She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Care-taker took the two thousand ducats from the Princess and returned to his house, all his family rejoiced in him and blessed him who had been the prime cause of this business. Thus it fared with these; but as regards the old woman, she said to the Princess, “O my lady, this is indeed become a fine place! Never saw I a purer white than its plastering nor properer than its painting! I wonder if he have also repaired it within: else hath he made the outside white and left the inside black. Come, let us enter and inspect.” So they went in, the nurse preceding, and found the interior painted and gilded in the goodliest way. The Princess looked right and left, till she came to the upper end of the estrade, when she fixed her eyes upon the wall and gazed long and earnestly thereat; whereupon the old woman knew that her glance had lighted on the presentment of her dream and took the two waiting-women away with her, that they might not divert her mind. When the King’s daughter had made an end of examining the painting, she turned to the old woman, wondering and beating hand on hand, and said to her, “O my nurse, come, see a wondrous thing which were it graven with needle-gravers on the eye corners would be a warner to whoso will be warned.” She replied, “And what is that, O my lady?”; when the Princess rejoined, “Go, look at the upper end of the estrade, and tell me what thou seest there.” So she went up and considered the dream-drawing: then she came down, wondering, and said, “By Allah, O my lady, here is depicted the garden and the fowler and his net and the birds and all thou sawest in thy dream; and verily, nothing but urgent need withheld the male pigeon from returning to free his mate after he had fled her, for I see him in the talons of a bird of raven which hath slaughtered him and is drinking his blood and rending his flesh and eating it; and this, O my lady, caused his tarrying to return and rescue her from the net. But, O my mistress, the wonder is how thy dream came to be thus depicted, for, wert thou minded to set it forth in painture, thou hadst not availed to portray it. By Allah, this is a marvel which should be recorded in histories! Surely, O my lady, the angels appointed to attend upon the sons of Adam, knew that the cock-pigeon was wronged of us, because we blamed him for deserting his mate; so they embraced his cause and made manifest his excuse; and now for the first time we see him in the hawk’s pounces a dead bird.” Quoth the Princess, “O my nurse, verily, Fate and Fortune had course against this bird, and we did him wrong.” Quoth the nurse, “O my mistress, foes shall meet before Allah the Most High: but, O my lady, verily, the truth hath been made manifest and the male pigeon’s excuse certified to us; for had the hawk not seized him and drunk his blood and rent his flesh he had not held aloof from his mate, but had returned to her, and set her free from the net; but against death there is no recourse, nor, O my lady, is there aught in the world more tenderly solicitous than the male for the female, among all creatures which Almighty Allah hath created. And especially ’tis thus with man; for he starveth himself to feed his wife, strippeth himself to clothe her, angereth his family to please her and disobeyeth and denieth his parents to endow her. She knoweth his secrets and concealeth them and she cannot endure from him a single hour.286 An he be absent from her one night, her eyes sleep not, nor is there a dearer to her than he: she loveth him more than her parents and they lie down to sleep in each other’s arms, with his hand under her neck and her hand under his neck, even as saith the poet,
‘I made my wrist her pillow and I lay with her in litter;
And I said to Night ‘Be long!’ while the full moon showed
Ah me, it was a night, Allah never made its like;
Whose first was sweetest sweet and whose last bitt’rest
Then he kisseth her and she kisseth him; and I have heard of a certain King that, when his wife fell sick and died, he buried himself alive with her, submitting himself to death, for the love of her and the strait companionship which was between them. Moreover, a certain King sickened and died, and when they were about to bury him, his wife said to her people: ‘Let me bury myself alive with him: else will I slay myself and my blood shall be on your heads.’ So, when they saw she would not be turned from this thing, they left her, and she cast herself into the grave with her dead husband, of the greatness of her love and tenderness for him.” And the old woman ceased not to ply the Princess with anecdotes of conjugal love between men and women, till there ceased that which was in her heart of hatred for the sex masculine; and when she felt that she had succeeded in renewing in her the natural inclination of woman to man, she said to her, “’Tis time to go and walk in the garden.” So they fared forth from the pavilion and paced among the trees. Presently the Prince chanced to turn and his eyes fell on Hayat al-Nufus; and when he saw the symmetry of her shape and the rosiclearness of her cheeks and the blackness of her eyes and her exceeding grace and her passing loveliness and her excelling beauty and her prevailing elegance and her abounding perfection, his reason was confounded and he could not take his eyes off her. Passion annihilated his right judgment and love overpassed all limits in him; his vitals were occupied with her service and his heart was aflame with the fire of repine, so that he swooned away and fell to the ground. When he came to himself, she had passed from his sight and was hidden from him among the trees;—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Prince Ardashir, who lay hid in the garden, saw the Princess and her nurse walking amongst the trees, he swooned away for very love-longing. When he came to himself Hayat al-Nufus had passed from his sight and was hidden from him among the trees; so he sighed from his heart-core and improvised these couplets,
“Whenas mine eyes behold her loveliness,
My heart is torn
with love’s own ecstasy.
I wake o’erthrown, castdown on face of earth
Nor can the
Princess288 my sore torment see.
She turned and ravished this sad Love-thrall’d sprite;
Mercy, by Allah, ruth; nay, sympathy!
O Lord, afford me union, deign Thou soothe
My soul, ere grave-niche house this corse of me;
I’ll kiss her ten times ten times, and times ten
wasted cheek the kisses be!”
The old woman ceased not to lead the Princess a-pleasuring about the garden, till they reached the place where the Prince lay ambushed, when, behold she said, “O Thou whose bounties are hidden, vouchsafe us assurance from that we fear!” The King’s son hearing the signal, left his lurking-place and, surprised by the summons, walked among the trees, swaying to and fro with a proud and graceful gait and a shape that shamed the branches. His brow was crowned with pearly drops and his cheeks red as the afterglow, extolled be Allah the Almighty in that He hath created! When the King’s daughter caught sight of him, she gazed a long while on him and noticed his beauty and grace and loveliness and his eyes that wantoned like the gazelle’s, and his shape that outvied the branches of the myrobalan; wherefore her wits were confounded and her soul captivated and her heart transfixed with the arrows of his glances. Then she said to the old woman, “O my nurse, whence came yonder handsome youth?”; and the nurse asked, “Where is he, O my lady?” “There he is,” answered Hayat al-Nufus; “near hand, among the trees.” The old woman turned right and left, as if she knew not of his presence, and cried, “And pray, who can have taught this youth the way into this garden?” Quoth Hayat al-Nufus, “Who shall give us news of the young man? Glory be to Him who created men! But say me, dost thou know him, O my nurse?” Quoth the old woman, “O my lady, he is the young merchant who wrote to thee by me.” The Princess (and indeed she was drowned in the sea of her desire and the fire of her passion and love-longing) broke out, “O my nurse, how goodly is this youth! Indeed he is fair of favour. Methinks, there is not on the face of earth a goodlier than he!” Now when the old woman was assured that the love of him had gotten possession of the Princess, she said to her, “Did I not tell thee, O my lady, that he was a comely youth with a beaming favour?” Replied Hayat al-Nufus, “O my nurse, King’s daughters know not the ways of the world nor the manners of those that be therein, for that they company with none, neither give they nor take they. O my nurse, how shall I do to bring about a meeting and present myself to him, and what shall I say to him and what will he say to me?” Said the old woman, “What device is left me? Indeed, we were confounded in this matter by thy behaviour”; and the Princess said, “O my nurse, know thou that if any ever died of passion, I shall do so, and behold, I look for nothing but death on the spot by reason of the fire of my love-longing.” When the old woman heard her words and saw the transport of her desire for him, she answered, “O my lady, now as for his coming to thee, there is no way thereto; and indeed thou art excused from going to him, because of thy tender age; but rise with me and follow me. I will accost him: so shalt thou not be put to shame, and in the twinkling of an eye affection shall ensue between you.” The King’s daughter cried, “Go thou before me, for the decree of Allah may not be rejected.” Accordingly they went up to the place where Ardashir sat, as he were the full moon at its fullest, and the old woman said to him, “See O youth, who is present before thee! ’Tis the daughter of our King of the age, Hayat al-Nufus: bethink thee of her rank and appreciate the honour she doth thee in coming to thee and rise out of respect for her and stand before her.” The Prince sprang to his feet in an instant and his eyes met her eyes, whereupon they both became as they were drunken without wine. Then the love of him and desire redoubled upon the Princess and she opened her arms and he his, and they embraced; but love-longing and passion overcame them and they swooned away and fell to the ground and lay a long while without sense. The old woman, fearing scandalous exposure, carried them both into the pavilion, and, sitting down at the door, said to the two waiting-women, “Seize the occasion to take your pleasure in the garden, for the Princess sleepeth.” So they returned to their diversion. Presently the lovers revived from their swoon and found themselves in the pavilion, whereat quoth the Prince, “Allah upon thee, O Princess of fair ones, is this vision or sleep-illusion?” Then the twain embraced and intoxicated themselves without wine, complaining each to other of the anguish of passion; and the Prince improvised these couplets,
“Sun riseth sheen from her brilliant brow,
And her cheek
shows the rosiest afterglow:
And when both appear to the looker-on,
The skyline star ne’er for shame will show:
An the leven flash from those smiling lips,
Morn breaks and the rays dusk and gloom o’erthrow.
And when with her graceful shape she sways,
Droops leafiest Ban-tree289 for envy low:
Me her sight suffices; naught crave I more:
Lord of Men and Morn, be her guard from foe!
The full moon borrows a part of her charms;
The sun would rival but fails his lowe.
Whence could Sol aspire to that bending grace?
Whence should Luna see such wit and such mind-gifts know?
Who shall blame me for being all love to her,
and discord aye doomed to woe:
’Tis she won my heart with those forms that bend
lover’s heart from such charms defend?”
—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
288 English “Prin’cess,” too often pronounced in French fashion Princess.
289 In dictionaries “Bán” (Anglice ben-tree) is the myrobalan which produces gum benzoin. It resembles the tamarisk. Mr. Lyall (p. 74 Translations of Ancient Arab Poetry, Williams and Norgate, 1885), calls it a species of Moringa, tall, with plentiful and intensely green foliage used for comparisons on account of its straightness and graceful shape of its branches. The nut supplies a medicinal oil.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the Prince had made an end of his verses, the Princess strained him to her bosom and kissed him on the mouth and between the eyes; whereupon his soul returned to him and he fell to complaining to her of that he had endured for stress of love and tyranny of longing and excess of transport and distraction and all he had suffered for the hardness of her heart. Hearing those words she kissed his hands and feet and bared her head,290 whereupon the gloom gathered and the full moons dawned therein. Then said she to him, “O my beloved and term of all my wishes, would the day of estrangement had never been and Allah grant it may never return between us!” And they embraced and wept together, whilst she recited these couplets,
“O who shamest the Moon and the sunny glow:
slaught’ring tyranny lays me low;
With the sword of a look thou hast shorn my heart,
How escape thy sword-glance fatal of blow?
Thus eke are thine eyebrows a bow that shot
My bosom with shafts of fiercest lowe:
From thy cheeks’ rich crop cometh Paradise;
How, then, shall
my heart the rich crop forego?
Thy graceful shape is a blooming branch,
And shall pluck the fruits who shall bear that bough.
Perforce thou drawest me, robst my sleep;
In thy love I strip me and shameless show:291
Allah lend thee the rays of most righteous light,
Draw the farthest near and a tryst bestow:
Then have ruth on the vitals thy love hath seared,
And the heart that flies to thy side the mo’e!”
And when she ended her recitation, passion overcame her and she was distraught for love and wept copious tears, rain-like streaming down. This burnt the Prince’s heart and he in turn became troubled and distracted for love of her. So he drew nearer to her and kissed her hands and wept with sore weeping and they ceased not from lover-reproaches and converse and versifying, until the call to mid-afternoon prayer (nor was there aught between them other than this), when they bethought them of parting and she said to him, “O light of mine eyes and core of my heart, the time of severance has come between us twain: when shall we meet again?” “By Allah,” replied he (and indeed her words shot him as with shafts), “to mention of parting I am never fain!” Then she went forth of the pavilion, and he turned and saw her sighing sighs would melt the rock and weeping shower-like tears; whereupon he for love was sunken in the sea of desolation and improvised these couplets,
“O my heart’s desire! grows my misery
From the stress of
love, and what cure for me?
By thy face, like dawn when it lights the dark,
And thy hair whose hue beareth night-tide’s blee,
And thy form like the branch which in grace inclines
To Zephyr’s292 breath blowing fain and free,
By the glance of thine eyes like the fawn’s soft gaze,
she views pursuer of high degree,
And thy waist down borne by the weight of hips,
These so heavy and that lacking gravity,
By the wine of thy lip-dew, the sweetest of drink,
Fresh water and musk in its purity,
O gazelle of the tribe, ease my soul of grief,
And grant me thy phantom in sleep to see!”
Now when she heard his verses in praise of her, she turned back to him and embracing him, with a heart on fire for the anguish of severance, fire which naught save kisses and embraces might quench, cried, “Sooth the byword saith, Patience is for a lover and not the lack thereof. There is no help for it but I contrive a means for our reunion.” Then she farewelled him and fared forth, knowing not where she set her feet, for stress of her love; nor did she stay her steps till she found herself in her own chamber. When she was gone, passion and love-longing redoubled upon the young Prince and the delight of sleep was forbidden him, and the Princess in her turn tasted not food and her patience failed and she sickened for desire. As soon as dawned the day, she sent for the nurse, who came and found her condition changed and she cried, “Question me not of my case; for all I suffer is due to thy handiwork. Where is the beloved of my heart?” “O my lady, when did he leave thee? Hath he been absent from thee more than this night?” “Can I endure absence from him an hour? Come, find some means to bring us together speedily, for my soul is like to flee my body.” “O my lady, have patience till I contrive thee some subtle device, whereof none shall be ware.” “By the Great God, except thou bring him to me this very day, I will tell the King that thou hast corrupted me, and he will cut off thy head!” “I conjure thee, by Allah, have patience with me, for this is a dangerous matter!” And the nurse humbled herself to her, till she granted her three days’ delay, saying, “O my nurse, the three days will be three years to me; and if the fourth day pass and thou bring him not, I will go about to slay thee.” So the old woman left her and returned to her lodging, where she abode till the morning of the fourth day, when she summoned the tirewomen of the town and sought of them fine dyes and rouge for the painting of a virgin girl and adorning; and they brought her cosmetics of the best. Then she sent for the Prince and, opening her chest, brought out a bundle containing a suit of woman’s apparel, worth five thousand dinars, and a head-kerchief fringed with all manner gems. Then said she to him, “O my son, hast thou a mind to foregather with Hayat al-Nufus?”; and he replied, “Yes.” So she took a pair of tweezers and pulled out the hairs of his face and pencilled his eyes with Kohl.293 Then she stripped him and painted him with Henna294 from his nails to his shoulders and from his insteps to his thighs and tattooed295 him about the body, till he was like red roses upon alabaster slabs. After a little, she washed him and dried him and bringing out a shift and a pair of petticoat-trousers made him put them on. Then she clad him in the royal suit aforesaid and, binding the kerchief about his head, veiled him and taught him how to walk, saying, “Advance thy left and draw back thy right.” He did her bidding and forewent her, as he were a Houri faring abroad from Paradise. Then said she to him, “Fortify thy heart, for thou art going to the King’s palace, where there will without fail be guards and eunuchs at the gate; and if thou be startled at them and show doubt or dread, they will suspect thee and examine thee, and we shall both get into grievous trouble and haply lose our lives: wherefore an thou feel thyself unable to this, tell me.” He answered, “In very sooth this thing hath no terrors for me, so be of good cheer and keep thine eyes cool and clear.” Then she went out preceding him till the twain came to the palace-gate, which was full of eunuchs. She turned and looked at him, as much as to say, “Art thou troubled or no?” and finding him all unchanged, went on. The chief eunuch glanced at the nurse and knew her but, seeing a damsel following her, whose charms confounded the reason, he said in his mind, “As for the old woman, she is the nurse; but as for the girl who is with her there is none in our land resembleth her in favour or approacheth her in fairness save the Princess Hayat al-Nufus, who is secluded and never goeth out. Would I knew how she came into the streets and would Heaven I wot whether or no ’twas by leave of the King!” Then he rose to learn somewhat concerning her and well nigh thirty castratos followed him; which when the old woman saw, her reason fled for fear and she said, “Verily, we are Allah’s and to Him we shall return! Without recourse we are dead folk this time.”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
290 A sign of extreme familiarity: the glooms are the hands and the full moons are the eyes.
291 Arab. “Khal’a al-‘izár”: lit.=stripping off jaws or side-beard.
292 Arab. “Shimál”=the north wind.
293 An operation well described by Juvenal—
Illa supercilium, modicâ fuligine tactum,
Obliquâ producit acu, pingitque, trementes
Sonnini (Travels in Egypt, chapt. xvi.) justly remarks that this pencilling the angles of the eyes with Kohl, which the old Levant trade called alquifoux or arquifoux, makes them appear large and more oblong; and I have noted that the modern Egyptian (especially Coptic) eye, like that of the Sphinx and the old figures looks in profile as if it were seen in full. (Pilgrimage i. 214.)
294 The same traveller notes a singular property in the Henna-flower that when smelt closely it exhales a “very powerful spermatic odour,” hence it became a favourite with women as the tea-rose with us. He finds it on the nails of mummies, and identifies it with the Kupros of the ancient Greeks (the moderns call it Kene or Kena) and the
(Botrus cypri) of Solomon’s Song (i. 14). The Hebr. is
“Copher,” a well-known word which the A. V. translates by “a
cluster of camphire (?) in the vineyards of En-gedi”; and a
note on iv. 13 ineptly adds, “or, cypress.” The Revised Edit.
amends it to “a cluster of henna-flowers.” The Solomonic (?)
description is very correct; the shrub affects vineyards, and
about Bombay forms fine hedges which can be smelt from a
295 Hardly the equivalent of the Arab. “Kataba” (which includes true tattooing with needles) and is applied to painting “patches” of blue or green colour, with sprigs and arabesques upon the arms and especially the breasts of women. “Kataba” would also be applied to striping the fingers with Henna which becomes a shining black under a paste of honey, lime and sal-ammoniac. This “patching” is alluded to by Strabo and Galen (Lane M. E. chapt. ii.); and we may note that savages and barbarians can leave nothing of beauty unadorned; they seem to hate a plain surface like the Hindu silversmith, whose art is shown only in chasing.
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the old nurse saw the head of the eunuchry and his assistants making for her she was in exceeding fear and cried, “There is no Majesty and there is no Might save in Allah, the Glorious, the Great! Verily we are God’s and unto him we shall return; without recourse we be dead folk this time.” When the head eunuch heard her speak thus, fear gat hold upon him, by reason of that which he knew of the Princess’s violence and that her father was ruled by her, and he said to himself, “Belike the King hath commanded the nurse to carry his daughter forth upon some occasion of hers, whereof she would have none know; and if I oppose her, she will be wroth with me and will say, ‘This eunuch fellow stopped me, that he might pry into my affairs.’ So she will do her best to kill me, and I have no call to meddle in this matter.” So saying, he turned back, and with him the thirty assistants who drove the people from the door of the palace; whereupon the nurse entered and saluted the eunuchs with her head, whilst all the thirty stood to do her honour and returned her salam. She led in the Prince and he ceased not following her from door to door, and the Protector protected them, so that they passed all the guards, till they came to the seventh door: it was that of the great pavilion, wherein was the King’s throne, and it communicated with the chambers of his women and the saloons of the Harim, as well as with his daughter’s pavilion. So the old woman halted and said, “Here we are, O my son, and glory be to Him who hath brought us thus far in safety! But, O my son, we cannot foregather with the Princess except by night; for night enveileth the fearful.” He replied, “True, but what is to be done?” Quoth she, “Hide thee in this black hole,” showing him behind the door a dark and deep cistern, with a cover thereto. So he entered the cistern, and she went away and left him there till ended day, when she returned and carried him into the palace, till they came to the door of Hayat al-Nufus’s apartment. The old woman knocked and a little maid came out and said, “Who is at the door?” Said the nurse, “’Tis I,” whereupon the maid returned and craved permission of her lady, who said, “Open to her and let her come in with any who may accompany her.” So they entered and the nurse, casting a glance around, perceived that the Princess had made ready the sitting-chamber and ranged the lamps in row and lighted candles of wax in chandeliers of gold and silver and spread the divans and estrades with carpets and cushions. Moreover, she had set on trays of food and fruits and confections and she had perfumed the place with musk and aloes-wood and ambergris. She was seated among the lamps and the tapers and the light of her face outshone the lustre of them all. When she saw the old woman, she said to her, “O nurse, where is the beloved of my heart?”; and the other replied, “O my lady, I cannot find him nor have mine eyes espied him, but I have brought thee his own sister; and here she is.” Cried the Princess, “Art thou Jinn-mad? What need have I of his sister? Say me, an a man’s head irk him, doth he bind up his hand?” The old woman answered, “No, by Allah, O my lady! But look on her, and if she pleases thee, let her be with thee.” Then she uncovered the Prince’s face, whereupon Hayat al-Nufus knew him and running to him, pressed him to her bosom, and he pressed her to his breast. Then they both fell down in a swoon and lay without sense a long while. The old woman sprinkled rose-water upon them till they came to themselves, when she kissed him on the mouth more than a thousand times and improvised these couplets,
“Sought me this heart’s dear love at gloom of night;
I rose in honour till he sat forthright,
And said, ‘O aim of mine, O sole desire
In such night-visit
hast of guards no fright?’
Replied he, ‘Yes, I feared much, but Love
Robbed me of all
my wits and reft my sprite.’
We clipt with kisses and awhile clung we,
For here ’twas
safe; nor feared we watchman-wight:
Then rose we parting without doubtful deed
And shook out skirts where none a stain could sight.”
—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when her lover visited Hayat al-Nufus in her palace, the twain embraced and she improvised some happy couplets beseeming the occasion. And when she had ended her extempore lines she said, “Is it indeed true that I see thee in my abode and that thou art my cup-mate and my familiar?” Then passion grew on her and love was grievous to her, so that her reason well-nigh fled for joy and she improvised these couplets,
“With all my soul I’ll ransom him who came to me in gloom
Of night, whilst I had waited long to see his figure loom;
And naught aroused me save his weeping voice of tender tone
And whispered I, ‘Fair fall thy foot and welcome and well
His cheek I kissed a thousand times, and yet a thousand more;
Then clipt and clung about his breast enveiled in darkling room.
And cried, ‘Now verily I’ve won the aim of every wish
praise and prayers to Allah for this grace now best
Then slept we even as we would the goodliest of nights
Till morning came to end our night and light up earth with
As soon as it was day, she made him enter a place in her apartment unknown to any and he abode there till nightfall, when she brought him out and they sat in converse and carouse. Presently he said to her, “I wish to return to my own country and tell my father what hath passed between us, that he may equip his Wazir to demand thee in marriage of thy sire.” She replied, “O my love, I fear, an thou return to thy country and kingdom, thou wilt be distracted from me and forget the love of me; or that thy father will not further thy wishes in this matter and I shall die. Meseems the better rede were that thou abide with me and in my hand-grasp, I looking on thy face, and thou on mine, till I devise some plan, whereby we may escape together some night and flee to thy country; for I have cut off my hopes from my own people and I despair of them.” He rejoined, “I hear and obey;” and they fell again to their carousal and conversing. He tarried with her thus for some time till, one night, the wine was pleasant to them and they lay not down nor did they sleep till break of day. Now it chanced that one of the Kings sent her father a present, and amongst other things, a necklace of union jewels, nine-and-twenty grains, to whose price a King’s treasures might not suffice. Quoth Abd al-Kadir, “This riviere beseemeth none but my daughter Hayat al-Nufus;” and, turning to an eunuch, whose jaw-teeth the Princess had knocked out for reasons best known to herself,296 he called to him and said, “Carry the necklace to thy lady and say to her, ‘One of the Kings hath sent thy father this, as a present, and its price may not be paid with money; put it on thy neck.’” The slave took the necklace, saying in himself, “Allah Almighty make it the last thing she shall put on in this world, for that she deprived me of the benefit of my grinder-teeth!”; and repairing to the Princess’s apartment, found the door locked and the old woman asleep before the threshold. He shook her, and she awoke in affright and asked, “What dost thou want?”; to which he answered, “The King hath sent me on an errand to his daughter.” Quoth the nurse, “The key is not here, go away, whilst I fetch it;” but quoth he, “I cannot go back to the King without having done his commandment.” So she went away, as if to fetch the key; but fear overtook her and she sought safety in flight. Then the eunuch awaited her awhile; then, finding she did not return, he feared that the King would be angry at his delay; so he rattled at the door and shook it, whereupon the bolt gave way and the leaf opened. He entered and passed on, till he came to the seventh door and walking in to the Princess’s chamber found the place splendidly furnished and saw candles and flagons there. At this spectacle he marvelled and going close up to the bed, which was curtained by a hanging of silk, embroidered with a net-work of jewels, drew back the curtain from before the Princess and saw her sleeping with her arms about the neck of a young man handsomer than herself; whereat he magnified Allah Almighty, who had created such a youth of vile water, and said, “How goodly be this fashion for one who hateth men! How came she by this fellow? Methinks ’twas on his account that she knocked out my back teeth!” Then he drew the curtain and made for the door; but the King’s daughter awoke in affright and seeing the eunuch, whose name was Kafur, called to him. He made her no answer: so she came down from the bed on the estrade; and catching hold of his skirt laid it on her head and kissed his feet, saying, “Veil what Allah veileth!” Quoth he, “May Allah not veil thee nor him who would veil thee! Thou didst knock out my grinders and saidst to me, ‘Let none make mention to me aught of men and their ways!’” So saying, he disengaged himself from her grasp and running out, locked the door on them and set another eunuch to guard it. Then he went in to the King who said to him “Hast thou given the necklace to Hayat al-Nufus?” The eunuch replied, “By Allah, thou deservest altogether a better fate;” and the King asked, “What hath happened? Tell me quickly;” whereto he answered, “I will not tell thee, save in private and between our eyes,” but the King retorted, saying, “Tell me at once and in public.” Cried the eunuch, “Then grant me immunity.” So the King threw him the kerchief of immunity and he said, “O King, I went into the Princess Hayat al-Nufus and found her asleep in a carpeted chamber and on her bosom was a young man. So I locked the door upon the two and came back to thee.” When the King heard these words he started up and taking a sword in his hand, cried out to the Rais of the eunuchs, saying, “Take thy lads and go to the Princess’s chamber and bring me her and him who is with her as they twain lie on the bed; but cover them both up.”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
296 A violent temper, accompanied with voies de fait and personal violence, is by no means rare amongst Eastern princesses; and terrible tales are told in Persia concerning the daughters of Fath Ali Shah. Few men and no woman can resist the temptations of absolute command. The daughter of a certain Dictator all-powerful in the Argentine Republic was once seen on horseback with a white bridle of peculiar leather; it was made of the skin of a man who had boasted of her favours. The slave-girls suffer first from these masterful young persons and then it is the turn of the eunuchry.
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when the King commanded the head eunuch to take his lads and to fetch and set before him Hayat al-Nufus and him who was with her, the chief and his men entered the Princess’s apartment where he found her standing up, dissolved in railing tears, and the Prince by her side; so he said to them, “Lie down on the bed, as thou wast and let him do likewise.” The King’s daughter feared for her lover297 and said to him, “This is no time for resistance.” So they both lay down and the eunuchs covered them up and carried the twain into the King’s presence. Thereupon Abd al-Kadir pulled off the coverings and the Princess sprang to her feet. He looked at her and would have smitten her neck: but the Prince threw himself on the father’s breast, saying, “The fault was not hers but mine only: kill me before thou killest her.” The King made at him, to cut him down, but Hayat al-Nufus cast herself on her father and said, “Kill me not him; for he is the son of a great King, lord of all the land in its length and breadth.” When the King heard this, he turned to the Chief Wazir, who was a gathering-place of all that is evil, and said to him, “What sayst thou of this matter, O Minister?” Quoth his Wazir, “What I say is that all who find themselves in such case as this have need of lying, and there is nothing for it but to cut off both their heads, after torturing them with all manner of tortures.” Hereupon the King called his sworder of vengeance, who came with his lads, and said to him, “Take this gallows bird and strike off his head and after do the like with this harlot and burn their bodies, and consult me not about them a second time.” So the headsmen put his hand to her back, to take her; but the King cried out at him and cast at him somewhat he hent in hand, which had well-nigh killed him, saying, “O dog, how durst thou show ruth to those with whom I am wroth? Put thy hand to her hair and drag her along by it, so that she may fall on her face.” Accordingly he haled her by her hair and the Prince in like manner to the place of blood, where he tore off a piece of his skirt and therewith bound the Prince’s eyes putting the Princess last, in the hope that some one would intercede for her. Then, having made ready the Prince he swung his sharp sword three times (whilst all the troops wept and prayed Allah to send them deliverance by some intercessor), and raised his hand to cut off Ardashir’s head when, behold, there arose a cloud of dust, that spread and flew till it veiled the view. Now the cause thereof was that when the young Prince had delayed beyond measure, the King, his sire, had levied a mighty host and had marched with it in person to get tidings of his son. Such was his case; but as regards King Abd al-Kadir, when he saw this, he said, “O wights, what is the meaning of yonder dust that dimmeth sights?” The Grand Wazir sprang up and went out to reconnoitre and found behind the cloud men like locusts, of whom no count could be made nor aught avail of aid, filling the hills and plains and valleys. So he returned with the report to the King, who said to him, “Go down and learn for us what may be this host and the cause of its marching upon our country. Ask also of their commander and salute him for me and enquire the reason of his coming. An he came in quest of aught, we will aid him, and if he have a blood-feud with one of the Kings, we will ride with him; or, if he desire a gift, we will handsel him; for this is indeed a numerous host and a power uttermost, and we fear for our land from its mischief.” So the Minister went forth and walked among the tents and troopers and body-guards, and ceased not faring on from the first of the day till near sundown, when he came to the warders with gilded swords in tents star-studded. Passing these, he made his way through Emirs and Wazirs and Nabobs and Chamberlains, to the pavilion of the Sultan, and found him a mighty King. When the King’s officers saw him, they cried out to him, saying, “Kiss ground! Kiss ground!”298 He did so and would have risen, but they cried out at him a second and a third time. So he kissed the earth again and again and raised his head and would have stood up, but fell down at full length for excess of awe. When at last he was set between the hands of the King he said to him, “Allah prolong thy days and increase thy sovranty and exalt thy rank, O thou auspicious King! And furthermore, of a truth, King Abd al-Kadir saluteth thee and kisseth the earth before thee and asketh on what weighty business thou art come. An thou seek to avenge thee for blood on any King, he will take horse in thy service; or, an thou come in quest of aught, wherein it is in his power to help thee, he standeth up at thy service on account thereof.” So Ardashir’s father replied to the Wazir, saying, “O messenger, return to thy lord and tell him that the most mighty King Sayf al-A’azam Shah, Lord of Shiraz, had a son who hath been long absent from him and news of him have not come and all traces of him have been cut off. An he be in this city, he will take him and depart from you; but, if aught have befallen him or any mischief have ensued to him from you, his father will lay waste your land and make spoil of your goods and slay your men and seize your women. Return, therefore, to thy lord in haste and tell him this, ere evil befal him.” Answered the Minister, “To hear is to obey!” and turned to go away, when the Chamberlains cried out to him, saying, “Kiss ground! Kiss ground!” So he kissed the ground a score of times and rose not till his life-breath was in his nostrils.299 Then he left the King’s high court and returned to the city, full of anxious thought concerning the affair of this King and the multitude of his troops, and going in to King Abd al-Kadir, pale with fear and trembling in his side-muscles, acquainted him with that had befallen him; —And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the Wazir returned from the court of the Great King, pale with fear and with side-muscles quivering for dread exceeding; and acquainted his lord with that had befallen him. Hereat disquietude and terror for himself and for his people laid hold upon him and he said to the Minister, “O Wazir, and who is this King’s son?” Replied the other, “’Tis even he whom thou badest put to death, but praised be Allah who hastened not his slaughter! Else had his father wasted our lands and spoiled our good.” Quoth the King “See now thy corrupt judgment, in that thou didst counsel us to slay him! Where is the young man, the son of yonder magnanimous King?” And quoth the Wazir, “O mighty King, thou didst command him be put to death.” When the King heard this, he was clean distraught and cried out from his heart’s core and in-most of head, saying, “Woe to you! Fetch me the Heads— man forthright, lest death fall on him!” So they fetched the Sworder and he said, “0 King of the Age, I have smitten off his head even as thou badest me.” Cried Abd al-Kadir “O dog, an this be true, I will assuredly send thee after him.” The Heads— man replied, “O King, thou didst command me to slay him without consulting thee a second time.” Said the King, “I was in my wrath; but speak the truth, ere thou lose thy life;” and said the Sworder, “O King, he is yet in the chains of life.” At this Abd al-Kadir rejoiced and his heart was set at rest; then he called for Ardashir, and when he came, he stood up to receive him and kissed his mouth, saying, “O my son, I ask pardon of Allah Almighty for the wrong I have done thee, and say thou not aught that may lower my credit with thy sire, the Great King.” The Prince asked “O King of the Age, and where is my father?” and the other answered, “He is come hither on thine account.” Thereupon quoth Ardashir, “By thy worship, I will not stir from before thee till I have cleared my honour and the honour of thy daughter from that which thou laidest to our charge; for she is a pure virgin. Send for the midwives and let them examine her before thee. An they find her maidenhead gone, I give thee leave to shed my blood; and if they find her a clean maid, her innocence of dishonour and mine also will be made manifest.” So he summoned the midwives, who examined the Princess and found her a pure virgin and so told the King, seeking largesse of him. He gave them what they sought, putting off his royal robes to bestow on them, and in like manner he was bountiful to all who were in the Harim. And they brought forth the scent-cups and perfumed all the Lords of estate and Grandees; and not one but rejoiced with exceeding joy. Then the King threw his arms about Ardashir’s neck and entreated him with all worship and honour, bidding his chief eunuchs bear him to the bath. When he came out, he cast over his shoulders a costly robe and crowned him with a coronet of jewels; he also girt him with a girdle of silk, purfled with red gold and set with pearls and gems, and mounted him on one of his noblest mares, with selle and trappings of gold inlaid with pearls and jewels. Then he bade his Grandees and Captains mount on his service and escort him to his father’s presence; and charged him tell his sire that King Abd al-Kadir was at his disposal, hearkening to and obeying him in whatso he should bid or forbid. “I will not fail of this,” answered Ardashir and farewelling him, repaired to his father who, at sight of him, was transported for delight and springing up, advanced to meet him and embraced him, whilst joy and gladness spread among all the host of the Great King. Then came the Wazirs and Chamberlains and Captains and guards and kissed the ground before the Prince and rejoiced in his coming: and it was a great day with them for enjoyment, for the King’s son gave leave to those of King Abd al-Kadir’s officers who had accompanied him and others of the townsfolk, to view the ordinance of his father’s host, without let or stay, so they might know the multitude of the Great King’s troops and the might of his empire. And all who had seen him selling stuffs in the linendrapers’ bazar marvelled how his soul could have consented thereto, considering the nobility of his spirit and the loftiness of his dignity; but it was his love and inclination to the King’s daughter that to this had constrained him. Meanwhile, news of the multitude of her lover’s troops came to Hayat al-Nufus, who was still jailed by her sire’s commandment, till they knew what he should order respecting her, whether pardon and release or death and burning; and she looked down from the terrace-roof of the palace and, turning towards the mountains, saw even these covered with armed men. When she beheld all those warriors and knew that they were the army of Ardashir’s father, she feared lest he should be diverted from her by his sire and forget her and depart from her, whereupon her father would slay her. So she called a handmaid that was with her in her apartment by way of service, and said to her, “Go to Ardashir, son of the Great King, and fear not. When thou comest into his presence, kiss the ground before him and tell him what thou art and say to him, ‘My lady saluteth thee and would have thee to know that she is a prisoner in her father’s palace, awaiting his sentence, whether he be minded to pardon her or put her to death, and she beseecheth thee not to forget her or forsake her; for to-day thou art all-powerful; and, in whatso thou commandest, no man dare cross thee. Wherefore, an it seem good to thee to rescue her from her sire and take her with thee, it were of thy bounty, for indeed she endureth all these trials for thy sake. But, an this seem not good to thee, for that thy desire of her is at an end, still speak to thy sire, so haply he may intercede for her with her father and he depart not, till he have made him set her free and taken surety from and made covenant with him, that he will not go about to put her to death nor work her aught of harm. This is her last word to thee, may Allah not desolate her of thee, and so The Peace!’”300—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
300 Very artful is the contrast of the love-lorn Princess’s humility with her furious behaviour, in the pride of her purity, while she was yet a virginette and fancy free.
She continued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the bondmaid sent by Hayat al-Nufus made her way to Ardashir and delivered him her lady’s message, which when he heard, he wept with sore weeping and said to her, “Know that Hayat al-Nufus is my mistress and that I am her slave and the captive of her love. I have not forgotten what was between us nor the bitterness of the parting day; so do thou say to her, after thou hast kissed her feet, that I will speak with my father of her, and he shall send his Wazir, who sought her aforetime in marriage for me, to demand her hand once more of her sire, for he dare not refuse. So, if he send to her to consult her, let her make no opposition; for I will not return to my country without her.” Then the handmaid returned to Hayat al-Nufus; and, kissing her hands, delivered to her the message, which when she heard, she wept for very joy and returned thanks to Almighty Allah. Such was her case; but as regards Ardashir, he was alone with his father that night and the Great King questioned him of his case, whereupon he told him all that had befallen him, first and last. Then quoth the King, “What wilt thou have me do for thee, O my son? An thou desire Abd al-Kadir’s ruin, I will lay waste his lands and spoil his hoards and dishonour his house.” Replied Ardashir, “I do not desire that, O my father, for he hath done nothing to me deserving thereof; but I wish for union with her; wherefore I beseech thee of thy favour to make ready a present for her father (but let it be a magnificent gift!) and send it to him by thy Minister, the man of just judgment.” Quoth the King, “I hear and consent;” and sending for the treasures he had laid up from time past, brought out all manner precious things and showed them to his son, who was pleased with them. Then he called his Wazir and bade him bear the present with him301 to King Abd al-Kadir and demand his daughter in marriage for Ardashir, saying, “Accept the present and return him a reply.” Now from the time of Ardashir’s departure, King Abd al-Kadir had been troubled and ceased not to be heavy at heart, fearing the laying waste of his reign and the spoiling of his realm; when behold, the Wazir came in to him and saluting him, kissed ground before him. He rose up standing and received him with honour; but the Minister made haste to fall at his feet and kissing them cried, “Pardon, O King of the Age! The like of thee should not rise to the like of me, for I am the least of servants’ slaves. Know, O King, that Prince Ardashir hath acquainted his father with some of the favours and kindnesses thou hast done him, wherefore he thanketh thee and sendeth thee in company of thy servant who standeth before thee, a present, saluting thee and wishing thee especial blessings and prosperities.” Abd al-Kadir could not believe what he heard of the excess of his fear, till the Wazir laid the present before him, when he saw it to be such gift as no money could purchase nor could one of the Kings of the earth avail to the like thereof; wherefore he was belittled in his own eyes and springing to his feet, praised Almighty Allah and glorified Him and thanked the Prince. Then said the Minister to him, “O noble King, give ear to my word and know that the Great King sendeth to thee, desiring thine alliance, and I come to thee seeking and craving the hand of thy daughter, the chaste dame and treasured gem Hayat al-Nufus, in wedlock for his son Ardashir, wherefore, if thou consent to this proposal and accept of him, do thou agree with me for her marriage-portion.” Abd al-Kadir hearing these words replied, “I hear and obey. For my part, I make no objection, and nothing can be more pleasurable to me; but the girl is of full age and reason and her affair is in her own hand. So be assured that I will refer it to her and she shall choose for herself.” Then he turned to the chief eunuch and bade him go and acquaint the Princess with the event. So he repaired to the Harim and, kissing the Princess’s hands, acquainted her with the Great King’s offer adding, “What sayest thou in answer?” “I hear and I obey,” replied she.—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
301 Arab. “Suhbat-hu” lit.=in company with him, a popular idiom in Egypt and Syria. It often occurs in the Bresl. Edit.
She pursued, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the chief eunuch of the Harim having informed the Princess how she had been demanded in marriage by the Great King and having heard her reply, “I hear and I obey,” returned therewith to the King and gave him this answer, whereat he rejoiced with exceeding joy and, calling for a costly robe of honour, threw it over the Wazir’s shoulders. Furthermore, he ordered him ten thousand dinars and bade him carry the answer to the Great King and crave leave for him to pay him a visit. “Hearing and obeying,” answered the Minister; and, returning to his master, delivered him the reply and Abd al-Kadir’s message, and repeated all their talk, whereat he rejoiced greatly and Ardashir was transported for delight and his breast broadened and he was a most happy man. King Sayf al-A’azam also gave King Abd al-Kadir leave to come forth to visit him; so, on the morrow, he took horse and rode to the camp of the Great King, who came to meet him and saluting him, seated him in the place of honour, and gave him welcome; and they two sat whilst Ardashir stood before them. Then arose an orator of the King Abd al-Kadir’s court and pronounced an eloquent discourse, giving the Prince joy of the attainment of his desire and of his marriage with the Princess, a Queen among King’s daughters. When he sat down the Great King caused bring a chest full of pearls and gems, together with fifty thousand dinars, and said to King Abd al-Kadir, “I am my son’s deputy in all that concerneth this matter.” So Abd al-Kadir acknowledged receipt of the marriage-portion and amongst the rest, fifty thousand dinars for the nuptial festivities; after which they fetched the Kazis and the witnesses, who wrote out the contract of marriage between the Prince and Princess, and it was a notable day, wherein all lovers made merry and all haters and enviers were mortified. They spread the marriage-feasts and banquets and lastly Ardashir went in unto the Princess and found her a jewel which had been hidden, an union pearl unthridden and a filly that none but he had ridden, so he notified this to his sire. Then King Sayf al-A’azam asked his son, “Hast thou any wish thou wouldst have fulfilled ere we depart?”; and he answered, “Yes, O King, know that I would fain take my wreak of the Wazir who entreated us on evil wise and the eunuch who forged a lie against us.” So the King sent forthright to Abd al-Kadir, demanding of him the Minister and the castrato, whereupon he despatched them both to him and he commanded to hang them over the city gate. After this, they abode a little while and then sought of Abd al-Kadir leave for his daughter to equip her for departure. So he equipped her and mounted her in a Takhtrawan, a travelling litter of red gold, inlaid with pearls and gems and drawn by noble steeds. She carried with her all her waiting-women and eunuchs, as well as the nurse, who had returned, after her flight, and resumed her office. Then King Sayf al-A’azam and his son mounted and Abd al-Kadir mounted also with all the lords of his land, to take leave of his son-in-law and daughter; and it was a day to be reckoned of the goodliest of days. After they had gone some distance, the Great King conjured Abd al-Kadir to turn back; so he farewelled him and his son, after he had strained him to his breast and kissed him between the eyes and thanked him for his grace and favours and commended his daughter to his care. Then he went in to the Princess and embraced her; and she kissed his hands and they wept in the standing-place of parting. After this he returned to his capital and Ardashir and his company fared on, till they reached Shiraz, where they celebrated the marriage-festivities anew. And they abode in all comfort and solace and joyance of life, till there came to them the Destroyer of delights and Severer of societies; the Depopulator of palaces and the Garnerer of graveyards. And men also relate the tale of
There was once in days of yore and in ages and times long gone before, in Ajam-land a King Shahrimán302 hight, whose abiding place was Khorásán. He owned an hundred concubines, but by none of them had he been blessed with boon of child, male or female, all the days of his life. One day, among the days, he bethought him of this and fell lamenting for that the most part of his existence was past and he had not been vouchsafed a son to inherit the kingdom after him, even as he had inherited it from his fathers and forebears; by reason whereof there betided him sore cark and care and chagrin exceeding. As he sat thus one of his Mamelukes came in to him and said, “O my lord, at the door is a slave girl with her merchant, and fairer than she eye hath never seen.” Quoth the King, “Hither to me with merchant and maid!”; and both came in to him. Now when Shahriman beheld the girl, he saw that she was like a Rudaynian lance,303 and she was wrapped in a veil of gold-purfled silk. The merchant uncovered her face, whereupon the place was illumined by her beauty and her seven tresses hung down to her anklets like horses’ tails. She had Nature kohl’d eyes, heavy hips and thighs and waist of slenderest guise, her sight healed all maladies and quenched the fire of sighs, for she was even as the poet cries,
“I love her madly for she is perfect fair,
gravity and gracious way;
Nor overtall nor overshort, the while
Too full for trousers are those hips that sway:
Her shape is midmost ‘twixt o’er small and tall;
Nor long to
blame nor little to gainsay:
O’erfall her anklets tresses black as night
Yet in her face
resplends eternal day.”
The King seeing her marvelled at her beauty and loveliness,
her symmetry and perfect grace and said to the merchant, “O
Shaykh, how much for this maiden?” Replied the merchant, “O my
lord, I bought her for two thousand diners of the merchant who
owned her before myself, since when I have travelled with her
three years and she hath cost me, up to the time of my coming
hither, other three thousand gold pieces; but she is a gift
from me to thee.” The King robed him with a splendid robe of
honour and ordered him ten thousand ducats, whereupon he
kissed his hands, thanking him for his bounty and beneficence,
and went his ways. Then the King committed the damsel to the
tire women, saying, “Amend ye the case of this maiden304
and adorn her and furnish her a bower and set her therein.”
And he bade his chamberlains carry her everything she needed
and shut all the doors upon her. Now his capital wherein he
dwelt was called the White City and was seated on the sea
shore; so they lodged her in a chamber, whose latticed
casements overlooked the main.—And Shahrazad perceived the
dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
She said, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that the King after taking the maiden, committed her to the tire women bidding them amend her case and set her in a bower, and ordered his chamberlains to shut all the doors upon her when they had lodged her in a chamber whose latticed casements overlooked the main. Then Shahriman went in to her; but she spake not to him neither took any note of him.305 Quoth he, ‘Twould seem she hath been with folk who have not taught her manners.” Then he looked at the damsel and saw her surpassing beauty and loveliness and symmetry and perfect grace, with a face like the rondure of the moon at its full or the sun shining in the sheeny sky. So he marvelled at her charms of favour and figure and he praised Allah the Creator (magnified be His might!), after which he walked up to her and sat him down by her side; then he pressed her to his bosom and seating her on his thighs, sucked the dew of her lips’ which he found sweeter than honey. Presently he called for trays spread with richest viands of all kinds and ate and fed her by mouthfuls, till she had enough; yet she spoke not one word. The King began to talk to her and asked her of her name; but she abode still silent and uttered not a syllable nor made him any answer, neither ceased to hang down her head groundwards, and it was but the excess of her beauty and loveliness and the amorous grace that saved her from the royal wrath. Quoth he to himself, “Glory be to God, the Creator of this girl! How charming she is, save that she speaketh not! But perfection belongeth only to Allah the Most High.” And he asked the slave girls whether she had spoken, and they said, “From the time of her coming until now she hath not uttered a word nor have we heard her address us.” Then he summoned some of his women and concubines and bade them sing to her and make merry with her, so haply she might speak. Accordingly they played before her all manner instruments of music and sports and what not and sang, till the whole company was moved to mirth, except the damsel, who looked at them in silence, but neither laughed nor spoke. The King’s breast was straitened; thereupon he dismissed the women and abode alone with that damsel: after which he doffed his clothes and disrobing her with his own hand, looked upon her body and saw it as it were a silvern ingot. So he loved her with exceeding love and falling upon her, took her maidenhead and found her a pure virgin; whereat he rejoiced with excessive joy and said in himself, “By Allah, ’tis a wonder that a girl so fair of form and face should have been left by the merchants a clean maid as she is!”306 Then he devoted himself altogether to her, heeding none other and forsaking all his concubines and favourites, and tarried with her a whole year as it were a single day. Still she spoke not till, one morning he said to her (and indeed the love of her and longing waxed upon him), “O desire of souls, verily passion for thee is great with me, and I have forsaken for thy sake all my slave girls and concubines and women and favourites and I have made thee my portion of the world and had patience with thee a whole year; and now I beseech Almighty Allah, of His favour, to soften thy heart to me, so thou mayst speak to me. Or, an thou be dumb, tell me by a sign, that I may give up hope of thy speech. I pray the Lord (extolled be He!) to vouchsafe me by thee a son child, who shall inherit the kingdom after me; for I am old and lone and have none to be my heir. Wherefore, Allah upon thee, an thou love me, return me a reply.” The damsel bowed her head awhile in thought, and presently raising it, smiled in his face, whereat it seemed to him as if lightning filled the chamber. Then she said, “O magnanimous liege lord, and valorous lion, Allah hath answered thy prayer, for I am with child by thee and the time of my delivery is near at hand, though I know not if the unborn babe be male or female.307 But, had I not conceived by thee, I had not spoken to thee one word.” When the King heard her speech, his face shone with joy and gladness and he kissed her head and hands for excess of delight, saying Alhamdolillah—laud to Lord—who hath vouchsafed me the things I desired!, first, thy speech, and secondly, thy tidings that thou art with child by me.” Then he rose up and went forth from her and, seating himself on the throne of his kingship, in an ecstasy of happiness, bade his Wazir distribute to the poor and needy and widows and others an hundred thousand dinars, by way of thank offering to Allah Most High and alms on his own account. The Minister did as bidden by the King who, returning to the damsel, sat with her and embraced and pressed her to his breast, saying, “O my lady, my queen, whose slave I am, prithee what was the cause of this thy silence? Thou hast been with me a whole year, night and day, waking and sleeping, yet hast not spoken to me till this day.” She replied, “Hearken, O King of the Age, and know that I am a wretched exile, broken hearted and far parted from my mother and my family and my brother.” When the King heard her words, he knew her desire and said, “As for thy saying that thou art wretched, there is for such speech no ground, inasmuch as my kingdom and good and all I possess are at thy service and I also am become thy bondman; but, as for thy saying, ‘I am parted from my mother and brother and family’, tell me where they are and I will send and fetch them to thee.” There’ upon she answered, “Know, then, O auspicious King, that I am called Julnár308 the Sea born and that my father was of the Kings of the Main. He died and left us his reign, but while we were yet unsettled, behold, one of the other Kings arose against us and took the realm from our hands. I have a brother called Sálih, and my mother also is a woman of the sea; but I fell out with my brother ‘The Pious’ and swore that I would throw myself into the hands of a man of the folk of the land. So I came forth of the sea and sat down on the edge of an island in the moonshine309, where a passer by found me and, carrying me to his house, besought me of love liesse; but I smote him on the head, so that he all but died; whereupon he carried me forth and sold me to the merchant from whom thou hadst me, and this was a good man and a virtuous; pious, loyal and generous. Were it not that thy heart loved me and that thou promotedest me over all thy concubines, I had not remained with thee a single hour, but had cast myself from this window into the sea and gone to my mother and family; but I was ashamed to fare themwards, being with child by thee; for they would have deemed evilly of me and would not have credited me, even although I swore to them, an I told them that a King had bought me with his gold and made me his portion of the world and preferred me over all his wives and every thing that his right hand possessed. This then is my story and—the Peace!”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
305 These pretentious and curious displays of coquetry are not uncommon in handsome slave-girls when newly bought; and it is a kind of pundonor to humour them. They may also refuse their favours and a master who took possession of their persons by brute force would be blamed by his friends, men and women. Even the most despotic of despots, Fath Ali Shah of Persia, put up with refusals from his slave-girls and did not, as would the mean-minded, marry them to the grooms or cooks of the palace.
306 Such continence is rarely shown by the young Jallabs or slave-traders; when older they learn how much money is lost with the chattel’s virginity.
307 Midwives in the East, as in the less civilised parts of the West, have many nostrums for divining the sex of the unborn child.
308 Arabic (which has no written “g”) from Pers. Gulnár (Gul-i-anár) pomegranate-flower the Gulnare” of Byron who learnt his Orientalism at the Mekhitarist (Armenian) Convent, Venice. I regret to see the little honour now paid to the gallant poet in the land where he should be honoured the most. The systematic depreciation was begun by the late Mr. Thackeray, perhaps the last man to value the noble independence of Byron’s spirit; and it has been perpetuated, I regret to see, by better judges. These critics seem wholly to ignore the fact that Byron founded a school which covered Europe from Russia to Spain, from Norway to Sicily, and which from England passed over to the two Americas. This exceptional success, which has not yet fallen even to Shakespeare’s lot, was due to genius only, for the poet almost ignored study and poetic art. His great misfortune was being born in England under the Gerogium Sidus. Any Continental people would have regarded him s one of the prime glories of his race.
309 Arab. “Fí al-Kamar,” which Lane renders “in the moonlight” It seems to me that the allusion is to the Comorin Islands; but the sequel speaks simply of an island.
She resumed, It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that when Julnar310 the Sea-born, answering the question of King Shahriman, told him her past from first to last, the King thanked her and kissed her between the eyes, saying, “By Allah, O my lady and light of mine eyes” I cannot bear to be parted from thee one hour; and given thou leave me, I shall die forthright. What then is to be done?” Replied she “O my lord, the time of my delivery is at hand and my family needs must be present, that they may tend me; for the women of the land know not the manner of child bearing of the women of the sea, nor do the daughters of the ocean know the manner of the daughters of the earth; and when my people come, I shall be reconciled to them and they will be reconciled to me.” Quoth the King, “How do the people of the sea walk therein, without being wetted?”; and quoth she, “O King of the Age, we walk in the waters with our eyes open, as do ye on the ground, by the blessing of the names graven upon the seal-ring of Solomon Davidson (on whom be peace!). But, O King, when my kith and kin come, I will tell them how thou boughtest me with thy gold, and hast entreated me with kindness and benevolence. It behoveth that thou confirm my words to them and that they witness thine estate with their own eyes and they learn that thou art a King, son of a King.” He rejoined, “O my lady, do what seemeth good to thee and what pleaseth thee and I will consent to thee in all thou wouldst do.” The damsel continued, yes, we walk in the sea and see what is therein and behold the sun, moon, stars and sky, as it were on the surface of earth and this irketh us naught. Know also that there be many peoples in the main and various forms and creatures of all kinds that are on the land, and that all that is on the land compared with that which is in the main is but a very small matter.” And the King marvelled at her words. Then she pulled out from her bosom two bits of Comorin lign-aloes and, kindling fire in a chafing dish, chose somewhat of them and threw it in, then she whistled a loud whistle and spake words none understood. Thereupon arose a great smoke and she said to the King, who was looking on, “O my lord, arise and hide thyself in a closet, that I may show thee my brother and mother and family, whilst they see thee not; for I design to bung them hither, and thou shalt presently espy a wondrous thing and shalt marvel at the several creatures and strange shapes which Almighty Allah hath created.” So he arose without stay or delay and entering a closet, fell a-watching what she should do. She continued her fumigations and conjurations till the sea foamed and frothed turbid and there rose from it a handsome young man of a bright favour, as he were the moon at its full, with brow flower-white, cheeks of ruddy light and teeth like the marguerite. He was the likest of all creatures to his sister and the tongue of the case spoke in his praise these two couplets,
“The full moon groweth perfect once a month
But thy face
each day we see perfected.
And the full moon dwelleth in single sign,
But to thee all hearts be a dwelling stead.”
After him there came forth of the sea an ancient dame with hair speckled gray and five maidens, as they were moons, bearing a likeness to the damsel hight Julnar. The King looked upon them as they all walked upon the face of the water, till they drew near the window and saw Julnar, whereupon they knew her and went in to her. She rose to them and met them with joy and gladness, and they embraced her and wept with sore weeping. Then said they to her, “O Julnar, how couldst thou leave us four years, and we unknowing of thine abiding place? By Allah the world hath been straitened upon us for stress of severance from thee, and we have had no delight of food or drink; no, not for one day, but have wept with sore weeping night and day for the excess of our longing after thee!” Then she fell to kissing the hands of the youth her brother and her mother and cousins, and they sat with her awhile, questioning her of her case and of what had betided her, as well as of her present estate. “Know,” replied she, “that, when I left you, I issued from the sea and sat down on the shore of an island, where a man found me and sold me to a merchant, who brought me to this city and sold me for ten thousand diners to the King of the country, who entreated me with honour and forsook all his concubines and women and favourites for my sake and was distracted by me from all he had and all that was in his city.” Quoth her brother, “Praised be Allah, who hath reunited us with thee! But now, O my sister, ’tis my purpose that thou arise and go with us to our country and people.” When the King heard these words, his wits fled him for fear lest the damsel accept her brother’s words and he himself avail not to stay her, albeit he loved her passionately, and he became distracted with fear of losing her. But Julnar answered, “By Allah, O my brother, the mortal who bought me is lord of this city and he is a mighty King and a wise man, good and generous with extreme generosity. Moreover, he is a personage of great worth and wealth and hath neither son nor daughter. He hath entreated me with honour and done me all manner of favour and kindness; nor, from the day of his buying me to this time have I heard from him an ill word to hurt my heart: but he hath never ceased to use me courteously; doing nothing save with my counsel, and I am in the best of case with him and in the perfection of fair fortune. Furthermore, were I to leave him, he would perish; for he cannot endure to be parted from me an hour; and if I left him, I also should die, for the excess of the love I bear him, by reason of his great goodness to me during the time of my sojourn with him; for, were my father alive, my estate with him would not be like my estate with this great and glorious and puissant potentate. And verily, ye see me with child by him and praise be to Allah, who hath made me a daughter of the Kings of the sea, and my husband the mightiest of the Kings of the land, and Allah, in very sooth, he hath compensated me for whatso I lost.”—And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased saying her permitted say.
310 The Mac. Edit. misprints Julnár as Julnáz (so the Bul Edit. ii. 233), and Lane ‘s Jullanár is an Egyptian vulgarism. He is right in suspecting the “White City” to be imaginary, but its sea has no apparent connection with the Caspian. The mermen and mermaids appear to him to be of an inferior order of the Jinn, termed Al–Ghawwásah, the Divers, who fly through air and are made of fire which at times issues from their mouths.
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