So the man returned to his lodging and going in to his slave-girl, said to her, "O Sitt el Milah, I went out on thine occasion and there met me the young man of Damascus, and he saluted me and saluteth thee. Indeed, he seeketh to win thy favour and would fain be a guest in our dwelling, so thou mayst let him hear somewhat of thy singing." When she heard speak of the young Damascene, she gave a sob, that her soul was like to depart her body, and answered, saying, "He knoweth my plight and is ware that these three days past I have eaten not nor drunken, and I beseech thee, O my lord, by the Great God, to accomplish the stranger his due and bring him to my lodging and make excuse to him for me."
When her master heard this, his reason fled for joy and he went to his friend the draper and said to him, "Thou wast right in the matter of the damsel, for that she is enamoured of the young Damascene; so how shall I do?" Quoth the other, "Go to the bazaar and when thou seest him, salute him and say to him, 'Indeed, thy departure the other day, without accomplishing thine occasion, was grievous to me; so, if thou be still minded to buy the girl, I will abate thee an hundred dinars of that which thou badest for her, by way of hospitable entreatment of thee and making myself agreeable to thee; for that thou art a stranger in our land.' If he say to thee, 'I have no desire for her' and hold off from thee, know that he will not buy; in which case, let me know, so I may contrive thee another device; and if he say to thee other than this, conceal not from me aught.
So the girl's owner betook himself to the bazaar, where he found the youth seated at the upper end of the merchants' place of session, selling and buying and taking and giving, as he were the moon on the night of its full, and saluted him. The young man returned his salutation and he said to him, "O my lord, be not thou vexed at the girl's speech the other day, for her price shall be less than that [which thou badest], to the intent that I may propitiate thy favour. If thou desire her for nought, I will send her to thee, or if thou wouldst have me abate thee of her price, I will well, for I desire nought but what shall content thee; for that thou art a stranger in our land and it behoveth us to entreat thee hospitably and have consideration for thee." "By Allah," answered the youth, "I will not take her from thee but at an advance on that which I bade thee for her aforetime; so wilt thou now sell her to me for seventeen hundred dinars?" And the other answered," O my lord, I sell her to thee, may God bless thee in her."
So the young man went to his lodging and fetching a purse, returned to the girl's owner and counted out to him the price aforesaid, whilst the draper was between them. Then said he, "Bring her forth;" but the other answered, "She cannot come forth at this present; but be thou my guest the rest of this day and night, and on the morrow thou shall take thy slave-girl and go in the protection of God." The youth fell in with him of this and he carried him to his house, where, after a little, he let bring meat and wine, and they [ate and] drank. Then said Noureddin to the girl's owner, "I beseech thee bring me the damsel, for that I bought her not but for the like of this time." So he arose and [going in to the girl], said to her, "O Sitt el Milan, the young man hath paid down thy price and we have bidden him hither; so he hath come to our dwelling and we have entertained him, and he would fain have thee be present with him."
Therewithal the damsel rose briskly and putting off her clothes, washed and donned sumptuous apparel and perfumed herself and went out to him, as she were a willow-wand or a bamboo-cane, followed by a black slave girl, bearing the lute. When she came to the young man, she saluted him and sat down by his side. Then she took the lute from the slave-girl and tuning it, smote thereon in four-and-twenty modes, after which she returned to the first mode and sang the following verses:
Unto me the world's whole gladness is thy nearness and thy sight; All incumbent thy possession and thy love a law of right. In my tears I have a witness; when I call thee to my mind, Down my cheeks they run like torrents, and I cannot stay their flight. None, by Allah, 'mongst all creatures, none I love save thee alone! Yea, for I am grown thy bondman, by the troth betwixt us plight. Peace upon thee! Ah, how bitter were the severance from thee! Be not this thy troth-plight's ending nor the last of our delight!
Therewithal the young man was moved to delight and exclaimed, "By Allah, thou sayest well, O Sitt el Milan! Let me hear more." Then he handselled her with fifty dinars and they drank and the cups went round among them; and her seller said to her, "O Sitt el Milah, this is the season of leave-taking; so let us hear somewhat on the subject." Accordingly she struck the lute and avouching that which was in her heart, sang the following verses:
I am filled full of longing pain and memory and dole, That from the wasted body's wounds distract the anguished soul. Think not, my lords, that I forget: the case is still the same. When such a fever fills the heart, what leach can make it whole? And if a creature in his tears could swim, as in a sea, I to do this of all that breathe were surely first and sole. O skinker of the wine of woe, turn from a love-sick maid, Who drinks her tears still, night and morn, thy bitter-flavoured bowl. I had not left you, had I known that severance would prove My death; but what is past is past, Fate stoops to no control.
As they were thus in the enjoyment of all that in most delicious of easance and delight, and indeed the wine was sweet to them and the talk pleasant, behold, there came a knocking at the door. So the master of the house went out, that he might see what was to do, and found ten men of the Khalif's eunuchs at the door. When he saw this, he was amazed and said to them, "What is to do?" Quoth they, "The Commander of the Faithful saluteth thee and requireth of thee the slave-girl whom thou hast for sale and whose name is Sitt el Milah." By Allah," answered the other, "I have sold her." And they said, "Swear by the head of the Commander of the Faithful that she is not in thy dwelling." He made oath that he had sold her and that she was no longer at his disposal; but they paid no *need to his word and forcing their way into the house, found the damsel and the young Damascene in the sitting-chamber. So they laid hands upon her, and the youth said, "This is my slave-girl, whom I have bought with my money." But they hearkened not to his speech and taking her, carried her off to the Commander of the Faithful.
Therewithal Noureddin's life was troubled; so he arose and donned his clothes, and his host said, "Whither away this night, O my lord?" Quoth Noureddin, "I mean to go to my lodging, and to-morrow I will betake myself to the palace of the Commander of the Faithful and demand my slave-girl." "Sleep till the morning," said the other, "and go not forth at the like of this hour." But he answered, "Needs must I go;" and the host said to him, "[Go] in the safeguard of God." So Noureddin went forth, and drunkenness had got the mastery of him, wherefore he threw himself down on [a bench before one of] the shops. Now the watch were at that hour making their round and they smelt the sweet scent [of essences] and wine that exhaled from him; so they made for it and found the youth lying on the bench, without sense or motion. They poured water upon him, and he awoke, whereupon they carried him to the house of the Chief of the Police and he questioned him of his affair. "O my lord," answered Noureddin, "I am a stranger in this town and have been with one of my friends. So I came forth from his house and drunkenness overcame me."
The prefect bade carry him to his lodging; but one of those in attendance upon him, by name El Muradi, said to him, "What wilt thou do? This man is clad in rich clothes and on his finger is a ring of gold, the beazel whereof is a ruby of great price; so we will carry him away and slay him and take that which is upon him of raiment [and what not else] and bring it to thee; for that thou wilt not [often] see profit the like thereof, more by token that this fellow is a stranger and there is none to enquire concerning him." Quoth the prefect, "This fellow is a thief and that which he saith is leasing." And Noureddin said, "God forbid that I should be a thief!" But the prefect answered, "Thou liest." So they stripped him of his clothes and taking the ring from his finger, beat him grievously, what while he cried out for succour, but none succoured him, and besought protection, but none protected him. Then said he to them, "O folk, ye are quit of[FN#12] that which ye have taken from me; but now restore me to my lodging." But they answered, saying, "Leave this knavery, O cheat! Thine intent is to sue us for thy clothes on the morrow." "By Allah, the One, the Eternal," exclaimed he, "I will not sue any for them!" But they said, "We can nowise do this." And the prefect bade them carry him to the Tigris and there slay him and cast him into the river.
So they dragged him away, what while he wept and spoke the words which whoso saith shall nowise be confounded, to wit, "There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Sublime!" When they came to the Tigris, one of them drew the sword upon him and El Muradi said to the swordbearer, "Smite off his head." But one of them, Ahmed by name, said, "O folk, deal gently with this poor wretch and slay him not unjustly and wickedly, for I stand in fear of God the Most High, lest He burn me with his fire." Quoth El Muradi, "A truce to this talk!" And Ahmed said, "If ye do with him aught, I will acquaint the Commander of the Faithful." "How, then, shall we do with him?" asked they; and he answered, "Let us deposit him in prison and I will be answerable to you for his provision; so shall we be quit of his blood, for indeed he is wrongfully used." So they took him up and casting him into the Prison of Blood,[FN#13]went away.
Meanwhile, they carried the damsel into the Commander of the Faithful and she pleased him; so he assigned her a lodging of the apartments of choice. She abode in the palace, eating not neither drinking and ceasing not from weeping night nor day, till, one night, the Khalif sent for her to his sitting-chamber and said to her, "O Sitt el Milah, be of good heart and cheerful eye, for I will make thy rank higher than [any of] the concubines and thou shall see that which shall rejoice thee." She kissed the earth and wept; whereupon the Khalif called for her lute and bade her sing. So she improvised and sang the following verses, in accordance with that which was in her heart:
Say, by the lightnings of thy teeth and thy soul's pure desire, Moan'st thou as moan the doves and is thy heart for doubt on fire? How many a victim of the pangs of love-liking hath died! Tired is my patience, but of blame my censors never tire.
When she had made an end of her song, she cast the lute from her hand and wept till she swooned away, whereupon the Khalif bade carry her to her chamber. Now he was ravished with her and loved her with an exceeding love; so, after awhile, he again commanded to bring her to his presence, and when she came, he bade her sing. Accordingly, she took the lute and spoke forth that which was in her heart and sang the following verses:
What strength have I solicitude and long desire to bear? Why art thou purposed to depart and leave me to despair? Why to estrangement and despite inclin'st thou with the spy? Yet that a bough[FN#14] from side to side incline[FN#15] small wonder 'twere. Thou layst on me a load too great to bear, and thus thou dost But that my burdens I may bind and so towards thee fare.
Then she cast the lute from her hand and swooned away; so she was carried to her chamber and indeed passion waxed upon her. After a long while, the Commander of the Faithful sent for her a third time and bade her sing. So she took the lute and sang the following verses:
O hills of the sands and the rugged piebald plain, Shall the bondman of love win ever free from pain! I wonder, shall I and the friend who's far from me Once more be granted of Fate to meet, we twain! Bravo for a fawn with a houri's eye of black, Like the sun or the shining moon midst the starry train! To lovers, "What see ye?" he saith, and to hearts of stone, "What love ye," quoth he, "[if to love me ye disdain?"] I supplicate Him, who parted us and doomed Our separation, that we may meet again.
When she had made an end of her song, the Commander of the Faithful said to her, "O damsel, thou art in love." "Yes," answered she. And he said, "With whom?" Quoth she, "With my lord and my master, my love for whom is as the love of the earth for rain, or as the love of the female for the male; and indeed the love of him is mingled with my flesh and my blood and hath entered into the channels of my bones. O Commander of the Faithful, whenas I call him to mind, mine entrails are consumed, for that I have not accomplished my desire of him, and but that I fear to die, without seeing him, I would assuredly kill myself." And he said, "Art thou in my presence and bespeakest me with the like of these words? I will assuredly make thee forget thy lord."
Then he bade take her away; so she was carried to her chamber and he sent her a black slave-girl, with a casket, wherein were three thousand dinars and a carcanet of gold, set with pearls, great and small, and jewels, worth other three thousand, saying to her, "The slave-girl and that which is with her are a gift from me to thee." When she heard this, she said, "God forbid that I should be consoled for the love of my lord and my master, though with the earth full of gold!" And she improvised and recited the following verses:
I swear by his life, yea, I swear by the life of my love without peer, To please him or save him from hurt, I'd enter the fire without fear! "Console thou thyself for his love," quoth they, "with another than he;" But, "Nay, by his life," answered I, "I'll never forget him my dear!" A moon is my love, in a robe of loveliness proudly arrayed, And the splendours of new-broken day from his cheeks and his forehead shine clear.
Then the Khalif summoned her to his presence a fourth time and said to her, "O Sitt el Milah, sing." So she improvised and sang the following verses:
To his beloved one the lover's heart's inclined; His soul's a captive slave, in sickness' hands confined. "What is the taste of love?" quoth one, and I replied, "Sweet water 'tis at first; but torment lurks behind." Love's slave, I keep my troth with them; but, when they vowed, Fate made itself Urcoub,[FN#16] whom never oath could bind. What is there in the tents? Their burdens are become A lover's, whose belov'd is in the litters' shrined. In every halting-place like Joseph[FN#17] she appears And he in every stead with Jacob's grief[FN#18] is pined.
When she had made an end of her song, she threw the lute from her hand and wept till she swooned away. So they sprinkled on her rose-water, mingled with musk, and willow-flower water; and when she came to herself, Er Reshid said to her, "O Sitt el Milah, this is not fair dealing in thee. We love thee and thou lovest another." "O Commander of the Faithful," answered she, "there is no help for it." Therewithal he was wroth with her and said, "By the virtue of Hemzeh[FN#19] and Akil[FN#20] and Mohammed, Prince of the Apostles, if thou name one other than I in my presence, I will bid strike off thy head!" Then he bade return her to her chamber, whilst she wept and recited the following verses:
If I must die, then welcome death to heal My woes; 'twere lighter than the pangs I feel. What if the sabre cut me limb from limb! No torment 'twere for lovers true and leal.
Then the Khalif went in to the Lady Zubeideh, pale with anger, and she noted this in him and said to him, "How cometh it that I see the Commander of the Faithful changed of colour?" "O daughter of my uncle," answered he, "I have a beautiful slave-girl, who reciteth verses and telleth stories, and she hath taken my whole heart; but she loveth other than I and avoucheth that she loveth her [former] master; wherefore I have sworn a great oath that, if she come again to my sitting-chamber and sing for other than I, I will assuredly take a span from her highest part."[FN#21]Quoth Zubeideh, "Let the Commander of the Faithful favour me with her presence, so I may look on her and hear her singing." So he bade fetch her and she came, whereupon the Lady Zubeideh withdrew behind the curtain, whereas she saw her not, and Er Reshid said to her, "Sing to us." So she took the lute and tuning it, sang the following verses:
Lo, since the day I left you, O my masters, Life is not sweet, no aye my heart is light. Yea, in the night the thought of you still slays me; Hidden are my traces from the wise men's sight, All for a wild deer's love, whose looks have snared me And on whose brows the morning glitters bright I am become, for severance from my loved one, Like a left hand, forsaken of the right. Beauty on his cheek hath written, "Blest be Allah, He who created this enchanting wight!" Him I beseech our loves who hath dissevered, Us of his grace once more to reunite.
When Er Reshid heard this, he waxed exceeding wroth and said, "May God not reunite you twain in gladness!" Then he summoned the headsman, and when he presented himself, he said to him, "Strike off the head of this accursed slave-girl." So Mesrour took her by the hand and [led her away; but], when she came to the door, she turned and said to the Khalif, "O Commander of the Faithful, I conjure thee, by thy fathers and forefathers, give ear unto that I shall say!" Then she improvised and recited the following verses:
O Amir of justice, be kind to thy subjects; For justice, indeed, of thy nature's a trait. O thou my inclining to love him that blamest, Shall lovers be blamed for the errors of Fate? Then spare me, by Him who vouchsafed thee the kingship; For a gift in this world is the regal estate.
Then Mesrour carried her to the other end of the sitting-chamber and bound her eyes and making her sit, stood awaiting a second commandment; whereupon quoth the Lady Zubeideh, "O Commander of the Faithful, with thy permission, wilt thou not vouchsafe this damsel a share of thy clemency? Indeed, if thou slay her, it were injustice." Quoth he, "What is to be done with her?" And she said, "Forbear to slay her and send for her lord. If he be as she describeth him in grace and goodliness, she is excused, and if he be not on this wise, then slay her, and this shall be thy justification against her."[FN#22]
"Be it as thou deemest," answered Er Reshid and caused return the damsel to her chamber, saying to her, "The Lady Zubeideh saith thus and thus." Quoth she, "God requite her for me with good! Indeed, thou dealest equitably, O Commander of the Faithful, in this judgment." And he answered, "Go now to thy place, and to-morrow we will let bring thy lord." So she kissed the earth and recited the following verses:
I am content, for him I love, to all abide; So, who will, let him blame, and who will, let him chide. At their appointed terms souls die; but for despair My soul is like to die, or ere its term betide. O thou with love of whom I'm smitten, yet content, I prithee come to me and hasten to my side.
Then she arose and returned to her chamber.
On the morrow, the Commander of the Faithful sat [in his hall of audience] and his Vizier Jaafer ben Yehya the Barmecide came in to him; whereupon he called to him, saying, "I would have thee bring me a youth who is lately come to Baghdad, hight [Sidi Noureddin Ali] the Damascene." Quoth Jaafer, "Hearkening and obedience," and going forth in quest of the youth, sent to the markets and khans and caravanserais three days' space, but found no trace of him, neither lit upon tidings of him. So on the fourth day he presented himself before the Khalif and said to him, "O our lord, I have sought him these three days, but have not found him." Quoth Er Reshid, "Make ready letters to Damascus. Belike he hath returned to his own land." So Jaafer wrote a letter and despatched it by a dromedary-courier to the city of Damascus; and they sought him there and found him not.
Meanwhile, news was brought that Khorassan had been conquered;[FN#23] whereupon Er Reshid rejoiced and bade decorate Baghdad and release all who were in the prisons, giving each of them a dinar and a dress. So Jaafer addressed himself to the decoration of the city and bade his brother El Fezl ride to the prison and clothe and release the prisoners. El Fezl did his brother's bidding and released all but the young Damascene, who abode still in the Prison of Blood, saying, "There is no power and no virtue save in God the Most High, the Sublime! Verily, we are God's and to Him we return." Then said El Fezl to the gaoler, "Is there any prisoner left in the prison?" "No," answered he, and El Fezl was about to depart, when Noureddin called out to him from within the prison, saying, "O my lord, tarry, for there remaineth none in the prison other than I and indeed I am oppressed. This is a day of clemency and there is no disputing concerning it." El Fezl bade release him; so they set him free and he gave him a dress and a dinar. So the young man went out, bewildered and knowing not whither he should go, for that he had abidden in the prison nigh a year and indeed his condition was changed and his favour faded, and he abode walking and turning round, lest El Muradi should come upon him and cast him into another calamity.
When El Muradi heard of his release, he betook himself to the chief of the police and said to him, "O our lord, we are not assured from yonder youth, [the Damascene], for that he hath been released from prison and we fear lest he complain of us." Quoth the prefect, "How shall we do?" And El Muradi answered, saying, "I will cast him into a calamity for thee." Then he ceased not to follow the young Damascene from place to place till he came up with him in a strait place and a by-street without an issue; whereupon he accosted him and putting a rope about his neck, cried out, saying, "A thief!" The folk flocked to him from all sides and fell to beating and reviling Noureddin, whilst he cried out for succour, but none succoured him, and El Muradi still said to him, "But yesterday the Commander of the Faithful released thee and to-day thou stealest!" So the hearts of the folk were hardened against him and El Muradi carried him to the master of police, who bade cut off his hand.
Accordingly, the hangman took him and bringing out the knife, offered to cut off his hand, what while El Muradi said to him, "Cut and sever the bone and sear[FN#24] it not for him, so he may lose his blood and we be rid of him." But Ahmed, he who had aforetime been the means of his deliverance, sprang up to him and said, "O folk, fear God in [your dealings with] this youth, for that I know his affair from first to last and he is void of offence and guiltless. Moreover, he is of the folk of condition,[FN#25] and except ye desist from him, I will go up to the Commander of the Faithful and acquaint him with the case from first to last and that the youth is guiltless of crime or offence." Quoth El Muradi, "Indeed, we are not assured from his mischief." And Ahmed answered, "Release him and commit him to me and I will warrant you against his affair, for ye shall never see him again after this." So they delivered Noureddin to him and he took him from their hands and said to him, "O youth, have compassion on thyself, for indeed thou hast fallen into the hands of these folk twice and if they lay hold of thee a third time, they will make an end of thee; and [in dealing thus with thee], I aim at reward and recompense for thee[FN#26] and answered prayer."[FN#27]
Noureddin fell to kissing his hand and calling down blessings on him and said to him, "Know that I am a stranger in this your city and the completion of kindness is better than the beginning thereof; wherefore I beseech thee of thy favour that thou complete to me thy good offices and kindness and bring me to the gate of the city. So will thy beneficence be accomplished unto me and may God the Most High requite thee for me with good!" ["Fear not,"] answered Ahmed; "no harm shall betide thee. Go; I will bear thee company till thou come to thy place of assurance." And he left him not till he brought him to the gate of the city and said to him, "O youth, go in the safeguard of God and return not to the city; for, if they fall in with thee [again], they will make an end of thee." Noureddin kissed his hand and going forth the city, gave not over walking till he came to a mosque that stood in one of the suburbs of Baghdad and entered therein with the night.
Now he had with him nought wherewithal he might cover himself; so he wrapped himself up in one of the rugs of the mosque [and abode thus till daybreak], when the Muezzins came and finding him sitting in that case, said to him, "O youth, what is this plight?" Quoth he, "I cast myself on your hospitality, imploring your protection from a company of folk who seek to kill me unjustly and oppressively, without cause." And [one of] the Muezzin[s] said, "Be of good heart and cheerful eye." Then he brought him old clothes and covered him withal; moreover, he set before him somewhat of meat and seeing upon him signs of gentle breeding, said to him, "O my son, I grow old and desire thee of help, [in return for which] I will do away thy necessity." "Hearkening and obedience," answered Noureddin and abode with the old man, who rested and took his ease, what while the youth [did his service in the mosque], celebrating the praises of God and calling the faithful to prayer and lighting the lamps and filling the ewers[FN#28] and sweeping and cleaning out the place.
Meanwhile, the Lady Zubeideh, the wife of the Commander of the Faithful, made a banquet in her palace and assembled her slave-girls. As for Sitt el Milah, she came, weeping-eyed and mournful-hearted, and those who were present blamed her for this, whereupon she recited the following verses:
Ye chide at one who weepeth for troubles ever new; Needs must th' afflicted warble the woes that make him rue. Except I be appointed a day [to end my pain], I'll weep until mine eyelids with blood their tears ensue.
When she had made an end of her verses, the Lady Zubeideh bade each damsel sing a song, till the turn came round to Sitt el Milah, whereupon she took the lute and tuning it, sang thereto four-and-twenty songs in four-and-twenty modes; then she returned to the first mode and sang the following verses:
Fortune its arrows all, through him I love, let fly At me and parted me from him for whom I sigh. Lo, in my heart the heat of every heart burns high And in mine eyes unite the tears of every eye.
When she had made an end of her song, she wept till she made the bystanders weep and the Lady Zubeideh condoled with her and said to her, "God on thee, O Sitt el Milah, sing us somewhat, so we may hearken to thee." "Hearkening and obedience," answered the damsel and sang the following verses:
Assemble, ye people of passion, I pray; For the hour of our torment hath sounded to-day. The raven of parting croaks loud at our door; Alas, for our raven cleaves fast to us aye! For those whom we cherish are parted and gone; They have left us in torment to pine for dismay. So arise, by your lives I conjure you, arise And come let us fare to our loved ones away.
Then she cast the lute from her hand and wept till she made the Lady Zubeideh weep, and she said to her, "O Sitt el Milah, methinks he whom thou lovest is not in this world, for that the Commander of the Faithful hath sought him in every place, but hath not found him." Whereupon the damsel arose and kissing the Lady Zubeideh's hands, said to her, "O my lady, if thou wouldst have him found, I have a request to make to thee, wherein thou mayst accomplish my occasion with the Commander of the Faithful." Quoth the princess, "And what is it?" "It is," answered Sitt el Milah, "that thou get me leave to go forth by myself and go round about in quest of him three days, for the adage saith, 'She who mourneth for herself is not the like of her who is hired to mourn.'[FN#29] If I find him, I will bring him before the Commander of the Faithful, so he may do with us what he will; and if I find him not, I shall be cut off from hope of him and that which is with me will be assuaged." Quoth the Lady Zubeideh, "I will not get thee leave from him but for a whole month; so be of good heart and cheerful eye." Whereupon Sitt el Milah was glad and rising, kissed the earth before her once more and went away to her own place, rejoicing.
As for Zubeideh, she went in to the Khalif and talked with him awhile; then she fell to kissing him between the eyes and on his hand and asked him that which she had promised Sitt el Milah, saying, "O Commander of the Faithful, I doubt me her lord is not found in this world; but, if she go about in quest of him and find him not, her hopes will be cut off and her mind will be set at rest and she will sport and laugh; for that, what while she abideth in hope, she will never cease from her frowardness." And she gave not over cajoling him till he gave Sitt el Milah leave to go forth and make search for her lord a month's space and ordered her an eunuch to attend her and bade the paymaster [of the household] give her all she needed, were it a thousand dirhems a day or more. So the Lady Zubeideh arose and returning to her palace, sent for Sitt el Milah and acquainted her with that which had passed [between herself and the Khalif]; whereupon she kissed her hand and thanked her and called down blessings on her.
Then she took leave of the princess and veiling her face, disguised herself; [FN#30] after which she mounted the mule and sallying forth, went round about seeking her lord in the thoroughfares of Baghdad three days' space, but lit on no tidings of him; and on the fourth day, she rode forth without the city. Now it was the noontide hour and great was the heat, and she was aweary and thirst waxed upon her. Presently, she came to the mosque, wherein the young Damascene had taken shelter, and lighting down at the door, said to the old man, [the Muezzin], "O elder, hast thou a draught of cold water? Indeed, I am overcome with heat and thirst." Quoth he, "[Come up] with me into my house." So he carried her up into his lodging and spreading her [a carpet and cushions], seated her [thereon]; after which he brought her cold water and she drank and said to the eunuch, "Go thy ways with the mule and on the morrow come back to me here." [So he went away] and she slept and rested herself.
When she awoke, she said to the old man, "O elder, hast thou aught of food?" And he answered, "O my lady, I have bread and olives." Quoth she, "That is food fit but for the like of thee. As for me, I will have nought but roast lamb and broths and fat rissoled fowls and stuffed ducks and all manner meats dressed with [pounded nuts and almond-]kernels and sugar." "O my lady," replied the Muezzin, "I never heard of this chapter in the Koran, nor was it revealed unto our lord Mohammed, whom God bless and keep!"[FN#31] She laughed and said, "O elder, the matter is even as thou sayest; but bring me inkhorn and paper." So he brought her what she sought and she wrote a letter and gave it to him, together with a seal-ring from her finger, saying, "Go into the city and enquire for such an one the money-changer and give him this my letter."
The old man betook himself to the city, as she bade him, and enquired for the money-changer, to whom they directed him. So he gave him the ring and the letter, which when he saw, he kissed the letter and breaking it open, read it and apprehended its purport. Then he repaired to the market and buying all that she bade him, laid it in a porter's basket and bade him go with the old man. So the latter took him and went with him to the mosque, where he relieved him of his burden and carried the meats in to Sitt el Milah. She seated him by her side and they ate, he and she, of those rich meats, till they were satisfied, when the old man rose and removed the food from before her.
She passed the night in his lodging and when she arose in the morning, she said to him, "O elder, may I not lack thy kind offices for the morning-meal! Go to the money-changer and fetch me from him the like of yesterday's food." So he arose and betaking himself to the money-changer, acquainted him with that which she had bidden him. The money-changer brought him all that she required and set it on the heads of porters; and the old man took them and returned with them to Sitt el Milah. So she sat down with him and they ate their sufficiency, after which he removed the rest of the food. Then she took the fruits and the flowers and setting them over against herself, wrought them into rings and knots and letters, whilst the old man looked on at a thing whose like he had never in his life seen and rejoiced therein.
Then said she to him, "O elder, I would fain drink." So he arose and brought her a gugglet of water; but she said to him, "Who bade thee fetch that?" Quoth he, "Saidst thou not to me, 'I would fain drink'?" And she answered, "I want not this; nay, I want wine, the delight of the soul, so haply, O elder, I may solace myself therewith." "God forbid," exclaimed the old man, "that wine should be drunk in my house, and I a stranger in the land and a Muezzin and an imam,[FN#32] who prayeth with the true-believers, and a servant of the house of the Lord of the Worlds! "Quoth she, "Why wilt thou forbid me to drink thereof in thy house?" "Because," answered he, "it is unlawful." "O elder," rejoined she, "God hath forbidden [the eating of] blood and carrion and hog's flesh. Tell me, are grapes and honey lawful or unlawful?" Quoth he, "They are lawful;" and she said, "This is the juice of grapes and the water of honey." But he answered, "Leave this thy talk, for thou shall never drink wine in my house." "O Sheikh," rejoined she, "folk eat and drink and enjoy themselves and we are of the number of the folk and God is very forgiving, clement."[FN#33] Quoth he, "This is a thing that may not be." And she said, "Hast thou not heard what the poet saith ... ?" And she recited the following verses:
O son of Simeon, give no ear to other than my say. How bitter from the convent 'twas to part and fare away! Ay, and the monks, for on the Day of Palms a fawn there was Among the servants of the church, a loveling blithe and gay. By God, how pleasant was the night we passed, with him for third! Muslim and Jew and Nazarene, we sported till the day. The wine was sweet to us to drink in pleasance and repose, And in a garden of the garths of Paradise we lay, Whose streams beneath the myrtle's shade and cassia's welled amain And birds made carol jubilant from every blossomed spray. Quoth he, what while from out his hair the morning glimmered white, "This, this is life indeed, except, alas! it doth not stay."
"O elder," added she, "if Muslims and Jews and Nazarenes drink wine, who are we [that we should abstain from it]?" "By Allah, O my lady," answered he, "spare thine endeavour, for this is a thing to which I will not hearken." When she knew that he would not consent to her desire, she said to him, "O elder, I am of the slave-girls of the Commander of the Faithful and the food waxeth on me[FN#34] and if I drink not, I shall perish,[FN#35] nor wilt thou be assured against the issue of my affair. As for me, I am quit of blame towards thee, for that I have made myself known to thee and have bidden thee beware of the wrath of the Commander of the Faithful."
When the old man heard her words and that wherewith she menaced him, he arose and went out, perplexed and knowing not what he should do, and there met him a Jew, who was his neighbour, and said to him, "O Sheikh, how cometh it that I see thee strait of breast? Moreover, I hear in thy house a noise of talk, such as I use not to hear with thee." Quoth the Muezzin, "Yonder is a damsel who avoucheth that she is of the slave-girls of the Commander of the Faithful Haroun er Reshid; and she hath eaten food and now would fain drink wine in my house, but I forbade her. However she avoucheth that except she drink thereof, she will perish, and indeed I am bewildered concerning my affair." "Know, O my neighbour," answered the Jew, "that the slave-girls of the Commander of the Faithful are used to drink wine, and whenas they eat and drink not, they perish; and I fear lest some mishap betide her, in which case thou wouldst not be safe from the Khalifs wrath." "What is to be done?" asked the Sheikh; and the Jew replied, "I have old wine that will suit her." Quoth the old man, "[I conjure thee] by the right of neighbourship, deliver me from this calamity and let me have that which is with thee!" "In the name of God," answered the Jew and going to his house, brought out a flagon of wine, with which the Sheikh returned to Sitt el Milah. This pleased her and she said to him, "Whence hadst thou this?" "I got it from my neighbour the Jew," answered he. "I set out to him my case with thee and he gave me this."
Sitt el Milah filled a cup and emptied it; after which she drank a second and a third. Then she filled the cup a fourth time and handed it to the old man, but he would not accept it from her. However, she conjured him, by her own head and that of the Commander of the Faithful, that he should take it from her, till he took the cup from her hand and kissed it and would have set it down; but she conjured him by her life to smell it. So he smelt it and she said to him, "How deemest thou?" "Its smell is sweet," replied he; and she conjured him, by the life of the Commander of the Faithful, to taste it. So he put it to his mouth and she rose to him and made him drink; whereupon, "O princess of the fair," said he, "this is none other than good." Quoth she, "So deem I. Hath not our Lord promised us wine in Paradise?" And he answered, "Yes. Quoth the Most High, 'And rivers of wine, a delight to the drinkers.'[FN#36] And we will drink it in this world and the world to come." She laughed and emptying the cup, gave him to drink, and he said, "O princess of the fair, indeed thou art excusable in thy love for this." Then he took from her another and another, till he became drunken and his talk waxed great and his prate.
The folk of the quarter heard him and assembled under the window; and when he was ware of them, he opened the window and said to them, "Are ye not ashamed, O pimps? Every one in his own house doth what he will and none hindereth him; but we drink one poor day and ye assemble and come, cuckoldy varlets that ye are! To-day, wine, and to-morrow [another] matter; and from hour to hour [cometh] relief." So they laughed and dispersed. Then the girl drank till she was intoxicated, when she called to mind her lord and wept, and the old man said to her, "What maketh thee weep, O my lady?" "O elder," replied she, "I am a lover and separated [from him I love]." Quoth he, "O my lady, what is this love?" "And thou," asked she, "hast thou never been in love?" "By Allah, O my lady," answered he, "never in all my life heard I of this thing, nor have I ever known it! Is it of the sons of Adam or of the Jinn?" She laughed and said, "Verily, thou art even as those of whom the poet speaketh, when as he saith ..." And she repeated the following verses:
How long will ye admonished be, without avail or heed? The shepherd still his flocks forbids, and they obey his rede. I see yon like unto mankind in favour and in form; But oxen,[FN#37] verily, ye are in fashion and in deed.
The old man laughed at her speech and her verses pleased him. Then said she to him, "I desire of thee a lute."[FN#38] So he arose and brought her a piece of firewood. Quoth she, "What is that?" And he said, "Didst thou not bid me bring thee wood?" "I do not want this," answered she, and he rejoined, "What then is it that is called wood, other than this?" She laughed and said, "The lute is an instrument of music, whereunto I sing." Quoth he, "Where is this thing found and of whom shall I get it for thee?" And she said, "Of him who gave thee the wine." So he arose and betaking himself to his neighbour the Jew, said to him, "Thou favouredst us aforetime with the wine; so now complete thy favours and look me out a thing called a lute, to wit, an instrument for singing; for that she seeketh this of me and I know it not" "Hearkening and obedience," replied the Jew and going into his house, brought him a lute. [The old man took it and carried it to Sitt el Milah,] whilst the Jew took his drink and sat by a window adjoining the other's house, so he might hear the singing.
The damsel rejoiced, when the old man returned to her with the lute, and taking it from him, tuned its strings and sang the following verses:
After your loss, nor trace of me nor vestige would remain, Did not the hope of union some whit my strength sustain. Ye're gone and desolated by your absence is the world: Requital, ay, or substitute to seek for you 'twere vain. Ye, of your strength, have burdened me, upon my weakliness, With burdens not to be endured of mountain nor of plain. When from your land the breeze I scent that cometh, as I were A reveller bemused with wine, to lose my wits I'm fain. Love no light matter is, O folk, nor are the woe and care And blame a little thing to brook that unto it pertain. I wander seeking East and West for you, and every time Unto a camp I come, I'm told, "They've fared away again." My friends have not accustomed me to rigour; for, of old, When I forsook them, they to seek accord did not disdain.
When she had made an end of her song, she wept sore, till presently sleep overcame her and she slept.
On the morrow, she said to the old man, "Get thee to the money-changer and fetch me the ordinary." So he repaired to the money-changer and delivered him the message, whereupon he made ready meat and drink, as of his wont, [with which the old man returned to the damsel and they ate till they had enough. When she had eaten,] she sought of him wine and he went to the Jew and fetched it. Then they sat down and drank; and when she grew drunken, she took the lute and smiting it, fell a-singing and chanted the following verses:
How long shall I thus question my heart that's drowned in woe? I'm mute for my complaining; but tears speak, as they flow. They have forbid their image to visit me in sleep; So even my nightly phantom forsaketh me, heigho!
And when she had made an end of her song, she wept sore.
All this time, the young Damascene was hearkening, and whiles he likened her voice to that of his slave-girl and whiles he put away from him this thought, and the damsel had no whit of knowledge of him. Then she broke out again into song and chanted the following verses:
"Forget him," quoth my censurers, "forget him; what is he?" "If I forget him, ne'er may God," quoth I, "remember me!" Now God forbid a slave forget his liege lord's love! And how Of all things in the world should I forget the love of thee? Pardon of God for everything I crave, except thy love, For on the day of meeting Him, that will my good deed be.
Then she drank three cups and filling the old man other three, sang the following verses:
His love he'd have hid, but his tears denounced him to the spy, For the heat of a red-hot coal that 'twixt his ribs did lie. Suppose for distraction he seek in the Spring and its blooms one day, The face of his loved one holds the only Spring for his eye. O blamer of me for the love of him who denieth his grace, Which be the delightsome of things, but those which the people deny? A sun [is my love;] but his heat in mine entrails still rageth, concealed; A moon, in the hearts of the folk he riseth, and not in the sky.
When she had made an end of her song, she threw the lute from her hand and wept, whilst the old man wept for her weeping. Then she fell down in a swoon and presently coming to herself, filled the cup and drinking it off, gave the old man to drink, after which she took the lute and breaking out into song, chanted the following verses:
Thy loss is the fairest of all my heart's woes; My case it hath altered and banished repose. The world is upon me all desolate grown. Alack, my long grief and forlornness! Who knows But the Merciful yet may incline thee to me And unite us again, in despite of our foes!
Then she wept till her voice rose high and her lamentation was discovered [to those without]; after which she again began to drink and plying the old man with wine, sang the following verses:
They have shut out thy person from my sight; They cannot shut thy memory from my spright. Favour or flout me, still my soul shall be Thy ransom, in contentment or despite. My outward of my inward testifies And this bears witness that that tells aright.[FN#39]
When she had made an end of her song, she threw the lute from her hand and wept and lamented. Then she slept awhile and presently awaking, said, "O elder, hast thou what we may eat?" "O my lady," answered the old man, "there is the rest of the food;" but she said, "I will not eat of a thing I have left. Go down to the market and fetch us what we may eat." Quoth he, "Excuse me, O my lady; I cannot stand up, for that I am overcome with wine; but with me is the servant of the mosque, who is a sharp youth and an intelligent. I will call him, so he may buy thee that which thou desirest." "Whence hast thou this servant?" asked she; and he replied, "He is of the people of Damascus." When she heard him speak of the people of Damascus, she gave a sob, that she swooned away; and when she came to herself, she said, "Woe's me for the people of Damascus and for those who are therein! Call him, O elder, that he may do our occasions."
So the old man put his head forth of the window and called the youth, who came to him from the mosque and sought leave [to enter]. The Muezzin bade him enter, and when he came in to the damsel, he knew her and she knew him; whereupon he turned back in bewilderment and would have fled; but she sprang up to him and seized him, and they embraced and wept together, till they fell down on the ground in a swoon. When the old man saw them in this plight, he feared for himself and fled forth, seeing not the way for drunkenness. His neighbour the Jew met him and said to him, "How comes it that I see thee confounded?" "How should I not be confounded," answered the old man, "seeing that the damsel who is with me is fallen in love with the servant of the mosque and they have embraced and fallen down in a swoon? Indeed, I fear lest the Khalif come to know of this and be wroth with me; so tell me thou what is to be done in this wherewith I am afflicted of the affair of this damsel." Quoth the Jew, "For the nonce, take this casting-bottle of rose-water and go forth-right and sprinkle them therewith. If they be aswoon for this their foregathering and embracement, they will come to themselves, and if otherwise, do thou flee."
The old man took the casting-bottle from the Jew and going up to Noureddin and the damsel, sprinkled their faces, whereupon they came to themselves and fell to relating to each other that which they had suffered, since their separation, for the anguish of severance. Moreover, Noureddin acquainted Sitt el Milah with that which he had endured from the folk who would have slain him and made away with him; and she said to him, "O my lord, let us presently give over this talk and praise God for reunion of loves, and all this shall cease from us." Then she gave him the cup and he said, "By Allah, I will nowise drink it, whilst I am in this plight!" So she drank it off before him and taking the lute, swept the strings and sang the following verses:
Thou that wast absent from my stead, yet still with me didst bide, Thou wast removed from mine eye, yet still wast by my side. Thou left'st unto me, after thee, languor and carefulness; I lived a life wherein no jot of sweetness I espied. For thy sweet sake, as 'twere, indeed, an exile I had been, Lone and deserted I became, lamenting, weeping-eyed. Alack, my grief! Thou wast, indeed, grown absent from my yiew, Yet art the apple of mine eye nor couldst from me divide.
When she had made an end of her song, she wept and Noureddin wept also. Then she took the lute and improvised and sang the following verses:
God knows I ne'er recalled thy memory to my thought, But still with brimming tears straightway mine eyes were fraught; Yea, passion raged in me and love-longing was like To slay me; yet my heart to solace still it wrought. Light of mine eyes, my hope, my wish, my thirsting eyes With looking on thy face can never sate their drought.
When Noureddin heard these his slave-girl's verses, he fell a-weeping, what 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, after such a wise as would move the phlegmatic to delight, and sang the following verses:
Whenas mine eyes behold thee not, that day As of my life I do not reckon aye; And when I long to look upon thy face, My life is perished with desire straightway.
On this wise they abode till the morning, tasting not the savour of sleep; and when the day lightened, behold, the eunuch came with the mule and said to Sitt el Milah, "The Commander of the Faithful calleth for thee." So she arose and taking her lord by the hand, committed him to the old man, saying, "I commend him to thy care, under God,[FN#40] till this eunuch cometh to thee; and indeed, O elder, I owe thee favour and largesse such as filleth the interspace 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 the earth before him. Quoth he to her, as who should make mock of her, "I doubt not but thou hast found thy lord." "By thy felicity and the length of thy continuance [on life,]" answered she, "I have indeed found him!" Now Er Reshid was leaning back; but, when he heard this, he sat up and said to her, "By my life, [is this thou sayest] true?" "Ay, by thy life!" answered she; and he said, "Bring him into my presence, so I may see him." But she replied, "O my lord, there have betided him many stresses and his charms are changed and his favour faded; and indeed the Commander of the Faithful 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 Er Reshid, "True; the condition was for a month; but tell me what hath betided him." "O my lord," answered she, "may God prolong thy continuance and make Paradise thy place of returning and thy harbourage and the fire the abiding-place of thine enemies, when he presenteth himself to pay his respects to thee, he will expound to thee his case and will name unto thee those who have wronged him; and indeed this is an arrear that is due to the Commander of the Faithful, in[FN#41] whom may God fortify the Faith and vouchsafe him the mastery over the rebel and the froward!"
Therewithal he ordered her a handsome house and bade furnish it with carpets and other furniture and vessels of choice and commanded that all she needed should be given her. This was done during the rest of the day, and when the night came, she despatched the eunuch with the mule and a suit of clothes, to fetch Noureddin from the Muezzin's lodging. So the young man donned the clothes and mounting; rode to the house, where he abode in luxury and delight a full-told month, what while she solaced him with four things, to wit, the eating of fowls and the drinking of wine and the lying upon brocade and the entering the bath after copulation. Moreover, she brought him six suits of clothes and fell to changing his apparel day by day; nor was the appointed time accomplished ere his beauty returned to him and his goodliness; nay, his charms waxed tenfold and he became a ravishment to all who looked on him.
One day the Commander of the Faithful bade bring him to the presence; so his slave-girl changed his raiment and clothing him in sumptuous apparel, mounted him on the mule. Then he rode to the palace and presenting himself before the Khalif, saluted him with the goodliest of salutations and bespoke him with eloquent and deep-thoughted speech. When Er Reshid saw him, he marvelled at the goodliness of his favour and his eloquence and the readiness of his speech and enquiring of him, was told that he was Sitt el Milah's lord; whereupon quoth he, "Indeed, she is excusable in her love for him, and if we had put her to death unrighteously, as we were minded to do, her blood would have been upon our heads." Then he turned to the young man and entering into discourse with him, found him well bred, intelligent, quick of wit and apprehension, generous, pleasant, elegant, erudite. So he loved him with an exceeding love and questioned him of his native city and of his father and of the manner of his journey to Baghdad. Noureddin acquainted him with that which he would know in the goodliest of words and with the concisest of expressions; and the Khalif said to him, "And where hast thou been absent all this while? Indeed, we sent after thee to Damascus and Mosul and other the towns, but lit on no tidings of thee." "O my lord," answered the young man, "there betided thy slave in thy city that which never yet betided any." And he acquainted him with his case from first to last and told him that which had befallen him of evil [from El Muradi and his crew].
When Er Reshid heard this, he was sore chagrined and waxed exceeding wroth and said, "Shall this happen in a city wherein I am?" And the Hashimi vein[FN#42] started out between his eyes. Then he bade fetch Jaafer, and when he came before him, he acquainted him with the matter and said to him, "Shall this come to pass in my city and I have no news of it?" Then he bade Jaafer fetch all whom the young Damascene had named [as having maltreated him], and when they came, he let smite off their heads. Moreover, he summoned him whom they called Ahmed 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 sumptuous dress of honour and invested him with the governance over his city.[FN#43]
Then he sent for the old man, the Muezzin, and when the messenger came to him and told him that the Commander of the Faithful sought him, he feared the denunciation of the damsel and accompanied him to the palace, walking and letting wind[FN#44] 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 embarrassed, [so that he could not speak]. The Khalif laughed at him and said to him, "O elder, thou hast done no offence; so [why] fearest thou?" "O my lord," answered the old man (and indeed he was in the sorest of that which may be of fear,) "by the virtue of thy pure forefathers, indeed I have done nought, and do thou enquire of my conduct." The Khalif laughed at him and ordering him a thousand dinars, bestowed on him a sumptuous dress of honour and made him chief of the Muezzins in his mosque.
Then he called Sitt el Milah and said to her, "The house [wherein thou lodgest] and that which is therein Is a guerdon [from me] to thy lord. So do thou take him and depart with him in the safeguard of God the Most High; but absent not yourselves from our presence." [So she went forth with Noureddin and] when she came to the house, she found that the Commander of the Faithful had sent them gifts galore and abundance of good things. As for Noureddin, he sent for his father and mother and appointed him agents and factors in the city of Damascus, to take the rent of the houses and gardens and khans and baths; and they occupied themselves 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 treasures and merchandise, and foregathering with their son, saw that he was become of the chief officers of the Commander of the Faithful and of the number of his session-mates and entertainers, wherefore they rejoiced in reunion with him and he also rejoiced in them.
The Khalif assigned them pensions and allowances and as for Noureddin, his father brought him those riches and his wealth waxed and his case was goodly, till he became the richest of the folk of his time in Baghdad and left not the presence of the Commander of the Faithful night or day. Moreover, he was vouchsafed children by Sitt el Milah, and he ceased not to live the most delightsome of lives, he and she and his father and mother, a while of time, till Aboulhusn sickened of a sore sickness and was admitted to the mercy of God the Most High. After awhile, his mother died also and he carried them forth and shrouded them and buried and made them expiations and nativities.[FN#45] Then his children grew up and became like unto moons, and he reared them in splendour and fondness, what while his wealth waxed and his case flourished. He ceased not to pay frequent visits to the Commander of the Faithful, he and his children and his slave-girl Sitt el Milah, and they abode, he and they, in all solace of life and prosperity till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and the Sunderer of Companies; and extolled be the perfection of the Abiding One, the Eternal! This is all that hath come down to us of their story.
EL ABBAS AND THE KING'S DAUGHTER OF BAGHDAD.[FN#46]
There was once, of old days and in bygone ages and times, in the city of Baghdad, the Abode of Peace, a king mighty of estate, lord of understanding and beneficence and liberality and generosity, and he was strong of sultanate and endowed with might and majesty and magnificence. His name was Ins ben Cais ben Rebiya es Sheibani,[FN#47] and when he took horse, there rode unto him [warriors] from the farthest parts of the two Iraks.[FN#48] God the Most High decreed that he should take to wife a woman hight Afifeh, daughter of Ased es Sundusi, who was endowed with beauty and grace and brightness and perfection and justness of shape and symmetry; her face was like unto the new moon and she had eyes as they were gazelle's eyes and an aquiline nose like the crescent moon. She had learned horsemanship and the use of arms and had thoroughly studied the sciences of the Arabs; moreover, she had gotten by heart all the dragomanish[FN#49] tongues and indeed she was a ravishment to mankind.
She abode with Ins ben Cais twelve years, during which time he was blessed with no children by her; wherefore his breast was straitened, by reason of the failure of lineage, and he besought his Lord to vouchsafe him a child. Accordingly the queen conceived, by permission of God the Most High; and when the days of her pregnancy were accomplished, she gave birth to a maid-child, than whom never saw eyes a goodlier, for that her face was as it were a pure pearl or a shining lamp or a golden[FN#50] candle or a full moon breaking forth of a cloud, extolled be the perfection of Him who created her from vile water[FN#51] and made her a delight to the beholders! When her father saw her on this wise of loveliness, his reason fled for joy, and when she grew up, he taught her the art of writing and polite letters[FN#52] and philosophy and all manner of tongues. So she excelled the folk of her time and overpassed her peers;[FN#53] and the sons of the kings heard of her and all of them desired to look upon her.
The first who sought her in marriage was King Nebhan of Mosul, who came to her with a great company, bringing with him an hundred she-camels laden with musk and aloes-wood and ambergris and as many laden with camphor and jewels and other hundred laden with silver money and yet other hundred laden with raiment of silken and other stuffs and brocade, besides an hundred slave-girls and an hundred magnificent horses of swift and generous breeds, completely housed and accoutred, as they were brides; and all this he laid before her father, demanding her of him in marriage. Now King Ins ben Cais had bound himself by an oath that he would not marry his daughter but to him whom she should choose; so, when King Nebhan sought her in marriage, her father went in to her and consulted her concerning his affair. She consented not and he repeated to Nebhan that which she said, whereupon he departed from him. After this came King Behram, lord of the White Island, with riches more than the first; but she accepted not of him and he returned, disappointed; nor did the kings give over coming to her father, on her account, one after other, from the farthest of the lands and the climes, each glorying in more[FN#54] than those who forewent him; but she paid no heed unto any of one them.
Presently, El Abbas, son of King El Aziz, lord of the land of Yemen and Zebidoun[FN#55] and Mecca (which God increase in honour and brightness and beauty!), heard of her; and he was of the great ones of Mecca and the Hejaz[FN#56] and was a youth without hair on his cheeks. So he presented himself one day in his father's sitting-chamber,[FN#57] whereupon the folk made way for him and the king seated him on a chair of red gold, set with pearls and jewels. The prince sat, with his head bowed to the ground, and spoke not to any; whereby his father knew that his breast was straitened and bade the boon-companions and men of wit relate marvellous histories, such as beseem the assemblies of kings; nor was there one of them but spoke forth the goodliest of that which was with him; but El Abbas still abode with his head bowed down. Then the king bade his session-mates withdraw, and when the chamber was void, he looked at his son and said to him, "By Allah, thou rejoicest me with thy coming in to me and chagrinest me for that thou payest no heed to any of the session-mates nor of the boon-companions. What is the cause of this?"
"O father mine," answered the prince, "I have heard tell that in the land of Irak is a woman of the daughters of the kings, and her father is called King Ins ben Cais, lord of Baghdad; she is renowned for beauty and grace and brightness and perfection, and indeed many folk have sought her in marriage of the kings; but her soul consented not unto any one of them. Wherefore I am minded to travel to her, for that my heart cleaveth unto her, and I beseech thee suffer me to go to her." "O my son," answered his father, "thou knowest that I have none other than thyself of children and thou art the solace of mine eyes and the fruit of mine entrails; nay, I cannot brook to be parted from thee an instant and I purpose to set thee on the throne of the kingship and marry thee to one of the daughters of the kings, who shall be fairer than she." El Abbas gave ear to his father's word and dared not gainsay him; so he abode with him awhile, whilst the fire raged in his entrails.
Then the king took counsel with himself to build his son a bath and adorn it with various paintings, so he might show it to him and divert him with the sight thereof, to the intent that his body might be solaced thereby and that the obsession of travel might cease from him and he be turned from [his purpose of] removal from his parents. So he addressed himself to the building of the bath and assembling architects and builders and artisans from all the towns and citadels and islands [of his dominions], assigned them a site and marked out its boundaries. Then the workmen occupied themselves with the making of the bath and the setting out and adornment of its cabinets and roofs. They used paints and precious stones of all kinds, according to the variousness of their hues, red and green and blue and yellow and what not else of all manner colours; and each artisan wrought at his handicraft and each painter at his art, whilst the rest of the folk busied themselves with transporting thither varicoloured stones.
One day, as the [chief] painter wrought at his work, there came in to him a poor man, who looked long upon him and observed his handicraft; whereupon quoth the painter to him, "Knowest thou aught of painting?" "Yes," answered the stranger; so he gave him tools and paints and said to him, "Make us a rare piece of work." So the stranger entered one of the chambers of the bath and drew [on the walls thereof] a double border, which he adorned on both sides, after a fashion than which never saw eyes a fairer. Moreover, [amiddleward the chamber] he drew a picture to which there lacked but the breath, and it was the portraiture of Mariyeh, the king's daughter of Baghdad. Then, when he had made an end of the portrait, he went his way [and told none of what he had done], nor knew any the chambers and doors of the bath and the adornment and ordinance thereof.
Presently, the chief workman came to the palace and sought an audience of the king, who bade admit him. So he entered and kissing the earth, saluted him with a salutation beseeming kings and said, "O king of the time and lord of the age and the day, may felicity endure unto thee and acceptance and be thy rank exalted over all the kings both morning and evening![FN#58] The work of the bath is accomplished, by the king's fair fortune and the eminence of his magnanimity,[FN#59] and indeed we have done all that behoved us and there remaineth but that which behoveth the king." El Aziz ordered him a sumptuous dress of honour and expended monies galore, giving unto each who had wroughten, after the measure of his work. Then he assembled in the bath all the grandees of his state, amirs and viziers and chamberlains and lieutenants, and the chief officers of his realm and household, and sending for his son El Abbas, said to him,"O my son, I have builded thee a bath, wherein thou mayst take thy pleasance; so enter thou therein, that thou mayst see it and divert thyself by gazing upon it and viewing the goodliness of its ordinance and decoration." "With all my heart," 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 wroughten.
El Abbas went in and passed from place to place and chamber to chamber, till he came to the chamber aforesaid and espied the portrait of Mariyeh, whereupon he fell down in a swoon and the workmen went to his father and said to him, "Thy son El Abbas hath swooned away." So the king came and finding the prince cast down, seated himself at his head and bathed his face with rose-water. After awhile he revived and the king said to him, "God keep thee,[FN#60] O my son! What hath befallen thee?" "O my father," answered the prince, "I did but look on yonder picture and it bequeathed me a thousand regrets and there befell me that which thou seest." Therewithal the king bade fetch the [chief] 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 will I take thy head." "By Allah, O king," answered the painter, "I limned it not, neither know I who she is; but there came to me a poor man and looked at me. So I said to him, 'Knowest thou the art of painting?' And he replied, 'Yes.' Whereupon I gave him the gear and said to him, 'Make us a rare piece of work.' So he wrought yonder portrait and went away and I know him not neither have I ever set eyes on him save that day."
Therewithal the king bade all his officers go round about in the thoroughfares and colleges [of the town] and bring before him all strangers whom they found there. So they went forth and brought him much people, amongst whom was the man who had painted the portrait. When they came into the presence, the Sultan bade the crier make proclamation that whoso wrought the portrait should discover himself and have whatsoever he desired. So the poor man came forward and kissing the earth before the king, said to him, "O king of the age, I am he who painted yonder portrait." Quoth El Aziz, "And knowest thou who she is?" "Yes," answered the other; "this is the portrait of Mariyeh, daughter of the king of Baghdad." The king ordered him a dress of honour and a slave-girl [and he went his way]. Then said El Abbas, "O father mine, give me leave to go to her, so I may look upon her; else shall I depart the world, without fail." The king his father wept and answered, saying, "O my son, I builded thee a bath, that it might divert thee from leaving me, and behold it hath been the cause of thy going forth; but the commandment of God is a foreordained[FN#61] decree."[FN#62]
Then he wept again and El Abbas said to him, "Fear not for me, for thou knowest my prowess and my puissance in returning answers in the assemblies of the land and my good breeding[FN#63] and skill in rhetoric; and indeed he 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 for him, more by token that I purpose but to seek diversion[FN#64] and return to thee, if it be the will of God the Most High." Quoth the king, "Whom wilt thou take with thee of attendants and [what] of good?" "O father mine," replied El Abbas, "I have no need of horses or camels or arms, for I purpose not battle, and I will have none go forth with me save my servant Aamir and no more."
As he and his father were thus engaged in talk, in came his mother and caught hold of him; and he said to her, "God on thee, let me go my gait and strive not to turn me from my purpose, for that needs must I go." "O my son," answered she, "if it must be so and there is no help for it, swear to me that them wilt not be absent from me more than a year." And he swore to her. Then he entered his father's treasuries and took therefrom what he would of jewels and jacinths and everything heavy of worth and light of carriage. Moreover, he bade his servant Aamir saddle him two horses and the like for himself, and whenas the night darkened behind him,[FN#65] he rose from his couch and mounting his horse, set out for Baghdad, he and Aamir, whilst the latter knew not whither he intended.
He gave not over going and the journey was pleasant to him, till they came to a goodly land, abounding in birds and wild beasts, whereupon El Abbas started a gazelle and shot it with an arrow. Then he dismounted and cutting its throat, said to his servant, "Alight thou and skin it and carry it to the water." Aamir answered him [with "Hearkening and obedience"] and going down to the water, kindled a fire and roasted the gazelle's flesh. Then they ate their fill and drank of the water, after which they mounted again and fared on diligently, and Aamir still unknowing whither El Abbas was minded to go. So he said to him, "O my lord, I conjure thee by God the Great, wilt thou not tell me whither thou intendest?" El Abbas looked at him and made answer with the following verses:
In my soul the fire of yearning and affliction rageth aye; Lo, I burn with love and longing; nought in answer can I say. To Baghdad upon a matter of all moment do I fare, For the love of one whose beauties have my reason led astray. Under me's a slender camel, a devourer of the waste; Those who pass a cloudlet deem it, as it flitteth o'er the way. So, O Aamir, haste thy going, e'en as I do, so may I Heal my sickness and the draining of the cup of love essay; For the longing that abideth in my heart is hard to bear. Fare with me, then, to my loved one. Answer nothing, but obey.
When Aamir heard his lord's verses, he knew that he was a slave of love [and that she of whom he was enamoured abode] in Baghdad. Then they fared on night and day, traversing plains and stony wastes, till they came in sight of Baghdad and lighted down in its suburbs[FN#66] and lay the night there. When they arose in the morning, they removed to the bank of the Tigris and there they encamped and sojourned three days.
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, O King!" Therewithal the king's chamberlains and officers accosted them and said to them, "What is behind you and what hath befallen you?" Quoth they, "Bring us before the king." [So they carried them to Ins ben Cais;] and when they saw him, they said to him, "O king, except thou succour us, we are dead men; for that we are a folk of the Benou Sheiban,[FN#67] who have taken up our abode in the parts of Bassora, and Hudheifeh the Arab[FN#68] hath come down on us with his horses and his men and hath slain our horsemen and carried off our women and children; nor was one saved of the tribe but he who fled; wherefore we crave help [first] by God the Most High, then by thy life."
When the king heard their speech, he bade the crier make proclamation in the thoroughfares of the city that the troops should prepare [for the march] and that the horsemen should mount and the footmen come forth; nor was it but the twinkling of the eye ere the drums beat and the trumpets sounded; and scarce was the forenoon of the day passed when the city was blocked with horse and foot. So the king passed them in review and behold, they were four-and-twenty thousand in number, horsemen and footmen. He bade them go forth to the enemy and gave the commandment over them to Said ibn el Wakidi, a doughty cavalier and a valiant man of war. So the horsemen set out and fared on along the bank of the Tigris.
El Abbas looked at them and saw the ensigns displayed and the standards loosed and heard the drums beating; so he bade his servant saddle him a charger and look to the girths and bring him his harness of war. Quoth Aamir, "And indeed I saw El Abbas his eyes flash and the hair of his hands stood on end, for that indeed horsemanship[FN#69] abode [rooted in his heart]."So he mounted his charger, whilst Aamir also bestrode a war-horse, and they went forth with the troops and fared on two days. On the third day, after the hour of the mid-afternoon prayer, they came in sight of the enemy and the two armies met and the ranks joined battle. The strife raged amain and sore was the smiting, whilst the dust rose in clouds and hung vaulted [over them], so that all eyes were blinded; and they ceased not from the battle till the night overtook them, when the two hosts drew off from the mellay and passed the night, perplexed concerning themselves [and the issue of their affair].
When God caused the morning morrow, the two armies drew out in battle array and the troops stood looking at one another. Then came forth El Harith ibn Saad between the two lines and played with his lance and cried out and recited the following verses:
Algates ye are our prey become; this many a day and night Right instantly of God we've craved to be vouchsafed your sight. So hath the Merciful towards Hudheifeh driven you, A champion ruling over all, a lion of great might. Is there a man of you will come, that I may heal his paint With blows right profitful for him who's sick for lust of fight?
By Allah, come ye forth to me, for lo, I'm come to you I May he who's wronged the victory get and God defend the right![FN#70]
Thereupon there sallied forth to him Zuheir ben Hebib, and they wheeled about and feinted awhile, then came to dose quarters and exchanged strokes. El Harith forewent his adversary in smiting and stretched him weltering in his gore; whereupon Hudheifeh cried out to him, saying, "Gifted of God art thou, O Harith! Call another of them." So he cried out, saying, "Is there a comer-forth [to battle?]" But they of Baghdad held back froni him; and when it appeared to El Harith that confusion was amongst them, he fell upon them and overthrew the first of them upon their last and slew of them twelve men. Then the evening overtook him and the Baghdadis addressed themselves to flight.
When the morning morrowed, they found themselves reduced to a fourth part of their number and there was not one of them had dismounted from his horse. So they made sure of destruction and Hudheifeh came out between the ranks (now he was reckoned for a thousand cavaliers) and cried out, saying, "Harkye, my masters of Baghdad! Let none come forth to me but your Amir, so I may talk with him and he with me; and he shall meet me in single combat and I will meet him, and may he who is void of offence come off safe!" Then he repeated his speech and said, "Why do I not hear your Amir return me an answer?" But Saad, the amir of the army of Baghdad, [replied not to him], and indeed his teeth chattered in his head, whenas he heard him summon him to single combat.
When El Abbas heard Hudheifeh's challenge and saw Saad in this case, he came up to the latter and said to him, "Wilt thou give me leave to reply to him and I will stand thee in stead in the answering of him and the going forth to battle with him and will make myself thy sacrifice?" Saad looked at him and seeing valour shining from between his eyes, said to him, "O youth, by the virtue of the Chosen [Prophet,] (whom God bless and keep,) tell me [who thou art and] whence thou comest to our succour." "This is no place for questioning," answered the prince; and Saad said to him, "O champion, up and at Hudheifeh! Yet, if his devil prove too strong for thee, afflict not thyself in thy youth."[FN#71] Quoth El Abbas, "It is of Allah that help is to be sought,"[FN#72] and taking his arms, fortified his resolution and went down [into the field], as he were a castle of the castles or a piece of a mountain.
[When] Hudheifeh [saw him], he cried out to him, saying, "Haste thee not, O youth! Who art thou of the folk?" And he answered, "I am Saad [ibn] el Wakidi, commander of the host of King Ins, and but that thou vauntedst thyself in challenging me, I had not come forth to thee; for that thou art not of my peers neither art counted equal to me in prowess and canst not avail against my onslaught. Wherefore prepare thee for departure,[FN#73] seeing that there abideth but a little of thy life." When Hudheifeh heard this his speech, he threw himself backward,[FN#74] as if in mockery of him, whereat El Abbas was wroth and called out to him, saying, "O Hudheifeh, guard thyself against me." Then he rushed upon him, as he were a swooper of the Jinn,[FN#75] and Hudheifeh met him and they wheeled about a long while.
Presently, El Abbas cried out at Hudheifeh a cry that astonied him and dealt him a blow, saying, "Take this from the hand of a champion who feareth not the like of thee." Hudheifeh met the stroke with his shield, thinking to ward it off from him; but the sword 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 El Abbas turned upon his host; nor had the sun departed the pavilion of the heavens ere Hudheifeh's army was in full flight before El Abbas and the saddles were empty of men. Quoth Saad, "By the virtue of the Chosen [Prophet], whom God bless and keep, I saw El Abbas with the blood upon his saddle pads, [in gouts] like camels' livers, smiting with the sword right and left, till he scattered them abroad in every mountain-pass and desert; and when he turned [back to the camp], the men of Baghdad were fearful of him."
When the Baghdadis saw this succour that had betided them against their enemies [and the victory that El Abbas had gotten them], they turned back and gathering together the spoils [of the defeated host], arms and treasures and horses, returned to Baghdad, victorious, and all by the valour of El Abbas. As for Saad, he foregathered with the prince, and they fared on in company till they came to the place where El Abbas had taken horse, whereupon the latter dismounted from his charger and Saad said to him, "O youth, wherefore alightest thou in other than thy place? Indeed, thy due is incumbent upon us and upon our Sultan; so go thou with us to the dwellings, that we may ransom thee with our souls." "O Amir Saad," replied El Abbas, "from this place I took horse with thee and herein is my lodging. So, God on thee, name me not to the king, but make as if thou hadst never seen me, for that I am a stranger in the land."
So saying, he turned away from him and Saad fared on to the palace, where he found all the suite in attendance on the king and recounting to him that which had betided them with El Abbas. Quoth the king, "Where is he?" And they answered, "He is with the Amir Saad." [So, when the latter entered], the king [looked, but] found none with him; and Saad, seeing that he hankered after the youth, cried out to him, saying, "God prolong the king's days! Indeed, he refuseth to present himself before thee, without leave or commandment." "O Saad," asked the king, "whence cometh this man?" And the Amir answered, "O my lord, I know not; but he is a youth fair of favour, lovesome of aspect, accomplished in discourse, goodly of repartee, and valour shineth from between his eyes."
Quoth the king, "O Saad, fetch him to me, for indeed thou describest to me a masterful man."[FN#76] And he answered, saying, "By Allah, O my lord, hadst thou but seen our case with Hudheifeh, what while he challenged me to the field of war and the stead of thrusting and smiting and I held back from doing battle with him! Then, whenas I thought to go forth to him, behold, a cavalier gave loose to his bridle-rein and called out to me, saying, 'O Saad, wilt thou suffer me to fill thy room in waging war with him and I will ransom thee with myself?' And I said, 'By Allah, O youth, whence cometh thou?' Quoth he, 'This is no time for thy questions.'" Then he recounted to the king all that had passed between himself and El Abbas from first to last; whereupon quoth Ins ben Cais, "Bring him to me in haste, so we may learn his tidings and question him of his case." "It is well," answered Saad, and going forth of the king's presence, repaired to his own house, where he put off his harness of war and took rest for himself.
To return to El Abbas, when he alighted from his charger, he put off his harness of war and rested awhile; after which he brought out a shirt of Venetian silk and a gown of green damask and donning them, covered himself with a turban of Damietta stuff and girt his middle with a handkerchief. Then he went out a-walking in the thoroughfares of Baghdad and fared on till he came to the bazaar of the merchants. There he found a merchant, with chess before him; so he stood watching him and presently the other looked up at him and said to him, "O youth, what wilt thou stake upon the game?" And he answered, "Be it thine to decide." "Then be it a hundred dinars," said the merchant, and El Abbas consented to him, whereupon quoth he, "O youth, produce the money, so the game may be fairly stablished." So El 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 did the like, and indeed his reason fled for joy, whenas he saw the gold in El Abbas his possession.
The folk flocked about them, to divert themselves with watching the play, and they called the bystanders to witness of the wager and fell a-playing. El Abbas forbore the merchant, so he might lead him on, and procrastinated with him awhile; and the merchant won and took of him the hundred dinars. Then said the prince, "Wilt thou play another game?" And the other answered, "O youth, I will not play again, except it be for a thousand dinars." Quoth the prince, "Whatsoever thou stakest, I will match thy stake with the like thereof." So the merchant brought out a thousand dinars and the prince covered them with other thousand. Then they fell a-playing, but El Abbas was not long with him ere he beat him in the square of the elephant,[FN#77] nor did he leave to do thus till he had beaten him four times and won of him four thousand dinars.
This was all the merchant's good; 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 El Abbas beat him and won his shop, with that which was therein; whereupon the other arose, shaking his clothes, and said to him, "Up, O youth, and take thy shop." So El Abbas arose and repairing to the shop, took possession thereof, after which he returned to [the place where he had left] his servant [Aamir] and found there the Amir Saad, who was come to bid him to the presence of the king. El Abbas consented to this and accompanied him till they came before King Ins ben Cais, whereupon he kissed the earth and saluted him and exceeded[FN#78] in the salutation. Quoth the king to him, "Whence comest thou, O youth?" and he answered, "I come from Yemen."
Then said the king, "Hast thou a need we may accomplish unto thee? For indeed we are exceeding beholden to thee for that which thou didst in the matter of Hudheifeh and his folk." And he let cast over him a mantle of Egyptian satin, worth an hundred dinars. Moreover, he bade his treasurer give him a thousand dinars and said to him, "O youth, take this in part of that which thou deserves! of us; and if thou prolong thy sojourn with us, we will give thee slaves and servants." El Abbas kissed the earth and said, "O king, may grant thee abiding prosperity, I deserve not all this." Then he put his hand to his poke and pulling out two caskets of gold, in each of which were rubies, whose value none could tell, gave them to the king, saying, "O king, God cause thy prosperity to endure, I conjure thee by that which God 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 El Abbas took his leave and went away to the bazaar.
When the merchants saw him, they accosted him and said, "O youth, wilt thou not open thy shop?" As they were bespeaking him, up came a woman, having with her a boy, bareheaded, and [stood] looking at El Abbas, till he turned to her, when she said to him, "O youth, I conjure thee by Allah, look at this boy and have pity on him, for that his father hath forgotten his cap in the shop [he lost to thee]; so if thou will well to give it to him, thy reward be with God! For indeed the child maketh our hearts ache with his much weeping, and God be witness for us that, were there left us aught wherewithal to buy him a cap in its stead, we had not sought it of thee." "O adornment of womankind," replied El Abbas, "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 the folk assembled to see what El Abbas would do. When the man came, he returned him the gold he had won of him, all and part, and delivered him the keys of the shop, saying, "Requite us with thy pious prayers."Therewithal the woman came up to him and kissed his feet, and on like wise did the merchant her husband; and all who were present blessed him, and there was no talk but of El Abbas.
As for the merchant, he bought him a sheep and slaughtering it, roasted it and dressed birds and [other] meats of various kinds and colours and bought dessert and sweetmeats and fresh fruits. Then he repaired to El Abbas and conjured him to accept of his hospitality and enter his house and eat of his victual. The prince consented to his wishes and went with him till they came to his house, when the merchant bade him enter. So El Abbas entered and saw a goodly house, wherein was a handsome saloon, with a vaulted estrade. When he entered the saloon, he found that the merchant had made ready food and dessert and perfumes, such as overpass description; and indeed he had adorned the table with sweet-scented flowers and sprinkled musk and rose-water upon the food. Moreover, he had smeared the walls of the saloon with ambergris and set [the smoke of burning] aloes-wood abroach therein.
Presently, El Abbas looked out of the window of the saloon and saw thereby a house of goodly ordinance, lofty of building and abounding in chambers, with two upper stories; but therein was no sign of inhabitants. So he said to the merchant, "Indeed, thou exceedest in doing us honour; but, by Allah, I will not eat of thy victual till thou tell me what is the reason of the emptiness of yonder house." "O my lord," answered the other, "that was El Ghitrif's house and he was admitted to the mercy of God[FN#79] and left none other heir than myself; so it became mine, and by Allah, if thou hast a mind to sojourn in Baghdad, do thou take up thine abode in this house, so thou mayst be in my neighbourhood; for that indeed my heart inclineth unto thee with love and I would have thee never absent from my sight, so I may still have my fill of thee and hearken to thy speech." El Abbas thanked him and said to him, "Indeed, thou art friendly in thy speech and exceedest [in courtesy] in thy discourse, and needs must I sojourn in Baghdad. As for the house, if it like thee, I will abide therein; so take of me its price."
So saying, he put his hand to his poke and bringing out therefrom three hundred dinars, gave them to the merchant, who said in himself, "Except I take the money, he will not abide in the house." So he pouched the money and sold him the house, taking the folk to witness against himself of the sale. Then he arose and set food before El Abbas and they ate of the good things which he had provided; after which he brought him dessert and sweetmeats. They ate thereof till they had enough, when the tables were removed and they washed their hands with rose-water and willow-flower-water. Then the merchant brought El Abbas a napkin perfumed with the fragrant smoke of aloes-wood, on which he wiped his hand,[FN#80] and said to him, "O my lord, the house is become thy house; so bid thy servant transport thither the horses and arms and stuffs." El Abbas did this and the merchant rejoiced in his neighbourhood and left him not night nor day, so that the prince said to him, "By Allah, I distract thee from thy livelihood." "God on thee, O my lord," replied the merchant, "name not to me aught of this, or thou wilt break my heart, for the best of traffic is thy company and thou art the best of livelihood." So there befell strait friendship between them and ceremony was laid aside from between them.
Meanwhile the king said to his vizier, "How shall we do in the matter of yonder youth, the Yemani, on whom we thought to confer largesse, but he hath largessed us with tenfold [our gift] and more, and we know not if he be a sojourner with us or no?" Then he went into the harem and gave the rubies to his wife Afifeh, who said to him, "What is the worth of these with thee and with [other] the kings?" And he answered, "They are not to be found save with the greatest of kings and none may avail to price them with money." Quoth she, "Whence gottest thou them?" So he recounted to her the story of El Abbas from first to last, and she said, "By Allah, the claims of honour are imperative on us and the king hath fallen short of his due; for that we have not seen him bid him 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 of the harem and bade slaughter fowls and dress meats of all kinds and colours. Moreover, he assembled all his retainers and let bring sweetmeats and dessert and all that beseemeth unto kings' tables. Then he adorned his palace and despatched after El Abbas a man of the chief officers of his household, who found him coming forth of the bath, clad in a doublet of fine goats' hair and over it a Baghdadi scarf; his waist was girt with a Rustec[FN#81] kerchief and on his head he wore a light turban of Damietta make.
The messenger wished him joy of the bath and exceeded in doing him worship. Then he said to him, "The king biddeth thee in weal."[FN#82] "Hearkening and obedience," answered El Abbas and accompanied the messenger to the king's palace.
Now Afifeh and her daughter Mariyeh were behind the curtain, looking at him; and when he came before the king, he saluted him and greeted him with the greeting of kings, whilst all who were present stared at him and at his beauty and grace and perfection. The king seated him at the head of the table; and when Afifeh saw him and straitly considered him, 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 but for some high purpose!" Then she looked at Mariyeh and saw that her face was changed, and indeed her eyes were dead in her face and she turned not her gaze from El Abbas a glance of the eyes, for that the love of him had gotten hold upon her heart. When the queen saw what had befallen her daughter, she feared for her from reproach concerning El Abbas; so she shut the wicket of the lattice and suffered her not to look upon him more. Now there was a pavilion set apart for Mariyeh, and therein were privy chambers and balconies and lattices, and she had with her a nurse, who served her, after the fashion of kings' daughters.