THE BOOK OF THE THOUSAND NIGHTS AND ONE NIGHT:
Now First Completely Done Into English Prose and Verse, From The Original Arabic,
By John Payne (Author of "The Masque of Shadows," "Intaglios: Sonnets," "Songs of Life and Death," "Lautrec," "The Poems of Master Francis Villon of Paris," "New Poems," Etc, Etc.).
In Nine Volumes:
VOLUME THE FOURTH.
Contents of The Fourth Volume.
1. The Imam Abou Yousuf With Haroun er Reshid and his Vizier Jaafer 2. The Lover Who Feigned Himself a Thief to save His Mistress's Honour 3. Jaafer the Barmecide and the Bean-seller 4. Abou Mohammed the Lazy 5. Yehya Ben Khalid and Mensour 6. Yehya Ben Khalid and the Man Who Forged a Letter in His Name 7. The Khalif el Mamoun and the Strange Doctor 8. Ali Shar and Zumurrud 9. The Loves of Jubeir Ben Umeir and the Lady Budour 10. The Man of Yemen and His Six Slave Girls 11. Haroun er Reshid with the Damsel and Abou Nuwas 12. The Man Who Stole The Dog's Dish of Gold 13. The Sharper of Alexandria and the Master of Police 14. El Melik en Nasir and the Three Masters of Police a. Story of the Chief of the New Cairo Police b. Story of the Chief of the Boulac Police c. Story of the chief of the Old Cairo Police 15. The Thief and the Money-Changer 16. The Chief of the Cous Police and the Sharper 17. Ibrahim Ben el Mehdi and the Merchant's Sister 18. The Woman Whose Hands Were Cut Off For Almsgiving 19. The Devout Israelite 20. Abou Hassan ez Ziyadi and the Man From Khorassan 21. The Poor Man and his Generous Friend 22. The Ruined Man Who Became Rich Again Through a Dream 23. El Mutawekkil and his Favourite Mehboubeh 24. Werdan the Butcher's Adventure with the Lady and the Bear 25. The King's Daughter and the Ape 26. The Enchanted Horse 27. Uns El Eoujoud and the Vizier's Daughter Rose-in-Bud 28. Abou Nuwas with the Three Boys and the Khalif Haroun er Reshid 29. Abdallah Ben Maamer with the Man of Bassora and His Slave Girl 30. The Lovers of the Benou Udhreh 31. The Vizier of Yemen and His Young Brother 32. Loves of the Boy and Girl at School 33. El Mutelemmis and His Wife Umeimeh 34. Haroun er Reshid and Zubeideh in the Bath 35. Haroun er Reshid and the Three Poets 36. Musab Ben ez Zubeir and Aaisheh His Wife 37. Aboulasweh and His Squinting Slave Girl 38. Haroun er Reshid ad the Two Girls 39. Hroun er Reshid and the Three Girls 40. The Miller and his Wife 41. The Simpleton and the Sharper 42. The Imam Abou Yousuf with Haroun er Reshid and Zubeideh 43. The Khalif el Hakim and the Merchant 44. King Kisra Anoushirwan and the Village Damsel 45. The Water-Carrier and the Goldsmith's Wife 46. Khusrau and Shirin and the Fisherman 47. Yehya Ben Khalid and the Poor Man 48. Mohammed El Amin and Jaafer Ben el Hadi 49. Said Ben Salim and the Barmecides 50. The Woman's Trick Against Her Husband 51. The Devout Woman and the Two Wicked Elders 52. Jaafer the Barmecide and the Old Bedouin 53. Omar Ben Khettab and the Young Bedouin 54. El Mamoun and the Pyramids of Egypt 55. The Thief Turned Merchant and the Other Thief 56. Mesrour and Ibn El Caribi 57. The Devout Prince 58. The Schoolmaster Who Fell in Love by Report 59. The Foolish Schoolmaster 60. The Ignorant Man Who Set up For a Schoolmaster 61. The King and the Virtuous Wife 62. Abdurrehman the Moor's Story of the Roc 63. Adi Ben Zeid and the Princess Hind 64. Dibil el Khuzai With the Lady and Muslim Ben el Welid 65. Isaac of Mosul and the Merchant 66. The Three Unfortunate Lovers 67. The Lovers of the Benou Tai 68. The Mad Lover 69. The Apples of Paradise 70. The Loves of Abou Isa and Current El Ain 71. El Amin and His Uncle Ibrahim Ben el Mehdi 72. El Feth Ben Khacan and El Mutawekkil 73. The Man's Dispute with the Learned Woman of the Relative Excellence of the Male and the Female 74. Abou Suweid and the Handsome Old Woman 75. Ali Ben Tahir and the Birl Mounis 76. The Woman Who Has a Boy and the Other Who Had a Man to Lover 77. The Haunted House in Baghdad 78. The Pilgrim and the Old Woman Who Dwelt in the Desert 79. Aboulhusn and His Slave Girl Taweddud
THE BOOK OF THE THOUSAND NIGHTS AND ONE NIGHT
HOW THE IMAM ABOU YOUSUF EXTRICATED THE KHALIF HAROUN ER RESHID AND HIS VIZIER JAAFER FROM A DILEMMA.
It is said that Jaafer the Barmecide was one night carousing with Er Reshid, when the latter said to him, 'O Jaafer, I hear that thou hast bought such and such a slave-girl. Now I have long sought her and my heart is taken up with love of her, for she is passing fair; so do thou sell her to me.' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' replied Jaafer, 'I will not sell her.' 'Then give her to me,' rejoined the Khalif. 'Nor will I give her,' answered Jaafer. 'Be Zubeideh triply divorced,' exclaimed Haroun, 'if thou shalt not either sell or give her to me!' Quoth Jaafer, 'Be my wife triply divorced, if I either sell or give her to thee!' After awhile they recovered from their intoxication and were ware that they had fallen into a grave dilemma, but knew not how to extricate themselves. Then said Er Reshid, 'None can help us in this strait but Abou Yousuf.'[FN#1] So they sent for him, and this was in the middle of the night. When the messenger reached the Imam, he arose in alarm, saying in himself, 'I should not be sent for at this hour, save by reason of some crisis in Islam.' So he went out in haste and mounted his mule, saying to his servant, 'Take the mule's nose-bag with thee; it may be she has not finished her feed; and when we come to the Khalif's palace, put the bag on her, that she may eat what is left of her fodder, whilst I am with the Khalif.' 'I hear and obey,' replied the man.
So the Imam rode to the palace and was admitted to the presence of Er Reshid, who made him sit down on the couch beside himself, whereas he was used to seat none but him, and said to him, 'We have sent for thee at this hour to advise us upon a grave matter, with which we know not how to deal' And he expounded to him the case. 'O Commander of the Faithful,' replied Abou Yousuf, 'this is the easiest of things.' Then he turned to Jaafer and said to him, 'O Jaafer, sell half of her to the Commander of the Faithful and give him the other half; so shall ye both be quit of your oaths.' The Khalif was delighted with this and they did as he prescribed. Then said Er Reshid, 'Bring me the girl at once, for I long for her exceedingly.' So they brought her and the Khalif said to Abou Yousuf, 'I have a mind to lie with her forthright; for I cannot endure to abstain from her during the prescribed period of purification; how is this to be done?' 'Bring me one of thine unenfranchised male slaves,' answered the Imam, 'and give me leave to marry her to him; then let him divorce her before consummation. So shall it be lawful for thee to lie with her before purification.' This expedient pleased the Khalif yet more than the first and he sent for the slave. When he came, Er Reshid said to the Imam, 'I authorize thee to marry her to him.' So the Imam proposed the marriage to the slave, who accepted it, and performed the due ceremony; after which he said to the slave, 'Divorce her, and thou shalt have a hundred diners.' But he refused to do this and the Imam went on to increase his offer, till he bid him a thousand diners. Then said the slave to him, 'Doth it rest with me to divorce her, or with thee or the Commander of the Faithful?' 'With thee,' answered the Imam. 'Then, by Allah,' quoth the slave, 'I will never do it!'
At this the Khalif was exceeding wroth and said to the Imam, 'What is to be done, O Abou Yousuf?' 'Be not concerned, O Commander of the Faithful,' replied the Imam; 'the thing is easy. Make this slave the damsel's property.' Quoth Er Reshid, 'I give him to her;' and the Imam said to the girl, 'Say, "I accept."' So she said, 'I accept:' whereupon quoth Abou Yousuf, 'I pronounce divorce between them, for that he hath become her property, and so the marriage is annulled.' With this, Er Reshid sprang to his feet and exclaimed, 'It is the like of thee that shall be Cadi in my time.' Then he called for sundry trays of gold and emptied them before Abou Yousuf, to whom he said, 'Hast thou wherein to put this ?' The Imam bethought him of the mule's nose-bag; so he sent for it and filling it with gold, took it and went home; and on the morrow, he said to his friends, 'There is no easier or shorter road to the goods of this world and the next, than that of learning; for, see, I have received all this money for answering two or three questions.' Consider, then, O polite [reader], the pleasantness of this anecdote, for it comprises divers goodly features, amongst which are the complaisance of Jaafer to Er Reshid and the wisdom[FN#2] of the Khalif and the exceeding wisdom of Abou Yousuf, may God the Most High have mercy on all their souls!
THE LOVER WHO FEIGNED HIMSELF A THIEF TO SAVE HIS MISTRESS'S HONOUR.
There came one day to Khalid ibn Abdallah el Kesri,[FN#3] governor of Bassora, a company of men dragging a youth of exceeding beauty and lofty bearing, whose aspect expressed good breeding and dignity and abundant wit They brought him before the governor, who asked what was to do with him, and they replied, 'This fellow is a thief, whom we caught last night in our dwelling.' Khalid looked at him and was struck with wonder at his well-favouredness and elegance; so he said to the others, 'Loose him,' and going up to the young man, asked what he had to say for himself. 'The folk have spoken truly,' answered he; 'and the case is as they have said.' 'And what moved thee to this,' asked Khalid, 'and thou so noble and comely of aspect?' 'The lust after worldly good,' replied the other, 'and the ordinance of God, glorified and exalted be He!' 'May thy mother be bereaved of thee!' rejoined Khalid. 'Hadst thou not, in thy fair face and sound sense and good breeding, what should restrain thee from thieving?' 'O Amir,' answered the young man, 'leave this talk and proceed to what God the Most High hath ordained; this is what my hands have earned, and God is no oppressor of His creatures.'[FN#4] Khalid was silent awhile, considering the matter; then he said to the young man, 'Verily, thy confession before witnesses perplexes me, for I cannot believe thee to be a thief. Surely thou hast some story that is other than one of theft. Tell it me'. 'O Amir,' replied the youth, 'deem thou nought save what I have confessed; for I have no story other than that I entered these folk's house and stole what I could lay hands on, and they caught me and took the stuff from me and carried me before thee.' Then Khalid bade clap him in prison and commanded a crier to make proclamation throughout Bassora, saying, 'Ho, whoso is minded to look upon the punishment of such an one, the thief, and the cutting off of his hand, let him be present tomorrow morning at such a place!'
When the youth found himself in prison, with irons on his feet, he sighed heavily and repeated the following verses, whilst the tears streamed from his eyes:
Khalid doth threaten me with cutting off my hand, Except I do reveal to him my mistress' case. But, "God forbid," quoth I, "that I should e'er reveal That which of love for her my bosom doth embrace!" The cutting-off my hand, for that I have confessed Unto, less grievous were to me than her disgrace.
The warders heard him and went and told Khalid, who sent for the youth after nightfall and conversed with him. He found him well-bred and intelligent and of a pleasant and vivacious wit; so he ordered him food and he ate. Then said Khalid, 'I know thou hast a story to tell that is no thief's; so, when the Cadi comes to-morrow morning and questions thee before the folk, do thou deny the charge of theft and avouch what may avert the cutting-off of thy hand; for the Prophet (whom God bless and preserve) saith, "In cases of doubt, eschew [or defer] punishment."' Then he sent him back to the prison, where he passed the night.
On the morrow, the folk assembled to see his hand cut off, nor was there man or woman in Bassora but came forth to look upon his punishment. Then Khalid mounted in company of the notables of the city and others and summoning the Cadi, sent for the young man, who came, hobbling in his shackles. There none saw him but wept for him, and the women lifted up their voices in lamentation. The Cadi bade silence the women and said to the prisoner, 'These folk avouch that thou didst enter their dwelling and steal their goods: belike thou stolest less than a quarter dinar?'[FN#5] 'Nay,' replied he, 'I stole more than that.' 'Peradventure,' rejoined the Cadi, 'thou art partner with them in some of the goods?' 'Not so,' replied the young man; 'it was all theirs. I had no right in it.' At this Khalid was wroth and rose and smote him on the face with his whip, applying this verse to his own case:
Man wisheth and seeketh his wish to fulfil, But Allah denieth save that which He will.
Then he called for the executioner, who came and taking the prisoner's hand, set the knife to it and was about to cut it off, when, behold, a damsel, clad in tattered clothes, pressed through the crowd of women and cried out and threw herself on the young man. Then she unveiled and showed a face like the moon; whereupon the people raised a mighty clamour and there was like to have been a riot amongst them. But she cried out her loudest, saying, 'I conjure thee, by Allah, O Amir, hasten not to cut off this man's hand, till thou have read what is in this scroll!' So saying, she gave him a scroll, and he took it and read therein the following verses:
O Khalid, this man is love-maddened, a cave of desire, Transfixed by the glances that sped from the bows of my eye. The shafts of my looks 'twas that pierced him and slew him; indeed, He a bondsman of love, sick for passion and like for to die. Yea, rather a crime, that he wrought not, he choose to confess Than suffer on her whom he cherished dishonour to lie. Have ruth on a sorrowful lover; indeed he's no thief, But the noblest and truest of mortals for passion that sigh.
When he had read this, he called the girl apart and questioned her; and she told him that the young man was her lover and she his mistress. He came to the dwelling of her people, thinking to visit her, and threw a stone into the house, to warn her of his coming. Her father and brothers heard the noise of the stone and sallied out on him; but he, hearing them coming, caught up all the household stuff and made as if he would have stolen it, to cover his mistress's honour. 'So they seized him,' continued she, 'saying, "A thief!" and brought him before thee, whereupon he confessed to the robbery and persisted in his confession, that he might spare me dishonour; and this he did, making himself a thief, of the exceeding nobility and generosity of his nature.'
'He is indeed worthy to have his desire,' replied Khalid and calling the young man to him, kissed him between the eyes. Then he sent for the girl's father and bespoke him, saying, 'O elder, we thought to punish this young man by cutting off his hand; but God (to whom belong might and majesty) hath preserved us from this! and I now adjudge him the sum of ten thousand dirhems, for that he would have sacrificed his hand for the preservation of thine honour and that of thy daughter and the sparing you both reproach. Moreover, I adjudge other ten thousand dirhems to thy daughter, for that she made known to me the truth of the case; and I ask thy leave to marry him to her.' 'O Amir,' rejoined the old man, 'thou hast my consent.' So Khalid praised God and thanked Him and offered up a goodly exhortation and prayer; after which he said to the young man, 'I give thee this damsel to wife, with her own and her father's consent; and her dowry shall be this money, to wit, ten thousand dirhems. 'I accept this marriage at thy hands,' replied the youth and Khalid let carry the money on trays in procession to the young man's house, whilst the people dispersed, full of gladness. And surely [quoth he who tells the tale[FN#6]] never saw I a rarer day than this, for that its beginning was weeping and affliction and its end joy and gladness.
JAAFER THE BARMECIDE AND THE BEANSELLER.
When Haroun er Reshid put Jaafer the Barmecide to death, he commanded that all who wept or made moan for him should be crucified; so the folk abstained from this. Now there was a Bedouin from a distant desert, who used every year to make and bring to Jaafer an ode in his honour, for which he rewarded him with a thousand diners; and the Bedouin took them and returning to his own country, lived upon them, he and his family, for the rest of the year. Accordingly, he came with his ode at the wonted time and finding Jaafer done to death, betook himself to the place where his body was hanging, and there made his camel kneel down and wept sore and mourned grievously. Then he recited his ode and fell asleep. In his sleep Jaafer the Barmecide appeared to him and said, 'Thou hast wearied thyself to come to us and findest us as thou seest; but go to Bassora and ask for such a man there of the merchants of the town and say to him, "Jaafer the Barmecide salutes thee and bids thee give me a thousand diners, by the token of the bean."'
When the Bedouin awoke, he repaired to Bassora, where he sought out the merchant and repeated to him what Jaafer had said in the dream; whereupon he wept sore, till he was like to depart the world. Then he welcomed the Bedouin and entertained him three days as an honoured guest; and when he was minded to depart, he gave him a thousand and five hundred diners, saying, 'The thousand are what is commanded to thee, and the five hundred are a gift from me to thee; and every year thou shalt have of me a thousand diners.' When the Bedouin was about to take leave, he said to the merchant, 'I conjure thee, by Allah, tell me the story of the bean, that I may know the origin of all this.' 'In the early part of my life,' replied the merchant, 'I was miserably poor and hawked hot boiled beans about the streets of Baghdad for a living.
I went out one cold, rainy day, without clothes enough on my body to protect me from the weather, now shivering for excess of cold and now stumbling into the pools of rain-water, and altogether in so piteous a plight as would make one shudder to look upon. Now it chanced that Jaafer was seated that day, with his officers and favourites, in an upper chamber overlooking the street, and his eye fell on me; so he took pity on my case and sending one of his servants to fetch me to him, said to me, "Sell thy beans to my people." So I began to mete out the beans with a measure I had with me, and each who took a measure of beans filled the vessel with gold pieces, till the basket was empty. Then I gathered together the money I had gotten, and Jaafer said to me, "Hast thou any beans left?" "I know not," answered I and sought in the basket, but found only one bean. This Jaafer took and splitting it in twain, kept one half himself and gave the other to one of his favourites, saying, "For how much wilt thou buy this half-bean?" "For the tale of all this money twice-told," replied she; whereat I was confounded and said in myself, "This is impossible." But, as I stood wondering, she gave an order to one of her handmaids and the girl brought me the amount twice-told. Then said Jaafer, "And I will buy my half for twice the sum of the whole. Take the price of thy bean." And he gave an order to one of his servants, who gathered together the whole of the money and laid it in my basket; and I took it and departed. Then I betook myself to Bassora, where I traded with the money and God prospered me, to Him be the praise and the thanks! So, if I give thee a thousand diners a year of the bounty of Jaafer, it will in no wise irk me.' Consider then the munificence of Jaafer's nature and how he was praised both alive and dead, the mercy of God the Most High be upon him!
ABOU MOHAMMED THE LAZY.
It is told that Haroun er Reshid was sitting one day on the throne of the Khalifate, when there came in to him a youth of his eunuchs, bearing a crown of red gold, set with pearls and rubies and all manner other jewels, such as money might not buy, and kissing the ground before him, said, 'O Commander of the Faithful, the lady Zubeideh kisses the earth before thee and saith to thee, thou knowest she hath let make this crown, which lacks a great jewel for its top; and she hath made search among her treasures, but cannot find a jewel to her mind.' Quoth the Khalif to his chamberlains and officers, 'Make search for a great jewel, such as Zubeideh desires.' So they sought, but found nothing befitting her and told the Khalif, who was vexed thereat and exclaimed, 'Am I Khalif and king of the kings of the earth and lack of a jewel? Out on ye! Enquire of the merchants.' So they enquired of the merchants, who replied, 'Our lord the Khalif will not find a jewel such as he requires save with a man of Bassora, by name Abou Mohammed the Lazy.' They acquainted the Khalif with this and he bade his Vizier Jaafer send a letter to the Amir Mohammed ez Zubeidi, governor of Bassora, commanding him to equip Abou Mohammed the Lazy and bring him to Baghdad.
Jaafer accordingly wrote a letter to that effect and despatched it by Mesrour, who set out forthright for Bassora and went in to the governor, who rejoiced in him and entreated him with the utmost honour. Then Mesrour read him the Khalif's mandate, to which he replied, 'I hear and obey,' and forthwith despatched him, with a company of his followers, to Abou Mohammed's house. When they reached it, they knocked at the door, whereupon a servant came out and Mesrour said to him, 'Tell thy master that the Commander of the Faithful calls for him.' The servant went in and told his master, who came out and found Mesrour, the Khalif's chamberlain, and a company of the governor's men at the door. So he kissed the earth before Mesrour and said, 'I hear and obey the summons of the Commander of the Faithful; but enter ye my house.' 'We cannot do that,' replied Mesrour, 'save in haste; for the Commander of the Faithful awaits thy coming.' But he said, 'Have patience with me a little, till I set my affairs in order.' So, after much pressure and persuasion, they entered and found the corridor hung with curtains of blue brocade, figured with gold, and Abou Mohammed bade one of his servants carry Mesrour to the bath. Now this bath was in the house and Mesrour found its walls and floor of rare and precious marbles, wrought with gold and silver, and its waters mingled with rose-water. The servants served Mesrour and his company on the most perfect wise and clad them, on their going forth of the bath, in robes of honour of brocade, interwoven with gold.
Then they went in to Abou Mohammed and found him seated in his upper chamber upon a couch inlaid with jewels. Over his head hung curtains of gold brocade, wrought with pearls and jewels, and the place was spread with cushions, embroidered in red gold. When he saw Mesrour, he rose to receive him and bidding him welcome, seated him by his side. Then he called for food: so they brought the table of food, which when Mesrour saw, he exclaimed, 'By Allah, never saw I the like of this in the palace of the Commander of the Faithful!' For indeed it comprised all manner of meats, served in dishes of gilded porcelain. So they ate and drank and made merry till the end of the day, when Abou Mohammed gave Mesrour and each of his company five thousand diners; and on the morrow he clad them in dresses of honour of green and gold and entreated them with the utmost honour. Then said Mesrour to him, 'We can abide no longer, for fear of the Khalif's displeasure.' 'O my lord,' answered Abou Mohammed, 'have patience with us till to-morrow, that we may equip ourselves, and we will then depart with you.' So they tarried that day and night with him; and next morning, Abou Mohammed's servants saddled him a mule with housings and trappings of gold, set with all manner pearls and jewels; whereupon quoth Mesrour in himself, 'I wonder if, when he presents himself in this equipage before the Commander of the Faithful, he will ask him how he came by all this wealth.'
Then they took leave of Ez Zubeidi and setting out from Bassora, fared on, without stopping, till they reached Baghdad and presented themselves before the Khalif who bade Abou Mohammed be seated. So he sat down and addressing the Khalif in courtly wise, said to him, 'O Commander of the Faithful, I have brought with me a present by way of homage: have I thy leave to produce it?' 'There is no harm in that,' replied the Khalif; whereupon Abou Mohammed caused bring in a chest, from which he took a number of rarities and amongst the rest, trees of gold, with leaves of emerald and fruits of rubies and topazes and pearls. Then he fetched another chest and brought out of it a pavilion of brocade, adorned with pearls and rubies and emeralds and chrysolites and other precious stones; its poles were of the finest Indian aloes-wood, and its skirts were set with emeralds. Thereon were depicted all manner beasts and birds and other created things, spangled with rubies and emeralds and chrysolites and balass rubies and other precious stones.
When Er Reshid saw these things, he rejoiced exceedingly, and Abou Mohammed said to him, 'O Commander of the Faithful, deem not that I have brought these to thee, fearing aught or coveting aught; but I knew myself to be but a man of the people and that these things befitted none save the Commander of the Faithful. And now, with thy leave, I will show thee, for thy diversion, something of what I can do.' 'Do what thou wilt,' answered Er Reshid, 'that we may see.' 'I hear and obey,' said Abou Mohammed and moving his lips, beckoned to the battlements of the palace, whereupon they inclined to him; then he made another sign to them, and they returned to their place. Then he made a sign with his eye, and there appeared before him cabinets with closed doors, to which he spoke, and lo, the voices of birds answered him [from within]. The Khalif marvelled exceedingly at this and said to him, 'How camest thou by all this, seeing that thou art only known as Abou Mohammed the Lazy, and they tell me that thy father was a barber-surgeon, serving in a public bath, and left thee nothing?' 'O Commander of the Faithful,' answered he, 'listen to my story, for it is an extraordinary one and its particulars are wonderful; were it graven with needles upon the corners of the eye, it would serve as a lesson to him who can profit by admonition.' 'Let us hear it,' said the Khalif.
'Know then, O Commander of the Faithful,' replied Abou Mohammed, '(may God prolong to thee glory and dominion,) that the report of the folk, that I am known as the Lazy and that my father left me nothing, is true; for he was, as thou hast said, but a barber- surgeon in a bath. In my youth I was the laziest wight on the face of the earth; indeed, so great was my sluggishness that, if I lay asleep in the sultry season and the sun came round upon me, I was too lazy to rise and remove from the sun to the shade; and thus I abode till I reached my fifteenth year, when my father was admitted to the mercy of God the Most High and left me nothing. However, my mother used to go out to service and feed me and give me to drink, whilst I lay on my side.
One day, she came in to me, with five silver dirhems, and said to me, "O my son, I hear that the Sheikh Aboul Muzeffer is about to go a voyage to China." (Now this Sheikh was a good and charitable man and loved the poor.) "So come, let us carry him these five dirhems and beg him to buy thee therewith somewhat from the land of China, so haply thou mayst make a profit of it, by the bounty of God the Most High!" I was too lazy to move; but she swore by Allah that, except I rose and went with her, she would neither bring me meat nor drink nor come in to me, but would leave me to die of hunger and thirst. When I heard this, O Commander of the Faithful, I knew she would do as she said; so I said to her, "Help me to sit up." She did so, and I wept the while and said to her, "Bring me my shoes." Accordingly, she brought them and I said, "Put them on my feet." She put them on my feet and I said, "Lift me up." So she lifted me up and I said, "Support me, that I may walk." So she supported me and I went along thus, still stumbling in my skirts, till we came to the river-bank, where we saluted the Sheikh and I said to him, "O uncle, art thou Aboul Muzeffer?" "At thy service," answered he, and I said, "Take these dirhems and buy me somewhat from the land of China: haply, God may vouchsafe me a profit of it." Quoth the Sheikh to his companions, "Do ye know this youth?" "Yes," replied they; "he is known as Abou Mohammed the Lazy, and we never saw him stir from his house till now." Then said he to me, "O my son, give me the dirhems and the blessing of God the Most High go with them!" So he took the money, saying, "In the name of God!" and I returned home with my mother.
Meanwhile the Sheikh set sail, with a company of merchants, and stayed not till they reached the land of China, where they bought and sold, and having done their intent, set out on their homeward voyage. When they had been three days at sea, the Sheikh said to his company, "Stay the ship!" And they asked him what was to do with him. "Know," replied he, "that I have forgotten the commission with which Abou Mohammed the Lazy charged me; so let us turn back, that we may buy him somewhat whereby he may profit." "We conjure thee, by God the Most High," exclaimed they, "turn not back with us; for we have traversed an exceeding great distance and endured sore hardship and many perils." Quoth he, "There is no help for it;" and they said "Take from us double the profit of the five dirhems and turn not back with us." So he agreed to this and they collected for him a great sum of money.
Then they sailed on, till they came to an island, wherein was much people; so they moored thereto and the merchants went ashore, to buy thence precious metals and pearls and jewels and so forth. Presently, Aboul Muzeffer saw a man seated, with many apes before him, and amongst them one whose hair had been plucked off. As often as the man's attention was diverted from them, the other apes fell upon the plucked one and beat him and threw him on their master; whereupon the latter rose and beat them and bound them and punished them for this; and all the apes were wroth with the plucked ape therefor and beat him the more. When Aboul Muzeffer saw this, he took compassion upon the plucked ape and said to his master, "Wilt thou sell me yonder ape?" "Buy," replied the man, and Aboul Muzeffer rejoined, "I have with me five dirhems, belonging to an orphan lad. Wilt thou sell me the ape for that sum?" "He is thine," answered the ape-merchant. "May God give thee a blessing of him!" So the Sheikh paid the money and his slaves took the ape and tied him up in the ship.
Then they loosed sail and made for another island, where they cast anchor; and there came down divers, who dived for pearls and corals and other jewels. So the merchants hired them for money and they dived. When the ape saw this, he did himself loose from his bonds and leaping off the ship's side, dived with them; whereupon quoth Aboul Muzeffer, "There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme! The ape is lost to us, by the [ill] fortune of the poor fellow for whom we bought him." And they despaired of him; but, after awhile, the company of divers rose to the surface, and with them the ape, with his hands full of jewels of price, which he threw down before Aboul Muzeffer, who marvelled at this and said, "There hangs some great mystery by this ape!"
Then they cast off and sailed till they came to a third island, called the Island of the Zunonj,[FN#7] who are a people of the blacks, that eat human flesh. When the blacks saw them, they boarded them in canoes and taking all in the ship, pinioned them and carried them to their king who bade slaughter certain of the merchants. So they slaughtered them and ate their flesh; and the rest passed the night in prison and sore concern. But, when it was [mid]night, the ape arose and going up to Aboul Muzeffer, did off his bonds. When the others saw him free, they said, "God grant that our deliverance may be at thy hands, O Aboul Muzeffer!" But he replied, "Know that he who at delivered me, by God's leave, was none other than this ape; and I buy my release of him at a thousand dinars." "And we likewise," rejoined the merchants, "will pay him a thousand diners each, if he release us." With this, the ape went up to them and loosed their bonds, one by one, till he had freed them all, when they made for the ship and boarding her, found all safe and nothing missing. So they cast off and set sail; and presently Aboul Muzeffer said to them, "O merchants, fulfil your promise to the ape." "We hear and obey," answered they and paid him a thousand diners each, whilst Aboul Muzeffer brought out to him the like sum of his own monies, so that there was a great sum of money collected for the ape.
Then they fared on till they reached the city of Bassora, where their friends came out to meet them; and when they had landed, the Sheikh said, "Where is Abou Mohammed the Lazy?" The news reached my mother, who came to me, as I lay asleep, and said to me, "O my son, the Sheikh Aboul Muzeffer has come back and is now in the city; so go thou to him and salute him and enquire what he hath brought thee; it may be God hath blessed thee with somewhat." "Lift me from the ground," quoth I, "and prop me up, whilst I walk to the river-bank." So she lifted me up and I went out and walked on, stumbling in my skirts, till I met the Sheikh, who exclaimed, at sight of me, "Welcome to him whose money has been the means of my delivery and that of these merchants, by the will of God the Most High! Take this ape that I bought for thee and carry him home and wait till I come to thee." So I took the ape, saying in myself, "By Allah, this is indeed rare merchandise!" and drove it home, where I said to my mother, "Whenever I lie down to sleep, thou biddest me rise and trade; see now this merchandise with thine own eyes."
Then I sat down, and presently up came Aboul Muzeffer's slaves and said to me, "Art thou Abou Mohammed the Lazy?" "Yes," answered I; and behold, Aboul Muzeffer appeared behind them. So I went up to him and kissed his hands; and he said to me, "Come with me to my house." "I hear and obey," answered I and followed him to his house, where he bade his servants bring me the money [and what not else the ape had earned me]. So they brought it and he said to me, "O my son, God hath blessed thee with this wealth, by way of profit on thy five dirhems." Then the slaves laid the treasure in chests, which they set on their heads, and Aboul Muzeffer gave me the keys of the chests, saying, "Go before the slaves to thy house; for all this wealth is thine." So I returned to my mother, who rejoiced in this and said to me, "O my son, God hath blessed thee with this much wealth; so put off thy laziness and go down to the bazaar and sell and buy." So I shook off my sloth, and opened a shop in the bazaar, where the ape used to sit on the same divan with me, eating with me when I ate and drinking when I drank. But, every day, he was absent from daybreak till noon-day, when he came back, bringing with him a purse of a thousand diners, which he laid by my side, and sat down. Thus did he a great while, till I amassed much wealth, wherewith I bought houses and lands and planted gardens and got me slaves, black and white and male and female.
One day, as I sat in my shop, with the ape at my side, he began to turn right and left, and I said in myself, "What ails the beast?" Then God made the ape speak with a glib tongue, and he said to me, "O Abou Mohammed!" When I heard him speak, I was sore afraid; but he said to me, "Fear not; I will tell thee my case. Know that I am a Marid of the Jinn and came to thee, because of thy poor estate; but to-day thou knowest not the tale of thy wealth; and now I have a need of thee, wherein it thou do my will, it shall be well for thee." "What is it?" asked I, and he said, "I have a mind to marry thee to a girl like the full moon." "How so?" quoth I. "To. morrow," replied he, "don thou thy richest clothes and mount thy mule, with the saddle of gold, and ride to the forage-market. There enquire for the shop of the Sherif[FN#8] and sit down beside him and say to him, 'I come to thee a suitor for thy daughter's hand.' If he say to thee, 'Thou hast neither money nor condition nor family,' pull out a thousand diners and give them to him; and if he ask more, give him more and tempt him with money." "I hear and obey," answered I; "to-morrow, if it please God, I will do thy bidding."
So on the morrow I donned my richest clothes and mounting my mule with trappings of gold, rode, attended by half a score slaves, black and white, to the forage-market, where I found the Sherif sitting in his shop. I alighted and saluting him, seated myself beside him. Quoth he, "Haply, thou hast some business with us, which we may have the pleasure of transacting?" "Yes," answered I; "I have business with thee." "And what is it?" asked he. Quoth I, "I come to thee as a suitor for thy daughter's hand." And he said, "Thou hast neither money nor condition nor family;" whereupon I pulled out a thousand diners of red gold and said to him, "This is my rank and family; and he whom God bless and keep hath said, 'The best of ranks is wealth.' And how well saith the poet:
Whoso hath money, though it be but dirhems twain, his lips Have learnt all manner speech and he can speak and fear no slight. His brethren and his mates draw near and hearken to his word And 'mongst the folk thou seest him walk, a glad and prideful wight. But for the money, in the which he glorieth on this wise, Thou'dst find him, midst his fellow-men, in passing sorry plight. Yea, whensoe'er the rich man speaks, though in his speech he err, 'Thou hast not spoken a vain thing,' they say; 'indeed, thou'rt right.' But, for the poor man, an he speak, albeit he say sooth, They say, 'Thou liest,' and make void his speech and hold it light For money, verily, in all the lands beneath the sun, With goodliness and dignity cloth its possessors dight. A very tongue it is for him who would be eloquent And eke a weapon to his hand who hath a mind to fight."
When he heard this, he bowed his head awhile, then, raising it, said, "If it must be so, I will have of thee other three thousand diners." "I hear and obey," answered I and sent one of my servants to my house for the money. When he came back with it, I handed it to the Sherif, who rose and bidding his servants shut his shop, invited his brother-merchants to the wedding; after which he carried me to his house and drew up the contract of marriage between his daughter and myself, saying to me, "After ten days, I will bring thee in to her." So I went home rejoicing and shutting myself up with the ape, told him what had passed; and he said, "Thou hast done well."
When the time appointed by the Sherif drew near, the ape said to me, "There is a thing I would fain have thee do for me; and after, thou shalt have of me what thou wilt." "What is that?" asked I. Quoth he, "At the upper end of the bridechamber stands a cabinet, on whose door is a padlock of brass and the keys under it. Take the keys and open the cabinet, in which thou wilt find a coffer of iron, with four talismanic flags at its angles. In its midst is a brass basin full of money, wherein is tied a white cock with a cleft comb; and on one side of the coffer are eleven serpents and on the other a knife. Take the knife and kill the cock; cut away the flags and overturn the chest; then go back to the bride and do away her maidenhead. This is what I have to ask of thee." "I hear and obey," answered I and betook myself to the Sherif's house.
As soon as I entered the bridechamber, I looked for the cabinet and found it even as the ape had described it. Then I went in to the bride and marvelled at her beauty and grace and symmetry, for indeed they were such as no tongue can set forth. So I rejoiced in her with an exceeding joy; and in the middle of the night, when she slept, I rose and taking the keys, opened the cabinet. Then I took the knife and killed the cock and threw down the flags and overturned the coffer, whereupon the girl awoke and seeing the closet open and the cock slain, exclaimed, "There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High, the Supreme! The Marid hath gotten me!" Hardly had she made an end of speaking, when the Marid came down upon the house and seizing the bride, flew away with her; whereupon there arose a great clamour and in came the Sherif, buffeting his face. "O Abou Mohammed," said he, "what is this thou hast done? Is it thus thou requitest us? I made the talisman in the cabinet in my fear for my daughter from this accursed one; for these six years hath he sought to steal away the girl, but could not. But now there is no more abiding for thee with us; so go thy ways."
So I went out and returned to my own house, where I made search for the ape, but could find no trace of him; whereby I knew that he was the Marid, who had taken my wife and had tricked me into destroying the talisman that hindered him from taking her, and repented, rending my clothes and buffeting my face; and there was no land but was straitened upon me. So I made for the desert, knowing not whither I should go, and wandered on, absorbed in melancholy thought, till night overtook me. Presently, I saw two serpents fighting, a white one and a tawny. So I took up a stone and throwing it at the tawny serpent, which was the aggressor, killed it; whereupon the white serpent made off, but returned after awhile accompanied by ten others of the same colour, which went up to the dead serpent and tore it in pieces, till but the head was left. Then they went their ways and I fell prostrate for weariness on the ground where I stood; but, as I lay, pondering my case, I heard a voice repeat the following verses, though I saw no one:
Let destiny with slackened rein its course appointed fare And lie thou down by night to sleep with heart devoid of care. For, twixt the closing of the eyes and th' opening thereof, God hath it in His power to change a case from foul to fair.
When I heard this, great concern got hold of me and I was beyond measure troubled; and I heard a voice from behind me repeat these verses also:
Muslim, whose guide's the Koran and his due, Rejoice, for succour cometh thee unto. Let not the wiles of Satan make thee rue, For we're a folk whose creed's the One, the True.
Then said I, "I conjure thee by Him whom thou worshippest, let me know who thou art!" Thereupon the unseen speaker appeared to me, in the likeness of a man, and said, "Fear not; for the report of thy good deed hath reached us, and we are a people of the true-believing Jinn. So, if thou lack aught, let us know it, that we may have the pleasure of fulfilling thy need." "Indeed," answered I, "I am in sore need, for there hath befallen me a grievous calamity, whose like never yet befell man." Quoth he, "Surely, thou art Abou Mohammed the Lazy?" And I answered, "Yes." "O Abou Mohammed," rejoined the genie, "I am the brother of the white serpent, whose enemy thou slewest. We are four brothers, by one father and mother, and we are all indebted to thee for thy kindness. Know that he who played this trick on thee, in the likeness of an ape, is a Marid of the Marids of the Jinn; and had he not used this artifice, he had never been able to take the girl; for he hath loved her and had a mind to take her this long while, but could not win at her, being hindered of the talisman; and had it remained as it was, he could never have done so. However, fret not thyself for that; we will bring thee to her and kill the Marid; for thy kindness is not lost upon us."
Then he cried out with a terrible voice, and behold, there appeared a company of Jinn, of whom he enquired concerning the ape; and one of them said, "I know his abiding-place; it is in the City of Brass, upon which the sun riseth not." Then said the first genie to me, "O Abou Mohammed, take one of these our slaves, and he will carry thee on his back and teach thee how thou shalt get back the girl: but know that he is a Marid and beware lest thou utter the name of God, whilst he is carrying thee; or he will flee from thee, and thou wilt fall and be destroyed." "I hear and obey," answered I and chose out one of the slaves, who bent down and said to me, "Mount." So I mounted on his back, and he flew up with me into the air, till I lost sight of the earth and saw the stars as they were fixed mountains and heard the angels glorifying God in heaven, what while the Marid held me in converse, diverting me and hindering me from pronouncing the name of God. But, as we flew, behold, one clad in green raiment, with streaming tresses and radiant face, holding in his hand a javelin whence issued sparks of fire, accosted me, saying, "O Abou Mohammed, say, 'There is no god but God and Mohammed is His apostle;' or I will smite thee with this javelin."
Now I was already sick at heart of my [forced] abstention from calling on the name of God; so I said, "There is no god but God and Mohammed is His apostle." Whereupon the shining one smote the Marid with his javelin and he melted away and became ashes; whilst I was precipitated from his back and fell headlong toward the earth, till I dropped into the midst of a surging sea, swollen with clashing billows. Hard by where I fell was a ship and five sailors therein, who, seeing me, made for me and took me up into the boat. They began to speak to me in some tongue I knew not; but I signed to them that I understood not their speech. So they fared on till ended day, when they cast out a net and caught a great fish and roasting it, gave me to eat; after which they sailed on, till they reached their city and carried me in to their king, who understand Arabic. So I kissed the ground before him, and he bestowed on me a dress of honour and made me one of his officers. I asked him the name of the city, and he replied, "It is called Henad and is in the land of China." Then he committed me to his Vizier, bidding him show me the city, which was formerly peopled by infidels, till God the Most High turned them into stones; and there I abode a month's space, diverting myself with viewing the place, nor saw I ever greater plenty of trees and fruits than there.
One day, as I sat on the bank of a river, there accosted me a horseman, who said to me, "Art thou not Abou Mohammed the Lazy?" "Yes," answered I; whereupon, "Fear not," said he; "for the report of thy good deed hath reached us." Quoth I, "Who art thou?" And he answered, "I am a brother of the white serpent, and thou art hard by the place where is the damsel whom thou seekest." So saying, he took off his [outer] clothes and clad me therein, saying, "Fear not; for he, that perished under thee, was one of our slaves." Then he took me up behind him and rode on with me, till we came to a desert place, when he said to me, "Alight now and walk on between yonder mountains till thou seest the City of Brass; then halt afar off and enter it not, till I return to thee and teach thee how thou shalt do." "I hear and obey," replied I and alighting, walked on till I came to the city, the walls whereof I found of brass. I went round about it, looking for a gate, but found none; and presently, the serpent's brother rejoined me and gave me a charmed sword that should hinder any from seeing me, then went his way.
He had been gone but a little while, when I heard a noise of cries and found myself in the midst of a multitude of folk whose eyes were in their breasts. Quoth they, "Who art thou and what brings thee hither?" So I told them my story, and they said, "The girl thou seekest is in the city with the Marid; but we know not what he hath done with her. As for us, we are brethren of the white serpent. But go to yonder spring and note where the water enters, and enter thou with it; for it will bring thee into the city." I did as they bade me and followed the water-course, till it brought me to a grotto under the earth, from which I ascended and found myself in the midst of the city. Here I saw the damsel seated upon a throne of gold, under a canopy of brocade, midmost a garden full of trees of gold, whose fruits were jewels of price, such as rubies and chrysolites and pearls and coral.
When she saw me, she knew me and accosted me with the [obligatory] salutation, saying, "O my lord, who brought thee hither?" So I told her all that had passed and she said, "Know that the accursed Marid, of the greatness of his love for me, hath told me what doth him hurt and what profit and that there is here a talisman by means whereof he could, an he would, destroy this city and all that are therein. It is in the likeness of an eagle, with I know not what written on it, and whoso possesses it, the Afrits will do his commandment in everything. It stands upon a column in such a place; so go thou thither and take it. Then set it before thee and taking a chafing-dish, throw into it a little musk, whereupon there will arise a smoke, that will draw all the Afrits to thee, and they will all present themselves before thee, nor shall one be absent; and whatsoever thou biddest them, that will they do. Arise therefore and do this thing, with the blessing of God the Most High."
"I hear and obey," answered I and going to the column, did what she bade me, whereupon the Afrits presented themselves, saying, "Here are we, O our lord! Whatsoever thou biddest us, that will we do." Quoth I, "Bind the Marid that brought the damsel hither." "We hear and obey," answered they and disappearing, returned after awhile and informed me that they had done my bidding. Then I dismissed them and returning to my wife, told her what had happened and said to her, "Wilt thou go with me?" "Yes," answered she. So I carried her forth of the city, by the underground channel, and we fared on, till we fell in with the folk who had shown me the way into the city. I besought them to teach me how I should return to my native land; so they brought us to the seashore and set us aboard a ship, which sailed on with us with a fair wind, till we reached the city of Bassora. Here we landed, and I carried my wife to her father's house; and when her people saw her, they rejoiced with an exceeding joy. Then I fumigated the eagle with musk and the Afrits flocked to me from all sides, saying, "At thy service; what wilt thou have us do?" I bade them transport all that was in the City of Brass of gold and silver and jewels and precious things to my house in Bassora, which they did; and I then ordered them to fetch the ape. So they brought him before me, abject and humiliated, and I said to him, "O accursed one, why hast thou dealt thus perfidiously with me?" Then I commanded the Afrits to shut him in a brazen vessel: so they put him in a strait vessel of brass and sealed it with lead. But I abode with my wife in joy and delight; and now, O Commander of the Faithful, I have under my hand such stores of precious things and rare jewels and other treasure as neither reckoning may comprise nor measure suffice unto. All this is of the bounty of God the Most High, and if thou desire aught of money or what not, I will bid the Jinn bring it to thee forthright.'
The Khalif wondered greatly at his story and bestowed on him royal gifts, in exchange for his presents, and entreated him with the favour he deserved.
THE GENEROUS DEALING OF YEHYA BEN KHALID THE BARMECIDE WITH MENSOUR.
It is told that Haroun er Reshid, in the days before he became jealous of the Barmecides, sent once for one of his guards, Salih by name, and said to him, 'O Salih, go to Mensour[FN#9] and say to him, "Thou owest us a thousand thousand dirhems and we require of thee immediate payment of the amount." And I charge thee, O Salih, an he pay it not before sundown, sever his head from his body and bring it to me.' 'I hear and obey,' answered Salih and going to Mensour, acquainted him with what the Khalif had said, whereupon quoth he, 'By Allah, I am a lost man; for all my estate and all my hand owns, if sold for their utmost value, would not fetch more than a hundred thousand dirhems. Whence then, O Salih, shall I get the other nine hundred thousand?' 'Contrive how thou mayst speedily acquit thyself,' answered Salih; 'else art thou a dead man; for I cannot grant thee a moment's delay after the time appointed me by the Khalif, nor can I fail of aught that he hath enjoined on me. Hasten, therefore, to devise some means of saving thyself ere the time expire.' 'O Salih,' quoth Mensour, 'I beg thee of thy favour to bring me to my house, that I may take leave of my children and family and give my kinsfolk my last injunctions.'
So he carried him to his house, where he fell to bidding his family farewell, and the house was filled with a clamour of weeping and lamentation and calling on God for help. Then Salih said to him, 'I have bethought me that God may peradventure vouchsafe thee relief at the hands of the Barmecides. Come, let us go to the house of Yehya ben Khalid.' So they went to Yehya's house, and Mensour told him his case, whereat he was sore concerned and bowed his head awhile; then raising it, he called his treasurer and said to him, 'How much money have we in our treasury?' 'Five thousand dirhems,' answered the treasurer, and Yehya bade him bring them and sent a message to his son Fezl, saying, 'I am offered for sale estates of great price, that may never be laid waste; so send me somewhat of money.' Fezl sent him a thousand thousand dirhems, and he despatched a like message to his son Jaafer, who also sent him a thousand thousand dirhems; nor did he leave sending to his kinsmen of the Barmecides, till he had collected from them a great sum of mosey for Mensour. But the latter and Salih knew not of this; and Mensour said to Yehya, 'O my lord, I have laid hold upon thy skirt for I know not whither to look for the money but to thee; so discharge thou the rest of my debt for me, in accordance with thy wonted generosity, and make me thy freed slave.' Thereupon Yehya bowed his head and wept; then he said to a page, 'Harkye, boy, the Commander of the Faithful gave our slave-girl Denanir a jewel of great price: go thou to her and bid her send it us.' The page went out and presently returned with the jewel, whereupon quoth Yehya, 'O Mensour, I bought this jewel of the merchants for the Commander of the Faithful, for two hundred thousand diners, and he gave it to our slave-girl Denanir the lutanist. When he sees it with thee, he will know it and spare thy life and do thee honour for our sake; and now thy money is complete.'
So Salih took the money and the jewel and carried them to the Khalif, together with Mensour; but on the way? he heard the latter repeat this verse, applying it to his own case:
It was not love, indeed, my feet to them that led; Nay, but because the stroke of th' arrows I did dread.
When Salih heard this, he marvelled at the baseness and ingratitude of Mensour's nature, and turning upon him, said, 'There is none on the face of the earth better than the Barmecides, nor any baser nor more depraved than thou; for they bought thee off from death and saved thee from destruction, giving thee what should deliver thee; yet thou thankest them not nor praisest them, neither acquittest thee after the manner of the noble; nay, thou requitest their benevolence with this speech.' Then he went to Er Reshid and acquainted him with all that had passed; and he marvelled at the generosity and benevolence of Yehya ben Khalid and the baseness and ingratitude of Mensour and bade restore the jewel to Yehya, saying, 'That which we have given, it befits not that we take again.'
So Salih returned to Yehya, and acquainted him with Mensour's ill conduct; whereupon, 'O Salih,' replied he, 'when a man is in distress, sick at heart and distracted with melancholy thought. he is not to be blamed for aught that falls from him; for it comes not from the heart.' And he fell to seeking excuse for Mensour. But Salih wept [in telling the tale] and exclaimed, 'Never shall the revolving sphere bring forth into being the like of thee, O Yehya! Alas, that one of such noble nature and generosity should be buried beneath the earth! 'And he repeated the following verses:
Hasten to do the kindnesses thou hast a mind unto; For bounty is not possible at every tide and hour. How many a man denies his soul to do the generous deed, To which it's fain, till lack of means deprive him of the power!
THE GENEROUS DEALING OF YEHYA BEN KHALID WITH A MAN WHO FORGED A LETTER IN HIS NAME.
There was between Yehya ben Khalid and Abdallah ben Malik el Khuzai[FN#10] a secret enmity, the reason whereof was that Haroun er Reshid loved the latter with an exceeding love, so that Yehya and his sons were wont to say that he had bewitched the Khalif; and thus they abode a long while, with rancour in their hearts, till it fell out that the Khalif invested Abdallah with the government of Armenia and sent him thither. Soon after he had established himself in his seat of government, there came to him one of the people of Irak, a man of excellent parts and good breeding, who had lost his wealth and wasted his substance, and his estate was come to nought; so he forged a letter to Abdallah in Yehya's name and set out therewith for Armenia. When he came to the governor's gate, he gave the letter to one of the chamberlains, who carried it to his master. Abdallah read it and considering it attentively, knew it to be forged; so he sent for the man, who presented himself before him and called down blessings upon him and praised him and those of his court. Quoth Abdallah to him, 'What moved thee to weary thyself thus and bring me a forged letter? But be of good heart; for we will not disappoint thy travail.' 'God prolong the life of our lord the Vizier!' replied the other. 'If my coming irk thee, cast not about for a pretext to repel me, for God's earth is wide and the Divine Provider liveth. Indeed, the letter I bring thee from Yehya ben Khalid is true and no forgery.' Quoth Abdallah, 'I will write a letter to my agent at Baghdad and bid him enquire concerning the letter. If it be true, as thou sayest, I will bestow on thee the government of one of my cities; or, if thou prefer a present, I will give thee two hundred thousand dirhems, besides horses and camels of price and a robe of honour. But, if the letter prove a forgery, I will have thee beaten with two hundred blows of a stick and thy beard shaven.'
Accordingly, he bade confine him in a privy chamber and furnish him therein with all he needed, till his case should be made manifest. Then he despatched a letter to his agent at Baghdad, to the following purport: 'There is come to me a man with a letter purporting to be from Yehya ben Khalid. Now I have my doubts of this letter: so delay thou not, but go thyself and learn the truth of the case and let me have an answer in all speed.' When the letter reached the agent, he mounted at once and betook himself to the house of Yehya ben Khalid, whom he found sitting with his officers and boon-companions. So he gave him the letter and he read it and said to the agent, 'Come back to me to-morrow, against I write thee an answer.'
When the agent had gone away, Yehya turned to his companions and said, 'What doth he deserve who forgeth a letter in my name and carrieth it to my enemy?' They all answered, saying this and that, each proposing some kind of punishment; but Yehya said, 'Ye err in that ye say and this your counsel is of the meanness and baseness of your spirits. Ye all know the close favour of Abdallah with the Khalif and what is between him and us of despite and enmity; and now God the Most High hath made this man an intermediary, to effect a reconciliation between us, and hath appointed him to quench the fire of hate in our hearts, which hath been growing this score years; and by his means our differences shall be accorded. Wherefore it behoves me to requite him by confirming his expectation and amending his estate; so I will write him a letter to Abdallah, to the intent that he may use him with increase of honour and liberality.'
When his companions heard what he said, they called down blessings on him and marvelled at his generosity and the greatness of his magnanimity. Then he called for paper and ink and wrote Abdallah a letter in his own hand, to the following effect: 'In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful! Thy letter hath reached me (may God give thee long life!) and I have read it and rejoice in thy health and well-being. It was thy thought that yonder worthy man had forged a letter in my name and that he was not the bearer of any message from me; but the case is not so, for the letter I myself wrote, and it was no forgery; and I hope, of thy courtesy and benevolence and the nobility of thy nature, that thou wilt fulfil this generous and excellent man of his hope and wish and use him with the honour he deserves and bring him to his desire and make him the special object of thy favour and munificence. Whatever thou dost with him, it is to me that thou dost it, and I am beholden to thee accordingly.' Then he superscribed the letter and sealing it, delivered it to the agent, who despatched it to Abdallah.
When the latter read it, he was charmed with its contents and sending for the man, said to him, 'Now will I give thee which thou wilt of the two things I promised thee.' 'The gift were more acceptable to me than aught else,' replied the man; whereupon Abdallah ordered him two hundred thousand dirhems and ten Arab horses, five with housings of silk and other five with richly ornamented saddles of state, besides twenty chests of clothes and ten mounted white slaves and a proportionate quantity of jewels of price. Moreover, he bestowed on him a dress of honour and sent him to Baghdad in great state. When he came thither, he repaired to Yehya's house, before he went to his own folk, and sought an audience of him. So the chamberlain went in to Yehya and said to him, 'O my lord, there is one at our door who craves speech of thee; and he is a man of apparent wealth and consideration, comely of aspect and attended by many servants.' Yehya bade admit him; so he entered and kissed the ground before him. 'Who art thou?' asked Yehya; and he answered, 'O my lord, I am one who was dead from the tyranny of fortune; but thou didst raise me again from the grave of calamities and preferredst me to the paradise of [my] desires. I am he who forged a letter in thy name and carried it to Abdallah ben Malek el Khuzai.' 'How hath he dealt with thee,' asked Yehya, 'and what did he give thee?' Quoth the man, 'He hath made me rich and overwhelmed me with presents and favours, thanks to thee and thy great generosity and magnanimity and to thine exceeding goodness and abounding munificence and thine all-embracing liberality. And now, behold, I have brought all that he gave me, and it is at thy door; for it is thine to command, and the decision is in thy hand.' 'Thou hast done me better service than I thee,' rejoined Yehya; 'and I owe thee thanks without stint and abundant largesse, for that thou hast changed the enmity that was between me and yonder man of worship into love and friendship. Wherefore I will give thee the like of what Abdallah gave thee.' Then he ordered him money and horses and apparel, such as Abdallah had given him; and thus that man's fortune was restored to him by the munificence of these two generous men.
THE KHALIF EL MAMOUN AND THE STRANGE DOCTOR
It is said that there was none, among the Khalifs of the house of Abbas, more accomplished in all branches of knowledge than El Mamoun. On two days in each week, he was wont to preside at conferences of the learned, when the doctors and theologians met and sitting, each in his several rank and room, disputed in his presence. One day, as he sat thus, there came into the assembly a stranger, clad in worn white clothes, and sat down in an obscure place, behind the doctors of the law. Then the assembled scholars began to speak and expound difficult questions, it being the custom that the various propositions should be submitted to each in turn and that whoso bethought him of some subtle addition or rare trait, should make mention of it. So the question went round till it came to the stranger, who spoke in his turn and made a goodlier answer than that of any of the doctors; and the Khalif approved his speech and bade advance him to a higher room. When the second question came round to him, he made a still more admirable answer, and the Khalif ordered him to be preferred to a yet higher place. When the third question reached him, he made answer more justly and appropriately than on the two previous occasions, and El Mamoun bade him come up and sit near himself. When the conference broke up, water was brought and they washed their hands; after which food was set on and they ate. Then the doctors arose and withdrew; but El Mamoun forbade the stranger to depart with them and calling him to himself, entreated him with especial favour and promised him honour and benefits.
Presently, they made ready the banquet of wine; the fair-faced boon-companions came and the cup went round amongst them till it came to the stranger, who rose to his feet and said, 'If the Commander of the Faithful permit me, I will say one word.' 'Say what thou wilt,' answered the Khalif. Quoth the stranger, 'Verily, the Exalted Intelligence[FN#11] (whose eminence God increase!) knoweth that his slave was this day, in the august assembly, one of the unknown folk and of the meanest of the company, and the Commander of the Faithful distinguished him and brought him near to himself, little as was the wit he showed, preferring him above the rest and advancing him to a rank whereto his thought aspired not: and now he is minded to deprive him of that small portion of wit that raised him from obscurity and augmented him, after his littleness. God forfend that the Commander of the Faithful should envy his slave what little he hath of understanding and worth and renown! But, if his slave should drink wine, his reason would depart from him and ignorance draw near to him and steal away his good breeding; so would he revert to that low degree, whence he sprang, and become contemptible and ridiculous in the eyes of the folk. I hope, therefore, that the August Intelligence, of his power and bounty and royal generosity and magnanimity, will not despoil his slave of this jewel.'
When the Khalif heard his speech, he praised him and thanked him and making him sit down again in his place, showed him high honour and ordered him a present of a hundred thousand diners. Moreover he mounted him upon a horse and gave him rich apparel; and in every assembly he exalted him and showed him favour over all the other doctors, till he became the highest of them all in rank.
ALI SHAR AND ZUMURRUD.
There lived once, of old days, in the land of Khorassan, a merchant called Mejdeddin, who had great wealth and many slaves and servants, black and white; but he was childless until he reached the age of threescore, when God the Most High vouchsafed him a son, whom he named Ali Shar. The boy grew up like the moon on the night of its full, and when he came to man's estate and was endowed with all kinds of perfection, his father fell sick of a mortal malady and calling his son to him, said to him, 'O my son, the hour of my death is at hand, and I desire to give thee my last injunctions.' 'And what are they, O my father?' asked Ali. 'O my son,' answered Mejdeddin, 'I charge thee, be not [too] familiar with any and eschew what leads to evil and mischief. Beware lest thou company with the wicked; for he is like the blacksmith; if his fire burn thee not, his smoke irks thee: and how excellent is the saying of the poet:
There is no man in all the world whose love thou shouldst desire, No friend who, if fate play thee false, will true and constant be. Wherefore I'd have thee live apart and lean for help on none. In this I give thee good advice; so let it profit thee.
And what another saith:
Men are a latent malady; Count not on them, I counsel thee. An if thou look into their case, They're full of guile and perfidy.
And yet a third:
The company of men will profit thee in nought, Except to pass away the time in idle prate; So spare thou to converse with them, except it be For gain of lore and wit or mending of estate.
And a fourth
If a quickwitted man have made proof of mankind, I have eaten of them, where but tasted hath he, And have seen their affection but practice and nought But hypocrisy found their religion to be.'
'O my father,' said Ali, 'I hear and obey: what more shall I do?' 'Do good when thou art able thereto,' answered his father; 'be ever courteous and succourable to men and profit by all occasions of doing a kindness; for a design is not always easy of accomplishment; and how well saith the poet:
'Tis not at every time and season that to do Kind offices, indeed, is easy unto you; So, when the occasion serves, make haste to profit by't, Lest by and by the power should fail thee thereunto.'
'I hear and obey,' answered Ali; 'what more?' 'Be mindful of God,' continued Mejdeddin, 'and He will be mindful of thee. Husband thy wealth and squander it not; for, if thou do, thou wilt come to have need of the least of mankind. Know that the measure of a man's worth is according to what his right hand possesses: and how well saith the poet:
If wealth should fail, there is no friend will bear me company, But whilst my substance yet abounds, all men are friends to me. How many a foe for money's sake hath companied with me! How many a friend for loss thereof hath turned mine enemy!'
'What more?' asked Ali. 'O my son,' said Mejdeddin, 'take counsel of those who are older than thou and hasten not to do thy heart's desire. Have compassion on those that are below thee, so shall those that are above thee have compassion on thee; and oppress none, lest God set over thee one who shall oppress thee. How well saith the poet:
Add others' wit to thine and counsel still ensue; For that the course of right is not concealed from two. One mirror shows a man his face, but, if thereto Another one he add, his nape thus can he view.
And as saith another:
Be slow to move and hasten not to match thy heart's desire: Be merciful to all, as thou on mercy reckonest; For no hand is there but the hand of God is over it, And no oppressor but shall be with worse than he opprest.
And yet another:
Do no oppression, whilst the power thereto is in thine hand; For still in peril of revenge the sad oppressor goes. Thine eyes will sleep anon, what while the opprest, on wake, call down Curses upon thee, and God's eye shuts never in repose.
Beware of drinking wine, for it is the root of all evil: it does away the reason and brings him who uses it into contempt; and how well saith the poet:
By Allah, wine shall never invade me, whilst my soul Endureth in my body and my thoughts my words control! Not a day long will I turn me to the zephyr-freshened bowl, And for friend I'll choose him only who of wine-bibbing is whole.
This, then,' added Mejdeddin, 'is my charge to thee; keep it before thine eyes, and may God stand to thee in my stead.' Then he swooned away and kept silence awhile. When he came to himself, he besought pardon of God and making the profession of the Faith, was admitted to the mercy of the Most High. His son wept and lamented for him and made due preparation for his burial. Great and small attended him to the grave and the readers recited the Koran about his bier; nor did Ali Shar omit aught of what was due to the dead. Then they prayed over him and committed him to the earth, graving these words upon his tomb:
Created of the dust thou wast and cam'st to life And eloquence didst learn and spokest many a word; Then to the dust again returnedst and wast dead, As 'twere from out the dust, indeed, thou'dst never stirred.
His son Ali Shar grieved for him and mourned him after the wont of men of condition; nor did he cease therefrom till his mother died also, not long afterward, when he did with her as he had done with his father. Then he sat in the shop, selling and buying and consorting with none of God's creatures, in accordance with his father's injunction.
On this wise he abode for a year, at the end of which time there came in to him certain whoreson fellows by craft and companied with him, till he turned with them to lewdness and swerved from the right way, drinking wine in goblets and frequenting the fair night and day; for he said in himself, 'My father amassed this wealth for me, and if I spend it not, to whom shall I leave it? By Allah, I will not do save as saith the poet:
If all the days of thy life thou get And heap up treasure, to swell thy hoard, When wilt thou use it and so enjoy That thou hast gathered and gained and stored?'
Then he ceased not to squander his wealth all tides of the day and watches of the night, till he had made away with it all and abode in evil case and troubled at heart. So he sold his shop and lands and so forth, and after this he sold the clothes off his body, leaving himself but one suit. Then drunkenness left him and thought came to him, and he fell into melancholy.
One day, when he had sat from day-break to mid-afternoon without breaking his fast, he said in himself, 'I will go round to those on whom I spent my wealth: it may be one of them will feed me this day.' So he went the round of them all; but, as often as he knocked at any one's door, the man denied himself and hid from him, till he was consumed with hunger. Then he betook himself to the bazaar, where he found a crowd of people, assembled in a ring round somewhat, and said in himself, 'I wonder what ails the folk to crowd together thus? By Allah, I will not remove hence, till I see what is within yonder ring!' So he made his way into the ring and found that the crowd was caused by a damsel exposed for sale. She was five feet high, slender of shape, rosy-cheeked and high- bosomed and surpassed all the people of her time in beauty and grace and elegance and perfection; even as saith one, describing her:
As she wished, she was created, after such a wise that lo! She in beauty's mould was fashioned, perfect, neither less no mo'. Loveliness itself enamoured of her lovely aspect is; Coyness decks her and upon her, pride and pudour sweetly show. In her face the full moon glitters and the branch is as her shape; Musk her breath is, nor midst mortals is her equal, high or low. 'Tis as if she had been moulded out of water of pure pearls; In each member of her beauty is a very moon, I trow.
And her name was Zumurrud.
When Ali Shar saw her, he marvelled at her beauty and grace and said, 'By Allah, I will not stir hence till I see what price this girl fetches and know who buys her!' So he stood with the rest of the merchants, and they thought he had a mind to buy her, knowing the wealth he had inherited from his parents. Then the broker stood at the damsel's head and said, 'Ho, merchants! Ho, men of wealth! Who will open the biddings for this damsel, the mistress of moons, the splendid pearl, Zumurrud the Curtain-maker, the aim of the seeker and the delight of the desirous? Open the biddings, and on the opener be nor blame nor reproach.'
So one merchant said, 'I bid five hundred dinars for her.' 'And ten,' said another. 'Six hundred,' cried an old man named Reshideddin, blue-eyed and foul of face. 'And ten,' quoth another. 'I bid a thousand,' rejoined Reshideddin; whereupon the other merchants were silent and the broker took counsel with the girl's owner, who said, 'I have sworn not to sell her save to whom she shall choose; consult her.' So the broker went up to Zumurrud and said to her, 'O mistress of moons, yonder merchant hath a mind to buy thee.' She looked as Reshideddin and finding him as we have said, replied, 'I will not be sold to a grey- beard, whom decrepitude hath brought to evil plight.' 'Bravo,' quoth I, 'for one who saith:
I asked her for a kiss one day, but she my hoary head Saw, though of wealth and worldly good I had great plentihead; So, with a proud and flouting air, her back she turned on me And, "No, by Him who fashioned men from nothingness!" she said. "Now, by God's truth, I never had a mind to hoary hairs, And shall my mouth be stuffed, forsooth, with cotton, ere I'm dead?"
'By Allah,' quoth the broker, 'thou art excusable, and thy value is ten thousand dinars!' So he told her owner that she would not accept of Reshideddin, and he said, 'Ask her of another.' Thereupon another man came forward and said, 'I will take her at the same price.' She looked at him and seeing that his beard was dyed, said, 'What is this lewd and shameful fashion and blackening of the face of hoariness?' And she made a great show of amazement and repeated the following verses:
A sight, and what a sight, did such a one present To me! A neck, to beat with shoes, by Allah, meant! And eke a beard for lie a coursing-ground that was And brows for binding on of ropes all crook'd and bent.[FN#12] Thou that my cheeks and shape have ravished, with a lie Thou dost disguise thyself and reck'st not, impudent; Dyeing thy hoary hairs disgracefully with black[FN#13] And hiding what appears, with fraudulent intent; As of the puppet-men thou wert, with one beard go'st And with another com'st again, incontinent.
And how well saith another:
Quoth she to me, "I see thou dy'st thy hoariness;" and I, "I do but hide it from thy sight, O thou my ear and eye!"[FN#14] She laughed out mockingly and said, "A wonder 'tis indeed! Thou so aboundest in deceit that even thy hair's a lie."
'By Allah,' quoth the broker, 'thou hast spoken truly!' The merchant asked what she said: so the broker repeated the verses to him, and he knew that she was in the right and desisted from buying her. Then another came forward and would have bought her at the same price; but she looked at him and seeing that he had but one eye, said, 'This man is one-eyed; and it is of such as he that the poet saith:
Consort not with him that is one-eyed a day, And be on thy guard 'gainst his mischief and lies: For God, if in him aught of good had been found, Had not curst him with blindness in one of his eyes.'
Then the broker brought her another bidder and said to her, 'Wilt thou be sold to this man?' She looked at him and seeing that he was short of stature and had a beard that reached to his navel, said, 'This is he of whom the poet speaks, when he says:
I have a friend, who has a beard, that God Caused flourish without profit, till, behold. 'Tis, as it were, to look upon, a night Of middle winter, long and dark and cold.'
'O my lady,' said the broker, 'look who pleases thee of these that are present, and point him out, that I may sell thee to him.' So she looked round the ring of merchants, examining them one by one, till her eyes rested on Ali Shar. His sight cost her a thousand sighs and her heart was taken with him: for that he was passing fair of favour and more pleasant than the northern zephyr; and she said, 'O broker, I will be sold to none but my lord there, he of the handsome face and slender shape, whom the poet describes in the following verses:
They showed thy lovely face and railed At her whom ravishment assailed. Had they desired to keep me chaste, Thy face so fair they should have veiled.
None shall possess me but he,' added she; 'for his cheek is smooth and the water of his mouth sweet as Selsebil;[FN#15] his sight is a cure for the sick and his charms confound poet and proser, even as saith one of him:
The water of his mouth is wine, and very musk The fragrance of his breath; his teeth are camphor white. Rizwan hath put him our from paradise, for fear The black-eyed girls of heaven be tempted with the wight. Men blame him for his pride; but the full moon's excuse, How proud so'er it be, finds favour in our sight.
Him of the curling locks and rose-red cheeks and enchanting glances, of whom saith the poet:
A slender loveling promised me his favours fair and free; So my heart's restless and my eye looks still his sight to see. His eyelids warranted me the keeping of his troth; But how shall they, that bankrupt[FN#16] are, fulfil their warranty?
And as saith another:
"The script of whiskers on his cheek," quoth they, "is plain to see: How canst thou then enamoured be of him, and whiskered he?" Quoth I, "Have done with blame and leave your censuring, I pray. As if it be a very script, it is a forgery. Lo, in the gathering of his cheeks the meads of Eden be, And more by token that his lips are Kauther,[FN#17], verily."
When the broker heard the verses she repeated on the charms of Ali Shar, he marvelled at her eloquence, no less than at the brightness of her beauty; but her owner said to him, 'Marvel not at her beauty, that shames the sun of day, nor that her mind is stored with the choicest verses of the poets; for, besides this, she can repeat the glorious Koran, according to the seven readings, and the august Traditions, after the authentic text; and she writes the seven hands and is versed in more branches of knowledge than the most learned doctor. Moreover, her hands are better than gold and silver; for she makes curtains of silk and sells them for fifty dinars each; and it takes her eight days to make a curtain.' 'Happy the man,' exclaimed the broker, 'who hath her in his house and maketh her of his privy treasures!' And her owner said, 'Sell her to whom she will.' So the broker went up to Ali Shar and kissing his hands, said to him, 'O my lord, buy thou this damsel, for she hath made choice of thee.' Then he set forth to him all her charms and accomplishments, and added: 'I give thee joy, if thou buy her, for she is a gift from Him who is no niggard of His giving.'
Ali bowed his head awhile, laughing to himself and saying inwardly, 'Up to now I have not broken my fast; yet I am ashamed to own before the merchants that I have no money wherewith to buy her.' The damsel, seeing him hang down his head, said to the broker, 'Take my hand and lead me to him, that I may show myself to him and tempt him to buy me; for I will not be sold to any but him.' So the broker took her hand and stationed her before Ali Shar, saying, 'What is thy pleasure, O my lord?' But he made him no answer, and the girl said to him, 'O my lord and darling of my heart, what ails thee that thou wilt not bid for me? Buy me for what thou wilt, and I will bring thee good fortune.' Ali raised his eyes to her and said, 'Must I buy thee perforce? Thou art dear at one thousand dinars.' 'Then buy me for nine hundred,' answered she. 'Nay,' rejoined he; and she said, 'Then for eight hundred;' and ceased not to abate the price, till she came to a hundred dinars. Quoth he, 'I have not quite a hundred dinars.' 'How much dost thou lack of a hundred?' asked she, laughing. 'By Allah,' replied he, 'I have neither a hundred dinars, nor any other sum; for I own neither white money nor red, neither dinar nor dirhem. So look out for another customer.' When she knew that he had nothing, she said to him, 'Take me by the hand and carry me aside into a passage, as if thou wouldst examine me privily.' He did so and she took from her bosom a purse containing a thousand dinars, which she gave him saying, 'Pay down nine hundred to my price and keep the rest to provide us withal.'