[Go back to The Second Calendar's Story (cont.)]
I also am a king, the son of a king, and my name is Agib, son of Khesib. My father died, and I took the kingdom after him and ruled my subjects with justice and beneficence. My capital city stood on the shore of a wide spreading sea, on which I had fifty merchant ships and fifty smaller vessels for pleasure and a hundred and fifty cruisers equipped for war; and near at hand were many great islands in the midst of the ocean. Now I loved to sail the sea and had a mind to visit the islands aforesaid so I took ship with a month's victual and set out and took my pleasure in the islands and returned to my capital Then, being minded to make a longer voyage upon the ocean, I fitted out half a score ships with provision for two months and sailed twenty days, till one night the wind blew contrary and the sea rose against us with great billows; the waves clashed together and there fell on us a great darkness. So we gave ourselves up for lost and I said, "He who perils himself is not to be commended, though he come off safe." Then we prayed to God and besought Him, but the wind ceased not to rage and the waves to clash together, till daybreak, when the wind fell, the sea became calm and the sun shone out. Presently we sighted an island, where we landed and cooked food and ate and rested two days. Then we set out again and sailed other twenty days, without seeing land; but the currents carried us out of our true course, so that the captain lost his reckoning and finding himself in strange waters, bade the watch go up to the mast-head and look out. So he climbed the mast and looked out and said "O captain, I see nothing to right and left save sky and water, but ahead I see something looming afar off in the midst of the sea, now black and now white." When the captain heard the look-out's words, he cast his turban on the deck and plucked out his beard and buffeted his face and said, "O King, we are all dead men, not one of us can be saved." We all wept for his weeping and I said to him, "O captain, tell us what it is the look-out saw." "O my lord," answered he, "know that we lost our way on the night of the storm and since then we have gone astray one-and-twenty days and there is no wind to bring us back to our true course. To-morrow, by the end of the day, we shall come to a mountain of black stone, called loadstone, for thither the currents bear us perforce. As soon as we come within a certain distance, all the nails in the ships will fly out and fasten to the mountain, and the ships will open and fall to pieces, for that God the Most High has gifted the loadstone with a secret virtue, by reason whereof all iron is attracted to it; and on this mountain is much iron, how much God only knows, from the many ships that have been wrecked there from old time. On its summit there stands a dome of brass, raised on ten columns and on the top of the dome are a horse and horseman of the same metal. The latter holds in his hand a brazen lance and on his breast is a tablet of lead, graven with names and talismans: and, O King, it is nought but this horseman that causeth the folk to perish, nor will the charm be broken till he fall from his horse." Then he wept sore and we all made sure of death and each took leave of his comrade and charged him with his last wishes, in case he should be saved. That night we slept not, and in the morning, we sighted the loadstone mountain, towards which the currents carried us with irresistible force. When the ships came within a certain distance, they opened and the nails started out and all the iron in them sought the loadstone and clove to it; so that by the end of the day, we were all struggling in the sea round the mountain. Some of us were saved, but the most part drowned, and even those who escaped knew not one of the other, being stupefied by the raging wind and the buffeting of the waves. As for me, God preserved me that I might suffer that which He willed to me of trouble and torment and affliction, for I got on a plank from one of the ships and, the wind driving it ashore, I happened on a pathway leading to the top, as it were a stair hewn out of the rock. So I called upon the name of God the Most High and besought His succour and clinging to the steps, addressed myself to climb up little by little. And God stilled the wind and aided me in my ascent, so that I reached the summit in safety. There I found nothing but the dome; so I entered, mightily rejoiced at my escape, and made my ablutions and prayed a two-bow prayer in gratitude to God for my preservation. Then I fell asleep under the dome and saw in a dream one who said to me, "O son of Khesib, when thou awakest, dig under thy feet and thou wilt find a bow of brass and three leaden arrows, inscribed with talismanic characters. Take the bow and shoot the arrows at the horseman on the top of the dome and rid mankind of this great calamity. When thou shootest at him, he will fall into the sea and the horse will drop at thy feet: take it and bury it in the place of the bow. This done, the sea will swell and rise till it is level with the top of the mountain, and there will appear on it a boat containing a man of brass (other than he whom thou shalt have thrown down), with an oar in his hands. He will come to thee, and do thou embark with him, but beware of naming God. He will row with thee for the space of ten days, till he brings thee to a port of safety, where thou shalt find those who will carry thee to thine own country: and all this shall be fulfilled to thee, so thou pronounce not the name of God." I started up from my sleep and hastening to do the bidding of the mysterious voice, found the bow and arrows and shot at the horseman and overthrew him; whereupon he fell into the sea, whilst the horse dropped at my feet and I took it and buried it. Then the sea grew troubled and rose till it reached the top of the mountain; nor had I long to wait before I saw a boat in the midst of the sea coming towards me. So I gave thanks to God: and when the boat came up to me, I saw in it a man of brass, with a tablet of lead on his breast, inscribed with names and talismans; and I embarked without saying a word. The boatman rowed on with me for ten whole days, till I caught sight of islands and mountains and signs of safety; whereat I was beyond measure rejoiced and in the excess of my gladness, I called upon the name of the Almighty and exclaimed, "There is no god but God! God is most great!" When behold, the boat turned over and cast me out into the sea, then righted and sank beneath the water. Now, I knew how to swim, so I swam the whole day till nightfall, when my arms and shoulders failed me for fatigue, and I abode in mortal peril and made the profession of the Faith, looking for nothing but death. Presently, the sea rose, for the greatness of the wind, and a wave like a great rampart took me and bearing me forward, cast me up on the land, that the will of God might be done. I clambered up the beach and, putting off my clothes, wrung them and spread them out to dry, then lay down and slept all night. As soon as it was day, I put on my clothes and rose to look about me. Presently I came to a grove of trees and making a circuit round it, found that I was on a little island, surrounded on all sides by the sea; whereupon I said to myself, "No sooner do I escape from one peril than I fall into a worse." But as I was pondering my case and wishing for death, I spied a ship afar off making towards me; so I climbed up into a tree and hid myself among the branches. Presently the ship came to an anchor, and ten slaves landed, bearing spades, and made for the middle of the island, where they dug till they uncovered a trapdoor and raised it. Then they returned to the ship and brought thence bread and flour and oil and honey and meat and carpets and all else that was needed to furnish one dwelling there; nor did they leave going back and forth till they had transferred to the underground dwelling all that was in the ship: after which they again repaired to the vessel and returned, laden with wearing apparel of the finest kind and in their midst a very old man, whom time had mauled till he was wasted and worn, as he were a bone wrapped in a rag of blue cloth, through which the winds blew East and West. As says the poet of him:
Time makes us tremble ah, how piteously! For full of violence and might is he. Once on a time I walked and was not tired: Now am I tired, yet have not walked, ah me!
He held by the hand a youth cast in the mould of symmetry and perfection, so fair that his beauty might well be the subject of proverbs; for he was like a tender sapling, ravishing every heart with his beauty and seducing every wit with his amorous grace. It was of him the poet spoke, when he said:
Beauty they brought to liken it with him: But Beauty hung its head for shame and fear. "O Beauty," said they, "dost thou know his like?" It answered, "Never have I seen his peer."
They proceeded to the underground, where they descended all and did not reappear for an hour or more, at the end of which time the old man and the slaves came up, without the youth, and replacing the trap-door, covered it again with earth; then returned to the ship and set sail. As soon as they were out of sight, I came down from the tree and going to the place I had seen them fill up, made shift to clear away the earth, till I came to the trap-door, which was of wood, the shape and bigness of a mill-stone, and raised it, when there appeared underneath a winding stair of stone. At this I wondered and descending, came to a fair chamber, spread with various kinds of carpets and hung with silken stuffs, where I saw the youth sitting alone upon a raised couch and leant upon a cushion, with a fan in his hand and sweet-scented flowers and herbs and fruits before him. When he saw me, he turned pale; but I saluted him, saying, "Calm thyself and put away fear; no harm shall come to thee: I am a man like unto thee and a king's son, whom Providence hath sent to bear thee company in thy solitude. But now tell me thy history and why thou dwellest underground by thyself." When he was assured that I was of his kind, he was glad and his colour returned; then he made me draw near to him and said, "O my brother, my story is a strange one, and it is as follows. My father is a merchant jeweller, possessed of great wealth and having black and white slaves, who make trading voyages, on his account, in ships and on camels, to the most distant countries; and he has dealings with kings. Until my birth, he had never been blessed with a child, but one night he dreamt that a son had been born to him, who lived but a short time, and awoke weeping and crying out. The following night my mother conceived and he took note of the date of her conception. The days of her pregnancy were accomplished and she gave birth to myself, whereupon my father rejoiced and made banquets and fed the poor and the needy for that I had been vouchsafed to him in his old age. Then he assembled the astrologers and mathematicians of the day and those learned in nativities and horoscopes; and they drew my horoscope and said to my father, 'Thy son will live till the age of fifteen, at which date there is a break in his line of life, which if he tide over in safety, he shall live long. The danger with which he is threatened is as follows. In the Sea of Peril stands a mountain called the Loadstone Mountain, on whose summit is a horseman of brass, seated on a horse of the same metal, with a tablet of lead on his breast. Fifty days after this horseman falls from his horse, thy son will die, and his slayer will be he who overthrows the statue, a king called Agib, son of Khesib.' My father was sore concerned at this prediction; but he brought me up and gave me a good education, till I attained my fifteenth year. Ten days ago, news came to him that the horseman had fallen into the sea and that he who overthrew him was Agib, son of King Khesib; whereat he was as one distraught and feared for my life. So he built me this place under the earth and stocking it with all that I need during the forty days that yet remain of the period of danger, transported me hither, that I might be safe from King Agib's hands. When the forty days are past, he will come back and fetch me; and this is my story and why thou findest me here alone." When I heard his story, I marvelled and said to myself, "I am that King Agib of whom he speaks; but, by Allah, I will assuredly not kill him!" And I said to him, "O my lord, God willing, thou shalt be spared suffering and death, nor shalt thou see trouble or sorrow or disquiet, for I will abide with thee and serve thee; and when I have borne thee company during the appointed days, I will go with thee to thy dwelling-place and thou shalt bring me to some of thy father's servants, with whom I may journey to my own country; and God shall requite thee for me." He rejoiced in my words and we sat conversing till nightfall when I rose and lighted a great wax candle and fed the lamps and set on meat and drink and sweetmeats. We ate and drank and sat talking till late into the night, when he lay down to sleep and I covered him up and went to sleep myself. Next morning, I rose and heated a little water, then woke him gently and brought him the warm water, with which he washed his face and thanked me, saying, "God requite thee with good, O youth! By Allah, if I escape from this my danger and from him they call Agib ben Khesib, I will make my father reward thee!" "May the day never come on which evil shall befall thee," answered I, "and may God appoint my last day before thine!" Then I set on food and we ate, and I made ready perfumes with which he scented himself. Moreover, I made him a backgammon board, and we played and ate sweetmeats and played again till nightfall when I rose and lighting the lamps, set on food; and we ate and sat talking till the night was far spent. Then he lay down to sleep and I covered him up and went to sleep myself. Thus I did with him, day and night, and the love of him got hold upon my heart and I forgot my troubles and said to myself, "The astrologers lied; by Allah, I will not kill him!" I ceased not to serve him and bear him company and entertain him thus, till nine-and-thirty days were passed and we came to the morning of the fortieth day, when he rejoiced and said to me, "O my brother, the forty days are up to-day, praised be God who hath preserved me from death, and this by thy blessing and the blessing of thy coming to me, and I pray Him to restore thee to thy country! But now, O my brother, I prithee heat me some water, that I may wash my body and change my clothes." "With all my heart," answered I; and heated water in plenty and carrying it in to him, washed his body well with lupin- meal and rubbed him down and changed his clothes and spread him a high bed, on which he lay down to rest after the bath. Then said he, "O my brother, cut me a melon and sweeten it with sugar-candy." So I went to the closet and bringing a fine melon I found there on a platter, said to him, "O my lord, hast thou no knife?" "Here it is," answered he, "on the high shelf at my head." So I got up hurriedly and taking the knife, drew it from its sheath; but in stepping down backward, my foot slipped and I fell heavily on the youth, holding in my hand the knife, which hastened to fulfil that which was ordained and entered his heart, and he died forthright. When I saw that he was no more and that I had indeed killed him, I cried out grievously and buffeted my face and tore my clothes, saying, "We are God's and to Him we return! There remained for this youth but one day of the period of danger that the astrologers had foretold for him, and the death of this fair one was to be at my hand! Verily, my life is nought but disasters and afflictions! Would he had not asked me to cut the melon or would I had died before him! But what God decrees cometh to pass." When I was certain that there was no life left in him, I rose and ascending the stair, replaced the trap-door and covered it with earth. Then I looked out to sea and saw the ship cleaving the waters in the direction of the island. Whereat I was afeared and said, "They will be here anon and will find their son dead and know 'twas I killed him and will slay me without fail." So I climbed up into a high tree and hid myself among the leaves. Hardly had I done so, when the vessel came to an anchor and the slaves landed with the old man and made direct for the place, where they cleared away the earth and were surprised to find it soft. Then they raised the trap-door and going down, found the boy lying dead, clad in clean clothes, with his face shining from the bath and the knife sticking in his breast. At this sight, they shrieked aloud and wept and buffeted their faces and cried out, "Alas! woe worth the day!" whilst the old man swooned away and remained so long insensible, that the slaves thought he would not survive his son. So they wrapped the dead youth in his clothes and carried him up and laid him on the ground, covering him with a shroud of silk. Then they addressed themselves to transport all that was in the place to the ship, and presently the old man revived and coming up after them, saw his son laid out, whereupon he fell on the ground and strewed dust on his head and buffeted his face and tore his beard; and his weeping redoubled, as he hung over his dead son, till he swooned away again. After awhile the slaves came back, with a silken carpet, and laying the old man thereon, sat down at his head. All this time I was in the tree above them, watching them; and indeed my heart became hoary before my head, for all the grief and affliction I had undergone. The old man ceased not from his swoon till nigh upon sundown, when he came to himself and looking upon his dead son, recalled what had happened and how what he had feared had come to pass: and he buffeted his face and head and recited the following verses:
My heart is cleft in twain for severance of loves; The burning tears pour down in torrents from my eye. My every wish with him I loved is fled away: What can I do or say? what help, what hope have I? Would I had never looked upon his lovely face! Alas, the ways on me are straitened far and nigh! What charm can bring me peace, what drink forgetfulness, Whilst in my heart the fire of love burns fierce and high? Would that my feet had trod with him the road of death! Then should I not, as now, in lonely sorrow sigh. O God, that art my hope, have pity upon me! Unite us twain, I crave, in Paradise for aye! How blessed were we once, whilst one house held us both And twinned in pure content our happy lives passed by! Till fortune aimed at us the shafts of severance And parted us; for who her arrows can defy? For lo! the age's pearl, the darling of his folk, The mould of every grace, was singled out to die! I call him back: "Would God thine hour had never come!" What while the case takes speech and doth forestall my cry. Which is the speediest way to win to thee, my son! My soul had paid the price, if that thy life might buy. The sun could not compare with him, for lo! it sets. Nor yet the moon that wanes and wasteth from the sky. Alas, my grief for thee and my complaint of fate! None can console for thee nor aught thy place supply. Thy sire is all distraught with languishment for thee; Since death upon thee came, his hopes are gone awry. Surely, some foe hath cast an envious eye on us: May he who wrought this thing his just deserts aby!
Then he sobbed once and gave up the ghost; whereupon the slaves cried out, "Alas, our master!" and strewed dust on their heads and wept sore. Then they carried the two bodies to the ship and set sail. As soon as they were out of sight, I came down from the tree and raising the trap-door, went down into the underground dwelling, where the sight of some of the youth's gear recalled him to my mind, and I repeated the following verses:
I see their traces and pine for longing pain; My tears rain down on the empty dwelling-place! And I pray to God, who willed that we should part, One day to grant us reunion, of His grace!
Then I went up again and spent the day in walking about the island, returning to the underground dwelling for the night. Thus I lived for a month, during which time I became aware that the sea was gradually receding day by day from the western side of the island, till by the end of the month, I found that the water was become low enough to afford a passage to the mainland. At this I rejoiced, making sure of delivery, and fording the little water that remained, made shift to reach the mainland, where I found great heaps of sand, in which even a camel would sink up to the knees. However, I took heart and making my way through the sand, espied something shining afar off, as it were a bright- blazing fire. So I made towards it, thinking to find succour and repeating the following verses:
It may be Fate at last shall draw its bridle-rein And bring me happy chance; for Fortune changes still; And things shall happen yet, despite the things fordone, To further forth my hopes and bring me to my will.
When I drew near the supposed fire, behold, it was a palace, with a gate of brass, whereon, when the sun shone, it gleamed and glistened and showed from afar, as it were a fire. I rejoiced at the sight and sat down before the palace gate; but hardly had I done so, when there came up ten young men, sumptuously clad and all blind of the right eye. They were accompanied by an old man; and I marvelled at their appearance and at their being all blind of the same eye. They saluted me and questioned me of my condition, whereupon I told them all that had befallen me. They wondered at my story and carried me into the palace, where I saw ten couches, with beds and coverlets of blue stuff, ranged in a circle, with a like couch of smaller size in the midst. As we entered, each of the young men went up to his own couch, and the old man seated himself on the smaller one in the middle. Then said they unto me, "O youth, sit down on the ground and enquire not of our doings nor of the loss of our right eyes." Presently the old man rose and brought each one of the young men and myself his portion of meat and drink in separate vessels; and we sat talking, they questioning me of my adventures and I replying, till the night was far spent. Then said they to the old man, "O elder, wilt thou not bring us our ordinary? The time is come." "Willingly," answered he, and rose and entering a closet, disappeared and presently returned, bearing on his head ten dishes, each covered with a piece of blue stuff. He set a dish before each youth and lighting ten wax-candles, set one upon each dish; after which he uncovered the dishes, and lo, they were full of ashes and powdered charcoal and soot. Then all the young men tucked up their sleeves and fell to weeping and lamenting; and they blackened their faces and rent their clothes and buffeted their cheeks and beat their breasts, exclaiming "We were seated at our ease, but our impertinent curiosity would not let us be!" They ceased not to do thus till near daybreak, when the old man rose and heated water for them, and they washed their faces and put on fresh clothes. When I saw this, my senses left me for wonderment and my heart was troubled and my mind perplexed, for their strange behaviour, till I forgot what had befallen me and could not refrain from questioning them; so I said to them, "What makes you do thus, after our sport and merry-making together? Praised be God, ye are whole of wit, yet these are the doings of madmen! I conjure you, by all that is most precious to you, tell me why you behave thus and how ye came to lose each an eye!" At this, they turned to me and said, "O young man, let not thy youth beguile thee, but leave thy questioning." Then they slept and I with them, and when we awoke, the old man served up food; and after we had eaten and the vessels had been removed, we sat conversing till nightfall, when the old man rose and lit the candles and lamps and set meat and drink before us. We ate and sat talking and carousing till midnight, when they said to the old man, "Bring us our ordinary, for the hour of sleep is at hand." So he rose and brought them the dishes of soot and ashes, and they did as they had done on the preceding night. I abode with them on this wise for a month, during which time they blackened their faces every night, then washed them and changed their clothes and my trouble and amazement increased upon me till I could neither eat nor drink. At last, I lost patience and said to them, "O young men, if ye will not relieve my concern and acquaint me with the reason of your blackening your faces and the meaning of your words, 'We were seated at our ease, but our impertinent curiosity would not let us be,' let me leave you and return to my own people and be at rest from seeing these things, for as says the proverb,
'Twere wiser and better your presence to leave, For when the eye sees not, the heart does not grieve."
"O youth," answered they, "we have not concealed this thing from thee but in our concern for thee, lest what befell us before thee and thou become like unto us." "It avails not," said I; "you must tell me." "We give thee good advice," rejoined they; "do thou take it and leave questioning us of our case, or thou wilt become one-eyed like unto us." But I still persisted in my demand and they said, "O youth, if this thing befall thee, we warn thee that we will never again receive thee into our company nor let thee abide with us." Then they took a ram and slaughtering it, skinned it and gave me a knife, saying, "Lie down on the skin and we will sew thee up in it and leave thee and go away. Presently there will come to thee a bird called the roc, that will catch thee up in its claws and fly away with thee and set thee down on a mountain. As soon as thou feelest it alight with thee, slit the skin with the knife and come forth; whereupon the bird will take fright at thee and fly away and leave thee. Then rise and fare on half a day's journey, till thou comest to a palace rising high into the air, builded of khelenj and aloes and sandal-wood and plated with red gold, inlaid with all manner emeralds and other jewels. There enter and thou wilt attain thy desire. We all have been in that place, and this is the cause of the loss of our right eyes and the reason why we blacken our faces. Were we to tell thee our stories, it would take too much time, for each lost his eye by a separate adventure." They then sewed me up in the skin and left me on the ground outside the palace; and the roc carried me off and set me down on the mountain. I cut open the skin and came out, whereupon the bird flew away and I walked on till I reached the palace. The door stood open; so I entered and found myself in a very wide and goodly hall, as big as a tilting-ground, round which were a hundred doors of sandal and aloes-wood, plated with red gold and furnished with rings of silver. At the upper end of the hall, I saw forty young ladies, sumptuously clad and adorned, as they were moons, one could never tire of gazing on them: and they all came up to me, saying, "Welcome and fair welcome, O my lord! This month past have we been expecting the like of thee; and praised be God who hath sent us one who is worthy of us and we of him!" Then they made me sit down on a high divan and said to me, "From to-day thou art our lord and master, and we are thy handmaids; so order us as thou wilt." And I marvelled at their case. Presently one of them arose and set food before me, and I ate, whilst others heated water and washed my hands and feet and changed my clothes, and yet others made ready sherbets and gave me to drink; and they were all full of joy and delight at my coming. Then they sat down and conversed with me till nightfall, when five of them arose and spreading a mat, covered it with flowers and fruits and confections in profusion and set on wine; and we sat down to drink, while some of them sang and others played the lute and psaltery and recorders and other instruments. So the cup went round amongst us and such gladness possessed me that I forgot all the cares of the world and said, "This is indeed life, but that it is fleeting." We ceased not to drink and make merry till the night was far spent and we were warm with wine, when they said to me, "O our lord, choose from amongst us one who shall be thy bedfellow this night and not lie with thee again till forty days be past." So I chose a girl fair of face, with liquid black eyes and jetty hair, slightly parted teeth and joining eyebrows, perfect in shape and form, as she were a palm-sapling or a stalk of sweet basil; such an one as troubles the heart and bewilders the wit, even as saith of her the poet:
'Twere vain to liken her unto the tender branch, And out on who compares her form to the gazelle! Whence should gazelles indeed her shape's perfection get Or yet her honeyed lips so sweet to taste and smell, Or those great eyes of hers, so dire to those who love, That bind their victims fast in passion's fatal spell? I dote on her with all the folly of a child. What wonder if he turn a child who loves too well!
And I repeated to her the following verses:
My eyes to gaze on aught but thy grace disdain And none but thou in my thought shall ever reign. The love of thee is my sole concern, my fair; In love of thee, I will die and rise again.
So I lay with her that night, never knew I a fairer, and when it was morning, the ladies carried me to the bath and washed me and clad me in rich clothes. Then they served up food and we ate and drank, and the cup went round amongst us till the night, when I chose from among them one who was fair to look upon and soft of sides, such an one as the poet describes, when he says:
I saw upon her breast two caskets snowy-white, Musk-sealed; she doth forbid to lovers their delight. She guards them with the darts that glitter from her eyes; And those who would them press, her arrowy glances smite.
I passed a most delightful night with her; and to make a long story short, I led the goodliest life with them, eating and drinking and carousing and every night taking one or other of them to my bed, for a whole year, at the end of which time they came in to me in tears and fell to bidding me farewell and clinging to me, weeping and crying out; whereat I marvelled and said to them, "What ails you? Indeed you break my heart." "Would we had never known thee!" answered they. "We have companied with many men, but never saw we a pleasanter or more courteous than thou: and now we must part from thee. Yet it rests with thee to see us again, and if thou hearken to us, we need never be parted: but our hearts forebode us that thou will not hearken to us; and this is the cause of our weeping" "Tell me how the case stands," said I; and they answered, "Know that we are the daughters of kings, who have lived here together for years past, and once in every year we are absent for forty days; then we return and abide here for the rest of the year, eating and drinking and making merry. We are now about to depart according to our custom, and we fear lest thou disobey our injunctions in our absence, in which case we shall never see thee again; but if thou do as we bid thee, all will yet be well. Take these keys: they are those of the hundred apartments of the palace, each of which contains what will suffice thee for a day's entertainment. Ninety-and-nine of these thou mayst open and take thy pleasure therein, but beware lest thou open the hundredth, that which has a door of red gold; for therein is that which will bring about a separation between us and thee." Quoth I, "I will assuredly not open the hundredth door, if therein be separation from you." Then one of them came up to me and embraced me and repeated the following verses:
If but the days once more our severed loves unite, If but my eyes once more be gladdened by thy sight, Then shall the face of Time smile after many a frown, And I will pardon Fate for all its past despite.
And I repeated the following:
When she drew near to bid farewell, upon our parting day, Whilst on her heart the double stroke of love and longing smote, She wept pure pearls, and eke mine eyes did rain cornelians forth; And lo, they all combined and made a necklace for her throat!
When I saw her weeping, I said, "By Allah, I will never open the hundredth door!" Then they bade me farewell and departed, leaving me alone in the palace. When the evening drew near, I opened the first door and found myself in an orchard, full of blooming trees, laden with ripe fruit, and the air resounded with the loud singing of birds and the ripple of running waters. The sight brought solace to my soul, and I entered and walked among the trees, inhaling the odours of the flowers and listening to the warble of the birds, that sang the praises of God the One, the Almighty. I looked upon the apple, whose colour is parcel red and parcel yellow, as says the poet:
The apple in itself two colours doth unite, The loved one's cheek of red, and yellow of despite.
Then I looked upon the quince and inhaled its fragrance that puts musk and ambergris to shame, even as says the poet:
The quince contains all pleasant things that can delight mankind, Wherefore above all fruits that be its virtues are renowned. Its taste is as the taste of wine, its breath the scent of musk; Its hue is that of virgin gold, its shape the full moon's round.
Thence I passed to the pear, whose taste surpasses rose-water and sugar, and the plum, whose beauty delights the eye, as it were a polished ruby. When I had taken my fill of looking on the place, I went and locked the door again. Next day, I opened the second door and found myself in a great pleasaunce, set with many palm-trees and watered by a running stream, whose borders were decked with bushes of rose and jessamine and henna and camomile and marjoram and sweetbriar and carpeted with narcissus and ox-eye and violets and lilies and gillyflowers. The breeze fluttered over all these sweet-smelling plants and scattered their scents right and left, possessing me with complete delight. I took my pleasure in the place awhile, and my chagrin was somewhat lightened. Then I went out and locked the door and opening the third door, found therein a great hall paved with vari-coloured marbles and other precious stones and hung with cages of sandal and aloes wood, full of singing-birds, such as the thousand-voiced nightingale and the cushat and the blackbird and the turtle-dove and the Nubian warbler. My heart was ravished by the song of the birds and I forgot my cares and slept in the aviary till the morning. Then I opened the fourth door and saw a great hall, with forty cabinets ranged on either side. The doors of the latter stood open; so I entered and found them full of pearls and rubies and chrysolites and beryls and emeralds and corals and carbuncles and all manner of precious stones and jewels of gold and silver, such as the tongue fails to describe. I was amazed at what I saw and said in myself "Methinks, if all the kings of the earth joined together they could not produce the like of these treasures!" And my heart dilated and I exclaimed, "Now am I king of my time, for all these riches are mine by the favour of God, and I have forty young ladies under my hand, nor is there any with them but myself!" In short, I passed nine-and-thirty days after this fashion, exploring the riches of the place, till I had opened all the doors, except that which the princesses had charged me not to open, but my thoughts ran ever on this latter and Satan urged me, for my ruin, to open it, nor had I patience to forbear; though there remained but one day of the appointed time. So I opened the hundredth door, that which was plated with red gold, and was met by a perfume, whose like I had never before smelt and which was of so subtle and penetrating a quality, that it invaded my head and I fell down, as if intoxicated, and lay awhile unconscious. Then I revived and took heart and entering, found myself in a place strewn with saffron and blazing with light shed by lamps of gold and candles, that diffused a scent of musk and aloes. In the midst stood two great censers, full of burning aloes wood and ambergris and other perfumes, and the place was full of their fragrance. Presently I espied a horse, black as night at its darkest, girt and bridled and saddled with red gold, standing before two mangers of white crystal, one full of winnowed sesame and the other of rose-water flavoured with musk. When I saw this, I was amazed and said to myself, "Surely this horse must be of extraordinary value!" and the devil tempted me, so that I took him out and mounted him, but he would not stir. So I spurred him with my heel, but he did not move; and I took a. switch and struck him with it. When he felt the blow, he gave a neigh like the roaring thunder, and spreading a pair of wings flew up with me high into the air. After awhile, he descended and set me down on the terrace of a palace; then, shaking me off his back, he smote me on the face with his tail and struck out my right eye and flew away, leaving me there. I went down into the palace and found myself again among the ten one-eyed youths, who exclaimed, when they saw me, "An ill welcome to thee!" Quoth I, "Behold, I am become like unto you, and now I would have you give me a dish of soot, that I may blacken my face and admit me to your company." "By Allah," answered they, "thou shalt not abide with us! Depart hence!" And they drove me away. I was grieved at their rejection of me and went out from them, mourning-hearted and tearful-eyed, saying to myself, "Of a truth, I was sitting at my ease, but my impertinent curiosity would not let me be." Then I shaved my beard and eyebrows and renouncing the world, became a Calender and wandered about God's earth, till by His blessing, I arrived at Baghdad in safety this evening and met with these two other Calenders standing bewildered. So I saluted them, saying, "I am a stranger;" to which they replied, "We also are strangers." And, as it chanced, we were all Calenders and each blind of the right eye. This, then, O my lady, is my story and the manner of the shaving of my face and the loss of my eye.'
[Resume The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad]
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