat, and on it was written, 'Plenty.' The fourth was the seal of (the Court of Enquiry into) abuses, and on it was written, 'Justice.' And these remained in use in Persia until the revelation of Islam. King Chosroes also, wrote to his son, who was with the army, 'Be not over-lavish to thy troops, or they will come to have no need of thee; neither be niggardly with them, or they will murmur against thee. Do thy giving soberly and confer thy favours advisedly; be liberal to them in time of affluence and stint them not in time of stress.' It is said that an Arab of the desert came once to the Khalif Mensour and said to him, 'Starve thy dog and he will follow thee.' When the Khalif heard his words, he was enraged, but Aboulabbas et Tousi said to him, 'I fear that, if some other than thou should show him a cake of bread, the dog would follow him and leave thee.' Thereupon the Khalif's wrath subsided and he knew that the Bedouin had meant no offence and ordered him a present. And know, O King, that Abdulmelik ben Merwan wrote to his brother Abdulaziz, when he sent him to Egypt, as follows: 'Pay heed to thy secretaries and thy chamberlains, for the first will acquaint thee with necessary matters and the second with matters of etiquette and ceremonial observance, whilst the tribute that goes out from thee will make thy troops known to thee.' Omar ben el Khettab (whom God accept) was in the habit, when he engaged a servant, of laying four conditions on him, the first that he should not ride the baggage-beasts, the second that he should not wear fine clothes, the third that he should not eat of the spoil and the fourth that he should not delay to pray after the proper time. It is said that there is no wealth better than understanding and no understanding like common sense and prudence and no prudence like the fear of God; that there is no offering like good morals and no measure like good breeding and no profit like earning the Divine favour; that there is no piety like the observance of the limits of the Law and no science like that of meditation, no devotion like the performance of the Divine precepts, no safeguard like modesty, no calculation like humility and no nobility like knowledge. So guard the head and what it contains and the body and what it comprises and remember death and calamity. Says Ali, (whose face God honour!), 'Beware of the wickedness of women and be on thy guard against them. Consult them not in aught, but be not grudging of complaisance to them, lest they be tempted to have recourse to intrigue.' And also, 'He who leaves the path of moderation and sobriety, his wits become perplexed.' And Omar (whom God accept) says, 'There are three kinds of women, first, the true-believing, God-fearing woman, loving and fruitful, helping her husband against fate, not helping fate against her husband; secondly, she who loves and tenders her children, but no more; and thirdly, the woman who is as a shackle that God puts on the neck of whom He will. Men also are three: the first, who is wise, when he exercises his judgment; the second, wiser than he, who, when there falls on him somewhat of which he knows not the issue, seeks folk of good counsel and acts by their advice; and the third, who is addle-headed, knowing not the right way nor heeding those who would instruct him.' Justice is indispensable in all things; even slave-girls have need of justice; and highway robbers, who live by violence, bear witness of this, for did they not deal equitably among themselves and observe fairness in their divisions, their order would fall to pieces. For the rest, the chief of noble qualities is generosity and benevolence. How well says the poet:
'By largesse and mildness the youth chief of his tribe became, And it were easy for thee to follow and do the same.'
And quoth another:
'In mildness stability lies and clemency wins us respect, And safety in soothfastness is for him who is soothfast and frank; And he who would get himself praise and renown for his wealth from the folk, In the racecourse of glory must be, for munificence, first in the rank.'"
And Nuzhet ez Zeman discoursed upon the policy and behaviour of kings, till the bystanders said, "Never heard we one reason of the duties of kings like this damsel! Mayhap she will favour us with discourse upon some subject other than this." When she heard this, she said, "As for the chapter of good breeding, it is wide of scope, for it is a compend of perfections. There came in one day to the Khalif Muawiyeh one of his boon-companions, who spoke of the people of Irak and the goodness of their wit; and the Khalif's wife Meisoun, mother of Yezid, heard him. So, when he was gone, she said to the Khalif, 'O Commander of the Faithful, prithee let some of the people of Irak come in to thee and talk with them, that I may hear their discourse.' So the Khalif said to his attendants, 'Who is at the door?' And they answered, 'The Benou Temim.' 'Let them come in,' said he. So they came in and with them Ahnaf ben Cais. Now Muawiyeh had drawn a curtain between himself and Meisoun, that she might hear what they said without being seen herself; and he said to Ahnaf, 'O Abou Behr, pray, near and tell me what counsel thou hast for me.' Quoth Ahnaf, 'Part thy hair and trim thy moustache and clip thy nails and pluck out the hair of thine armpits and shave thy pubes and be constant in the use of the toothstick, for therein are two-and-seventy virtues, and make the Friday (complete) ablution as an expiation for what is between the two Fridays.' 'What is thy counsel to thyself?' asked Muawiyeh. 'To plant my feet firmly on the ground,' replied Ahnaf, 'to move them with deliberation and keep watch over them with my eyes.' 'How,' asked the Khalif, 'dost thou carry thyself, when thou goest in to the common folk of thy tribe?' 'I lower my eyes modestly,' replied Ahnaf, 'and salute them first, abstaining from what does not concern me and being sparing of words.' 'And how, when thou goest in to thine equals?' asked Muawiyeh. 'I give ear to them, when they speak,' answered the other, 'and do not assail them, when they err.' 'And how dost thou,' said the Khalif, 'when thou goest in to thy chiefs?' 'I salute without making any sign,' answered Ahnaf, 'and await the response: if they bid me draw near, I do so, and if they bid me stand aloof, I withdraw.' 'How dost thou with thy wife?' asked the Khalif. 'Excuse me from answering this, O Commander of the Faithful!' replied he; but Muawiyeh said, 'I conjure thee to answer.' Then said Ahnaf, 'I entreat her kindly and show her pleasant familiarity and am large in expenditure, for women were created of a crooked rib.' 'And how,' asked the Khalif, 'dost thou when thou hast a mind to lie with her?' 'I speak to her to perfume herself,' answered the other, 'and kiss her till she is moved to desire; then, if it be as thou knowest, I throw her on her back. If the seed abide in her womb, I say, "O my God, make it blessed and let it not be a castaway, but fashion it into a goodly shape!" Then I rise from her and betake myself to the ablution, first pouring water over my hands and then over my body and returning thanks to God for the delight He hath given me.' 'Thou hast answered excellently well,' said Muawiyeh; 'and now tell me what thou wouldst have.' Quoth Ahnaf, 'I would have thee rule thy subjects in the fear of God and do equal justice amongst them.' So saying, he withdrew from the Khalif's presence, and when he had gone, Meisoun said, 'Were there but this man in Irak, he would suffice to it.' This (continued Nuzhet ez Zeman) is a small fraction of the chapter of good breeding. Know O King, that Muyekib was intendant of the treasury during the Khalifate of Omar ben Khettab. 'One day (quoth he) the Khalif's son came to me and I gave him a dirhem from the treasury. Then I returned to my own house, and presently, as I was sitting, there came to me a messenger, bidding me to the Khalif. So I was afraid and went to him, and when I came into his presence, I saw in his hand the dirhem I had given his son. "Harkye, Muyekib," said he, "I have found somewhat concerning thy soul." "What is it, O Commander of the Faithful?" asked I; and he answered, "It is that thou wilt have to render an account of this dirhem to the people of Mohammed (on whom be peace and salvation) on the Day of Resurrection."' This same Omar wrote a letter to Abou Mousa el Ashari, to the following purport, 'When these presents reach thee, give the people what is theirs and send the rest to me.' And he did so. When Othman succeeded to the Khalifate, he wrote a like letter to Abou Mousa, who did his bidding and sent him the tribute accordingly, and with it came Ziad When the latter laid the tribute before Othman, the Khalif's son came in and took a dirhem, whereupon Ziad fell a-weeping. 'Why dost thou weep?' asked Othman. Quoth Ziad, 'I once brought Omar ben Khettab the like of this, and his son took a dirhem, whereupon Omar bade snatch it from his hand. Now thy son hath taken of the tribute, yet have I seen none rebuke him nor take the money from him.' And Othman said, 'Where wilt thou find the like of Omar?' Again, Zeid ben Aslam relates of his father that he said, 'I went out one night with Omar, and we walked on till we espied a blazing fire in the distance. Quoth Omar, "This must be travellers, who are suffering from the cold: let us join them." So we made for the fire, and when we came to it, we found a woman who had lighted a fire under a cauldron, and by her side were two children, crying. "Peace on you, O folk of the light!" said Omar, for he misliked to say, "folk of the fire;" "what ails you?" Quoth she, "The cold and the night irk us." "What ails these children that they weep?" asked he. "They are hungry," replied she. "And what is in this cauldron?" asked Omar. "It is what I quiet them with," answered she, "and God will question Omar ben Khettab of them, on the Day of Resurrection." "And what," rejoined the Khalif, "should Omar know of their case?" "Why then," said she, "should he undertake the governance of the people's affairs and yet be unmindful of them?" Then Omar turned to me and said, "Come with me." So we both set off running till we reached the treasury, where he took out a sack of flour and a pot of fat and said to me, "Put these on my back." "O Commander of the Faithful," said I, "I will carry them for thee." "Wilt thou bear my burden for me on the Day of Resurrection?" replied he. So I put the things on his back, and we set off, running, till we came to the woman, when he threw down the sack. Then he took out some of the flour and put it in the cauldron and saying to the woman, "Leave it to me," fell to blowing the fire; Now he had a great beard and I saw the smoke issuing from the interstices thereof, till the flour was cooked, when he threw in some of the fat and said to the woman, "Do thou feed the boys whilst I cool the food for them." So they ate their fill and he left the rest with her. Then he turned to me and said, "O Aslam, I see it was indeed hunger made them weep; and I am glad I did not go away without finding out the reason of the light I saw."' It is said that Omar passed, one day, by a flock of sheep, kept by a slave, and asked the latter to sell him a sheep. 'They are not mine,' replied the shepherd. 'Thou art the man I sought,' said Omar and buying him of his master, set him free, whereupon the slave exclaimed, 'O my God, thou hast bestowed on me the lesser emancipation; vouchsafe me now the greater!' They say also, that Omar ben Khettab was wont to give his servants sweet milk and eat coarse fare himself and to clothe them softly and wear himself coarse garments. He gave all men their due and exceeded in his giving to them. He once gave a man four thousand dirhems and added thereto yet a thousand, wherefore it was said to him, 'Why dost thou not favour thy son as thou favourest this man?' He answered, 'This man's father stood firm in fight on the day of Uhud.' El Hassan relates that Omar once came (back from an expedition) with much money and that Hefseh came to him and said, 'O Commander of the Faithful, be mindful of the due of kinship!' 'O Hefseh,' replied he, 'God hath indeed enjoined us to satisfy the dues of kinship, but of our own monies, not those of the true believers. Indeed, thou pleasest thy family, but angerest thy father.' And she went away, dragging her skirts. Says Omar's son, 'I implored God one year (after Omar's death) to show me my father, till at last I saw him wiping the sweat from his brow and said to him, "How is it with thee, O my father?" "But for God's mercy," answered he, "thy father had perished." Then said Nuzhet ez Zeman, "Hear, O august King, the second division of the first chapter of the instances of the followers of the Prophet and other pious men. Says El Hassan of Bassora, 'Not a soul of the sons of Adam goes forth of the world, without grieving for three things, failure to enjoy what he has amassed, failure to compass what he hoped and failure to provide himself with sufficient provision for that to which he goes.' It was said to Sufyan, 'Can a man be devout and yet possess wealth?' 'Yes,' replied he, 'so he be patient under affliction and return thanks, when God giveth to him.' When Abdallah ben Sheddad was on his death-bed, he sent for his son Mohammed and admonished him, saying, 'O my son, I see the messenger of death calling me and so I charge thee to cherish the fear of God, both in public and private. Praise God and be true in thy speech, for the praise of God brings increase of prosperity, and piety in itself is the best of provision, even as says one of the poets:
I see not that bliss lies in filling one's chest; The God-fearing man can alone be called blest. For piety aye winneth increase of God; So of all men's provision 'tis surely the best.
When Omar ben Abdulaziz succeeded to the Khalifate, he went to his own house and laying hands on all that his family and household possessed, put it into the public treasury. So the Ommiades betook themselves for aid to his father's sister, Fatimeh, daughter of Merwan, and she sent to Omar, saying, 'I must needs speak with thee.' So she came to him by night, and when he had made her alight from her beast and sit down, he said to her, 'O aunt, it is for thee to speak first, since it is at thine instance that we meet; tell me, therefore, what thou wouldst with me.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' replied she, 'it is thine to speak first, for thy judgment perceives that which is hidden from the senses.' Then said the Khalif, 'Of a verity God sent Mohammed as a mercy to some and a punishment to others; and He chose out for him what was with him and withdrew him to Himself, leaving the people a river, whereof the thirsty of them might drink. After him he made Abou Bekr the Truth-teller Khalif and he left the river in its pristine state, doing what was pleasing to God. Then arose Omar and worked a work and furnished forth a strife, of which none might do the like When Othman came, he diverted a stream from the river, and Muawiyeh in his turn sundered several streams from it. In like manner, Yezid and the sons of Merwan, Abdulmelik and Welid and Suleiman, ceased not to take from the river and dry up the main stream, till the commandment devolved upon me, and now I am minded to restore the river to its normal condition.' When Fatimeh heard this, she said, 'I came, wishing only to speak and confer with thee, but if this be thy word, I have nothing to say to thee.' Then she returned to the Ommiades and said to them, 'See what you have brought on you by allying yourselves with Omar ben Khettab.' When Omar was on his deathbed, he gathered his children round him, and Meslemeh ben Abdulmelik said to him, 'O Commander of the Faithful, wilt thou leave thy children beggars and thou their protector? None can hinder thee from giving them in thy lifetime what will suffice them out of the treasury; and this indeed were better than leaving it to revert to him who shall come after thee.' Omar gave him a look of wrath and wonder and replied, 'O Meslemeh, I have defended them all the days of my life, and shall I make them miserable after my death? My sons are like other men, either obedient to God the Most High or disobedient: if the former, God will prosper them, and if the latter, I will not help them in their disobedience. Know, O Meslemeh, that I was present, even as thou, when such an one of the sons of Merwan was buried, and I fell asleep by him and saw him in a dream given over to one of the punishments of God, to whom belong might and majesty. This terrified me and made me tremble, and I vowed to God that, if ever I came to the throne, I would not do as the dead man had done. This vow I have striven to fulfil all the days of my life, and I hope to be received into the mercy of my Lord.' Quoth Meslemeh, 'A certain man died and I was present at his funeral. I fell asleep and meseemed I saw him, as in a dream, clad in white clothes and walking in a garden full of running waters. He came up to me and said, "O Meslemeh, it is for the like of this that governors (or men who bear rule) should work."' Many are the instances of this kind, and quoth one of the men of authority, 'I used to milk the ewes in the Khalifate of Omar ben Abdulaziz, and one day, I met a shepherd, among whose sheep were wolves. I thought them to be dogs, for I had never before seen wolves; so I said to the shepherd, "What dost thou with these dogs?" "They are not dogs, but wolves," replied he. Quoth I, "Can wolves be with sheep and not hurt them?" "When the head is whole," replied he, "the body is whole also."' Omar ben Abdulaziz preached once from a mud pulpit, and after praising and glorifying God the Most High, said three words and spoke as follows, 'O folk, make clean your hearts, that your outward lives may be clean to your brethren, and abstain from the things of the world. Know that from Adam to this present, there is no one man alive among the dead. Dead are Abdulmelik and those who forewent him, and Omar also will die, and those who come after him.' Quoth Meslemeh (to this same Omar, when he was dying), 'O Commander of the Faithful, shall we set a pillow behind thee, that thou mayest lean on it a little?' But Omar answered, 'I fear lest it be a fault about my neck on the Day of Resurrection.' Then he gasped for breath and fell back in a swoon; whereupon Fatimeh cried out, saying, 'Ho, Meryem! Ho, Muzahim! Ho, such an one! Look to this man!' And she began to pour water on him, weeping, till he revived, and seeing her in tears, said to her, 'O Fatimeh, why dost thou weep?' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' replied she, 'I saw thee lying prostrate before us and thought of thy prostration before God the Most High in death and of thy departure from the world and separation from us. This is what made me weep.' 'Enough, O Fatimeh,' answered he; 'indeed thou exceedest.' Then he would have risen, but fell down, and Fatimeh strained him to her, saying, 'Thou art to me as my father and my mother, O Commander of the Faithful! We cannot speak to thee, all of us.' Again (continued Nuzhet ez Zeman), Omar ben Abdulaziz wrote to the people of the festival at Mecca, as follows, 'I call God to witness, in the Holy Month, in the Holy City and on the day of the Great Pilgrimage, that I am innocent of your oppression and of the wickedness of him that doth you wrong, in that I have neither commanded this nor purposed it, neither hath any report of aught thereof reached me (till now) nor have I had knowledge of it; and I trust therefore that God will pardon it to me. None hath authority from me to do oppression, for I shall assuredly be questioned (at the Last Day) concerning every one who hath been wrongfully entreated. So if any one of my officers swerve from the right and act without law or authority, ye owe him no obedience, till he return to the right way.' He said also (may God accept of him), 'I do not wish to be relieved from death, for that it is the supreme thing for which the true believer is rewarded.' Quoth one of authority, 'I went one day to the Commander of the Faithful, Omar ben Abdulaziz, who was then Khalif, and saw before him twelve dirhems, which he bade take to the treasury. So I said to him, "O Commander of the Faithful, thou impoverishest thy children and reducest them to beggary, leaving nothing for them. Thou wouldst do well to appoint somewhat by will to them and to those who are poor of the people of thy house." "Draw near to me," answered he. So I drew near to him and he said, "As for thy saying, 'Thou beggarest thy children; provide for them and for the poor of thy household,' it is without reason, for God will replace me to my children and to those who are poor of the people of my house, and He will be their guardian. Verily, they are like other men; he who fears God, God will provide him a happy issue, and he that is addicted to sin, I will not uphold him in his disobedience." Then he called his sons before him, and they were twelve in number. When he beheld them, his eyes filled with tears and he said to them, "Your father is between two things; either ye will be rich and he will enter the fire, or ye will be poor and he enter Paradise; and your father's entry into Paradise is liefer to him than that ye should be rich. So go, God be your helper, for to Him I commit your affair."' Quoth Khalid ben Sefwan, 'Yusuf ben Omar accompanied me to Hisham ben Abdulmelik, and I met him as he came forth with his kinsmen and attendants. He alighted and a tent was pitched for him. When the people had taken their seats, I came up to the side of the carpet (on which the Khalif was reclining) and waiting till my eyes met his, bespoke him thus, "May God fulfil His bounty to thee, O Commander of the Faithful, and direct into the right way the affairs He hath committed to thy charge, and may no harm mingle with thy cheer! O Commander of the Faithful, I have an admonition for thee, which I have gleaned from the history of the kings of time past!" At this, he sat up and said to me, "O son of Sefwan, say what is in thy mind." "O Commander of the Faithful," quoth I, "one of the kings before thee went forth, in a time before thy time, to this very country and said to his companions, 'Saw ye ever any in the like of my state or to whom hath been given even as it hath been given unto me?' Now there was with him one of those who survive to bear testimony to the Faith and are upholders of the Truth and walkers in its highway, and he said, 'O King, thou askest of a grave matter. Wilt thou give me leave to answer?' 'Yes,' replied the King, and the other said, 'Dost thou judge thy present state to be temporary or enduring?' 'It is a temporary thing,' replied the King. 'Why then,' asked the man, 'do I see thee exult in that which thou wilt enjoy but a little while and whereof thou wilt be questioned at length and for the rendering an account whereof thou wilt be as a pledge?' 'Whither shall I flee,' asked the King, 'and where is that I must seek?' 'Abide in thy kingship,' replied the other, 'and apply thyself to obey the commandments of God the Most High; or else don thy worn-out clothes and devote thyself to the service of thy Lord, till thine appointed hour come to thee.' Then he left him, saying, 'I will come to thee again at daybreak.' So he knocked at his door at dawn and found that the King had put off his crown and resolved to become an anchorite, for the stress of his exhortation." When Hisham heard this, he wept till his beard was drenched and putting off his rich apparel, shut himself up in his palace. Then the grandees and courtiers came to me and said, "What is this thou hast done with the Commander of the Faithful? Thou hast marred his cheer and troubled his life!"' "But (continued Nuzhet ez Zeman, addressing herself to Sherkan) how many admonitory instances are there not that bear upon this branch of the subject! Indeed, it is beyond my power to report all that pertains to this head in one sitting; but, with length of days, O King of the age, all will be well."
Then said the Cadis, "O King, of a truth this damsel is the wonder of the time and the unique pearl of the age! Never in all our lives heard we the like." And they called down blessings on Sherkan and went away. Then said he to his attendants, "Prepare the wedding festivities and make ready food of all kinds." So they addressed themselves to do his bidding, and he bade the wives of the amirs and viziers and grandees depart not until the time of the wedding banquet and of the unveiling of the bride. Hardly was the time of afternoon-prayer come, when the tables were spread with roast meats and geese and fowls and all that the heart can desire or that can delight the eye; and all the people ate till they were satisfied. Moreover, the King had sent for all the singing-women of Damascus and they were present, together with all the slave-girls of the King and the notables who knew how to sing. When the evening came and it grew dark, they lighted flambeaux, right and left, from the gate of the citadel to that of the palace, and the amirs and viziers and grandees defiled before King Sherkan, whilst the singers and the tire-women took Nuzhet ez Zeman, to dress and adorn her, but found she needed no adorning. Meantime King Sherkan went to the bath and coming out, sat down on his bed of estate, whilst they unveiled the bride before him in seven different dresses; after which they eased her of the weight of her dresses and ornaments and gave such injunctions as are usually given to girls on their wedding-night. Then Sherkan went in to her and took her maidenhead; and she at once conceived by him, whereat he rejoiced with an exceeding joy and commanded the sages to record the date of her conception. On the morrow, he went forth and seated himself on his throne, and the grandees came in to him and gave him joy. Then he called his private secretary and bade him write to his father, King Omar ben Ennuman, a letter to the following effect: "Know that I have bought me a damsel, who excels in learning and accomplishment and is mistress of all kinds of knowledge. I have set her free and married her and she has conceived by me. And needs must I send her to Baghdad to visit my brother Zoulmekan and my sister Nuzhet ez Zeman." And he went on to praise her wit and salute his brother and sister, together with the Vizier Dendan and all the amirs. Then he sealed the letter and despatched it to his father by a courier, who was absent a whole month, after which time he returned with the old King's answer. Sherkan took it and read as follows, after the usual preamble, "In the name of God," etc., "This is from the afflicted and distraught, him who hath lost his children and is (as it were) an exile from his native land, King Omar ben Ennuman, to his son Sherkan. Know that, since thy departure from me, the place is become contracted upon me, so that I can no longer have patience nor keep my secret: and the reason of this is as follows. It chanced that Zoulmekan sought my leave to go on the pilgrimage, but I, fearing for him the shifts of fortune, forbade him therefrom until the next year or the year after. Soon after this, I went out to hunt and was absent a whole month. When I returned, I found that thy brother and sister had taken somewhat of money and set out by stealth with the caravan of pilgrims. When I knew this, the wide world became strait on me, O my son; but I awaited the return of the caravan, hoping that they would return with it. Accordingly, when the caravan came back, I questioned the pilgrims of them, but they could give me no news of them; so I put on mourning apparel for them, being heavy at heart and sleepless and drowned in the tears of my eyes." Then followed these verses:
Their image is never absent a breathing-while from my breast, I have made it within my bosom the place of the honoured guest, But that I look for their coming, I would not live for an hour, And but that I see them in dreams, I ne'er should lie down to rest.
The letter went on (after the usual salutations to Sherkan and those of his court), "Do not thou therefore neglect to seek news of them, for indeed this is a dishonour to us." When Sherkan read the letter, he mourned for his father, but rejoiced in the loss of his brother and sister. Now Nuzhet ez Zeman knew not that he was her brother nor he that she was his sister, although he paid her frequent visits, both by day and by night, till the months of her pregnancy were accomplished and she sat down on the stool of delivery. God made the delivery easy to her and she gave birth to a daughter, whereupon she sent for Sherkan and said to him, "This is thy daughter: name her as thou wilt." Quoth he, "Folk use to name their children on the seventh day." Then he bent down to kiss the child and saw, hung about her neck, a jewel, which he knew at once for one of those that the princess Abrizeh had brought from the land of the Greeks. At this sight, his senses fled, his eyes rolled and wrath seized on him, and he looked at Nuzhet ez Zeman and said to her, "O damsel, whence hadst thou this jewel?" When she heard this, she replied, "I am thy lady and the lady of all in thy palace. Art thou not ashamed to say to me, 'O damsel'? Indeed, I am a queen, the daughter of a king; and now concealment shall cease and the truth be made known. I am Nuzhet ez Zeman, daughter of King Omar ben Ennuman." When Sherkan heard this, he was seized with trembling and bowed his head towards the earth, whilst his heart throbbed and his colour paled, for he knew that she was his sister by the same father. Then he lost his senses; and when he revived, he abode in amazement, but did not discover himself to her and said to her, "O my lady, art thou indeed the daughter of King Omar ben Ennuman?" "Yes," replied she; and he said, "Tell me how thou camest to leave thy father and be sold for a slave." So she told him all that had befallen her, from first to last, how she had left her brother sick in Jerusalem and how the Bedouin had lured her away and sold her to the merchant. When Sherkan heard this all was certified that she was indeed his sister, he said to himself, "How can I have my sister to wife? By Allah, I must marry her to one of my chamberlains; and if the thing get wind, I will avouch that I divorced her before consummation and married her to my chief chamberlain." Then he raised his head and said, "O Nuzhet ez Zeman, thou art my very sister; for I am Sherkan, son of King Omar ben Ennuman, and may God forgive us the sin into which we have fallen!" She looked at him and seeing that he spoke the truth, became as one bereft of reason and wept and buffeted her face, exclaiming, "There is no power and no virtue but in God! Verily we have fallen into grievous sin! What shall I do and what answer shall I make my father and my mother, when they say to me, 'Whence hadst thou thy daughter'?" Quoth Sherkan, "I purpose to marry thee to my chief chamberlain and let thee bring up my daughter in his house, that none may know thee to be my sister. This that hath befallen us was ordained of God for a purpose of His own, and there is no way to cover ourselves but by thy marriage with the chamberlain, ere any know." Then he fell to comforting her and kissing her head, and she said to him, "What wilt thou call the child?" "Call her Kuzia Fekan," replied he. Then he gave her in marriage to the chief chamberlain, and they reared the child in his house, on the laps of the slave- girls, till, one day, there came to King Sherkan a courier from his father, with a letter to the following purport, "In the name of God, etc. Know, O puissant King, that I am sore afflicted for the loss of my children: sleep fails me and wakefulness is ever present with me. I send thee this letter that thou mayst make ready the tribute of Syria and send it to us, together with the damsel whom thou hast bought and taken to wife; for I long to see her and hear her discourse; because there has come to us from the land of the Greeks a devout old woman, with five damsels, high-bosomed maids, endowed with knowledge and accomplishments and all fashions of learning that befit mortals; and indeed the tongue fails to describe this old woman and her companions. As soon as I saw the damsels, I loved them and wished to have them in my palace and at my commandment, for none of the kings possesses the like of them; so I asked the old woman their price, and she replied, 'I will not sell them but for the tribute of Damascus.' And by Allah, this is but little for them, for each one of them is worth the whole price. So I agreed to this and took them into my palace, and they remain in my possession. Wherefore do thou expedite the tribute to us, that the old woman may return to her own country; and send us the damsel, that she may strive with them before the doctors; and if she overcome them, I will send her back to thee with the year's revenue of Baghdad." When Sherkan read this letter, he went in to his brother-in-law and said to him, "Call the damsel to whom I married thee." So she came, and he showed her the letter and said to her, "O my sister, what answer wouldst thou have me make to this letter?" "It is for thee to judge," replied she. Then she recalled her people and her native land and yearned after them; so she said to him, "Send me and my husband the Chamberlain to Baghdad, that I may tell my father how the Bedouin seized me and sold me to the merchant, and how thou boughtest me of him and gavest me in marriage to the Chamberlain, after setting me free." "Be it so," replied Sherkan. Then he made ready the tribute in haste and gave it to the Chamberlain, bidding him make ready for Baghdad, and furnished him with camels and mules and two travelling litters, one for himself and the other for the princess. Moreover, he wrote a letter to his father and committed it to the Chamberlain. Then he took leave of his sister, after he had taken the jewel from her and hung it round his daughter's neck by a chain of fine gold; and she and her husband set out for Baghdad the same night. Now their caravan was the very one to which Zoulmekan and his friend the stoker had joined themselves, as before related, having waited till the Chamberlain passed them, riding on a dromedary, with his footmen around him. Then Zoulmekan mounted the stoker's ass and said to the latter, "Do thou mount with me." But he said, "Not so: I will be thy servant." Quoth Zoulmekan, "Needs must thou ride awhile." "It is well," replied the stoker; "I will ride when I grow tired." Then said Zoulmekan, "O my brother, thou shalt see how I will do with thee, when I come to my own people." So they journeyed on till the sun rose, and when it was the hour of the noonday rest, the Chamberlain called a halt, and they alighted and rested and watered their camels. Then he gave the signal for departure and they journeyed for five days, till they came to the city of Hemah, where they made a three days' halt; then set out again and fared on, till they reached the province of Diarbekir. Here there blew on them the breezes of Baghdad, and Zoulmekan bethought him of his father and mother and his native land and how he was returning to his father without his sister: so he wept and sighed and complained, and his regrets increased on him, and he repeated the following verses:
How long wilt thou delay from me, beloved one? I wait: And yet there comes no messenger with tidings of thy fate. Alack, the time of love-delight and peace was brief indeed! Ah, that the days of parting thus would of their length abate! Take thou my hand and put aside my mantle and thou'lt find My body wasted sore; and yet I hide my sad estate. And if thou bid me be consoled for thee, "By God," I say, "I'll ne'er forget thee till the Day that calls up small and great!"
"Leave this weeping and lamenting," said the stoker, "for we are near the Chamberlain's tent." Quoth Zoulmekan, "Needs must I recite somewhat of verse, so haply it may allay the fire of my heart." "God on thee," cried the stoker, "leave this lamentation, till thou come to thine own country; then do what thou wilt, and I will be with thee, wherever thou art." "By Allah," replied Zoulmekan, "I cannot forbear from this!" Then he set his face towards Baghdad and began to repeat verses. Now the moon was shining brightly and shedding her light on the place, and Nuzhet ez Zeman could not sleep that night, but was wakeful and called to mind her brother and wept. Presently, she heard Zoulmekan weeping and repeating the following verses:
The southern lightning gleams in the air And rouses in me the old despair, The grief for a dear one, loved and lost, Who filled me the cup of joy whilere. It minds me of her who fled away And left me friendless and sick and bare. O soft-shining lightnings, tell me true, Are the days of happiness past fore'er? Chide not, O blamer of me, for God Hath cursed me with two things hard to bear, A friend who left me to pine alone, And a fortune whose smile was but a snare. The sweet of my life was gone for aye, When fortune against me did declare; She brimmed me a cup of grief unmixed, And I must drink it and never spare. Or ever our meeting 'tide, sweetheart, Methinks I shall die of sheer despair, I prithee, fortune, bring back the days When we were a happy childish pair; The days, when we from the shafts of fate, That since have pierced us, in safety were! Ah, who shall succour the exiled wretch, Who passes the night in dread and care, And the day in mourning for her whose name, Delight of the Age, bespoke her fair? The hands of the baseborn sons of shame Have doomed us the wede of woe to wear.
Then he cried out and fell down in a swoon, and when Nuzhet ez Zeman heard his voice in the night, her heart was solaced and she rose and called the chief eunuch, who said to her, "What is thy will?" Quoth she, "Go and fetch me him who recited verses but now." "I did not hear him," replied he; "the people are all asleep." And she said, "Whomsoever thou findest awake, he is the man." So he went out and sought, but found none awake but the stoker; for Zoulmekan was still insensible, and, Nuzhet ez Zeman, going up to the former, said to him, "Art thou he who recited verses but now, and my lady heard him?" The stoker concluded that the lady was wroth and was afraid and replied, "By Allah, 'twas not I!" "Who then was it?" rejoined the eunuch. "Point him out to me. Thou must know who it was, seeing that thou art awake." The stoker feared for Zoulmekan and said in himself, "Maybe the eunuch will do him some hurt." So he answered, "I know not who it was." "By Allah," said the eunuch, "thou liest, for there is none awake here but thou! So needs must thou know him." "By Allah," replied the stoker, "I tell thee the truth! It must have been some passer-by who recited the verses and disturbed me and aroused me, may God requite him!" Quoth the eunuch, "If thou happen upon him, point him out to me and I will lay hands on him and bring him to the door of my lady's litter; or do thou take him with thine own hand." "Go back," said the stoker, "and I will bring him to thee." So the eunuch went back to his mistress and said to her, "None knows who it was; it must have been some passer-by." And she was silent. Meanwhile, Zoulmekan came to himself and saw that the moon had reached the zenith and felt the breath of the breeze that goes before the dawn; whereupon his heart was moved to longing and sadness, and he cleared his throat and was about to recite verses, when the stoker said to him, "What wilt thou do?" "I have a mind to repeat somewhat of verse," answered Zoulmekan, "that I may allay therewith the fire of my heart." Quoth the other, "Thou knowest not what befell me, whilst thou wert aswoon, and how I only escaped death by beguiling the eunuch." "Tell me what happened," said Zoulrnekan. "Whilst thou wert aswoon," replied the stoker, "there came up to me but now an eunuch, with a long staff of almond-tree wood in his hand, who looked in all the people's faces, as they lay asleep, and finding none awake but myself, asked me who it was recited the verses. I told him it was some passer-by; so he went away and God delivered me from him; else had he killed me. But first he said to me, 'If thou hear him again, bring him to us.'" When Zoulmekan heard this, he wept and said, "Who is it would forbid me to recite? I will surely do so, come what may; for I am near my own country and care for no one." "Dost thou wish to destroy thyself?" asked the stoker; and Zoulmekan answered, "I cannot help reciting verses." "Verily," said the stoker, "I see this will bring about a parting between us here though I had promised myself not to leave thee, till I had brought thee to thy native city and re-united thee with thy mother and father. Thou hast now been with me a year and a half, and I have never baulked thee or harmed thee in aught. What ails thee then, that thou must needs recite, seeing that we are exceeding weary with travel and watching and all the folk are asleep, for they need sleep to rest them of their fatigue." But Zoulmekan answered, "I will not be turned from my purpose." Then grief moved him and he threw off disguise and began to repeat the following verses:
Halt by the camp and hail the ruined steads by the brake, And call on her name aloud; mayhap she will answer make. And if for her absence the night of sadness darken on thee, Light in its gloom a fire with longings for her sake. Though the snake of the sand-hills hiss, small matter is it to me If it sting me, so I the fair with the lips of crimson take. O Paradise, left perforce of the spirit, but that I hope For ease in the mansions of bliss, my heart would surely break!
And these also:
Time was when fortune was to us even as a servant is, And in the loveliest of lands our happy lives did kiss. Ah, who shall give me back the abode of my belov'd, wherein The Age's Joy and Place's Light erst dwelt in peace and bliss?
Then he cried out three times and fell down senseless, and the stoker rose and covered him. When Nuzhet ez Zeman heard the first verses, she called to mind her mother and father and brother; and when she heard the second, mentioning the names of herself and her brother and their sometime home, she wept and calling the eunuch, said to him, "Out on thee! But now I heard him who recited the first time do so again, and that hard by. So, by Allah, an thou fetch him not to me, I will rouse the Chamberlain on thee, and he shall beat thee and turn thee away. But take these hundred dinars and give them to him and do him no hurt, but bring him to me gently. If he refuse, give him this purse of a thousand dinars and leave him and return to me and tell me, after thou hast informed thyself of his place and condition and what countryman he is. Return quickly and do not linger, and beware lest thou come back and say, 'I could not find him.'" So the eunuch went out and fell to examining the people and treading amongst them, but found none awake, for the folk were all asleep for weariness, till he came to the stoker and saw him sitting up, with his head uncovered. So he drew near him and seizing him by the hand, said to him, "It was thou didst recite the verses!" The stoker was affrighted and replied, "No, by Allah, O chief of the people, it was not I!" But the eunuch said, "I will not leave thee till thou show me who it was; for I fear to return to my lady without him." Thereupon the stoker feared for Zoulmekan and wept sore and said to the eunuch, "By Allah, it was not I, nor do I know who it was. I only heard some passer-by recite verses: so do not thou commit sin on me, for I am a stranger and come from Jerusalem, and Abraham the Friend of God be with thee!" "Come thou with me," rejoined the eunuch, "and tell my lady this with thine own mouth, for I see none awake but thee." Quoth the stoker, "Hast thou not seen me sitting here and dost thou not know my station? Thou knowest none can stir from his place, except the guards seize him. So go thou to thy mistress and if thou hear any one reciting again, whether it be near or far, it will be I or some one whom I shall know, and thou shalt not know of him but by me." Then he kissed the eunuch's head and spoke him fair, till he went away; but he made a circuit and returning secretly, came and hid himself behind the stoker, fearing to go back to his mistress empty-handed. As soon as he was gone, the stoker aroused Zoulmekan and said to him, "Awake and sit up, that I may tell thee what has happened." So Zoulmekan sat up, and the stoker told him what had passed, and he answered, "Let me alone; I will take no heed of this and I care for none, for I am near my own country." Quoth the stoker, "Why wilt thou obey thine own inclinations and the promptings of the devil? If thou fearest no one, I fear for thee and myself; so God on thee, recite no more verses, till thou come to thine own country! Indeed, I had not thought thee so self-willed. Dost thou not know that this lady is the wife of the Chamberlain and is minded to chide thee for disturbing her. Belike, she is ill or restless for fatigue, and this is the second time she hath sent the eunuch to look for thee." However, Zoulmekan paid no heed to him, but cried out a third time and repeated the following verses:
The carping tribe I needs must flee; Their railing chafes my misery. They blame and chide at me nor know They do but fan the flame in me. "She is consoled," they say. And I, "Can one consoled for country be?" Quoth they, "How beautiful she is!" And I, "How dear-belov'd is she!" "How high her rank!" say they; and I, "How base is my humility!" Now God forfend I leave to love, Deep though I drink of agony! Nor will I heed the railing race, Who carp at me for loving thee.
Hardly had he made an end of these verses when the eunuch, who had heard him from his hiding, came up to him; whereupon the stoker fled and stood afar off, to see what passed between them. Then said the eunuch to Zoulmekan, "Peace be on thee, O my lord!" "And on thee be peace," replied Zoulmekan, "and the mercy of God and His blessing!" "O my lord," continued the eunuch, "this is the third time I have sought thee this night, for my mistress bids thee to her." Quoth Zoulmekan, "Whence comes this bitch that seeks for me? May God curse her and her husband too!" And he began to revile the eunuch, who could make him no answer, because his mistress had charged him to do Zoulmekan no violence nor bring him, save of his free will, and if he would not come, to give him the thousand dinars. So he began to speak him fair and say to him, "O my lord, take this (purse) and go with me. We will do thee no unright nor wrong thee in aught; but we would have thee bend thy gracious steps with me to my mistress, to speak with her and return in peace and safety; and thou shalt have a handsome present." When Zoulmekan heard this, he arose and went with the eunuch, stepping over the sleeping folk, whilst the stoker followed them at a distance, saying to himself, "Alas, the pity of his youth! To-morrow they will hang him. How base it will be of him, if he say it was I who bade him recite the verses!" And he drew near to them and stood, watching them, without their knowledge, till they came to Nuzhet ez Zeman's tent, when the eunuch went in to her and said, "O my lady, I have brought thee him whom thou soughtest, and he is a youth, fair of face and bearing the marks of gentle breeding." When she heard this, her heart fluttered and she said, "Let him recite some verses, that I may hear him near at hand, and after ask him his name and extraction." So the eunuch went out to Zoulmekan and said to him, "Recite what verses thou knowest, for my lady is here hard by, listening to thee, and after I will ask thee of thy name and extraction and condition." "Willingly," replied he; "but as for my name, it is blotted out and my trace among men is passed away and my body wasted. I have a story, the beginning of which is not known nor can the end of it be described, and behold, I am even as one who hath exceeded in drinking wine, till he hath lost the mastery of himself and is afflicted with distempers and wanders from his right mind, being perplexed about his case and drowned in the sea of melancholy." When Nuzhet ez Zeman heard this, she broke out into loud weeping and sobbing and said to the eunuch, "Ask him if he have lost a beloved one, such as his father or mother." The eunuch did as she bade him, and Zoulmekan replied, "Yes, I have lost all whom I loved: but the dearest of all to me was my sister, from whom Fate hath parted me." When Nuzhet ez Zeman heard this, she exclaimed, "May God the Most High reunite him with those he loves!" Then said she to the eunuch, "Tell him to let me hear somewhat on the subject of his separation from his people and his country." The eunuch did so, and Zoulmekan sighed heavily and repeated the following verses:
Ah, would that I knew they were ware Of the worth of the heart they have won! Would I knew through what passes they fare, From what quarter they look on the sun! Are they living, I wonder, or dead? Can it be that their life's race is run? Ah, the lover is ever distraught And his life for misgivings undone!
And also these:
I vow, if e'er the place shall bless my longing sight, Wherein my sister dwells, the age's dear delight, I'll take my fill of life and all the sweets of peace, Midst trees and flowing streams: and maidens fair and bright The lute's enchanting tones shall soothe me to repose, What while I quaff full cups of wine like living light And honeyed dews of love suck from the deep-red lips Of lovelings sleepy-eyed, with tresses black as night.
When he had finished, Nuzhet ez Zeman lifted up a corner of the curtain of the litter and looked at him. As soon as her eyes fell on him, she knew him for certain and cried out, "O my brother! O Zoulmekan!" He looked at her and knew her and cried out, "O my sister! O Nuzhet ez Zeman!" Then she threw herself upon him, and he received her in his arms, and they both fell down in a swoon. When the eunuch saw this, he wondered and throwing over them somewhat to cover them, waited till they should recover. After awhile, they came to themselves, and Nuzhet ez Zeman rejoiced exceedingly. Grief and anxiety left her and joys flocked upon her and she repeated the following verses:
Fate swore 'twould never cease to plague my life and make me rue. Thou hast not kept thine oath, O Fate; so look thou penance do. Gladness is come and my belov'd is here to succour me; So rise unto the summoner of joys, and quickly too. I had no faith in Paradise of olden time, until I won the nectar of its streams from lips of damask hue.
When Zoulmekan heard this, he pressed his sister to his breast, whilst, for the excess of his joy, the tears streamed from his eyes and he repeated the following verses:
Long time have I bewailed the severance of our loves, With tears that from my lids streamed down like burning rain, And vowed that, if the days should reunite us two, My lips should never speak of severance again. Joy hath o'erwhelmed me so, that, for the very stress Of that which gladdens me, to weeping I am fain. Tears are become to you a habit, O my eyes, So that ye weep alike for gladness and for pain.
They sat awhile at the door of the litter, conversing, till she said to him, "Come with me into the litter and tell me all that has befallen thee, and I will do the like." So they entered and Zoulmekan said, "Do thou begin." Accordingly, she told him all that had happened to her since their separation and said, "Praised be God who hath vouchsafed thee to me and ordained that, even as we left our father together, so we shall return to him together! Now tell me how it has fared with thee since I left thee." So he told her all that had befallen him and how God had sent the stoker to him, and how he had journeyed with him and spent his money on him and tended him night and day. She praised the stoker for this, and Zoulmekan added, "Indeed, O my sister, the man hath dealt with me in such benevolent wise as would not a lover with his mistress or a father with his son, for that he fasted and gave me to eat, and went afoot, whilst he made me ride; and I owe my life to him." "God willing," said she, "we will requite him for all this, according to our power." Then she called the eunuch, who came and kissed Zoulmekan's hand, and she said, "Take thy reward for glad tidings, O face of good omen! It was thy hand reunited me with my brother; so the purse I gave thee and its contents are thine. But now go to thy master and bring him quickly to me." The eunuch rejoiced and going to the Chamberlain, summoned him to his mistress. Accordingly, he came in to his wife and finding Zoulmekan with her, asked who he was. So she told him all that had befallen them, first and last, and added, "Know, O Chamberlain, that thou hast gotten no slave-girl to wife: but the daughter of King Omar ben Ennuman: for I am Nuzhet ez Zeman, and this is my brother Zoulmekan." When the Chamberlain heard her story, he knew it for the manifest truth and was certified that he was become King Omar ben Ennuman's son-in-law and said to himself, "I shall surely be made governor of some province." Then he went up to Zoulmekan and gave him joy of his safety and re-union with his sister, and bade his servants forthwith make him ready a tent and one of the best of his own horses to ride. Then said Nuzhet ez Zeman, "We are now near my country and I would fain be alone with my brother, that we may enjoy one another's company and take our fill of each other, before we reach Baghdad; for we have been long parted." "Be it as thou wilt," replied the Chamberlain and going forth, sent them wax candles and various kinds of sweetmeats, together with three costly suits of clothes for Zoulmekan. Then he returned to the litter, and Nuzhet ez Zeman said to him, "Bid the eunuch find the stoker and give him a horse to ride and provide him a tray of food morning and evening, and let him be forbidden to leave us." The Chamberlain called the eunuch and charged him accordingly; so he took his pages with him and went out in search of the stoker, whom he found at the tail of the caravan, saddling his ass and preparing for flight. The tears were running down his cheeks, out of fear for himself and grief for his separation from Zoulmekan, and he was saying to himself, "Indeed, I warned him for the love of God, but he would not listen to me. O that I knew what is become of him!" Before he had done speaking, the eunuch came up and stood behind him, whilst the pages surrounded him. The stoker turned and seeing the eunuch and the pages round him, changed colour and trembled in every nerve for affright, exclaiming, "Verily, he knows not the value of the good offices I have done him! I believe he has denounced me to the eunuch and made me an accomplice in his offence." Then the eunuch cried out at him, saying, "Who was it recited the verses? Liar that thou art, why didst thou tell me that thou knewest not who it was, when it was thy companion? But now I will not leave thee till we come to Baghdad, and what betides thy comrade shall betide thee." Quoth the stoker, "Verily, what I feared has fallen on me." And he repeated the following verse:
'Tis e'en as I feared it would be: We are God's and to Him return we.
Then said the eunuch to the pages, "Take him off the ass." So they took him off the ass and setting him on a horse, carried him along with the caravan, surrounded by the pages, to whom said the eunuch, "If a hair of him be missing, it shall be the worse for you." But he bade them privily treat him with consideration and not humiliate him. When the stoker saw himself in this case, he gave himself up for lost and turning to the eunuch, said to him, "O chief, I am neither this youth's brother nor anywise akin to him; but I was a stoker in a bath and found him lying asleep on the fuel-heap." Then the caravan fared on and the stoker wept and imagined a thousand things in himself, whilst the eunuch walked by his side and told him nothing, but said to him, "You disturbed our mistress by reciting verses, thou and the lad: but have no fear for thyself." This he said, laughing at him the while in himself. When the caravan halted, they brought them food, and he and the eunuch ate from one dish. Then the eunuch let bring a gugglet of sherbet of sugar and after drinking himself, gave it to the stoker, who drank; but all the while his tears ceased not flowing, out of fear for himself and grief for his separation from Zoulmekan and for what had befallen them in their strangerhood. So they travelled on with the caravan, whilst the Chamberlain now rode by the door of his wife's litter, in attendance on Zoulmekan and the princess, and now gave an eye to the stoker, and Nuzhet ez Zeman and her brother occupied themselves with converse and mutual condolence; and so they did till they came within three days' journey of Baghdad. Here they alighted at eventide and rested till the morning, when they woke and were about to load the beasts, when behold, there appeared afar off a great cloud of dust, that obscured the air, till it became as dark as night. Thereupon the Chamberlain cried out to them to stay their preparations for departure, and mounting with his officers rode forward in the direction of the dust-cloud. When they drew near it, they perceived under it a numerous army, like the full flowing sea, with drums and flags and standards and horsemen and footmen. The Chamberlain marvelled at this: and when the troops saw him, there came forth from amongst them a troop of five hundred horse, who fell upon him and his suite and surrounded them, five for one; whereupon said he to them, "What is the matter and what are these troops, that ye use us thus?" "Who art thou?" asked they. "Whence comest thou and whither art thou bound?" And he answered, "I am the Chamberlain of the Viceroy of Damascus, King Sherkan, son of King Omar ben Ennuman, lord of Baghdad and of the land of Khorassan, and I bring tribute and presents from him to his father in Baghdad." When the horsemen heard speak of King Omar, they let their kerchiefs fall over their faces and wept, saying, "Alas! King Omar is dead, and he died poisoned. But fare ye on, no harm shall befall you, and join his Grand Vizier Dendan." When the Chamberlain heard this, he wept sore and exclaimed, "Alas, our disappointment in this our journey!" Then he and his suite rode on, weeping, till they reached the main body of the army and sought access to the Vizier Dendan, who called a halt and causing his pavilion to be pitched, sat down on a couch therein and commanded to admit the Chamberlain. Then he bade him be seated and questioned him; and he replied that he was the Viceroy's Chamberlain of Damascus and was bound to King Omar with presents and the tribute of Syria. The Vizier wept at the mention of King Omar's name and said, "King Omar is dead by poison, and the folk fell out amongst themselves as to whom they should make king after him, so that they were like to come to blows on this account; but the notables and grandees interposed and restored peace, and the people agreed to refer the matter to the decision of the four Cadis, who adjudged that we should go to Damascus and fetch thence the late king's son Sherkan and make him king over his father's realm. Some of them would have chosen his second son Zoulmekan, were it not that he and his sister Nuzhet ez Zeman set out five years ago for Mecca, and none knows what is become of them." When the Chamberlain heard this, he knew that his wife had told him the truth and grieved sore for the death of King Omar, what while he was greatly rejoiced, especially at the arrival of Zoulmekan, for that he would now become King of Baghdad in his father's room. So he turned to the Vizier and said to him, "Verily, your affair is a wonder of wonders! Know, O chief Vizier, that here, where you have encountered me, God giveth you rest from fatigue and bringeth you that you desire after the easiest of fashions, in that He restoreth to you Zoulmekan and his sister Nuzhet ez Zeman, whereby the matter is settled and made easy." When the Vizier heard this, he rejoiced greatly and said, "O Chamberlain, tell me their story and the reason of their having been so long absent." So he repeated to him the whole story and told him that Nuzhet ez Zeman was his wife. As soon as he had made an end of his tale, the Vizier sent for the amirs and viziers and grandees and acquainted them with the matter; whereat they rejoiced greatly and wondered at the happy chance. Then they went in to the Chamberlain and did their service to him, kissing the earth before him; and the Vizier Dendan also rose and stood before him, in token of respect. After this the Chamberlain held a great council, and he and the Vizier sat upon a throne, whilst all the amirs and officers of state took their places before them, according to their several ranks. Then they dissolved sugar in rose-water and drank, after which the amirs sat down to hold council and bade the rest mount and ride forward leisurely, till they should make an end of their deliberations and overtake them. So the officers kissed the earth before them and mounting, rode onward, preceded by the standards of war. When the amirs had finished their conference, they mounted and rejoined the troops; and the Chamberlain said to the Vizier Dendan, "I think it well to ride on before you, that I may notify Zoulmekan of your coming and choice of him as Sultan over the head of his brother Sherkan, and that I may make him ready a place befitting his dignity." "It is well thought," answered the Vizier. Then the Chamberlain rose and Dendan also rose, to do him honour, and brought him presents, which he conjured him to accept. On like wise did all the amirs and officers of state, calling down blessings on him and saying to him, "Mayhap thou will make mention of our case to King Zoulmekan and speak to him to continue us in our dignities." The Chamberlain promised what they asked and the Vizier Dendan sent with him tents and bade the tent-pitchers set them up at a days journey from the city. Then the Chamberlain mounted and rode forward, full of joy and saying in himself, "How blessed is this journey!" And indeed his wife was exalted in his eyes, she and her brother Zoulmekan. They made all haste, till they reached a place distant a day's journey from Baghdad, where he called a halt and bade his men alight and make ready a sitting place for the Sultan Zoulmekan, whilst he rode forward with his pages and alighting at a distance from Nuzhet ez Zeman's litter, commanded the eunuchs to ask the princess's leave to admit him. They did so and she gave leave; whereupon he went in to her and her brother and told them of the death of their father, King Omar ben Ennuman, and how the heads of the people had made Zoulmekan king over them in his stead; and he gave them joy of the kingdom. When they heard this, they both wept for their father and asked the manner of his death. "The news rests with the Vizier Dendan," replied the Chamberlain, "who will be here to-morrow with all the troops; and it only remains for thee, O prince, to do what they counsel, since they have chosen thee King; for if thou do not this, they will crown another, and thou canst not be sure of thyself with another king. Haply he will kill thee, or discord may befall between you and the kingdom pass out of your hands." Zoulmekan bowed his head awhile, then raised it and said, "I accept;" for indeed he saw that the Chamberlain had counselled him rightly and that there was no refusing; "but, O uncle, how shall I do with my brother Sherkan?" "O my son," replied the Chamberlain, "thy brother will be Sultan of Damascus, and thou Sultan of Baghdad; so gird up thy resolution and prepare to do what befits thy case." Then he presented him with a suit of royal raiment and a dagger of state, that the Vizier Dendan had brought with him, and leaving him, returned to the tent-pitchers and bade them choose out a spot of rising ground and pitch thereon a spacious and splendid pavilion, wherein the Sultan might sit to receive the amirs and grandees. Then he ordered the cooks to make ready rich food and serve it up and the water-carriers to set up the water-troughs. They did as he bade them and presently there arose a cloud of dust and spread till it obscured the horizon. After awhile, the breeze dispersed it, and there appeared under it the army of Baghdad and Khorassan, led by the Vizier Dendan, all rejoicing in the accession of Zoulmekan. Now Zoulmekan had donned the royal robes and girt himself with the sword of state: so the Chamberlain brought him a steed and he mounted, surrounded by the rest of the company on foot, and rode between the tents, till he came to the royal pavilion, where he entered and sat down, with the royal dagger across his thighs, whilst the Chamberlain stood in attendance on him and his servants stationed themselves in the vestibule of the pavilion, with drawn swords in their hands. Presently, up came the troops and sought admission to the King's presence; so the Chamberlain went in to Zoulmekan and asked his leave, whereupon he bade admit them, ten by ten. Accordingly, the Chamberlain went out to them and acquainted them with the King's orders, to which they replied, "We hear and obey." Then he took ten of them and carried them, through the vestibule, into the presence of the Sultan, whom when they saw, they were awed; but he received them with the utmost kindness and promised them all good. So they gave him joy of his safe return and invoked God's blessing upon him, after which they took the oath of fealty to him, and kissing the earth before him, withdrew. Then other ten entered and he received them in the same manner; and they ceased not to enter, ten by ten, till none was left but the Vizier Dendan. So he went in and kissed the earth before Zoulmekan, who rose to meet him, saying, "Welcome, O noble Vizier and father! Verily, thine acts are those of a precious counsellor, and judgment and foresight are in the hands of the Subtle, the All Wise." Then he commanded the Chamberlain to go out and cause the tables to be spread at once and bid the troops thereto. So they came and ate and drank. Moreover, he bade Dendan call a ten days' halt of the army, that he might be private with him and learn from him the manner of his father's death. Accordingly, the Vizier went forth and transmitted the King's wishes to the troops, who received his commands with submission and wished him eternity of glory. Moreover, he gave them leave to divert themselves and ordered that none of the lords in waiting should go in to the King for his service for the space of three days. Then Zoulmekan waited till nightfall, when he went in to his sister Nuzhet ez Zeman and said to her, "Dost thou know the fashion of my father's death or not?" "I have no knowledge of it," replied she, and drew a silken curtain before herself, whilst Zoulmekan seated himself without the curtain and sending for the Vizier, bade him relate to him in detail the manner of King Omar's death. "Know then, O King," replied Dendan, "that King Omar ben Ennuman, when he returned to Baghdad from his hunting excursion, enquired for thee and thy sister, but could not find you and knew that you had gone on the pilgrimage, whereat he was greatly concerned and angered, and his breast was contracted. He abode thus a whole year, seeking news of you from all who came and went, but none could give him any tidings of you. At the end of this time, as we were one day in attendance upon him, there came to us an old woman, as she were a devotee, accompanied by five damsels, high-bosomed maids, like moons, endowed with such beauty and grace as the tongue fails to describe; and to crown their perfections, they knew the Koran by heart and were versed in various kinds of learning and in the histories of bygone peoples. The old woman sought an audience of the King, and he bade admit her; whereupon she entered and kissed the ground before him. Now I was then sitting by his side, and he, seeing in her the signs of devoutness and asceticism, made her draw near and sit down by him. So she sat down and said to him, 'Know, O King, that with me are five damsels, whose like no king possesses, for they are endowed with beauty and grace and wit. They know the Koran and the traditions and are skilled in all manner of learning and in the history of bygone peoples. They are here before thee, at thy disposal; for it is by proof that folk are prized or disdained.' Thy late father looked at the damsels and their favour pleased him; so he said to them, 'Let each of you tell me something of what she knows of the history of bygone folk and peoples of times past.' Thereupon one of them came forward and kissing the earth before him, spoke as follows, 'Know, O King, that it behoves the man of good breeding to eschew impertinence and adorn himself with excellencies, observing the Divine precepts and shunning mortal sins; and to this he should apply himself with the assiduity of one who, if he stray therefrom, is lost; for the foundation of good breeding is virtuous behaviour. Know that the chief reason of existence is the endeavour after life everlasting and the right way thereto is the service of God: so it behoves thee to deal righteously with the people; and swerve not from this rubrick, for the mightier folk are in dignity, the more need they have of prudence and foresight; and indeed kings need this more than common folk, for the general cast themselves into affairs, without taking thought to the issue of them. Be thou prodigal both of thyself and thy treasure in the way of God and know that, if an enemy dispute with thee, thou mayst litigate with him and refute him with proof and ward thyself against him; but as for thy friend, there is none can judge between thee and him but righteousness and fair-dealing. Wherefore, choose thy friend for thyself, after thou hast proved him. If he be a man of religion, let him be zealous in observing the external letter of the Law and versed in its inner meaning, as far as may be: and if he be a man of the world, let him be free-born, sincere, neither ignorant nor perverse, for the ignorant man is such that even his parents might well flee from him, and a liar cannot be a true friend, for the word "friend" is derived from "truth," that emanates from the bottom of the heart; and how can this be the case, when falsehood is manifest upon the tongue? Know, therefore, that the observance of the Law profits him who practices it: so love thy brother, if he be after this fashion, and do not cast him off, even if thou see in him that which thou mislikest; for a friend is not like a wife whom one can divorce and take again; but his heart is like glass; once broken, it cannot be mended. And God bless him who says:
Be careful not to hurt men's hearts nor work them aught of dole, For hard it is to bring again a once estranged soul; And hearts, indeed, whose loves in twain by discord have been rent Are like a broken glass, whose breach may never be made whole.
The wise say (continued she), "The best of friends is he who is the most assiduous in good counsel, the best of actions is that which is fairest in its result, and the best of praise is (not) that which is in the mouths of men." It is said also, "It behoves not the believer to neglect to thank God, especially for two favours, health and reason." Again, "He who honoureth himself, his lust is a light matter to him, and he who makes much of small troubles, God afflicts him with great ones: he who obeys his own inclination neglects his duties and he who listens to the slanderer loses the true friend. He who thinks well of thee, do thou fulfil his thought of thee. He who exceeds in contention sins, and he who does not beware of upright is not safe from the sword."
Now will I tell thee somewhat of the duties of judges. Know, O King, that no judgment serves the cause of justice except it be given after deliberation, and it behoves the judge to treat all people alike, to the intent that the rich and noble may not be encouraged to oppression nor the poor and weak despair of justice. He should extract proof from him who complains and impose an oath upon him who denies; and compromise is lawful between Muslims, except it be a compromise sanctioning an unlawful or forbidding a lawful thing. If he have done aught during the day, of which he is doubtful, the judge should reconsider it and apply his discernment to elucidating it, that (if he have erred) he may revert to the right, for to do justice is a religious obligation and to return to that which is right is better than perseverance in error. Then he should study the precedents and the law of the case and do equal justice between the suitors, fixing his eye upon the truth and committing his affair to God, to whom belong might and majesty. Let him require proof of the complainant, and if he adduce it, let him put the defendant to his oath; for this is the ordinance of God. He should receive the testimony of competent Muslim witnesses, one against another, for God the Most High hath commanded judges to judge by externals, He Himself taking charge of the secret things. It behoves the judge also to avoid giving judgment, whilst suffering from stress of pain or hunger, and that in his decisions between the folk he seek to please God, for he whose intent is pure and who is at peace with his conscience, God shall guarantee him against what is between him and the people. Quoth Ez Zuhri, "There are three things, which if they be found in a Cadi, he should be deposed; namely, if he honour the base, love praise and fear dismissal." It is related that Omar ben Abdulaziz once deposed a Cadi, who asked him why he had done so. "It has come to my knowledge," replied Omar, "that thy speech is greater than thy condition." It is said also that Iskender said to his Cadi, "I have invested thee with this function and committed to thee in it my soul and my honour and manhood; so do thou guard it with thy soul and thine understanding." To his cook he said, "Thou art the governor of my body; so look thou tender it." To his secretary he said, "Thou art the controller of my wit: so do thou watch over me in what thou writest for me."'
With this the first damsel retired and a second one came forward and kissing the earth seven times before the King thy father, spoke as follows: 'The sage Lucman said to his son, "There are three men whom thou shalt not know, but in three several cases; thou shalt not know the merciful man but in time of anger, nor the brave man but in time of war nor thy friend but when thou hast need of him." It is said that the oppressor shall repent, though the people praise him, and that the oppressed is safe, though the people blame him. Quoth God the Most High, " Think not that those who rejoice in their deeds and love to be praised for that which they have not done, shall escape punishment; indeed there is reserved for them a grievous punishment." Quoth Mohammed (on whom be peace and salvation), "Works are according to intentions, and to each man is attributed that which he intends." He saith also, "There is a part of the human body, which being whole, all the rest is whole, and which being corrupt, the whole body is corrupt; it is the heart. And indeed the heart is the most marvellous part of man, since it is that which ordereth his whole affair; if covetise stir in it, desire destroys him, and if affliction master it, anguish slays him: if anger rage in it, danger is sore upon him, and if it be blest with contentment, he is safe from discontent; if fear overtake it, he is filled with mourning, and if calamity smite it, affliction betideth him. If a man gain wealth, his heart is peradventure diverted thereby from the remembrance of his Lord, and if poverty afflict him, his heart is distracted by care, or if disquietude waste his heart, weakness reduces him to impotence. So, in any case, there is nothing will profit him but that he be mindful of God and occupy himself with gaining his living and securing his place in Paradise." It was asked of a certain wise man, "Who is the most ill-conditioned of men?" "He," replied the sage, "whose lusts master his manhood and whose mind exceeds in the pursuit of objects of high emprise, so that his knowledge increases and his excuse diminishes; and how excellent is what the poet says:
The freest of all men from need of the arrogant meddler am I, The fool who's unguided of God and judges the folk all awry; For wealth and good gifts are a loan and each man at last shall be clad As it were in a mantle, with that which hid in his bosom doth lie. If thou enter on aught by a door that is other than right, thou wilt err; But the right door will dead thee aright, for sure, if thou enter there by."
As for anecdotes of devotees (continued the maiden), quoth Hisham ben Besher, "I said to Omar ben Ubeid, 'What is true devoutness?' and he answered, 'The Prophet (whom God bless and preserve) hath expounded it, when he says, "The devout is he who takes thought to death and calamity and prefers that which is eternal to that which passes away, who counts not the morrow as of his days, but reckons himself among the dead."'" And it is related that Abou Dherr used to say, "Poverty is dearer to me than riches and sickness than health." Quoth one of the listeners, "May God have mercy on Abou Dherr! For my part, I say, 'He who puts his trust in the goodness of the election of God the Most High should be content with that condition of which the Almighty hath made choice for him.'" Quoth one of the Companions (of the Prophet), "Ibn Ali Aqfa prayed with us the morning-prayer one day. When he had done, he read the seventy-fourth chapter (of the Koran), beginning, 'O thou that coverest thyself!' till he came to where God says, 'When the trumpet is blown,' and fell down dead." It is said that Thabit el Benani wept till he well nigh lost his eyes. They brought him a man to tend him, who said to him, "I will cure thee, provided thou do my bidding." "In what respect?" asked Thabit. "In that thou leave weeping," replied the physician. "What is the use of my eyes," rejoined Thabit, "if they do not weep?" Said a man to Mohammed ibn Abdallah, "Exhort me." "I exhort thee," replied he, "to be an abstinent possessor in this world and a greedy slave in the next." "How so?" asked the other; and Mohammed said, "The abstinent man in this world possesses both this world and the world to come." Quoth Ghauth ben Abdallah, "There were two brothers among the people of Israel, one of whom said to the other, 'What is the worst thing thou hast done?' 'One day,' answered the other, 'I came upon a nest of young birds; so I took out one and threw it back into the nest; but the others drew apart from it. This is the worst thing I ever did; so now tell me what is the worst thing thou hast ever done.' 'When I betake myself to prayer,' rejoined the first, 'I am fearful to have done so only for the sake of the reward. This is the worst thing I have done.' Now their father heard what they said and exclaimed, 'O my God, if they speak the truth, take them to Thyself!' Quoth one of the wise men, 'Verily these were of the most virtuous of children.'" Quoth Said ben Jubeir, "I was once in company with Fuzaleh ibn Ubeid and said to him, 'Give me some good counsel.' 'Bear in mind these two things,' replied he. 'Attribute no partner to God, and do no hurt to any of His creatures.' And he repeated the following verses:
Be as thou wilt and banish dread and care, For God is bountiful and debonair; So of two things, the doing hurt to men And giving God a partner, thou beware."
And how well saith the poet:
If thou neglect with pious works for death to furnish thee And after meet with one equipped with store of piety, Thou wilt, when all too late, repent that thou wert not like him And didst not for the other world make ready as did he.'
Then the second damsel withdrew and a third came forward and spoke as follows. 'Indeed, the chapter of piety is a very wide one; but I will mention what occurs to me thereof, concerning pious men of old time. Quoth a certain holy man, "I rejoice in death, though I am not assured of ease therein, save that I know death interposes between a man and his works; so I hope for multiplication of good works and cessation of evil ones." Itaa es Selemi, when he had made an end of an exhortation, was wont to tremble and weep sore. It was asked him why he did this and he replied, "I purpose (or am about) to enter upon a grave matter, and it is the standing up before God the Most High, to do in accordance with my exhortation." In like manner Zein el Aabidin was wont to tremble when he rose to pray. Being asked the reason of this, he replied, "Do ye not know before whom I stand and to whom I address myself?" It is said that there lived near Sufyan eth Thauri a blind man who, when the month of Ramazan came, went out with the folk to pray, but remained silent and hung back (in repeating the prayers). Said Sufyan, "On the Day of Resurrection, he shall come with the people of the Koran and they will be distinguished from their fellows by excess of honour." Quoth Sufyan, "Were the soul stablished in the heart as it befits, it would fly away, for joy and longing for Paradise and grief and fear of hell-fire." It is related also of Sufyan that he said, "To look upon the face of a tyrant is a sin."'
Then the third damsel retired and a fourth came forward, who said, 'I will treat of sundry traditions of pious men. It is related that Bishr el Hafi said, "I once heard Khalid say, 'Beware of secret hypocrisy.' Quoth I, 'What is secret hypocrisy?' He answered, 'When one of you, in praying, prolongs his inclinations and prostrations till a cause of impurity come upon him.'" Quoth one of the sages, "The doing of good works expiates evil deeds." Quoth Ibrahim ben Adhem, "I sought assiduously of Bishr el Hafi that he should acquaint me with some of the theological mysteries; but he said, 'O my son, it behoves us not to teach this knowledge to every one; of every hundred, five, even as the poor-rate upon money.' I thought his answer excellent, and when I went to pray, I saw Bishr praying: so I stood behind him, inclining myself in prayer, till the Muezzin made his call. Then rose a man of poor appearance and said, 'O folk, beware of truth, when it is hurtful, for there is no harm in beneficial falsehood, and in compulsion is no choice: speech profits not in the absence of good qualities nor is there any hurt in silence, when they exist.' Presently I saw Bishr drop a danic so I picked it up and exchanged it for a dirhem, which I gave him. 'I will not take it,' said he. Quoth I, 'It is a fair exchange;' but he answered, 'I cannot barter the riches of the world to come for those of this world.'" It is reported also that Bishr's sister once went to Ahmed ben Hembel and said to him, "O Imam of the Faith, we are a family that work for our living by day and spin thread by night; and oftentimes, the cressets of the watch of Baghdad pass by and we on the roof spinning by their light. Is this forbidden to us?" "Who art thou?" asked Ahmed. "I am the sister of Bishr el Hafi," replied she. "O household of Bishr," rejoined the Imam, "I shall never cease to quafl full draughts of piety and continence from your hearts." Quoth one of the learned, "When God wills well to any man, he opens upon him the gate of action." Malik ibn Dinar, when he passed through the bazaar and saw aught that he wished for, was wont to say, "O soul, take patience, for I will not accord to thee what thou desirest." He said also (may God accept of him), "The salvation of the soul lies in resistance to its desires and its ruin in submission to them." Quoth Mensour ben Ammar, "I set out one year on the pilgrimage and was making for Mecca by way of Cufa, when, one overcast night, I heard a voice crying out from the womb of the night and saying, 'O my God, by Thy power and Thy glory, I meant not by my disobedience to transgress against Thee, for indeed I am not ignorant of Thee; but my fault is one Thou didst foreordain to me from all eternity; so do Thou pardon me my sin, for indeed I disobeyed Thee of my ignorance!' When he had made an end of his prayer, he recited aloud the verse, 'O ye who believe, keep yourselves and your households from the fire whose fuel is men and stones!" Then I heard a fall, but knew not what it was and passed on. On the morrow, as we went our way, we fell in with a funeral train, followed by an old woman, whose strength had left her. I questioned her of the dead, and she replied, 'This is the funeral of a man who passed by us yesterday, whilst my son was standing at prayer. The latter recited a verse from the Book of God the Most High, when behold the man's gall-bladder burst and he fell dead.'"
Therewith the fourth damsel retired and the fifth, coming forward, spoke as follows: 'I also will repeat what occurs to me in the way of devotional anecdotes. Meslemeh ben Dinar used to say, "The making sound the secret thoughts covers sins, both great and small, and when the believer is resolved to leave sinning, help comes to him." Also, "Every piece of good fortune, that does not draw one nearer to God, is a calamity, for a little of this world distracts from a great deal of the world to come and a great deal of the first makes thee forget the whole of the latter." It was asked of Abou Hazim, "Who is the most fortunate of men?" "He who spends his life in the service of God," replied he. "And who is the most foolish of mankind?" asked the other. "He who sells his part in the world to come for the worldly goods of others," answered Abou Hazim. It is reported that Moses (on whom be peace), when he came to the waters of Midian, exclaimed, "O my Lord, indeed I am in need of that which Thou sendest down to me of good!" And he asked of his Lord and not of his folk. There came two damsels and he drew water for them and gave not precedence to the shepherds. When they returned to their father Jethro (on whom be peace!) they told him, and he said to one of them, "Haply, he is hungry: go back to him and bid him hither." So she covered her face and returning to Moses, said to him, "My father bids thee to him, that he may reward thee for having drawn water for us." Moses was averse to this and unwilling to follow her. Now she was a woman large in the buttocks, and the wind blowing upon her gown, discovered this; which when Moses saw, he lowered his eyes and said to her, "Do thou walk behind me." So she followed him, till he came to Jethro's house, where the evening meal was ready. "O Moses," said Jethro, "I desire to reward thee for having drawn water for them." But he answered, "I am of a people who sell nothing of the fashion of the next world for earthly gold and silver." "O youth," rejoined Jethro, "nevertheless thou art my guest, and it is my wont and that of my fathers to do honour to the guest by setting food before him." So Moses sat down and ate. Then Jethro hired Moses for eight pilgrimages, that is to say, eight years, and appointed to him for hire the hand of his daughter, and Moses' service to him was to stand for her dowry. As says the Holy Writ of him (quoth Jethro), "I am minded to marry thee to one of these my daughters, on condition that thou serve me eight years, and if thou serve out the ten, it will be of thine own will, for I do not wish to press hardly on thee." A certain man once said to one of his friends, "Thou hast made me desolate, for that I have not seen thee this long while." Quoth the other, "I have been distracted from thee by Ibn Shihab; dost thou know him?" "Yes," replied the first; "he hath been my neighbour these thirty years, but I have never spoken to him." "Indeed," rejoined his friend, "thou forgettest God in forgetting thy neighbour! If thou lovedst God, thou wouldst love thy neighbour. Knowst thou not that a neighbour has a claim upon his neighbour, even as the right of kindred?" Quoth Hudheifeh, "We entered Mecca with Ibrahim ben Adhem, and whilst making the prescribed circuits about the Kaabeh, we met with Shekic the Balkhi. Quoth Ibrahim to Shekic, 'What is your fashion in your country?' 'When we are vouchsafed [food],' replied he, 'we eat, and when we suffer hunger, we take patience.' 'This is the fashion of the dogs of Balkh,' rejoined Ibrahim. 'But we, when we are blest with plenty, we do honour to God, and when we suffer famine, we praise Him.' And Shekic seated himself before Ibrahim and said to him, 'Thou art my master.'" Quoth Mohammed ben Amran, "A man once asked of Hatim el Asemm, 'What maketh thee to trust in God?' 'Two things,' replied he, 'I know that what God has appointed for my daily bread shall be eaten by none but myself; so my heart is at rest as to that; and I know that I was not created without God's knowledge and am abashed before Him.'"
Then the fifth damsel retired and the old woman came forward and kissing the earth before thy father nine times, spoke as follows: 'Thou hast heard, O King, what these all have said on the subject of piety; and I will follow their example in relating what I have heard of the famous men of times past. It is said that the Imam es Shafi divided the night into three portions, the first for study, the second for sleep and the third for prayer. The Imam Abou Henifeh was wont also to pass half the night in prayer. One day a man pointed him out to another, as he passed, and said, "Yonder man watches the whole night." Quoth Abou Henifeh, "When I heard this, I was abashed before God, to hear myself praised for what was not in me; so, after this, I used to watch the whole night." Er Rebya relates that Es Shafi used to recite the whole Koran seventy times over during the month of Ramazan, and that in prayer. Quoth Es Shafi (may God accept of him!), "For ten years I never ate my fill of barley-bread, for satiety hardens the heart and deadens the wit and induces sleep and enfeebles one from standing up (to pray)." It is reported of Abdallah ben Mohammed es Sekra that he said, "I was once talking with Omar, and he said to me, 'Never saw I a more God-fearing or eloquent man than Mohammed ben Idris es Shafi. I went out one day with El Harith ben Lebib es Suffar, who was a disciple of El Muzeni and had a fine voice, and he read the saying or the Most High, 'On that day, they shall not speak nor shall it be permitted to them to excuse themselves.' I saw Es Shafi's colour change; his skin shuddered, and he was violently moved and fell down senseless. When he revived, he said, 'I seek refuge with God from the stead of the liars and the fate of the negligent! O my God, the hearts of the wise abase themselves before Thee. O my God, of Thy goodness, accord to me the remission of my sins, adorn me with Thy protection and pardon me my shortcomings, by the magnanimity of Thine essence!' Then I rose and went away." Quoth one of the pious, "When I entered Baghdad, Es Shafi was there. I sat down on the river-bank, to make the ablution before prayer; and as I was thus occupied, there came up one who said to me, 'O youth, make thine ablution well and God will make it well for thee in this world and the world to come.' I turned and saw a man, with a company of people after him. So I hastened to finish my ablutions and followed him. Presently, he turned and said to me, 'Dost thou want aught?' 'Yes,' answered I; 'I desire that thou teach me somewhat of that which God the Most High hath taught thee.' 'Know, then,' said he, 'that he who believes in God the Most High shall be saved and he who is jealous of his faith shall be delivered from destruction, and he who practices abstinence in this world, his eyes shall be solaced on the morrow (of death). Shall I tell thee any more?' 'Assuredly,' replied I. 'Abstain from the things of this world,' continued he, 'and be greedy of the good of the world to come. Be sincere and faithful in all thy dealings, and thou shalt be saved with the elect.' Then he went on and I asked about him and was told that he was the Imam es Shafi. Es Shafi was wont to say, "I would have the folk profit by this wisdom (of mine), on condition that none of it be attributed to me." Also, "I never disputed with any one, but I would that God the Most High should give him the knowledge of the Truth and aid him to expound it; nor did I ever dispute with any, but for the showing forth of the Truth, and I recked not whether God should manifest it by my lips or his." He said also (may God accept of him!), "If thou fear to grow conceited of thy learning, bethink thee Whose grace thou seekest and what good it is thou yearnest after and what punishment thou dreadest." It was told to Abou Henifeh that the Commander of the Faithful Abou Jaafer el Mensour had named him Cadi and ordered him a present of ten thousand dirhems; but he would not accept of this; and when the day came on which the money was to be paid, he prayed the morning-prayer, then covered his head with his cloak and spoke not. When the Khalif's messenger came with the money, he went in to the Imam and accosted him, but he would not speak to him. Quoth the messenger, "This money is lawfully thine." "I know that it is lawfully mine," replied the Imam; "but I abhor that the love of tyrants should take hold upon my heart." "Canst thou not go in to them and guard thyself from loving them?" asked the other. "Can I look to enter the sea, without wetting my clothes?" answered Abou Henifeh. Another of Es Shafi's sayings is as follows:
O soul, if thou be fain to do as I shall say, Thou shalt be free from need and great of grace for aye. Put far away from thee ambitions and desires, For lo, how oft a wish to death hath led the way!
Among the sayings of Sufyan eth Thauri, with which he admonished Ali ben el Hassan es Selemi was the following, "Look that thou practice sincerity and beware of falsehood and treachery and hypocrisy and presumption for God annuls good works with either of these things. Borrow not but of Him who is merciful to His debtors and let thy comrade be one who will cause thee to abstain from the world. Let the thought of death be ever present with thee and be constant in asking pardon of God and beseeching of Him peace for what remains of thy life. Give loyal counsel to every true-believer, when he asks thee concerning the things of his faith, and beware of betraying a believer, for he who betrays a believer betrays God and His apostle. Avoid dissension and litigation and leave that which awakens doubt in thee, betaking;, thyself rather to those things that will not disquiet thee; so shalt thou be at peace. Enjoin that which is just and forbid that which is evil, so shalt thou be beloved of God. Make fair thine inner man, and God shall make fair thine outer man. Accept the excuse of him who excuses himself to thee and hate none of the true-believers. Draw near unto those that reject thee and forgive those that oppress thee; so shalt thou be the companion of the prophets. Commit thine affair to God, both in public and in private, and fear Him with the fear of one who knows that he must die and be raised again to stand before the Almighty, remembering that thou art destined for one of two dwellings, either Paradise the glorious or the flaming fire."' Having spoken thus, the old woman sat down beside the damsels.
When the late King thy father heard their discourse, he knew that they were the most accomplished of the people of their time and seeing their beauty and grace and the greatness of their learning, he showed them all favour. Moreover, he turned to the old woman and entreated her with honour, setting apart for her and her damsels the palace that had been the lodging of the princess Abrizeh, to which he let carry all that they needed of the best. Here they abode ten days, and whenever the King visited them, he found the old woman absorbed in prayer, watching by night and fasting by day; wherefore love of her took hold upon his heart and he said to me, 'O Vizier, verily this old woman is a pious soul, and reverence for her is strong in my heart.' On the eleventh day, the King visited her, that he might pay her the price of the five damsels; but she said to him, 'O King, know that the price of these passes the competence of men, for I seek for them neither gold nor silver nor jewels, be it little or much.' The King wondered at this and said, 'O my lady, what is their price?' 'I will not sell them to thee,' replied she, 'save on condition that thou fast a whole month, watching by night and fasting by day for the love of God the Most High: but if thou wilt do this, they are thine, to use as thou pleasest.' The King wondered at the perfectness of her piety and devotion and abnegation and she was magnified in his eyes, and he said, 'May God make this pious old woman to profit us!' So he agreed to her proposal, and she said to him, 'I will help thee with my prayers.' Then she called for a gugglet of water and muttered over it words in an unknown language and abode awhile, speaking over it things that we understood not. Then she covered it with a cloth and sealing it up, gave it to the King, saying, 'When thou has fasted ten days, break thy fast on the eleventh night with what is in this cup, for it will root out the love of the world from thy heart and fill it with light and faith. As for me, I purpose to go out to-morrow to visit my brethren of the invisible world, for I yearn after them, and I will return to thee when the ten days are past.' So the King took the gugglet and setting it apart in a closet of his palace, locked the door and put the key in his pocket. Next day, the old woman departed and the King entered upon his fast. When he had accomplished the first ten days thereof, he opened the gugglet and drank what was therein and found it cordial to his stomach. Within the next ten days, the old woman returned, bringing sweetmeats wrapped in a green leaf, like no leaf of a tree. She went in to the King and saluted him; and when he saw her he rose to meet her, saying, 'Welcome, O pious lady!' 'O King,' said she, 'the spirits salute thee, for I told them of thee, and they rejoiced in thee and have sent thee this cake, which is of the sweetmeats of the other world. Do thou break thy fast on it at the end of the day.' The King rejoiced greatly at this and exclaimed, 'Praised be God who hath given me brethren of the invisible world!' And he thanked the old woman and kissed her hands and entreated her and the damsels with exceeding honour. Then he fasted till twenty days were past, at the end of which time the old woman came to him and said, 'Know, O King, that I told the spirits of the love that is between thee and me and how I had left the damsels with thee, and they were glad that the damsels should belong to a King like thee; for they were wont, when they saw them, to be strenuous in offering up effectual prayer on their behalf. So I would fain carry them to the spirits, that they may benefit by their favours, and they shall surely not return to thee without some treasure of the treasures of the earth, that thou, after the completion of thy fast, mayst occupy thyself with their dress and help thyself to the fulfilment of thy wishes with that which they shall bring thee.' The King thanked her and said, 'But that I fear to cross thee, I would not accept the treasure or aught else: but when wilt thou set out with them?' 'On the seven-and-twentieth night,' replied she; 'and I will bring them back to thee at the end of the month, by which time thou wilt have accomplished thy fast and they will have had their courses and be free from impurity. Then they shall become thine and be at thy disposal. By Allah, each one of them is worth many times thy kingdom!' 'I know it, O pious lady,' replied the King. Then said the old woman, 'If there be any one in thy palace who is dear to thee, thou wouldst do well to send her with me, that she may find solace and seek a blessing of the spirits.' Quoth the King, 'I have a Greek slave called Sufiyeh, by whom God hath vouchsafed me two children, a son and a daughter: but they were lost years ago. Take her with thee, that she may get the spirits' blessing: it may be they will pray God for her, that her children may be restored to her.' 'It is well,' replied the old woman; for indeed this was what she most desired. The King gave not over fasting till the seven-and-twentieth night, when the old woman said to him, 'O my son, I am about to go to the spirits; so bring me Sufiyeh.' Accordingly, he sent for her and delivered her to the old woman, who placed her with the other damsels. Then she went in to her chamber and bringing out a sealed cup, presented it to the King, saying, 'On the thirtieth day, do thou go to the bath and when thou comest out, enter one of the closets in thy palace and drink the liquor that is in this cup. Then sleep, and thou shalt attain what thou seekest, and peace be on thee!' The King was glad and thanked her and kissed her hands. Quoth she, 'I commend thee to God;' and he said, 'When shall I see thee again, O pious lady? Indeed I love not to part with thee.' Then she called down blessings on him and departed with the five damsels and the Princess Sufiyeh; whilst the King fasted other three days, till the end of the month, when he went to the bath and coming out, shut himself up in a closet, commanding that none should go in to him. Then he drank what was in the cup and lay down to sleep. We sat awaiting him till the end of the day, but he did not come out and we said, 'Belike he is tired with the bath and with watching by night and fasting by day, and sleepeth.' So we waited till next day; but still he did not come out. Then we stood at the closet-door and cried aloud, so haply he might awake and ask what was the matter. But nothing came of this: so at last we lifted the door off its hinges and going in, found the King dead, with his flesh torn into strips and his bones broken in pieces. When we saw him in this case, it was grievous to us, and we took up the cup and found in its cover a piece of paper, on which was written the following, 'He who does evil leaves no regrets behind him. This is the reward of him who plays the traitor with kings' daughters and debauches them: and we make known to all who happen upon this scroll that Sherkan, when he came to our country, debauched our Princess Abrizeh; nor did this suffice him, but he must take her from us and bring her to you. Then he (Omar ben Ennuman) (debauched her and) sent her away, in company of a black slave, who slew her and we found her lying dead in the desert. This is none of kings' fashion, and he who did this is requited with nought but his deserts. So do ye suspect none of having killed him, for none slew him but the cunning witch, whose name is Dhat ed Dewahi. And behold, I have taken the King's wife Sufiyeh and have carried her to her father King Afridoun of Constantinople. Moreover, we will assuredly make war upon you and kill you and take your land from you, and ye shall be cut off even to the last man, nor shall there be left of you a living soul, no, nor a blower of the fire, except he serve the Cross and the Girdle.' When we read this, we knew that the old woman had cheated us and carried out her plot against us: so we cried out and buffeted our faces and wept sore. However, weeping availed us nothing and the troops fell out as to whom they should make Sultan. Some would have thee and others thy brother Sherkan; and we ceased not to wrangle about this for the space of a month, at the end of which time certain of us drew together and agreed to repair to thy brother Sherkan. So we set out and journeyed on till we fell in with thee: and this is the manner of the death of King Omar ben Ennuman.'
When the Vizier had made an end of his story, Zoulmekan and his sister wept, and the Chamberlain wept also. Then said the latter to Zoulmekan, "O King, weeping will profit thee nothing; nor will aught avail thee but that thou fortify thy heart and strengthen thy resolution and stablish thy power; for verily he is not dead who leaves the like of thee behind him." So Zoulmekan gave over weeping and causing his throne to be set up without the pavilion, commanded the army to pass in review before him. Then he sat down on the throne, with the Chamberlain by his side and all the arm-bearers behind him, whilst the Vizier Dendan and the rest of the amirs and grandees stood before him, each in his several room. Then said Zoulmekan to Dendan, "Acquaint me with the particulars of my father's treasures." Dendan answered, "I hear and obey," and gave him to know the amount and nature of the late King's treasure and what was in the treasury of money and jewels and other precious things. So Zoulmekan gave largesse to the army and bestowed a sumptuous dress of honour on the Vizier Dendan, saying, "I confirm thee in thine office." Whereupon Dendan kissed the earth before him and wished him long life. Then he bestowed dresses of honour on the amirs, after which he turned to the Chamberlain and said, "Bring out before us the tribute of Damascus, that is with thee." So he laid before him the chests of money and jewels and rarities, and he took them and divided them all amongst the troops, till there was nothing left. And the amirs kissed the ground before him and wished him long life, saying, "Never saw we a king, who gave the like of these gifts." Then they all went away to their own tents, and when it was morning, Zoulmekan gave orders for departure. So they set out and journeyed for three days, till on the fourth day they drew near to Baghdad. When they entered the city, they found it decorated, and King Zoulmekan went up to his father's palace and sat down on the throne, whilst the amirs of the army and the Vizier Dendan and the Chamberlain of Damascus stood before him. Then he bade his private secretary write a letter to his brother Sherkan, acquainting him with all that had passed and adding, "As soon as thou hast read this letter, make ready thine affair and join us with thine army, that we may make war upon the infidels and take vengeance on them for our father and wipe out the stain upon our honour." Then he folded the letter and sealed it and said to Dendan, "None shall carry this letter but thou; and I would have thee speak my brother fair and say to him, 'If thou have a mind to thy father's kingdom, it is thine, and thy brother shall be Viceroy for thee in Damascus; for to this effect am I instructed by him."' So the Vizier went out from before him and proceeded to make ready for his journey. Then Zoulmekan set apart a magnificent house for the stoker and furnished it with sumptuous furniture and lodged him therein. One day, he went out a-hunting and as he was returning to Baghdad, one of the amirs presented him with horses of fine breeds and damsels whose beauty beggars description. One of the damsels pleased him: so he went in to her and lay with her, and she conceived by him forthright. After awhile, the Vizier Dendan returned from Damascus, bringing him news of his brother Sherkan and that he was then on his way to him, and said to him, "Thou wouldst do well to go out to meet him." Zoulmekan replied, "I hear and obey;" and riding forth with his grandees a day's journey from Baghdad, pitched his tents and halted to await the coming of his brother. Next morning, the army of Syria appeared, with King Sherkan in its midst, a bold cavalier, a fierce lion and a warrior against whom none might make head. As the squadrons drew nigh and the dust-clouds neared and the troops came up with banners flying, Zoulmekan and his attendants rode forward to meet Sherkan; and when the King saw his brother, he would have dismounted, but Sherkan conjured him not to do so and himself set foot to the ground and walked towards him. As soon as he reached Zoulmekan, the latter threw himself upon him, and they embraced and wept and condoled with one another. Then they mounted and rode onward, they and their troops, till they reached Baghdad, where they alighted and went up to the royal palace and passed the night there. Next morning, Zoulmekan went forth and bade proclaim a holy war and summon the troops from all parts. They abode a whole month, awaiting the coming of the levies, whilst the folk poured in from all parts of the kingdom, and every one who came they entreated with honour and munificence and promised him all manner of good. Then Sherkan said to Zoulmekan, "O my brother, tell me thy history." So he told him all that had befallen him, first and last, including the benevolent dealing of the stoker with him. "Hast thou requited him his kindness to thee?" asked Sherkan. "Not yet," replied Zoulmekan, "but, God willing, I will surely do so, as soon as I return from this expedition and am at leisure to attend to him." Therewith, Sherkan was certified that his sister Nuzhet ez Zeman had told him the truth; but he concealed what had passed between them and contented himself with sending his salutation to her by her husband the Chamberlain. She returned his greeting in the same fashion, calling down blessings on him and enquiring after her daughter Kuzia Fekan, to which he replied that the child was well and in all health and safety. Then he went to his brother to take counsel with him for departure; and Zoulmekan said, "O my brother, we will set out as soon as the army is complete and the Arabs have come in from all parts." So he bade make ready the wheat and other provisions and munitions of war and went in to his wife, who was now five months gone with child; and he put under her hand mathematicians and astrologers, to whom he appointed stipends and allowances. Then, three months after the arrival of the army of Syria, as soon as the troops were all assembled and the Arabs had come in, he set out, at the head of his troops, with his brother Sherkan on his right and his brother-in-law the Chamberlain on his left hand. The name of the general of the army of the Medes was Rustem and that of the general of the army of the Turks Behram. So the squadrons broke up and marched forward and the companies and battalions filed past in battle array, till the whole army was in motion. They ceased not to fare on for the space of a month; halting three days a week to rest, by reason of the greatness of the host, till they came to the country of the Greeks; and as they drew near, the people of the villages and hamlets took fright at them and fled to Constantinople.
To return to Dhat ed Dewahi. As soon as she reached her own country and felt herself in safety, she said to her son, King Herdoub, "Be consoled; for I have avenged thy daughter Abrizeh and killed King Omar ben Ennuman and brought back the Princess Sufiyeh. So now let us go to the King of Constantinople and carry him back his daughter and tell him what has happened, that he may be on his guard and prepare his forces and that we may do the like; for I know that the Muslims will not delay to attack us." "Let us wait till they draw near our country," replied Herdoub, "that we may make us ready meantime and assemble our power." Accordingly they fell to levying their forces and preparing for war, so that by the time the news of the Muslims' advance reached them, they were ready for defence. Then King Herdoub and his mother set out for Constantinople, and King Afridoun, hearing of the arrival of the King of the Greeks, came forth to meet him and asked how it was with him and the cause of his visit. So Herdoub acquainted him with the doing; of his mother Dhat ed Dewahi, how she had slain the Muslim king and recovered the Princess Sufiyeh and that the Muslims had assembled their forces and were on their way to attack them, wherefore it behoved that they two should join powers and meet them. King Afridoun rejoiced in the recovery of his daughter and the death of King Omar and sent to all countries, to seek succour and acquaint the folk with the reason of the slaying of King Omar. So the Christian troops flocked to him from all quarters, and before three months were past, the army of the Greeks was complete, besides which there joined themselves to him the French and Germans and Ragusans and Genoese and Venetians and all the hosts of the Pale Faces and warriors from all the lands of the Franks, and the earth was straitened on them by reason of their multitude. Then Afridoun the Great King commanded to depart; so they set out from Constantinople and ceased not to defile through the city for the space of ten days. They fared on till they reached a spacious valley, hard by the salt sea, where they halted three days; and on the fourth day, they were about to set out again, when news came to them of the approach of the army of Islam and the defenders of the faith of the Best of Men. So they halted other three days, and on the seventh day, they espied a great cloud of dust which spread till it covered the whole country; nor was an hour of the day past before the dust lifted and melted away into the air, and its darkness was pierced and dispersed by the starry sheen of lance-points and spear-heads and the flashing of sword-blades. Presently, there appeared the banners of Islam and the Mohammedan ensigns and the mailed horsemen surged forward, like the letting loose of the billows of the sea, clad in cuirasses as they were clouds girdled about moons. Thereupon the Christian horsemen rode forward and the two hosts met, like two seas clashing together, and eyes fell upon eyes. The first to spur into the fight was the Vizier Dendan, with the army of Syria, thirty thousand cavaliers, followed by Rustem, the general of the Medes, and Behram, the general of the Turks, with other twenty thousand horse, behind whom came the men of the sea-coast, sheathed in glittering mail as they were full moons passing through a night of clouds. Then the Christian host called upon Jesus and Mary and the defiled Cross, and fell upon the Vizier Dendan and the army of Syria. Now this was in pursuance of a stratagem devised by Dhat ed Dewahi; for, before his departure, King Afridoun had gone in to her and said, "It is thou hast brought this great stress on us; so do thou advise me how I shall do and what plan I shall follow." "O great King and mighty priest," replied she, "I will teach thee a shift, which would baffle Iblis himself, though he should call to his aid against it all his grisly hosts. It is that you send fifty thousand men in ships to the Mountain of Smoke and there let them land and stir not till the standards of Islam come upon you, when do you up and at them. Then let the troops from the seaward sally out upon the Muslims and take them in rear, whilst you confront them from the landward. So not one of them shall escape, and our stress shall cease and abiding peace enure to us." Her counsel commended itself to King Afridoun and he replied, "It is well; thy counsel shall be followed, O princess of cunning old women and recourse of kings warring for their blood-revenge!" So when the army of Islam came upon them in that valley, of a sudden the flames began to run among the tents and the swords to play upon men's bodies. Then came up the army of Baghdad and Khorassan, six score thousand horse, with Zoulmekan at their head. When the host of the infidels that lay by the sea saw them, they came out and followed in their steps, and Zoulmekan, seeing this, cried out to his men, saying, "Turn back to the infidels, O people of the Chosen Prophet, and fall upon those who deny and transgress the authority of the Compassionate, the Merciful!" So they turned and fought with the Christians, and Sherkan came up with another wing of the Muslim army, near six score thousand men, whilst the infidels numbered nigh upon sixteen hundred thousand. When the Muslims mingled in the mellay, their hearts were strengthened and they cried out, saying, "God hath promised to succour us and abandon the infidels!" And they clashed together with swords and spears. As for Sherkan, he made himself a passage through the ranks and raged among the masses of the foe, fighting so fierce a battle that it would have made children grow grey for fear; nor did he leave to tourney among the infidels and work havoc upon them with the keen-edged scimitar, shouting, "God is most great!" till he drove them back to the brink of the sea. Then the strength of the foe failed and God gave the victory to the faith of Submission, and they fought, drunken without wine, till they slew of the infidels forty and five thousand in that encounter, whilst of the Muslims but three thousand and five hundred fell. Moreover, the Lion of the Faith, King Sherkan, and his brother Zoulmekan slept not that night, but occupied themselves with looking to the wounded and heartening their men with assurance of victory and salvation and promise of a recompense in the world to come.
Meanwhile King Afridoun assembled the captains of his host and said to them, "Verily, we had accomplished our intent and had solaced our hearts, but for our over-confidence in our numbers: it was that which undid us." But Dhat ed Dewahi said to them, "Assuredly nought shall profit you, except ye seek the favour of the Messiah and put your trust in the True Faith; for by the virtue of the Messiah, the whole strength of the Muslims lies in that devil, King Sherkan!" "To-morrow," said Afridoun, "I will draw out in battle array and send out against them the famous cavalier, Luca ben Shemlout; for if King Sherkan come out to joust with him, he will slay him and the other champions of the Muslims, till not one is left; and I purpose this night to sacre you all by fumigation with the Holy Incense." When the amirs heard this, they kissed the earth before him. Now the incense in question was the excrement of the Chief Patriarch, which was sought for with such instance and so highly valued, that the high priests of the Greeks used to mix it with musk and ambergris and send it to all the countries of the Christians in silken sachets; and kings would pay a thousand dinars for every drachm of it, for they sought it to perfume brides withal and the chief of them were wont to use a little of it in ointment for the eyes and as a remedy in sickness and colic. But the priests used to mix their own excrement with it, for that the excrement of the Chief Patriarch could not suffice for half a score countries. So, as soon as the day broke and the morning appeared with its lights and shone, the horsemen ran to arms, and King Afridoun summoned the chief of his knights and nobles and invested them with dresses of honour. Then he made the sign of the cross on their foreheads and incensed them with the incense aforesaid; after which he called for Luca ben Shemlout, surnamed the Sword of the Messiah, and after incensing him and rubbing his palate with the holy excrement, daubed and smeared his cheeks and anointed his moustaches with the remainder. Now there was no stouter champion in the land of the Greeks than this accursed Luca, nor any doughtier at bowshot or smiting with swords or thrusting with spears in the mellay; but he was foul of favour, for his face was as the face of a jackass, his shape that of an ape and his look as the look of a malignant serpent, and the being near unto him was more grievous than parting from the beloved. Moreover, he was black as night and his breath was fetid as that of the lion; he was crooked as a bow and grim-visaged as the pard, and he was branded with the mark of the infidels. He kissed Afridoun's feet and the King said to him, "It is my wish that thou go out against Sherkan, King of Damascus, and hasten to deliver us from this affliction." Quoth Luca, "I hear and obey." And the King made the sign of the cross on his forehead and felt assured of speedy help from heaven, whilst Luca went out and mounted a sorrel horse. Now he was clad in a red tunic and a hauberk of gold set with jewels and bore a three-barbed spear, as he were Iblis the accursed on the day of marshalling his hosts to battle. Then he rode forward, he and his troop of infidels, as they were driving to the Fire, preceded by a herald, crying aloud in the Arabic tongue and saying, "Ho, followers of Mohammed, let none of you come out to-day but your champion Sherkan, the Sword of Islam, lord of Damascus of Syria!" Hardly had he made an end of speaking, when there arose a mighty tumult in the plain, all the people heard its voice, that called to mind the Day of Weeping. The cowards trembled and all necks turned towards the sound, and behold, it was King Sherkan. For, when Zoulmekan saw that accursed infidel spur out into the plain, he turned to Sherkan and said to him, "Of a surety they seek for thee." "Should it be so," replied Sherkan, "it were pleasing to me." So when they heard the herald, they knew Luca to be the champion of the Greeks. Now he was one of the greatest of villains, one who made hearts to ache, and had sworn to clear the land of the Muslims; and indeed the Medes and Turks and Kurds feared his mischief. So Sherkan drove at him like an angry lion, mounted on a courser like a wild gazelle, and coming nigh to him, shook his javelin in his hand, as it were a darting viper, and recited the following verses:
I have a sorrel horse, right swift and eath to guide, Shall give thee of its might what thou mayst ill abide. Ay, and a limber spear I have, full keen of point, As 'twere the dam of deaths upon its shaft did ride; And eke a trenchant sword of Ind, which when I draw, Thou'dst deem that levins flashed and darted far and wide,
Luca understood not what he said nor did he apprehend the vehemence of the verse; but he smote his forehead with his hand, in honour of the cross drawn thereon, and kissed it, then ran at Sherkan with lance pointed at him. When he came within spear- shot, he threw the javelin into the air, till it was lost to sight, and catching it with the other hand, as do the jugglers, hurled it at Sherkan. It sped from his hand, like a shooting star, and the people clamoured and feared for Sherkan: but as it drew near him, he put out his hand and caught it in full flight, to the amazement of the beholders. Then he shook it, till it was well-nigh broken, and hurled it up into the air, till it disappeared from sight. As it descended, he caught it again, in less than the twinkling of an eye, and cried out from the bottom of his heart, saying, "By the virtue of Him who created the seven heavens, I will make this accursed fellow the byword of the world!" Then he hurled the javelin at Luca ben Shemlout, who thought to do as Sherkan had done and catch it in mid-flight; but Sherkan made haste and sped another dart at him, which smote him on the forehead amiddleward the sign of the cross, and God hurried his soul to the Fire and the Ill Stead. When the infidels saw Luca fall dead, they buffeted their faces, crying, "Alas!" and "Woe worth the day!" and called for aid upon the priests of the monasteries, saying, "Where are the crosses?" So the monks offered up prayers and the Christians all drew together against Sherkan and brandishing their swords and lances, rushed forward to the attack. Army met army and men's breasts fell under the hoofs of the horses, whilst the sword and the spear ruled and arms and wrists grew weak and it was as if the horses had been made without legs; nor did the herald of war cease to call to battle, till all arms were weary and the day departed and the night came with the darkness. So the two hosts drew apart whilst every warrior staggered like a drunken man, for stress of war and much thrusting and smiting, and the ground was hidden with the slain; sore were the wounds and the hurt knew not by whom he died. Then Sherkan joined his brother and the Chamberlain and the Vizier Dendan and said to them, "Verily God hath opened a door for the destruction of the infidels, praised be the Lord of the Two Worlds!" "Let us never cease to praise God," replied Zoulmekan, "for that He hath dispelled trouble from the Arabs and the Persians. Indeed the folk, generation after generation, shall tell of thy prowess against the accursed Luca, the falsifier of the Evangel, of thy catching the javelin in mid-flight and smiting the enemy of God among men; and thy report shall endure until the end of time." Then said Sherkan, "Harkye, O grand Chamberlain and doughty captain!" "At thy service," answered he. Quoth Sherkan, "Take the Vizier Dendan and twenty thousand men and lead them, by a forced march, seven parasangs towards the sea, till ye come near the shore, at two parasangs' distance from the foe. Then hide in the hollows of the ground, till ye hear the tumult of the infidels disembarking from the ships; and when the swords have begun to play between us and them and ye see our troops falling back, as if defeated, and all the infidels following them, as well those in front as those from the sea-ward and the tents, do ye lie in wait for them: and as soon as ye see the standard with the words, 'There is no god but God, and Mohammed is His Apostle!' up with the green banner and fall on their rear, shouting, 'God is most great!' and do your endeavour, that they may not interpose between the retreating army and the sea." The Chamberlain agreed to this, and he and the Vizier Dendan took twenty thousand men and set out at once, even as Sherkan had commanded. As soon as it was morning the troops donned their armour and drawing their swords, set their spears in rest and sprang to horse. Then the Christians drew out in battle array upon the hills and plains and the priests cried out and all heads were uncovered. Moreover, those who were in the ships hoisted the cross at their mast-heads and making from all sides towards the shore, landed their horses and addressed them to the fray, whilst the swords glittered and the javelins glanced like levies against the cuirasses. So they all joined battle and the mill-wheels of death rushed round over footmen and horsemen: heads flew from bodies and tongues grew mute and eyes dim; gall-bladders burst and skulls were cloven in sunder and wrists shorn in twain; whilst the horses plashed in pools of blood and men gripped each other by the beards. The host of Islam called out, "Peace and blessing on the Prince of Mankind and glory and praise in the highest to the Compassionate One!" whilst the infidels shouted, "Glory to the Cross and the Girdle and the Vine-juice and the Presser and the Priests and the Monks and the Festival of Palms and the Metropolitan!" Presently, Zoulmekan and Sherkan held back and their troops gave way and feigned to retreat before the infidels, who pursued them, deeming them routed, and made ready to cut and thrust. Then the host of the Muslims began to chant the first verses of the Chapter of the Cow, whilst the slain were trampled under the hoofs of the horses and the heralds of the Greeks cried out, "Ho, servants of the Messiah! Ho, people of the True Faith! Ho, followers of the Pope! Verily the divine grace shines upon you, for see, the hosts of Islam incline to tree! So turn ye not your backs to them, but let your swords bite on their necks and hold not your hands from them, else are ye outcasts from the Messiah, son of Mary, who spoke even in the cradle!" Thereupon Afridoun thought that the infidels were victorious, knowing not that this was but a stratagem of the Muslims, and sent to King Herdoub, to give him the glad tidings of success, adding, "It was nought but the excrement of the Arch-Patriarch that availed us, in that the fragrance of it exhaled from the beards and moustaches of the servants of the Cross near and far; and I swear, by the Miracles of the Messiah and by the Waters of Baptism, that I will not leave upon the earth a single defender of Islam!" So the messenger betook himself to King Herdoub whilst the infidels called to each other saying, "Let us take our wreak for Luca!" and King Herdoub cried out, "Vengeance for Abrizeh!" With this, King Zoulmekan cried out to his men, saying, "Ho, servants of the Requiting King. up and smite the children of blasphemy and disobedience with the white of the sword and the brown of the spear!" So the Muslims turned upon the infidels and plied them with the keen-edged scimitar, whilst their herald cried aloud, "Up, ye lovers of the chosen prophet and at the enemies of the Faith! Now is the time for those, who hope for salvation on the Day of Fear, to win the favour of the Bountiful, the Forgiving One, for verily Paradise is under the shadow of swords!" So Sherkan and his men fell upon the infidels and cut off their retreat and tourneyed among the ranks, when lo, a cavalier of goodly presence opened a passage through the army of the Greeks and circled hither and thither amongst them, cutting and thrusting and covering the ground with heads and bodies, so that the infidels feared him and their necks bent under his blows. He was girt with two swords, that of his glances and a scimitar, and armed with two lances, one of cane and the other the straightness of his shape; over his shoulders flowed down his hair, whose beauty might have stood him in stead of many warriors, even as says the poet:
Flowing hair, as I deem, is not fair to the sight, Except it be spread, on the day of the fight, O'er a youth with a spear that he giveth to drink Of the blood of full many a beard-bearing knight.
Or as says another:
I turned to him, what while he girt his faulchion on, and said, "Surely, the sabres of thy looks should stand thee in sword's stead." Quoth he, "The sabres of my looks I keep for those who love, My sword for those who have no wit of passion's goodlihead."
When Sherkan. saw him, he said to him, "Ho, champion of the champions! I conjure thee, by the Koran and the attributes of the Compassionate One, tell me who thou art: for verily by thy deeds this day thou hast pleased the Requiting King, whom one thing distracts not from another, in that thou hast discomfited the children of impiety and disbelief." Quoth the horseman, "Thou art he who sworest brotherhood to me but yesterday: how quickly thou hast forgotten me!" Then he uncovered his face, so that what was hidden of his beauty was disclosed, and lo, it was none other than Zoulmekan! When Sherkan knew his brother, he rejoiced in him, except that he feared for him from the throng of adversaries and the onslaught of the champions; and this for two reasons, the first, his tender age and exposure to the evil eye, and the second, that his life was the mainstay of the empire. So he said to him, "O King, thou adventurest thy life, and indeed I am in fear for thee from the foe; so join thy horse to mine, and thou wouldst do well not to hazard thyself forth of these squadrons, that we may shoot at the enemy with thine unerring shaft." Quoth Zoulmekan, "I wish to equal thee in battle and I will not spare myself before thee in fight." Then the host of Islam rushed upon the infidels and encompassing them on all sides, waged a right holy war on them and broke the power of the children of impiety and pride and corruption. King Herdoub sighed when he saw the evil case that had fallen on the Greeks, and they turned their backs and addressed themselves to flight, making for the ships, when lo, there came out upon them from the sea shore a new army, led by the Vizier Dendan, him who was wont to make the champions bite the dust, and the Chamberlain of Syria, with twenty thousand doughty cavaliers, and fell upon their rear with sword and spear, whilst the army of Islam pressed them in front and flank. Then some of the Muslims turned against those that were in the ships and rained perditions on them, till they threw themselves into the sea, and they slew of them much people, more than a hundred thousand knights, nor did one of their champions escape, great or small. Moreover, they took their ships, with all the baggage and treasure therein, and the Muslims got that day booty, the like of which was never gotten of time past; nor did ever ear hear of such a battle. But twenty of the ships escaped, and amongst the booty were fifty thousand horses, besides treasure and spoil past count or reckoning, whereat the Muslims rejoiced with an exceeding joy and thanked God for the aid and protection He had vouchsafed them.
Meanwhile, the news reached Constantinople that King Afridoun had gotten the victory over the Muslims, and Dhat ed Dewahi said, "I know that my son King Herdoub is no runagate and that he has nought to fear from the hosts of Islam, but will bring the whole world to the Nazarene faith." Then she commanded the city to be decorated, and the people held high festival and drank wines, knowing not what God had decreed to them. Whilst they were in the midst of their rejoicings, behold, the raven of affliction croaked against them and up came the twenty ships of fugitives, amongst them the King of Caesarea. King Afridoun met them on the sea-shore, and they told him all that had befallen them, weeping sore and lamenting, whereupon rejoicing was turned into dismay, and King Afridoun was filled with consternation and knew that there was no repairing their mischance. The women gathered together to make moan and lament: and the city was filled with mourning; all hearts failed, whilst the hired mourners cried aloud and weeping and wailing arose on all sides. When King Herdoub met King Afridoun, he told him the truth of the case and how the flight of the Muslims was but a stratagem and said to him, "Look not to see any of the troops, save those that have already reached thee." When Afridoun heard this, he fell down in a swoon with his nose under his feet; and as soon as he revived he exclaimed, "Surely the Messiah was wroth with the army, that he delivered them thus into the hands of the Muslims!" Then came the Arch-Patriarch sadly to King Afridoun who said to him, "O our father, destruction hath overtaken our army and the Messiah hath punished us." "Grieve not nor be concerned," replied the Patriarch; "for it cannot be but that one of you has sinned against the Messiah, and all have been punished for his sin; but now we will read prayers for you in the churches, that the Mohammedan hosts may be repelled from you." After this, Dhat ed Dewahi came to Afridoun and said to him, "O King, verily the Muslims are many, and we shall never prevail against them, save by wile: wherefore I purpose to work upon them by stratagem and repair to the army of Islam; haply I may be able to carry out my intent against their leader and slay their champion, even as I slew his father. If I succeed, not one of them shall return to his native land, for all their strength lies in him; but I wish to have some Christians of Syria, such as go out from time to time to sell their goods, to help me in carrying out my plan." "Be it so, whenas thou wilt," replied the King. So she bade fetch a hundred men, natives of Nejran in Syria, and said to them, "Ye have heard what has befallen the Christians with the Muslims?" "Yes," replied they; and the King said, "This woman has devoted herself to the Messiah and purposes to go forth with you, disguised as Mohammedans, to work out a device, which shall profit us and hinder the Muslim host from us: so if ye also are willing to devote yourselves to Christ, I will give you a quintal of gold. Those of you who escape shall have the money, and those of you who are slain Christ will reward." "O King," replied they, "we devote ourselves to the Messiah, and we will be thy sacrifice." Then the old woman took drugs and simples and boiled them in water, till the black essence of them was extracted. She waited till it was cold, then dipped the end of a handkerchief therein and coloured her face therewith.. Moreover she put on, over her clothes, a long gaberdine with an embroidered border and taking in her hand a rosary, went in to King Afridoun, who knew her not nor did any of his companions know her, till she discovered herself to them, when they all praised her for her cunning and her son rejoiced and said, "May the Messiah never fail thee!" Then she took with her the Syrian Christians, and set out for the army of Baghdad. Now this accursed old woman was a witch of the witches, past mistress in sorcery and deception, knavish, crafty, debauched and perfidious, with foul breath, red eyelids, sallow cheeks, pale face, bleared eyes, mangy body, grizzled hair, humped back, withered complexion and running nostrils. She had studied the scriptures of Islam and made the pilgrimage to the Holy House of God, to come to the knowledge of the Mohammedan ordinances and the doctrines of the Koran; and she had professed Judaism in Jerusalem two years' space, that she might perfect herself in the magical arts of men and Jinn; so that she was a plague of plagues and a calamity of calamities, utterly depraved and having no religion. Now the chief reason of her sojourn with her son, King Herdoub, was on account of the maidens at his court: for she was given to tribadism and could not exist without it: so if any damsel pleased her, she was wont to teach her the art and rub saffron on her, till she fainted away for excess of pleasure. Whoso obeyed her, she used to favour and spake interest for her with her son; and whoso repelled her, she would contrive to destroy. This was known to Merjaneh and Rihaneh and Utriyeh, the handmaids of Abrizeh, and the princess loathed the old woman and abhorred to lie with her because of the ill smell from her armpits and the stench of her wind, more fetid than carrion, and the roughness of her body, coarser than palm fibre. She was wont to bribe those who served her desires with jewels and instruction; but Abrizeh held aloof from her and sought refuge with the All-Wise, the Omniscient; for well does the poet say:
O thou that abasest thyself to those that are rich and great And lordest it with disdain o'er those of low estate, Thou that thinkest to gild thy baseness by gathering gold, The scenting of aught that's foul skills not its stench to abate!
To continue. As soon as Dhat ed Dewahi had departed, her son went in to Afridoun and said to him, "O King, we have no need of the Chief Patriarch nor of his prayers, but will act according to my mother's counsel and await what she will do of her craft without end with the Muslim host, for they are on the march hither with all their strength and will quickly be with us." When King Afridoun heard this, terror took hold upon his heart and he wrote letters forthright to all the countries of the Christians, saying, "It behoves none of the followers of the Messiah or soldiers of the Cross to hold back, especially the folk of the citadels and strong places: but let them all come to us foot and horse and women and children, for the Muslim hosts already tread our soil. So hasten, hasten, ere what we fear come to pass."
Now Dhat ed Dewahi had clad her companions in the habit of Muslim merchants and had provided herself with a hundred mules laden with stuffs of Antioch, such as gold woven satin and royal brocade and so forth, and with a letter from King Afridoun to the following effect: "These are merchants from the land of Syria, who have been with us: so it behoves none to do them let or hindrance nor take tithe of them, till they reach their own country and the place of their security, for by merchants a country flourishes and grows rich, and these are no men of war nor evil-doers." So, as soon as she came without the city, she said to them, "O folk, I wish to work out a plot for the destruction of the Muslims." "O princess," replied they, "command us what thou wilt; we are at thy disposal, and may the Messiah prosper thy dealing!" Then she donned a gown of fine white wool and rubbing her forehead, till she made a great mark (as of a scar), anointed it with an ointment of her own fashion, so that it shone greatly. Now she was lean-bodied and hollow-eyed, and she bound her legs tightly round with cords just above her feet, till she drew near the Muslim camp, when she unwound them, leaving the marks of the cords deeply embedded in the flesh. Then she anointed the weals with dragon's blood and bade her companions beat her severely and lay her in a chest. "How can we beat thee," replied they, "who art our sovereign lady and mother of the supreme King?" Quoth she, "We blame not nor reproach him who goeth to the jakes, and in time of necessity, forbidden things become lawful. When ye have laid me in the chest, set it on the back of one of the mules and pass on with it and the other goods through the Muslim camp, crying aloud the profession of the Faith of Unity. If any hinder you, give up the mules and their lading and betake yourself to their king Zoulmekan and cast yourselves on his protection, saying, 'We were in the country of the infidels and they took nothing from us, but wrote us a passport, that none should hinder us: so why do ye seize upon our goods? See, here is the letter of the King of the Greeks, commanding that none shall do us let or hindrance.' If he say to you, 'What profit had ye of your commerce in the land of the Greeks?' answer him, 'We profited in that it was given us to accomplish the deliverance of a pious man, who had lain nigh fifteen years in a dungeon under the earth, crying out for help, yet none helped him. On the contrary, the infidels tortured him night and day. We knew not of this: but after we had sojourned awhile in Constantinople, having sold our goods and bought others in their stead, we made ready to set out and return to our native land. We spent the night before our departure, conversing about our journey, and when the day broke, we saw a figure painted upon the wall; and behold, as we drew nigh it, it moved and said, "O Muslims, is there amongst you one who is minded to gain the favour of the Lord of the two worlds?" "How so?" asked we. "Know," replied the figure, "that God hath made me speak to you, to the intent that your belief may be fortified and that your faith may inspire you and that you may go forth of the country of the infidels and repair to the camp of the Muslims. where ye shall find the Sword of the Compassionate One, the Champion of the Age, King Sherkan, him by whom He shall conquer Constantinople and destroy the followers of the Christian heresy. On the third day of your journey, you will come to [a town, in which stands] a hermitage known as the hermitage of Metronhena. Make for it with a pure intent and do your utmost endeavour to come into the hermitage, for therein is a true believer from Jerusalem, by name Abdallah, one of the holiest of men, whom God hath blessed with supernatural powers, such as dispel doubts and obscurity. Him certain of the monks seized by fraud and shut in an underground dungeon, where he has lain many a year. So, if ye desire to gain the favour of the Lord of the Faithful, ye cannot accomplish a more acceptable work than the deliverance of this holy man." When we heard what the figure said, we knew that this holy man was indeed of the chiefest of the devotees and heart-whole servants of God; so we set out and after three days' journey, came in sight of the town, and making for it, passed the day in buying and selling, as is the wont of merchants. As soon as the day had departed and the night was come with the darkness, we repaired to the hermitage, wherein was the dungeon, and presently heard the holy man chant some verses of the Koran and repeat the following lines:
I strive with my heart, for anguish that's well-nigh cleft in twain, And there ebbs and flows in my bosom a flooding sea of pain. Indeed, there is no deliverance, and death is near at hand; Yet death than long affliction were kinder and more fain. O lightning, if thou visit my native land and folk, If for the fair ones' lustre thine own red brilliance wane Carry my salutation to those I love and say, I lie in a far Greek dungeon and cry for help in vain. How can I win to join them, since that the ways with wars Are blocked and the gate of succour is barred with many a chain?'
When once ye have brought me into the Muslim camp," added the old woman, "I know how I will make shift to beguile them and slay them all, even to the last man." When the Christians heard what she said, they kissed her hands and laid her in a chest, after they had beaten her grievously, in obedience to her commands, seeing it to be incumbent on them to do her bidding in this, then made for the Muslim camp.
Meanwhile, the Muslims sat down to converse with each other, after they had made an end of the battle and the pillage, and Zoulmekan said to his brother, "Verily, God hath given us the victory, because of our just dealing and concord amongst ourselves; wherefore, O Sherkan, do thou continue to obey my commandment, in submission to God (to whom belong might and majesty), for I mean to slay ten kings and fifty thousand of the Greeks, in revenge for my father, and enter Constantinople." "My life be thy ransom against death!" replied Sherkan. "Needs must I follow forth the Holy War, though I tarry many a year in the infidels' country. But, O my brother, I have in Damascus a daughter called Kuzia Fekan, who is one of the marvels of the time, and I love her heartily." "And I also," said Zoulmekan, "have left my wife with child and near her time, nor do I know what God will vouchsafe me by her. But, O my brother, promise me that, if she bring me a son, thou wilt grant me thy daughter for my son and pledge me thy faith thereon." "With all my heart," replied Sherkan and put out his hand to his brother, saying, "If thou be blessed with a son, I will give him my daughter Kuzia Fekan to wife." At this Zoulmekan rejoiced, and they fell to giving each other joy of the victory, whilst the Vizier Dendan also congratulated them and said to them "Know, O Kings, that God hath given us the victory, for that we have devoted ourselves to Him (to whom belong might and majesty) and have left our homes and families: and it is my counsel that we follow up the foe and press upon them and harass them; it may be God shall bring us to our desire and we shall destroy our enemies. If it please you, do ye embark in the ships and sail upon the sea, whilst we fare forward by land and bear the brunt of the battle." And he ceased not to urge them to action, repeating the following verses:
The goodliest of delights it is one's foes to slay And on the backs of steeds the spoil to bear away. Oft comes a messenger with promise of a friend, And the friend comes himself without a trysting-day.
And these also:
As I live, I will make of war my mother and the spear My brother and the sword my father, and for fere I will take each shag-haired warrior that meets death with a smile, As if to die in battle were e'en his wish most dear!
"Glory be to God," continued he, "Who hath vouchsafed us His almighty aid and hath given us spoil of silver and fine gold!" Then Zoulmekan commanded to depart; and the army set out and fared on, by forced marches, toward Constantinople, till they came to a wide and blooming champaign, full of all things fair, with wild cattle frisking and gazelles passing to and fro. Now they had traversed great deserts and had been six days cut off from water, when they drew near this meadow and saw therein waters welling and trees laden with ripe fruits and the land as it were Paradise; it had donned its adornments and decked itself. The branches of its trees swayed gently to and fro, drunken with the new wine of the dew, and therein were conjoined the fresh sweetness of the fountains of Paradise and the soft breathings of the zephyr. Mind and eye were confounded with its beauty, even as says the poet:
Look on the verdant smiling mead, with flowers and herbs beseen, As 'twere the Spring thereon had spread a mantle all of green. If thou behold it with the eye of sense alone, thou'lt see Nought but as 'twere a lake wherein the water waves, I ween: But with thy mind's eye look; thou'lt see a glory in the trees And lo' amidst the boughs above, the waving banners' sheen!
Or as another says:
The river's a cheek that the sun has rosy made; For ringlets it borrows the cassia's creeping shade. The water makes anklets of silver about the legs Of the boughs, and the flowers for crowns o'er all are laid.
When Zoulmekan saw this champaign, with its thick-leaved trees and its blooming flowers and warbling birds, he turned to his brother Sherkan and said to him, "O my brother, verily Damascus hath not in it the like of this place. We will abide here three days, that we may rest ourselves and that the troops may regain strength and their souls be fortified to encounter the accursed infidels." So they halted and pitched their camp there. Presently, they heard a noise of voices afar, and Zoulmekan enquiring the cause thereof, was told that a caravan of Syrian merchants had halted there to rest and that the Muslim troops had come on them and had haply seized some of their goods, that they had brought from the country of the infidels. After awhile, up came the merchants, crying out and appealing to the King for redress. So Zoulmekan bade bring them before him, and they said to him, "O King, we have been in the country of the infidels and they spoiled us of nothing: why then do our brothers the Muslims despoil us of our goods, and that in their own country? When we saw your troops, we went up to them, thinking no evil, and they robbed us of what we had with us." Then they brought out to him the letter of the King of Constantinople, and Sherkan took it and reading it, said to them, "We will restore you what has been taken from you; but it behoved you not to carry merchandise to the country of the infidels." "O our lord," replied they, "of a truth, God moved us to go thither, that we might win what never champion won the like of, no, not even thou in ail thy battles." "What was it that ye won?" asked Sherkan. "O King," replied they, "we will not tell thee, except in private; for if this thing be noised among the folk, it may come to the ears of the King of Constantinople, and this will be the cause of our ruin and of the ruin of all Muslims that resort to the land of the Greeks." (Now they had hidden the chest wherein was Dhat ed Dewahi.) So Zoulmekan and his brother brought them to a private place, where they repeated to him the story of the devotee, even as the old woman had lessoned them, and wept till they made the two kings weep. There withal Sherkan's heart yearned to the devotee and he was moved to pity for him and zeal for the service of God the Most High. So he said to the Syrians, "Did ye rescue the holy man or is he still in the hermitage?" Quoth they, "We delivered him and slew the hermit, fearing for ourselves; after which we made haste to fly, for fear of death; but a trusty man told us that in this hermitage are quintals of gold and silver and jewels." Then they fetched the chest and brought out the accursed old woman, as she were a cassia pod, for excess of blackness and leanness, and laden with fetters and shackles. When Zoulmekan and the bystanders saw her, they took her for a man of the dower of God's servants and the most excellent of devotees, more by token of the shining of her forehead for the ointment with which she had anointed it. So Zoulmekan and Sherkan wept sore and kissed her hands and feet, sobbing aloud: but she signed to them and said, "Give over weeping and hear my words." So they left weeping, in obedience to her, and she said, "Know that I was content to accept what my Lord did unto me, knowing that the affliction that befell me was a trial from Him (to whom belong might and majesty); since that for him who is not patient under trial and affliction there is no coming to the delights of Paradise. I had indeed besought Him that I might return to my native land, yet not for impatience of the sufferings decreed to me, but that I might die under the hoofs of the horses of the warriors of the Faith, who, being slain in battle, live again without suffering death,"; and she repeated the following couplets:
The fortress is Sinai's self and the fire of war burns free, And thou art Moses and this the time appointed to thee. Throw down thy rod, for lo, it shall swallow up all they make! And fear not; I trow the ropes of the folk no serpents be. Read thou the lines of the foe for chapters, the day of the fight, And let thy sword mark on their necks the verses, what while they flee.
Then her eyes ran over with tears and her forehead shone like gleaming light, and Sherkan rose and kissed her hand and caused food to be set before her: but she refused it, saying, "I have not broken my fast (till sunset) for fifteen years; and how should I do so now, whenas my Lord hath been bountiful to me in delivering me from the captivity of the infidels and doing away from me that which was more grievous than the fiery torment? I will wait till sun down." So at nightfall Sherkan and Zoulmekan came to her with food and said, "Eat, O pious man." But she said, "This is no time for eating; it is the hour for doing my service to the Requiting King." Then she took up her station in the prayer-niche and stood praying till the night was spent; and she ceased not to do thus for three days and nights, sitting not but at the time of salutation. When Zoulmekan saw this her behaviour, belief in her took firm hold upon his heart and he said to Sherkan, "Cause a tent of perfumed leather to be pitched for this holy man and appoint a servant to wait upon him." On the fourth day, she called for food; so they brought her all kinds of meats that could allure the sense or delight the eye; but of all this she ate but one cake of bread with salt. Then she turned again to her fast, and when the night came, she rose anew to pray: and Sherkan said to Zoulmekan, "Verily, this man carries renunciation of the world to the utmost extreme, and were it not for this holy war, I would join myself to him and worship God in his service, till I came before His presence. And now I would fain enter his tent and talk with him awhile." "And I also," said Zoulmekan. "To-morrow we sally forth against Constantinople, and we shall find no time like the present." "And I also," said the Vizier Dendan, "desire to see this holy man; haply he will pray for me that I may find my death in this holy war and come to the presence of my Lord, for I am weary of the world." So as soon as night had darkened on them, they repaired to the tent of the witch Dhat et Dewahi and finding her standing praying, fell a-weeping, for pity of her: but she paid no heed to them till the night was half spent, when she ended her devotions by pronouncing the salutation (to the guardian angels). Then she turned to them and greeted them, saying, "Wherefore come ye?" "O holy man," said they, "didst thou not hear us weeping round thee?" "To him who stands before God," replied she, "there remains nor sight nor hearing for the things of this world." Quoth they, "We would have thee tell us the manner of thy captivity and offer up prayer for us this night, for that will profit us more than the possession of Constantinople." "By Allah," answered she, "were ye not the leaders of the Muslims, I would not tell you aught of this; for I complain not but to God alone. However, to you I will relate the circumstance of my captivity. Know, then, that I was in Jerusalem with certain saints and ecstatics, and did not magnify myself among them, for that God had endowed me with humility and abnegation, till one night I chanced to go down to the lake and walked upon the water. There withal there entered into me pride, whence I know not, and I said to myself, 'Who can walk upon the water, like unto me?' And from that time my heart became hardened and God afflicted me with the love of travel. So I journeyed to the land of the Greeks and visited it in every part during a whole year, leaving no place but I worshipped God therein. When I came to the place (where the Syrians found me) I ascended the mountain and saw there a hermitage, inhabited by a monk called Metrouhena. When he saw me, he came out to me and kissed my hands and feet, saying, 'Verily, I have seen thee, since thou camest into the land of the Greeks, and thou hast filled me with longing for the land of Islam.' Then he took my hand and carrying me into the hermitage, brought me to a dark place, where he took me unawares and locking the door on me, left me there forty days, without meat or drink; for it was his intent to kill me by starvation. One day it chanced that a knight called Decianus came to the hermitage, accompanied by ten squires and his daughter Temathil, a girl of incomparable beauty. The monk told them of me, and Decianus said, 'Bring him out, for surely there is not a bird's meal of flesh left on him.' So they opened the door of the dungeon and found me standing erect in the niche, praying and reciting the Koran and glorifying God and humbling myself to Him. When they saw this, the monk exclaimed, 'This man is indeed a sorcerer of the sorcerers!' Then they all came in on me, and Decianus and his company beat me grievously, till I desired death and reproached myself, saying, 'This is the reward of him who glorifies himself and takes credit for that which God hath bestowed upon him, beyond his own competence! For, indeed, my soul, pride and arrogance have crept into thee. Dost thou not know that pride angers the Lord and hardens the heart and brings men to the fire?' Then they laid me in fetters and returned me to my place, which was a dungeon under the earth. Every three days, they threw me down a cake of barley-bread and a draught of water; and every month or two, came Decianus to the hermitage, with his daughter Temathil, who is now grown up, for when I first saw her, she was nine years old, and I abode fifteen years in the dungeon, so that she must be now four-and twenty years of age. There is not in our land nor in the land of the Greeks a fairer than she, and her father feared lest the King (of Constantinople) should take her from him; for she had vowed herself to the service of the Messiah and rode with Decianus in the habit of a cavalier, so that none who saw her knew her for a woman. In this hermitage her father had laid up his treasures, for all who had aught of price were wont to deposit it there, and I saw there all manner of gold and silver and jewels and precious vessels and rarities, none may keep count of them save God the Most High. Ye are more worthy of these riches than the infidels; so do ye lay hands on that which is in the hermitage and divide it among the Muslims, and especially among those who wage the holy war. When these merchants came to Constantinople and sold their merchandise, the image on the wall spoke to them, by God's special grace to me; so they made for the hermitage and tortured Metrouhena, after the most grievous fashion, and dragged him by the beard, till he showed them where I was, when they took me and fled for fear of death. To-morrow, Temathil will visit the hermitage as of wont, and her father and his squires will come after her, to protect her: so, an ye would be witness of these things, take me with you and I will deliver to you the treasure and the riches of the knight Decianus, that are stored up in that mountain; for I saw them bring out vessels of gold and silver to drink in and heard a damsel of their company sing to them in Arabic. Alas, that so sweet a voice should not be busied in reciting the Koran! So, an ye will, I will bring you to the hermitage and ye shall hide there, against the coming of Decianus and his daughter. Then take her, for she is only fit for the king of the age, Sherkan, or for King Zoulmekan." When they heard her words, they all rejoiced, with the exception of the Vizier Dendan, who put no faith in her story, for her words took no hold on his reason and he was confounded at her discourse and signs of doubt and disbelief appeared in his face; but he feared to speak with her, for awe of the King. Then she said, "I fear lest Decianus come and seeing the troops encamped here, be afraid to enter the hermitage." So Zoulmekan resolved to despatch the army towards Constantinople and said, "I mean to take a hundred horse and many mules and make for the mountain, where we will load the mules with the treasure." Then he sent for the Chamberlain and for the captains of the Turks and Medes and said to them, 'As soon as it is day, do ye strike camp and set out for Constantinople. Thou, O Chamberlain, shall fill my place in council and command, and thou, O Rustem, shalt be my brother's deputy in battle. Let none know that we are not with you, and after three days we will rejoin you." Then he chose out a hundred of the stoutest cavaliers, and he and Sherkan and Dendan set out for the hermitage, with mules and chests for the transport of the treasure. As soon as it was morning, the Chamberlain gave the signal for departure, and the troops set out, thinking that the two Kings and the Vizier were with them. Now the Syrians that were with Dhat ed Dewahi had taken their departure privily, after they had gone in to her and kissed her hands and feet and gotten her leave and taken her orders. Then she waited till it was dark night and going in to Zoulmekan and his companions, said to them, "Come, let us set out for the mountain, and take with you a few men." They obeyed her and left five horsemen at the foot of the mountain, whilst the rest rode on before Dhat ed Dewahi, to whom new strength seemed given for excess of joy, so that Zoulmekan said to his companions, "Glory be to God who sustains this holy man, whose like we never saw!" Now she had written a letter to the King of Constantinople and despatched it by a carrier-pigeon, acquainting him with what had passed and adding, "Do thou send me ten thousand horsemen of the stoutest of the Greeks and let them come stealthily along the foot of the mountains, lest the Muslim host get sight of them, to the hermitage and hide themselves there, till I come to them with the Muslim King and his brother, for I have inveigled them and will bring them thither, together with the Vizier Dendan and a hundred horse, no more, that I may deliver to them the crosses that are in the hermitage. I am resolved to slay the monk Metrouhena, since my scheme cannot be carried out but at the cost of his life. If my plot work well, not one of the Muslims shall return to his own country, no, not a living soul nor a blower of the fire; and Metrouhena shall be a sacrifice for the followers of the Christian faith and the servants of the Cross, and praise be to the Messiah, first and last!" When this letter reached Constantinople, the keeper of the pigeons carried it to King Afridoun, who read it and forthwith equipped ten thousand cavaliers with horses and dromedaries and mules and victual and bade them repair to the hermitage and hide there; and they did as he commanded them. Meanwhile. when Zoulmekan and his companions reached the hermitage, they entered and met the monk Metrouhena, who came out to see who they were; whereupon quoth Dhat ed Dewahi, "Slay this accursed fellow.' So they fell on him with their swords and made him drink the cup of death. Then the accursed old woman carried them to the place of offerings and brought out to them treasures and precious things, more than she had promised them, which they laid in chests and loaded the mules therewith. As for Temathil and her father, they came not, for fear of the Muslims, and Zoulmekan tarried there, awaiting her, the whole of that day and two more, till Sherkan said to him, "By Allah, I am troubled at heart for the army of Islam, for I know not what is come of them." "And I also am concerned for them," replied Zoulmekan. "We have come by a great treasure and I do not believe that Temathil or any one else will come to the hermitage, after that which has befallen the host of the Christians. So we should do well to content ourselves with what God has given us and depart; and haply He will help us break open Constantinople." So they came down from the mountain, for Dhat ed Dewahi dared not gainsay them, for fear of betraying herself, and rode on till they reached the head of a defile, in which the old woman had laid an ambush for them with the ten thousand horse. As soon as the latter saw them, they made at them from all sides, couching their lances and baring their sabres, whilst they shouted the watchword of their infidel faith and set the arrows of their mischief to the strings.
When Zoulmekan saw them, he was ware that they were a mighty host and said, "Who can have given these troops advice of us?" "O my brother," replied Sherkan, "this is no time for talking, but for smiting with swords and shooting with arrows; so gird up your courage and strengthen your hearts, for this pass is like a street with two gates: though, by the virtue of the Lord of the Arabs and the Persians, were not the place so strait, I would bring them to nought, though they were a hundred thousand men!"
"Had we known this," said Zoulmekan, "we would have brought with us five thousand horse." "If we had ten thousand," rejoined the Vizier, "they would avail ail us nothing in this narrow place: but God will succour us against them. I know this defile and its straitness, and there are many places of refuge in it; for I have been here on an expedition with King Omar ben Ennuman, what while we laid siege to Constantinople. We camped in this place, and there is here water colder than snow. So come, let us win? out of this pass ere the infidels increase on us and get the start of us to the mountain-top, that they may hurl down rocks upon us and we be powerless to come at them." So they hurried on, to get out of the defile: but Dhat ed Dewahi looked at them and said, "What is it ye fear, ye who have vowed yourselves to God the Most High, to work His will? By Allah, I was imprisoned underground for fifteen years, yet never gainsaid I God in aught He did with me! Fight ye in the way of God; whoso of ye is killed, Paradise shall be his abode, and whoso kills, his endeavour shall be for his glory." When they heard her words, their concern and anxiety ceased from them and they stood firm, awaiting the onset of the infidels, who fell on them from all sides, whilst the swords played upon their necks and the cup of death went round amongst them.
The Muslims fought right valiantly for the service of God and wrought upon His enemies with stroke of sword and push of pike; whilst Zoulmekan smote upon the men and made the champions bite the dust and their heads fly from their bodies, five by five and ten by ten, till he had done to death a number of them past count. Presently, he looked at the old woman and saw her waving her sword and heartening them, and all who feared fled to her for shelter; but (in secret) she was beckoning to the infidels to kill Sherkan. So troop after troop rushed on him to slay him: but each troop he charged and drove back, with the sword in their loins; and indeed he thought it was the holy man's blessing that gave him the victory over them and said in himself, "Verily God looks on this holy man with eyes of favour and strengthens my prowess against the infidels with the purity of his intent: for I see that they fear me and cannot stand against me, but every one who attacks me turns tail and flees." So they battled the rest of the day, and when the night fell, the Muslims took refuge in a cave, being hard pressed and weary with stress of battle; and five-and-forty of them were slain that day by rocks that the infidels rolled down on them. When they were gathered together, they sought the devotee, but could find no trace of him. This was grievous to them and they said, "Belike, he hath died a martyr." Quoth Sherkan "I saw him heartening the men with divine instances and sacring them with verses of the Koran." Whilst they were talking, behold, the accursed old woman stood before them, with the head of the captain of the ten thousand horse, a noble knight, a fierce champion and an obstinate devil, in her hand. Now one of the Turks had slain him with an arrow, and God hurried his soul to the fire: and when the infidels saw what the Muslim had done with their leader, they all fell on him and hewed him in pieces with their swords, and God hastened with his soul to Paradise. Then the old woman cut off the knight's head and carrying it to Sherkan and Zoulmekan and the Vizier, threw it at their feet; whereupon Sherkan exclaimed, "Praised be God that we see thee in safety, O holy man and devout champion of the Faith!" "O my son," replied she, "I have sought a martyr's death this day, throwing myself midmost the host of the infidels, but they feared me. When ye separated, a holy jealousy seized me for you; so I rushed on the knight their captain, though he was reckoned a match for a thousand horse, and smote him and severed his head from his body. Not one of the infidels could come near me, so I took his head and have brought it to you, that you may be heartened in the holy strife and work out the will of the Lord of the Faithful with your swords. And now I will leave you to strive against the infidels, whilst I go to your army, though they be at the gates of Constantinople, and return with twenty thousand horse to destroy these unbelievers." Quoth Sherkan, "How wilt thou win to them, O holy man, seeing that the valley is blocked up by the infidels on all sides?" "God will veil me from their eyes," replied she, "and they shall not see me; nor if any saw me, would he dare to attack me, for I shall be absorbed in God and He will fend off His enemies from me." "Thou sayst sooth, O holy man," rejoined Sherkan, "for indeed I have been witness of this; so, if thou canst set out at the first of the night, it will be the better for us." "I will set out forthright," replied she; "and, an thou wilt, thou shalt go with me, and none shall see thee. If thy brother also have a mind to go, we will take him, but none else; for the shadow of a saint can cover but two." "As for me," said Sherkan, "I will not leave my comrades; but, if my brother please, he will do well to go with thee and win free of this strait; for he is the stronghold of the Muslims and the sword of the Lord of the two worlds; and if it be his pleasure, let him take with him the Vizier Dendan, or whom else he may choose, and send us ten thousand horse to succour us against these villains." So they agreed to this and Dhat ed Dewahi said, "Wait till I go on before you and look if the infidels be asleep or awake." Quoth they, "We will go with thee and trust our affair to God." "If I do your bidding," replied she, "do not blame me, but blame yourselves; for it is my counsel that you wait till I have spied you out the state of the case." Then said Sherkan, "Go and return quickly, for we shall be awaiting thee." So she went out and Sherkan turned to his brother and said, "Were not this holy man a miracle-worker, he had never slain yonder doughty knight. This is a sufficient measure of his power, and indeed the strength of the infidels is broken by the slaying of their leader, for he was a fierce warrior and a stubborn devil." Whilst they were thus devising of the power of the devotee, behold, the cursed old woman returned and promised them victory over the unbelievers; whereupon they thanked her, and she said, "Where is the king of the age Zoulmekan?" "Here am I," replied he. "Take thy Vizier," said she, "and follow me, that we may win out to Constantinople." Now she had acquainted the infidels with the cheat she had put on the Muslims, and they rejoiced mightily and said, "We shall not be content till we have slain their king in return for the death of our general; for we had no stouter cavalier than he; but when thou bringest him to us, we will carry him to King Afridoun." Then she went out with Zoulmekan and Dendan and walked on before them, saying, "Fare on with the blessing of the Most High God!" They did as she bade them, for the arrow of fate and destiny had fallen on them, and she led them on, through the midst of the Christian camp, till they came to the narrow pass aforesaid. Whilst the enemy watched them, but did them no hindrance; for the old woman had enjoined this on them. When Zoulmekan and Dendan saw that the infidels did them no hindrance, the Vizier exclaimed, "By Allah, this is one of the holy man's miracles! Without doubt he is of the elect." "By Allah," said Zoulmekan, "I think the infidels must be blind, for we see them, and they see us not." Whilst they were thus praising the holy man and recounting his virtues, behold, the infidels fell upon them from all sides and seized them, saying, "Is there any one else with you, that we may seize upon him?" Quoth Dendan, "See ye not yon other man that is before us?" "By the Messiah and the Monks and the Primate and the Metropolitan," replied they, "we see none but you!" And Zoulmekan said, "By Allah, this is a chastisement decreed to us by God!" Then the Christians laid shackles on their feet and set men to guard them during the night, whilst Dhat ed Dewahi fared on and disappeared from their sight. So they fell to lamenting and said, "Verily, the gainsaying of pious men leads to greater stress than this, and we are punished by the strait into which we have fallen."
Meanwhile, Sherkan passed the night in the cavern with his companions, and when the day broke, he arose and prayed the morning-prayer. Then he and his men made ready to do battle with the infidels, and he encouraged them and promised them all good. Then they sallied out against the Christians, who cried out to them from afar as soon as they saw them, saying, "O Muslims, we have taken your Sultan and your Vizier that has the ordering of your affairs; and except ye leave fighting us, we will slay you to the last man, but if ye yield to us, we will take you to our king, who will make peace with you, on condition that you leave our country and return to your own land and do us no harm, and we will do you no harm. If you accept, it will be well for you; but if you refuse, you have nothing to hope for but death. So now we have told you, and this is our last word to you." When Sherkan heard this and was certified of the captivity of his brother and the Vizier Dendan, he was greatly troubled and wept; his strength failed him and he made sure of death, saying inwardly, "I wonder what was the cause of their capture? Did they fail of respect to the holy man or disobey him, or what?" Then they rushed upon the unbelievers and slew great plenty of them. The valiant, that day, was known from the faint-hearted, and the swords and spears were dyed with blood; for the infidels flocked on them from all sides, as flies flock to wine; but Sherkan and his men ceased not to wage the fight of those who fear not death nor let it hinder them from the pursuit of victory, till the valley ran with blood and the earth was full of the slain. So fought they on till nightfall, when the two parties separated, each to his own place, and the Muslims returned to the grotto, where both victory and loss were manifest to them, and there was no dependence for them but on God and the sword. That day there had been slain of them five-and-thirty men of the chief amirs, and they had put to the sword thousands of the infidels, both horse and foot. When Sherkan saw this, the case was grievous to him, and he said to his comrades, "What shall we do?" "That which God wills," replied they. On the morning of the second day, Sherkan said to the remnant of his troop, "If ye go forth to fight, not one of you will remain alive and we have but little food and water left; so meseems ye would do better to draw your swords and stand at the door of the cavern, to hinder any from entering. Peradventure the holy man may have traversed the Christian host, without being seen of the unbelievers, and may win to Constantinople and return with ten thousand horse, to succour us against the infidels." "This is the better course," replied they, "and there is no doubt of its expediency." So they went out and held the opening of the grotto, standing in its sides; and every one of the infidels who sought to come in, they slew. Thus did they fend off the enemy from the door of the cavern and make head against all their assaults, till the day departed and the night came with the shadows, by which time King Sherkan had but five-and-twenty men left. Then said the Christians to each other, "When shall these battles have an end? We are weary of fighting the Muslims." And one of them said, "Up and let us fall on them, for there be but five-and-twenty and of them left. If we cannot prevail on them to fight, let us light a fire upon them; and if they submit and yield themselves up, we will take them prisoners: else we will leave them to serve as fuel to the fire, so that they shall become a warning to men of understanding. May the Messiah not have mercy on their fathers and may the sojourn of the Christians be no abiding-place for them!" So they repaired to the cavern and heaping up faggots in the door-way, set fire to them. Thereupon, Sherkan and his companions made sure of death and yielded themselves up. The unbelievers thought to kill them, but the knight their captain said to those who counselled this, "It is for none but King Afridoun to kill them, that he may quench thereby his thirst for vengeance; wherefore it behoves us to keep them prisoners till the morrow, when we will journey with them to Constantinople and deliver them to King Afridoun, who shall deal with them as he pleases." "This is the right course," replied they; and he commanded to pinion the prisoners and set guards over them. Then, as soon as it was dark, the infidels gave themselves up to feasting and merry-making and called for wine and drank, till they all fell backward. Presently, Sherkan turned to his brother Zoulmekan and said to him "My brother, how shall we get free?" "By Allah," replied Zoulmekan, "I know not; for we are here like birds in a cage." At this Sherkan was angry and sighed for excess of wrath and stretched himself, till his bonds broke; whereupon he went up to the captain of the guard and taking from his bosom the keys of the fetters, freed Zoulmekan and Dendan and the rest of the prisoners. Then said he, "Let us slay three of these infidels and don their clothes, we three; so shall we be disguised as Greeks and pass through them without their knowing us, and win out to our army." "This is no safe counsel," replied Zoulmekan "for if we kill them, I fear some of their comrades may hear their groans and the enemy he roused upon us and kill us. It were better to make our way out of the pass." So they agreed upon this and set out. When they had left the head of the defile a little way behind, they saw horses picketed and their riders sleeping by them: and Sherkan said to his brother, "Let us each take one of these steeds." So they took five- and-twenty horses, one for each man, and mounted and rode on till they were out of reach, whilst God sent sleep upon the infidels for a secret purpose of His own. Meanwhile, Sherkan gathered as many swords and spears as he could from the sleepers and faring on after his comrades, found them awaiting him, on coals of fire on his account, and said to them, "Have no fear, since God protects us. I have that to propose, which meseems will advantage us." "What is it?" asked they, and he said, "It is that we all climb to the mountain-top and cry out with one voice, 'God is most great! The army of Islam is upon you! God is most great!' If we do this, their company will surely be dissolved, for they are too drunken to find out the trick, but will think that the Muslim troops have encompassed them on all sides and have become mingled with them; so they will fall on one another with their swords, in the confusion of drunkenness and sleep, and we will cleave them asunder with their own brands and the sword will go round amongst them till the morning." "This plan is not good," replied Zoulmekan. "We should do better to make our way to our army and keep silence; for, if we cry out, 'God is most great!' they will wake and fall on us, and not one of us will escape." "By Allah," rejoined Sherkan, "though they be roused on us, I desire urgently that ye fall in with my plan, for nothing but good can come of it." So they agreed and ascending the mountain, shouted out, "God is most great!" And the hills and trees and stones cried out with them, "God is most great!" for the fear of the Almighty. When the unbelievers heard this, they started up from sleep and did on their armour, crying out to one another and saying, "By the Messiah, the enemy is upon us." Then they fell on each other and slew of their own men more than any knows save God the Most High. As soon as it was day, they sought for the captives, but found them not, and their captains said, "It was the prisoners who did this; so up and hasten after them, till ye overtake them, when we will make them quaff the cup of punishment; and let not trouble nor panic possess you." So they sprang to horse and rode after the fugitives, nor was it long before they overtook them and surrounded them. Wheu Zoulmekan saw this, he was seized with terror and said to his brother, "What I feared is come upon us, and now it only remains for us to fight for the faith." But Sherkan held his peace. Then Zoulmekan and his companions rushed down from the hill-top, crying out, "God is most great!" and addressed themselves to fight and sell their lives in the service of the Lord of the Faithful, when, behold, they heard many voices crying out, "There is no god but God! God is most great! Peace and salvation upon the Bringer of Glad Tidings, the Admonisher of Mankind!" So they turned towards the sound and saw a company of Muslims pricking towards them, whereupon their courage revived and Sherkan ran at the Christians, crying out, "There is no god but God! God is most great!" so that the earth shook as with an earthquake and the unbelievers broke asunder and fled into the mountains, whither the Muslims followed them with sword and spear and made their heads fly from their bodies, till the day departed and the night came with the darkness. Then the Muslims drew together and passed the night rejoicing; and when the day broke and the morning arose with its light and shone, they saw Behram, the captain of the Medes, and Rustem, the captain of the Turks, advancing to join them, with twenty thousand cavaliers, as they were fierce lions. As soon as they saw Zoulmekan, the chiefs dismounted and saluting him, kissed the earth before him; and he said to them, "Rejoice ye in the glad news of the victory of the Muslims and the discomfiture of the unbelievers!" Then they gave each other joy of their deliverance and of the greatness of the reward that awaited them in the world to come.
Now the manner of the coming of the succours was as follows. When Behram and Rustem and the Chamberlain came in sight of Constantinople, with the Muslim army, they saw that the Christians had manned the walls and towers and set all their strengths in order of defence, for that they knew of the approach of the host of Islam, through the craft and perfidy of the old woman Dhat ed Dewahi. So, when they heard the clash of arms and tramp of horse-hoofs and saw the Mohammedan standards and the ensigns of the Faith of the Unity of God emerging from the dust-clouds and heard the voices of the Muslims chanting the Koran aloud and glorifying the Compassionate One, and the army of Islam drew near, as it were the swollen sea, for the multitude of footmen and horsemen and women and children, they poured forth like a flight of locusts or the streaming of water from the rain-clouds; and the captain of the Turks said to the captain of the Medes, "O Amir, of a truth, we are in jeopardy from the multitude of the foe on the walls. Look at yonder forts and at the folk like the tempestuous sea with its clashing billows. Indeed the infidels out-number us a hundred times and we cannot be sure but that some spy may inform them that we are without a leader. Verily, we are in peril from these enemies, whose number may not be told and whose extent is limitless, especially in the absence of King Zoulmekan and his brother Sherkan and the illustrious Vizier Dendan. If they know of this, they will be emboldened to attack us in their absence and will cut off us to the last man; not one of us will escape alive. So it is my counsel that we each take ten thousand horse and repair to the hermitage of Metrouhena and the Meadow of Meloukhna in quest of our brothers and our chiefs. If thou follow my counsel, it may be we shall be the cause of their deliverance, in case they be hard pressed by the infidels; and if not, no blame will rest on me. But, if we go, it were well that we return quickly, for suspicion is part of prudence." The other fell in with his counsel; so they chose twenty thousand horse and set out for the hermitage by cross roads.
To return to Dhat ed Dewahi. As soon as she had delivered Zoulmekan and his companions into the hands of the infidels, she mounted a swift horse, saying to the Christians, "I mean to rejoin the Muslim army before Constantinople and contrive for their destruction; for I will tell them that their chiefs are dead, and when they hear this, their alliance will be dissolved and their confederation broken up and their host dispersed. Then will I go to King Afridoun and my son King Herdoub, and they will sally forth on them with their troops and destroy them, nor leave one of them alive." So she mounted and fared on across country all that night, and at daybreak, she sighted the army of Behram and Rustem advancing towards her. So she turned aside into a wayside copse and alighting there, hid her horse among the trees, saying to herself, "Belike they are returning, routed, from the assault of Constantinople." However, as she drew near, she saw that their standards were not reversed and knew that they were not retreating because of defeat, but that they feared for their king and their chiefs. When she was assured of this, she hastened up to them, running at the top of her speed, like a stubborn Satan as she was, and cried out, "Hasten, O soldiers of the Merciful One, hasten to the holy war against the hosts of Satan!" When Behram saw her, he dismounted and kissing the earth before her, said, "What is behind thee, O friend of God?" "Do not ask of evil case and sore disasters," answered she. "Know that, when our comrades had taken the treasure from the hermitage and were on their way back to Constantinople, there came out on them a great host and a fierce of unbelievers." And she repeated to them the story, in such wise as to fill them with trouble and terror, and added, "The most of them are dead, and there are but five-and-twenty left." "O holy man," said Behram, "when didst thou leave them?" "But last night," replied she. "Glory be to God," exclaimed he, "Who hath rolled up the distance for thee like a carpet, so that thou hast sped thus, walking upon thy feet and leant upon a palm-tree staff! But thou art one of the friends of God, that fly like birds, when possessed by the stress of His commandment!" Then he mounted his horse, perplexed and confounded for that which he had heard from the lying old beldam and saying, "There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High! Verily our labour is lost and our hearts are heavy within us, for our king is a prisoner and those who are with him!" Then they fared on in haste and stayed not the whole of that day and night, till at daybreak they reached the head of the pass and heard Zoulmekan and Sherkan shouting, "There is no god but God! God is most great!" Whereupon they drove at the unbelievers and overwhelmed them, as the torrent overwhelms the plains, shouting out their war-cries, till the stoutest champions were affrighted and the mountains were cloven by the noise. On the morrow, they foregathered with Zoulmekan, and each recognised the other as has been before set out. Then they kissed the earth before the King and his brother Sherkan, and the latter told them all that had befallen him and his men in the grotto, whereat they marvelled and said, "Hasten back with us to Constantinople, for we left our companions there, and our hearts are with them." So they made haste to depart, commending themselves to the Subtle, the All-wise; and Zoulmekan exhorted the Muslims to steadfastness, reciting the following verses:
To thee be the praise, O Thou that meritest thanks and praise! And mayest Thou never cease to succour me all my days! I grew up in exile, but Thou, my God, wast ever my friend. 'Twas Thou didst decree me success and broughtest me forth of the maze. Thou hast given me lordship and wealth and fortune and girded my midst With the falchion of valour and wreathed my forehead with victory's bays. Thou hast shadowed me under Thy wings and made me to prosper amain And hast graced me with favours untold, of Thy bounties abounding always: Thou hast saved me from all that I feared, by the counsel of him whom I trust, The Vizier and chief of the chiefs, the hero and pride of our days. By Thy favour we fell on the Greeks and smote them with sword and with spear; But again to the fight they returned, in garments blood-red for affrays. So I feigned to be routed and flee and give back from the fight; then I turned On the toe, as the fierce lion turns on the hunters, that find him at gaze. I left them laid low on the plain, as 'twere they were drunken with wine, Not the wine that is pressed from the grape, but that of death's cup of amaze; Whilst their ships all fell under our hand and ours was the empery grown: From the East to the West, sea and shore, we were lords of the lands and the ways. Then there came to our camp the recluse, the saint, whose miraculous power Is blazoned in desert and town, wherever the sun sheds its rays. He joined us, his vengeance to wreak on all that believe not in God. Indeed, it is known to the folk what came of our strife and our frays. They slew of us some, but they woke on the morrow in Paradise, Each lodged in a palace on high, whereunder a river strays.
When Zoulmekan had made an end of reciting these verses, his brother Sherkan gave him joy of his safety and praise for that he had done; after which they set out by forced marches to rejoin their army.
Meanwhile, Dhat ed Dewahi, after she had spoken with Rustem and Behram, returned to the coppice, where she took her horse and mounting, sped on, till she drew near the host of the Muslims that lay leaguer before Constantinople, when she lighted down from her steed and led it to the Chamberlain's pavilion. When he saw her, he signed to her with his hand and said, "Welcome, O pious recluse!" Then he questioned her of what had befallen, and she repeated to him her disquieting and deluding report, saying, "Indeed I fear for the Amirs Rustem and Behram, for that I met them on the way and sent them and their following to the King and his companions. They are but twenty thousand horse, and the unbelievers are more in number than they; so I would now have thee send of the rest of thy troops in haste to their succour, lest they be slain to the last man." And she said to them "Hasten! Hasten!" When the Chamberlain and the Muslims heard these her words, their hearts sank within them and they wept; but she said to them, "Ask aid of God and be patient under this affliction, taking example by those that have been before you of the people of Islam, for God hath prepared Paradise, with its palaces, for those who die martyrs; and needs must all die, but death is most praiseworthy, when it comes in fighting for the Faith." When the Chamberlain heard this speech of the accursed old woman, he called for the Amir Behram's brother, a cavalier named Terkash, and choosing out for him ten thousand intrepid veterans, bade him set out at once. So he departed forthright and marched all that day and the next night, till he neared the Muslims. When the day dawned, Sherkan saw the dust of them and feared for his companions, saying, "If these troops that are nearing us be Muslims, our victory is assured; but if they be Christians, there is no gainsaying the decrees of Fate." Then he turned to his brother Zoulmekan and said to him, "Fear not, for I will ransom thee with my life from destruction. If these be Muslim troops then were it an increase of God's favours; but if they be our foes, there is nothing for it but to fight them. Yet do I long to see the holy man once again before I die, so he may pray for me that I may not die except a martyr." Whilst he was thus speaking, behold, there appeared the banners with the words, "There is no god but God and Mohammed is His Apostle" inscribed on them, and he cried out to the new-comers, saying, "How is it with the Muslims?" "They are in weal and safety," replied they; "and we come not hither but out of concern for you." Then the chief of the succours dismounted and kissing the earth before Sherkan, said, "O my lord, the Sultan and the Vizier Dendan and Rustem and my brother Behram, are they all in safety?" "They are all well," answered the prince; "but who brought thee tidings of us?" "It was the holy man," said Terkash. "He told us that he had met my brother Behram and Rustem and had sent them to you and also that the infidels had encompassed you and were more in number than you; yet meseems the case is the contrary of this and that you are victorious." "And how did the holy man reach you?" asked Sherkan. "Walking on his feet," replied the Amir; "and he had compassed, in the space of a single day and night, ten days' journey for a diligent horseman." "Verily, he is a friend of God," said Sherkan; "but where is he now?" Quoth Terkash, "We left him with our troops, the people of Faith, encouraging them to do battle with the infidels and rebels." Therewith Sherkan was glad and thanked God for their own deliverance and that of the holy man and commended the dead to the mercy of God saying, "This was written in the Book of Fate." Then they set out for Constantinople by forced marches, and whilst they were on the road thither, behold, a cloud of dust arose before them and spread till the prospect was hidden and the day darkened by it. Sherkan looked at it and said, "Verily, I fear lest this be the infidels who have routed the army of Islam, for that this dust covers the country and blots out the two horizons." Presently there appeared midmost the dust a pillar of darkness and came towards them, blacker than the blackness of (evil) fortune and more dreadful than the terrors of the Day of Judgment.
Horse and foot hastened up to look at it and know its meaning, when, behold, they saw it to be the recluse aforesaid; so they crowded round him to kiss his hands, and he cried out, "O people of the best of men, the lamp of the darkness, the infidels have overcome the Muslims by craft, for they fell upon them in their tents, whilst they deemed themselves in safety, and made a sore slaughter of them; so hasten to the aid of the believers in the unity of God and deliver them from those that deny Him!" When Sherkan heard this, his heart was sore troubled and he alighted from his horse, in amazement, and kissed the recluse's hands and feet. In like wise did his brother Zoulmekan and the rest of the troops, except the Vizier Dendan, who dismounted not, but said, "By Allah, my heart revolts from this devotee, for I never knew aught but evil come of these that make a show of devotion to religion. Leave him and hasten to rejoin your comrades for this fellow is of those that are outcast from the gate of mercy of the Lord of the Two Worlds! How often have I come out to war with King Omar ben Ennuman and trodden the earth of these lands!" "Put away from thee this foul thought," said Sherkan. "Hast thou not seen this holy man excite the faithful to battle, recking nought of spears and swords? Wherefore, slander him not, for slander is blameworthy and the flesh of pious folk is poisoned. Look how he encourages us to battle, and did not God love him, He had not rolled up the distance for him (like a carpet), after He had aforetime cast him into grievous torment?" Then Sherkan let bring a Nubian mule for her riding and said to her, "Mount, pious man, God-fearing and holy!" But she refused, feigning self-denial, that she might attain her end: and they knew not that the pretended devotee was such an one as he of whom the poet says:
He prayeth and fasteth amain for an end that he hath in view. When once he has gained his end, fasting and prayer, adieu!
So she walked among the horsemen and the footmen, like a crafty fox meditating an assault, and began to uplift her voice, chanting the Koran aloud and celebrating the praises of the Compassionate One. Then they pressed forward till they reached the Mohammedan camp, where Sherkan found the Muslims in a state of confusion and the Chamberlain upon the brink of retreat, whilst the sword wrought havoc among the faithful, good and bad. Now the cause of this weakness among the Muslims was that the accursed old woman Dhat ed Dewahi, when she saw that Behram and Rustem had set forward with their troops to join Sherkan and Zoulmekan, repaired to the camp or the Muslims before Constantinople and wrought upon the Chamberlain to despatch the Amir Terkash, as hath been before set out, to the further succour of the princes, purposing in this to divide the Muslim forces and weaken them. Then she left them and going to the walls of Constantinople, called with a loud voice on the knights of the Greeks, saying, "Throw me down a cord that I may tie thereto this letter, which do ye carry to King Afridoun and my son King Herdoub, that they may read it and do as is written therein." So they let down a string and she tied thereto a letter, to the following purport, "From the chiefest of calamities and the greatest of afflictions, Dhat ed Dewahi, to King Afridoun. Know that I have contrived a device for the destruction of the Muslims, so rest you quiet. I made their Sultan and the Vizier Dendan prisoners and returned to their camp and acquainted them therewith, whereupon their power was broken and their strength weakened. Moreover, I have wrought on them to send ten thousand men under the Amir Terkash to the succour of the captives, and there be now but few men left with the besiegers. Wherefore, it is my counsel that ye sally forth, with all your power, whilst it is yet day, and fall on them in their tents and slay them to the last man for the Messiah looks down upon you and the Virgin favours you; and I hope that the Messiah will not forget this that I have done." When this letter came to King Afridoun, he rejoiced greatly and sending at once for King Herdoub, read the letter to him, whereat he was exceeding glad and said, "See the craft of my mother; verily it dispenses with swords, and her aspect stands in stead of the terrors of the Day of Fear." "May the Messiah not bereave us of her," rejoined Afridoun, "nor deprive her of her craft and knavery." Then he gave orders for the sally, and the news was noised abroad in the city. So the Christian troops and soldiers of the Cross drew their keen sabres and sallied forth of the city, shouting out their impious war-cries and blaspheming the Lord of all creatures. When the Chamberlain saw them, he said, "Behold, the Christians are upon us, whilst the most part of our troops are gone to the succour of King Zoulmekan! They surely know of the absence of our Sultan and most like they will attack us." Therewith he waxed angry and cried out, "Ho, soldiers of Islam and defenders of the True Faith, if you flee, you are lost, and if you stand fast, you will conquer! Know that courage lies in endurance and that no case is so desperate but that God is able to bring about its relief. May He bless you and look upon you with eyes of compassion! "Then the Muslims cried out, "God is most great!" and the believers in the Divine Unity shouted the profession of the Faith and the two hosts joined battle. The mill-wheels of war whirled round, with cutting and thrusting; the swords and spears played and the plains and valleys were filled with blood. The priests and monks prayed aloud, girding on their girdles and uplifting the crosses, whilst the Muslims shouted out the praises of the Requiting King and chanted verses of the Koran. The hosts of the Compassionate God fought against the legions of Satan and heads flew from bodies, what while the good angels hovered above the people of the Chosen Prophet, nor did the sword cease to play, till the day departed and the night came with the shadows. Now the unbelievers had encompassed the Muslims and made sure of overcoming the host of the True Faith with the dawn, deeming not that they could escape destruction. As soon as it was light, the Chamberlain mounted, he and his men, trusting that God would help them, and the two armies came together and joined battle. The fight raged all along the line and heads flew from bodies, whilst the brave stood fast and the faint-hearted turned their backs and fled; and the Judge of death judged and gave sentence, so that the champions fell from their saddles and the meadows were heaped with the slain. Then the Muslims began to give back and the Greeks took possession of some of their tents; whereupon the Muslims were about to break and retreat, when behold, up came Sherkan, with the rest of their troops and the standards of the believers in the Unity of God, and fell upon the infidels, followed by Zoulmekan and the Vizier Dendan and the Amirs Behram and Rustem and Terkash. When the Christians saw this, they lost their senses and their reason fled, and the dust clouds rose till they covered the country, whilst the true believers joined their pious comrades. Then Sherkan accosted the Chamberlain and praised him for his steadfastness, and he in turn gave him joy of his timely succour. Therewith the Muslims rejoiced and their hearts were fortified; so they rushed upon the foe and devoted themselves to God, in the battle for the Faith. When the infidels saw the Mohammedan standards and read thereon the words proclaiming the Unity of God, they shrieked aloud and said, "Woe!" and "Ruin!" and besought succour of the priests and monks. Moreover they fell to calling upon Jesus and Mary and the abhorrent Cross and stayed their hands from the battle, whilst King Afridoun went up to King Herdoub (to consult with him), for the two kings stood one at the head of each wing. Now there was with them also a famous cavalier named Lawiya, who was in command of the centre, and the infidels drew out in battle-array; but indeed they were full of alarm and disquiet. Meanwhile, the Muslims arrayed their forces and Sherkan came to his brother Zoulmekan and said to him, "O king of the age, doubtless they mean to joust? and that is also what we desire; but it is my wish to set in our van-ward battle the stoutest-hearted of our men: for wise ordering is the half of life." "As thou wilt, O man of good counsel," replied the Sultan. "It is my wish," added Sherkan, "to be myself in the centre of the line, with the Vizier Dendan on my left and thee on my right, whilst Behram and Rustem command the right and left wing; and thou, O mighty King, shalt be under the standards and the ensigns, for that thou art our stay and upon thee, after God, is our dependence, and we will all be thy ransom from aught that can harm thee." Zoulmekan thanked him and the battle-cries arose and the sabres were drawn, when, behold, there came forth a cavalier from the Grecian ranks; and as he drew near, they saw that he was mounted on a slow-paced mule, fleeing with her master from the shock of swords. Her housings were of white silk, surmounted by a carpet of Cashmere stuff, and on her back sat a gray-bearded old man of comely and reverend aspect, clad in a gown of white wool. He spurred her on till he came to the Muslims, to whom said he, "I am an ambassador to you, and all an ambassador has to do is to deliver his message; so give me a safe conduct and the right of speech, that I may do my errand to you." "Thou art in safety," replied Sherkan; "fear neither stroke of sword nor thrust of lance." Thereupon the old man dismounted and taking the cross from his neck, (laid it) before the Sultan and carried himself humbly to him, after the fashion of one who hopes for fair treatment. Then said the Muslims to him, "What is thy news?" He answered, "I am an ambassador from King Afridoun, whom I counselled to avert the destruction of all these manly bodies and images of the Compassionate; and it seemed good to him to stop the shedding of blood and limit the strife to the encounter of two horsemen in battle; so he agreed to this and says to you, 'Verily, I will ransom my troops with my life; so let the Muslim king do likewise and ransom his army with his life. If he kill me, there will be no stability left in the army of the Greeks, and if I kill him, it will be the like with the Muslims.'" When Sherkan heard this, he said, "O monk, we agree to this, for it is just; and behold I will joust: with him, for I am champion of the Muslims, even as he of the Christians; and if he slay me, he will have gained the victory and there will remain for the Muslim army nothing but flight. So return to him, O monk, and tell him that the combat shall be for to-morrow, seeing that to-day we are weary with our journey; but after rest there shall be neither reproach nor blame." So the monk returned, rejoicing, to King Afridoun and King Herdoub and told them what Sherkan had said, whereat Afridoun was exceeding glad and lightened of anxiety and trouble and said in himself, "No doubt but this Sherkan is the hardest hitter of them with the sword and the dourest at push of pike; and when I have slain him, their hearts will fail them and their strength will be broken." Now Dhat ed Dewahi had written to King Afridoun of this and told him that Sherkan was a cavalier of cavaliers and a champion of champions and had warned him against him; but Afridoun was a stalwart cavalier, who fought in many a fashion; he could hurl stones and javelins and smite with the iron mace and feared not the doughtiest of prowess in the dint of war. So when he heard from the monk that Sherkan agreed to joust, he well-nigh lost his reason for stress of joy, for that he had confidence in himself and deemed that none could stand against him. Then the infidels passed the night in joy and merry-making and wine-drinking, and as soon as it was day, the two armies drew out in battle array, with their brown spears and white swords. Presently, they saw a cavalier prick out into the plain, mounted on a stout and swift charger equipped for war: he was of great stature and was clad in a cuirass of steel made for stress of battle. On his breast he wore a jewelled mirror and in his hand he bore a keen scimitar and a lance of khelenj wood of curious Frankish workmanship. He uncovered his face and cried out, saying, "Whoso knoweth me hath enough of me, and whoso knoweth me not shall see who I am. I am Afridoun he who is overborne by the blessing of Shewahi Dhat ed Dewahi." Before he had made an end of speaking, Sherkan, the champion of the Muslims, spurred out to meet him, mounted on a sorrel horse worth a thousand [dinars] of red gold, with housings embroidered in pearls and jewels, and girt with a sword of watered Indian steel, that shore through necks and made hard ventures easy. He drove his charger between the two armies, whilst the horsemen all gazed on him, and cried out to Afridoun, saying, "Out on thee, O accursed one, dost thou think me as one of the horsemen thou hast met, that cannot stand against thee in the mellay?" Then they rushed upon one another and came together like two mountains crashing or two seas breaking each against each. So they advanced and retreated and drew together and parted and ceased not to joust and battle with stroke of sword and thrust of spear, whilst the two armies looked on. Some said, "Afridoun will conquer," and other some, "Sherkan;" and they stayed not their hands from the battle, till the clamour of the bystanders subsided and the dust-clouds rose and the day waned and the sun began to grow pale. Then King Afridoun cried out to Sherkan, saying, "By the virtue of the Messiah and the True Faith, thou art a doughty horseman and a stalwart fighting man, but thou art guileful and thy nature is not that of the freeborn and meseemeth thy fashion is other than praiseworthy nor is thy fighting that of a prince; for see, thy people even thee with slaves and bring thee out a charger other than thine, that thou mayst (mount him and) return to the battle. But by the virtue of the Messiah, thy fighting fatigues me and I am weary of cutting and thrusting with thee; and if thou wert purposed to do battle with me tonight thou wouldst not change aught of thy harness nor thy horse till thou hadst shown the cavaliers thy valour and skill in fight." When Sherkan heard him say that his own folk evened him with slaves, he was angry and turned towards his men, meaning to sign to them and bid them not prepare him change of armour or horse, when, behold, Afridoun shook his javelin in the air and hurled it at Sherkan. Now, when the latter turned, he found none behind him and knew that this was a trick of the accursed infidel; so he wheeled round in haste and seeing the javelin coming at him, swerved from it, till his head was level with the pommel of his saddle. The javelin grazed his breast and pierced the skin, for Sherkan was high-bosomed: so he gave one cry and swooned away. Then the accursed Afridoun was glad, thinking that he had slain him, and called to the Christians to rejoice, whereat the infidels were encouraged and the true believers wept. When Zoulmekan saw his brother reeling from side to side in his saddle, so that he had well-nigh fallen, he sent cavaliers to his succour; whereupon the infidels drove at the Muslims and the two hosts joined battle, whilst the keen Yemen blades played among them. The first to reach Sherkan were Dendan and Rustem and Behram, who found him on the point of falling off his horse; so they stayed him in his saddle and carried him to Zoulmekan; then giving him in charge to his servants, returned to the battle. Then the strife redoubled and the weapons clashed, and there was nought to be heard but the roar of the battle nor to be seen but blood flowing and necks bending beneath the blows; nor did the swords cease to play on men's necks nor the strife to rage more and more, till the most part of the night was past and the two hosts were weary of battle. So they called a truce and each army returned to its tents, whilst all the infidels repaired to King Afridoun and kissed the earth before him, and the priests and monks wished him joy of his victory over Sherkan. Then he went up into Constantinople and sat down upon his throne; and King Herdoub came to him and said, "May the Messiah strengthen thine arm and cease never to be thy helper and hearken to the prayers of my pious mother on thy behalf! Know that the Muslims can make no stand, now they have lost Sherkan." "To-morrow," replied Afridoun, "shall end the war, for I will seek out Zoulmekan and slay him, and their army shall turn tail and take to flight."
Meanwhile, Zoulmekan returned to his tent thinking of nothing but his brother, and going in to the latter's pavilion, found him in evil plight; whereat he was sore troubled and sent for the Vizier Dendan and the Amirs Behram and Rustem, that he might take counsel with them. When they entered, they were all of accord to summon the physicians to treat Sherkan, and they wept and said, "The age will not lightly afford his like!" They watched by him all that night, and towards morning there came to them the pretended recluse, weeping. When Zoulmekan saw her, he rose to receive her; and she stroked Sherkan's wound with her hand, chanting somewhat of the Koran and repeating some of the signs of the Compassionate One. Then she kept watch over him till the day, when he came to himself and opening his eyes, moved his tongue in his mouth and spoke. At this Zoulmekan rejoiced, saying, "Verily the blessing of the holy man hath taken effect on him!" And Sherkan said, "Praised be God for recovery; indeed, I am well now. Yonder accursed one played me false, and but that I swerved aside quicklier than lightning, the javelin had pierced me through and through. So praised be God for my safety! How is it with the Muslims?" "They weep for thee," answered Zoulmekan. Quoth Sherkan, "I am well and in good case; but where is the holy man?" Now she was sitting by him and said, "At thy head." So he turned to her and kissed her hand; and she said, "O my son, it behoves thee to arm thyself with patience, and God shall make great thy reward; for the guerdon is measured by that which has been endured." Quoth Sherkan, "Pray for me," and she did so. As soon as it was morning and the day arose and shone, the Muslims sallied out into the field, and the Christians made ready to cut and thrust. Then the host of the Muslims advanced and offered battle; and Zoulmekan and Afridoun made ready to tilt at one another. But when Zoulmekan sallied out into the field, there came with him Dendan and Behram and the Chamberlain, saying, "We will be thy sacrifice." "By the Holy House and the Well Zemzem and the Stead of Abraham," exclaimed he, "I will not be hindered from going forth against these barbarians!" So he rode out into the field and played with sword and spear, till both armies wondered; then he rushed upon the right wing of the Greek army and slew two knights and in like manner dealt he with the left wing. Then he stayed his steed in the midst of the field and cried out, "Where is Afridoun, that I may make him drink the cup of humiliation?" But King Herdoub conjured Afridoun not to budge from the field, saying, "O King, it was thy turn yesterday: to-day it is mine. I reck not of his prowess." So he pricked out towards Zoulmekan, with a sabre in his hand and under him a jet black horse, swift as he were Abjer, he that was Antar's horse, even as says the poet:
He vies with the glance of the eye on a swift-footed steed, That fares as it had a mind to outstrip Fate. The hue of his hide is the blackest of all things black, Like night, when the shadows shroud it in sable state. The sound of his neighing troubles the hearts of men, As it were thunder that echoes in heaven's gate. If he run a race with the wind, he leads the way, Nor can the lightning outstrip him, early or late.
Then each rushed upon the other, guarding himself from his blows and showing the rare qualities that were in him and the wonders of his prowess; and they fell to advancing and retreating and ceased not to flee and return to the attack and wheel hither and thither, till the breasts of the bystanders were straitened (for anxiety) and they were weary of waiting for the event. At last, Zoulmekan cried out and rushing upon Herdoub, King of Caesarea, dealt him such a blow that he shore his head from his body and made an end of him. When the infidels saw this, they all rushed at Zoulmekan, who met them in mid-field, and they fell to cutting and thrusting, till the blood ran in streams. Then the Muslims cried out, "God is most great;" and "There is no god but God;" and invoked blessings on the Giver of Good Tidings, the Admonisher of Mankind, and there befell a great battle. But God sent help to the faithful and confusion to the infidels. The Vizier Dendan shouted, "Avenge King Omar ben Ennuman and his son Sherkan!" and baring his head, cried out to the Turks. Now there were beside him more than twenty thousand horse, who all charged with him as one man, and the unbelievers found nothing for it but flight. So they turned their backs to flee, whilst the keen sabres wrought havoc amongst them and the Muslims slew of them that day more than fifty thousand cavaliers and took more than that: and much people also were slain at the going in of the gates by reason of the greatness of the crowd, whilst the Christians mounted the walls, fearing an assault. Then the Muslims returned to their tents, fortified and victorious, and King Zoulmekan went in to his brother, whom he found in the most joyous case. So he returned thanks to the Bountiful, the Exalted One and gave Sherkan joy of his deliverance. "Verily," answered he, "we are all under the benediction of this holy and God- fearing man, nor would you have been victorious, but for his effectual prayers; for all day he hath never ceased to invoke victory on the Muslims. I found strength return to me, when I heard you cry, 'God is most great!' for then I knew you had gotten the better of your enemies. But now tell me, O my brother, what befell thee." So he told him all that had passed, how he had slain the accursed Herdoub and he had gone to the malediction of God; and Sherkan praised his prowess. When Dhat ed Dewahi heard tell of her son's death, the blood fled from her face and her eyes ran over with streaming tears; however, she kept her counsel and feigned to the Muslims that she was glad and wept for excess of joy: but she said in herself, "By the virtue of the Messiah, there remains no profit of my life, if I make not his heart bleed for his brother Sherkan, even as he has made mine bleed for King Herdoub, the mainstay of the Christian faith and the hosts of the Cross!"
The Vizier Dendan and Zoulmekan and the Chamberlain abode with Sherkan, till they had dressed his wound and anointed it; after which they gave him medicines and he began to recover his strength; whereat they were exceeding glad and told the troops, who rejoiced greatly, saying, "To-morrow he will ride with us and take part in the siege." Then said Sherkan to them, "You have fought all day and are weary, and it behoves that you return to your tents and sleep and not watch." So they went away all to their tents and there remained none with Sherkan but Dhat ed Dewahi and a few servants. He talked with her awhile, then lay down to rest, he and his servants, and soon sleep overcame them all and they were as dead men. But the old woman abode awake and looking at Sherkan, saw that he was drowned in sleep. So she sprang to her feet, as she were a bald she-bear or a speckled snake, and drew from her girdle a poisoned knife, that would have melted a rock if laid thereon; then going up to Sherkan, she drew the knife across his throat and cut off his head. After this, she went up to the sleeping servants and cut off their heads also, lest they should awake. Then she left the tent and made for the Sultan's pavilion, but finding the guards awake, turned to that of the Vizier. He was reading the Koran and seeing her, said, "Welcome, O holy man!" When she heard this, her heart trembled and she said, "The reason of my coming hither at this time is that I heard the voice of a friend of God and am going to him." Then she went away, but the Vizier said to himself, "By Allah, I will follow the holy man to-night!" So he rose and went after her: but the accursed old woman heard his footsteps and knew that he was following her: wherefore she feared discovery and said in herself, "Except I put him off with some trick, he will discover me." So she turned and said to him from afar, "Harkye, Vizier, I am going after this saint, that I may know who he is; and after I will ask his leave for thee to join him. Then I will come back and tell thee; for I fear to let thee accompany me, without his leave, lest he take umbrage at seeing thee with me." When the Vizier heard this, he was abashed and knew not what to answer; so he left her and returning to his tent, would have slept; but sleep was not favourable to him and the world was straitened upon him. So he rose and went out, saying in himself, "I will go talk with Sherkan till the morning." But when he came to Sherkan's tent, he found the blood running like a rivulet and saw the servants lying dead. At this he gave a cry that aroused all who were asleep, and they hastened to him and seeing the blood streaming, set up a clamour of weeping and lamentation. The noise awoke the Sultan, who enquired what was the matter, and they said to him, "Sherkan and his servants are murdered." So he rose in haste and entering the tent, saw his brother's headless trunk and the Vizier by it shrieking aloud. At this sight, he swooned away and all the troops stood round him, weeping and crying aloud, till he came to himself, when he looked at Sherkan and wept sore, whilst all who were present did the like. Then said Zoulmekan, "Know ye who did this, and how is it I see not the recluse, him who hath put away the things of the world?" Quoth the Vizier, "And who should have been the cause of this our affliction, save that devotee of Satan? By Allah, my heart shrank from him from the first, because I know that all who profess to be absorbed in the things of the faith are corrupt and treacherous!" And he told the King how he would have followed the devotee, but he forbade him; whereupon the folk broke out into weeping and lamentation and besought Him who is ever near at hand, Him who answereth prayer, to cause the false recluse, who denied His evidences, to fall into their hands. Then they laid Sherkan out and buried him in the mountain aforesaid, mourning over his renowned virtues, after which they looked for the opening of the city-gate; but it opened not and none appeared to them on the walls; whereat they wondered exceedingly, and King Zoulmekan said, "By Allah, I will not turn back from them, though I tarry here years and years, till I take my wreak of my brother Sherkan and lay Constantinople in ruins and slay the King of the Nazarenes, even if death overcome me and I be at rest from this sorry world!" Then he brought out the treasure he had taken from the hermitage of Metrouhena and mustering the troops, divided it amongst them, nor was there one of them but he gave him what contented him. Moreover, he called together three hundred horse of every division and said to them, "Do ye send succours to your family, for I am resolved to camp here, till I have taken my revenge for my brother Sherkan, even if I die in this place." Then he summoned couriers and gave them letters and charged them to do the soldiers' errands to their families and let them know that they were safe and in good heart, but that they were encamped before Constantinople, resolved either to destroy it or perish, and that, though they should abide there months and years, they would not depart thence till they had taken the city. Moreover, he bade Dendan write to his sister Nuzhet ez Zeman, acquainting her with what had befallen them and with their situation and commending his child to her care, since that, when he went out to war, his wife was near her delivery and must needs by that time have been brought to bed; and if she had given birth to a son, he charged the messengers to hasten their return and bring him the news. Then he gave them money and they set out at once, and all the people came out to take leave of them and entrust them with the money and the messages they wished to send to their families. After they had departed, Zoulmekan turned to the Vizier and commanded him to push forward with the army against the city walls. So the troops advanced, but found none on the walls, whereat they marvelled and Zoulmekan was troubled.
To return to Dhat ed Dewahi. As soon as she had slain Sherkan, she hastened to the walls of Constantinople and called out in the Greek tongue to the guards, to throw her down a rope. Quoth they, "Who art thou?" and she said, "I am the princess Dhat ed Dewahi." They knew her and threw her down a rope, to which she tied herself, and they drew her up into the city. Then she went in to King Afridoun and said to him, "What is this I hear from the Muslims? They say that my son King Herdoub is slain." He answered, "It is true;" and when she heard this, she shrieked out and wept so grievously, that she made Afridoun and all who were present weep also. Then she told the King how she had slain Sherkan and thirty of his servants, whereat he rejoiced and thanked her and kissed her hands and exhorted her to resignation for the loss of her son. "By the Messiah," said she, "I will not rest content with killing one of the Muslim dogs in revenge for my son, a king of the kings of the age! But I will assuredly make shift to kill the Sultan Zoulmekan and the Vizier Dendan and the Chamberlain and Rustem and Behram and ten thousand cavaliers of the army of Islam to boot; for it shall never be that my son's head be paid with the blood-wit of Sherkan's head only." Then said she to Afridoun, "It is my wish that mourning be made for my son Herdoub and that the girdle be cut and the crosses broken." "Do what thou wilt," replied Afridoun; "I will not gainsay thee in aught. And if thou prolong thy mourning, it were a little thing; for though the Muslims beleaguer us years and years, they will never compass their will of us nor get aught of us but trouble and weariness." Then she took ink-horn and paper and wrote the following letter: "Shewaha Dhat ed Dewahi to the host of the Muslims. Know that I entered your country and duped your nobles and slew your king Omar ben Ennuman in the midst of his palace. Moreover, I slew, in the battle of the mountain pass and of the grotto, many of your men, and the last I killed were Sherkan and his servants. And if fortune favour me and Satan obey me, I will assuredly kill your Sultan and the Vizier Dendan, for I am she who came to you in the disguise of a recluse and ye were the dupes of my tricks and devices. Wherefore, if you be minded to be in safety, depart at once; and if you covet your own destruction, abide where you are; for though ye abide here years and years, ye shall not come by your desire of us; and so peace be on you." Then she devoted three days to mourning for her son King Herdoub, and on the fourth day, she called a knight and bade him make the letter fast to an arrow and shoot it into the Muslim camp; after which she entered the church and gave herself up to weeping and lamentation for the loss of her son, saying to him who took the kingship after him, "Nothing will serve me but I must kill Zoulmekan and all the princes of Islam."
Meanwhile, the Muslims passed three days in concern and anxiety, and on the fourth day, they saw a knight on the wall, holding a bow and about to shoot an arrow to which was fastened a letter. So they waited till he had shot, and the King bade the Vizier Dendan take the letter and read it. He did so, and when Zoulmekan heard its purport, his eyes filled with tears and he shrieked for anguish at the old woman's perfidy, and Dendan said, "By Allah, my heart shrank from her!" "How could this traitress impose upon us twice?" exclaimed Zoulmekan. "By Allah, I will not depart hence till I fill her kaze with molten lead and set her in a cage, as men do birds, then bind her with her hair and crucify her at the gate of Constantinople." Then he addressed himself again to the leaguer of the city, promising his men that, if it should be taken, he would divide its treasures equally among them. After this, he bethought him of his brother and wept sore; and his tears ceased not to flow, till his body was wasted with grief, as it were a bodkin. But the Vizier Dendan came in to him and said, "Take comfort and be consoled; thy brother died not but because his hour was come, and there is no profit in this mourning. How well says the poet:
That which is not to be shall by no means be brought To pass, and that which is to be shall come, unsought, Even at the time ordained: but he that knoweth not The truth is still deceived and finds his hopes grown nought.
Wherefore do thou leave this weeping and lamentation and strengthen thy heart to bear arms." "O Vizier," replied Zoulmekan, "my heart is heavy for the death of my brother and father and our absence from our native land, and my mind is concerned for my subjects." Thereupon the Vizier and the bystanders wept; but they ceased not from the leaguer of Constantinople, till, after awhile, news arrived from Baghdad, by one of the Amirs, that the Sultan's wife had given birth to a son and that the princess Nuzhet ez Zeman had named him Kanmakan. Moreover, his sister wrote to him that the boy bid fair to be a prodigy and that she had commanded the priests and preachers to pray for them from the pulpits; also, that they were all well and had been blessed with abundant rains and that his comrade the stoker was in the enjoyment of all prosperity, with slaves and servants to attend upon him; but that he was still ignorant of what had befallen him. Zoulmekan rejoiced greatly at this news and said to the Vizier Dendan, "Now is my hope fulfilled and my back strengthened, in that I have been vouchsafed a son. Wherefore I am minded to leave mourning and let make recitations of the Koran over my brother's tomb and do almsdeeds on his account." Quoth the Vizier, "It is well." Then he caused tents to be pitched over his brother's tomb and they gathered together such of the troops as could repeat the Koran. Some fell to reciting the Koran, whilst others chanted the litanies of the praise of God, and thus they did till the morning, when Zoulmekan went up to the tomb of his brother Sherkan and shedding copious tears, repeated the following verses:
They bore him forth, whilst all who went behind him wept and cried Such cries as Moses gave, when God broke down the mountain side, Till to a tomb they came, whose grave seemed dug in all men's hearts By whom the unity of God is held and glorified. I had not thought, or ere they bore thee forth upon the bier, To see my joy upon the hands of men uplifted ride; Nor, till they laid thee in the grave, could I have ever deemed That stars could leave their place in heaven and in the dark earth hide. Is the indweller of the tomb the hostage of a pit, In which, for that his face is there, splendour and light abide? Lo, praise has ta'en upon itself to bring him back to life; Now that his body's hid, his fame's shown forth and magnified.
When he had made an end of reciting these verses, he wept and all the troops wept with him; then he threw himself on the tomb, wild with grief, and the Vizier repeated the words of the poet:
That which fleets past thou hast left and won what endureth for aye, And even as thou are the folk, that were and have passed away; And yet it was not of thy will that thou quittedst this house of the world; For here hadst thou joy and delight of all that befell in thy day. How oft hast thou proven thyself a succour and shield from the foe, When the arrows and javelins of war flew thick in the midst of the fray! I see that this world's but a cheat and a vanity after all, And ever to seek out the Truth all creatures desire and essay! The Lord of the Empyrean vouchsafe thee in heaven to dwell And the Guide assign thee therein a goodly sojourn, I pray! I bid thee adieu with a sigh and I see, for the loss of thee, The East and the West o'ershadowed with mourning and dismay.
When the Vizier had finished, he wept sore, and the tears fell from his eyes, like a network of pearls. Then came forward one of Sherkan's boon-companions, weeping till his eyes resembled rivers, and recalled the dead man's noble qualities, reciting the following cinquains:
Where be thy giving, alas! and the hand of thy bounty fled? They lie in the earth, and my body is wasted for drearihead. O guide of the camel-litters, (may God still gladden thy stead!) My tears on my cheeks have written, in characters of red, That which would both rejoice thee and fill thee with pain and dread! By Allah, 'twixt me and my heart, not a word of thee is said Nor doth the thought of thy grace and thy glory pass through my head, But that mine eyes are wounded by dint of the tears I shed! Yea, if to rest on another my glance be ever led, May my lids be drawn in slumber by longing for the dead!
Then Zoulmekan and Dendan wept sore and the whole army lamented aloud; after which they all withdrew to their tents, and Zoulmekan turned to Dendan and took counsel with him concerning the conduct of the war. On this wise they passed days and nights, what while Zoulmekan was weighed down with grief and concern, till at last he said to the Vizier, "I have a mind to hear stories of adventures and chronicles of kings and tales of folk oppressed of love, so haply God may make this to solace the heavy anxiety that is on my heart and do away from me weeping and lamentation." "O King," replied Dendan, "if nought but hearing pleasant tales of bygone kings and peoples and stories of folk oppressed of love and so forth can dispel thy trouble, the thing is easy, for I had no other business, in the lifetime of thy late father, than to tell him stories and repeat verses to him; so, this very night, I will tell thee a story of a lover and his beloved, which shall lighten thy heart." When Zoulmekan heard this, his heart yearned after that which the Vizier promised him and he did nothing but watch for the coming of the night, that he might hear what he had to tell. So, no sooner had the night closed in, than he bade light the lamps and the candles and bring all that was needful of meat and drink and perfumes and what not and sending for Dendan, Rustem, Behram, Terkash and the Grand Chamberlain, turned to the Vizier and said, "O Vizier, behold, the night is come and hath let down its veils over us, and we desire that thou tell us that which thou didst promise us." "With all my heart," replied the Vizier "Know, O august King, that I have heard tell a story of a lover and a loved one and of the discourse between them and of the rare and pleasant things that befell them, a story such as does away care from the heart and dispels sorrow like unto that of the patriarch Jacob: and it is as follows:
[Go to 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