WebNovel The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night Volume IV Part 2

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Answered Ala alDin, “The Arabs,” and Mahmud said, “O my son, the mules and the baggage were thy ransom; so do thou comfort thyself with his saying who said,

‘If thereby man can save his head from death, * His good is worth him but a slice of nail!’

But now, O my son, come down and fear no hurt.” Thereupon he descended from the cistern-niche and Mahmud mounted him on a mule, and they fared on till they reached Baghdad, where he brought him to his own house and carried him to the bath, saying to him, “The goods and money were the ransom of thy life, O my son; but, if thou wilt hearken to me, I will give thee the worth of that thou hast lost, twice told.” When he came out of the bath, Mahmud carried him into a saloon decorated with gold with four raised floors, and bade them bring a tray with all manner of meats. So they ate and drank and Mahmud bent towards Ala al-Din to s.n.a.t.c.h a kiss from him; but he received it upon the palm of his hand and said, “What, dost thou persist in thy evil designs upon me? Did I not tell thee that, were I wont to sell this merchandise to other than thee for gold, I would sell it thee for silver?” Quoth Mahmud, “I will give thee neither merchandise nor mule nor clothes save at this price; for I am gone mad for love of thee, and bless him who said,

‘Told us, ascribing to his Shaykhs, our Shaykh * Abu Bilal, these words they wont to utter:[FN#52]

Unhealed the lover wones of love desire, * By kiss and clip, his only cure’s to futter!'”

Ala al-Din replied, “Of a truth this may never be, take back thy dress and thy mule and open the door that I may go out.” So he opened the door, and Ala al-Din fared forth and walked on, with the dogs barking at his heels, and he went forwards through the dark when behold, he saw the door of a mosque standing open and, entering the vestibule, there took shelter and concealment; and suddenly a light approached him and on examining it he saw that it came from a pair of lanthorns borne by two slaves before two merchants. Now one was an old man of comely face and the other a youth; and he heard the younger say to the elder, “O my uncle,, I conjure thee by Allah, give me back my cousin!” The old man replied, “Did I not forbid thee, many a time, when the oath of divorce was always in thy mouth, as it were Holy Writ?” Then he turned to his right and, seeing Ala al-Din as he were a slice of the full moon, said to him, “Peace be with thee! who art thou, O my son?” Quoth he, returning the salutation of peace, “I am Ala al-Din, son of Shams al-Din, Consul of the merchants for Egypt. I besought my father for merchandise; so he packed me fifty loads of stuffs and goods.”–And Shahrazed perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Fifty-sixth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ala al-Din continued, “So he packed me fifty loads of goods and gave me ten thousand dinars, wherewith I set out for Baghdad; but when I reached the Lion’s Copse, the wild Arabs came out against me and took all my goods and monies. So I entered the city knowing not where to pa.s.s the night and, seeing this place, I took shelter here.” Quoth the old man, “O my son, what sayest thou to my giving thee a thousand dinars and a suit of clothes and a mule worth other two thousand?” Ala al-Din asked, “To what end wilt thou give me these things, O my uncle?” and the other answered, ‘This young man who accompanieth me is the son of my brother and an only son; and I have a daughter called Zubaydah[FN#53] the lutist, an only child who is a model of beauty and loveliness, so I married her to him. Now he loveth her, but she loatheth him; and when he chanced to take an oath of triple divorcement and broke it, forthright she left him. Whereupon he egged on all the folk to intercede with me to restore her to him; but I told him that this could not lawfully be save by an intermediate marriage, and we have agreed to make some stranger the intermediary[FN#54]

in order that none may taunt and shame him with this affair. So, as thou art a stranger, come with us and we will marry thee to her; thou shalt lie with her to-night and on the morrow divorce her and we will give thee what I said.” Quoth Ala al-Din to himself, “By Allah, to bide the night with a bride on a bed in a house is far better than sleeping in the streets and vestibules!”

So he went with them to the Kazi whose heart, as soon as he saw Ala al-Din, was moved to love him, and who said to the old man, “What is your will?” He replied, “We wish to make this young man an intermediary husband for my daughter; but we will write a bond against him binding him to pay down by way of marriage-settlement ten thousand gold pieces. Now if after pa.s.sing the night with her he divorce her in the morning, we will give him a mule and dress each worth a thousand dinars, and a third thousand of ready money; but if he divorce her not, he shall pay down the ten thousand dinars according to contract.” So they agreed to the agreement and the father of the bride-to-be received his bond for the marriage-settlement. Then he took Ala al-Din and, clothing him anew, carried him to his daughter’s house and there he left him standing at the door, whilst he himself went in to the young lady and said, “Take the bond of thy marriage-settlement, for I have wedded thee to a handsome youth by name Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat: so do thou use him with the best of usage.” Then he put the bond into her hands and left her and went to his own lodging. Now the lady’s cousin had an old duenna who used to visit Zubaydah, and he had done many a kindness to this woman, so he said to her, “O my mother, if my cousin Zubaydah see this handsome young man, she will never after accept my offer; so I would fain have thee contrive some trick to keep her and him apart.” She answered, “By the life of thy youth,[FN#55] I will not suffer him to approach her!” Then she went to Ala al-Din and said to him, “O my son, I have a word of advice to give thee, for the love of Almighty Allah and do thou accept my counsel, as I fear for thee from this young woman: better thou let her lie alone and feel not her person nor draw thee near to her.” He asked, “Why so?”; and she answered, “Because her body is full of leprosy and I dread lest she infect thy fair and seemly youth.”

Quoth he, “I have no need of her.” Thereupon she went to the lady and said the like to her of Ala al-Din, and she replied, “I have no need of him, but will let him lie alone, and on the morrow he shall gang his gait.” Then she called a slave-girl and said to her, “Take the tray of food and set it before him that he may sup.” So the handmaid carried him the tray of food and set it before him and he ate his fill: after which he sat down and raised his charming voice and fell to reciting the chapter called Y. S.[FN#56] The lady listened to him and found his voice as melodious as the psalms of David sung by David himself,[FN#57]

which when she heard, she exclaimed, “Allah disappoint the old hag who told me that he was affected with leprosy! Surely this is not the voice of one who hath such a disease; and all was a lie against him.”[FN#58] Then she took a lute of India-land workmanship and, tuning the strings, sang to it in a voice so sweet its music would stay the birds in the heart of heaven; and began these two couplets,

“I love a fawn with gentle white black eyes, * Whose walk the willow-wand with envy kills: Forbidding me he bids for rival-mine, * ‘Tis Allah’s grace who grants to whom He wills!”

And when he heard her chant these lines he ended his recitation of the chapter, and began also to sing and repeated the following couplet,

“My Salam to the Fawn in the garments concealed, * And to roses in gardens of cheek revealed.”

The lady rose up when she heard this, her inclination for him redoubled and she lifted the curtain; and Ala al-Din, seeing her, recited these two couplets,

“She shineth forth, a moon, and bends, a willow wand, * And breathes out ambergris, and gazes, a gazelle.

Meseems as if grief loved my heart and when from her *

Estrangement I abide possession to it fell.”[FN#59]

Thereupon she came forward, swinging her haunches and gracefully swaying a shape the handiwork of Him whose boons are hidden; and each of them stole one glance of the eyes that cost them a thousand sighs. And when the shafts of the two regards which met rankled in his heart, he repeated these two couplets,

“She ‘spied the moon of Heaven, reminding me * Of nights when met we in the meadows li’en: True, both saw moons, but sooth to say, it was * Her very eyes I saw, and she my eyne.”

And when she drew near him, and there remained but two paces between them, he recited these two couplets,

“She spread three tresses of unplaited hair * One night, and showed me nights not one but four; And faced the moon of Heaven with her brow, * And showed me two- fold moons in single hour.”

And as she was hard by him he said to her, “Keep away from me, lest thou infect me.” Whereupon she uncovered her wrist[FN#60] to him, and he saw that it was cleft, as it were in two halves, by its veins and sinews and its whiteness was as the whiteness of virgin silver. Then said she, “Keep away from me, thou! for thou art stricken with leprosy, and maybe thou wilt infect me.” He asked, “Who told thee I was a leper?” and she answered, “The old woman so told me.” Quoth he, “‘Twas she told me also that thou wast afflicted with white scurvy;” and so saying, he bared his forearms and showed her that his skin was also like virgin silver. Thereupon she pressed him to her bosom and he pressed her to his bosom and the twain embraced with closest embrace, then she took him and, lying down on her back, let down her petticoat trousers, and in an instant that which his father had left him rose up in rebellion against him and he said, “Go it, O Shayth Zachary[FN#61] of s.h.a.ggery, O father of veins!”; and putting both hands to her flanks, he set the sugar-stick[FN#62] to the mouth of the cleft and thrust on till he came to the wicket called “Pecten.” His pa.s.sage was by the Gate of Victories[FN#63] and therefrom he entered the Monday market, and those of Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday,[FN#64] and, finding the carpet after the measure of the dais floor,[FN#65] he plied the box within its cover till he came to the end of it. And when morning dawned he cried to her, “Alas for delight which is not fulfilled! The raven[FN#66] taketh it and flieth away!” She asked, “What meaneth this saying?”; and he answered, “O my lady, I have but this hour to abide with thee.” Quoth she “Who saith so?” and quoth he, “Thy father made me give him a written bond to pay ten thousand dinars to thy wedding-settlement; and, except I pay it this very day, they will imprison me for debt in the Kazi’s house; and now my hand lacketh one-half dirham of the sum.” She asked, “O my lord, is the marriage-bond in thy hand or in theirs?”; and he answered, “O my lady, in mine, but I have nothing.” She rejoined, “The matter is easy; fear thou nothing. Take these hundred dinars: an I had more, I would give thee what thou lackest; but of a truth my father, of his love for my cousin, hath transported all his goods, even to my jewellery from my lodging to his. But when they send thee a serjeant of the Ecclesiastical Court,”–And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Fifty-seventh Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the young lady rejoined to Ala al-Din, “And when they send thee at an early hour a serjeant of the Ecclesiastical-Court, and the Kazi and my father bid thee divorce me, do thou reply, By what law is it lawful and right that I should marry at nightfall and divorce in the morning? Then kiss the Kazi’s hand and give him a present, and in like manner kiss the a.s.sessors’ hands and give each of them ten gold pieces. So they will all speak with thee, and if they ask thee, ‘Why dost thou not divorce her and take the thousand dinars and the mule and suit of clothes, according to contract duly contracted?’ do thou answer, ‘Every hair of her head is worth a thousand ducats to me and I will never put her away, neither will I take a suit of clothes nor aught else.’ And if the Kazi say to thee, ‘Then pay down the marriage-settlement,’

do thou reply, ‘I am short of cash at this present;’ whereupon he and the a.s.sessors will deal in friendly fashion with thee and allow thee time to pay.” Now whilst they were talking, behold, the Kazi’s officer knocked at the door; so Ala al-Din went down and the man said to him, “Come, speak the Efendi,[FN#67] for thy fatherinlaw summoneth thee.” So Ala al-Din gave him five dinars and said to him, “O Summoner, by what law am I bound to marry at nightfall and divorce next morning?” The serjeant answered, “By no law of ours at all, at all; and if thou be ignorant of the religious law, I will act as thine advocate.” Then they went to the divorce court and the Kazi said to Ala al-Din, “Why dost thou not put away the woman and take what falleth to thee by the contract?” Hearing this he went up to the Kazi; and, kissing his hand, put fifty dinars in it and said, “O our lord the Kazi, by what law is it lawful and right that I should marry at nightfall and divorce in the morning in my own despite?” The Kazi, answered, “Divorce as a compulsion and by force is sanctioned by no school of the Moslems.” Then said the young lady’s father, “If thou wilt not divorce, pay me the ten thousand dinars, her marriage-settlement.” Quoth Ala al-Din, “Give me a delay of three days;” but the Kazi, said, “Three days is not time enough; he shall give thee ten.” So they agreed to this and bound him after ten days either to pay the dowry or to divorce her. And after consenting he left them and taking meat and rice and clarified b.u.t.ter[FN#68] and what else of food he needed, returned to the house and told the young woman all that had pa.s.sed; whereupon she said, “‘Twixt night and day, wonders may display; and Allah bless him for his say:–

‘Be mild when rage shall come to afflict thy soul; * Be patient when calamity breeds ire; Lookye, the Nights are big with child by Time, * Whose pregnancy bears wondrous things and dire.'”

Then she rose and made ready food and brought the tray, and they two ate and drank and were merry and mirthful. Presently Ala al-Din besought her to let him hear a little music; so she took the lute and played a melody that had made the hardest stone dance for glee, and the strings cried out in present ecstacy, “O Loving One!”;[FN#69] after which she pa.s.sed from the adagio into the presto and a livelier measure. As they thus spent their leisure in joy and jollity and mirth and merriment, behold, there came a knocking at the door and she said to him; “Go see who is at the door.” So he went down and opened it and finding four Dervishes standing without, said to them, “What want ye?” They replied, “O my lord, we are foreign and wandering religious mendicants, the viands of whose souls are music and dainty verse, and we would fain take our pleasure with thee this night till morning cloth appear, when we will wend our way, and with Almighty Allah be thy reward; for we adore music and there is not one of us but knoweth by heart store of odes and songs and ritornellos.”[FN#70] He answered, “There is one I must consult;”

and he returned and told Zubaydah who said, “Open the door to them.” So he brought them up and made them sit down and welcomed them; then he fetched them food, but they would not eat and said, “O our lord, our meat is to repeat Allah’s name in our hearts and to hear music with our ears: and bless him who saith,

‘Our aim is only converse to enjoy, * And eating joyeth only cattle-kind.'[FN#71]

And just now we heard pleasant music in thy house, but when we entered, it ceased; and fain would we know whether the player was a slave-girl, white or black, or a maiden of good family.” He answered, “It was this my wife,” and told them all that had befallen him, adding, “Verily my father-in-law hath bound me to pay a marriage-settlement of ten thousand dinars for her, and they have given me ten days’ time.” Said one of the Dervishes, “Have no care and think of naught but good; for I am Shaykh of the Convent and have forty Dervishes under my orders. I will presently collect from them the ten thousand dinars and thou shalt pay thy father-in-law the wedding settlement. But now bid thy wife make us music that we may be gladdened and pleasured; for to some folk music is meat, to others medicine and to others refreshing as a fan.” Now these four Dervishes were none other than the Caliph Harun al-Rashid, his Wazir Ja’afar the Barmecide, Abu al-Nowas al-Hasan son of Hani[FN#72] and Masrur the sworder; and the reason of their coming to the house was that the Caliph, being heavy at heart, had summoned his Minister and said, “O Wazir! it is our will to go down to the city and pace its streets, for my breast is sore straitened.” So they all four donned dervish dress and went down and walked about, till they came to that house where, hearing music, they were minded to know the cause. They spent the night in joyance and harmony and telling tale after tale until morning dawned, when the Caliph laid an hundred gold pieces under the prayer-carpet and all taking leave of Ala al-Din, went their way. Now when Zubaydah lifted the carpet she found beneath it the hundred dinars and she said to her husband, “Take these hundred dinars which I have found under the prayer-carpet; a.s.suredly the Dervishes when about to leave us laid them there, without our knowledge.” So Ala al-Din took the money and, repairing to the market, bought therewith meat and rice and clarified b.u.t.ter and all they required. And when it was night, he lit the wax-candles and said to his wife, “The mendicants, it is true, have not brought the ten thousand dinars which they promised me; but indeed they are poor men.” As they were talking, behold, the Dervishes knocked at the door and she said, “Go down and open to them.” So he did her bidding and bringing them up, said to them, “Have you brought me the ten thousand dinars you promised me?” They answered, “We have not been able to collect aught thereof as yet; but fear nothing: Inshallah, tomorrow we will compound for thee some alchemical-cookery. But now bid thy wife play us her very best pieces and gladden our hearts for we love music.” So she took her lute and made them such melody that had caused the hardest rocks to dance with glee; and they pa.s.sed the night in mirth and merriment, converse and good cheer, till morn appeared with its sheen and shone, when the Caliph laid an hundred gold pieces under the prayer-carpet and all, after taking leave of Ala al-Din, went their way. And they ceased not to visit him thus every night for nine nights; and each morning the Caliph put an hundred dinars under the prayer carpet, till the tenth night, when they came not. Now the reason of their failure to come was that the Caliph had sent to a great merchant, saying to him, “Bring me fifty loads of stuffs, such as come from Cairo,”–And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Fifty-eighth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Prince of True Believers said to that merchant, “Bring me fifty loads of stuffs such as come from Cairo, and let each one be worth a thousand dinars, and write on each bale its price; and bring me also a male Abyssinian slave.” The merchant did the bidding of the Caliph who committed to the slave a basin and ewer of gold and other presents, together with the fifty loads; and wrote a letter to Ala al-Din as from his father Shams al-Din and said to him, “Take these bales and what else is with them, and go to such and such a quarter wherein dwelleth the Provost of the merchants and say, ‘Where be Ala al-Din Abu al Shamat?’ till folk direct thee to his quarter and his house.” So the slave took the letter and the goods and what else and fared forth on his errand. Such was his case; but as regards Zubaydah’s cousin and first husband, he went to her father and said to him, “Come let us go to Ala al-Din and make him divorce the daughter of my uncle.” So they set out both together and, when they came to the street in which the house stood, they found fifty he mules laden with bales of stuffs, and a blackamoor riding on a she mule. So they said to him, “Whose loads are these?” He replied, “They belong to my lord Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat; for his father equipped him with merchandise and sent him on a journey to Baghdad-city; but the wild Arabs came forth against him and took his money and goods and all he had. So when the ill news reached his father, he despatched me to him with these loads, in lieu of those he had lost; besides a mule laden with fifty thousand dinars, a parcel of clothes worth a power of money, a robe of sables[FN#73] and a basin and ewer of gold.” Whereupon the lady’s father said, “He whom thou seekest is my son-in-law and I will show thee his house.” Meanwhile Ala al-Din was sitting at home in huge concern, when lo! one knocked at the door and he said, “O Zubaydah, Allah is all-knowing! but I fear thy father hath sent me an officer from the Kazi or the Chief of Police.” Quoth she, “Go down and see what it is.” So he went down; and, opening the door, found his father-in-law, the Provost of the merchants with an Abyssinian slave, dusky complexioned and pleasant of favour, riding on a mule. When the slave saw him he dismounted and kissed his hands, and Ala al-Din said, “What dost thou want?” He replied, “I am the slave of my lord Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat, son of Shams al-Din, Consul of the merchants for the land of Egypt, who hath sent me to him with this charge.” Then he gave him the letter and Ala al-Din opening it found written what followeth:[FN#74]

“Ho thou my letter! when my friend shall see thee, * Kiss thou the ground and buss his sandal-shoon: Look thou hie softly and thou hasten not, * My life and rest are in those hands so boon.

“After hearty salutations and congratulations and high estimation from Shams al-Din to his son, Abu al-Shamat. Know, O my son, that news hath reached me of the slaughter of thy men and the plunder of thy monies and goods; so I send thee herewith fifty loads of Egyptian stuffs, together with a suit of clothes and a robe of sables and a basin and ewer of gold. Fear thou no evil, and the goods thou hast lost were the ransom of thy life; so regret them not and may no further grief befall thee. Thy mother and the people of the house are doing well in health and happiness and all greet thee with abundant greetings. Moreover, O my son, it hath reached me that they have married thee, by way of intermediary, to the lady Zubaydah the lutist and they have imposed on thee a marriage-settlement of ten thousand dinars; wherefore I send thee also fifty thousand dinars by the slave Salim.”[FN#75] Now when Ala al-Din had made an end of reading the letter, he took possession of the loads and, turning to the Provost, said to him, “O my father-in-law, take the ten thousand dinars, the marriage-settlement of thy daughter Zubaydah, and take also the loads of goods and dispose of them, and thine be the profit; only return me the cost price.” He answered, “Nay, by Allah, I will take nothing; and, as for thy wife’s settlement, do thou settle the matter with her.” Then, after the goods had been brought in, they went to Zuhaydah and she said to her sire, “O my father, whose loads be these?” He said, “These belong to thy husband, Ala al-Din: his father hath sent them to him instead of those whereof the wild Arabs spoiled him. Moreover, he hath sent him fifty thousand dinars with a parcel of clothes, a robe of sables, a she mule for riding and a basin and ewer of gold. As for the marriage-settlement that is for thy recking.” Thereupon Ala al-Din rose and, opening the money box, gave her her settlement and the lady’s cousin said, “O my uncle, let him divorce to me my wife;” but the old man replied, “This may never be now; for the marriage tie is in his hand.” Thereupon the young man went out, sore afflicted and sadly vexed and, returning home, fell sick, for his heart had received its death blow; so he presently died. But as for Ala al-Din, after receiving his goods he went to the bazar and buying what meats and drinks he needed, made a banquet as usual–against the night, saying to Zubaydah, “See these lying Dervishes; they promised us and broke their promises.” Quoth she, “Thou art the son of a Consul of the merchants, yet was thy hand short of half a dirham; how then should it be with poor Dervishes?” Quoth he, “Almighty Allah hath enabled us to do without them; but if they come to us never again will I open the door to them.” She asked, “Why so, whenas their coming footsteps brought us good luck; and, moreover, they put an hundred dinars under the prayer carpet for us every night?

Perforce must thou open the door to them an they come.” So when day departed with its light and in gloom came night, they lighted the wax candles and he said to her, “Rise, Zubaydah, make us music;” and behold, at this moment some one knocked at the door, and she said, “Go and look who is at the door.” So he went down and opened it and seeing the Dervishes, said, “Oh, fair welcome to the liars! Come up.” Accordingly they went up with him and he seated them and brought them the tray of food; and they ate and drank and became merry and mirthful, and presently said to him, “O my lord, our hearts have been troubled for thee: what hath pa.s.sed between thee and thy father-in-law?” He answered, “Allah compensated us beyond and above our desire.” Rejoined they, “By Allah, we were in fear for thee”.–And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and and Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Dervishes thus addressed Ala al-Din, “By Allah, we were in fear for thee and naught kept us from thee but our lack of cash and coin.” Quoth he, “Speedy relief hath come to me from my Lord; for my father hath sent me fifty thousand dinars and fifty loads of stuffs, each load worth a thousand dinars; besides a riding-mule, a robe of sables, an Abyssinian slave and a basin and ewer of gold. Moreover, I have made my peace with my father-in-law and my wife hath become my lawful wife by my paying her settlement; so laud to Allah for that!” Presently the Caliph rose to do a necessity; whereupon Ja’afar bent him towards Ala al-Din and said, “Look to thy manners, for thou art in the presence of the Commander of the Faithful ” Asked he, “How have I failed in good breeding before the Commander of the Faithful, and which of you is he?” Quoth Ja’afar, “He who went out but now to make water is the Commander of the Faithful, Harun al-Rashid, and I am the Wazir Ja’afar; and this is Masrur the executioner and this other is Abu Nowas Hasan bin Hani.. And now, O Ala al-Din, use thy reason and bethink thee how many days’ journey it is between Cairo and Baghdad.” He replied, “Five and forty days’ journey;”

and Ja’afar rejoined, “Thy baggage was stolen only ten days ago; so how could the news have reached thy father, and how could he pack thee up other goods and send them to thee five-and-forty days’ journey in ten days’ time?” Quoth Ala al-Din, “O my lord and whence then came they?” “From the Commander of the Faithful,”

replied Ja’afar, “of his great affection for thee.” As they were speaking, lo! the Caliph entered and Ala al-Din rising, kissed the ground before him and said, “Allah keep thee, O Prince of the Faithful, and give thee long life; and may the lieges never lack thy bounty and beneficence!” Replied the Caliph, “O Ala al-Din, let Zubaydah play us an air, by way of house-warming[FN#76] for thy deliverance.” Thereupon she played him on the lute so rare a melody that the very stones shook for glee, and the strings cried out for present ecstasy, “O Loving One!” They spent the night after the merriest fashion, and in the morning the Caliph said to Ala al-Din, “Come to the Divan to-morrow.” He answered, “Hearkening and obedience, O Commander of the Faithful; so Allah will and thou be well and in good case!” On the morrow he took ten trays and, putting on each a costly present, went up with them to the palace; and the Caliph was sitting on the throne when, behold, Ala al-Din appeared at the door of the Divan, repeating these two couplets,

“Honour and Glory wait on thee each morn! * Thine enviers’ noses in the dust be set!

Ne’er cease thy days to be as white as snow; * Thy foeman’s days to be as black as jet!”

“Welcome, O Ala Al-Din!” said the Caliph, and he replied, “O Commander of the Faithful, the Prophet (whom Allah bless and a.s.sain!)[FN#77] was wont to accept presents; and these ten trays, with what is on them, are my offering to thee.” The Caliph accepted his gift and, ordering him a robe of honour, made him Provost of the merchants and gave him a seat in the Divan. And as he was sitting behold, his father-in-law came in and, seeing Ala al-Din seated in his place and clad in a robe of honour, said to the Caliph, “O King of the age, why is this man sitting in my place and wearing this robe of honour?” Quoth the Caliph, “I have made him Provost of the merchants, for offices are by invest.i.ture and not in perpetuity, and thou art deposed.” Answered the merchant, “Thou hast done well, O Commander of the Faithful, for he is ours and one of us. Allah make the best of us the managers of our affairs! How many a little one hath become great!” Then the Caliph wrote Ala al-Din a Firman[FN#78] of invest.i.ture and gave it to the Governor who gave it to the crier,[FN#79] and the crier made proclamation in the Divan saying, “None is Provost of the merchants but Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat, and his word is to be heard, and he must be obeyed with due respect paid, and he meriteth homage and honour and high degree!” Moreover, when the Divan broke up, the Governor went down with the crier before Ala Al-Din!” and the crier repeated the proclamation and they carried Ala al-Din through the thoroughfares of Baghdad, making proclamation of his dignity. Next day, Ala al-Din opened a shop for his slave Salim and set him therein, to buy and sell, whilst he himself rode to the palace and took his place in the Caliph’s Divan.–And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Sixtieth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Ala al-Din rode to the palace and took his place in the Caliph’s Divan. Now it came to pa.s.s one day, when he sat in his stead as was his wont, behold, one said to the Caliph, “O Commander of the Faithful, may thy head survive such an one the cup-companion!; for he is gone to the mercy of Almighty Allah, but be thy life prolonged!”[FN#80] Quoth the Caliph, “Where is Ala al-Din Abu al-al-Shamat?” So he went up to the Commander of the Faithful, who at once clad him in a splendid dress of honour and made him his boon-companion; appointing him a monthly pay and allowance of a thousand dinars. He continued to keep him company till, one day, as he sat in the Divan, according to his custom attending upon the Caliph, lo and behold! an Emir came up with sword and shield in hand and said, “O Commander of the Faithful, may thy head long outlive the Head of the Sixty, for he is dead this day;” whereupon the Caliph ordered Ala al-Din a dress of honour and made him Chief of the Sixty, in place of the other who had neither wife nor son nor daughter. So Ala al-Din laid hands on his estate and the Caliph said to him, “Bury him in the earth and take all he hath left of wealth and slaves and handmaids.”[FN#81]

Then he shook the handkerchief[FN#82] and dismissed the Divan, whereupon Ala al-Din went forth, attended by Ahmad al-Danaf, captain of the right, and Hasan Shuman, captain of the left, riding at his either stirrup, each with his forty men.[FN#83]

Presently, he turned to Hasan Shuman and his men and said to them, “Plead ye for me with the Captain Ahmad al-Danaf that he please to accept me as his son by covenant before Allah.” And Ahmad a.s.sented, saying, “I and my forty men will go before thee to the Divan every morning.” Now after this Ala al-Din continued in the Caliph’s service many days; till one day it chanced that he left the Divan and returning home, dismissed Ahmad al-Danaf and his men and sat down with his wife Zubaydab, the lute-player, who lighted the wax candles and went out of the room upon an occasion. Suddenly he heard a loud shriek; so he rose up and running in haste to see what was the matter, found that it was his wife who had cried out. She was lying at full length on the ground and, when he put his hand to her breast, he found her dead. Now her father’s house faced that of Ala al-Din, and he, hearing the shriek, came in and said, “What is the matter, O my lord Ala al-Din?” He replied, “O my father, may thy head outlive thy daughter Zubaydah! But, O my father, honour to the dead is burying them.” So when the morning dawned, they buried her in the earth and her husband and father condoled with and mutually consoled each other. Thus far concerning her; but as regards Ala al-Din he donned mourning dress and declined the Divan, abiding tearful-eyed and heavy-hearted at home. After a while, the Caliph said to Ja’afar, “O Watir, what is the cause of Ala al-Din’s absence from the Divan?” The Minister answered, “O Commander of the Faithful, he is in mourning for his wife Zubaydah; and is occupied in receiving those who come to console him;” and the Caliph said, “It behoveth us to pay him a visit of condolence.”

“I hear and I obey,” replied Ja’afar. So they took horse, the Caliph and the Minister and a few attendants, and rode to Ala al-Din’s house and, as he was sitting at home, behold, the party came in upon him; whereupon he rose to receive them and kissed the ground before the Caliph, who said to him, “Allah make good thy loss to thee!” Answered Ala Al-Din, “May Allah preserve thee to us, O Commander of the Faithful!” Then said the Caliph, “O Ala al-Din, why hast thou absented thyself from the Divan?” And he replied, “Because of my mourning for my wife, Zubaydah, O Commander of the Faithful.” The Caliph rejoined, “Put away grief from thee: verily she is dead and gone to the mercy of Almighty Allah and mourning will avail thee nothing; no, nothing.” But Ala al-Din said “O Commander of the Faithful, I shall never leave mourning for her till I die and they bury me by her side.” Quoth the Caliph, “In Allah is compensation for every decease, and neither device nor riches can deliver from death; and divinely gifted was he who said,

‘All sons of woman, albe long preserved, * Are borne upon the bulging bier some day.[FN#84]

How then shall ‘joy man joy or taste delight, * Upon whose cheeks shall rest the dust and clay?'”

When the Caliph had made an end of condoling with him, he charged him not to absent himself from the Divan and returned to his palace. And Ala Al-Din, after a last sorrowful night, mounted early in the morning and, riding to the court, kissed the ground before the Commander of the Faithful who made a movement if rising from the throne[FN#85] to greet and welcome him; and bade him take his appointed place in the Divan, saying, “O Ala al-Din, thou art my guest to-night.” So presently he carried him into his serraglio and calling a slave-girl named Kut al-Kulub, said to her, “Ala al-Din had a wife called Zubaydah, who used to sing to him and solace him of cark and care; but she is gone to the mercy of Almighty Allah, and now I would have thee play him an air upon the lute,”–And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Sixty-first Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph said to the damsel Kut al-Kulub, “I would have thee play him upon the lute an air, of fashion sweet and rare, that he may be solaced of his cark and care.” So she rose and made sweet music; and the Caliph said to Ala al-Din, “What sayst thou of this damsel’s voice?” He replied, “Verily, O Commander of the Faithful, Zubaydah’s voice was the finer; but she is skilled in touching the lute cunningly and her playing would make a rock dance with glee.” The Caliph asked, “Doth she please thee?” and he answered, “She doth, O Commander of the Faithful;” whereupon the King said, “By the life of my head and the tombs of my forefathers, she is a gift from me to thee, she and her waiting- women!” Ala al-Din fancied that the Caliph was jesting with him; but, on the morrow, the King went in to Kut al-Kulub and said to her, “I have given thee to Ala Al-Din, whereat she rejoiced, for she had seen and loved him. Then the Caliph returned from his serraglio palace to the Divan; and, calling porters, said to them, “Set all the goods of Kut al-Kulub and her waiting-women in a litter, and carry them to Ala al-Din’s home.” So they conducted her to the house and showed her into the pavilion, whilst the Caliph sat in the hall of audience till the dose of day, when the Divan broke up and he retired to his harem. Such was his case; but as regards Kut al-Kulub, when she had taken up her lodging in Ala al-Din’s mansion, she and her women, forty in all, besides the eunuchry, she called two of these caponised slaves and said to them, “Sit ye on stools, one on the right and another on the left hand of the door; and, when Ala al-Din cometh home, both of you kiss his hands and say to him, “Our mistress Kut al-Kulub requesteth thy presence in the pavilion, for the Caliph hath given her to thee, her and her women.” They answered, “We hear and obey;” and did as she bade them. So, when Ala al-Din returned, he found two of the Caliph’s eunuchs sitting at the door and was amazed at the matter and said to himself, “Surely, this is not my own house; or else what can have happened?” Now when the eunuchs saw him, they rose to him and, kissing his hands, said to him, “We are of the Caliph’s household and slaves to Kut al-Kulub, who saluteth thee, giving thee to know that the Caliph hath bestowed her on thee, her and her women, and requesteth thy presence.” Quoth Ala al-Din, “Say ye to her, ‘Thou art welcome; but so long as thou shalt abide with me, I will not enter the pavilion wherein thou art, for what was the master’s should not become the man’s;’ and furthermore ask her, ‘What was the sum of thy day’s expenditure in the Caliph’s palace?'” So they went in and did his errand to her, and she answered, “An hundred dinars a day;” whereupon quoth he to himself, “There was no need for the Caliph to give me Kut al-Kulub, that I should be put to such expense for her; but there is no help for it.” So she abode with him awhile and he a.s.signed her daily an hundred dinars for her maintenance; till, one day, he absented himself from the Divan and the Caliph said to Ja’afar, “O Watir, I gave not Kut al-Kulub unto Ala al-Din but that she might console him for his wife; why, then, doth he still hold aloof from us?” Answered Ja’afar, “O Commander of the Faithful, he spake sooth who said, ‘Whoso findeth his fere, forgetteth his friends.'” Rejoined the Caliph, “Haply he hath not absented himself without excuse, but we will pay him a visit.” Now some days before this, Ala al-Din had said to Ja’afar, “I complained to the Caliph of my grief and mourning for the loss of my wife Zubaydah and he gave me Kut al-Kulub;” and the Minister replied, “Except he loved thee, he had not given her to thee. Say hast thou gone in unto her, O Ala al-Din?” He rejoined, “No, by Allah! I know not her length from her breadth.” He asked “And why?” and he answered, “O Wazir, what befitteth the lord befitteth not the liege.” Then the Caliph and Ja’afar disguised themselves and went privily to visit Ala al-Din; but he knew them and rising to them kissed the hands of the Caliph, who looked at him and saw signs of sorrow in his face. So he said to him, “O Al-Din, whence cometh this sorrow wherein I see thee? Hast thou not gone in unto Kut al-Kulub?” He replied, “O Commander of the Faithful, what befitteth the lord befitteth not the thrall. No, as yet I have not gone in to visit her nor do I know her length from her breadth; so pray quit me of her.” Quoth the Caliph, “I would fain see her and question her of her case;” and quoth Ala al-Din, “I hear and I obey, O Commander of the Faithful.” So the Caliph went in,–And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Sixty-second Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Caliph went in to Kut al-Kulub, who rose to him on sighting him and kissed the ground between his hands; when he said to her, “Hath Ala al-Din gone in unto thee?” and she answered, “No, O Commander of the Faithful, I sent to bid him come, but he would not.” So the Caliph bade carry her back to the Harim and saying to Ala Al-Din, “Do not absent thyself from us,” returned to his palace.

Accordingly, next morning, Ala Al-Din, mounted and rode to the Divan, where he took his seat as Chief of the Sixty. Presently the Caliph ordered his treasurer to give the Wazir Ja’afar ten thousand dinars and said when his order was obeyed, “I charge thee to go down to the bazar where handmaidens are sold and buy Ala Al-Din, a slave-girl with this sum.” So in obedience to the King, Ja’afar took Ala al-Din and went down with him to the bazar. Now as chance would have it, that very day, the Emir Khalid, whom the Caliph had made Governor of Baghdad, went down to the market to buy a slave-girl for his son and the cause of his going was that his wife, Khatun by name, had borne him a son called Habzalam Bazazah,[FN#86] and the same was foul of favour and had reached the age of twenty, without learning to mount horse; albeit his father was brave and bold, a doughty rider ready to plunge into the Sea of Darkness.[FN#87] And it happened that on a certain night he had a dream which caused nocturnal-pollution whereof he told his mother, who rejoiced and said to his father, “I want to find him a wife, as he is now ripe for wedlock.” Quoth Khalid, “The fellow is so foul of favour and withal-so rank of odour, so sordid and beastly that no woman would take him as a gift.” And she answered, “We will buy him a slave-girl.” So it befell, for the accomplishing of what Allah Almighty had decreed, that on the same day, Ja’afar and Ala al-Din, the Governor Khalid and his son went down to the market and behold, they saw in the hands of a broker a beautiful girl, lovely faced and of perfect shape, and the Wazir said to him, “O broker, ask her owner if he will take a thousand dinars for her.”

And as the broker pa.s.sed by the Governor with the slave, Hahzalam Bazazah cast at her one glance of the eyes which entailed for himself one thousand sighs; and he fell in love with her and pa.s.sion got hold of him and he said, “O my father, buy me yonder slave-girl.” So the Emir called the broker, who brought the girl to him, and asked her her name. She replied, “My name is Jessamine;” and he said to Hahzalam Bazazah, “O my son, as she please thee, do thou bid higher for her.” Then he asked the broker, “What hath been bidden for her?” and he replied, “A thousand dinars.” Said the Governor’s son, “She is mine for a thousand pieces of gold and one more;” and the broker pa.s.sed on to Ala al-Din who bid two thousand dinars for her; and as often as the Emir’s son bid another dinar, Ala al-Din bid a thousand.

The ugly youth was vexed at this and said, “O broker! who is it that outbiddeth me for the slave-girl?” Answered the broker, “It is the Wazir Ja’afar who is minded to buy her for Ala al-Din Abu al-Shamat.” And Ala al-Din continued till he brought her price up to ten thousand dinars, and her owner was satisfied to sell her for that sum. Then he took the girl and said to her, “I give thee thy freedom for the love of Almighty Allah;” and forthwith wrote his contract of marriage with her and carried her to his house.

Now when the broker returned, after having received his brokerage, the Emir’s son summoned him and said to him, “Where is the girl?” Quoth he, “She was bought for ten thousand dinars by Ala al-Din, who hath set her free and married her.” At this the young man was greatly vexed and cast down and, sighing many a sigh, returned home, sick for love of the damsel; and he threw himself on his bed and refused food, for love and longing were sore upon him. Now when his mother saw him in this plight, she said to him, “Heaven a.s.sain thee, O my son! What aileth thee?”

And he answered, “Buy me Jessamine, O my mother.” Quoth she, “When the flower-seller pa.s.seth I will buy thee a basketful of jessamine.” Quoth he, “It is not the jessamine one smells, but a slave-girl named Jessamine, whom my father would not buy for me.”

———-

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