[Go back to King Mohammed Ben Sebaik and the Merchant Hassan]
There was once, of old days and in bygone ages and times, a king in Egypt called Aasim ben Sefwan, a liberal and beneficent prince, venerable and majestic. He owned many cities and strengths and fortresses and troops and warriors and had a vizier named Faris ben Salih, and he and all his subjects worshipped the sun and the fire, instead of the All-powerful King, the Glorious, the Victorious. Now this king was become a very old man, wasted with age and sickness and decrepitude; for he had lived a hundred and fourscore years and had no child, male or female, by reason whereof he was ever in care and concern night and day.
One day, he was sitting on the throne of his kingship with his amirs and viziers and captains and grandees in attendance on him, according to their wont, in their several stations, and whenever there came in an amir, who had with him a son or two sons, the king envied him and said in himself, 'Every one of these is happy and rejoiceth in his children, whilst I, I have no child, and to-morrow I shall die and leave my kingdom and throne and lands and treasures, and strangers will take them and none will bear me in memory nor will there abide any remembrance of me in the world.' Then he became drowned in the sea of melancholy thought and for the much thronging of sorrows and anxieties upon his heart, he shed tears and descending from his throne, sat down upon the ground, weeping and humbling himself [in supplication to God].
When the vizier saw him do thus, he cried out to the notables of the realm and others who were present in the assembly, saying, 'Go to your houses and rest till the king recover from that which aileth him.' So they went away, leaving none in the presence save the vizier, who, as soon as the king came to himself, kissed the earth before him and said, 'O king of the age, what meaneth this weeping? Tell me who hath transgressed against thee or thwarted thee of the kings or castellans or amirs or grandees, that we may all fall on him and tear his soul from his body.' But he spoke not neither raised his head; whereupon the vizier kissed the earth before him a second time and said to him, 'O king of the age, I am even as thy son and thy slave, and indeed I have reared thee on my shoulders; yet know I not the cause of thy grief and chagrin and distress and of this thy case; and who should know but I or who should stand in my stead before thee? Tell me therefore the cause of this thy weeping and affliction.' Nevertheless, the king spoke not neither opened his mouth nor raised his head, but ceased not to weep and cry aloud and lament with an exceeding lamentation and say, 'Alas!'
The vizier took patience with him awhile, after which he said to him, 'Except thou tell me the cause of this thine affliction, I will slay myself before thine eyes, rather than see thee thus distressed.' Then King Aasim raised his head and wiping away his tears, said, 'O vizier of good counsel, leave me to my grief and my affliction, for that which is in my heart of sorrow sufficeth me.' But Faris said, 'O king, tell me the cause of thy weeping. It may be God will appoint thee relief at thy hands.' 'O vizier,' replied the king, 'I weep not for treasure nor horses nor aught else, but that I am become an old man, nigh upon a hundred and fourscore years of age, and have not been blessed with a child, male or female: so, when I die, they will bury me and my trace will be blotted out and my name cut off and strangers will take my throne and kingship and none will have me in remembrance.'
'O king of the age,' rejoined the vizier, 'I am older than thou by a hundred years, yet have I never been blest with a child and cease not day and night from care and concern; so how shall we do, I and thou?' And Aasim said, 'O vizier, hast thou no device or shift in this matter?' Quoth the vizier, 'Know, O king, that I have heard of a king in the land of Seba by name Solomon son of David, who pretendeth to prophetship and [avoucheth that he] hath a mighty Lord who can do all things and whose kingdom is in the heavens and [who hath dominion] over all mankind and birds and beasts and over the wind and the Jinn. Moreover, he knoweth the language of all birds and of all [other] created things; and withal, he calleth all creatures to the worship of his Lord and discourseth to them of their service. So let us send him a messenger in the king's name and seek of him our desire, beseeching him to make petition to his Lord, that He vouchsafe each of us a child. If his faith be true and his Lord avail to do all things, He will assuredly bless each of us with a child, male or female, and if the thing betide thus, we will enter his faith and worship his Lord; else will we take patience and devise us another shift.'
Quoth the king, 'This is well seen, and my heart is lightened by this thy speech; but where shall we find a messenger befitting this grave matter, for that this Solomon is no little king and the approaching him is no light matter? Indeed, I will send him none, on the like of this affair, but thyself, for thou art old and versed in all manner of affairs and the like of thee is the like of myself; wherefore I desire that thou weary thyself and journey to him and occupy thyself diligently with [the accomplishment of] this matter, so haply solace may be at thy hand.' 'I hear and obey,' answered the vizier; 'but rise thou forthright and seat thyself upon the throne, so the amirs and grandees of the realm and officers and [other] the folk may enter [and apply themselves] to thy service, as of their wont; for they all went forth from thee, troubled at heart on thine account. Then will I go out and set forth on the king's errand.'
So the king arose forthright and sat down on the throne of his kingship, whilst the vizier went forth and said to the chief chamberlain, 'Bid the folk proceed to their service, as of their wont.' So the troops and captains and notables of the kingdom entered, after they had spread the tables, and ate and drank and withdrew, according to their wont, after which the vizier went out from King Aasim and repairing to his own house, equipped himself for travel and returned to the king, who opened to him the treasuries and provided him with rarities and things of price and rich stuffs and gear without a match, such as nor amir nor vizier could avail to possess. Moreover, he charged him to accost Solomon with reverence, foregoing him with the salutation; 'then,' continued he, 'do thou ask of him thy need, and if he assent, return to us in haste, for I shall be awaiting thee.' Accordingly, the vizier took the presents and setting out, fared on night and day, till he came within fifteen days' journey of Seba.
Meanwhile God (blessed and exalted be He!) spoke unto Solomon and said to him, 'O Solomon, the King of Egypt sendeth unto thee his chief vizier, with a present of such and such rarities and things of price; so do thou despatch thy vizier Asef ben Berkhiya to him, to receive him with honour and meet him at the halting-places with victual; and when he cometh to thy presence, say to him, "The king [thy master] hath sent thee in quest of this and that and thy business is thus and thus." Then do thou propound to him the faith.' Whereupon Solomon bade his vizier take a company of his retainers [and go forth] to meet the Vizier of Egypt with honour and sumptuous provision at the halting-places. So Asef made ready all that was needed for their entertainment and setting out, fared on till he fell in with Faris and saluted him, entreating him and his company with exceeding honour. Moreover, he brought them victual and provender at the halting-places and said to them, 'Welcome and fair welcome to the coming guests! Rejoice in the certain accomplishment of your desire! Be your souls glad and your eyes solaced and your breasts expanded!'
Quoth Faris in himself, 'Who acquainted him with this?' And he said to Asef, 'O my lord, and who gave thee to know of us and our errand?' 'It was Solomon, son of David (on whom be peace!), told us of this,' answered Asef. 'And who,' asked Faris, 'told our lord Solomon?' 'The Lord of the heaven and the earth told him, the God of all creatures,' replied Asef. Quoth Faris, 'This is none other than a mighty God;' and Asef said, 'And do ye not worship Him?' 'We worship the sun,' answered Faris, 'and prostrate ourselves thereto.' 'O Vizier Faris,' said Asef, 'the sun is but a star of the stars created by God (blessed and exalted be He!). And God forbid that it should be a Lord! For that whiles it appeareth and whiles is absent, but our Lord is [ever] present and never absent and He can do all things.'
Then they journeyed on awhile till they came to the land of Seba and drew near the throne of Solomon son of David, who commanded his hosts of men and Jinn and beasts to rank themselves in their road. So the beasts of the sea and the elephants and leopards and lynxes [and other beasts of the land] ranged themselves on either side of the way, after their several kinds, whilst the Jinn drew out in two ranks in like manner, appearing all to [mortal] sight, without concealment, in divers gruesome forms. So they lined the road on either hand, and the birds spread out their wings over them, to shade them, warbling one to the other in all manner voices and notes.
When the people of Egypt came to this terrible array, they were adread of them and dared not proceed; but Asef said to them, 'Pass on amidst them and fear them not: for they are subjects of Solomon son of David, and none of them will harm you.' So saying, he entered between the ranks, followed by all the folk and amongst them the Vizier of Egypt and his company, fearful: and they ceased not to fare on till they reached the city, where they lodged the embassy in the guest-house and entertained them sumptuously, entreating them with the utmost honour, for the space of three days.
Then they carried them before Solomon, prophet of God (on whom be peace!), and they would have kissed the earth before him; but he forbade them, saying, 'It befits not that a man prostrate himself save to God (to whom belong might and majesty!), Creator of heaven and earth and all other things; wherefore, whosoever of you hath a mind to stand, let him stand, but let none stand to do me worship.' So they obeyed him and the Vizier Faris and some of his servants sat down, whilst certain of the lesser sort stood to wait on him. When they had sat awhile, the servants spread the tables and they all, men and beasts, ate till they had enough.
Then Solomon bade Faris expound his errand, that it might be accomplished, saying, 'Speak and conceal nothing of that on account whereof thou art come; for I know wherefore ye come and what is your errand. It is thus and thus.' And he told him that which had passed between himself and his master, King Aasim; after which he said to him, 'Is this that I have told thee the truth, O vizier?' 'O prophet of God,' replied Faris, 'this thou hast said is indeed truth and verity; but none was with the king and myself, when we discoursed of this matter nor was any ware of our case; who then told thee of all these things?' 'My Lord told me,' answered Solomon, 'He who knoweth the perfidy of the eye and what is hidden in the breasts.' Quoth Faris, 'O prophet of God, verily this is none other than a noble and mighty Lord, able unto all things.' And he and his company embraced the faith of Islam.
Then said Solomon to him, 'Thou hast with thee such and such presents and rarities.' And Faris answered. 'Yes.' Quoth the prophet, 'I accept them all and give them unto thee. So do ye rest thou and thy company, in the place where you have been lodging, so the fatigue of the journey may cease from you; and to-morrow, thine errand shall be accomplished to the uttermost, if it be the will of God the Most High, Lord of heaven and earth and Creator of all creatures.'
So Faris returned to his lodging and on the morrow presented himself before the lord Solomon, who said to him, 'When thou returnest to King Aasim, do ye both go forth to such a place, where ye will find a tree. Mount upon it and sit silent until the mid-hour between the prayer of noon and that of the afternoon, when the mid-day heat hath subsided; then descend and look at the foot of the tree, whence ye will see two serpents issue, one with an ape's head and the other with a head like that of an Afrit. Shoot them with arrows and kill them; then cut off a span's length from their heads and the like from their tails and throw it away. The rest of the flesh cook and cook well and give it to your wives to eat: then lie with them that night and by God's leave, they will conceive and bear male children.' Moreover, he gave him a ring and a signet and a sword and a wrapper containing a tunic embroidered with gold and jewels, saying, 'O Vizier Faris, when your sons grow up to man's estate, give them each two of these things.' Then said he, 'In the name of God! May the Most High accomplish your desire! And now nothing remaineth for you but to depart, [relying] on the blessing of God the Most High, for the king looketh for thy return night and day and his eye is ever on the road.'
So Faris took leave of the prophet and kissing his hands, set forth at once on his homeward journey, rejoicing in the accomplishment of his errand. He travelled on with all diligence till he drew near to Cairo, when he despatched one of his servants to acquaint King Aasim with his return and the successful issue of his journey; which when the king heard, he rejoiced with an exceeding joy, he and his grandees and officers, especially in the vizier's safe return. When they met, the vizier dismounted and kissing the earth before the king, gave him the glad news of the complete achievement of his wish; after which he expounded the true faith to him, and the king and all his people embraced Islam.
Then said Aasim to his vizier, 'Go home and rest this night and a week to boot; then go to the bath and come to me, that I may take counsel with thee of what we shall do.' So Faris kissed the earth and withdrew, with his servants and attendants, to his house, where he rested eight days; after which he repaired to the king and related to him all that had passed between Solomon and himself, adding, 'Do thou rise and go forth with me alone.' So the king and the vizier took two bows and two arrows and repairing to the tree indicated by Solomon, climbed up into it and sat there, without speaking, till near upon the hour of afternoon prayer, when they descended and looking upon the roots of the tree saw two serpents issue thence. The king looked at them and admired them, marvelling to see them ringed with collars of gold about their necks, and said to Faris, 'O vizier, these snakes have golden collars! By Allah, this is a rare thing! Let us take them and set them in a cage and keep them to look upon.' But the vizier said, 'These hath God created for their use; so do thou shoot one and I will shoot the other.'
Accordingly, they shot at them with arrows and killed them; after which they cut off a span's length of their heads and tails and threw it away. Then they carried the rest to the king's palace, where they called the cook and said to him, 'Dress this meat daintily, with onion-sauce and spices, and ladle it out into two platters and bring them hither at such an hour, without fail.' So the cook took the meat and went with it to the kitchen, where he cooked it and dressed it in skilful fashion with fine onion-sauce; after which he ladled it out into two platters and set them before the king and the vizier, who took each a dish and gave their wives to eat of the meat. Then they lay that night with them, and by the good pleasure of God (blessed and exalted be He!) and His will and ordinance, they both conceived forth right.
The king abode three months, troubled in mind and saying in himself, 'I wonder whether this thing will prove true or not;' till one day, as the queen was sitting, the child stirred in her belly and she felt a pain and her colour changed. So she knew that she was with child and calling the chief of her eunuchs, bade him 'Go to the king, wherever he may be, and say to him, "O king of the age, I bring thee the glad tidings that our lady's pregnancy is become manifest, for the child stirs in her belly."' So the eunuch went out in haste, rejoicing, and finding the king alone, with his head on his hand, pondering this thing, kissed the earth before him and acquainted him with his wife's pregnancy. When the king heard this, he sprang to his feet and in the excess of his joy, he kissed the eunuch's head and hands and pulling off the clothes he had on, gave them to him. Moreover, he said to those who were present in his assembly, 'Whoso loveth me, let him bestow largesse upon this man.' And they gave him of money and jewels and jacinths and horses and mules and gardens what was beyond count or reckoning.
At that moment, in came the Vizier Faris and said to Aasim, 'O king of the age, I was sitting at home alone but now, absorbed in thought, pondering the matter of the pregnancy and saying in myself, "I wonder if this thing be true and whether Khatoun have conceived or not!" when, behold, an eunuch came in to me and brought me the glad news that my wife was indeed pregnant, for that her colour was changed and the child stirred in her belly: whereupon, in my joy, I pulled off all my clothes and gave them to him, together with a thousand dinars, and made him chief of the eunuchs.' 'O vizier,' rejoined the king, 'God (blessed and exalted be He!) hath, of His grace and bounty and goodness, made gift to us of the true faith and brought us out of darkness into light and hath been bountiful to us, of His favour and beneficence; wherefore I am minded to solace the folk and cause them to rejoice.' Quoth Faris, 'Do what thou wilt.'
Then said the king, 'O vizier, go down forthright and set free all who are in the prisons, both debtors and criminals, and whoso transgresseth after this, we will requite according to his desert. Moreover, we forgive the people three years' taxes, and do thou set up kitchens all round about the city walls and bid the cooks hang over the fire all kinds of cooking pots and cook all manner meats nor leave cooking night or day, and let all comers, both of the people of the city and of the neighbouring countries, far and near, eat and drink and carry to their houses. And do thou command the people to hold holiday and decorate the city seven days and shut not the taverns night nor day.'
The vizier did as the king bade him and the folk donned their richest apparel and decorated the city and citadel and fortifications, after the goodliest fashion, and passed their time in feasting and sporting and making merry, till the days of the queen's pregnancy were accomplished and she was taken, one night, with the pains of labour hard before dawn. Then the king bade summon all the astrologers and mathematicians and men of learning in the town, and they assembled and sat awaiting the throwing of a bead in at the window, which was to be a signal to them, as well as to the nurses and attendants, that the child was born. Presently, the queen gave birth to a boy like a piece of the full moon, and the astrologers took his altitude and made their calculations and drew his horoscope.
Then they rose and kissing the earth before the king, gave him the joyful tidings that the new-born child was of happy augury and born under a fortunate aspect, 'but,' added they, 'in the first of his life there will befall him a thing that we fear to name to the king.' Quoth Aasim, 'Speak and fear not;' so they said, 'O king, this boy will leave this [his native] land and journey in strange countries and suffer shipwreck and hardship and captivity and distress, and indeed he hath before him many perils and stresses; but, in the end, he shall win free of them and attain to his desire and live the happiest of lives the rest of his days, ruling over subjects and countries and having dominion in the land, in despite of enemies and enviers.'
When the king heard the astrologers' words, he said, 'The matter is obscure; but all that God the Most High decreeth unto the creature of good and bad cometh to pass and needs must a thousand solaces betide him from this day to that.' So he paid no heed to their words, but bestowed on them dresses of honour, as well upon all who were present, and dismissed them; when, behold, in came the vizier, rejoicing, and kissed the earth before the king, saying, 'Good tidings, O king! My wife hath but now given birth to a son, as he were a piece of the moon.' 'O vizier,' replied Aasim, 'go, bring thy wife and child hither, that she may abide with my wife, and they shall bring up the two boys together in my palace.' So Faris fetched his wife and son and they committed the two children to the nurses.
After seven days had passed over them, they brought them before the king and said to him, 'What wilt thou name them?' Quoth he, 'Do ye name them.' But they replied, 'None nameth a boy but his father.' So he said, 'Name my son Seif el Mulouk, after my grandfather, and the vizier's son Saïd.' Then he bestowed dresses of honour on the nurses and said to them, 'Be ye tender over them and rear them after the goodliest fashion.' So they reared the two boys diligently till they reached the age of five, when the king committed them to a schoolmaster, who taught them to read the Koran and write. When they were ten years old, King Aasim gave them in charge to masters, who taught them horsemanship and archery and spear and ball play and the like, till, by the time they were fifteen years old, they were proficient in all manner of martial exercises, nor was there one to vie with them in horsemanship, for each of them would do battle with a thousand men and make head against them alone.
So, when they came to years of discretion, whenever King Aasim looked on them, he rejoiced in them with an exceeding joy; and when they had attained their twentieth year, he took his vizier apart one day and said to him, 'O vizier, I wish to take counsel with thee concerning a thing I have a mind to do.' 'Whatever thou hast a mind to do,' replied Faris, 'do it; for thy judgment is blessed.' So the king said, 'O vizier, I am become a very old and decrepit man, sore stricken in years, and I am minded to take up my abode in an oratory, that I may worship God the Most High, and give my kingdom and sultanate to my son Seif el Mulouk, for that he is grown a goodly youth, accomplished in martial exercises and polite letters and the art of government and full of wit and dignity. What sayst thou of this project?'
'It is well seen of thee,' answered the vizier. 'The idea is a blessed and fortunate one, and if thou do this, I will do the like and my son Saïd shall be the prince's vizier, for he is a comely young man and full of knowledge and judgment. Thus will the two be together, and we will order their affair and neglect not their case, but guide them in the way of righteousness.' Quoth the king 'Write letters and send them by runners to all the cities and provinces and strengths and fortresses, that be under our hands, bidding their chiefs be present on such a day at the Horse-course of the Elephant.' So the vizier went out forthright and despatched letters to this purport to all the deputies and governors of fortresses and others [in authority] under King Aasim; and he commanded also that all in the city should be present, great and small.
When the appointed time drew near, King Aasim let pitch pavilions in the midst of the Horse-course and decorate them after the most sumptuous fashion and set up [therein] the great throne whereon he sat not but on festivals. Then he and all his deputies and chamberlains and amirs sallied forth, and he commanded proclamation to be made to the people, saying, 'In the name of God, come forth to the Horse-course!' So all the amirs and viziers and governors of provinces and feudatories came forth to the place of assembly and entering the royal pavilion, addressed themselves to the service of the king, according to their wont, and abode in their several stations, some standing and others sitting, till all the people were gathered together, when the king commanded to spread the tables and they ate and drank and prayed for him.
Then he commanded the chamberlains to proclaim to the people that they should not depart: so they made proclamation to them, saying, 'Let none of you depart hence till he have heard the king's words!' So they drew the curtains [of the royal pavilion] and the king said, 'Whoso loveth me, let him remain till he have heard my words!' Whereupon the folk all sat down, reassured, after they had been fearful. Then the king rose to his feet and conjuring them all to remain seated, said to them, 'O amirs and viziers and grandees, great and small, and all ye who are present of the people, know ye not that this kingdom was an inheritance to me from my fathers and forefathers?' 'Yes, O king,' answered they, 'we all know that.' And he continued, saying, 'I and you, we all worshipped the sun and moon, till God (blessed and exalted be He!) vouchsafed us the knowledge of the true faith and brought us out of darkness into light, guiding us to the religion of Islam. Know that I am become a very old man, decrepit and feeble, and I desire to take up my abode in an oratory, there to worship God the Most High and crave His pardon for past offences and make this my son Seif el Mulouk ruler. Ye know that he is a goodly youth, eloquent, just and intelligent, learned and versed in affairs; wherefore I am minded presently to resign my kingdom to him and to make him king and sultan over you in my stead, whilst I give myself to the worship of God in an oratory. What say ye then, all of you?'
Thereupon they all rose and kissing the ground before him, made answer with 'Hearing and obedience,' saying, 'O our king and our protector, if thou shouldst set over us one of thy slaves, we would hearken to thy word and obey him: how much more then with thy son Seif el Mulouk? Indeed, we accept of him and approve him, on our heads and eyes!' So the king came down from his seat and seating his son on the great throne, took the crown from his own head and set it on that of Seif el Mulouk and girt his middle with the royal girdle. Then he sat down beside him on the throne of his kingship, whilst the amirs and viziers and notables and all the rest of the folk rose and kissed the earth before him, saying, 'Indeed, he is worthy of the kingship and hath better right to it than another.' Then the ushers made proclamation of safety and offered up prayers for his victory and prosperity. And Seif el Mulouk scattered gold and silver on the heads of the people and conferred dresses of honour and gave gifts and largesse.
Then, after a moment, the Vizier Faris arose and kissing the earth, said, 'O amirs and grandees, ye know that I am vizier and that my vizierate dated from of old, before the accession of King Aasim ben Sefwan, who hath now divested himself of the sovereignty and made his son king in his stead?' 'Yes,' answered they, 'we know that thy vizierate is from father after grandfather.' 'And now,' continued he, 'I put off my office, in favour of this my son Saïd, for he is intelligent, quick-witted and sagacious. What say ye all?' And they answered, saying, 'None is worthy to be vizier to King Seif el Mulouk but thy son Saïd, and they befit one another.' With this Faris arose and taking off his vizier's turban, set it on his son's head and laid his inkhorn of office before him, whilst the amirs and chamberlains said, 'Indeed, he is deserving of the viziership.' After this, King Aasim and Faris the vizier arose and opening the royal treasuries, conferred magnificent dresses of honour on all the viceroys and amirs and viziers and grandees and other the folk and wrote them new mandates and patents of office in the name of King Seif el Mulouk and his Vizier Saïd. Moreover, he made distribution of money [to the troops] and gave guerdons, and they abode in the city a week and departed each to his own country and place.
Then King Aasim carried his son and his Vizier Saïd back to the palace and commanded the treasurer to bring the ring and signet and sword and wrapper; which being done, he said to the two young men, 'O my sons, let each of you choose two of these things and take them.' The first to make choice was Seif el Mulouk, who put out his hand and took the ring and the wrapper, whilst Saïd took the sword and the signet; after which they both kissed the king's hands and went away to their lodging. Seif opened not the wrapper, but threw it on the couch where he and Saïd slept by night, for it was their wont to lie together.
Presently they spread them the bed and the two lay down, with candles burning over them, and slept till midnight, when Seif awoke and seeing the wrapper at his head, said in himself, 'I wonder what thing of price is in this wrapper that my father gave me!' So he rose and leaving Saïd sleeping, took a candle and carried the wrapper into a closet, where he opened it and found within a tunic of the fashion of the Jinn. He spread it open and saw, wroughten in gold on the lining of the back, the portraiture of a girl of marvellous loveliness, whereon no sooner had he set eyes than his reason fled from his head and he became mad for love thereof, so that he fell down in a swoon and [presently coming to himself], began to weep and lament, beating his face and breast and kissing the portrait. And he recited the following verses:Love, at the first, a dribble is of water, that the Fates Bring and impel 'gainst him on whom it falleth to his share;
And also these:Had I but known how love men's heart doth take and rack, I'd been upon my guard against its first attack;
And he ceased not to weep and lament and buffet his face and breast, till Saïd awoke and missing him from the bed and seeing [but] one candle, said in himself, 'Where is Seif el Mulouk gone?' Then he took the candle and went round about the palace, till he came upon the closet in question, where he saw the prince lying, weeping and lamenting passing sore. So he said to him, 'O my brother, what ails thee to weep? Speak to me and tell me what hath befallen thee.' But Seif spoke not neither raised his head and continued to weep and smite upon his breast. Quoth Saïd, 'I am thy vizier and thy brother, and we were reared together, thou and I; so to whom wilt thou unburden thy breast and discover thy secret, if not to me?' And he went on to humble himself and kiss the earth before him a great while, whilst Seif el Mulouk paid no heed to him nor answered him a word, but gave not over weeping.
At last, being affrighted at his case and weary of striving with him, he went out and fetched a sword, with which he returned to the closet, and setting the point to his own breast, said to the prince, 'Awake, O my brother! An thou tell me not what ails thee, I will slay myself and see thee no longer in this plight.' Whereupon Seif raised his head and answered him, saying, 'O my brother, I am ashamed to tell thee what ails me;' but Saïd said, 'I conjure thee by Allah, the Lord of Lords, the Liberator of those that are in bondage, the Causer of causes, the One, the Clement, the Bountiful, the Giver of gifts, that thou tell me what ails thee and be not abashed at me, for I am thy slave and thy vizier and counsellor in all things!' Quoth Seif, 'Come and look at this portrait.' So Saïd looked at it awhile and considering it straitly, saw written, at its head, in letters of pearl, these words, 'This is the presentment of Bediya el Jemal, daughter of Shehyal ben Sharoukh, a king of the kings of the true-believing Jinn who have taken up their abode in the city of Babel and sojourn in the garden of Irem.'
So he said to the king, 'O my brother, knowest thou of what woman this is the portraiture, that we may seek for her?' 'Not I, by Allah, O my brother,' answered Seif: and Saïd said, 'Come and read this writing.' So Seif read it and cried out from his inmost heart, saying, 'Alas! Alas! Alas!' Quoth Saïd, 'O my brother, if the original of the portrait exist and her name be Bediya el Jemal and she be in the world, I will make haste to seek her, that thou mayst without delay attain thy desire. But, God on thee, O my brother, leave this weeping, that the officers of the state may come in, to do their service to thee, and in the forenoon, do thou summon the merchants and fakirs and travellers and pilgrims and enquire of them concerning this city and the garden of Irem; it may be, by the help and blessing of God (extolled and exalted be He!), some one of them will direct us thither.'
So, when it was day, Seif el Mulouk went forth and mounted the throne, hugging the tunic in his arms, for he could neither stand nor sit without it, nor would sleep visit him, except it were with him; and the amirs and viziers and grandees and officers came in to him. When they were all assembled in their places and the Divan was complete, he said to his vizier, 'Go to them and tell them that the king is sick and hath passed the night in ill case.' So Saïd went forth and told the folk what he said; which when the old king heard, he was concerned for his son and summoning the physicians and astrologers, carried them in to Seif el Mulouk.
They looked at him and prescribed him draughts and simples and medicinal waters and wrote him charms and incensed him with aloes-wood and ambergris three days' space; but his malady persisted three months, till King Aasim was wroth with the physicians and said to them, 'Out on you, O dogs! Can none of you cure my son? Except ye heal him forthright, I will put you all to death.' 'O king of the age,' replied the chief physician, 'we know that this is thy son and thou knowest that we fail not of diligence in tending a stranger; so how much more with thy son? But thy son is afflicted with a grievous malady, which if thou desire to know, we will discover it to thee.' Quoth Aasim, 'What find ye then to be my son's malady?' 'O king of the age,' answered the physician, 'thy son is in love and with one to whose enjoyment he hath no way of access.' At this the king was wroth and said, 'How know ye that my son is in love and how came love to him?' 'Ask his vizier and brother Saïd,' answered they; 'for he knoweth his case.'
So the king called Saïd into his privy closet and said to him, 'Tell me the truth of my son's malady.' But Saïd replied, 'I know it not.' Then King Aasim said to the headsman, 'Take Saïd and bind his eyes and strike off his head.' Whereupon Saïd feared for himself and said, 'O king of the age, grant me immunity.' 'Speak,' answered the king; 'and thou shalt have it.' Then said Saïd, 'Thy son is in love.' 'With whom is he in love?' asked the old king: and Saïd replied, 'With a king's daughter of the Jinn, whose portait he saw wroughten on the tunic that was in the wrapper given thee by Solomon, prophet of God.'
When the king heard this, he rose, and going in to his son, said to him, 'O my son, what is this portrait whereof thou art enamoured and why didst thou not tell me?' 'O my father,' answered Seif el Mulouk, 'I was ashamed to name this to thee and could not bring myself to discover aught thereof to any; but now thou knowest my case, look how thou mayest do to cure me.' 'What is to be done?' rejoined his father. 'Were she of the daughters of men, we might find a means of coming at her; but she is a king's daughter of the Jinn and who can avail to her, except it be Solomon son of David, and hardly he? Wherefore, O my son, do thou arise forthright and take heart and mount and ride out a-hunting or to the games in the tilting-ground. Divert thyself with eating and drinking and put away grief and concern from thy heart, and I will bring thee a hundred kings' daughters; for thou hast no call to the daughters of the Jinn, over whom we have no power and who are not of our kind.' But Seif said, 'I cannot renounce her nor will I seek another than her.' 'How then shall we do, O my son?' asked King Aasim; and Seif said, 'Bring us all the merchants and travellers and pilgrims in the city, that we may question them of the city of Babel and the garden of Irem. Peradventure, God will guide us thereto.'
So King Aasim summoned all the merchants and strangers and sea-captains in the city and enquired of them for the city of Babel and its peninsula and the garden of Irem; but none of them knew these places nor could any give him tidings thereof. However, when the session broke up, one of them said to the king, 'O king of the age, if thou hast a mind to know this thing, get thee to the land of China; for it is a vast and safe country, wherein are store of rarities and things of price and folk of all kinds [and nations] and thou shalt not come to the knowledge of this city and garden but from its people; it may be one of them will direct thee to that thou seekest.' Whereupon quoth Seif el Mulouk, 'O my father, equip me a ship, that I may journey to the land of China.'
'O my son,' replied the old king, 'abide thou on the throne of thy kingship and rule thy subjects, and I myself will make the voyage to China and enquire for thee of the city of Babel and the garden of Irem.' But Seif rejoined, saying, 'O my father, this affair concerneth me and none can prosecute the search after it like myself: so, come what will, if thou give me leave to make the voyage, I will depart and travel in foreign countries awhile. If I find tidings of her, my desire will be attained, and if not, belike the voyage will dilate my breast and recruit my spirits; and peradventure by foreign travel my case will be made easy to me, and if I live, I shall return to thee whole and sound.'
The old king looked at his son and saw nothing for it but to do what he wished; so he fitted him out forty ships, manned with twenty thousand men, besides servants, and gave him great plenty of treasures and necessaries and warlike gear, as much as he required. When the ships were laden with water and victual and arms and troops, Seif's father and mother bade him farewell and the former said, 'Depart, O my son, and travel in health and weal and safety. I commend thee to Him who disappointeth not those that put their trust in Him.' So the prince embarked, with his brother Saïd, and they weighed anchor and sailed till they came to the City of China.
When the people heard of the coming of forty ships, full of armed men and stores, they doubted not but they were enemies come to make war on them and beleaguer them; so they shut the gates of the town and made ready the mangonels. But Seif, hearing of this, despatched two of his chief officers to the King of China, bidding them say to him, 'This is Seif el Mulouk, son of King Aasim of Egypt, who is come to thy city as a guest, to divert himself by viewing thy country awhile, and not for battle or contention; so, an thou wilt receive him, he will come ashore to thee: else he will return and will not disquiet thee nor the people of thy city.' So they presented themselves at the gates of the city and said, 'We bear a message from King Seif el Mulouk.' Whereupon the townsfolk opened the gates and carried them to their king, whose name was Feghfour Shah and between whom and King Aasim there had been acquaintance erewhen. So, when he heard that the new-comer was the son of King Aasim, he bestowed dresses of honour on the messengers and bidding open the gates, made ready guest-gifts and went forth, with the chief officers of his realm, to meet Seif el Mulouk.
The two kings embraced and Feghfour said to Seif, 'Welcome and fair welcome to him who cometh to us! I am thy servant and thy father's servant: my city is at thy disposal and whatsoever thou seekest shall be brought to thee.' Then he presented him with the guest-gifts and victual, and they took horse, with the Vizier Saïd and the chiefs of their officers and the rest of their troops, and rode from the sea-shore to the city, which they entered with drums beating and cymbals clashing, in token of rejoicing. There they abode forty days, in the enjoyment of fair hospitality, at the end of which time the King of China said to Seif el Mulouk, 'O son of my brother, how is it with thee? Doth my country please thee?' Quoth Seif, 'May God the Most High long honour it with thee, O King!' And Feghfour said, 'Nought hath brought thee hither save some need that hath betided thee; [so tell me] what thou desirest of my country, and I will accomplish it to thee.' 'O king,' answered Seif, 'my case is a rare one,' and told him how he had fallen in love with the portrait of Bediya el Jemal.
When the King of China heard his story, he wept for pity and solicitude for him and said, 'And what wouldst thou have now, O Seif el Mulouk?' Quoth Seif, 'I would have thee bring me all the pilgrims and travellers and seafarers in the country, that I may question them of the original of this portrait; belike one of them may give me tidings of her.' So Feghfour Shah sent out his lieutenants and officers and chamberlains, to fetch all the pilgrims and travellers in the land, and they brought them before the two kings, and they were a numerous company. Then Seif el Mulouk questioned them of the City of Babel and the Garden of Irem, but none of them returned him an answer, wherefore he was confounded and knew not what to do; but one of the sea-captains said to him, 'O king, if thou wouldst know of this city and garden, get thee to the Islands of the Indian Sea.'
So Seif bade repair the ships; which being done, they launched them on the sea and freighted them with victual and water and all that they needed, and Seif el Mulouk and his Vizier Saïd re-embarked, with all their men, after they had taken leave of King Feghfour Shah. They sailed the seas with a fair wind, in safety and security, four months, till, one day, there came out upon them a wind and the waves smote on them from all sides. The rain and hail descended on them and the sea was troubled for the violence of the wind; by reason whereof the ships drove one against another and broke up, as did the boats, and all on board were drowned, except Seif el Mulouk and some of his servants, who saved themselves in a little boat. Then, by the decree of God the Most High, the wind fell and the sun shone out; whereupon Seif opened his eyes and seeing no sign of the ships nor aught but sky and water, said to those who were with him in the boat, 'Where are the ships and boats and where is my brother Saïd?' 'O king of the age,' answered they, 'there remain nor ships nor boats nor those who were therein; for they are all drowned and become food for fishes.'
When he heard this, he cried aloud and repeated the words which whoso saith shall not be confounded, and they are, 'There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme!' Then he fell to buffeting his face and would have cast himself into the sea, but his men withheld him, saying, 'O king, what will this profit thee? Thou hast brought all this on thyself; for, hadst thou hearkened to thy father's words, nought thereof had befallen thee. But this was fore-ordained from all eternity by the will of the Creator of Souls, that the creature might accomplish that which God hath decreed unto him. And indeed, at the time of thy birth, the astrologers predicted to thy father that all manner of troubles should befall thee. So there is nothing for it but patience till God the Most High deliver us from this our strait.' 'There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme!' replied the prince. 'Neither is there refuge nor fleeing from that which He decreeth!' And he sighed and recited the following verses:By the Compassionate, I'm dazed about my case, for lo! Troubles and grief beset me sore; I know not whence they grow.
Then he became drowned in the sea of melancholy thought and his tears ran down upon his cheeks, like a great rain. He slept awhile of the day, after which he awoke and sought food. So they set food before him and he ate till he had enough whilst the boat drove on with them they knew not whither. It drifted with them night and day, at the winds' and waves' will, a great while, till their victual was spent and they knew not what to do and were reduced to the last extremity for hunger and thirst and weariness. At last they sighted an island afar off and the breezes drove them on, till they came thither and making the boat fast to the shore, landed. They left one in the boat, to guard it, and fared on into the island, where they found abundance of fruits of all kinds and ate of them, till they were satisfied.
Presently, they saw a man sitting among the trees, and he was of strange aspect, long-faced and white of beard and body. He called to one of the servants by his name, saying, 'Eat not of those fruits, for they are not ripe; but come hither to me, that I may give thee to eat of these that are ripe.' The man looked at him and thought that he was one of the shipwrecked folk, who had made his way to the island; so he rejoiced greatly at sight of him and went up to him, knowing not what was decreed to him in the secret purpose of God nor what was written on his forehead. But, when he drew near the stranger, he leapt upon his shoulders and twisting one of his legs about his neck, let the other hang down upon his back, saying, 'Go on; for there is no escape for thee from me and thou art become my ass.' Thereupon the man fell a-weeping and cried out to his fellows, saying, 'Alas, my lord! Flee forth of this wood and save yourselves, for one of the dwellers therein hath mounted on my shoulders, and the rest seek you, that they may ride you likewise.'
When they heard this, they all fled down to the boat and pushed off to sea; whilst the islanders followed them into the water, saying, 'Whither go ye? Come, bide with us and we will ride on your backs and give you meat and drink, and you shall be our asses.' With this, they redoubled their efforts, till they left them in the distance and fared on, trusting in God the Most High; nor did they leave going a whole month, till they came to another island and landed. Here they found fruits of various kinds and busied themselves with eating of them. Presently, they saw, afar off, somewhat lying in the road, as it were a column of silver. So they went up to it and one of the men gave it a push with his foot, when, lo, it was a creature of hideous aspect, long-eyed, cleft-headed and hidden under one of his ears, for he was used, whenas he lay down to sleep, to spread one ear under his head and cover himself with the other. He snatched up the man who had kicked him and carried him off into the inward of the island, and behold, it was all full of ghouls who eat men. So the man cried out to his fellows, saying, 'Flee and save yourselves, for this is the island of the man-eating ghouls, and they mean to tear me in pieces and eat me.'
When they heard this, they fled back to the boat, without gathering any store of the fruits, and putting out to sea, fared on some days till they came to another island, where they found a high mountain. So they climbed to the top and found there a thick wood. Now they were anhungred; so they fell to eating of the fruits; but, before they aware, there came upon them from among the trees black men of terrible aspect, each fifty cubits high, with teeth like elephants' tusks protruding from their mouths, and laying hands on Seif el Mulouk and his company, carried them to their king, whom they found seated on a piece of black felt laid on a rock, and about him a great company of blacks, standing in his service. Quoth the blacks to him, 'We found these birds among the trees;' and he was anhungred; so he took two of the servants and killed them and ate them; which when Seif saw, he feared for himself and wept and repeated these verses:Troubles familiar with my heart are grown and I with them, Erst shunning; for the generous are sociable still.
Then he sighed and repeated these also:Fate with afflictions still hath so beshotten me, With shafts, as with a sheath, my entrails are o'erlaid;
When the king heard his weeping and wailing, he said, 'Verily, these birds have sweet voices and their song pleaseth me: put them in cages.' So they set them each in a cage and hung them up at the king's head, that he might hear their song. On this wise Seif and his men abode a great while, and the blacks gave them to eat and drink: and now they wept and now laughed, now spoke and now were silent, whilst the king of the blacks delighted in the sound of their voices.
Now this king had a daughter married in another island, who, hearing that her father had birds with sweet voices, sent to him to seek of him some of them. So he sent her, by her messenger, Seif el Mulouk and three of his men in four cages; and when she saw them, they pleased her and she commanded to hang them up in a place over her head. Then Seif fell to marvelling at that which had befallen him and calling to mind his former high estate and weeping for himself; and the three servants wept for themselves, whilst the king's daughter deemed that they sang. Now it was her wont, whenever any one from the land of Egypt or elsewhere fell into her hands and he pleased her, to advance him to high estate with her; and by the ordinance of God the Most High, it befell that, when she saw Seif el Mulouk, his beauty and grace and symmetry pleased her, and she commanded to loose him and his companions from their cages and bade entreat them with honour.
One day she took Seif apart and would have him lie with her; but he refused, saying, 'O my lady, I am an exile and distraught with passion for a beloved one, nor will I consent to love-delight with other than her.' Then she coaxed him and importuned him, but he held aloof from her, and she could not anywise approach him nor get her desire of him. At last, when she was weary of courting him in vain, she waxed wroth with him and his men and commanded that they should serve her and fetch her wood and water.
They abode thus four years, till Seif el Mulouk became weary of this life and sent to intercede with the princess, so haply she might release them and let them go their ways and be at rest from that their travail. So she sent for him and said to him, 'If thou wilt fall in with my desire, I will set thee free from this thy duresse and thou shalt go to thy country, safe and sound.' And she went on to humble herself to him and wheedle him, but he would not consent to do her will; whereupon she turned from him, in anger, and he and his companions abode in the same plight. The people of the island knew them for the princess's birds and dared not do them any hurt; and she herself was at ease concerning them, being assured that they could not escape from the island. So they used to absent themselves from her two and three days [at a time] and go round about the island in all directions, gathering firewood, which they brought to the princess's kitchen; and thus they abode five years.
One day, it chanced that the prince and his men were sitting on the sea-shore, devising of what had befallen, and Seif bethought him of his father and mother and his brother Saïd and calling to mind his former high estate, fell a-weeping and lamenting passing sore, whilst his servants wept likewise. Then said they to him, 'O king of the age, how long shall we weep? Weeping availeth not; for this thing was written on our foreheads by the ordinance of God, to whom belong might and majesty. Indeed, the pen runneth with that which He decreeth and nought will serve us but patience. Peradventure God (blessed and exalted be He!), who hath afflicted us with this calamity, will deliver us therefrom.' 'O my brothers,' said Seif, 'how shall we win free from this accursed woman? I see no way of escape for us, except God of His favour deliver us from her; but methinks we may flee and be at rest from this travail.'
'O king of the age,' answered they, 'whither shall we flee? For the whole island is full of man-eating ghouls and whithersoever we go, they will find us there and either eat us or carry us back to the king's daughter, who will be wroth with us.' Quoth Seif, 'I will contrive you somewhat, whereby it may be God the Most High will help us to escape from this island.' 'And how wilt thou do?' asked they. 'Let us cut some of these long pieces of wood,' answered he, 'and twist ropes of their bark and bind them one with another, and make of them a raft which we will cast into the sea and load with these fruits. Then will we fashion us oars and embark on the raft; peradventure God the Most High will make it the means of our deliverance from this accursed woman and vouchsafe us a fair wind to bring us to the land of Hind, for He can do all things.' 'This is well seen,' said they and were mightily rejoiced thereat.
So they arose and fell to work forthright to cut wood for the raft and twist ropes to bind the logs together, and at this they wrought a whole month. Every evening, they gathered somewhat of firewood and carried it to the princess's kitchen, and the rest of the day they busied themselves with working at the raft. When they had made an end of it, they cast it into the sea and loading it with the fruits of the island, embarked at close of day, having told none of their intent. They put out to sea and fared on four months, knowing not whither the raft carried them, till their victual failed them and they were reduced to the utmost extreme of hunger and thirst.
[One day, as they drifted along,] the sea became troubled and foamed and rose in great waves, and there came forth upon them a frightful crocodile, which put out its claw and snatching up one of the servants, swallowed him. At this sight Seif el Mulouk wept sore and he and the two men that remained to him pushed off from the place where they had seen the monster, sore affrighted. After this, they drifted on till one day they espied a terrible great mountain, rising high into the air, whereat they rejoiced and made towards it with all their might, glad in the prospect of reaching land; but hardly had they sighted the island [on which was the mountain], when the sea boiled and rose in huge waves and a second crocodile raised its head and putting out its claw, took the two remaining servants and swallowed them.
So Seif abode alone and making his way to the island, laboured till he reached the mountain-top, where he found a wood and walking among the trees, fell to eating of the fruits. Presently, he saw among the branches more than twenty great apes, each bigger than a mule, whereat he was seized with exceeding fear. The apes came down and surrounded him; then they went on before him, signing to him to follow them, and he did so, till he came to a lofty and strong-builded castle, the ordinance whereof was one brick of gold and one of silver. The apes entered and he after them, and he saw in the castle all manner of jewels and precious metals and things of price, such as the tongue fails to describe. Here also he found a young man, exceeding tall of stature, with no hair on his cheeks, and there was no human being but he in the castle.
The two young men greeted each other with delight, and the stranger marvelled exceedingly at sight of Seif el Mulouk and said to him, 'What is thy name and what countryman art thou and how camest thou hither? Tell me thy story and conceal from me nought thereof.' 'By Allah,' answered the prince, 'I came not hither of my own intent nor is this place that which I seek; but I cannot but go from place to place till I compass my desire.' 'And what is it thou seekest?' asked the youth. 'I am of the land of Egypt,' replied Seif, 'and my name is Seif el Mulouk, son of King Aasim ben Sefwan;' and told him all that had befallen him, from first to last, [up to his coming to the land of China]. Whereupon the youth arose and stood in his service, saying, 'O king of the age, I was in Egypt [awhile since] and heard that thou hadst gone to the land of China; but it is a far cry from China hither. Verily, this is a strange thing and a rare case!'
'True,' answered the prince; 'but, when I left China, I set out, intending for the land of Hind;' and he told him all that had befallen him till he came thither; whereupon quoth the other, 'O king's son, thou hast had enough of strangerhood and its hardships; praised be God who hath brought thee hither! So now do thou abide with me, that I may enjoy thy company till I die, when thou shalt become king over this island, to which no bound is known, and these apes thou seest, which are skilled in all manner crafts; and all thou seekest thou wilt find here.' 'O my brother,' replied Seif el Mulouk, 'I may not abide in any place till my quest be accomplished, though I compass the whole world in pursuit thereof, so haply God may bring me to my desire or my course lead me to the place, wherein is the appointed term of my days, and I shall die.'
Then the youth signed to one of the apes, and he went out and was absent awhile, after which he returned with other apes, girt with napkins of silk. They laid the table and set on near a hundred dishes of gold and silver, containing all kinds of meats. Then they stood, after the manner of servants before kings, till the youth signed to the chamberlains, who sat down, and he whose wont it was to serve stood, whilst the two princes ate, till they had enough. Then the apes cleared the table and brought basins and ewers of gold, and they washed their hands; after which they set on nigh forty flagons, in each a different kind of wine, and they drank and took their pleasure and made merry; and all the apes danced and gambolled before them, what while they sat at meat; which when Seif saw, he marvelled at them and forgot that which had befallen him of strangerhood and its hardships. At nightfall, they lighted candles in candlesticks of gold and silver and set on dishes of fruits and confections. So they ate; and when the hour of rest was come, the apes spread them beds and they slept.
Next morning, the young man arose, according to his wont, and waking Seif, said to him, 'Put thy head forth of this lattice and see what stands beneath.' So he put out his head and saw the wide waste and all the desert filled with apes, whose number none knew save God the Most High. Quoth he, 'Here is great plenty of apes, for they fill the whole country: but why are they assembled at this hour?' 'This is their custom,' answered the youth. 'Every Saturday, all the apes in the island come hither, some from two and three days' distance, and stand here till I awake from sleep and put forth my head from this window, when they kiss the ground before me and go about their affairs.' So saying, he put his head out of the window; and when the apes saw him, they kissed the earth before him and went away.
Seif el Mulouk abode with the young man a whole month, at the end of which time he bade him farewell and departed, escorted by a company of nigh a hundred apes, which their king sent with him. They journeyed with him seven days, till they came to the limits of their island, when they took leave of him and returned to their places, while Seif fared on alone over hill and mountain and desert and plain, four months' journey, one day anhungred and the next full of meat, now eating of the herbs of the earth and now of the fruits of the trees, till he repented him of having quitted the young man and was about to retrace his steps to him, when he saw somewhat black afar off and said in himself, 'Is this city or trees? I will not turn back till I see what it is.' So he made towards it and when he drew near, he saw that it was a lofty palace. Now he who built it was Japhet son of Noah (on whom be peace!) and it is of this palace that God the Most High speaketh in His precious Book, whenas He saith, 'And an abandoned well and a high-builded palace.'
Seif el Mulouk sat down at the gate and said in himself, 'I wonder what is within this palace and what king dwelleth there and whether its inhabitants are men or Jinn? Who will tell me the truth of the case?' He sat awhile, considering, but, seeing none go in or out, he rose and committing himself to God the Most High, entered the palace and walked on, till he had counted seven vestibules; but saw no one. Presently he espied, on his right hand, three doors, and before him, a fourth, over which hung a curtain. So he went up to the fourth door and raising the curtain, found himself in a great saloon, spread with silken carpets. At the upper end stood a golden throne, on which sat a young lady, whose face was like the moon, arrayed in kings' raiment and adorned as she were a bride on her wedding-night; and before the throne stood a table, whereon were forty trays spread with dishes of gold and silver, full of rich meats.
The prince went up to the lady and saluted her, and she returned his greeting, saying, 'Art thou of mankind or of the Jinn?' 'I am a man of the best of mankind,' replied he; 'for I am a king, son of a king.' Quoth she, 'What seekest thou? Up and eat of yonder food, and after tell me thy story from first to last and how thou camest hither.' So he sat down at the table and uncovering a tray of meats, ate (for he was hungry) till he had enough; then washed his hands and going up to the throne, sat down by the young lady who said to him, 'Who art thou and what is thy name and whence comest thou and who brought thee hither?' 'My story is a long one,' replied he; 'but do thou first tell me who and what thou art and why thou dwellest in this place alone.'
Quoth she, 'My name is Dauleh Khatoun and I am the daughter of the King of Hind. My father dwells in the city of Serendib and has a great and goodly garden, there is no goodlier in all the land of Hind; and in this garden is a great tank. One day, I went out into the garden with my waiting-women and we stripped and entering the tank, fell to sporting and taking our pleasure therein. Presently, before I could be ware, there swooped down on me somewhat, as it were a cloud, and snatching me from amongst my maids, flew up with me betwixt heaven and earth, saying, "Fear not, O Dauleh Khatoun, but be of good heart." Then he flew on with me a little while, after which he set me down in this palace and straightway became a handsome young man, elegantly clad, who said to me, "Dost thou know me?" "No, O my lord," answered I; and he said, "I am the Blue King, son of the Jinn; my father dwelleth in the Castle of El Culzum and hath under his hand six hundred thousand Jinn, flyers and divers. I chanced to see thee, as I was passing, and fell in love with thee; so I snatched thee up from among the slave-girls and brought thee to this strong castle, which is my dwelling-place. None may win hither, whether he be man or genie, and from Hind hither is a hundred and twenty years' journey: wherefore be thou assured that thou wilt never again see the land of thy father and thy mother; but abide with me here, in content and peace, and I will bring thee whatsoever thou seekest."
Then he embraced me and kissed me, saying, "Abide here and fear nothing," after which he went away and presently returned with these tables and carpets and furniture. He comes to me every Tuesday and abides with me three days, and on Friday, at the time of afternoon prayer, he departs and is absent till the following Tuesday. When he is here, he eats and drinks and kisses and embraces me, but does nought [else] with me, and I am a clean maid, even as God the Most High created me. My father's name is Taj el Mulouk, and he knows not what is come of me. This is my story: now tell me thine.'
'My story is a long one,' answered the prince, 'and I fear lest the Afrit come, whilst I am telling it to thee. Quoth she, 'He went out from me but an hour before thy coming and will not return till Tuesday: so sit and take thine ease and be thy heart at rest and tell me what hath betided thee, from first to last.' And he answered, 'I hear and obey.' So he told her all that had befallen him from first to last, but, when she heard speak of Bediya el Jemal, her eyes ran over with streaming tears and she exclaimed, 'O Bediya el Jemal, I had not thought this of thee! Out upon fortune! O Bediya el Jemal, dost thou not remember me nor say, "Where is my sister Dauleh Khatoun gone?"' And she wept passing sore, lamenting Bediya el Jemal's forgetfulness of her.
Then said Seif, 'O Dauleh Khatoun, thou art a mortal and she is a genie: how then can she be thy sister?' 'She is my foster-sister,' replied the princess, 'and this is how it came about. My mother went out to take her pleasure in the garden, when the pangs of labour seized her and she gave birth to me. As fate would have it, the mother of Bediya el Jemal chanced to be passing with her guards, when she also was taken with the pains of travail; so she alighted in a part of the garden and was there delivered of Bediya el Jemal. She despatched one of her women to seek food and childbirth-gear of my mother, who sent her what she sought and invited her to visit her. So she came to her with her child and my mother suckled Bediya el Jemal; after which the latter and her mother abode with us in the garden two months.
Then Bediya's mother gave my mother somewhat, saying, "When thou hast need of me, I will come to thee in the midst of the garden," and departed to her own country; but she and her daughter used to visit us every year and abide with us awhile. Wherefore, O Seif el Mulouk, if thou wert with me in my own country and Bediya and I were together as of wont, I would go about with her to bring thee to thy desire of her: but I am here and they know not what is become of me, else could they deliver me from this place; but the matter is in God's hands (blessed and exalted be He!) and what can I do?' 'Come,' said Seif, 'let us flee and go whither God wills.' But she answered, 'We cannot do that: for, by Allah, though we fled hence a year's journey, yonder accursed wretch would overtake us in an hour and make an end of us.'
Then said the prince, 'I will hide myself in his way, and when he passes, I will smite him with the sword and slay him.' Quoth Dauleh Khatoun, 'Thou canst not avail to slay him, except thou slay his soul.' 'And where is his soul?' asked he. 'Many a time have I questioned him thereof,' answered she; 'but he would not tell me, till one day I was instant with him and he waxed wroth with me and said to me, "How often wilt thou ask me of my soul? What hast thou to do with my soul?" "O Hatim," answered I, "there remaineth none to me but thou, except God; and my life dependeth on thine, and whilst thou livest, all is well for me; so, except I care for thy soul and set it in the apple of mine eye, how shall I live in thine absence? If I knew where thy soul is, I would, never whilst I live, cease to hold it embraced and would keep it as my right eye."
Whereupon he said to me, "When I was born, the astrologers predicted that I should lose my soul at the hands of the son of a king of mankind. So I took it and put it in the crop of a sparrow, which I shut up in a box. The box I set in a casket, and enclosing this in seven other caskets and seven chests, laid the whole in a marble coffer, which I buried within the marge of yonder ocean, that encompasseth the earth; for that these parts are far from the world of men and none of them can win thither. So now I have told thee what thou wouldst know, and do thou tell none thereof, for it is a secret between me and thee." "To whom should I tell it," rejoined I, "seeing that none but thou cometh hither with whom I may talk thereof? By Allah, thou hast indeed set thy soul in a right impregnable stronghold, to which none may gain access! How should a man win to it, even if the impossible be ordained and God decree like as the astrologers predicted?"
Quoth the genie, "Peradventure one may come, having on his finger the ring of Solomon, son of David (on whom be peace!) and lay his hand with the ring on the surface of the water, saying, 'By the virtue of the names engraven upon this ring, let the soul of such an one come forth!' Whereupon the coffer will rise to the surface and he will break it open and do the like with the chests and caskets, till he come to the little box, when he will take out the sparrow and strangle it, and I shall die."' Then said Seif el Mulouk, 'I am the king's son of whom he spoke, and this is the ring of Solomon son of David on my finger. Come, let us go down to the sea-shore and see if his words be truth or leasing.'
So the two went down to the sea-shore and Dauleh Khatoun stood on the beach, whilst the prince entered the water to his middle, and laying his hand with the ring on the surface of the sea, said, 'By the virtue of the names and talismans engraven on this ring and of Solomon son of David (on whom be peace!), let the soul of Hatim the genie, son of the Blue King, come forth!' Whereupon the sea became troubled and the marble coffer rose to the surface. Seif took it and shattered it against the rock and broke open the chests and caskets, till he came to the little box and took thereout the sparrow. Then he and the princess returned to the castle and sat down on the throne. Hardly had they done this, when there arose a terrible great cloud of dust and some huge thing came flying and saying, 'Spare me, O king's son, and slay me not; but make me thy freedman, and I will bring thee to thy desire!' Quoth Dauleh Khatoun, 'The genie cometh; kill the sparrow, lest the accursed wretch enter the palace and take it from thee and slay thee and me after thee.' So the prince wrung the sparrow's neck and it died, whereupon the genie fell down at the door of the palace and became a heap of black ashes.
Then said the princess, 'We are delivered from the hand of yonder accursed wretch; what shall we do now?' 'It behoves us to ask aid of God the Most High, who hath afflicted us,' answered Seif; 'belike He will direct us and help us to escape from this our strait.' So saying, he arose and pulling down half a score of the doors of the palace, which were wroughten of sandal and aloes-wood, with nails of gold and silver, bound them together with ropes of silk and sendal, which were there, and wrought of them a raft, which he made shift, he and the princess, to drag down to the sea-shore. They cast it into the water and making it fast to the beach, returned to the palace, whence they removed all the dishes of gold and silver and jewels and precious stones and metals and what not else was light of carriage and heavy of worth and freighted the raft therewith. Then they fashioned two pieces of wood into the likeness of oars, with which they embarked on the raft and casting off the moorings, let it drift out to sea with them, committing themselves to God the Most High, who contenteth those that put their trust in Him and disappointed them not.
They fared on thus four months, and when they lay down to sleep, the prince set Dauleh Khatoun behind him and laid a naked sword at his back, so that, when he turned, the sword was between them. At last, their victual came to an end and they were reduced to sore distress; their souls were straitened and they besought God the Most High to vouchsafe them deliverance from their strait. It chanced, one night, when Seif was asleep and the princess awake, that the raft fell off towards the land and entered a harbour wherein were ships. The princess saw the ships and heard a man (who was none other than the chief and head of the captains) talking with the sailors; whereby she knew that this was the port of some city and that they were come to an inhabited country. So she rejoiced mightily and waking Seif el Mulouk, bade him ask the captain the name of the city and harbour.
Accordingly Seif arose, rejoicing, and said to the captain, 'O my brother, how is this harbour called and what are the names of yonder city and its king?' 'O fool's face! O frosty beard!' replied the captain, 'if thou knewest not the name of this port and city, how camest thou hither?' Quoth Seif, 'I am a stranger and had taken passage in a merchant ship, which was wrecked and sank with all on board; but I saved myself on a plank and made my way hither; wherefore I asked thee the name of the place, and there is no harm in asking.' Then said the captain, 'This is the city of Amariyeh and this harbour is called Kemin el Behrein.' When the princess heard this, she rejoiced with an exceeding joy and said, 'Praised be God!' 'What is to do?' asked Seif. And she answered, saying, 'O Seif el Mulouk, rejoice in succour near at hand; for the king of this city is my father's brother and his name is Aali el Mulouk. Say to the captain, "Is the Sultan of the city, Aali el Mulouk, well?"'
The prince put the question to the captain, who was wroth with him and said, 'Thou sayst, "I am a stranger and never in my life came hither." Who then told thee the name of the lord of the city?' When Dauleh Khatoun heard this, she rejoiced and knew him for one of her father's captains, Muïneddin by name. Now he had come out in search of her, after her disappearance, and finding her not, had continued his cruise till he came to her uncle's city. Then she bade Seif say to him, 'O Captain Muïneddin, come and speak with thy mistress!' So he called out to him as she bade, whereat he was exceeding angry and answered, saying, 'O dog, who art thou and how knowest thou me?' Then he said to one of the sailors, 'Give me an ash-stick, that I may go to yonder pestilent fellow and break his head.'
So he took the stick and made for Seif el Mulouk, but, when he came to the raft, he saw Dauleh Khatoun sitting there, as she were a piece of the moon; whereat he was confounded and said to the prince, 'Who is that with thee?' 'A damsel by name Dauleh Khatoun,' replied Seif. When the captain heard the princess's name and knew that she was his mistress and the daughter of his king, he fell down in a swoon, and when he came to himself, he left the raft and those that were thereon and going up to the palace, craved an audience of the king; whereupon the chamberlain went in to the latter and said, 'Captain Muïneddin is come to bring thee good news.' The king bade admit him: so he entered and kissing the earth, said to him, 'O king, thou owest me a gift for glad tidings; for thy brother's daughter Dauleh Khatoun hath arrived here, safe and sound, and is now on a raft in the harbour, in company with a young man like the moon on the night of its full.'
When the king heard this, he rejoiced and conferred a sumptuous dress of honour on the captain. Then he straightway commanded to decorate the city in honour of the safe return of his brother's daughter, and sending for her and Seif el Mulouk, saluted them and gave them joy of their safety; after which he despatched a messenger to his brother, to let him know that his daughter was found and was with him. As soon as the news reached Taj el Mulouk, he assembled his troops and set out for his brother's capital, where he found his daughter and they rejoiced with an exceeding joy. He sojourned with his brother a week, after which he took his daughter and Seif el Mulouk and returned to Serendib, where the princess foregathered with her mother and they rejoiced and held high festival in honour of her safe return; and it was a great day, never was seen its like.
As for Seif el Mulouk, the king entreated him with honour and said to him, 'O Seif el Mulouk, thou hast done me and my daughter all this good and I cannot requite thee therefor, nor can any requite thee, save the Lord of all creatures; but I wish thee to sit upon the throne in my stead and rule the land of Hind, for I make gift to thee of my throne and kingdom and treasures and servants.' Whereupon Seif rose and kissing the earth before the king, thanked him and answered, saying, 'O King of the age, I accept all thou givest me and return it to thee in free gift: for I covet not kingship nor sultanate nor desire aught but that God the Most High bring me to my desire.' 'O Seif el Mulouk,' rejoined the king, 'these my treasures are at thy disposal: take of them what thou wilt, without consulting me, and God requite thee for me with all good!' Quoth the prince, 'God advance the king! Indeed, there is no delight for me in treasure or dominion, till I attain my desire: but now I have a mind to take my pleasure in the city and view its streets and markets.'
So the king commanded to bring him a horse of the thoroughbred horses, saddled and bridled; and Seif mounted and rode through the streets and markets of the town. As he looked about him, his eyes fell on a young man, who was crying a tunic for sale at fifteen dinars: so he considered him and saw him to be like his brother Saïd; and indeed it was his very self, but he was pale and changed for long strangerhood and the hardships of travel, so that he knew him not. However, he said to his attendants, 'Take yonder youth and carry him to the palace where I lodge, and keep him with you till my return, that I may question him.' But they understood him to say, 'Carry him to the prison,' and said in themselves, 'Doubtless this is some runaway slave of his.' So they took him and carried him to the prison, where they laid him in irons and left him.
Presently Seif returned to the palace, but he forgot his brother Saïd, and none made mention of him to him. So he abode in prison, and when they brought out the prisoners, to labour upon the public works, they took Saïd with them, and he wrought with the rest. In this plight he abode a month's space, in squalor and misery, pondering his case and saying in himself, 'What is the cause of my imprisonment?' Meanwhile, Seif el Mulouk's mind was diverted from him by rejoicing and other things; but one day, as he sat, he bethought him of Saïd and said to his attendants, 'Where is the young man I gave into your charge on such a day?' 'Didst thou not bid us carry him to the prison?' said they. 'Nay,' answered he; 'I bade you carry him to my palace.' Then he sent his chamberlains for Saïd and they fetched him in irons, and loosing him from his fetters, set him before the prince, who said to him, 'O young man, what countryman art thou?' Quoth he, 'I am from Egypt and my name is Saïd, son of the Vizier Faris.'
When Seif heard this, he rose and throwing himself upon him, hung on his neck, weeping for very joy and saying, 'O Saïd, O my brother, praised be God that I see thee alive! I am thy brother Seif el Mulouk, son of King Aasim.' Then they embraced and wept together and all who were present marvelled at them. After this, Seif commanded his people to carry Saïd to the bath: and they did so. When he came out, they clad him in sumptuous apparel and carried him back to Seif, who seated him on the couch beside himself. When King Taj el Mulouk heard of the reunion of Seif and his brother Saïd, he was mightily rejoiced and came to them, and the three sat devising of all that had befallen them.
Then said Saïd, 'O my brother Seif el Mulouk, when the ship sank and all on board were cast into the sea, I saved myself on a plank with a company of servants, and it drifted with us a whole month, at the end of which time the wind cast us, by the ordinance of God the Most High, upon an island. So we landed and entering among the trees, fell to eating of the fruits, for we were anhungred. Whilst we were busy eating, there fell on us, at unawares, folk like Afrits and springing on our shoulders, said to us, "Go on with us; for ye are become our asses." So I said to him who had mounted me, "What art thou and why dost thou mount me?" But he twisted one of his legs about my neck, till I was all but dead, and beat upon my back the while with the other leg, till I thought he had broken it. So I fell to the ground on my face, having no strength left in me for hunger and thirst. When he saw this, he knew that I was hungry and taking me by the hand, led me to a pear-tree laden with fruit and said to me, "Eat thy fill of this tree." So I ate till I had enough and rose, against my will, to walk; but, before I had gone far, the creature turned and leaping on my shoulders again, drove me on, now walking, now running and now trotting, and he the while mounted on me, laughing and saying, "Never in my life saw I an ass like unto thee!"
We abode thus awhile, till, one day, it chanced that we came upon great plenty of vines, covered with ripe fruit; so we gathered a quantity of bunches of grapes and throwing them into a pit, trod them with our feet, till the pit became a great pool. Then we waited awhile and presently returning thither, found that the sun had smitten the grapejuice and it was become wine. So we used to drink of it, till we were drunken and our faces flushed and we fell to singing and dancing, for the hilarity of drunkenness; whereupon our masters said to us, "What is it that reddens your faces and makes you dance and sing?" "Ask us not," answered we. "What is your intent in questioning us of this?" But they insisted, till we told them how we had pressed grapes and made wine. Quoth they, "Give us to drink thereof;" but we said, "The grapes are spent."
So they brought us to a valley, whose length we knew not from its breadth, wherein were vines without beginning or end, each bunch of grapes on them twenty pounds in weight and all within easy reach, and said, "Gather of these." So we gathered great store of grapes and filling therewith a great trench that we found there, bigger than the great tank [in the king's garden], trod them with our feet and did with the juice as before, till it became wine, whereupon we said to them, "It is come to perfection; but in what will ye drink it?" And they answered, saying, "We had asses like unto you; but we ate them and kept their heads: so give us to drink in their skulls." So we gave them to drink, and they became drunken and lay down, nigh two hundred of them.
Then said we to one another, "Is it not enough that they should ride us, but they must eat us also? There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Supreme! But we will ply them with wine, till they are overcome with drunkenness, when we will kill them and be at rest from them." So we awoke them and proceeded to fill the skulls and gave them to drink, but they said, "This is bitter." "Why say ye it is bitter?" answered we. "Whoso saith this, except he drink of it ten times, he dieth the same day." When they heard this, they feared death and said to us, "Give us to drink the whole ten times." So we gave them to drink, and when they had drunken the rest of the ten draughts, their senses failed them and they became helplessly drunk. So we dragged them [together] by the hands and laying them one upon another, collected great plenty of dry vine-stalks and branches and heaped it upon and about them: then set fire to the pile and stood afar off, to see what came of them. When the fire was burnt down, we came back and found them a heap of ashes, wherefore we praised God the Most High, who had delivered us from them. Then we sought the sea-shore, where we parted and I and two of the men fared on till we came to a great and thick wood and there busied ourselves with eating fruit.
Presently, up came a man of high stature, long-bearded and flap-eared, with eyes like cressets, driving before him a great flock of sheep. When he saw us, he rejoiced and said to us, "Welcome and fair welcome to you! Come with me, that I may slaughter you one of these sheep and roast it and give you to eat." Quoth we, "Where is thine abode?" And he said, "Hard by yonder mountain: go on towards it till ye come to a cave, where are many guests like yourselves. Enter and sit with them, whilst we make ready for you the guest-meal." We doubted not but he spoke the truth, so fared on, as he bade us, till we came to the cavern, where we found many guests, men like ourselves, but they were all blind; and when we entered, one said, "I am sick;" and another, "I am weak."
So we said to them, "What is this you say and what is the cause of your sickness and weakness?" "Who are ye?" asked they; and we answered, "We are guests." Then said they, "What hath made you fall into the hands of yonder accursed wretch? But there is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme! This is a ghoul who eats men and he hath blinded us and meaneth to eat us." "And how did he blind you?" asked we. "Like as he will blind yourselves even now," replied they. Quoth we, "And how so?" And they answered "He will bring you cups of milk and will say to you, 'Ye are weary with travel: take this milk and drink it.' And when ye have drunken thereof, ye will become blind like unto us." Quoth I to myself, "There is no escape for us but by stratagem." So I dug a hole in the earth and sat over it.
Presently in came the accursed ghoul, with cups of milk, of which he gave one to each of us, saying, "Ye come from the desert and are athirst: so take this milk and drink it, whilst I roast you the meat." I took the cup and carrying it to my mouth, [made a show of drinking, but] emptied it into the hole; then I cried out, "Alas! my sight is gone and I am blind!" and clapping my hand to my eyes, fell a-weeping and lamenting, whilst he laughed and said, "Fear not." But, as for my two comrades, they drank the milk and became blind. Then the ghoul arose and stopping up the mouth of the cavern, came to me and felt my ribs, but found me lean and with no flesh on my bones: so he felt another and finding him fat, rejoiced. Then he slaughtered three sheep and skinned them and fetching iron spits, spitted the flesh thereon and set them over the fire to roast. When the meat was done, he set it before my comrades, who ate and he with them; after which he brought a skin full of wine and drank thereof and lay down on his face and snored.
Quoth I in myself, "He is drowned in sleep: how shall I slay him?" Then I bethought me of the spits and laying two of them in the fire, waited till they were red-hot: whereupon I girded myself and taking a spit in each hand, went up to the ghoul and thrust them into his eyes, pressing upon them with all my might. He sprang to his feet for dear life and would have laid hold of me; but he was blind. So I fled from him into the inner cavern, whilst he ran after me; but I found no place of refuge from him nor whence I might escape into the open country, for the cave was stopped up with stone; wherefore I was bewildered and said to the blind men, "How shall I do with this accursed wretch?" "O Saïd," answered one of them, "climb up to yonder niche and thou wilt find there a sharpened sword: bring it to me and I will tell thee what to do."
So I climbed up to the niche and taking the sword, returned to the blind man, who said to me, "Smite him with the sword in his middle, and he will die forthright." So I ran after the ghoul, who was weary with running after me and felt for the blind men, that he might kill them, and coming behind him, smote him with the sword in his middle and he fell in twain. Then he cried out to me, saying, "O man, an thou desire to kill me, smite me a second time." Accordingly, I was about to deal him another blow; but he who had directed me to the sword said to me, "Smite him not a second time, for he will not die, but will live and destroy us." So I held my hand, as he bade me, and the ghoul died. Then said the blind man to me, "Open the mouth of the cave and let us go out; so haply God may help us and deliver us from this place." Quoth I, "No harm can come to us now; let us rather abide here and rest and eat of these sheep and drink of this wine, for the land is long."
So we abode there two months, eating of the sheep and of the fruits of the island, till, one day, as we sat upon the beach, we caught sight of a great ship in the distance; so we cried out and made signs to the crew. They feared to draw near, knowing that the island was inhabited by a ghoul who ate men, and would have sheered off; but we ran down to the marge of the sea and made signs to them with the floating ends of our turbans and shouted to them, whereupon one of the sailors, who was sharp of sight, said to the rest, "Harkye, comrades, these seem men like ourselves, for they have not the fashion of ghouls." So they made for us, little by little, till they drew near us and were certified that we were indeed human beings, when they saluted us and we returned their greeting and gave them the glad tidings of the death of the accursed ghoul, wherefore they thanked us.
Then we transported to the ship all that was in the cavern of stuffs and sheep and treasure, together with provision of the fruits of the island, such as should serve us days and months, and embarking, sailed on with a fair wind three days; at the end of which time the wind veered round against us and the sky became exceeding dark, nor had an hour passed, before the wind drove the vessel on to a rock, where it broke up and its planks were rent asunder. However, God the Most High decreed that I should lay hold of one of the planks, which I bestrode, and it bore me along two days, for the wind had fallen fair again, and I paddled with my feet awhile, till God the Most High brought me safe to shore and I landed and came to this city, where I found myself a stranger, alone and friendless. And indeed I knew not what to do; for hunger was sore upon me and I was in great straits.
So I hid myself and pulling off my tunic, carried it to the market, saying in myself, "I will sell it and live on its price, till God accomplish His will of me." Then I took the tunic in my hand and cried it for sale, and the folk were looking at it and bidding for it, when, O my brother, thou camest up and seeing me, commandest me to the palace; but thine attendants took me and carried me to prison, where I abode till thou bethoughtest thee of me and badst bring me before thee. So now I have told thee what befell me, and praised be God for reunion!'
The two kings marvelled exceedingly at Saïd's story and Taj el Mulouk made ready a goodly dwelling for Seif el Mulouk and his vizier. [So they took up their abode therein] and Dauleh Khatoun used to visit Seif el Mulouk there and thank him for his favours and talk with him. One day, he foregathered with her and said to her, 'O my lady, where is the promise thou madest me, in the palace of Japhet son of Noah, saying, "Were I with my people, I would make shift to bring thee to thy desire?"' And Saïd said to her, 'O princess, I crave thine aid to enable him to compass his desire.' 'It is well,' answered she. 'I will do my endeavour for him, that he may attain his wish, if it please God the Most High.' And she turned to Seif el Mulouk and said to him, 'Take comfort and be of good courage.' Then she rose and going in to her mother, said to her, 'Arise with me forthright and let us purify ourselves and make fumigations, to the intent that Bediya el Jemal and her mother may come and see me and rejoice in me.' 'With all my heart,' answered the queen and rising, betook herself to the garden and burnt of the perfumes [which Bediya's mother had given her to that intent]; nor was it long before Bediya el Jemal and her mother made their appearance.
The Queen of Hind foregathered with the other queen and acquainted her with her daughter's safe return, whereat she rejoiced; and Bediya el Jemal and Dauleh Khatoun foregathered likewise and rejoiced in each other. Then they pitched the pavilions and dressed rich meats and made ready the place of entertainment; whilst the two princesses withdrew to a tent apart and ate and drank and made merry together; after which they sat down to converse, and Bediya said, 'What hath befallen thee in thy strangerhood?' 'O my sister,' replied Dauleh Khatoun, 'ask me not what hath befallen me. Alas, what hardships mortals suffer!' 'How so?' asked Bediya. So she told her how the son of the Blue King had carried her off to the Castle of Japhet son of Noah and how Seif el Mulouk had slain the genie and brought her back to her father; and she told her also all that the prince had undergone of hardships and terrors, before he came to the castle.
Bediya marvelled at her story and said, 'O my sister, this is a wonder of wonders! By Allah, this Seif el Mulouk is indeed a man! But why did he leave his father and mother and betake himself to travel and expose himself to these perils?' Quoth Dauleh Khatoun, 'I have a mind to tell thee the first part of his story; but shame of thee hinders me therefrom.' Quoth Bediya, 'Why shouldst thou have shame of me, seeing that thou art my sister and my friend and there is much between thee and me and I know thou seekest me nought but good? Tell me then what thou hast to say and be not abashed at me and conceal nothing from me.' 'By Allah,' answered Dauleh Khatoun, 'all the calamities that have betided this poor fellow have been on thine account and because of thee!' ' How so, O my sister?' asked Bediya; and the other said, 'Know that he saw thy portrait wroughten on a tunic that thy father sent to Solomon son of David (on whom be peace!) and he opened it not neither looked at it, but despatched it, with other presents, to Aasim ben Sefwan, King of Egypt, who gave it, still unopened, to his son Seif el Mulouk. The latter unfolded the tunic, thinking to put it on, and seeing thy portrait, became enamoured thereof; wherefore he came forth, love-distraught, in quest of thee, and left his people and kingdom and suffered all these perils and hardships on thine account.'
When Bediya heard this, she blushed and was confounded at Dauleh Khatoun and said, 'This may never be; for mankind accord not with the Jinn.' Then Dauleh Khatoun went on to praise Seif el Mulouk and extol his beauty and fashion and prowess and qualities, saying, 'For God's sake and mine, O my sister, come and speak with him, though but one word!' But Bediya el Jemal said, 'This that thou sayest I will not hear, neither will I assent to thee therein;' and it was as if she heard nought of what the other said and as if no love of Seif el Mulouk and his beauty and fashion and prowess had gotten hold upon her heart. Then said Dauleh Khatoun, 'O Bediya el Jemal, by the milk we have sucked, I and thou, and by that which is graven on the seal of Solomon (on whom be peace!), hearken to these my words; for I pledged myself, in the Castle of Japhet, to show him thy face. So, God on thee, show thyself to him once, for the love of me, and look thyself on him!' And she ceased not to weep and implore her and kiss her hands and feet, till she consented and said, 'For thy sake, I will show him my face once.'
With that Dauleh Khatoun's heart was glad and she kissed her hands and feet. Then she went to the great pavilion in the garden and bade her women spread it with carpets and set up a couch of gold and place the wine-vessels in order; after which she went in to Seif and Saïd, whom she found seated in their lodging, and gave the former the glad tidings of the accomplishment of his wish, saying, 'Go to the pavilion in the garden, thou and thy brother, and hide yourselves there, so none in the palace may see you, till I come to you with Bediya el Jemal.' So they rose and repaired to the pavilion, where they found the couch of gold set and furnished with cushions, and meat and wine set ready. So they sat awhile, whilst Seif bethought him of his beloved and his breast was straitened and love and longing beset him: wherefore he rose and went forth from the vestibule of the pavilion. Saïd would have followed him, but he said to him, 'O my brother, follow me not, but abide in thy place, till I return to thee.' So Saïd abode seated, whilst Seif went down into the garden, drunken with the wine of desire and distracted for excess of passion and love-longing: yearning agitated him and transport overcame him and he recited the following verses:O thou gloriously fair, I have no one but thee; I'm the thrall of thy love. Oh, have pity on me!
Then he wept and recited these also:All my desire is for a maid, who passeth all in charms; Within my inmost soul she dwells, my heart's most secret core.
Then he wept sore and recited the following:A flame is in my liver, that rages ever higher; My wish art thou of wishes, and longsome is desire.
And also these:Cares on me came, what time there came the love of thee, And sleep as cruel is as thou thyself to me.
Presently Saïd grew weary of awaiting him and going forth in quest of him, found him walking in the garden, in a state of distraction, reciting the following verses:By Allah, by Allah the Great and eke by His virtue, the wight The chapter who chanteth aloud of the Koran, "Creator" that hight,
So he joined him and they walked about the garden together and ate of its fruits.
Meanwhile, the two princesses came to the pavilion and entering, sat down on the couch of gold, beside which was a window that gave upon the garden. The eunuchs set before them all manner rich meats and they ate, Dauleh Khatoun feeding her foster-sister by mouthfuls, till they were satisfied; when the former called for divers kinds of sweetmeats, and they ate what they would of them and washed their hands. After this, Dauleh Khatoun made ready wine and set on the drinking-vessels and flagons and proceeded to fill and give Bediya to drink, filling for herself and drinking in turn. Then Bediya looked from the window into the garden and gazed upon the fruits and branches that were therein, till her eyes fell on Seif el Mulouk, as he wandered about the garden, followed by Saïd, and she heard him recite verses, pouring forth copious tears the while.
The sight cost her a thousand sighs and she turned to Dauleh Khatoun and said to her (and indeed the wine sported with her senses), 'O my sister, who is that young man I see in the garden, distraught, love-lorn, melancholy, sighing?' Quoth Dauleh Khatoun, 'Dost thou give me leave to bring him hither, that we may look on him?' And Bediya answered, 'If thou canst avail to bring him, do so.' So Dauleh Khatoun called to him, saying, 'O king's son, come up hither and bring us thy beauty and thy grace!' Seif knew her voice and came up into the pavilion; but no sooner had he set eyes on Bediya el Jemal, than he fell down in a swoon; whereupon Dauleh Khatoun sprinkled a little rose-water on him and he came to himself.
Then he rose and kissed the earth before Bediya, who was amazed at his beauty and loveliness; and Dauleh Khatoun said to her, 'Know, O princess, that this is Seif el Mulouk, to whom, by the ordinance of God the Most High, I owe my deliverance, and he it is who hath endured all manner of afflictions on thine account: wherefore I would have thee look on him with favour.' With this Bediya laughed and said, 'And who keeps faith, that this youth should do so? For there is no [true] love in men.' 'O princess,' answered Seif, 'never shall lack of faith be in me, and all men are not created alike.' And he wept before her and recited these verses:Harkye, Bediya el Jemal, have ruth upon a wight, Whom thine enchanting, wicked eye hath brought to parlous plight.
Then he wept sore and love and longing got the mastery over him and he greeted her with the following verses:Peace from a lover be on thee, a slave of love in vain, Still do the generous the approof of [God] the Generous gain.
Then, for the stress of his passion and desire, he repeated these verses also:If any other be my aim, my lords, but you, Ne'er may I gain of you the grace for which I sue!
When he had made an end of his verses, he wept sore and she said to him, 'O prince, I fear to grant thee entire acceptance, lest I find in thee neither love nor affection; for oftentimes men's virtues are few and their perfidy great and thou knowest how the lord Solomon, son of David (on whom be peace!), took Belkis to his love, but forsook her whenas he saw another fairer than she.' 'O my eye and my soul,' replied Seif, 'God hath not made all men alike, and I, if it be His will, will keep my troth and die at thy feet. Thou shalt see what I will do in accordance with my words and God is my warrant for that I say.' Quoth Bediya, 'Sit and be of good heart and swear to me by thy religion and let us covenant together that we will not be false to each other; and may God the Most High punish whichever of us breaketh faith!'
So he sat down and laid his hand in hers and they swore to each other that neither of them would ever prefer to the other any one, either of mankind or of the Jinn. Then they embraced awhile and wept for excess of joy, whilst passion overcame Seif el Mulouk and he recited the following verses:I weep for passion and for love and longing passing sore; Ay, and desire of her my heart and soul do weary for.
Then Seif el Mulouk arose and walked in the garden and Bediya el Jemal arose also and went forth a-walking, followed by a slave-girl bearing food and a flask of wine. The princess sat down and the damsel set the food and wine before her: nor was it long before they were joined by Seif el Mulouk, whom Bediya received with open arms and they sat awhile, eating and drinking. Then said she to him, 'O king's son, [thou must now go to the garden of Irem, where dwells my grandmother, and seek her consent to our marriage. My slave-girl Merjaneh will convey thee thither and there] thou wilt see a great pavilion of red satin, lined with green silk. Take courage and enter the pavilion boldly and thou wilt see therein an old woman sitting on a couch of red gold set with pearls and jewels. Salute her with courtesy and worship; then look at the foot of the couch, where thou wilt see a pair of sandals of cloth of gold, embroidered with jewels. Take them and kiss them and lay them on thy head; then put them under thy right armpit and stand before the old woman, in silence and with thy head bowed down. If she ask thee who thou art and how thou camest thither, make her no answer, but abide silent till Merjaneh enter, when she will speak with her and seek to win her approof for thee and cause her look on thee with favour; so haply God the Most High may incline her heart to thee and she may grant thee thy wish.'
Then she called Merjaneh and said to her, 'As thou lovest me, do my errand this day and be not slothful therein! If thou accomplish it, thou shalt be free, for the sake of God the Most High, and I will deal bounteously by thee and there shall be none dearer to me than thou, nor will I discover my secrets to any but thee. So, by my love for thee, do this my occasion and be not slothful therein.' 'O my lady and light of mine eyes,' replied Merjaneh, 'tell me what is it thou requirest of me, that I may accomplish it on my head and eyes.' Quoth Bediya, 'Take this mortal on thy shoulders and carry him to the garden of Irem and the pavilion of my grandmother, my father's mother, and be careful of him. When thou hast brought him into her presence and seest him take the slippers and do them worship, and hearest her ask him who he is and how and why he came thither, do thou come forward in haste and salute her and say to her, "O my lady, I am she who brought him hither and he is the king's son of Egypt. It is he who slew the son of the Blue King and delivered the princess Dauleh Khatoun from the Castle of Japhet son of Noah and brought her back safe to her father: and I have brought him to thee, that he may give thee the glad news of her safety: so be thou gracious to him."
Then do thou say to her, "God on thee, O my lady, is not this young man handsome?" She will reply, "Yes:" and do thou rejoin, "O my lady, indeed he is accomplished in honour and manhood and valour and he is lord and King of Egypt and possesseth all praiseworthy qualities." If she say to thee, "What is his occasion?" do thou make answer, "My lady saluteth thee and saith to thee, how long shall she abide at home, a maid and unmarried? Indeed, the time is long upon her. What then is thine intent in leaving her without a husband and why dost thou not marry her in thy lifetime and that of her mother, like other girls?" If she say, "How shall we do to marry her? An she have any one in mind, let her tell us of him, and we will do her will as far as may be," do thou answer, "O my lady, thy daughter saith to thee, 'Ye were minded aforetime to marry me to Solomon (on whom be peace!) and wrought him my portrait on a tunic. But he had no lot in me; so he sent the tunic to the King of Egypt and he gave it to his son, who saw my portrait wroughten thereon and fell in love with me: wherefore he left kingdom and father and mother and turning his back on the world and all that is therein, went forth at a venture, a wanderer, love-distraught, and hath suffered the utmost perils and hardships for my sake.' Now thou seest his beauty and grace, and her heart is enamoured of him; so, if ye have a mind to marry her, marry her to this young man and forbid her not from him, for he is a passing goodly youth and King of Egypt, nor wilt thou find a comelier than he; and if ye will not give her to him, she will slay herself and marry none, neither man nor genie." 'And look, O my minnie Merjaneh,' continued Bediya el Jemal, 'how thou mayst do with my grandmother, to win her consent, and beguile her with soft words, so haply she may do my desire.' Quoth the damsel, 'O my lady, upon my head and eyes, I will serve thee and do what shall content thee.'
Then she took Seif el Mulouk on her shoulders and said to him, 'Shut thine eyes.' He did so and she flew up with him into the sky; and after awhile she said to him, 'O king's son, open thine eyes.' He opened them and found himself in a garden, which was none other than the garden of Irem; and she showed him the pavilion and bade him enter; whereupon he pronounced the name of God and entering, saw the old queen sitting on the couch, attended by her waiting-women. So he drew near her with courtesy and reverence and taking the sandals, did as Bediya had enjoined him. Quoth the old woman, 'Who art thou and whence comest thou and who brought thee hither? Wherefore dost thou take the sandals and kiss them and when didst thou ask a favour of me and I did not grant it thee?'
With this in came Merjaneh and saluting her reverently, repeated to her what Bediya el Jemal had told her; which when the old queen heard, she cried out at her and was wroth with her and said, 'How shall there be accord between mankind and the Jinn?' But Seif answered her, saying, 'Indeed, I will conform to thy will and be thy servant and die in thy love and will keep faith with thee and regard none but thee: so shalt thou see my truth and lack of falsehood and the excellence of my honourable dealing with thee, if it be the will of God the Most High!' The old woman bowed her head and pondered awhile; after which she raised her head and said to him, 'O fair youth, wilt thou indeed keep faith and troth?' 'Yes,' answered he; 'by Him who raised the heavens and spread out the earth upon the water, I will indeed keep faith!'
Quoth she, 'God willing, I will accomplish thee thy desire: but now go thou into the garden and take thy pleasure therein and eat of its fruits, that have neither like nor equal in the world, whilst I send for my son Shehyal and talk with him of the matter. Nothing but good shall come of it, so God please, for he will not cross me nor depart from my commandment and I will marry thee with his daughter Bediya el Jemal. So be of good heart, O Seif el Mulouk, for she shall assuredly be thy wife.' The prince thanked her and kissing her hands and feet, went forth from her into the garden; whilst she turned to Merjaneh and said to her, 'Go and find my son Shehyal and bring him to me, wherever he is.' So Merjaneh went out in quest of King Shehyal and found him and brought him to his mother.
Meanwhile, as Seif el Mulouk walked in the garden, five Jinn of the people of the Blue King espied him and said to each other, 'Whence cometh yonder fellow and who brought him hither? Belike it is he who slew the Blue King's son: but we will go about with him and question him and find out who he is.' So they came softly up to him, as he sat in a corner of the garden, and sitting down by him, said to him, 'O fair youth, thou didst rarely in killing the son of the Blue King and delivering Dauleh Khatoun from him; for he was a perfidious dog and had played the traitor with her, and had not God appointed thee to her, she had never won free. But how didst thou slay him?' Seif looked at them and deeming them of the folk of the garden, answered, 'I slew him by means of this ring on my finger.' Therewith they were assured that it was he who had slain him; so they seized on him, two of them holding his hands, whilst other two held his feet and the fifth his mouth, lest he should cry out and King Shehyal's people should hear him and rescue him.
Then they lifted him up and flying away with him, stayed not in their flight till they set him down before their king and said to him, 'O king of the age, we bring thee the murderer of thy son.' 'Where is he?' asked the king: and they replied, 'This is he.' So the Blue King said to Seif, 'How slewest thou my son, the darling of my heart and the light of my eyes, and why didst thou slay him without right, for all he had done thee no injury?' Quoth the prince, 'I slew him, because of his wrong-doing and frowardness, in that he used to seize kings' daughters and sever them from their families and carry them to the Castle of Japhet son of Noah and transgress against them. I slew him by means of this ring on my finger, and God hurried his soul to the fire and ill is the abiding-place [to which he went].'
Therewithal the king was certified that this was indeed he who slew his son; so he called his viziers and said to them, 'Without doubt, this is the murderer of my son: so how do you counsel me to deal with him? Shall I slay him after the foulest fashion or torture him with the most grievous torments or how?' Quoth the chief vizier, 'Cut off his limbs, one a day.' And another said, 'Beat him grievously every day [till he die].' And a third, 'Cut him in half.' A fourth, 'Cut off all his fingers and burn him with fire.' And a fifth, 'Crucify him.' And so on, each speaking according to his judgment.
Now there was with the Blue King an old amir, versed in affairs and experienced in the circumstance of the times, and he said, 'O king of the age, I have somewhat to say to thee, and it is for thee to judge whether thou wilt hearken to me or not.' Now he was the king's privy counsellor and the chief officer of his empire, and he was wont to give ear to his word and act by his counsel and gainsay him not in aught. So he rose and kissing the ground before the king, said to him, 'O king of the age, if I counsel thee in this matter, wilt thou follow my counsel and grant me indemnity?' 'Set forth thine opinion,' answered the king, 'and thou shalt have indemnity.' Then said he, 'O king of the age, if thou wilt accept my advice and hearken to my word, to slay this young man now is inexpedient, for that he is thy prisoner and in thy power, and whenas thou wilt, thou mayst lay thy hand on him and do with him as thou wilt. Have patience, then, O king of the age, for he hath entered the garden of Irem and is become the [affianced] husband of Bediya el Jemal, daughter of King Shehyal, and one of them. Thy people seized him there and brought him hither and he did not hide his case from them or from thee. So, if thou kill him, King Shehyal will seek to avenge him of thee and wage war on thee for his daughter's sake, and thou canst not avail to cope with him nor make head against his power.' So the king hearkened to his counsel and commanded to imprison Seif el Mulouk.
Meanwhile, Bediya's grandmother, her son Shehyal being come to her, despatched Merjaneh in quest of Seif el Mulouk; but she found him not and returning to her mistress, said, 'I found him not in the garden.' So the old queen sent for the gardeners and questioned them of the prince. Quoth they, 'We saw him sitting under a tree, and five of the Blue King's people alighted by him and spoke with him awhile, after which they took him up and stopping his mouth, flew away with him.' When the old queen heard this, it was no light matter to her and she was exceeding wroth: so she rose to her feet and said to her son, King Shehyal, 'Art thou a king and shall the Blue King's people come to our garden and carry off our guests unhindered, and thou alive?' And she proceeded to provoke him, saying, 'It behoves not that any transgress against us in thy lifetime.' 'O my mother,' answered he, 'this man slew the Blue King's son, who was a genie, and God threw him into his hand. He is a genie and I am a genie: how then shall I go to him and make war on him for the sake of a mortal?' But she answered, saying, 'Go to him and demand our guest of him, and if he be still alive and the Blue King deliver him to thee, take him and return; but if he have slain him, take the king alive and all his household and family and bring them to me, that I may slaughter them with my own hand and lay waste his dominions. Except thou do what I bid thee, I will not hold thee quit of my milk and my bringing up of thee shall be counted unlawful.'
So Shehyal rose and assembling his troops, set out, in deference to his mother, desiring to content her and her friends, and in accordance with that which had been fore-ordained from all eternity; nor did they leave journeying till they came to the country of the Blue King, who met them with his army and gave them battle. The Blue King's host was put to the rout and he and all his sons, great and small, and grandees and officers taken and bound and brought before King Shehyal, who said to the captive monarch, 'O Azrec, where is my guest, the mortal Seif el Mulouk?' 'O Shehyal,' answered the Blue King, 'thou art a genie and I am a genie, and is it on account of a mortal, who slew my son, the darling of my heart and the delight of my soul, that thou hast done all this and spilt the blood of so many thousand Jinn?'
'Leave this talk,' rejoined Shehyal; 'knowest thou not that a single mortal is better, in God's sight, than a thousand Jinn? If he be alive, bring him to me, and I will set thee free and all whom I have taken of thy sons and people; but if thou have slain him, I will slaughter thee and thy sons.' 'O king,' said Azrec, 'is this fellow of more account with thee than my son?' Quoth Shehyal, 'Thy son was an evildoer, who carried off kings' daughters and shut them up in the Castle of Japhet son of Noah and evil entreated them.' Then said the Blue King, 'He is with me; but make thou peace between us.' So he delivered the prince to Shehyal, who made peace between him and the Blue King, and the latter gave him a writ of absolution for the death of his son. Then Shehyal conferred robes of honour on them and entertained the Blue King and his troops hospitably for three days, after which he took the prince and carried him back to the old queen, who rejoiced in him with an exceeding joy, and Shehyal marvelled at the beauty of Seif el Mulouk and his grace and perfection.
Then Seif related to him his story from beginning to end and Shehyal said, 'O my mother, since it is thy pleasure that this should be, I hearken and obey all that it pleaseth thee to command; wherefore do thou carry him to Serendib and there celebrate his wedding and marry him to her in all state, for he is a goodly youth and hath endured horrors for her sake.' So she and her maidens set out with Seif el Mulouk for Serendib and foregathered with Dauleh Khatoun and Bediya el Jemal in the Queen of Hind's garden. The old queen acquainted the two princesses with all that had passed between Seif el Mulouk and the Blue King; after which King Taj el Mulouk assembled the grandees of his realm and drew up the contract of marriage between Seif el Mulouk and Bediya el Jemal; and he conferred splendid robes of honour and gave banquets to the people.
Then Seif el Mulouk rose, and kissing the earth before the king, said to him, 'Pardon, O king! I would fain ask somewhat of thee, but fear lest thou refuse it to me and disappoint my expectation.' 'By Allah,' answered Taj el Mulouk, 'though thou soughtest my soul of me, I would not refuse it to thee, after all the kindness thou hast done me!' Quoth Seif, 'I wish thee to marry the princess Dauleh Khatoun to my brother Saïd, and we will both be thy servants.' 'I hear and obey,' answered Taj el Mulouk, and assembling his grandees a second time, let draw up the contract of marriage between his daughter and Saïd; after which they scattered gold and silver [among the people] and the king bade decorate the city. So they held high festival and Seif and Saïd went in to their brides on the same night.
As for Seif el Mulouk, he abode forty days with Bediya el Jemal, at the end of which time she said to him, 'O king's son, is there any regret for aught left in thy heart?' 'God forbid!' answered he. 'I have accomplished my quest and there abideth no regret in my heart: but I would fain visit my father and mother in Egypt and see if they continue well or not.' So Bediya commanded a company of her people to convey them to Egypt, and they carried them to Cairo, where Seif and Saïd foregathered with their parents and abode with them a week; after which they took leave of them and returned to Serendib; and after this, whenever they longed for their people, they used to go to them and return. Then Seif el Mulouk and Bediya el Jemal abode in all delight and solace of life, as did Saïd and Dauleh Khatoun, till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Companies. So glory be to the Living One who dieth not, who createth all creatures and decreeth to them death and who is the First, without beginning, and the Last, without end! This is all that hath come down to us of the story of Seif el Mulouk and Bediya el Jemal.
[Go to Hassan of Bassora and the King's Daughter of the Jinn]
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