Tales from the Arabic Volumes 1-3
by John Payne
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

So saying, he sprang to his feet and catching up the thigh-bone of one of the dead, cried out at the top of his voice, saying, 'O ye dead, take them!' And he smote one of them, whilst his comrade [El Merouzi] smote another and they cried out at them and buffeted them on the napes of their necks; whereupon the thieves left that which was with them of plunder and fled; and indeed their wits forsook them [for terror] and they stayed not in their flight till they came forth of the Magians' burial-ground and left it a parasang's length behind them, when they halted, trembling and affrighted for the soreness of that which had betided them of fear and amazement at the dead.

As for Er Razi and El Merouzi, they made peace with each other and sat down to share the booty. Quoth El Merouzi, 'I will not give thee a dirhem of this money, till thou pay me my due of the money that is in thy house.' And Er Razi said 'I will not do it, nor will I subtract this from aught of my due.' So they fell out upon this and disputed with one another and each went saying to his fellow, 'I will not give thee a dirhem!' And words ran high between them and contention was prolonged.

Meanwhile, when the thieves halted, one of them said to the others, 'Let us return and see;' and the captain said, 'This thing is impossible of the dead: never heard we that they came to life on this wise. So let us return and take our good, for that the dead have no occasion for good.' And they were divided in opinion as to returning: but [presently they came to a decision and] said, 'Indeed, our arms are gone and we cannot avail against them and will not draw near the place where they are: only let one of us [go thither and] look at it, and if he hear no sound of them, let him advertise us what we shall do.' So they agreed that they should send a man of them and assigned him [for this service] two parts [of the booty].

Accordingly, he returned to the burial-ground and gave not over going till he stood at the door of the sepulchre, when he heard El Merouzi say to his fellow, 'I will not give thee a single dirhem of the money!' The other said the like and they were occupied with contention and mutual revilement and talk. So the thief returned in haste to his fellows, who said, 'What is behind thee?' Quoth he, 'Get you gone and flee for your lives and save yourselves, O fools; for that much people of the dead are come to life and between them are words and contention.' So the thieves fled, whilst the two sharpers retained to Er Razi's house and made peace with one another and laid the thieves' purchase to the money they had gotten aforetime and lived a while of time. Nor, O king of the age," added the vizier, "is this rarer or more marvellous than the story of the four sharpers with the money-changer and the ass."

When the king heard this story, he smiled and it pleased him and he bade the vizier go away to his own house.

The Twenty-Second Night of the Month.

When the evening evened, the king summoned the vizier and required of him the hearing of the [promised] story. So he said, "Hearkening and obedience. Know, O king, that


Four sharpers once plotted against a money-changer, a man of abounding wealth, and agreed upon a device for the taking of somewhat of his money. So one of them took an ass and laying on it a bag, wherein was money, lighted down at the money-changer's shop and sought of him change for the money. The money- changer brought out to him the change and bartered it with him, whilst the sharper was easy with him in the matter of the exchange, so he might give him confidence in himself. [As they were thus engaged,] up came the [other three] sharpers and surrounded the ass; and one of them said, '[It is] he,' and another said, 'Wait till I look at him.' Then he fell to looking on the ass and stroking him from his mane to his crupper; whilst the third went up to him and handled him and felt him from head to tail, saying, ' Yes, [it is] in him.' Quoth another, ['Nay,] it is not in him.' And they gave not over doing the like of this.

Then they accosted the owner of the ass and chaffered with him and he said, 'I will not sell him but for ten thousand dirhems.' They offered him a thousand dirhems; but he refused and swore that he would not sell the ass but for that which he had said. They ceased not to add to their bidding, till the price reached five thousand dirhems, whilst their fellow still said, 'I will not sell him but for ten thousand dirhems.' The money-changer counselled him to sell, but he would not do this and said to him, 'Harkye, gaffer! Thou hast no knowledge of this ass's case. Concern thyself with silver and gold and what pertaineth thereto of change and exchange; for indeed the virtue of this ass passeth thy comprehension. To every craft its craftsman and to every means of livelihood its folk.'

When the affair was prolonged upon the three sharpers, they went away and sat down a little apart; then they came up to the money-changer privily and said to him, 'If thou canst buy him for us, do so, and we will give thee a score of dirhems.' Quoth he, 'Go away and sit down afar from him.' So they did his bidding and the money-changer went up to the owner of the ass and gave not over tempting him with money and cajoling him and saying, 'Leave yonder fellows and sell me the ass, and I will reckon him a gift from thee,' till he consented to sell him the ass for five thousand and five hundred dirhems. Accordingly the money-changer counted down to him five thousand and five hundred dirhems of his own money, and the owner of the ass took the price and delivered the ass to him, saying, 'Whatsoever betideth, though he abide a deposit about thy neck,[FN#46] sell him not to yonder rogues for less than ten thousand dirhems, for that they would fain buy him because of a hidden treasure whereof they know, and nought can guide them thereto but this ass. So close thy hand on him and gainsay me not, or thou wilt repent.'

So saying, he left him and went away, whereupon up came the three other sharpers, the comrades of him of the ass, and said to the money-changer, 'God requite thee for us with good, for that thou hast bought him! How can we requite thee!' Quoth he, 'I will not sell him but for ten thousand dirhems.' When they heard this, they returned to the ass and fell again to examining him and handling him. Then said they to the money-changer, 'We were mistaken in him. This is not the ass we sought and he is not worth more than half a score paras to us.' Then they left him and offered to go away, whereat the money-changer was sore chagrined and cried out at their speech, saying, 'O folk, ye besought me to buy him for you and now I have bought him, ye say, "We were deceived [in him], and he is not worth more than ten paras to us."' Quoth they, 'We supposed that in him was that which we desired; but, behold, in him is the contrary of that which we want; and indeed he hath a default, for that he is short of back.' And they scoffed at him and went away from him and dispersed.

The money-changer thought they did but finesse with him, that they might get the ass at their own price; but, when they went away from him and he had long in vain awaited their return, he cried out, saying, 'Woe!' and 'Ruin!' and 'Alack, my sorry chance!' and shrieked aloud and tore his clothes. So the people of the market assembled to him and questioned him of his case; whereupon he acquainted them with his plight and told them what the sharpers had said and how they had beguiled him and how it was they who had cajoled him into buying an ass worth half a hundred dirhems[FN#47] for five thousand and five hundred.[FN#48] His friends blamed him and a company of the folk laughed at him and marvelled at his folly and his credulity in accepting the sharpers' talk, without suspicion, and meddling with that which he understood not and thrusting himself into that whereof he was not assured.

On this wise, O King Shah Bekht," continued the vizier, "is the issue of eagerness for [the goods of] the world and covetise of that which our knowledge embraceth not; indeed, [whoso doth thus] shall perish and repent Nor, O king of the age, (added he) is this story more extraordinary than that of the sharper and the merchants."

When the king heard this story, he said in himself, "Verily, had I given ear to the sayings of my courtiers and inclined to the idle prate [of those who counselled me] in the matter of [the slaying of] my vizier, I had repented to the utterest of repentance, but praised be God, who hath disposed me to mansuetude and long-suffering and hath endowed me with patience!" Then he turned to the vizier and bade him return to his dwelling and [dismissed] those who were present, as of wont.

The Twenty-Third Night of the Month.

When the evening evened, the king sent after the vizier and when he presented himself before him, he required of him the hearing of the [promised] story. So he said, "Hearkening and obedience. Know, O illustrious lord, that


There was once aforetime a certain sharper, who [was so eloquent that he] would turn the ear inside out, and he was a man of understanding and quick wit and skill and perfection. It was his wont to enter a town and [give himself out as a merchant and] make a show of trafficking and insinuate himself into the intimacy of people of worth and consort with the merchants, for he was [apparently] distinguished for virtue and piety. Then he would put a cheat on them and take [of them] what he might spend and go away to another city; and he ceased not to do thus a great while.

It befell one day that he entered a certain city and sold somewhat that was with him of merchandise and got him friends of the merchants of the place and fell to sitting with them and entertaining them and inviting them to his lodging and his assembly, whilst they also invited him to their houses. On this wise he abode a long while, till he was minded to leave the city; and this was bruited abroad among his friends, who were concerned for parting from him. Then he betook himself to him of them, who was the richest of them in substance and the most apparent of them in generosity, and sat with him and borrowed his goods; and when he was about to take leave, he desired him to give him the deposit that he had left with him. 'And what is the deposit?' asked the merchant. Quoth the sharper, 'It is such a purse, with the thousand dinars therein.' And the merchant said, 'When didst thou give it me?' 'Extolled be the perfection of God!' replied the sharper. 'Was it not on such a day, by such a token, and thus and thus?' 'I know not of this,' rejoined the merchant, and words were bandied about between them, whilst the folk [who were present also] disputed together concerning their affair and their speech, till their voices rose high and the neighbours had knowledge of that which passed between them.

Then said the sharper, 'O folk, this is my friend and I deposited with him a deposit, but he denieth it; so in whom shall the folk put trust after this?' And they said, 'This [FN#49] is a man of worth and we have found in him nought but trustiness and loyality and good breeding, and he is endowed with understanding and generosity. Indeed, he avoucheth no falsehood, for that we have consorted with him and mixed with him and he with us and we know the sincerity of his religion.' Then quoth one of them to the merchant, 'Harkye, such an one! Bethink thee and consult thy memory. It may not be but that thou hast forgotten.' But he said, 'O folk, I know nothing of that which he saith, for indeed he deposited nought with me.' And the affair was prolonged between them. Then said the sharper to the merchant, 'I am about to make a journey and have, praised be God the Most High, wealth galore, and this money shall not escape me; but do thou swear to me.' And the folk said, 'Indeed, this man doth justice upon himself.'[FN#50] Whereupon the merchant fell into that which he misliked[FN#51] and came near upon [suffering] loss and ill repute.

Now he had a friend, who pretended to quickwittedness and understanding; so he came up to him privily and said to him, 'Let me do, so I may put the change on this trickster, for I know him to be a liar and thou art near upon having to pay the money; but I will turn suspicion from thee and say to him, "The deposit is with me and thou erredst in imagining that it was with other than myself," and so divert him from thee.' 'Do so,' replied the merchant, 'and rid the folk of their [false] debts.'

So the friend turned to the sharper and said to him, 'O my lord, O such an one, thou goest under a delusion. The purse is with me, for it was with me that thou depositedst it, and this elder is innocent of it.' But the sharper answered him with impatience and impetuosity, saying, 'Extolled be the perfection of God! As for the purse that is with thee, O noble and trusty man, I know that it is in the warrant of God and my heart is at ease concerning it, for that it is with thee as it were with me; but I began by demanding that which I deposited with this man, of my knowledge that he coveteth the folk's good.' At this the friend was confounded and put to silence and returned not an answer; [and the] only [result of his interference was that] each of them [FN#52] paid a thousand dinars.

So the sharper took the two thousand dinars and made off; and when he was gone, the merchant said to his friend, the [self-styled] man of wit and intelligence, 'Harkye, such an one! Thou and I are like unto the hawk and the locust.' 'What was their case?' asked the other; and the merchant said,


'There was once, of old time, a hawk who made himself a nest hard by that of a locust, and the latter gloried in his neighbourhood and betaking herself to him, saluted him and said, "O my lord and chief of the birds, indeed the nearness unto thee delighteth me and thou honourest me with thy neighbourhood and my soul is fortified with thee." The hawk thanked her for this and there ensued friendship between them. One day, the locust said to the hawk, "O chief of the birds, how cometh it that I see thee alone, solitary, having with thee no friend of thy kind of the birds, to whom thou mayst incline in time of easance and of whom thou mayst seek succour in time of stress? Indeed, it is said, 'Man goeth about seeking the ease of his body and the preservation of his strength, and in this there is nought more necessary to him than a friend who shall be the completion of his gladness and the mainstay of his life and on whom shall be his dependence in his stress and in his ease.' Now I, albeit I ardently desire thy weal in that which beseemeth thy condition, yet am I weak [and unable] unto that which the soul craveth; but, if thou wilt give me leave, I will seek out for thee one of the birds who shall be conformable unto thee in thy body and thy strength." And the hawk said, "I commit this to thee and rely upon thee therein."

Therewithal, O my brother, the locust fell to going round about among the company of the birds, but saw nought resembling the hawk in bulk and body save the kite and deemed well of her. So she brought the hawk and the kite together and counselled the former to make friends with the latter. Now it chanced that the hawk fell sick and the kite abode with him a long while [and tended him] till he recovered and became whole and strong; wherefore he thanked her [and she departed from him]. But after awhile the hawk's sickness returned to him and he needed the kite's succour. So the locust went out from him and was absent from him a day, after which she returned to him with a[nother] locust, [FN#53] saying, "I have brought thee this one." When the hawk saw her, he said, "God requite thee with good! Indeed, thou hast done well in the quest and hast been subtle in the choice."

All this, O my brother,' continued the merchant, 'befell because the locust had no knowledge of the secret essence that lieth hid in apparent bodies. As for thee, O my brother, (may God requite thee with good!) thou wast subtle in device and usedst precaution; but precaution sufficeth not against fate, and fortune fore-ordained baffleth contrivance. How excellent is the saying of the poet! And he recited the following verses:

It chances whiles that the blind man escapes a pit, Whilst he who is clear of sight falls into it. The ignorant man may speak with impunity A word that is death to the wise and the ripe of wit. The true believer is pinched for his daily bread, Whilst infidel rogues enjoy all benefit. Where is a man's resource and what can he do? It is the Almighty's will; we most submit.

Nor," added the vizier, "is this, O king of the age, more extraordinary or stranger than the story of the king and his chamberlain's wife; nay, the latter is rarer than this and more delightsome."

When the king heard this story, he was fortified in his resolve to spare the vizier and to leave haste in an affair whereof he was not assured; so he comforted him and bade him withdraw to his lodging.

The Twenty-Fourth Night of the Month.

When it was night, the king summoned the vizier and sought of him the hearing of the [promised] story. "Hearkening and obedience," replied Er Rehwan, "Know, O august king, that


There was once, of old days and in bygone ages and times, a king of the kings of the Persians, who was passionately addicted to the love of women. His courtiers bespoke him of the wife of a chamberlain of his chamberlains, for that she was endowed with beauty and loveliness and perfection, and this prompted him to go in to her. When she saw him, she knew him and said to him, 'What prompteth the king unto this that he doth?' And he answered, saying, 'Verily, I yearn after thee with an exceeding yearning and needs must I enjoy thy favours.' And he gave her of wealth that after the like whereof women hanker; but she said, 'I cannot do that whereof the king speaketh, for fear of my husband.' And she refused herself to him with the most rigorous of refusals and would not do his desire. So the king went out, full of wrath, and forgot his girdle in the place.

Presently, her husband entered and saw the girdle and knew it. Now he was ware of the king's love for women; so he said to his wife, ' What is this that I see with thee?' Quoth she, 'I will tell thee the truth,' and recounted to him the story; but he believed her not and doubt entered into his heart. As for the king, he passed that night in chagrin and concern, and when it morrowed, he summoned the chamberlain and investing him with the governance of one of his provinces, bade him betake himself thither, purposing, after he should have departed and come to his destination, to foregather with his wife. The chamberlain perceived [his intent] and knew his design; so he answered, saying, 'Hearkening and obedience. I will go and set my affairs in order and give such charges as may be necessary for the welfare of my estate; then will I go about the king's occasion.' And the king said, 'Do this and hasten.'

So the chamberlain went about that which he needed and assembling his wife's kinsfolk, said to them, 'I am resolved to put away my wife.' They took this ill of him and complained of him and summoning him before the king, sat pleading with him. Now the king had no knowledge of that which had passed; so he said to the chamberlain, 'Why wilt thou put her away and how can thy soul consent unto this and why takest thou unto thyself a goodly piece of land and after forsakest it? 'May God amend the king!' answered the husband. 'By Allah, O king, I saw therein the track of the lion and fear to enter the land, lest the lion devour me; and indeed the like of my affair with her is that which befell between the old woman and the draper's wife.' 'What is their story?' asked the king; and the chamberlain said, 'Know, O king, that


There was once a man of the drapers, who had a fair wife, and she was curtained [FN#54] and chaste. A certain young man saw her coming forth of the bath and loved her and his heart was occupied with her. So he cast about [to get access to her] with all manner of devices, but availed not to win to her; and when he was weary of endeavour and his patience was exhausted for weariness and his fortitude failed him and he was at an end of his resources against her, he complained of this to an old woman of ill-omen, [FN#55] who promised him to bring about union between him and her. He thanked her for this and promised her all manner of good; and she said to him, "Get thee to her husband and buy of him a turban-cloth of fine linen, and let it be of the goodliest of stuffs."

So he repaired to the draper and buying of him a turban-cloth of lawn, returned with it to the old woman, who took it and burned it in two places. Then she donned devotees' apparel and taking the turban-cloth with her, went to the draper's house and knocked at the door. When the draper's wife saw her, she opened to her and received her kindly and made much of her and welcomed her. So the old woman went in to her and conversed with her awhile. Then said she to her, "[I desire to make] the ablution [preparatory] to prayer." So the wife brought her water and she made the ablution and standing up to pray, prayed and did her occasion. When she had made an end of her prayers, she left the turban-cloth in the place of prayer and went away.

Presently, in came the draper, at the hour of evening prayer, and sitting down in the place where the old woman had prayed, looked about him and espied the turban. He knew it [for that which he had that day sold to the young man] and misdoubted of the case, wherefore anger appeared in his face and he was wroth with his wife and reviled her and abode his day and his night, without speaking to her, what while she knew not the cause of his anger. Then she looked and seeing the turban-cloth before him and noting the traces of burning thereon, understood that his anger was on account of this and concluded that he was wroth because it was burnt.

When the morning morrowed, the draper went out, still angered against his wife, and the old woman returned to her and found her changed of colour, pale of face, dejected and heart-broken. [So she questioned her of the cause of her dejection and she told her how her husband was angered against her (as she supposed) on account of the burns in the turban-cloth.] "O my daughter," rejoined the old woman, "be not concerned; for I have a son, a fine-drawer, and he, by thy life, shall fine-draw [the holes] and restore the turban-cloth as it was. "The wife rejoiced in her saying and said to her, "And when shall this be?" "To-morrow, if it please God the Most High," answered the old woman, "I will bring him to thee, at the time of thy husband's going forth from thee, and he shall mend it and depart forth-right." Then she comforted her heart and going forth from her, returned to the young man and told him what had passed.

Now, when the draper saw the turban-cloth, he resolved to put away his wife and waited but till he should get together that which was obligatory on him of the dowry and what not else,[FN#56] for fear of her people. When the old woman arose in the morning, she took the young man and carried him to the draper's house. The wife opened the door to her and the ill-omened old woman entered with him and said to the lady, "Go, fetch that which thou wouldst have fine-drawn and give it to my son." So saying, she locked the door on her, whereupon the young man forced her and did his occasion of her and went forth. Then said the old woman to her, "Know that this is my son and that he loved thee with an exceeding love and was like to lose his life for longing after thee. So I practised on thee with this device and came to thee with this turban-cloth, which is not thy husband's, but my son's. Now have I accomplished my desire; so do thou trust in me and I will put a trick on thy husband for the setting thee right with him, and thou wilt be obedient to me and to him and to my son."[FN#57] And the wife answered, saying, "It is well. Do so."

So the old woman returned to the lover and said to him, "I have skilfully contrived the affair for thee with her; [and now it behoveth us to amend that we have marred]. So go now and sit with the draper and bespeak him of the turban-cloth, [saying, 'The turban-cloth I bought of thee I chanced to burn in two places; so I gave it to a certain old woman, to get mended, and she took it and went away, and I know not her dwelling-place.'] When thou seest me pass by, rise and lay hold of me [and demand of me the turban-cloth], to the intent that I may amend her case with her husband and that thou mayst be even with her." So he repaired to the draper's shop and sat down by him and said to him, "Thou knowest the turban-cloth I bought of thee?" "Yes," answered the draper, and the other said, "Knowest thou what is come of it?" "No," replied the husband, and the youth said, "After I bought it of thee, I fumigated myself[FN#58] and it befell that the turban-cloth was burnt in two places. So I gave it to a woman, whose son, they said, was a fine-drawer, and she took it and went away with it; and I know not her abiding-place." When the draper heard this, he misdoubted him [of having wrongly suspected his wife] and marvelled at the story of the turban-cloth, and his mind was set at ease concerning her.

Presently, up came the old woman, whereupon the young man sprang to his feet and laying hold of her, demanded of her the turban-cloth. Quoth she, "Know that I entered one of the houses and made the ablution and prayed in the place of prayer; and I forgot the turban-cloth there and went out. Now I know not the house in which I prayed, nor have I been directed[FN#59] thereto, and I go round about every day till the night, so haply I may light on it, for I know not its owner." When the draper heard this, he said to the old woman, "Verily, Allah restoreth unto thee vhat which thou hast lost. Rejoice, for the turban-cloth is with me and in my house." And he arose forthright and gave her the turban-cloth, as it was. She gave it to the young man, and the draper made his peace with his wife and gave her raiment and jewellery, [by way of peace-offering], till she was content and her heart was appeased. [FN#60]

When the king heard his chamberlain's story, he was confounded and abashed and said to him, 'Abide on thy wonted service and till thy land, for that the lion entered it, but marred it not, and he will never more return thither.'[FN#61] Then he bestowed on him a dress of honour and made him a sumptuous present; and the man returned to his wife and people, rejoicing and glad, for that his heart was set at rest concerning his wife. Nor," added the vizier, "O king of the age, is this rarer or more extraordinary than the story of the fair and lovely woman, endowed with amorous grace, with the foul-favoured man."

When the king heard the vizier's speech, he deemed it goodly and it pleased him; so he bade him go away to his house, and there he abode his day long.

The Twenty-fifth Night of the Month.

When the evening evened, the king summoned his vizier and bade him tell the [promised] story. So he said, "It is well. Know, O king, that


There was once a man of the Arabs who had a number of sons, and amongst them a boy, never was seen a fairer than he of favour nor a more accomplished in loveliness, no, nor a more perfect of wit. When he came to man's estate, his father married him to the daughter of one of his uncles, and she excelled not in beauty, neither was she praiseworthy of attributes; wherefore she pleased not the youth, but he bore with her, for kinship's sake.

One day, he went forth in quest of certain stray camels of his and fared on all his day and night till eventide, when he [came to an Arab encampment and] was fain to seek hospitality of one of the inhabitants. So he alighted at one of the tents of the camp and there came forth to him a man of short stature and loathly aspect, who saluted him and lodging him in a corner of the tent, sat entertaining him with talk, the goodliest that might be. When his food was dressed, the Arab's wife brought it to the guest, and he looked at the mistress of the tent and saw a favour than which no goodlier might be. Indeed, her beauty and grace and symmetry amazed him and he abode confounded, looking now at her and now at her husband. When his looking grew long, the man said to him, 'Harkye, O son of the worthy! Occupy thyself with thine own concerns, for by me and this woman hangeth a rare story, that is yet goodlier than that which thou seest of her beauty; and when we have made an end of our food, I will tell it thee.'

So, when they had made an end of eating and drinking, the young man asked his host for the story, and he said, 'Know that in my youth I was even as thou seest me in the matter of loathliness and foul favour; and I had brethren of the comeliest of the folk; wherefore my father preferred them over me and used to show them kindness, to my exclusion, and employ me, in their room [in menial service], like as one employeth slaves. One day, a she-camel of his went astray and he said to me, "Go thou forth in quest of her and return not but with her." Quoth I, "Send other than I of thy sons." But he would not consent to this and reviled me and insisted upon me, till the matter came to such a pass with him that he took a whip and fell to beating me. So I arose and taking a riding-camel, mounted her and sallied forth at a venture, purposing to go out into the deserts and return to him no more. I fared on all my night [and the next day] and coming at eventide to [the encampment of] this my wife's people, alighted down with her father, who was a very old man, and became his guest.

When the night was half spent, I arose [and went forth the tent] to do an occasion of mine, and none knew of my case save this woman. The dogs misdoubted of me and followed me and gave not over besetting me, till I fell on my back into a deep pit, wherein was water, and one of the dogs fell in with me. The woman, who was then a girl in the first bloom of youth, full of strength and spirit, was moved to pity on me, for that wherein I was fallen, and coming to me with a rope, said to me, "Lay hold of this rope." So I laid hold of the rope and clung to it and she pulled me up; but, when I was halfway up, I pulled her [down] and she fell with me into the pit; and there we abode three days, she and I and the dog.

When her people arose in the morning and saw her not, they sought her in the camp, but, finding her not and missing me also, doubted not but she had fled with me. Now she had four brothers, as they were falcons, and they mounted and dispersed in quest of us. When the day dawned [on the fourth morning], the dog began to bark and the other dogs answered him and coming to the mouth of the pit, stood howling to him. My wife's father, hearing the howling of the dogs, came up and standing at the brink of the pit, [looked in and] beheld a marvel. Now he was a man of valour and understanding, an elder versed[FN#62] in affairs so he fetched a rope and bringing us both forth, questioned us of our case. I told him all that had betided and he abode pondering the affair.

Presently, her brothers returned, whereupon the old man acquainted them with the whole case and said to them, "O my sons, know that your sister purposed not aught but good, and if ye slay this man, ye will earn abiding reproach and ye will wrong him, ay, and wrong yourselves and your sister, to boot; for indeed there appeareth no cause [of offence] such as calleth for slaughter, and it may not be denied that this incident is a thing the like whereof may well betide and that he may well have been baffled by the like of this chance." Then he turned to me and questioned me of my lineage; so I set forth to him my genealogy and he said, "A man of equal rank, honourable [and] understanding." And he offered me [his daughter in] marriage. I consented to him of this and marrying her, took up my abode with him and God the Most High hath opened on me the gates of weal and fortune, so that I am become the most abounding in substance of the folk of the tribe; and He hath stablished me in that which He hath given me of His bounties.'

The young man marvelled at his story and lay the night with him; and when he arose in the morning, he found his strays. So he took them and returning [to his family.], acquainted them with what he had seen and that which had betided him. Nor," added the vizier, "is this more marvellous or rarer than the story of the king who lost kingdom and wealth and wife and children and God restored them unto him and requited him with a kingdom more magnificent than that which he had lost and goodlier and rarer and greater of wealth and elevation."

The vizier's story pleased the king and he bade depart to his dwelling.

The Twenty-Sixth Night of the Month.

When came the night, the king summoned his vizier and bade him tell the story of the king who lost kingdom and wife and wealth. "Hearkening and obedience," replied Er Rehwan. "Know, O king, that


There was once a king of the kings of Hind, who was goodly of polity, praiseworthy in administration, just to his subjects, beneficent to men of learning and piety and asceticism and devoutness and worship and shunning traitors and froward folk and those of lewd life. On this wise of polity he abode in his kingship what God the Most High willed of days and hours and years, and he married the daughter of his father's brother, a beautiful and lovesome woman, endowed with brightness and perfection, who had been reared in the king's house in splendour and delight. She bore him two sons, the comeliest that might be of boys. Then came fore-ordained fate, which there is no warding off, and God the Most High raised up against the king another king, who came forth upon his realm, and all the folk of the city, who had a mind unto evil and lewdness, joined themselves unto him. So he fortified himself against the king and made himself master of his kingdom, putting his troops to the rout and slaying his guards.

The king took his wife, the mother of his sons, and what he might [of good] and saved himself and fled in the darkness of the night, unknowing whither he should go. When travel grew sore upon them, there met them robbers by the way, who took all that was with them, [even to their clothes], so that there was left unto each of them but a shirt and trousers; yea, they left them without victual or camels or [other] riding-cattle, and they ceased not to fare on afoot, till they came to a coppice, to wit, a garden of trees, on the shore of the sea. Now the road which they would have followed was crossed by an arm of the sea, but it was scant of water. So, when they came to that place, the king took up one of his children and fording the water with him, set him down on the other bank and returned for his other son. Him also he set by his brother and returning for their mother, took her up and passing the water with her, came to the place [where he had left his children], but found them not. Then he looked at the midst of the island and saw there an old man and an old woman, engaged in making themselves a hut of reeds. So he put down his wife over against them and set off in quest of his children, but none gave him news of them and he went round about right and left, but found not the place where they were.

Now the children had entered the coppice, to make water, and there was there a forest of trees, wherein, if a horseman entered, he might wander by the week, [before finding his way out], for none knew the first thereof from the last. So the boys entered therein and knew not how they should return and went astray in that wood, to an end that was willed of God the Most High, whilst their father sought them, but found them not. So he returned to their mother and they abode weeping for their children. As for these latter, when they entered the wood, it swallowed them up and they went wandering in it many days, knowing not where they had entered, till they came forth, at another side, upon the open country.

Meanwhile, the king and queen abode in the island, over against the old man and woman, and ate of the fruits that were in the island and drank of its waters, till, one day, as they sat, there came a ship and moored to the side of the island, to fill up with water, whereupon they[FN#63] looked at each other and spoke. The master of the ship was a Magian and all that was therein, both men and goods, belonged to him, for that he was a merchant and went round about the world. Now covetise deluded the old man, the owner of the island, and he went up [into the ship] and gave the Magian news of the king's wife, setting out to him her charms, till he made him yearn unto her and his soul prompted him to use treachery and practise upon her and take her from her hnsband. So he sent to her, saying, 'With us in the ship is a woman with child, and we fear lest she be delivered this night. Hast thou skill in the delivering of women?' And she answered, 'Yes.' Now it was the last of the day; so he sent to her to come up into the ship and deliver the woman, for that the pangs of labour were come upon her; and he promised her clothes and spending-money. Accordingly, she embarked in all assurance, with a heart at ease for herself, and transported her gear to the ship; but no sooner was she come thither than the anchors were weighed and the canvas spread and the ship set sail.

When the king saw this, he cried out and his wife wept in the ship and offered to cast herself into the sea; but the Magian bade the sailors lay hands on her. So they seized her and it was but a little while ere the night darkened and the ship disappeared from the king's eyes; whereupon he swooned away for excess of weeping and lamentation and passed his night bewailing his wife and children.

When the morning morrowed, he recited the following verses:

How long, O Fate, wilt thou oppress and baffle me? Tell me, was ever yet a mortal spared of thee? Behold, my loved ones all are ta'en from me away. They left me and content forthright forsook my heart, Upon that day my loves my presence did depart; My pleasant life for loss of friends is troubled aye. By Allah, I knew not their worth nor yet how dear A good it is to have one's loved ones ever near, Until they left my heart on fire without allay. Ne'er shall I them forget, nay, nor the day they went And left me all forlorn, to pine for languishment, My severance to bewail in torment and dismay. I make a vow to God, if ever day or night The herald of good news my hearing shall delight, Announcing the return o' th' absent ones, I'll lay Upon their threshold's dust my cheeks and to my soul, "Take comfort, for the loved are come again," I'll say. If for my loved ones' loss I rent my heart for dole, Before I rent my clothes, reproach me not, I pray.

He abode weeping for the loss of his wife and children till the morning, when he went forth wandering at a venture, knowing not what he should do, and gave not over faring along the sea-shore days and nights, unknowing whither he went and taking no food therein other than the herbs of the earth and seeing neither man nor beast nor other living thing, till his travel brought him to the top of a mountain. He took up his sojourn in the mountain and abode there [awhile] alone, eating of its fruits and drinking of its waters. Then he came down thence and fared on along the high road three days, at the end of which time he came upon tilled fields and villages and gave not over going till he sighted a great city on the shore of the sea and came to the gate thereof at the last of the day. The gatekeepers suffered him not to enter; so he abode his night anhungred, and when he arose in the morning, be sat down hard by the gate.

Now the king of the city was dead and had left no son, and the townsfolk fell out concerning who should be king over them: and their sayings differed and their counsels, so that turmoil was like to betide between them by reason of this. At last, after long dissension, they came to an accord and agreed to leave the choice to the late king's elephant and that he unto whom he consented should be king and that they would not contest the commandment with him. So they made oath of this and on the morrow, they brought out the elephant and came forth to the utterward of the city; nor was there man or woman left in the place but was present at that time. Then they adorned the elephant and setting up the throne on his back, gave him the crown in his trunk; and he went round about examining the faces of the folk, but stopped not with any of them till he came to the banished king, the forlorn, the exile, him who had lost his children and his wife, when he prostrated himself to him and placing the crown on his head, took him up and set him on his back.

Thereupon the folk all prostrated themselves and gave one another joy of this and the drums of good tidings beat before him, and he entered the city [and went on] till he came to the House of Justice and the audience-hall of the palace and sat down on the throne of the kingdom, with the crown on his head; whereupon the folk came in to him to give him joy and offer up prayers for him. Then he addressed himself, after his wont in the kingship, to ordering the affairs of the folk and ranging the troops according to their ranks and looking into their affairs and those of all the people. Moreover, he released those who were in the prisons and abolished the customs dues and gave dresses of honour and bestowed gifts and largesse and conferred favours on the amirs and viziers and dignitaries, and the chamberlains and deputies presented themselves before him and did him homage. So the people of the city rejoiced in him and said, 'Indeed this is none other than a king of the greatest of the kings.'

Moreover, he assembled the sages and the theologians and the sons of the kings and devised with them and asked them questions and problems and examined with them into many things of all fashions that might direct him to well-doing in the kingly office; and he questioned them also of subtleties and religious obligations and of the laws of the kingdom and the fashions of administration and of that which it behoveth the king to do of looking into the affairs of the people and repelling the enemy [from the realm] and fending off his malice with war; wherefore the people's contentment redoubled and their joy in that which God the Most High had vouchsafed them of his elevation to the kingship over them. So he upheld the ordinance of the realm and the affairs thereof abode established upon the accepted customs.

Now the late king had left a wife and a daughter, and the people would fain have married the latter to the new king, to the intent that the kingship might not pass out of the old royal family. So they proposed to him that he should take her to wife, and he promised them this, but put them off from him,[FN#64] of his respect for the covenant he had made with his former wife, to wit, that he would take none other to wife than herself. Then he betook himself to fasting by day and standing up by night [to pray], giving alms galore and beseeching God (extolled be His perfection and exalted be He!) to reunite him with his children and his wife, the daughter of his father's brother.

When a year had elapsed, there came to the city a ship, wherein were merchants and goods galore. Now it was of their usance, from time immemorial, that, when there came a ship to the city, the king sent unto it such of his servants as he trusted in, who took charge of the goods, so they might be [first of all] shown to the king, who bought such of them as befitted him and gave the merchants leave to sell the rest. So he sent, as of wont, one who should go up to the ship and seal up the goods and set over them who should keep watch over them.

To return to the queen his wife. When the Magian fled with her, he proffered himself to her and lavished unto her wealth galore, but she rejected his suit and was like to slay herself for chagrin at that which had befallen and for grief for her separation from her husband. Moreover, she refused meat and drink and offered to cast herself into the sea; but the Magian shackled her and straitened her and clad her in a gown of wool and said to her, 'I will continue thee in misery and abjection till thou obey me and consent to my wishes.' So she took patience and looked for God to deliver her from the hand of that accursed one; and she ceased not to travel with him from place to place till he came with her to the city wherein her husband was king and his goods were put under seal.

Now the woman was in a chest and two youths of the pages of the late king, who were now in the new king's service, were those who had been charged with the guardianship of the vessel and the goods. When the evening evened on them, the two youths fell a-talking and recounted that which had befallen them in their days of childhood and the manner of the going forth of their father and mother from their country and royal estate, whenas the wicked overcame their land, and [called to mind] how they had gone astray in the forest and how fate had made severance between them and their parents; brief, they recounted their story, from beginning to end. When the woman heard their talk, she knew that they were her very sons and cried out to them from the chest, saying, 'I am your mother such an one, and the token between you and me is thus and thus.' The young men knew the token and falling upon the chest, broke the lock and brought out their mother, who strained them to her breast, and they fell upon her and swooned away, all three.

When they came to themselves, they wept awhile and the folk assembled about them, marvelling at that which they saw, and questioned them of their case. So the young men vied with each other who should be the first to discover the story to the folk; and when the Magian saw this, he came up, crying out, 'Alas!' and 'Woe worth the day!' and said to them, 'Why have ye broken open my chest? I had in it jewels and ye have stolen them, and this damsel is my slave-girl and she hath agreed with you upon a device to take the good.' Then he rent his clothes and called aloud for succour, saying, 'I appeal to God and to the just king, so he may quit me of these wrong-doing youths!' Quoth they, 'This is our mother and thou stolest her.' Then words waxed many between them and the folk plunged into talk and prate and discussion concerning their affair and that of the [pretended] slave-girl, and the strife waxed amain between them, so that [at last] they carried them up to the king.

When the two young men presented themselves before him and set forth their case to him and to the folk and the king heard their speech, he knew them and his heart was like to fly for joyance in them: the tears poured from his eyes at their sight and that of his wife, and he thanked God the Most High and praised Him for that He had reunited [him with] them. Then he dismissed the folk who were present about him and bade commit the Magian and the woman and the two youths to his armoury[FN#65] [for the night], commanding that they should keep guard over them till God caused the morning morrow, so he might assemble the cadis and the judges and assessors and judge between them, according to the Holy Law, in the presence of the four cadis. So they did his bidding and the king passed the night praying and praising God the Most High for that which He had vouchsafed him of kingship and puissance and victory over[FN#66] him who had wronged him and thanking Him who had reunited him with his family.

When the morning morrowed, he assembled the cadis and judges and assessors and sending for the Magian and the two youths and their mother, questioned them of their case, whereupon the two young men began and said, 'We are the sons of the king Such-an-one and enemies and wicked men got the mastery of out realm; so our father fled forth with us and wandered at a venture, for fear of the enemies.' [And they recounted to him all that had betided them, from beginning to end.] Quoth he, 'Ye tell a marvellous story; but what hath [Fate] done with your father?' 'We know not how fortune dealt with him after our loss,' answered they; and he was silent.

Then he turned to the woman and said to her, 'And thou, what sayst thou?' So she expounded to him her case and recounted to him all that had betided her and her husband, first and last, up to the time when they took up their abode with the old man and woman who dwelt on the sea-shore. Then she set out that which the Magian had practised on her of knavery and how he had carried her off in the ship and all that had betided her of humiliation and torment, what while the cadis and judges and deputies hearkened to her speech. When the king heard the last of his wife's story, he said, 'Verily, there hath betided thee a grievous matter; but hast thou knowledge of what thy husband did and what came of his affair?' 'Nay, by Allah,' answered she; 'I have no knowledge of him, save that I leave him no hour unremembered in fervent prayer, and never, whilst I live, will he cease to be to me the father of my children and my father's brother's son and my flesh and my blood.' Then she wept and the king bowed his head, whilst his eyes brimmed over with tears at her story.

Then he raised his head to the Magian and said to him, 'Say thy say, thou also.' So the Magian said, 'This is my slave-girl, whom I bought with my money from such a land and for so many dinars, and I made her my favourite[FN#67] and loved her with an exceeding love and gave her charge over my good; but she betrayed me in my substance and plotted with one of my servants to slay me, tempting him by promising him that she would be his wife. When I knew this of her and was certified that she purposed treason against me, I awoke [from my heedlessness] and did with her that which I did, of fear for myself from her craft and perfidy; for indeed she is a beguiler with her tongue and she hath taught these two youths this pretence, by way of trickery and of her perfidy and malice: so be thou not deluded by her and by her talk.'

'Thou liest, O accursed one,' cried the king and bade lay hands on him and clap him in irons. Then he turned to the two youths, his sons, and strained them to his breast, weeping sore and saying, 'O all ye who are present of cadis and assessors and officers of state, know that these twain are my sons and that this is my wife and the daughter of my father's brother; for that I was king aforetime in such a region.' And he recounted to them his history from beginning to end, nor is there aught of profit in repetition; whereupon the folk cried out with weeping and lamentation for the stress of that which they heard of marvellous chances and that rare story. As for the king's wife, he caused carry her into his palace and lavished upon her and upon her sons all that behoved and beseemed them of bounties, whilst the folk flocked to offer up prayers for him and give him joy of [his reunion with] his wife and children.

When they had made an end of pious wishes and congratulations, they besought the king to hasten the punishment of the Magian and heal their hearts of him with torment and humiliation. So he appointed them for a day on which they should assemble to witness his punishment and that which should betide him of torment, and shut himself up with his wife and sons and abode thus private with them three days, during which time they were sequestered from the folk. On the fourth day the king entered the bath, and coming forth, sat down on the throne of his kingship, with the crown on his head, whereupon the folk came in to him, according to their wont and after the measure of their several ranks and degrees, and the amirs and viziers entered, ay, and the chamberlains and deputies and captains and men of war and the falconers and armbearers. Then he seated his two sons, one on his right and the other on his left hand, whilst all the folk stood before him and lifted up their voices in thanksgiving to God the Most High and glorification of Him and were strenuous in prayer for the king and in setting forth his virtues and excellences.

He returned them the most gracious of answers and bade carry the Magian forth of the town and set him on a high scaffold that had been builded for him there; and he said to the folk, 'Behold, I will torture him with all kinds of fashions of torment.' Then he fell to telling them that which he had wrought of knavery with the daughter of his father's brother and what he had caused betide her of severance between her and her husband and how he had required her of herself, but she had sought refuge against him with God (to whom belong might and majesty) and chose rather humiliation than yield to his wishes, notwithstanding stress of torment; neither recked she aught of that which he lavished to her of wealth and raiment and jewels.

When the king had made an end of his story, he bade the bystanders spit in the Magian's face and curse him; and they did this. Then he bade cut out his tongue and on the morrow he bade cut off his ears and nose and pluck out his eyes. On the third day he bade cut off his hands and on the fourth his feet; and they ceased not to lop him limb from limb, and each member they cast into the fire, after its cutting-off, before his face, till his soul departed, after he had endured torments of all kinds and fashions. The king bade crucify his trunk on the city-wall three days' space; after which he let burn it and reduce its ashes to powder and scatter them abroad in the air.

Then the king summoned the cadi and the witnesses and bade them many the old king's daughter and sister to his own sons; so they married them, after the king had made a bride-feast three days and displayed their brides to them from eventide to peep of day. Then the two princes went in to their brides and did away their maidenhead and loved them and were vouchsafed children by them.

As for the king their father, he abode with his wife, their mother, what while God (to whom belong might and majesty) willed, and they rejoiced in reunion with each other. The kingship endured unto them and glory and victory, and the king continued to rule with justice and equity, so that the people loved him and still invoked on him and on his sons length of days and durance; and they lived the most delightsome of lives till there came to them the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Companies, He who layeth waste the palaces and peopleth the tombs; and this is all that hath come down to us of the story of the king and his wife and children. Nor," added the vizier, "if this story be a solace and a diversion, is it pleasanter or more diverting than that of the young man of Khorassan and his mother and sister."

When King Shah Bekht heard this story, it pleased him and he bade the vizier go away to his own house.

The Twenty-Seventh Night of the Month

When the evening came, the king bade fetch the vizier; so he presented himself before him and the king bade him tell the [promised] story. So he said, "Hearkening and obedience. Know, O king (but God alone knoweth His secret purpose and is versed in all that is past and was foredone among bygone peoples), that


There was once, in the parts of Khorassan, a man of the affluent of the country, who was a merchant of the chiefest of the merchants and was blessed with two children, a son and a daughter. He was assiduous in rearing them and making fair their education, and they grew up and throve after the goodliest fashion. He used to teach the boy, who taught his sister all that he learnt, so that the girl became perfect in the knowledge of the Traditions of the Prophet and in polite letters, by means of her brother. Now the boy's name was Selim and that of the girl Selma. When they grew up and waxed, their father built them a mansion beside his own and lodged them apart therein and appointed them slave-girls and servants to tend them and assigned unto each of them pensions and allowances and all that they needed of high and low, meat and bread and wine and raiment and vessels and what not else. So Selim and Selma abode in that mansion, as they were one soul in two bodies, and they used to sleep on one couch; and rooted in each one's heart was love and affection and familiar friendship [for the other of them].

One night, when the night was half spent, as Selim and Selma sat talking and devising with each other, they heard a noise below the house; so they looked out from a lattice that gave upon the gate of their father's mansion and saw a man of goodly presence, whose clothes were hidden by a wide cloak, which covered him. He came up to the gate and laying hold of the door-ring, gave a light knock; whereupon the door opened and out came their sister, with a lighted flambeau, and after her their mother, who saluted the stranger and embraced him, saying, 'O beloved of my heart and light of mine eyes and fruit of mine entrails, enter.' So he entered and shut the door, whilst Selim and Selma abode amazed.

Then Selim turned to Selma and said to her, 'O sister mine, how deemest thou of this calamity and what counsellest thou thereanent?' 'O my brother,' answered she, 'indeed I know not what I shall say concerning the like of this; but he is not disappointed who seeketh direction [of God], nor doth he repent who taketh counsel. One getteth not the better of the traces of burning by[FN#68] haste, and know that this is an affliction that hath descended on us; and we have need of management to do it away, yea, and contrivance to wash withal our shame from our faces.' And they gave not over watching the gate till break of day, when the young man opened the door and their mother took leave of him; after which he went his way and she entered, she and her handmaid.

Then said Selim to his sister, 'Know that I am resolved to slay yonder man, if he return this next night, and I will say to the folk, "He was a thief," and none shall know that which hath befallen. Moreover, I will address myself to the slaughter of whosoever knoweth that which is between yonder fellow and my mother.' But Selma said, ' I fear lest, if thou slay him in our dwelling-place and he savour not of robberhood,[FN#69] suspicion will revert upon ourselves, and we cannot be assured but that he belongeth unto folk whose mischief is to be feared and their hostility dreaded,[FN#70] and thus wilt thou have fled from privy shame to open shame and abiding public dishonour.' 'How then deemest thou we should do?' asked Selim and she said, 'Is there nothing for it but to slay him? Let us not hasten unto slaughter, for that the slaughter of a soul without just cause is a grave [matter].'

(When Shehriyar heard this, he said in himself, 'By Allah, I have indeed been reckless in the slaying of women and girls, and praised be God who hath occupied me with this damsel from the slaughter of souls, for that the slaughter of souls is a grave [matter!] By Allah, if Shah Bekht spare the vizier, I will assuredly spare Shehrzad!' Then he gave ear to the story and heard her say to her sister:)

Quoth Selma to Selim, 'Hasten not to slay him, but ponder the matter and consider the issue to which it may lead; for whoso considereth not the issues [of his actions], fortune is no friend to him.' Then they arose on the morrow and occupied themselves with devising how they should turn away their mother from that man, and she forebode mischief from them, by reason of that which she saw in their eyes of alteration, for that she was keen of wit and crafty. So she took precaution for herself against her children and Selma said to Selim, 'Thou seest that whereinto we have fallen through this woman, and indeed she hath gotten wind of our purpose and knoweth that we have discovered her secret. So, doubtless, she will plot against us the like of that which we plot for her; for indeed up to now she had concealed her affair, and now she will forge lies against us; wherefore, methinks, there is a thing [fore-]written to us, whereof God (extolled be His perfection and exalted be He!) knew in His foreknowledge and wherein He executeth His ordinances.' 'What is that?' asked he, and she said, 'It is that we arise, I and thou, and go forth this night from this land and seek us a land wherein we may live and witness nought of the doings of yonder traitress; for whoso is absent from the eye is absent from the heart, and quoth one of the poets in the following verse:

Twere better and meeter thy presence to leave, For, if the eye see not, the heart doth not grieve.'

Quoth Selim to her, 'It is for thee to decide and excellent is that which thou counsellest; so let us do this, in the name of God the Most High, trusting in Him for grace and guidance.' So they arose and took the richest of their clothes and the lightest of that which was in their treasuries of jewels and things of price and gathered together a great matter. Then they equipped them ten mules and hired them servants of other than the people of the country; and Selim bade his sister Selma don man's apparel. Now she was the likest of all creatures to him, so that, [when she was clad in man's attire,] the folk knew no difference between them, extolled be the perfection of Him who hath no like, there is no God but He! Then he bade her mount a horse, whilst he himself bestrode another, and they set out, under cover of the night. None of their family nor of the people of their house knew of them; so they fared on into the wide world of God and gave not over going night and day two months' space, at the end of which time they came to a city on the sea-shore of the land of Mekran, by name Es Sherr, and it is the first city in Sind.

They lighted down without the place and when they arose in the morning, they saw a populous and goodly city, fair of seeming and great, abounding in trees and streams and fruits and wide of suburbs. So the young man said to his sister Selma, 'Abide thou here in thy place, till I enter the city and examine it and make assay of its people and seek out a place which we may buy and whither we may remove. If it befit us, we will take up our abode therein, else will we take counsel of departing elsewhither.' Quoth she, 'Do this, trusting in the bounty of God (to whom belong might and majesty) and in His blessing.'

So he took a belt, wherein were a thousand dinars, and binding it about his middle, entered the city and gave not over going round about its streets and markets and gazing upon its houses and sitting with those of its folk whose aspect bespoke them men of worth, till the day was half spent, when he resolved to return to his sister and said in himself, 'Needs must I buy what we may eat of ready-[dressed] food] I and my sister.' Accordingly, he accosted a man who sold roast meat and who was clean [of person], though odious in his [means of getting a] living, and said to him, 'Take the price of this dish [of meat] and add thereto of fowls and chickens and what not else is in your market of meats and sweetmeats and bread and arrange it in dishes.' So the cook set apart for him what he desired and calling a porter, laid it in his basket, and Selim paid the cook the price of his wares, after the fullest fashion.

As he was about to go away, the cook said to him, 'O youth, doubtless thou art a stranger?' And he answered, 'Yes.' Quoth the cook, 'It is reported in one of the Traditions [of the Prophet that he said,] "Loyal admonition is [a part] of religion;" and the understanding say, "Admonition is of the characteristics of the true believers." And indeed that which I have seen of thy fashions pleaseth me and I would fain give thee a warning.' 'Speak out thy warning,' rejoined Selim, 'and may God strengthen thine affair!' Then said the cook, 'Know, O my son, that in this our country, whenas a stranger entereth therein and eateth of flesh-meat and drinketh not old wine thereon, this is harmful unto him and engendereth in him dangerous disorders. Wherefore, if thou have provided thee somewhat thereof,[FN#71] [it is well;] but, if not, look thou procure it, ere thou take the meat and carry it away.' 'May God requite thee with good!' rejoined Selim. 'Canst thou direct me where it is sold?' And the cook said, 'With me is all that thou seekest thereof.' 'Is there a way for me to see it?' asked the young man; and the cook sprang up and said, 'Pass on.' So he entered and the cook showed him somewhat of wine; but he said, 'I desire better than this.' Whereupon he opened a door and entering, said to Selim, 'Enter and follow me.'

Selim followed him till he brought him to an underground chamber and showed him somewhat of wine that was to his mind. So he occupied him with looking upon it and taking him at unawares, sprang upon him from behind and cast him to the earth and sat upon his breast. Then he drew a knife and set it to his jugular; whereupon there betided Selim [that wherewithal] God made him forget all that He had decreed [unto him],[FN#72] and he said to the cook, 'Why dost thou this thing, O man? Be mindful of God the Most High and fear Him. Seest thou not that I am a stranger? And indeed [I have left] behind me a defenceless woman. Why wilt thou slay me?' Quoth the cook, 'Needs must I slay thee, so I may take thy good.' And Selim said, 'Take my good, but slay me not, neither enter into sin against me; and do with me kindness, for that the taking of my money is lighter[FN#73] than the taking of my life.'

'This is idle talk,' answered the cook. 'Thou canst not deliver thyself with this, O youth, for that in thy deliverance is my destruction.' Quoth Selim, 'I swear to thee and give thee the covenant of God (to whom belong might and majesty) and His bond, that He took of His prophets, that I will not discover thy secret ever.' But the cook answered, saying, 'Away! Away! This may no wise be.' However, Selim ceased not to conjure him and make supplication to him and weep, while the cook persisted in his intent to slaughter him. Then he wept and recited the following verses:

Haste not to that thou dost desire, for haste is still unblest; Be merciful to men, as thou on mercy reckonest; For no hand is there but the hand of God is over it And no oppressor but shall be with worse than he opprest.

Quoth the cook, 'Nothing will serve but I must slay thee, O fellow; for, if I spare thee, I shall myself be slain.' But Selim said, 'O my brother, I will counsel thee somewhat[FN#74] other than this.' 'What is it?' asked the cook. 'Say and be brief, ere I cut thy throat' And Selim said, '[Do thou suffer me to live and] keep me, that I may be a servant unto thee, and I will work at a craft, of the crafts of the skilled workmen, wherefrom there shall return to thee every day two dinars.' Quoth the cook, 'What is the craft?' and Selim said, 'The cutting [and polishing] of jewels.'

When the cook heard this, he said in himself, 'It will do me no hurt if I imprison him and shackle him and bring him what he may work at. If he tell truth, I will let him live, and if he prove a liar, I will slay him.' So he took a pair of stout shackles and clapping them on Selim's legs, imprisoned him within his house and set over him one who should guard him. Then he questioned him of what tools he needed to work withal. Selim set forth to him that which he required, and the cook went out from him and presently returning, brought him all he needed. So Selim sat and wrought at his craft; and he used every day to earn two dinars; and this was his wont and usance with the cook, whilst the latter fed him not but half his fill.

To return to his sister Selma. She awaited him till the last of the day, but he came not; and she awaited him a second day and a third and a fourth, yet there came no news of him, wherefore she wept and beat with her hands on her breast and bethought her of her affair and her strangerhood and her brother's absence; and she recited the following verses:

Peace on thee! Would our gaze might light on thee once more! So should our hearts be eased and eyes no longer sore. Thou only art the whole of our desire; indeed Thy love is hid within our hearts' most secret core.

She abode awaiting him thus till the end of the month, but discovered no tidings of him neither happened upon aught of his trace; wherefore she was troubled with an exceeding perturbation and despatching her servants hither and thither in quest of him, abode in the sorest that might be of grief and concern. When it was the beginning of the new month, she arose in the morning and bidding cry him throughout the city, sat to receive visits of condolence, nor was there any in the city but betook himself to her, to condole with her; and they were all concerned for her, nothing doubting but she was a man.

When three nights had passed over her with their days of the second month, she despaired of him and her tears dried not up. Then she resolved to take up her abode in the city and making choice of a dwelling, removed thither. The folk resorted to her from all parts, to sit with her and hearken to her speech and witness her good breeding; nor was it but a little while ere the king of the city died and the folk fell out concerning whom they should invest with the kingship after him, so that strife was like to betide between them. However, the men of judgment and understanding and the folk of experience counselled them to make the youth king who had lost his brother, for that they doubted not but Selma was a man. They all consented unto this and betaking themselves to Selma, proffered her the kingship. She refused, but they were instant with her, till she consented, saying in herself, 'My sole desire in [accepting] the kingship is [to find] my brother.' Then they seated her on the throne of the kingdom and set the crown on her head, whereupon she addressed herself to the business of administration and to the ordinance of the affairs of the people; and they rejoiced in her with the utmost joy.

Meanwhile, Selim abode with the cook a whole year's space, earning him two dinars every day; and when his affair was prolonged, the cook inclined unto him and took compassion on him, on condition that, if he let him go, he should not discover his fashion to the Sultan, for that it was his wont every little while to entrap a man and carry him to his house and slay him and take his money and cook his flesh and give it to the folk to eat. So he said to him, 'O youth, wilt thou that I release thee from this thy plight, on condition that thou be reasonable and discover not aught of thine affair ever?' And Selim answered, 'I will swear to thee by whatsoever oath thou choosest that I will keep thy secret and will not speak one syllable against thy due, what while I abide on life.' Quoth the cook, 'I purpose to send thee forth with my brother and cause thee travel with him on the sea, on condition that thou be unto him a boughten slave; and when he cometh to the land of Hind, he shall sell thee and thus wilt thou be delivered from prison and slaughter.' And Selim said, 'It is well: be it as thou sayst, may God the Most High requite thee with good!'

Therewithal the cook equipped his brother and freighting him a ship, embarked therein merchandise. Then he committed Selim unto him and they set out and departed with the ship. God decreed them safety, so that they arrived [in due course] at the first city [of the land of Hind], the which is known as El Mensoureh, and cast anchor there. Now the king of that city had died, leaving a daughter and a widow, who was the quickest-witted of women and gave out that the girl was a boy, so that the kingship might be stablished unto them. The troops and the amirs doubted not but that the case was as she avouched and that the princess was a male child; so they obeyed her and the queen mother took order for the matter and used to dress the girl in man's apparel and seat her on the throne of the kingship, so that the folk might see her. Accordingly, the grandees of the kingdom and the chief officers of the realm used to go in to her and salute her and do her service and go away, nothing doubting but she was a boy.

On this wise they abode months and years and the queen-mother ceased not to do thus till the cook's brother came to the town in his ship, and with him Selim. So he landed with the youth and showed him to the queen, [that she might buy him]. When she saw him, she augured well of him; so she bought him from the cook's brother and was kind to him and entreated him with honour. Then she fell to proving him in his parts and making assay of him in his affairs and found in him all that is in kings' sons of understanding and breeding and goodly manners and qualities.

So she sent for him in private and said to him, 'I purpose to do thee a service, so thou canst but keep a secret.' He promised her all that she desired and she discovered to him her secret in the matter of her daughter, saying, 'I will marry thee to her and commit to thee the governance of her affair and make thee king and ruler over this city.' He thanked her and promised to uphold all that she should order him, and she said to him, 'Go forth to such an one of the neighbouring provinces privily.' So he went forth and on the morrow she made ready bales and gear and presents and bestowed on him a great matter, all of which they loaded on the backs of camels.

Then she gave out among the folk that the king's father's brother's son was come and bade the grandees and troops go forth to meet him. Moreover, she decorated the city in his honour and the drums of good tidings beat for him, whilst all the king's household [went out to meet him and] dismounting before him, [escorted him to the city and] lodged him with the queen-mother in her palace. Then she bade the chiefs of the state attend his assembly; so they presented themselves before him and saw of his breeding and accomplishments that which amazed them and made them forget the breeding of those who had foregone him of the kings.

When they were grown familiar with him, the queen-mother fell to sending [privily] for the amirs, one by one, and swearing them to secrecy; and when she was assured of their trustworthiness, she discovered to them that the king had left but a daughter and that she had done this but that she might continue the kingship in his family and that the governance should not go forth from them; after which she told them that she was minded to marry her daughter with the new-comer, her father's brother's son, and that he should be the holder of the kingship. They approved of her proposal and when she had discovered the secret to the last of them [and assured herself of their support], she published the news abroad and sent for the cadis and assessors, who drew up the contract of marriage between Selim and the princess, and they lavished gifts upon the troops and overwhelmed them with bounties. Then was the bride carried in procession to the young man and the kingship was stablished unto him and the governance of the realm.

On this wise they abode a whole year, at the end of which time Selim said to the queen-mother, 'Know that my life is not pleasing to me nor can I abide with you in contentment till I get me tidings of my sister and learn in what issue her affair hath resulted and how she hath fared after me. Wherefore I will go and be absent from you a year's space; then will I return to you, so it please God the Most High and I accomplish of this that which I hope.' Quoth she, 'I will not trust to thy word, but will go with thee and help thee to that which thou desirest of this and further thee myself therein.' So she took a ship and loaded it with all manner things of price, goods and treasures and what not else. Moreover, she appointed one of the viziers, a man in whom she trusted and in his fashion and ordinance, to rule the realm in their absence, saying to him, 'Abide [in the kingship] a full-told year and ordain all that whereof thou hast need.

Then the old queen and her daughter and son-in-law embarked in the ship and setting sail, fared on till they came to the land of Mekran. Their arrival there befell at the last of the day; so they passed the night in the ship, and when the day was near to break, the young king went down from the ship, that he might go to the bath, and made for the market. As he drew near the bath, the cook met him by the way and knew him; so he laid hands on him and binding his arms fast behind him, carried him to his house, where he clapped the old shackles on his feet and straightway cast him back into his whilom place of duresse.

When Selim found himself in that sorry plight and considered that wherewith he was afflicted of tribulation and the contrariness of his fortune, in that he had been a king and was now returned to shackles and prison and hunger, he wept and groaned and lamented and recited the following verses:

My fortitude fails, my endeavour is vain; My bosom is straitened. To Thee, I complain, O my God! Who is stronger than Thou in resource? The Subtle, Thou knowest my plight and my pain.

To return to his wife and her mother. When the former arose in the morning and her husband returned not to her with break of day, she forebode all manner of calamity and straightway despatched her servants and all who were with her in quest of him; but they happened not on any trace of him neither fell in with aught of his news. So she bethought herself concerning her affair and complained and wept and groaned and sighed and blamed perfidious fortune, bewailing that sorry chance and reciting these verses:

God keep the days of love-delight! How passing sweet they were! How joyous and how solaceful was life in them whilere! Would he were not, who sundered us upon the parting-day! How many a body hath he slain, how many a bone laid bare! Sans fault of mine, my blood and tears he shed and beggared me Of him I love, yet for himself gained nought thereby whate'er.

When she had made an end of her verses, she considered her affair and said in herself, 'By Allah, all these things have betided by the ordinance of God the Most High and His providence and this was written and charactered upon the forehead.' Then she landed and fared on till she came to a spacious place, where she enquired of the folk and hired a house. Thither she straightway transported all that was in the ship of goods and sending for brokers, sold all that was with her. Then she took part of the price and fell to enquiring of the folk, so haply she might scent out tidings [of her lost husband]. Moreover, she addressed herself to lavishing alms and tending the sick, clothing the naked and pouring water upon the dry ground of the forlorn. On this wise she abode a whole year, and every little while she sold of her goods and gave alms to the sick and the needy; wherefore her report was bruited abroad in the city and the folk were lavish in her praise.

All this while, Selim lay in shackles and strait prison, and melancholy possessed him by reason of that whereinto he had fallen of that tribulation. Then, when troubles waxed on him and affliction was prolonged, he fell sick of a sore sickness. When the cook saw his plight (and indeed he was like to perish for much suffering), he loosed him from the shackles and bringing him forth of the prison, committed him to an old woman, who had a nose the bigness of a jug, and bade her tend him and medicine him and serve him and entreat him kindly, so haply he might be made whole of that his sickness. So the old woman took him and carrying him to her lodging, fell to tending him and giving him to eat and drink; and when he was quit of that torment, he recovered from his malady.

Now the old woman had heard from the folk of the lady who gave alms to the sick, and indeed [the news of] her bounties reached both poor and rich; so she arose and bringing out Selim to the door of her house, laid him on a mat and wrapped him in a mantle and sat over against him. Presently, it befell that the charitable lady passed by them, which when the old woman saw, she rose to her and offered up prayers for her, saying, 'O my daughter, O thou to whom pertain goodness and beneficence and charity and almsdoing, know that this young man is a stranger, and indeed want and vermin and hunger and nakedness and cold slay him.' When the lady heard this, she gave her alms of that which was with her; and indeed her heart inclined unto Selim, [but she knew him not for her husband].

The old woman received the alms from her and carrying it to Selim, took part thereof herself and with the rest bought him an old shirt, in which she clad him, after she had stripped him of that he had on. Then she threw away the gown she had taken from off him and arising forthright, washed his body of that which was thereon of filth and scented him with somewhat of perfume. Moreover, she bought him chickens and made him broth; so he ate and his life returned to him and he abode with her on the most solaceful of life till the morrow.

Next morning, the old woman said to him, 'When the lady cometh to thee, do thou arise and kiss her hand and say to her, "I am a strange man and indeed cold and hunger slay me;" so haply she may give thee somewhat that thou mayst expend upon thy case.' And he answered, 'Hearkening and obedience.' Then she took him by the hand and carrying him without her house, seated him at the door. As he sat, behold, the lady came up to him, whereupon the old woman rose to her and Selim kissed her hand and offered up prayers for her. Then he looked on her and when he saw her, he knew her for his wife; so he cried out and wept and groaned and lamented; whereupon she came up to him and cast herself upon him; for indeed she knew him with all knowledge, even as he knew her. So she laid hold of him and embraced him and called to her serving-men and attendants and those who were about her; and they took him up and carried him forth of that place.

When the old woman saw this, she cried out to the cook from within the house, and he said to her, 'Go before me.' So she forewent him and he ran after her till he [overtook the party and] catching hold of Selim, said [to the latter's wife,] 'What aileth thee to take my servant?' Whereupon she cried out at him, saying, 'Know that this is my husband, whom I had lost.' And Selim also cried out, saying, 'Mercy! Mercy! I appeal to God and to the Sultan against this Satan!' Therewith the folk gathered together to them forthright and loud rose the clamours and the cries between them; but the most part of them said, 'Refer their affair to the Sultan.' So they referred the case to the Sultan, who was none other than Selim's sister Selma.

[Then they went up to the palace and] the interpreter went in to Selma and said to her, 'O king of the age, here is an Indian woman, who cometh from the land of Hind, and she hath laid hands on a young man, a servant, avouching that he is her husband, who hath been missing these two years, and she came not hither but on his account, and indeed these many days she hath done almsdeeds [in the city]. And here is a man, a cook, who avoucheth that the young man is his slave.' When the queen heard these words, her entrails quivered and she groaned from an aching heart and called to mind her brother and that which had betided him. Then she bade those who were about her bring them before her, and when she saw them, she knew her brother and was like to cry aloud; but her reason restrained her; yet could she not contain herself, but she must needs rise up and sit down. However, she enforced herself unto patience and said to them, 'Let each of you acquaint me with his case.'

So Selim came forward and kissing the earth before the [supposed] king, praised him and related to him his story from beginning to end, till the time of their coming to that city, he and his sister, telling him how he had entered the place and fallen into the hands of the cook and that which had betided him [with him] and what he had suffered from him of beating and bonds and shackles and pinioning. Moreover, he told him how the cook had made him his brother's slave and how the latter had sold him in Hind and he had married the princess and become king and how life was not pleasant to him till he should foregather with his sister and how the cook had fallen in with him a second time and acquainted her with that which had betided him of sickness and disease for the space of a full-told year.

When he had made an end of his speech, his wife came forward forthright and told her story, from first to last, how her mother bought him from the cook's partner and the people of the kingdom came under his rule; nor did she leave telling till she came, in her story, to that city [and acquainted the queen with the manner of her falling in with her lost husband]. When she had made an end of her story, the cook exclaimed, 'Alack, what impudent liars there be! By Allah, O king, this woman lieth against me, for this youth is my rearling[FN#75] and he was born of one of my slave-girls. He fled from me and I found him again.

When the queen heard the last of the talk, she said to the cook, 'The judgment between you shall not be but in accordance with justice.' Then she dismissed all those who were present and turning to her brother, said to him, 'Indeed thy soothfastness is established with me and the truth of thy speech, and praised be God who hath brought about union between thee and thy wife! So now begone with her to thy country and leave [seeking] thy sister Selma and depart in peace.' But Selim answered, saying, 'By Allah, by the virtue of the All-knowing King, I will not turn back from seeking my sister till I die or find her, if it please God the Most High!' Then he called his sister to mind and broke out with the following verses from a heart endolored, afflicted, disappointed, saying:

O thou that blamest me for my heart and railest at my ill, Hadst them but tasted my spirit's grief, thou wouldst excuse me still. By Allah, O thou that chid'st my heart concerning my sister's love, Leave chiding and rather bemoan my case and help me to my will. For indeed I am mated with longing love in public and privily, Nor ever my heart, alas I will cease from mourning, will I or nill. A fire in mine entrails burns, than which the fire of the hells denounced For sinners' torment less scathing is: it seeketh me to slay.

When his sister Selma heard what he said, she could no longer contain herself, but cast herself upon him and discovered to him her case. When he knew her, he threw himself upon her [and lay without life] awhile; after which he came to himself and said, 'Praised be God, the Bountiful, the Beneficent!' Then they complained to each other of that which they had suffered for the anguish of separation, whilst Selim's wife abode wondered at this and Selma's patience and constancy pleased her. So she saluted her and thanked her for her fashion, saying, 'By Allah, O my lady, all that we are in of gladness is of thy blessing alone; so praised be God who hath vouchsafed us thy sight!' Then they abode all three in joy and happiness and delight three days, sequestered from the folk; and it was bruited abroad in the city that the king had found his brother, who was lost years agone.

On the fourth day, all the troops and the people of the realm assembled together to the [supposed] king and standing at his gate, craved leave to enter. Selma bade admit them; so they entered and paid her the service of the kingship and gave her joy of her brother's safe return. She bade them do suit and service to Selim, and they consented and paid him homage; after which they kept silence awhile, so they might hear what the king should command. Then said Selma, 'Harkye, all ye soldiers and subjects, ye know that ye enforced me to [accept] the kingship and besought me thereof and I consented unto your wishes concerning my investment [with the royal dignity]; and I did this [against my will]; for know that I am a woman and that I disguised myself and donned man's apparel, so haply my case might be hidden, whenas I lost my brother. But now, behold, God hath reunited me with my brother, and it is no longer lawful to me that I be king and bear rule over the people, and I a woman; for that there is no governance for women, whenas men are present. Wherefore, if it like you, do ye set my brother on the throne of the kingdom, for this is he; and I will busy myself with the worship of God the Most High and thanksgiving [to Him] for my reunion with my brother. Or, if it like you, take your kingship and invest therewith whom ye will.'

Thereupon the folk all cried out, saying, 'We accept him to king over us!' And they did him suit and service and gave him joy of the kingship. So the preachers preached in his name[FN#76] and the poets praised him; and he lavished gifts upon the troops and the officers of his household and overwhelmed them with favours and bounties and was prodigal to the people of justice and equitable dealings and goodly usance and polity. When he had accomplished this much of his desire, he caused bring forth the cook and his household to the divan, but spared the old woman who had tended him, for that she had been the cause of his deliverance. Then they assembled them all without the town and he tormented the cook and those who were with him with all manner of torments, after which he put him to death on the sorriest wise and burning him with fire, scattered his ashes abroad in the air.

Selim abode in the governance, invested with the sultanate, and ruled the people a whole year, after which he returned to El Mensoureh and sojourned there another year. And he [and his wife] ceased not to go from city to city and abide in this a year and that a year, till he was vouchsafed children and they grew up, whereupon he appointed him of his sons, who was found fitting, to be his deputy in [one] kingdom [and abode himself in the other]; and he lived, he and his wife and children, what while God the Most High willed. Nor," added the vizier, "O king of the age, is this story rarer or more extraordinary than that of the king of Hind and his wronged and envied vizier."

When the king heard this, his mind was occupied [with the story he had heard and that which the vizier promised him], and he bade the latter depart to his own house.

The Twenty-Eighth and Last Night of the Month

When the evening evened, the king summoned the vizier and bade him tell the story of the King of Hind and his vizier. So he said, "Hearkening and obedience. Know, O king of august lineage, that

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse