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Payne: The History of King Omar Ben Ennuman and His Sons Sherkan and Zoulmekan (cont.)

[Go back to Bakoun's Story of the Hashish-Eater]

When Kanmakan heard this story, he laughed till he fell backward and said to Bakoun, "O my nurse, this is indeed a rare story; I never heard its like. Hast thou any more?" "Yes," answered she and went on to tell him diverting stories and laughable anecdotes, till sleep overcame him. Then she sat by him till the most part of the night was past, when she said to herself, "It is time to profit by the occasion." So she unsheathed the dagger and drawing near to Kanmakan, was about to slaughter him, when, behold, in came his mother. When Bakoun saw her, she rose to meet her, and fear got hold on her and she fell a-trembling, as if she had the ague. The princess mother marvelled to see her thus and aroused her son, who awoke and found her sitting at his head. Now the reason of her coming was that Kuzia Fekan heard of the plot to kill Kanmakan and said to his mother, "O wife of my uncle, go to thy son, ere that wicked baggage Bakoun kill him." And she told her what had passed, from beginning to end. So she rose at once and stayed not for aught, till she came to her son's lodgings, just as Bakoun was about to slay him. When he awoke, he said to his mother, "O my mother, indeed thou comest at a good time, for my nurse Bakoun has been with me this night." Then he turned to Bakoun and said to her, "My life on thee, knowest thou any story better than those thou hast told me?" "What I have told thee," answered she, "is nothing to what I will tell thee; but that must be for another time." Then she rose to go, hardly believing that she should escape with her life, for she perceived of her cunning that his mother knew what was toward; and he said, "Go in peace." So she went her way, and his mother said to him, "O my son, blessed be this night, wherein God the Most High hath delivered thee from this accursed woman!" "How so?" asked he, and she told him the whole story. "O my mother," said he, "whoso is fated to live finds no slayer; nor, though he be slain, will he die; but now it were wise that we depart from amongst these enemies and let God do what He will." So, as soon as it was day, he left the city and joined the Vizier Dendan, and certain things befell between King Sasan and Nuzhet ez Zeman, which caused her also to leave the city and join herself to Kanmakan and Dendan, as did likewise such of the King's officers as inclined to their party. Then they took counsel together what they should do and agreed to make an expedition into the land of the Greeks and take their revenge for the death of King Omar ben Ennuman and his son Sherkan. So they set out with this intent and after adventures which it were tedious to set out, but the drift of which will appear from what follows, they fell into the hands of Rumzan, King of the Greeks. Next morning, King Rumzan caused Dendan and Kanmakan and their company to be brought before him and seating them at his side, bade spread the tables of food. So they ate and drank and took heart of grace, after having made sure of death, for that, when they were summoned to the King's presence, they said to one another, "He has not sent for us but to put us to death." Then said the King, "I have had a dream, which I related to the monks and they said, 'None can expound it to thee but the Vizier Dendan.'" "And what didst thou see in thy dream, O King of the age?" asked Dendan. "I dreamt," answered the King, "that I was in a pit, as it were a black well, where meseemed folk were tormenting me; and I would have risen, but fell on my feet and could not get out of the pit. Then I turned and saw on the ground a girdle of gold and put out my hand to take it; but when I raised it from the ground, I saw it was two girdles. So I girt my middle with them, and behold, they became one girdle; and this, O Vizier, is my dream and what I saw in sleep." "O our lord the Sultan," said Dendan, "this thy dream denotes that thou hast a brother or a brother's son or an uncle's son or other near kinsman of thy flesh and blood [of whom thou knowest not]." When the King heard this, he looked at Kanmakan and Dendan and Nuzhet ez Zeman and Kuzia Fekan and the rest of the captives and said in himself, "If I cut off these people's heads, their troops will lose heart for the loss of their chiefs and I shall be able to return speedily to my realm, lest the kingdom pass out of my hands." So he called the headsman and bade him strike off Kanmakan's head, when behold, up came Rumzan's nurse and said to him, "O august King, what wilt thou do?" Quoth he, "I mean to put these captives to death and throw their heads among their troops; after which I will fall upon them, I and all my men, and kill all we may and put the rest to the rout; so will this be the end of the war and I shall return speedily to my kingdom, ere aught befall among my subjects."

When the nurse heard this, she came up to him and said in the Frank tongue, "How canst thou slay thine own brother's son and thy sister and thy sister's daughter?" When he heard this, he was exceeding angry and said to her, "O accursed woman, didst thou not tell me that my mother was murdered and that my father died by poison? Didst thou not give me a jewel and say to me, 'This jewel was thy father's'? Why didst thou not tell me the truth?" "All that I told thee is true," replied she: "but thy case and my own are wonderful and thine and my history extraordinary. My name is Merjaneh and thy mother's name was Abrizeh. She was gifted with such beauty and grace and valour that proverbs were made of her, and her prowess was renowned among men of war. Thy father was King Omar ben Ennuman, lord of Baghdad and Khorassan. He sent his son Sherkan on an expedition, in company with this very Vizier Dendan; and Sherkan thy brother separated himself from the troops and fell in with thy mother Queen Abrizeh, in a privy garden of her palace, whither we had resorted to wrestle, she and I and her other damsels. He came on us by chance and wrestled with thy mother, who overcame him by the splendour of her beauty and her valour. Then she entertained him five days in her palace, till the news of this came to her father, by the old woman Shewahi, surnamed Dhat ed Dewahi, whereupon she embraced Islam at Sherkan's hands and he carried her by stealth to Baghdad, and with her myself and Rihaneh and other twenty damsels. When we came to thy father's presence, he fell in love with thy mother and going in to her one night, foregathered with her, and she became with child by him of thee. Now thy mother had three jewels, which she gave to thy father, and he gave one of them to his daughter Nuzhet ez Zeman, another to thy brother Zoulmekan and the third to thy brother Sherkan. This last thy mother took from Sherkan, and I kept it for thee. When the time of the princess's delivery drew near, she yearned after her own people and discovered her secret to me; so I went privily to a black slave called Ghezban and telling him our case, bribed him to go with us. Accordingly, he took us and fled forth the city with us by stealth towards the land of the Greeks, till we came to a desert place on the borders of our own country. Here the pangs of labour came upon thy mother, and the slave, being moved by lust, sought of her a shameful thing; whereat she cried out loudly and was sore affrighted at him. In the excess of her alarm, she gave birth to thee at once, and at this moment there arose, in the direction of our country, a cloud of dust which spread till it covered the plain. At this sight, the slave feared for his life; so, in his rage, he smote Queen Abrizeh with his sword and slew her, then, mounting his horse, went his way. Presently, the dust lifted and discovered thy grandfather, King Herdoub, who, seeing thy mother his daughter dead on the ground, was sorely troubled and questioned me of the manner of her death and why she had left her father's kingdom. So I told him all that had happened, first and last; and this is the cause of the feud between the people of the land of the Greeks and the people of Baghdad. Then we took up thy dead mother and buried her; and I took thee and reared thee, and hung this jewel about thy neck. But, when thou camest to man's estate, I dared not acquaint thee with the truth of the matter, lest it should stir up a war of revenge between you. Moreover, thy grandfather had enjoined me to secrecy, and I could not gainsay the commandment of thy mother's father, Herdoub, King of the Greeks. This, then, is why I forbore to tell thee that thy father was King Omar ben Ennuman; but, when thou camest to the throne, I told thee [what thou knowest]; and the rest I could not reveal to thee till this moment. So now, O King of the age, I have discovered to thee my secret and have acquainted thee with all that I know of the matter; and thou knowest best what is in thy mind." When Nuzhet ez Zeman heard what the King's nurse said, she cried out, saying, "This King Rumzan is my brother by my father King Omar ben Ennuman, and his mother was the Princess Abrizeh, daughter of Herdoub, King of the Greeks; and I know this damsel Merjaneh right well." With this, trouble and perplexity got hold upon Rumzan and he caused Nuzhet ez Zeman to be brought up to him forthright. When he looked upon her, blood drew to blood and he questioned her of his history. So she told me all she knew, and her story tallied with that of his nurse; whereupon he was assured that he was indeed of the people of Irak and that King Omar ben Ennuman was his father. So he caused his sister to be unbound, and she came up to him and kissed his hands, whilst her eyes ran over with tears. He wept also to see her weeping, and brotherly love entered into him and his heart yearned to his brother's son Kanmakan. So he sprang to his feet and taking the sword from the headsman's hands, bade bring the captives up to him. At this, they made sure of death; but he cut their bonds with the sword and said to Merjaneh, "Explain the matter to them, even as thou hast explained it to me." "O King," replied she, "know that this old man is the Vizier Dendan and he is the best of witnesses to my story, seeing that he knows the truth of the case." Then she turned to the captives and repeated the whole story to them and to the princes of the Greeks and the Franks who were present with them, and they all confirmed her words. When she had finished, chancing to look at Kanmakan, she saw on his neck the fellow jewel to that which she had hung round King Rumzan's neck, whereupon she gave such a cry, that the whole palace rang again, and said to the King, "Know, O my son, that now my certainty is still more assured, for the jewel that is about the neck of yonder captive is the fellow to that I hung to thy neck, and this is indeed thy brother's son Kanmakan." Then she turned to Kanmakan and said to him, "O King of the age, let me see that jewel." So he took it from his neck and gave it to her. Then she asked Nuzhet ez Zeman of the third jewel and she gave it to her, whereupon she delivered the two to King Rumzan, and the truth of the matter was made manifest to him and he was assured that he was indeed Prince Kanmakan's uncle and that his father was King Omar ben Ennuman. So he rose at once and going up to the Vizier Dendan, embraced him; then he embraced Prince Kanmakan, and they cried aloud for very gladness. The joyful news was blazed abroad and they beat the drums and cymbals, whilst the flutes sounded and the people held high festival. The army of Irak and Syria heard the clamour of rejoicing among the Greeks; so they mounted, all of them, and King Ziblcan also took horse, saying in himself, "What can be the cause of this clamour and rejoicing in the army of the Franks?" Then the Muslim troops made ready for fight and advancing into the field, drew out in battle array. Presently, King Rumzan turned and seeing the army deployed in battalia, enquired the reason and was told the state of the case; so he bade Kuzia Fekan return at once to the Muslim troops and acquaint them with the accord that had betided and how it was come to light that he was Kanmakan's uncle. So she set out, putting away from her sorrows and troubles, and stayed not till she came to King Ziblcan, whom she found tearful-eyed, fearing for the captive chiefs and princes. She saluted him and told him all that had passed, whereat the Muslims' grief was turned to gladness. Then he and all his officers took horse and followed the princess to the pavilion of King Rumzan, whom they found sitting with his nephew, Prince Kanmakan. Now they had taken counsel with the Vizier Dendan concerning King Ziblcan and had agreed to commit to his charge the city of Damascus of Syria and leave him king over it as before, whilst themselves entered Irak. Accordingly, they confirmed him in the viceroyalty of Damascus and bade him set out at once for his government, so he departed with his troops and they rode with him a part of the way, to bid him farewell. Then they returned and gave orders for departure, whereupon the two armies united and King Rumzan and his nephew set out, surrounded by their nobles and grandees. And indeed Kanmakan rejoiced in his uncle King Rumzan and called down blessings on the nurse Merjaneh, who had made them known to each other; but the two Kings said to one another, "Our hearts will never be at rest nor our wrath appeased, till we have taken our wreak of the old woman Shewahi, surnamed Dhat ed Dewahi, and wiped out the blot upon our honour." So they fared on till they drew near Baghdad, and Sasan, hearing of their approach, came out to meet them and kissed the hand of the King of the Greeks, who bestowed on him a dress of honour. Then King Rumzan sat down on the throne and seated his nephew at his side, who said to him, "O my uncle, this kingdom befits none but thee." "God forbid," replied Rumzan, "that I should supplant thee in thy kingdom!" So the Vizier Dendan counselled them to share the throne between them, ruling each one day in turn, and they agreed to this. Then they made feasts and offered sacrifices and held high festival, whilst King Kanmakan spent his nights with his cousin Kuzia Fekan; and they abode thus awhile.

One day, as the two Kings sat, rejoicing in the happy ending of their troubles, they saw a cloud of dust arise and up came a merchant, who ran to them, shrieking and crying out for succour. "O Kings of the age," said he, "how comes it that I was in safety in the country of the infidels and am plundered in your realm, what though it be a land of peace and justice?" King Rumzan questioned him of his case, and he replied, "I am a merchant, who have been nigh a score of years absent from my native land, travelling in far countries; and I have a patent of exemption from Damascus, which the late Viceroy King Sherkan wrote me, for that I had made him gift of a slave-girl. Now I was returning to Irak, having with me a hundred loads of rarities of Ind; but, as I drew near Baghdad, the seat of your sovereignty and the abiding-place of your peace and your justice, there came out upon me Bedouins and Kurds banded together from all parts, who slew my men and robbed me of all my goods. This is what hath befallen me." Then he wept and bemoaned himself before the two Kings, who took compassion on him and swore that they would sally out upon the thieves. So they set out with a hundred horse, each reckoned worth thousands of men, and the merchant went before them, to guide them in the right way. They fared on all that day and the following night till daybreak, when they came to a valley abounding in streams and trees. Here they found the bandits dispersed about the valley, having divided the treasure between them; but there was yet some of it left. So they fell upon them and surrounded them on all sides, nor was it long before they made prize of them all, to the number of near three hundred horsemen, banded together of the scourings of the Arabs. They bound them all, and taking what they could find of the merchant's goods, returned to Baghdad, where the two Kings sat down upon one throne and passing the prisoners in review before them, questioned them of their condition and their chiefs. So they pointed out to them three men and said, "These are our only chiefs, and it was they who gathered us together from all parts and countries." The Kings bade lay on these three and set the rest free, after taking from them all the goods in their possession and giving them to the merchant, who examined them and found that a fourth of his stock was missing. The two Kings engaged to make good his loss, whereupon he pulled out two letters, one in the handwriting of Sherkan and the other in that of Nuzhet ez Zeman; for this was the very merchant who had bought Nuzhet ez Zeman of the Bedouin, as hath been before set forth. Kanmakan examined the letters and recognized the handwriting of his uncle Sherkan and his aunt Nuzhet ez Zeman; then (for that he knew the latter's history) he went in to her with that which she had written and told her the merchant's story. She knew her own handwriting and recognizing the merchant, despatched to him guest-gifts (of victual and what not) and commended him to her brother and nephew, who ordered him gifts of money and slaves and servants to wait on him, besides which the princess sent him a hundred thousand dirhems in money and fifty loads of merchandise, together with other rich presents. Then she sent for him and made herself known to him, whereat he rejoiced greatly and kissed her hands, giving her joy of her safety and union with her brother and thanking her for her bounty: and he said to her, "By Allah, a good deed is not lost upon thee!" Then she withdrew to her own apartment and the merchant sojourned with them three days, after which he took leave of them and set out to return to Damascus. After this, the two Kings sent for the three robber-chiefs and questioned them of their condition, whereupon one of them came forward and said, "Know that I am a Bedouin, who use to lie in wait, by the way, to steal children and virgin girls and sell them to merchants; and this I did for many a year until these latter days, when Satan incited me to join these two gallows-birds in gathering together all the riff-raff of the Arabs and other peoples, that we might waylay merchants and plunder caravans." Said the two Kings, "Tell us the rarest of the adventures that have befallen thee in kidnapping children and girls." "O Kings of the age," replied he, "the strangest thing that ever happened to me was as follows. Two-and-twenty years ago, being at Jerusalem, I saw a girl come out of the khan, who was possessed of beauty and grace, albeit she was but a servant and was clad in worn clothes, with a piece of camel-cloth on her head; so I entrapped her by guile and setting her on a camel, made off with her into the desert, thinking to carry her to my own people and there set her to pasture the camels and collect their dung (for fuel); but she wept so sore, that after beating her soundly, I carried her to Damascus, where a merchant saw her and being astounded at her beauty and accomplishments, bid me more and more for her, till at last I sold her to him for a hundred thousand dinars. I heard after that he clothed her handsomely and presented her to the Viceroy of Damascus, who gave him for her her price thrice told; and this, by my life, was but little for such a damsel! This, O Kings of the age, is the strangest thing that ever befell me." The two Kings wondered at his story; but, when Nuzhet ez Zeman heard it, the light in her face became darkness, and she cried out and said to her brother, "Sure, this is the very Bedouin who kidnapped me in Jerusalem!" And she told them all that she had endured from him in her strangerhood of hardship and blows and hunger and humiliation, adding, "And now it is lawful to me to slay him." So saying, she seized a sword and made at him; but he cried out and said, "O Kings of the age, let her not kill me, till I have told you the rare adventures that have betided me." And Kanmakan said to her, "O my aunt, let him tell his story, and after do with him as thou wilt." So she held her hand and the Kings said to him, "Now let us hear thy story." "O Kings of the age," said he, "if I tell you a rare story, will you pardon me?" "Yes," answered they. Then said the Bedouin, "know that...

[Go to Hemmad the Bedouin's Story]


Payne, John (1842-1916). The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night. London. 1901. Gutenberg Vol. I. Gutenberg Vol. II. Gutenberg Vol. III. Gutenberg Vol. IV. Please consult the Gutenberg edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version. Wollamshram Vol. V. Wollamshram Vol. VI. Wollamshram Vol. VII. Wollamshram Vol. VIII. Wollamshram Vol. IX. Please consult the Wollamshram edition for footnotes; the footnotes have not been included in this web version.


1001 Nights Hypertext. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The texts presented here are in the public domain. Thanks to Gene Perry for his excellent help in preparing the texts for the web. Page last updated: January 1, 2005 10:46 PM


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