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

'It seems as though of Lot's tribe were our days, * And crave with love to advance the young in years.'"[FN#336]

When Kamar al-Zaman heard these words, he was abashed and his cheeks flushed till they seemed a-flame; and he said, "I need not these favours which lead to the commission of sin; I will live poor in wealth but wealthy in virtue and honour." Quoth she, "I am not to be duped by thy scruples, arising from prudery and coquettish ways; and Allah bless him who saith,

'To him I spake of coupling, but he said to me, * How long this noyous long persistency?' But when gold piece I showed him, he cried, * 'Who from the Almighty Sovereign e'er shall flee?'"

Now when Kamar al-Zaman, heard these words and understood her verses and their import, he said, "O King, I have not the habit of these doings, nor have I strength to bear these heavy burthens for which elder than I have proved unable; then how will it be with my tender age?" But she smiled at his speech and retorted, "Indeed, it is a matter right marvellous how error springeth from the disorder of man's intendiment!! Since thou art a boy, why standest thou in fear of sin or the doing of things forbidden, seeing that thou art not yet come to years of canonical responsibility; and the offences of a child incur neither punishment nor reproof? Verily, thou hast committed thyself to a quibble for the sake of contention, and it is thy duty to bow before a proposal of fruition, so henceforward cease from denial and coyness, for the commandment of Allah is a decree foreordained:[FN#337] indeed, I have more reason than thou to fear falling and by sin to be misled; and well inspired was he who said,

'My prickle is big and the little one said, * 'Thrust boldly in vitals with lion-like stroke! Then I, ' 'Tis a sin!; and he, 'No sin to me! * So I had him at once with a counterfeit poke."[FN#338]

When Kamar al-Zaman heard these words, the light became darkness in his sight and he said, "O King, thou hast in thy household fair women and female slaves, who have not their like in this age: shall not these suffice thee without me? Do thy will with them and let me go!" She replied, "Thou sayest sooth, but it is not with them that one who loveth thee can heal himself of torment and can abate his fever; for, when tastes and inclinations are corrupted by vice, they hear and obey other than good advice. So leave arguing and listen to what the poet saith,

'Seest not the bazar with its fruit in rows? * These men are for figs and for sycamore[FN#339] those!'

And what another saith,

'Many whose anklet rings are dumb have tinkling belts, * And this hath all content while that for want must wail: Thou bidd'st me be a fool and quit thee for her charms; * Allah forfend I leave The Faith, turn Infidel! Nay, by thy rights of side-beard mocking all her curls, * Nor mott nor maid[FN#340] from thee my heart shall spell.'

And yet another,

'O beauty's Union! love for thee's my creed, * Free choice of Faith and eke my best desire: Women I have forsworn for thee; so may * Deem me all men this day a shaveling friar.'[FN#341]

And yet another,

'Even not beardless one with girl, nor heed * The spy who saith to thee ''Tis an amiss!' Far different is the girl whose feet one kisses * And that gazelle whose feet the earth must kiss.'

And yet another,

'A boy of twice ten is fit for a King!'

And yet another,

'The penis smooth and round was made with anus best to match it, * Had it been made for cunnus' sake it had been formed like hatchet!'

And yet another said,

'My soul thy sacrifice! I chose thee out * Who art not menstruous nor oviparous: Did I with woman mell, I should beget * Brats till the wide wide world grew strait for us.'

And yet another,

'She saith (sore hurt in sense the most acute * For she had proffered what did not besuit), 'Unless thou stroke as man should swive his wife * Blame not when horns thy brow shall incornute! Thy wand seems waxen, to a limpo grown, * And more I palm it, softer grows the brute!'

And yet another,

'Quoth she (for I to lie with her forbore), * 'O folly-following fool, O fool to core: If thou my coynte for Kiblah[FN#342] to thy coigne * Reject, we'll shall please thee more.'[FN#343]

And yet another,

'She proffered me a tender coynte * Quoth I 'I will not roger thee!' She drew back, saying, 'From the Faith * He turns, who's turned by Heaven's decree![FN#344] And front wise fluttering, in one day, * Is obsolete persistency!' Then swung she round and shining rump * Like silvern lump she showed me! I cried: 'Well done, O mistress mine! * No more am I in pain for thee; O thou of all that Allah oped[FN#345] * Showest me fairest victory!'

And yet another,

'Men craving pardon will uplift their hands; * Women pray pardon with their legs on high: Out on it for a pious, prayerful work! * The Lord shall raise it in the depths to lie.'"[FN#346]

When Kamar al-Zaman heard her quote this poetry, and was certified that there was no escaping compliance with what willed she, he said, "O King of the age, if thou must needs have it so, make covenant with me that thou wilt do this thing with me but once, though it avail not to correct thy depraved appetite, and that thou wilt never again require this thing of me to the end of time; so perchance shall Allah purge me of the sin." She replied "I promise thee this thing, hoping that Allah of His favour will relent towards us and blot out our mortal offence; for the girdle of heaven's forgiveness is not indeed so strait, but it may compass us around and absolve us of the excess of our heinous sins and bring us to the light of salvation out of the darkness of error; and indeed excellently well saith the poet,

'Of evil thing the folk suspect us twain; * And to this thought their hearts and souls are bent: Come, dear! let's justify and free their souls * That wrong us; one good bout and then—repent!'''[FN#347]

Thereupon she made him an agreement and a covenant and swore a solemn oath by Him who is Self-existent, that this thing should befal betwixt them but once and never again for all time, and that the desire of him was driving her to death and perdition. So he rose up with her, on this condition, and went with her to her own boudoir, that she might quench the lowe of her lust, saying, "There is no Majesty, and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! This is the fated decree of the All- powerful, the All-wise!"; and he doffed his bag-trousers, shamefull and abashed, with the tears running from his eyes for stress of affright. Thereat she smiled and making him mount upon a couch with her, said to him, "After this night, thou shalt see naught that will offend thee." Then she turned to him bussing and bosoming him and bending calf over calf, and said to him, "Put thy hand between my thighs to the accustomed place; so haply it may stand up to prayer after prostration." He wept and cried, "I am not good at aught of this," but she said, "By my life, an thou do as I bid thee, it shall profit thee!" So he put out his hand, with vitals a-fire for confusion, and found her thighs cooler than cream and softer than silk. The touching of them pleasured him and he moved his hand hither and thither, till it came to a dome abounding in good gifts and movements and shifts, and said in himself, "Perhaps this King is a hermaphrodite,[FN#348] neither man nor woman quite;" so he said to her, "O King, I cannot find that thou hast a tool like the tools of men; what then moved thee to do this deed?" Then loudly laughed Queen Budur till she fell on her back,[FN#349] and said, "O my dearling, how quickly thou hast forgotten the nights we have lain together!" Then she made herself known to him, and he knew her for his wife, the Lady Budur, daughter of King al-Ghayur, Lord of the Isles and the Seas. So he embraced her and she embraced him, and he kissed her and she kissed him; then they lay down on the bed of pleasure voluptuous, repeating the words of the poet,

"When his softly bending shape bid him close to my embrace * Which clips him all about like the tendrils of the vine And shed a flood of softness on the hardness of his heart, * He yielded though at first he was minded to decline; And dreading lest the railer's eye should light upon his form, * Came armoured with caution to baffle his design: His waist makes moan of hinder cheeks that weigh upon his feet * Like heavy load of merchandise upon young camel li'en; Girt with his glances scymitar which seemed athirst for blood, * And clad in mail of dusky curls that show the sheeniest shine, His fragrance wafted happy news of footstep coming nigh, * And to him like a bird uncaged I flew in straightest line: I spread my cheek upon his path, beneath his sandal-shoon, * And lo! the stibium[FN#350] of their dust healed all my hurt of eyne. With one embrace again I bound the banner of our loves[FN#351] * And loosed the knot of my delight that bound in bonds malign: Then bade I make high festival, and straight came flocking in * Pure joys that know not grizzled age[FN#352] nor aught of pain and pine: The full moon dotted with the stars the lips and pearly teeth * That dance right joyously upon the bubbling face of wine: So in the prayer-niche of their joys I yielded me to what * Would make the humblest penitent of sinner most indign. I swear by all the signs[FN#353] of those glories in his face * I'll ne'er forget the Chapter entituled Al-Ikhlas."[FN#354]

Then Queen Budur told Kamar al-Zaman all that had befallen her from beginning to end and he did likewise; after which he began to upbraid her, saying, "What moved thee to deal with me as thou hast done this night?" She replied, "Pardon me! for I did this by way of jest, and that pleasure and gladness might be increased." And when dawned the morn and day arose with its sheen and shone, she sent to King Armanus, sire of the Lady Hayat al-Nufus, and acquainted him with the truth of the case and that she was wife to Kamar al-Zaman. Moreover, she told him their tale and the cause of their separation, and how his daughter was a virgin, pure as when she was born. He marvelled at their story with exceeding marvel and bade them chronicle it in letters of gold. Then he turned to Kamar al-Zaman and said, "O King's son, art thou minded to become my son-in-law by marrying my daughter?" Replied he, "I must consult the Queen Budur, as she hath a claim upon me for benefits without stint." And when he took counsel with her, she said, "Right is thy recking; marry her and I will be her handmaid; for I am her debtor for kindness and favour and good offices, and obligations manifold, especially as we are here in her place and as the King her father hath whelmed us with benefits."[FN#355] Now when he saw that she inclined to this and was not jealous of Hayat al-Nufus, he agreed with her upon this matter.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Seventeenth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Kamar al- Zaman agreed with his wife, Queen Budur, upon this matter and told King Armanus what she had said; whereat he rejoiced with great joy. Then he went out and, seating himself upon his chair of estate, assembled all the Wazirs, Emirs, Chamberlains and Grandees, to whom he related the whole story of Kamar al-Zaman and his wife, Queen Budur, from first to last; and acquainted them with his desire to marry his daughter Hayat al-Nufus to the Prince and make him King in the stead of Queen Budur. Whereupon said they all, "Since he is the husband of Queen Budur, who hath been our King till now, whilst we deemed her son-in-law to King Armanus, we are all content to have him to Sultan over us; and we will be his servants, nor will we swerve from his allegiance." So Armanus rejoiced hereat and, summoning Kazis and witnesses and the chief officers of state, bade draw up the contract of marriage between Kamar al-Zaman and his daughter, the Princess Hayat al-Nufus. Then he held high festival, giving sumptuous marriage-feasts and bestowing costly dresses of honour upon all the Emirs and Captains of the host; moreover he distributed alms to the poor and needy and set free all the prisoners. The whole world rejoiced in the coming of Kamar al-Zaman to the throne, blessing him and wishing him endurance of glory and prosperity, renown and felicity; and, as soon as he became King, he remitted the customs-dues and released all men who remained in gaol. Thus he abode a long while, ordering himself worthily towards his lieges; and he lived with his two wives in peace, happiness, constancy and content, lying the night with each of them in turn. He ceased not after this fashion during many years, for indeed all his troubles and afflictions were blotted out from him and he forgot his father King Shahriman and his former estate of honour and favour with him. After a while Almighty Allah blessed him with two boy children, as they were two shining moons, through his two wives; the elder whose name was Prince Amjad,[FN#356] by Queen Budur, and the younger whose name was Prince As'ad by Queen Hayat al-Nufus; and this one was comelier than his brother. They were reared in splendour and tender affection, in respectful bearing and in the perfection of training; and they were instructed in penmanship and science and the arts of government and horsemanship, till they attained the extreme accomplishments and the utmost limit of beauty and loveliness; both men and women being ravished by their charms. They grew up side by side till they reached the age of seventeen, eating and drinking together and sleeping in one bed, nor ever parting at any time or tide; wherefore all the people envied them. Now when they came to man's estate and were endowed with every perfection, their father was wont, as often as he went on a journey, to make them sit in his stead by turns in the hall of judgement; and each did justice among the folk one day at a time. But it came to pass, by confirmed fate and determined lot, that love for As'ad (son of Queen Hayat al-Nufus) rose in the heart of Queen Budur, and that affection for Amjad (son of Queen Budur) rose in the heart of Queen Hayat al-Nufus.[FN#357] Hence it was that each of the women used to sport and play with the son of her sister-wife, kissing him and straining him to her bosom, whilst each mother thought that the other's behaviour arose but from maternal affection. On this wise passion got the mastery of the two women's hearts and they became madly in love with the two youths, so that when the other's son came in to either of them, she would press him to her breast and long for him never to be parted from her; till, at last, when waiting grew longsome to them and they found no path to enjoyment, they refused meat and drink and banished the solace of sleep. Presently, the King fared forth to course and chase, bidding his two sons sit to do justice in his stead, each one day in turn as was their wont.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Eighteenth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the King fared forth to sport and hunt, bidding his two sons sit to do justice in his stead, each one day by turn, as was their wont. Now Prince Amjad sat in judgement the first day, bidding and forbidding, appointing and deposing, giving and refusing; and Queen Hayat al-Nufus, mother of As'ad, wrote to him a letter suing for his favour and discovering to him her passion and devotion; altogether put tiny off the mask and giving him to know that she desired to enjoy him. So she took a scroll and thereon indited these cadences, "From the love deranged * the sorrowful and estranged * whose torment is prolonged for the longing of thee! * Were I to recount to thee the extent of my care * and what of sadness I bear * the passion which my heart cloth tear * and all that I endure for weeping and unrest * and the rending of my sorrowful breast * my unremitting grief * and my woe without relief * and all my suffering for severance of thee * and sadness and love's ardency * no letter could contain it; nor calculation could compass it * Indeed earth and heaven upon me are strait; and I have no hope and no trust but what from thee I await * Upon death I am come nigh * and the horrors of dissolution I aby * Burning upon me is sore * with parting pangs and estrangement galore * Were I to set forth the yearnings that possess me more and more * no scrolls would suffice to hold such store * and of the excess of my pain and pine, I have made the following lines:- -

Were I to dwell on heart-consuming heat, * Unease and transports in my spins meet, Nothing were left of ink and reeden pen * Nor aught of paper; no, not e'en a sheet.

Then Queen Hayat al-Nufus wrapped up her letter in a niece of costly silk scented with musk and ambergris; and folded it up with her silken hair-strings[FN#358] whose cost swallowed down treasures laid it in a handkerchief and gave it to a eunuch bidding him bear it to Prince Amjad.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Nineteenth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that she gave her missive to the eunuch in waiting and bade him bear it to Prince Amjad. And that eunuch went forth ignoring what the future hid for him (for the Omniscient ordereth events even as He willeth); and, going in to the Prince, kissed the ground between his hands and handed to him the letter. On receiving the kerchief he opened it and, reading the epistle and recognizing its gist he was ware that his father's wife was essentially an adulteress and a traitress at heart to her husband, King Kamar al-Zaman. So he waxed wroth with exceeding wrath and railed at women and their works, saying, "Allah curse women, the traitresses, the imperfect in reason and religion!"[FN#359] Then he drew his sword and said to the eunuch, "Out on thee, thou wicked slave! Dost thou carry messages of disloyalty for thy lord's wife? By Allah, there is no good in thee, O black of hue and heart, O foul of face and Nature's forming!" So he smote him on the neck and severed his head from his body; then, folding the kerchief over its contents he thrust it into his breast pocket and went in to his own mother and told her what had passed, reviling and reproaching her, and saying, "Each one of you is viler than the other; and, by Allah the Great and Glorious, did I not fear ill-manneredly to transgress against the rights of my father, Kamar al-Zaman, and my brother, Prince As'ad, I would assuredly go in to her and cut off her head, even as I cut off that of her eunuch!" Then he went forth from his mother in a mighty rage; and when the news reached Queen Hayat al-Nufus of what he had done with her eunuch, she abused him[FN#360] and cursed him and plotted perfidy against him. He passed the night, sick with rage, wrath and concern; nor found he pleasure in meat, drink or sleep. And when the next morning dawned Prince As'ad fared forth in his turn to rule the folk in his father's stead, whilst his mother, Hayat al-Nufus, awoke in feeble plight because of what she had heard from Prince Amjad concerning the slaughter of her eunuch. So Prince As'ad sat in the audience-chamber that day, judging and administering justice, appointing and deposing, bidding and forbidding, giving and bestowing. And he ceased not thus till near the time of afternoon-prayer, when Queen Budur sent for a crafty old woman and, discovering to her what was in her heart, wrote a letter to Prince As'ad, complaining of the excess of her affection and desire for him in these cadenced lines, "From her who perisheth for passion and love-forlorn * to him who in nature and culture is goodliest born * to him who is conceited of his own loveliness * and glories in his amorous grace * who from those that seek to enjoy him averteth his face * and refuseth to show favour unto the self abasing and base * him who is cruel and of disdainful mood * from the lover despairing of good * to Prince As'ad * with passing beauty endowed * and of excelling grace proud * of the face moon bright * and the brow flower-white * and dazzling splendid light * This is my letter to him whose love melteth my body * and rendeth my skin and bones! * Know that my patience faileth me quite * and I am perplexed in my plight * longing and restlessness weary me * and sleep and patience deny themselves to me * but mourning and watching stick fast to me * and desire and passion torment me * and the extremes of languor and sickness have sheet me * Yet may my life be a ransom for thee * albeit thy pleasure be to slay her who loveth thee * and Allah prolong the life of thee * and preserve thee from all infirmity!" And after these cadences she wrote these couplets,

"Fate hath commanded I become thy fere, * O shining like full moon when clearest clear! All beauty dost embrace, all eloquence; * Brighter than aught within our worldly sphere: Content am I my torturer thou be: * Haply shalt alms me with one lovely leer! Happy her death who dieth for thy love! * No good in her who holdeth thee unclear!"

And also the following couplets,

"Unto thee, As'ad! I of passion-pangs complain; * Have ruth on slave of love so burnt with flaming pain: How long, I ask, shall hands of Love disport with me, * With longings, dolour, sleepliness and bale and bane? Anon I 'plain of sea in heart, anon of fire * In vitals, O strange case, dear wish, my fairest fain! O blamer, cease thy blame, and seek thyself to fly * From love, which makes these eyne a rill of tears to rain. How oft I cry for absence and desire, Ah grief! * But all my crying naught of gain for me shall gain: Thy rigours dealt me sickness passing power to bear, * Thou art my only leach, assain me an thou deign! O chider, chide me not in caution, for I doubt * That plaguey Love to thee shall also deal a bout."

Then Queen Budur perfumed the letter-paper with a profusion of odoriferous musk and, winding it in her hairstrings which were of Iraki silk, with pendants of oblong emeralds, set with pearls and stones of price, delivered it to the old woman, bidding her carry it to Prince As'ad.[FN#361] She did so in order to pleasure her, and going in to the Prince, straightway and without stay, found him in his own rooms and delivered to him the letter in privacy; after which she stood waiting an hour or so for the answer. When As'ad had read the paper and knew its purport, he wrapped it up again in the ribbons and put it in his bosom-pocket: then (for he was wrath beyond all measure of wrath) he cursed false women and sprang up and drawing his sword, smote the old trot on the neck and cut off her pate. Thereupon he went in to his mother, Queen Hayat al-Nufus, whom he found lying on her bed in feeble case, for that which had betided her with Prince Amjad, and railed at her and cursed her; after which he left her and fore-gathered with his brother, to whom he related all that had befallen him with Queen Budur, adding, "By Allah, O my brother, but that I was ashamed before thee, I had gone in to her forthright and had smitten her head off her shoulders!" Replied Prince Amjad, "By Allah, O my brother, yesterday when I was sitting upon the seat of judgement, the like of what hath befallen thee this day befel me also with thy mother who sent me a letter of similar purport." And he told him all that had passed, adding, "By Allah, O my brother, naught but respect for thee withheld me from going in to her and dealing with her even as I dealt with the eunuch!" They passed the rest of the night conversing and cursing womankind, and agreed to keep the matter secret, lest their father should hear of it and kill the two women. Yet they ceased not to suffer trouble and foresee affliction. And when the morrow dawned, the King returned with his suite from hunting and sat awhile in his chair of estate; after which he sent the Emirs about their business and went up to his palace, where he found his two wives lying a-bed and both exceeding sick and weak. Now they had made a plot against their two sons and concerted to do away their lives, for that they had exposed themselves before them and feared to be at their mercy and dependent upon their forbearance. When Kamar al-Zaman saw them on this wise, he said to them, "What aileth you?" Whereupon they rose to him and kissing his hands answered, perverting the case and saying "Know, O King, that thy two sons, who have been reared in thy bounty, have played thee false and have dishonoured thee in the persons of thy wives." Now when he heard this, the light became darkness in his sight, and he raged with such wrath that his reason fled: then said he to them, "Explain me this matter." Replied Queen Budur, "O King of the age, know that these many days past thy son As'ad hath been in the persistent habit of sending me letters and messages to solicit me to lewdness and adultery while I still forbade him from this, but he would not be forbidden; and, when thou wentest forth to hunt, he rushed in on me, drunk and with a drawn sword in his hand, and smiting my eunuch, slew him. Then he mounted on my breast, still holding the sword, and I feared lest he should slay me, if I gainsaid him, even as he had slain my eunuch; so he took his wicked will of me by force. And now if thou do me not justice on him, O King, I will slay myself with my own hand, for I have no need of life in the world after this foul deed." And Queen Hayat al-Nufus, choking with tears, told him respecting Prince Amjad a story like that of her sister-wife.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Twentieth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Queen Hayat al-Nufus told her husband, King Kamar al-Zaman, a story like that of her sister in wedlock, Budur, and, quoth she, "The same thing befel me with thy son Amjad;" after which she took to weeping and wailing and said, "Except thou do me justice on him I will tell my father, King Armanus." Then both women wept with sore weeping before King Kamar al-Zaman who, when he saw their tears and heard their words, concluded that their story was true and, waxing wroth beyond measure of wrath, went forth thinking to fall upon his two sons and put them to death. On his way he met his father- in-law, King Armanus who, hearing of his return from the chase, had come to salute him at that very hour and, seeing him with naked brand in hand and blood dripping from his nostrils, for excess of rage, asked what ailed him. So Kamar al-Zaman told him all that his sons Amjad and As'ad had done and added, "And here I am now going in to them to slay them in the foulest way and make of them the most shameful of examples." Quoth King Armanus (and indeed he too was wroth with them), "Thou dost well, O my son, and may Allah not bless them nor any sons that do such deed against their father's honour. But, O my son, the sayer of the old saw saith, 'Whoso looketh not to the end hath not Fortune to friend.' In any case, they are thy sons, and it befitteth not that thou kill them with shine own hand, lest thou drink of their death-agony,[FN#362] and anon repent of having slain them whenas repentance availeth thee naught. Rather do thou send them with one of thy Mamelukes into the desert and let him kill them there out of thy sight, for, as saith the adage, 'Out of sight of my friend is better and pleasanter.'[FN#363] And when Kamar al-Zaman heard his father-in-law's words, he knew them to be just; so he sheathed his sword and turning back, sat down upon the throne of his realm. There he summoned his treasurer, a very old man, versed in affairs and in fortune's vicissitudes, to whom he said, "Go in to my sons, Amjad and As'ad; bind their hands behind them with strong bonds, lay them in two chests and load them upon a mule. Then take horse thou and carry them into mid desert, where do thou kill them both and fill two vials with their blood and bring the same to me in haste." Replied the treasurer, "I hear and I obey," and he rose up hurriedly and went out forthright to seek the Princes; and, on his road, he met them coming out of the palace-vestibule, for they had donned their best clothes and their richest; and they were on their way to salute their sire and give him joy of his safe return from his going forth to hunt. Now when he saw them, he laid hands on them, saying, "Omy sons, know ye that I am but a slave commanded, and that your father hath laid a commandment on me; will ye obey his commandment?" They said, "Yes"; whereupon he went up to them and, after pinioning their arms, laid them in the chests which he loaded on the back of a mule he had taken from the city. And he ceased not carrying them into the open country till near noon, when he halted in a waste and desolate place and, dismounting from his mare, let down the two chests from the mule's back. Then he opened them and took out Amjad and As'ad; and when he looked upon them he wept sore for their beauty and loveliness; then drawing his sword he said to them, "By Allah, O my lords, indeed it is hard for me to deal so evilly by you; but I am to be excused in this matter, being but a slave commanded, for that your father King Kamar al-Zaman hath bidden me strike off your heads." They replied, "O Emir, do the King's bidding, for we bear with patience that which Allah (to Whom be Honour, Might and Glory!) hath decreed to us; and thou art quit of our blood." Then they embraced and bade each other farewell, and As'ad said to the treasurer, "Allah upon thee, O uncle, spare me the sight of my brother's death-agony and make me not drink of his anguish, but kill me first, for that were the easier for me." And Amjad said the like and entreated the treasurer to kill him before As'ad, saying, "My brother is younger than I; so make me not taste of his anguish. And they both wept bitter tears whilst the treasurer wept for their weeping;—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

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

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the treasurer wept for their weeping; then the two brothers embraced and bade farewell and one said to the other, "All this cometh of the malice of those traitresses, my mother and thy mother; and this is the reward of my forbearance towards thy mother and of thy for bearance towards my mother! But there is no Might and there is no Majesty save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! Verily, we are Allah's and unto Him we are returning."[FN#364] And As'ad em braced his brother, sobbing and repeating these couplets,

"O Thou to whom sad trembling wights in fear complain! * O ever ready whatso cometh to sustain! The sole resource for me is at Thy door to knock, * At whose door knock an Thou to open wilt not deign? O Thou whose grace is treasured in the one word, Be![FN#365] * Favour me, I beseech, in Thee all weals contain."

Now when Amjad heard his brother's weeping he wept also and pressing him to his bosom repeated these two couplets,

"O Thou whose boons to me are more than one! * Whose gifts and favours have nor count nor bound! No stroke of all Fate's strokes e'er fell on me, * But Thee to take me by the hand I found."

Then said Amjad to the treasurer, "I conjure thee by the One, Omnipotent, the Lord of Mercy, the Beneficent! slay me before my brother As'ad, so haply shall the fire be quencht in my heart's core and in this life burn no more." But As'ad wept and exclaimed, "Not so: I will die first;" whereupon quoth Amjad, "It were best that I embrace thee and thou embrace me, so the sword may fall upon us and slay us both at a single stroke." Thereupon they embraced, face to face and clung to each other straitly, whilst the treasurer tied up the twain and bound them fast with cords, weeping the while. Then he drew his blade and said to them, "By Allah, O my lords, it is indeed hard to me to slay you! But have ye no last wishes that I may fulfil or charges which I may carry out, or message which I may deliver?" Replied Amjad, "We have no wish; and my only charge to thee is that thou set my brother below and me above him, that the blow may fall on me first, and when thou hast killed us and returnest to the King and he asketh thee, 'What heardest thou from them before their death?'; do thou answer, 'Verily thy sons salute thee and say to thee, Thou knewest not if we were innocent or guilty, yet hast thou put us to death and hast not certified thyself of our sin nor looked into our case.' Then do thou repeat to him these two couplets,

'Women are Satans made for woe o' men; * I fly to Allah from their devilish scathe: Source of whatever bale befel our kind, * In wordly matters and in things of Faith.'"

Continued Amjad, "We desire of thee naught but that thou repeat to our sire these two couplets."—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was ad the Two Hundred and Twenty-second Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Amjad added, speaking to the treasurer, "We desire of thee naught but that thou repeat to our sire these two couplets which thou hast just now heard; and I conjure thee by Allah to have patience with us, whilst I cite to my brother this other pair of couplets." Then he wept with sore weeping and began,

"The Kings who fared before us showed * Of instances full many a show: Of great and small and high and low * How many this one road have trod!"

Now when the treasurer heard these words from Amjad, he wept till his beard was wet, whilst As'ad's eyes brimmed with tears and he in turn repeated these couplets,

"Fate frights us when the thing is past and gone; * Weeping is not for form or face alone[FN#366]: What ails the Nights?[FN#367] Allah blot out our sin, * And be the Nights by other hand undone! Ere this Zubayr-son[FN#368] felt their spiteful hate, * Who fled for refuge to the House and Stone: Would that when Kharijah was for Amru slain[FN#369] * They had ransomed Ali with all men they own."

Then, with cheeks stained by tears down railing he recited also these verses,

"In sooth the Nights and Days are charactered * By traitor falsehood and as knaves they lie; The Desert-reek[FN#370] recalls their teeth that shine; * All horrid blackness is their K of eye: My sin anent the world which I abhor * Is sin of sword when sworders fighting hie."

Then his sobs waxed louder and he said,

"O thou who woo'st a World[FN#371] unworthy, learn * 'Tis house of evils, 'tis Perdition's net: A house where whoso laughs this day shall weep * The next: then perish house of fume and fret! Endless its frays and forays, and its thralls * Are ne'er redeemed, while endless risks beset. How many gloried in its pomps and pride, * Till proud and pompous did all bounds forget, Then showing back of shield she made them swill[FN#372] * Full draught, and claimed all her vengeance debt. For know her strokes fall swift and sure, altho' * Long bide she and forslow the course of Fate: So look thou to thy days lest life go by * Idly, and meet thou more than thou hast met; And cut all chains of world-love and desire * And save thy soul and rise to secrets higher."

Now when As'ad made an end of these verses, he strained his brother Amjad in his arms, till they twain were one body, and the treasurer, drawing his sword, was about to strike them, when behold, his steed took fright at the wind of his upraised hand, and breaking its tether, fled into the desert. Now the horse had cost a thousand gold pieces and on its back was a splendid saddle worth much money; so the treasurer threw down his sword, and ran after his beast.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Twenty-third Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when his horse ran away, the treasurer ran after it in huge concern, and ceased not running to catch the runaway till it entered a thicket. He followed it whilst it dashed through the wood, smiting the earth with its hoofs till it raised a dust-cloud which towered high in air; and snorting and puffing and neighing and waxing fierce and furious. Now there happened to be in this thicket a lion of terrible might; hideous to sight, with eyes sparkling light: his look was grim and his aspect struck fright into man's sprite. Presentry the treasurer turned and saw the lion making towards him; but found no way of escape nor had he his sword with him. So he said in himself, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! This strait is come upon me for no other cause but because of Amjad and As'ad; and indeed this journey was unblest from the first!" Meanwhile the two Princes were grievously oppressed by the heat and grew sore athirst, so that their tongues hung out and they cried for succour, but none came to their relief and they said, "Would to Heaven we had been slain and were at peace from this pain! But we know not whither the horse hath fled, that the treasurer is gone and hath left us thus pinioned. If he would but come back and do us die, it were easier to us than this torture to aby." Said As'ad, "O my brother, be patient, and the relief of Allah (extolled and exalted be He!) shall assuredly come to us; for the horse started not away save of His favour towards us, and naught irketh us but this thirst." Upon this he stretched and shook himself and strained right and left, till he burst his pinion-bonds; then he rose and unbound his brother and catching up the Emir's sword, said, "By Allah, we will not go hence, till we look after him and learn what is become of him." Then they took to following on the trail till it led them to the thicket and they said to each other, "Of a surety, the horse and the treasurer have not passed out of this wood." Quoth As'ad, "Stay thou here, whilst I enter the thicket and search it;" and Amjad replied, "I will not let thee go in alone: nor will we enter it but together; so if we escape, we shall escape together and if we perish, we shall perish together." Accordingly both entered and found that the lion had sprang upon the treasurer, who lay like a sparrow in his grip, calling upon Allah for aid and signing with his hands to Heaven. Now when Amjad saw this, he took the sword and, rushing upon the lion, smote him between the eyes and laid him dead on the ground. The Emir sprang up, marvelling at this escape and seeing Amjad and As'ad, his master's sons, standing there, cast himself at their feet and exclaimed, "By Allah, O my lords, it were intolerable wrong in me to do you to death. May the man never be who would kill you! Indeed, with my very life, I will ransom you."—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Twenty-fourth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that quoth the treasurer to Amjad and As'ad, "With my life will I ransom you both!" Then he hastily rose and, at once embracing them, enquired how they had loosed their bonds and come thither; whereupon they told him how the bonds of one of them had fallen loose and he had unbound the other, whereto they were helped by the purity of their intentions, and how they had tracked his trail till they came upon him. So he thanked them for their deed and went with them forth of the thicket; and, when they were in the open country, they said to him, "O uncle, do our father's bidding." He replied, "Allah forbid that I should draw near to you with hurt! But know ye that I mean to take your clothes and clothe you with mine; then will I fill two vials with the lion's blood and go back to the King and tell him I have out vou to death. But as for you two, fare ye forth into the lands, for Allah's earth is wide; and know, O my lords, that it paineth me to part from you." At this, they all fell a-weeping; then the two youths put off their clothes and the treasurer habited them with his own. Moreover he made two parcels of their dress and, filling two vials with the lion's blood, set the parcels before him on his horse's back. Presently he took leave of them and, making his way to the city, ceased not faring till he went in to King Kamar al-Zaman and kissed the ground between his hands. The King saw him changed in face and troubled (which arose from his adventure with the lion) and, deeming this came of the slaughter of his two sons, rejoiced and said to him, "Hast thou done the work?" "Yes, O our lord," replied the treasurer and gave him the two parcels of clothes and the two vials full of blood. Asked the King, "What didst thou observe in them; and did they give thee any charge?" Answered the treasurer, "I found them patient and resigned to what came down upon them and they said to me, 'Verily, our father is excusable; bear him our salutation and say to him, 'Thou art quit of our killing. But we charge thee repeat to him these couplets,

'Verily women are devils created for us. We seek refuge with God from the artifice of the devils. They are the source of all the misfortunes that have appeared among mankind in the affairs of the world and of religion.'''[FN#373]

When the King heard these words of the treasurer, he bowed his head earthwards, a long while and knew his sons' words to mean that they had been wrongfully put to death. Then he bethought himself of the perfidy of women and the calamities brought about by them; and he took the two parcels and opened them and fell to turning over his sons' clothes and weeping,—And Shahrazed perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Twenty-fifth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when King Kamar la-Zaman opened the two bundles and fell to turning over his sons' clothes and weeping, it so came to pass that he found, in the pocket of his son As'ad's raiment, a letter in the hand of his wife enclosing her hair strings; so he opened and read it and understanding the contents knew that the Prince had been falsely accused and wrongously. Then he searched Amjad's parcel of dress and found in his pocket a letter in the handwriting of Queen Hayat al-Nufus enclosing also her hair-strings; so he opened and read it and knew that Amjad too had been wronged; whereupon he beat hand upon hand and exclaimed, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! I have slain my sons unjustly." And he buffeted his face, crying out, "Alas, my sons! Alas, my long grief!" Then he bade them build two tombs in one house, which he styled "House of Lamentations," and had graved thereon his sons' names; and he threw himself on Amjad's tomb, weeping and groaning and lamenting, and improvised these couplets,

"O moon for ever set this earth below, * Whose loss bewail the stars which stud the sky! O wand, which broken, ne'er with bend and wave * Shall fascinate the ravisht gazer's eye; These eyne for jealousy I 'reft of thee, * Nor shall they till next life thy sight descry: I'm drowned in sea of tears for insomny * Wherefore, indeed in Sahirah-stead[FN#374] I lie."

Then he threw himself on As'ad's tomb, groaning and weeping and lamenting and versifying with these couplets,

"Indeed I longed to share unweal with thee, * But Allah than my will willed otherwise: My grief all blackens 'twixt mine eyes and space, * Yet whitens all the blackness from mine eyes:[FN#375] Of tears they weep these eyne run never dry, * And ulcerous flow in vitals never dries: Right sore it irks me seeing thee in stead[FN#376] * Where slave with sovran for once levelled lies."

And his weeping and wailing redoubled; and, after he had ended his lamentations and his verse, he forsook his friends and intimates, and denying himself to his women and his family, cut himself off from the world in the House of Lamentations, where he passed his time in weeping for his sons. Such was his case; but as regards Amjad and As'ad they fared on into the desert eating of the fruits of the earth and drinking of the remnants of the rain for a full month, till their travel brought them to a mountain of black flint[FN#377] whose further end was unknown; and here the road forked, one line lying along the midway height and the other leading to its head. They took the way trending to the top and gave not over following it five days, but saw no end to it and were overcome with weariness, being unused to walking upon the mountains or elsewhere.[FN#378] At last, despairing of coming to the last of the road, they retraced their steps and, taking the other, that led over the midway heights,—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

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

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Princes Amjad and As'ad returned from the path leading to the Mountain- head and took that which ran along the midway heights, and walked through all that day till nightfall, when As'ad, weary with much travel, said to Amjad, "O my brother, I can walk no farther, for I am exceeding weak." Replied Amjad, "O my brother, take courage! May be Allah will send us relief." So they walked on part of the night, till the darkness closed in upon them, when As'ad became weary beyond measure of weariness and cried out, "O my brother, I am worn out and spent with walking," and threw himself upon the ground and wept. Amjad took him in his arms and walked on with him, bytimes sitting down to rest till break of day, when they came to the mountain-top and found there a stream of running water and by it a pomegranate-tree and a prayer-niche.[FN#379] They could hardly believe their eyes when they saw it; but, sitting down by that spring, drank of its water and ate of the fruit of that granado-tree; after which they lay on the ground and slept till sunrise, when they washed and bathed in the spring and, eating of the pomegranates, slept again till the time of mid-afternoon prayer. Then they thought to continue their journey, but As'ad could not walk, for both his feet were swollen. So they abode there three days till they were rested, after which they set out again and fared on over the mountain days and nights, tortured by and like to die of thirst, till they sighted a city gleaming afar off, at which they rejoiced and made towards it. When they drew near it, they thanked Allah (be His Name exalted!) and Amjad said to As'ad, "O my brother, sit here, whilst I go to yonder city and see what it is and whose it is and where we are in Allah's wide world, that we may know through what lands we have passed in crossing this mountain, whose skirts had we followed, we had not reached this city in a whole year. So praised be Allah for safety!" Replied As'ad, "By Allah, O my brother, none shall go down into that city save myself, and may I be thy ransom! If thou leave me alone, be it only for an hour, I shall imagine a thousand things and be drowned in a torrent of anxiety on shine account, for I cannot brook shine absence from me." Amjad rejoined, "Go then and tarry not. So As'ad took some gold pieces, and leaving his brother to await him, descended the mountain and ceased not faring on till he entered the city. As he threaded the streets he was met by an old man age-decrepit, whose beard flowed down upon his breast and forked in twain;[FN#380] he bore a walking-staff in his hand and was richly clad, with a great red turband on his head. When As'ad saw him, he wondered at his dress and his mien; nevertheless, he went up to him and saluting him said, "Where be the way to the market, O my master?" Hearing these words the Shaykh smiled in his face and replied, "O my son, meseemeth thou art a stranger?" As'ad rejoined, "Yes, I am a stranger."—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

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

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Shaykh who met As'ad smiled in his face and said to him, "O my son, meseemeth thou art a stranger?" and As'ad replied, "Yes, I am a stranger." Then rejoined the old man, "Verily, thou gladdenest our country with thy presence, O my son, and thou desolatest shine own land by reason of shine absence. What wantest thou of the market?" Quoth As'ad, "O uncle, I have a brother, with whom I have come from a far land and with whom I have journeyed these three months; and, when we sighted this city, I left him, who is my elder brother, upon the mountain and came hither, purposing to buy victual and what else, and return therewith to him, that we might feed thereon." Said the old man, "Rejoice in all good, O my son, and know thou that to-day I give a marriage-feast, to which I have bidden many guests, and I have made ready plenty of meats, the best and most delicious that heart can desire. So if thou wilt come with me to my place, I will give thee freely all thou lackest without asking thee a price or aught else. Moreover I will teach thee the ways of this city; and, praised be Allah, O my son, that I, and none other have happened upon thee." "As thou wilt," answered As'ad, "do as thou art disposed, but make haste, for indeed my brother awaiteth me and his whole heart is with me." The old man took As'ad by the hand and carried him to a narrow lane, smiling in his face and saying, "Glory be to Him who hath delivered thee from the people of this city!" And he ceased not walking till he entered a spacious house, wherein was a saloon and behold, in the middle of it were forty old men, well stricken in years, collected together and forming a single ring as they sat round about a lighted fire, to which they were doing worship and prostrating themselves.[FN#381] When As'ad saw this, he was confounded and the hair of his body stood on end though he knew not what they were; and the Shaykh said to them, "O Elders of the Fire, how blessed is this day!" Then he called aloud, saying, "Hello, Ghazban!" Whereupon there came out to him a tall black slave of frightful aspect, grim-visaged and flat nosed as an ape who, when the old man made a sign to him, bent As'ad's arms behind his back and pinioned them; after which the Shaykh said to him, "Let him down into the vault under the earth and there leave him and say to my slave girl Such-an-one, 'Torture him night and day and give him a cake of bread to eat morning and evening against the time come of the voyage to the Blue Sea and the Mountain of Fire, whereon we will slaughter him as a sacrifice.'" So the black carried him out at another door and, raising a flag in the floor, discovered a flight of twenty steps leading to a chamber[FN#382] under the earth, into which he descended with him and, laying his feet in irons, gave him over to the slave girl and went away. Meanwhile, the old men said to one another, "When the day of the Festival of the Fire cometh, we will sacrifice him on the mountain, as a propitiatory offering whereby we shall pleasure the Fire." Presently the damsel went down to him and beat him a grievous beating, till streams of blood flowed from his sides and he fainted; after which she set at his head a scone of bread and a cruse of brackish water and went away and left him. In the middle of the night, he revived and found himself bound and beaten and sore with beating: so he wept bitter tears; and recalling his former condition of honour and prosperity, lordship and dominion, and his separation from his sire and his exile from his native land.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say,

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

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when As'ad found himself bound and beaten and sore with beating he recalled his whilome condition of honour and prosperity and dominion and lordship, and he wept and groaned aloud and recited these couplets,

"Stand by the ruined stead and ask of us; * Nor deem we dwell there as was state of us: The World, that parter, hath departed us; * Yet soothes not hate-full hearts the fate of us: With whips a cursed slave girl scourges us, * And teems her breast with rancorous hate of us: Allah shall haply deign to unpart our lives, * Chastise our foes, and end this strait of us."

And when As'ad had spoken his poetry, he put out his hand towards his head and finding there the crust and the cruse full of brackish water he ate a bittock, just enough to keep life in him, and drank a little water, but could get no sleep till morning for the swarms of bugs[FN#383] and lice. As soon as it was day, the slave girl came down to him and changed his clothes, which were drenched with blood and stuck to him, so that his skin came off with the shirt; wherefor he shrieked aloud and cried, "Alas!" and said, "O my God, if this be Thy pleasure, increase it upon me! O Lord, verily Thou art not unmindful of him that oppresseth me; do Thou then avenge me upon him!" And he groaned and repeated the following verses,

"Patient, O Allah! to Thy destiny * I bow, suffice me what Thou deign decree: Patient to bear Thy will, O Lord of me, * Patient to burn on coals of Ghaza-tree: They wrong me, visit me with hurt and harm; * Haply Thy grace from them shall set me free: Far be's, O Lord, from thee to spare the wronger * O Lord of Destiny my hope's in Thee!"

And what another saith,

"Bethink thee not of worldly state, * Leave everything to course of Fate; For oft a thing that irketh thee * Shall in content eventuate; And oft what strait is shall expand, * And what expanded is wax strait. Allah will do what wills His will * So be not thou importunate! But 'joy the view of coming weal * Shall make forget past bale and bate."

And when he had ended his verse, the slave-girl came down upon him with blows till he fainted again; and, throwing him a flap of bread and a gugglet of saltish water, went away and left him sad and lonely, bound in chains of iron, with the blood streaming from his sides and far from those he loved. So he wept and called to mind his brother and the honours he erst enjoyed.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Twenty-ninth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that As'ad called to mind his brother and the honours he erst enjoyed; so he wept and groaned and complained and poured forth tears in floods and improvised these couplets,

"Easy, O Fate! how long this wrong, this injury, * Robbing each morn and eve my brotherhood fro' me? Is't not time now thou deem this length sufficiency * Of woes and, O thou Heart of Rock, show clemency? My friends thou wrongedst when thou madst each enemy * Mock and exult me for thy wrongs, thy tyranny: My foeman's heart is solaced by the things he saw * In me, of strangerhood and lonely misery: Suffice thee not what came upon my head of dole, * Friends lost for evermore, eyes wan and pale of blee? But must in prison cast so narrow there is naught * Save hand to bite, with bitten hand for company; And tears that tempest down like goodly gift of cloud, * And longing thirst whose fires weet no satiety. Regretful yearnings, singulfs and unceasing sighs, * Repine, remembrance and pain's very ecstacy: Desire I suffer sore and melancholy deep, * And I must bide a prey to endless phrenesy: I find me ne'er a friend who looks with piteous eye, * And seeks my presence to allay my misery: Say, liveth any intimate with trusty love * Who for mine ills will groan, my sleepless malady? To whom moan I can make and, peradventure, he * Shall pity eyes that sight of sleep can never see? The flea and bug suck up my blood, as wight that drinks * Wine from the proffering hand of fair virginity: Amid the lice my body aye remindeth me * Of orphan's good in Kazi's claw of villainy: My home's a sepulchre that measures cubits three, * Where pass I morn and eve in chained agony: My wines are tears, my clank of chains takes music's stead, * Cares my dessert of fruit and sorrows are my bed."

And when he had versed his verse and had prosed his prose, he again groaned and complained and remembered he had been and how he had been parted from his brother. Thus far concerning him; but as regards his brother Amjad, he awaited As'ad till mid-day yet he returned not to him: whereupon Amjad's vitals fluttered, the pangs of parting were sore upon him and he poured forth abundant tears,—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Thirtieth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Amjad awaited his brother As'ad till mid-day and he returned not to him, Amjad's vitals fluttered; the pangs of parting were sore upon him and he poured forth abundant tears, exclaiming, "Alas, my brother! Alas, my friend! Alas my grief! How I feared me we should be separated!" Then he descended from the mountain-top with the tears running down his cheeks; and, entering the city, ceased not walking till he made the market. He asked the folk the name of the place and concerning its people and they said, "This is called the City of the Magians, and its citizens are mostly given to Fire-worshipping in lieu of the Omnipotent King." Then he enquired of the City of Ebony and they answered, "Of a truth it is a year's journey thither by land and six months by sea: it was governed erst by a King called Armanus; but he took to son- in-law and made King in his stead a Prince called Kamar al-Zaman distinguished for justice and munificence, equity and benevolence." When Amjad heard tell of his father, he groaned and wept and lamented and knew not whither to go. However, he bought a something of food and carried it to a retired spot where he sat down thinking to eat; but, recalling his brother, he fell a- weeping and swallowed but a morsel to keep breath and body together, and that against his will. Then he rose and walked about the city, seeking news of his brother, till he saw a Moslem tailor sitting in his shop so he sat down by him and told him his story; whereupon quoth the tailor, "If he have fallen into the hands of the Magians, thou shalt hardly see him again: yet it may be Allah will reunite you twain. But thou, O my brother," he continued wilt thou lodge with me?" Amjad answered, "Yes"; and the tailor rejoiced at this. So he abode with him many days, what while the tailor comforted him and exhorted him to patience and taught him tailoring, till he became expert in the craft. Now one day he went forth to the sea-shore and washed his clothes; after which he entered the bath and put on clean raiment; then he walked about the city, to divert himself with its sights and presently there met him on the way a woman of passing beauty and loveliness, without peer for grace and comeliness. When she saw him she raised her face-veil and signed to him by moving her eyebrows and her eyes with luring glances, and versified these couplets,

"I drooped my glance when seen thee on the way * As though, O slim-waist! felled by Sol's hot ray: Thou art the fairest fair that e'er appeared, * Fairer to-day than fair of yesterday:[FN#384] Were Beauty parted, a fifth part of it * With Joseph or a part of fifth would stay; The rest would fly to thee, shine ownest own; * Be every soul thy sacrifice, I pray!"

When Amjad heard these her words, they gladdened his heart which inclined to her and his bowels yearned towards her and the hands of love sported with him; so he sighed to her in reply and spoke these couplets,

"Above the rose of cheek is thorn of lance;[FN#385] * Who dareth pluck it, rashest chevisance? Stretch not thy hand towards it, for night long * Those lances marred because we snatched a glance! Say her, who tyrant is and tempter too * (Though justice might her tempting power enhance):— Thy face would add to errors were it veiled; * Unveiled I see its guard hath best of chance! Eye cannot look upon Sol's naked face; * But can, when mist-cloud dims his countenance: The honey-hive is held by honey-bee;[FN#386] * Ask the tribe-guards what wants their vigilance? An they would slay me, let them end their ire * Rancorous, and grant us freely to advance: They're not more murderous, an charge the whole * Than charging glance of her who wears the mole."

And hearing these lines from Amjad she sighed with the deepest sighs and, signing to him again, repeated these couplets,

"'Tis thou hast trodden coyness path not I: * Grant me thy favours for the time draws nigh: O thou who makest morn with light of brow, * And with loosed brow-locks night in lift to stye! Thine idol-aspect made of me thy slave, * Tempting as temptedst me in days gone by: 'Tis just my liver fry with hottest love: * Who worship fire for God must fire aby: Thou sellest like of me for worthless price; * If thou must sell, ask high of those who buy."

When Amjad heard these her words he said to her, "Wilt thou come to my lodging or shall I go with thee to shine?" So she hung her head in shame to the ground and repeated the words of Him whose Name be exalted, "Men shall have the pre-eminence above women, because of those advantages wherein Allah hath caused the one of them to excel the other."[FN#387] Upon this, Amjad took the hint.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

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

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Amjad took the woman's hint and understood that she wished to go with him whither he was going; he felt himself bounder to find a place wherein to receive her, but was ashamed to carry her to the house of his host, the tailor. So he walked on and she walked after him, and the two ceased not walking from street to street and place to place, till she was tired and said to him, "O my lord, where is thy house?" Answered he, "Before us a little way." Then he turned aside into a handsome by-street, followed by the young woman, and walked on till he came to the end, when he found it was no thoroughfare and exclaimed, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!" Then raising his eyes, he saw, at the upper end of the lane a great doer with two stone benches; but it was locked. So Amjad sat down on one of the benches and she on the other; and she said to him, "O my lord, wherefore waitest thou?" He bowed his head awhile to the ground then raised it and answered, "I am awaiting my Mameluke who hath the key; for I bade him make me ready meat and drink and flowers, to deck the wine-service against my return from the bath." But he said to himself, "Haply the time will be tedious to her and she will go about her business, leaving me here, when I will wend my own way." However, as soon as she was weary of long waiting, she said, "O my lord, thy Mameluke delayeth; and here are we sitting in the street;" and she arose and took a stone and went up to the lock. Said Amjad, "Be not in haste, but have patience till the servant come." However, she hearkened not to him, but smote the wooden bolt with the stone and broke it in half, whereupon the door opened. Quoth he, "What possessed thee to do this deed?" Quoth she, "Pooh, pooh, my lord! what matter it? Is not the house thy house and thy place?" He said, "There was no need to break the bolt." Then the damsel entered, to the confusion of Amjad, who knew not what to do for fear of the people of the house; but she said to him, "Why dost thou not enter, O light of mine eyes and core of my heart?" Replied he, "I hear and obey; but my servant tarrieth long and I know not if he have done aught of what I bade him and specially enjoined upon him, or not." Hereupon he entered, sore in fear of the people of the house, and found himself in a handsome saloon with four dais'd recesses, each facing other, and containing closets and raised seats, all bespread with stuffs of silk and brocade; and in the midst was a jetting fountain of costly fashion, on whose margin rested a covered tray of meats, with a leather tablecloth hanging up and gem-encrusted dishes, full of fruits and sweet- scented flowers. Hard by stood drinking vessels and a candlestick with a single wax-candle therein; and the place was full of precious stuffs and was ranged with chests and stools, and on each seat lay a parcel of clothes upon which was a purse full of monies, gold and silver. The floor was paved with marble and the house bore witness in every part to its owner's fortune. When Amjad saw all this, he was confounded at his case and said to himself, "I am a lost man! Verily we are Allah's and to Allah we are returning!" As for the damsel, when she sighted the place she rejoiced indeed with a joy nothing could exceed, and said to him, "By Allah, O my lord, thy servant hath not failed of his duty; for see, he hath swept the place and cooked the meat and set on the fruit; and indeed I come at the best of times." But he paid no heed to her, his heart being taken up with fear of the house- folk; and she said, "Fie, O my lord, O my heart! What aileth thee to stand thus?" Then she sighed and, giving him a buss which sounded like the cracking of a walnut, said, "O my lord, an thou have made an appointment with other than with me, I will gird my middle and serve her and thee. Amjad laughed from a heart full of rage and wrath and came forwards and sat down, panting and saying to himself, "Alack, mine ill death and doom when the owner of the place shall return!" Then she seated herself by him and fell to toying and laughing, whilst Amjad sat careful and frowning, thinking a thousand thoughts and communing with himself, "Assuredly the master of the house cannot but come, and then what shall I say to him? he needs must kill me and my life will be lost thus foolishly." Presently she rose and, tucking up her sleeves, took a tray of food on which she laid the cloth and then set it before Amjad and began to eat, saying, "Eat, O my lord." So he came forward and ate; but the food was not pleasant to him; on the contrary he ceased not to look towards the door, till the damsel had eaten her fill, when she took away the tray of the meats and, setting on the dessert, fell to eating of the dried fruits. Then she brought the wine service and opening the jar, filled a cup and handed it to Amjad, who took it from her hand saying to him self, ' Ah, ah! and well away, when the master of the house cometh and seeth me!"; and he kept his eyes fixed on the threshold, even with cup in hand. While he was in this case, lo! in came the master of the house, who was a white slave, one of the chief men of the city, being Master of the Horse[FN#388] to the King. He had fitted up this saloon for his pleasures, that he might make merry therein and be private with whom he would, and he had that day bidden a youth whom he loved and had made this entertainment for him. Now the name of this slave was Bahadur,[FN#389] and he was open of hand, generous, munificent and fain of alms-giving and charitable works.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it wad the Two Hundred and Thirty-second Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Bahadur, the Master of the Horse and the owner of the house, came to the door of the saloon and found it open, he entered slowly and softly and looking in, with head advanced and out stretched neck, saw Amjad and the girl sitting before the dish of fruit and the wine-jar in front of them. Now Amjad at that moment had the cup in his hand and his face turned to the door; and when his glance met Bahadur's eyes his hue turned pale yellow and his side-muscles quivered, so seeing his trouble Bahadur signed to him with his finger on his lips, as much as to say, "Be silent and come hither to me." Whereupon he set down the cup and rose and the damsel cried, "Whither away?" He shook his head and, signing to her that he wished to make water, went out into the passage barefoot. Now when he saw Bahadur he knew him for the master of the house; so he hastened to him and, kissing his hands, said to him, "Allah upon thee, O my lord, ere thou do me a hurt, hear what I have to say." Then he told him who he was from first to last and acquainted him with what caused him to quit his native land and royal state, and how he had not entered his house of his free will, but that it was the girl who had broken the lock-bolt and done all this.[FN#390] When Bahadur heard his story and knew that he was a King's son, he felt for him and, taking compassion on him, said, "Hearken to me, O Amjad, and do what I bid thee and I will guarantee thy safety from that thou fearest; but, if thou cross me, I will kill thee." Amjad replied, "Command me as thou wilt: I will not gainsay thee in aught; no, never, for I am the freedman of thy bounty." Rejoined Bahadur, "Then go back forthwith into the saloon, sit down in thy place and be at peace and at shine ease; I will presently come in to thee, and when thou seest me (remember my name is Bahadur) do thou revile me and rail at me, saying, 'What made thee tarry till so late?' And accept no excuse from me; nay, so far from it, rise and beat me; and, if thou spare me, I will do away thy life. Enter now and make merry and whatsoever thou seekest of me at this time I will bring thee forthwith; and do thou spend this night as thou wilt and on the morrow wend thy way. This I do in honour of thy strangerhood, for I love the stranger and hold myself bounder to do him devoir." So Amjad kissed his hand, and, returning to the saloon with his face clad in its natural white and red, at once said to the damsel, "O my mistress, thy presence hath gladdened this shine own place and ours is indeed a blessed night." Quoth the girl, "Verily I see a wonderful change in thee, that thou now welcomest me so cordially!" So Amjad answered, "By Allah, O my lady, methought my servant Bahadur had robbed me of some necklaces of jewels, worth ten thousand diners each; however, when I went out but now in concern for this, I sought for them and found them in their place. I know not why the slave tarrieth so long and needs must I punish him for it." She was satisfied with his answer, and they sported and drank and made merry and ceased not to be so till near sundown, when Bahadur came in to them, having changed his clothes and girt his middle and put on shoes, such as are worn of Mamelukes. He saluted and kissed the ground; then held his hands behind him and stood, with his head hanging down, as one who confesseth to a fault. So Amjad looked at him with angry eyes and asked, "Why hast thou tarried till now, O most pestilent of slaves?" Answered Bahadur, "O my lord, I was busy washing my clothes and knew not of thy being here; for our appointed time was nightfall and not day-tide." But Amjad cried out at him, saying, "Thou liest, O vilest of slaves! By Allah, I must needs beat thee." So he rose and, throwing Bahadur prone on the ground, took a stick and beat him gently; but the damsel sprang up and, snatching the stick from his hand, came down upon Bahadur so lustily, that in extreme pain the tears ran from his eyes and he ground his teeth together and called out for succour; whilst Amjad cried out to the girl "Don't"; and she cried out, "Let me satisfy my anger upon him!" till at last he pulled the stick out of her hand and pushed her away. So Bahadur rose and, wiping away his tears from his cheeks, waited upon them the while, after which he swept the hall and lighted the lamps; but as often as he went in and out, the lady abused him and cursed him till Amjad was wroth with her and said, "For Almighty Allah's sake leave my Mameluke; he is not used to this." Then they sat and ceased not eating and drinking (and Bahadur waiting upon them) till midnight when, being weary with service and beating, he fell asleep in the midst of the hall and snored and snorted; whereupon the damsel, who was drunken with wine, said to Amjad, "Arise, take the sword hanging yonder and cut me off this slave's head; and, if thou do it not, I will be the death of thee!" "What possesseth thee to slay my slave?" asked Amjad; and she answered, "Our joyaunce will not be complete but by his death. If thou wilt not kill him, I will do it myself." Quoth Amjad, "By Allah's rights to thee, do not this thing!" Quoth she, "It must perforce be;" and, taking down the sword, drew it and made at Bahadur to kill him; but Amjad said in his mind, "This man hath entreated us courteously and sheltered us and done us kindness and made himself my slave: shall we requite him by slaughtering him? This shall never be!" Then he said to the woman, "If my Mameluke must be killed, better I should kill him than thou." So saying, he took the sword from her and, raising his hand, smote her on the neck and made her head fly from her body. It fell upon Bahadur who awoke and sat up and opened his eyes, when he saw Amjad standing by him and in his hand the sword dyed with blood, and the damsel lying dead. He enquired what had passed, and Amjad told him all she had said, adding, "Nothing would satisfy her but she must slay thee; and this is her reward." Then Bahadur rose and, kissing the Prince's hand, said to him, "Would to Heaven thou hadst spared her! but now there is nothing for it but to rid us of her without stay or delay, before the day-break." Then he girded his loins and took the body, wrapped it in an Aba-cloak and, laying it in a large basket of palm-leaves, he shouldered it saying, "Thou art a stranger here and knowest no one: so sit thou in this place and await my return till day-break. If I come back to thee, I will assuredly do thee great good service and use my endeavours to have news of thy brother; but if by sunrise I return not, know that all is over with me; and peace be on thee, and the house and all it containeth of stuffs and money are shine." Then he fared forth from the saloon bearing the basket; and, threading the streets, he made for the salt sea, thinking to throw it therein: but as he drew near the shore, he turned and saw that the Chief of Police and his officers had ranged themselves around him; and, on recognising him, they wondered and opened the basket, wherein they found the slain woman. So they seized him and laid him in bilboes all that night till the morning, when they carried him and the basket, as it was, to the King and reported the case. The King was sore enraged when he looked upon the slain and said to Bahadur, "Woe to thee! Thou art always so doing; thou killest folk and castest them into the sea and takest their goods. How many murders hast thou done ere this?" Thereupon Bahadur hung his head.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Thirty-third Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Bahadur hung down his head groundwards before the King, who cried out at him, saying, "Woe to thee! Who killed this girl?" He replied, "O my lord! I killed her, and there is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!"[FN#391] So the King in his anger, commanded to hang him; and the hangman went down with him by the King's commandment, and the Chief of Police accompanied him with a crier who called upon all the folk to witness the execution of Bahadur, the King's Master of the Horse; and on this wise they paraded him through the main streets and the market-streets. This is how it fared with Bahadur; but as regards Amjad, he awaited his host's return till the day broke and the sun rose, and when he saw that he came not, he exclaimed, "There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! Would I knew what is become of him?" And, as he sat musing behold, he heard the crier proclaiming Bahadur's sentence and bidding the people to see the spectacle of his hanging at midday; whereat he wept and exclaimed, "Verily, we are Allah's and to Him we are returning! He meaneth to sacrifice himself unjustly for my sake, when I it was who slew her. By Allah, this shall never be!" Then he went from the saloon and, shutting the door after him, hurriedly threaded the streets till he overtook Bahadur, when he stood before the Chief of Police and said to him, "O my lord, put not Bahadur to death, for he is innocent. By Allah, none killed her but I." Now when the Captain of Police heard these words, he took them both and, carrying them before the King, acquainted him with what Amjad had said; whereupon he looked at the Prince and asked him, "Didst thou kill the damsel?" He answered, "Yes" and the King said, "Tell me why thou killedst her, and speak the truth." Replied Amjad, "O King, it is indeed a marvellous event and a wondrous matter that hath befallen me: were it graven with needles on the eye-corners, it would serve as a warner to whoso would be warned!" Then he told him his whole story and informed him of all that had befallen him and his brother, first and last; whereat the King was much startled and surprised and said to him, "Know that now I find thee to be excusable; but list, O youth! Wilt thou be my Wazir?" "Hearkening and obedience," answered Amjad whereupon the King bestowed magnificent dresses of honour on him and Bahadur and gave him a handsome house, with eunuchs and officers and all things needful, appointing him stipends and allowances and bidding him make search for his brother As'ad. So Amjad sat down in the seat of the Wazirate and governed and did justice and invested and deposed and took and gave. Moreover, he sent out a crier to cry his brother throughout the city, and for many days made proclamation in the main streets and market-streets, but heard no news of As'ad nor happened on any trace of him. Such was his case; but as regards his brother, the Magi ceased not to torture As'ad night and day and eve and morn for a whole year's space, till their festival drew near, when the old man Bahram[FN#392] made ready for the voyage and fitted out a ship for himself.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Thirty-fourth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that Bahram, the Magian, having fitted out a ship for the voyage, took As'ad and put him in a chest which he locked and had it transported on board. Now it so came to pass that, at the very time of shipping it, Amjad was standing to divert himself by looking upon the sea; and when he saw the men carrying the gear and shipping it, his heart throbbed and he called to his pages to bring him his beast. Then, mounting with a company of his officers, he rode down to the sea-side and halted before the Magian's ship, which he commended his men to board and search. They did his bidding, and boarded the vessel and rummaged in every part, but found nothing; so they returned and told Amjad, who mounted again and rode back. But he felt troubled in mind; and when he reached his place and entered his palace, he cast his eyes on the wall and saw written thereon two lines which were these couplets,

"My friends! if ye are banisht from mine eyes, * From heart and mind ye ne'er go wandering: But ye have left me in my woe, and rob * Rest from my eyelids while ye are slumbering."

And seeing them Amjad thought of his brother and wept. Such was his case; but as for Bahram, the Magian, he embarked and shouted and bawled to his crew to make sail in all haste. So they shook out the sails and departed and ceased not to fare on many days and nights; and, every other day, Bahram took out As'ad and gave him a bit of bread and made him drink a sup of water, till they drew near the Mountain of Fire. Then there came out on them a storm-wind and the sea rose against them, so that the ship was driven out of her course till she took a wrong line and fell into strange waters; and, at last they came in sight of a city builded upon the shore, with a castle whose windows overlooked the main. Now the ruler of this city was a Queen called Marjanah, and the captain said to Bahram, "O my lord, we have strayed from our course and come to the island of Queen Marjanah, who is a devout Moslemah; and, if she know that we are Magians, she will take our ship and slay us to the last man. Yet needs must we put in here to rest and refit." Quoth Bahram, "Right is thy recking, and whatso thou seest fit that will I do!" Said the ship master, "If the Queen summon us and question us, how shall we answer her?"; and Bahram replied, "Let us clothe this Moslem we have with us in a Mameluke's habit and carry him ashore with us, so that when the Queen sees him, she will suppose and say, 'This is a slave.' As for me I will tell her that I am a slave-dealer[FN#393] who buys and sells white slaves, and that I had with me many but have sold all save this one, whom I retained to keep my accounts, for he can read and write." And the captain said "This device should serve." Presently they reached the city and slackened sail and cast the anchors; and the ship lay still, when behold, Queen Marjanah came down to them, attended by her guards and, halting before the vessel, called out to the captain, who landed and kissed the ground before her. Quoth she, "What is the lading of this thy ship and whom hast thou with thee?"" Quoth he, "O Queen of the Age, I have with me a merchant who dealeth in slaves." And she said, "Hither with him to me"; whereupon Bahram came ashore to her, with As'ad walking behind him in a slave's habit, and kissed the earth before her. She asked, "What is thy condition?"; and he answered, "I am a dealer in chattels." Then she looked at As'ad and, taking him for a Mameluke, asked him, "What is thy name, O youth?" He answered, "Dost thou ask my present or my former name?" "Hast thou then two names?" enquired she, and he replied (and indeed his voice was choked with tears), "Yes; my name aforetime was Al-As'ad, the most happy, but now it is Al- Mu'tarr—Miserrimus." Her heart inclined to him and she said, "Canst thou write?" "Yes,'' answered he, and she gave him ink- case and reed-pen and paper and said to him, "Write somewhat that I may see it." So he wrote these two couplets,

"What can the slave do when pursued by Fate, * O justest Judge! whatever be his state?[FN#394] Whom God throws hand bound in the depths and says, * Beware lest water should thy body wet?"[FN#395]

Now when she read these lines, she had ruth upon him and said to Bahram, "Sell me this slave." He replied, "O my lady, I cannot sell him, for I have parted with all the rest and none is left with me but he." Quoth the Queen, "I must need have him of thee, either by sale or way of gift." But quoth Bahram, "I will neither sell him nor give him." Whereat she was wroth and, taking As'ad by the hand, carried him up to the castle and sent to Bahram, saying, "Except thou set sail and depart our city this very night, I will seize all thy goods and break up thy ship." Now when the message reached the Magian, he grieved with sore grief and cried, "Verily this voyage is on no wise to be commended." Then he arose and made ready and took all he needed and awaited the coming of the night to resume his voyage, saying to the sailors, "Provide yourselves with your things and fill your water-skins, that we may set sail at the last of the night." So the sailors did their business and awaited the coming of darkness. Such was their case; but as regards Queen Marjanah, when she had brought As'ad into the castle, she opened the casements overlooking the sea and bade her handmaids bring food. They set food before As'ad and herself and both ate, after which the Queen called for wine.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

When it was the Two Hundred and Thirty-fifth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Queen Marjanah bade her handmaids bring wine and they set it before her, she fell to drinking with As'ad. Now, Allah (be He extolled and exalted!) filled her heart with love for the Prince and she kept filling his cup and handing it to him till his reason fled; and presently he rose and left the hall to satisfy a call of nature. As he passed out of the saloon he saw an open door through which he went and walked on till his walk brought him to a vast garden full of all manner fruits and flowers; and, sitting down under a tree, he did his occasion. Then he rose and went up to a jetting fountain in the garden and made the lesser ablution and washed his hands and face, after which he would have risen to go away; but the air smote him and he fell back, with his clothes undone and slept, and night overcame him thus. So far concerning him; but as concerns Bahram, the night being come, he cried out to his crew, saying, "Set sail and let us away!"; and the' answered, "We hear and obey, but wait till we fill our water- skins and then we will set sail." So they landed with their water skins and went round about the castle, and found nothing but garden-walls: whereupon they climbed over into the garden and followed the track of feet, which led them to the fountain; and there they found As'ad lying on his back. They knew him and were glad to find him; and, after filling their water-skins, they bore him off and climbed the wall again with him and carried him back in haste to Bahram to whom they said, "Hear the good tidings of thy winning thy wish; and gladden thy heart and beat thy drums and sound thy pipes; for thy prisoner, whom Queen Marjanah took from thee by force, we have found and brought back to thee"; and they threw As'ad down before him. When Bahram saw him, his heart leapt for joy and his breast swelled with gladness. Then he bestowed largesse on the sailors and bade them set sail in haste. So they sailed forthright, intending to make the Mountain of Fire and stayed not their course till the morning. This is how it fared with them; but as regards Queen Marjanah, she abode awhile, after As'ad went down from her, awaiting his return in vain for he came not; thereupon she rose and sought him, yet found no trace of him. Then she bade her women light flambeaux and look for him, whilst she went forth in person and, seeing the garden- door open, knew that he had gone thither. So she went out into the garden and finding his sandals lying by the fountain, searched the place in every part, but came upon no sign of him; and yet she gave not over the search till morning. Then she enquired for the ship and they told her, "The vessel set sail in the first watch of the night"; wherefor she knew that they had taken As'ad with them, and this was grievous to her and she was sore an-angered. She bade equip ten great ships forthwith and, making ready for fight, embarked in one of the ten with her Mamelukes and slave-women and men-at-arms, all splendidly accoutred and weaponed for war. They spread the sails and she said to the captains, "If you overtake the Magian's ship, ye shall have of me dresses of honour and largesse of money; but if you fail so to do, I will slay you to the last man." Whereat fear and great hope animated the crews and they sailed all that day and the night and the second day and the third day till, on the fourth they sighted the ship of Bahram, the Magian, and before evening fell the Queen's squadron had surrounded it on all sides, just as Bahram had taken As'ad forth of the chest and was beating and torturing him, whilst the Prince cried out for help and deliverance, but found neither helper nor deliverer: and the grievous bastinado sorely tormented him. Now while so occupied, Bahram chanced to look up and, seeing himself encompassed by the Queen's ships, as the white of the eye encompasseth the black, he gave himself up for lost and groaned and said, "Woe to thee, O As'ad! This is all out of thy head." Then taking him by the hand he bade his men throw him overboard and cried, "By Allah I will slay thee before I die myself!" So they carried him along by the hands and feet and cast him into the sea and he sank; but Allah (be He extolled and exalted!) willed that his life be saved and that his doom be deferred; so He caused him to sink and rise again and he struck out with his hands and feet, till the Almighty gave him relief, and sent him deliverance; and the waves bore him far from the Magian's ship and threw him ashore. He landed, scarce crediting his escape, and once more on land he doffed his clothes and wrung them and spread them out to dry; whilst he sat naked and weeping over his condition, and bewailing his calamities and mortal dangers, and captivity and stranger hood. And presently he repeated these two couplets,

"Allah, my patience fails: I have no ward; * My breast is straitened and clean cut my cord; To whom shall wretched slave of case complain * Save to his Lord? O thou of lords the Lord!"

Then, having ended his verse, he rose and donned his clothes but he knew not whither to go or whence to come; so he fed on the herbs of the earth and the fruits of the trees and he drank of the streams, and fared on night and day till he came in sight of a city; whereupon he rejoiced and hastened his pace; but when he reached it,—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.

When it Was the Two Hundred and Thirty-sixth Night,

She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when he reached the city the shades of evening closed around him and the gates were shut. Now by the decrees of Pate and man's lot this was the very city wherein he had been a prisoner and to whose King his brother Amjad was Minister. When As'ad saw the gate was locked, he turned back and made for the burial-ground, where finding a tomb without a door, he entered therein and lay down and fell asleep, with his face covered by his long sleeve.[FN#396] Meanwhile, Queen Marjanah, coming up with Bahram's ship, questioned him of As'ad. Now the Magian, when Queen Marjanah overtook him with her ships, baffled her by his artifice and gramarye; swearing to her that he was not with him and that he knew nothing of him. She searched the ship, but found no trace of her friend, so she took Bahram and, carrying him back to her castle, would have put him to death, but he ransomed himself from her with all his good and his ship; and she released him and his men. They went forth from her hardly believing in their deliverance, and fared on ten days' journey till they came to their own city and found the gate shut, it being eventide. So they made for the burial-ground, thinking to lie the night there and, going round about the tombs, as Fate and Fortune would have it, saw the building wherein As'ad lay wide open; whereat Bahram marvelled and said, "I must look into this sepulchre." Then he entered and found As'ad lying in a corner fast asleep, with his head covered by his sleeve; so he raised his head, and looking in his face, knew him for the man on whose account he had lost his good and his ship, and cried, "What! art thou yet alive?" Then he bound him and gagged him without further parley, and carried him to his house, where he clapped heavy shackles on his feet and lowered him into the underground dungeon aforesaid prepared for the tormenting of Moslems, and he bade his daughter by name Bostan,[FN#397] torture him night and day, till the next year, when they would again visit the Mountain of Fire and there offer him up as a sacrifice. Then he beat him grievously and locking the dungeon door upon him, gave the keys to his daughter. By and by, Bostan opened the door and went down to beat him, but finding him a comely youth and a sweet-faced with arched brows and eyes black with nature's Kohl,[FN#398] she fell in love with him and asked him, "What is thy name?" "My name is As'ad," answered he; whereat she cried, "Mayst thou indeed be happy as thy name,[FN#399] and happy be thy days! Thou deservest not torture and blows, and I see thou hast been injuriously entreated." And she comforted him with kind words and loosed his bonds. Then she questioned him of the religion of Al-Islam and he told her that it was the true and right Faith and that our lord Mohammed had approved himself by surpassing miracles[FN#400] and signs manifest, and that fire-worship is harmful and not profitable; and he went on to expound to her the tenets of Al-Islam till she was persuaded and the love of the True Faith entered her heart. Then, as Almighty Allah had mixed up with her being a fond affection for As'ad, she pronounced the Two Testimonies[FN#401] of the Faith and became of the people of felicity. After this, she brought him meat and drink and talked with him and they prayed together: moreover, she made him chicken stews and fed him therewith, till he regained strength and his sickness left him and he was restored to his former health. Such things befel him with the daughter of Bahram, the Magian; and so it happened that one day she left him and stood at the house-door when behold, she heard the crier crying aloud and saying, "Whoso hath with him a handsome young man, whose favour is thus and thus, and bringeth him forth, shall have all he seeketh of money; but if any have him and deny it, he shall be hanged over his own door and his property shall be plundered and his blood go for naught." Now As'ad had acquainted Bostan bint Bahram with his whole history: so, when she heard the crier, she knew that it was he who was sought for and, going down to him, told him the news. Then he fared forth and made for the mansion of the Wazir, whom, when As'ad saw, exclaimed, "By Allah, this Minister is my brother Amjad!" Then he went up (and the damsel walking behind him) to the Palace, where he again saw his brother, and threw himself upon him; whereupon Amjad also knew him and fell upon his neck and they embraced each other, whilst the Wazir's Mamelukes dismounted and stood round them. They lay awhile insensible and, when they came to themselves, Amjad took his brother and carried him to the Sultan, to whom he related the whole story, and the Sultan charged him to plunder Bahram's house.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.

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