Tales from the Arabic Volumes 1-3
by John Payne
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When the banquet was ended and the folk had dispersed, the king said to El Abbas, "I would fain have thee [abide] with me and I will buy thee a house, so haply we may requite thee the high services for which we are beholden to thee; for indeed thy due is imperative [upon us] and thy worth is magnified in our eyes; and indeed we have fallen short of thy due in the matter of distance."[FN#83] When the prince heard the king's speech, he rose and sat down[FN#84] and kissing the earth, returned thanks for his bounty and said, "I am the king's servant, wheresoever I may be, and under his eye." Then he recounted to him the story of the merchant and the manner of the buying of the house, and the king said, "Indeed, I would fain have had thee with me and in my neighbourhood."

Then El Abbas took leave of the king and went away to his own house. Now it befell that he passed under the palace of Mariyeh the king's daughter, and she was sitting at a window. He chanced to look round and his eyes met those of the princess, whereupon his wit departed and he was like to swoon away, whilst his colour changed and he said, "Verily, we are God's and to Him we return!" But he feared for himself lest estrangement betide him; so he concealed his secret and discovered not his case to any of the creatures of God the Most High. When he reached his house, his servant Aamir said to him, "O my lord, I seek refuge for thee with God from change of colour! Hath there betided thee a pain from God the Most High or hath aught of vexation befallen thee? Verily, sickness hath an end and patience doth away vexation." But the prince returned him no answer. Then he brought out inkhorn [and pen] and paper and wrote the following verses:

Quoth I (and mine a body is of passion all forslain, Ay, and a heart that's all athirst for love and longing pain And eye that knoweth not the sweet of sleep; yet she, who caused My dole, may Fortune's perfidies for aye from her abstain! Yea, for the perfidies of Fate and sev'rance I'm become Even as was Bishr[FN#85] of old time with Hind,[FN#86] a fearful swain; A talking-stock among the folk for ever I abide; Life and the days pass by, yet ne'er my wishes I attain), "Knoweth my loved one when I see her at the lattice high Shine as the sun that flameth forth in heaven's blue demesne?" Her eye is sharper than a sword; the soul with ecstasy It takes and longing leaves behind, that nothing may assain. As at the casement high she sat, her charms I might espy, For from her cheeks the envious veil that hid them she had ta'en. She shot at me a shaft that reached my heart and I became The bond- man of despair, worn out with effort all in vain. Fawn of the palace, knowst thou not that I, to look on thee, The world have traversed, far and wide, o'er many a hill and plain? Read then my writ and pity thou the blackness of my fate, Sick, love- distraught, without a friend to whom I may complain.

Now the merchant's wife aforesaid, who was the nurse of the king's daughter, was watching him from a window, unknown of him, and [when she heard his verses], she knew that there hung some rare story by him; so she went in to him and said, "Peace be on thee, O afflicted one, who acquaintest not physician with thy case! Verily, thou exposest thyself unto grievous peril! I conjure thee by the virtue of Him who hath afflicted thee and stricken thee with the constraint of love-liking, that thou acquaint me with thine affair and discover to me the truth of thy secret; for that indeed I have heard from thee verses that trouble the wit and dissolve the body." So he acquainted her with his case and enjoined her to secrecy, whereof she consented unto him, saying, "What shall be the recompense of whoso goeth with thy letter and bringeth thee an answer thereto?" He bowed his head for shamefastness before her [and was silent]; and she said to him, "Raise thy head and give me thy letter." So he gave her the letter and she took it and carrying it to the princess, said to her, "Read this letter and give me the answer thereto."

Now the liefest of all things to Mariyeh was the recitation of poems and verses and linked rhymes and the twanging [of the strings of the lute], and she was versed in all tongues; so she took the letter and opening it, read that which was therein and apprehended its purport. Then she cast it on the ground and said, "O nurse, I have no answer to make to this letter." Quoth the nurse, "Indeed, this is weakness in thee and a reproach unto thee, for that the people of the world have heard of thee and still praise thee for keenness of wit and apprehension; so do thou return him an answer, such as shall delude his heart and weary his soul." "O nurse," rejoined the princess, "who is this that presumeth upon me with this letter? Belike he is the stranger youth who gave my father the rubies." "It is himself," answered the woman, and Mariyeh said, "I will answer his letter on such a wise that thou shalt not bring me other than it [from him]." Quoth the nurse, "So be it." So the princess called for inkhorn and paper and wrote the following verses:

O'erbold art thou in that to me, a stranger, thou hast sent These verses; 'twill but add to thee unease and miscontent. Now God forbid thou shouldst attain thy wishes! What care I If thou have looked on me a look that caused thee languishment? Who art thou, wretch, that thou shouldst hope to win me? With thy rhymes What wouldst of me? Thy reason, sure, with passion is forspent. If to my favours thou aspire and covet me, good lack! What leach such madness can assain or what medicament? Leave rhyming, madman that thou art, lest, bound upon the cross, Thou thy presumption in the stead of abjectness repent. Deem not, O youth, that I to thee incline; indeed, no part Have I in those who walk the ways, the children of the tent.[FN#87] In the wide world no house thou hast, a homeless wanderer thou: To thine own place thou shall be borne, an object for lament.[FN#88] Forbear thy verse-making, O thou that harbourest in the camp, Lest to the gleemen thou become a name of wonderment. How many a lover, who aspires to union with his love, For all his hopes seem near, is baulked of that whereon he's bent! Then get thee gone nor covet that which thou shall ne'er obtain; So shall it be, although the time seem near and the event. Thus unto thee have I set forth my case; consider well My words, so thou mayst guided be aright by their intent.

When she had made an end of her verses, she folded the letter and delivered it to the nurse, who took it and went with it to El Abbas. When she gave it to him, he took it and breaking it open, read it and apprehended its purport; and when he came to the end of it, he swooned away. After awhile, he came to himself and said, "Praised be God who hath caused her return an answer to my letter! Canst thou carry her another letter, and with God the Most High be thy requital?" Quoth she, "And what shall letters profit thee, seeing she answereth on this wise?" But he said, "Belike, she may yet be softened." Then he took inkhorn and paper and wrote the following verses:

Thy letter reached me; when the words thou wrot'st therein I read, My longing waxed and pain and woe redoubled on my head. Yea, wonder-words I read therein, my trouble that increased And caused emaciation wear my body to a shred. Would God thou knewst what I endure for love of thee and how My vitals for thy cruelty are all forspent and dead! Fain, fain would I forget thy love. Alack, my heart denies To be consoled, and 'gainst thy wrath nought standeth me in stead. An thou'dst vouchsafe to favour me,'twould lighten my despair, Though but in dreams thine image 'twere that visited my bed. Persist not on my weakliness with thy disdain nor be Treason and breach of love its troth to thee attributed; For know that hither have I fared and come to this thy land, By hopes of union with thee and near fruition led. How oft I've waked, whilst over me my comrades kept the watch! How many a stony waste I've crossed, how many a desert dread! From mine own land, to visit thee, I came at love's command, For all the distance did forbid,'twixt me and thee that spread. Wherefore, by Him who letteth waste my frame, have ruth on me And quench my yearning and the fires by passion in me fed. In glory's raiment clad, by thee the stars of heaven are shamed And in amaze the full moon stares to see thy goodlihead. All charms, indeed, thou dost comprise; so who shall vie with thee And who shall blame me if for love of such a fair I'm sped?

When he had made an end of his verses, he folded the letter and delivering it to the nurse, charged her keep the secret. So she took it and carrying it to Mariyeh, gave it to her. The princess broke it open and read it and apprehended its purport. Then said she, "By Allah, O nurse, my heart is burdened with an exceeding chagrin, never knew I a dourer, because of this correspondence and of these verses." And the muse made answer to her, saying, "O my lady, thou art in thy dwelling and thy place and thy heart is void of care; so return him an answer and reck thou not" Accordingly, the princess called for inkhorn and paper and wrote the following verses:

Thou that the dupe of yearning art, how many a melting wight In waiting for the unkept tryst doth watch the weary night! If in night's blackness thou hast plunged into the desert's heart And hast denied thine eyes the taste of sleep and its delight, If near and far thy toiling feet have trod the ways and thou Devils and Marids hast ensued nor wouldst be led aright, And dar'dst, O dweller in the tents, to lift thine eyes to me, Hoping by stress to win of me the amorous delight, Get thee to patience fair, if thou remember thee of that Whose issues (quoth the Merciful) are ever benedight.[FN#89] How many a king for my sweet sake with other kings hath vied, Still craving union with me and suing for my sight! Whenas En Nebhan strove to win my grace, himself to me With camel- loads he did commend of musk and camphor white, And aloes-wood, to boot, he brought and caskets full of pearls And priceless rubies and the like of costly gems and bright; Yea, and black slaves he proffered me and slave-girls big with child And steeds of price, with splendid arms and trappings rich bedight. Raiment of silk and sendal, too, he brought to us for gift, And me in marriage sought therewith; yet, all his pains despite, Of me he got not what he sought and brideless did return, For that estrangement and disdain were pleasing in my sight. Wherefore, O stranger, dare thou not approach me with desire, Lest ruin quick and pitiless thy hardihood requite.

When she had made an end of her verses, she folded the letter and delivered it to the nurse, who took it and carried it to El Abbas. He broke it open and read it and apprehended its purport; then took inkhorn and paper and wrote the following verses:

Indeed, thou'st told the tale of kings and men of might, Each one a lion fierce, impetuous in the fight, Whose wits (like mine, alack!) thou stalest and whose hearts With shafts from out thine eyes bewitching thou didst smite. Yea, and how slaves and steeds and good and virgin girls Were proffered thee to gift, thou hast not failed to cite, How presents in great store thou didst refuse and eke The givers, great and small, with flouting didst requite. Then came I after them, desiring thee, with me No second save my sword, my falchion keen and bright. No slaves with me have I nor camels swift of foot, Nor slave-girls have I brought in curtained litters dight. Yet, an thou wilt vouchsafe thy favours unto me, My sabre thou shalt see the foemen put to flight; Ay, and around Baghdad the horsemen shalt behold, Like clouds that wall the world, full many a doughty knight, All hearkening to my word, obeying my command, In whatsoever thing is pleasing to my sight. If slaves thou fain wouldst have by thousands every day Or, kneeling at thy feet, see kings of mickle might, And horses eke wouldst have led to thee day by day And girls, high- breasted maids, and damsels black and white, Lo under my command the land of Yemen is And trenchant is my sword against the foe in fight. Whenas the couriers came with news of thee, how fair Thou wast and sweet and how thy visage shone with light, All, all, for thy sweet sake, I left; ay, I forsook Aziz, my sire, and those akin to me that hight And unto Irak fared, my way to thee to make, And crossed the stony wastes i' the darkness of the night. Then sent I speech to thee in verses such as burn The heart; reproach therein was none nor yet unright; Yet with perfidiousness (sure Fortune's self as thou Ne'er so perfidious was) my love thou didst requite And deemedst me a waif, a homeless good-for-nought, A slave-begotten brat, a wanton, witless wight.

Then he folded the letter and committed it to the nurse and gave her five hundred dinars, saying, "Accept this from me, for that indeed thou hast wearied thyself between us." "By Allah, O my lord," answered she, "my desire is to bring about union between you, though I lose that which my right hand possesseth." And he said, "May God the Most High requite thee with good!" Then she carried the letter to Mariyeh and said to her, "Take this letter; belike it may be the end of the correspondence." So she took it and breaking it open, read it, and when she had made an end of it, she turned to the nurse and said to her, "This fellow putteth off lies upon me and avoucheth unto me that he hath cities and horsemen and footmen at his command and submitting to his allegiance; and he seeketh of me that which he shall not obtain; for thou knowest, O nurse, that kings' sons have sought me in marriage, with presents and rarities; but I have paid no heed unto aught of this; so how shall I accept of this fellow, who is the fool[FN#90] of his time and possesseth nought but two caskets of rubies, which he gave to my father, and indeed he hath taken up his abode in the house of El Ghitrif and abideth without silver or gold? Wherefore, I conjure thee by Allah, O nurse, return to him and cut off his hope of me."

Accordingly the nurse returned to El Abbas, without letter or answer; and when she came in to him, he saw that she was troubled and noted the marks of chagrin on her face; so he said to her, "What is this plight?" Quoth she, "I cannot set out to thee that which Mariyeh said; for indeed she charged me return to thee without letter or answer." "O nurse of kings," rejoined El Abbas, "I would have thee carry her this letter and return not to her without it." Then he took inkhorn and paper and wrote the following verses:

My secret is disclosed, the which I strove to hide; Of thee and of thy love enough have I abyed. My kinsmen and my friends for thee I did forsake And left them weeping tears that poured as 'twere a tide. Yea, to Baghdad I came, where rigour gave me chase And I was overthrown of cruelty and pride. Repression's draught, by cups, from the beloved's hand I've quaffed; with colocynth for wine she hath me plied. Oft as I strove to make her keep the troth of love, Unto concealment's ways still would she turn aside. My body is dissolved with sufferance in vain; Relenting, ay, and grace I hoped should yet betide; But rigour still hath waxed on me and changed my case And love hath left me bound, afflicted, weeping-eyed. How long shall I anights distracted be for love Of thee? How long th' assaults of grief and woes abide? Thou, thou enjoy'st repose and comfortable sleep, Nor of the mis'ries reckst by which my heart is wried. I watch the stars for wake and pray that the belov'd May yet to me relent and bid my tears be dried. The pains of long desire have wasted me away; Estrangement and disdain my body sore have tried. "Be thou not hard of heart," quoth I. Had ye but deigned To visit me in dreams, I had been satisfied. But when ye saw my writ, the standard ye o'erthrew Of faith, your favours grudged and aught of grace denied. Nay, though ye read therein discourse that sure should speak To heart and soul, no word thereunto ye replied, But deemed yourself secure from every changing chance Nor recked the ebb and flow of Fortune's treacherous tide. Were my affliction thine, love's anguish hadst thou dreed And in the flaming hell of long estrangement sighed. Yet shall thou suffer that which I from thee have borne And with love's woes thy heart shall yet be mortified. The bitterness of false accusing shall thou taste And eke the thing reveal that thou art fain to hide; Yea, he thou lov'st shall be hard-hearted, recking not Of fortune's turns or fate's caprices, in his pride. Wherewith farewell, quoth I, and peace be on thee aye, What while the branches bend, what while the stars abide.

When he had made an end of his verses, he folded the letter and gave it to the nurse, who took it and carried it to Mariyeh. When she came into the princess's presence, she saluted her; but Mariyeh returned not her salutation and she said, "O my lady, how hard is thy heart that thou grudgest to return the salutation! Take this letter, for that it is the last of that which shall come to thee from him." Quoth Mariyeh, "Take my warning and never again enter my palace, or it will be the cause of thy destruction; for I am certified that thou purposest my dishonour. So get thee gone from me." And she commanded to beat the nurse; whereupon the latter went forth fleeing from her presence, changed of colour and absent of wits, and gave not over going till she came to the house of El Abbas.

When the prince saw her in this plight, he was as a sleeper awakened and said to her, "What hath befallen thee? Set out to me thy case." "God on thee," answered she, "nevermore send me to Mariyeh, and do thou protect me, so may God protect thee from the fires of hell!" Then she related to him that which had bedded her with Mariyeh; which when he heard, there took him the shamefastness of the generous and this was grievous unto him. The love of Mariyeh fled forth of his heart and he said to the nurse, "How much hadst thou of Mariyeh every month?" "Ten dinars," answered she, and he said, "Be not concerned." Then he put his hand to his poke and bringing out two hundred dinars, gave them to her and said, "Take this for a whole year's wage and turn not again to serve any one. When the year is out, I will give thee two years' wage, for that thou hast wearied thyself with us and on account of the cutting off of thy dependence upon Mariyeh."

Moreover, he gave her a complete suit of clothes and raising his head to her, said, "When thou toldest me that which Mariyeh had done with thee, God rooted out the love of her from my heart, and never again will she occur to my mind; so extolled be the perfection of Him who turneth hearts and eyes! It was she who was the cause of my coming out from Yemen, and now the time is past for which I engaged with my people and I fear lest my father levy his troops and come forth in quest of me, for that he hath no child other than myself and cannot brook to be parted from me; and on like wise is it with my mother." When the nurse heard his words, she said to him, "O my lord, and which of the kings is thy father?" "My father is El Aziz, lord of Yemen and Nubia and the Islands[FN#91] of the Benou Kehtan and the Two Noble Sanctuaries[FN#92] (God the Most High have them in His keeping!)," answered El Abbas; "and whenas he taketh horse, there mount with him an hundred and twenty and four thousand horsemen, all smiters with the sword, let alone attendants and servants and followers, all of whom give ear unto my word and obey my commandment." "Why, then, O my lord," asked the nurse, "didst thou conceal the secret of thy rank and lineage and passedst thyself off for a wayfarer? Alas for our disgrace before thee by reason of our shortcoming in rendering thee thy due! What shall be our excuse with thee, and thou of the sons of the kings?" But he rejoined, "By Allah, thou hast not fallen short! Nay, it is incumbent on me to requite thee, what while I live, though I be far distant from thee."

Then he called his servant Aamir and said to him, "Saddle the horses." When the nurse heard his words and indeed [she saw that] Aamir brought him the horses and they were resolved upon departure, the tears ran down upon her cheeks and she said to him, "By Allah, thy separation is grievous to me, O solace of the eye!" Then said she, "Where is the goal of thine intent, so we may know thy news and solace ourselves with thy report?" Quoth he, "I go hence to visit Akil, the son of my father's brother, for that he hath his sojourn in the camp of Kundeh ben Hisham, and these twenty years have I not seen him nor he me; wherefore I purpose to repair to him and discover his news and return hither. Then will I go hence to Yemen, if it be the will of God the Most High."

So saying, he took leave of the woman and her husband and set out, intending for Akil, his father's brother's son. Now there was between Baghdad and Akil's abiding-place forty days' journey; so El Abbas settled himself on the back of his courser and his servant Aamir mounted also and they fared forth on their way. Presently, El Abbas turned right and left and recited the following verses:

I am the champion-slayer, the warrior without peer; My foes I slay, destroying the hosts, when I appear. Tow'rds El Akil my journey I take; to visit him, The wastes in praise and safety I traverse, without fear, And all the desert spaces devour, whilst to my rede, Or if in sport or earnest,[FN#93] still Aamir giveth ear. Who letteth us or hind'reth our way, I spring on him, As springeth lynx or panther upon the frighted deer; With ruin I o'erwhelm him and abjectness and woe And cause him quaff the goblet of death and distance drear. Well-ground my polished sword is and thin and keen of edge And trenchant, eke, for smiting and long my steel-barbed spear. So fell and fierce my stroke is, if on a mountain high It lit, though all of granite, right through its midst 'twould shear. Nor troops have I nor henchmen nor one to lend me aid Save God, to whom, my Maker, my voice in praise I rear. 'Tis He who pardoneth errors alike to slave and free; On Him is my reliance in good and evil cheer.

Then they fell to journeying night and day, and as they went, behold, they sighted a camp of the camps of the Arabs. So El Abbas enquired thereof and was told that it was the camp of the Benou Zuhreh. Now there were around them sheep and cattle, such as filled the earth, and they were enemies to El Akil, the cousin of El Abbas, upon whom they still made raids and took his cattle; wherefore he used to pay them tribute every year, for that he availed not to cope with them. When El Abbas came near the camp, he dismounted from his courser and his servant Aamir also dismounted; and they set down the victual and ate their sufficiency and rested awhile of the day. Then said the prince to Aamir, "Fetch water and give the horses to drink and draw water for us in thy water-bag, by way of provision for the road."

So Aamir took the water-skin and made for the water; but, when he came to the well, behold, two young men with gazelles, and when they saw him, they said to him, "Whither wilt thou, O youth, and of which of the Arabs art thou?" "Harkye, lads," answered he, "fill me my water-skin, for that I am a stranger man and a wayfarer and I have a comrade who awaiteth me." Quoth they, "Thou art no wayfarer, but a spy from El Akil's camp." Then they took him and carried him to [their king] Zuheir ben Shebib; and when he came before him, he said to him, "Of which of the Arabs art thou?" Quoth Aamir, "I am a wayfarer." And Zuheir said, "Whence comest thou and whither wilt thou?" "I am on my way to Akil," answered Aamir. When he named Akil, those who were present were agitated; but Zuheir signed to them with his eyes and said to him, "What is thine errand with Akil?" Quoth he, "We would fain see him, my friend and I."

When Zuheir heard his words, he bade smite off his head; but his Vizier said to him, "Slay him not, till his friend be present." So he commanded the two slaves to fetch his friend; whereupon they repaired to El Abbas and called to him, saying, "O youth, answer the summons of King Zuheir." "What would the king with me?" asked he, and they answered, "We know not." Quoth he, "Who gave the king news of me?" "We went to draw water," answered they, "and found a man by the water. So we questioned him of his case, but he would not acquaint us therewith; wherefore we carried him perforce to King Zuheir, who questioned him of his case and he told him that he was going to Akil. Now Akil is the king's enemy and he purposeth to betake himself to his camp and make prize of his offspring and cut off his traces." "And what," asked El Abbas, "hath Akil done with King Zuheir?" And they replied, "He engaged for himself that he would bring the king every year a thousand dinars and a thousand she-camels, besides a thousand head of thoroughbred horses and two hundred black slaves and fifty slave-girls; but it hath reached the king that Akil purposeth to give nought of this; wherefore he is minded to go to him. So hasten thou with us, ere the king be wroth with thee and with us."

Then said El Abbas to them, "O youths, sit by my arms and my horse till I return." But they answered, saying, "By Allah, thou prolongest discourse with that which beseemeth not of words! Make haste, or we will go with thy head, for indeed the king purposeth to slay thee and to slay thy comrade and take that which is with you." When the prince heard this, his skin quaked and he cried out at them with a cry that made them tremble. Then he sprang upon his horse and settling himself in the saddle, galloped till he came to the king's assembly, when he cried out at the top of his voice, saying ["To horse,] cavaliers!" And levelled his spear at the pavilion wherein was Zuheir. Now there were about him a thousand smiters with the sword; but El Abbas fell in upon them and dispersed them from around him, and there abode none in the tent save Zuheir and his vizier.

Then came up El Abbas to the door of the tent, and therein were four-and-twenty golden doves; so he took them, after he had beaten them down with the end of his lance. Then he called out, saying, "Harkye, Zuheir! Doth it not suffice thee that thou hast quelled El Akil's repute, but thou art minded to quell that of those who sojourn round about him? Knowest thou not that he is of the lieutenants of Kundeh ben [Hisham of the Benou] Sheiban, a man renowned for prowess? Indeed, covetise of him hath entered into thee and jealousy of him hath gotten possession of thee. Doth it not suffice thee that thou hast orphaned his children[FN#94] and slain his men? By the virtue of the Chosen Prophet, I will make thee drink the cup of death!" So saying, he drew his sword and smiting Zuheir on his shoulder, caused the steel issue, gleaming, from the tendons of his throat. Then he smote the vizier and clove his head in sunder.

As he was thus, behold, Aamir called out to him and said, "O my lord, come to my help, or I am a dead man!" So El Abbas went up to him and found him cast down on his back and chained with four chains to four pickets of iron. He loosed his bonds and said to him, "Go before me, O Aamir." So he fared on before him a little, and presently they looked, and behold, horsemen making to Zuheir's succour, to wit, twelve thousand cavaliers, with Sehl ben Kaab in their van, mounted upon a jet-black steed. He charged upon Aamir, who fled from him, then upon El Abbas, who said, "O Aamir, cleave fast to my horse and guard my back." Aamir did as he bade him, whereupon El Abbas cried out at the folk and falling upon them, overthrew their braves and slew of them nigh two thousand cavaliers, whilst not one of them knew what was to do nor with whom he fought. Then said one of them to other, "Verily, the king is slain; so with whom do we wage war? Indeed ye flee from him; so do ye enter under his banners, or not one of you will be saved."

Thereupon they all dismounted and putting off that which was upon them of harness of war, came before El Abbas and tendered him allegiance and sued for his protection. So he held his hand from them and bade them gather together the spoils. Then he took the riches and the slaves and the camels, and they all became his liege-men and his retainers, to the number (according to that which is said) of fifty thousand horse. Moreover, the folk heard of him and flocked to him from all sides; whereupon he divided [the spoil amongst them] and gave gifts and abode thus three days, and there came presents to him. Then he bade set out for Akil's abiding-place; so they fared on six days and on the seventh day they came in sight of the camp. El Abbas bade his man Aamir forego him and give Akil the glad news of his cousin's coming. So he rode on to the camp and going in to Akil, gave him the glad news of Zuheir's slaughter and the conquest of his tribe.

Akil rejoiced in the coming of El Abbas and the slaughter of his enemy and all in his camp rejoiced also and cast dresses of honour upon Aamir. Moreover, Akil bade go forth to meet El Abbas, and commanded that none, great or small, freeman or slave, should tarry behind. So they did his bidding and going forth all, met El Abbas at three parasangs' distance from the camp. When they met him, they all dismounted from their horses and Akil and he embraced and clapped hands.[FN#95] Then they returned, rejoicing in the coming of El Abbas and the slaughter of their enemy, to the camp, where tents were pitched for the new-comers and carpets spread and game killed and beasts slaughtered and royal guest-meals spread; and on this wise they abode twenty days, in the enjoyment of all delight and solace of life.

To return to King El Aziz. When his son El Abbas left him, he was desolated for him with an exceeding desolation, he and his mother; and when tidings of him tarried long and the appointed time passed [and the prince returned not], the king caused public proclamation to be made, commanding all his troops to make ready to mount and go forth in quest of his son El Abbas at the end of three days, after which time no cause of hindrance nor excuse should be admitted unto any. So on the fourth day, the king bade number the troops, and behold, they were four-and-twenty thousand horse, besides servants and followers. Accordingly, they reared the standards and the drums beat to departure and the king set out [with his army], intending for Baghdad; nor did he cease to fare on with all diligence, till he came within half a day's journey of the city and bade his troops encamp in [a place there called] the Green Meadow. So they pitched the tents there, till the country was straitened with them, and set up for the king a pavilion of green brocade, broidered with pearls and jewels.

When El Aziz had sat awhile, he summoned the mamelukes of his son El Abbas, and they were five-and-twenty in number, besides half a score slave-girls, as they were moons, five of whom the king had brought with him and other five he had left with the prince's mother. When the mamelukes came before him, he cast over each of them a mantle of green brocade and bade them mount like horses of one and the same fashion and enter Baghdad and enquire concerning their lord El Abbas. So they entered the city and passed through the [streets and] markets, and there abode in Baghdad nor old man nor boy but came forth to gaze on them and divert himself with the sight of their beauty and grace and the goodliness of their aspect and of their clothes and horses, for that they were even as moons. They gave not over going till they came to the royal palace, where they halted, and the king looked at them and seeing their beauty and the goodliness of their apparel and the brightness of their faces, said, "Would I knew of which of the tribes these are!" And he bade the eunuch bring him news of them.

So he went out to them and questioned them of their case, whereupon, "Return to thy lord," answered they, "and question him of Prince El Abbas, if he have come unto him, for that he left his father King El Aziz a full-told year agone, and indeed longing for him troubleth the king and he hath levied a part of his army and his guards and is come forth in quest of his son, so haply he may light upon tidings of him." Quoth the eunuch, "Is there amongst you a brother of his or a son?" "Nay, by Allah!" answered they. "But we are all his mamelukes and the boughten of his money, and his father El Aziz hath despatched us to make enquiry of him. So go thou to thy lord and question him of the prince and return to us with that which he shall answer you." "And where is King El Aziz?" asked the eunuch; and they replied, "He is encamped in the Green Meadow."[FN#96]

The eunuch returned and told the king, who said, "Indeed, we have been neglectful with regard to El Abbas. What shall be our excuse with the king? By Allah, my soul misdoubted me that the youth was of the sons of the kings!" The Lady Afifeh, his wife, saw him lamenting for [his usage of] El Abbas and said to him, "O king, what is it thou regrettest with this exceeding regret?" Quoth he, "Thou knowest the stranger youth, who gave us the rubies?" "Assuredly," answered she; and he said, "Yonder youths, who have halted in the palace court, are his mamelukes, and his father King El Aziz, lord of Yemen, hath pitched his camp in the Green Meadow; for he is come with his army to seek him, and the number of his troops is [four-and-] twenty thousand men." [Then he went out from her], and when she heard his words, she wept sore for him and had compassion on his case and sent after him, counselling him to send for the mamelukes and lodge them [in the palace] and entertain them.

The king gave ear to her counsel and despatching the eunuch for the mamelukes, assigned them a lodging and said to them, "Have patience, till the king give you tidings of your lord El Abbas." When they heard his words, their eyes ran over with plenteous tears, of their much longing for the sight of their lord. Then the king bade the queen enter the privy chamber[FN#97] and let down the curtain[FN#98] [before the door thereof]. So she did this and he summoned them to his presence. When they stood before him, they kissed the earth, to do him worship, and showed forth their breeding[FN#99] and magnified his dignity. He bade them sit, but they refused, till he conjured them by their lord El Abbas. So they sat down and he caused set before them food of various kinds and fruits and sweetmeats. Now within the Lady Afifeh's palace was an underground way communicating with the palace of the princess Mariyeh. So the queen sent after her and she came to her, whereupon she made her stand behind the curtain and gave her to know that El Abbas was the king's son of Yemen and that these were his mamelukes. Moreover, she told her that the prince's father had levied his troops and was come with his army in quest of him and that he had pitched his camp in the Green Meadow and despatched these mamelukes to make enquiry of their lord. So Mariyeh abode looking upon them and upon their beauty and grace and the goodliness of their apparel, till they had eaten their fill of food and the tables were removed; whereupon the king recounted to them the story of El Abbas and they took leave of him and went away.

As for the princess Mariyeh, when she returned to her palace, she bethought herself concerning the affair of El Abbas, repenting her of that which she had done, and the love of him took root in her heart. So, when the night darkened upon her, she dismissed all her women and bringing out the letters, to wit, those which El Abbas had written, fell to reading them and weeping. She gave not over weeping her night long, and when she arose in the morning, she called a damsel of her slave-girls, Shefikeh by name, and said to her, "O damsel, I purpose to discover to thee mine affair, and I charge thee keep my secret; to wit, I would have thee betake thyself to the house of the nurse, who used to serve me, and fetch her to me, for that I have grave occasion for her."

Accordingly, Shefikeh went out and repairing to the nurse's house, found her clad in apparel other[FN#100] than that which she had been wont to wear aforetime. So she saluted her and said to her, "Whence hadst thou this dress, than which there is no goodlier?" "O Shefikeh," answered the nurse, "thou deemest that I have gotten[FN#101] no good save of thy mistress; but, by Allah, had I endeavoured for her destruction, I had done [that which was my right], for that she did with me what thou knowest[FN#102] and bade the eunuch beat me, without offence of me committed; wherefore do thou tell her that he, on whose behalf I bestirred myself with her, hath made me quit of her and her humours, for that he hath clad me in this habit and given me two hundred and fifty dinars and promised me the like thereof every year and charged me serve none of the folk."

Quoth Shefikeh, "My mistress hath occasion for thee; so come thou with me and I will engage to restore thee to thy dwelling in weal and safety." But the nurse answered, saying, "Indeed, her palace is become forbidden[FN#103] to me and never again will I enter therein, for that God (extolled be His perfection and exalted be He!) of His favour and bounty hath rendered me independent of her." So Shefikeh returned to her mistress and acquainted her with the nurse's words and that wherein she was of affluence; whereupon Mariyeh confessed the unseemliness of her dealing with her and repented, whenas repentance profited her not; and she abode in that her case days and nights, whilst the fire of longing flamed in her heart.

Meanwhile, El Abbas abode with his cousin Akil twenty days, after which he made ready for the journey to Baghdad and letting bring the booty he had gotten of King Zuheir, divided it between himself and his cousin. Then he set out for Baghdad, and when he came within two days' journey of the city, he called his servant Aamir and bade him mount his charger and forego him with the baggage-train and the cattle. So Aamir [took horse and] fared on till he came to Baghdad, and the season of his entering was the first of the day; nor was there little child or hoary old man in the city but came forth to divert himself with gazing on those flocks and herds and upon the goodliness of those slave-girls, and their wits were amazed at what they saw. Presently the news reached the king that the young man El Abbas, who had gone forth from him, was come back with herds and rarities and slaves and a mighty host and had taken up his sojourn without the city, whilst his servant Aamir was presently come to Baghdad, so he might make ready dwelling- places for his lord, wherein he should take up his abode.

When the king heard these tidings of Aamir, he sent for him and let bring him before him; and when he entered his presence, he kissed the earth and saluted and showed forth his breeding and greeted him with the goodliest of compliments. The king bade him raise his head and questioned him of his lord El Abbas; whereupon he acquainted him with his tidings and told him that which had betided him with King Zuheir and of the army that was become at his commandment and of the spoil that he had gotten. Moreover, he gave him to know that El Abbas was coming on the morrow, and with him more than fifty thousand cavaliers, obedient to his commandment. When the king heard his speech, he bade decorate Baghdad and commanded [the inhabitants] to equip themselves with the richest of their apparel, in honour of the coming of El Abbas. Moreover, he sent to give King El Aziz the glad tidings of his son's return and acquainted him with that which he had heard from the prince's servant.

When the news reached El Aziz, he rejoiced with an exceeding joy in the coming of his son and straightway took horse, he and all his army, what while the trumpets sounded and the musicians played, that the earth quaked and Baghdad also trembled, and it was a notable day. When Mariyeh beheld all this, she repented with the uttermost of repentance of that which she had wroughten against El Abbas his due and the fires still raged in her vitals. Meanwhile, the troops[FN#104] sallied forth of Baghdad and went out to meet those of El Abbas, who had halted in a meadow called the Green Island. When he espied the approaching host, he knew not what they were; so he strained his sight and seeing horsemen coming and troops and footmen, said to those about him, "Among yonder troops are ensigns and banners of various kinds; but, as for the great green standard that ye see, it is the standard of my father, the which is reserved [unto him and never displayed save] over his head, and [by this] I know that he himself is come out in quest of me." And he was certified of this, he and his troops.

[So he fared on towards them] and when he drew near unto them, he knew them and they knew him; whereupon they lighted down from their horses and saluting him, gave him joy of his safety and the folk flocked to him. When he came to his father, they embraced and greeted each other a long time, whilst neither of them availed unto speech, for the greatness of that which betided them of joy in reunion. Then El Abbas bade the folk mount; so they mounted and his mamelukes surrounded him and they entered Baghdad on the most magnificent wise and in the highest worship and glory.

The wife of the shopkeeper, to wit, the nurse, came out, with the rest of those who came out, to divert herself with gazing upon the show, and when she saw El Abbas and beheld his beauty and the goodliness of his army and that which he had brought back with him of herds and slaves and slave-girls and mamelukes, she improvised and recited the following verses:

El Abbas from Akil his stead is come again; Prize hath he made of steeds and many a baggage-train; Yea, horses hath he brought, full fair of shape and hue, Whose collars, anklet-like, ring to the bridle-rein. Taper of hoofs and straight of stature, in the dust They prance, as like a flood they pour across the plain; And on their saddles perched are warriors richly clad, That with their hands do smite on kettle-drums amain. Couched are their limber spears, right long and lithe of point, Keen- ground and polished sheer, amazing wit and brain. Who dares with them to cope draws death upon himself; Yea, of the deadly lance incontinent he's slain. Come, then, companions mine, rejoice with me and say, "All hail to thee, O friend, and welcome fair and fain!" For whoso doth rejoice in meeting him shall have Largesse and gifts galore at his dismounting gain.

When the troops entered Baghdad, each of them alighted in his pavilion, whilst El Abbas encamped apart in a place near the Tigris and commanded to slaughter for the troops, each day, that which should suffice them of oxen and sheep and bake them bread and spread the tables. So the folk ceased not to come to him and eat of his banquet. Moreover, all the people of the country came to him with presents and rarities and he requited them many times the like of their gifts, so that the lands were filled with his tidings and the report of him was bruited abroad among the folk of the deserts and the cities.

Then, when he rode to his house that he had bought, the shopkeeper and his wife came to him and gave him joy of his safety; whereupon he ordered them three swift thoroughbred horses and ten dromedaries and an hundred head of sheep and clad them both in sumptuous dresses of honour. Then he chose out ten slave-girls and ten black slaves and fifty horses and the like number of she- camels and three hundred head of sheep, together with twenty ounces of musk and as many of camphor, and sent all this to the King of Baghdad. When this came to Ins ben Cais, his wit fled for joy and he was perplexed wherewithal to requite him. Moreover, El Abbas gave gifts and largesse and bestowed dresses of honour upon great and small, each after the measure of his station, save only Mariyeh; for unto her he sent nothing.

This was grievous to the princess and it irked her sore that he should not remember her; so she called her slave- girl Shefikeh and said to her, "Go to El Abbas and salute him and say to him, 'What hindereth thee from sending my lady Mariyeh her part of thy booty?'" So Shefikeh betook herself to him and when she came to his door, the chamberlains refused her admission, until they should have gotten her leave and permission. When she entered, El Abbas knew her and knew that she had somewhat of speech [with him]; so he dismissed his mamelukes and said to her, "What is thine errand, O handmaid of good?" "O my lord," answered she, "I am a slave-girl of the Princess Mariyeh, who kisseth thy hands and commendeth her salutation to thee. Indeed, she rejoiceth in thy safety and reproacheth thee for that thou breakest her heart, alone of all the folk, for that thy largesse embraceth great and small, yet hast thou not remembered her with aught of thy booty. Indeed, it is as if thou hadst hardened thy heart against her." Quoth he, "Extolled be the perfection of him who turneth hearts! By Allah, my vitals were consumed with the love of her [aforetime] and of my longing after her, I came forth to her from my native land and left my people and my home and my wealth, and it was with her that began the hardheartedness and the cruelty. Nevertheless, for all this, I bear her no malice and needs must I send her somewhat whereby she may remember me; for that I abide in her land but a few days, after which I set out for the land of Yemen."

Then he called for a chest and bringing out thence a necklace of Greek handiwork, worth a thousand dinars, wrapped it in a mantle of green silk, set with pearls and jewels and inwrought with red gold, and joined thereto two caskets of musk and ambergris. Moreover, he put off upon the girl a mantle of Greek silk, striped with gold, wherein were divers figures and semblants depictured, never saw eyes its like. Therewithal the girl's wit fled for joy and she went forth from his presence and returned to her mistress. When she came in to her, she acquainted her with that which she had seen of El Abbas and that which was with him of servants and attendants and [set out to her] the loftiness of his station and gave her that which was with her.

Mariyeh opened the mantle, and when she saw that necklace, and indeed the place was illumined with the lustre thereof, she looked at her slave-girl and said to her, "By Allah, O Shefikeh, one look at him were liefer to me than all that my hand possesseth! Would I knew what I shall do, whenas Baghdad is empty of him and I hear no tidings of him!" Then she wept and calling for inkhorn* and paper and pen of brass, wrote the following verses:

Still do I yearn, whilst passion's fire flames in my liver aye; For parting's shafts have smitten me and done my strength away. Oft for thy love as I would be consoled, my yearning turns To-thee- ward still and my desires my reason still gainsay. My transports I conceal for fear of those thereon that spy; Yet down my cheeks the tears course still and still my case bewray. No rest is there for me, no life wherein I may delight, Nor pleasant meat nor drink avails to please me, night or day. To whom save thee shall I complain, of whom relief implore, Whose image came to visit me, what while in dreams I lay? Reproach me not for what I did, but be thou kind to one Who's sick of body and whose heart is wasted all away. The fire of love-longing I hide; severance consumeth me, A thrall of care, for long desire to wakefulness a prey. Midmost the watches of the night I see thee, in a dream; A lying dream, for he I love my love doth not repay. Would God thou knewest that for love of thee which I endure! It hath indeed brought down on me estrangement and dismay. Read thou my writ and apprehend its purport, for my case This is and fate hath stricken me with sorrows past allay. Know, then, the woes that have befall'n a lover, neither grudge Her secret to conceal, but keep her counsel still, I pray.

Then she folded the letter and giving it to her slave-girl, bade her carry it to El Abbas and bring back his answer thereto. Accordingly, Shefikeh took the letter and carried it to the prince, after the doorkeeper had sought leave of him to admit her. When she came in to him, she found with him five damsels, as they were moons, clad in [rich] apparel and ornaments; and when he saw her, he said to her, "What is thine occasion, O handmaid of good?" So she put out her hand to him with the letter, after she had kissed it, and he bade one of his slave-girls receive it from her. Then he took it from the girl and breaking it open, read it and apprehended its purport; whereupon "We are God's and to Him we return!" exclaimed he and calling for ink- horn and paper, wrote the following verses:

I marvel for that to my love I see thee now incline, What time my heart, indeed, is fain to turn away from thine. Whilere, the verses that I made it was thy wont to flout, Saying, "No passer by the way[FN#105] hath part in me or mine. How many a king to me hath come, of troops and guards ensued, And Bactrian camels brought with him, in many a laden line, And dromedaries, too, of price and goodly steeds and swift Of many a noble breed, yet found no favour in my eyne!" Then, after them came I to thee and union did entreat And unto thee set forth at length my case and my design; Yea, all my passion and desire and love-longing in verse, As pearls in goodly order strung it were, I did enshrine. Yet thou repaidst me with constraint, rigour and perfidy, To which no lover might himself on any wise resign. How many a bidder unto love, a secret-craving wight, How many a swain, complaining, saith of destiny malign, "How many a cup with bitterness o'erflowing have I quaffed! I make my moan of woes, whereat it boots not to repine." Quoth thou, "The goodliest of things is patience and its use: Its practice still mankind doth guide to all that's fair and fine." Wherefore fair patience look thou use, for sure 'tis praiseworthy; Yea, and its issues evermore are blessed and benign; And hope thou not for aught from me, who reck not with a folk To mix, who may with abjectness infect my royal line. This is my saying; apprehend its purport, then, and know I may in no wise yield consent to that thou dost opine.

Then he folded the letter and sealing it, delivered it to the damsel, who took it and carried it to her mistress. When the princess read the letter and apprehended its contents, she said, "Meseemeth he recalleth to me that which I did aforetime." Then she called for inkhorn and paper and wrote the following verses:

Me, till I stricken was therewith, to love thou didst excite, And with estrangement now, alas! heap'st sorrows on my spright. The sweet of slumber after thee I have forsworn; indeed The loss of thee hath smitten me with trouble and affright. How long shall I, in weariness, for this estrangement pine, What while the spies of severance[FN#106] do watch me all the night? My royal couch have I forsworn, sequestering myself From all, and have mine eyes forbid the taste of sleep's delight. Thou taught'st me what I cannot bear; afflicted sore am I; Yea, thou hast wasted me away with rigour and despite. Yet, I conjure thee, blame me not for passion and desire, Me whom estrangement long hath brought to sick and sorry plight. Sore, sore doth rigour me beset, its onslaughts bring me near Unto the straitness of the grave, ere in the shroud I'm dight. So be thou kind to me, for love my body wasteth sore, The thrall of passion I'm become its fires consume me quite.

Mariyeh folded the letter and gave it to Shefikeh, bidding her carry it to El Abbas. So she took it and going with it to his door, would have entered; but the chamberlains and serving-men forbade her, till they had gotten her leave from the prince. When she went in to him, she found him sitting in the midst of the five damsels aforesaid, whom his father had brought him. So she gave him the letter and he took it and read it. Then he bade one of the damsels, whose name was Khefifeh and who came from the land of China, tune her lute and sing upon the subject of separation. So she came forward and tuning the lute, played thereon in four-and-twenty modes; after which she returned to the first mode and sang the following verses:

Upon the parting day our loves from us did fare And left us to endure estrangement and despair. Whenas the burdens all were bounden on and shrill The camel-leader's call rang out across the air, Fast flowed my tears; despair gat hold upon my soul And needs mine eyelids must the sweet of sleep forbear. I wept, but those who spied to part us had no ruth On me nor on the fires that in my vitals flare. Woe's me for one who burns for love and longing pain! Alas for the regrets my heart that rend and tear! To whom shall I complain of what is in my soul, Now thou art gone and I my pillow must forswear? The flames of long desire wax on me day by day And far away are pitched the tent-poles of my fair. O breeze of heaven, from me a charge I prithee take And do not thou betray the troth of my despair; Whenas thou passest by the dwellings of my love, Greet him for me with peace, a greeting debonair, And scatter musk on him and ambergris, so long As time endures; for this is all my wish and care.

When the damsel had made an end of her song, El Abbas swooned away and they sprinkled on him rose-water, mingled with musk, till he came to himself, when he called another damsel (now there was on her of linen and clothes and ornaments that which beggareth description, and she was endowed with brightness and loveliness and symmetry and perfection, such as shamed the crescent moon, and she was a Turkish girl from the land of the Greeks and her name was Hafizeh) and said to her, "O Hafizeh, close thine eyes and tune thy lute and sing to us upon the days of separation." She answered him with "Hearkening and obedience" and taking the lute, tuned its strings and cried out from her head,[FN#107] in a plaintive voice, and sang the following verses:

O friends, the tears flow ever, in mockery of my pain; My heart is sick for sev'rance and love-longing in vain. All wasted is my body and bowels tortured sore; Love's fire on me still waxeth, mine eyes with tears still rain. Whenas the fire of passion flamed in my breast, with tears, Upon the day of wailing, to quench it I was fain. Desire hath left me wasted, afflicted, sore afraid, For the spy knows the secret whereof I do complain. When I recall the season of love-delight with them, The sweet of sleep forsakes me, my body wastes amain. Those who our parting plotted our sev'rance still delights; The spies, for fearful prudence, their wish of us attain. I fear me for my body from sickness and unrest, Lest of the fear of sev'rance it be betrayed and slain.

When Hafizeh had made an end of her song, El Abbas said to her, "Well done! Indeed, thou quickenest hearts from sorrows." Then he called another damsel of the daughters of the Medes, by name Merjaneh, and said to her, "O Merjaneh, sing to me upon the days of separation." "Hearkening and obedience," answered she and improvising, sang the following verses:

"Fair patience practise, for thereon still followeth content." So runs the rede 'mongst all that dwell in city or in tent. How oft of dole have I made moan for love and longing pain, What while my body for desire in mortal peril went! How oft I've waked, how many a cup of sorrow have I drained, Watching the stars of night go by, for sleepless languishment! It had sufficed me, had thy grace with verses come to me; My expectation still on thee in the foredawns was bent. Then was my heart by that which caused my agitation seared, And from mine eyelids still the tears poured down without relent. Yea, nevermore I ceased from that wherewith I stricken was; My night with wakefulness was filled, my heart with dreariment. But now hath Allah from my heart blotted the love of thee, After for constancy I'd grown a name of wonderment. Hence on the morrow forth I fare and leave your land behind; So take your leave of us nor fear mishap or ill event. Whenas in body ye from us are far removed, would God I knew who shall to us himself with news of you present! And who can tell if ever house shall us together bring In union of life serene and undisturbed content?

When Merjaneh had made an end of her song, the prince said to her, "Well done, O damsel! Indeed, thou sayest a thing that had occurred to my mind and my tongue was like to speak it." Then he signed to the fourth damsel, who was a Cairene, by name Sitt el Husn, and bade her tune her lute and sing to him upon the [same] subject. So she tuned her lute and sang the following verses:

Fair patience use, for ease still followeth after stress And all things have their time and ordinance no less. Though Fortune whiles to thee belike may be unjust, Her seasons change and man's excused if he transgress. In her revolving scheme, to bitter sweetness still Succeeds and things become straight, after crookedness. Thine honour, therefore, guard and eke thy secret keep, Nor save to one free-born and true thy case confess. The Lord's alternatives are these, wherewith He's wont The needy wretch to ply and those in sore duresse.

When El Abbas heard her verses, they pleased him and he said to her, "Well done, O Sitt el Husn! Indeed, thou hast done away trouble from my heart and [banished] the things that had occurred to my mind." Then he heaved a sigh and signing to the fifth damsel, who was from the land of the Persians and whose name was Merziyeh (now she was the fairest of them all and the sweetest of speech and she was like unto a splendid star, endowed with beauty and loveliness and brightness and perfection and justness of shape and symmetry and had a face like the new moon and eyes as they were gazelle's eyes) and said to her, "O Merziyeh, come forward and tune thy lute and sing to us on the [same] subject, for indeed we are resolved upon departure to the land of Yemen." Now this damsel had met many kings and had consorted with the great; so she tuned her lute and sang the following verses:

May the place of my session ne'er lack thee I Oh, why, My heart's love, hast thou saddened my mind and mine eye?[FN#108] By thy ransom,[FN#109] who dwellest alone in my heart, In despair for the loss of the loved one am I. So, by Allah, O richest of all men in charms, Vouchsafe to a lover, who's bankrupt well-nigh Of patience, thy whilom endearments again, That I never to any divulged, nor deny The approof of my lord, so my stress and unease I may ban and mine enemies' malice defy, Thine approof which shall clothe me in noblest attire And my rank in the eyes of the people raise high.

When she had made an end of her song, all who were in the assembly wept for the daintiness of her speech and the sweetness of her voice and El Abbas said to her, "Well done, O Merziyeh I Indeed, thou confoundest the wits with the goodliness of thy verses and the elegance of thy speech." All this while Shefikeh abode gazing upon her, and when she beheld El Abbas his slave-girls and considered the goodliness of their apparel and the nimbleness of their wits and the elegance of their speech, her reason was confounded. Then she sought leave of El Abbas and returning to her mistress Mariyeh, without letter or answer, acquainted her with his case and that wherein he was of puissance and delight and majesty and venerance and loftiness of rank. Moreover, she told her what she had seen of the slave-girls and their circumstance and that which they had said and how they had made El Abbas desireful of returning to his own country by the recitation of verses to the sound of the strings.

When the princess heard this her slave-girl's report, she wept and lamented and was like to depart the world. Then she clave to her pillow and said, "O Shefikeh, I will instruct thee of somewhat that is not hidden from God the Most High, and it is that thou watch over me till God the Most High decree the accomplishment of His commandment, and when my days are ended, take thou the necklace and the mantle that El Abbas gave me and return them to him. Indeed, I deem not he will live after me, and if God the Most High decree against him and his days come to an end, do thou give one charge to shroud us and bury us both in one grave."

Then her case changed and her colour paled; and when Shefikeh saw her mistress in this plight, she repaired to her mother and told her that the lady Mariyeh refused meat and drink. "Since when hath this befallen her?" asked the queen, and Shefikeh answered, "Since yesterday;" whereat the queen was confounded and betaking herself to her daughter, that she might enquire into her case, found her as one dead. So she sat down at her head and Mariyeh opened her eyes and seeing her mother sitting by her, sat up for shamefastness before her. The queen questioned her of her case and she said, "I entered the bath and it stupefied me and weakened me and left an exceeding pain in my head; but I trust in God the Most High that it will cease."

When her mother went out from her, Mariyeh fell to chiding the damsel for that which she had done and said to her, "Verily, death were leifer to me than this; so look thou discover not my affair to any and I charge thee return not to the like of this fashion." Then she swooned away and lay awhile without life, and when she came to herself, she saw Shefikeh weeping over her; whereupon she took the necklace from her neck and the mantle from her body and said to the damsel, "Lay them in a napkin of damask and carry them to El Abbas and acquaint him with that wherein I am for the persistence of estrangement and the effects of forbiddance." So Shefikeh took them and carried them to El Abbas, whom she found in act to depart, for that he was about to take horse for Yemen. She went in to him and gave him the napkin and that which was therein, and when he opened it and saw what it contained, to wit, the mantle and the necklace, his vexation was excessive and his eyes were distorted, [so that the whites thereof appeared] and his rage was manifest in them.

When Shefikeh saw that which betided him, she came forward and said to him, "O bountiful lord, indeed my mistress returneth not the mantle and the necklace despitefully; but she is about to depart the world and thou hast the best right to them." "And what is the cause of this?" asked he. Quoth Shefikeh, "Thou knowest. By Allah, never among the Arabs nor the barbarians nor among the sons of the kings saw I a harder of heart than thou! Is it a light matter to thee that thou troublest Mariyeh's life and causest her mourn for herself and depart the world on account of[FN#110] thy youth? Indeed, thou wast the cause of her acquaintance with thee and now she departeth the world on thine account, she whose like God the Most High hath not created among the daughters of the kings."

When El Abbas heard these words from the damsel, his heart irked him for Mariyeh and her case was grievous to him; so he said to Shefikeh, "Canst thou avail to bring me in company with her, so haply I may discover her affair and allay that which aileth her?" "Yes," answered the damsel, "I can do that, and thine will be the bounty and the favour." So he arose and followed her, and she forewent him, till they came to the palace. Then she [opened and] locked behind them four-and-twenty doors and made them fast with bolts; and when he came to Mariyeh, he found her as she were the setting sun, cast down upon a rug of Taifi leather,[FN#111] among cushions stuffed with ostrich down, and not a limb of her quivered. When her maid saw her in this plight, she offered to cry out; but El Abbas said to her, "Do it not, but have patience till we discover her affair; and if God the Most High have decreed the ending of her days, wait till thou have opened the doors to me and I have gone forth. Then do what seemeth good to thee."

So saying, he went up to the princess and laying his hand upon her heart, found it fluttering like a doveling and the life yet clinging to[FN#112] her bosom. So he laid his hand upon her cheek, whereupon she opened her eyes and beckoning to her maid, signed to her, as who should say, "Who is this that treadeth my carpet and transgresseth against me?"[FN#113] "O my lady," answered Shefikeh, "this is Prince El Abbas, for whose sake thou departest the world." When Mariyeh heard speak of El Abbas, she raised her hand from under the coverlet and laying it upon his neck, inhaled his odour awhile. Then she sat up and her colour returned to her and they sat talking till a third part of the night was past.

Presently, the princess turned to her maid and bade her fetch them somewhat of food and sweetmeats and dessert and fruits. So Shefikeh brought what she desired and they ate and drank [and abode on this wise] without lewdness, till the night departed and the day came. Then said El Abbas, "Indeed, the day is come. Shall I go to my father and bid him go to thy father and seek thee of him in marriage for me, in accordance with the Book of God the Most High and the Institutes of His Apostle (whom may He bless and keep!) so we may not enter into transgression?" And Mariyeh answered, saying, "By Allah, it is well counselled of thee!" So he went away to his lodging and nought befell between them; and when the day lightened, she improvised and recited the following verses:

O friends, the East wind waxes, the morning draweth near; A plaintive voice[FN#114] bespeaks me and I rejoice to hear. Up, to our comrade's convent, that we may visit him And drink of wine more subtle than dust;[FN#115] our trusty fere Hath spent thereon his substance, withouten stint; indeed, In his own cloak he wrapped it, he tendered it so dear.[FN#116] Whenas its jar was opened, the singers prostrate fell In worship of its brightness, it shone so wonder-clear. The priests from all the convent came flocking onto it: With cries of joy and welcome their voices they did rear. We spent the night in passing the cup, my mates and I, Till in the Eastward heaven the day-star did appear. No sin is there in drinking of wine, for it affords All that's foretold[FN#117] of union and love and happy cheer. O morn, our loves that sunder'st, a sweet and easeful life Thou dost for me prohibit, with thy regard austere. Be gracious, so our gladness may be fulfilled with wine And we of our beloved have easance, without fear. The best of all religions your love is, for in you Are love and life made easeful, untroubled and sincere.

Meanwhile, El Abbas betook himself to his father's camp, which was pitched in the Green Meadow, by the side of the Tigris, and none might make his way between the tents, for the much interlacement of the tent-ropes. When the prince reached the first of the tents, the guards and servants came out to meet him from all sides and escorted him till he drew near the sitting-place of his father, who knew of his coming. So he issued forth of his pavilion and coming to meet his son, kissed him and made much of him. Then they returned together to the royal pavilion and when they had seated themselves and the guards had taken up their station in attendance on them, the king said to El Abbas, "O my son, make ready thine affair, so we may go to our own land, for that the folk in our absence are become as they were sheep without a shepherd." El Abbas looked at his father and wept till he swooned away, and when he recovered from his swoon, he improvised and recited the following verses:

I clipped her[FN#118] in mine arms and straight grew drunken with the scent Of a fresh branch that had been reared in affluence and content. 'Twas not of wine that I had drunk; her mouth's sweet honeyed dews It was intoxicated me with bliss and ravishment. Upon the table of her cheek beauty hath writ, "Alack, Her charms! 'Twere well thou refuge sought'st with God incontinent."[FN#119] Since thou hast looked on her, mine eye, be easy, for by God Nor mote nor ailment needst thou fear nor evil accident. Beauty her appanage is grown in its entirety, And for this cause all hearts must bow to her arbitrament. If with her cheek and lustre thou thyself adorn,[FN#120] thou'lt find But chrysolites and gold, with nought of baser metal blent. When love-longing for her sweet sake I took upon myself, The railers flocked to me anon, on blame and chiding bent; But on no wise was I affrayed nor turned from love of her; So let the railer rave of her henceforth his heart's content. By God, forgetfulness of her shall never cross my mind, What while I wear the bonds of life nor when of death they're rent An if I live, in love of her I'll live, and if I die Of love and longing for her sight, O rare! O excellent!

When El Abbas had made an end of his verses, his father said to him, "I seek refuge for thee with God, O my son! Hast thou any want unto which thou availest not, so I may endeavour for thee therein and lavish my treasures in quest thereof?" "O father mine," answered El Abbas, "I have, indeed, an urgent want, on account whereof I came forth of my native land and left my people and my home and exposed myself to perils and stresses and became an exile from my country, and I trust in God that it may be accomplished by thine august endeavour." "And what is thy want?" asked the king. Quoth El Abbas, "I would have thee go and demand me in marriage Mariyeh, daughter of the King of Baghdad, for that my heart is distraught with love of her." And he recounted to his father his story from first to last.

When the king heard this from his son, he rose to his feet and calling for his charger of state, took horse with four-and-twenty amirs of the chief officers of his empire. Then he betook himself to the palace of the King of Baghdad, who, when he saw him coming, bade his chamberlains open the doors to him and going down himself to meet him, received him with all worship and hospitality and entreated him with the utmost honour. Moreover, he carried him [and his suite] into the palace and causing make ready for them carpets and cushions, sat down upon a chair of gold, with traverses of juniper- wood, set with pearls and jewels. Then he bade bring sweetmeats and confections and odoriferous flowers and commanded to slaughter four-and-twenty head of sheep and the like of oxen and make ready geese and fowls, stuffed and roasted, and pigeons and spread the tables; nor was it long before the meats were set on in dishes of gold and silver. So they ate till they had enough and when they had eaten their fill, the tables were removed and the wine-service set on and the cups and flagons ranged in order, whilst the mamelukes and the fair slave- girls sat down, with girdles of gold about their middles, inlaid with all manner pearls and diamonds and emeralds and rubies and other jewels. Moreover, the king bade fetch the musicians; so there presented themselves before him a score of damsels, with lutes and psalteries and rebecks, and smote upon instruments of music, on such wise that they moved the assembly to delight.

Then said El Aziz to the King of Baghdad, "I would fain speak a word to thee; but do thou not exclude from us those who are present. If thou consent unto my wish, that which is ours shall be thine and that which is incumbent on thee shall be incumbent on us,[FN#121] and we will be to thee a mighty aid against all enemies and opposites." Quoth Ins ben Cais, "Say what thou wilt, O King, for indeed thou excellest in speech and attainest [the mark] in that which them sayest" So El Aziz said to him," I desire that thou give thy daughter Mariyeh in marriage to my son El Abbas, for thou knowest that wherewithal he is gifted of beauty and loveliness and brightness and perfection and how he beareth himself in the frequentation of the valiant and his constancy in the stead of smiting and thrusting." "By Allah, O king," answered Ins ben Cais, "of my love for Mariyeh, I have appointed her disposal to be in her own hand; wherefore, whomsoever she chooseth of the folk, I will marry her to him."

Then he arose and going in to his daughter, found her mother with her; so he set out to them the case and Mariyeh said, "O father mine, my wish is subject unto[FN#122] thy commandment and my will ensueth thy will; so whatsoever thou choosest, I am still obedient unto thee and under thy dominion." Therewithal the King knew that Mariyeh inclined unto El Abbas; so he returned forthright to King El Aziz and said to him, "May God amend the King! Verily, the occasion is accomplished and there is no opposition unto that which thou commandest" Quoth El Aziz, "By God's leave are occasions accomplished. How deemest thou, O King, of fetching El Abbas and drawing up the contract of marriage between Mariyeh and him?" And Ins ben Cais answered, saying, "Thine be it to decide."

So El Aziz sent after his son and acquainted him with that which had passed; whereupon El Abbas called for four-and-twenty males and half a score horses [and as many camels] and loaded the mules with pieces of silk and rags of leather and boxes of camphor and musk and the camels [and horses] with chests of gold and silver. Moreover, he took the richest of the stuffs and wrapping them in pieces of gold-striped silk, laid them on the heads of porters, and they fared on with the treasures till they reached the King of Baghdad's palace, whereupon all who were present dismounted in honour of El Abbas and escorting him to the presence of King Ins ben Cais, displayed unto the latter all that they had with them of things of price. The king bade carry all this into the harem and sent for the Cadis and the witnesses, who drew up the contract and married Mariyeh to Prince El Abbas, whereupon the latter commanded to [slaughter] a thousand head of sheep and five hundred buffaloes. So they made the bride-feast and bade thereto all the tribes of the Arabs, Bedouins and townsfolk, and the tables abode spread for the space of ten days.

Then El Abbas went in to Mariyeh in a happy and praiseworthy hour[FN#123] and found her an unpierced pearl and a goodly filly that had never been mounted; wherefore he rejoiced and was glad and made merry, and care and sorrow ceased from him and his life was pleasant and trouble departed and he abode with her in the gladsomest of case and in the most easeful of life, till seven days were past, when King El Aziz determined to set out and return to his kingdom and bade his son seek leave of his father-in-law to depart with his wife to his own country. [So El Abbas bespoke King Ins of this] and he granted him the leave he sought; whereupon he chose out a red camel, taller[FN#124] than the [other] camels, and mounting Mariyeh in a litter thereon, loaded it with apparel and ornaments.

Then they spread the ensigns and the standards, whilst the drums beat and the trumpets sounded, and set out upon the homeward journey. The King of Baghdad rode forth with them and brought them three days' journey on their way, after which he took leave of them and returned with his troops to Baghdad. As for King El Aziz and his son, they fared on night and day and gave not over going till there abode but three days' journey between them and Yemen, when they despatched three men of the couriers to the prince's mother [to acquaint her with their return], safe and laden with spoil, bringing with them Mariyeh, the king's daughter of Baghdad. When the queen-mother heard this, her wit fled for joy and she adorned El Abbas his slave-girls after the goodliest fashion. Now he had ten slave-girls, as they were moons, whereof his father had carried five with him to Baghdad, as hath aforetime been set out, and other five abode with his mother. When the dromedary-posts[FN#125] came, they were certified of the approach of El Abbas, and when the sun rose and their standards appeared, the prince's mother came out to meet her son; nor was there great or small, old man or infant, but went forth that day to meet the king.

The drums of glad tidings beat and they entered in the utmost of worship and magnificence. Moreover, the tribes heard of them and the people of the towns and brought them the richest of presents and the costliest of rarities and the prince's mother rejoiced with an exceeding joy. Then they slaughtered beasts and made mighty bride-feasts to the people and kindled fires, that it might be visible afar to townsman [and Bedouin] that this was the house of the guest-meal and the wedding, festival, to the intent that, if any passed them by, [without partaking of their hospitality], it should be of his own fault[FN#126] So the folk came to them from all parts and quarters and on this wise they abode days and months.

Then the prince's mother bade fetch the five slave-girls to that assembly; whereupon they came and the ten damsels foregathered. The queen seated five of them on her son's right hand and other five on his left and the folk assembled about them. Then she bade the five who had remained with her speak forth somewhat of verse, so they might entertain therewith the assembly and that El Abbas might rejoice therein. Now she had clad them in the richest of raiment and adorned them with trinkets and ornaments and wroughten work of gold and silver and collars of gold, set with pearls and jewels. So they came forward, with harps and lutes and psalteries and recorders and other instruments of music before them, and one of them, a damsel who came from the land of China and whose name was Baoutheh, advanced and tightened the strings of her lute. Then she cried out from the top of her head[FN#127] and improvising, sang the following verses:

Unto its pristine lustre your land returned and more, Whenas ye came, dispelling the gloom that whiles it wore. Our stead, that late was desert, grew green and eke our trees, That barren were, grew loaded with ripened fruits galore. Yea, to the earth that languished for lack of rain, the clouds Were bounteous; so it flourished and plenteous harvests bore; And troubles, too, forsook us, who tears like dragons' blood, O lordings, for your absence had wept at every pore. Indeed, your long estrangement hath caused my bowels yearn. Would God I were a servant in waiting at your door!

When she had made an end of her song, all who were present were moved to delight and El Abbas rejoiced in this. Then he bade the second damsel sing somewhat on the like subject. So she came forward and tuning the strings of her harp, which was of balass ruby,[FN#128] warbled a plaintive air and improvising, sang the following verses;

The absent ones' harbinger came us unto With tidings of those who[FN#129] had caused us to rue. "My soul be thy ransom,"quoth I,"for thy grace! Indeed, to the oath that thou swor'st thou wast true." On the dear nights of union, in you was our joy, But afflicted were we since ye bade us adieu. You swore you'd be faithful to us and our love, And true to your oath and your troth-plight were you; And I to you swore that a lover I was; God forbid that with treason mine oath I ensue! Yea, "Welcome! Fair welcome to those who draw near!" I called out aloud, as to meet you I flew. The dwellings, indeed, one and all, I adorned, Bewildered and dazed with delight at your view; For death in your absence to us was decreed; But, when ye came back, we were quickened anew.

When she had made an end of her verses, El Abbas bade the third damsel, who came from Samarcand of the Persians and whose name was Rummaneh, sing, and she answered with "Hearkening and obedience." Then she took the psaltery and crying out from the midst of her bead[FN#130] improvised and sang the following verses:

My watering lips, that cull the rose of thy soft cheek, declare My basil,[FN#131] lily mine, to be the myrtles of thy hair. Sandhill[FN#132] and down[FN#133] betwixt there blooms a yellow willow-flower,[FN#134] Pomegranate-blossoms[FN#135] and for fruits pomegranates[FN#136] that doth bear. His eyelids' sorcery from mine eyes hath banished sleep; since he From me departed, nought see I except a drowsy fair.[FN#137] He shot me with the shafts of looks launched from an eyebrow's[FN#138] bow; A chamberlain[FN#139] betwixt his eyes hath driven me to despair. My heart belike shall his infect with softness, even as me His body with disease infects, of its seductive air. Yet, if with him forgotten be the troth-plight of our loves, I have a king who of his grace will not forget me e'er. His sides the tamarisk's slenderness deride, so lithe they are, Whence for conceit in his own charms still drunken doth he fare. Whenas he runs, his feet still show like wings,[FN#140] and for the wind When was a rider found, except King Solomon it were?[FN#141]

Therewithal El Abbas smiled and her verses pleased him. Then he bade the fourth damsel come forward and sing. Now she was from the land of Morocco and her name was Belekhsha. So she came forward and taking the lute and the psaltery, tightened the strings thereof and smote thereon in many modes; then returned to the first mode and improvising, sang the following verses:

When in the sitting-chamber we for merry-making sate, With thine eyes' radiance the place thou didst illuminate And pliedst us with cups of wine, whilst from the necklace pearls[FN#142] A strange intoxicating bliss withal did circulate, Whose subtleness might well infect the understanding folk; And secrets didst thou, in thy cheer, to us communicate. Whenas we saw the cup, forthright we signed to past it round And sun and moon unto our eyes shone sparkling from it straight. The curtain of delight, perforce, we've lifted through the friend,[FN#143] For tidings of great joy, indeed, there came to us of late. The camel-leader singing came with the belov'd; our wish Accomplished was and we were quit of all the railers' prate. When clear'd my sky was by the sweet of our foregathering And not a helper there remained to disuniting Fate, I shut myself up with my love; no spy betwixt us was; We feared no enemies' despite, no envious neighbour's hate. Life with our loves was grown serene, estrangement was at end: Our dear ones all delight of love vouchsafed to us elate, Saying, "Thy fill of union take; no spy is there on us, Whom we should fear, nor yet reproach our gladness may abate." Our loves are joined and cruelty at last is done away; Ay, and the cup of love-delight 'twixt us doth circulate. Upon yon be the peace of God! May all prosperity, For what's decreed of years and lives, upon you ever wait!

When Belekhsha had made an end of her verses, all present were moved to delight and El Abbas said to her, "Well done, O damsel!" Then he bade the fifth damsel come forward and sing. Now she was from the land of Syria and her name was Rihaneh; she was surpassing of voice and when she appeared in an assembly, all eyes were fixed upon her. So she came forward and taking the rebeck (for that she was used to play upon [all manner] instruments) improvised and sang the following verses:

Your coming to-me-ward, indeed, with "Welcome! fair welcome!" I hail. Your sight to me gladness doth bring and banisheth sorrow and bale; For love with your presence grows sweet, untroubled and life is serene And the star of our fortune burns bright, that clouds in your absence did veil. Yea, by Allah, my longing for you ne'er waneth nor passetb away; For your like among creatures is rare and sought for in mountain and vale. Ask mine eyes whether slumber hath lit on their lids since the hour of your loss Or if aye on a lover they've looked. Nay, an ye believe not their tale, My heart, since the leave-taking day afflicted, will tell of my case, And my body, for love and desire grown wasted and feeble and frail. Could they who reproach me but see my sufferings, their hearts would relent; They'd marvel, indeed, at my case and the loss of my loved ones bewail. Yea, they'd join me in pouring forth tears and help me my woes to lament, And like unto me they'd become all wasted and tortured and pale. How long did the heart for thy love that languished with longing endure A burden of passion, 'neath which e'en mountains might totter and fail! By Allah, what sorrows and woes to my soul for thy sake were decreed! My heart is grown hoar, ere eld's snows have left on my tresses their trail. The fires in my vitals that rage if I did but discover to view, Their ardour the world to consume, from the East to the West, might avail. But now unto me of my loves accomplished are joyance and cheer And those whom I cherish my soul with the wine of contentment regale. Our Lord, after sev'rance, with them hath conjoined us, for he who doth good Shall ne'er disappointed abide and kindnesses kindness entail.

When King El Aziz heard the damsel's song, her speech and her verses pleased him and he said to El Abbas, "O my son, verily, these damsels are weary with long versifying, and indeed they make us yearn after the dwellings and the homesteads with the goodliness of their songs. Indeed, these five have adorned our assembly with the excellence of their melodies and have done well in that which they have said before those who are present; wherefore we counsel thee to enfranchise them for the love of God the Most High." Quoth El Abbas, "There is no commandment but thy commandment;" and he enfranchised the ten damsels in the assembly; whereupon they kissed the hands of the king and his son and prostrated themselves in thanksgiving to God the Most High. Then they put off that which was upon them of ornaments and laying aside the lutes [and other] instruments of music, clave to their houses, veiled, and went not forth.[FN#144]

As for King El Aziz, he lived after this seven years and was admitted to the mercy of God the Most High; whereupon his son El Abbas carried him forth to burial on such wise as beseemeth unto kings and let make recitations and readings of the Koran, in whole or in part, over his tomb. He kept up the mourning for his father a full-told month, at the end of which time he sat down on the throne of the kingship and judged and did justice and distributed silver and gold. Moreover, he loosed all who were in the prisons and abolished grievances and customs dues and did the oppressed justice of the oppressor; wherefore the people prayed for him and loved him and invoked on him endurance of glory and kingship and length of continuance [on life] and eternity of prosperity and happiness. Moreover, the troops submitted to him and the hosts from all parts of the kingdom, and there came to him presents from all the lands. The kings obeyed him and many were his troops and his grandees, and his subjects lived with him the most easeful and prosperous of lives.

Meanwhile, he ceased not, he and his beloved, Queen Mariyeh, in the most delightsome of life and the pleasantest thereof, and he was vouchsafed by her children; and indeed there befell friendship and love between them and the longer their companionship was prolonged, the more their love waxed, so that they became unable to endure from each other a single hour, save the time of his going forth to the Divan, when he would return to her in the utterest that might be of longing. Aud on this wise they abode in all solace and delight of life, till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and the Sunderer of Companies. So extolled be the perfection of Him whose kingdom endureth for ever, who is never heedless neither dieth nor sleepeth! This is all that hath come down to us of their story, and so peace [be on you!]


King Shehriyar marvelled [at this story[FN#146]] and said "By Allah, verily, injustice slayeth its folk!"[FN#147] And he was edified by that wherewith Shehrzad bespoke him and sought help of God the Most High. Then said he to her, "Tell me another of thy stories, O Shehrzad; let it be a pleasant one and this shall be the completion of the story-telling." "With all my heart," answered Shehrzad. "It hath reached me, O august King, that a man once said to his fellows, 'I will set forth to you a means[FN#148] of security[FN#149] against vexation.[FN#150] A friend of mine once related to me and said, "We attained [whiles] to security[FN#151] against vexation,[FN#152]and the origin of it was other than this; to wit, it was as follows.[FN#153]


[Aforetime] I journeyed in [many] lands and climes and towns and visited the great cities and traversed the ways and [exposed myself to] dangers and hardships. Towards the last of my life, I entered a city [of the cities of China],[FN#155] wherein was a king of the Chosroes and the Tubbas[FN#156] and the Caesars.[FN#157] Now that city had been peopled with its inhabitants by means of justice and equitable dealing; but its [then] king was a tyrant, who despoiled souls and [did away] lives; there was no wanning oneself at his fire,[FN#158] for that indeed he oppressed the true believers and wasted the lands. Now he had a younger brother, who was [king] in Samarcand of the Persians, and the two kings abode a while of time, each in his own city and place, till they yearned unto each other and the elder king despatched his vizier in quest of his younger brother.

When the vizier came to the King of Samarcand [and acquainted him with his errand], he submitted himself to the commandment [of his brother and made answer] with 'Hearkening and obedience.' Then he equipped himself and made ready for the journey and brought forth his tents and pavilions. A while after midnight, he went in to his wife, that he might take leave of her, and found with her a strange man, sleeping with her in one bed. So he slew them both and dragging them out by the feet, cast them away and set forth incontinent on his journey. When he came to his brother's court, the latter rejoiced in him with an exceeding joy and lodged him in the pavilion of entertainment, [to wit, the guest-house,] beside his own palace. Now this pavilion overlooked a garden belonging to the elder king and there the younger brother abode with him some days. Then he called to mind that which his wife had done with him and remembered him of her slaughter and bethought him how he was a king, yet was not exempt from the vicissitudes of fortune; and this wrought upon him with an exceeding despite, so that it caused him abstain from meat and drink, or, if he ate anything, it profited him not.

When his brother saw him on this wise, he doubted not but that this had betided him by reason of severance from his people and family and said to him, 'Come, let us go forth a-hunting.' But he refused to go with him; so the elder brother went forth to the chase, whilst the younger abode in the pavilion aforesaid. As he was diverting himself by looking out upon the garden from the window of the palace, behold, he saw his brother's wife and with her ten black slaves and as many slave-girls. Each slave laid hold of a damsel [and swived her] and another slave [came forth and] did the like with the queen; and when they had done their occasions, they all returned whence they came. Therewithal there betided the King of Samarcand exceeding wonder and solacement and he was made whole of his malady, little by little.

After a few days, his brother returned and finding him healed of his sickness, said to him, 'Tell me, O my brother, what was the cause of thy sickness and thy pallor, and what is the cause of the return of health to thee and of rosiness to thy face after this?' So he acquainted him with the whole case and this was grievous to him; but they concealed their affair and agreed to leave the kingship and fare forth pilgrim-wise, wandering at a venture, for they deemed that there had befallen none the like of this which had befallen them. [So they went forth and wandered on at hazard] and as they journeyed, they saw by the way a woman imprisoned in seven chests, whereon were five locks, and sunken in the midst of the salt sea, under the guardianship of an Afrit; yet for all this that woman issued forth of the sea and opened those locks and coming forth of those chests, did what she would with the two brothers, after she had circumvented the Afrit.

When the two kings saw that woman's fashion and how she circumvented the Afrit, who had lodged her at the bottom of the sea, they turned back to their kingdoms and the younger betook himself to Samarcand, whilst the elder returned to China and established unto himself a custom in the slaughter of women, to wit, his vizier used to bring him a girl every night, with whom he lay that night, and when he arose in the morning, he gave her to the vizier and bade him put her to death. On this wise he abode a great while, whilst the people murmured and the creatures [of God] were destroyed and the commons cried out by reason of that grievous affair whereinto they were fallen and feared the wrath of God the Most High, dreading lest He should destroy them by means of this. Still the king persisted in that fashion and in that his blameworthy intent of the killing of women and the despoilment of the curtained ones,[FN#159] wherefore the girls sought succour of God the Most High and complained to Him of the tyranny of the king and of his oppressive dealing with them.

Now the king's vizier had two daughters, own sisters, the elder of whom had read books and made herself mistress of [all] sciences and studied the writings of the sages and the histories of the boon-companions,[FN#160] and she was possessed of abundant wit and knowledge galore and surpassing apprehension. She heard that which the folk suffered from the king and his despiteous usage of their children; whereupon compassion gat hold upon her for them and jealousy and she besought God the Most High that He would bring the king to renounce that his heresy,[FN#161] and God answered her prayer. Then she took counsel with her younger sister and said to her, 'I mean to contrive somewhat for the liberation of the people's children; and it is that I will go up to the king [and offer myself to him], and when I come to his presence, I will seek thee. When thou comest in to me and the king hath done his occasion [of me], do thou say to me, 'O my sister, let me hear and let the king hear a story of thy goodly stories, wherewithal we may beguile the waking hours of our night, till we take leave of each other.' 'It is well,' answered the other. 'Surely this contrivance will deter the king from his heresy and thou shalt be requited with exceeding favour and abounding recompense in the world to come, for that indeed thou adventurest thyself and wilt either perish or attain to thy desire.'

So she did this and fair fortune aided her and the Divine favour was vouchsafed unto her and she discovered her intent to her father, who forbade her therefrom, fearing her slaughter. However, she repeated her speech to him a second and a third time, but he consented not. Then he cited unto her a parable, that should deter her, and she cited him a parable in answer to his, and the talk was prolonged between them and the adducing of instances, till her father saw that he availed not to turn her from her purpose and she said to him, 'Needs must I marry the king, so haply I may be a sacrifice for the children of the Muslims; either I shall turn him from this his heresy or I shall die.' When the vizier despaired of dissuading her, he went up to the king and acquainted him with the case, saying, 'I have a daughter and she desireth to give herself to the king.' Quoth the king, 'How can thy soul consent unto this, seeing that thou knowest I lie but one night with a girl and when I arise on the morrow, I put her to death, and it is thou who slayest her, and thou hast done this again and again?' 'Know, O king,' answered the vizier, 'that I have set forth all this to her, yet consented she not unto aught, but needs must she have thy company and still chooseth to come to thee and present herself before thee, notwithstanding that I have cited to her the sayings of the sages; but she hath answered me to the contrary thereof with more than that which I said to her.' And the king said, 'Bring her to me this night and to-morrow morning come thou and take her and put her to death; and by Allah, an thou slay her not, I will slay thee and her also!'

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