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Payne: The Merchant of Oman

[Go back to Abdallah the Fisherman and Abdallah the Merman]

The Khalif Haroun er Reshid was one night exceeding wakeful; so he called Mesrour and said to him, 'Fetch me Jaafer in haste.' Accordingly, he went out and returned with the vizier, to whom said the Khalif, 'O Jaafer, wakefulness hath gotten hold of me this night and forbiddeth sleep from me, nor know I what shall do it away from me.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' answered Jaafer, 'the wise say, "Looking on a mirror, entering the bath and hearkening unto song do away care and chagrin."' 'O Jaafer,' rejoined Haroun, 'I have done all this, but it hath brought me no whit of relief, and I swear by my pious forefathers, except thou contrive that which shall do away this [restlessness] from me, I will strike off thy head.'

Quoth Jaafer, 'O Commander of the Faithful, wilt thou do that which I shall counsel thee?' 'And what is that?' asked the Khalif. 'It is,' replied the vizier, 'that thou take boat with us and drop down the Tigris with the tide to a place called Kern es Serat, so haply we may hear or see some new thing, for it is said, "The solace of care is in one of three things; to wit, that a man see what he never before saw or hear what he never yet heard or tread an earth he hath never yet trodden." It may be this shall be the means of doing away thy restlessness, O Commander of the Faithful, if it be the will of the Most High. There, on both sides of the stream, are windows and balconies facing one another, and it may be we shall hear or see from one of these somewhat wherewith our hearts may be lightened.'

Jaafer's counsel pleased the Khalif, so he rose from his place and taking with him the vizier and his brother El Fezl and Isaac the boon-companion and Abou Nuwas and Abou Delef and Mesrour the headsman, entered the wardrobe, where they all donned merchants' habits. Then they went down to the Tigris and embarking in a gilded boat, dropped down with the stream, till they came to the place they sought, where they heard the voice of a damsel singing to the lute and chanting the following verses:

      I say to my love, whilst the wine-cup is here And the thousand-voiced bird in the coppice sings clear,
      'How long this delaying from gladness? Awake; For life's but a loan for a day or a year.
      So take thou the cup from a loveling's white hands, Whose languishing lids are as those of a deer.'
      I sowed a fresh rose in his cheek, but amidst His locks a pomegranate for fruit did appear.
      Indeed, very fire wouldst thou deem his fair cheek And the place of the scratching dead ashes and sere.
      Quoth my censor, 'Forget him;' but where's my excuse, When the down sprouts and creeps on the face of my dear?

When the Khalif heard this, he said, 'O Jaafer, how goodly is that voice!' 'O our lord,' answered the vizier, 'never smote my hearing aught sweeter or goodlier than this singing! But hearing from behind a wall is only half hearing; how would it be, if we heard it from behind a curtain?' 'Come, O Jaafer,' said the Khalif, 'let us go up and intrude upon the master of the house; it may be we shall look upon the songstress, face to face.' 'I hear and obey,' answered Jaafer. So they landed and sought admittance; whereupon there came out to them a young man, fair of favour, sweet of speech and eloquent of tongue, who said to them, 'Welcome and fair welcome, O lords that favour me [with your presence!] Enter in all ease and liberty.'

They followed him into a saloon, four-square, whose roof was decorated with gold and its walls adorned with ultra- marine. At its upper end was an estrade, whereon stood a goodly settle and thereon sat a hundred damsels like moons. The young man cried out to them and they came down from their seats. Then he turned to Jaafer and said to him, 'O my lord, I know not the worshipful of you from the more worshipful, but, in God's name, let him that is highest in rank among you favour me by taking the highest room, and let his brethren sit each in his several station.' So they sat down, each according to his rank, whilst Mesrour abode standing to do them service; and the host said to them, 'O my guests, with your leave, shall I set food before you?' 'Yes,' answered they. So he called for food, whereupon four damsels with girded waists set before them a table, whereon were rare meats of that which flies and walks the earth and swims the seas, sandgrouse and quails and chickens and pigeons [and what not else], and written on the marges of the tray were verses such as sorted with the entertainment.

They ate till they had enough and washed their hands, after which said the young man, 'O my lords, if you have any want, let us know it, that we may have the honour of satisfying it.' 'It is well,' answered they. 'We came not to thy dwelling but because of a voice we heard from behind the wall of thy house, and we would fain hear it [again] and know her to whom it belongs. So, if thou deem well to vouchsafe us this favour, it will be of the munificence of thy nature, and we will after return whence we came.' 'Ye are welcome,' answered the host and turning to a black slave-girl, said to her, 'Fetch me thy mistress such an one.' So she went away and returning with a chair of chinaware, cushioned with brocade, set it down; then withdrew again and presently returned with a damsel, as she were the moon on the night of its full, who sat down on the chair. Then the black girl gave her a bag of satin, from which she brought out a lute, inlaid with jacinths and jewels and furnished with pegs of gold, and tuned its strings, even as saith the poet of her and her lute:

      When in her lap she sets it, the soul in it she sets, Its pegs [and strings] its organs by which its thought hath speech;
      Nor doth her right hand outrage its beauties, but her left On equal wise and measure amendeth still the breach.

Then she strained it to her bosom, bending over it as the mother bends over her child, and swept the strings, which complained as the child complains to its mother; after which she played upon it and sang the following verses:

      Vouchsafe me Fortune the return of him I love, and I Will chide him, saying, 'Pass about thy cups, O friend; fill high
      And drink of wine that mingleth not with heart of man but he Still barters care for cheer and calls a truce with tear and sigh.
      Unto its bearing in its cup the zephyr doth suffice: Didst e'er a full moon in its hand a star that bore espy?
      How many a night with its full moon I've held converse of yore, Whilst, o'er the Tigris shed, its light lit up the darkling sky!
      As to the westward she inclined, it was as if she drew A gilded sword that stretched athwart the water far and nigh.

When she had made an end of her song, she wept sore and all who were in the place cried out with weeping, till they were well-nigh dead; nor was there one of them but took leave of his senses and rent his clothes and buffeted his face, for the goodliness of her singing. Then said Er Reshid, 'This damsel's song denoteth that she is one parted from her beloved.' Quoth her master, 'She hath lost her father and mother.' But the Khalif said, 'This is not the weeping of one who hath lost her father and mother, but the affliction of one who hath lost her beloved.' And he was delighted with her singing and said to Isaac, 'By Allah, I never saw her like!' 'O my lord,' answered Isaac, 'indeed I marvel at her to the utterest and am beside myself for delight.'

Now with all this Er Reshid stinted not to look upon their host and observe his charms and the elegance of his fashion; but he saw on his face a pallor as he would die; so he turned to him and said, 'Harkye!' 'At thy service, O my lord,' answered he. 'Knowest thou who we are?' asked the Khalif; and he said 'No.' Quoth Jaafer, 'Wilt thou that I tell thee the names of each of us?' 'Yes,' answered the young man; and the vizier said, 'This is the Commander of the Faithful, descendant of the uncle of the Prince of the Apostles,' and told him the names of the others of the company; after which quoth Er Reshid, 'I desire that thou tell me the cause of the paleness of thy face, whether it be acquired or natural from thy birth.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' answered he, 'my case is rare and my affair extraordinary; were it graven with needles on the corners of the eye, it would serve as an admonition to him who will be admonished.' 'Tell it me,' said the Khalif. 'Peradventure, thy healing may be at my hand.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' said the young man, 'lend me thine ears and give me thy whole mind.' 'Come,' said the Khalif, 'tell it me, for thou makest me long to hear it.'

'Know then, O Commander of the Faithful,' replied the young man, 'that I am a merchant of the merchants of the sea and come from the city of Oman, where my father was a rich merchant, having thirty ships trading upon the sea, whose yearly hire was thirty thousand dinars; and he had partners trading with his money and journeying on the sea. He was a man of worth and generosity and taught me writing and all whereof a man hath need. When his last hour drew near, he called me to him and gave me the customary injunctions; then God the Most High admitted him to His mercy and may He continue the Commander of the Faithful [on life!]

One day, as I sat in my house with a company of merchants, one of my servants came in to me and said, "O my lord, there is a man at the door, who craves admittance to thee." So I gave leave and he came in, bearing on his head a covered box. He set it down and uncovered it, and behold, therein were fruits out of season and [vegetables] conserved in salt and fresh, such as are not found in our country. I thanked him and gave him a hundred dinars, and he went away, grateful. Then I divided these things amongst my guests and asked them whence they came. Quoth they, "They come from Bassora," and praised them and went on to expatiate upon the beauties of Bassora and were all of accord that there was nothing in the world goodlier than Baghdad and its people. Then they fell to describing Baghdad and the excellence of its air and the beauty of its ordinance and the goodly manners of its people, till my soul longed for it and all my hopes clave to the sight of it.

So I arose and selling my ships and houses and lands and slaves, male and female, got together a thousand thousand dinars, besides jewels and precious stones, with which I freighted a ship and setting out therein, sailed nights and days till I came to Bassora, where I abode awhile. Then I hired a bark and embarking therein with all my goods, sailed up the river some days till I arrived at Baghdad. I enquired where the merchants abode and what part thereof was pleasantest of sojourn and was answered, "The Kerkh quarter." So I went thither and hiring a house in a street called the Street of Saffron, transported my goods to it and took up my lodging therein.

Here I abode some days, till, one Friday, I sallied forth apleasuring, taking with me somewhat of money. I went first to a mosque, called the Mosque of Mensour, where the Friday service was held, and when we had made an end of prayers, I went out with the folk to a place called Kern es Serat, where I saw a tall and goodly house, with a balcony overlooking the river-bank, wherein was a lattice- window. So I betook myself thither with a company of folk and saw there an old man sitting handsomely clad and exhaling a sweet scent. His beard flowed down upon his breast, where it divided into two waves like silver-wire, and about him were four damsels and five pages in attendance upon him. So I said to one of the folk, "What is the name of yonder old man and what is his business?" "His name is Tahir ibn el Alaa," answered he, "and he is a keeper of girls; all who go in to him eat and drink and look upon fair ones." "By Allah," quoth I, "this long while have I gone about in quest of the like of this!"

So I went up to the old man and saluting him, said to him, "O my lord, I desire to be thy guest to-night." And he said, "With all my heart; but, O my son, with me are many damsels, some whose night is ten dinars, some forty and others more. Choose which thou wilt have." Quoth I, "I choose her whose night is ten dinars." And I counted out to him three hundred dinars, being the price of a month; whereupon he committed me to a page, who carried me to a bath within the house and tended me on goodly wise. When I came out of the bath, he brought me to the door of a chamber and knocked, whereupon out came a damsel, to whom said he, "Take thy guest." She received me with welcome and courtesy, laughing and rejoicing, and brought me into a rare apartment, decorated with gold. I looked at her and saw her like the moon on the night of its full, having in attendance on her two damsels like stars. She made me sit and seating herself by my side, signed to her maids, who set before us a table covered with dishes of various kinds of meats, fowls and quails and sandgrouse and pigeons. So we ate till we were satisfied, and never in my life saw I aught more delicious than this food. When we had eaten, she caused remove the table [of meats] and set on the table of wine and flowers and fruits and sweetmeats; and I abode with her a month on this wise.

At the end of the month, I repaired to the bath; then, going to the old man, I said to him, "O my lord, I want her whose night is twenty dinars." "Pay down the money," said he. So I fetched money and counted out to him six hundred dinars for a month's hire, whereupon he called a boy and said to him, "Take thy lord here." So he carried me to the bath and thence to the door of a chamber, at which he knocked and there came out a damsel, to whom quoth he, "Take thy guest." She received me on the goodliest wise and I found in attendance on her four slave-girls, whom she commanded to bring food. So they brought a table spread with all kinds of meats, and I ate. When I had made an end of eating and the table had been removed, she took the lute and sang the following verses:

      O windwafts of musk, from the land of Babel to us-ward that fare, In the name of my passion and heat, I charge you my messages bear;
      For lo, in those regions of yours are dwellings of yore that I knew, The homes of our loved ones, to wit, the noblest of all that are there;
      And in them abideth the maid, for whom many a lover doth pine, Distraught with the pangs of desire, but getteth no grace of the fair.

I abode with her a month, after which I returned to the old man and said to him, "I want her of the forty dinars [a night]." "Pay the money," said he. So I counted out to him twelve hundred dinars and abode with her a month, as it were one day, for what I saw of the beauty of her person and the goodliness of her converse. After this I went to the old man one evening and heard a great clamour and loud voices. So I said to him, "What is to do?" And he answered, saying, "This is the night of our greatest holiday, whereon all the townsfolk embark on the river and divert themselves by gazing upon one another. Hast thou a mind to go up to the roof and amuse thyself by looking upon the folk?" "Yes," answered I, and went up to the roof, whence I [looked down upon the river and] saw [a great multitude of] folk with flambeaux and cressets, and great mirth and merriment toward.

Then I went up to the end of the roof and saw there a little chamber railed off by a goodly curtain, and in its midst a couch of juniper-wood, plated with gold and covered with a handsome carpet. On this sat a lovely young lady, confounding all beholders with her beauty and grace and symmetry, and by her side a youth, whose hand was on her neck; and he was kissing her and she him. When I saw them, O Commander of the Faithful, I could not contain myself nor knew I where I was, so dazzled was I by her beauty: but, when I came down, I questioned the damsel with whom I was and described the young lady to her. "What wilt thou with her?" asked she; and I said, "She hath taken my wit." She smiled and said, "O Aboulhusn, hast thou a mind to her?" "Ay, by Allah!" answered I; "for she hath captived my heart and soul." Quoth she, "This is the daughter of Tahir ibn el Alaa; she is our mistress and we are all her handmaids; but knowest thou, O Aboulhusn, what is the price of her night and day?" And I said, "No." "Five hundred dinars," answered she; "for she is one for whom kings might sigh in vain."

"By Allah," quoth I, "I will spend all I have on this damsel!" And I lay, heartsore for desire, till the morning, when I donned a suit of the richest royal raiment and betaking myself to Ibn el Alaa, said to him, "O my lord, I want her whose night is five hundred dinars." Quoth he, "Pay the money." So I counted out to him fifteen thousand dinars for a month's hire and he took them and said to the page, "Carry him to thy mistress such an one." So he took me and carried me to a saloon, than which my eyes never saw a goodlier on the face of the earth, and there I found the young lady seated. When I saw her, O Commander of the Faithful, my reason was dazed with her beauty, for she was like the full moon on its fourteenth night, full of grace and symmetry and loveliness. Her speech put to shame the tones of the lute, and it was as it were she to whom the poet referred in the following verses:

      Quoth she (and verily desire ran riot in her side, What while the dusky night let down the darkness like a tide),
      "Night, in thy blackness is there none to company with me? Is there no swiver for this kaze of all men, far and wide?"
      Then with her palm she smote thereon and said, what while she sighed The sighing of the sorrowful, the sad, the weeping-eyed,
      "As by the toothstick's use appears the beauty of the teeth, So, like a toothstick is the yard unto the kaze applied.
      O, Muslims, stand your yards not up on end and is there none 'Mongst you will succour her who doth to you complain?" she cried.
      Therewith my yard thrust out erect, from underneath my clothes, And said to her, "Here, here's for thee!" And I the while untied
      The laces of her drawers. She made a show of fear and said, "Who'rt thou?" And I, "A youth thy cry that answereth," replied
      And straightway fell to routing her with what was like her wrist, A lusty routing, that full sore the buttocks mortified;
      Till when, three courses run, I rose, "Fair fall thee of the swive!" Quoth she, and I, "May solacement thyself therefrom betide!"

And how excellent is the saying of another!

      A fair one, to idolaters if she her face should show, They'd leave their idols and her face for only Lord would know.
      If in the Eastward she appeared unto a monk, for sure, He'd cease from turning to the West and to the East bend low;
      And if into the briny sea one day she chanced to spit, Assuredly the salt sea's floods straight fresh and sweet would grow.

And that of another:

      I looked one look upon her and dazed was all my thought, For all the rare perfections wherewith the maid was fraught.
      Suspicion that I loved her discovered unto her, And straight the supposition her cheeks to redden wrought.

I saluted her and she said to me, "Welcome and fair welcome!" and taking me by the hand, made me sit down beside her; whereupon, of the excess of my passion, I fell aweeping for fear of parting and poured forth the tears of the eye, reciting the following verses:

      The nights of estrangement I love; yet not that in them I delight, But fate peradventure shall cause reunion ensue their despite;
      And eke, on like wise, I abhor the days of enjoyment, because I see that all things in this world still issue in ceasing outright.

She strove to solace me with soft speech, but I was drowned in the sea of passion, fearing, even in the midst of union, the anguish of separation, for excess of longing and desire; and I bethought me of the misery of absence and estrangement and repeated these verses:

      Even in her arms I me bethought of severance from her And from mine eyes the tears ran down, a ruddy-coloured flood,
      Like tragacanth, and straight I wiped mine eyes upon her neck, For of the use of camphor 'tis to stay the flow of blood.

Then she called for food and there came four damsels, high-bosomed maids, who set before us meats and fruits and sweetmeats and flowers and wine, such as befit none but kings. So we ate and sat at the wine, compassed about with flowers and herbs of sweet savour, in a chamber fit only for kings. Presently, one of her maids brought her a bag of silk, which she opened and taking thereout a lute, laid it in her lap and touched its strings, whereupon it complained, as the child complains to its mother, and she sang the following verses:

      Drink not of wine except it be at the hands of a loveling slim, Who in brightness of soul resembles it and it resembles him.
      The drinker of wine, in very sooth, hath no delight thereof, Except the cheek of the fair be pure, who doth the goblet brim.

On this wise, O Commander of the Faithful, I abode with her, month after month, till all my money was spent; wherefore, as I sat with her [one day], I bethought me of [coming] separation from her and my tears streamed down upon my cheeks like rivers, and I became not knowing night from day. Quoth she, "Why dost thou weep?" And I answered, "O light of mine eyes, I weep because of our [coming] parting." "And what," asked she, "shall part thee and me, O my lord?" "O my lady," said I, "from the time I came to thee, thy father hath taken of me, for every night, five hundred dinars, and now I have nothing left. Indeed the poet speaks sooth when he says:

      Exile at home, I trow, is lack of good, And wealth is home in very strangerhood."

"Know," rejoined she, "that it is my father's wont, whenas a merchant abideth with him and hath spent all his money, to give him hospitality three days; then doth he put him out and he may never return to us. But keep thou thy secret and conceal thy case and I will contrive so that thou shalt abide with me till such time as God will; for, indeed, there is a great love for thee in my heart. Thou must know that all my father's wealth is under my hand and he knows not the tale thereof; so, every day I will give thee a purse of five hundred dinars, which do thou give him, saying, 'Henceforth, I will pay thee only day by day.' He will hand the purse to me, and I will give it to thee again, and we will abide thus till such time as God pleases."

I thanked her and kissed her hand; and on this wise I abode with her a whole year, till it chanced one day that she beat one of her handmaids grievously and the latter said, "By Allah, I will torture thy heart, even as thou hast tortured me!" So she went to the girl's father and discovered to him all our practice, whereupon he arose forthright and coming in to me, as I sat with his daughter, said to me, "Harkye, such an one!" "At thy service," replied I. Quoth he, "It is our wont, when a merchant grows poor with us, to give him hospitality three days; but thou hast had a year with us, eating and drinking and doing what thou wouldst." Then he turned to his servants and said to them, "Pull off his clothes." They did as he bade them and gave me ten dirhems and an old suit worth other five; after which he said to me, "Go forth; I will not beat thee nor revile thee; but go thy ways and if thou abide in this town, thy blood be on thine own head."

So I went forth, in my own despite, knowing not whither to go, for all the trouble in the world was fallen on my heart and I was occupied with melancholy thought. Then I bethought me of the wealth which I had brought from Oman and said in myself, "I came hither with a million dinars and have made away with it all in the house of yonder ill-omened old man, and now I go forth from him, naked and broken-hearted! But there is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme!"

I abode three days in Baghdad, without tasting meat or drink, and on the fourth day I saw a ship bound for Bassora; so I hired a passage in her and when we reached Bassora, I landed and went to the market, being sore anhungred. Presently, a man saw me, a grocer, whom I had known aforetime, and coming up to me, embraced me,--for he had been my friend and my father's friend before me,--and questioned me of my case, for that he saw me clad in those tattered clothes. So I told him all that had befallen me, and he said, "By Allah, this is not the fashion of a reasonable man! But what dost thou purpose to do, after this that hath befallen thee?" Quoth I, "I know not what I shall do," and he said, "Wilt thou abide with me and write my goings-out and comings-in, and thou shalt have two dirhems a day, over and above thy meat and drink?" I agreed to this and abode with him a whole year, buying and selling, till I had gotten a hundred dinars; when I hired an upper chamber by the river-side, so haply a ship should come up with merchandise, that I might buy goods with the dinars and go with them to Baghdad.

One day, there came ships with merchandise, and all the merchants resorted to them to buy, and I with them. [We boarded one of the ships,] and behold, there came two men out of the hold and setting themselves chairs on the deck, sat down thereon. The merchants accosted them, with intent to buy, and they said to one of the crew, "Bring the carpet." So he brought the carpet and spread it, and another came with a pair of saddle-bags, from which he took a budget and emptied it on the carpet; and our sights were dazzled with that which issued thence of pearls and corals and jacinths and cornelians and other jewels of all sorts and colours. Then said one of the men on the chairs, "O merchants, we will sell but this to-day, by way of spending-money, for that we are weary." So the merchants fell to bidding for the jewels and bid, one against the other, till the price reached four hundred dinars.

Now the owner of the bag was an old acquaintance of mine and when he saw me, he came down to me and saluting me, said, "Why dost thou not speak and bid like the rest of the merchants?" "O my lord," answered I, "the shifts of fortune have run against me and I have lost my wealth and have but a hundred dinars left in the world." Quoth he, "O Omani, after this vast wealth, do but a hundred dinars remain to thee?" And I was abashed before him and my eyes filled with tears; whereupon he looked at me and indeed my case was grievous to him. So he said to the merchants, "Bear witness against me that I sell all that is in this bag of various kinds of jewels and precious stones to this man for a hundred dinars, albeit I know them to be worth so many thousand dinars, and I make him a present of them." So saying, he gave me the bag and the carpet, with all the jewels thereon, for which I thanked him, and all the merchants present praised him. Then I carried all this to the jewel- market and sat there to sell and buy. Among the jewels was a round amulet of the handiwork of the masters, weighing half a pound. It was of bright red cornelian and on both sides of it were graven characters and talismans, like unto the tracks of ants; but I knew not its use.

I bought and sold a whole year, at the end of which time I took the amulet and said to myself, "This hath been with me a great while, and I know not what it is nor what is its use." So I gave it to the broker, who went round with it and returned, saying, "None of the merchants will give more than ten dirhems for it." Quoth I, "I will not sell it at that price." And he threw it in my face and went away. Another day I again offered it for sale and its price reached fifteen dirhems; so I took it from the broker in a pet and threw it back into the tray. Presently, as I sat in my shop, there came up to me a man, who bore the traces of travel, and saluting me, said, "By thy leave, I will turn over thy wares." "It is well," answered I, and indeed I was still wroth by reason of the lack of demand for the amulet.

So he fell to turning over my wares, but took nought thereof save the amulet, which when he saw, he said, "Praised be God!" and kissed his hand. Then said he to me, "O my lord, wilt thou sell this?" And I said, "Yes," being still angry. Quoth he, "What is its price?" And I, "How much wilt thou give?" "Twenty dinars," answered he. I thought he was making mock of me and said, "Go thy ways." Quoth he, "I will give thee fifty dinars for it." I made him no answer, and he said, "A thousand dinars." But I was silent, whilst he laughed at my silence and said, "Why dost thou not return me an answer?" "Go thy ways," repeated I and was like to quarrel with him. But he bid thousand after thousand, and I still made him no reply, till he said, "Wilt thou sell it for twenty thousand dinars?"

I still thought he was making mock of me; but the people gathered about me and all of them said to me, "Sell to him, and if he buy not, we will all fall upon him and beat him and put him out of the city." So I said to him, "Wilt thou buy or dost thou jest?" Quoth he, "Wilt thou sell or dost thou jest?" And I said, "I will sell if thou wilt buy." Then said he, "I will buy it for thirty thousand dinars: take them and strike the bargain." And I said to the bystanders, "Bear witness against him." [Then to him, "I sell to thee,] but on condition that thou acquaint me with the use and virtues of the amulet, for which thou payest all this money." "Close the bargain," answered he, "and I will tell thee this." Quoth I, "I sell to thee." And he said, "God be witness of that which thou sayst!"

Then he brought out the money and giving it to me put the amulet in his bosom; after which he said to me, "Art thou content?" "Yes," answered I, and he said to the people, "Bear witness against him that he hath closed the bargain and touched the price, thirty thousand dinars." Then he turned to me and said, "Harkye, good man, hadst thou held back from selling, by Allah, I would have bidden thee up to a hundred thousand dinars, nay even to a thousand thousand!" When I heard this, O Commander of the Faithful, the blood fled from my face, and from that day there overcame it this paleness that thou seest.

Then said I to him, "Tell me the reason of this and what is the use of this amulet." And he answered, saying, "Know that the King of Hind hath a daughter, never was seen a fairer than she, and she is possessed with a demon. So the king summoned the scribes and men of science and diviners, but none of them could ease her of this. Now I was present in the assembly; so I said to him, 'O king, I know a man called Saadullah the Babylonian, than whom there is not on the face of the earth one more versed in these matters, and if thou see fit to send me to him, do so.' Quoth he, 'Go to him.' And I said, 'Bring me a piece of cornelian.' So he gave me a great piece of cornelian and a hundred thousand dinars and a present, with which I betook myself to the land of Babel and seeking out Saadullah, delivered him the money and the present, which he accepted and sending for a lapidary, caused him fashion the cornelian into this amulet. Then he abode seven months in observation of the stars, till he chose out an auspicious time for engraving it, when he graved upon it these talismanic characters that thou seest, and I took it and returned with it to the king.

Now the princess was bound with four chains, and every night a damsel lay with her and was found in the morning slain. The King took the amulet and laid it upon his daughter, whereupon she was straightway made whole. At this he rejoiced greatly and invested me with a dress of honour and gave alms of much money; and he caused set the amulet in the princess's necklace. It chanced, one day, that she embarked with her damsels in a ship and went apleasuring on the sea. Presently, one of her maids put out her hand to her, to sport with her, and the necklace broke asunder and fell into the sea. From that hour the princess's malady returned to her, wherefore great grief betided the king and he gave me much money, saying, 'Go thou to Saadullah and let him make her another amulet, in the stead of that which is lost.' So I journeyed to Babel, but found the Sheikh dead; whereupon I returned and told the king, who sent me and ten others to go round about in all countries, so haply we might find a remedy for her: and now God hath caused me happen on it with thee." So saying, he took the amulet and departed.

As for me, I repaired to Baghdad, carrying all my wealth with me, and took up my abode in the house which I had occupied aforetime. On the morrow, as soon as it was light, I donned my clothes and betook myself to the house of Tahir ibn el Alaa, so haply I might see her whom I loved, for the love of her had never ceased to increase upon my heart. When I came to the house, I saw the balcony broken down and the lattice stopped up; so I stood awhile, pondering my case and the shifts of time, till there came up a serving-man and I questioned him, saying, "What hath God done with Tahir ibn el Alaa?" He answered, "O my brother, he hath repented to God the Most High [and renounced his unlawful trade]." Quoth I, "What was the cause of his repentance?" And he said, "O my brother, in such a year there came to him a merchant, by name Aboulhusn the Omani, who abode with his daughter awhile, till his money was all spent, when the old man turned him out broken-hearted. Now the girl loved him with an exceeding love, and when she was parted from him, she sickened of a sore sickness and came nigh upon death. When her father knew how it was with her, he sought for Aboulhusn high and low, promising whoso should bring him to him a hundred thousand dinars; but none could find him nor come on any trace of him; and she is now at death's door." "And how is it with her father?" asked I. Quoth the servant, "He hath sold all his girls, for stress of that which hath befallen him, and repented to God the Most High."

Then said I, "What wouldst thou say to him who should direct thee to Aboulhusn the Omani?" And he answered, saying, "I conjure thee by Allah, O my brother, that thou do this and quicken my poverty!" "Go to her father," rejoined I, "and say to him, 'Thou owest me the reward for good news, for that Aboulhusn the Omani standeth at the door.'" With this he set off running, as he were a mule loosed from the mill, and presently came back, accompanied by Tahir himself, who no sooner saw me than he returned to his house and gave the man a hundred thousand dinars, with which he went away, calling down blessings on me. Then the old man came up to me and embraced me and wept, saying, "O my lord, where hast thou been absent all this while? Indeed, my daughter is perished by reason of her separation from thee; but come with me into the house." So we entered and he prostrated himself in gratitude to God the Most High, saying, "Praised be God who hath reunited us with thee!"

Then he went in to his daughter and said to her, "God healeth thee of this sickness." "O my father," answered she, "I shall never be whole of my sickness, except I look upon the face of Aboulhusn." Quoth he, "If thou wilt eat a morsel and go to the bath, I will bring thee in company with him." "Is it true that thou sayest?" asked she; and he replied, "By the Great God, it is true!" "By Allah," rejoined she, "if I look upon his face, I shall have no need of eating!" Then said he to his servant, "Bring in thy lord." So I entered, and when she saw me, she fell down in a swoon, and presently coming to herself, recited the following verse:

      Lo, God hath deigned to reunite the separated twain, For all in very sooth they deemed they ne'er should meet again.

Then she sat up and said, "By Allah, O my lord, I had not thought to see thy face again, but if it were in sleep!" And she embraced me and wept. Then said she, "O father mine, now will I eat and drink." The old man rejoiced in this and brought her meat and drink and we ate and drank. After this, I abode with them awhile, till she was restored to her former beauty, when her father sent for the Cadi and the witnesses and let draw up the contract of marriage between her and me and made a great bride-feast; and she is my wife to this day and this is my son by her." So saying, he went away and returned with a boy of marvellous beauty and symmetry, to whom said he, 'Kiss the earth before the Commander of the Faithful.' So he kissed the earth before the Khalif, who marvelled at his beauty and glorified his Creator; after which he departed with his company, saying to the vizier, 'O Jaafer, verily this is none other than a marvellous thing, never heard I of aught more extraordinary.'

When he was seated in the palace of the Khalifate, he said to Mesrour, 'Bring the year's tribute of Bassora and Baghdad and Khorassan and lay it in this recess.' So he laid the three tributes together and they were a vast sum of money, whose tale none might tell save God. Then the Khalif bade draw a curtain before the recess and said to Jaafer, 'Fetch me Aboulhusn.' 'I hear and obey,' replied Jaafer and going forth, returned presently with the Omani, who kissed the ground before the Khalif fearing lest he had sent for him, because of some fault that he had committed, whenas he was with him in his house. Then said Er Reshid, 'Harkye, O Omani!' and he replied, 'At thy service, O Commander of the Faithful! May God still bestow his favours upon thee!' Quoth the Khalif, 'Draw back yonder curtain.' So Aboulhusn drew back the curtain from the recess and was confounded at the mass of money he saw there. 'O Aboulhusn,' said Er Reshid, 'whether is the more, this money or that thou didst lose by the amulet ?' And he answered, 'This is many times the greater, O Commander of the Faithful!' Quoth the Khalif, 'Bear witness, all ye who are present, that I give this money to this young man.' Aboulhusn kissed the earth and was abashed and wept before the Khalif for excess of joy.

Now, when he wept, the tears ran down upon his cheeks and the blood returned to its place and his face became as it were the moon on the night of its full. Whereupon quoth the Khalif, 'There is no god but God! Glory be to Him who decreeth change upon change and is Himself the Everlasting One, that changeth not!' So saying, he fetched a mirror and showed Aboulhusn his face therein, which when he saw, he prostrated himself in gratitude to God the Most High. Then the Khalif bade transport the money to Aboulbusn's house and charged the latter absent not himself from him, so he might enjoy his company. Accordingly he paid him frequent visits, till Er Reshid was admitted to the mercy of God the Most High; and glory be to Him who dieth not and in whose hand is the dominion of the Seen and the Unseen!

[Go to Ibrahim and Jemileh]


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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