HotFreeBooks.com
The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, Volume 5
by Richard F. Burton
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

When it was the Three hundred and Ninetieth Night

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Anushirwan hurried the damsel and asked her, "Why hast thou tarried?" she answered, "Because a single sugar-cane gave not enough for thy need; so I pressed three; but they yielded not to much as one did before." Rejoined he, "What is the cause of that?"; and she replied, "The cause of it is that when the Sultan's[FN#125] mind is changed against a folk, their prosperity ceaseth and their good waxeth less." So Anushirwan laughed and dismissed from his mind that which he had purposed against the villagers. Moreover, he took the damsel to wife then and there, being pleased with her much wit and acuteness and the excellence of her speech. And they tell another tale of the



WATER-CARRIER[FN#126] AND THE GOLDSMITH'S WIFE

There was once, in the city of Bokhara, a water-carrier, who used to carry water to the house of a goldsmith and had done this thirty years. Now that goldsmith had a wife of exceeding beauty and loveliness, brilliancy and perfect grace; and she was withal renowned for piety, chastity and modesty. One day the water- carrier came, as of custom, and poured the water into the cisterns. Now the woman was standing in the midst of the court; so he went close up to her and taking her hand, stroked it and pressed it, then went away and left her. When her husband came home from the bazar, she said to him, "I would have thee tell me what thing thou hast done in the market this day, to anger Almighty Allah." Quoth he, "I have done nothing to offend the Lord." "Nay," rejoined she, "but, by Allah, thou hast indeed done something to anger Him; and unless thou tell me the whole truth, I will not abide in thy house, and thou shalt not see me, nor will I see thee." So he confessed, "I will tell thee the truth of what I did this day. It so chanced that, as I was sitting in my shop, as of wont, a woman came up to me and bade me make her a bracelet of gold. Then she went away and I wrought her a bracelet and laid it aside. But when she returned and I brought her out the bracelet, she put forth her hand and I clasped the bracelet on her wrist; and I wondered at the whiteness of her hand and the beauty of her wrist, which would captivate any beholder; and I recalled what the poet saith,

Her fore-arms, dight with their bangles, show * Like fire ablaze on the waves a-flow; As by purest gold were the water girt, * And belted around by a living lowe.'

So I took her hand and pressed it and squeezed it." Said the woman, "Great God! Why didst thou this ill thing? Know that the water-carrier, who hath come to our house these thirty years, nor sawst thou ever any treason in him took my hand this day and pressed and squeezed it." Said her husband, "O woman, let us crave pardon of Allah! Verily, I repent of what I did, and do thou ask forgiveness of the Lord for me." She cried, "Allah pardon me and thee, and receive us into his holy keeping."—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Three hundred and Ninety-first Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the goldsmith's wife cried out, "Allah pardon me and thee, and receive us into his holy keeping!" And on the next day, the water-carrier came in to the jeweller's wife and, throwing himself at her feet, grovelled in the dust and besought pardon of her, saying, "O my lady, acquit me of that which Satan deluded me to do; for it was he that seduced me and led me astray." She answered, "Go thy ways, the sin was not in thee, but in my husband, for that he did what he did in his shop, and Allah hath retaliated upon him in this world." And it related that the goldsmith, when his wife told him how the water-carrier had used her, said, "Tit for tat, and blow for blow!; had I done more the water-carrier had done more";—which became a current byword among the folk. Therefore it behoveth a wife to be both outward and inward with her husband; contenting herself with little from him, if he cannot give her much, and taking pattern by Ayishah the Truthful and Fatimah the virgin mother (Allah Almighty accept of them the twain!), that she may be of the company of the righteous ancestry.[FN#127] And I have heard the following tale of



KHUSRAU AND SHIRIN AND THE FISHERMAN



King Khusrau[FN#128] Shahinshah of Persia loved fish; and one day, as he sat in his saloon, he and Shirin his wife, there came a fisherman, with a great fish, and he laid it before the King, who was pleased and ordered the man four thousand dirhams.[FN#129] Thereupon Shirin said to the King, "Thou hast done ill." Asked he, "And why?", and she answered, "Because if, after this, though give one of thy courtiers a like sum, he will disdain it and say, He hath but given me the like of what he gave the fisherman.' And if thou give him less, the same will say, He despiseth me and giveth me less than he gave the fisherman.'" Rejoined Khusrau, "Thou art right, but it would dishonour a king to go back on his gift; and the thing is done." Quoth Shirin, "If thou wilt, I will contrive thee a means to get it back from him." Quoth he, "How so?"; and she said, "Call back, if thou so please, the fisherman and ask him if the fish be male or female. If he say, Male,' say thou, We want a female,' and if he say, Female,' say, We want a male.'" So the King sent for the fisherman, who was a man of wit and astuteness, and said to him, "Is this fish male or female?" whereupon the fisherman kissed the ground and answered, "This fish is an hermaphrodite,[FN#130] neither male nor female." Khusrau laughed at his clever reply and ordered him other four thousand dirhams. So the fisherman went to the treasurer and, taking his eight thousand dirhams, put them in a sack he had with him. Then, throwing it over his shoulder, he was going away, when he dropped a dirham; so he laid the bag off his back and stooped down to pick it up. Now the King and Shirin were looking on, and the Queen said, "O King, didst thou note the meanness of the man, in that he must needs stoop down to pick up the one dirham, and could not bring himself to leave it for any of the King's servants?" When the King heard these words, he was exceeding wroth with the fisherman and said, "Thou art right, O Shirin!" So he called the man back and said to him, "Thou low-minded carle! Thou art no man! How couldst thou put the bag with all this money off thy back and bend thee groundwards to pick up the one dirham and grudge to leave it where it fell?" Thereupon the fisherman kissed the earth before him and answered, "May Allah prolong the King's life! Indeed, I did not pick up the dirham off the ground because of its value in my eyes; but I raised it off the earth because on one of its faces is the likeness of the King and on the other his name; and I feared lest any should unwittingly set foot upon it, thus dishonouring the name and presentment of the King, and I be blamed for this offence." The King wondered at his words and approved of his wit and shrewdness, and ordered him yet another four thousand dirhams. Moreover, he bade cry abroad in his kingdom, saying, "It behoveth none to be guided by women's counsel; for whoso followeth their advice, loseth, with his one dirham, other twain."[FN#131] And here is the tale they tell of



YAHYA BIN KHALID THE BARMECIDE AND THE POOR MAN



Yahya bin Khlid the Barmecide was returning home, one day, from the Caliph's palace, when he saw, at the gate of his mansion, a man who rose as he drew near and saluted him, saying, "O Yahya, I am in sore need of that which is in they hand, and I make Allah my intermediary with thee." So Yahya caused a place to be set aside for him in his house and bade his treasurer carry him a thousand dirhams every day and ordered that his diet be of the choicest of his own meat. The man abode in this case a whole month, at the end of which time, having received in all thirty thousand dirhams and fearing lest Yahya should take the money from him, because of the greatness of the sum, he departed by stealth.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Ninety-second Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the man, taking with him the money, departed by stealth. But when they told Yahya of this, he said, "By Allah, though he had tarried with me to the end of his days, yet had I not stinted him of my largesse nor cut off from him the bounties of my hospitality!" For, indeed, the excellences of the Barmecides were past count nor can their virtues be committed to description, especially those of Yahya bin Khalid, for he was an ocean[FN#132] of noble qualities, even as saith the poet of him,

"I asked of Bounty, Art thou free?' Quoth she, * No, I am slave to Yahy Khlid-son!' Boughten?' asked I. Allah forfend,' quoth she, * By heirship, sire to sire's transmission!'"

And the following is related of



MOHAMMED AL-AMIN AND THE SLAVE-GIRL

Ja'afar bin Mus al-Hdi[FN#133] once had a slave-girl, a lutist, called Al-Badr al-Kabr, than whom there was not in her time a fairer of face nor shapelier of shape nor a more elegant of manners nor a more accomplished in the art of singing and striking the strings; she was indeed perfect in beauty and extreme in every charm. Now Mohammed al-Amn,[FN#134] son of Zubaydah, heard of her and was urgent with Ja'afar to sell her to him; but he replied, "Thou knowest it beseemeth not one of my rank to sell slave-girls nor set prices on concubines; but were she not a rearling I would send her to thee, as a gift, not grudge her to thee." And Mohammed al-Amin, some days after this went to Ja'afar's house, to make merry; and the host set before him that which it behoveth to set before true friends and bade the damsel Al-Badr al-Kabir sing to him and gladden him. So she tuned the lute and sang with a ravishing melody; whilst Mohammed al-Amin fell to drinking and jollity and bade the cupbearers ply Ja'afar with much wine, till they made him drunken, when he took the damsel and carried her to his own house, but laid not a finger on her. And when the morrow dawned he bade invite Ja'afar; and when he came, he set wine before him and made the girl sing to him, from behind the curtain. Ja'afar knew her voice and was angered at this, but, of the nobleness of his nature and the magnanimity of his mind he showed no change. Now when the carousal was at an end, Al-Amin commanded one of his servants to fill the boat, wherein Ja'afar had come, with dirhams and dinars and all manner of jewels and jacinths and rich raiment and goods galore. So he laid therein a thousand myriads of money and a thousand fine pearls, each worth twenty thousand dirhams; nor did he give over loading the barge with all manner of things precious and rare, till the boatmen cried out for help, saying, "The boat can't hold any more;" whereupon he bade them carry all this to Ja'afar's palace. Such are the exploits of the magnanimous, Allah have mercy on them! And a tale is related of



THE SONS OF YAHYA BIN KHALID AND SA'ID BIN SALIM AL-BAHILI



Quoth Sa'd bin Slim al'Bhil,[FN#135] I was once in very narrow case, during the days of Harun al-Rashid, and debts accumulated upon me, burdening my back, and these I had no means of discharging. I was at my wits' end what to do, for my doors were blocking up with creditors and I was without cease importuned for payment by claimants, who dunned me in crowds till at last I was sore perplexed and troubled. So I betook myself to Abdallah bin Mlik al-Khuza'[FN#136] and besought him to extend the hand of aid with his judgement and direct me of his good counsel to the door of relief; and he said, None can save thee from this thy strait and sorrowful state save the Barmecides.' Quoth I, Who can brook their pride and put up patiently with their arrogant pretensions?' and quoth he, Thou wilt put up with all this for the bettering of thy case.'"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Ninety-third Night

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abdallah ibn Malik al-Khuza'i said to Sa'id bin Salim, "Thou wilt put up with all this for the bettering of thy case." "So I left him suddenly (continued Sa'id) and went straight to Al-Fazl and Ja'afar, sons of Yahy bin Khlid, to whom I related my circumstances; whereto they replied, Allah give thee His aid, and render thee by His bounties independent of His creatures and vouchsafe thee abundant weal and bestow on thee what shall suffice thee, without the need of any but Himself; for whatso He willeth that He can, and He is gracious with His servants and knoweth their wants.' So I went out from the twain and returned to Abdallah, with straitened breast and mind perplexed and heavy of heart, and repeated to him what they had said. Quoth he, Thou wouldst do well to abide with us this day, that we may see what Allah Almighty will decree.' So I sat with him awhile, when lo! up came my servant, who said to me, O my lord, there are at our door many laden mules and with them a man, who says he is the agent of Al-Fazl and Ja'afar bin Yahya.' Quoth Abdallah, I trust that relief is come to thee: rise up and go see what is the matter.' So I left him and, hastening to my house, found at the door a man who gave me a note wherein was written the following: After thou hadst been with us and we heard thy case, we betook ourselves to the Caliph and informed him that ill condition had reduced thee to the humiliation of begging; where upon he ordered us to supply thee with a thousand thousand dirhams from the Treasury. We represented to him: The debtor will spend this money in paying off creditors and wiping off debt; whence then shall he provide for his subsistence? So he ordered thee other three hundred thousand, and each of us hath also sent thee, of his proper wealth, a thousand thousand dirhams: so that thou hast now three thousand thousand and three hundred thousand dirhams wherewithal to order and amend thine estate.'" See, then, the munificence of these magnificos: Almighty Allah have mercy on them! And a tale is told of



THE WOMAN'S TRICK AGAINST HER HUSBAND



A man brought his wife a fish one Friday and, bidding her to cook it against the end of the congregational prayers, went out to his craft and business. Meanwhile in came her friend who bade her to a wedding at his house; so she agreed and, laying the fish in a jar of water, went off with him and was absent a whole week till the Friday following;[FN#137] whilst her husband sought her from house to house and enquired after her; but none could give him any tidings of her. Now on the next Friday she came home and he fell foul of her; but she brought out to him the fish alive from the jar and assembled the folk against him and told them her tale.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Ninety-fourth Night

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the woman brought out the fish alive from the water-jar and assembled the folk against her husband, and told them her tale. He also told his; but they credited him not and said, "It cannot be that the fish should have remained alive all this while." So they proved him mad and imprisoned him and mocked at him, where upon he shed tears in floods and recited these two couplets,

"Old hag, of high degree in filthy life, * Whose face her monstrous lewdness witnesses. When menstuous she bawds; when clean she whores; * And all her time bawd or adulteress is."

And a tale is related of the



THE DEVOUT WOMAN AND THE TWO WICKED ELDERS[FN#138]



There was in times of yore and in ages long gone before, a virtuous woman among the children of Israel, who was pious and devout and used every day to go out to the place of prayer, first entering a garden, which adjoined thereto, and there making the minor ablution. Now there were in this garden two old men, its keepers, and both Shaykhs fell in love with her and sought her favours; but she refused, whereupon said they, "Unless thou yield thy body to us, we will bear witness against thee of fornication." Quoth she, "Allah will preserve me from your frowardness!" Then they opened the garden-gate and cried out, and the folk came to them from all places, saying "What aileth you?" Quoth they, "We found this damsel in company with a youth who was doing lewdness with her; but he escaped from our hands." Now it was the wont of the people in those days to expose adulterer and adulteress to public reproach for three days, and after stone them. So they cried her name in the public streets for three days, while the two elders came up to her daily and, laying their hands on her head, said, "Praised be Allah who hath sent down on thee His righteous indignation!" Now on the fourth day, when they bore her away to stone her, they were followed by a lad named Daniel, who was then only twelve years old, and this was to be the first of his miracles (upon our Prophet and upon him the blessing and peace!). And he ceased not following them to the place of execution, till he came up with them and said to them, "Hasten not to stone her, till I judge between them." So they set him a chair and he sat down and summoned the old men separately. (Now he was the first ever separated witnesses.) Then said he to the first, "What sawest thou?"[FN#139] So he repeated to him his story, and Daniel asked, "In what part of the garden did this befal?" and he answered, "On the eastern side, under a pear-tree." Then he called the other old man and asked him the same question, and he replied, "On the western side of the garden, under an apple-tree." Meanwhile the damsel stood by, with her hands and eyes raised heavenwards, imploring the Lord for deliverance. Then Allah Almighty sent down His blasting leven-fire upon the elders and consumed them, and on this wise the Lord made manifest the innocence of the damsel. Such was the first of the miracles of the Prophet Daniel, on whom be blessing and peace! And they relate a tale of



JA'AFAR THE BARMECIDE AND THE OLD BADAWL



The Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, went out one day, with Abu Ya'Kb the cup-companion[FN#140] and Ja'afar the Barmecide and Abu Nowas, into the desert, where they fell in with an old man, propt against his ass. The Caliph bade Ja'afar learn of him whence he came; so he asked him, "Whence comest thou?" and he answered, "From Bassorah."—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Ninety-fifth Night,

She said, it hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Ja'afar asked the man, "Whence comest thou?"; he answered "From Bassorah." Quoth Ja'afar, "And whither goest thou?" Quoth the other, "To Baghdad." Then Ja'afar enquired "And what wilt thou do there?" and the old man replied, "I go to seek medicine for my eye." Said the Caliph, "O Ja'afar, make thou sport with him," and answered Ja'afar, "I shall hear what I shall exceedingly mislike."[FN#141] But Al-Rashid rejoined, "I charge thee on my authority, jest with him." Thereupon Ja'afar said to the Badawi, "If I prescribe thee a medicine that shall profit thee, what wilt thou give me in return?" Quoth the other, "Allah Almighty will requite the kindness with what is better for thee than any requital of mine." Continued Ja'afar, "Now lend me an ear and I will give thee a prescription, which I have given to none but thee." "What is that?" asked the Badawi; and Ja'afar answered, "Take three ounces of wind-breaths and the like of sunbeams and the same of moonshine and as much of lamp-light; mix them well together and let them lie in the wind three months. Then place them three months in a mortar without a bottom and pound them to a fine powder and after trituration set them in a cleft platter, and let it stand in the wind other three months; after which use of this medicine three drachms every night in thy sleep, and, Inshallah! thou shalt be healed and whole." Now when the Badawi heard this, he stretched himself out to full length on the donkey's back and let fly a terrible loud fart[FN#142] and said to Ja'afar, "Take this fart in payment of thy prescription. When I have followed it, if Allah grant me recovery, I will give thee a slave-girl, who shall serve thee in they lifetime a service, wherewith Allah shall cut short thy term; and when thou diest and the Lord hurrieth thy soul to hell-fire, she shall blacken thy face with her skite, of her mourning for thee, and shall keen and beat her face, saying O frosty-beard, what a fool thou wast?'"[FN#143] thereupon Harun al-Rashid laughed till he fell backward, and ordered the Badawi three thousand silver pieces. And a tale is told of



THE CALIPH OMAR BIN AL-KHATTAB AND THE YOUNG BADAWI



The Sharif Husayn bin Rayyn relateth that the Caliph Omar bin Al-Khattb was sitting one day judging the folk and doing justice between his subjects, attended by the best and wisest of his counsellors, when there came up to him a youth comely and cleanly attired, upon whom two very handsome youths had laid hold and were haling by the collar till they set him in the presence. Whereupon the Commander of the Faithful, Omar, looked at him and them and bade them loose him; then, calling him near to himself, asked the twain, "What is your case with him?" They answered, "O Prince of True Believers, we are two brothers by one mother and as followers of verity known are we. We had a father, a very old man of good counsel, honoured by the tribes, sound of baseness renowned for goodliness, who reared us tenderly in childhood, and loaded us with favours in manhood;"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Ninety-sixth Night

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the two youths said to the Commander of the Faithful, Omar son of Al- Khattab, "Our father was a man honoured by the tribes, sound of baseness and renowned for goodliness, who reared us delicately in childhood and loaded us with favours in manhood; in fine, a sea of noble and illustrious qualities, worthy of the poet's praise,

Is Aub's-Sakr of Shaybn[FN#144]?' they asked; * Quoth I, Nay, by my life, of him's Shaybn: How many a sire rose high by a noble son, * As Allah's prophet glorified Adnan!'[FN#145]

Now he went forth this day to his garden, to refresh himself amongst its trees and pluck the ripe fruits, when this young man slew him wrongously and swerved from the road of righteousness; wherefore we demand of thee the retribution of his crime and call upon thee to pass judgement upon him, according to the commandment of Allah." Then Omar cast a terrible look at the accused youth and said to him, "Verily thou hearest the complaint these two young men prefer; what hast thou in reply to aver?" But he was brave of heart and bold of speech, having doffed the robe of pusillanimity and put off the garb of cowardry; so he smiled and spake in the most eloquent and elegant words; and, after paying the usual ceremonial compliments to the Caliph, said, ""By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I have indeed given ear to their complaint, and they have told the truth in that which they tell, so far as they have set out what befel; and the commandment of Allah is a decreed decree.[FN#146] but I will forthright state my case between they hands, and it is for thee to give commands. Know then, O Prince of the Faithful, that I am a very Arab of the Arabies,[FN#147] the noblest of those that are beneath the skies. I grew up in the dwellings of the wold and fell, till evil times my tribe befel, when I came to the outskirts of this town, with my family and whatso goods I own: and, as I went along one of the paths leading to its gardens, orchards and garths, with my she-camels highly esteemed and by me most precious deemed, and midst them a stallion of noble blood and shape right good, a plenteous getter of brood, by whom the females abundantly bore and who walked among them as though a kingly crown he wore, one of the she-camels broke away; and, running to the garden of these young men's father, where the trees showed above the wall, put forth her lips and began to feed as in stall. I ran to her, to drive her away, when behold, there appeared, at a breach of the wall, an old man and grey, whose eyes sparkled with angry ray, holding in his right a stone to throw and swaying to and fro, with a swing like a lion ready for a spring. He cast the stone at my stallion, and it killed him for it struck a vital part. When I saw the stallion drop dead beside me, I felt live coals of anger kindled in my heart; so I took up the very same stone and throwing it at the old man, it was the cause of his bane and ban: thus his own wrongful act returned to him anew, and the man was slain of that wherewith he slew. When the stone struck him, he cried out with a great cry and shrieked out a terrible shriek, whereupon I hastened from the spot; but these two young men hurried after me and laid hands on me and before thee carried me." Quoth Omar (Almighty Allah accept of him!), "Thou hast confessed what thou committedest, and of acquittal there is no possible occasion; for urgent is the law of retaliation and they cried for mercy but it was not a time to escape."[FN#148] the youth answered, "I hear and obey the judgement of the Imam, and I consent to all required by the law of Al-Islam; but I have a young brother, whose old father, before his decease, appointed to him wealth in great store and gold galore, and committed his affair to me before Allah, saying: I give this into thy hand for thy brother; keep it for him with all thy might.' So I took the money and buried it; nor doth any know of it but I. Now, if thou adjudge me to be justiced forthright, the money will lost and thou shalt be the cause of its loss; wherefore the child will sue thee for his due on the day when the Creator shall judge between His creatures. But, if thou wilt grant me three days' delay, I will appoint some guardian to administer the affairs of the boy and return to answer my debt; and I have one who will be my surety for the fulfillment of this my promise." So the Commander of the Faithful bowed his head awhile, then raised it and looking round upon those present, said, "Who will stand surety by me for his return to this place?" And the youth looked at the faces of those who were in company and pointing to Abu Zarr,[FN#149] in preference to all present, said, "This man shall answer for me and be my bail."—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Ninety-seventh Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the youth pointed to Abu Zarr and said, "This man shall answer for me and be my bail," Omar (Allah accept of him!) said, O Abu Zarr, dost thou hear these words and wilt thou be surety to me for the return of this youth?" He answered, "Yes, O Commander of the Faithful, I will be surety for him for three days." So the Caliph accepted his guarantee and let the young man go. Now when the appointed time passed and the days of grace were nearly or quite at end yet the youth came not, the Caliph took seat in his council, with the Companions surrounding him, like the constellations about the moon, Abu Zarr and the plaintiffs being also present; and the avengers said, "Where is the defendant, O Abu Zarr, and how shall he return, having once fled? But we will not stir from our places till thou bring him to us, that we may take of him our blood revenge." Replied Abu Zarr, "By the truth of the All-Wise King, if the three days of grace expire and the young man returneth not, I will fulfill my warranty and surrender my person to the Imam;" and added Omar (whom Allah accept!), "By the Lord, if the young man appear not, I will assuredly execute on Abu Zarr that which is prescribed by the law of Al-Islam!"[FN#150] thereupon the eyes of the bystanders ran over with tears; those who looked on groaned aloud and great was the clamour. Then the chiefs of the Companions urged the plaintiffs to accept the blood-wit and deserve the thanks of the folk; but they both refused and would accept nothing save the talion. However, as the folk were swaying to and fro like waves and loudly bemoaning Abu Zarr, behold, up came the young Badawi; and, standing before the Imam, saluted him right courteously (with sweat-beaded face and shining with the crescent's grace) and said to him, "I have given the lad in charge to his mother's brothers and have made them acquainted with all that pertaineth to his affairs and let them into the secrets of his monies; after which I braved the heats of noon and have kept my word as a free- born man." Thereupon the folk marvelled, seeing his good faith and loyalty and his offering himself to death with so stout a heart; and one said to him, "How noble a youth art thou and how loyal to thy word of honour and thy devoir!" Rejoined he, "Are ye not convinced that when death presenteth itself, none can escape from it? And indeed, I have kept my word, that it be not said, Good faith is gone from among mankind.' " Said Abu Zarr, "By Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I became warrant for this young man, without knowing to what tribe he belonged, nor had I seen him before that day; but, when he turned away from all who were present and singled me out, saying, This man shall answer for me and be my bail,' I thought it not right to refuse him, and generosity forbade to disappoint his desire, there being no harm in compliance therewith, that it be not bruited abroad, Benevolence is gone from among mankind." Then said the two young men, "O Commander of the Faithful, we forgive this youth our father's blood, seeing that he hath changed desolation into cheerfulness; that it be not said, Humanity is gone from among mankind." So the Caliph rejoiced in the acquittance of the youth and his truth and good faith; moreover, he magnified the generosity of Abu Zarr, extolling it over all his companions, and approved the resolve of the two young men for its benevolence, giving them praise with thanks and applying to their case the saying of the poet,

"Who doth kindness to men shall be paid again; * Ne'er is kindness lost betwixt God and men."

Then he offered to pay them, from the Treasury, the blood-wit for their father; but they refused, saying, "We forgave him only of our desire unto Allah,[FN#151] the Bountiful, the Exalted; and he who is thus intentioned followeth not his benefits with reproach or with mischief."[FN#152] and amongst the tales they relate is that of



THE CALIPH AL-MAAMUN AND THE PYRAMIDS[FN#153] OF EGYPT



It is told that the Caliph Al-Maamun, son of Harun al-Rashid, when he entered the God-guarded city of Cairo, was minded to pull down the Pyramids, that he might take what was therein; but, when he went about to do this, he could not succeed, albeit his best was done. He expended a mint of money in the attempt,—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred Ninety-eighth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Al-Maamun attempting to pull down the Pyramids, expended his mint of money, but succeeded only in opening up a small tunnel in one of them, where in it is said he found treasure to the exact amount of the monies he had spent in the works, neither more nor less; whereat he marvelled and taking what he found there, desisted from his determination. Now the Pyramids are three, and they are one of the Wonders of the World; nor is there on the face of earth aught like them for height and fashion and mysteries[FN#154]; for they are built of huge rocks, and the builders proceeded by piercing one block of stone and setting therein upright rods of iron[FN#155]; after which they pierced a second block of stone and lowered it upon the first. Then they poured melted lead upon the clamps and set the blocks in geometrical order, till the building was complete. Now the height of each pyramid was an hundred cubits, of the normal measure of the day, and it had four faces, each three hundred cubits long from the base and thence battering upwards to a point. The ancients say that, in the western Pyramid, are thirty chambers of parti-coloured syenite, full of precious gems and treasures galore and rare images and utensils and costly weapons which are anointed with egromantic unguents, so that they may not rust until the day of Resurrection.[FN#156] Therein, also, are vessels of glass which bend and break not, containing various kinds of compound drugs and sympathetic waters. In the second Pyramid are the records of the priests, written on tablets of syenite, to each priest his tablet, whereon are engraved the wonders of his craft and his feats; and on the walls are the human figures like idols, working with their hands at all manner of mechanism and seated on stepped thrones. Moreover, to each Pyramid there is a guardian treasurer who keepeth watch over it and wardeth it, to all eternity, against the ravages of time and the shifts of events; and indeed the marvels of these Pyramids astound all who have sight and insight. Many are the poems that describe them, thou shalt thereby profit no small matter, and among the rest, quoth one of them,

"If Kings would see their high emprize preserved, * Twill be by tongues of monuments they laid: Seest not the Pyramids? These two endure * Despite what change Time and Change have made."

And quoth another,

"Look on the Pyramids, and hear the twain * Recount their annals of the long-gone Past: Could they but speak, high marvels had they told * Of what Time did to man from first to last."

And quoth a third,

"My friend I prithee tell me, 'neath the sky * Is aught with Egypt's Pyramids can compare? Buildings which frighten Time, albe what dwells * On back of earth in fear of Time must fare: If on their marvels rest my sight no more, * Yet these I ever shall in memory bear."

And quoth a fourth,

"Where is the man who built the Pyramids? * What was his tribe, what day and where his tomb? The monuments survive the men who built * Awhile, till overthrown by touch of Doom."

And men also tell a tale of



THE THIEF AND THE MERCHANT



There was once a thief who repented to Almighty Allah with sincere penitence; so he opened himself a shop for the sale of stuffs, where he continued to trade awhile. It so chanced one day that he locked his shop and went home, and in the night there came to the bazar an artful thief disguised in the habit of the merchant, and pulling out keys from his sleeve, said to the watchman of the market, "Light me this wax-candle." The watchman took the taper and went to light it,—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Three Hundred and Ninety-ninth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the watchman took the taper and went to light it, whilst the thief opened the shop and lit another candle he had by him. When the watchman came back, he found him seated in the shop, account- books inhand, and reckoning with his fingers; nor did he cease to do thus till point of day, when he said to the man, "Fetch me a camel-driver and his camel, to carry some goods for me." So the man fetched him a camel, and the thief took four bales[FN#157] of stuffs and gave them to the cameleer, who loaded them on his beast. Then he gave the watchman two dirhams and went away after the camel-driver, leaving the watchman believing him to be the owner of the shop. Now when the morning dawned and day broke the merchant came and the watchman began greeting him with blessings, because of the two dirhams; but the shop-keeper wondered at his words as one not knowing what he meant. When he opened his shop, he saw the droppings of the wax and the account-book lying on the floor, and looking round, found four bales of stuffs missing. So he asked the watchman what had happened and he told him what has passed in the night and what had been said to the cameleer, whereupon the merchant bade him fetch the man and asked him, "Whither didst thou carry the stuffs this morning?" Answered the driver, "To such a landing-place, and I stowed them on board such a vessel." Said the merchant, "Come with me thither;" so the camel-driver carried him to the landing-place and said to him, "This be the barque and this be her owner." Quoth the merchant to the seaman, "Whither didst thou carry the merchant and the stuff?" Answered the boat-master, "To such a place, where he fetched a camel-driver and, setting the bales on the camel, went his ways I know not whither." "Fetch me the cameleer who carried the goods," said the merchant; so he fetched him and the merchant said to him, "Whither didst thou carry the bales of goods from the ship?" "To such a Khan," answered he; and the merchant rejoined, "Come thither with me and show it to me." So the camel-man went with him to a place far distant from the shore and showed him the Khan where he had set down the stuffs, and at the same time the false merchant's magazine, which he opened and found therein his four bales bound up as they had been packed. The thief had laid his cloak over them; so the merchant took the cloak as well as the bales and delivered them to the camel- driver, who laid them on his camel; after which he locked the magazine and went away with the cameleer. On the way, he was confronted with the thief who followed him, till he had shipped the bales, when he said to him, "O my brother (Allah have thee in His holy keeping!), thou hast indeed recovered thy goods and naught of them is lost; so give me back my cloak." The merchant laughed and, giving him back his cloak, let him go unhindered; whereupon both went their ways. And they tell a tale of



MASRUR THE EUNUCH AND IBN AL-KARIBI



The Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, was exceedingly restless one night; so he said to his Wazir Ja'afar, "I am sleepless to-night and my breast is straitened and I know not what to do." Now his castrato Masrr was standing before him, and he laughed: whereupon the Caliph said "At whom laughest thou? Is it to make mock of me or hath madness seized thee?" Answered Masrur, "Nay, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful,"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundredth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Harun al- Rashid said to Masrur the Sworder, "Dost thou laugh to make mock of me or hath madness seized thee?" Answered Masrur, "Nay, by Allah, O Commander of the Faithful, I swear by thy kinship to the Prince of Apostles, I did it not of my free will; but I went out yesterday to walk within sight of the palace and, coming to the bank of the Tigris, saw there the folk collected; so I stopped and found a man, Ibn al-Krib hight, who was making them laugh; but just now I recalled what he said, and laughter got the better of me; and I crave pardon of thee, O Commander of the Faithful!" Quoth the Caliph, "Bring him to me forthright;" so Masrur repaired in all haste to Ibn al-Karibi and said to him, "Answer the summons of the Commander of the Faithful," whereto he replied, "I hear and obey." "But on condition," added Masrur, "that, if he give thee aught, thou shalt have a quarter and the rest shall be mine." Replied the droll, "Nay, thou shalt have half and I half." Rejoined Masrur, "Not so, I will have three- quarters." Lastly said Ibn al-Karibi, "Thou shalt have two- thirds and I the other third;" to which Masrur agreed, after much higgling and haggling, and they returned to the palace together. Now when Ibn al-Karibi came into the Caliph's presence he saluted him as men greet the Caliphate, and stood before him; whereupon said Al-Rashid to him, "If thou do not make me laugh, I will give thee three blows with this bag." Quoth Ibn al-Karibi in his mind, "And a small matter were blows with that bag, seeing that beating with whips hurteth me not;" for he thought the bag was empty. Then he began to deal out his drolleries, such as would make the dismallest jemmy guffaw, and gave vent to all manner of buffooneries; but the Caliph laughed not neither smiled, whereat Ibn al-Karibi marvelled and was chagrined and affrighted. Then said the Commander of the Faithful, "Now hast thou earned the beating," and gave him a blow with the bag, wherein were four pebbles each two rotols in weight. The blow fell on his neck and he gave a great cry, then calling to mind his compact with Masrur, said, "Pardon, O Commander of the Faithful! Hear two words from me." Quoth the Caliph, "Say on," and quoth Ibn al- Karibi, "Masrur made it a condition with me and I a covenant with him, that whatsoever largesse might come to me of the bounties of the Commander of the Faithful, one-third thereof should be mine and the rest his; nor did he agree to leave me so much as one- third, save after much higgling and haggling. I have had my share and here standeth he, ready to receive his portion; so pay him the two other blows." Now when the Caliph heard this, he laughed until he fell on his back; then calling Masrur, he gave him a blow, whereat he cried out and said, "O Commander of the Faithful, the one-third sufficeth me: give him the two-thirds."— And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and First Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Masrur cried out, "O Commander of the Faithful! The one-third sufficeth me; give him the two-thirds." So the Caliph laughed at them and ordered them a thousand dinars each, and they went away, rejoicing at the largesse. And of the tales they tell is one of



THE DEVOTEE PRINCE



The Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, had a son who, from the time he attained the age of sixteen, renounced the world and walked in the way[FN#158] of ascetics and devotees. He was wont to go out to the graveyards and say, "Ye once ruled the world, but that saved you not from death, and now are ye come to your sepulchres! Would Heaven I knew what ye said and what is said to you!"[FN#159] and he wept as one weepeth who is troubled with fear and apprehension, and repeated the worlds of the poet,

"Affright me funerals at every time; * And wailing women grieve me to the soul!"

Now it chanced one day, as he sat among the tombs, according to his custom, his father passed by in all his state, surrounded by his Wazirs and Lords of the realm and the Officers of his household, who seeing the Caliph's son with a gown of woollen stuff on his body and a twist of wool on his head by way of turband, said to one another, "Verily this youth dishonoureth the Commander of the Faithful among Kings: but, if he reproved him, he would leave his present way of life." The Caliph heard these words; so quoth he to his son, "O my dear child, of a truth thou disgracest me by thy present way of life." The young man looked at him and made no reply: then he beckoned to a bird perched on the battlements of the palace, and said to it, "O thou bird, I conjure thee by Him who created thee, alight upon my hand." Whereupon straightway it swooped down and perched on his finger. Then quoth he, "Return to thy place;" and it did so. Presently he said, "Alight on the hand of the Commander of the Faithful;" but it refused there to perch, and he cried to his father, "It is thou that disgracest me amongst the Holy[FN#160] Ones, by the love of the world; and now I am resolved to part from thee, never to return to thee, save in the world to come." Then he went down to Bassorah, where he took to working with those which wrought in clay,[FN#161] receiving, as his day's hire, but a dirham and a danik;[FN#162] and with the danik he fed himself and gave alms of the dirham. (Quoth Ab Amir of Bassorah) "There fell down a wall in my house; so I went forth to the station of the artisans to find a man who should repair it for me, and my eyes fell on a handsome youth of a radiant countenance. So I saluted him and asked him, O my friend, dost thou seek work?' Yes,' answered he; and I said, Come with me and build a wall.' He replied, On certain conditions I will make with thee.' Quoth I What are they, O my friend?'; and quoth he, My wage must be a dirham and a danik, and again when the Mu'ezzin calleth to prayer, thou shalt let me go pray with the congregation.' It is well,' answered I and carried him to my lace, where he fell to work, such work as I never saw the like of. Presented I named to him the morning-meal; but he said, No;' and I knew that he was fasting.[FN#163] When he heard the call to prayer, he said to me, Thou knowest the condition?' Yes,' answered i. So he loosed his girdle and, applying himself to the lesser ablution, made it after a fashion than which I never saw a fairer;[FN#164] then he went to the mosque and prayed with the congregation and returned to his work. He did the same upon the call to mid- afternoon prayer, and when I saw him fall to work again thereafterward, I said to him, O my friend, verily the hours of labour are over; a workman's day is but till the time of afternoon-prayer.' But he replied, Praise to the Lord, my service is till the night.' And he ceased not to work till nightfall, when I gave him two dirhams; whereupon he asked What is this!'; and I answered, By Allah, this is but part of thy wage, because of thy diligence in my service.' But he threw them back to me saying, I will have no more than was agreed upon between us twain.' I urged him to take them, but could not prevail upon him; so I gave him the dirham and the danik, and he went away. And when morning dawned, I went to the station but found him not; so I enquired for him and was told, He cometh thither only on Sabbaths.' Accordingly, when Saturday came, I betook me to the market and finding him there, said to him, Bismillah, do me the favour to come and work for me.' Said he, Upon the conditions thou wottest;' and I answered Yes!' Then carrying him to my house I stood to watch him where he could not see me; and he took a handful of puddled clay and laid it on the wall, when, behold, the stones ranged themselves one upon other; and I said, On this wise are Allah's holy ones.' he worked out his day and did even more than before; and when it was night, I gave him his hire, and he took it and walked away. Now when the third Saturday came round, I went to the place of standing, but found him not; so I asked after him and they told me, He is sick and lying in the shanty of such a woman.' Now this was an old wife, renowned for piety, who had a hovel of reeds in the burial- ground. So I fared thither and found him stretched on the floor which was bare, with a brick for a pillow and his face beaming like the new moon with light. I saluted him and he returned my salam; and I sat down at his head weeping over his fair young years and absence from home and submission to the will of his Lord. Then said I to him, Hast thou any need?' Yes,' answered he; and I said, What is it?' He replied, Come hither to-morrow in the forenoon and thou wilt find me dead. Wash me and dig my grave and tell none thereof: but shroud me in this my gown, after thou hast unsewn it and taken out what thou shalt find in the bosom-pocket, which keep with thee. Then, when thou hast prayed over me and laid me in the dust, go to Baghdad and watch for the Caliph Harun al-Rashid, till he come forth, when do thou give him what thou shalt find in the breast of my gown and bear him my salutation.' Then he ejaculated the profession of the Faith and glorified his God in the most eloquent of words, reciting these couplets,

Carry the trust of him whom death awaits * To Al-Rashid and God reward thy care! And say An exile who desired thy sight * Long loving, from afar sends greeting fair. Nor hate nor irk (No!) him from thee withdrew, * Kissing thy right to Heaven brought him near.[FN#165] But what estranged his soul, O sire, from thee * Is that thy worldly joys it would not share!'

Then he betook himself to prayer, asking pardon of Allah'—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Second Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the youth then betook himself to asking pardon of Allah and to invoking prayer and praise upon the Apostle and the Lord of the Just and repeating verses of the Koran; after which he recited these couplets,

"O sire, be not deceived by worldly joys; * For life must pass, and joy must learn to mourn; When thou art told of folk in evil plight, * Think thou must answer for all hearts forlorn; And when thou bear thy dead towards the tombs, * Know thou wilt likewise on that way be bourne."

Continued Abu the Basri, "Now when the youth had ended his charge and his verses I left him and went home. On the morrow, I returned, at the appointed hour, and found him indeed dead, the mercy of Allah be upon him! So I washed him and, unsewing his gown, found in the bosom a ruby worth thousands of gold pieces and said to myself, By Allah, this youth was indeed weaned from worldly things!' After I had buried him, I made my way to Baghdad and, going to the Caliph's palace, waited till he came forth, when I addressed him in one of the streets and gave him the ruby, which when he saw, he knew and fell down in a fainting- fit. His attendants laid hands on me, but he revived and said to them, Release him and bring him courteously to the palace.' They did his bidding, and when he returned, he sent for me and carrying me into his chamber said to me, How doth the owner of this ruby?' Quoth I, Verily, he is dead;' and told him what had passed; whereupon he fell a-weeping and said, The son hath gained; but the sire hath lost.' Then he called out, saying, Ho, such an one!'; and behold there came out to him a lady who, when she saw me, would have withdrawn; but he cried to her, Come, and mind him not.' So she entered and saluted, and he threw her the ruby, which when she saw and she knew, she shrieked a great shriek and fell down in a swoon. As soon as she came to herself, she said, O Commander of the Faithful, what hath Allah done with my son?'; and he said to me, Do thou tell her his case' (as he could not speak for weeping). Accordingly, I repeated the story to her, and she began to shed tears and say in a faint and wailing voice, How I have longed for thy sight, O solace of mine eyes![FN#166] Would I might have given thee to drink, when thou hadst none to slake thy thirst! Would I might have cheered thee, whenas thou foundest never a cheerer!' And she poured forth tears and recited these couplets,

I weep for one whose lot a lonely death befel; * Without a friend to whom he might complain and moan: And after glory and glad union with his friends, * He woke to desolation, friendless, lorn and lone; What Fortune hides a while she soon to all men shall show; * Death never spared a man; no, not a single one: O absent one, my Lord decreed thee strangerhood, * Far from thy nearest friends and to long exile gone: Though Death forbid my hope of meeting here again, * On Doom-day's morrow we shall meet again, my son![FN#167]

Quoth I, O Commander of the Faithful, was he indeed thy son?' Quoth he, Yes, and indeed, before I succeeded to this office, he was wont to visit the learned and company with the devout; but, when I became Caliph, he grew estranged from me and withdrew himself apart.[FN#168] Then said I to his mother, Verily this thy son hath cut the world and devoted his life to Almighty Allah, and it may be that hard times shall befal him and he be smitten with trial of evil chance; wherefore do thou given him this ruby, which he may find useful in hour of need.' So she gave it him, conjuring him to take it, and he obeyed her bidding. Then he left to us the things of our world and removed himself from us; nor did he cease to be absent from us, till he went to the presence of Allah (to whom be Honour and Glory!), pious and pure.' Then said he, Come, show me his grave.' So, I travelled with him to Bassorah and showed him his son's grave; and when he saw it, he wept and lamented, till he fell down in a swoon; after which he recovered and asked pardon of the Lord, saying, We are Allah's and unto Him we are returning!'; and involved blessings on the dead. Then he asked me to become his companion, but I said to him, "O Commander of the Faithful, verily, in thy son's case is for me the most momentous of admonitions!' And I recited these couplets,

"Tis I am the stranger, visited by none; * I am the stranger though in town my own: Tis I am the stranger! Lacking kith and son, * And friend to whom I mote for aidance run. I house in mosques which are my only home; * My heart there wones and shall for ever wone: Then laud ye Allah, Lord of Worlds, as long * As soul and body dwell in union!'"

And a famous tale is told of



THE UNWISE SCHOOLMASTER WHO FELL IN LOVE BY REPORT

Quoth one of the learned, "I passed once by a school, wherein a schoolmaster was teaching children; so I entered, finding him a good-looking man and a well-dressed; when he rose to me and made me sit with him. Then I examined him in the Koran and in syntax and prosody and lexicography; and behold, he was perfect in all required of him, so I said to him, Allah strengthen thy purpose! Thou art indeed versed in all that is requisite,' thereafter I frequented him a while, discovering daily some new excellence in him, and quoth I to myself, This is indeed a wonder in any dominie; for the wise are agreed upon a lack of wit in children's teachers.' Then I separated myself from him and sought him and visited him only every few days, till coming to see him one day as of wont, I found the school shut and made enquiry of his neighbors, who replied, Some one is dead in his house.' So I said in my mind, It behoveth me to pay him a visit of condolence,' and going to his house, knocked at the door, when a slave-girl came out to me and asked, What dost thou want?' and I answered, I want thy master.' She replied, He is sitting alone, mourning;' and I rejoined, Tell him that his friend so and so seeketh to console him.' She went in and told him; and he said, Admit him.' So she brought me in to him, and I found him seated alone and his head bound with mourning fillets. So I said to him, Allah requite thee amply! this is a path all must perforce tread, and it behoveth thee to take patience;' adding, But who is dead unto thee?' He answered, One who was dearest of the folk to me, and best beloved.' Perhaps thy father?' No!' Thy brother?' "No!' "One of thy kindred?' No!' Then asked I, What relation was the dead to thee?'; and he answered, My lover.' Quoth I to myself, This is the first proof to swear by his lack of wit.' So I said to him, Assuredly there be others than she and fairer;' and he made answer, I never saw her, that I might judge whether or no there be others fairer than she.' Quoth I to myself, This is another proof positive.' Then I said to him, And how couldst thou fall in love with one thou hast never seen?' He replied Know that I was sitting one day at the window, when lo! there passed by a man, singing the following distich,

Umm Amr',[FN#169] thy boons Allah repay! * Give back my heart be't where it may!'"

And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Third Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the schoolmaster continued, " When I heard the man humming these words as he passed along the street, I said to myself Except this Umm Amru were without equal in the world, the poets had not celebrated her in ode and canzon.' So I fell in love with her; but, two days after, the same man passed, singing the following couplet,

Ass and Umm Amr' went their way; * Nor she, nor ass returned for aye.'

Thereupon I knew she was dead and mourned for her. This was three days ago, and I have been mourning ever since. So I left him, (concluded the learned one) and fared forth, having assured myself of the weakness of the gerund-grinder's wit." And they tell another and a similar tale of



THE FOOLISH DOMINIE[FN#170]



Once upon a time, a schoolmaster was visited by a man of letters who entered a school and, sitting down by the host's side, entered into discourse with him and found him an accomplished theologian, poet grammarian, philologist and poet; intelligent, well bred and pleasant spoken; whereat he wondered, saying in himself, "It cannot be that a man who teacheth children in a school, should have a perfect wit." Now when he was about to go away, the pedant said to him, "Thou are my guest to-night;" and he consented to receive hospitality and accompanied him to his house, where he made much of him and set food before him. They ate and drank and sat talking, till a third part of the night was past when the host spread his guest a bed and went up to his Harim. The stranger lay down and addressed himself to sleep, when, behold, there arose a great clamour in the women's rooms. He asked what was the matter and they said, "A terrible thing hath befallen the Shaykh and he is at the last gasp." Said he, "Take me up to him"; so they took him up to the pedagogue whom he found lying insensible, with his blood streaming down. He sprinkled water on his face and when he revived, he asked him, "What hath betided thee? When thou leftest me, thou wast in all good cheer and whole of body," and he answered, "O my brother, after I left thee, I sat meditating on the creative works of Almighty Allah, and said to myself: In every thing the Lord hath created for man, there is an use; for He (to Whom be glory!) made the hands to seize, the feet to walk, the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the penis to increase and multiply; and so on with all the members of the body, except these two ballocks; there is no use in them.' So I took a razor I had by me and cut them off; and there befel me what thou seest." So the guest left him and went away, saying, "He was in the right who said, Verily no schoolmaster who teacheth children can have a perfect wit, though he know all the sciences.'" And they tell a pleasant tale of the



ILLITERATE WHO SET UP FOR A SCHOOLMASTER



There was once, among the menials[FN#171] of a certain mosque, a man who knew not how to write or even to read and who gained his bread by gulling folk. One day, it occurred to him to open a school and teach children; so he got together writing-tablets and written papers and hung them up in a high place. Then he greatened his turband[FN#172] and sat down at the door of the school; and when the people, who passed by, saw his huge head- gear and tablets and scrolls, they thought he must be a very learned pedagogue; so they brought him their children; and he would say to this, "Write," and to that "Read"; and thus the little ones taught each other. Now one day, as he sat as of wont, at the door of the school, behold, up came a woman letter in hand, and he said in his mind, "This woman doubtless seeketh me, that I may read her the missive she hath in her hand: how shall I do with her, seeing I cannot read writing?" And he would fain have gone down and fled from her; but, before he could do this, she overtook him and said to him, "Whither away?" Quoth he, "I purpose to pray the noon-prayer and return." Quoth she, "Noon is yet distant, so read me this letter." He took the letter and turning it upside down, fell to looking at it, now shaking his head till his turband quivered, then dancing his eyebrows and anon showing anger and concern. Now the letter came from the woman's husband, who was absent; and when she saw the dominie do on this wise, she said to herself, "Doubtless my husband is dead, and this learned doctor of law and religion is ashamed to tell me so." So she said to him, "O my lord, if he be dead, tell me;" but he shook his head and held his peace. Then said she, "Shall I rend my raiment?" "Rend!" replied he. "Shall I beat my face?" asked she; and he answered, "Beat!" So she took the letter from his hand and returned home fell a-weeping, she and her children. Presently, one of her neighbours heard her sobbing and asking what aileth her, was answered, "Of a truth she hath gotten a letter, telling her that her husband is dead." Quoth the man, "This is a falsehood; for I had a letter from him but yesterday, advising me that he is whole and in good health and will be with her after ten days." So he rose forthright and going in to her, said, "Where is the letter which came to thee?" She brought it to him, and he took it and read it; and lo! it ran as follows, "After the usual salutations, I am well and in good health and whole and will be with you all after ten days. Meanwhile, I send you a quilt and an extinguisher."[FN#173] So she took the letter and, returning to the schoolmaster, said to him, "What induced thee to deal thus with me?" And she repeated to him what her neighbour had told her of her husband's well- being and of his having sent her a quilt and an extinguisher. Answered he, "Thou art in the right, O good woman; for I was, at the time"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Fourth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the pedagogue replied, "Verily I was at that time fashed and absent- minded and, seeing the extinguisher wrapped up in the quilt, I thought that he was dead and they had shrouded him." The woman, not smoking the cheat, said, "Thou art excused," and taking the letter, went her ways.[FN#174] And they relate a story of



THE KING AND THE VIRTUOUS WIFE.



A certain King once went forth in disguise, to look into the affairs of his lieges. Presently, he came to a great village which he entered unattended and being athirst, stopped at the door of a house and asked for water. There came out to him a fair woman with a gugglet, which she gave him, and he drank. When he looked at her, he was ravished with her and besought her favours. Now she knew him; so she led him into the house and, making him sit down, brought out a book and said to him, "Look therein whilst I order my affair and return to thee." So he looked into the book, and behold, it treated of the Divine prohibition against advoutry and of the punishments which Allah hath prepared for those who commit adulterous sin. When he read this, his flesh quaked and his hair bristled and he repented to Almighty Allah: then he called the woman and, giving her the book, went away. Now her husband was absent and when he returned, she told him what had passed, whereat he was confounded and said in himself, "I fear lest the King's desire have fallen upon her." And he dared not have to do with her and know her carnally after this. When some time had past, the wife told her kinsfolk of her husband's conduct, and they complained of him to the King, saying, "Allah advance the King! This man hired of us a piece of land for tillage, and tilled it awhile; then left it fallow and neither tilled it nor forsook it, that we might let it to one who would till it. Indeed, harm is come to the field, and we fear its corruption, for such land as that if it be not sown, spoileth." Quoth the King to the man, "What hindereth thee from sowing thy land?" Answered he, "Allah advance the King! It reached me that the lion entered the field wherefore I stood in awe of him and dared not draw near it, since knowing that I cannot cope with the lion, I stand in fear of him." The King understood the parable and rejoined, saying, "O man, the lion trod and trampled not thy land, and it is good for seed so do thou till it and Allah prosper thee in it, for the lion hath done it no hurt." Then he bade give the man and his wife a handsome present and sent them away.[FN#175] And amongst the stories is that of



ABD AL-RAHMAN THE MAGHRIBI'S STORY OF THE RUKH.[FN#176]



There was once a man of the people of West Africa who had journeyed far and wide and traversed many a desert and a tide. He was once cast upon an island, where he abode a long while and, returning thence to his native country, brought with him the quill of a wing feather of a young Rukh, whilst yet in egg and unhatched; and this quill was big enough to hold a goat skin of water, for it is said that the length of the Rukh chick's wing, when he cometh forth of the egg, is a thousand fathoms. The folk marvelled at this quill, when they saw it, and the man who was called Abd al-Rahman the Moor (and he was known, to boot, as the Chinaman, for his long sojourn in Cathay), related to them the following adventure, one of many of his traveller's tales of marvel. He was on a voyage in the China seas—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Fifth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Abd al- Rahman, the Moorman, the Chinaman, was wont to tell wondrous tales amongst which was the following. He was on a voyage in the China seas with a company of merchants, when they sighted an island from afar; so they steered for it and, making fast thereto, saw that it was large and spacious. The ship's crew went ashore to get wood and water, taking with them hatchets and ropes and water skies (the travellers accompanying them), and presently espied a great dome, white and gleaming, an hundred cubits long. So they made towards it and drawing near, found that it was an egg of the Rukh and fell on it with axes and stones and sticks till they uncovered the young bird and found the chick as it were a firm set hill. So they plucked out one of the wing feathers, but could not do so, save by helping one another, for all the quills were not full grown, after which they took what they could carry of the young bird's flesh and cutting the quill away from the vane, returned to the ship. Then they set sail and putting out to sea, voyaged with a fair wind all that night, till the sun rose; and while everything went well, they saw the Rukh come flying after them, as he were a vast cloud, with a rock in his talons, like a great heap bigger than the ship. As soon as he poised himself in air over the vessel, he let fall the rock upon it; but the craft, having great way on her, outwent the rock, which fell into the sea with a loud crash and a horrible. So Allah decreed their deliverance and saved them from doom; and they cooked the young bird's flesh and ate it. Now there were amongst them old white bearded men; and when they awoke on the morrow, they found that their beards had turned black, nor did any who had eaten of the young Rukh grow gray ever after. Some said the cause of the return of youth to them and the ceasing of hoariness from them was that they had heated the pot with arrow wood, whilst others would have it that it came of eating the Rukh chick's flesh; and this is indeed a wonder of wonders.[FN#177] And a story is related of



ADI BIN ZAYD AND THE PRINCESS HIND.



Al-Nu'uman Bin Al-Munzir, King of the Arabs of Irak, had a daughter named Hind, who went out one Pasch, which is a feast day of the Nazarenes, to the White Church, to take the sacrament; she was eleven years old and was the loveliest woman of her age and time; and it so chanced that on the same day came to Hirah[FN#178] a young man called 'Ad bin Zayd[FN#179] with presents from the Chosro to Al-Nu'uman, and he also went to the White Church, to communicate. He was tall of stature and fair of favour, with handsome eyes and smooth cheeks, and had with him a company of his people. Now there was with Hind bint al-Nu'uman a slave girl named Mriyah, who was enamoured of Adi, but had not been able to foregather with him. So, when she saw him in the church, she said to Hind, "Look at yonder youth. By Allah, he is handsomer than all thou seest!" Hind asked, "And who is he?" and Mariyah answered, "Adi bin Zayd." Quoth Al-Nu'uman's daughter, "I fear lest he know me, if I draw nearer to look on him." Quoth Mariyah, "How should he know thee when he hath never seen thee?" So she drew near him and found him jesting with the youths his companions; and indeed he surpassed them all, not only in his personal charms but in the excellence of his speech, the eloquence of his tongue and the richness of his raiment. When the Princess saw him, she was ravished with him, her reason was confounded and her colour changed; and Mariyah, seeing her inclination to him, said to her, "Speak him." So she spoke to him and went away. Now when he looked upon her and heard her speech, he was captivated by her and his wit was dazed; his heart fluttered, and his colour changed so that his companions suspected him, and he whispered one of them to follow her and find out who she was. The young man went after her and returning informed him that she was princess Hind, daughter of Al-Nu'uman. So Adi left the church, knowing not whither he went, for excess of love, and reciting these two couplets,

"O friends of me, one favour more I pray: * Unto the convents[FN#180] find more your way: Turn me that so I face the land of Hind; * Then go, and fairest greetings for me say."

Then he went to his lodging and lay that night, restless and without appetite for the food of sleep.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Sixth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Adi ended his verses he went to his lodging and lay that night restless and without appetite for the food of sleep. Now on the morrow Mariyah accosted him and he received her kindly, though before he would not incline to her, and said to her, "What is thy will?" Quoth she, "I have a want of thee;" and quoth he, "Name it, for by Allah, thou shalt not ask me aught, but I will give it thee!" So she told him that she loved him, and her want of him was that he would grant her a lover's privacy; and he agreed to do her will, on condition that she would serve him with Hind and devise some device to bring them together. Then he took her into a vintner's tavern in one of the by streets of Hirah, and lay with her; after which she returned to Hind and asked her, "Dost thou not long to see Adi?" She answered, "How can this be? Indeed my longing for him makes me restless, and no repose is left me since yesterday." Quoth Mariyah, "I will appoint him to be in such a place, where thou canst look on him from the palace." Quoth Hind, "Do what thou wilt," and agreed with her upon the place. So Adi came, and the Princess looked out upon him; and, when she saw him, she was like to topple down from the palace top and said, "O Mariyah, except thou bring him in to me this night, I shall die." So saying, she fell to the ground in a fainting fit, and her serving women lifted her up and bore her into the palace; whilst Mariyah hastened to Al-Nu'uman and discovered the whole matter to him with perfect truth, telling him that indeed she was mad for the love of Adi; and except he marry her to him she must be put to shame and die of love for him, which would disgrace her father among the Arabs, adding at the end, "There is no cure for this but wedlock." The King bowed his head awhile in thought and exclaimed again and again, "Verily, we are Allah's and unto Him we are returning!" Then said he "Woe to thee! How shall the marriage be brought about, seeing I mislike to open the matter?" And she said, "He is yet more ardently in love and yet more desireful of her than she is of him; and I will so order the affair that he shall be unaware of his case being known to thee; but do not betray thyself, O King." Then she went to Adi and, after acquainting him with everything said, "Make a feast and bid the King thereto; and, when the wine hath gotten the better of him, ask of him his daughter, for he will not refuse thee." Quoth Adi, "I fear lest this enrage him against me and be the cause of enmity between us." But quoth she, "I came not to thee, till I had settled the whole affair with him." Then she returned to Al- Nu'uman and said to him, "Seek of Adi that he entertain thee in his house." Replied the King, "There is no harm in that;" and after three days, besought Adi to give him and his lords the morning meal in his house. He consented and the King went to him; and when the wine had taken effect on Al-Nu'uman, Adi rose and sought of him his daughter in wedlock. He consented and married them and brought her to him after three days; and they abode at Al-Nu'uman's court, in all solace of life and its delight—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Seventh Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Adi abode with Hind bint Al-Nu'uman bin Munzir three years in all solace of life and its delight, after which time the King was wroth with Adi and slew him. Hind mourned for him with grievous mourning and built her an hermitage outside the city, whither she retired and became a religious, weeping and bewailing her husband till she died. And her hermitage is seen to this day in the suburbs of Hirah. They also tell a tale of



DI'IBIL AL-KHUZA'I WITH THE LADY AND MUSLIM BIN AL-WALID.



Quoth Di'ibil al Khuz'i[FN#181], "I was sitting one day at the gate of Al Karkh,[FN#182] when a damsel came past. Never saw I a fairer faced or better formed than she, walking with a voluptuous swaying gait and ravishing all beholders with her lithe and undulating pace. Now as my eyes fell on her, I was captivated by her and my vitals trembled and meseemed my heart flew forth of my breast; so I stood before her and I accosted her with this verse,

'The tears of these eyes find easy release; * But sleep flies these eyelids without surcease.'

Whereon she turned her face and looking at me, straightway made answer with this distich,

'A trifle this an his eyes be sore, * When her eyes say 'yes' to his love's caprice!'

I was astounded at the readiness of her reply and the fluency of her speech and rejoined with this verse,

'Say, cloth heart of my fair incline to him * Whose tears like a swelling stream increase?'

And she answered me without hesitation, thus,

'If thou crave our love, know that love's a loan; * And a debt to be paid by us twain a piece.'

Never entered my ears aught sweeter than her speech nor ever saw I brighter than her face: so I changed rhyme and rhythm to try her, in my wonder at her words, and repeated this couplet,

'Will Fate with joy of union ever bless our sight, * And one desireful one with other one unite.'

She smiled at this (never saw I fairer than her mouth nor sweeter than her lips), and answered me, without stay or delay, in the following distich,

"Pray, tell me what hath Fate to do betwixt us twain? * Thou'rt Elate: so bless our eyne with union and delight.'

At this, I sprang up and fell to kissing her hands and cried, 'I had not thought that Fortune would vouchsafe me such occasion. Do thou follow me, not of bidding or against thy will, but of the grace of thee and thy favour to me.' Then I went on and she after me. Now at that time I had no lodging I deemed fit for the like of her; but Muslim bin al-Wald[FN#183] was my fast friend, and he had a handsome house. So I made for his abode and knocked at the door, whereupon he came out, and I saluted him, saying, 'Tis for time like this that friends are treasured up'; and he replied, 'With love and gladness! Come in you twain.' So we entered but found money scarce with him: however, he gave me a kerchief, saying, 'Carry it to the bazar and sell it and buy food and what else thou needest.' I took the handkerchief, and hastening to the market, sold it and bought what we required of victuals and other matters; but when I returned, I found that Muslim had retired, with her to an underground chamber.[FN#184] When he heard my step he hurried out and said to me, 'Allah requite thee the kindness thou hast done me, O Abu Ali and reward thee in time to come and reckon it of thy good deeds on the Day of Doom!' So saying, he took from me the food and wine and shut the door in my face. His words enraged me and I knew not what to do, but he stood behind the door, shaking for mirth; and, when he saw me thus, he said to me, 'I conjure thee on my life, O Abu Ali, tell who it was composed this couplet?,

'I lay in her arms all night, leaving him * To sleep foul-hearted but clean of staff.'

At this my rage redoubled, and I replied, 'He who wrote this other couplet',

'One, I wish him in belt a thousand horns, * Exceeding in mighty height Manaf.'[FN#185]

Then I began to abuse him and reproach him with the foulness of his action and his lack of honour; and he was silent, never uttering a word. But, when I had finished, he smiled and said, 'Out on thee, O fool! Thou hast entered my house and sold my kerchief and spent my silver: so, with whom art thou wroth, O pimp?'[FN#186] Then he left me and went away to her, whilst I said, 'By Allah, thou art right to twit me as nincompoop and pander!' Then I left his door and went away in sore concern, and I feel its trace in my heart to this very day; for I never had my will of her nor, indeed, ever heard of her more." And amongst other tales is that about



ISAAC OF MOSUL AND THE MERCHANT.



Quoth Ishak bin Ibrahim al Mausili, "It so chanced that, one day feeling weary of being on duty at the Palace and in attendance upon the Caliph, I mounted horse and went forth, at break of dawn, having a mind to ride out in the open country and take my pleasure. So I said to my servants, 'If there come a messenger from the Caliph or another, say that I set out at day break, upon a pressing business, and that ye know not whither I am gone.' Then I fared forth alone and went round about the city, till the sun waxed hot, when I halted in a great thoroughfare known as Al Haram,"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Eighth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ishak bin Ibrahim the Mausili continued: "When the sun waxed hot I halted in a great thoroughfare known as Al-Haram, to take shelter in the shade and found it in a spacious wing of a house which projected over the street. And I stood there but a little while before there came up a black slave, leading an ass bestridden by a damsel; and under her were housings set with gems and pearls and upon her were the richest of clothes, richness can go no farther; and I saw that she was elegant of make with languorous look and graceful mien. I asked one of the passers by who she was, and he said, 'She is a singer,' so I fell in love with her at first sight: hardly could I keep my seat on horseback. She entered the house at whose gate I stood; and, as I was planning a device to gain access to her, there came up two men young and comely who asked admission and the housemaster gave them leave to enter. So they alighted and I also and they entered and I with them, they supposing that the master of the house had invited me; and we sat awhile, till food was brought and we ate. Then they set wine before us, and the damsel came out, with a lute in her hand. She sang and we drank, till I rose to obey a call of nature. Thereupon the host questioned the two others of me, and they replied that they knew me not; whereupon quoth he, 'This is a parasite[FN#187]; but he is a pleasant fellow, so treat him courteously.' Then I came back and sat down in my place, whilst the damsel sang to a pleasing air these two couplets,

'Say to the she gazelle, who's no gazelle, * And Kohl'd ariel who's no ariel.[FN#188] Who lies with male, and yet no female is, * Whose gait is female most unlike the male.'

She sang it right well, and the company drank and her song pleased them. Then she carolled various pieces to rare measures, and amongst the rest one of mine, which consisted of this distich,

'Bare hills and campground desolate * And friends who all have ganged their gait. How severance after union leaves * Me and their homes in saddest state!'

Her singing this time was even better than the first; then she chanted other rare pieces, old and new, and amongst them, another of mine with the following two couplets,

'Say to angry lover who turns away, * And shows thee his side whatso thou 'Thou wroughtest all that by thee was wrought, * Albe 'twas haply thy sport and play.'

I prayed her to repeat the song, that I might correct it for her; whereupon one of the two men accosted me and said, 'Never saw we a more impudent lick platter than thou. Art thou not content with sponging, but thou must eke meddle and muddle? Of very sooth, in thee is the saying made true, Parasite and pushing wight.' So I hung down my head for shame and made him no answer, whilst his companion would have withheld him from me, but he would not be restrained. Presently, they rose to pray, but I lagged behind a little and, taking the lute, screwed up the sides and brought it into perfect tune. Then I stood up in my place to pray with the rest; and when we had ended praying, the same man fell again to blaming me and reviling me and persisted in his rudeness, whilst I held my peace. Thereupon the damsel took the lute and touching it, knew that it had been altered, and said, 'Who hath touched my lute?' Quoth they, 'None of us hath touched it.' Quoth she, 'Nay, by Allah, some one hath touched it, and he is an artist, a past master in the craft; for he hath arranged the strings and tuned them like one who is a perfect performer.' Said I, 'It was I tuned it;' and said she, 'Then, Allah upon thee, take it and play on it!' So I took it; and, playing a piece so difficult and so rare, that it went nigh to deaden the quick and quicken the dead, I sang thereto these couplets,

'I had a heart, and with it lived my life: * 'Twas seared with fire and burnt with loving-lowe: I never won the blessing of her love; * God would not on His slave such boon bestow: If what I've tasted be the food of Love, * Must taste it all men who love food would know.'"

—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Four Hundred and Ninth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ishak of Mosul thus continued: "Now when I had finished my verse, there was not one of the company but sprang from his place and sat down like schoolboys before me, saying, 'Allah upon thee, O our lord, sing us another song.' 'With pleasure,' said I, and playing another measure in masterly fashion, sang thereto these couplets,

'Ho thou whose heart is melted down by force of Amor's fire, * And griefs from every side against thy happiness conspire: Unlawful is that he who pierced my vitals with his shaft, * My blood between my midriff and my breast bone[FN#189] he desire, 'Twas plain, upon our severance day, that he had set his mind * On an eternal parting, moved by tongue of envious liar: He sheds my blood he ne'er had shed except by wound of love, * Will none demand my blood of him, my wreck of him require?'

When I had made an end of this song, there was not one of them but rose to his feet and threw himself upon the ground for excess of delight. Then I cast the lute from my hand, but they said, 'Allah upon thee, do not on this wise, but let us hear another song, so Allah Almighty increase thee of His bounty!' Replied I, 'O folk, I will sing you another song and another and another and will tell you who I am. I am Ishak bin Ibrahim al Mausili, and by Allah, I bear myself proudly to the Caliph when he seeketh me. Ye have today made me hear abuse from an unmannerly carle such as I loathe; and by Allah, I will not speak a word nor sit with you, till ye put yonder quarrelsome churl out from among you!' Quoth the fellow's companion to him, 'This is what I warned thee against, fearing for thy good name.' So they hent him by the hand and thrust him out; and I took the lute and sang over again the songs of my own composing which the damsel had sung. Then I whispered the host that she had taken my heart and that I had no patience to abstain from her. Quoth he 'She is thine on one condition.' I asked, 'What is that?' and he answered, 'It is that thou abide with me a month, when the damsel and all belonging to her of raiment and jewellery shall be thine.' I rejoined, 'It is well, I will do this.' So I tarried with him a whole month, whilst none knew where I was and the Caliph sought me everywhere, but could come by no news of me; and at the end of this time, the merchant delivered to me the damsel, together with all that pertained to her of things of price and an eunuch to attend upon her. So I brought all that to my lodging, feeling as I were lord of the whole world, for exceeding delight in her; then I rode forthright to Al-Maamun. And when I stood in the presence, he said, 'Woe to thee, O Ishak, where hast thou been?' So I acquainted him with the story and he said, 'Bring me that man at once.' Thereupon I told him where he lived and he sent and fetched him and questioned him of the case; when he repeated the story and the Caliph said to him, 'Thou art a man of right generous mind, and it is only fitting that thou be aided in thy generosity.' Then he ordered him an hundred thousand dirhams and said to me, 'O Ishak, bring the damsel before me.' So I brought her to him, and she sang and delighted him; and being greatly gladdened by her he said to me, 'I appoint her turn of service every Thursday, when she must come and sing to me from behind the curtain.' And he ordered her fifty thousand dirhams, so by Allah, I profited both myself and others by my ride." And amongst the tales they tell is one of



THE THREE UNFORTUNATE LOVERS.



Quoth Al-'Utb[FN#190], "I was sitting one day with a company of educated men, telling stories of the folk, when the talk turned upon legends of lovers and each of us said his say thereanent. Now there was in our company an old man, who remained silent, till all had spoken and had no more to say, when quoth he, 'Shall I tell you a thing, the like of which you never heard; no, never?' 'Yes,' quoth we; and he said, 'Know, then, that I had a daughter, who loved a youth, but we knew it not; while the youth loved a singing girl, who in her turn loved my daughter. One day, I was present at an assembly, wherein were also the youth'"—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

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