[Go back to Story of the Hunchback (cont.)]
There was once a King in Bassora who cherished the poor and needy and loved his subjects and bestowed of his wealth on those who believed in Mohammed (whom God bless and preserve!) and he was even as the poet hath described him:
A King who, when the hostile hosts assault him in the field, Smites them and hews them, limb from limb, with trenchant sword and spear Full many a character of red he writes upon the breasts What time the mailed horsemen break before his wild career.
His name was King Mohammed ben Suleiman ez Zeini, and he had two Viziers, one called Muin ben Sawa and the other Fezl ben Khacan. Fezl was the most generous man of his time; noble and upright of life, all hearts concurred in loving him, and the wise complied with his counsel, whilst all the people wished him long life; for that he was a compend of good qualities, encouraging good and preventing evil and mischief. The Vizier Muin, on the contrary, was a hater of mankind and loved not good, being indeed altogether evil; even as says of him the poet:
Look thou consort with the generous, sons of the gen'rous; for lo! The generous, sons of the gen'rous, beget the gen'rous, I trow. And let the mean-minded men, sons of the mean-minded, go, For the mean-minded, sons of the mean, beget none other than so.
And as much as the people loved Fezl, so much did they hate Muin. It befell one day, that the King, being seated on his throne, with his officers of state about him, called his Vizier Fezl and said to him, 'I wish to have a slave-girl of unsurpassed beauty, perfect in grace and symmetry and endowed with all praiseworthy qualities.' Said the courtiers, 'Such a girl is not to be had for less than ten thousand dinars!' whereupon the King cried out to his treasurer and bade him carry ten thousand dinars to Fezl's house. The treasurer did so, and the Vizier went away, after the King had charged him to go to the market every day and employ brokers and had given orders that no girl worth more than a thousand dinars should be sold, without being first shown to the Vizier. Accordingly, the brokers brought him all the girls that came into their hands, but none pleased him, till one day a broker came to his house and found him mounting his horse, to go to the palace; so he caught hold of his stirrup and repeated the following verses:
O thou whose bounties have restored the uses of the state, O Vizier helped of heaven, whose acts are ever fortunate! Thou hast revived the virtues all were dead among the folk. May God's acceptance evermore on thine endeavours wait!
Then said he, 'O my lord, she for whom the august mandate was issued is here.' 'Bring her to me,' replied the Vizier. So he went away and returned in a little with a damsel of elegant shape, swelling-breasted, with melting black eyes and smooth cheeks, slender-waisted and heavy-hipped, clad in the richest of clothes. The dew of her lips was sweeter than syrup, her shape more symmetrical than the bending branch and her speech softer than the morning zephyr, even as says one of those who have described her:
A wonder of beauty! Her face full moon of the palace sky; Of a tribe of gazelles and wild cows the dearest and most high! The Lord of the empyrean hath given her pride and state, Elegance, charm and a shape that with the branch may vie; She hath in the heaven of her face a cluster of seven stars, That keep the ward of her cheek to guard it from every spy. So if one think to steal a look, the imps of her glance Consume him straight with a star, that shoots from her gleaming eye.
When the Vizier saw her she pleased him exceedingly, so he turned to the broker and said to him, 'What is the price of this damsel?' 'Her price is ten thousand dinars,' replied he, 'and her owner swears that this sum will not cover the cost of the chickens she hath eaten, the wine she hath drunk and the dresses of honour bestowed on her teachers; for she hath learnt penmanship and grammar and lexicology and the exposition of the Koran and the rudiments of law and theology, medicine and the calendar, as well as the art of playing on instruments of music.' Then said the Vizier, 'Bring me her master.' So the broker brought him at once, and behold, he was a foreigner, who had lived so long that time had worn him to bones and skin. Quoth the Vizier to him, 'Art thou content to sell this damsel to the Sultan for ten thousand dinars?' 'By Allah,' replied the merchant, 'if I made him a present of her, it were but my duty!' So the Vizier sent for the money and gave it to the slave-dealer, who said, 'By the leave of our lord the Vizier, I have something to say.' 'Speak,' said the Vizier: and the slave-dealer said, 'If thou wilt be ruled by me, thou wilt not carry the damsel to the King to-day, for she is newly off a journey; the change of air has affected her and the journey has fretted her. But let her abide in thy palace ten days, that she may recover her good looks. Then send her to the bath and dress her in the richest of clothes and go up with her to the Sultan, and this will be more to thy profit.' The Vizier considered the man's advice and approved it; so he took her to his palace, where he appointed her a separate lodging and a daily allowance of meat and drink and so forth, and she abode thus awhile.
Now the Vizier Fezl had a son like the rising full moon, with shining visage, red cheeks covered with a tender down and a mole like a grain of ambergris; as says of him the poet and therein errs not:
A moon, whose glances slay the folk, on whom he turns his eye; A branch, whose graces break all hearts, as he goes stately by Slack as the night his browlocks are, his face the hue of gold; Fair is his person, and his shape the spear-shaft doth outvie. Ah me, how hard his heart, how soft and slender is his waist! Why is the softness not transferred from this to that, ah why? Were but the softness of his sides made over to his heart, He'd ne'er to lovers be unjust nor leave them thus to sigh. O thou that blam'st my love of thee, excuse me rather thou, Nor chide me, if my body pine for languor like to die. The fault, indeed, lies not with me, but with my heart and eye; So chide me not, but let me be in this my misery.
Now he knew not the affair of the damsel, and his father had lessoned her, saying, 'Know, O my daughter, that I have bought thee for the bed of the King Mohammed ben Suleiman ez Zeini, and I have a son who leaves no girl in the quarter but he has to do with her; so be on thy guard against him and beware of letting him see thy face or hear thy voice.' 'I hear and obey,' replied she; and the Vizier left her and went away. Some days after this it chanced, as Fate would have it, that the damsel went to the bath in the house, where some of the serving-women washed her, after which she arrayed herself in rich apparel, and her beauty and grace redoubled. Then she went in to the Vizier's wife and kissed her hand; and the lady said to her, 'May it profit thee, O Enis el Jelis! How didst thou find the bath?' 'O my lady,' answered she, 'I lacked but thy presence there.' Thereupon said the mistress to her waiting-women, 'Come with me to the bath, for it is some days since I went thither.' 'We hear and obey,' answered they; and rose and accompanied her to the bath, after Enis el Jelis had retired to her own chamber and the lady had set two little slave-girls to keep the door, charging them to let none go in to the damsel. Presently, as Enis el Jelis sat resting after the bath, in came the Vizier's son, whose name was Noureddin Ali, and asked after his mother and her women, to which the two little slaves replied that they had gone to the bath. The damsel heard Noureddin's voice and said to herself, 'I wonder what like is this youth, of whom his father says that there is not a girl in the quarter but he has had to do with her. By Allah, I long to see him!' So she rose, fresh as she was from the bath, and going to the door, looked at Noureddin and saw that he was like the moon at its full. The sight cost her a thousand sighs, and Noureddin, chancing to look that way, caught a glance of her that caused him also a thousand regrets, and each fell into the snare of the other's love. Then he went up to the two little slaves and cried out at them, whereupon they fled before him and stood afar off to see what he would do. And behold, he went up to the door of the damsel's chamber and entering, said to her, 'Art thou she whom my father bought for me?' 'Yes,' answered she: whereupon Noureddin, who was heated with wine, went up to her and embraced her, whilst she wreathed her arms about his neck and met him with kisses and sighs and amorous gestures. Then he sucked her tongue and she his, and he did away her maidenhead. When the two little slaves saw their young master go in to the damsel, they cried out and shrieked. So, as soon as he had done his desire, he rose and fled, fearing the issue of his conduct. When the Vizier's wife heard the slaves' cries, she sprang up and came out of the bath, with the sweat dripping from her, saying, 'What is this clamour in the house?' Then she came up to the two little slaves, and said to them, 'Out on you! what is the matter?' 'Our lord Noureddin came in and beat us,' answered they: 'so we fled and he went in to the damsel and embraced her, and we know not what he did after this: but when we cried out to thee, he fled.' Thereupon, the mistress went in to Enis el Jelis and enquired what had happened. 'O my lady,' answered she, 'as I was sitting here, there came in a handsome young man, who said to me, "Art thou she whom my father bought for me?" I answered, "Yes;" (for by Allah, O my lady, I believed that he spoke the truth!) and with this he came up to me and embraced me.' 'Did he nought else with thee?' asked the lady. 'Yes,' replied Enis el Jelis: 'he took of me three kisses.' 'He did not leave thee without deflowering thee!' cried the Vizier's wife, and fell to weeping and buffeting her face, she and her women, fearing that Noureddin's father would kill him. Whilst they were thus, in came the Vizier and asked what was the matter, and his wife said to him, 'Swear that thou wilt hearken to what I say.' 'It is well,' replied he. So she told him what his son had done, and he was greatly afflicted and tore his clothes and buffeted his face and plucked out his beard. 'Do not kill thyself,' said his wife: 'I will give thee the ten thousand dinars, her price, of my own money.' But he raised his head and said to her, 'Out on thee! I have no need of her price, but I fear to lose both life and goods.' 'How so?' asked his wife, and he said, 'Dost thou not know that yonder is our enemy Muin ben Sawa, who, when he hears of this affair, will go up to the Sultan and say to him, "Thy Vizier, who thou wilt have it loves thee, had of thee ten thousand dinars and bought therewith a slave-girl, whose like was never seen; but when he saw her, she pleased him and he said to his son, 'Take her: thou art worthier of her than the Sultan.' So he took her and did away her maidenhead, and she is now with him." The King will say, "Thou liest!" To which Muin will reply, "With thy leave, I will fall on him at unawares and bring her to thee." The King will order him to do this, and he will come down upon the house and take the damsel and bring her before the King, who will question her and she will not be able to deny what has passed. Then Muin will say, "O my lord, thou knowest that I give thee true counsel, but I am not in favour with thee." Thereupon the Sultan will make an example of me, and I shall be a gazing-stock to all the people and my life will be lost.' Quoth his wife, 'Tell none of this thing, which has happened privily, but commit thy case to God and trust in Him to deliver thee from this strait.' With this the Vizier's heart was set at rest, and his wrath and chagrin subsided.
Meanwhile, Noureddin, fearing the issue of the affair, spent the whole day in the gardens and came back by night to his mother's apartment, where he slept and rising before day, returned to the gardens. He lived thus for a whole month, not showing his face to his father, till at last his mother said to the Vizier, 'O my lord, shall we lose our own son as well as the damsel? If things continue thus for long, the lad will flee forth from us.' 'What is to be done?' said he: and she answered, 'Do thou watch this night, and when he comes, seize on him and frighten him. I will rescue him from thee and do thou then make peace with him and give him the girl, for she loves him and he her; and I will pay thee her price.' So the Vizier watched that night and when his son came, he seized him and throwing him down, knelt on his breast and made as if he would cut his throat; but his mother came to his succour and said to her husband, 'What wilt thou do with him?' Quoth he, 'I mean to kill him.' And Noureddin said to his father 'Am I of so little account with thee?' Whereupon the Vizier's eyes filled with tears and he replied, 'O my son, is the loss of my goods and my life of so little account in thine eyes?' Quoth Noureddin, 'Hear, O my father, what the poet says:
Pardon me: true, I have sinned: yet the sagacious man Ceases never to pardon freely the erring wight. Surely, therefore, thy foe may hope for pardon from thee, Since he is in the abyss and thou on honour's height!'
Then the Vizier rose from off his breast, saying, 'O my son, I forgive thee!' for his heart was softened. Noureddin rose and kissed the hand of his father, who said to him, 'If I knew that thou wouldst deal fairly by Enis el Jelis, I would give her to thee.' 'O my father,' replied Noureddin, 'how should I not deal fairly by her?' Quoth the Vizier, 'O my son, I charge thee not to take another wife nor concubine to share with her nor sell her.' 'O my father,' answered Noureddin, 'I swear to thee that I will do none of these things.' Then he went in to the damsel and abode with her a whole year, whilst God caused the King to forget the affair. The matter, indeed, came to Muin's ears, but he dared not speak of it, by reason of the favour in which the Vizier Fezl stood with the Sultan. At the end of the year, the Vizier Fezl went one day to the bath and coming out, whilst still in a sweat, the air smote him and he caught cold and took to his bed. His malady gained upon him and sleeplessness was long upon him; so he called his son Noureddin and said to him, 'O my son, know that fortune is lotted out and the term of life fixed, and needs must every soul drain the cup of death.' And he repeated the following verses:
I'm dead: yet glory be to Him that dieth not; For that I needs must die, indeed, full well I wot, He is no king, who dies with kingship in his hand, For sovranty belongs to Him that dieth not.
Then he continued, 'O my son, I have no charge to lay on thee, except that thou fear God and look to the issue of thine actions and cherish the damsel Enis el Jelis.' 'O my father,' said Noureddin, 'who is like unto thee? Indeed thou art renowned for the practice of virtue and the praying of the preachers for thee in the pulpits.' Quoth Fezl, 'O my son, I hope for acceptance from God the Most High.' Then he pronounced the two professions of the faith and was numbered among the blessed. The palace was filled with crying and lamentation, and the news of his death reached the King and the people of the city, and even the children in the schools wept for Fezi ben Khacan. Then his son Noureddin arose and took order for his funeral, and the Amirs and Viziers and grandees were present, amongst them the Vizier Muin ben Sawa; and as the funeral train came forth of the palace, one of the mourners recited the following verses:
The fifth day I departed and left my friends alone: They laid me out and washed me upon a slab of stone; Then stripped me of the raiment that on my body was, That they might put upon me clothes other than my own On four men's necks they bore me unto the place of prayer And prayed a prayer above me by no prostration known. Then in a vaulted dwelling they laid me. Though the years Shall waste, its door will never be open to them thrown.
When they had laid him in the earth, Noureddin returned with the folk; and he lamented with groans and tears and the tongue of the case repeated the following verses:
On the fifth day they departed in the eventide, and I Took of them the last leave-taking, when they went and left me here. When they turned away and left me, lo! the soul with them did go. And I said, "Return." It answered, "Where, alas! should I recur; Shall I come back to a body whence the life and blood are flown? Nothing now but bones are left it, rattling in the sepulchre. Lo! my eyes, excess of weeping hath put out their sight, I trow, And a deafness eke is fallen on my ears: I cannot hear."
He abode a long while in great grief for his father, till one day, as he sat in his house, there came a knocking at the door; so he rose and opening the door, found there a man who had been one of his father's friends and boon-companions. He entered and kissing Noureddin's hand, said to him, 'O my lord, he who has left the like of thee is not dead; and to this pass (death) came even the lord of the first and the last. O my lord, take comfort and leave mourning!' Thereupon Noureddin rose and going to the guest-chamber, transported thither all that he needed. Then his friends gathered together to him and he took his slave-girl again and collecting round him ten of the sons of the merchants, began to eat meat and drink wine, giving entertainment after entertainment and dispensing gifts and favours with a lavish hand, till one day his steward came to him and said, 'O my lord Noureddin, hast thou not heard the saying, "He who spends and does not reckon, becomes poor without knowing it?"' And he repeated the following verses:
I'll hold my money fast, knowing, as well as I know, That 'tis my sword and shield against my every foe. If I should lavish it on those who love me not, My luck among the folk would change to grief and woe. So I will eat and drink my wealth for my own good Nor upon any man a single doit bestow. I will preserve with care my money from all those By nature base and true to none. 'Tis better so Than that I e'er should say unto the mean of soul, "Lend me so much I'll pay to-morrow five-fold mo," And see my friend avert his face and turn away, Leaving my soul cast down, as 'twere a dog's, I trow! O what a sorry lot is his, who hath no pelf, E'en though his virtues bright like to the sun should show!
'O my lord,' continued the steward, 'this lavish expense and prodigal giving waste away wealth.' When Noureddin heard his steward's words, he looked at him and said, 'I will not hearken to one word of all thou hast said, for I have heard the following saying of the poet:
If I be blessed with wealth and be not liberal with it, May my hand wither and my foot eke paralysed remain! Show me the niggard who hath won glory by avarice! Show me the liberal man his own munificence hath slain!
And he said, 'Know, O steward, it is my desire that so long as there remains in thy hands enough for my morning meal, thou trouble me not with taking care for my evening meal.' Therewith the steward went away and Noureddin continued his extravagant way of living; and if any of his boon-companions chanced to say to him, 'This thing is handsome,' he would answer, 'It is thine as a gift;' or if another said, 'O my lord, such and such a house is handsome,' he would say, 'Take it: it is thine.' In this manner he continued to live for a whole year, giving his friends a banquet in the morning and another in the evening, till one day as they were sitting together, the damsel Enis el Jelis repeated the following verses:
Thou madest fair thy thought of Fate, when that the days were fair, And fearedst not the unknown ills that they to thee might bring: The nights were fair and calm to thee; thou wert deceived by them, For in the peace of night is born full many a troublous thing.
Just as she had finished, there came a knocking at the door; so Noureddin rose to open it, and one of his companions followed him without his knowledge. At the door he found his steward and said to him, 'What is the matter?' 'Omylord,' replied he, 'what I feared for thee has come to pass!' 'How so?' asked Noureddin; and the steward said, 'Know that there remains not a dirhem's worth, less nor more, in my hands. Here are registers containing an account of the original state of thy property and the way in which thou hast spent it.' At this, Noureddin bowed his head and exclaimed, 'There is no power and no virtue but in God!' When the man who had followed him secretly to spy on him heard what the steward said, he returned to his companions and said to them, 'Look what ye do; for Noureddin Ali is bankrupt.' When Noureddin returned, they read trouble in his face; so one of them rose and said to him, 'O my lord, maybe thou wilt give me leave to retire?' 'Why wilt thou go away to-day?' said he. 'My wife is brought to bed,' replied the other; 'and I cannot be absent from her; I wish to return and see how she does.' So Noureddin gave him leave, whereupon another rose and said, 'O my lord, I wish to go to my brother, for he circumcises his son to-day.' And each made some excuse to retire, till they were all gone and Noureddin remained alone. Then he called his slave-girl and said to her, 'O Enis el Jelis, hast thou seen what has befallen me?' And he related to her what the steward had told him. 'O my lord,' replied she, 'some nights ago I had it in my mind to speak with thee of this matter; but I heard thee reciting the following verses:
If fortune be lavish to thee, look thou be lavish with it Unto all classes of men, ere it escapes from thy hand! Munificence will not undo it, whilst it is constant to thee, Nor, when it turneth away, will avarice force it to stand.
When I heard thee speak thus, I held my peace and cared not to say aught to thee.' 'O Enis el Jelis,' said Noureddin, 'thou knowest that I have not expended my substance but on my friends, who have beggared me, and I think they will not leave me without help.' 'By Allah,' replied she, 'they will not profit thee in aught.' Said he, 'I will rise at once and go to them and knock at their doors: maybe I shall get of them somewhat with which I may trade and leave pleasure and merry-making.' So he rose and repaired to a certain street, where all his ten comrades lived. He went up to the first door and knocked, whereupon a maid came out and said, 'Who art thou?' 'Tell thy master,' replied he, 'that Noureddin Ali stands at the door and says to him, "Thy slave kisses thy hands and awaits thy bounty."' The girl went in and told her master, who cried out at her, saying, 'Go back and tell him that I am not at home.' So she returned and said to Noureddin, 'O my lord, my master is from home.' With this, he went away, saying to himself, 'Though this fellow be a whoreson knave and deny himself, another may not be so.' Then he came to the second door and sent in a like message to the master of the house, who denied himself as the first had done, whereupon Noureddin repeated the following verse:
They're gone who, if before their door thou didst arrest thy feet, Would on thy poverty bestow both flesh and roasted meat.
And said 'By Allah, I must try them all: there may be one amongst them who will stand me in the stead of the rest.' So he went round to all the ten, but not one of them opened his door to him or showed himself to him or broke a cake of bread in his face; whereupon he repeated the following verses:
A man in time of affluence is like unto a tree, Round which the folk collect, as long as fruit thereon they see, Till, when its burden it hath cast, they turn from it away, Leave it to suffer heat and dust and all inclemency. Out on the people of this age! perdition to them all! Since not a single one of ten is faithful found to be.
Then he returned to his slave-girl, and indeed his concern was doubled, and she said to him, 'O my lord, did I not tell thee that they would not profit thee aught?' 'By Allah,' replied he, 'not one of them would show me his face or take any notice of me!' 'O my lord! said she, 'sell some of the furniture and household stuff, little by little, and live on the proceed, against God the Most High provide.' So he sold all that was in the house, till there was nothing left, when he turned to her and said, 'What is to be done now?' 'O my lord,' replied she, 'it is my advice that thou rise and take me down to the market and sell me. Thou knowest that thy father bought me for ten thousand dinars; perhaps God may help thee to near that price, and if it be His will that we be reunited, we shall meet again.' 'O Enis el Jelis,' replied Noureddin, 'by Allah, I cannot endure to be parted from thee for a single hour!' 'By Allah, O my lord,' rejoined she, 'nor is it easy to me; but necessity compels, as says the poet:
Necessity in life oft drives one into ways That to the courteous mind are foreign and abhorred. We do not trust our weight unto a rope, unless It be to do some thing adapted to the cord.'
With this, he rose to his feet and took her, whilst the tears streamed down his cheeks like rain and he recited with the tongue of the case what follows:
Stay and vouchsafe me one more look before our parting hour, To soothe the anguish of a heart well-nigh for reverence slain! Yet, if it irk thee anywise to grant my last request, Far rather let me die of love than cause thee aught of pain!
Then he went down to the market and delivered the damsel to a broker, to whom he said, 'O Hajj Hassan, I would have thee note the value of her thou hast to offer for sale!' 'O my lord Noureddin,' replied the broker, 'I have not forgotten my business. Is not this Enis el Jelis, whom thy father bought of me for ten thousand dinars?' 'Yes,' said Noureddin. Then the broker went round to the merchants, but found they were not all assembled; so he waited till the rest had arrived and the market was full of all kinds of female slaves, Turks and Franks and Circassians and Abyssinians and Nubians and Egyptians and Tartars and Greeks and Georgians and others; when he came forward and said, 'O merchants! O men of wealth! every round thing is not a walnut nor every long thing a banana; every thing red is not meat nor everything white fat. O merchants, I have here this unique pearl, this unvalued jewel! What price shall I set on her?' 'Say four thousand five hundred dinars,' cried one. So the broker opened the biddings for her at that sum and as he was yet calling, behold, the Vizier Muin ben Sawa passed through the market and seeing Noureddin standing in a corner, said to himself, 'What doth the son of Khacan here? Has this gallows-bird aught left to buy girls withal?' Then he looked round and seeing the broker crying out and the merchants round him, said to himself, 'Doubtless he is ruined and has brought the damsel Enis el Jelis hither to sell her! What a solace to my heart!' Then he called the crier, who came up and kissed the ground before him, and he said to him, 'Show me the girl thou art crying for sale.' The broker dared not cross him, so he answered, 'O my lord, in the name of God!' And brought the damsel and showed her to him. She pleased him and he said, 'O Hassan, what is bidden for this damsel?' 'Four thousand five hundred dinars,' replied the broker, 'as an upset price.' Quoth the Vizier, 'I take that bid on myself.' When the merchants heard this, they hung back and dared not bid another dirhem, knowing what they did of the Vizier's tyranny. Then Muin looked at the broker and said to him, 'What ails thee to stand still? Go and offer four thousand dinars for her, and the five hundred shall be for thyself.' So the broker went to Noureddin and said to him, 'O my lord, thy slave is gone for nothing!' 'How so?' said he. The broker answered, 'We had opened the biddings for her at four thousand five hundred dinars, when that tyrant Muin ben Sawa passed through the market and when he saw the damsel, she pleased him and he said to me, "Call me the buyer for four thousand dinars, and thou shalt have five hundred for thyself." I doubt not but he knows she belongs to thee, and if he would pay thee down her price at once, it were well; but I know, of his avarice and upright, he will give thee a written order on some of his agents and will send after thee to say to them, "Give him nothing." So as often as thou shalt go to seek the money, they will say, "We will pay thee presently," and so they will put thee off day after day, for all thy high spirit, till at last, when they are tired of thine importunity, they will say, "Show us the bill." Then, as soon as they get hold of it, they will tear it up, and so thou wilt lose the girl's price.' When Noureddin heard this, he looked at the broker and said to him, 'What is to be done?' 'I will give thee a counsel,' answered he, 'which if thou follow, it will be greatly to thine advantage.' 'What is that?' asked Noureddin. 'Do thou come to me presently,' said the broker, 'when I am standing in the midst of the market and taking the girl from my hand, give her a cuff and say to her, "O baggage, I have kept my vow and brought thee down to the market, because I swore that I would put thee up for sale and make the brokers cry thee." If thou do this, it may be the device will impose upon the Vizier and the folk, and they will believe that thou broughtest her not to the market but for the quittance of thine oath.' 'This is a good counsel,' said Noureddin. Then the broker left him and returning to the midst of the market, took the damsel by the hand; then beckoned to Muin and said to him, 'O my lord, here comes her owner.' With this up came Noureddin and snatching the girl from the broker, gave her a cuff and said to her, 'Out on thee, thou baggage! I have brought thee down to the market for the quittance of my oath; so now begone home and look that thou cross me not again. Out on thee! do I need thy price, that I should sell thee? The furniture of my house would fetch many times thy value, if I sold it.' When Muin saw this, he said to Noureddin, 'Out on thee! Hast thou aught left to sell?' And he made to lay violent hands on him; but the merchants interposed, for they all loved Noureddin, and the latter said to them, 'Behold, I am in your hands, and ye all know his tyranny!' 'By Allah,' exclaimed the Vizier, 'but for you, I would have killed him!' Then all the merchants signed to Noureddin with their eyes as who should say, 'Work thy will of him; not one of us will come betwixt him and thee.' Whereupon Noureddin, who was a stout-hearted fellow, went up to the Vizier and dragging him from his saddle, threw him to the ground. Now there was in that place a mortar-pit, into the midst of which he fell, and Noureddin fell to cuffing and pummelling him, and one of the blows smote his teeth, dyeing his beard with his blood. There were with the Vizier ten armed slaves, who, seeing their master thus evil entreated, clapped their hands to their swords and would have drawn them and fallen on Noureddin, to kill him; but the bystanders said to them, 'This is a Vizier and that a Vizier's son; it may be they will make peace with one another anon, in which case you will have gotten the hatred of both of them. Or a blow may fall on your lord, and you will all die the foulest of deaths; so you would do wisely not to interfere.' So they held aloof and when Noureddin had made an end of beating the Vizier, he took his slave-girl and went home; and Muin rose, with his white clothes dyed of three colours with black mud, red blood and ashes. When he saw himself in this plight, he put a halter round his neck and taking a bundle of coarse grass in either hand, went up to the palace and standing under the King's windows, cried out, 'O King of the age, I am a man aggrieved!' So they brought him before the Sultan, who looked at him and knowing him for his chief Vizier, asked who had entreated him thus. Whereupon he wept and sobbed and repeated the following verses:
Shall fortune oppress me, and that in thy day, O King? Shall wolves devour me, whilst thou art a lion proud? Shall all that are thirsty drink of thy water-tanks And shall I thirst in thy courts, whilst thou art a rain-fraught cloud?
'O my lord,' continued he, 'thus fare all who love and serve thee.' 'Make haste,' said the Sultan, 'and tell me how this happened and who hath dealt thus with thee, whose honour is a part of my own honour.' 'Know then, O my lord,' replied the Vizier, 'that I went out this day to the slave-market to buy me a cook-maid, when I saw in the bazaar a damsel, whose like for beauty I never beheld. She pleased me and I thought to buy her for our lord the Sultan; so I asked the broker of her and her owner, and he replied, "She belongs to Noureddin Ali son of Fezl ben Khacan." Now our lord the Sultan aforetime gave his father ten thousand dinars to buy him a handsome slave-girl, and he bought therewith this damsel, who pleased him, so that he grudged her to our lord the Sultan and gave her to his own son. When Fezl died, his son sold all that he possessed of houses and gardens and household stuff and squandered the price, till he became penniless. Then he brought the girl down to the market, to sell her, and handed her to the broker, who cried her and the merchants bid for her, till her price reached four thousand dinars; whereupon I said to myself, "I will buy her for our lord the Sultan, for it was his money that paid for her." So I said to Noureddin, "O my son, sell her to me for four thousand dinars." He looked at me and replied, "O pestilent old man, I will sell her to a Jew or a Christian rather than to thee!" "I do not buy her for myself," said I, "but for our lord and benefactor the Sultan." When he heard my words, he flew into a passion and dragging me off my horse, for all I am an old man, beat me till he left me as thou seest; and all this has befallen me but because I thought to buy the girl for thee.' Then the Vizier threw himself on the ground and lay there, weeping and trembling. When the Sultan saw his condition and heard his story, the vein of anger started out between his eyes, and he turned to his guards, who stood before him, forty swordsmen, and said to them, 'Go down at once to the house of Noureddin ben Fezl, and sack it and raze it; then take him and the damsel and drag them hither with their hands bound behind them.' 'We hear and obey,' answered they: and arming themselves, set out for Noureddin's house. Now there was with the Sultan a man called Ilmeddin Senjer, who had aforetime been servant to Noureddin's father Fezl ben Khacan, but had left his service for that of the Sultan, who had advanced him to be one of his chamberlains. When he heard the Sultan's order and saw the enemies intent upon killing his master's son, it was grievous to him; so he went out from before the Sultan and mounting his steed, rode to Noureddin's house and knocked at the door. Noureddin came out and knowing him, would have saluted him: but he said, 'O my lord, this is no time for greeting or converse.' 'O Ilmeddin,' asked Noureddin, 'what is the matter?' 'Arise and flee for your lives, thou and the damsel,' replied he: 'for Muin ben Sawa hath laid a snare for you; and if you fall into his hands, he will kill you. The Sultan hath despatched forty swordsmen against you and I counsel you flee ere evil overtake you.' Then Senjer put his hand to his pouch and finding there forty dinars, took them and gave them to Noureddin, saying, 'O my lord, take these and journey with them. If I had more, I would give them to thee; but this is no time to take exception.' So Noureddin went in to the damsel and told her what had happened, at which she wrung her hands. Then they went out at once from the city, and God let down the veil of His protection over them, so that they reached the river-bank, where they found a ship about to sail. Her captain stood in the waist, saying, 'Whoso has aught to do, whether in the way of victualling or taking leave of his friends, or who has forgotten any necessary thing, let him do it at once and return, for we are about to sail.' And every one said, 'O captain, we have nothing left to do.' Whereupon he cried out to his crew, saying, 'Ho, there! cast off the moorings and pull up the pickets!' Quoth Noureddin, 'Whither bound, O captain?' 'To the Abode of Peace, Baghdad,' replied he. So Noureddin and the damsel embarked with him, and they launched out and spread the sails, and the ship sped forth, as she were a bird in full flight, even as says right well the poet:
Look at a ship, how ravishing a sight she is and fair! In her swift course she doth outstrip the breezes of the air. She seems as 'twere a scudding bird that, lighting from the sky, Doth on the surface of the stream with outspread pinions fare.
Meanwhile the King's officers came to Noureddin's house and breaking open the doors, entered and searched the whole place, but could find no trace of him and the damsel; so they demolished the house and returning to the Sultan, told him what they had done; whereupon he said, 'Make search for them, wherever they are!' And they answered, 'We hear and obey.' Then he bestowed upon the Vizier Muin a dress of honour and said to him, 'None shall avenge thee but myself.' So Muin's heart was comforted and he wished the King long life and returned to his own house. Then the Sultan caused proclamation to be made in the town, saying, 'O all ye people! It is the will of our lord the Sultan that whoso happens on Noureddin Ali ben Khacan and brings him to the Sultan shall receive a dress of honour and a thousand dinars, and he who conceals him or knows his abiding-place and informs not thereof, deserves the exemplary punishment that shall befall him.' So search was made for Noureddin, but they could find neither trace nor news of him; and meantime he and the damsel sailed on with a fair wind, till they arrived safely at Baghdad and the captain said to them, 'This is Baghdad, and it is a city of safety: the winter hath departed from it, with its cold, and the season of the Spring is come, with its roses; its trees are in blossom and its streams flowing.' So Noureddin landed, he and the damsel, and giving the captain five dinars, walked on awhile, till chance brought them among the gardens and they came to a place swept and sprinkled, with long benches on either hand and hanging pots full of water. Overhead was a trelliswork of canes shading the whole length of the alley, and at the further end was the door of a garden; but this was shut. 'By Allah,' said Noureddin to the damsel, 'this is a pleasant place!' And she answered, 'O my lord, let us sit down on these benches and rest awhile.' So they mounted and sat down on the benches, after having washed their faces and hands; and the air smote on them and they fell asleep, glory be to Him who never sleeps! Now the garden in question was called the Garden of Delight and therein stood a pavilion called the Pavilion of Pictures, belonging to the Khalif Haroun er Reshid, who used, when sad at heart, to repair thither and there sit. In this pavilion were fourscore windows and fourscore hanging lamps and in the midst a great chandelier of gold. When the Khalif entered, he was wont to have all the windows opened and to order his boon-companion Isaac ben Ibrahim and the slave-girls to sing, till his care left him and his heart was lightened. Now the keeper of the garden was an old man by name Gaffer Ibrahim, and he had found, from time to time, on going out on his occasions, idlers taking their case with courtezans in the alley leading to the door of the garden, at which he was sore enraged; so he complained to the Khalif, who said, 'Whomsoever thou findest at the door of the garden, do with him as thou wilt.' As chance would have it, he had occasion to go abroad that very day and found these two sleeping at the gate, covered with one veil; whereupon, 'By Allah,' said he, 'this is fine! These two know not that the Khalif has given me leave to kill any one whom I may catch at the door of the garden: but I will give them a sound drubbing, that none may come near the gate in future.' So he cut a green palm-stick and went out to them and raising his arm, till the whiteness of his armpit appeared, was about to lay on to them, when he bethought himself and said, 'O Ibrahim, wilt thou beat them, knowing not their case? Maybe they are strangers or wayfarers, and destiny hath led them hither. I will uncover their faces and look on them.' So he lifted up the veil from their faces and said, 'They are a handsome pair! It were not fitting that I should beat them.' Then he covered their faces again, and going to Noureddin's feet, began to rub them, whereupon the young man awoke, and seeing an old man of venerable appearance rubbing his feet, was abashed and drawing them in, sat up; then took Ibrahim's hand and kissed it. Quoth the old man, 'O my son, whence art thou?' 'O my lord,' replied Noureddin, 'we are strangers.' And the tears started to his eyes. 'O my son,' said Ibrahim, 'know that the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve!) hath charged us to be hospitable to strangers. Wilt thou not rise, O my son, and pass into the garden and take thy pleasure therein and gladden thy heart?' 'O my lord,' said Noureddin, 'to whom does the garden belong?' And he replied, 'O my son, I inherited it from my family.' Now his object in saying this was to put them at their ease and induce them to enter the garden. So Noureddin thanked him and rose, he and the damsel, and followed him into the garden. They entered through a gateway, vaulted like a gallery and overhung with vines bearing grapes of various colours, the red like rubies and the black like ebony, and passing under a bower of trellised boughs, found themselves in a garden, and what a garden! There were fruit-trees growing singly and in clusters and birds warbling melodiously on the branches, whilst the thousand-voiced nightingale repeated the various strains: the turtle-dove filled the place with her cooing, and there sang the blackbird, with its warble like a human voice, and the ring-dove, with her notes like a drinker exhilarated with wine. The trees were laden with all manner of ripe fruits, two of each: the apricot in its various kinds, camphor and almond and that of Khorassan, the plum, whose colour is as that of fair women, the cherry, that does away discoloration of the teeth, and the fig of three colours, red and white and green. There bloomed the flower of the bitter orange, as it were pearls and coral, the rose whose redness puts to shame the cheeks of the fair, the violet, like sulphur on fire by night, the myrtle, the gillyflower, the lavender, the peony and the blood-red anemone. The leaves were jewelled with the tears of the clouds; the camomile smiled with her white petals like a lady's teeth, and the narcissus looked at the rose with her negro's eyes: the citrons shone like cups and the limes like balls of gold, and the earth was carpeted with flowers of all colours; for the Spring was come and the place beamed with its brightness; whilst the birds sang and the stream rippled and the breeze blew softly, for the attemperance of the air. Ibrahim carried them up into the pavilion, and they gazed on its beauty and on the lamps aforesaid in the windows; and Noureddin called to mind his banquetings of time past and said, 'By Allah, this is a charming place!' Then they sat down and the gardener set food before them; and they ate their fill and washed their hands; after which Noureddin went up to one of the windows and calling the damsel, fell to gazing on the trees laden with all manner of fruits. Then he turned to the gardener and said to him, 'O Gaffer Ibrahim, hast thou no drink here, for folk use to drink after eating?' The old man brought him some fresh sweet cold water, but he said, 'This is not the kind of drink I want.' 'Belike,' said Ibrahim, 'thou wishest for wine?' 'I do,' replied Noureddin. 'God preserve me from it!' said the old man. 'It is thirteen years since I did this thing, for the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve!) cursed its drinker, its presser, its seller and its carrier.' 'Hear two words from me,' said Noureddin. 'Say on,' replied Ibrahim. 'If,' said Noureddin, 'that unlucky ass there be cursed, will any part of the curse fall on thee?' 'Not so,' replied the old man. 'Then,' said Noureddin, 'take this dinar and these two dirhems and mount the ass and stop at a distance (from the wineshop); then call the first man thou seest buying, and say to him, "Take these two dirhems and buy me this dinar's worth of wine and set it on the ass." Thus thou wilt be neither the purchaser nor the carrier of the wine and no part of the curse will fall on thee.' At this the gardener laughed and said, 'O my son, never have I seen one readier-witted than thou nor heard aught sweeter than thy speech.' So he did as Noureddin had said, and the latter thanked him, saying, 'We are dependent on thee, and it is only fitting that thou comply with our wishes; so bring us what we require.' 'O my son,' replied he, 'there is my buttery before thee.' (Now this was the store-room provided for the Commander of the Faithful.) Enter and take what thou wilt; there is more there than thou needest.' So Noureddin entered the pantry and found therein vessels of gold and silver and crystal, incrusted with all kinds of jewels, and was amazed and delighted at what he saw. Then he took what he wanted and set it on and poured the wine into flagons and decanters, whilst Ibrahim brought them fruits and flowers and withdrew and sat down at a distance. So they drank and made merry, till the wine got the mastery of them, so that their cheeks flushed and their eyes sparkled and their hair became dishevelled. Then said Ibrahim to himself, 'What ails me to sit apart? Why should I not sit with them? When shall I find myself in company with the like of these two, who are like two moons?' So he came and sat down at the corner of the dais, and Noureddin said to him, 'O my lord, my life on thee, come and sit with us!' So he came and sat by them, and Noureddin filled a cup and said to him, 'Drink, that thou mayst know the flavour of it.' 'God forbid!' replied he. 'I have not done such a thing these thirteen years.' Noureddin did not press him, but drank off the cup, and throwing himself on the ground, feigned to be overcome with drunkenness. Then said the damsel, 'O Gaffer Ibrahim, see how he serves me!' 'O my lady,' replied he, 'what ails him?' 'This is how he always treats me,' said she; 'he drinks awhile, then falls asleep and leaves me alone, with none to bear me company over my cup nor to whom I may sing whilst he drinks.' 'By Allah,' said he (and indeed her words touched his heart and made his soul incline to her), 'this is not well!' Then she looked at him and filling a cup said to him, 'I conjure thee, on my life, not to refuse me, but take this cup and drink it off and solace my heart.' So he took it and drank it off and she filled a second cup and set it on the chandelier, saying, 'O my lord, there is still this one left for thee.' 'By Allah, I cannot take it,' answered he; 'that which I have drunk suffices me.' 'By Allah,' said she, 'thou must indeed drink it.' So he took the cup and drank; and she filled him a third cup, which he took and was about to drink, when behold, Noureddin opened his eyes and sitting up, exclaimed, 'Hello, Gaffer Ibrahim, what is this? Did I not adjure thee just now, and thou refusedst, saying, "I have not done such a thing these thirteen years"?' 'By Allah,' replied he (and indeed he was abashed), 'it is her fault, not mine.' Noureddin laughed and they sat down again to carouse, but the damsel turned to Noureddin and whispered to him, 'O my lord, drink and do not press him, and I will show thee some sport with him.' Then she began to fill her master's cup and he to fill to her, and so they did time after time, till at last Ibrahim looked at them and said, 'What manner of good fellowship is this? God's malison on the glutton who keeps the cup to himself! Why dost thou not give me to drink, O my brother? What manners are these, O Blessed One!' At this they laughed till they fell backward; then they drank and gave him to drink and ceased not to carouse thus, till a third part of the night was past. Then said the damsel, 'O Gaffer Ibrahim, with thy leave, I will light one of these candles.' 'Do so,' said he; 'but light no more then one.' So she rose and beginning with one candle, lighted fourscore and sat down again. Presently Noureddin said, 'O Gaffer Ibrahim, how stands my favour with thee? May I not light one of these lamps ?' 'Light one,' replied he, 'and plague me no more.' So Noureddin rose and lighted one lamp after another, till he had lighted the whole eighty and the palace seemed to dance with light. Quoth Ibrahim (and indeed intoxication had mastered him), 'Ye are more active than I.' Then he rose and opened all the windows and sat down again; and they fell to carousing and reciting verses, till the place rang with their mirth.
Now as God the All-powerful, who appointeth a cause to everything, had decreed, the Khalif was at that moment seated at one of the windows of his palace, overlooking the Tigris, in the light of the moon. He saw the lustre of the candles and lamps reflected in the river and lifting his eyes, perceived that it came from the garden-palace, which was in a blaze with light. So he called Jaafer the Barmecide and said to him, 'O dog of a Vizier, has the city of Baghdad been taken from me and thou hast not told me?' 'What words are these?' said Jaafer. 'If Baghdad were not taken from me,' rejoined the Khalif, 'the Pavilion of Pictures would not be illuminated with lamps and candles, nor would its windows be open. Out on thee! Who would dare to do this except the Khalifate were taken from me?' Quoth Jaafer (and indeed he trembled in every limb), 'Who told thee that the pavilion was illuminated and the windows open?' 'Come hither and look,' replied the Khalif. So Jaafer came to the window and looking towards the garden, saw the pavilion flaming with light, in the darkness of the night, and thinking that this might be by the leave of the keeper, for some good reason of his own, was minded to make an excuse for him. So he said, 'O Commander of the Faithful, Gaffer Ibrahim said to me last week, "O my lord Jaafer, I desire to circumcise my sons during thy life and that of the Commander of the Faithful." "What dost thou want?" asked I; and he said, "Get me leave from the Khalif to hold the festival in the pavilion." So I said to him, "Go, circumcise them, and I will see the Khalif and tell him." So he went away and I forgot to tell thee.' 'O Jaafer,' said the Khalif, 'thou hast committed two offences against me, first, in that thou didst not tell me, secondly, in that thou didst not give the old man what he sought; for he only came and told thee this, by way of hinting a request for some small matter of money, to help him out with the expenses; and thou gavest him nothing nor toldest me.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' replied Jaafer, 'I forgot.' 'By the virtue of my forefathers,' rejoined the Khalif, 'I will not pass the rest of the night but with him, for he is a pious man, who consorts with the elders of the faith and the fakirs: doubtless they are now assembled with him and it may be that the prayer of one of them may profit us both in this world and the next. Besides, my presence will advantage him and he will be pleased.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' objected Jaafer, 'the night is far spent, and they will now be about to break up.' 'It matters not,' replied the Khalif; 'I must and will go to them.' And Jaafer was silent, being perplexed and knowing not what to do. Then the Khalif rose to his feet and taking with him Jaafer and Mesrour the eunuch, they all three disguised themselves as merchants and leaving the palace, walked on through the by-streets till they came to the garden. The Khalif went up to the gate and finding it open, was surprised and said to the Vizier, 'Look, Jaafer, how Gaffer Ibrahim has left the gate open to this hour, contrary to his wont!' They entered and walked on till they came under the pavilion, when the Khalif said, 'O Jaafer, I wish to look in upon them privily before I join them, that I may see what they are about, for up to now I hear no sound nor any fakir naming God.' Then he looked about and seeing a tall walnut-tree, said to Jaafer, 'I will climb this tree, for its branches come near the windows, and so look in upon them.' So he mounted the tree and climbed from branch to branch, till he reached a bough that came up to one of the windows. On this he seated himself and looking in at the window, saw a young lady and a young man as they were two moons (glory be to Him who created them and fashioned them!), and by them Gaffer Ibrahim seated, with a cup in his hand, saying, 'O princess of fair ones, drink without music is nothing worth; indeed I have heard a poet say:
Pass round the wine in the great and the small cup too, And take the bowl from the hands of the shining moon. But without music, I charge you, forbear to drink, For sure I see even horses drink to a whistled tune.'
When the Khalif saw this, the vein of anger started out between his eyes and he descended and said to the Vizier, 'O Jaafer, never saw I men of piety in such a case! Do thou mount this tree and look upon them, lest the benisons of the devout escape thee.' So Jaafer climbed up, perplexed at these words, and looking in, saw Noureddin and the damsel and Gaffer Ibrahim with a cup in his hand. At this sight, he made sure of ruin and descending, stood before the Commander of the Faithful, who said to him, 'O Jaafer, praised be God who hath made us of those who observe the external forms of the Divine ordinances!' Jaafer could make no answer for excess of confusion, and the Khalif continued, 'I wonder how these people came hither and who admitted them into my pavilion! But the like of the beauty of this youth and this girl my eyes never beheld!' 'Thou art right, O Commander of the Faithful,' replied Jaafer, hoping to propitiate him. Then said the Khalif, 'O Jaafer, let us both mount the branch that overlooks the window, that we may amuse ourselves with looking at them.' So they both climbed the tree and looking in, heard Ibrahim say, 'O my lady, I have laid aside gravity in drinking wine, but this is not thoroughly delectable without the melodious sound of the strings. 'By Allah,' replied Enis el Jelis, 'if we had but some musical instrument, our joy would be complete!' When the old man heard what she said, he rose to his feet, and the Khalif said to Jaafer, 'I wonder what he is going to do.' 'I know not,' replied Jaafer. Then Ibrahim went out and returned with a lute; and the Khalif looked at it and knew it for that of Isaac the boon-companion. 'By Allah,' said he, 'if this damsel sing ill, I will crucify you, all of you; but if she sing well, I will pardon them and crucify thee.' 'God grant she may sing ill!' said Jaafer 'Why so?' asked the Khalif. 'Because,' replied Jaafer 'if thou crucify us all together, we shall keep each other company.' The Khalif laughed at his speech; then the damsel took the lute and tuning it, played a measure which made all hearts yearn to her, then sang the following verses:
O ye that to help unhappy lovers are fain! We burn with the fire of love and longing in vain. Whatever ye do, we merit it: see, we cast Ourselves on your ruth! Do not exult in our pain. For we are children of sadness and low estate. Do with us what you will; we will not complain. What were your glory to slay us within your courts? Our fear is but lest you sin in working us bane.
'By Allah,' said the Khalif, 'it is good, O Jaafer! Never in my life have I heard so enchanting a voice!' 'Belike,' said Jaafer, 'the Khalif's wrath hath departed from him.' 'Yes,' said the Khalif, 'it is gone.' Then they descended from the tree, and the Khalif said to Jaafer, 'I wish to go in and sit with them and hear the damsel sing before me.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' replied Jaafer, 'if thou go in to them, they will most like be troubled and Gaffer Ibrahim will assuredly die of fright.' 'O Jaafer,' said the Khalif, 'thou must teach me some device, whereby I may foregather with them, without being known of them.' So they walked on towards the Tigris, considering of this affair, and presently came upon a fisher man standing fishing under the windows of the pavilion. Now some time before this, the Khalif (being in the pavilion) had called to Gaffer Ibrahim and said to him, 'What is this noise I hear under the windows?' 'It is the voices of the fishermen, fishing,' answered he; and the Khalif commanded him to go down and forbid them to resort thither; so the fishermen were forbidden to fish there. However, that night a fisherman named Kerim, happening to pass by and seeing the garden gate open, said to himself, 'This is a time of negligence: I will take advantage of it to fish.' So he went in, but had hardly cast his net, when the Khalif came up alone and standing behind him, knew him and called out to him, saying, 'Ho, Kerim!' The fisherman, hearing himself called by his name, turned round, and seeing the Khalif, trembled in every limb and exclaimed, 'O Commander of the Faithful, I did it not in mockery of the edict; but poverty and distress drove me to what thou seest.' Quoth the Khalif, 'Make a cast in my name.' At this the fisherman was glad and going to the bank, cast his net, then waiting till it had spread out to the utmost and settled down, pulled it up and found in it various kinds of fish. The Khalif was pleased and said, 'O Kerim, put off thy clothes.' So he put off a gown of coarse woollen stuff, patched in a hundred places and full of disgusting vermin, and a turban that had not been unwound for three years, but to which he had sewn every rag he came across. The Khalif pulled off his cassock and mantle and two vests of Alexandria and Baalbec silk and saying to the fisherman, 'Take these and put them on,' donned the latter's gown and turban and tied a chin band round the lower part of his face. Then said he to the fisherman, 'Go about thy business.' So he kissed the Khalif's feet and thanked him and recited the following verses:
Thou hast heaped benefits on me, past all that I could crave! My tongue suffices not to praise thy goodness to thy slave. So I will thank thee whilst I live; and when I come to die, My very bones shall never cease to thank thee in the grave.
Hardly had he finished, when the lice began to crawl over the skin of the Khalif, who fell to snatching them with either hand from his neck and throwing them down, exclaiming, 'Out on thee, O fisherman, this gown is swarming with vermin!' 'O my lord,' replied the fisherman, 'they torment thee just now, but before a week has passed, thou wilt not feel them nor think of them.' The Khalif laughed and said, 'Out on thee! Dost thou think I mean to leave this gown on my body?' 'O my lord,' said the fisherman, 'I desire to say one word to thee.' 'Say on,' answered the Khalif. 'It occurs to me, O Commander of the Faithful,' said the fisherman, 'that if thou wish to learn hunting, so thou mayst have an useful trade ready to thy hand, this gown will be the very thing for thee.' The Khalif laughed, and the fisherman went his way. Then the Khalif took up the basket of fish, and laying a little grass over it, carried it to Jaafer and stood before him. Jaafer, concluding that it was Kerim the fisherman, was alarmed for him and said, 'O Kerim, what brings thee hither? Flee for thy life, for the Khalif is in the garden to-night, and if he see thee, thou wilt lose thy head.' At this the Khalif laughed, and Jaafer knew him and said, 'Surely thou art our lord the Khalif?' 'Yes, O Jaafer,' replied he. 'And thou art my Vizier and I came hither with thee; yet thou knewest me not; so how should Gaffer Ibrahim know me, and he drunk? Stay here, till I come back.' 'I hear and obey,' answered Jaafer. Then the Khalif went up to the door of the pavilion and knocked softly, whereupon said Noureddin, 'O Gaffer Ibrahim, some one knocks at the door.' 'Who is at the door?' cried the old man; and the Khalif replied, 'It is I, O Gaffer Ibrahim!' 'Who art thou?' asked the gardener. 'I, Kerim the fisherman,' rejoined the Khalif. 'I hear thou hast company, so have brought thee some fine fish.' When Noureddin heard the mention of fish, he was glad, he and the damsel, and they both said to Ibrahim, 'O my lord, open the door and let him bring the fish in to us.' So he opened the door, and the Khalif entered, in his fisherman's disguise, and began by saluting them. Quoth Ibrahim, 'Welcome to the brigand, the robber, the gambler! Let us see thy fish.' So the Khalif showed them the fish and behold, they were still alive and moving, whereupon the damsel exclaimed, 'O my lord, these are indeed fine fish! Would that they were fried!' 'By Allah, O my mistress,' replied Ibrahim, 'thou art right.' Then said he to the Khalif, 'O fisherman, why didst thou not bring us the fish ready fried? Go now and fry them and bring them to us.' 'It shall be done at once,' answered he. Said they, 'Be quick about it.' So he went out, running, and coming up to Jaafer, cried out, 'Hallo, Jaafer!' 'Here am I, O Commander of the Faithful!' replied he. 'They want the fish fried,' said the Khalif. 'O Commander of the Faithful,' answered Jaafer, 'give it to me and I will fry it for them.' 'By the tombs of my forefathers,' said the Khalif, 'none shall fry it but I, with my own hand!' So he repaired to the keeper's hut, where he searched and found all that he required, even to salt and saffron and marjoram and so forth. Then he laid the fish on the frying-pan and setting it on the brazier, fried them handsomely. When they were done, he laid them on a banana-leaf, and gathering some lemons from the garden, carried the dish to the pavilion and set it before them. So Noureddin and the damsel and Ibrahim came forward and ate, after which they washed their hands and Noureddin said to the Khalif, 'O fisherman, thou hast done us a right welcome service this night!' Then he put his hand to his pouch and taking out three of the dinars that Senjer had given him, said, 'O fisherman, excuse me. By Allah, had I known thee before that which has lately befallen me, I had done away the bitterness of poverty from thy heart; but take this as an earnest of my good will!' Then he threw the dinars to the Khalif, who took them and kissed them and put them up. Now the Khalif's sole desire in all this was to hear the damsel sing; so he said to Noureddin, 'O my lord, thou hast rewarded me munificently, but I beg of thy great bounty that thou wilt let this damsel sing an air, that I may hear her.' So Noureddin said, 'O Enis el Jelis!' 'Yes,' replied she. And he said, 'My life on thee, sing us something for the sake of this fisherman, for he wishes to hear thee.' So she took the lute and struck the strings, after she had tuned them, and sang the following verses:
The fingers of the lovely maid went wandering o'er the lute, And many a soul to ravishment its music did compel. She sang, and lo, her singing cured the deaf man of his ill, And he that erst was dumb exclaimed, "Thou hast indeed done well!"
Then she played again, so admirably that she ravished their wits, and sang the following verses:
Thou honour'dst us, when thou didst in our land alight; Thy lustre hath dispelled the moonless midnight gloom! Wherefore with camphor white and rose-water and musk It e'en behoveth us our dwelling to perfume.
At this the Khalif was agitated and so overcome with emotion that he was not master of himself for excess of delight, and he exclaimed, 'By Allah, it is good! By Allah, it is good! By Allah, it is good!' Quoth Noureddin, 'O fisherman, doth this damsel please thee?' 'Ay, by Allah!' replied he. Whereupon said Noureddin, 'I make thee a present of her, the present of a generous man who does not go back on his giving nor will revoke his gift.' Then he sprang to his feet and taking a mantle, threw it over the pretended fisherman and bade him take the damsel and begone. But she looked at him and said, 'O my lord, art thou going away without bidding me adieu? If it must be so, at least, stay whilst I bid thee farewell and make known my case.' And she repeated the following verses:
I am filled full of longing pain and memory and dole, Till I for languor am become a body without soul. Say not to me, beloved one, "Thou'lt grow consoled for me;" When such affliction holds the heart, what is there can console? If that a creature in his tears could swim as in a sea, I to do this of all that breathe were surely first and sole. O thou, the love of whom doth fill my heart and overflow, Even when wine, with water mixed, fills up the brimming bowl, O thou for whom desire torments my body and my spright! This severance is the thing I feared was writ on fortune's scroll. O thou, whose love from out my heart shall nevermore depart, O son of Khacan, thou my wish, my hope unshared and whole, On my account thou didst transgress against our lord and king And left'st thy native land for me, to seek a foreign goal. Thou givest me unto Kerim, may he for aye be praised! And may th' Almighty for my loss my dearest lord console!
When she had finished, Noureddin answered her by repeating the following:
She bade me adieu on the day of our parting And said, whilst for anguish she wept and she sighed, "Ah, what wilt thou do, when from me thou art severed?" "Ask that of the man who'll survive," I replied.
When the Khalif heard what she said in her verses, 'Thou hast given me to Kerim,' his interest in her redoubled and it was grievous to him to separate them; so he said to Noureddin, 'O my lord, verily the damsel said in her verses that thou hadst transgressed against her master and him who possessed her; so tell me, against whom didst thou transgress and who is it that has a claim on thee?' 'By Allah, O fisherman,' replied Noureddin 'there hangs a rare story by me and this damsel, a story, which, were it graven with needles on the corners of the eye, would serve as a lesson to him who can profit by example.' Said the Khalif, 'Wilt thou not tell us thy story and acquaint us with thy case? Peradventure it may bring thee relief, for the help of God is near at hand.' 'O fisher man,' said Noureddin, 'wilt thou hear our story in prose or verse?' 'Prose is but words,' replied the Khalif, 'but verse is strung pearls.' Then Noureddin bowed his head and spoke the following verses.
O my friend, I have bidden farewell to repose, And the anguish of exile has doubled my woes I once had a father, who loved me right dear, But left me, to dwell in the tombs, where all goes. There fell on me after him hardship and pain And Fate broke in pieces my heart with its blows. He bought me a slave-girl, the fairest of maids; Her shape shamed the branch and her colour the rose. I wasted the substance he left me, alas! And lavished it freely on these and on those, Till for need I was minded to sell the fair maid, Though sorely I grudged at the parting, God knows! But lo! when the crier 'gan call her for sale, A scurvy old skin-flint to bid for her chose. At this I was angered beyond all control And snatched her away ere the crier could close; Whereupon the old rancorous curmudgeon flamed up With despite and beset me with insults and blows. In my passion I smote him with right hand and left, Till my wrath was assuaged; after which I arose And returning, betook me in haste to my house, Where I hid me for feat of the wrath of my foes. Then the king of the city decreed my arrest: But a kind-hearted chamberlain pitied my woes And warned me to flee from the city forthright, Ere my enemies' springes my life should enclose. So we fled from our house in the dead of the night And came to Baghdad for a place of repose. I have nothing of value, nor treasures nor gold, Or I'd handsel thee, fisherman, freely with those! But I give thee, instead, the beloved of my soul, And in her thou hast gotten my heart's blood, God knows!
When he had finished, the Khalif said to him, 'O my lord Noureddin, explain to me thy case more fully!' So he told him the whole story from beginning to end, and the Khalif said to him, 'Whither dost thou now intend?' 'God's world is wide!' replied he. Quoth the Khalif, 'I will write thee a letter to carry to the Sultan Mohammed ben Suleiman ez Zeini, which when he reads, he will do thee no hurt.' 'Who ever heard of a fisherman writing to kings?' said Noureddin. 'Such a thing can never be.' 'True,' replied the Khalif; 'but I will tell thee the reason. Know that he and I learnt in the same school, under one master, and that I was his monitor. Since that time, fortune has betided him and he is become a Sultan, whilst God hath abased me and made me a fisherman: yet I never send to him to seek aught, but he does my desire; nay, though I should ask of him a thousand favours a day, he would comply.' When Noureddin heard this, he said, 'Good: write that I may see.' So the Khalif took pen and inkhorn and wrote as follows: 'In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful! This letter is from Haroun er Reshid son of el Mehdi to His Highness Mohammed ben Suleiman ez Zeini, whom I have compassed about with my favour and made governor for me in certain of my dominions. The bearer of these presents is Noureddin son of Felz ben Khacan the Vizier. As soon as they come to thy hand, do thou put off thy kingly dignity and invest him therewith, and look thou oppose not my commandment, so peace be on thee.' Then he gave the letter to Noureddin, who took it and kissed it, then put it in his turban and set out at once on his journey. As soon as he was gone, Gaffer Ibrahim fumed to the Khalif and said to him, 'O vilest of fishermen, thou hast brought us a couple of fish, worth a score of paras, and hast gotten three dinars for them; and thinkest thou to take the damsel also?' When the Khalif heard this, he cried out at him and made a sign to Mesrour, who discovered himself and rushed upon him. Now Jaafer had sent one of the gardeners to the doorkeeper of the palace for a suit of the royal raiment for the Commander of the Faithful; so he went and returning with the suit, kissed the earth before the Khalif and gave it to him. Then he threw off the clothes he had on and dressed himself in those which the gardener had brought, to the great amazement of Gaffer Ibrahim, who bit his nails in bewilderment and exclaimed, 'Am I asleep or awake?' 'O Gaffer Ibrahim,' said the Khalif, 'what state is this in which I see thee?' With this, he recovered from his drunkenness and throwing himself on the ground, repeated the following verses:
Forgive the error into which my straying feet did fall, For the slave sues for clemency from him to whom he's thrall! Lo, by confessing I have done what the offence requires! Where then is that for which good grace and generous mercy call?
The Khalif forgave him and bade carry the damsel to the palace, where he assigned her a separate lodging and servants to wait upon her, saying to her, 'Know that we have sent thy master to be Sultan in Bassora, and God willing, we will despatch him a dress of honour and thee with it.'
Meanwhile, Noureddin fared on, till he reached Bassora, when he repaired to the Sultan's palace and gave a loud cry. The Sultan heard him and sent for him; and when he came into his presence, he kissed the earth before him and pulling out the letter, gave it to him. The Sultan, seeing that the superscription was in the handwriting of the Khalif, rose to his feet and kissed the letter three times, then read it and said, 'I hear and obey God and the Commander of the Faithful!' Then he summoned the four Cadis and the Amirs and was about to divest himself of the kingly office, when in came the Vizier Muin ben Sawa. The Sultan gave him the Khalif's letter, and he read it, then tore it in pieces and putting it in his mouth, chewed it and threw it away. 'Out on thee!' exclaimed the Sultan (and indeed he was angry); 'what made thee do that?' 'By thy life, O our lord the Sultan,' replied Muin, 'this fellow hath never seen the Khalif nor his Vizier: but he is a gallows-bird, a crafty imp who, happening upon a blank sheet in the Khalif's handwriting, hath written his own desire in it. The Khalif would surely not have sent him to take the Sultanate from thee, without a royal mandate and a patent appended thereto, nor would he have omitted to send with him a chamberlain or a vizier. But he is alone and hath never come from the Khalif, never! never!' 'What is to be done?' said the Sultan. 'Leave him to me,' replied the Vizier: 'I will send him in charge of a chamberlain to the city of Baghdad. If what he says be true, they will bring us back royal letters-patent and a diploma of investiture; and if not, I will pay him what I owe him.' When the Sultan heard the Vizier's words, he said, 'Take him.' So Muin carried Noureddin to his own house and cried out to his servants, who threw him down and beat him, till he swooned away. Then he caused heavy shackles to be put on his feet and carried him to the prison, where he called the gaoler, whose name was Cuteyt, and said to him, 'O Cuteyt, take this fellow and throw him into one of the underground cells in the prison and torture him night and day.' 'I hear and obey,' replied he, and taking Noureddin into the prison, locked the door on him. Then he bade sweep a bench behind the door and laying thereon a mattress and a leather rug, made Noureddin sit down. Moreover, he loosed his fetters and treated him kindly. The Vizier sent every day to the gaoler, charging him to beat him, but he abstained from this, and things abode thus forty days' time. On the forty-first day, there came a present from the Khalif: which when the Sultan saw, it pleased him and he took counsel about it with his Viziers, one of whom said, 'Mayhap this present was intended for the new Sultan.' Quoth Muin, 'We should have done well to put him to death at his first coming;' and the Sultan said, 'By Allah, thou remindest me of him! Go down to the prison and fetch him, and I will strike off his head.' 'I hear end obey,' replied Muin. 'With thy leave I will have proclamation made in the city, "Whoso hath a mind to look upon the beheading of Noureddin Ali ben Khacan, let him repair to the palace!" So, great and small will come out to gaze on him and I shall heal my heart and mortify those that envy me.' 'As thou wilt,' said the Sultan; whereupon the Vizier went out, rejoicing, and commanded the chief of the police to make the aforesaid proclamation. When the folk heard the crier, they all mourned and wept, even to the little ones in the schools and the tradersin the shops, and some hastened to get them places to see the sight, whilst others repaired to the prison thinking to accompany him thence. Presently, the Vizier came to the prison, attended by ten armed slaves, and the gaoler said to him, 'What seekest thou, O our lord the Vizier?' 'Bring me that gallows-bird,' replied the Vizier; and the gaoler said, 'He is in the sorriest of plights for the much beating I have given him.' Then Cuteyt went into the prison, where he found Noureddin repeating the following verses:
Who shall avail me against the woes that my life enwind? Indeed my disease is sore and the remedy hard to find. Exile hath worn my heart and my spirit with languishment, And evil fortune hath turned my very lovers unkind. O folk, is there none of you all will answer my bitter cry! Is there never a merciful friend will help me of all mankind? Yet death and the pains of death are a little thing to me; I have put off the hope of life and left its sweets behind. O Thou that sentest the Guide, the Chosen Prophet to men, The Prince of the Intercessors, gifted to loose and bind, I prithee, deliver me and pardon me my default, And put the troubles to flight that crush me, body and mind I
The gaoler took off his clean clothes and clothing him in two filthy garments, carried him to the Vizier. Noureddin looked at him, and knowing him for his enemy who still sought to compass his death, wept and said to him, 'Art thou then secure against Fate? Hast thou not heard the saying of the poet?
Where are now the old Chosroes, tyrants of a bygone day? Wealth they gathered; but their treasures and themselves have passed away!
O Vizier,' continued he, 'know that God (blessed and exalted be He!) doth whatever He will!' 'O Ali,' replied the Vizier, 'dost thou think to fright me with this talk? Know that I mean this day to strike off thy head in despite of the people of Bassora, and let the days do what they will, I care not; nor will I take thought to thy warning, but rather to what the poet says:
Let the days do what they will, without debate, And brace thy spirit against the doings of Fate.
And also how well says another:
He who lives a day after his foe Hath compassed his wishes, I trow!
Then he ordered his attendants to set Noureddin on the back of a mule, and they said to the youth (for indeed it was grievous to them), 'Let us stone him and cut him in pieces, though it cost us our lives.' 'Do it not,' replied Noureddin. 'Have ye not heard what the poet says?
A term's decreed for me, which I must needs fulfil, And when its days are spent, I die, do what I will. Though to their forest dens the lions should me drag, Whilst but an hour remains, they have no power to kill.'
Then they proceeded to proclaim before Noureddin, 'This is the least of the punishment of those who impose upon kings with forgery!' And they paraded him round about Bassora, till they came beneath the windows of the palace, where they made him kneel down on the carpet of blood and the headsman came up to him and said, 'O my lord, I am but a slave commanded in this matter: if thou hast any desire, let me know, that I may fulfil it; for now there remains of thy life but till the Sultan shall put his head out of the window.' So Noureddin looked in all directions and repeated the following verses:
I see the headsman and the sword, I see the carpet spread, And cry "Alas, my sorry plight! Alas, my humbled head!" How is't I have no pitying friend to help me in my need? Will no one answer my complaint or heed the tears I shed? My time of life is past away and death draws nigh to me: Will no one earn the grace of God by standing me in stead? Will none take pity on my state and succour my despair With but a cup of water cold, to ease my torments dread?
The people fell to weeping for him, and the headsman rose and brought him a draught of water; but the Vizier smote the gugglet with his hand and broke it: then he cried out at the executioner and bade him strike off Noureddin's head. So he proceeded to bind the latter's eyes; whilst the people cried out against the Vizier and there befell a great tumult and dispute amongst them. At this moment there arose a great cloud of dust and filled the air and the plain; and when the Sultan, who was sitting in the palace, saw this, he said to his attendants, 'Go and see what is the meaning of that cloud of dust.' 'When we have cut off this fellow's head,' replied Muin; but the Sultan said, 'Wait till we see what this means.'
Now the cloud of dust in question was raised by Jaafer the Barmecide, Vizier to the Khalif, and his retinue; and the reason of his coming was as follows. The Khalif passed thirty days without calling to mind the affair of Noureddin Ali ben Khacan, and none reminded him of it, till one night, as he passed by the apartment of Enis el Jelis, he heard her weeping and reciting the following verse, in a low and sweet voice:
Thine image is ever before me, though thou art far away, Nor doth my tongue give over the naming of thee aye!
And her weeping redoubled; when lo, the Khalif opened the door and entering the chamber, found her in tears. When she saw him, she fell to the earth and kissing his feet three times, repeated the following verses:
O thou pure of royal lineage and exalted in thy birth! O thou tree of fruitful branches, thou the all unstained of race! I recall to thee the promise that thy noble bounty made: God forbid thou shouldst forget it or withhold the gifted grace!
Quoth the Khalif, 'Who art thou?' And she answered, 'I am she whom thou hadst as a present from Noureddin Ali ben Khacan, and I crave the fulfilment of thy promise to send me to him with the dress of honour; for I have now been here thirty days, without tasting sleep.' Thereupon the Khalif sent for Jaafer and said to him, 'O Jaafer, it is thirty days since we had news of Noureddin Ali ben Khacan, and I doubt me the Sultan has killed him; but by the life of my head and the tombs of my forefathers, if aught of ill have befallen him, I will make an end of him who was the cause of it, though he be the dearest of all men to myself! So it is my wish that thou set out at once for Bassora and bring me news of my cousin Mohammed ben Suleiman ez Zeini and how he hath dealt with Noureddin; and do thou tell my cousin the young man's history and how I sent him to him with my letter, and if thou find that the King hath done otherwise than after my commandment, lay hands on him and his Vizier Muin ben Sawa and bring them to us, as thou shalt find them. Nor do thou tarry longer on the road than shall suffice for the journey, or I will strike off thy head.' 'I hear and obey,' replied Jaafer, and made ready at once and set out for Bassora, where he arrived in due course. When he came up and saw the crowd and turmoil, he enquired what was the matter and was told how it stood with Noureddin Ali, whereupon he hastened to go in to the Sultan and saluting him, acquainted him with his errand and the Khalif's determination, in case of any foul play having befallen Noureddin, to destroy whosoever should have been the cause of it. Then he seized upon the Sultan and his Vizier and laid them in ward, and commanding Noureddin to be released, seated him on the throne in the place of Mohammed ben Suleiman. After this Jaafer abode three days at Bassora, the usual guest-time, and on the morning of the fourth day, Noureddin turned to him and said, 'I long for the sight of the Commander of the Faithful.' Then said Jaafer to Mohammed ben Suleiman, 'Make ready, for we will pray the morning-prayer and take horse for Baghdad.' And he answered, 'I hear and obey.' So they prayed the morning-prayer and set out, all of them, taking with them the Vizier Muin ben Sawa, who began to repent of what he had done. Noureddin rode by Jaafer's side and they fared on without ceasing, till they arrived in due course at the Abode of Peace, Baghdad, and going in to the Khalif's presence, told him how they had found Noureddin nigh upon death. The Khalif said to Noureddin, 'Take this sword and strike off thine enemy's head.' So he took the sword and went up to Muin ben Sawa, but the latter looked at him and said, 'I did according to my nature; do thou according to thine.' So Noureddin threw the sword from his hand and said to the Khalif, 'O Commander of the Faithful, he hath beguiled me with his speech,' and he repeated the following verse:
Lo, with the cunning of his speech my heart he hath beguiled, For generous minds are ever moved by artful words and mild!
'Leave him, thou,' said the Khalif, and turning to Mesrour, commanded him to behead Muin. So Mesrour drew his sword and smote off the Vizier's head. Then said the Khalif to Noureddin, 'Ask a boon of me.' 'O my lord,' answered he, 'I have no need of the sovereignty of Bassora: all my desire is to have the honour of serving thee and looking on thy face.' 'With all my heart,' replied the Khalif. Then he sent for Enis el Jelis and bestowed plentiful favours upon them both, assigning them a palace at Baghdad and regular allowances. Moreover, he made Noureddin one of his boon-companions, and the latter abode with him in the enjoyment of the most delectable life, till Death overtook him.
[Resume Ghanim Ben Eyoub the Slave of Love]
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