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There was once in the land of Egypt a just and pious King who loved the poor and companied with the learned, and he had a Vizier, a wise and experienced man, well versed in affairs and in the art of government. This Vizier, who was a very old man, had two sons, as they were two moons, never was seen their like for beauty and grace, the elder called Shemseddin Mohammed and the younger Noureddin Ali; but the younger excelled his brother in comeliness and fair favour, so that folk heard of him in distant lands and journeyed to Egypt to get sight of him. After awhile the Vizier died, to the great grief of the Sultan, who sent for his two sons and invested them with robes of honour, saying, "Let not your hearts be troubled, for you shall stand in your father's stead and be joint Viziers of Egypt." At this they were glad and kissed the earth before him and mourned for their father a whole month, at the end of which time they entered upon the Vizierate, and the government passed into their hands, as it had been in those of their father, each ruling for a week at a time. Whenever the Sultan went on a journey, they took it in turns to accompany him; and the two brothers lived in one house, and there was perfect accord between them. It chanced, one night, that the Sultan purposed setting out on a journey on the morrow and the elder, whose turn it was to attend him, was sitting talking with his brother and said to him, "O my brother, it is my wish that we both marry and go in to our wives on the same night." "O my brother," replied Noureddin, "do as thou wilt; I will conform to thee." So they agreed upon this and Shemseddin said, "If it be the will of God that we both marry on the same night, and our wives be brought to bed on the same day, and thy wife bear a boy and mine a girl, we will marry the children to one another, for they will be cousins." "O my brother," asked Noureddin, "what dowry wilt thou require of my son for thy daughter!" Quoth the other, "I will have of him three thousand dinars and three gardens and three farms, for it would not be fitting that he bring her a smaller dowry than this." When Noureddin heard this, he said, "What dowry is this thou wouldst impose on my son? Knowest thou not that we are brothers and both by God's grace Viziers and equal in rank? It behoves thee to offer thy daughter to my son, without dowry: or if thou must have a dower, it should be something of nominal value, for mere show; for thou knowest the male to be more worthy than the female, and my son is a male, and our memory will be preserved by him, not by thy daughter; but I see thou wouldst do with me according to the saying, 'If thou wouldst drive away a purchaser, ask him a high price,' or as did one, who, being asked by a friend to do him a favour, replied, 'In the name of God; I will comply with thy request, but not till tomorrow.' Whereupon the other answered him with this verse:
'When one, of whom a favour's asked, postpones it till next day, 'Tis, to a man who knows the world, as if he said him nay.'"
Quoth Shemseddin, "Verily, thou errest in that thou wouldst make thy son more worthy than my daughter, and it is plain that thou lackest both judgment and manners. Thou talkest of thy share in the Vizierate, when I only admitted thee to share with me, in pity for thee, not wishing to mortify thee, and that thou mightest help me. But since thou talkest thus, by Allah, I will not marry my daughter to thy son, though thou pay down her weight in gold!" When Noureddin heard this, he was angry and said, "And I, I will never marry my son to thy daughter." "I would not accept him as a husband for her," answered the other, "and were I not bound to attend the Sultan on his journey, I would make an example of thee; but when I return, I will let thee see what my dignity demands." When Noureddin heard this speech from his brother, he was beside himself for rage, but held his peace and stifled his vexation; and each passed the night in his own place, full of wrath against the other. As soon as it was day, the Sultan went out to Ghizeh and made for the Pyramids, accompanied by the Vizier Shemseddin, whilst Noureddin arose, sore enraged, and prayed the morning-prayer. Then he went to his treasury, and taking a small pair of saddle-bags, filled them with gold. And he called to mind his brother's words and the contempt with which he had treated him and repeated the following verses:
Travel, for yon shall find new friends in place of those you leave, And labour, for in toil indeed the sweets of life reside. Nor gain nor honour comes to him who idly stays at home; So leave thy native land behind and journey far and wide. Oft have I seen a stagnant pool corrupt with standing still; If water run, 'tis sweet, but else grows quickly putrefied. If the full moon were always high and never waned nor set, Men would not strain their watchful eyes for it at every tide. Except the arrow leave the bow, 'twill never hit the mark, Nor will the lion chance on prey, if in the copse he bide. The aloes in its native land a kind of firewood is, And precious metals are but dust whilst in the mine they hide. The one is sent abroad and grows more precious straight than gold; The other's brought to light and finds its value magnified.
Then he bade one of his people saddle him his mule with a padded saddle. Now she was a dapple mule, high-backed, like a dome builded upon columns; her saddle was of cloth of gold and her stirrups of Indian steel, her housings of Ispahan velvet, and she was like a bride on her wedding night. Moreover, he bade lay on her back a carpet of silk and strap the saddle-bags on that and spread a prayer-rug over the whole. The man did as he bade him and Noureddin said to his servants, "I have a mind to ride out a-pleasuring towards Kelyoubiyeh, and I shall lie three nights abroad; but let none of you follow me, for my heart is heavy." Then he mounted the mule in haste and set out from Cairo, taking with him a little victual, and made for the open country. About mid-day, he reached the town of Belbeys, where he alighted and rested himself and the mule. Then he took out food and ate and fared on again in the direction of the desert, after having bought victual and fodder for the mule in the town. Towards nightfall, he came to a town called Saadiyeh, where he alighted and took out food and ate, then spread the carpet on the ground and laying the saddle bags under his head, slept in the open air, for he was still overcome with anger. As soon as it was day, he mounted and rode onward, till he reached the city of Jerusalem and thence to Aleppo, where he alighted at one of the khans and abode three days, to rest himself and the mule. Then, being still intent upon travel, he mounted and setting out again, he knew not whither, journeyed on without ceasing, till he reached the city of Bassora, where he alighted at a certain khan and spread out his prayer-carpet, after having taken the saddle-bags off the mule's back and given her to the porter that he might walk her about. As chance would have it, the Vizier of Bassora, who was a very old man, was sitting at a window of his palace opposite the khan and saw the porter walking the mule up and down. He remarked her costly trappings and took her to be a mule of parade, of such as are ridden by kings and viziers. This set him thinking and he became perplexed and said to one of his servants, "Bring me yonder porter." So the servant went and returned with the porter, who kissed the ground before the Vizier; and the latter said to him, "Who is the owner of that mule, and what manner of man is he?" "O my lord," replied the porter, "he is a comely young man of the sons of the merchants, grave and dignified of aspect." When the Vizier heard this, he rose at once and mounting his horse, rode to the khan and went in to Noureddin, who, seeing him making towards himself, rose and went to meet him and saluted him. The Vizier bade him welcome to Bassora and dismounting, embraced him and made him sit down by his side and said to him, "O my son, whence comest thou and what dost thou seek?" "O my lord." answered Noureddin, "I come from the city of Cairo;" and told him his story from beginning to end, saying, "I am resolved not to return home, till I have seen all the towns and countries of the world." When the Vizier heard this, he said to him, "O my son, follow not the promptings of thy soul, lest they bring thee into peril; for indeed the lands are waste and I fear the issues of Fortune for thee." Then he let load the saddle-bags and the carpets on the mule and carried Noureddin to his own house, where he lodged him in a pleasant place and made much of him, for he had conceived a great affection for him. After awhile, he said to him, "O my son, I am an old man and have no male child, but God has given me a daughter who is thy match for beauty, and I have refused many suitors for her hand. But love of thee has got hold upon my heart; so wilt thou accept of my daughter to thine handmaid and be her husband? If thou consent to this, I will carry thee to the Sultan of Bassora and tell him that thou art my brother's son and bring thee to be appointed Vizier in my stead, that I may keep the house, for, by Allah, O my son, I am a very old man and I am weary." When Noureddin heard the Vizier's proposal, he bowed his head awhile, then raised it and answered, "I hear and obey." At this the Vizier rejoiced and bade his servants decorate the great hall, in which they were wont to celebrate the marriages of nobles. Then he assembled his friends and the notables of the kingdom and the merchants of Bassora and said to them, "I had a brother who was Vizier in Cairo, and God vouchsafed him two sons, whilst to me, as you know, He has given a daughter. My brother proposed to me to marry my daughter to one of his sons, to which I consented; and when my daughter came at a marriageable age, he sent me one of his sons, this young man now present, to whom I purpose now to marry her, for he is better than a stranger, and that he shall go in to her in my house this night. After, if he please, he shall abide with me, or if he please, he shall return with his wife to his father." The guests replied, "It is well seen of thee." And they looked at Noureddin and were pleased with him. So the Vizier sent for Cadis and witnesses, and they drew up the marriage contract, after which the servants perfumed the guests with incense and sprinkled rose-water on them, and they drank sherbet of sugar and went away. Then the Vizier bade his servants take Noureddin to the bath and sent him a suit of the best of his own clothes, besides cups and napkins and perfume-burners and all else that he required. So he went to the bath, and when he came out and put on the suit, he was like the moon on the night of her full. Then he mounted his mule and returning to the Vizier's palace, went in to the latter and kissed his hands. The Vizier welcomed him and said to him, "Arise, go in to thy wife this night, and tomorrow I will carry thee to the Sultan; and I pray God to bless thee with all manner of good!" So Noureddin left him and went in to his wife, the Vizier's daughter. To return to his brother Shemseddin. When he came back to Cairo, after having been absent awhile with the Sultan, he missed his brother and enquired of his servants, who said, "On the day of thy departure with the Sultan, thy brother mounted his mule, caparisoned as for state, saying, 'I am going towards El Kelyoubiyeh and shall be absent a day or two, for I am heavy of heart; and let none follow me.' Then he rode away, and from that time to this we have heard nothing of him." Shemseddin was concerned at his brother's absence and became exceedingly uneasy, when he found that he did not return, and said to himself, "This is because I spoke harshly to him that night, and he has taken it to heart and gone away; but I must send after him." Then he went in to the King and acquainted him with what had happened, and he wrote letters and despatched couriers to his deputies in every province; but after awhile they returned without having been able to come at any news of Noureddin, who had by this time reached Bassora. So Shemseddin despaired of finding his brother and said, "Indeed, I went beyond all bounds in what I said to him, with reference to the marriage of our children. Would it had not been so! This all comes of my lack of sense and judgment." Soon after this he sought in marriage the daughter of a merchant of Cairo and took her to wife and went in to her (as it happened by the will of God the Most High, that so He might carry out what He had decreed to His creatures) on the very night on which Noureddin went in to the Vizier's daughter of Bassora. Moreover, it was as the two brothers had said; for their wives conceived by them and were brought to bed on the same day, the wife of Shemseddin of a daughter, never was seen in Cairo a fairer than she, and the wife of Noureddin of a son, than whom a handsomer was never seen in his time. They named the boy Bedreddin Hassan, and his grandfather, the Vizier of Bassora rejoiced in him and gave feasts and public entertainments, as for the birth of a king's son. Then he took Noureddin and went up with him to the Sultan. When Noureddin came in presence of the King, he kissed the ground before him and repeated the following verses, for he was facile of speech, firm of soul and abounding in good parts and natural gifts:
May all delights of life attend thee, O my lord, And mayst thou live as long as night and morning be! Lo! when meets tongues recall thy magnanimity, The age doth leap for Joy and Time claps hands for glee.
The Sultan rose to receive them and after thanking Noureddin for his compliment, asked the Vizier who he was. The Vizier replied, "This is my brother's son." And the Sultan said, "How comes it that we have never heard of him?" "O my lord the Sultan," answered the Vizier, know that my brother was Vizier in Egypt and died, leaving two sons, whereof the elder became Vizier in his father's stead and the younger, whom thou seest, came to me. I had sworn that I would give my daughter in marriage to none but him; so when he came, I married him to her. Now he is young and I am old; my hearing grows dull and my judgment fails; wherefore I pray our lord the Sultan to make him Vizier in my room, for he is my brother's son and the husband of my daughter, and he is apt for the Vizierate, being a man of sense and judgment." The Sultan looked at Noureddin and was pleased with him, so granted the Vizier's request and appointed him to the Vizierate, presenting him with a splendid dress of honour and one of his choicest mules and allotting him stipends and allowances. Noureddin kissed the Sultan's hands and went home, he and his father-in-law, rejoicing greatly and saying, "This is of the good fortune of the new-born Hassan.'' Next day he presented himself before the King and repeated the following verses:
New favours attend thee each day of thy life, And fortune to counter the craft of thy foes! May thy days with God's favour be white to the end, And black be their days with misfortune and woes!
The Sultan commanded him to sit in the Vizier's place; so he sat down and applied himself to the business of his office, examining into the folks' affairs and giving judgment on their suits, after the usage of Viziers, whilst the Sultan watched him and wondered at his wit and good sense and judgment, wherefore he loved him and took him into favour. When the Divan broke up, Noureddin returned to his house and related what had passed to his father-in-law, who rejoiced. Thence-forward Noureddin ceased not so to apply himself to the duties of the Vizierate, that he left not the Sultan day or night and the latter increased his stipends and allowances till he amassed great wealth and became the owner of ships, that made trading voyages for his hand, as well as of slaves and servants, black and white, and laid out many estates and made irrigation-works and planted gardens. When his son Hassan was four years old, his father-in-law, the old Vizier, died, and he buried him with great pomp. Then he occupied himself with the education of his son and when he came to the age of seven, he brought him a doctor of the law, to teach him in his own house, and charged him to give him a good education and teach him good manners. So the tutor taught the boy to read and all manner of useful knowledge, after he had spent some years in committing the Koran to memory; and he grew in stature and beauty and symmetry, even as says the poet:
The moon in the heaven of his grace shines full and fair to see, And the sun of the morning glows in his cheeks' anemones. He's such a compend of beauties, meseems, indeed, from him The world all beauty borrows that lives in lands and seas.
The professor brought him up in his father's palace, and all his years of youth he never left the house, till one day his father clad him in his richest clothes, and mounting him on one of the best of his mules, carried him to the Sultan, who was struck with his beauty and loved him. As for the people of the city, when he passed through the streets on his way to the palace, they were dazzled with his loveliness and sat down in the road, awaiting his return, that they might gaze their fill on his beauty and grace and symmetry. The Sultan made much of the boy and bade his father bring him with him, whenever his affairs called him to the palace. Noureddin replied, "I hear and obey," and ceased not to carry him to the Sultan's court, till he reached the age of fifteen, when his father sickened and calling his son, said to him, "Know, O my son, that this world is but a temporary abode, whilst the next is an eternal one. Before I die, I wish to give thee certain last injunctions, so pay heed to my words and set thy mind to understand them." Then he gave him certain advice as to the proper way of dealing with folk and the conduct of his affairs; after which he called to mind his brother and his native land and wept for his separation from those he loved. Then he wiped away his tears and turning to his son, said to him, "Before I proceed to my parting exhortations, thou must know that thou hast an uncle who is Vizier in Cairo, and I left him and went away without his consent." Then he took a sheet of paper and wrote therein all that had happened to him from the day of the dispute, together with the dates of his marriage and going in to the Vizier's daughter and the birth of his son; after which he folded and sealed the paper and gave it to his son, saying, "keep this paper carefully, for in it is written thy rank and lineage and origin, and if any mishap befall thee, go to Cairo and ask for thine uncle and give him this and tell him that I died in a foreign land, full of longing for him." So Bedreddin took the paper and wrapping it in a piece of waxed cloth, sewed it into the lining of his skull-cap and wound the muslin of his turban over it, weeping the while at the thought of losing his father, whilst himself but a boy. Then said Noureddin, "I have five behests to lay on thee: and the first is that thou be not too familiar with any one, neither frequent him nor foregather with him over-much; so shalt thou be safe from his mischief, for in retirement is safety, and I have heard it said by a poet:
There is no man in all the world, whose love is worth thy trust, No friend who, if fate play thee false, will true and constant be. Wherefore I'd have thee live apart and lean for help on none. In this I give thee good advice; so let it profit thee.
Secondly, O my son, oppress no one, lest Fortune oppress thee; for the fortune of this world is one day for thee and another against thee, and its goods are but a loan to be repaid. As I have heard a poet say:
Be slow to move and hasten not to snatch thy heart's desire; Be merciful to all, as thou on mercy reckonest; For no hand is there but the hand of God is over it, And no oppressor but shall be with worse than he oppress.
Thirdly, preserve silence and let thy faults distract thee from those of other men; for it is said that in silence is safety; and thereon I have heard the following verses:
Silence is fair and safety lies in taciturnity. So, when thou speak'st, I counsel thee, give not thy tongue the rein. Since, for one time that thou repent the having held thy tongue, Thou shalt of having spoke repent again and yet again.
Fourthly, O my son, beware of drinking wine, for wine is the root of all evils and the thief of wit. Guard thyself from it, for the poet says:
Wine and the drinkers of wine I have put away, And am become of those that of it mis-say. For wine indeed diverts from the road of right, And to all kinds of evil opens the way.
Lastly, O my son, keep thy wealth, that it may keep thee, and watch over it, that it may watch over thee. Squander not thy substance, or thou wilt come to need the meanest of folk. Guard well thy money, for it is a sovereign salve for the wounds of life, even as says the poet:
If wealth should fail, there is no friend will bear thee company, But whilst thy substance still abounds, all men are friends to thee. How many a foe for money's sake hath companied with me! But when wealth failed beneath my hand, my dearest friend did flee."
And Noureddin ceased not to exhort his son till his spirit departed and his house became the abode of mourning. The King and all the Amirs grieved for him and buried him; but Bedreddin ceased not to bewail his father for two whole months, during which time he never left the house, nor did he attend the Divan or present himself before the Sultan. At last the latter became wroth with him and made one of his chamberlains Vizier in his stead and bade him seize on all Noureddin's houses and goods and possessions and seal them up. So the new Vizier went forth to do this and take Bedreddin Hassan and bring him before the Sultan, that he might deal with him as he thought fit. Now there was among the troops one who had been a servant of the deceased Vizier, and when he heard this order he spurred his steed and rode at full speed to Bedreddin's house, where he found him sitting at the gate, with downcast head, broken-hearted. So he dismounted and kissing his hand, said to him, "O my lord and son of my lord, hasten, ere destruction light on thee!" When Bedreddin heard this, he trembled and said, "What is the matter?" "The Sultan is wroth with thee," answered the other, "and has given orders for thine arrest, and calamity follows hard upon me, so flee for thy life." Quoth Bedreddin, "Is there time for me to go in and take somewhat to stand me in stead in my strangerhood?" But the other answered, "O my lord, rise at once and save thyself whilst it is yet time, and leave thy house." So Bedreddin covered his face with his skirt and went out and walked on till he came without the city. On his way, he heard the people saying that the Sultan had sent the new Vizier to the late Vizier's house, to seize on his possessions and take his son Bedreddin Hassan and bring him before him, that he might put him to death, and they grieved for him by reason of his beauty and grace. When he heard this, he fled forth at hazard, not knowing whither, and chance led him to the cemetery where his father was buried. So he passed among the tombs, till he came to his father's sepulchre and entering, sat down and let fall from over his head the skirt of his cassock, which was made of brocade, with the following lines embroidered in gold on the hem:
Thou whose face with the rainbow might vie, That art bright as the stars of the sky, May thy fortune ne'er fail to be fair And thy glory for ever be high!
As he sat by his father's tomb, there came up a Jew, as he were a money-changer, with a pair of saddle-bags full of gold, and accosted him, saying, "Whither away, O my lord? It is near the end of the day and thou art lightly clad and bearest the marks of chagrin on thy countenance." "I was asleep but now," answered Bedreddin, "when my father appeared to me and reproached me for not having visited his tomb, and I awoke, trembling, and came hither at once, fearing lest the day should pass, without my paying him a visit, which would have been grievous to me." "O my lord," said the Jew, "thy father had many ships at sea, whereof some are now due; and it is my wish to buy of thee the cargo of the first that comes into port for a thousand dinars." "I will well," answered Bedreddin; whereupon the Jew took out a purse of gold and counted out a thousand dinars, which he gave to Bedreddin, saying, "Write me an acknowledgment and seal it." So Bedreddin took pen and paper and wrote the following in double: "The writer, Bedreddin Hassan, son of the Vizier Noureddin of Bassora, has sold to Isaac the Jew all the cargo of the first of his father's ships that comes into port, at the price of a thousand dinars, which he has received in advance." Then he gave one copy to the Jew, who took it and went away, and put the other in the purse, which he thrust into his waistcloth. And he bethought him of his former estate of honour and consideration and wept and repeated the following verses:
Home is no longer home to me, now ye are gone away, Nor are the neighbours neighbours now, after our parting-day, The comrade, whom I loved whilere, no more a comrade is, And even the very sun and moon' no longer bright are they. Ye went away and all the world was saddened for your loss, And all the hills and plains grew dark with sorrow and dismay. O that the raven of ill-luck, that croaked our parting hour, May lose his plumes nor find a nest in which his bead to lay! My patience fails me for desire, my body wasteth sore; How many a veil the hands of death and parting rend in tway! I wonder, will our happy nights come ever back again, Or one house hold us two once more, after the olden way!
Then he wept sore and laying his head on his father's tomb, remained plunged in melancholy thought till drowsiness overcame him and he fell asleep. He slept on till the moon rose, when his head rolled off the tomb and he lay on his back, with his face gleaming in the moon. Now the cemetery was haunted by true- believing Jinn, and presently a Jinniyeh came out and seeing Bedreddin lying asleep, marvelled at his beauty and grace and said, "Glory be to God! This can be no other than one of the children of Paradise." Then she rose into the air to fly about, as was her wont, and met an Afrit flying, who saluted her, and she said to him, "Whence comest thou?" "From Cairo," replied he. Quoth she, "Wilt thou come with me and look on the beauty of a youth who sleeps in the burial-ground yonder?" And he said, "I will well." So they both flew down to the tomb and she showed him Bedreddin, saying, "Sawest thou ever the like of this young man?" The Afrit looked at him and exclaimed, "Blessed be God to whom there is none like! But, O my sister, shall I tell thee what I have seen this day?" "What is that?" asked she; and he answered, "I have seen a young lady in the land of Egypt, who is the counterpart of this youth. She is the daughter of the Vizier Shemseddin of Cairo and is possessed of beauty and grace and symmetry and perfection. When she reached the age of fifteen, the Sultan of Egypt heard of her and sending for the Vizier her father, said to him, 'O Vizier, it has come to my knowledge that thou hast a daughter and I wish to demand her of thee in marriage.' 'O my lord the Sultan,' replied the Vizier, 'I prithee accept my excuse and take compassion on my grief, for thou knowest that my brother Noureddin, who was my partner in the Vizierate, left us many years ago and went I know not whither. Now the reason of his departure was that one night we were sitting talking of marriage and children, when we came to words on the subject and he was angry with me and went away in his anger. But on the day her mother bore her, fifteen years ago, I swore that I would marry my daughter to none but my brother's son. Now, awhile ago, I heard that he is lately dead at Bassora, where he was Vizier, after having married the former Vizier's daughter and had by her a son; and I will not marry my daughter but to him, in honour of my brother's memory. Moreover, I recorded the date of my marriage and of the conception and birth of my daughter and drew her horoscope, and she is destined for her cousin and there are girls in plenty for our lord the Sultan.' When the Sultan heard the Vizier's answer, he was exceeding wroth and said, 'When the like of me demands in marriage the daughter of the like of thee, he confers a favour on her, and thou puttest me off with idle excuses! As my head liveth, I will marry her to the meanest of my serving men, to spite thee!' Now the Sultan had a hunchbacked groom, with a hump behind and before, and he sent for him and married him to the Vizier's daughter, whether she would or no, and bade carry him in procession and bring him in to his bride this very night. Now I have just come from Cairo, where I left the hunchback at the door of the bath, surrounded by the King's servants holding lighted flambeaux and making mock of him. As for the Vizier's daughter, she sits among her nurses and tire-women, weeping, for they have forbidden her father access to her. Never, O my sister, saw I one more hideous than the hunchback, whilst the young lady is the likest of all folk to this youth, though she is even handsomer than he." "Thou liest," replied the Jinniyeh; "this youth is handsomer than any one of his day." "By Allah, O my sister," replied the Afrit, "the girl I speak of is handsomer than he, but none but he is worthy of her, for they resemble each other as they were brother and sister or brothers' children. Alas, the pity of her with that hunchback!" Then said she, "O my brother, let us take him up and carry him to Cairo, that we may compare him with the damsel and see whether of them is the handsomer." "I hear and obey," answered the Afrit; "this is right well advised, and I will carry him." So he took Bedreddin up and flew with him through the air, accompanied by the Afriteh, till he alighted in the city of Cairo and set him down on a stone bench. Then he aroused him, and when he found himself no longer on his father's tomb in Bassora, but in a strange city, he would have cried out, but the Afrit gave him a cuff and imposed silence on him. Then he brought him a splendid dress and made him put it on, and giving him a lighted flambeau, said to him, "Know that I have brought thee hither, meaning to do thee a good turn for the love of God; so take this torch and mingle with the people at the door of the bath and accompany them to the house of the wedding festival. Then advance and enter the hall and fear none, but sit down on the right hand of the humpbacked bridegroom; and as often as the tire-women and singers stop before thee, put thy hand into thy pocket and thou wilt find it full of gold. Take it out by handsful and give to all who come to thee and spare not, for as often as thou puttest thy hand into thy pocket, thou wilt find it without fail full of gold. So fear nothing, but put thy trust in Him who created thee, for all this is not by shine own strength but by that of God, that His decrees may take effect upon His creatures." Quoth Bedreddin to himself, "I wonder what is the meaning of all this!" And taking the torch, went to the bath, where he found the hunchback already on horseback. So he mixed with the people and moved on with the bridal-procession; and as often as the singing-women stopped to collect largesse from the people, he put his hand into his pocket and finding it full of gold, took out a handful and threw it into the singers' tambourine, till it was full of dinars. The singing women were amazed at his munificence and they and the people wondered at his beauty and grace and the richness of his dress. He ceased not to do thus, till he reached the Vizier's palace, where the chamberlains drove back the people and forbade them to enter; but the singing women said, "By Allah, we will not enter, unless this young man enter with us, for he has overwhelmed us with his bounties; nor shall the bride be displayed, except he be present." So the chamberlains let him pass, and he entered the bridal saloon with the singers, who made him sit down, in defiance of the humpbacked bridegroom. The wives of the Viziers and Amirs and chamberlains were ranged, each veiled to the eyes and holding a great lighted flambeau, in two ranks, extending right and left from the bride's throne to the upper end of the dais, in front of the door from which she was to issue. When the ladies saw Bedreddin and noted his beauty and grace and his face that shone like the new moon, they all inclined to him, and the singers said to all the women present, "You must know that this handsome youth has handselled us with nought but red gold, so fail ye not to wait on him and comply with all that he says." So all the women crowded round Bedreddin, with their torches, and gazed on his beauty arid envied him his grace; and each would gladly have lain in his bosom an hour or a year. In their intoxication, they let fall their veils from their faces and said, "Happy she who belongs to him or to whom he belongs!" And they cursed the humpbacked groom and him who was the cause of his marriage to that lovely lady; and as often as they invoked blessings on Bedreddin, they followed them up with imprecations on the hunchback, saying, "Indeed, this youth and he alone deserves our bride. Alas, the pity of her with this wretched hunchback, God's curse be on him and on the Sultan who will have her marry him!" Then the singers beat their tambourines and raised cries of joy, announcing the coming of the bride; and the Vizier's daughter entered, surrounded by her tire-women, who had perfumed her with essences and incensed her and decked her hair and dressed her in costly robes and ornaments such as were worn by the ancient kings of Persia. Over all she wore a robe embroidered in red gold with figures of birds and beasts with eyes and beaks of precious stones and feet and claws of red rubies and green beryl, and about her neck was clasped a necklace of Yemen work, worth many thousands of dinars, whose beazels were all manner jewels, never had Caesar or King of Yemen its like. She seemed as it were the full moon, when it shines out on the fourteenth night, or one of the houris of Paradise, glory be to Him who made her so splendidly fair! The women encompassed her as they were stars, and she in their midst as the moon breaking through the clouds. As she came forward, swaying gracefully to and fro, the hunchback rose to kiss her, but she turned from him and seeing Bedreddin Hassan seated, with all the company gazing on him, went and stood before him. When the folk saw her thus attracted towards Bedreddin, they laughed and shouted and the singers raised their voices, whereupon he put his hand to his pocket and cast gold by handsful into the tambourines of the singing-women, who rejoiced and said, "Would this bride were thine!" At this he smiled, and the people came round him, with the flambeaux in their hands, whilst the hunchback was left sitting alone, looking like an ape; for as often as they lighted a candle for him, it went out and he abode in darkness, speechless and confounded and grumbling to himself. When Bedreddin saw the bridegroom sitting moping alone and all the lights and people collected round himself, he was confounded and marvelled; but when he looked at his cousin, the Vizier's daughter, he rejoiced and was glad, for indeed her face was radiant with light and brilliancy. Then the tire-women took off the veil and displayed the bride in her first dress of red satin, and she moved to and fro with a languorous grace, till the heads of all the men and women were turned by her loveliness, for she was even as says the excellent poet:
Like a sun at the end of a cane in a hill of sand, She shines in a dress of the hue of pomegranate-flower. She gives me to drink of her cheeks and her honeyed lips, And quenches the flaming fires that my heart devour.
Then they changed her dress and displayed her in a robe of blue; and she reappeared like the moon when it bursts through the clouds, with her coal-black hair and her smiling teeth, her delicate cheeks and her swelling bosom, even as says the sublime poet:
She comes in a robe the colour of ultramarine, Blue as the stainless sky unflecked with white. I view her with yearning eyes, and she seems to me A moon of the summer set in a winter's night.
Then they clad her in a third dress and letting down her long black ringlets, veiled her face to her eyes with the super- abundance of her hair, which vied with the murkiest night in length and blackness; and she smote all hearts with the enchanted arrows of her glances. As says the poet:
With hair that hides her rosy cheeks ev'n to her speaking eyes, She comes; and I her locks compare unto a sable cloud And say to her, "Thou curtainest the morning with the night." But she, "Not so; it is the moon that with the dark I shroud."
Then they displayed her in the fourth dress, and she shone forth like the rising sun, swaying to and fro with amorous languor and turning from side to side with gazelle-like grace. And she pierced hearts with the arrows of her eyelashes; even as says the poet:
A sun of beauty she appears to all that look on her, Glorious in arch and amorous grace, with coyness beautified; And when the sun of morning sees her visage and her smile, Conquered, he hasteneth his face behind the clouds to hide.
Then they displayed her in the fifth dress, with her ringlets let down. The downy hair crept along her cheeks, and she swayed to and fro, like a willow-wand or a gazelle bending down to drink, with graceful motions of the neck and hips. As says the poet, describing her:
Like the full moon she doth appear, on a calm night and fair; Slender of shape and charming all with her seductive air. She hath an eye, whose glances pierce the hearts of all mankind, Nor can cornelian with her cheeks for ruddiness compare. The sable torrent of her locks falls down unto her hips; Beware the serpents of her curls, I counsel thee, beware! Indeed, her glance, her sides are soft, but none the less, alas! Her heart is harder than the rock; there is no mercy there. The starry arrows of her looks she darts above her veil; They hit and never miss the mark, though from afar they fare. When I clasp hands about her waist, to press her to my heart, The swelling apples of her breast compel me to forbear. Alas, her beauty! it outdoes all other loveliness; Her shape transcends the willow-wand and makes the branch despair.
Then they unveiled her in the sixth dress, which was green. In this she reached the utmost bounds of loveliness, outvying in slender straightness the tawny spear-shaft, and in suppleness and flexile grace the bending branch, whilst the splendours of her face outshone the radiance of the full moon. Indeed, she transcended the fair of all quarters of the world and all hearts were broken by her loveliness; for she was even as says the poet:
A damsel made for love and decked with subtle grace; You'd say the very sun had borrowed from her face. She came in robes of green, the likeness of the leaf That the pomegranate flower cloth in the bud encase. "How call'st thou this thy dress?" we said to her, and she Made answer with a word full of malicious grace. "Breaker of Hearts," quoth she, "I call it, for therewith I've broken many a heart among the human race."
Then they dressed her in the seventh dress, which was of a colour between saffron and orange, even as says the poet:
Scented with sandal and musk and ambergris, lo! she comes. The blended hues of her dress 'twixt orange and saffron show. Slender and shapely she is; vivacity bids her arise, But the weight of her hips says, "Sit, or softly and slowly go." When I solicit her kiss and sue for my heart's desire, "Be gracious," her beauty says, but her coquetry answers, "No."
They unveiled the bride, in all her seven dresses, before Bedreddin Hassan, leaving the hunchback sitting by himself; and when she opened her eyes, she said, "O my God, grant that this youth may be my husband and deliver me from this humpbacked groom." Then they dismissed the company and all who were present retired, except Bedreddin Hassan and the hunchback, whilst the tire-women carried off the bride to undress her and prepare her for the bridegroom. Thereupon the hunchback came up to Bedreddin Hassan and said to him, "O my lord, thou hast cheered us with thy company tonight and overwhelmed us with thy favours. Wilt thou not now rise and depart?" "In the name of God," replied Bedreddin, and rising, went out of the door, where the Afrit met him and said to him, "Stay where thou art, and when the hunchback goes out to the draught-house, enter thou the bride chamber and do not hesitate, but sit down in the alcove, and when the bride comes, say to her, ''Tis I who am thy husband, for the King only played this trick on thee, to conjure the evil eye from us; and he whom thou sawest is one of our grooms.' Then go up to her and uncover her face and fear nothing, for jealousy hath taken us of this affair and none is worthy to enjoy her youth but thyself.' As he was yet speaking, the groom came out and entering the closet, sat down on the stool. Hardly had he done so, when the Afrit appeared to him in the shape of a mouse, issuing from the water-trough, and cried "Queek!" Quoth the hunchback, "What ails thee?" And the mouse increased till it became a cat and said, "Miaou! Miaou!" Then it grew still more and became a dog and cried, "Bow! Wow!" When the hunchback saw this, he was terrified and exclaimed, "Begone, O unlucky one!" The dog increased and became an ass-colt, that brayed and cried out in his face, "Heehaw! Heehaw!" Whereupon the hunchback quaked and cried out, "Come to my aid, O people of the house!" But the ass increased and swelled, till it became a buffalo and barred the way against him and said with a human voice, "Out on thee, hunchback, thou stinkard!" The groom was seized with a colic and sat down on the jakes with his clothes on and his teeth chattering. Quoth the Afrit, "Is the world so small that thou canst find none to marry but my mistress?'' But he was silent, and the Afrit said, "Answer me, or I will make thee a dweller in the dust." "By Allah," replied the hunchback, "I am not to blame, for they forced me to marry her, and I knew not that she had a buffalo for a gallant; but I repent to God and to thee. What wilt thou have me do?" Quoth the Afrit, "I swear to thee that, if thou leave this place or speak before sunrise, I will wring thy neck! When the sun rises, go thy way and never return to this house." So saying, he seized the hunchback and set him upside down against the wall, with his head in the slit and his feet in the air, and said to him, "I will leave thee here and watch thee till sunrise; and if thou stir before then, I will seize thee by the feet and dash out thy brains against the wall." Meanwhile Bedreddin Hassan entered the bride chamber and sat down in the alcove. Presently, in came the bride, attended by an old woman, who stopped at the door of the chamber and said, "O father of symmetry, arise and take what God sends thee." Then the old woman went away, and the bride, whose name was the Lady of Beauty, entered, heart-broken and saying to herself, "By Allah, I will never yield myself to him, though he kill me!" When she came to the alcove, she saw Bedreddin sitting there and said, "O my friend, thou here at this hour! By Allah, I was wishing that thou wast my husband or that thou and the groom were partners in me!" "How should the groom have access to thee," asked Bedreddin, "and how should he share with me in thee?" Quoth she "Who is my husband, thou or he?" "O Lady of Beauty," replied Bedreddin, "all this was only a device to conjure the evil eye from us. Thy father hired the hunchback for ten diners to that end, and now he has taken his wage and gone away. Didst thou not see the singers and tire-women laughing at him and how thy people displayed thee before me?" When the Lady of Beauty heard this, she smiled and rejoiced and laughed softly. Then she said to him, "Thou hast quenched the fire of my heart, so, by Allah, take me and press me to thy bosom." Now she was without clothes; so she threw open the veil in which she was wrapped and showed her hidden charms. At this sight, desire stirred in Bedreddin, and he rose and put off his clothes. The purse of a thousand dinars he had received of the Jew he wrapped in his trousers and laid them under the mattress; then took off his turban and hung it on the settle, remaining in a skull-cap and shirt of fine silk, laced with gold. With this arose the Lady of Beauty and drew him to her, and he did the like with her. Then he took her to his embrace and pointing the engine that batters down the fortalice of virginity, stormed the citadel and found her an unpierced pearl and a filly that none but he had ridden. So he took her maidenhead and enjoyed her dower of youth; nor did he stint to return to the assault till he had furnished fifteen courses, and she conceived by him. Then he laid his hand under her head and she did the like, and they embraced and fell asleep in each other's arms, whilst the tongue of the case spoke the words of the poet:
Cleave fast to her thou lov'st and let the envious rail amain, For calumny and envy ne'er to favour love were fain. Lo! the Compassionate hath made no fairer thing to see Than when one couch in its embrace enfoldeth lovers twain, Each to the other's bosom clasped, clad in their own delight, Whilst hand with hand and arm with arm about their necks enchain. Lo! when two hearts are straitly knit in passion and desire, But on cold iron smite the folk that chide at them in vain. If in thy time thou find but one to love thee and be true, I rede thee cast the world away and with that one remain.
As soon as Bedreddin was asleep, the Afrit said to the Afriteh, "Come, let us take up the young man and carry him back to his place, ere the dawn overtake us, for the day is near." So she took up Bedreddin, as he lay asleep, clad only in his shirt and skull-cap, and flew away with him, accompanied by the Afrit. But the dawn overtook them midway and the muezzins began to chant the call to morning-prayer. Then God let His angels cast at the Afrit with shooting-stars, and he was consumed; but the Afriteh escaped and lighted down with Bedreddin, fearing to carry him further, lest he should come to harm. Now as fate would have it, she had reached the city of Damascus, so she laid Bedreddin down before one of its gates and flew away. As soon as it was day, the gate was thrown open and the folk came out, and seeing a handsome young man, clad in nothing but a shirt and skull-cap, lying on the ground, drowned in sleep by reason of his much swink of the night before, said, "Happy she with whom this youth lay the night! Would he had waited to put on his clothes!" Quoth another, "A sorry race are young men of family! Belike, this fellow but now came forth of the tavern on some occasion or other, but being overcome with drunkenness, missed the place he was making for and strayed till he came to the city gate, and finding it shut, lay down and fell asleep." As they were bandying words about him, the breeze blew on him and raising his shirt, showed a stomach and navel and legs and thighs, firm and clear as crystal and softer than cream; whereupon the bystanders exclaimed, "By Allah, it is good!" And made such a noise, that Bedreddin awoke and finding himself lying at the gate of a city, in the midst of a crowd of people, was astonished and said to them, "O good people, where am I, and why do you crowd round me thus?" "We found thee lying here asleep, at the time of the call to morning-prayer," replied they, "and this is all we know of the matter. Where didst thou lie last night?" "By Allah, good people," answered he, "I lay last night in Cairo!" Quoth one, "Thou hast eaten hashish." And another, "Thou art mad; how couldst thou lie yesternight in Cairo and awake this morning in Damascus?" "By Allah, good people," rejoined he, "I do not lie to you; indeed I lay last night in the city of Cairo and yesterday I was in Bassora." "Good," said one; and another, "This youth is mad." And they clapped their hands at him and said to each other, "Alack, the pity of his youth! By Allah, there is no doubt of his madness." Then said they to him, "Collect thyself and return to thy senses. How couldst thou be in Bassora yesterday and in Cairo last night and yet awake in Damascus this morning?" But he said, "Indeed, I was a bridegroom in Cairo last night." "Doubtless thou hast been dreaming," rejoined they, "and hast seen all this in sleep." So he bethought himself awhile, then said to them, "By Allah, it was no dream! I certainly went to Cairo and they displayed the bride before me, in the presence of the hunchback. By Allah, O my brethren, this was no dream; or if it was a dream, where is the purse of gold I had with me and my turban and trousers and the rest of my clothes?" Then he rose and entered the town and passed through its streets and markets; but the people followed him and pressed on him, crying out, "Madman! Madman!" till he took refuge in a cook's shop. Now this cook had been a robber and a sharper, but God had made him repent and turn from his evil ways and open a cookshop; and all the people of Damascus stood in awe of him and feared his mischief. So when they saw Bedreddin enter his shop, they dispersed for fear of him and went their ways. The cook looked at Bedreddin and noting his beauty and grace, fell in love with him and said to him, "Whence comest thou, O youth? Tell me thy case, for thou art become to me dearer than my soul." So Bedreddin told him all that had befallen him from first to last; and the cook said, "O my lord Bedreddin, this is indeed a strange thing and a rare story; but, O my son, keep thy case secret, till God grant thee relief, and abide here with me meanwhile, for I am childless and will adopt thee as my son." And Bedreddin answered, "I will well, O uncle." With this the cook went to the bazaar, where he bought him a handsome suit of clothes and made him put it on, then carried him to the Cadi and formally acknowledged him as his son. So Bedreddin passed in Damascus for the cook's son and abode with him, sitting in the shop to take the money.
To return to the Lady of Beauty. When the day broke and she awoke from sleep, she missed Bedreddin from her side and thought he had gone to the lavatory, so lay expecting him awhile, when behold, her father entered. Now he was sore at heart by reason of what had passed between him and the Sultan and for that he had married his daughter by force to one of his servants, and he a lump of a hunchbacked groom; and he said to himself, "If she have suffered this damnable fellow to possess her, I will kill her." So he came to the door of the alcove and cried out, "Ho, Lady of Beauty!" She replied, "Here am I, O my lord"; and came out tottering for joy, with a face whose brightness and beauty had redoubled for that she had lain in the arms of that gazelle, and kissed the ground before her father. When the Vizier saw her thus, he said to her, "O accursed woman, dost thou rejoice in this groom?" At these words, the Lady of Beauty smiled and said, "O my lord, let what happened yesterday suffice, when all the folk were laughing at me and flouting me with that groom, who is not worth the paring of one of my husband's nails. By Allah, I never in all my life passed a pleasanter night! So do not mock me by reminding me of that hunchback." When her father heard this, he was filled with rage and glared at her, saving, "Out on thee! what words are these? It was the hunchbacked groom that lay with thee." "For God's sake," replied the Lady of Beauty, "do not mention him to me, may God curse his father! And mock me not, for the groom was only hired for ten dinars to conjure the evil eye from us, and he took his hire and departed. As for me, I entered the bridal chamber, where I found my true husband sitting in the alcove, him before whom the singers had unveiled me and who flung them the red gold by handsful, till he made all the poor there rich; and I passed the night in the arms of my sprightly husband, with the black eyes and joined eyebrows." When her father heard this, the light in his eyes became darkness, and he cried out at her, saying, "O wanton, what is this thou sayest? Where are thy senses?" "O my father," rejoined she, "thou breakest my heart with thy persistence in making mock of me! Indeed, my husband, who took my maidenhead, is in the wardrobe and I am with child by him." The Vizier rose, wondering, and entered the draught-house, where he found the hunchbacked groom with his head in the slit and his heels in the air. At this sight he was confounded and said, "This is none other than the hunchback." So he called to him, "Hallo, hunchback!" The groom made no answer but a grunt, thinking it was the Afrit who spoke to him. But the Vizier cried out at him, saying, "Speak, or I will cut off thy head with this sword." Then said the hunchback, "By Allah, O Chief of the Afrits, I have not lifted my head since thou didst set me here; so, God on thee, have mercy on me!" "What is this thou sayest?" quoth the Vizier. "I am no Afrit; I am the father of the bride." "It is enough that though hast already gone nigh to make me lose my life," replied the hunchback, "go thy ways ere he come upon thee who served me thus. Could ye find none to whom to marry me but the mistress of an Afrit and the beloved of a buffalo? May God curse him who married me to her and him who was the cause of it?" Then said the Vizier to him, "Come, get up out of this place." "Am I mad," answered the groom, "that I should go with thee without the Afrit's leave? He said to me, 'When the sun rises, get up and go thy way.' So has the sun risen or no? for I dare not budge till then." "Who brought thee hither?" asked the Vizier; and the hunchback replied, "I came here last night to do an occasion, when behold, a mouse came out of the water and squeaked and grew to a buffalo and spoke to me words that entered my ears. Then he left me here and went away, accursed be the bride and he who married me to her!" The Vizier went up to him and set him on his feet; and he went out, running, not crediting that the sun had risen, and repaired to the Sultan, to whom he related what had befallen him with the Afrit. Meanwhile, the Vizier returned to the bride's chamber, troubled in mind about his daughter, and said to her, "O my daughter, expound thy case to me." "O my father," answered she, "what more can I tell thee? Indeed, the bridegroom, he before whom they displayed me yesterday, lay with me all night and took my virginity, and I am with child by him. If thou believe me not, there is his turban, just as he left it, on the settle, and his trousers under the bed, with I know not what wrapped up in them." When her father heard this, he entered the alcove and found Bedreddin's turban; so he took it up and turning it about, said, "This is a Vizier's turban, except that it is of the Mosul cut." Then he perceived an amulet sewn in the cap of the turban so he unsewed the lining and took it out; then took the trousers, in which was the purse of a thousand dinars. In the latter he found the duplicate of Bedreddin's docket of sale to the Jew, naming him as Bedreddin Hassan, son of Noureddin Ali of Cairo. No sooner had he read this, than he cried out and fell down in a swoon; and when he revived, he wondered and said, "There is no god but God the Omnipotent! O my daughter, dost thou know who took thy maidenhead?" "No," answered she; and he said, "It was thy cousin, my brother's son, and these thousand dinars are thy dowry' Glory be to God! Would I knew how this had come about!" Then he opened the amulet and found therein a paper in the handwriting of his brother Noureddin; and when he saw his writing, he knew it and kissed it again and again, weeping and making moan for his brother. Then he read the scroll and found in it a record of the dates of Noureddin's marriage with the Vizier's daughter of Bassora, his going in to her, her conception and the birth of Bedreddin Hassan, and the history of his brother's life till his death. At this he wondered and was moved to joy and comparing the dates with those of his own marriage and the birth of his daughter the Lady of Beauty, found that they agreed in all respects. So he took the scroll and carrying it to the Sultan, told him the whole story from first to last, at which the King wondered and commanded the case to be at once set down in writing. The Vizier abode all that day awaiting his nephew, but he came not; and when seven days were past and he could learn nothing of him, he said, "By Allah, I will do a thing that none has done before me!" So he took pen and ink and paper and drew a plan of the bride-chamber, showing the disposition of all the furniture therein, as that the alcove was in such a place, this or that curtain in another, and so on with all that was in the room. Then he folded the paper and laid it aside, and causing all the furniture to be taken up and stored away, took Bedreddin's purse and turban and clothes and locked them up with an iron padlock, on which he set a seal, against his nephew's coming. As for the Lady of Beauty, she accomplished the months of her pregnancy and bore a son like the full moon, resembling his father in beauty and grace. They cut his navel and blackened his eyelids with kohl and committed him to the nurses, naming him Agib. His day was as a month and his month as a year, and when seven years had passed over him, his grandfather sent him to school, bidding the master teach him to read the Koran and give him a good education; and he remained at the school four years, till he began to bully the little ones and beat them and abuse them, saying, "Which of you is like me? I am the son of the Vizier of Egypt." At last the children came, in a body, to complain to the monitor of Agib's behavior to them, and he said, "I will tell you how to do with him, so that he shall leave coming to the school and you shall never see him again. It is this: when he comes to-morrow, sit down round him and let one of you say to the others, 'By Allah, none shall play at this game except he tell us the names of his father and mother; for he who knows not his parents' names is a bastard and shall not play with us.'" So next day, when Agib came to the school, they all assembled round him, and one of them said, "We will play a game, in which no one shall join except he tell us the names of his father and mother." And they all said, "By Allah, it is good." Then said one of them, "My name is Majid, my mother's name is Alawiyeh and my father's Izeddin." And the others said the like, till it came to Agib's turn and he said, "My name is Agib, my mother is the Lady of Beauty and my father Shemseddin, Vizier of Egypt." "By Allah," cried they, "the Vizier is not thy father." Said he, "He is indeed my father." Then they all laughed and clapped their hands at him, saying, "He does not know his father! Arise and go out from us, for none shall play with us, except he know his father's name." Thereupon they dispersed from around him and laughed him to scorn, leaving him choked with tears and mortification. Then said the monitor to him, "O Agib, knowst thou not that the Vizier is thy mother's father, thy grandfather and not thy father? As for thy father, thou knowest him not nor do we, for the Sultan married thy mother to a humpbacked groom; but the Jinn came and lay with her, and thou hast no known father. Wherefore, do thou leave evening thyself with the boys in the school, till thou know who is thy father; for till then thou wilt pass for a misbegotten brat amongst them. Dost thou not see that the huckster's son knows his own father? Thy grandfather is the Vizier of Egypt, but as for thy father, we know him not, and we say, thou hast no father. So return to thy senses." When Agib heard the insulting words of the children and the monitor, he went out at once and ran to his mother, to complain to her; but his tears would not let him speak awhile. When she heard his sobs and saw his tears, her heart was on fire for him and she said to him, "O my son, why dost thou weep? Tell me what is the matter." So he told her what the children and the monitor had said and said to her, "Who is my father, O my mother?" "Thy father is the Vizier of Egypt," answered she; but he said, "Do not lie to me. The Vizier is thy father, not mine. Who then is my father? Except thou tell me the truth, I will kill myself with this dagger." When the Lady of Beauty heard him speak of his father, she wept, as she thought of her cousin and her bridal-night, and repeated the following verses:
Love in my breast, alas! they lit and went away; Far distant is the camp that holds my soul's delight! Patience and reason fled from me, when they withdrew; Sleep failed me, and despair o'ercame me like a blight. They left me, and with them departed all my joy; Tranquility and peace with them have taken flight. They made my lids run down with tears of love laid waste; My eyes for lack of them brim over day and night. When as my sad soul longs to see them once again And waiting and desire are heavy on my spright; Midmost my heart of hearts their images I trace, Love and desireful pain and longing for their sight. O ye, one thought of whom clings round me like a cloak, Whose love it as a shirt about my body dight, O my beloved ones, how long will ye delay? How long must I endure estrangement and despite?
Then she wept and cried out and her son did the like, when in came the Vizier, whose heart burned within him at the sight of their weeping, and he said, "Why do ye weep?" The Lady of Beauty told him what had happened to Agib, and the Vizier also wept and called to mind his brother and all that had passed between them and what had befallen his daughter, and knew not the secret of the matter. Then he rose at once and going to the Divan, related the matter to the Sultan and begged his leave to travel eastward to the city of Bassora and enquire for his nephew. Moreover, he besought him for letters-patent, authorizing him to take Bedreddin, wherever he should find him. And he wept before the King, who took pity on him and wrote him royal letters-patent to his deputies in all his provinces; whereat the Vizier rejoiced and called down blessings on him. Then taking leave of him, he returned to his house, where he equipped himself and his daughter and grandson for the journey, and set out and travelled till he came to the city of Damascus and found it rich in trees and waters, even as says the poet:
I mind me a night and a day spent in Damascus town, (Time swore 'twould ne'er again their like to man outmete). We lay in its languorous glades, where the careless calm of the night And the morn, with its smiling eyes and its twy-coloured tresses, meet. The dew to its branches clings like a glittering chain of pearl, Whose jewels the zephyr smites and scatters beneath his feet. The birds on the branches chant from the open book of the lake; The breezes write on the scroll and the clouds mark the points, as they fleet.
The Vizier alighted without the city and pitched his tents in an open space called the Plain of Pebbles, saying to his servants, "We will rest here two days." So they went down into the city upon their several occasions, this to sell, that to buy, another to go to the bath and a fourth to visit the Mosque of the Ommiades, whose like is not in the world. Agib also went into the city to look about him, followed by an eunuch, carrying a knotted cudgel of almond-tree wood, wherewith if one smote a camel, it would not rise again. When the people of the city saw Agib's beauty and symmetry (for he was a marvel of loveliness and winning grace, blander than the Northern zephyr, sweeter than limpid water to the thirsty and more delightful than recovery to the sick), a great concourse of folk followed him, whilst others ran on before and sat down in the road, against he should come up, that they might gaze on him, till, as Fate would have it, the eunuch stopped before the shop of Bedreddin Hassan. Now the cook was dead and Bedreddin, having been formally adopted by him, had succeeded to his shop and property; and in the course of the twelve years that had passed over him, his beard had grown and his understanding ripened. When his son and the eunuch stopped before him, he had just finished preparing a mess of pomegranate-seed, dressed with sugar; and when he looked at Agib and saw how beautiful he was, his heart throbbed, blood drew to blood and his bowels yearned to him. So he called to him and said, "O my lord, O thou that hast gotten the mastery of my heart and my soul, thou to whom my bowels yearn, wilt thou not enter my shop and solace my heart by eating of my food?" And the tears welled up, uncalled, from his eyes, and he bethought him of his former estate and compared it with his present condition. When Agib heard his words his heart yearned to him, and he said to the eunuch, "Indeed, my heart inclines to this cook, and meseems he hath lost a child, so let us enter and gladden his soul by partaking of his hospitality. Perhaps God may requite us our kindness to him by reuniting us with my father." "By Allah!" replied the eunuch, "it were a fine thing for a Vizier's son to eat in a cookshop! Indeed, I keep off the folk with this stick, lest they look too closely on thee, and I dare not let thee enter a shop." When Bedreddin heard these words, he wondered and turned to the eunuch, with the tears running down his cheeks, and Agib said to the latter, "Indeed, my heart yearns for him." But he answered, "Leave this talk; indeed, thou shalt not go in." Then Bedreddin turned to the eunuch and said, "O noble sir, why wilt thou not gladden my soul by entering my shop? O thou who art as a chestnut, black without, but with a white heart, thou of whom the poet says ..........." The eunuch laughed and said, "What? Say on, by Allah, and be quick about it." So Bedreddin repeated the following verses:
Were he not polished and discreet and worthy of all trust, He in kings' houses would not be advanced to high estate. O what a guardian he is for a seraglio! The very angels of the skies delight on him to wait.
This pleased the eunuch, who laughed and taking Agib by the hand, entered the shop with him. Bedreddin ladled out a dishful of pomegranate-seed, conserved with almonds and sugar, and set it before them, saying, "Ye do me honour. Eat and may health and enjoyment attend you!" And Agib said to him, "Sit down and eat with us, so haply God may unite us with him for whom we long." "O my son," said Bedreddin, "hast thou then suffered the loss of friends, at thy tender age?" "Yes, O uncle!" answered Agib, "my heart irks me for the loss of a beloved one, who is none other than my father; and indeed my grandfather and myself have come forth to seek for him throughout the world. Alas I how I sigh to be united with him!" Then he wept sore, whilst Bedreddin wept at the sight of his tears and for his bereavement, which recalled to him his own separation from those he loved and from his father and mother, and the eunuch was moved to pity for him. Then they ate together till they were satisfied, and Agib and the eunuch rose and left the shop. At this, Bedreddin felt as if his soul had departed his body and gone with them, for he could not live a moment without their sight, albeit he knew not that Agib was his son. So he rose and shutting his shop, hastened after them and overtook them before they went out at the great gate. The eunuch turned and said to him, "What dost thou want?" "When you left me," replied Bedreddin, "meseemed my soul had quitted my body, and as I had an occasion without the city, I thought to bear you company till I had done my business and so return." The eunuch was vexed and said to Agib, "This is what I feared. Because we entered this fellow's shop and ate that unlucky mouthful, he thinks he has a right to presume upon us, for see, he follows us from place to place." Agib turned and seeing the cook following him, reddened for anger and said to the eunuch, "Let him walk in the high road of the Muslims; but if he follow us when we turn aside to our tents, we will drive him away." Then he bowed his head and walked on, with the eunuch behind him. When they came to the Plain of Pebbles and drew near their tents, Agib turned and saw Bedreddin still following him; whereat he was enraged, fearing least the eunuch should tell his grandfather and vexed that it should be said he had entered a cookshop and the cook had followed him. So he looked at Bedreddin and found his eyes fixed on him, for he was as it were a body without a soul; and it seemed to Agib that his eye was that of a knave or a lewd fellow. So his rage redoubled and he took up a stone and threw it at Bedreddin. It struck him on the forehead and cut it open; and he fell down in a swoon, with the blood streaming down his face, whilst Agib and the eunuch made for the tents. When he came to himself, he wiped away the blood and tore off a piece of the muslin of his turban, with which he bound his head, blaming himself and saying, "I wronged the lad in closing my shop and following him, so that he thought I was some lewd fellow." Then he returned to his shop, where he busied himself with the sale of his meats; and he yearned after his mother at Bassora and wept over her and recited the following verses:
If thou demand fair play of Fate, therein thou dost it wrong; And blame it not, for twas not made, indeed, for equity. Take what lies ready to thy hand and lay concern aside, For troubled days and days of peace in life must surely be.
Meanwhile, the Vizier, his uncle, tarried in Damascus three days, then departed for Hems, and passing through that city, fared on by way of Hemah and Aleppo and thence through Diarbekir, Maridin and Mosul, making enquiries at every place he came to, till he arrived at Bassora, where he halted and presented himself before the Sultan, who received him with honour and consideration and asked the reason of his coming. The Vizier related to him his history and told him that Noureddin Ali was his brother, whereupon the Sultan commended the latter's soul to the mercy of God and said, "Sir, he was my Vizier for fifteen years, and I loved him greatly. Then he died, leaving a son, who abode here but two months after his father's death; since which time he hath disappeared and we have never come upon any news of him. But his mother, who was the daughter of my former Vizier, is still with us." Shemseddin rejoiced to hear that his nephew's mother was still alive and said, "O King, I wish to see her." The King at once gave him leave to visit her; so he betook himself to his brother Noureddin's house and went round about it and kissed its threshold. And he bethought him of his brother and how he had died in a strange land and wept and repeated the following verses:
I wander through the halls, the halls where Leila lived, And kiss the lifeless walls that of her passage tell. It is not for the house that I with passion burn, But for the cherished ones that erst therein did dwell.
Then he entered the gate and found himself in a spacious courtyard, at the end whereof was a door vaulted over with hard stone, inlaid with vari-coloured marbles. He walked round about the house, and casting his eyes on the walls, saw the name of his brother Noureddin written on them in letters of gold. So he went up to the inscription and kissed it and wept for his brother's loss and repeated the following verses:
I sue unto the rising sun, each morn, for news of thee, And of the lightning's lurid gleam I do for thee enquire. The hands of passion and of pain sport with me all the night; Yet I complain not of the ills I suffer from desire. O my beloved, if the times be yet for me prolonged, be all consumed with separation's fire. Lo! if thy sight one happy day should bless my longing eyes, There is no other thing on earth that I of Fate require. Think not that other loves avail to solace me for thee; My heart can hold no love but thine, my faith can never tire.
Then he walked on till he came to the lodging of his brother's widow. Now from the day of her son's disappearance, she had given herself up to weeping and lamentation day and night; and when the years grew long upon her, she made him a tomb of marble midmost the saloon and there wept for him day and night, sleeping not but thereby. When the Vizier drew near her apartment, he heard her weeping and repeating verses, so he went in to her and saluting her, informed her that he was her husband's brother and told her all that had passed between them, and how her son Bedreddin Hassan had spent a whole night with his daughter, twelve years ago, but had disappeared in the morning, and how she had conceived by him and borne a son, whom he had brought with him. When Bedreddin's mother heard this news of her son and grandson and that the former was haply still alive and saw her husband's brother, she threw herself at his feet and kissed them, repeating the following verses:
May God be good to him who brought me news that they were come; For never more delightful news unto my ears were borne. If he would take a worn-out weds for boon, I'd proffer him A heart that at the parting hour was all to pieces torn.
Then the Vizier sent for Agib; and his grandmother embraced him and wept, but Shemseddin said to her, "This is no time for weeping; it behoves thee to make ready to go with us to Egypt; perhaps God will reunite us with thy son, my nephew." "I hear and obey," answered she, and rising at once, collected her goods and treasures and equipped herself and her handmaids for the journey, whilst the Vizier went to take his leave of the Sultan of Bassora, who sent by him gifts and rarities to the Sultan of Egypt. Then he set out at once on his homeward journey and travelled till he came to Damascus, where he halted and pitched his tents as before, saying to his suite, "We will halt here a week, to buy presents and curiosities for the Sultan." Now the tie of blood drew Agib to his father, so he said to the eunuch, "O Laic, I have a mind to go a-walking; so come, let us go down into the streets of Damascus and see what is become of the cook whose victuals we ate and whose head we broke, for indeed he was kind to us and we used him scurvily." The eunuch replied, "I hear and obey." So they left the tents and going down into the city, stayed not till they came to the cookshop, where they found Bedreddin Hassan standing at the door. It was near the time of afternoon-prayer, and as chance would have it, he had just prepared a mess of pomegranate-seed. Agib looked at him and saw the scar of the blow on his forehead; wherefore his heart yearned to him and he said, "Peace be on thee! Know that my heart is with thee." When Bedreddin saw him, his bowels were troubled and his heart throbbed, and he bowed his head and would have spoken, but could not. Then he raised his head and looked at his son humbly and imploringly and repeated the following verses:
I longed to look on him I love; but when I saw his face, I was as one amazed and lost the use of tongue and eyes. I bowed my head down to his feet for reverence and awe, And would have hidden what I felt, but could it not disguise. Volumes of plaining and reproach I had within my heart; Yet, when we met, no word I spoke nor uttered aught but sighs.
Then he said to them, "Heal my heart and eat of my food, for, by Allah, I cannot look at you but my heart throbs! I should not have followed you the other day, but that I was beside myself." "By Allah," replied Agib, "thou art too fond of us! We ate with thee before and thou madest us repent of it, in that thou followedst us and wouldst have put us to shame; so we will not eat with thee, except thou swear not to go out after us nor follow us. Else we will not visit thee again during our present stay, for we abide here a week, that my grandfather may take presents for the King." And Bedreddin said, "I grant you this." So Agib and the eunuch entered, and Bedreddin set before them a dish of pomegranate-seed. Quoth Agib, "Sit down and eat with us, so haply God may grant us relief." At this Bedreddin was glad and sat down and ate with them, with his eyes fixed on Agib's face, for indeed his heart and entrails were taken with his love, till the boy said to him, "What a tiresome dotard thou art! Leave thy staring in my face." When Bedreddin heard this, he repeated the following verses:
Thy face excites in all men's hearts a love they do not own; Folded in silence and concealed, it may not be made known. O thou whose beauty puts to shame the splendour of the moon, Whose grace recalls the shining sight of morning newly blown, In thy bright visage is a sign that may not be fulfilled, And there all beauties that incite to tenderness are shown. Must I then die of thirst, what while thy lips with nectar flow? Thy face is Paradise to me; must I in hell-fire groan?
So they ate till they were satisfied, when Bedreddin rose and poured water on their hands, wiping them with a napkin of silk, which he loosed from his waist; after which he sprinkled rose-water on them from a casting-bottle he had by him. Then he went out and returned with a pitcher of sherbet, flavoured with rose-water and musk, which he set before them, saying, "Complete your favours to me, by drinking of this sherbet." So Agib took the pitcher and drank and passed it to the eunuch, and it went round amongst them till their stomachs were full, for they had eaten and drunken beyond their wont. Then they went away and made haste in walking till they reached the tents, and Agib went in to his grandmother, who kissed him, and thinking of her son Bedreddin Hassan, wept and repeated the following verses:
But for my hope that God would yet our severed loves unite, I had not lived for life to me is void of all delight. I swear there's nothing in my heart but love of thee alone, By God, who reads the heart and brings the hidden things to light!
And she said to Agib, "O my son, where hast thou been?" Quoth he, "We have been in the city of Damascus. Then she rose and set before him confection of pomegranate-seed and said to the eunuch, "Sit down and eat with thy young master." The eunuch said to himself, "By Allah, we have no mind to eat!" but he sat down, and so did Agib, though his belly was full of what he had already eaten and drunk. Now the conserve lacked sugar, so he took a piece of bread and dipped it therein and ate, but found it insipid, for that he was already surfeited, and exclaimed, "Faugh! what is this nasty mess?" "O my son," said his grandmother, "dost thou find fault with my cookery? I cooked this myself, and there is not a cook in the land can compare with me, except it be thy father Bedreddin Hassan." "O my lady," replied Agib, "this thy dish is naught; for we saw but now in the city a cook who dresses pomegranate-seed, so that the very smell of it opens the heart and the taste would give a full man an appetite; and as for thy mess, compared with his, it is worth neither much nor little." When his grandmother heard this, she was exceeding wroth and said to the eunuch, "Out on thee, dost thou corrupt my grandson and take him into cookshops?" The eunuch was frightened and denied, saying, "We did not enter the shop, but only saw it in passing." "By Allah!" said Agib, "we went in and ate, and it was better than thine." Then his grandmother rose and went and told her brother-in-law, who was incensed against the eunuch and sending for him, said to him, "Why didst thou take my son into a cookshop?" "We did not go in," replied the eunuch. But Agib said, "We did go in and ate of pomegranate-seed, till we were full; and the cook gave us to drink of iced sherbet of sugar." At this, the Vizier's anger redoubled and he questioned the eunuch, but he still denied. Then said the Vizier, "If what thou sayest be true, sit down and eat before us." So he sat down and tried to eat, but could not and threw away the morsel, saying, "O my lord, indeed I am full since yesterday." By this, the Vizier knew that he had eaten at the cook's and bade his slaves throw him down and beat him. So they drubbed him, till he roared for mercy and said, "O my lord, do not beat me, and I will tell thee the truth." Whereupon the Vizier stopped the beating and said, "Speak the truth." Quoth the eunuch, "Know then that we did enter the shop of a cook, who was dressing pomegranate seed, and he set some of it before us; by Allah, I never ate the like of it in my life, nor did I ever taste aught nastier than that which is before us!" Bedreddin's mother was enraged at this and said to the eunuch, "Thou must go back to the cook and fetch us a dish of his pomegranate-seed and show it to thy master, that he may say which is the better, his or mine." "Good," answered he. So she gave him a dish and half a dinar, and he returned to the shop and said to Bedreddin, "We have made a wager about thy cookery in our lord's household, for they have pomegranate-seed there also; so give me half a dinar's worth of thy confection and let it be of thy best, for I have eaten my bellyful of stick on account of thy cookery." Bedreddin laughed and answered, "By Allah, none can dress this dish aright but myself and my mother, and she is far away." Then he filled the dish with pomegranate-seed and finishing it off with musk and rose-water, gave it to the eunuch, who hastened back with it and delivered it to Bedreddin's mother. No sooner had she tasted it and remarked the excellence of its flavour and cookery, than she knew who had dressed it and shrieked and fell down in a swoon, to the amazement of the Vizier, who sprinkled rose-water on her, till she came to herself and said, "If my son be yet of this world, none made this conserve but he! Without doubt, this cook is my son Bedreddin Hassan, for none knew how to dress this dish but he and I, and I taught him." The Vizier rejoiced greatly at her words, and said, "O how I long to see my brother's son! I wonder if the days will indeed reunite us with him! But it is to God alone that we look for reunion with him." Then he went out forthright and said to his men, "Let twenty of you go to the cook's shop and demolish it; then tie his hands behind him with the linen of his turban, saying, 'It was thou madest that vile mess of pomegranate-seed,' and bring him hither by force, but without doing him any hurt." And they replied, "It is well." Then he mounted and riding to the palace, foregathered with the Viceroy of Damascus and showed him the Sultan's letters- patent. He kissed them and laying them on his head, said to the Vizier, "Who is it hath offended against thee?" Quoth the Vizier, "He is a cook of this city." So the Viceroy at once despatched his chamberlains to the shop and they went thither and found it in ruins and everything in it broken; for whilst the Vizier was at the palace, his men had done his bidding and carried Bedreddin to the tents, where they were then awaiting their master's return, whilst Bedreddin said, "I wonder what they can have found in the pomegranate-seed to bring matters to this pass!" When the Vizier returned to the tents, after having gotten the Viceroy's permission to take his debtor and depart with him, he called for the cook, and they brought Bedreddin before him, with his hands bound behind his back. When he saw his uncle, he wept sore and said, "O my lord, what is my offence against thee?" "Art thou he who made the mess of pomegranate-seed?" asked Shemseddin. "Yes," replied Bedreddin; "didst thou find aught in it to call for the cutting off of my head?" Quoth the Vizier, "That were the least of thy desert." "O my lord," said Bedreddin, "wilt thou not tell me my crime and what ails the pomegranate-seed?" "Presently," answered the Vizier and called to his men, saying, "Bring the camels." So they struck camp and the Vizier caused Bedreddin to be put into a chest, which they locked and set on a camel. Then they departed and journeyed till nightfall, when they halted to eat and took Bedreddin out of his chest and fed him and locked him up again. Then they set out again and travelled till they reached Kumreh, where they took him out of the chest and brought him before the Vizier, who said to him, "Art thou he who made the mess of pomegranate-seed?" "Yes, O my lord," answered he; and Shemseddin said, "Shackle him." So they shackled him and returned him to the chest and fared on again, till they arrived at Cairo and halted in the suburb of Er Reidaniyeh. Then the Vizier commanded to take Bedreddin out of his chest and sent for a carpenter, to whom he said, "Make a cross of wood for this fellow." Quoth Bedreddin, "What wilt thou do with it?" "I mean to nail thee upon it," replied the Vizier, "and parade thee throughout the city." "And why wilt thou use me thus? asked Bedreddin; and the Vizier answered, "Because of thy villainous mess of pomegranate-seed and for that it lacked pepper." "And because it lacked pepper," said Bedreddin, "wilt thou do all this to me? Is it not enough that thou hast laid my shop in ruins and smashed my gear and imprisoned me and fed me but once a day?" "It lacked pepper," answered the Vizier; "and nothing less than death is thy desert." At this Bedreddin wondered and mourned for himself, till the Vizier said to him, "Of what art thou thinking?" "I was thinking of crack-brains like unto thee," answered Bedreddin, "for hadst thou any sense, thou wouldst not treat me thus." Quoth the Vizier, "It behoves me to punish thee, lest thou do the like again." And Bedreddin said, "Verily, my offence were over-punished by the least of what thou hast already done to me." "It avails not," answered Shemseddin; "I must crucify thee." All this time the carpenter was shaping the cross, whilst Bedreddin looked on; and thus they did till nightfall, when the Vizier took him and clapped him in the chest, saying, "The thing shall be done tomorrow." Then he waited till he knew Bedreddin to be asleep, when he mounted and taking the chest up before him, rode into the town to his own house, where he alighted and said to his daughter, the Lady of Beauty, "Praised be God who hath reunited thee with thy cousin! Arise and order the house as it was on thy wedding-night." So the servants arose and lit the candles, whilst the Vizier took out his plan of the bride chamber and directed them what to do, till they had set everything in its place, so that whoever saw it would not doubt but it was the very night of the wedding. Then he made them lay Bedreddin's turban on the stool, where he had left it, and his trousers and purse under the mattress, and bade his daughter undress herself and go to bed, as on the wedding-night, adding, "When he comes in to thee, say to him, 'Thou has tarried long in the wardrobe,' and call him to lie with thee and hold him in converse till the morning, when we will explain the whole matter to him." Then he took Bedreddin out of the chest and laid him in the vestibule, after he had unbound him and taken off his clothes, leaving him in a shirt of fine silk, and he still asleep and knowing nothing. Presently he turned over and awoke, and finding himself in a lighted vestibule, said to himself, "Surely, I am dreaming." Then he rose and opening the inner door, found himself in the chamber, where he had passed his wedding-night, and knew the alcove and the stool by the bed-side, with his turban and clothes. When he saw this, he was confounded and advanced one foot and drew the other back, saying, "Am I asleep or awake?" And he began to rub his forehead and say, wondering, "By Allah, this is the chamber of the bride that was unveiled before me! But where can I be? I was surely but now in a chest." Whilst he was debating with himself, the Lady of Beauty lifted the curtain of the alcove and said to him, "O my lord, wilt thou not come in? Thou hast tarried long in the wardrobe." When he heard what she said and saw her face, he laughed and said, "This is certainly an imbroglio of dreams!" Then he entered, sighing, and recalled what had happened and was perplexed, and his affair became confused to him and he knew not what to think. Presently, he caught sight of his turban and trousers, so he handled the latter and feeling the purse of a thousand dinars, said, "God alone is all knowing! I am certainly in the mazes of a dream." Then said the Lady of Beauty to him, "What ails thee to stand agape and seem perplexed? Thou wast not thus the first part of the night." He laughed and said to her, "How long have I been absent from thee?" "God preserve thee!" exclaimed she. "The name of God encompass thee! Thou didst but go out an hour ago to do an occasion and return. Hast thou lost thy wits?" When Bedreddin heard this, he laughed and said, "Thou art right; but when I went out from thee, I forgot myself in the closet and dozed and dreamt that I was a cook in Damascus and abode there twelve years and that there came to me a boy, the son of some great man, and with him an eunuch." Here he put his hand to his forehead and feeling the scar made by the stone, said, "By Allah, O lady, it must have been true, for here is the scar made by the stone, with which he smote me and cut my forehead open. So it would seem as if it had really happened. But perhaps I dreamt it, when we embraced and fell asleep together: for meseemed I journeyed to Damascus without turban or drawers and set up as a cook there." Then he was perplexed and considered awhile and said, "By Allah, I fancied also that I made a mess of pomegranate-seed and put too little pepper in it. By Allah, I must have slept in the closet and dreamt all this!" "God on thee," said the Lady of Beauty, "tell me what else thou didst dream." "By Allah," replied he, "had I not woke up, they would have nailed me to a cross of wood!" "Wherefore?" asked she; and he said, "Because of the lack of pepper in the pomegranate-seed. Meseemed they demolished my shop and broke my utensils in pieces and put me in a chest; then they sent for a carpenter to make a cross and would have crucified me thereon. But praised be God who caused all this to happen to me in sleep and not on wake!" The Lady of Beauty laughed and pressed him to her bosom, and he returned her caresses; then he thought again and said, "By Allah, I cannot help thinking it must have been a reality after all! Indeed I know not what to think of it all." Then he lay down and passed the night in a state of perplexity, saying now, "I was dreaming," and now, "I was awake," till the morning, when his uncle Shemseddin entered and saluted him. When Bedreddin saw him, he said to him, "By Allah, art thou not he who gave orders to bind me and demolish my shop and would have nailed me on a cross, and all because a mess of pomegranate-seed lacked pepper?" "O my son," replied the Vizier, "know that the truth has appeared and that which was hidden is divulged. Thou art my brother's son, and I did all this with thee but that I might certify myself that thou wast indeed he who lay with my daughter on her wedding-night. I could not be sure of this, till I saw that thou knewest the chamber and thy turban and clothes and purse and the scrolls in thy handwriting and that of my brother, for I had never seen thee and did not know thee; and I have brought thy mother with me from Bassora." So saying, he threw himself on him and they embraced and wept for excess of joy. Then said the Vizier to Bedreddin, "O my son, all this came of what passed between thy father and myself." And he told him what had taken place between them and the manner of his father's flight to Bassora; after which he sent for Agib, and when his father saw him, he exclaimed, "This is he who threw the stone at me!" Quoth the Vizier, "This is thy son." And Bedreddin threw himself on Agib and repeated the following verses:
Long time have I bewailed the sev'rance of our loves, With tears that from my lids streamed down like burning rain, And vowed that, if the days should reunite us two, My lips should never speak of severance again. Joy hath o'erwhelmed me so, that for the very stress Of that which gladdens me, to weeping I am fain. Tears are become to you a habit, O my eyes! So that ye weep as well for gladness as for pain.
Presently, Bedreddin's mother came in and fell on him, repeating the following verses:
When we met, to each other we both did complain Of the manifold things that we each had to say; For the lover's complaint of the anguish he feels The tongue of a messenger cannot convey.
Then she wept and related to him what had befallen her since his departure, and he told her what he had suffered and they thanked God the Most High for their reunion with one another. Two days after his arrival, the Vizier went in to the Sultan and kissing the earth before him, saluted him after the fashion of salutation to kings. The Sultan rejoiced at his return and received him with distinguished favour. Then he desired to hear what had befallen him in his travels; so the Vizier told him all that had passed, and the Sultan said, "Praised be God for that thou hast attained thy desire and returned in safety to thy kinsfolk and family! I must see thy brother's son, so do thou bring him to the Divan tomorrow." Shemseddin replied, "God willing, thy slave shall be present tomorrow." Then he saluted him and returning to his own house, informed his nephew of the King's wish to see him, to which Bedreddin replied, "The slave is obedient to his lord's commands." So next day he accompanied his uncle to the Divan and after saluting the Sultan in the most punctilious and elegant manner, repeated the following verses:
All ranks and classes kiss the earth, in homage to thy state, For lo I through thee their every wish is crowned with happy fate. For thou the fount of honour art for those that hope in thee, And from thy hand the bounties flow that make there rich and great.
The Sultan smiled and signed to him to sit down. So he sat down beside the Vizier, and the King enquired his name. Quoth Bedreddin, "The meanest of thy slaves is known as Bedreddin Hassan of Bassora, who prays for thee day and night." The Sultan was pleased at his words and being minded to try him and prove his knowledge and good-breeding, said to him, "Dost thou remember any verses in praise of a mole on the cheek?" "Yes," replied Bedreddin, and repeated the following:
When I think of my loved one, the sighs from my breast Burst up and the tears to my eyes quickly start. She's a mole, that resembles, in beauty and hue, The black of the eye and the core of the heart.
The Sultan liked these verses and said, "Let us have some more. Heaven bless thy sire! May thy tongue never tire!" So he repeated the following:
The mole's black spot upon her cheek they liken to a grain Of musk; yet wonder not at that, for wonder were in vain. But rather wonder at her face, wherein all beauty is: There is no particle of grace that it doth not contain.
The Sultan shook with delight and said to him, "More! God bless thy life!" So he repeated the following:
O thou, the moles upon whose cheek recall Globules of musk upon cornelian strewed, Grant me thy favours, be not hard of heart, O thou, my heart's desire, my spirit's food!
Then said the King, "Thou hast done well, O Hassan, and hast acquitted thyself most excellently. But tell me how many meanings hath the word khal in the Arabic language." "Fifty," replied Hassan, "and some say eight and-fifty." Quoth the King, "Thou art right. Canst thou tell me the points of excellence in beauty?" "Yes," answered Bedreddin, "Brightness of face, purity of skin, shapeliness in the nose, softness in the eyes, sweetness in the mouth, elegance in speech, slenderness of shape and quickness of wit; and the perfection of beauty is in the hair. And indeed Es Shihab el Hijazi has brought them all together in the following doggrel:
Say to the face, 'Be bright,' and to the skin, say, 'See, I show thee what befits thee best: 'tis purity.' For elegance of shape the nose we chiefly prize, And languor soft it is, that best becomes the eyes. Then say unto the mouth, 'Sweetness, but mark thou me; Let fragrancy of breath fail never unto thee.' Chaste be the speech, the shape be slender and well knit, And quickness mark the thought, the manners and the wit. Then say that in the hair is ever beauty's prime. Give ear to me and eke forgive my doggrel rhyme."
The Sultan rejoiced in his converse and said to him "What is the meaning of the popular saying, 'Shureih is more cunning than the fox'?" "Know, O King," answered Bedreddin, "may God aid thee! that Shureih was wont during the days of the plague, to go out to Nejef, and whenever he stood up to pray, there came a fox, which would plant itself over against him and distract him from his devotions by mimicking his movements. This went on for some time, till the man became weary of it; so one day he took off his shirt and put it on a cane and shook out the sleeves. Then he set his turban on top of the cane and tied a girdle round the middle of the effigy and planted it in the place where he used to say his prayers. Presently up came the fox, according to his wont, and stood over against the figure; whereupon Shureih came behind him and took him: hence the saying." When the Sultan heard Bedreddin's explanation, he said to his uncle Shemseddin, "Verily, this thy nephew is perfect in all kinds of culture. I do not believe that his like is to be found in Egypt." At this, Bedreddin arose and kissed the earth and sat down again in the posture of a servant before his master. When the Sultan had thus assured himself of his proficiency in the liberal arts, he rejoiced greatly and bestowing on him a splendid dress of honour, invested him with an office, whereby he might better his condition. Then Bedreddin arose and kissing the earth before the King, wished him enduring glory and craved leave to retire. The Sultan gave him leave; so he returned home with his uncle and they set food before them and they ate, after which Bedreddin repaired to his wife's apartment and told her what had passed between the Sultan and himself. Quoth she, "He cannot fail to make thee his boon-companion and load thee with favours and presents; and by the grace of God, the splendours of thy perfections shall shine like the greater light, wherever thou goest, by land or sea." Then said he, "I purpose to make an ode in the King's praise, that he may redouble in affection for me." "That is well thought," replied she. "Consider it well and word thy thought elegantly, and I doubt not but it will procure thee his favour." So Bedreddin shut himself up and composed the following verses, which he copied in an ornamental hand:
My King hath reached the height of lordlihead; The shining path of virtue he cloth tread. His justice blocks the ways against his foes And peace and plenty showers on every stead. Bold as a lion, pious, quick of wit, Angel or King, he's whichsoe'er is said. He sends the suppliant content away. Words fail, indeed, to paint his goodlihead. In time of gifts, he's like the brilliant moon; Like night, in battle, lowering and dread. Our necks are girt with his munificence; He rules by favours on the noble shed. May God prolong his life for our behoof And ward the blows of Fortune from his head.
When he had finished transcribing the poem, he despatched it by one of his uncle's slaves to the King, who perused it, and it gladdened his heart; so he read it out to those present before him and they praised it exceedingly. Then he sent for Bedreddin to his sitting-chamber and said to him, "Henceforth thou art my boon-companion and I appoint thee a stipend of a thousand dirhems a month, over and above what I have already given thee." So he arose and kissing the earth three times before the Sultan, wished him abiding glory and length of life. Then Bedreddin increased in honour and estate, so that his report spread into all countries, and he abode in the enjoyment of all the delights and comforts of life, he and his uncle and family, till Death overtook him.'
When the Khalif Haroun er Reshid heard this story from the mouth of his Vizier Jaafer, he wondered and said, 'It behoves that these stories be written in letters of gold.' Then he set the slave at liberty and assigned the young man who had killed his wife such a monthly allowance as sufficed to make his life easy. Moreover he gave him one of his female slaves to wife, and he became one of his boon-companions.
[Go to The Story of the Hunchback]
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