"By Allah, had I never hoped to greet you * Your guide had failed on camel to seat you! Far bore you parting from friend would greet you * Till meseems mine eyes for your wone entreat you."
When Tohfah heard this, she cried out so great a cry, that the folk heard her and Kamariyah said, "Relief is nearhand." Then the Songstress looked out to them and called to them, saying, "O daughters of mine uncle, I am a lonely maid, an exile from kin and country: so for the love of Allah Almighty, repeat that song!" Accordingly Kamariyah repeated it and Tohfah swooned away. When she came to herself, she said to Jamrah, "By the rights of the Apostle of Allah (whom may He save and assain!) unless thou suffer me go down to them and look on them and sit with them for a full hour, I will hurl myself headlong from this palace, for that I am aweary of my life and know that I am slain to all certainty; wherefore will I kill myself, ere you pass sentence upon me." And she was instant with her in asking. When Jamrah heard her words, she knew that, an she let her not down, she would assuredly destroy herself. So she said to her, "O Tohfah, between thee and them are a thousand cubits, but I will bring the women up to thee." The Songstress replied, "Nay, there is no help but that I go down to them and solace me in the island and look upon the sea anear; then will we return, I and thou; for that, an thou bring them up to us, they will be affrighted and there will betide them neither joy nor gladness. As for me, I wish but to be with them, that they may cheer me with their company neither give over their merrymaking, so peradventure I may broaden my breast with them, and indeed I swear that needs must I go down to them; else I will cast myself upon them." And she cajoled Jamrah and kissed her hands, till she said, "Arise and I will set thee down beside them." Then she took Tohfah under her armpit and flying up swiftlier than the blinding leven, set her down with Kamariyah and her company; whereupon she went up to them and accosted them, saying, "Fear ye not: no harm shall befal you; for I am a mortal, like unto you, and I would fain look on you and talk with you and hear your singing." So they welcomed her and kept their places whilst Jamrah sat down beside them and fell a-snuffing their odours and saying, "I smell the scent of the Jinn![FN#248] Would I wot whence it cometh!" Then said Wakhimah to her sister Kamariyah, "Yonder foul slut smelleth us and presently she will take to flight; so what be this inaction concerning her?"[FN#249] Thereupon Kamariyah put out an arm long as a camel's neck, and dealt Jamrah a buffet on the head, that made it fly from her body and cast it into the sea. Then cried she, "Allah is All-great!"[FN#250] And they uncovered their faces, whereupon Tohfah knew them and said to them, "Protection!" Queen Kamariyah embraced her, as also did Queen Zalzalah and Queen Wakhimah and Queen Shararah, and the first-named said to her, "Receive the good tidings of assured safety, for there abideth no harm for thee; but this is no time for talk." Then they cried out, whereupon up came the Ifrits ambushed in that island, hending swords and maces in hand, and taking up Tohfah, flew her to the palace and made themselves masters of it, whilst the Ifrit aforesaid, who was dear to Maymun and whose name was Dukhan,[FN#251] fled like an arrow and stinted not flying till he came to Maymun and found him fighting a sore fight with the Jinn. When his lord saw him, he cried out at him, saying, "Fie upon thee! Whom hast thou left in the palace?" Dukhan answered, saying, "And who abideth in the palace? Thy beloved Tohfah they have captured and Jamrah is slain and they have taken the palace, all of it." At these ill tidings Maymun buffeted his face and head and said, "Oh! Out on it for a calamity!" Then he cried aloud. Now Kamariyah had sent to her sire and reported to him the news, whereat the raven of the wold[FN#252] croaked for the foe. So, when Maymun saw that which had betided him (and indeed the Jinn smote upon him and the wings of eternal severance overspread his host), he planted the heel of his lance in the earth and turning its head to his heart, urged his charger thereat and pressed upon it with his breast, till the point came forth gleaming from his back. Meanwhile the messenger had made the friendly host with the news of Tohfah's deliverance, whereat the Shaykh Abu al-Tawaif rejoiced and bestowed on the bringer of lief tidings a sumptuous robe of honour and made him commander over a company of the Jann. Then they charged home upon Maymun's host and wiped them out to the last man; and when they came to Maymun, they found that he had slain himself and was even as we have said. Presently Kamariyah and her sister Wakhimah came up to their grandfather and told him what they had done; whereupon he came to Tohfah and saluted her with the salam and congratulated her on deliverance. Then he made over Maymun's palace to Salhab; and, taking all the rebel's wealth gave it to the Songstress, while the troops encamped upon the Crescent Mountain. Furthermore, the Shaykh Abu al-Tawaif said to Tohfah, "Blame me not," and she kissed his hands, when behold, there appeared to them the tribes of the Jinn, as they were clouds, and Queen Al-Shahba flying in their van, drawn sword in grip. As she came in sight of the folk, they kissed ground between her hands and she said to them, "Tell me what hath betided Queen Tohfah from yonder dog Maymun and why did ye not send to me and report to me?" Quoth they, "And who was this dog that we should send to thee on his account? Indeed he was the least and lowest of the Jinn." Then they told her what Kamariyah and her sisters had done and how they had practiced upon Maymun and delivered the Songstress from his hand, fearing lest he should slay her when he found himself defeated; and she said, "By Allah, the accursed was wont to lengthen his looking upon her!" And Tohfah fell to kissing Al-Shahba's hand, whilst the queen strained her to her bosom and kissed her, saying, "Trouble is past; so rejoice in assurance of deliverance." Then they rose and went up to the palace whereupon the trays of food were brought and they ate and drank; after which quoth Queen Al-Shahba, "O Tohfah, sing to us, by way of sweetmeat[FN#253] for thine escape, and favour us with that which shall solace our minds, for that indeed my thoughts have been occupied with thee." And quoth Tohfah, "Hearkening and obedience, O my lady." So she improvised and sang these couplets,
"Breeze of East[FN#254] an thou breathe o'er the dear ones' land * Speed, I pray thee, my special salute and salam: And say them I'm pledged to love them and * In pine that passeth all pine I am."
Thereat Queen Al-Shahba rejoiced and with her all who were present; and they admired her speech and fell to kissing her; and when she had made an end of her song, Queen Kamariyah said to her, "O my sister, ere thou go to thy palace, I would fain bring thee to look upon Al-'Anka,[FN#255] daughter of Bahram Jur, whom Al-'Anka, daughter of the wind, carried off, and her beauty; for that there is not her fellow on earth's face." And Queen Al-Shahba said, "O Kamariyah, I also think it were well an I beheld her." Quoth Kamirayah, "I saw her three years ago; but my sister Wakhimah seeth her at all times, for she is near to her people, and she saith that there is not in the world fairer than she. Indeed, this Queen Al-Anka is become a byword for beauty and comeliness." And Wakhimah said, "By the mighty inscription on the seal-ring of Solomon, there is not her like for loveliness here below." Then said Queen Al-Shahba, "An it needs must be and the affair is as ye say, I will take Tohfah and go with her to Al-Anka, so she may look upon her!" So they all arose and repaired to Al-Anka, who abode in the Mountain Kaf. When she saw them, she drew near to them and saluted them, saying, "O my ladies, may I not be bereaved of you!" Quoth Wakhimah to her, "Who is like unto thee, O Anka? Behold, Queen Al-Shahba is come to thee." So Al-Anka kissed the Queen's feet and lodged them in her palace; whereupon Tohfah came up to her and fell to kissing her and saying, "Never saw I seemlier than this semblance." Then she set before them somewhat of food and they ate and washed their hands; after which the Songstress took the lute and smote it well; and Al-Anka also played, and they fell to improvising verses in turns, whilst Tohfah embraced Al-Anka every moment. Al-Shahba cried, "O my sister, each kiss is worth a thousand dinars;" and Tohfah replied, "And a thousand dinars were little therefor;" whereat Al-Anka laughed and after nighting in her pavilion on the morrow they took leave of her and went away to Maymun's palace. Here Queen Al-Shahba farewelled them and taking her troops, returned to her capital, whilst the kings also went away to their abodes and the Shaykh Abu al-Tawaif applied himself to diverting Tohfah till nightfall, when he mounted her on the back of one of the Ifrits and bade other thirty gather together all that she had gotten of treasure and raiment, jewels and robes of honour. Then they flew off, whilst Iblis went with her, and in less than the twinkling of an eye he set her down in her sleeping room, where he and those who were with him bade adieu to her and went away. When Tohfah found herself in her own chamber[FN#256] and on her couch, her reason fled for joy and it seemed to her as if she had never stirred thence: then she took the lute and tuned it and touched it in wondrous fashion and improvised verses and sang. The Eunuch heard the smiting of the lute within the chamber and cried, "By Allah, that is the touch of my lady Tohfah!" So he arose and went, as he were a madman, falling down and rising up, till he came to the Castrato on guard at the gate of the Commander of the Faithful and found him sitting. When his fellow neutral saw him, and he like a madman, slipping down and stumbling up, he asked him, "What aileth thee and what bringeth thee hither at this hour?" The other answered, "Wilt thou not make haste and awaken the Prince of True Believers?" And he fell to crying out at him; whereupon the Caliph awoke and heard them bandying words together and Tohfah's slave crying to the other, "Woe to thee! Awaken the Commander of the Faithful in haste." So quoth he, "O Sawab, what hast thou to say?" and quoth the Chief Eunuch, "O our lord, the Eunuch of Tohfah's lodging hath lost his wits and crieth, 'Awaken the Commander of the Faithful in haste!' " Then said Al-Rashid to one of his slave-girls, "See what may be the matter." Accordingly she hastened to admit the Castrato, who entered at her order; and when he saw the Commander of the Faithful, he salamed not neither kissed ground, but cried in his hurry, "Quick: up with thee! My lady Tohfah sitteth in her chamber, singing a goodly ditty. Come to her in haste and see all that I say to thee! Hasten! She sitteth awaiting thee." The Caliph was amazed at his speech and asked him, "What sayst thou?" He answered, "Didst thou not hear the first of the speech? Tohfah sitteth in the sleeping-chamber, singing and lute-playing. Come thy quickest! Hasten!" Accordingly Al-Rashid sprang up and donned his dress; but he believed not the Eunuch's words and said to him, "Fie upon thee! What is this thou sayst? Hast thou not seen this in a dream?" Quoth the Eunuch, "By Allah, I wot not what thou sayest, and I was not asleep;" and quoth Al-Rashid, "An thy speech be soothfast, it shall be for thy good luck, for I will free thee and give thee a thousand gold pieces; but, an it be untrue and thou have seen this in dream-land, I will crucify thee." The Eunuch said within himself, "O Protector, let me not have seen this in vision!" then he left the Caliph and running to the chamber-door, heard the sound of singing and lute-playing; whereupon he returned to Al-Rashid and said to him, "Go and hearken and see who is asleep." When the Prince of True Believers drew near the door of the sleeping-chamber, he heard the sound of the lute and Tohfah's voice singing; whereat he could not restrain his reason and was like to faint for excess of delight. Then he pulled out the key but his hand refused to draw the bolt: however, after a while, he took heart and applying himself, opened the door and entered, saying, "Methinks this is none other than a vision or an imbroglio of dreams." When Tohfah saw him, she rose and coming to meet him, pressed him to her breast; and he cried out a cry wherein his sprite was like to depart and fell down in a fit. She again strained him to her bosom and sprinkled on him rose-water mingled with musk, and washed his face, till he came to himself, as he were a drunken man, and shed tears for the stress of his joy in Tohfah's return to him, after he had despaired of her returning. Then she took the lute and smote thereon, after the fashion she had learnt from Shaykh Iblis, so that Al-Rashid's wit was bewildered for excess of joy and his understanding was confounded for exultation; after which she improvised and sang these couplets,
"That I left thee my heart to believe is unlief; * For the life that's in it ne'er leaveth; brief, An thou say 'I went,' saith my heart 'What a fib!' * And I bide 'twixt believing and unbelief."
When she had made an end of her verses, Al-Rashid said to her, "O Tohfah, shine absence was wondrous, yet is thy presence still more marvellous." She replied, "By Allah, O my lord, thou sayst sooth;" then, taking his hand, she said to him, "O Commander of the Faithful, see what I have brought with me." So he looked and spied treasures such as neither words could describe nor registers could document, pearls and jewels and jacinths and precious stones and unions and gorgeous robes of honour, adorned with margarites and jewels and purfled with red gold. There he beheld what he never had beheld all his life long, not even in idea; and she showed him that which Queen Al-Shahba had bestowed on her of those carpets, which she had brought with her, and that throne, the like whereof neither Kisra possessed nor Caesar, and those tables inlaid with pearls and jewels and those vessels which amazed all who looked on them, and that crown which was on the head of the circumcised boy, and those robes of honour, which Queen Al-Shahba and Shaykh Abu al-Tawaif had doffed and donned upon her, and the trays wherein were those treasures; brief, she showed him wealth whose like he had never in his life espied and which the tongue availeth not to describe and whereat all who looked thereon were bewildered, Al-Rashid was like to lose his wits for amazement at this spectacle and was confounded at that he sighted and witnessed. Then said he to Tohfah, "Come, tell me thy tale from beginning to end, and let me know all that hath betided thee, as if I had been present." She answered, "Hearkening and obedience," and acquainting him with all that had betided her first and last, from the time when she first saw the Shaykh Abu al-Tawaif, how he took her and descended with her through the side of the Chapel of Ease; and she told him of the horse she had ridden, till she came to the meadow aforesaid and described it to him, together with the palace and that was therein of furniture, and related to him how the Jinn rejoiced in her, and whatso she had seen of their kings, masculine and feminine, and of Queen Kamariyah and her sisters and Queen Shu'a'ah, Regent of the Fourth Sea, and Queen Al-Shahba, Queen of Queens, and King Al-Shisban, and that which each one of them had bestowed upon her. Moreover, she recited to him the story of Maymun the Sworder and described to him his fulsome favour, which he had not deigned to change, and related to him that which befel her from the kings of the Jinn, male and female, and the coming of the Queen of Queens, Al-Shahba, and how she had loved her and appointed her her vice-reine and how she was thus become ruler over all the kings of the Jann; and she showed him the writ of investiture which Queen Al-Shahba had written her and told him what had betided her with the Ghulish Head, when it appeared to her in the garden, and how she had despatched it to her palace, beseeching it to bring her news of the Commander of the Faithful and of what had betided him after her. Then she described to him the flower-gardens, wherein she had taken her pleasure, and the Hammam-baths inlaid with pearls and jewels and told him that which had befallen Maymun the Sworder, when he bore her off, and how he had slain himself; in fine, she related to him everything she had seen of wonders and marvels and that which she had beheld of all kinds and colours among the Jinn. Then she told him the story of Al-Anka, daughter of Bahram Jur, with Al-Anka, daughter of the wind, and described to him her dwelling-place and her island, whereupon quoth Al-Rashid, "O Tohfat al-Sadr,[FN#257] tell me of Al-Anka, daughter of Bahram Jur; is she of the Jinn-kind or of mankind or of the bird-kind? For this long time have I desired to find one who should tell me of her." Tohfah replied, "'Tis well, O Commander of the Faithful. I asked the queen of this and she acquainted me with her case and told me who built her the palace." Quoth Al-Rashid, "Allah upon thee, tell it me;" and quoth Tohfah, "I will well," and proceeded to tell him. And he was amazed at that which he heard from her and what she reported to him and at that which she had brought back of jewels and jacinths of various hues and precious stones of many sorts, such as amazed the beholder and confounded thought and mind. As for this, Tohfah was the means of the enrichment of the Barmecides and the Abbasides, and they had endurance in their delight. Then the Caliph went forth and bade decorate the city: so they decorated it and the drums of glad tidings were beaten; and they made banquets to the people for whom the tables were spread seven days. And Tohfah and the Commander of the Faithful ceased not to enjoy the most delightsome of life and the most prosperous till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and the Severer of societies; and this is all that hath come down to us of their story.
On the following night Dunyazad said to her sister Shahrazad, "O sister mine, an thou incline not unto sleep, prithee tell us a tale which shall beguile our watching through the dark hours." She replied:—With love and gladness.[FN#259] It hath reached me, O magnificent King, that whilome there was in the city of Baghdad, a comely youth and a well bred, fair of favour, tall of stature, and slender of shape. His name was Ala al-Din and he was of the chiefs of the sons of the merchants and had a shop wherein he sold and bought. One day, as he sat in his shop, there passed by him a merry girl[FN#260] who raised her head and casting a glance at the young merchant, saw written in a flowing hand on the forehead[FN#261] of his shop door these words, "THERE BE NO CRAFT SAVE MEN'S CRAFT, FORASMUCH AS IT OVERCOMETH WOMEN'S CRAFT." When she beheld this, she was wroth and took counsel with herself, saying, As my head liveth, there is no help but I show him a marvel trick of the wiles of women and put to naught this his inscription!" Thereupon she hied her home; and on the morrow she made her ready and donning the finest of dress, adorned herself with the costliest of ornaments and the highest of price and stained her hands with henna. Then she let down her tresses upon her shoulders and went forth, walking with coquettish gait and amorous grace, followed by her slave-girl carrying a parcel, till she came to the young merchant's shop and sitting down under pretext of seeking stuffs, saluted him with the salam and demanded of him somewhat of cloths. So he brought out to her various kinds and she took them and turned them over, talking with him the while. Then said she to him, "Look at the shapeliness of my shape and my semblance! Seest thou in me aught of default?" He replied, "No, O my lady;" and she continued, "Is it lawful in any one that he should slander me and say that I am humpbacked?" Then she discovered to him a part of her bosom, and when he saw her breasts his reason took flight from his head and his heart crave to her and he cried, "Cover it up,[FN#262] so may Allah veil thee!" Quoth she, "Is it fair of any one to decry my charms?" and quoth he, "How shall any decry thy charms, and thou the sun of loveliness?" Then said she, "Hath any the right to say of me that I am lophanded?" and tucking up her sleeves, she showed him forearms as they were crystal; after which she unveiled to him a face, as it were a full moon breaking forth on its fourteenth night, and said to him, "Is it lawful for any to decry me and declare that my face is pitted with smallpox or that I am one eyed or crop eared?" and said he, "O my lady, what is it moveth thee to discover unto me that lovely face and those fair limbs, wont to be so jealously veiled and guarded? Tell me the truth of the matter, may I be thy ransom!" And he began to improvise,[FN#263]
"White Fair now drawn from sheath of parted hair, * Then in the blackest tresses hid from sight, Flasheth like day irradiating Earth * While round her glooms the murk of nightliest night."
—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say. Whereupon cried Dunyazad her sister, "O sister mine, how delectable is this tale and how desirable!" She replied, saying, "And where is this compared with that which I will recount to thee next night, Inshallah?"
The Hundred and Ninety-seventh Night.
Now when came the night, quoth Dunyazad to her sister Shahrazad, "O sister mine, an thou incline not unto sleep, prithee finish thy tale which shall beguile our watching through the dark hours." She replied:—With love and gladness! It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the girl said to the young merchant, "Know, O my lord, that I am a maid oppressed of my sire, who speaketh at me and saith to me, Thou art loathly of looks and semblance and it besitteth not that thou wear rich raiment; for thou and the slave-girls are like in rank, there is no distinguishing thee from them. Now he is a richard, having a mighty great store of money and saith not thus save because he is a pinchpenny, and grudgeth the spending of a farthing; wherefore he is loath to marry me, lest he be put to somewhat of expense in my marriage, albeit Almighty Allah hath been bounteous to him and he is a man puissant in his time and lacking naught of worldly weal." The youth asked, "Who is thy father and what is his condition?" and she answered, "He is the Chief Kazi of the well- known Supreme Court, under whose hands are all the Kazis who administer justice in this city." The merchant believed her and she farewelled him and fared away, leaving in his heart a thousand regrets, for that the love of her had prevailed over him and he knew not how he should win to her; wherefore he woned enamoured, love-distracted, unknowing if he were alive or dead. As soon as she was gone, he shut up shop and walked straightway to the Court, where he went in to the Chief Kazi and saluted him. The magistrate returned his salam and treated him with distinction and seated him by his side. Then said Ala al-Din to him, "I come to thee seeking thine alliance and desiring the hand of thy noble daughter." Quoth the Kazi, "O my lord merchant, welcome to thee and fair welcome; but indeed my daughter befitteth not the like of thee, neither beseemeth she the goodliness of thy youth and the pleasantness of thy compostition and the sweetness of thy speech;" but Ala al-Din replied, "This talk becometh thee not, neither is it seemly in thee; if I be content with her, how should this vex thee?" So the Kazi was satisfied and they came to an accord and concluded the marriage contract at a dower precedent of five purses[FN#264] ready money and a dower contingent of fifteen purses, so it might be hard for him to put her away, her father having given him fair warning, but he would not be warned. Then they wrote out the contract document and the merchant said, "I desire to go in to her this night." Accordingly they carried her to him in procession that very evening, and he prayed the night prayer and entered the private chamber prepared for him; but, when he lifted the head gear from the bride's head and the veil from her face and looked, he saw a foul face and a favour right fulsome; indeed he beheld somewhat whereof may Allah never show thee the like! loathly, dispensing from description, inasmuch as there were reckoned in her all legal defects.[FN#265] So he repented, when repentance availed him naught, and knew that the girl had cheated him.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say. Whereupon cried Dunyazad, her sister, "O sister mine, how delectable is thy story and how sweet!" She replied, saying, "And where is this compared with that which I will recount to thee next night an I be spared and suffered to live by the King, whom Almighty Allah preserve?"
The Hundred and Ninety-eight Night.
Now whenas came the night, quoth Dunyazad to her sister Shahrazad, "O sister mine, an thou incline not unto sleep, prithee finish thy story which shall beguile our watching through the dark hours, for indeed 'tis a fine tale and a wondrous." She replied:—With love and gladness! It hath reached me, O generous King, that the unhappy merchant carnally knew the loathly bride, sore against the grain, and abode that night troubled in mind, as he were in the prison of Al-Daylam.[FN#266] Hardly had the day dawned when he arose from her side and betaking himself to one of the Hammams, dozed there awhile, after which he made the Ghusl-ablution of ceremonial impurity[FN#267] and donned his every day dress. Then he went out to the coffee house and drank a cup of coffee; after which he returned to his shop and opening the door, sat down, with concern and chagrin manifest on his countenance. After an hour or so, his friends and intimates among the merchants and people of the market began to come up to him, by ones and twos; to give him joy, and said to him, laughing, "A blessing! a blessing! Where be the sweetmeats? Where be the coffee?[FN#268] 'Twould seem thou hast forgotten us; and nothing made thee oblivious save that the charms of the bride have disordered thy wit and taken thy reason, Allah help thee! We give thee joy, we give thee joy." And they mocked at him whilst he kept silence before them, being like to rend his raiment and shed tears for rage. Then they went away from him, and when it was the hour of noon, up came his mistress, the crafty girl, trailing her skirts and swaying to and fro in her gait, as she were a branch of Ban in a garden of bloom. She was yet more richly dressed and adorned and more striking and cutting[FN#269] in her symmetry and grace than on the previous day, so that she made the passers stop and stand in espalier to gaze upon her. When she came to Ala al-Din's shop, she sat down thereon and said to him, "Blessed be the day to thee, O my lord Ala al-Din! Allah prosper thee and be good to thee and perfect thy gladness and make it a wedding of weal and welfare!" He knitted his brows and frowned in answer to her; then asked her, "Wherein have I failed of thy due, or what have I done to harm thee, that thou shouldst requite me after this fashion?" She answered, "Thou hast been no wise in default; but 'tis yonder inscription written on the door of thy shop that irketh me and vexeth my heart. An thou have the courage to change it and write up the contrary thereof, I will deliver thee from thine evil plight." And he answered, "Thy requirement is right easy: on my head and eyes!" So saying, he brought out a sequin[FN#270] and summoning one of his Mamelukes said to him, "Get thee to Such-an-one the Scribe and bid him write us an epigraph, adorned with gold and lapis lazuli, in these words, "THERE BE NO CRAFT SAVE WOMEN'S CRAFT, FOR INDEED THEIR CRAFT IS A MIGHTY CRAFT[FN#271] AND OVERCOMETH AND HUMBLETH THE FALSES OF MEN." And she said to the white slave "Fare thee forthright." So he repaired to the Scribe, who wrote him the scroll, and he brought it to his master, who set it on the door and asked the damsel, "Is thy heart satisfied?" She answered, "Yes! Arise forthwith and get thee to the place before the citadel, where do thou foregather with all the mountebanks and ape-dancers and bear-leaders and drummers and pipers and bid them come to thee to-morrow early, with their kettle drums and flageolets, whilst thou art drinking coffee with thy father in law the Kazi, and congratulate thee and wish thee joy, saying, 'A blessing, O son of our uncle! Indeed, thou art the vein[FN#272] of our eye! We rejoice for thee, and if thou be ashamed of us, verily we pride ourselves upon thee; so, although thou banish us from thee, know that we will not forsake thee, albeit thou forsake us.' And do thou fall to throwing diners and dirhams amongst them; whereupon the Kazi will question thee, and do thou answer him, saying, My father was an ape-dancer and this is our original condition; but our Lord opened on us the gate of fortune and we have gotten us a name amongst the merchants and with their provost.' Upon this he will say to thee, 'Then thou art an ape-leader of the tribe of the mountebanks?' and do thou rejoin, 'I may in nowise deny my origin, for the sake of thy daughter and in her honour.' The Kazi will say, 'It may not be that thou shalt be given the daughter of a Shaykh who sitteth upon the carpet of the Law and whose descent is traceable by genealogy to the loins of the Apostle of Allah,[FN#273] nor is it meet that his daughter be in the power of a man who is an ape-dancer, a minstrel.' Then do thou reply, 'Nay, O Efendi, she is my lawful wife, and every hair of her is worth a thousand lives, and I will not put her away though I be given the kingship of the world.' At last be thou persuaded to speak the word of divorce and so shall the marriage be voided and ye be saved each from other." Quoth Ala al-Din, "Right is thy rede," and locking up his shop, betook himself to the place —And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say. Whereupon cried Dunyazad, her sister, "O sister mine, how goodly is thy story and how sweet!" She replied, saying, "And where is this compared with that which I will recount to thee next night, Inshallah!"
The Hundred and Ninety-ninth Night.
And whenas came the night, quoth Dunyazad to her sister, "O sister mine, an thou incline not unto sleep, pray finish thy tale which shall beguile our watching through the dark hours." She replied:—With love and gladness! It hath reached me, O generous King, that the young merchant betook himself to the place before the citadel, where he foregathered with the dancers, the drummers and pipers and instructed them how they should do, promising them a mighty fine reward. They received his word with "Hearing and obeying;" and he betook himself on the morrow, after the morning prayer, to the presence of the Judge, who received him with humble courtesy and seated him by his side. Then he addressed him and began questioning him of matters of selling and buying and of the price current of the various commodities which were carried to Baghdad from all quarters, whilst his son-in-law replied to all whereof he was questioned. As they were thus conversing, behold, up came the dancers and drummers with their drums and pipers with their pipes, whilst one of their number preceded them, with a long pennon-like banner in his hand, and played all manner antics with voice and limbs. When they came to the Court house, the Kazi cried, "I seek refuge with Allah from yonder Satans!" and the young merchant laughed but said naught. Then they entered and saluting his worship the Kazi, kissed Ala al-Din's hands and said, "A blessing on thee, O son of our uncle! Indeed, thou coolest our eyes in whatso thou doest, and we beseech Allah for the enduring greatness of our lord the Kazi, who hath honoured us by admitting thee to his connection and hath allotted to us a portion in his high rank and degree." When the Judge heard this talk, it bewildered his wit and he was dazed and his face flushed with rage, and quoth he to his son-in-law, "What words are these?" Quoth the merchant, "Knowest thou not, O my lord, that I am of this tribe? Indeed this man is the son of my maternal uncle and that other the son of my paternal uncle, and if I be reckoned of the merchants, 'tis but by courtesy!" When the Kazi heard these words his colour changed—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day, whereupon cried Dunyazad her sister, "O sister mine, how delectable is thy story and how desirable!" She replied, saying, "And where is its first compared with its last? But I will forthwith relate it to you an I be spared and suffered to live by the King, whom may Allah the Most High keep!" Quoth the King within himself, "By the Almighty, I will not slay her until I hear the end of her tale!"
The Two Hundredth Night.
Now whenas came the night, quoth Dunyazad to her sister, "O sister mine, an thou incline not unto sleep, prithee finish thy tale which shall beguile our watching through the dark hours." She replied:—With love and gladness! It hath reached me, O auspicious king, that the Kazi's colour changed and he was troubled and waxed wroth with exceeding wrath and was like to burst for stress of rage. Then said he to the young merchant, "Allah forfend that this should last! How shall it be permitted that the daughter of the Kazi of the Moslems cohabit with a man of the dancers and vile of origin? By Allah, unless thou repudiate her forthright, I will bid beat thee and cast thee into prison and there confine thee till thou die. Had I foreknown that thou wast of them, I had not suffered thee near me, but had spat in thy face, for that thou art more ill-omened than a dog or a hog."[FN#274] Then he kicked him down from his place and commanded him to divorce; but he said, "Be ruthful to me, O Efendi, for that Allah is ruthful, and hasten not: I will not divorce my wife, though thou give me the kingdom of Al-Irak." The judge was perplexed and knew that compulsion was not permitted of Holy Law;[FN#275] so he bespake the young merchant fair and said to him, "Veil me,[FN#276] so may Allah veil thee. An thou divorce her not, this dishonour shall cleave to me till the end of time." Then his fury gat the better of his wit and he cried, "An thou divorce her not of thine own will, I will forthright bid strike off thy head and slay myself; Hell-flame but not shame."[FN#277] The merchant bethought himself awhile, then divorced her with a manifest divorce and a public[FN#278] and on this wise he won free from that unwelcome worry. Then he returned to his shop and presently sought in marriage of her father her who had done with him what she did[FN#279] and who was the daughter of the Shaykh of the guild of the blacksmiths. So he took her to wife and they abode each with other and lived the pleasantest of lives and the most delightsome, till the day of death: and praise be to Allah the Lord of the Three Worlds.
NUR AL-DIN ALI OF DAMASCUS AND THE DAMSEL SITT AL-MILAH.[FN#280]
There was one, in days of yore and in ages and times long gone before, a merchant of the merchants of Damascus, by name Abu al-Hasan, who had money and means, slave-blacks and slave-girls, lands and gardens, houses and Hammams in that city; but he was not blessed with boon of child and indeed his age waxed great. So he addressed himself to supplicate[FN#281] Allah Almighty in private and in public and in his bows and his prostrations and at the season of prayer-call, beseeching Him to vouchsafe him, before his decease, a son who should inherit his wealth and possessions. The Lord answered his prayer; his wife conceived and the days of her pregnancy were accomplished and her months and her nights; and the travail-pangs came upon her and she gave birth to a boy, as he were a slice of Luna. He had not his match for beauty and he put to shame the sun and the resplendent moon; for he had a beaming face and black eyes of Babili witchery[FN#282] and aquiline nose and carnelian lips; in fine, he was perfect of attributes, the loveliest of folk of his time, sans dubitation or gainsaying. His father joyed in him with exceeding joy and his heart was solaced and he was at last happy: he made banquets to the folk and he clad the poor and the widows. Presently he named the boy Sidi Nur al-Din Ali and reared him in fondness and delight among the hand-maids and thralls. When he had passed his seventh year, his father put him to school, where he learned the sublime Koran and the arts of writing and reckoning ; and when he reached his tenth year, he was taught horsemanship and archery and to occupy himself with arts and sciences of all kinds, part and parts.[FN#283] He grew up pleasant and polite, winsome and lovesome; a ravishment to all who saw him, and he inclined to companying with brethren and comrades and mixing with merchants and travelled men. From these he heard tell of that which they had witnessed of the wonders of the cities in their wayfare and heard them say, "Whoso journeyeth not enjoyeth naught;[FN#284] especially of the city of Baghdad." So he was concerned with exceeding concern for his lack of travel and disclosed this to his sire, who said to him, "O my son, why do I see thee chagrined?" Quoth he, "I would fain travel;" and quoth Abu al-Hasan, "O my son, none travelleth save those whose need is urgent and those who are compelled thereto by want. As for thee, O my son, thou enjoyest ample means; so do thou content thyself with that which Allah hath given thee and be bounteous to others, even as He hath been bountiful to thee; and afflict not thyself with the toil and tribulation of travel, for indeed it is said that travel is a piece of Hell-torment."[FN#285] But the youth said, "Needs must I journey to Baghdad, the House of Peace." When his father saw the strength of his resolve to travel he fell in with his wishes and fitted him out with five thousand dinars in cash and the like in merchandise and sent with him two serving-men. So the youth fared forth, on the blessing of Allah Almighty;[FN#286] and his parent went out with him, to take leave of him, and returned to Damascus. As for Nur al-Din Ali, he ceased not travelling days and nights till he entered Baghdad city, and laying up his loads in the Wakalah,[FN#287] made for the Hammam-bath, where he did away that which was upon him of the soil of the road and doffing his travelling clothes, donned a costly suit of Yamani stuff, worth an hundred dinars. Then he loaded his sleeve with a thousand miskals of gold and sallied forth a-walking and swaying gracefully as he paced along. His gait confounded all those who gazed upon him, as he shamed the branches with his shape and belittled the rose with the redness of his cheeks and his black eyes of Babili witchcraft: thou wouldst deem that whoso looked on him would surely be preserved from bane and bale;[FN#288] for he was even as saith of him one of his describers in these couplets:—
"Thy haters and enviers say for jeer * A true say that profits what ears will hear; 'No boast is his whom the gear adorns; * The boast be his who adorns the gear!'"
So Sidi Nur al-Din went walking in the highways of the city and viewing its edifices and its bazars and thoroughfares and gazing on its folk. Presently, Abu Nowas met him. (Now he was of those of whom it is said, "They love fair lads," and indeed there is said what is said concerning him.)[FN#289] When he saw Nur al-Din Ali, he stared at him in amazement and exclaimed, "Say, I take refuge with the Lord of the Daybreak!" Then he accosted the youth and saluting him, asked him, "Why do I see my lord lone and lorn? Meseemeth thou art a stranger and knowest not this country; so, with leave of my lord, I will put myself at his service and acquaint him with the streets, for that I know this city." Nur al-Din answered, "This will be of thy favour, O nuncle." Abu Nowas rejoiced at this and fared on with him, showing him the streets and bazars, till they came to the house of a slave-dealer, where he stopped and said to the youth, "From what city art thou?" "From Damascus," replied Nur al-Din; and Abu Nowas said, "By Allah, thou art from a blessed city, even as saith of it the poet in these couplets,
'Now is Damascus a garth adorned * For her seekers, the Houris and Paradise-boys.'"
Sidi Nur al-Din thanked him and the twain entered the mansion of the slave-merchant. When the people of the house saw Abu Nowas, they rose to do him reverence, for that which they knew of his rank with the Commander of the Faithful; and the slave-dealer himself came up to them with two chairs whereon they seated themselves. Then the slave-merchant went inside and returning with a slave-girl, as she were a branch of Ban or a rattan-cane, clad in a vest of damask silk and tired with a black and white headdress whose ends fell down over her face, seated her on a chair of ebony; after which he cried to those who were present, "I will discover to you a favour as it were a full moon breaking forth from under a cloud-bank." They replied, "Do so;" whereupon he unveiled the damsel's face and behold, she was like the shining sun, with shapely shape and dawn-bright cheeks and thready waist and heavy hips; brief, she was endowed with an elegance, whose description is unfound, and was even as saith of her the poet,[FN#290]
"A fair one, to idolaters if she herself should show, They'd leave their idols and her face for only Lord would know; And if into the briny sea one day she chanced to spit, Assuredly the salt sea's floods straight fresh and sweet would grow."
The dealer stood at the hand-maid's head and one of the merchants said, "I bid a thousand dinars for her." Quoth another, "I bid one thousand one hundred dinars;" and a third, "I bid twelve hundred." Then said a fourth merchant, "Be she mine for fourteen hundred ducats." And the biddings standing still at that sum, her owner said, "I will not sell her save with her consent: an if she desire to be sold, I will sell her to whom she willeth." The slave-dealer asked him, "What is her name?" Answered the other, "Her name is Sitt al-Milah;"[FN#291] whereupon the dealer said to her, "With thy leave, I will sell thee to yonder merchant for this price of fourteen hundred dinars." Quoth she, "Come hither to me." So the man-vendor came up to her and when he drew near, gave him a kick with her foot and cast him to the ground, saying, "I will not have that oldster." The slave-dealer arose, shaking the dust from his dress and head, and cried, "Who biddeth more of us? Who is desirous?"[FN#292] Said one of the merchants, "I," and the dealer said to her, "O Sitt al-Milah, shall I sell thee to this merchant?" She replied, "Come hither to me;" but he rejoined, "Nay; speak and I will hear thee from my place, for I will not trust myself to thee nor hold myself safe when near thee." So she cried, "Indeed I will not have him." Then the slave-dealer looked at her and seeing her fix eyes on the young Damascene, for that in very deed he had fascinated her with his beauty and loveliness, went up to him and said to him, "O my lord, art thou a looker-on or a buyer? Tell me." Quoth Nur al-Din, "I am both looker-on and buyer. Wilt thou sell me yonder slave-girl for sixteen hundred ducats?" And he pulled out the purse of gold. Hereupon the dealer returned, dancing and clapping his hands and saying, "So be it, so be it, or not at all!" Then he came to the damsel and said to her, "O Sitt al-Milah, shall I sell thee to yonder young Damascene for sixteen hundred dinars?" But she answered, "No," of bashfulness before her master and the bystanders; whereupon the people of the bazar and the slave-merchant departed, and Abu Nowas and Ali Nur al-Din arose and went each his own way, whilst the damsel returned to her owner's house, full of love for the young Damascene. When the night darkened on her, she called him to mind and her heart hung to him and sleep visited her not; and on this wise she abode days and nights, till she sickened and abstained from food. So her lord went in to her and asked her, "O Sitt al-Milah, how findest thou thyself?" Answered she, "O my lord, dead without chance of deliverance and I beseech thee to bring me my shroud, so I may look upon it ere I die." Therewith he went out from her, sore concerned for her, and betaking himself to the bazar, found a friend of his, a draper, who had been present on the day when the damsel was cried for sale. Quoth his friend to him, "Why do I see thee troubled?" and quoth he, "Sitt al-Milah is at the point of death and for three days she hath neither eaten nor drunken. I questioned her to-day of her case and she said, 'O my lord, buy me a shroud so I may look upon it ere I die.'" The draper replied, "Methinks naught aileth her but that she is in love with the young Damascene, and I counsel thee to mention his name to her and declare to her that he hath foregathered with thee on her account and is desirous of coming to thy quarters, so he may hear somewhat of her singing. An she say, 'I reck not of him, for there is that to do with me which distracteth me from the Damascene and from other than he,' know that she saith sooth concerning her sickness; but, an she say thee other than this, acquaint me therewith." So the man returned to his lodging and going in to his slave-girl said to her, "O Sitt al-Milah, I went out for thy need and there met me the young man of Damascus, and he saluted me with the salam and saluteth thee; he seeketh to win thy favour and prayed me to admit him as a guest in our dwelling, so thou mayst let him hear somewhat of thy singing." When she heard speak of the young Damascene, she gave a sob, that her soul was like to leave her body, and answered, "He knoweth my plight and how these three days past I have not eaten nor drunken, and I beseech thee, O my lord, by Allah of All-Might, to do thy duty by the stranger and bring him to my lodging and make excuse to him for me." When her master heard this, his reason fled for joy, and he went to his familiar the draper and said to him, "Thou wast right in the matter of the damsel, for that she is in love with the young Damascene; so how shall I manage?" Said the other, "Go to the bazar and when thou seest him, salute him, and say to him, 'Thy departure the other day, without winning thy wish, was grievous to me; so, an thou be still minded to buy the maid, I will abate thee of that which thou badest for her an hundred sequins by way of gaining thy favour; seeing thou be a stranger in our land.' If he say to thee, 'I have no desire for her,' and hold off from thee, be assured that he will not buy; in which case, let me know, so I may devise thee another device; and if he say to thee other than this, conceal not from me aught." So the girl's owner betook himself to the bazar, where he found the youth seated at the upper end of the place where the merchants mostly do meet, selling and buying and taking and giving, as he were the moon on the night of its full, and saluted him. The young man returned his salam and he said to him, "O my lord, be not offended at the damsel's speech the other day, for her price shall be lowered to the intent that I may secure thy favour. An thou desire her for naught, I will send her to thee or an thou wouldst have me abate to thee her price, I will well, for I desire nothing save what shall content thee; seeing thou art a stranger in our land and it behoveth us to treat thee hospitably and have consideration for thee." The youth replied, "By Allah, I will not take her from thee but at an advance on that which I bade thee for her afore; so wilt thou now sell her to me for one thousand and seven hundred dinars?" And the other rejoined, "O my lord, I sell her to thee, may Allah bless thee in her!" Thereupon the young man went to his quarters and fetching a purse, sent for the girl's owner and weighed out to him the price aforesaid, whilst the draper was between the twain. Then said he, "Bring her forth;" but the other replied, "She cannot come forth at this present; but be thou my guest the rest of this day and night, and on the morrow thou shalt take thy slave-girl and go in the ward of Allah." The youth agreed with him on this and he carried him to his house, where, after a little, he bade meat and wine be brought, and they ate and drank. Then said Nur al-Din to the girl's owner, "I would have thee bring me the damsel, because I bought her not but for the like of this time." So he arose and going in to the girl, said to her, "O Sitt al-Milah, the young man hath paid down thy price and we have bidden him hither; so he hath come to our quarters and we have entertained him, and he would fain have thee be present with him." Therewith the damsel rose deftly and doffing her dress, bathed and donned sumptuous apparel and perfumed herself and went out to him, as she were a branch of Ban or a cane of rattan, followed by a black slave-girl, bearing the lute. When she came to the young man, she saluted him and sat down by his side. Then she took the lute from the slave-girl and screwing up its pegs,[FN#293] smote thereon in four-and-twenty modes, after which she returned to the first and sang these couplets,
"My joy in this world is to see and sit near thee. * Thy love's my religion; thy Union my pleasure. Attest it these tears when in memory I speer thee, * And unchecked down my cheeks pours the flood without measure. By Allah, no rival in love hast to fear thee; * I'm thy slave as I sware, and this troth is my treasure. Be not this our last meeting: by Allah I swear thee * Thy severance to me were most bitter displeasure!"
The young man was moved to delight and cried, "By Allah, thou sayest well, O Sitt al-Milah! Let me hear more." Then he largessed her with fifty gold pieces and they drank and the cups made circuit among them; and her seller said to her, "O Sitt al-Milah, this is the season of farewelling; so let us hear somewhat thereon." Accordingly she struck the lute and touching upon that which was in her heart, improvised these couplets,
"I thole longing, remembrance and sad repine, * Nor my heart can brook woes in so lengthened line. O my lords think not I forget your love; * My case is sure case and cure shows no sign. If creature could swim in the flood of his tears, * I were first to swim in these floods of brine: O Cup-boy withhold cup and bowl from a wretch * Who ne'er ceaseth to drink of her tears for wine! Had I known that parting would do me die, * I had shirked to part, but—'twas Fate's design."
Now whilst they were thus enjoying whatso is most delicious of ease and delight, and indeed the wine was to them sweet and the talk a treat, behold, there came a knocking at the door. So the house-master went out, that he might see what might be the matter, and found ten head of the Caliph's eunuchs at the entrance. When he saw this, he was startled and said, "What is to do?" "The Commander of the Faithful saluteth thee and requireth of thee the slave-girl whom thou hast exposed for sale and whose name is Sitt al-Milah." "By Allah, I have sold her." "Swear by the head of the Commander of the Faithful that she is not in thy quarters." The slaver made oath that he had sold her and that she was no longer at his disposal: yet they paid no heed to his word and forcing their way into the house, found the damsel and the young Damascene in the sitting-chamber. So they laid hands upon her, and the youth said, "This is my slave-girl, whom I have bought with my money;" but they hearkened not to his speech and taking her, carried her off to the Prince of True Believers. Therewith Nur al-Din's pleasure was troubled: he arose and donned his dress, and his host said, "Whither away this night, O my lord?" Said he, "I purpose going to my quarters, and tomorrow I will betake myself to the palace of the Commander of the Faithful and demand my slave-girl." The other replied, "Sleep till the morning, and fare not forth at the like of this hour." But he rejoined, "Needs must I go;" and the host said to him, "Go in Allah his safeguard." So the youth went forth and, drunkenness having got the mastery of his wits, he threw himself down on a bench before one of the shops. Now the watchmen were at that hour making their rounds and they smelt the sweet scent of essences and wine that reeked from him; so they made for it and suddenly beheld the youth lying on the bench, without sign of recovering. They poured water upon him, and he awoke, whereupon they carried him off to the office of the Chief of Police and he questioned him of his case. He replied "O my lord, I am an alien in this town and have been with one of my friends: I came forth from his house and drunkenness overcame me." The Wali bade carry him to his lodging; but one of those in attendance upon him, Al-Muradi hight, said to him, "What wilt thou do? This man is robed in rich raiment and on his finger is a golden ring, whose bezel is a ruby of great price; so we will carry him away and slay him and take that which is upon him of clothes and bring to thee all we get; for that thou wilt not often see profit the like thereof, especially as this fellow is a foreigner and there is none to ask after him."[FN#294] Quoth the Chief, "This wight is a thief and that which he saith is leasing." Nur al-Din said, "Allah forfend that I should be a thief!" but the Wali answered, "Thou liest." So they stripped him of his clothes and taking the seal-ring from his finger, beat him with a grievous beating, what while he cried out for succour, but none succoured him, and besought protection, but none protected him. Then said he to them, "O folk, ye are quit[FN#295] of that which ye have taken from me; but now restore me to my lodging." They replied, "Leave this knavery, O rascal! thine intent is to sue us for thy clothes on the morrow." The youth cried, "By the truth of the One, the Eternal One, I will not sue any for them!" but they said, "We find no way to this." And the Prefect bade them bear him to the Tigris and there slay him and cast him into the stream. So they dragged him away, while he wept and said the words which shall nowise shame the sayer: "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!" When they came to the Tigris, one of them drew the sword upon him and Al-Muradi said to the sworder, "Smite off his head;" but one of them, hight Ahmad, cried, "O folk, deal softly with this poor wretch and slay him not unjustly and wickedly, for I stand in fear of Allah Almighty, lest He burn me with his fire." Quoth Al-Muradi, "A truce to this talk!" and quoth the Ahmad aforesaid, "An ye do with him aught, I will acquaint the Commander of the Faithful." They asked, "How, then, shall we do with him?" and he answered, "Let us deposit him in prison and I will be answerable to you for his provision; so shall we be quit of his blood, for indeed he is a wronged man." Accordingly they agreed to this and taking him up cast him into the Prison of Blood,[FN#296] and then went their ways. So far as regards them; but returning to the damsel, they carried her to the Commander of the Faithful and she pleased him; so he assigned her a chamber of the chambers of choice. She tarried in the palace, neither eating nor drinking, and weeping sans surcease night and day, till, one night, the Caliph sent for her to his sitting-hall and said to her, "O Sitt al-Milah, be of good cheer and keep thine eyes cool of tear, for I will make thy rank higher than any of the concubines and thou shalt see that which shall rejoice thee." She kissed ground and wept; whereupon the Prince of True Believers called for her lute and bade her sing: so in accordance with that which was in her heart, she sang these improvised couplets,
"By the sheen of thy soul and the sheen of thy smile,[FN#297] * Say, moan'st thou for doubt or is't ring-dove's moan? How many have died who by love were slain! * Fails my patience but blaming my blamers wone."
Now when she had made an end of her song, she threw the lute from her hand and wept till she fainted away, whereupon the Caliph bade carry her to her chamber. But he was fascinated by her and loved her with exceeding love; so, after a while, he again commanded to bring her in to the presence, and when she came, he ordered her to sing. Accordingly, she took the lute and chanted to it that which was in her heart and improvised these couplets,
"Have I patience and strength to support this despair? * Ah, how couldst thou purpose afar to fare? Thou art swayed by the spy to my cark and care: * No marvel an branchlet sway here and there![FN#298] With unbearable load thou wouldst load me, still * Thou loadest with love which I theewards bear."
Then she cast the lute from her hand and fainted away; so she was carried to her sleeping-chamber and indeed passion grew upon her. After along while the Prince of True Believers sent for her a third time and commanded her to sing. So she took the lute and chanted these couplets,
"O of piebald wild ye dunes sandy and drear, * Shall the teenful lover 'scape teen and tear? Shall ye see me joined with a lover, who * Still flies or shall meet we in joyful cheer? O hail to the fawn with the Houri eye, * Like sun or moon on horizon clear! He saith to lovers, 'What look ye on?' * And to stony hearts, 'Say, what love ye dear?'[FN#299] I pray to Him who departed us * With severance-doom, 'Be our union near!'"
When she had made an end of her verse, the Commander of the Faithful said to her, "O damsel, thou art in love." She replied, "Yes;" and he asked, "With whom?" Answered she, "With my lord and sovran of my tenderness, for whom my love is as the love of the earth for rain, or as the desire of the female for the male; and indeed the love of him is mingled with my flesh and my blood and hath entered into the channels of my bones. O Prince of True Believers, whenever I call him to mind my vitals are consumed, for that I have not yet won my wish of him, and but that I fear to die, without seeing him, I had assuredly slain myself." Thereupon quoth he, "Art thou in my presence and durst bespeak me with the like of these words? Forsure I will gar thee forget thy lord." Then he bade take her away; so she was carried to her pavilion and he sent her a concubine, with a casket wherein were three thousand ducats and a collar of gold set with seed-pearls and great unions, and jewels, worth other three thousand, saying to her, "The slave-girl and that which is with her are a gift from me to thee." When she heard this, she cried, "Allah forfend that I be consoled for the love of my lord and my master, though with an earth-full of gold!" And she improvised and recited these couplets,
"By his life I swear, by his life I pray; * For him fire I'd enter unful dismay! 'Console thee (cry they) with another fere * Thou lovest!' and I, 'By 's life, nay, NAY!' He's moon whom beauty and grace array; * From whose cheeks and brow shineth light of day."
Then the Commander of the Faithful summoned her to his presence a fourth time and said, "O Sitt al-Milah, sing." So she recited and sang these couplets,
"The lover's heart by his beloved is oft disheartened * And by the hand of sickness eke his sprite dispirited, One asked, 'What is the taste of love?"[FN#300] and I to him replied, * 'Love is a sweet at first but oft in fine unsweetened.' I am the thrall of Love who keeps the troth of love to them[FN#301] * But oft they proved themselves 'Urkub[FN#302] in pact with me they made. What in their camp remains? They bound their loads and fared away; * To other feres the veiled Fairs in curtained litters sped; At every station the beloved showed all of Joseph's charms: * The lover wone with Jacob's woe in every shift of stead."
When she had made an end of her song, she threw the lute from her hand and wept herself a-swoon. So they sprinkled on her musk-mingled rose-water and willow-flower water; and when she came to her senses, Al-Rashid said to her, "O Sitt al-Milah, this is not just dealing in thee. We love thee and thou lovest another." She replied, "O Commander of the Faithful, there is no help for it." Thereupon he was wroth with her and cried, "By the virtue of Hamzah[FN#303] and 'Akil[FN#304] and Mohammed, Prince of the Apostles, an thou name in my presence one other than I, I will assuredly order strike off thy head!" Then he bade return her to her chamber, whilst she wept and recited these couplets,
'Oh brave!' I'd cry an I my death could view; * My death were better than these griefs to rue, Did sabre hew me limb by limb; this were * Naught to affright a lover leal-true."
Then the Caliph went in to the Lady Zubaydah, complexion-altered with anger, and she noted this in him and said to him, "How cometh it that I see the Commander of the Faithful changed of colour?" He replied, "O daughter of my uncle, I have a beautiful slave-girl, who reciteth verses by rote and telleth various tales, and she hath taken my whole heart; but she loveth other than myself and declareth that she affecteth her former lord; so I have sworn a great oath that, if she come again to my sitting- hall and sing for other than for me, I will assuredly shorten her highest part by a span."[FN#305] Quoth Zubaydah, "Let the Commander of the Faithful favour me by presenting her, so I may look on her and hear her singing." Accordingly he bade fetch her and she came, upon which the Lady Zubaydah withdrew behind the curtain,[FN#306] where the damsel saw her not, and Al-Rashid said to her, "Sing to us." So she took the lute and tuning it, recited these couplets,
"O my lord! since the day when I lost your sight, * My life was ungladdened, my heart full of teen; The memory of you kills me every night; * And by all the worlds is my trace unseen; All for love of a Fawn who hath snared my sprite * By his love and his brow as the morning sheen. Like a left hand parted from brother right * I became by parting thro' Fortune's spleen. On the brow of him Beauty deigned indite * 'Blest be Allah, whom best of Creators I ween!' And Him I pray, who could disunite * To re-unite us. Then cry 'Ameen!'"[FN#307]
When Al-Rashid heard the end of this, he waxed exceeding wroth and said, "May Allah not reunite you twain in gladness!" Then he summoned the headsman, and when he presented himself, he said to him, "Strike off the head of this accursed slavegirl." So Masrur took her by the hand and led her away; but, when she came to the door, she turned and said to the Caliph, "O Commander of the Faithful, I conjure thee, by thy fathers and forefathers, behead me not until thou give ear to that I shall say!" Then she improvised and recited these couplets,
"Emir of Justice, be to lieges kind * For Justice ever guides thy generous mind; And, oh, who blamest love to him inclining! * Are lovers blamed for laches undesigned? By Him who gave thee rule, deign spare my life * For rule on earth He hath to thee assigned."
Then Masrur carried her to the other end of the sitting-hall and bound her eyes and making her sit, stood awaiting a second order: whereupon quoth the Lady Zubaydah, "O Prince of True Believers, with thy permission, wilt thou not vouchsafe this damsel a portion of thy clemency? An thou slay her, 'twere injustice." Quoth he, "What is to be done with her?" and quoth she, "Forbear to slay her and send for her lord. If he be as she describeth him in beauty and loveliness, she is excused, and if he be not on this wise then kill her, and this shall be thy plea aainst her."[FN#308] Al-Rashid replied, "No harm in this rede;" and caused return the damsel to her chamber, saying to her, "The Lady Zubaydah saith thus and thus." She rejoined, "God requite her for me with good! Indeed, thou dealest equitably, O Commander of the Faithful, in this judgment." And he retorted, "Go now to thy place, and tomorrow we will bid them bring thy lord." So she kissed ground and recited these couplets,
"I indeed will well for whom love I will: * Let chider chide and let blamer blame: All lives must die at fixt tide and term * But I must die ere my life-term came: Then Oh whose love hath afflicted me * Well I will but thy presence in haste I claim."
Then she arose and returned to her chamber. Now on the morrow, the Commander of the Faithful sat in his hall of audience and his Wazir Ja'afar bin Yahya the Barmecide came in to him; whereupon he called to him, saying, "I would have thee bring me a youth who is lately come to Baghdad, hight Sidi Nur al-Din Ali the Damascene." Quoth Ja'afar, "Hearing and obeying," and going forth in quest of the youth, sent to the bazars and Wakalahs and Khans for three successive days, but discovered no trace of him, neither happened upon the place of him. So on the fourth day he presented himself before the Caliph and said to him, "O our lord, I have sought him these three days, but have not found him." Said Al-Rashid, "Make ready letters to Damascus. Peradventure he hath returned to his own land." Accordingly Ja'afar wrote a letter and despatched it by a dromedary-courier to the Damascus-city; and they sought him there and found him not. Meanwhile, news was brought that Khorasan had been conquered;[FN#309] whereupon Al-Rashid rejoiced and bade decorate Baghdad and release all in the gaol, giving each of them a ducat and a dress. So Ja'afar applied himself to the adornment of the city and bade his brother Al-Fazl ride to the prison and robe and set free the prisoners. Al-Fazl did as his brother commanded and released all save the young Damascene, who abode still in the Prison of Blood, saying, "There is no Majesty, and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! Verily, we are God's and to Him are we returning." Then quoth Al-Fazl to the gaoler, "Is there any left in the prison?" Quoth he, "No," and Al-Fazl was about to depart, when Nur al-Din called out to him from within the prison, saying, "O our lord, tarry awhile, for there remaineth none in the prison other than I and indeed I am wronged. This is a day of pardon and there is no disputing concerning it." Al-Fazl bade release him; so they set him free and he gave him a dress and a ducat. Thereupon the young man went out, bewildered and unknowing whither he should wend, for that he had sojourned in the gaol a year or so and indeed his condition was changed and his favour fouled, and he abode walking and turning round, lest Al-Muradi come upon him and cast him into another calamity. When Al-Muradi learnt his release, he betook himself to the Wali and said, "O our lord, we are not assured of our lives from that youth, because he hath been freed from prison and we fear lest he complain of us." Quoth the Chief, "How shall we do?" and quoth Al-Muradi, "I will cast him into a calamity for thee." Then he ceased not to follow the Damascene from place to place till he came up with him in a narrow stead and cul-de-sac; whereupon he accosted him and casting a cord about his neck, cried out, "A thief!" The folk flocked to him from all sides and fell to beating and abusing Nur al-Din,[FN#310] whilst he cried out for aidance but none aided him, and Al-Muradi kept saying to him, "But yesterday the Commander of the Faithful released thee and to-day thou robbest!" So the hearts of the mob were hardened against him and again Al-Muradi carried him to the Chief of Police, who bade hew off his hand. Accordingly, the hangman took him and bringing out the knife, proceeded to cut off his hand, while Al-Muradi said to him, "Cut and sever the bone and fry[FN#311] not in oil the stump for him, so he may lose all his blood and we be at rest from him." But Ahmad, he who had before been the cause of his deliverance, sprang up to him and cried, "O folk, fear Allah in your action with this youth, for that I know his affair, first and last, and he is clear of offence and guiltless: he is of the lords of houses,[FN#312] and unless ye desist from him, I will go up to the Commander of the Faithful and acquaint him with the case from beginning to end and that the youth is innocent of sin or crime." Quoth Al-Muradi, "Indeed, we are not assured from his mischief;" and quoth Ahmad, "Set him free and commit him to me and I will warrant you against his doings, for ye shall never see him again after this." So they delivered Nur al-Din to him and he took him from their hands and said to him, "O youth, have ruth on thyself, for indeed thou hast fallen into the hands of these folk twice and if they prevail over thee a third time, they will make an end of thee; and I in doing thus with thee, aim at reward for thee and recompense in Heaven and answer of prayer."[FN#313] So Nur al-Din fell to kissing his hand and blessing him said, "Know that I am a stranger in this your city and the completion of kindness is better than its commencement; wherefore I pray thee of thy favour that thou make perfect to me thy good offices and generosity and bring me to the city-gate. So will thy beneficence be accomplished unto me and may God Almighty requite thee for me with good!" Ahmad replied, "No harm shall betide thee: go; I will bear thee company till thou come to thy place of safety." And he left him not till he brought him to the city-gate and said to him, "O youth, go in Allah's guard and return not to the city, for, an they fall in with thee again, they will make an end of thee." Nur al-Din kissed his hand and going forth the city, gave not over walking, till he came to a mosque that stood in one of the suburbs of Baghdad and entered therein with the night. Now he had with him naught wherewith he might cover himself; so he wrapped himself up in one of the mats of the mosque and thus abode till dawn, when the Muezzins came and finding him seated in such case, said to him, "O youth, what is this plight?" Said he, "I cast myself on your protection, imploring this defence from a company of folk who seek to slay me unjustly and wrongously, without cause." And one of the Muezzins said, "I will protect thee; so be of good cheer and keep thine eyes cool of tear." Then he brought him old clothes and covered him therewith; he also set before him somewhat of victual and seeing upon him signs of fine breeding, said to him, "O my son, I grow old and desiring help from thee, I will do away thy necessity." Nur al-Din replied, "To hear is to obey;" and abode with the old man, who rested and took his ease, while the youth did his service in the mosque, celebrating the praises of Allah and calling the Faithful to prayer and lighting the lamps and filling the spout-pots[FN#314] and sweeping and cleaning out the place of worship. On this-wise it befel the young Damascene; but as regards Sitt al-Milah, the Lady Zubaydah, the wife of the Commander of the Faithful, made a banquet in her palace and assembled her slave-girls. And the damsel came, weeping-eyed and heavy-hearted, and those present blamed her for this, whereupon she recited these couplets,
"Ye blame the mourner who weeps his woe; * Needs must the mourner sing, weeping sore; An I see not some happy day I'll weep * Brine-tears till followed by gouts of gore."
When she had made an end of her verses, the Lady Zubaydah bade each damsel sing a song, till the turn came round to Sitt al-Milah, whereupon she took the lute and tuning it, carolled thereto four-and-twenty carols in four-and-twenty modes; then she returned to the first and sang these couplets,
"The World hath shot me with all her shafts * Departing friends parting-grief t' aby: So in heart the burn of all hearts I bear * And in eyes the tear-drops of every eye."
When she had made an end of her song, she wept till she garred the bystanders weep and the Lady Zubaydah condoled with her and said to her, "Allah upon thee, O Sitt al-Milah, sing us some, what, so we may hearken to thee." The damsel replied, "Hearing and obeying," and sang these couplets,
"People of passion, assemble ye! * This day be the day of our agony: The Raven o' severance croaks at our doors; * Our raven which nigh to us aye see we. The friends we love have appointed us * The grievousest parting-dule to dree. Rise, by your lives, and let all at once * Fare to seek our friends where their sight we see."
Then she threw the lute from her hand and shed tears till she drew tears from the Lady Zubaydah who said to her, "O Sitt al-Milah, he whom thou lovest methinks is not in this world, for the Commander of the Faithful hath sought him in every place, but hath not found him." Whereupon the damsel arose and kissing the Princess's hands, said to her, "O my lady, an thou wouldst have him found, I have this night a request to make whereby thou mayst win my need with the Caliph." Quoth the Lady, "And what is it?" and quoth Sitt al-Milah, "'Tis that thou get me leave to fare forth by myself and go round about in quest of him three days, for the adage saith, Whoso keeneth for herself is not like whoso is hired to keen![FN#315] An if I find him, I will bring him before the Commander of the Faithful, so he may do with us what he will, and if I find him not, I shall be cut off from hope of him and the heat of that which is with me will be cooled." Quoth the Lady Zubaydah, "I will not get thee leave from him but for a whole month; so be of good cheer and eyes cool and clear." Whereat Sitt al-Milah rejoiced and rising, kissed ground before her once more and went away to her own place, and right glad was she. As for Zubaydah, she went in to the Caliph and talked with him awhile; then she fell to kissing him between the eyes and on his hands and asked him for that which she had promised to Sitt al-Milah, saying, "O Commander of the Faithful, I doubt me her lord is not found in this world; but, an she go about seeking him and find him not, her hopes will be cut off and her mind will be set at rest and she will sport and laugh; and indeed while she nourisheth hope, she will never take the right direction." And she ceased not cajoling him till he gave Sitt al-Milah leave to fare forth and make search for her lord a month's space and ordered a riding-mule and an eunuch to attend her and bade the privy purse give her all she needed, were it a thousand dirhams a day or even more. So the Lady Zubaydah arose and returning to her palace bade summon Sitt al-Milah and, as soon as she came, acquainted her with that which had passed; whereupon she kissed her hand and thanked her and called down blessings on her. Then she took leave of the Princess and veiling her face with a mask,[FN#316] disguised herself;[FN#317] after which she mounted the she-mule and sallying forth, went round about seeking her lord in the highways of Baghdad three days' space, but happed on no tidings of him; and on the fourth day, she rode forth without the city. Now it was the noon-hour and fierce was the heat, and she was aweary and thirst came upon her. Presently, she reached the mosque of the Shaykh who had lodged the young Damascene, and dismounting at the door, said to the old Muezzin, "O Shaykh, hast thou a draught of cold water? Verily, I am overcome with heat and thirst." Said he, "'Tis with me in my house." So he carried her up into his lodging and spreading her a carpet, seated her; after which he brought her cold water and she drank and said to her eunuch, "Go thy ways with the mule and to-morrow come back to me here." Accordingly he went away and she slept and rested herself. When she awoke, she asked the old man, "O Shaykh, hast thou aught of food?" and he answered, "O my lady, I have bread and olives." Quoth she, "That be food which befitteth only the like of thee. As for me, I will have naught save roast lamb and soups and reddened fowls right fat and ducks farcis with all manner stuffing of pistachio-nuts and sugar." Quoth the Muezzin, "O my lady, I have never heard of this chapter[FN#318] in the Koran, nor was it revealed to our lord Mohammed, whom Allah save and assain!"[FN#319] She laughed and said, "O Shaykh, the matter is even as thou sayest; but bring me pen-case and paper." So he brought her what she sought and she wrote a note and gave it to him, together with a seal-ring from her finger, saying, "Go into the city and enquire for Such-an-one the Shroff and give him this my note." Accordingly the oldster betook himself to the city, as she bade him, and asked for the money-changer, to whom they directed him. So he gave him ring and writ, seeing which, he kissed the letter and breaking it open, read it and apprehended its contents. Then he repaired to the bazar and buying all that she bade him, laid it in a porter's crate and made him go with the Shaykh. The old man took the Hammal and went with him to the mosque, where he relieved him of his burden and carried the rich viands in to Sitt al-Milah. She seated him by her side and they ate, he and she, of those dainty cates, till they were satisfied, when the Shaykh rose and removed the food from before her. She passed that night in his lodging and when she got up in the morning, she said to him, "O elder, may I not lack thy kind offices for the breakfast! Go to the Shroff and fetch me from him the like of yesterday's food." So he arose and betaking himself to the money-changer, acquainted him with that which she had bidden him. The Shroff brought him all she required and set it on the heads of Hammals; and the Shaykh took them and returned with them to the damsel, when she sat down with him and they ate their sufficiency, after which he removed the rest of the meats. Then she took the fruits and the flowers and setting them over against herself, wrought them into rings and knots and writs, whilst the Shaykh looked on at a thing whose like he had never in his life seen and rejoiced in the sight. Presently said she to him "O elder, I would fain drink." So he arose and brought her a gugglet of water; but she cried to him, "Who said to thee, Fetch that?" Quoth he, "Saidst thou not to me, I would fain drink?" and quoth she, "'I want not this; nay, I want wine, the solace of the soul, so haply, O Shaykh, I may refresh myself therewith." Exclaimed the old man, "Allah forfend that strong drink be drunk in my house, and I a stranger in the land and a Muezzin and an Imam, who leadeth the True Believers in prayer, and a servant of the House of the Lord of the three Worlds!" "Why wilt thou forbid me to drink thereof in thy house?" "Because 'tis unlawful." "O elder, Allah hath forbidden only the eating of blood and carrion[FN#320] and hog's flesh: tell me, are grapes and honey lawful or unlawful?" "They are lawful." "This is the juice of grapes and the water of honey." "Leave this thy talk, for thou shalt never drink wine in my house." "O Shaykh, people eat and drink and enjoy themselves and we are of the number of the folk and Allah is indulgent and merciful."[FN#321] "This is a thing that may not be." "Hast thou not heard what the poet saith?" And she recited these couplets,
"Cease thou to hear, O Sim'an-son,[FN#322] aught save the say of me; * How bitter 'twas to quit the monks and fly the monast'ry! When, on the Fete of Palms there stood, amid the hallowed fane,[FN#323] * A pretty Fawn whose lovely pride garred me sore wrong to dree. May Allah bless the night we spent when he to us was third, * While Moslem, Jew, and Nazarene all sported fain and free. Quoth he, from out whose locks appeared the gleaming of the morn, * 'Sweet is the wine and sweet the flowers that joy us comrades three. The garden of the garths of Khuld where roll and rail amain, * Rivulets 'neath the myrtle shade and Ban's fair branchery; And birds make carol on the boughs and sing in blithest lay, * Yea, this indeed is life, but, ah! how soon it fades away.'"
She then asked him, "O Shaykh, an Moslems and Jews and Nazarenes drink wine, who are we that we should reject it?" Answered he, "By Allah, O my lady, spare thy pains, for this be a thing whereto I will not hearken." When she knew that he would not consent to her desire, she said to him, "O Shaykh, I am of the slave-girls of the Commander of the Faithful and the food waxeth heavy on me and if I drink not, I shall die of indigestion, nor wilt thou be assured against the issue of my case.[FN#324] As for me, I acquit myself of blame towards thee, for that I have bidden thee beware of the wrath of the Commander of the Faithful, after making myself known to thee." When the Shaykh heard her words and that wherewith she threatened him, he sprang up and went out, perplexed and unknowing what he should do, and there met him a Jewish man, which was his neighbour, and said to him, "How cometh it that I see thee, O Shaykh, strait of breast? Eke, I hear in thy house a noise of talk, such as I am unwont to hear with thee." Quoth the Muezzin, "'Tis of a damsel who declareth that she is of the slave-girls of the Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid; and she hath eaten meat and now would drink wine in my house, but I forbade her. However she asserteth that unless she drink thereof, she will die, and indeed I am bewildered concerning my case." Answered the Jew, "Know, O my neighbour, that the slavel-girls of the Commander of the Faithful are used to drink wine, and when they eat and drink not, they die; and I fear lest happen some mishap to her, when thou wouldst not be safe from the Caliph's fury." The Shaykh asked, "What is to be done?" and the Jew answered, "I have old wine that will suit her." Quoth the Shaykh, "By the right of neighbourship, deliver me from this descent[FN#325] of calamity and let me have that which is with thee!" Quoth the Jew, "Bismillah, in the name of Allah," and passing to his quarters, brought out a glass flask of wine, wherewith the Shaykh returned to Sitt al-Milah. This pleased her and she cried to him, "Whence hadst thou this?" He replied, "I got it from the Jew, my neighbour: I set forth to him my case with thee and he gave me this." Thereupon Sitt al-Milah filled a cup and emptied it; after which she drank a second and a third. Then she crowned the cup a fourth time and handed it to the Shaykh, but he would not accept it from her. However, she conjured him, by her own head and that of the Prince of True Believers, that he take the cup from her, till he received it from her hand and kissed it and would have set it down; but she sware him by her life to smell it. Accordingly he smelt it and she said to him, "How deemest thou?" Said he, "I find its smell is sweet;" and she conjured him by the Caliph's life to taste thereof. So he put it to his mouth and she rose to him and made him drink; whereupon quoth be, "O Princess of the Fair,[FN#326] this is none other than good." Quoth she, "So deem I: hath not our Lord promised us wine in Paradise?" He answered, "Yes! The Most High saith, 'And rivers of wine, delicious to the drinkers.'[FN#327] And we will drink it in this world and in the next world." She laughed and emptying the cup, gave him to drink, and he said, "O Princess of the Fair, indeed thou art excusable in thy love for this." Then he bent in hand from her another and another, till he became drunken and his talk waxed great and his prattle. The folk of the quarter heard him and assembled under the window; and when the Shaykh was ware of them, he opened the window and said to them, "Are ye not ashamed, O pimps? Every one in his own house doth whatso he willeth and none hindereth him; but we drink one single day and ye assemble and come, panders that ye are! To-day, wine, and to-morrow business;[FN#328] and from hour to hour cometh relief." So they laughed together and dispersed. Then the girl drank till she was drunken, when she called to mind her lord and wept, and the Shaykh said to her, "What maketh thee weep, O my lady?" Said she, "O elder, I am a lover and a separated." He cried, "O my lady, what is this love?" Cried she, "And thou, hast thou never been in love?" He replied, "By Allah, O my lady, never in all my life heard I of this thing, nor have I ever known it! Is it of the sons of Adam or of the Jinn?" She laughed and said, "Verily, thou art even as those of whom the poet speaketh, in these couplets,
"How oft shall they admonish and ye shun this nourishment; * When e'en the shepherd's bidding is obeyed by his flocks? I see you like in shape and form to creatures whom we term * Mankind, but in your acts and deeds you are a sort of ox"[FN#329]
The Shaykh laughed at her speech and her verses pleased him. Then cried she to him, "I desire of thee a lute." So he arose and brought her a bit of fuel.[FN#330] Quoth she, "What is that?" and quoth he "Didst thou not say: Bring me fuel?" Said she, "I do not want this," and said he, "What then is it that is hight fuel, other than this?" She laughed and replied, "The lute is an instrument of music, whereunto I sing." Asked he, "Where is this thing found and of whom shall I get it for thee?" and answered she, "Of him who gave thee the wine." So he arose and betaking himself to his neighbour the Jew, said to him, "Thou favouredst us before with the wine; so now complete thy favours and look me out a thing hight lute, which be an instrument for singing; for she seeketh this of me and I know it not." Replied the Jew, "Hearkening and obedience," and going into his house, brought him a lute. The old man carried it to Sitt al-Milah, whilst the Jew took his drink and sat by a window adjoining the Shaykh's house, so he might hear the singing. The damsel rejoiced, when the old man returned to her with the lute, and taking it from him, tuned its strings and sang these couplets,
"Remains not, after you are gone, or trace of you or sign, * But hope to see this parting end and break its lengthy line: You went and by your wending made the whole world desolate; * And none may stand this day in stead to fill the yearning eyne. Indeed, you've burdened weakling me, by strength and force of you * With load no hill hath power t'upheave nor yet the plain low li'en: And I, whenever fain I scent the breeze your land o'erbreathes, * Lose all my wits as though they were bemused with heady wine. O folk no light affair is Love for lover woe to dree * Nor easy 'tis to satisfy its sorrow and repine. I've wandered East and West to hap upon your trace, and when * Spring-camps I find the dwellers cry, 'They've marched, those friends o' thine!' Never accustomed me to part these intimates I love; * Nay, when I left them all were wont new meetings to design."
Now when she had ended her song, she wept with sore weeping, till presently sleep overcame her and she slept. On the morrow, she said to the Shaykh, "Get thee to the Shroff and fetch me the ordinary;" so he repaired to the money-changer and delivered him the message, whereupon he made ready meat and drink, according to his custom, with which the old man returned to the damsel and they ate their sufficiency. When she had eaten, she sought of him wine and he went to the Jew and fetched it. Then the twain sat down and drank; and when she waxed drunken, she took the lute and smiting it, fell a-singing and chanted these couplets,
"How long ask I the heart, the heart drowned, and eke * Refrain my complaint while I my tear-floods speak? They forbid e'en the phantom to visit me, * (O marvel!) her phantom my couch to seek."[FN#331]
And when she had made an end of her song, she wept with sore weeping. All this time, the young Damascene was listening, and now he likened her voice to the voice of his slave-girl and then he put away from him this thought, and the damsel had no knowledge whatever of his presence. Then she broke out again into song and chanted these couplets,
"Quoth they, 'Forget him! What is he?' To them I cried, * 'Allah forget me when forget I mine adored!' Now in this world shall I forget the love o' you? * Heaven grant the thrall may ne'er forget to love his lord! I pray that Allah pardon all except thy love * Which, when I meet Him may my bestest plea afford."
After ending this song she drank three cups and filling the old man other three, improvised these couplets,
"His love he hid which tell-tale tears betrayed; * For burn of coal that 'neath his ribs was laid: Giv'n that he seek his joy in spring and flowers * Some day, his spring's the face of dear-loved maid. O ye who blame me for who baulks my love! * What sweeter thing than boon to man denayed? A sun, yet scorcheth he my very heart! * A moon, but riseth he from breasts a-shade!"
When she had made an end of her song, she threw the lute from her hand and wept, whilst the Shaykh wept for her weeping. Then she fell down in a fainting fit and presently recovering, crowned the cup and drinking it off, gave the elder to drink, after which she took the lute and breaking out into song, chanted these couplets,
"Thy parting is bestest of woes to my heart, * And changed my case till all sleep it eschewed: The world to my being is desolate; * Then Oh grief! and O lingering solitude! Maybe The Ruthful incline thee to me * And join us despite what our foes have sued!"
Then she wept till her voice rose high and her wailing was discovered to those without; after which she again began to drink and plying the Shaykh with wine, sang these couplets,
"An they hid thy person from eyen-sight, * They hid not thy name fro' my mindful sprite: Or meet me; thy ransom for meeting I'll be[FN#332] * Or fly me; and ransom I'll be for thy flight! Mine outer speaks for mine inner case, * And mine inner speaks for mine outer plight."
When she had made an end of her verses, she threw the lute from her hand and wept and wailed. Then she slept awhile and presently awaking, said, "O Shaykh, say me, hast thou what we may eat?" He replied, "O my lady, I have the rest of the food;" but she cried, "I will not eat of the orts I have left. Go down to the bazar and fetch us what we may eat." He rejoined, "Excuse me, O my lady, I cannot rise to my feet, because I am bemused with wine; but with me is the servant of the mosque, who is a sharp youth and an intelligent. I will call him, so he may buy thee whatso thou wantest." Asked she, "Whence hast thou this servant?" and he answered, "He is of the people of Damascus." When she heard him say "of the people of Damascus," she sobbed such a sob that she swooned away; and when she came to herself, she said, "Woe is me for the people of Damascus and for those who are therein! Call him, O Shaykh, that he may do our need." Accordingly, the old man put his head forth of the window and called the youth, who came to him from the mosque and sought leave to enter. The Muezzin bade him come in, and when he appeared before the damsel, he knew her and she knew him; whereupon he turned back in bewilderment and would have fled at hap-hazard; but she sprang up to him and held him fast, and they embraced and wept together, till they fell to the floor in a fainting fit. When the Shaykh saw them in this condition, he feared for himself and fared forth in fright, seeing not the way for drunkenness. His neighbour the Jew met him and asked him, "How is it that I behold thee astounded?" Answered the old man, "How should I not be astounded, seeing that the damsel who is with me is fallen in love with the mosque servant and they have embraced and slipped down in a swoon? Indeed, I fear lest the Caliph come to know of this and be wroth with me; so tell me thou what is thy device for that wherewith I am afflicted in the matter of this damsel." Quoth the Jew, "For the present, take this casting-bottle of rose-water and go forthright and sprinkle them therewith: an they be aswoon for this their union and embrace, they will recover, and if otherwise, then take to flight." The Shaykh snatched the casting-bottle from the Jew and going up to the twain, sprinkled their faces, whereupon they came to themselves and fell to relating each to other that which they had suffered, since both had been parted, for the pangs of severance. Nur al-Din also acquainted Sitt al-Milah with that which he had endured from the folk who would have killed[FN#333] him and utterly annihilated him; and she said to him, "O my lord, let us for the nonce leave this talk and praise Allah for reunion of loves, and all this shall cease from us." Then she gave him the cup and he said, "By Allah, I will on no wise drink it, whilst I am in this case!" So she drank it off before him and taking the lute, swept the strings and sang these couplets,