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There was once, of old days and in bygone ages and times, a merchant named Mesrour, who was of the goodliest of the folk of his day, and he had wealth galore and was in easy case, but loved to take his pleasure in gardens and orchards and to divert himself with the love of fair women. One night, as he lay asleep, he dreamt that he was in a most lovely garden, wherein were four birds, and amongst them a dove, white as polished silver. The dove pleased him and an exceeding love for her grew up in his heart. Presently a great bird swooped down on him and snatched the dove from his hand, and this was grievous to him. Then he awoke and strove with his yearnings till the morning, when he said in himself, 'Needs must I go to-day to some one who will expound to me this dream.' So he went forth and fared right and left, till he was far from his dwelling-place, but found none to interpret the dream to him. Then he set out to return, but on his way the fancy took him to turn aside to the house of a certain rich merchant, and when he drew near to it, he heard from within a plaintive voice, reciting the following verses from a sorrowful heart:
The East wind from her traces blows to-us-ward, fragrance-fraught, With perfume such as heals the sick and soothes the love-distraught.
By the deserted steads I stand and question; but my tears Nought answers save the witness mute, the ruin time hath wrought.
Breath of the breeze, I prithee tell, quoth I, shall its delight To this abiding-place return, by fairer fortune brought?
And shall I yet a fawn enjoy, whose shape hath ravished me, Yea, and whose languor-drooping lids have wasted me to nought?
When he heard this, he looked in at the door and saw a garden of the goodliest of gardens, and at its farther end a curtain of red brocade, embroidered with pearls and jewels, behind which sat four damsels, and amongst them a young lady over four and under five feet in height, as she were the round of the moon and the shining full moon. She had great liquid black eyes and joined eyebrows, a mouth as it were Solomon's seal and lips and teeth like pearls and coral; and indeed she ravished all wits with her beauty and grace and symmetry. When Mesrour saw her, he entered the garden and went on, till he came to the curtain: whereupon she raised her head and saw him. So he saluted her and she returned his greeting with dulcet speech; and when he beheld her more closely, his reason was confounded and his heart transported. Then he looked at the garden and saw that it was full of jessamine and gillyflowers and violets and roses and orange blossoms and all manner sweet-scented flowers. All the trees were laden with fruits and there ran down water from four estrades, which occupied the four angles of the garden. He looked at the first estrade and found the following verses written around it with vermilion:May grief ne'er enter thee nor yet dismay, O house, nor fortune e'er thy lord bewray!
Then he looked at the second estrade and found the following written thereon in red gold:The garment of fair fortune shine on thee, dwelling, still, Whilst on the garden-branches the song-birds pipe and trill!
Then he looked at the third, on which he found these verses written in ultramarine:Still mayst thou last in glory and prosper, house of mine, As long as night shall darken, as long as lights shall shine!
And on the fourth was painted in yellow characters the following verse:This garden and this lake, a pleasant sitting-place, These, by the clement Lord, are all I ask of grace.
Moreover, in that garden were birds of all kinds, turtle and cushat and culver and nightingale, each carolling his several song, and amongst them the lady, swaying gracefully to and fro and ravishing all who saw her with her beauty and grace and symmetry. 'O man,' said she to Mesrour, 'what brings thee into a house other than thy house and wherefore comest thou in unto women other than thy women, without leave of their owner?' 'O my lady,' answered he, 'I saw this garden, and the goodliness of its verdure pleased me and the fragrance of its flowers and the singing of its birds; so I entered, thinking to gaze on it awhile and go my way.' 'With all my heart,' said she. Mesrour was amazed at the sweetness of her speech and the amorous languor of her glances and the elegance of her shape, and transported by her beauty and grace and the pleasantness of the garden and the birds. So he recited the following verses:She shone, a moon, amongst the ways, midmost a garden fair, Wherein sweet jessamine and rose and fragrant basil were,
Then she said to him, 'Harkye, sirrah! Begone about thy business, for we are none of the women who are neither thine nor another's.' And he answered, 'O my lady, I said nothing ill.' Quoth she, 'Thou soughtest to divert thyself with the sight [of the garden] and thou hast looked on it; so go thy ways.' 'O my lady,' said he, 'belike [thou wilt give me] a draught of water, for I am athirst.' Quoth she, 'How canst thou drink of a Jew's water, and thou a Nazarene?' But he replied, 'O my lady, your water is not forbidden to us nor ours to you, for we are all [as] one creature.' So she said to her slave-girl, 'Give him to drink.' And she did so. Then she called for the table of food, and there came four damsels, high-bosomed maids, bearing four trays [of meats] and four flagons full of old wine, as it were the tears of a slave of love for clearness, and [set them down before him on] a table around whose marge were graven the following verses:They set a table down before the boon companions' eyne, For eating, borne on wroughten feet of gold and silver fine;
Quoth she, 'Thou soughtest to drink of our drink; so up and at our meat and drink!' He could hardly credit his ears and set down forthright at the table; whereupon she bade her nurse give him a cup, that he might drink. Now her slave-girls were called, one Huboub, another Khutoub and the third Sukoub, and she who gave him the cup was Huboub. Presently, the breeze blew [on the lady] and the scarf fell from her head and discovered a fillet of glittering gold, set with pearls and jewels and jacinths; and on her breast was a necklace of all manner gems and precious stones, to which hung a sparrow of red gold, with feet of red coral and bill of white silver and [body] full of aloes and ambergris and odoriferous musk. Then he looked at the breast of her shift and saw thereon the following verse wroughten in red gold:The fragrance of musk, that breathes from the breasts of the fair, The zephyr borrows, to sweeten the morning air.
Mesrour marvelled at this with an exceeding wonder and was confounded at her charms and amazement got hold upon him. Then said she to him, 'Begone from us and go about thy business, lest the neighbours hear of and even us with the lewd.' 'By Allah, O my lady,' replied he, 'suffer me to enjoy the sight of thy beauty and grace.' With this she was wroth with him and leaving him, walked in the garden, followed by her maids [Khutoub and Sukoub], whilst Huboub abode by the curtain with Mesrour, who entered into discourse with her and presently said to her, 'O Huboub, hath thy mistress a husband or not?' 'She hath a husband,' answered the damsel; 'but he is presently abroad on a journey with merchandise of his.'
When he heard that her husband was abroad on a journey, his heart lusted after her and he said, 'O Huboub, extolled be the perfection of Him who created this damsel and fashioned her! How sweet is her beauty and her grace and her shape and symmetry! Verily, my heart is in sore travail for her. O Huboub, [look] how I may come to enjoy her, and thou shalt have of me what thou wilt of money and what not else.' 'O Nazarene,' answered Huboub, 'if she heard thee speak thus, she would kill thee, or else she would kill herself, for she is the daughter of a champion of the Jews nor is there her like amongst them. Moreover, she hath no need of money and keepeth herself still cloistered, discovering not her case to any.' Quoth Mesrour, 'O Huboub, an thou wilt but bring me to enjoy her, I will be thy slave and thy servant and will serve thee all my life and give thee whatsoever thou seekest of me.'
But she said, 'O Mesrour, this woman hath no desire for money nor yet for men, for my lady Zein el Mewasif is straitly cloistered, going not forth of the door of her house, lest the folk see her; and but that she forbore thee by reason of thy strangerhood, she had not suffered thee to pass her threshold; no, not though thou wert her brother.' 'O Huboub,' rejoined he, 'be thou our go-between and thou shalt have of me an hundred gold dinars and a dress worth as much more, for that the love of her hath gotten possession of my heart.' And she said, 'O man, let me go about with her in talk and I will return thee an answer and acquaint thee with what she saith. Indeed, she loves those who berhyme her and set forth her charms and her grace and beauty in verse, and we may not avail against her save by beguilement and soft speech and craft.'
Then she rose and going up to her mistress, talked with her privily of this and that and presently said to her, 'O my lady, look at yonder young man, the Nazarene; how sweet is his discourse and how elegant his shape!' When Zein el Mewasif heard this, she turned to her and said, 'An his comeliness like thee, love him thyself. Art thou not ashamed to bespeak the like of me with these words? Go, bid him begone about his business; or it shall be the worse for him.' So Huboub returned to Mesrour, but acquainted him not with that which her mistress had said. Then the latter bade her go to the door and look if she saw any of the folk, lest foul befall them. So she went and resuming, said, 'O my lady, there are folk in plenty without and we cannot let him go forth to-night.' Quoth Zein el Mewasif, 'I am troubled because of a dream I have had and am fearful by reason thereof.' And Mesrour said, 'What sawest thou [in thy dream?] May God not trouble thy heart!' 'I was asleep in the middle of the night,' answered she, 'and behold an eagle swooped down upon me from the highest of the clouds and would have carried me off from behind the curtain, wherefore I was affrighted at him. Then I awoke from sleep and bade my women bring me meat and drink, so haply, when I had drunken, the terror of the dream would cease from me.'
When he heard this, he smiled and told her his dream and how he had caught the dove, whereat she marvelled exceedingly. Then he went on to talk with her and said, 'Now am I certified of the truth of my dream, for thou art the dove and I the eagle, and needs must this be, for, whenas I set eyes on thee, thou tookest possession of my vitals and settest my heart on fire for love of thee!' Thereupon Zein el Mewasif became exceeding wroth and said to him, 'God forfend that this should be! God on thee, begone about thy business, ere the neighbours see thee and there betide us sore reproach.' Then, 'Harkye, fellow!' added she. 'Let not thy soul covet that it shall not attain to. Thou weariest thyself [in vain]; for I am a merchant's wife and a merchant's daughter and thou art a druggist; and when sawst thou a druggist and a merchant's daughter on this wise?' 'O my lady,' answered he, 'never lacked love between folk [of different condition]; so cut thou not off from me hope of this and whatsoever thou seekest of me of money and raiment and trinkets and what not else, I will give thee.'
Then he abode with her in discourse and chiding whilst she still redoubled in anger, till nightfall, when he said to her, 'O my lady, take this dinar and fetch me a little wine, for I am athirst and heavy at heart.' So she said to Huboub, 'Fetch him wine and take nought from him, for we have no need of his dinar.' [So she went to fetch the wine, whilst] Mesrour held his peace and bespoke not Zein el Mewasif, who improvised the following verses:Harkye, O man! Desist from this thou dost design Nor to the crooked ways of frowardness incline.
And he answered her with these:O cassia-branch, delight of garth and knoll, Spare thou my heart, who dost possess my soul.
'Away from me!' cried she. 'Quoth the adage, "He who giveth loose to his eyes wearieth his heart." By Allah, I am tired of discourse with thee and chiding, and indeed thy soul coveteth that which shall never be thine; nay, though thou gavest me my weight in gold, thou shouldst not get thy wish of me; for, by the bounty of God the Most High, I know nought of the things of the world, save pleasant life.' 'O my lady Zein el Mewasif,' answered he, 'ask of me what thou wilt of the goods of the world.' Quoth she, 'What shall I ask of thee? For sure thou wilt go out into the highway [and discover my case to the folk] and I shall become a laughing-stock among them and they will make a byword of me in verse, me who am the daughter of the chief of the merchants and whose father is known of the notables of the people. I have no need of money or raiment and this love will not be hidden from the folk and I shall be brought to shame, I and my family.'
With this Mesrour was confounded and could make her no answer; but presently she said, 'Indeed, the skilful thief, if he steal, stealeth not but what is worth [the adventuring of] his neck, and every woman who doth lewdness with other than her husband is styled a thief; so, if it must be thus and no help, thou shalt give me whatsoever my heart desireth of money and raiment and trinkets and what not.' Quoth he, 'An thou soughtest of me the world and all that is therein, from East to West, it were but a little thing, compared with thy favour.' And she said, 'I will have of thee three suits, each worth a thousand dinars, and pearls and jewels and jacinths, and I require of thee, to boot, that thou swear to me that thou wilt keep my secret nor discover it to any and that thou wilt company with none but me; and I in turn will swear to thee a true oath that I will never play thee false.'
So he swore to her the oath she required and she swore to him, and they agreed upon this; after which she said to her nurse Huboub, 'To-morrow go thou with Mesrour to his lodging and seek somewhat of musk and ambergris and aloes and rose-water and see what he hath. If he be a man of condition, we will take him into favour; else will we leave him.' Then said she to him, 'O Mesrour, I desire somewhat of musk and ambergris and aloes-wood; so do thou send it me by Huboub.' And he answered, 'I hear and obey; my shop is at thy commandment.' Then the wine went round between them and their session was pleasant; but Mesrour's heart was troubled for the passion and longing that possessed him; and when Zein el Mewasif saw him in this plight, she said to her slave-girl Sukoub, 'Arouse Mesrour from his stupor; mayhap he will awake.' 'Willingly,' answered Sukoub and sang the following verses:An if thou be in love, bring gold and gear and in thy lays Set forth thy love, so thou mayst win the aim of thine essays
Mesrour apprehended [her meaning] and said, 'I hear and understand. Never was stress but after came relief, and He who afflicteth will order [the issue].' Whereupon Zein el Mewasif recited the following:Awake, O Mesrour, from love's stupor; for lo, I fear lest our love bring thee travail and woe.
And Mesrour answered her with these verses:Leave me to my affliction; to love thee I'm content; And blame me not, for censure my passion doth augment.
They ceased not from chiding and discourse till the morning beamed, when Zein el Mewasif said to him, 'O Mesrour, it is time for thee to depart, lest one of the folk see thee and foul befall us.' So he arose and going forth, fared on, accompanied by Huboub, till they came to his lodging, where he talked with her and said to her, 'All thou seekest of me thou shalt presently have, so but thou wilt bring me to her enjoyment.' Quoth Huboub, 'Comfort thy heart;' whereupon he rose and gave her a hundred dinars, saying, 'O Huboub, I have by me a dress worth a hundred dinars.' 'O Mesrour,' answered she, 'make haste with the dresses and what not else thou didst promise her, ere she change her mind, for we may not avail to take her save with craft and beguilement, and she loveth the recitation of verses.' Quoth he, 'I hear and obey,' and bringing her the musk and ambergris and aloes-wood and rose-water, returned with her to Zein el Mewasif and saluted her. She returned his greeting with the sweetest of speech, and he was confounded at her beauty and improvised the following verses:O sun, midmost the dark that shinest in the skies, O thou that hast benumbed my wit with great black eyes,
When she heard his verses, she cast at him a look, that bequeathed him a thousand regrets and his heart and soul were ravished thereby and answered him as follows:Think not from her, of whom thou art enamoured, aye To win delight; so put desire from thee away.
When he heard this, he dissembled and took patience, saying in himself, 'There is nothing for it but patience against calamity;' and on this wise they abode till night-fall, when she called for food and they set before her a tray, wherein were all manner meats, quails and pigeons and mutton and so forth, of which they ate till they had enough. Then she bade take away the tables and they did so and brought washing gear. So they washed their hands, after which she ordered her women to bring the candlesticks, and they set on candlesticks and candles therein of camphorated wax.
Then said she, 'By Allah, my breast is straitened to night and I am fevered.' Quoth Mesrour, 'May God dilate thy breast and do away thy trouble!' And she aaid, 'O Mesrour, I am used to play at chess: knowest thou aught of the game?' 'Yes,' answered he, 'I am skilled therein;' whereupon she bade her maid Huboub fetch her the chessboard. So she went away and presently returning with the board, set it before her, and behold, it was of ebony inlaid with ivory, with squares traced out in glittering gold, and its pieces were of pearl and ruby. Mesrour was amazed at this and she said to him, 'Wilt thou have red or white?' 'O princess of fair ones and adornment of the morning,' answered he, 'do thou take the red, for they are handsome and fitter for the like of thee, and leave me the white.' 'So be it,' answered she and taking the red pieces, ranged them opposite the white, then put out her hand to make the first move.
He looked at her fingers, which were white as paste, and was confounded at their beauty and elegant shape; whereupon she turned to him and said, 'O Mesrour, be not bewildered, but take patience and calm thyself.' 'O thou whose beauty puts the moons to shame,' answered he, 'how shall a lover look on thee and have patience?' 'Checkmate!' said she and beat him; wherefore she knew that he was mad for love of her and said to him, 'O Mesrour, I will not play with thee save for a set stake.' 'I hear and obey,' answered he and she said, 'Swear to me and I will swear to thee that neither of us will cheat the other.' So they swore this and she said, 'O Mesrour, if I beat thee, I will have ten dinars of thee, and if thou beat me, I will give thee nothing.' 'O my lady,' rejoined he, 'be not false to thine oath, for I see thou art an over match for me at this game!' 'Agreed,' said she and they ranged their men and fell again to playing.
Now she had on her head a kerchief of blue brocade; so she laid it aside and tucking up her sleeve, showed a wrist like a shaft of light and passed her hand over the red pieces, saying to him, 'Look to thyself.' But he was dazzled at her beauty and the sight of her charms bereft him of reason, so that he became dazed and stupefied and put out his hand to the white men, but it lit upon the red. 'O Mesrour,' said she, 'where are thy senses? The red are mine and the white thine.' And he replied, 'Who can look on thee, without losing his senses?' Then, seeing how it was with him, she took the white from him and gave him the red, and they played and she beat him.
He ceased not to play with her and she to beat him, whilst he paid her each time ten dinars, till, seeing him to be distracted for love of her, she said to him, 'O Mesrour, thou wilt never come to thy desire, except thou beat me; and henceforth, I will not play with thee save for a stake of a hundred dinars a game.' 'With all my heart,' answered he and they went on playing, whilst she still beat him and he won not a single game, but paid her a hundred dinars each time; and on this wise they abode till the morning, when he rose. Quoth she, 'What wilt thou, O Mesrour?' And he replied, 'I mean to go to my lodging and fetch somewhat of money: it may be I shall attain my desire.' 'Do as seemeth good to thee,' said she. So he went home and taking all the money he had, returned to her, reciting the following verses:Methought I caught a bird in sleep, as I did deem, All in a garden fair with smiling flowers agleam.
Then they fell a-playing again; but she still beat him and he could not beat her once; and on this wise they abode three days, till she had gotten of him all his money: whereupon, 'O Mesrour,' said she, 'what wilt thou do now?' And he answered, 'I will stake thee a druggist's shop.' 'What is its worth?' asked she; and he replied, 'Five hundred dinars.' So they played and she won the shop of him in five bouts. Then he staked slave-girls and lands and houses and gardens, and she won them all, till she had gotten of him all he had; whereupon she turned to him and said, 'Hast thou aught left to stake?' 'By Him who made me fall into the snare of thy love,' answered he, 'I have neither money nor aught else left, little or much!' 'O Mesrour,' said she, 'the end of that whose beginning was contentment shall not be repentance; wherefore, if thou repent thee, take back thy good and begone from us, and I will hold thee quit towards me.' 'By Him who decreed these things to us,' replied Mesrour, 'though thou soughtest to take my life, it were a little thing, compared to thine approof, for I love none but thee!'
Then said she, 'Go and fetch the Cadi and the witnesses and make over to me by deed all thy lands and possessions.' 'Willingly,' replied he and going out forthright, returned with the Cadi and the witnesses. When the magistrate saw her, his reason fled and his mind was troubled by reason of the beauty of her fingers, and he said to her, 'O my lady, I will not draw up the deed of conveyance, save upon condition that thou purchase the lands and houses and slave-girls and that they all pass under thy control and into thy possession.' 'We are agreed upon that,' replied she; 'write me a deed, whereby all Mesrour's houses and lands and slave-girls and all his hand possesseth shall pass to Zein el Mewasif and become her property at such a price.' So he wrote out the deed and the witnesses set their hands thereto; whereupon she took it from the Cadi and said to Mesrour, 'Now go thy ways.' But her slave-girl Huboub turned to him and said, 'Recite us some verses.' So he improvised the following verses upon [his own case and] the game of chess:Of Fate I plain me and for that which hath befall'n me sigh And make my moan of loss by chess and by the [evil] eye,
Zein el Mewasif marvelled at the eloquence of his tongue and said to him, 'O Mesrour, leave this madness and return to thy senses and go thy ways; for thou hast wasted all thy substance at the game of chess, yet hast not attained to thy desire, nor hast thou any resource whereby thou mayst accomplish it.' But he turned to her and said, 'O my lady, ask of me what thou wilt and I will bring it to thee and lay it at thy feet.' 'O Mesrour,' answered she, 'thou hast no money left.' 'O goal of all hopes,' rejoined he, 'if I have no money, the folk will help me.' Quoth she, 'Shall the giver turn asker?' And he said, 'I have friends and kinsfolk, and whatsoever I seek of them, they will give me.' Then said she, 'O Mesrour, I will have of thee four bladders of musk and four vases of civet and four pounds of ambergris and four thousand dinars and four hundred pieces of coloured brocade, wroughten with gold. Bring me these things, and I will grant thee my favours.' 'This is a light matter to me, O thou that puttest the moons to shame,' replied he and went forth to fetch her what she sought.
She sent Huboub after him, to see what interest he had with the folk of whom he had spoken to her; but, as he went along the streets, he turned and seeing her afar off, waited till she came up to him and said to her, 'Whither away, O Huboub?' So she told him what her mistress had said to her and he said, 'By Allah, O Huboub, I have nothing!' 'Then why didst thou promise her?' asked she; and he answered, 'How many a promise is unkept of its maker! Fine words needs must be in love-matters.' When she heard this, she said to him, 'O Mesrour, be of good heart and cheerful eye, for, by Allah, I will be the means of thy coming to enjoy her!' Then she left him and returned, weeping sore, to her mistress, to whom said she, 'O my lady, indeed he is a man of great consideration, well-reputed among the folk.' Quoth Zein el Mewasif, 'There is no resource against the ordinance of the Most High! Verily, this man found not in me a compassionate heart, for that I spoiled him of his substance and he got of me neither affection nor complaisance in granting him the amorous mercy; but, if I incline to his desire, I fear lest the thing be bruited abroad.' 'O my lady,' answered Huboub, 'verily, his present plight and the loss of his good is grievous upon us, and thou hast with thee none but myself and thy slave-girl Sukoub; so which of us two would dare prate of thee, and we thy hand-maids?'
With this, she bowed her head and the damsels said to her, 'O my lady, it is our counsel that thou send after him and show him favour and suffer him not ask of the sordid; for how bitter is asking!' So she accepted their counsel and calling for inkhorn and paper, wrote him the following verses:Fulfilment draws near, O Mesrour: rejoice in fair presage and true, For, to-night, when the darkness falls down, the deed without fail thou shalt do;
Then she folded the letter and gave it to Huboub, who carried it to Mesrour and found him weeping and reciting the following verses, in a transport of passion and love-longing:There blew upon my heart a breeze of love and wantonness, And all my entrails crumbled were with passion pitiless.
As he was repeating these verses, Huboub knocked at the door; so he rose and opened to her, and she entered and gave him the letter. He read it and said to her, 'O Huboub, what news bringest thou of thy mistress?' 'O my lord,' answered she, 'in this letter is what dispenses me from answering, for thou art of the folk of understanding.' And he rejoiced with an exceeding joy and repeated the following verses:The letter came, and its contents rejoiced us, heart and brain, And in my very heart of hearts to keep it I were fain.
Then he wrote a letter in answer and gave it to Huboub, who returned with it to her mistress and fell to extolling his charms to her and expatiating on his generosity and good qualities; for she was become a helper to him, to bring about his union with her. 'O Huboub,' said Zein el Mewasif, 'indeed he tarrieth to come to us.' And Huboub answered, 'He will certainly come speedily.' Hardly had she made an end of speaking when he knocked at the door, and she opened to him and brought him in to her mistress, who saluted him and bade him welcome and seated him by her side.
Then she said to Huboub, 'Bring me a suit of the goodliest of apparel;' so she brought a dress embroidered with gold and Zein el Mewasif threw it over him, whilst she herself donned one of the richest of dresses and covered her head with a net of pearls of the finest water. About this she bound a fillet of brocade, embroidered with pearls and rubies and other jewels, from beneath which fell down two tresses [of plaited silk], each looped with a pendant of ruby, charactered with glittering gold, and she let down her hair, as it were the sombre night. Moreover she incensed herself with aloes-wood and scented herself with musk and ambergris, and Huboub said to her, 'God guard thee from the [evil] eye!' Then she began to walk, with a graceful swimming gait, whilst Huboub, who excelled in verse-making, recited the following in her honour:She shames the cassia-branches with every step she tries And sore besets her lovers with glances from her eyes.
Zein el Mewasif thanked her and went up to Mesrour, as she were the full moon all displayed. When he saw her, he rose to his feet and exclaimed, 'Except my thought deceive me, she is no mortal, but one of the brides of Paradise!' Then she called for food and they brought a table, about whose marge were written the following verses:Dip thou with spoons in saucers four and gladden heart and eye With many a various kind of stew and fricassee and fry.
Then they ate and drank and made merry, after which the servants removed the table of food and set on the wine service. The cup and the bowl passed round between them and their hearts were gladdened. Then Mesrour filled the cup and saying, 'To her whose I am and who is my mistress!' chanted the following verses:I marvel at mine eyes that feed their fill upon the charms Of a fair maid whose beauty bright enlightens every place.
'O Mesrour,' said she, 'whoso keepeth his faith and hath eaten our bread and salt, it behoveth us to give him his due; so put away from thee the thought of what hath passed and I will restore thee thy lands and houses and all I have taken from thee.' 'O my lady,' answered he, 'I acquit thee of that whereof thou speakest, though thou hadst been false to the oath we swore to each other, thou and I; for I will go and become a Muslim.' Then said Huboub to her, 'O my lady, thou art young of years and knowest many things, and I claim the intercession of God the Most High with thee, for, except thou do my bidding and heal my heart, I will not lie the night with thee in the house.' 'O Huboub,' replied her mistress, 'it shall be as thou wilt: so rise and make us ready another room.'
So she rose and made ready another room and adorned and perfumed it after the goodliest fashion, on such wise as her mistress loved and preferred, after which she set on fresh food and wine, and the cup went round between them and their hearts were glad. Presently quoth Zein el Mewasif to Mesrour, 'O Mesrour, the time of union and favour is come; so, as thou studiest for my love, recite us some verses, surpassing of fashion.' So he recited the following ode:I am ta'en captive; in my heart a fire flames up amain, Over a bond of love-delight by sev'rance shorn in twain;
Zein el Mewasif was charmed with these verses and said to him, 'O Mesrour, how goodly are thy parts! May he live not who would harm thee!' Then she entered a privy chamber and called him. So he went in to her and taking her in his arms, embraced her and kissed her and got of her that which he had deemed impossible and rejoiced in the attainment of the sweet of amorous delight. Then said she, 'O Mesrour, now we are become lovers, thy good is forbidden to me and is lawfully thine again.' So she restored to him all she had won of him and said to him, 'Hast thou a garden, whither we may go and take our pleasure therein?' 'Yes, O my lady,' answered he, 'I have a garden that hath not its like.'
Then he returned to his house and bade his slave-girls make ready a handsome room and provide a splendid banquet; after which he summoned Zein el Mewasif, who came with her damsels, and they ate and drank and made merry, whilst the cup passed round between them and their hearts were glad. Then the lovers withdrew to privy chamber and Zein el Mewasif said to Mesrour, 'I have bethought me of some pleasant verses, which I would fain sing to the lute.' And he answered, 'Do so.' So she took the lute and tuning it, sang the following to pleasant air:Mirth from the smitten strings o'ercometh me and cheer; Sweet is our morning-draught, when daybreak draweth near.
Then said she to him, 'O Mesrour, recite us somewhat of thy verse and favour us with the fruit of thy wit.' So he recited the following:In a full moon we do rejoice, that carries round its wine, And in the sweet strains of the lute in gardens fair and fine,
When he had finished, she said to him, 'If thou be occupied with love of me, make us some verses on that which hath passed between us.' 'With all my heart,' answered he and recited the following ode:Stay thou and hear what me befell For love of yonder fair gazelle
Zein el Mewasif was charmed with these verses and the utmost gladness possessed her. Then said she, 'O Mesrour, the day is at hand and there is nothing for it but to depart, for fear of scandal.' 'I hear and obey,' answered he and rising, carried her to her house, after which he returned home and passed the rest of the night meditating on her charms. When the morning appeared and gave forth its light and shone, he made ready a sumptuous present and carried it to her and sat with her.
They abode thus awhile, in all delight and solace of life, till one day there came to Zein el Mewasif a letter from her husband, advising her of his speedy return. 'May God not preserve him nor quicken him!' exclaimed she. 'If he come hither, our life will be troubled. Would I might despair of him!' Presently came Mesrour and sat talking with her, as of wont, and she said to him, 'O Mesrour, I have received a letter from my husband, announcing his speedy return from his travels. What is to be done, since neither of us can live without the other?' 'I know not,' answered he; 'but thou art better able to judge, being acquainted with thy husband's ways, more by token that thou art one of the keenest-witted of women and mistress of devices such as contrive that whereof men fail.' Quoth she, 'He is a hard man and jealous of the people of his household: but, when thou hearest of his coming, do thou repair to him and salute him and sit down by his side, saying, "O my brother, I am a druggist." Then buy of him various kinds of drugs and spices and pay him frequent visits and talk long with him and gainsay him not in whatsoever he shall bid thee; so haply that may betide, [as] of chance, for which I would fain contrive.' 'I hear and obey,' answered Mesrour and went out from her, with a heart on fire for love.
When her husband came home, she rejoiced in him and bade him welcome; but he looked in her face and seeing it pale and sallow, (for she had washed it with saffron, making usage therein of one of women's arts,) asked her how she did. She replied that she had been sick, she and her women, from the time of his setting out on his journey, and said, 'Verily, our hearts have been troubled for thee by reason of the length of thine absence.' And she went on to complain to him of the misery of separation and to weep copious tears, saying, 'Hadst thou but a companion with thee, my heart had not suffered all this anxiety for thee. So, God upon thee, O my lord, travel not again without a companion and keep me not without news of thee, that my heart and mind may be at rest concerning thee!' 'With all my heart,' answered he. 'Thy counsel is good, and by thy life, it shall be as thou wishest.'
Then he took some of his goods and carrying them to his shop, opened it and sat down to sell in the bazaar. Presently up came Mesrour and saluting him, sat down by his side and talked with him awhile. Then he pulled out a purse and taking forth gold, handed it to the Jew and said, 'Give me the worth of this money in various kinds of drugs and spices, that I may sell them in my shop.' 'I hear and obey,' answered he and gave him what he sought. Mesrour continued to pay him frequent visits, till, one day, the merchant said to him, 'I have a mind to take me a man to partner in trade.' 'And I also,' replied Mesrour, 'desire to take a partner; for my father was a merchant in the land of Yemen and left me great wealth and I fear lest it go from me.' Quoth the Jew, 'Wilt thou be my partner, and I will be thine and a true friend and comrade to thee at home and abroad, and I will teach thee to sell and buy and give and take?' And Mesrour said, 'With all my heart.'
So the merchant carried him to his house and seated him in the vestibule, whilst he went in to his wife and said to her, 'I have taken me a partner and have bidden him hither as a guest; so do thou prepare us a handsome entertainment.' When she heard this, she rejoiced, doubting not but this was Mesrour, and made ready a magnificent banquet, of her joy in the success of her device. Then said her husband to her, 'Come out with me to him and bid him welcome and say, "Thou gladdenest us [with thy company]."' But she made a show of anger, saying, 'Wilt thou have me discover myself to a strange man? God forbid! Though thou cut me in pieces, I will not appear before him!' 'Why shouldst thou be abashed at him,' rejoined he, 'seeing that he is a Nazarene and we are Jews and we are become associates, he and I?' Quoth she, 'It liketh me not to present myself before a strange man, on whom I have never set eyes and whom I know not.'
He thought she spoke sooth and ceased not to importune her, till she rose and veiling herself, took the food and went out to Mesrour and bade him welcome; whereupon he bowed his head, as he were ashamed, and the Jew, seeing this, said in himself, 'Doubtless, this man is a devotee.' They ate their fill and the table being removed, wine was set on. As for Zein el Mewasif, she sat over against her lover and gazed on him and he on her till ended day, when Mesrour went home, with a heart on fire and the Jew abode pondering the grace and goodliness of his new partner. As soon as it was night, his wife brought him the evening meal and they sat down to eat.
Now he had a mocking-bird, that was used, whenas he sat down to meat, to come and eat with him and hover about his head; but in his absence it was grown familiar with Mesrour and used to eat with him and hover about him. When its master returned, it knew him not and would not draw near him, and this made him thoughtful. As for Zein el Mewasif, she could not sleep for thinking of Mesrour, and thus it was with her three nights, till the Jew became aware of her distraction and watching her, began to suspect something wrong. On the fourth night, he awoke in the middle of the night and heard his wife talking in her sleep and calling upon Mesrour, what while she lay in her husband's arms, wherefore he misdoubted of her; but he dissembled his suspicions and on the morrow betook himself to his shop and sat there. Presently, up came Mesrour and saluted him. He returned his greeting and said to him, 'Welcome, O my brother! I have wished for thee;' and he sat talking with him awhile, after which he said to him, 'O my brother, come with me to my house, that we may enter into the pact of brotherhood.' 'With all my heart,' replied Mesrour and they went to the Jew's house, where the latter went in and told his wife of Mesrour's coming, saying, 'Make us ready a goodly entertainment, and needs must thou be present and witness our brotherhood.' But she answered, 'God on thee, cause me not show myself to this strange man, for I have no mind to company with him.' So he forbore to press her and bade the waiting-women bring meat and drink. Then he called the mocking-bird, but it knew him not and settled in Mesrour's lap; and the Jew said to him, 'O my lord, what is thy name?' and he answered, 'Mesrour.' Whereupon the Jew remembered that this was the name which his wife had repeated all night long in her sleep.
Presently, he raised his head and saw her making signs to Mesrour and motioning to him with her eyebrows; wherefore he knew that he had been tricked and said, 'O my lord, excuse me awhile, till I fetch my kinsmen, so they may be present at our treaty of brotherhood.' 'Do what seemeth good to thee,' answered Mesrour; whereupon the Jew went forth the house and returning privily by a back way, betook himself to a window that gave upon the saloon and whence he could watch them, unseen of them. Quoth Zein el Mewasif to her maid Sukoub, 'Whither is thy master gone?' And she said, 'He is gone without the house.' 'Lock the door,' said Zein, 'and bar it with iron and open not till he knock, after thou hast told me.' 'So be it,' answered Sukoub.
Then she rose and filling a cup with wine, flavoured with powdered musk and rose-water, went up to Mesrour, who rose to meet her, saying, 'By Allah, the water of thy mouth is sweeter than this wine!' 'Here it is for thee,' quoth she and filling her mouth with wine, gave him to drink thereof, whilst he did the like with her; after which she sprinkled him with rose-water from head to foot, till he scented the whole place. All this while, the Jew was looking on and marvelling at the greatness of the love that was between them, and his heart was filled with rage for what he saw and he was jealous with an exceeding jealousy. Then he went out again and coming to the door, found it locked and knocked loudly, of the excess of his anger; whereupon quoth Sukoub, 'O my lady, here is my master.' 'Open to him,' replied Zein el Mewasif; 'would God had not brought him back in safety!'
So she went and opened the door to the Jew, who said to her, 'What ailed thee to lock the door?' Quoth she, 'It hath never ceased to be locked thus during thine absence; nor hath it been opened night nor day.' 'Thou hast done well,' answered he; 'this pleases me.' Then he went in to Mesrour, laughing and dissembling his chagrin, and said to him, 'O Mesrour, let us put off the conclusion of our treaty of brotherhood till another day.' 'As thou wilt,' replied Mesrour and went away, leaving the Jew pondering his case and knowing not what to do; for his heart was sore troubled and he said in himself, 'Even the mocking-bird disavows me and the slave-girls shut the door in my face and favour another.' And of the excess of his chagrin, he fell to reciting the following verses:A life made fair with all delight of days and solacement Mesrour doth live, what while my life is severed and forspent.
When Zein el Mewasif heard this, she trembled in every nerve and said to her handmaid, 'Heardest thou that?' Quoth she, 'I never heard him recite the like of these verses; but let him say what he will.' Then the Jew, having assured himself of the truth of his suspicions, began to sell all his property, saying in himself, 'Except I remove her from her native land [and separate them], they will never turn back from this that they are engaged in.' So, when he had turned all his possessions into money, he forged a letter, purporting to come from his kinsmen and inviting him to visit them, him and his wife, and read it to her. 'How long shall we tarry with them?' asked she, and he replied, 'Twelve days.' So she consented to this and said, 'Shall I take any of my maids with me?' 'Take Huboub and Sukoub,' answered he, 'and leave Khutoub here.'
Then he made ready a handsome camel litter for his wife and her women and prepared to set out with them; whilst she sent to Mesrour, telling him what had happened and saying, 'If the trysting-time that is between us pass and I come not [back], know that he hath put a cheat on us and laid a plot to separate us from each other; so forget thou not the plighted faith betwixt us, for I fear his craft and perfidy.' Then she fell a-weeping and lamenting and no peace was left her, night or day. Her husband saw this, but took no note thereof; and when she saw there was no help for it, she gathered together her clothes and gear and deposited them with her sister, telling her what had befallen her. Then she took leave of her and going out from her, weeping, returned to her own house, where she found her husband had brought the camels and was busy loading them, having set apart the handsomest for her riding; and when she saw this and knew that needs must she be separated from Mesrour, she was distracted.
Now it chanced that the Jew went out on some occasion of his; so she went forth to the outer door and wrote thereon the following verses:O dove of this our dwelling-place, our parting greeting bear From lover to beloved one and tell him I shall ne'er
Then she went to the second door and wrote thereon the following verses:O thou to this door that comest, by Allah, watch for the grace Of my loved one midmost the darkness and tell him I weep apace,
Then she went to the third door and wept sore and wrote thereon these verses:Harkye, Mesrour, an if thou come to this her dwelling, see Thou read upon the doors the lines that she hath writ for thee.
Then she wept sore and returned to the house, lamenting and recalling what had passed and saying, 'Glory be to God who hath decreed this to us!' And her affliction redoubled for the loss of her beloved and her departure from the lands, and she recited these verses:Upon thee be the peace of God, O empty house! Ah me, The days indeed have made an end of all their cheer in thee!
Then she presented herself before her husband, who set her in the litter he had let make for her; and when she found herself on the camel's back, she recited the following verses:God's peace on thee, O lonely house, for evermore alight, Wherein whilere we fed our fill of solace and delight!
'O Zein el Mewasif,' said her husband, 'grieve not for thy departure from thy dwelling; for, God willing, thou shalt return to it before long.' And he went on to comfort her heart and soothe her. Then they set out and fared on till they came without the town and struck into the high road, whereupon she knew that separation was assured, and this was grievous to her.
Meanwhile, Mesrour sat in his house, pondering his case and that of his mistress, and his heart forewarned him of separation. So he rose forthright and repairing to her house, found the outer door shut and read the verses she had written thereon; whereupon he fell down in a swoon. When he came to himself, he opened the door and entering, read what was written upon the two other doors; whereupon passion and love-longing and distraction waxed on him. So he went forth and hastened in her track, till he came up with the caravan and found her at the rear, whilst her husband rode in the van, because of his goods. When he saw her, he clung to the litter, weeping and lamenting for the anguish of separation, and recited the following verses:Would I knew for what crime we are shot, wellaway! With the shafts of estrangement for ever and aye!
When Zein el Mewasif heard this, she knew that it was Mesrour and wept, she and her maidens, and said to him, 'I conjure thee by Allah, O Mesrour, turn back, lest my husband see us!' At these words he swooned away; and when he revived, they took leave of each other and he recited the following verses:The chief of the caravan to depart calls loud and high, In the darkness ere the dawn, and the zephyr wafts the cry,
Then he clung to the litter, weeping and lamenting, whilst she besought him to turn back ere morning, for fear of discovery. So he came up to her and bidding her farewell a second time, fell down in a swoon. He lay a great while without life, and when he came to himself, he found the caravan out of sight. So he turned in the direction of their travel and inhaled the breeze that blew from their quarter, chanting the following verses:No wind of nearness to the lover's blown But of the pains of longing he makes moan.
Then he returned, mad with love-longing, to her house, and finding it empty and deserted, wept till he wet his clothes; after which he swooned away and his soul was like to depart his body. When he revived, he recited the following couplet:O house, on my abjection have ruth and on my plight, My tears for ever flowing and body wasted quite,
Meanwhile, the Jew journeyed on with Zein el Mewasif half a score days, at the end of which time he halted at a certain city and she wrote to Mesrour a letter and gave it to Huboub, saying, 'Send this to Mesrour, so he may know how we have been tricked and how the Jew hath cheated us.' So Huboub despatched it to Mesrour, whom when it reached, its news was grievous to him and he wept till he wet the ground. Then he wrote a reply and sent it to his mistress, subscribing it with the following couplets:Where is the road unto the doors of solace? How shall he, Who's all for love-longing on flames of fire consoléd be?
When the letter reached Zein el Mewasif, she read it and gave it to her maid Huboub, bidding her keep it secret. However, the Jew came to know of their correspondence and removed with her to another city, at a distance of twenty days' journey.
As for Mesrour, sleep was not sweet to him nor was peace or patience left unto him, and he ceased not to be thus till, one night, his eyes closed for weariness and he dreamt that he saw Zein el Mewasif come to him in the garden and embrace him; but presently he awoke and found her not: whereupon he fell into a passion of grief. His reason fled and his eyes ran over with tears; love-longing to the utterest possessed his heart and he recited these verses:Peace be on her, whose image came to visit me by night And passion straight in me renewed and longings did excite!
Then he went out and ceased not to weep till he came to her house and looking on it, saw it deserted. Presently, it seemed to him he saw her image before him, whereupon fires flamed in him and his sorrows redoubled and he fell down in a swoon. When he came to himself, he recited the following verses:I snuff the scent of balm from them, wherewith the air is fraught And fare away, with heart fulfilled of passion, love-distraught.
When he had made an end of these verses, he heard a raven croak beside the house and wept, saying, 'Glory be to God! The raven croaks not save over a ruined house.' Then he sighed and groaned and recited the following verses:What aileth the raven to croon o'er the house of my love? As I hear, The fires in my bosom rage high; their burning my entrails doth sear,
Now Zein el Mewasif had a sister, by name Nesim, who was looking on him from a high p1ace; and when she saw him in this plight, she wept and sighed and recited these verses:Harkye! How oft, bewailing the steads, wilt come and go? Indeed, the house its builder bemoaneth, of its woe.
When Mesrour heard these verses and apprehended their meaning, he wept sore. Now Nesim knew that which was between him and her sister of love and longing and passion; so she said to him, 'God on thee, O Mesrour, forbear this house, lest any see thee and deem thou comest on my account! Thou hast caused my sister depart and now thou wouldst drive me also away. Thou knowest that, but for thee, the house would not now be void of its inhabitants: so be consoled for her and leave her; for what is past is past.' When he heard this, he said to her, 'O Nesim, if I could, I should fly for longing after her; so how can I be comforted for her?' Quoth she, 'Thou hast nothing for it but patience.' And he said, 'I beseech thee, for God's sake, write me a letter to her, as from thyself, and get me an answer from her, to comfort my heart and quench the fire that rages in my vitals.'
'With all my heart,' answered she and took inkhorn and paper, whilst Mesrour began to set out to her the violence of his longing and what he suffered for the anguish of separation, saying, 'This letter is from the despairing and sorrowful lover, the wretched bereaved one, with whom no peace abides, night nor day, but he still weeps copious tears. Indeed, tears have ulcerated his eyelids and his sorrows have kindled a fire in his liver. His lamentation is prolonged and restlessness is sore on him, as he were a bird that hath lost its mate, and his death is at hand. Alas, my desolation for the loss of thee and my yearning affliction for thy companionship! Indeed, emaciation hath wasted my body and my tears are become a torrent; mountains and plains are straitened upon me, and of the excess of my passion, I go, saying:My yearning o'er this stead's eternal and my pain, And longings for its folk still wax on me amain.
Nesim marvelled at his eloquence and the goodliness of his speech and the elegance of his verses and was moved to compassion for him. Then she sealed the letter with virgin musk and incensed it with aloes-wood and ambergris, after which she committed it to a merchant, bidding him deliver it not save to Zein el Mewasif or her maid Huboub.
When the letter reached her sister, she knew it for Mesrour's inditing and recognized himself in the grace of its expression. So she kissed it and laid it on her eyes, whilst the tears streamed from her lids and she gave not over weeping, till she fainted. When she came to herself, she called for pen and paper and wrote him the following answer: 'This letter is to my lord and master, the king of my heart and my secret soul. Indeed, wakefulness agitateth me and melancholy increaseth on me and I have no patience to endure thine absence, O thou whose beauty excels the sun and moon! Desire deprives me of rest and passion destroys me; and how should it be otherwise with me, seeing that I am of the number of the perishing? O glory of the world and ornament of life, shall her cup be sweet, whose vital spirits are cut off? For that she is neither with the quick nor with the dead.' And she added these verses:Thy letter, O Mesrour, hath stirred affliction up in me; I have no patience for thy loss nor solacement, perdie.
Then she sprinkled the letter with powdered musk and ambergris and committed it to a merchant, bidding him deliver it to none save her sister Nesim. When it reached the latter, she sent it to Mesrour, who kissed it and laid it on his eyes and wept till he fainted.
Presently, the Jew heard of their correspondence and began again to travel from place to place with Zein el Mewasif and her damsels, till she said to him, 'Glory to God! How long wilt thou journey with us and carry us afar from our homes?' Quoth he, 'I will fare on with you a year's journey, so no more letters may reach you from Mesrour. I see how you take all my good and give it to him; so all that I miss I shall take from you: and I shall see if Mesrour will profit you or avail to deliver you from my hand.' Then he stripped her and her damsels of their silken apparel and clad them in raiment of hair-cloth; after which he repaired to a blacksmith and bade him make three pairs of iron shackles. When they were ready, he brought the smith in to his wife and said to him, 'Put the shackles on the legs of these three damsels.'
The first that came forward was Zein el Mewasif, and when the blacksmith saw her, his reason forsook him and he bit his fingers and his wit fled forth his head and sore was his transport. So he said to the Jew, 'What is these women's crime?' 'They are my slave-girls,' answered the other, 'and have stolen my good and fled from me.' 'May God disappoint thine expectation!' cried the smith. 'Were this girl before the Chief Cadi, he would not reprove her, though she committed a hundred offences a day. Indeed, she hath no thief's favour and she may not brook the laying of irons on her legs.' And he went on to intercede with him, beseeching him not to fetter her. When she saw this, she said to her husband, 'I conjure thee by Allah, bring me not forth before yonder strange man!' Quoth he, 'Why then camest thou out before Mesrour?' And she made him no reply. Then he accepted the blacksmith's intercession, so far as to allow him to put a light pair of shackles on her legs, for that she had a delicate body, which might not brook harshness, whilst he laid her handmaids in heavy irons, and they ceased not, all three, to wear hair-cloth day and night, till their bodies became wasted and their colour changed.
As for the blacksmith, he returned home in great concern, for that exceeding love was fallen on his heart for Zein el Mewasif; and he fell to reciting the following verses:Blacksmith, may thy right hand wither, in that it did ill entreat Yon fair maid by clapping fetters on her ankles and her feet.
Now it chanced that the Chief Cadi passed by the smith's house and heard him repeat these lines; so he sent for him and said to him, 'O blacksmith, who is she on whom thou callest so instantly and with whose love thy heart is occupied?' The smith rose to his feet and kissing the Cadi's hand, answered, 'May God prolong the days of our lord the Cadi and give him ease of his life!' Then he set forth to him Zein el Mewasif's beauty and grace and symmetry and elegance and perfection and how she had a lovely face and a slender waist and heavy buttocks and acquainted him with the sorry plight in which she was for abasement and duresse and lack of victual.
When the Cadi heard this, he said, 'O blacksmith, send her to us, that we may do her justice, for thou art become accountable for her, and except thou guide her to us, God will punish thee at the Day of Resurrection.' 'I hear and obey,' replied the smith and betook himself forthright to Zein el Mewasif's lodging, but found the door locked and heard her reciting the following verses, in a plaintive voice, that came from a sorrowful heart:In mine own land I was, conjoined with those I hold most dear, And my belovéd filled me cups of gladness bright and clear.
When he heard this, he wept like the downpouring of the clouds. Then he knocked at the door and the women said, 'Who is at the door?' 'It is I, the blacksmith,' answered he and told them what the Cadi had said and how he would have them appear before him and make their plaint to him, that he might do them justice on their adversary. 'How can we go to him,' replied Zein el Mewasif, 'seeing the door is locked on us and our feet shackled and the Jew hath the keys?' Quoth the smith, 'I will make keys for the locks and open the door and the shackles therewith.' 'But who will show us the Cadi's house?' asked she; and he said, 'I will describe it to you.' 'But how,' continued she, 'can we appear before him, clad as we are in hair-cloth, smoked with sulphur?' And he answered, 'He will not reproach this to you, considering your case.' So saying, he went forthright and made keys for the locks, wherewith he opened the door and the shackles, and loosing the latter from their legs, carried them forth and directed them to the Cadi's house. Then Huboub did off the hair-cloth garments from her mistress's body and carried her to the bath, where she washed her and clad her in silken raiment, and her colour returned to her.
Now, as luck would have it, her husband was abroad at a bride-feast in the house of one of the merchants; so she adorned herself after the fairest fashion and betook herself to the Cadi, who rose to receive her. She saluted him with dulcet speech and sweet words, transfixing him the while with the arrows of her glances, and said, 'May God prolong the life of our lord the Cadi and strengthen him to do justice!' Then she acquainted him with the affair of the blacksmith and that which he had done them of kindness and with the heart-confounding torments that the Jew had inflicted on her and her women and how they had been like to perish, nor was there any deliverance found for them [till the smith set them free]. 'O damsel,' said the Cadi, 'what is thy name?' 'My name is Zein el Mewasif,' answered she, 'and this my maid's name is Huboub.' Quoth he, 'Thy name accordeth with its owner and its words conform to its meaning.' Whereupon she smiled and veiled her face, and he said to her, 'O Zein el Mewasif, hast thou a husband or not?' 'I have no husband,' answered she. 'And what is thy faith?' asked he. 'That of Islam,' replied she, 'and the religion of the best of men.' Quoth he, 'Swear to me by the Law, full of instances and admonitions, that thou art a Muslim.' So she swore to him and pronounced the profession of the faith.
Then said he, 'How comes it that thou wastest thy youth with this Jew?' And she answered, 'Know, O Cadi (may God prolong thy days in contentment and bring thee to thy hopes and seal thine acts with benefits!), that my father left me, after his death, fifteen thousand dinars, which he put into the hands of this Jew, that he might trade therewith and share the profit with me, the capital being secured by acknowledgment according to law. When my father died, the Jew coveted me and sought me in marriage of my mother, who said, "How shall I cause her leave her faith and become a Jewess? By Allah, I will denounce thee to the authorities!" He was affrighted at her words and taking the money, fled to the town of Aden. When we heard where he was, we came to Aden in search of him, and when we foregathered with him, he told us that he was trading in stuffs [with the money] and buying goods upon goods. So we believed him and he ceased not to beguile us till he cast us into prison and fettered us and tortured us exceeding sore; and we are strangers and have no helper save God the Most High and our lord the Cadi.'
When the Cadi heard this, he said to Huboub, 'Is this indeed thy mistress and are ye strangers and is she unmarried?' And she answered, 'Yes.' Quoth he, 'Marry her to me and be manumission [of my slaves] and fasting and pilgrimage and almsgiving [of all my estate] incumbent on me, if I do you not justice on this dog and punish him for that which he hath done!' And she answered, 'I hear and obey.' Then said he, 'Go, comfort thy heart and that of thy lady; and to-morrow, if it please God the Most High, I will send for this infidel and do you justice on him and ye shall see wonders of his punishment.' So Huboub called down blessings upon him and went forth from him, [she and her mistress,] leaving him distracted with passion and love-longing and desire. Then they enquired for the house of the second Cadi and presenting themselves before him, told him the same story. On likewise did she with the third and the fourth, till she had made her complaint to all the four Cadis, each of whom lusted after her and besought her to marry him, to which she consented; nor knew any one of the four that which had happened to the others. All this passed without the knowledge of the Jew, who slept the night in the house of the bride-feast.
On the morrow, Huboub clad her mistress in her richest raiment and presented herself with her before the four Cadis in the hall of justice. As soon as she entered, she uncovered her face and saluted the magistrates, who returned her salutation and every one of them knew her. One was writing, and the pen dropped from his hand, another was talking, and his tongue became embarrassed, and a third was reckoning and blundered in his reckoning; and they said to her, 'O delightsome of attributes and surpassing of loveliness, be not thy heart other than easy, for we will assuredly do thee justice and bring thee to thy desire.' So she called down blessings on them and going forth, proceeded to beseech the notaries and scribes to succour her against that unbelieving miscreant and deliver her from the torment she suffered from him. Then she wrote a letter to Mesrour, setting forth to him all that the Jew had done with her from first to last and ending with the following verses:Rain down tears, O mine eyes, as the deluge they were, So perchance in their flood may be quenched my despair.
Then she folded the letter and gave it to her maid Huboub, saying, 'Keep it in thy pocket, till we send it to Mesrour.'
Presently in came the Jew and seeing them joyous, said to them, 'How comes it that I find you merry? Hath a letter reached you from your friend Mesrour?' 'We have no helper against thee save God, blessed and exalted be He!' replied Zein el Mewasif. 'He will deliver us from thy tyranny, and except thou restore to us our country and home, we will complain of thee to-morrow to the Cadi and governor of this town.' Quoth he, 'Who did off the shackles from your legs? But needs must I let make each of you shackles ten pounds in weight and go round about the city with you.' 'All that thou purposest against us,' replied Huboub, 'thou shalt fall into thyself, so it please God the Most High, by token that thou hast exiled us from our homes, and to-morrow we shall stand, we and thou, before the governor of the city.'
On this wise they passed the night and the next morning the Jew went out to order fresh shackles, whereupon Zein el Mewasif rose and repaired with her women to the court-house, where she found the four Cadis and saluted them. They all returned her salutation and the Chief Cadi said to those about him, 'Verily this damsel is lovely as Ez Zehra and all who see her love her and prostrate themselves to her beauty and grace.' Then he despatched four sergeants, who were sherifs, to fetch the Jew after the most abject fashion: so, when he returned with the shackles and found none in the house, he was confounded; but, as he abode in perplexity, up came the officers and laying hold of him, beat him soundly and dragged him face, downward, before the Cadi. When the latter saw him, he cried out in his face and said to him, 'Out on thee, O enemy of God, is it come to such a pass with thee that thou dost thus and bringest these women far from their country and stealest their good and wouldst make them Jews? How darest thou seek to pervert Muslims?' 'O my lord,' answered the Jew, 'this woman is my wife.'
When the Cadis heard this, they all cried out, saying, 'Cast this dog on the ground and smite him on the face with your sandals and beat him soundly, for his offence is unpardonable.' So they pulled off his silken clothes and clad him in his wife's raiment of hair-cloth, after which they threw him down and plucked out his beard and belaboured him about the face with sandals. Then they set him on an ass, face to crupper, and causing him take its tail in his hand, paraded him round about the town, after which they brought him back to the Cadis, who all condemned him to have his feet and hands cut off and after be crucified. When the accursed wretch heard this, his wit forsook him and he was confounded and said, 'O my lords the Cadis, what would ye of me?' 'Say,' answered they, "'This damsel is not my wife and the money is her money, and I have transgressed against her and brought her far from her country."' So he confessed to this and the Cadis recorded his confession in legal form and taking the money from him, gave it to Zein el Mewasif, together with their voucher. Then she went away and all who saw her were confounded at her beauty and grace, whilst each of the Cadis looked for her to fall to his share. But, when she came to her lodging, she made ready all that she needed and waited till night. Then she took what was light of carriage and heavy of worth, and setting out with her maids, under cover of the darkness, fared on three days and three nights without stopping.
Meanwhile, the Cadis ordered the Jew to prison and on the morrow they looked for her coming to them, they and their assessors; but she presented herself not to any of them. Then said the Chief Cadi, 'I wish to-day to go a-pleasuring without the town on an occasion I have.' So he mounted his mule and taking his servant with him, went coasting about the streets of the town, searching high and low for Zein el Mewasif, but to no effect.
Presently he came upon the other three Cadis, going about on the same errand, each deeming himself the only one to whom she had pledged herself. He asked them what they did there and they told him their business, whereby he saw that their plight was as his plight and their quest as his quest. So they all four went round about the city, seeking her, but could light on no trace of her and returned to their houses, sick for love, and lay down on the bed of languor. Presently the Chief Cadi bethought himself of the blacksmith; so he sent for him and said to him, 'O blacksmith, knowest thou what is come of the damsel whom thou didst direct to me? By Allah, an thou discover her not to me, I will beat thee with whips.' When the smith heard this, he recited the following verses:Her, that possesseth me in love, kind Fortune did endow With beauty all nor aught thereof to others did allow.
Then said he, 'By Allah, O my lord, since she went out from thy worshipful presence, I have not set eyes on her! Indeed, she took possession of my heart and senses and all my talk and thought is of her. I went to her house, but found her not, nor found I any who could give me news of her, and it is as if she had plunged into the abysses of the sea or been caught up into the sky.'
When the Cadi heard this, he gave a groan, that his soul was like to depart therefor, and said, 'By Allah, it would have been well, had we never seen her!' Then the smith went away, whilst the Cadi fell down on his bed and became sick of languor for her sake, and on like wise fared it with the other three Cadis and the assessors. The physicians paid them frequent visits, but found in them no ailment requiring a leach: so the chief men of the city went in to the Chief Cadi and saluting him, questioned him of his case; whereupon he sighed and discovered to them that which was in his heart, reciting the following verses:Spare me your blame, for sickness' pains enough on me are keen, And hold excused the Cadi who doth judge the folk between.
Then he wept sore and gave one sob and his soul departed his body. When they saw this, they washed him and shrouded him and prayed over him and buried him, graving the following verses on his tomb:The traits of lovers were fulfilled in him who comes, by her He loved and by her rigours slain, unto the sepulchre.
Then they committed him to the mercy of God and went away to the second Cadi, in company with the physician, but found in him no hurt or ailment requiring a leach. So they questioned him of his case and he told them what ailed him, whereupon they blamed him and chid him for his folly, and he answered them with these verses:I'm cursed with her,--my like was blameless aye--and dead I'm shotten with a shaft from hand of archer sped.
Then he gave one sob and his soul departed his body; whereupon they buried him and commending him to the mercy of God, repaired to the third Cadi and the fourth, and there befell them the like of what befell their brethren. Moreover, they found the assessors also sick for love of her, and indeed all who saw her died of her love, or, if they died not, lived, afflicted with the agonies of passion [in vain], may God have mercy on them all!
Meanwhile Zein el Mewasif and her women fared on with all diligence till they came to a convent by the way, in which dwelt a prior called Danis and forty monks. When the prior saw her beauty, he went out to her and invited her to alight, saying, 'Rest with us ten days and after go your ways.' So she and her damsels alighted and entered the convent; and when Danis saw her beauty and grace, she debauched his faith and he was seduced by her: wherefore he fell to sending her love-messages by the monks, one after another, till he had sent all the forty; but each who saw her fell in love with her and plied her with blandishments galore and sought her favours for himself, without naming Danis, whilst she denied herself to them and rebuffed them all with harsh answers.
When Danis's patience was at an end and his passion was sore on him, he said in himself, 'Verily, the proverb says, "Nothing scratches my body but my own nail and nought runs my errands like my own feet."' So he rose and made ready rich meats, and it was the ninth day of her sojourn in the convent. Then he carried them in to her and set them before her, saying, 'In the name of God, favour us [by partaking] of the best of the food at our command.' So she put out her hand, saying, 'In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful!' and ate, she and her maidens. When she had made an end of eating, he said to her, 'O my lady, I wish to recite to you some verses.' 'Say on,' quoth she; and he recited the following:Thou hast made conquest of my heart by dint of cheek and eye; In love of thee my prose and verse with one another vie.
When she heard this, she answered him with these verses:O thou that seek'st of me delight, let not vain hope thy wit Delude; of thy soliciting I prithee hold me quit.
Thereupon he returned to his place, pondering in himself and knowing not how he should do in her affair, and passed the night in very sorry case. But, as soon as it was dark night, Zein el Mewasif arose and said to her maids, 'Come, [let us depart hence], for we cannot avail against forty men, monks, each of whom requireth me of himself.' 'Willingly,' answered they. So they mounted their beasts and issuing forth of the convent gate, under favour of the night, rode on till they overtook a caravan, with which they mingled and found it came from the city of Aden. Presently, Zein el Mewasif heard the people of the caravan discoursing of her own case and telling how the Cadis and assessors were dead of love for her and how the townsfolk had appointed others in their stead and released her husband from prison. Whereupon she turned to her maids and said to them, 'Heard ye that?' And Huboub answered, 'If the monks were ravished with love of thee, whose belief it is that to abstain from women is to do God worship, how should it be with the Cadis, who hold that there is no monkery in Islam? But let us make our way to our own country, whilst our affair is yet undiscovered.' So they journeyed on with all diligence.
On the morrow, as soon as it was day, the monks repaired to Zein el Mewasif's lodging to salute her, but found the place empty, and their hearts sank within them. So the first monk rent his clothes and recited these verses:Give ear, companions dear, to that I shall to you impart; For I must say farewell to you full shortly and depart.
Then another monk recited the following verses:O ye that with my soul have fled, on your unhappy swain Have pity and to his despair your blest returning deign.
A third monk followed with these lines:Heart, eyes and ears to set thee in the highest room agree; For, lo, my heart and all of me's a dwelling-place for thee.
Then a fourth recited the following verses:Dumb is my tongue for sorrow; my speech of thee doth fail; Of passion comes my anguish, my sickness and my bale.
And a fifth these:I love a moon, shapely and slim and well-grown; Her waist of the weight of her buttocks makes moan.
And a sixth these:Thou, whose exceeding rigour hath slain me for desire, O cassia-branch, whose planet mounts ever high and higher,
And a seventh these:My heart she prisoned and the tears from out mine eyes set free, My patience rent and love-longing she fortified in me.
And on like wise all the rest of the monks repeated verses and wept. As for Danis, lamentation and weeping redoubled on him, for that he found no way to her enjoyment, and he chanted the following verses:My patience failed me, when my loves took leave and fared away, When they, my wish and my desire, forsook me, sooth to say.
Then, despairing of her, they took counsel together and agreed to fashion her image [and set it up] with them, and applied themselves to this till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Companies.
Meanwhile, Zein el Mewasif fared on, without ceasing, till she reached her own house and opened the doors. Then she entered and sent to her sister Nesim, who rejoiced exceedingly at the news of her return and brought her the furniture and precious stuffs [she had left in her charge]. So she furnished the house and hung up the curtains over the doors and burnt aloes-wood and musk and ambergris and other perfumes, till the whole house reeked with the most delightful fragrance: after which she donned her finest clothes and ornaments and sat talking with her maids, whom she had left behind, and relating to them all that had befallen her. Then she turned to Huboub and giving her money, bade her fetch them something to eat. So she brought meat and drink and when they had made an end of eating and drinking, Zein el Mewasif bade Huboub go and see where Mesrour was and how it fared with him.
Now Mesrour knew not of her return, but abode in sore concern and sorrow that might not be overpast; no peace remained to him nor was patience possible to him. Whenas love and passion and yearning and distraction waxed on him, he would solace himself by reciting verses and go to the house and kiss its walls. It chanced that he went out that day to the place where he had parted from his mistress and repeated the following verses:That which for thee I suffer I would have hid; but, nay, 'Twould out, and sleep for waking mine eyes have bartered aye.
Then he returned to his lodging and sat there weeping, till sleep overcame him, when he saw in a dream as if Zein el Mewasif were come to the house, and awoke, weeping. So he set off to go thither, repeating the following verses:How shall I be consoled for her whose am I, every jot, When all my heart's aglow with flames than coals of fire more hot?
As he made an end of his recitation, he found himself in Zein el Mewasif's street and smelt the sweet savour of the perfumes with which she had incensed the house; wherefore his heart fluttered and was like to leave his breast and desire flamed up in him and distraction redoubled upon him, when, behold, up came Huboub, on her way to do her mistress's errand. When she saw him, she went up to him and saluting him, gave him the glad news of her mistress's return, saying, 'She hath sent me to bid thee to her.' Whereat he rejoiced with an exceeding joy and she took him and returned with him to the house.
When Zein el Mewasif saw him, she came down to him from the couch and kissed him and embraced him and he her; nor did they leave kissing and embracing till they swooned away for stress of love and separation. They lay a long while senseless, and when they revived, Zein el Mewasif bade Huboub fetch her a gugglet of sherbet of sugar and another of sherbet of lemons. So she brought what she desired and they sat eating and drinking till nightfall, when they fell to recalling all that had befallen them, first and last. Then she acquainted him with her conversion to Islam, whereat he rejoiced and became a Muslim. On like wise did her women, and they all repented to God the Most High [of their infidelity]. On the morrow she sent for the Cadi and the witnesses and told them that she was a widow and had completed the period of purification and was minded to marry Mesrour. So they drew up the marriage-contract between them and they abode in all delight of life.
Meanwhile, the Jew, when the people of Aden released him from prison, set out homeward and fared on, without stopping, till he came within three days' journey of the city, when Zein el Mewasif heard of his coming and calling Huboub, said to her, 'Go to the Jews' burial-place and there dig a grave and plant on it sweet basil and jessamine and sprinkle water thereabout. If the Jew come and ask thee of me, answer, "My mistress died twenty days ago of chagrin on thine account." If he say, "Show me her tomb," take him to the [mock] grave and weep over it and make moan and lament before him.' And Huboub answered, 'I hear and obey.' Then they laid up the furniture in the store-closets, and Zein el Mewasif removed to Mesrour's lodging, where he and she abode eating and drinking, till the three days were past; at the end of which time the Jew arrived and knocked at the door of his house. Quoth Huboub, 'Who is at the door?' And he answered, 'Thy master.' So she opened to him and he saw the tears coursing down her cheeks and said to her, 'What ails thee to weep and where is thy mistress?' Quoth she, 'My mistress is dead of chagrin on thine account.' When he heard this, he wept sore and was confounded and said, 'O Huboub, where is her tomb?' So she carried him to the Jews' burial-ground and showed him the grave she had dug; and he wept sore and recited the following verses:Two things there are, for which if eyes wept tear on tear Of blood, till they were like, indeed, to disappear,
Then he wept again and recited these also:Alas my grief! My fortitude bewrays me for my fair: Since she I love is gone, I die of misery and despair.
When he had made an end of saying this, he wept and groaned and lamented till he fell down in a swoon, whereupon Huboub made haste to drag him to the grave and throw him in, whilst he was yet insensible. Then she stopped up the grave on him and returning to her mistress, told her what had passed, whereat she rejoiced with an exceeding joy and recited the following verses:Fate swore 'twould plague me without cease nor leave to make me rue: Thine oath is broken, Fate; so look thou fitting penance do.
Then she and Mesrour abode with each other in eating and drinking and sport and pleasure and good cheer, till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Companies and Slayer of sons and daughters.
[Go to Ali Noureddin and the Frank King's Daughter]
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