"O absent fro' me and yet present in place, * Thou art far from mine eyes and yet ever nigh! Thy farness bequeathed me all sorrow and care * And my troublous life can no joy espy: Lone, forlorn, weeping-eyelidded, miserablest, * I abide for thy sake as though banisht I: Then (ah grief o' me!) far thou hast fared from sight * Yet canst no more depart me than apple of eye!"
When she had made an end of her verse, she wept and the young man of Damascus, Nur al-Din, wept also. Then she took the lute and improvised these couplets,
"Well Allah wots I never named you * But tears o'erbrimming eyes in floods outburst; And passion raged and pine would do me die, * Yet my heart rested wi' the thought it nurst; O eye-light mine, O wish and O my hope! * Your face can never quench mine eyes' hot thirst."
When Nur al-Din heard these his slave-girl's verses, he fell a-weeping, while she strained him to her bosom and wiped away his tears with her sleeve and questioned him and comforted his mind. Then she took the lute and sweeping its strings, played thereon with such performing as would move the staidest to delight and sang these couplets,
"Indeed, what day brings not your sight to me, * That day I rem'mber not as dight to me! And, when I vainly long on you to look, * My life is lost, Oh life and light o' me!"
After this fashion they fared till the morning, tasting not the nourishment of sleep;[FN#334] and when the day lightened, behold the eunuch came with the she-mule and said to Sitt al-Milah, "The Commander of the Faithful calleth for thee." So she arose and taking by the hand her lord, committed him to the Shaykh, saying, "This is the deposit of Allah, then thy deposit,[FN#335] till this eunuch cometh to thee; and indeed, O elder, my due to thee is the white hand of favour such as filleth the interval betwixt heaven and earth." Then she mounted the mule and repairing to the palace of the Commander of the Faithful, went in to him and kissed ground before him. Quoth he to her, as who should make mock of her, "I doubt not but thou hast found thy lord;" and quoth she, "By thy felicity and the length of thy continuance on life, I have indeed found him!" Now Al-Rashid was leaning back; but, when he heard this, he sat upright and said to her "By my life, true?" She replied, "Ay, by thy life!" He said, "Bring him into my presence, so I may see him;" but she said, "O my lord, there have happened to him many hardships and his charms are changed and his favour faded; and indeed the Prince of True Believers vouchsafed me a month; wherefore I will tend him the rest of the month and then bring him to do his service to the Commander of the Faithful." Quoth Al-Rashid, "Sooth thou sayest: the condition certainly was for a month; but tell me what hath betided him." Quoth she, "O my lord (Allah prolong thy continuance and make Paradise thy place of returning and thine asylum and the fire the abiding-place of thy foes!), when he presenteth himself to serve thee, he will assuredly expound to thee his case and will name to thee his wrongdoers; and indeed this is an arrear that is due to the Prince of True Believers, by whom may Allah fortify the Faith and vouchsafe him the victory over rebel and froward wretch!" Thereupon he ordered her a fine house and bade furnish it with carpets and vessels of choice and commanded them to give all she needed. This was done during the rest of the day, and when the night came, she sent the eunuch with a suit of clothes and the mule, to fetch Nur al-Din from the Muezzin's lodging. So the young man donned the dress and mounting, rode to the house, where he abode in comfort and luxury a full-told month, while she solaced him with four things, the eating of fowls and the drinking of wine and the sleeping upon brocade and the entering the bath after horizontal refreshment.[FN#336] Furthermore, she brought him six suits of linen stuffs and took to changing his clothes day by day; nor was the appointed time of delay accomplished ere his beauty and loveliness returned to him; nay, his favour waxed tenfold fairer and he became a seduction to all who looked upon him. One day of the days Al-Rashid bade bring him to the presence; so his slave-girl changed his clothes and robing him in sumptuous raiment, mounted him on the she-mule. Then he rode to the palace and presenting himself before the Caliph, saluted him with the goodliest of salutations and bespake him with Truchman's[FN#337] speech eloquent and deep-thoughted. When Al-Rashid saw him, he marvelled at the seemliness of his semblance and his loquence and eloquence and asking of him, was told that he was Sitt al-Milah's lord; whereupon quoth he, "Indeed, she is excusable in her love for him, and if we had put her to death wrongfully, as we were minded to do, her blood would have been upon our heads." Then he accosted the young man and entering into discourse with him, found him well-bred, intelligent, clever, quick-witted, generous, pleasant, elegant, excellent. So he loved him with exceeding love and questioned him of his native city and of his sire and of the cause of his journey to Baghdad. Nur al-Din acquainted him with that which he would know in the goodliest words and concisest phrases; and the Caliph asked him, "And where hast thou been absent all this while? Verily, we sent after thee to Damascus and Mosul and all other cities, but happened on no tidings of thee." Answered the young man, "O my lord, there betided thy slave in thy capital that which never yet betided any." Then he acquainted him with his case, first and last, and told him that which had befallen him of evil from Al-Muradi and the Chief of Police. Now when Al-Rashid heard this, he was chagrined with sore chagrin and waxed wroth with exceeding wrath and cried, "Shall this thing happen in a city wherein I am?" And the Hashimi vein [FN#338] started out between his eyes. Then he bade fetch Ja'afar, and when he came between his hands, he acquainted him with the adventure and said to him, "Shall this thing come to pass in my city and I have no news of it?" Thereupon he bade Ja'afar fetch all whom the young Damascene had named,and when they came, he bade smite their necks: he also summoned him whom they called Ahmad and who had been the means of the young man's deliverance a first time and a second, and thanked him and showed him favour and bestowed on him a costly robe of honour and made him Chief of Police in his city.[FN#339] Then he sent for the Shaykh, the Muezzin, and when the messenger came to him and told him that the Commander of the Faithfull summoned him, he feared the denunciation of the damsel and walked with him to the palace, farting for fear as he went, whilst all who passed him by laughed at him. When he came into the presence of the Commander of the Faithful, he fell a-trembling and his tongue was tied,[FN#340] so that he could not speak. The Caliph smiled at him and said, "O Shaykh, thou hast done no offence; so why fearest thou?" Answered the old man (and indeed he was in the sorest of that which may be of fear), "O my lord, by the virtue of thy pure forefathers, indeed I have done naught, and do thou enquire of my manners and morals." The Caliph laughed at him and ordering him a thousand dinars, bestowed on him a costly robe of honour and made him headman of the Muezzins in his mosque. Then he called Sitt al-Milah and said to her, "The house wherein thou lodgest with all it containeth is a largesse to thy lord: so do thou take him and depart with him in the safeguard of Allah Almighty; but absent not yourselves from our presence." Accordingly she went forth with the young Damascene and when she came to the house, she found that the Prince of True Believers had sent them gifts galore and good things in store. As for Nur al-Din, he sent for his father and mother and appointed for himself agents in the city of Damascus, to receive the rent of the houses and gardens and Wakalahs and Hammams; and they occupied themseves with collecting that which accrued to him and sending it to him every year. Meanwhile, his father and mother came to him, with that which they had of monies and merchandise of price and, foregathering with their son, found that he was become of the chief officers and familiars of the Commander of the Faithful and of the number of his sitting-companions and nightly entertainers, wherefore they rejoiced in reunion with him and he also rejoiced in them. The Caliph assigned them solde and allowances; and as for Nur al-Din, his father brought him those riches and his wealth waxed and his estate was stablished, till he became the richest of the folk of his time in Baghdad and left not the presence of the Commander of the Faithful or by night or by day. He was vouchsafed issue by Sitt al-Milah, and he ceased not to live the goodliest of lives, he and she and his father and his mother, a while of time, till Abu al-Hasan sickened of a sore sickness and departed to the mercy of Allah Almighty. Presently, his mother also died and he carried them forth and shrouded them and buried and made them expiations and funeral ceremonies.[FN#341] In due course his children grew up and became like moons, and he reared them in splendour and affection, while his wealth waxed and his case never waned. He ceased not to pay frequent visits to the Commander of the Faithful, he and his children and his slave-girl Sitt al-Milah, and they abode in all solace of life and prosperity till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and the Sunderer of societies; and laud to the Abiding, the Eternal! This is all that hath come down to us of their story.
TALE OF KING INS BIN KAYS AND HIS DAUGHTER WITH THE SON OF KING AL-'ABBAS.[FN#342]
There was once, in days of yore and in ages and times long gone before, in the city of Baghdad, the House of Peace, a king mighty of estate, lord of understanding and beneficence and generosity and munificence, and he was strong of sultanate and endowed with might and majesty and magnificence. His name was Ins bin Kays bin Rabi' al-Shaybani,[FN#343] and when he took horse, there rode about him riders from the farthest parts of the two Iraks.[FN#344] Almighty Allah decreed that he should take to wife a woman hight 'Afifah, daughter of Asad al-Sundusi, who was endowed with beauty and loveliness and brightness and perfect grace and symmetry of shape and stature; her face was like the crescent moon and she had eyes as they were gazelle's eyes and an aquiline nose like Luna's cymb. She had learned cavalarice and the use of arms and had mastered the sciences of the Arabs; eke she had gotten by heart all the dragomanish[FN#345] tongues and indeed she was a ravishment to mankind. She abode with Ins bin Kays twelve years, during which time he was not blessed with children by her; so his breast was straitened by reason of the failure of lineage, and he besought his Lord to vouchsafe him a son. Accordingly the queen conceived, by permission of Allah Almighty; and when the days of her pregnancy were accomplished, she gave birth to a maid-child, than whom never saw eyes fairer, for that her face was as it were a pearl pure-bright or a lamp raying light or a candle gilt with gold or a full moon breaking cloudy fold, extolled be He who her from vile water dight and made her to the beholders a delight! When her father saw her in this fashion of loveliness, his reason fled for joy, and when she grew up, he taught her writing and belles-lettres and philosophy and all manner of tongues. So she excelled the folk of her time and surpassed her peers; and the sons of the kings heard of her and all of them longed to look upon her. The first who sought her to wife was King Nabhan[FN#346] of Mosul, who came to her with a great company, bringing an hundred she-camels, laden with musk and lign-aloes and ambergris and five score loaded with camphor and jewels and other hundred laden with silver monies and yet other hundred loaded with raiment of silken stuffs, sendal and brocade, besides an hundred slave-girls and a century of choice steeds of swift and generous breeds, completely housed and accoutred, as they were brides; and all this he had laid before her father, demanding her of him in wedlock. Now King Ins bin Kays had bound himself by an oath that he would not marry his daughter save to him whom she should choose; so, when King Nabhan sought her in marriage, her father went in to her and consulted her concerning his affair. She consented not and he repeated to Nabhan that which she said, whereupon he departed from him. After this came King Bahram, lord of the White Island, with treasures richer than the first; but she accepted not of him and he returned disappointed; nor did the kings cease coming to her sire, on her account, one after other, from the farthest of the lands and the climes, each glorying in bringing more than those who forewent him; but she heeded not any one of them. Presently, Al-'Abbas, son of King Al-'Aziz, lord of the land of Al-Yaman and Zabidun[FN#347] and Meccah (which Allah increase in honour and brightness and beauty!) heard of her; and he was of the great ones of Meccah and Al-Hijaz,[FN#348] and was a youth without hair on his side-face. So he presented himself one day in his sire's assembly, whereupon the folk made way for him and the king seated him on a chair of red gold, crusted with pearls and gems. The Prince sat, with his head bowed groundwards, and spake not to any: whereby his father knew that his breast was straitened and bade the cup-companions and men of wit relate marvellous histories, such as beseem the sessions of kings; nor was there one of them but spoke forth the goodliest of that which was with him; but Al-'Abbas still abode with his head bowed down. Then the king bade his sitting-companions withdraw, and when the chamber was private, he looked at his son and said to him, "By Allah, thou cheerest me with thy coming in to me and chagrinest me for that thou payest no heed to any of the familiars nor of the cup-companions. What is the cause of this?" Answered the Prince, "O my papa, I have heard tell that in the land of Al-Irak is a woman of the daughters of the kings, and her father is called King Ins bin Kays, lord of Baghdad; she is famed for beauty and loveliness and brightness and perfect grace, and indeed many of the kings have sought her in marriage; but her soul consented not unto any one of them. Wherefore my thought prompteth me to travel herwards, for that my heart cleaveth to her, and I beseech thee suffer me to go to her." His sire replied, "O my son, thou knowest that I have none other than thyself of children and thou art the coolth of mine eyes and the fruit of my vitals; nay, I cannot brook to be parted from thee a single hour and I purpose to seat thee on the throne of the kingship and espouse thee to one of the daughters of the kings, who shall be fairer than she." Al-Abbas gave ear to his father's word and dared not gainsay him; wherefore he abode with him awhile, whilst the love-fire raged in his vitals. Then the king took rede with himself to build his son a Hammam and adorn it with various paintings, so he might display it to him and divert him with the sight thereof, to the intent that his body might be solaced thereby and that the accident of travel might cease from him and he be turned from his purpose of removal from his parents. Presently he addressed himself to the building of the bath and assembling architects and artisans from all his cities and citadels and islands, assigned them a foundation-site and marked out its boundaries. Then the workmen occupied themselves with the building of the Hammam and the ordinance and adornment of its cabinets and roofs. They used paints and precious minerals of all kinds, according to the contrast of their colours, red and green and blue and yellow and what not else of all manner tincts; and each artisan wrought at his craft and each painter at his art, whilst the rest of the folk busied themselves with transporting thither vari-coloured stones. One day, as the Master-painter wrought at his work, there came in to him a poor man, who looked long upon him and observed his mystery; whereupon quoth the artist to him, "Knowest thou aught of painting?" Quoth the stranger, "Yes;" so he gave him tools and paints and said to him, "Limn for us a rare semblance." Accordingly the pauper stranger entered one of the bath-chambers and drew on its walls a double border, which he adorned on both sides, after a fashion than which eyes never saw a fairer. Moreover, amiddlemost the chamber he limned a picture to which there lacked but the breath,[FN#349] and it was the portraiture of Mariyah, daughter to the king of Baghdad. Then, when he had finished the portrait, he went his way and told none of what he had done, nor knew any wight the chambers and doors of the bath and the adornment and ordinance thereof. Presently the chief artisan came to the palace and sought audience of the king who bade admit him. So he entered and kissing the earth, saluted him with a salam beseeming Sultans and said, "O king of the time and lord of the age and the tide, may prosperity endure to thee and acceptance and eke thy degree over all the kings both morning and evening[FN#350] exalted be! The work of the bath is accomplished, by the king's fair fortune and the purity of his purpose, and indeed, we have done all that behoved us and there remaineth but that which behoveth the king." Al-Aziz ordered him a costly robe of honour and expended monies galore, giving unto each who had wroughten after the measure of his work. Then he assembled in the Hammam all the Lords of his realm, Emirs and Wazirs and Chamberlains and Nabobs, and the chief officers of his kingdom and household, and sending for his son Al-Abbas, said to him, "O my son, I have builded thee a bath, wherein thou mayst take thy pleasance; so enter that thou mayst see it and divert thyself by gazing upon it and viewing the beauty of its ordinance and decoration." "With love and gladness," replied the Prince and entered the bath, he and the king and the folk about them, so they might divert themselves with viewing that which the workmen's hands had worked. Al-Abbas went in and passed from place to place and chamber to chamber, till he came to the room aforesaid and espied the portrait of Mariyah, whereupon he fell down in a fainting-fit and the workmen went to his father and said to him, "Thy son Al-Abbas hath swooned away." So the king came and finding his son cast down, seated himself at his head and bathed his face with rose-water. After awhile he revived and the king said to him, "I seek refuge with Allah for thee, O my son! What accident hath befallen thee?" The Prince replied, "O my father, I did but look on yonder picture and it bequeathed me a thousand qualms and there befel me that which thou beholdest." Therewith the king bade fetch the Master-painter, and when he stood before him, he said to him, "Tell me of yonder portrait and what girl is this of the daughters of the kings; else I will take thy head." Said the painter, "By Allah, O king, I limned it not, neither know I who she is; but there came to me a poor man and looked hard at me. So I asked him, Knowest thou the art of painting? and he answered, Yes. Whereupon I gave him the gear and said to him, Limn for us a rare semblance. Accordingly he painted yonder portrait and went away and I wot him not neither have I ever set eyes on him save that day." Hearing this, the king ordered all his officers to go round about in the thoroughfares and colleges and to bring before him all strangers they found there. So they went forth and brought him much people, amongst whom was the pauper who had painted the portrait. When they came into the presence, the Sultan bade the crier make public proclamation that whoso wrought the portrait should discover himself and have whatso he wished. Thereupon the poor man came forward and kissing the ground before the king, said to him, "O king of the age, I am he who limned yonder likeness." Quoth Al-Aziz, "And knowest thou who she is?" and quoth the other, "Yes, this is the portrait of Mariyah, daughter of the king of Baorhdad." The king ordered him a robe of honour and a slave-girl and he went his way. Then said Al-Abbas, "O my papa, give me leave to seek her, so I may look upon her: else shall I farewell the world, withouten fail." The king his father wept and answered, "O my son, I builded thee a Hammam, that it might turn thee from leaving me, and behold, it hath been the cause of thy going forth; but the behest of Allah is a determinate decree."[FN#351] Then he wept again and Al-Abbas said to him, "Fear not for me, for thou knowest my prowess and puissance in returning answers in the assemblies of the land and my good breeding and accomplishments together with my skill in rhetoric; and indeed for him whose father thou art and whom thou hast reared and bred and in whom thou hast united praiseworthy qualities, the repute whereof hath traversed the East and the West, thou needest not fear aught, more especially as I purpose but to seek pleasuring and return to thee, an it be the will of Allah Almighty." Quoth the king, "Whom wilt thou take with thee of attendants and what of monies?" Replied Al-Abbas, "O my papa, I have no need of horses or camels or weapons, for I purpose not warfare, and I will have none go forth with me save my page 'Amir and no more." Now as he and his father were thus engaged in talk, in came his mother and caught hold of him; and he said to her, "Allah upon thee, let me gang my gait and strive not to divert me from what purpose I have purposed, for needs must I go." She replied, "O my son, if it must be so and there be no help for it, swear to me that thou wilt not be absent from me more than a year." And he sware to her. Then he entered his father's treasuries and took therefrom what he would of jewels and jacinths and everything weighty of worth and light of load: he also bade his servant Amir saddle him two steeds and the like for himself, and whenas the night beset his back,[FN#352] he rose from his couch and mounting his horse, set out for Baghdad, he and Amir, whilst the page knew not whither he intended.[FN#353] He gave not over going and the journey was joyous to him, till they came to a goodly land, abounding in birds and wild beasts, whereupon Al-Abbas started a gazelle and shot it with a shaft. Then he dismounted and cutting its throat, said to his servant, "Alight thou and skin it and carry it to the water." Amir answered him with "Hearkening and obedience" and going down to the water, built a fire and broiled the gazelle's flesh. Then they ate their fill and drank of the water, after which they mounted again and fared on with diligent faring, and Amir still unknowing whither Al-Abbas was minded to wend. So he said to him, "O my lord, I conjure thee by Allah of All-might, wilt thou not tell me whither thou intendest?" Al-Abbas looked at him and in reply improvised these couplets,
"In my vitals are fires of desire and repine; * And naught I reply when they flare on high: Baghdad-wards I hie me on life-and-death work, * Loving one who distorts my right judgment awry: A swift camel under me shortcuts the wold * And deem it a cloud all who nearhand espy: O 'Amir make haste after model of her * Who would heal mine ill and Love's cup drain dry: For the leven of love burns the vitals of me; * So with me seek my tribe and stint all reply."
When Amir heard his lord's verses, he knew that he was a slave of love and that she whom he loved abode in Baghdad. Then they fared on night and day, traversing plain and stony way, till they sighted Baghdad and lighted down in its environs[FN#354] and there lay their night. When they arose in the morning, they removed to the bank of the Tigris where they encamped and sojourned a second day and a third. As they abode thus on the fourth day, behold, a company of folk giving their beasts the rein and crying aloud and saying, "Quick! Quick! Haste to our rescue, Ho thou the King!" Therewith the King's chamberlains and officers accosted them and said, "What is behind you and what hath betided you?" Quoth they, "Bring us before the King." So they carried them to Ins bin Kays; and when they saw him, they said to him, "O king, unless thou succour us, we are dead men; for that we are a folk of the Banu Shayban,[FN#355] who have taken up our abode in the parts of Bassorah, and Hodhayfah the wild Arab hath come down on us with his steeds and his men and hath slain our horse-men and carried off our women and children; nor was one saved of the tribe but he who fled; wherefore we crave help first by Allah Almighty, then by thy life." When the king heard their speech, he bade the crier proclaim in the highways of the city that the troops should busk them to march and that the horsemen should mount and the footmen fare forth; nor was it but the twinkling of the eye ere the kettle-drums beat and the trumpets blared; and scarce was the forenoon of the day passed when the city was blocked with horse and foot. Presently, the king reviewed them and behold, they were four-and-twenty thousand in number, cavalry and infantry. He bade them go forth to the enemy and gave the command of them to Sa'ad ibn al-Wakidi, a doughty cavalier and a dauntless champion; so the horsemen set out and fared on along the Tigris-bank. Al-Abbas, son of King Al-Aziz, looked at them and saw the flags flaunting and the standards stirring and heard the kettle-drums beating; so he bade his page saddle him a blood-steed and look to the surcingles and bring him his harness of war, for indeed horsemanship[FN#356] was rooted in his heart. Quoth Amir, "And indeed I saw Al-Abbas, his eyes waxed red and the hair of his hands on end." So he mounted his charger, whilst Amir also bestrode a destrier, and they went forth with the commando and fared on two days. On the third day, after the hour of the midafternoon prayer, they came in sight of the foe and the two armies met and the two ranks joined in fight. The strife raged amain and sore was the strain, whilst the dust rose in clouds and hung in vaulted shrouds, so that all eyes were blinded; and they ceased not from the battle till the night overtook them,[FN#357] when the two hosts drew off from the mellay and passed the night, perplexed concerning themselves. When Allah caused the morning to morrow, the two hosts were aligned in line and their thousands fixed their eyne and the troops stood looking one at other. Then sallied forth Al-Haris ibn Sa'ad between the two lines and played with his lance and cried out and improvised these couplets,
"You are in every way this day our prey; * And ever we prayed your sight to see: The Ruthful drave you Hodhayfah-wards * To the Brave, the Lion who sways the free: Say, amid you's a man who would heal his ills, * With whose lust of battle shrewd blows agree? Then by Allah meet me who come to you * And whoso is wronged shall the wronger be."[FN#358]
Thereupon there sallied forth to him Zuhayr bin Habib, and they wheeled about and wiled a while, then they exchanged strokes. Al-Haris forewent his foe in smiting and stretched him weltering in his gore; whereupon Hodhayfah cried out to him, "Gifted of Allah[FN#359] art thou, O Haris! Call out another of them." So he cried aloud, "I say, who be a champion?" But they of Baghdad held back from him; and when it appeared to Al-Haris that consternation was amongst them, he charged down upon them and overrolled the first of them upon the last of them and slew of them twelve men. Then the evening caught him and the Baghdadis began addressing themselves to flight. No sooner had the morning morrowed than they found themselves reduced to a fourth part of their number and there was not one of them had dismounted from his horse. Wherefore they made sure of destruction and Hodhayfah rushed out between the two lines (now he was reckoned good for a thousand knights) and cried out, "Harkye, my masters of Baghdad! Let none come forth to me but your Emir, so I may talk with him and he with me; and he shall meet me in combat singular and I will meet him, and may he who is clear of offence come off safe." Then he repeated his words and said, "How is it I see your Emir refuse me a reply?" But Sa'ad, the Emir of the army of Baghdad, answered him not, and indeed his teeth chattered in his mouth, when he heard him summon him to the duello. Now when Al-Abbas heard Hodhayfah's challenge and saw Sa'ad in this case, he came up to the Emir and asked him, "Wilt thou suffer me to answer him and I will be thy substitute in replying him and in monomachy with him and will make my life thy sacrifice?" Sa'ad looked at him and seeing knighthood shining from between his eyes, said to him, "O youth, by the virtue of Mustafa the Chosen Prophet (whom Allah save and assain), tell me who thou art and whence thou comest to bring us victory."[FN#360] Quoth the Prince, "This is no place for questioning;" and quoth Sa'ad to him, "O Knight, up and at Hodhayfah! Yet, if his Satan prove too strong for thee, afflict not thyself on thy youth."[FN#361] Al-Abbas cried, "Allah is He of whom help is to be sought;"[FN#362] and, taking his arms, fortified his purpose and went down into the field, as he were a fort of the forts or a mountain's contrefort. Thereupon Hodhayfah cried out to him, saying, "Haste thee not, O youth! Who art thou of the folk?" He replied, "I am Sa'ad ibn al-Wakidi, commander of the host of King Ins, and but for thy pride in challenging me, I had not come forth to thee; for thou art no peer for me to front nor as mine equal dost thou count nor canst thou bear my brunt. Wherefore get thee ready for the last march[FN#363] seeing that there abideth but a little of thy life." When Hodhayfah heard this speech, he threw himself backwards,[FN#364] as if in mockery of him, whereat Al-Abbas was wroth and called out to him, saying, "O Hodhayfah, guard thyself against me." Then he rushed upon him, as he were a swooper of the Jinn,[FN#365] and Hodhayfah met him and they wheeled about a long while. Presently, Al-Abbas cried out at Hodhayfah a cry which astounded him and struck him a stroke, saying, "Take this from the hand of a brave who feareth not the like of thee." Hodhayfah met the sabre-sway with his shield, thinking to ward it off from him; but the blade shore the target in sunder and descending upon his shoulder, came forth gleaming from the tendons of his throat and severed his arm at the armpit; whereupon he fell down, wallowing in his blood, and Al-Abbas turned upon his host; not had the sun departed the dome of the welkin ere Hodhayfah's army was in full flight before Al-Abbas and the saddles were empty of men. Quoth Sa'ad, "By the virtue of Mustafa the Chosen Prophet, whom Allah save and assain, I saw Al-Abbas with the blood upon his saddle-pads, in clots like camels' livers, smiting with the sword right and left, till he scattered them abroad in every gorge and wold; and when he hied him back to the camp, the men of Baghdad were fearful of him." But as soon as they saw this victory which had betided them over their foes, they turned back and gathering together the weapons and treasures and horses of those they had slain, returned to Baghdad, victorious, and all by the knightly valour of Al-Abbas. As for Sa'ad, he foregathered with his lord, and they fared on in company till they came to the place where Al-Abbas had taken horse, whereupon the Prince dismounted from his charger and Sa'ad said to him, "O youth, wherefore alightest thou in other than thy place? Indeed, thy rights be incumbent upon us and upon our Sultan; so go thou with us to the dwellings, that we may ransom thee with our souls." Replied Al-Abbas, "O Emir Sa'ad, from this place I took horse with thee and herein is my lodging. So, Allah upon thee, mention not me to the king, but make as if thou hadst never seen me because I am a stranger in the land." So saying he turned away from him and Sa'ad fared on to his palace, where he found all the courtiers in attendance on the king and recounting to him that which had betided them with Al-Abbas. Quoth the king, "Where is he?" and quoth they, "He is with the Emir Sa'ad." So, when the Emir entered, the king looked, but found none with him; and Sa'ad, seeing at a glance that he longed to look upon the youth, cried out to him, saying, "Allah prolong the king's days! Indeed, he refuseth to present himself before thee, without order or leave." Asked the king, "O Sa'ad, whence cometh this man?" and the Emir answered, "O my lord, I know not; but he is a youth fair of favour, amiable of aspect, accomplished in address, ready of repartee, and valour shineth from between his eyes." Quoth the king, "O Sa'ad, fetch him to me, for indeed thou describest to me at full length a mighty matter."[FN#366] And he answered, saying, "By Allah, O my lord, hadst thou but seen our case with Hodhayfah, when he challenged me to the field of fight and the stead of cut-and-thrust and I held back from doing battle with him! Then, as I thought to go forth to him, behold, a knight gave loose to his bridle-rein and called out to me, saying, 'O Sa'ad, wilt thou suffer me to be thy substitute in waging war with him and I will ransom thee with myself?' and quoth I, 'By Allah, O youth, whence comest thou?' and quoth he, 'This be no time for thy questions, while Hodhayfah standeth awaiting thee.'" Thereupon he repeated to the king all that had passed between himself and Al-Abbas from first to last; whereat cried Ins bin Kays, "Bring him to me in haste, so we may learn his tidings and question him of his case." "'Tis well," replied Sa'ad, and going forth of the king's presence, repaired to his own house, where he doffed his war-harness and took rest for himself. On this wise fared it with the Emir Sa'ad, but as regards Al-Abbas, when he dismounted from his destrier, he doffed his war-gear and repose himself awhile; after which he brought out a body-dress of Venetian[FN#367] silk and a gown of green damask and donning them, bound about his head a turband of Damietta stuff and zoned his waist with a kerchief. Then he went out a-walking in the highways of Baghdad and fared on till he came to the bazar of the traders. There he found a merchant, with chess before him; so the Prince stood watching him, and presently the other looked up at him and asked him, "O youth, what wilt thou bet upon the game?" He answered, "Be it thine to decide." Said the merchant, "Then be it an hundred dinars," and Al-Abbas consented to him; whereupon quoth he, "Produce the money, O youth, so the game may be fairly stablished." Accordingly Al-Abbas brought out a satin purse, wherein were a thousand dinars, and laid down an hundred dinars therefrom on the edge of the carpet, whilst the merchant produced the like, and indeed his reason fled for joy when he saw the gold in possession of Al-Abbas. The folk flocked about them, to divert themselves with watching the play, and they called the bystanders to witness the wager and after the stakes were duly staked, the twain fell a-playing. Al-Abbas forebore the merchant, so he might lead him on, and dallied with him a full hour; and the merchant won and took of him the hundred dinars. Then said the Prince, "Wilt thou play another partie?" and the other said, "O youth, I will not play again, save for a thousand dinars." Quoth the youth, 'Whatsoever thou stakest, I will match thy stake with its like." So the merchant brought out a thousand dinars and the Prince covered them with other thousand. Then the game began, but Al-Abbas was not long with him ere he beat him in the house of the elephant[FN#368] nor did he cease to do thus till he had beaten him four times and won of him four thousand dinars. This was all the merchant had of money; so he said, "O youth, I will play thee another game for the shop." Now the value of the shop was four thousand dinars; so they played and Al-Ahbas beat him and won his shop, with whatso was therein; upon which the other arose, shaking his clothes,[FN#369] and said to him, "Up, O youth, and take thy shop." Accordingly Al-Abbas arose and repairing to the shop, took possession thereof, after which he returned to the place where he had left his servant 'Amir, and found there the Emir Sa'ad, who was come to bid him to the presence of the king. The Prince consented to this and accompanied him till they came before King Ins bin Kays, whereupon he kissed the ground and saluted him and exaggerated[FN#370] the salutation. So the king asked him, "Whence comest thou, O youth, and whither goest thou?" and he answered, "I come from Al-Yaman." Then said the king, "Hast thou a need we may fulfil to thee; for indeed thou hast strong claims to our favour after that which thou didst in the matter of Hodhayfah and his folk." And he commanded to cast over him a mantle of Egyptian satin, worth an hundred dinars. He also bade his treasurer give him a thousand dinars and said to him, "O youth, take this in part of that which thou deservest of us; and if thou prolong thy sojourn with us, we will give thee slaves and servants." Al-Abbas kissed ground and said, "O king, Allah grant thee abiding weal, I deserve not all this." Then he put his hand to his pouch and pulling out two caskets of gold, in each of which were rubies whose value none could estimate, gave them to the king, saying, "O king, Allah cause thy welfare to endure, I conjure thee by that which the Almighty hath vouchsafed thee, heal my heart by accepting these two caskets, even as I have accepted thy present." So the king accepted the two caskets and Al-Abbas took his leave and went away to the bazar. Now when the merchants saw him, they accosted him and said, "O youth, wilt thou not open thy shop?" As they were addressing him, up came a woman, having with her a boy bare of head, and stood looking at Al-Abbas, till he turned to her, when she said to him, "O youth, I conjure thee by Allah, look at this boy and have ruth on him, for that his father hath forgotten his skull-cap in the shop he lost to thee; so, an thou see fit to give it him, thy reward be with Allah! For indeed the child maketh our hearts ache with his excessive weeping, and the Lord be witness for us that, had they left us aught wherewith to buy him a cap in its stead, we had not sought it of thee." Replied Al-Abbas, "O adornment of womankind,[FN#371] indeed, thou bespeakest me with thy fair speech and supplicatest me with thy goodly words! But bring me thy husband." So she went and fetched the merchant, whilst a crowd collected to see what Al-Abbas would do. When the man came, he returned him the gold he had won of him, art and part, and delivered him the keys of the shop, saying, "Requite us with thy pious prayers." Therewith the woman came up to him and kissed his feet, and in like fashion did the merchant her husband: and all who were present blessed him, and there was no talk but of Al-Abbas. Thus fared it with him; but as for the merchant, he bought him a head of sheep[FN#372] and slaughtering it, roasted it and dressed birds and other meats of various kinds and colours and purchased dessert and sweetmeats and fresh fruits; then he repaired to Al-Abbas and conjured him to accept of his hospitality and visit his home and eat of his provaunt. The Prince consented to his wishes and went with him till they came to his house, when the merchant bade him enter: so Al-Abbas went in and saw a goodly house, wherein was a handsome saloon, with a vaulted ceiling. When he entered the saloon, he found that the merchant had made ready food and dessert and perfumes, such as may not be described; and indeed he had adorned the table with sweet-scented flowers and sprinkled musk and rose-water upon the food; and he had smeared the saloon walls with ambergris and had burned aloes-wood therein and Nadd. Presently, Al-Abbas looked out of the window of the saloon and saw by its side a house of goodly ordinance, tall of base and wide of space, with rooms manifold and two upper stories crowning the whole; but therein was no sign of inhabitants. So he said to the merchant, "Verily, thou exaggeratest in doing us honour; but, by Allah, I will not eat of thy meat until thou tell me what hath caused the voidance of yonder house." Said he, "O my lord, that was Al-Ghitrif's house and he passed away to the mercy of the Almighty and left no heir save myself; whereupon the mansion became mine, and by Allah, an thou have a mind to sojourn in Baghdad, take up thine abode in this house, whereby thou mayst be in my neighbourhood; for that verily my heart inclineth unto thee with affection and I would have thee never absent from mine eyes, so I may still have my fill of thee and hearken to thy speech." Al-Abbas thanked him and said to him, "By Allah, thou art indeed friendly in thy converse and thou exaggeratest in thy discourse, and needs must I sojourn in Baghdad. As for the house, if it please thee to lodge me, I will abide therein; so accept of me its price." Therewith he put hand to his pouch and bringing out from it three hundred dinars, gave them to the merchant, who said in himself, "Unless I take his dirhams, he will not darken my doors." So he pocketed the monies and sold him the mansion, taking witnesses against himself of the sale. Then he arose and set food before Al-Abbas and they sat down to his good things; after which he brought him dessert and sweetmeats whereof they ate their sufficiency, and when the tables were removed they washed their hands with musked rose-water and willow-water. Then the merchant brought Al-Abbas a napkin scented with the smoke of aloes-wood, on which he wiped his right hand, and said to him, "O my lord, the house is become thy house; so bid thy page transport thither the horses and arms and stuffs." The Prince did this and the merchant rejoiced in his neighbourhood and left him not night nor day,[FN#373] so that Al-Abbas said to him, "By the Lord, we distract thee from thy livelihood." He replied, "Allah upon thee, O my lord, name not to me aught of this, or thou wilt break my heart, for the best of traffic art thou and the best of livelihood." So there befel straight friendship between them and all ceremony was laid aside. Meanwhile[FN#374] the king said to his Wazir, "How shall we do in the matter of yonder youth, the Yamani, on whom we thought to confer gifts, but he hath gifted us with tenfold our largesse and more, and we know not an he be a sojourner with us or not?" Then he went into the Harim and gave the rubies to his wife Afifah, who asked him, "What is the worth of these with thee and with other of the kings?" Quoth he, "They are not to be found save with the greatest of sovrans nor can any price them with monies." Quoth she, "Whence gottest thou them?" So he recounted to her the story of Al-Abbas from beginning to end, and she said, "By Allah, the claims of honour are imperative on us and the King hath fallen short of his devoir; for that we have not seen him bid the youth to his assembly, nor hath he seated him on his left hand." When the king heard his wife's words, it was as if he had been asleep and awoke; so he went forth the Harim and bade kill poultry and dress meats of every kind and colour. Moreover, he assembled all his courtiers and let bring sweetmeats and dessert and all that beseemeth the tables of kings. Then he adorned his palace and despatched after Al-Abbas a man of the chief officers of his household, who found him coming forth of the Hammam, clad in a jerkin[FN#375] of fine goats' hair and over it a Baghdadi scarf; his waist was girt with a Rustaki[FN#376] kerchief and on his head he wore a light turband of Damietta[FN#377] stuff. The messenger wished him joy of the bath and exaggerated in doing him honour: then he said to him, "The king biddeth thee in weal."[FN#378] "To hear is to obey," quoth Al-Abbas and accompanied the officer to the king's palace. Now Afifah and her daughter Mariyah were behind the curtain, both looking at him; and when he came before the sovran he saluted him and greeted him with the greeting of kings, whilst all present gazed at him and at his beauty and loveliness and perfect grace. The king seated him at the head of the table; and when Afifah saw him and considered him straitly, she said, "By the virtue of Mohammed, prince of the Apostles, this youth is of the sons of the kings and cometh not to these parts save for some noble purpose!" Then she looked at Mariyah and saw that her favour was changed, and indeed her eye-balls were as dead in her face and she turned not her gaze from Al-Abbas a twinkling of the eyes, for that the love of him had sunk deep into her heart. When the queen saw what had befallen her daughter, she feared for her from reproach concerning Al-Abbas; so she shut the casement-wicket that the Princess might not look upon him any more. Now there was a pavilion set apart for Mariyah, and therein were boudoirs and bowers, balconies and lattices, and she had with her a nurse, who served her as is the fashion with the daughters of the Kings. When the banquet was ended and the folk had dispersed, the King said to Al-Abbas, "I would fain have thee abide with me and I will buy thee a mansion, so haply we may requite thee for thy high services; and indeed imperative upon us is thy due and magnified in our eyes is thy work; and soothly we have fallen short of thy deserts in the matter of distance."[FN#379] When the youth heard the king's speech, he rose and sat down[FN#380] and kissing ground, returned thanks for his bounty and said, "I am the King's thrall, wheresoever I may be, and under his eye." Then he told him the tale of the merchant and the manner of the buying of the house, and the king said, "In very truth I would fain have had thee in my neighbourhood and by side of me." Presently Al-Abbas took leave of the king and went away to his own house. Now it chanced that he passed under the palace of Mariyah, the king's daughter, and she was sitting at a casement. He happened to look round and his eyes met those of the Princess, whereupon his wit departed and he was ready to swoon away, whilst his colour changed, and he said, "Verily, we are Allah's and unto Him are we returning!" But he feared for himself lest severance betide him; so he concealed his secret and discovered not his case to any of the creatures of Allah Almighty. When he reached his quarters, his page Amir said to him, "I seek refuge for thee with Allah, O my lord, from change of colour! Hath there betided thee a pain from the Lord of All-might or aught of vexation? In good sooth, sickness hath an end and patience doeth away trouble." But the Prince returned him no answer. Then he brought out ink-case[FN#381] and paper and wrote these couplets:
I cry (and mine's a frame that pines alway), * A mind which fires of passion e'er waylay; And eyeballs never tasting sweets of sleep; * Yet Fortune spare its cause I ever pray! While from world-perfidy and parting I * Like Bishram with Hind,[FN#382] that well-loved may;— Yea, grown a bye-word 'mid the folk but aye * Spend life unwinning wish or night or day. "Ah say, wots she my love when her I spied * At the high lattice shedding sunlike ray?" Her glances, keener than the brand when bared * Cleave soul of man nor ever 'scapes her prey: I looked on her in lattice pierced aloft * When bare her cheat of veil that slipped away; And shot me thence a shaft my liver pierced * When thrall to care and dire despair I lay Knowst thou, O Fawn o' the palace, how for thee * I fared from farness o'er the lands astray? Then read my writ, dear friends, and show some ruth * To wight who wones black-faced, distraught, sans stay!
And when he ended inditing, he folded up the letter. Now the merchant's wife aforesaid, who was the nurse of the king's daughter, was watching him from a window, unknown of him, and when she saw him writing and reciting, she knew that some rare tale attached to him; so she went in to him and said, "Peace be with thee, O afflicted wight, who acquaintest not leach with thy plight! Verily, thou exposest thy life to grievous blight. I conjure thee by the virtue of Him who hath afflicted thee and with the constraint of love-liking hath stricken thee, that thou acquaint me with thine affair and disclose to me the truth of thy secret; for that indeed I have heard from thee verses which trouble the mind and melt the body." Accordingly he acquainted her with his case and enjoined her to secrecy, whereof she consented, saying, "What shall be the recompense of whoso goeth with thy letter and bringeth thee its reply?" He bowed his head for shame before her and was silent; and she said to him, "Raise thy head and give me thy writ": so he gave her the letter and she hent it and carrying it to the Princess, said to her, "Take this epistle and give me its answer." Now the dearest of all things to Mariyah was the recitation of poesy and verses and linked rhymes and the twanging of lute-strings, and she was versed in all tongues; wherefore she took the writ and opening it, read that which was therein and understood its purport. Then she threw it to the ground and cried, "O nurse, I have no answer to make to this letter." Quoth the nurse, "Indeed, this is weakness in thee and a reproach to thee, for that the people of the world have heard of thee and commend thee for keenness of wit and understanding; so do thou return him an answer, such as shall trick his heart and tire his soul." Quoth she, "O nurse, who may be the man who presumeth upon me with this correspondence? Haply 'tis the stranger youth who gave my father the rubies." The woman said, "It is himself," and Mariyah said, "I will answer his letter in such fashion that thou shalt not bring me other than it." Cried the nurse, "So be it."[FN#383] Thereupon the Princess called for ink-case and paper and wrote these couplets:—
Thou art bold in the copy thou sentest! May be * 'Twill increase the dule foreign wight must dree! Thou hast spied me with glance that bequeaths thee woe * Ah! far is thy hope, a mere foreigner's plea! Who art thou, poor freke, that wouldst win my love * Wi' thy verse? What seeks thine insanity? An thou hope for my favours and greed therefor; * Where find thee a leach for such foolish gree? Then rhyme-linking leave and fool-like be not * Hanged to Cross at the doorway of ignomy! Deem not that to thee I incline, O youth! * 'Mid the Sons of the Path[FN#384] is no place for me. Thou art homeless waif in the wide wide world; * So return thee home where they keen for thee:[FN#385] Leave verse-spouting, O thou who a-wold dost wone, * Or minstrel shall name thee in lay and glee: How many a friend who would meet his love * Is baulked when the goal is right clear to see! So begone and ne'er grieve for what canst not win * Albe time be near, yet thy grasp 'twill flee. Now such is my say and the tale I'd tell; * So master my meaning and—fare thee well!
When Mariyah had made an end of her verses, she folded the letter and delivered it to the nurse, who hent it and went with it to Al-Abbas. When she gave it to him, he took it and breaking it open, read it and comprehended its contents; and when he reached the end of it, he swooned away. After awhile, he came to himself and cried, "Praise be to Allah who hath caused her return a reply to my writ! Canst thou carry her another missive, and with Allah Almighty be thy requital?" Said she, "And what shall letters profit thee, seeing that such is her reply;" but he said, "Peradventure, she may yet be softened." Then he took ink-case and paper and wrote these couplets:—
Reached me the writ and what therein didst write, * Whence grew my pain and bane and blight: I read the marvel-lines made wax my love * And wore my body out till slightest slight.[FN#386] Would Heaven ye wot the whole I bear for love * Of you, with vitals clean for you undight! And all I do t' outdrive you from my thought * 'Vails naught and 'gainst th' obsession loses might: Couldst for thy lover feel 'twould ease his soul; * E'en thy dear Phantom would his sprite delight! Then on my weakness lay not coyness-load * Nor in such breach of troth be traitor-wight: And, weet ye well, for this your land I fared * Hoping to 'joy the union-boon forthright: How many a stony wold for this I spanned; * How oft I waked when men kept watch o'night! To fare fro' another land for sight of you * Love bade, while length of way forbade my sprite: So by His name[FN#387] who molt my frame, have ruth, * And quench the flames thy love in me did light: Thou fillest, arrayed with glory's robes and rays, * Heaven's stars with joy and Luna with despight. Then who dare chide or blame me for my love * Of one that can all Beauty's boons unite?
When Al-Abbas had made an end of his verses, he folded the letter and delivering it to the nurse, charged her keep the secret. So she took it and carrying it to Mariyah, gave it to her. The Princess broke it open and read it and apprehended its purport; then cried she, "By Allah, O nurse, my heart is chagrined with exceeding chagrin, never knew I a sorer, because of this correspondence and of these verses." And the nurse made answer to her "O my lady, thou art in thy dwelling and thy palace and thy heart is void of care; so return to him a reply and reck not." Accordingly, the Princess called for ink-case and paper and wrote these couplets:—
Ho thou who wouldst vaunt thee of cark and care; * How many love-molten, tryst-craving be there? An hast wandered the wold in the murks of night * Bound afar and anear on the tracks to fare, And to eyne hast forbidden the sweets of sleep, * Borne by Devils and Marids to dangerous lair; And beggest my boons, O in tribe-land[FN#388] homed * And to urge thy wish and desire wouldst dare; Now, woo Patience fair, an thou bear in mind * What The Ruthful promised to patient prayer![FN#389] How many a king for my sake hath vied, * Craving love and in marriage with me to pair. Al-Nabhan sent, when a-wooing me, * Camels baled with musk and Nadd scenting air. They brought camphor in boxes and like thereof * Of pearls and rubies that countless were; Brought pregnant lasses and negro-lads, * Blood steeds and arms and gear rich and rare; Brought us raiment of silk and of sendal sheen, * And came courting us but no bride he bare: Nor could win his wish, for I 'bode content * To part with far parting and love forswear; So for me greed not, O thou stranger wight * Lest thou come to ruin and dire despair!
When she had made an end of her verses, she folded the letter and delivered it to the nurse, who took it and carried it to Al-Abbas. He broke it open and read it and comprehended its contents; then took ink-case and paper and wrote these improvised couplets:—
Thou hast told me the tale of the Kings, and of them * Each was rending lion, a furious foe: And thou stolest the wits of me, all of them * And shotst me with shaft of thy magic bow: Thou hast boasted of slaves and of steeds and wealth; * And of beauteous lasses ne'er man did know; How presents in mighty store didst spurn, * And disdainedst lovers both high and low: Then I followed their tracks in desire for thee, * With naught save my scymitar keen of blow; Nor slaves nor camels that run have I; * Nor slave-girls the litters enveil, ah, no! But grant me union and soon shalt sight * My trenchant blade with the foeman's woe; Shalt see the horsemen engird Baghdad * Like clouds that wall the whole world below, Obeying behests which to them I deal * And hearing the words to the foes I throw. An of negro chattels ten thousand head * Wouldst have, or Kings who be proud and prow Or chargers led for thee day by day * And virgin girls high of bosom, lo! Al-Yaman land my command doth bear * And my biting blade to my foes I show. I have left this all for the sake of thee, * Left Aziz and my kinsmen for ever-mo'e; And made Al-Irak making way to thee * Under nightly murks over rocks arow; When the couriers brought me account of thee * Thy beauty, perfection, and sunny glow, Then I sent thee verses whose very sound * Burns the heart of shame with a fiery throe; Yet the world with falsehood hath falsed me, * Though Fortune was never so false as thou, Who dubbest me stranger and homeless one * A witless fool and a slave-girl's son!
Then he folded the letter and committed it to the nurse and gave her five hundred dinars, saying, "Accept this from me, for by Allah thou hast indeed wearied thyself between us." She replied, "By Allah, O my lord, my aim is to bring about forgathering between you, though I lose that which my right hand possesseth." And he said, "May the Lord of All-might requite thee with good!" Then she carried the letter to Mariyah and said to her, "Take this letter; haply it may be the end of the correspondence." So she took it and breaking it open, read it, and when she had made an end of it, she turned to the nurse and said to her, "This one foisteth lies upon me and asserteth unto me that he hath cities and horsemen and footmen at his command and submitting to his allegiance; and he wisheth of me that which he shall not win; for thou knowest, O nurse, that kings' sons have sought me in marriage, with presents and rarities; but I have paid no heed unto aught of this; how, then, shall I accept of this fellow, who is the ignoramus of his time and possesseth naught save two caskets of rubies, which he gave to my sire, and indeed he hath taken up his abode in the house of Al-Ghitrif and abideth without silver or gold? Wherefore, Allah upon thee, O nurse, return to him and cut off his hope of me." Accordingly the nurse rejoined Al-Abbas, without letter or answer; and when she came in to him, he looked at her and saw that she was troubled, and he noted the marks of anger on her face; so he said to her, "What is this plight?" Quoth she, "I cannot set forth to thee that which Mariyah said; for indeed she charged me return to thee without writ or reply." Quoth he, "O nurse of kings, I would have thee carry her this letter and return not to her without it." Then he took ink-case and paper and wrote these couplets:—
My secret now to men is known though hidden well and true * By me: enough is that I have of love and love of you: I left familiars, friends, and kin to weep the loss of me * With floods of tears which like the tide aye flowed and flowed anew: Then, left my home myself I bore to Baghdad-town one day, * When parting drave me there his pride and cruelty to rue: I have indeed drained all the bowl whose draught repression[FN#390] was * Handed by friend who bitter gourd[FN#391] therein for drinking threw. And, oft as strove I to enjoin the ways of troth and faith, * So often on refusal's path he left my soul to sue. Indeed my body molten is with care I'm doomed dree; * And yet I hoped relenting and to win some grace, my due. But wrong and rigour waxed on me and changed to worse my case; * And love hath left me weeping-eyed for woes that aye pursue. How long must I keep watch for you throughout the nightly gloom? * How many a path of pining pace and garb of grief endue? And you, what while you joy your sleep, your restful pleasant sleep, * Reck naught of sorrow and of shame that to your friend accrue: For wakefulness I watched the stars before the peep o' day, * Praying that union with my dear in bliss my soul imbrue; Indeed the throes of long desire laid waste my frame and I * Rise every morn in weaker plight with hopes e'er fewer few: "Be not" (I say) "so hard of heart!" for did you only deign * In phantom guise to visit me 'twere joy enough to view. But when ye saw my writ ye grudged to me the smallest boon * And cast adown the flag of faith though well my troth ye knew; Nor aught of answer you vouchsafe, albe you wot full well * The words therein address the heart and pierce the spirit through. You deemed yourself all too secure for changes of the days * And of the far and near alike you ever careless grew. Hadst thou (dear maid) been doomed like me to woes, forsure hadst felt * The lowe of love and Laza-hell which paring doth enmew; Yet soon shalt suffer torments such as those from thee I bear * And storm of palpitation-pangs in vitals thine shall brew: Yea, thou shalt taste the bitter smack of charges false and foul, * And public make the privacy best hid from meddling crew; And he thou lovest shall approve him hard of heart and soul * And heedless of the shifts of Time thy very life undo. Then hear the fond Salam I send and wish thee every day * While swayeth spray and sparkleth star all good thy life ensue!
When Al-Abbas had made an end of his verses, he folded the scroll and gave it to the nurse, who took it and carried it to Mariyah. When she came into the Princess's presence, she saluted her; but Mariyah returned not her salutation and she said, "O my lady, how hard is thy heart that thou grudgest to return the salam! Accept this letter, because 'tis the last that shall come to thee from him." Quoth Mariyah, "Take my warning and never again enter my palace, or 'twill be the cause of thy destruction; for I am certified that thou purposest my disgrace. So get thee gone from me." And she bade beat the nurse who went forth fleeing from her presence, changed of colour and 'wildered of wits, and gave not over going till she came to the house of Al-Abbas. When the Prince saw her in this plight, he became like a sleeper awakened and cried to her, "What hath befallen thee? Acquaint me with thy case." She replied, "Allah upon thee, nevermore send me to Mariyah, and do thou protect me, so the Lord protect thee from the fires of Gehenna!" Then she related to him that which had betided her with Mariyah which when Al-Abbas heard, there took him the pride and high spirit of the generous and this was grievous to him. The love of Mariyah fled forth of his heart and he said to the nurse, "How much hadst thou of Mariyah every month?" Quoth she, "Ten dinars" and quoth he, "Be not concerned." Then he put hand to pouch and bringing out two hundred ducats, gave them to her and said,"Take this wage for a whole year and turn not again to serve anyone of the folk. When the twelvemonth shall have passed away, I will give thee a two years' wage, for that thou hast wearied thyself with us and on account of the cutting off the tie which bound thee to Mariyah." Also he gifted her with a complete suit of clothes and raising his head to her, said, "When thou toldest me that which Mariyah had done with thee, Allah uprooted the love of her from out my heart, and never again will she occur to my thought; so extolled be He who turneth hearts and eyes! 'Twas she who was the cause of my coming out from Al-Yaman, and now the time is past for which I engaged with my folk and I fear lest my father levy his forces and ride forth in quest of me, for that he hath no child other than myself nor can he brook to be parted from me; and in like way 'tis with my mother." When the nurse heard his words, she asked him, "O my lord, and which of the kings is thy sire?" He answered, saying, "My father is Al-Aziz, lord of Al-Yaman, and Nubia and the Islands[FN#392] of the Banu Kahtan, and the Two Sanctuaries[FN#393] (Allah of All-might have them in His keeping!), and whenever he taketh horse, there ride with him an hundred and twenty and four thousand horsemen, each and every smiters with the sword, besides attendants and servants and followers, all of whom give ear to my word and obey my bidding." Asked the nurse, "Why, then, O my lord, didst thou conceal the secret of thy rank and lineage and passedst thyself off for a foreigner and a wayfarer? Alas for our disgrace before thee by reason of our shortcoming in rendering thee thy due! What shall be our excuse with thee, and thou of the sons of the kings?" But he rejoined, "By Allah, thou hast not fallen short! Indeed, 'tis incumbent on me to requite thee, what while I live, though from thee I be far distant." Then he called his man Amir and said to him, "Saddle the steeds." When the nurse heard his words and indeed she saw that Amir brought him the horses and they were resolved upon departure, the tears ran down upon her cheeks and she said to him, "By Allah, thy separation is saddening to me, O coolth of the eye!" Then quoth she, "Where is the goal of thine intent, so we may know thy news and solace ourselves with thy report?" Quoth he, "I go hence to visit 'Akil, the son of my paternal uncle, for that he hath his sojourn in the camp of Kundah bin Hisham, and these twenty years have I not seen him nor hath he seen me; so I purpose to repair to him and discover his news and return. Then will I go hence to Al-Yaman, Inshallah!" So saying, he took leave of the nurse and her husband and set out, intending for 'Akil, the son of his father's brother. Now there was between Baghdad and 'Akil's abiding-place forty days' journey; so Al-Abbas settled himself on the back of his steed and his servant Amir mounted also and they fared forth on their way. Presently, Al-Abbas turned right and left and recited these couplets,
"I'm the singular knight and my peers I slay! * I lay low the foe and his whole array: I fare me to visit my friend Al-Akil, * And in safety and Allah-lauds,[FN#394] shorten the way; And roll up the width of the wold while still * Hears 'Amir my word or in earnest or play.[FN#395] I spring with the spring of a lynx or a pard * Upon whoso dareth our course to stay; O'erthrow him in ruin and abject shame, * Make him drain the death-cup in fatal fray. My lance is long with its steely blade; * A brand keen-grided, thin-edged I sway: With a stroke an it fell on a towering hill * Of the hardest stone, this would cleave in tway: I lead no troops, nor seek aid save God's, * The creating Lord (to whom laud alway!) On Whom I rely in adventures all * And Who pardoneth laches of freeman and thrall."
Then they fell a-faring night and day, and as they went, behold, they sighted a camp of the camps of the Arabs. So Al-Abbas enquired thereof and was told that it was the camp of the Banu Zohrah. Now there were around them herds and flocks, such as filled the earth, and they were enemies to Al-Akil, the cousin of Al-Abbas, upon whom they made daily raids and took his cattle, wherefore he used to pay them tribute every year because he lacked power to cope wth them. When Al-Abbas came to the skirts of the camp, he dismounted from his destrier and his servant Amir also dismounted; and they set down the provaunt and ate their sufficiency and rested an hour of the day. Then said the Prince to his page, "Fetch water from the well and give the horses to drink and draw up a supply for us in thy bag,[FN#396] by way of provision for the road." So Amir took the water-skin and made for the well; but, when he came there, behold, two young men slaves were leading gazelles, and when they saw him, they said to him, "Whither wendest thou, O youth, and of which of the Arabs art thou?" Quoth he, "Harkye, lads, fill me my water-skin, for that I am a stranger astray and a farer of the way, and I have a comrade who awaiteth me." Quoth the thralls, "Thou art no wayfarer, but a spy from Al-Akil's camp." Then they took him and carried him to their king Zuhayr bin Shabib; and when he came before him, he said to him, "Of which of the Arabs art thou?" Quoth Amir, "I am a wayfarer." So Zuhayr said, "Whence comest thou and whither wendest thou?" and Amir replied, "I am on my way to Al-Akil." When he named Al-Akil, those who were present were excited; but Zuhayr signed to them with his eyes and asked him, "What is thine errand with Al-Akil?" and he answered, "We would fain see him, my friend and I." As soon as Zuhayr heard his words, he bade smite his neck;' but his Wazir said to him, "Slay him not, till his friend be present." So he commanded the two slaves to fetch his friend; whereupon they repaired to Al-Abbas and called to him, saying, "O youth, answer the summons of King Zuhayr." He enquired, "What would the king with me?" and they replied, "We know not." Quoth he, "Who gave the king news of me?" and quoth they, "We went to draw water, and found a man by the well. So we questioned him of his case, but he would not acquaint us therewith, wherefore we carried him willy-nilly to King Zuhayr, who asked him of his adventure and he told him that he was going to Al-Akil. Now Al-Akil is the king's enemy and he intendeth to betake himself to his camp and make prize of his offspring, and cut off his traces." Said Al-Abbas, "And what hath Al-Akil done with King Zuhayr?" They replied. "He engaged for himself that he would bring the King every year a thousand dinars and a thousand she-camels, besides a thousand head of thoroughbred steeds and two hundred black slaves and fifty hand-maids; but it hath reached the king that Al-Akil purposeth to give naught of this; wherefore he is minded to go to him. So hasten thou with us, ere the King be wroth with thee and with us." Then said Al-Abbas to them, "O youths, sit by my weapons and my stallion till I return." But they said, "By Allah, thou prolongest discourse with that which beseemeth not of words! Make haste, or we will go with thy head, for indeed the King purposeth to slay thee and to slay thy comrade and take that which is with you." When the Prince heard this, his skin bristled with rage and he cried out at them with a cry which made them tremble. Then he sprang upon his horse and settling himself in the saddle, galloped till he came to the King's assembly, when he shouted at the top of his voice, saying, "To horse, O horsemen!" and couched his spear at the pavilion wherein was Zuhayr. Now there were about the King a thousand smiters with the sword; but Al-Abbas charged home upon them and dispersed them from around him; and there abode none in the tent save Zuhayr and his Wazir. Then Al-Abbas came up to the door of the tent wherein were four-and-twenty golden doves; so he took them, after he had tumbled them down with the end of his lance. Then he called out saying, "Ho, Zuhayr! Doth it not suffice thee that thou hast abated Al-Akil's repute, but thou art minded to abate that of those who sojourn round about him? Knowest thou not that he is of the lieutenants of Kundah bin Hisham of the Banu Shayban, a man renowned for prowess? Indeed, greed of his gain hath entered into thee and envy of him hath gotten the mastery of thee. Doth it not suffice thee that thou hast orphaned his children[FN#397] and slain his men? By the virtue of Mustafa, the Chosen Prophet, I will make thee drain the cup of death!" So saying. he bared his brand and smiting Zuhayr on his shoulder-blade caused the steel issue gleaming from his throat tendons; then he smote the Wazir and clove his crown asunder. As he was thus, behold, Amir called out to him and said, "O my lord, come help me, or I be a dead man!" So Al-Abbas went up to him guided by his voice, and found him cast down on his back and chained with four chains to four pickets of iron.[FN#398] He loosed his bonds and said to him, "Go in front of me, O Amir." So he fared on before him a little, and presently they looked, and, behold, horsemen were making to Zuhayr's succour, and they numbered twelve thousand riders led by Sahl bin Ka'ab bestriding a coal-black steed. He charged upon Amir, who fled from him, then upon Al-Abbas, who said, "O Amir, hold fast to my horse and guard my back." The page did as he bade him, whereupon Al-Abbas cried out at the folk and falling upon them, overthrew their braves and slew of them some two thousand riders, whilst not one of them knew what was to do nor with whom he fought. Then said one of them to other, "Verily, the King is slain; so with whom do we wage war? Indeed ye flee from him; but 'twere better ye enter under his banners, or not one of you will be saved." Thereupon all dismounted and doffing that which was upon them of war-gear, came before Al-Abbas and proffered him allegiance and sued for his protection. So he withheld his brand from them and bade them gather together the spoils. Then he took the riches and the slaves and the camels, and they all became his lieges and his retainers, to the number (according to that which is reported) of fifty thousand horses. Furthermore, the folk heard of him and flocked to him from all sides; whereupon he divided the loot amongst them and gave largesse and dwelt thus three days, and there came gifts to him. After this he bade march for Al-Akil's abiding place; so they fared on six days and on the seventh they sighted the camp. Al-Abbas bade his man Amir precede him and give Al-Akil the good news of his cousin's coming; so he rode on to the camp and, going in to Al-Akil, acquainted him with the glad tidings of Zuhayr's slaughter and the conquest of his clan.[FN#399] Al-Akil rejoiced in the coming of Al-Abbas and the slaughter of his enemy and all in his camp rejoiced also and cast robes of honour upon Amir; while Al-Akil bade go forth to meet Al-Abbas, and commanded that none, great or small, freeman or slave, should tarry behind. So they did his bidding and going forth all, met Al-Abbas at three parasangs[FN#400] distance from the camp; and when they met him, they dismounted from their horses and Al-Akil and he embraced and clapped palm to palm.[FN#401] Then rejoicing in the coming of Al-Abbas and the killing of their foeman, they returned to the camp, where tents were pitched for the new-comers and skin-rugs spread and game slain and beasts slaughtered and royal guest-meals spread; and after this fashion they abode twenty days in the enjoyment of all delight of life. On this wise fared it with Al-Abbas and his cousin Al-Akil; but as regards King Al-Aziz, when his son left him, he was desolated for him with exceeding desolation, both he and his mother; and when tidings of him tarried long and the tryst-time passed without his returning, the king caused public proclamation to be made, commanding all his troops to get ready to mount and ride forth in quest of his son Al-Abbas, at the end of three days, after which no cause of hindrance or excuse would be admitted to any. So on the fourth day, the king bade muster the troops who numbered four-and-twenty thousand horse, besides servants and followers. Accordingly, they reared the standards and the kettle-drums beat the general and the king set out with his power intending for Baghdad; nor did he cease to press forward with all diligence, till he came within half a day's journey of the city, when he bade his army encamp on the Green Meadow. There they pitched the tents, till the lowland was straitened with them, and set up for the king a pavilion of green brocade, purfled with pearls and precious stones. When Al-Aziz had sat awhile, he summoned the Mamelukes of his son Al-Abbas, and they were five-and-twenty in number besides ten slave-girls, as they were moons, five of whom the king had brought with him and other five he had left with the prince's mother. When the Mamelukes came before him, he cast over each and every of them a mantle of green brocade and bade them mount similar horses of one and the same fashion and enter Baghdad and ask after their lord Al-Abbas. So they rode into the city and passed through the market-streets and there remained in Baghdad nor old man nor boy but came forth to gaze on them and divert himself with the sight of their beauty and loveliness and the seemliness of their semblance and the goodliness of their garments and horses, for all were even as moons. They gave not over going till they came to the palace,[FN#402] where they halted, and the king looked at them and seeing their beauty and the brilliancy of their apparel and the brightness of their faces, said, "Would Heaven I knew of which of the tribes these are!" And he bade the Eunuch bring him news of them. The castrato went out to them and questioned them of their case, whereto they replied, "Return to thy lord and enquire of him concerning Prince Al-Abbas, an he have come unto him, for that he left his sire King Al-Aziz a full-told year ago, and indeed longing for him troubleth the King and he hath levied a division of his army and his guards and is come forth in quest of his son, so haply he may light upon tidings of him." Quoth the Eunuch, "Is there amongst you a brother of his or a son?" and quoth they, "Nay, by Allah, but we are all his Mamelukes and the purchased of his money, and his sire Al-Aziz hath sent us to make enquiry of him. Do thou go to thy lord and question him of the Prince and return to us with that which he shall answer thee." Asked the Eunuch, "And where is King Al-Aziz?" and they answered, "He is encamped in the Green Meadow."[FN#403] The Eunuch returned and told the king, who said, "Indeed we have been unduly negligent with regard to Al-Abbas. What shall be our excuse with the King? By Allah, my soul suggested to me that the youth was of the sons of the kings!" His wife, the Lady Afifah, saw him lamenting for his neglect of Al-Abbas, and said to him, "O King, what is it thou regrettest with this mighty regret?" Quoth he, "Thou knowest the stranger youth, who gifted us with the rubies?" Quoth she, "Assuredly;" and he, "Yonder youths, who have halted in the palace court, are his Mamelukes, and his father, King Al-Aziz, lord of Al-Yaman, hath pitched his camp on the Green Meadow; for he is come with his army to seek him, and the number of his troops is four-and-twenty thousand horsemen." Then he went out from her, and when she heard his words, she wept sore for him and had compassion on his case and sent after him, counselling him to summon the Mamelukes and lodge them in the palace and entertain them. The king hearkened to her rede and despatching the Eunuch for the Mamelukes, assigned unto them a lodging and said to them, "Have patience, till the King give you tidings of your lord Al-Abbas." When they heard his words, their eyes ran over with a rush of tears, of their mighty longing for the sight of their lord. Then the King bade the Oueen enter the private chamber opening upon the throne-room and let down the curtain before the door, so she might see and not be seen. She did this and he summoned them to his presence; and, when they stood before him, they kissed ground to do him honour, and showed forth their courtly breeding and magnified his dignity. He ordered them to sit, but they refused, till he conjured them by their lord Al-Abbas: accordingly they sat down and he bade set before them food of various kinds and fruits and sweetmeats. Now within the Lady Afifah's palace was a souterrain communicating with the pavilion of the Princess Mariyah: so the Queen sent after her and she came to her, whereupon she made her stand behind the curtain and gave her to know that Al-Abbas was son to the King of Al-Yaman and that these were his Mamelukes: she also told her that the Prince's father had levied his troops and was come with his army in quest of him and that he had pitched his camp on the Green Meadow and had despatched these Mamelukes to make enquiry of their lord. Then Mariyah abode looking upon them and upon their beauty and loveliness and the goodliness of their raiment, till they had eaten their fill of food and the tables were removed; whereupon the King recounted to them the story of Al-Abbas and they took leave of him and went their ways. So fortuned it with the Mamelukes; but as for the Princess Mariyah, when she returned to her palace, she bethought herself concerning the affair of Al-Abbas repenting her of what she had done; and the love of him took root in her heart. And, when the night darkened upon her, she dismissed all her women and bringing out the letters, to wit, those which Al-Abbas had written her, fell to reading them and weeping. She left not weeping her night long, and when she arose in the morning. she called a damsel of her slave-girls, Shafikah by name, and said to her, "O damsel, I purpose to discover to thee mine affair and I charge thee keep my secret, which is that thou betake thyself to the house of the nurse, who used to serve me, and fetch her to me, for that I have grave need of her." Accordingly, Shafikah went out and repairing to the nurse's house, entered and found her clad in clothing other and richer than what she had whilome been wont to wear. So she saluted her and asked her, "Whence hadst thou this dress, than which there is no goodlier?" Answered the nurse, "O Shafikah, thou deemest that I have seen no good save of thy mistress; but, by Allah, had I endeavoured for her destruction, I had acted righteously, seeing that she did with me what she did and bade the Eunuch beat me, without offence by me offered: so tell her that he, on whose behalf I bestirred myself with her, hath made me independent of her and her humours, for he hath habited me in this habit and given me two hundred and fifty dinars and promised me the like every year and charged me to serve none of the folk." Quoth Shafikah, "My mistress hath a need for thee; so come thou with me and I will engage to restore thee to thy dwelling in safety and satisfaction." But quoth the nurse, "Indeed her palace is become unlawful and forbidden to me[FN#404] and never again will I enter therein, for that Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) of His favour and bounty hath rendered me independent of her." Presently Shafikah returned to her mistress and acquainted her with the nurse's words and that wherein she was of prosperity; whereupon Mariyah confessed her unmannerly dealing with her and repented when repentance profited her not; and she abode in that her case days and nights, whilst the fire of longing flamed in her heart. On this wise happened it to her; but as regards Al-Abbas, he tarried with his cousin Al-Akil twenty days, after which he made ready for the journey to Baghdad and bidding bring the booty he had taken from King Zuhayr, divided it between himself and his cousin. Then he sent out a-marching Baghdad-wards and when he came within two days' journey of the city, he summoned his servant Amir and said to him, "Mount thy charger and forego me with the caravan and the cattle." So Amir took horse and fared on till he came to Baghdad, and the season of his entering was the first of the day; nor was there in the city little child or old greybeard but came forth to divert himself with gazing on those flocks and herds and upon the beauty of those slave-girls; and their wits were wildered at what they saw. Soon afterwards the news reached the king that the young man Al-Abbas, who had gone forth from him, was come back with booty and rarities and black slaves and a conquering host and had taken up his sojourn without the city, whilst his servant Amir was presently come to Baghdad, so he might get ready for his lord dwelling-places wherein he should take up his abode. When the King heard these tidings of Amir, he sent for him and caused bring him before him; and when he entered his presence, he kissed the ground and saluted with the salam and showed his fine breeding and greeted him with the goodliest of greetings. The King bade him raise his head and, this done, questioned him of his lord Al-Abbas; whereupon he acquainted him with his adventures and told him that which had betided him with King Zuhayr and of the army that was become at his command and of the spoil he had secured. He also gave him to know that Al-Abbas was to arrive on the morrow, and with him more than fifty thousand cavatiers, obedient to his orders. When the king heard his words, he bade decorate Baghdad and commanded the citizens to equip themselves with the richest of their apparel, in honour of the coming of Al-Abbas. Furthermore, he sent to give King Al-Aziz the glad tidings of his son's return and informed him of all which he had heard from the Prince's servant. When the news reached King Al-Aziz, he joyed with exceeding joy in the approach of his son and straightway took horse, he and all his host, while the trumpets blared and the musicians played, so that the earth quaked and Baghdad also trembled, and it was a notable day. When Mariyah beheld all this, she repented in all possible penitence of that which she had done against Al-Abbas and the fires of desire raged in her vitals. Meanwhile, the troops[FN#405] sallied forth of Baghdad and went out to meet those of Al-Abbas, who had halted in a garth called the Green Island. When he espied the approaching host, he strained his sight and, seeing horsemen coming and troops and footmen he knew not, said to those about him, "Among yonder troops are flags and banners of various kinds; but, as for the great green standard that ye see, 'tis the standard of my sire, the which is reserved to him and never displayed save over his head, and thus I know that he himself is come out in quest of me." And he was certified of this, he and his troops. So he fared on towards them and when he drew near them, he knew them and they knew him; whereupon they lighted down from their horses and saluting him, gave him joy of his safety and the folk flocked to him. When he came to his father, they embraced and each greeted other a long time, whilst neither of them could utter a word, for the greatness of that which betided them of joy in reunion. Then Al-Abbas bade the folk take horse; so they mounted and his Mamelukes surrounded him and they entered Baghdad on the most splendid wise and in the highest honour and glory. Now the wife of the shopkeeper, that is, the nurse, came out, with the rest of those who flocked forth, to divert herself with gazing upon the show, and when she saw Al-Abbas and beheld his beauty and the beauty of his host and that which he had brought back with him of herds and slave-girls, Mamelukes and negroes, she improvised and recited these couplets,
"Al-Abbas from the side of Akil is come; * Caravans and steeds he hath plundered: Yea; horses he brought of pure blood, whose necks * Ring with collars like anklets wher'er they are led. With domed hoofs they pour torrent-like, * As they prance through dust on the level stead: And bestriding their saddles come men of war, * Whose fingers play on the kettle drum's head: And couched are their lances that bear the points * Keen grided, which fill every soul with dread: Who wi' them would fence draweth down his death * For one deadly lunge soon shall do him dead: Charge, comrades, charge ye and give me joy, * Saying, 'Welcome to thee, O our dear comrade!' And who joys at his meeting shall 'joy delight * Of large gifts when he from his steed shall 'light."
When the troops entered Baghdad, each of them alighted in his tent, whilst Al-Abbas encamped apart on a place near the Tigris and issued orders to slaughter for the soldiers, each day, that which should suffice them of oxen and sheep and to bake them bread and spread the tables: so the folk ceased not to come to him and eat of his banquet. Furthermore, all the country-people flocked to him with presents and rarities and he requited them many times the like of their gifts, so that the lands were filled with his renown and the fame of him was bruited abroad among the habitants of wold and town. Then, as soon as he rode to the house he had bought, the shopkeeper and his wife came to him and gave him joy of his safety; whereupon he ordered them three head of swift steeds and thoroughbred and ten dromedaries and an hundred head of sheep and clad them both in costly robes of honour. Presently he chose out ten slave-girls and ten negro slaves and fifty mares and the like number of she-camels and three hundred of sheep, together with twenty ounces of musk and as many of camphor, and sent all this to the King of Baghdad. When the present came to Ins bin Kays, his wit fled for joy and he was perplexed wherewith to requite him. Al-Abbas also gave gifts and largesse and bestowed robes of honour upon noble and simple, each after the measure of his degree, save only Mariyah; for to her indeed he sent nothing. This was grievous to the Princess and it irked her sore that he should not remember her; so she called her slave-girl Shafikah and said to her, "Hie thee to Al-Abbas and salute him and say to him, 'What hindereth thee from sending my lady Mariyah her part of thy booty?'" So Shafikah betook herself to him and when she came to his door, the chamberlains refused her admission, until they should have got for her leave and permission. When she entered, Al-Abbas knew her and knew that she had somewhat of speech with him; so he dismissed his Mamelukes and asked her, "What is thine errand, O hand-maid of good?" Answered she, "O my lord, I am a slave-girl of the Princess Mariyah, who kisseth thy hands and offereth her salutation to thee. Indeed, she rejoiceth in thy safety and blameth thee for that thou breakest her heart, alone of all the folk, because thy largesse embraceth great and small, yet hast thou not remembered her with anything of thy plunder, as if thou hadst hardened thy heart against her." Quoth he, "Extolled be He who turneth hearts! By Allah, my vitals were consumed with the love of her; and, of my longing after her I came forth to her from my mother-land and left my people and my home and my wealth, and it was with her that began the hard-heartedness and the cruelty. Natheless, for all this, I bear her no malice and there is no help but that I send her somewhat whereby she may remember me; for that I sojourn in her country but a few days, after which I set out for the land of Al-Yaman." Then he called for a chest and thence bringing out a necklace of Greek workmanship, worth a thousand dinars, wrapped it in a mantle of Greek silk, set with pearls and gems and purfled with red gold, and joined thereto a couple of caskets containing musk and amber-gris. He also put off upon the girl a mantle of Greek silk, striped with gold, wherein were divers figures and portraitures depictured, never saw eyes its like. Therewithal the girl's wit fled for joy and she went forth from his presence and returned to her mistress. When she came in to her, she acquainted her with that which she had seen of Al-Abbas and that which was with him of servants and attendants and set out to her the loftiness of his station and gave her that which was with her. Mariyah opened the mantle, and when she saw that necklace (and indeed the place was illumined with the lustre thereof), she looked at her slave-girl and said to her, "By Allah, O Shafikah, one look at him were dearer to me than all that my hand possesseth! Oh, would Heaven I knew what I shall do, when Baghdad is empty of him and I hear of him no news!" Then she wept and calling for ink-case and paper and pen of brass, wrote these couplets:
Longsome my sorrows are; my liver's fired with ecstasy; * And severance-shaft hath shot me through whence sorest pangs I dree: And howso could my soul forget the love I bear to you? * You-wards my will perforce returns nor passion sets me free: I 'prison all desires I feel for fear of spies thereon * Yet tears that streak my cheek betray for every eye to see. No place of rest or joy I find to bring me life-delight; * No wine tastes well, nor viands please however savoury: Ah me! to whom shall I complain of case and seek its cure * Save unto thee whose Phantom deigns to show me sight of thee? Then name me not or chide for aught I did in passion-stress, * With vitals gone and frame consumed by yearning-malady! Secret I keep the fire of love which aye for severance burns; * Sworn slave[FN#406] to Love who robs my rest and wakes me cruelly: And ceaseth not my thought to gaze upon your ghost by night, * Which falsing comes and he I love still, still unloveth me. Would Heaven ye wist the blight that I for you are doomed to bear * For love of you, which tortures me with parting agony! Then read between the lines I wrote, and mark and learn their sense * For such my tale, and Destiny made me an outcast be: Learn eke the circumstance of Love and lover's woe nor deign * Divulge its mysteries to men nor grudge its secrecy.
Then she folded the scroll and givng it to her slave-girl, bade her bear it to Al-Abbas and bring back his reply. So Shafikah took the letter and carried it to the Prince, after the doorkeeper had sought leave of him to admit her. When she came in to him, she found with him five damsels, as they were moons, clad in rich raiment and ornaments; and when he saw her, he said to her, "What is thy need, O hand-maid of good?" Presently she put out her hand to him with the writ, after she had kissed it, and he bade one of his slave-girls receive it from her.[FN#407] Then he took it from the girl and breaking the seal, read it and comprehended its contents; whereupon he cried, "Verily, we be Allah's and unto Him we shall return!" and calling for ink-case and paper, wrote these improvised couplets:—
I wonder seeing how thy love to me * Inclined, while I in heart from love declined: Eke wast thou wont to say in verseful writ, * "Son of the Road[FN#408] no road to me shall find! How oft kings flocked to me with mighty men * And bales on back of Bukhti[FN#409] beast they bind: And noble steeds of purest blood and all * They bore of choicest boons to me consigned; Yet won no favour!" Then came I to woo * And the long tale o' love I had designed, I fain set forth in writ of mine, with words * Like strings of pearls in goodly line aligned:— Set forth my sev'rance, griefs, tyrannic wrongs, * And ill device ill-suiting lover-kind. How oft love-claimant, craving secrecy, * How oft have lovers 'plained as sore they pined, How many a brimming bitter cup I've quaffed, * And wept my woes when speech was vain as wind! And thou:—"Be patient, 'tis thy bestest course * And choicest medicine for mortal mind!" Then unto patience worthy praise cleave thou; * Easy of issue and be lief resigned: Nor hope thou aught of me lest ill alloy * Or aught of dross affect my blood refined: Such is my speech. Read, mark, and learn my say! * To what thou deemest ne'er I'll tread the way.
Then he folded the scroll and sealing it, entrusted it to the damsel, who took it and bore it to her mistress. When the Princess read the letter and mastered its meaning, she said, "Meseemeth he recalleth bygones to me." Then she called for pens, ink, and paper, and wrote these couplets:
Love thou didst show me till I learnt its woe * Then to the growth of grief didst severance show: I banisht joys of slumber after you * And e'en my pillow garred my wake to grow. How long in parting shall I pine with pain * While severance-spies[FN#410] through night watch every throe? I've left my kingly couch and self withdrew * Therefrom, and taught mine eyelids sleep t'unknow: 'Twas thou didst teach me what I ne'er can bear: * Then didst thou waste my frame with parting-blow. By oath I swear thee, blame and chide me not: * Be kind to mourner Love hath stricken low! For parting-rigours drive him nearer still * To narrow home, ere clad in shroud for clo': Have ruth on me, since Love laid waste my frame, * 'Mid thralls enrolled me and lit fires that flame.
Mariyah rolled up the letter and gave it to Shafikah, bidding her bear it to Al-Abbas. Accordingly she took it and going with it to his door, proceeded to enter; but the chamberlains and serving-men forbade her, till they had obtained her leave from the Prince. When she went into him, she found him sitting in the midst of the five damsels before mentioned, whom his father had brought for him; so she gave him the letter and he tare it open and read it. Then he bade one of the damsels, whose name was Khafifah and who came from the land of China, tune her lute and sing anent separation. Thereupon she came forward and tuning her lute, played thereon in four-and-twenty modes: after which she returned to the first and sang these couplets,
"Our friends, when leaving us on parting-day, * Drave us in wolds of severance-grief to stray: When bound the camels' litters bearing them, * And cries of drivers urged them on the way, Outrusht my tears, despair gat hold of me * And sleep betrayed mine eyes to wake a prey. The day they went I wept, but showed no ruth * The severance-spy and flared the flames alway: Alas for lowe o' Love that fires me still! * Alack for pine that melts my heart away! To whom shall I complain of care, when thou * Art gone, nor fain a-pillow head I lay? And day by day Love's ardours grow on me, * And far's the tent that holds my fondest may: O Breeze o' Heaven, bear for me a charge * (Nor traitor-like my troth in love betray!), Whene'er thou breathest o'er the loved one's land * Greet him with choice salam fro' me, I pray: Dust him with musk and powdered ambergris * While time endures! Such is my wish for aye."
When the damsel had made an end of her song, Al-Abbas swooned away and they sprinkled on him musked rose-water, till he recovered from his fainting-fit, when he called another damsel (now there was on her of linen and raiment and ornaments that which undoeth description, and she was a model of beauty and brightness and loveliness and symmetry and perfect grace, such as shamed the crescent moon, and she was a Turkish girl from the land of the Roum and her name was Hafizah) and said to her, "O Hafizah, close thine eyes and tune thy lute and sing to us upon the days of severance." She answered him, "To hear is to obey" and taking the lute, tightened its strings and cried out from her head,[FN#411] in a plaintive voice, and sang these couplets,
"My friends! tears flow in painful mockery, * And sick my heart from parting agony: My frame is wasted and my vitals wrung * And love-fires grow and eyes set tear-floods free: And when the fire burns high beneath my ribs * With tears I quench it as sad day I see. Love left me wasted, baffled, pain-begone, * Sore frighted, butt to spying enemy: When I recal sweet union wi' their loves * I chase dear sleep from the sick frame o' me. Long as our parting lasts the rival joys * And spies with fearful prudence gain their gree. I fear me for my sickly, langourous frame * Lest dread of parting slay me incontinently."
When Hafizah had ended her song, Al-Abbas cried to her, "Brava! Verily, thou quickenest hearts from griefs." Then he called another maiden of the daughters of Daylam by name Marjanah, and said to her, "O Marjanah, sing to me upon the days of parting." She said, "Hearing and obeying," and recited these couplets,