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Payne: The Queen of the Serpents (cont.)

[Go back to The Story of Janshah]

All this the Queen of the Serpents related to Hasib Kerimeddin, and he said to her, 'But how knowest thou of these things?' 'O Hasib,' answered she, 'it was on this wise. Thou must know that I once had occasion, some five-and-twenty years ago, to send one of my serpents to Egypt and gave her a letter for Beloukiya, saluting him. So she carried the letter to him and he read it and said to the messenger, "I have a mind to go with thee to the Queen of the Serpents, for I have an occasion to her." Quoth she, "Close thine eyes." So he closed them and opening them again, found himself on the mountain where I now am. Then his guide carried him to a great serpent, and he saluted the latter and asked for me. "She hath gone to the Mountain Caf," answered the serpent, "as is her wont in the winter; but next summer she will come hither again. As often as she goeth thither, she appointeth me to reign in her room, during her absence; and if thou have any occasion to her, I will accomplish it for thee." Quoth he, "I beg thee to bring me the herb, which whoso crusheth and drinketh the juice thereof sickeneth not neither groweth grey nor dieth." "Tell me first," said the serpent, "what befell thee since thou leftest the Queen of the Serpents, to go with Uffan in quest of King Solomon's tomb." So he related to her all his travels and adventures, including the history of Janshah, and besought her to grant him his request, that he might go to his own country." "By the virtue of the lord Solomon," replied she, "I know not where the herb of which thou speakest is to be found." Then she bade the serpent, which had brought him thither, carry him back to Egypt: so the latter said to him, "Shut thine eyes." He did so and opening them again, found himself on the mountain Mukettem. When I returned from the mountain Caf,' added the Queen, 'the serpent my deputy informed me of Beloukiya's visit and repeated to me his story: and this, O Hasib, is how I came to know the adventures of Beloukiya and the history of Prince Janshah of Kabul.'

Hasib marvelled at the Queen's story and wept many tears over it; then he again besought her to let him return to his family; but she said, 'I fear me that, when thou gettest back to earth, thou wilt fail of thy promise and prove traitor to thine oath and enter the bath.' But he swore to her another solemn oath that he would never again enter the bath as long as he lived; whereupon she called a serpent and bade her carry him up to the surface of the earth. So the serpent took him and led him from place to place, till she brought him out on the platform of an abandoned cistern [and there left him].

He walked to the city and coming to his house by the last of the day, at the season of the yellowing of the sun, knocked at the door. His mother opened it and seeing her son, screamed out and threw herself upon him and wept for excess of joy. His wife heard her mother-in-law weeping; so she came out to her and seeing her husband, saluted him and kissed his hands; and each rejoiced in other with an exceeding joy. Then they entered the house and sat down to converse; and presently Hasib asked his mother of the woodcutters, who had left him to perish in the cistern. Quoth she, 'They came and told me that a wolf had eaten thee in the valley. As for them, they are become merchants and own houses and shops, and the world is grown wide for them. But every day they bring me meat and drink, and thus have they done since I lost thee.' 'To-morrow,' said Hasib, 'do thou go to them and say, "My son Hasib hath returned from his travels; so come ye and salute him.'"

Accordingly, on the morrow, she repaired to the wood-cutters' houses and delivered to them her son's message, which when they heard, they changed colour and gave her each a suit of silk, embroidered with gold, saying, 'Give this to thy son and tell him that we will be with him to-morrow.' So she returned to Hasib and gave him their presents and message. Meanwhile, the woodcutters called together a number of merchants and acquainting them with all that had passed between themselves and Hasib, took counsel with them what they should do. Quoth the merchants, 'It behoves each one of you to give him half his goods and slaves;' and they agreed to do this.

So, next day, each of them took half his wealth and going in to Hasib, saluted him and kissed his hands. Then they laid before him what they had brought, saying, 'This of thy bounties, and we are in thy hands.' He accepted their peace-offering and said to them, 'What is past is past: that which befell us was decreed of God and destiny avoideth precaution.' Quoth they, 'Come, let us walk about and take our pleasure in the city and visit the bath.' 'Not so,' answered he. 'I have taken an oath never again to enter the bath, so long as I live.' 'At least,' rejoined they, 'come to our houses, that we may entertain thee.' He agreed to this, and each of them entertained him for a night and a day; nor did they cease to do thus for a whole week [for they were seven in number]

Hasib was now master of lands and houses and shops, and all the merchants of the city foregathered with him and he told them all that had befallen him. He became one of the chief of them and abode thus awhile, till, one day, as he was walking in the town, he chanced to pass the door of a bath, whose keeper was one of his friends. When the bathman saw him, he ran up to him and saluted him and embraced him, saying, 'Favour me by entering the bath and washing, that I may show thee hospitality.' Hasib refused, alleging that he had taken a solemn oath never again to enter the bath; but the bathman was instant with him, saying, 'Be my three wives triply divorced, an thou enter not and be washed!' When Hasib heard him thus conjure him by the triple oath of divorcement, he was confounded and replied, 'O my brother, hast thou a mind to ruin me and make my children orphans and lay a load of sin upon my neck?' But the man threw himself at his feet and kissed them, saying, 'I conjure thee to enter, and be the sin on my neck!' Then all the people of the bath set upon Hasib and dragging him in, pulled off his clothes.

So, seeing no help for it, he sat down against the wall and began to pour water on his head; but hardly had he done so, when a score of men accosted him, saying, 'Come with us to the Sultan, for thou art his debtor.' Then they despatched a messenger to the Sultan's Vizier, who straightway took horse and rode, attended by three-score men, to the bath, where he alighted and going in to Hasib, saluted him and said, 'Welcome to thee!' Then he gave the bathman a hundred dinars and mounting Hasib on a charger he had brought with him, returned with him to the Sultan's palace, where he set food before him and clad him in two dresses of honour, each worth five thousand dinars. When they had eaten and drunken and washed their hands, the Vizier said to Hasib, 'Know that God hath been merciful to us, for the Sultan is nigh upon death for leprosy, and the books tell us that his life is in thy hands.' Then he took him and carried him through the seven vestibules of the palace, till they came to the King's chamber.

Now the name of this King was Kerezdan, King of Persia and of the Seven Countries, and under his sway were a hundred sovereign princes, sitting on chairs of red gold, and ten thousand captains, under each one's hand a hundred deputies and as many sword-bearers and axe-men. They found the King lying on a bed, with his head wrapped in a napkin, and groaning for excess of pain. When Hasib saw this ordinance, his wit was dazed for awe of the King; so he kissed the earth before him and invoked blessings on him. Then the Grand Vizier, whose name was Shemhour, rose (whilst all present rose also to do him honour) and welcoming Hasib, seated him on a high chair at the King's right hand; after which he called for food and the tables were laid.

When they had eaten and drunken and washed their hands, Shemhour turned to Hasib and said to him, 'We are all thy servants and will give thee whatsoever thou seekest, even to the half of the kingdom, so thou wilt but cure the King.' So saying, he led him to the royal couch, and Hasib, uncovering the King's face, saw that he was at the last extremity: so he said to the Vizier, ' It is true that I am the son of the prophet Daniel, but I know nothing of his art: for they put me thirty days in the school of medicine and I learnt nothing of the craft. I would well I knew somewhat thereof and might heal the King.' When the Grand Vizier heard this, he bent over Hasib's hand and kissed it, saying, 'Do not multiply words upon us; for, though we should gather together to us physicians from the East and from the West, none could heal the King but thou.' 'How can I heal him,'rejoined Hasib, 'seeing I know neither his disease nor its remedy?' 'His cure is in thy hands,' replied Shemhour; and Hasib said, 'If I knew the remedy of his sickness, I would heal him.' Quoth the Vizier, 'Thou knowest it right well; the remedy of his sickness is the Queen of the Serpents, and thou knowest her abiding-place and hast been with her.'

When Hasib heard this, he knew that all this came of his entering the bath and repented, whenas repentance availed nothing; then said he, 'What is the Queen of the Serpents? I know her not nor ever in my life heard I of this name.' 'Deny not the knowledge of her,' rejoined the Vizier; 'for I have proof that thou knowest her and hast passed two years with her.' 'I never saw nor heard of her till this moment,' repeated Hasib ; whereupon Shemhour opened a book and after making sundry calculations, raised his head and spoke [or read] as follows; 'The Queen of the Serpents shall foregather with a man and he shall abide with her two years; then shall he return from her and come forth to the surface of the earth, and when he enters the bath, his belly will become black.' Then said he, 'Look at thy belly.' So Hasib looked at his own belly and behold, it was black: but he [still denied and] said, 'My belly was black from the day my mother bore me.' Quoth the Vizier, 'I had posted three men at the door of every bath, bidding them note all who entered and let me know when they found one whose belly was black: so, when thou enteredst, they looked at thy belly and finding it black, sent and told me, after we had all but despaired of coming across thee. All we want of thee is to show us the place whence thou earnest out and after go thy ways; for we have those with us who will take the Queen of the Serpents and fetch her to us.' Then all the other Viziers and officers and grandees flocked about Hasib and conjured him, till they were weary, to show them the abode of the Queen; but he persisted in his denial, saying, 'I never saw nor heard of such a creature.'

When the Grand Vizier saw that entreaties availed nothing, he called the hangman and bade him strip Hasib and beat him soundly. So he beat him, till he saw death face to face, for excess of pain, and the Vizier said to him, 'Why wilt thou persist in denial, whenas we have proof that thou knowest the abiding-place of the Queen of the Serpents? Show us the place whence thou camest out and go from us; we have with us one who will take her, and no harm shall befall thee.' Then he raised him and giving him a dress of honour of cloth of gold, embroidered with jewels, spoke him fair, till he yielded and consented to show them the place.

At this, the Vizier rejoiced greatly and they all took horse and rode, guided by Hasib, till they came to the cavern where he had found the cistern full of honey. He entered, sighing and weeping, and showed them the well whence he had issued; whereupon the Vizier sat down thereby and sprinkling perfumes upon a chafing-dish, began to mutter charms and conjurations, for he was a crafty magician and diviner and skilled in cabalistic arts. He repeated three several formulas of conjuration and threw fresh incense upon the brasier, crying out and saying, 'Come forth, O Queen of the Serpents!' When, behold, the water of the well sank down and disappeared and a great door opened in the side, from which came a great noise of crying like unto thunder, so terrible that they thought the well would fall in and all present fell down in a swoon; nay, some even died [for fright].

Presently, there issued from the well a serpent as big as an elephant, casting out sparks, like red hot coals, from its mouth and eyes and bearing on its back a charger of red gold, set with pearls and jewels, in the midst whereof lay a serpent with a human face, from whose body issued such a splendour that the place was illumined thereby. She turned right and left, till her eyes fell upon Hasib, to whom said she, 'Where is the covenant thou madest with me and the oath thou sworest to me, that thou wouldst never again enter the bath? But there is no recourse against destiny nor can any flee from that which is written on his forehead. God hath appointed the end of my life to be at thy hand, and it is His will that I be slain and King Kerezdan healed of his malady.' So saying, she wept sore and Hasib wept with her. As for the Vizier Shemhour, he put out his hand to lay hold of her; but she said to him, 'Hold thy hand, O accursed one, or I will blow upon thee and reduce thee to a heap of black ashes.' Then she cried out to Hasib, saying, ' Put out thine hand and take me and lay me in the brass dish that is with you: then set me on thy head, for my death was fore-ordained, from the beginning of the world, to be at thy hand, and thou hast no power to avert it.' So he took her and laid her in the dish, and the well returned to its natural state.

Then they set out on their return to the city, Hasib carrying the dish on his head, and as they went along, the Queen of the Serpents said to him privily, 'Hearken to me, and I will give thee a friendly counsel, for all thou hast broken faith with me and been false to thine oath; but this was fore-ordained from all eternity. It is this: when thou comest to the Vizier's house, he will bid thee kill me and cut me in three; but do thou refuse, saying, "I know not how to slaughter," and leave him to do it himself. When he has killed me, he will lay the three pieces in a brass pot and set it on the fire. Then there will come a messenger, to bid him to the King, and he will say to thee, "Keep up the fire under the pot, till the scum rises; then skim it off and pour it into a phial to cool. As soon as it is cool, drink it and neither ache nor pain will be left in all thy body. When the second scum rises, skim it off and pour it into a phial against my return, that I may drink it for an ailment I have in my loins." Then will he go to the King, and when he is gone, do thou wait till the first scum rises and set it aside in a phial; but beware of drinking it, or no good will befall thee. When the second scum rises, skim it off and put it in a phial, which keep for thyself. When the Vizier returns and asks for the second phial, give him the first and note what will happen to him. Then drink the contents of the second phial and thy heart will become the abode of wisdom. After this, take up the flesh and laying it in a brazen platter, carry it to the King and give him to eat thereof. When he has eaten it and it has settled in his stomach, cover his face with a handkerchief and wait by him till noonday, when he will have digested the meat. Then give him somewhat of wine to drink and by the decree of God the Most High he will be healed of his disease and be made whole as he was. This, then, is my charge to thee; give ear unto it and keep it in thy memory.'

Presently, they came to the Vizier's house, and he said to Hasib, 'Come in with me.' So he entered and set down the platter, whilst the troops dispersed and went each his own way, and the Vizier bade him kill the Queen of the Serpents; but he said, 'I am no butcher and never in my life killed I aught. An thou wilt have her slaughtered, kill her with thine own hand.' So Shemhour took the Queen from the platter and slew her, whereat Hasib wept sore and the Vizier laughed at him, saying, 'O wittol, how canst thou weep for the killing of a serpent?' Then he cut her in three and laying the pieces in a brass pot, set it on the fire and sat down to await the cooking of the flesh.

Presently, there came a messenger from the King, who said to him, 'The King calls for thee forthright;' and he answered, 'I hear and obey.' So he gave Hasib two phials and bade him drink the first scum and keep the second against his return, even as the Queen of the Serpents had foretold; after which he went away and Hasib tended the fire under the pot, till the first scum rose, when he skimmed it off and set it aside in one of the phials. After a while, the second scum rose; so he skimmed it off and putting it in the other phial, kept it for himself.

When the meat was done, he took the cauldron off the fire and sat waiting, till the Vizier came back and said to him, 'Hast thou done as I told thee?' 'Yes,' answered Hasib. Quoth the Vizier, 'What hast thou done with the first scum?' 'I drank it but now,' replied Hasib, and Shemhour said, 'Feelst thou no change in thy body?' 'Yes,' answered Hasib; 'I feel as I were on fire from head to foot.' The crafty Vizier made no reply, but said, 'Give me the second phial, that I may drink what is therein, so haply I may be made whole of this ailment in my loins.' So Hasib brought him the first phial and he drank it off, thinking it contained the second scum. Hardly had he done this, when the phial fell from his hand and he swelled out and dropped down dead; and thus was exemplified in him the saying, 'He, who diggeth a pit for his brother, falleth into it himself.'

When Hasib saw this, he wondered and feared to drink of the second phial; but he remembered the Queen's injunction and bethought him that the Vizier would not have reserved the second scum for himself, had there been aught of hurt therein. So he said, 'I put my trust in God,' and drank off the contents of the phial. No sooner had he done so than God the Most High made the fountains of wisdom to well up in his heart and opened to him the sources of knowledge, and joy and gladness overcame him. Then he laid the serpent's flesh on a platter of brass and went forth to carry it to the palace.

On his way thither, he raised his eyes and saw the seven heavens and all that therein is, even to the lote-tree, beyond which there is no passing and the manner of the revolution of the spheres. Moreover, God discovered to him the ordinance of the planets and the scheme of their movements and the fixed stars, and he saw the conformation of the sea and land and understood the causes and consequences of eclipses of the sun and moon, whereby be became informed with the knowledge of the arts of geometry and cosmography, as well as those of astrology and astronomy and mathematics and all that hangs thereby. Then he looked at the earth and saw all minerals and vegetables that are therein and knew their virtues and properties, so that he became in an instant versed in medicine and chemistry and natural magic and the art of making gold and silver.

When he came to the palace, he went in to the King and kissing the earth before him, said, 'Thou hast outlived thy Vizier Shemhour.' The King was sore troubled at the news of the Grand Vizier's death and wept sore for him, whilst his grandees and officers wept also. Then said Kerezdan, 'He was with me but now, in all health, and went away to fetch me the flesh of the Queen of the Serpents, if it should be cooked; what befell him, that he is now dead, and what calamity hath betided him?' So Hasib told him how he had drunk the contents of the phial and had forthwith swelled out and died. The King mourned sore for his loss and said, 'What shall I do without him?' 'Grieve not, O King of the age,' rejoined Hasib; 'for I will cure thee in three days and leave no whit of disease in thy body.' At this the King's breast dilated and he said, 'I will well to be made whole of this affliction, though after years.'

So Hasib set the platter before the King and made him eat a piece of the flesh of the Queen of the Serpents. Then he covered him up and spreading a napkin over his face, bade him sleep. He slept from noon till sundown, when, his stomach having digested the piece of flesh, he awoke. Hasib gave him to drink and bade him sleep again. So he slept till the morning, and on the morrow, Hasib made him eat another piece of the flesh; and thus he did with him three days following, till he had eaten the whole, when his skin began to shrivel up and peel off in scales and he sweated, so that the sweat ran down from his head to his feet. Therewith he became whole and there abode in him no whit of disease, which when Hasib saw, he carried him to the bath and washed his body; and when he came forth, it was like a wand of silver and he was restored to perfect health, nay, sounder than he had ever been.

So he donned his richest robes and seating himself on his throne, made Hasib sit beside him. Then he called for food, and they ate and drank and washed their hands; after which all his Viziers and Amirs and captains and the grandees of his realm and the chiefs of the people came in to him and gave him joy of his recovery; and they beat the drums and decorated the city in token of rejoicing. Then said the King to the assembly, 'O Viziers and Amirs and grandees, this is Hasib Kerimeddin, who hath healed me of my sickness, and I make him my chief Vizier in the room of the Vizier Shemhour. He who loves him loves me and he who honours him honours me and he who obeys him obeys me.' 'We hear and obey;' answered they and flocked to kiss Hasib's hand and give him joy of the Vizierate.

Then the King bestowed on him a splendid dress of honour of cloth of gold, set with pearls and jewels, the least of which was worth five thousand dinars. Moreover, he gave him three hundred male white slaves and the like number of concubines, as they were moons, and three hundred Abyssinian slave-girls, beside five hundred mules laden with treasure and sheep and oxen and buffaloes and other cattle, beyond count, and commanded all his Viziers and Amirs and grandees and notables and the officers of his household and his subjects in general to bring him gifts.

Then Hasib took horse and rode, followed by the Viziers and Amirs and grandees and all the troops, to the house which the King had set apart for him, where he sat down on a chair and the Viziers and Amirs came up to him and kissed his hand and gave him joy of the Vizierate, vying with each other in paying court to him. When his mother and household knew what had happened, they rejoiced greatly and congratulated him on his good fortune, and the woodcutters also came and gave him joy. Then he mounted again and riding to the house of the late Vizier, laid hands on all that was therein and transported it to his own abode.

Thus did Hasib, from a know-nothing, unskilled to read writing, become, by the decree of God the Most High, proficient in all sciences and versed in all manner of knowledge, so that the fame of his learning was blazed abroad in all the land and he became renowned for profound skill in medicine and astronomy and geometry and astrology and alchemy and natural magic and the Cabala and all other arts and sciences.

One day, he said to his mother, 'My father Daniel was exceeding wise and learned; tell me what he left by way of books or what not.' So his mother brought him the chest and taking out the five leaves aforesaid, gave them to him, saying, 'These five scrolls are all thy father left thee.' So he read them and said to her, 'O my mother, these leaves are part of a book. Where is the rest?' Quoth she, 'Thy father was shipwrecked a while before thy birth and lost all his books, save these five scrolls.'Then she told him how Daniel had committed them to her care, enjoining her, if she bore a male child, to give them to him, when he grew up and asked what his father had left him. And Hasib abode in all delight and solace of life, till there came to him the Destroyer of Delights and the Sunderer of Companies.

[Go to Sindbad the Sailor and Sindbad the Porter]

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

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

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