[Go back to The Story of Taj El Mulouk and the Princess Dunya (cont.)]
When the Vizier had made an end of the story of Taj el Mulouk and the Princess Dunya, Zoulmekan said to him, "Of a truth, it is the like of thee who lighten the mourning heart and are worthy to be the companions of kings and to guide their policy in the right way."
Meanwhile, they ceased not from the leaguer of Constantinople; and there they lay four whole years, till they yearned after their native land and the troops murmured, being weary of siege and vigil and stress of war by night and by day. Then King Zoulmekan summoned Rustem and Behram and Terkash and bespoke them thus, "Know that all these years we have lain here and have not come by our intent and have gotten us but increase of trouble and concern; for indeed we came, thinking to take our wreak for King Omar ben Ennuman and behold, my brother Sherkan was slain; so is our sorrow grown two sorrows and our affliction two afflictions. All this came of the old woman Dhat ed Dewahi, for it was she who slew the Sultan in his kingdom and carried off his wife, the Princess Sufiyeh; nor did this suffice her, but she must put another cheat on us and slay my brother Sherkan: and indeed I have bound myself and sworn by the most solemn oaths to avenge them of her. What say ye? Ponder my words and answer me." With this, they bowed their heads and answered, "It is for the Vizier Dendan to decide." So the Vizier came forward and said, "O King of the age, it avails us nothing to tarry here, and it is my counsel that we strike camp and return to our own country, there to abide awhile and after return and fall upon the worshippers of idols." "This is a good counsel," replied the King; "for indeed the folk weary for a sight of their families, and I also am troubled with yearning after my son Kanmakan and my brother's daughter Kuzia Fekan, for she is in Damascus and I know not how it is with her." So he bade the herald call the retreat after three days, whereupon the troops rejoiced and blessed the Vizier Dendan. Then they fell to preparing for the homeward march and on the fourth day, they beat the drums and unfurled the banners and the army set forth, the Vizier in the van and the King riding in the mid-battle, with the Great Chamberlain by his side, and journeyed night and day, till they reached Baghdad. The folk rejoiced in their return, and care and hardship ceased from them, whilst those who had stayed at home came forth to meet those who had been so long absent and each amir betook him to his own house. As for Zoulmekan, he went up to the palace and went into his son Kanmakan, who had now reached the age of seven and used to go down [into the tilting-ground] and ride. As soon as the King was rested of his journey, he entered the bath with his son, and returning, seated himself on his chair of estate, whilst the Vizier Dendan took up his station before him and the amirs and grandees of the realm entered and stood in attendance upon him. Then he called for his comrade the stoker, who had befriended him in his strangerhood; and when he came, the King rose to do him honour and made him sit by his own side. Now he had acquainted the Vizier with all the kindness and fair service that the stoker had done him; so the Vizier and all the amirs made much of him. The stoker had waxed fat and burly with rest and good living, so that his neck was like an elephant's neck and his face like a porpoise's belly. Moreover, he was grown dull of wit, for that he had never stirred from his place; so at the first he knew not the King by his aspect. But Zoulmekan came up to him smilingly and saluted him after the friendliest fashion, saying, "How hast thou made haste to forget me!" So the stoker roused himself and looking steadfastly on Zoulmekan knew him: whereupon he sprang to his feet and exclaimed. "O my friend, who hath made thee Sultan?" Zoulmekan laughed at him and the Vizier, coming up to him, expounded the whole story to him and said, "He was thy brother and thy friend; and now he is King of the land and needs must thou get great good of him. So I counsel thee, if he say to thee, 'Ask a boon of me,' ask not but for some great thing; for thou art very dear to him." Quoth the stoker, "I fear lest, if I ask of him aught, he may not choose to grant it or may not be able thereto." "Have no care," answered the Vizier; "whatsoever thou asketh, he will give thee." "By Allah," rejoined the stoker, "I must ask of him a thing that is in my thought! Every night I dream of it and implore God to vouchsafe it to me." "Take heart," said the Vizier. "By Allah, if thou askedst of him the government of Damascus, in the room of his brother he would surely give it thee." With this, the stoker rose to his feet and Zoulmekan signed to him to sit; but he refused, saying, "God forfend! The days are gone by of my sitting in thy presence." "Not so," answered the Sultan; "they endure even now. Thou wert the cause that I am now alive, and by Allah, what thing soever thou askest of me, I will give it to thee! But ask thou first of God, and then of me." "O my lord," said the stoker, "I fear...," "Fear not," quoth the Sultan. "I fear," continued he, "to ask aught and that thou shouldst refuse it to me." At this the King laughed and replied, "If thou askedst of me the half of my kingdom, I would share it with thee: so ask what thou wilt and leave talking." "I fear...," repeated the stoker. "Do not fear," said the King. "I fear," went on the stoker, "lest I ask a thing and thou be not able thereto." With this, the Sultan waxed wroth and said, "Ask what thou wilt." Then said the stoker, "I ask, first of God and then of thee, that thou write me a patent of mastership over all the stokers in Jerusalem." The Sultan and all who were present laughed and Zoulmekan said, "Ask somewhat other than this." "O my lord," replied the stoker, "said I not I feared thou wouldst not choose to grant me what I should ask or be not able thereto?" Therewith the Vizier nudged him once and twice and thrice, and every time he began, "I ask of thee..." Quoth the Sultan, "Ask and be speedy." So he said, "I beseech thee to make me captain of the scavengers in Jerusalem or Damascus." Then all those who were present laughed, till they fell backward, and the Vizier beat him. So he turned to the Vizier and said to him, "What art thou that thou shouldst beat me? It is no fault of mine: didst thou not bid me ask some considerable thing? Let me go to my own country." With this, the Sultan knew that he was jesting and took patience with him awhile; then turned to him and said, "O my brother, ask of me some considerable thing, befitting our dignity." So the stoker said, "O King of the age, I ask first of God and then of thee, that thou make me Viceroy of Damascus in the room of thy brother." "God granteth thee this," answered the King. So the stoker kissed the ground before him, and he bade set him a chair in his rank and put on him a viceroy's habit. Then he wrote him a patent of investiture and sealing it with his own seal, said to the Vizier, "None shall go with him but thou; and when thou returnest, do thou bring with thee my brother's daughter, Kuzia Fekan." "I hear and obey," answered the Vizier and taking the stoker, went down with him and made ready for the journey. Then the King appointed the stoker servants and officers and gave him a new litter and princely equipage and said to the amirs, "Whoso loves me, let him honour this man and give him a handsome present." So they brought him every one his gift, according to his competence; and the King named him Ziblcan, and conferred on him the surname of honour of El Mujahid. As soon as the new Viceroy's gear was ready, he went up with the Vizier to the King, to take leave of him and ask his permission to depart. The King rose to him and embracing him, exhorted him to do justice among his subjects and deal fairly with them and bade him make ready for war against the infidels after two years Then they took leave of each other and King Ziblcan, surnamed El Mujahid, set out on his journey, after the amirs had brought him slaves and servants, even to five thousand in number, who rode after him. The Grand Chamberlain also took horse, as did Behram, captain of the Medes, and Rustem, captain of the Persians, and Terkash, captain of the Arabs, and rode with him three days' journey, to do him honour and take their leaves of him. Then they returned to Baghdad and the Sultan Ziblcan and the Vizier Dendan fared on, with their company, till they drew near Damascus. Now news was come upon the wings of birds, to the notables of Damascus that King Zoulmekan had made Sultan over Damascus a Sultan called Ziblcan el Mujahid; so when he reached the city, he found it decorated in his honour, and all the folk came out to gaze on him. He entered Damascus in great state and went up to the citadel, where he sat down upon his chair of estate, whilst the Vizier Dendan stood in attendance on him, to acquaint him with the ranks and stations of the amirs. Then the grandees came in to him and kissed hands and called down blessings on him. He received them graciously and bestowed on them gifts and dresses of honour; after which he opened the treasuries and gave largesse to the troops, great and small. Then he governed and did justice and proceeded to equip the lady Kuzia Fekan, daughter of King Sherkan, appointing her a litter of silken stuff. Moreover, he furnished the Vizier Dendan also for the return journey and would have made him a gift of money, but he refused, saying, "Thou art near the time of the tryst with the King, and haply thou wilt have need of money, or we may send to seek of thee funds for the Holy War or what not." When the Vizier was ready, the Viceroy brought Kuzia Fekan to him and made her mount the litter, giving her ten damsels to do her service. Moreover, he mounted, to bid the Vizier farewell, and they set forward, whilst Ziblcan returned to Damascus and busied himself in ordering the affairs of his government and making ready his harness of war, against such time as King Zoulmekan should send to him there for. Meanwhile the Vizier and his company fared forward by easy stages, till they came, after a month's travel, to Ruhbeh and thence pushed on, till they drew near Baghdad. Then he despatched messengers, to inform King Zoulmekan of his arrival; and he, when he heard this, took horse and rode out to meet him. The Vizier would have dismounted to receive him, but the King conjured him not to do so and spurred his steed, till he came up to him. Then he questioned him of Ziblcan, whereto the Vizier replied that he was well and that he had brought with him his brother's daughter, Kuzia Fekan. At this the King rejoiced and said to Dendan, "Go thou and rest thee of the fatigue of the journey, and after three days come to me again." "With all my heart," replied the Vizier and betook himself to his own house, whilst the King went up to his palace and went in to his brother's daughter, who was then a girl of eight years old. When he saw her, he rejoiced in her and sorrowed sore for her father. Then he let make for her clothes and gave her splendid jewels and ornaments and bade lodge her with his son Kanmakan in one place. So they both grew up, the brightest and bravest of the people of their time; but Kuzia Fekan grew up possessed of good sense and understanding and knowledge of the issues of events, whilst Kanmakan grew up generous and freehanded, taking no thought to the issue of aught. Now Kuzia Fekan used to ride a-horseback and fare forth with her cousin into the open plain and range at large with him in the desert; and they both learnt to smite with swords and thrust with spears. So they grew up, till each of them attained the age of twelve, when King Zoulmekan, having completed his preparations and provisions for the Holy War, summoned the Vizier Dendan and said to him, "Know that I am minded to do a thing, which I will discover to thee, and do thou with speed return me an answer thereon." "What is that, O King of the age?" asked the Vizier. "I am resolved," said the King, "to make my son Kanmakan king and rejoice in him in my lifetime and do battle before him, till death overcome me. What deemest thou of this?" The Vizier kissed the earth before the King and replied, "O King and Sultan, lord of the age and the time, this that is in thy mind is indeed good, save that it is now no time to carry it out, for two reasons: the first, that thy son Kanmakan is yet of tender age; and the second, that it is of wont that he who makes his son king in his lifetime, lives but a little thereafterward." "Know, O Vizier," rejoined the King, "that we will make the Grand Chamberlain guardian over him, for he is art and part of us and he married my sister, so that he is to me as a brother." Quoth the Vizier, "Do what seemeth good to thee: we will obey thine orders." Then the King sent for the Grand Chamberlain and the grandees of the kingdom and said to them, "Ye know that this my son Kanmakan is the first cavalier of the age and that he hath no peer in jousting and martial exercises; and now I appoint him to be Sultan over you in my stead and I make his uncle, the Grand Chamberlain, guardian over him." "O King of the age," replied the Chamberlain, "I am but an offset of thy bounty." And the King said, "O Chamberlain, verily this my son Kanmakan and my niece Kuzia Fekan are brothers' children; so I marry them one to the other and I call those present to witness thereof." Then he made over to his son such treasures as beggar description and going in to his sister Nuzhet ez Zeman told her what he had done, whereat she rejoiced greatly and said, "Verily, they are both my children. May God preserve thee to them many a year!" "O my sister," replied he, "I have accomplished that which was in my heart of the world and I have no fear for my son: yet it were well that thou shouldst have a watchful eye to him and to his mother." And he went on to commend to the Chamberlain and Nuzhet ez Zeman his son and niece and wife. Thus did he nights and days till he [fell sick and] deeming surely that he should drink the cup of death, took to his bed and abode thus a whole year, whilst the Chamberlain took upon himself the ordering of the people and the realm. At the end of this time, the King summoned his son Kanmakan and the Vizier Dendan and said to the former, "O my son, this Vizier shall be thy father, when I am dead; for know that I am about to leave this transitory house of life for that which is eternal. And indeed I have fulfilled my lust of this world; yet there remaineth in my heart one regret, which may God dispel at thy hands!" "What regret is that, O my father?" asked his son. "O my son," answered Zoulmekan, "it is that I die without having avenged thy grandfather Omar ben Ennuman and thine uncle Sherkan on an old woman whom they call Dhat ed Dewahi; but, so God grant thee aid, do not thou fail to take thy wreak on her and to wipe out the disgrace we have suffered at the hands of the infidels. Beware of the old woman's craft and do as the Vizier shall counsel thee; for that he from of old time hath been the pillar of our realm." And his son assented to what he said. Then the King's eyes ran over with tears and his sickness redoubled on him, nor did it leave to press sore upon him four whole years, during which time his brother-in-law the Chamberlain held sway over the country, judging and commanding and forbidding, to the contentment of the people and the nobles, and all the land prayed for him what while Zoulmekan was occupied with his malady. As for Kanmakan, he had no thought but of riding and tilting with spears and shooting with arrows, and thus also did his cousin Kuzia Fekan; for they were wont to go forth at the first of the day and return at nightfall, when she would go in to her mother and he to his, to find her sitting weeping by his father's bed. Then he would tend his father till daybreak, when he would go forth again with his cousin, according to their wont. Now Zoulmekan's sufferings were long upon him and he wept and recited these verses:
My strength is past away, my tale of days is told And I, alas! am left even as thou dost behold. In honour's day, the first amongst my folk was I, And in the race for fame the foremost and most bold. Would that before my death I might but see my son The empery in my stead over the people hold And rush upon his foes and take on them his wreak, At push of sword and pike, in fury uncontrolled. Lo, I'm a man fordone, in this world and the next, Except my spright of God be solaced and consoled!
When he had made an end of repeating these verses he laid his head on his pillow and his eyes closed and he slept. In his sleep he saw one who said to him, "Rejoice for thy son shall fill the lands with justice and have the mastery over them and men shall obey him." Then he awoke gladdened by this happy omen that he had seen, and after a few days, death smote him, whereat great grief fell on the people of Baghdad, and gentle and simple mourned for him. But time passed over him, as if he had never been, and Kanmakan's estate was changed; for the people of Baghdad set him aside and put him and his family in a place apart. When his mother saw this, she fell into the sorriest of plights and said, "Needs must I go to the Grand Chamberlain, and I hope for the favour of the Subtle, the All-Wise One!" Then she betook herself to the house of the Chamberlain, who was now become Sultan, and found him sitting upon his couch. So she went in to his wife Nuzhet ez Zeman and wept sore and said, "Verily, the dead have no friends. May God never bring you to need and may you cease not to rule justly over rich and poor many days and years! Thine ears have heard and thine eyes have seen all that was ours aforetime of kingship and honour and dignity and wealth and goodliness of life and condition; and now fortune hath turned upon us, and fate and the time have played us false and wrought hostilely with us; wherefore I come to thee, craving thy bounties, I that have been used to confer favours; for when a man dies, women and girls are brought low after him." And she repeated the following verses:
Let it suffice thee that Death is the worker of wonders and know That the lives which are gone from our sight will never return to us mo'. The days of the life of mankind are nothing but journeys, I wot, whose watering-places for aye are mixed with misfortune and woe. Yet nothing afflicteth my heart like the loss of the good and the great, Whom the stresses of adverse events have compassed about and laid low.
When Nuzhet ez Zeman heard this, she remembered her brother Zoulmekan and his son Kanmakan and making her draw near to her, said to her, "By Allah, I am now rich and thou poor, and by Allah, we did not leave to seek thee out, but that we feared to wound thy heart, lest thou shouldst deem our gifts to thee an alms. Of a truth, all the good that we now enjoy is from thee and thy husband: so our house is thy house and our place thy place, and all that we have of wealth and goods is thine." Then she clad her richly and appointed her a lodging in the palace, adjoining her own; and she and her son abode therein in all delight of life. Him also did Nuzhet ez Zeman clothe in kings' raiment and gave them handmaids to do them service. After a little, she told her husband of her brother's widow, whereat his eyes filled with tears and he said, "Wouldst thou see the world after thee, look upon the world after another than thyself. Entertain her honourably and enrich her poverty."
Meanwhile, Kanmakan and Kuzia Fekan grew up and flourished, like unto two fruit-laden saplings or two shining moons, till they reached the age of fifteen. As for the girl, she was indeed the fairest of the cloistered maids, with lovely face and smooth cheeks, slender waist, heavy hips and arrowy shape, lips sweeter than old wine and spittle as it were the fountain Selsebil of Paradise, even as saith the poet, describing her:
From her mouth's honeyed dew, meseems, the first-pressed wine is drawn And on her sweetest lips the grapes, from which it's crushed, are grown; And when thou makest her to bend, its vines sway in her shape. Blessed be He who fashioned her and may not be made known!
For indeed God had united in her every attribute of beauty: her shape put to shame the willow-wand and the rose sought grace before her cheeks; the water of her mouth made mock of clear wine, and she gladdened heart and eyes, even as saith of her the poet:
Goodly and glorious she is, and perfect in every charm. Her eyelashes put to shame kohl and the users of kohl. Even as a sword in the hand of Ali, the Vicar of God, So is the glance of her eye to a lover's heart and soul.
As for Kanmakan, he was no less accomplished in grace and excelling in perfection; there was none could match with him in beauty and qualities, and valour shone from between his liquid black eyes, testifying for him and not against him. The hardest hearts inclined to him; and when the tender down of his lips and cheeks began to sprout, many were the poems made in his honour: as for example quoth one:
Unshown was my excuse, till on his cheek the hair Grew and the darkness crept, bewildered, here and there. A fawn, when eyes of men are fixed upon his charms, His glances straight on them a trenchant poniard bare.
His lovers' souls have woven upon his cheek, I ween, A net the blood has painted with all its ruddy sheen. Oh, how at them I marvel! They're martyrs; yet they dwell In fire, and for their raiment, they're clad in sendal green.
It chanced, one festival day, that Kuzia Fekan went out, surrounded by her handmaids, to visit certain kindred of the court; and indeed beauty encompassed her; the rose of her cheek vied with the mole thereon, her teeth flashed from her smiling lips, like the petals of the camomile flower, and she was as the resplendent moon. Her cousin Kanmakan began to turn about her and devour her with his eyes. Then he took courage and giving loose to his tongue, repeated the following verses:
When shall the mourning heart be healed of anger and disdain? When, rigour ceasing, shall the lips of union smile again? Would God I knew if I shall lie, some night, within the arms Of a beloved, in whose heart is somewhat of my pain!
When she heard this, she was angry and putting on a haughty air, said to him, "Hast thou a mind to shame me among the folk, that thou speakest thus of me in thy verse? By Allah, except thou leave this talk, I will assuredly complain of thee to the Grand Chamberlain, Sultan of Baghdad and Khorassan and lord of justice and equity, whereby disgrace and punishment will fall on thee?" To this Kanmakan made no reply, but returned to Baghdad: and Kuzia Fekan also returned home and complained of her cousin to her mother, who said to her, "O my daughter, belike he meant thee no ill, and is he not an orphan? Indeed, he said nought that implied reproach to thee; so look thou tell none of this, lest it come to the Sultan's ears and he cut short his life and blot out his name and make it even as yesterday, whose remembrance hath passed away." How ever, Kanmakan's case was not hidden from the people, and his love for Kuzia Fekan became known in Baghdad, so that the women talked of it. Moreover, his heart became contracted and his patience waned and he knew not what to do. Then longed he to give vent to the anguish he endured, by reason of the pangs of separation; but he feared her anger and her rebuke: so he recited the following verses:
What though I be fearful, anon, of her wrath, Whose humour serene is grown troubled and dour, I bear it with patience, as he who is sick Endureth a caut'ry in hopes of a cure.
His verses came one day to the knowledge of King Sasan (for so had they named the Grand Chamberlain, on his assumption of the Sultanate), as he sat on his throne, and he was told of the love the prince bore to Kuzia Fekan; whereat he was sore vexed, and going in to his wife Nuzhet ez Zeman, said to her, "Verily, to bring together fire and dry grass is of the greatest of risks; and men may not be trusted with women, so long as eyes cast furtive glances and eyelids quiver. Now thy nephew Kanmakan is come to man's estate and it behoves us to forbid him access to the harem; nor is it less needful that thy daughter be kept from the company of men, for the like of her should be cloistered." "Thou sayest sooth, O wise King," answered she. Next day came Kanmakan, according to his wont, and going in to his aunt, saluted her. She returned his greeting and said to him, "O my son, I have somewhat to say to thee, that I would fain leave unsaid; yet must I tell it thee, in my own despite." "Speak," said he. "Know then," rejoined she, "that thine uncle the Chamberlain, the father of Kuzia Fekan, has heard of thy love for her and the verses thou madest of her and has ordered that she be kept from thee; wherefore, if thou have occasion for aught from us, I will send it to thee from behind the door, and thou shalt not look upon Kuzia Fekan nor return hither from day forth." When he heard this, he withdrew, without speaking a word, and betook himself to his mother, to whom he related what his aunt had said to him. Quoth she, "This all comes of thy much talk. Thou knowest that the news of thy passion for Kuzia Fekan is noised abroad everywhere and how thou eatest their victual and makest love to their daughter." "And who should have her but I?" replied the prince. "She is the daughter of my father's brother and I have the best of rights to her." "These are idle words," rejoined his mother. "Be silent, lest thy talk come to King Sasan's ears and it prove the cause of thy losing her and of thy ruin and increase of affliction. They have not sent us the evening meal to-night and we shall die of want; and were we in any land other than this, we were already dead of the pangs of hunger or the humiliation of begging our bread." When Kanmakan heard his mother's words, his anguish redoubled; his eyes ran over with tears and he sobbed and complained and repeated the following verses:
Give o'er this unrelenting blame, that never lets me be! My heart loves her to whom it's thrall and may not struggle free. Look not to me for any jot of patience, for I swear By God His house, my patience all is clean divorced from me! Blamers to prudence me exhort; I heed them not, for I In my avouchment am sincere of love and constancy. They hinder me by very force from visiting my dear, Though, by the Merciful, nor rogue am I nor debauchee! Indeed, my bones, whenas they hear the mention of her name, Do quake and tremble even as birds from sparrow-hawks that flee. O daughter of my uncle, say to him who chides at love, That I, by Allah, am distraught with love-longing for thee.
And he said to his mother, "I can dwell no longer in my aunt's house nor among these people, but will go forth and abide in the corners of the city." So he and his mother left the palace and took up their abode in one of the quarters of the poorer sort: and she used to go from time to time to King Sasan's palace and take thence food for her own and her son's subsistence. One day, Kuzia Fekan took her aside and said to her, "Alas, my aunt, how is it with thy son?" "O my daughter," replied she, "sooth to say, he is tearful-eyed and mournful-hearted, being fallen into the snare of thy love." And she repeated to her the verses he had made; whereupon Kuzia Fekan wept and said, "By Allah, I rebuked not him for his words of ill-will or dislike to him, but because I feared the malice of enemies for him. Indeed, my passion for him is double that he feels for me; words fail to set out my yearning for him; and were it not for the extravagances of his tongue and the wanderings of his wit, my father had not cut off his favours from him nor decreed unto him exclusion and prohibition. However, man's fortune is nought but change, and patience in every case is most becoming; peradventure He who ordained our severance will vouchsafe us reunion!" And she repeated the following:
O son of mine uncle, the like of thine anguish I suffer, the like of thy passion I feel; Yet hide I from men what I suffer for longing, And shouldst thou not also thy passion conceal?
When his mother heard this, she thanked her and blessed her: then she left her and returning to her son, told him what his mistress had said; whereupon his desire for her increased. But he took heart, being eased of his despair, and the turmoil of his spirits was quelled. And he said, "By Allah, I desire none but her!" And he repeated the following verses:
Give over thy chiding; I'll hearken no whit to the flouts of my foes: Indeed I've discovered my secret that nought should have made me disclose; And she, whose enjoyment I hoped for, alack! is far distant from me; Mine eyes watch the hours of the dark, whilst she passes the night in repose.
So the days and nights went by, whilst Kanmakan lay tossing upon coals of fire, till he reached the age of seventeen: and indeed his beauty was now come to perfection and his wit had ripened. One night, as he lay awake, he communed with himself and said, "Why should I keep silence, till I consume away, and see not my love? My only fault is poverty: so, by Allah, I will go out from this land and wander afar in the plains and valleys; for my condition in this city is one of misery and I have no friend nor lover in it to comfort me; wherefore I will distract myself by absence from my native land, till I die and am at peace from abasement and tribulation." And he repeated the following verses:
Though my soul weary for distress and flutter fast for woe, Yet of its nature was it ne'er to buckle to a foe. Excuse me; for indeed my heart is like a book, whereof The superscription's nought but tears, that aye unceasing flow. Behold my cousin, how she seems a maid of Paradise, A houri come, by Rizwan's grace, to visit us below! Who seeks the glances of her eyes and dares the scathing stroke Of their bright swords, shall hardly 'scape their swift and deadly blow. Lo, I will wander o'er the world, to free my heart from bale And compensation for its loss upon my soul bestow! Yea, I will range the fields of war and tilt against the brave And o'er the champions will I ride roughshod and lay them low. Then will I come back, glad at heart and rich in goods and store, Driving the herds and flocks as spoil before me, as I go.
So he went out in the darkness of the night, barefoot, wearing a short-sleeved tunic and a skull-cap of felt seven years old and carrying a cake of dry bread, three days stale, and betook himself to the gate El Arij of Baghdad. Here he waited till the gate opened, when he was the first to go forth; and he went out at random and wandered in the deserts day and night. When the night came, his mother sought him, but found him not, whereupon the world, for all its wideness, was straitened upon her and she took no delight in aught of its good. She looked for him a first day and a second and a third, till ten days were past, but no news of him reached her. Then her breast became contracted and she shrieked and lamented, saying, "O my son, O my delight, thou hast revived my sorrows! Did not what I endured suffice, but thou must depart from the place of my abiding? After thee, I care not for food nor delight in sleep, and but tears and mourning are left me. O my son, from what land shall I call thee? What country hath given thee refuge?" And her sobs burst up, and she repeated the following verses:
We know that, since you went away, by grief and pain we're tried. The bows of severance on us full many a shaft have plied. They girt their saddles on and gainst the agonies of death Left me to strive alone, whilst they across the sand-wastes tried. Deep in the darkness of the night a ring-dove called to me, Complaining of her case; but I, "Give o'er thy plaint," replied. For, by thy life, an if her heart were full of dole, like mine, She had not put a collar on nor yet her feet had dyed. My cherished friend is gone and I for lack of him endure All manner sorrows which with me for ever will abide.
Then she abstained from food and drink and gave herself up to weeping and lamentation. Her grief became known and all the people of the town and country wept with her and said, "Where is thine eye, O Zoulmekan?" And they bewailed the rigour of fate, saying, "What can have befallen him, that he left his native town and fled from the place where his father used to fill the hungry and do justice and mercy?" And his mother redoubled her tears and lamentations, till the news of Kanmakan's departure came to King Sasan through the chief amirs, who said to him, "Verily, he is the son of our (late) King and the grandson of King Omar ben Ennuman and we hear that he hath exiled himself from the country." When King Sasan heard these words, he was wroth with them and ordered one of them to be hanged, whereat the fear of him fell upon the hearts of the rest and they dared not speak one word. Then he called to mind all the kindness that Zoulmekan had done him and how he had commended his son to his care; wherefore he grieved for Kanmakan and said "Needs must I have search made for him in all countries." So he summoned Terkash and bade him choose a hundred horse and go in quest of the prince. Accordingly he went out and was absent ten days, after which he returned and said, "I can learn no tidings of him and have come on no trace of him, nor can any tell me aught of him." With this, King Sasan repented him of that which he had done with Kanmakan; whilst his mother abode without peace or comfort, nor would patience come at her call: and thus twenty heavy days passed over her.
To return to Kanmakan. When he left Baghdad, he went forth, perplexed about his case and knowing not whither he should go: so he fared on alone into the desert for the space of three days and saw neither footman nor horseman. Sleep deserted him and his wakefulness redoubled, for he pined for his people and his country. So he wandered on, eating of the herbs of the earth and drinking of its waters and resting under its trees at the hour of the noontide heats, till he came to another road, into which he turned and following it other three days, came to a land of green fields and smiling valleys, abounding in the fruits of the earth. It had drunken of the beakers of the clouds, to the sound of the voices of the turtle and the ring-dove, till its hill-sides were enamelled with verdure and its fields were fragrant. At this sight, Kanmakan recalled his father's city Baghdad, and for excess of emotion repeated the following verses:
I wander on, in hope I may return Some day, yet know not when that day shall be. What drove me forth was that I found no means To fend awe, the ills that pressed on me.
Then he wept, but presently wiped away his tears and ate of the fruits of the earth. Then he made his ablutions and prayed the ordained prayers that he had neglected all this time; after which he sat in that place, resting, the whole day. When the night came, he lay down and slept till midnight, when he awoke and heard a man's voice repeating the following verses:
Life unto me is worthless, except I see the shine Of the flashing teeth of my mistress and eke her face divine. The bishops in the convents pray for her day and night And in the mosques the imams fall prone before her shrine. Death's easier than the rigours of a beloved one, Whose image never cheers me, whenas I lie and pine. O joy of boon-companions, when they together be And lover and beloved in one embrace entwine! Still more so in the season of Spring, with all its flowers, What time the world is fragrant with blossoms sweet and fine. Up, drinker of the vine-juice, and forth, for seest thou not Earth gilt with blooms and waters all welling forth like wine?
When Kanmakan heard this, it revived his sorrows; his tears ran down his cheeks like rivers and flames of fire raged in his heart. He rose to see who it was that spoke, but saw none, for the thickness of the dark; whereupon passion increased on him and he was alarmed and restlessness possessed him. So he descended to the bottom of the valley and followed the banks of the stream, till he heard one sighing heavily, and the same voice recited the followed verses:
Though thou have used to dissemble the love in thy heart for fear, Give on the day of parting, free course to sob and tear. 'Twixt me and my beloved were vows of love and troth; So cease I for her never to long and wish her near. My heart is full of longing; the zephyr, when it blows, To many a thought of passion stirs up my heavy cheer. Doth she o' the anklets hold me in mind, whilst far away, Though between me and Saada were solemn vows and dear? Shall the nights e'er unite us, the nights of dear delight, And shall we tell our suff'rings, each in the other's ear? "Thou seduced by passion for us," quoth she, and I, "God keep Thy lovers all! How many have fallen to thy spear?" If mine eyes taste the pleasance of sleep, while she's afar, May God deny their vision her beauties many a year! O the wound in mine entrails! I see no cure for it Save love-delight and kisses from crimson lips and clear.
When Kanmakan heard this, yet saw no one, he knew that the speaker was a lover like unto himself, debarred the company of her whom he loved; and he said to himself; "It were fitting that this man should lay his head to mine and become my comrade in this my strangerhood." Then he hailed the speaker and cried out to him, saying "O thou that goest in the sombre night, draw near to me and tell me thy history. Haply thou shalt find in me one who will succour thee in shine affliction." "O thou that answerest my complaint and wouldst know my history," rejoined the other, "who art thou amongst the cavaliers? Art thou a man or a genie? Answer me speedily ere thy death draw near, for these twenty days have I wandered in this desert and have seen no one nor heard any voice but thine." When Kanmakan heard this, he said to himself, "His case is like unto mine, for I also have wandered twenty days in the desert and have seen none nor heard any voice: but I will make him no answer till the day." So he was silent and the other called out to him, saying, "O thou that callest, if thou be of the Jinn, go in peace, and if thou be a man, stay awhile, till the day break and the night flee with the dark." So they abode each in his own place, reciting verses and weeping with abundant tears, till the light of day appeared and the night departed with the darkness. Then Kanmakan looked at the other and found him a youth of the Bedouin Arabs, clad in worn clothes and girt-with a rusty sword, and the signs of passion were apparent on him. So he went up to him and accosting him, saluted him. The Bedouin returned the salute and greeted him courteously, but made little account of him, for what he saw of his tender years and his condition, which was that of a poor man. So he said to him, "O youth, of what tribe art thou and to whom art thou kin among the Arabs? What is thy history and wherefore goest thou by night, after the fashion of champions? Indeed, thou spokest to me in the night words such as are spoken of none but magnanimous cavaliers and lionhearted warriors; and now thy life is in my hand. But I have compassion on thee by reason of thy tender age; so I will make thee my companion, and thou shalt go with me, to do me service." When Kanmakan heard him speak thus unseemly, after what he had shown him of skill in verse, he knew that he despised him and thought to presume with him; so he answered him with soft and dulcet speech, saying, "O chief of the Arabs, leave my tenderness of age and tell me thy story and why thou wanderest by night in the desert, reciting verses. Thou talkest of my serving thee; who then art thou and what moved thee to speak thus?" "Harkye, boy!" answered the Bedouin, "I am Subbah, son of Remmah ben Hummam. My people are of the Arabs of Syria, and I have a cousin called Nejmeh, who brings delight to all that look on her. My father died, and I was brought up in the house of my uncle, the father of Nejmeh; but when I grew up and my cousin became a woman, they excluded her from me and me from her, seeing that I was poor and of little estate. However, the chiefs of the Arabs and the heads of the tribes went in to her father and rebuked him, and he was abashed before them and consented to give me his daughter, but upon condition that I should bring him as her dower fifty head of horses and fifty dromedaries and fifty camels laden with wheat and a like number laden with barley, together with ten male and ten female slaves. The dowry he imposed upon me was beyond my competence; for he exacted more than the due marriage portion. So now I am travelling from Syria to Irak, having passed twenty days without seeing other than thyself, and I mean to go to Baghdad, that I may note what rich and considerable merchants start thence. Then I will go out in their track and seize their goods, for I will kill their men and drive off their camels with their loads. But what manner of man art thou?" "Thy case is like unto mine," replied Kanmakan; "save that my complaint is more grievous than thine; for my cousin is a king's daughter, and the dowry of which thou hast spoken would not content her family, nor would they be satisfied with the like of that from me." "Surely," said Subbah, "thou art mad or light-headed for excess of passion! How can thy cousin be a king's daughter? Thou hast no sign of princely rank on thee, for thou art but a mendicant." "O chief of the Arabs," rejoined Kanmakan, "marvel not at my case, for it is due to the shifts of fortune; and if thou desire proof of me, behold, I am Kanmakan, son of King Zoulmekan, son of King Omar ben Ennuman, lord of Baghdad and Khorassan, and fortune hath played the tyrant with me; for my father died and (my uncle) King Sasan took the Sultanate. So I fled forth from Baghdad, secretly, lest any should see me, and have wandered twenty days, without seeing any but thyself. So now I have discovered to thee my case, and my history is as thy history and my need as thy need." When Subbah heard this, he cried out and said, "O joy! I have attained my desire! I will have no booty this day but thyself; for, since thou art of the lineage of kings and hast come out in the habit of a beggar, it cannot be but thy people will seek thee, and if they find thee in any one's hand, they will ransom thee with much treasure. So put thy hands behind thee, O my lad, and walk before me." "Softly, O brother of the Arabs," answered Kanmakan; "my people will not ransom me with silver nor with gold, no, not with a brass dirhem; and I am a poor man, having with me neither much nor little: so leave this behaviour with me and take me to comrade. Let us go forth of the land of Irak and wander over the world, so haply we may win dower and marriage-portion and enjoy our cousins' embraces." When Subbah heard this, he was angry; his arrogance and heat redoubled and he said, "Out on thee, O vilest of dogs! Dost thou bandy words with me? Turn thy back, or I will chastise thee." At this Kanmakan smiled and answered, "Why should I turn my back for thee? Is there no equity in thee? Dost thou not fear to bring reproach upon the Arabs by driving a man like myself captive, in dishonour and humiliation, before thou hast proved him in the field, to know if he be a warrior or a coward?" The Bedouin laughed and replied, "By Allah, I wonder at thee! Thou art a boy in years, but old in talk. These words should come from none but a doughty champion: what wantest thou of equity? "If thou wilt have me be thy captive, to serve thee," said Kanmakan, "throw down thine arms and put off thine upper clothes and wrestle with me; and whichever of us throws the other shall have his will of him and make him his servant." The other laughed and said, "I think thy much talk denotes the nearness of thy death." Then he threw down his sword and tucking up his skirt, drew near unto Kanmakan, and they gripped each other. But the Bedouin found that Kanmakan had the better of him and outweighed him, as the quintal outweighs the dinar; and he looked at his legs and saw that they were as firmly planted as two well-builded minarets or two tent-poles driven into the ground or two immovable mountains. So he knew that he himself was not able to cope with him and repented of having come to wrestle with him, saying in himself, "Would I had fallen on him with my weapons!" Then Kanmakan took hold of him and mastering him shook him, till he thought his guts would burst in his belly and roared out, "Hold thy hand, O boy!" He heeded him not, but shook him again, and lifting him from the ground, made with him towards the stream, that he might throw him therein: whereupon the Bedouin cried out, saying, "O valiant man, what wilt thou do with me?" Quoth Kanmakan, "I mean to throw thee into this stream: it will carry thee to the Tigris. The Tigris will bring thee to the river Isa and the Isa to the Euphrates, and the Euphrates will bear thee to thine own country; so thy people will see thee and know thy manlihead and the sincerity of thy passion." When Subbah heard this, he cried out and said, "O champion of the desert, do not with me the deed of the wicked, but let me go, by the life of thy cousin, the jewel of the fair!" With this, Kanmakan set him down; and when he found himself at liberty, he ran to his sword and buckler and taking them up, stood plotting in himself treachery and a sudden attack on Kanmakan. The latter read his intent in his eye and said to him, "I know what is in thy mind, now thou hast hold of thy sword and buckler. Thou hast neither strength nor skill for wrestling, but thou thinkest that, wert thou on horseback and couldst wheel about and ply me with thy sword, I had been slain long ago. But I will give thee thy will, so there may be no despite left in thy heart. Give me the buckler and fall on me with thy sword; either I shall kill thee or thou me." "Here it is," answered Subbah and throwing him the shield, drew his sword and rushed at him. Kanmakan took the buckler in his right hand and began to fend himself with it, whilst Subbah struck at him with the sword, saying at each stroke, "This is the finishing one!" But Kanmakan received all his blows on his buckler and they fell harmless, though he did not strike back again, having no weapon of offence; and Subbah ceased not to smite at him, till his arm was weary. When the prince saw this, he rushed at him and seizing him in his arms, shook him and threw him to the ground. Then he turned him over on his face and binding his arms behind him with the hangers of his sword, began to drag him by the feet towards the river: whereupon cried Subbah, "What wilt thou do with me, O youth and cavalier of the age and hero of the field?" "Did I not tell thee," answered Kanmakan, "that it was my intent to send thee by the river to thy people and thy tribe, lest their hearts be troubled for thee and thou miss thy cousin's bride-feast?" At this, Subbah shrieked aloud and wept and said, "Do not thus, O champion of the time! Let me go and make me one of thy servants." And he wept and wailed and recited the following verses:
An outcast from my folk (how long my exile lasts!) am I. Would God I knew if I in this my strangerhood shall die! I perish, and my folk know not the place where I am slain; I fall in exile, far away from her for whom I sigh.
Kanmakan had compassion on him and said to him, "Make a covenant with me and swear to be a true comrade to me and to bear me company whithersoever I may go." "It is well," replied Subbah and took the required oath. So Kanmakan loosed him, and he rose and would have kissed the prince's hand; but he forbade him. Then the Bedouin opened his wallet and taking out three barley-cakes, laid them before Kanmakan, and they both sat down on the bank of the stream to eat. When they had done eating, they made the ablution and prayed, after which they sat talking of what had befallen each of them from his people and the shifts of fortune. Then said Kanmakan, "Whither dost thou now intend?" "I purpose," replied Subbah, "to repair to Baghdad, thy native town, and abide there, till God vouchsafe me the marriage-portion." "Up then," rejoined the other, "and to the road! I abide here." So the Bedouin took leave of him and set out for Baghdad, whilst Kanmakan remained behind, saying to himself, "O my soul, how shall I return poor and needy? By Allah, I will not go back empty-handed, and if God please, I will assuredly work my deliverance!" Then he went to the stream and made his ablutions and prayed to his Lord, laying his brow in the dust and saying, "O my God, Thou that makest the dew to fall and feedest the worm in the rock, vouchsafe me, I beseech Thee, my livelihood, of Thy power and the graciousness of Thy compassion!" Then he pronounced the salutation that closes prayer and sat, turning right and left and knowing not which way to take. Presently, he saw, making towards him, a horseman whose back was bowed and who let the reins droop. He sat still and after awhile the horseman came up to him, when, behold, he was at the last gasp and made sure of death, for he was grievously wounded. The tears streamed down his cheeks, like water from the mouths of skins, and he said to Kanmakan, "O chief of the Arabs, take me to friend, whilst I live, for thou wilt not find my like, and give me a little water, harmful though the drinking of water be to a wounded man, especially whilst the blood is flowing and the life with it. If I live, I will give thee what shall heal thy distress and thy poverty; and if I die, mayst thou be blessed for thy good intent!" Now this horseman had under him a stallion of the most generous breed, with legs like shafts of marble, the tongue fails to describe it; and when Kanmakan looked at it, he was seized with longing admiration and said in himself, "Verily, the like of this stallion is not to be found in our time." Then he helped the rider to alight and entreated him friendly and gave him a little water to drink; after which he waited till he was rested and said to him, "Who has dealt thus with thee?" "I will tell thee the truth of the case," answered the wounded man. "I am a horse-thief and all my life I have occupied myself with stealing and snatching horses, night and day, and my name is Ghessan, surnamed the plague of all stables and horses. I heard tell of this stallion, that he was with King Afridoun in the land of the Greeks, where they had named him El Catoul and surnamed him El Mejnoun. So I journeyed to Constantinople on his account, and whilst I was watching my opportunity to get at him, there came out an old woman, much considered among the Greeks and whose word is law with them, a past mistress in all manner of trickery, by name Shewahi Dhat ed Dewahi. She had with her this stallion and ten slaves, no more, to attend on her and it, and was bound for Baghdad, there to sue for peace and pardon from King Sasan. So I went out in their track, thinking to get the horse, and ceased not to follow them, but was unable to get at the stallion, by reason of the strict guard kept by the slaves, till they reached this country and I feared lest they should enter the city of Baghdad. As I was casting about to steal the horse, behold, a great cloud of dust arose and covered the prospect. Presently it opened and disclosed fifty horsemen, banded together to waylay merchants and led by a captain by name Kehrdash, like a raging lion, yea, in battle a lion that lays heroes flat even as a carpet. They bore down on the old woman and her company, shouting and surrounding them, nor was it long before they bound her and the ten slaves and made off with their captives and the horse, rejoicing. When I saw this, I said to myself, 'My toil is wasted and I have not attained my desire.' However, I waited to see how the affair would result, and when the old woman found herself a captive, she wept and said to Kehrdash, 'O doughty champion and invincible warrior, what wilt thou do with an old woman and slaves, now thou hast thy will of the horse?' And she beguiled him with soft words and promises that she would send him horses and cattle, till he released her and her slaves. Then he went his way, he and his comrades, and I followed them to this country, watching my opportunity, till at last I succeeded in stealing the horse, whereupon I mounted him and drawing a whip from my wallet, struck him with it. When the robbers heard this, they came out on me and surrounded me on all sides and shot arrows and cast spears at me, whilst I stuck fast on the horse's back and he defended me with his hoofs, till at last he shot out with me from amongst them, like an arrow from the bow or a shooting star, after I had gotten a grievous wound in the press of the battle. Since that time, I have passed three days in the saddle, without tasting food or sleep, so that my strength is wasted and the world is become of no account to me. But thou hast dealt kindly with me and hast had pity on me: and I see thee naked of body and sorrowful of aspect; yet are the marks of gentle breeding manifest on thee. So tell me, what and whence art thou and whither art thou bound?" "My name is Kanmakan," answered the prince, "son of King Zoulmekan, son of King Omar ben Ennuman. My father died, and a base man seized the throne after his death and became king over great and small." Then he told him all his story from first to last; and the thief said to him, (and indeed he had compassion on him), "By Allah, thou art a man of great account and exceeding nobility and thou shalt surely win to high estate and become the first cavalier of thy time! If thou canst lift me into the saddle and mount behind me and bring me to my country, thou shalt have honour in this world and a reward on the Day of calling of men one to another; for I have no strength left to hold myself in the saddle; and if I die by the way, the steed is thine; for thou art worthier of it than any other." "By Allah," said Kanmakan, "if I could carry thee on my shoulders or share my life with thee, I would do so, without the horse! For I am of those that love to do good and succour the afflicted. So make ready to set out and put thy trust in the Subtle, the All-Wise." And he would have lifted him on to the horse and set forward, trusting in God the Succourable. But the robber said, "Wait for me a little." Then he closed his eyes and opening his hands, said, "I testify that there is no god but God and that Mohammed is the Apostle of God! O Glorious One, pardon me my mortal sin, for none can pardon mortal sins save Thou!" And he made ready for death and recited the following verses:
I've ranged through all countries, oppressing mankind, And in drinking of wine I have wasted my days. I've waded through torrents, the horses to steal And I've used with my guile the high places to raze. My case is right grievous and great is my guilt, And Catoul, alas! is the end of my ways. I hoped of this horse I should get my desire; But vain was my journey and vain my essays. All my life I have stolen the steeds, and my death Was decreed of the Lord of all power and all praise. So, in fine, for the good of the stranger, the poor, The orphan, I've wearied in toils and affrays.
When he had finished, he closed his eyes and opened his mouth; then giving one sob, he departed this life. Kanmakan rose and dug a grave and laid him in the earth. Then he went up to the stallion and kissed it and wiped its face and rejoiced with an exceeding joy, saying, "None has the like of this horse, no, not even King Sasan." So much for Kanmakan.
Meanwhile, news came to King Sasan that the Vizier Dendan and half the army had thrown off their allegiance to him and sworn that they would have no king but Kanmakan and the Vizier had bound the troops by a solemn covenant and had gone with them to the islands of India and Ethiopia, where he had gathered together a host like the swollen sea, none could tell its van from its rear. Moreover, he was resolved to make for Baghdad and possess himself of the kingdom and slay all who should let him, having sworn not to return the sword of war to its sheath, till he had set Kanmakan on the throne. When this news came to Sasan, he was drowned in the sea of melancholy, knowing that the whole state had furled against him, great and small, and trouble and anxiety were sore on him. So he opened his treasuries and distributed that which was therein among his officers and prayed for Kanmakan's return, that he might draw his heart to him with fair usage and bounty and make him commander of those troops that remained faithful to him, hoping thus to prop his [falling] power. The news of this reached Kanmakan by the merchants; so he returned in haste to Baghdad, riding on the aforesaid stallion, and the news of his coming reached King Sasan, as he sat perplexed upon his throne; whereupon he despatched all the troops and head-men of Baghdad to meet him. So all who were in Baghdad went out to meet the Prince and escorted him to the palace and kissed the threshold, whilst the damsels and eunuchs went in to his mother and gave her the good tidings of his return. She came to him and kissed him between the eyes, but he said to her, "O my mother, let me go to my uncle King Sasan, who hath overwhelmed us with favours and benefits." Then he repaired to the palace, whilst all the people marvelled at the beauty of the stallion and said, "No king is like unto this man." So he went in to King Sasan, who rose to receive him; and Kanmakan saluted him and kissing his hands, offered him the horse as a present. The King bade him welcome, saying, "Welcome and fair welcome to my son Kanmakan! By Allah, the world hath been straitened on me by reason of thine absence, but praised be God for thy safety!" And Kanmakan called down blessings on him. Then the King looked at the stallion and knowing it for the very horse, Catoul by name, that he had seen in such and such a year, whilst at the leaguer of Constantinople with King Zoulmekan, said to Kanmakan, "I! thy father could have come by this horse, he would have bought him with a thousand chargers of price: but now let the honour return to thee who deservest it. We accept the steed and return it to thee as a gift, for thou hast more right to it than any man alive, being the prince of cavaliers." Then he bade bring forth for him dresses of honour and led horses and appointed him the chief lodging in the palace, giving him much money and showing him the utmost honour, for that he feared the issue of the Vizier Dendan's doings. At this Kanmakan rejoiced and despondency and humiliation ceased from him. Then he went to his house and said to his mother, "O my mother, how is it with my cousin?" "By Allah, O my son," answered she, "my concern for thine absence hath distracted me from any other, even to thy beloved; especially as she was the cause of thine exile and separation from me." Then he complained to her of his sufferings, saying, "O my mother, go to her and speak with her; haply she will favour me with a sight of her and dispel my anguish." "O my son," replied his mother, "idle desires abase the necks of men; so put away from thee this thought that will but lead to vexation; for I will not go to her nor carry her such a message." Thereupon he told her what he had heard from the horse-thief concerning Dhat ed Dewahi, how she was then in their land, on her way to Baghdad, and added, "It was she who slew my uncle and grandfather, and needs must I avenge them and wipe out our reproach." Then he left her and repaired to an old woman, by name Saadaneh, a cunning, perfidious and pernicious beldam, past mistress in all kinds of trickery and deceit To her he complained of what he suffered for love of his cousin Kuzia Fekan and begged her to go to her and implore her favour for him. "I hear and obey," answered the old woman and betaking herself to Kuzia Fekan's palace, interceded with her in his favour. Then she returned to him and said, "Thy cousin salutes thee and will visit thee this night at the middle hour." At this he rejoiced and sat down to await the fulfilment of his cousin's promise. At the appointed hour she came to him, wrapped in a veil of black silk, and aroused him from sleep, saying, "How canst thou pretend to love me, when thou art sleeping, heart-free, after the goodliest fashion?" So he awoke and said, "O desire of my heart, by Allah, I slept not but hoping that thine image might visit me in dreams!" Then she chid him tenderly and repeated the following verses:
Wert thou indeed a lover true and leal, Thou hadst not suffered slumber on thee creep. O thou who feign'st to walk the ways of love, The watch of passion and desire to keep, Son of my uncle, sure the eyes of those Who're love-distraught know not the taste of sleep.
When he heard his cousin's words, he was abashed before her and rose and excused himself. Then they embraced and complained to each other of the anguish of separation; and thus they did, till the dawn broke and the day flowered forth over the lands; when she rose to depart. At this, Kanmakan wept and sighed and repeated the following verses:
She came to me, after her pride had driven me to despair, She in whose lips the teeth as the pearls of her necklace were. I kissed her a thousand times and clipped her close in my arms And lay all night with my cheek pressed close to the cheek of the fair; Till the day, that must sever our loves, as 'twere the blade of a sword That flashes forth of its sheath, gleamed out on us unaware.
Then she took leave of him and returned to her palace. Now she let certain of her damsels into her secret, and one of them told the King, who went in to Kuzia Fekan and drawing his sabre upon her, would have slain her: but her mother Nuzhet ez Zeman entered and said to him, 'By Allah, do her no hurt, lest it be noised among the folk and thou become a reproach among the kings of the age! Thou knowest that Kanmakan is no base-born wretch, but a man of honour and nobility, who would not do aught that could shame him, and she was reared with him. So take patience and be not hasty; for verily the report is spread abroad, among the people of the palace and all the folk of the city, how the Vizier Dendan hath levied troops from all countries and is on his way hither to make Kanmakan king." "By Allah," said the King, "needs must I cast him into a calamity, such that neither earth shall bear him nor sky shadow him! I did but speak him fair and entreat him with favour, because of my subjects and officers, lest they should turn to him; but thou shalt see what will betide." Then he left her and went out to order the affairs of the kingdom.
Next day, Kanmakan came in to his mother and said to her, "O my mother, I am resolved to go forth a-raiding in quest of booty. I will waylay caravans and seize horses and flocks and slaves black and white, and as soon as my store is waxed great and my case is bettered, I will demand my cousin Kuzia Fekan in marriage of my uncle." "O my son," replied she, "of a truth the goods of men are not as a wastril camel, ready to thy hand; but between thee and them are sword-strokes and lance-thrusts and men that eat wild beasts and lay waste countries and snare lions and trap lynxes." Quoth he, "God forbid that I should turn from my purpose, till I have attained my desire!" Then he despatched the old woman to Kuzia Fekan, to tell her that he was about to set out in quest of a dowry befitting her, saying, "Thou must without fail bring me an answer from her." "I hear and obey," repled the old woman and going forth, presently returned with Kuzia Fekan's answer, which was that she would come to him at midnight. So he abode awake till one half of the night was past, when disquietude got hold on him, and before he was aware, she came in to him, saying, "My life be thy ransom from wakefulness!" And he sprang up to receive her, exclaiming, "O desire of my heart, my life be thy ransom from all things evil!" Then he acquainted her with his intent, and she wept; but he said, "Weep not, O my cousin; for I beseech Him who decreed our separation to vouchsafe us reunion and felicity." Then Kanmakan went in to his mother and took leave of her, after which he girt on his sword and donned turban and chin-band and mounting his horse Catoul, rode through the streets of Baghdad, till he reached the gate of the city. Here he found his comrade Subbah ben Remmah going out, who, seeing him, ran to his stirrup and saluted him. He returned his greeting, and Subbah said to him, "O my brother, how camest thou by this steed and sword and clothes, whilst I up to now have gotten nothing but my sword and target?" Quoth Kanmakan, "The hunter returns not but with game after the measure of his intent. A little after thy departure, fortune came to me: so now wilt thou go with me and work thine intent in my company and journey with me in this desert?" "By the Lord of the Kaabeh," replied Subbah, "from this time forth I will call thee nought but 'My lord!'" Then he ran on before the horse with his sword hanging from his neck and his budget between his shoulder-blades, and they pushed on into the desert four days' space, eating of the gazelles they caught and drinking of the water of the springs. On the fifth day, they came in sight of a high hill, at whose foot was a Spring encampment and a running stream. The knolls and hollows were filled with camels and oxen and sheep and horses, and little children played about the cattle-folds. When Kanmakan saw this, he was right glad and his breast was filled with joy; so he addressed himself to battle, that he might take the camels and the cattle, and said to Subbah, "Come, let us fall upon this good, whose owners have left it unguarded, and do battle for it with near and far, so haply it may fall to our lot and we will share it between us." "O my lord," replied Subbah, "verily they to whom these herds belong are much people, and among them are doughty horsemen and footmen. If we cast ourselves into this great danger, neither of us will return to his people; but we shall both be cut off utterly and leave our cousins desolate." When Kanmakan heard this, he laughed and knew that he was a coward: so he left him and rode down the hill, intent on rapine, shouting and chanting aloud the following verses:
O the house of En Numan is mickle of might! We're the champions with swords on the squadrons that smite! When the fury of battle flames high in our hearts, We're aye to be found in the front of the fight. The poor man amongst us may slumber secure Nor see the foul favour of want or upright. I hope for the succour of Him in whose hand Is the Kingdom, the Maker of body and spright.
Then he rushed upon the cattle, like a camel in heat, and drove them all, oxen and sheep and horses and camels, before him. Therewith the slaves ran at him with their bright swords and their long lances; and at their head was a Turkish horseman, a stout champion, doughty in battle and onset and skilled to wield the tawny spear and the white sabre. He drove at Kanmakan, saying, "Out on thee! Knewest thou to whom these cattle belong, thou hadst not done this thing! Know that they are the good of the Greek band, the champions of the sea and the Circassian troop, and they are a hundred cavaliers, all stern warriors, who have forsworn the commandment of all kings. There has been stolen from them a steed of great price, and they have vowed not to return hence, but with it." When Kanmakan heard these words, he cried out, saying, "O losers, this that I bestride is the steed itself, after which ye seek and for whose sake ye would do battle with me! So come out against me, all of you at once, and do your dourest!" So saying, he cried out between Catoul's ears and he ran at them, as he were a ghoul. Then Kanmakan drove at the Turk and smote him and overthrew him and let out his life; after which he turned upon a second and a third and a fourth and bereft them also of life. When the slaves saw this, they were afraid of him, and he cried out and said to them, "Ho, sons of whores, drive out the cattle and the horses, or I will dye my spear in your blood!" So they untethered the cattle and began to drive them out, and Subbah came down to Kanmakan, crying out with a loud voice and rejoicing greatly; when, behold, there arose a cloud of dust and grew till it covered the prospect, and there appeared under it a hundred cavaliers, like fierce lions. With this Subbah fled up on to the hill, that he might gaze upon the fight in safety, saying, "I am no warrior but in sport and jest." Then the hundred cavaliers made towards Kanmakan from all sides, and one of them accosted him, saying, "Whither goest thou with this good?" "I have made prize of them," replied he, "and am carrying them away; and I forbid you from them, for know that he who is before you is a terrible lion and an illustrious champion and a sword that cuts wherever it turns!" When the horseman heard this, he looked at Kanmakan and saw that he was a cavalier as he were a strong lion, whilst his face was as the full moon rising on its fourteenth night, and valour shone from between his eyes. Now this horseman was the chief of the hundred horse, and his name was Kehrdash; and what he saw in Kanmakan of the perfection of martial grace, together with surpassing beauty and comeliness, reminded him of a mistress of his, by name Fatin. Now this Fatin was one of the fairest of women in face, for God had given her beauty and grace and charms and noble qualities of all kinds, such as the tongue fails to describe. Moreover, the cavaliers of the tribe feared her prowess and the champions of the land stood in awe of her, and she had sworn that she would not marry nor give any possession of her, except he should conquer her, saying to her father, "None shall approach me, except he master me in the field and the stead of war." Kehrdash was one of her suitors, and when the news reached him of the vow she had taken, he thought scorn to fight with a girl, fearing reproach; and one of his friends said to him, "Thou art accomplished in beauty and manly qualities; so if thou contend with her, even though she be stronger than thou, thou must needs overcome her, for when she sees thy beauty and grace, she will be discomfited before thee, seeing that women by nature incline unto men, as is not unknown to thee." Nevertheless he refused and would not contend with her, albeit indeed she loved him, for what she had heard of his beauty and velour: and he ceased not to abstain from her thus, till he met with Kanmakan, as hath been set down. Now he took the prince for his beloved Fatin and was afraid; so he went up to him and said, "Out on thee, O Fatin! Thou comest to show me thy prowess; but now alight from thy steed, that I may talk with thee, for I have driven off these cattle and waylaid horsemen and champions, all for the sake of thy beauty and grace, which are without peer. So now thou shalt marry me, that kings' daughters may wait on thee, and thou shalt become queen of these countries." When Kanmakan heard this, the fires of wrath flamed up in him and he cried out, saying, "Out on thee, O dog of the barbarians! Leave thy raving of Fatin and come to cutting and thrusting, for eftsoon thou shalt lie in the dust." So saying, he began to wheel about him and offer battle. Then Kehrdash observed him more closely and saw that he was indeed a doughty knight and a stalwart champion; and the error of his thought was manifest to him, whenas he saw the tender down that adorned his cheeks, as it were myrtles springing from the heart of a red rose. And he feared his onslaught and said to those that were with him, "Out on you! Let one of you attack him and show him the keen sword and the quivering spear; for know that for a company to do battle with one man is foul shame, even though he be a doughty man of war and an invincible champion." With this, there ran at Kanmakan a lion-like horseman, mounted on a black horse with white feet and a star on his forehead, the bigness of a dirhem, astounding sight and wit, as he were Abjer, that was Antar's steed: even as saith of him the poet:
See, where the stallion yonder comes, that with a fierce delight Drives to the battle, mingling earth with heaven in his might. Meseems, the morning smote his brow and to avenge himself Thereon, he plunges straight and deep into its heart of light.
He rushed upon Kanmakan, who met him in mid-career, and they wheeled about awhile in the dint of battle, exchanging blows such as confound the wit and dim the sight, till Kanmakan took the other at vantage and smote him a swashing blow, that shore through turban and iron skull-cap and reached his head, and he fell from his saddle, as a camel falls, when he rolls over. Then a second came out to him and a third and a fourth and a fifth, and he did with them all as he had done with the first. Thereupon the rest rushed upon him, all at once, for indeed they were wild with rage and concern; but it was not long before he had transfixed them all with the point of his lance. When Kehrdash saw his feats of arms, he knew that he was stout of heart and concluded that he was the phoenix of the champions and heroes of the age: so he feared death and said to Kanmakan, "I give thee thy life and pardon thee the blood of my comrades, for I have compassion on thee by reason of thy fair youth. So take what thou wilt of the cattle and go thy ways, for life is better for thee [than death]." "Thou lackest not of the generosity of the noble," replied Kanmakan; "but leave this talk and flee for thy life and reck not of blame nor think to get back the booty; but take the straight path for thine own safety." When Kehrdash heard this, he waxed exceeding wroth and his anger moved him to that which was the cause of his death; so he said to Kanmakan, "Out on thee! Knewest thou who I am, thou wouldst not talk thus in the open field. I am the doughty lion known as Kehrdash, he who despoils great kings and waylays all the travellers and seizes the merchants' goods. Yonder steed under thee is what I am seeking and I call upon thee to tell me how thou camest by it." "Know," replied Kanmakan, "that this steed was being carried to my uncle King Sasan in the company of a certain old woman, attended by ten slaves, when thou fellest upon her and tookest the horse from her; and I have a debt of blood against this old woman for the sake of my grandfather King Omar ben Ennuman and my uncle King Sherkan." "Out on thee!" said Kehrdash. "Who is thy father, O thou that hast no (known) mother?" "Know," answered the prince, "that I am Kanmakan, son of Zoulmekan, son of Omar ben Ennuman." Quoth Kehrdash, "Thy perfection cannot be denied, nor yet the union in thee of martial virtue and comeliness: but go in peace, for thy father showed us favour and bounty." "By Allah, O vile wretch," rejoined Kanmakan, "I will not so far honour thee as to overcome thee in the open field!" At this the Bedouin was wroth and they drove at one another, shouting aloud, whilst their horses pricked up their ears and raised their tails. They clashed together with such a dint, that it seemed to each as if the heavens were split in sunder, and strove like two butting rams, smiting one another with thick-coming spear-strokes. Presently, Kehrdash aimed a blow at Kanmakan; but he evaded it and turning upon the brigand, smote him in the breast, that the head of the spear issued from his back. Then he collected the horses and cattle and cried out to the slaves, saying, "Up and drive them off briskly!" With this down came Subbah and accosting Kanmakan, said to him, "Thou hast quitted thee right well, O hero of the age! I prayed God for thee and He heard my prayer." Then he cut off Kehrdash's head and Kanmakan laughed and said, "Out on thee, Subbah! I thought thee a man of valour." Quoth the Bedouin, "Forget not thy slave in the division of the spoil, so haply I may win therewith to marry my cousin Nejmeh." "Thou shalt surely have a share in it," answered Kanmakan, "but now keep watch over the booty and the slaves." Then they set out and journeyed night and day till they drew near Baghdad, and all the troops heard of Kanmakan and saw the booty and the brigand's head on the point of Subbah's spear. Moreover, the merchants knew Kehrdash's head and rejoiced, for he was a noted highwayman, saying, "Allah hath rid mankind of him!" And they marvelled at his death and called down blessings on his slayer. Then all the people of Baghdad came to Kanmakan, seeking to know what had befallen him, and he told them what had passed, whereupon they were taken with awe of him and all the champions and men of war feared him. After this, he drove his spoil to the palace and planting the spear, on which was Kehrdash's head, before the gate, gave largesse to the people of camels and horses so that they loved him and all hearts inclined to him. Then he took Subbah and lodged him in a spacious dwelling, giving him part of the booty; after which he went in to his mother and told her all that had befallen him. Meanwhile the news of him reached the King, who rose and shutting himself up with his chief officers, said to them, "I wish to reveal to you my secret and acquaint you with the truth of my case. Know that Kanmakan will be the cause of our expulsion from the kingdom; for he has slain Kehrdash, albeit he had with him the tribes of the Turks and the Kurds, and our affair with him will assuredly result in our destruction, seeing that the most part of our troops are his kinsmen and ye know what the Vizier Dendan hath done; how he refuses to recognize me, after all the favours I have done him, and is become a traitor to his faith. Indeed, it has come to my knowledge that he hath levied an army in the provinces and goeth about to make Kanmakan king, for that the kingdom was his father's and his grandfather's before him, and he will surely slay me without mercy." When they heard this, they replied, "O King, verily he is unequal to this, and did we not know him to have been reared by thee, not one of us would take thought to him. We are at thy commandment; if thou wilt have us slay him, we will do so, and if thou wilt have him kept at a distance, we will chase him away." When King Sasan heard this, he said, "Verily, it were wise to slay him: but needs must ye take an oath of it." So they all pledged themselves to kill him, to the intent that, when the Vizier Dendan came and heard of his death, his might should be weakened and fail of that which he designed to do. When they had made this compact with him, the King bestowed great gifts upon them and dismissing them, retired to his own apartments. Now the troops refused their service, awaiting what should befall, for they saw that the most part of the army was with the Vizier Dendan. Presently, the news of these things came to Kuzia Fekan and caused her much concern; so that she sent for the old woman, who was wont to carry messages between her and her cousin, and bade her go to him and warn him of the plot against his life. Accordingly, she repaired to Kanmakan and gave him the princess's message, to which he replied, "Bear my cousin my salutation and say to her, 'The earth is God's (to whom belong might and majesty), and He maketh whom He willeth of His servants to inherit it. How excellent is the saying of the poet:
The kingship is God's alone, and him who would fain fulfil His wishes He driveth away and maketh him rue for his ill. Had I or another than I a handsbreadth of earth to my own, The Godship were sundered in twain and two were the Power and the Will.'"
The old woman returned to Kuzia Fekan with Kanmakan's reply and told her that he abode in the city. Meanwhile, King Sasan awaited his going forth from Baghdad, that he might send after him and kill him; till, one day, it befell that Kanmakan went out to hunt, accompanied by Subbah, who would not leave him day or night. He caught ten gazelles and among them one that had soft black eyes and turned right and left; so he let her go, and Subbah said to him, "Why didst thou let her go?" Kanmakan laughed and set the others free also, saying, "It behoves us, of humanity, to release gazelles that have young, and this one only turned from side to side, to look for her young ones: so I let her go and released the others in her honour." Quoth Subbah, "Do thou release me, that I may go to my people." At this Kanmakan laughed and smote him on the breast with the butt of his spear, and he fell to the ground, writhing like a serpent. Whilst they were thus occupied, they saw cloud of dust and heard the tramp of horse; and presently there appeared a troop of armed cavaliers. Now King Sasan had heard of Kanmakan's going out and sending for an Amir of the Medes, called Jami, and twenty men, had given them money and bidden them slay Kanmakan. So, when they drew near the prince, they rushed at him and he met them in mid-career and killed them all, to the last man. Meanwhile the King took horse and riding out to meet his men, found them all slain, whereat he wondered and turned back; but the people of the city laid hands on him and bound him straitly. As for Kanmakan, he left that place behind him and rode onward with Subbah. As he went, he saw a youth sitting at the door of a house in his road and saluted him. The youth returned his greeting and going into the house, brought out two platters, one full of milk and the other of brewis swimming in (clarified) butter, which he set before Kanmakan, saying, "Favour me by eating of my victual." But he refused and the young man said to him, "What ails thee, O man, that thou wilt not eat?" "I have a vow upon me," replied the prince. "What is the cause of thy vow?" asked the youth, and Kanmakan answered, "Know that King Sasan seized upon my kingdom wrongfully and oppressively, albeit it was my father's and my grandfather's before me; yet he laid hands upon the throne by force, after my father's death, and took no count of me, for that I was of tender years. So I have bound myself by a vow to eat no man's victual, till I have eased my heart of my enemy." "Rejoice," rejoined the youth, "for God hath fulfilled thy vow. Know that he is in prison and methinks he will soon die." "In what house is he imprisoned?" asked Kanmakan. "In yonder high pavilion," answered the other. The prince looked and saw the folk entering and buffeting Sasan, who was suffering the agonies of death. So he went up to the pavilion and noted what was therein; after which he returned to his place and sitting down to meat, ate what sufficed him and put the rest in his budget. Then he waited till it was dark night. And the youth, whose guest he was, slept; when he rose and repaired to the pavilion in which Sasan was confined. Now about it were dogs, guarding it, and one of them ran at him; so he took out of his wallet a piece of meat and threw it to him. He ceased not to do thus, till he came to the pavilion and making his way to the place where Sasan was, laid his hand upon his head; whereupon he said in a loud voice, "Who art thou?" "I am Kanmakan," replied the prince, "whom thou wentest about to kill; but God made thee fall into the evil thyself hadst devised. Did it not suffice thee to take my kingdom and that of my father, but thou must go about to kill me?" And Sasan swore a vain oath that he had not plotted his death and that the report was untrue. So Kanmakan forgave him and said to him, "Follow me." Quoth he, "I cannot walk a single step for weakness." "If the case be thus," replied Kanmakan, "we will get us two horses and ride forth and seek the open country." So they took horse and rode till daybreak, when they prayed the morning-prayer and fared on till they came to a garden, where they sat down and talked awhile. Then Kanmakan rose and said to Sasan, "Is there aught of bitterness left in thy heart against me?" "No, by Allah!" replied Sasan. So they agreed to return to Baghdad and Subbah the Bedouin said, "I will go on before you, to give the folk notice of your coming." Then he rode on in advance, acquainting men and women with the news; so all the people came out to meet Kanmakan with tabrets and flutes; and Kuzia Fekan also came out, like the full moon shining in all her splendour in the thick darkness of the night. Kanmakan met her, and their hearts yearned each to each and their bodies longed one for the other. There was no talk among the people of the time but of Kanmakan; for the cavaliers bore witness of him that he was the most valiant of the folk of the age and said, "It is not just that other than he should be King over us; but the throne of his grandfather shall revert to him as it was." Meanwhile King Sasan went in to his wife Nuzhet ez Zeman, who said to him, "I hear that the folk talk of nothing but Kanmakan and attribute to him such qualities as beggar description." "Hearing is not like seeing," replied the King; "I have seen him, but have noted in him not one of the attributes of perfection. Not all that is heard is said; but the folk ape one another in extolling and cherishing him, and God makes his praise to run on the lips of men, so that there incline to him the hearts of the people of Baghdad and of the perfidious traitor the Vizier Dendan, who has levied troops from all countries and arrogates to himself the right of naming a king of the country and chooses that it shall be under the hand of a worthless orphan." "What then dost thou purpose to do?" asked Nuzhet ez Zeman. "I mean to kill him," replied the King, "that the Vizier may be baulked of his intent and return to his allegiance to me, seeing nothing for it but my service." Quoth she, "Perfidy is a foul thing with strangers, and how much more with kinsfolk? Thou wouldst do better to marry him to thy daughter Kuzia Fekan and give heed to what was said of old time:
If Fate set over thee a man, though thou than he Be worthier and this be grievous unto thee, Yield him the honour due to his estate; thou'lt find He will advantage thee, though near or far thou be. Speak not thy thought of him; else wilt thou be of those Who of their own accord the way of weal do flee. Many in the harem oft are brighter than the bride; But time is on her side, and opportunity."
When Sasan heard this, he rose in anger and said to her, "Were it not that to kill thee would bring disgrace and reproach on me, I would take off thy head with my sword and make an end of thee." Quoth she, "I did but jest with thee." And rose and kissed his head and hands, saying, "Thou art right, and we will cast about for some means to kill him." When he heard this, he was glad and said, "Make haste and contrive some device to relieve me of my affliction; for I am at my wit's end." Said she, "I will make shift to do away his life for thee." "How so?" asked he; and she answered, "By means of our female slave Bakoun." Now this Bakoun was past mistress in all kinds of knavery and was one of the most pernicious of old women, in whose religion it was not lawful to abstain from wickedness; she had brought up Kanmakan and Kuzia Fekan, and the former had her in so great affection, that he was wont to sleep at her feet. So when King Sasan heard his wife name her, he said, "This is a good counsel," and sending for the old woman, told her what had passed and bade go about to kill Kanmakan, promising her all good. "O my lord," replied she, "thy commandment shall be done: but I would have thee give me a dagger that has been tempered in water of dearth, that I may despatch him the quicklier for thee." "So be it," said Sasan and gave her a knife that would well-nigh forego destiny. Now this woman had heard stories and verses and committed to memory great store of witty traits and anecdotes: so she took the dagger and went out, considering how she should compass Kanmakan's destruction. Then she repaired to the prince, whom she found sitting awaiting [the coming of a messenger with] his cousin's tryst; so that night his thought was taken up with Kuzia Fekan and the fires of love for her raged in his heart. Bakoun went in to him, saying, "The time of union is at hand and the days of separation are over and gone." When he heard this, he said, "How is it with Kuzia Fekan?" And she answered, "Know that she is distraught for love of thee." At this he rose and taking off his [upper] clothes, put them on her and promised her all good. Then said she, "Know that I mean to pass this night with thee, that I may repeat to thee what talk I have heard and divert thee with tales of many a slave of love, whom passion hath made sick." Quoth he, "Tell me a story, that will gladden my heart and dispel my cares." "With all my heart," answered she and sitting down beside him, with the dagger under her clothes, began thus, "The pleasantest thing I ever heard was as follows:
[Go to Bakoun's Story of the Hashish-Eater]
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