The Book Of The Thousand Nights And One Night, Volume II

Part 3 out of 7

some good counsel.' 'Bear in mind these two things,' replied he.
'Attribute no partner to God, and do no hurt to any of His
creatures.' And he repeated the following verses:

Be as thou wilt and banish dread and care, For God is bountiful
and debonair;
So of two things, the doing hurt to men And giving God a partner,
thou beware."

And how well saith the poet:

If thou neglect with pious works for death to furnish thee And
after meet with one equipped with store of piety,
Thou wilt, when all too late, repent that thou wert not like him
And didst not for the other world make ready as did he.'

Then the second damsel withdrew and a third came forward and
spoke as follows. 'Indeed, the chapter of piety is a very wide
one; but I will mention what occurs to me thereof, concerning
pious men of old time. Quoth a certain holy man, "I rejoice in
death, though I am not assured of ease therein, save that I know
death interposes between a man and his works; so I hope for
multiplication of good works and cessation of evil ones." Itaa es
Selemi, when he had made an end of an exhortation, was wont to
tremble and weep sore. It was asked him why he did this and he
replied, "I purpose (or am about) to enter upon a grave matter,
and it is the standing up before God the Most High, to do in
accordance with my exhortation." In like manner Zein el
Aabidin[FN#75] was wont to tremble when he rose to pray. Being
asked the reason of this, he replied, "Do ye not know before whom
I stand and to whom I address myself?" It is said that there
lived near Sufyan eth Thauri[FN#76] a blind man who, when the
month of Ramazan came, went out with the folk to pray, but
remained silent and hung back (in repeating the prayers). Said
Sufyan, "On the Day of Resurrection, he shall come with the
people of the Koran[FN#77] and they will be distinguished from
their fellows by excess of honour." Quoth Sufyan, "Were the soul
stablished in the heart as it befits, it would fly away, for joy
and longing for Paradise and grief and fear of hell-fire." It is
related also of Sufyan that he said, "To look upon the face of a
tyrant is a sin."'

Then the third damsel retired and a fourth came forward, who
said, 'I will treat of sundry traditions of pious men. It is
related that Bishr el Hafi[FN#78] said, "I once heard Khalid
say, 'Beware of secret hypocrisy.' Quoth I, 'What is secret
hypocrisy?' He answered, 'When one of you, in praying, prolongs
his inclinations and prostrations till a cause of impurity[FN#79]
come upon him.'" Quoth one of the sages, "The doing of good works
expiates evil deeds." Quoth Ibrahim ben Adhem[FN#80], "I sought
assiduously of Bishr el Hafi that he should acquaint me with some
of the theological mysteries; but he said, 'O my son, it behoves
us not to teach this knowledge to every one; of every hundred,
five, even as the poor-rate upon money.' I thought his answer
excellent, and when I went to pray, I saw Bishr praying: so I
stood behind him, inclining myself in prayer, till the Muezzin
made his call. Then rose a man of poor appearance and said, 'O
folk, beware of truth, when it is hurtful, for there is no harm
in beneficial falsehood, and in compulsion is no choice: speech
profits not in the absence of good qualities nor is there any
hurt in silence, when they exist.' Presently I saw Bishr drop a
danic[FN#81] so I picked it up and exchanged it for a dirhem,
which I gave him. 'I will not take it,' said he. Quoth I, 'It is
a fair exchange;' but he answered, 'I cannot barter the riches of
the world to come for those of this world.'" It is reported also
that Bishr's sister once went to Ahmed ben Hembel[FN#82] and said
to him, "O Imam of the Faith, we are a family that work for our
living by day and spin thread by night; and oftentimes, the
cressets of the watch of Baghdad pass by and we on the roof
spinning by their light. Is this forbidden to us?" "Who art
thou?" asked Ahmed. "I am the sister of Bishr el Hafi," replied
she. "O household of Bishr," rejoined the Imam, "I shall never
cease to quafl full draughts of piety and continence from your
hearts." Quoth one of the learned, "When God wills well to
any man, he opens upon him the gate of action." Malik ibn
Dinar,[FN#83] when he passed through the bazaar and saw aught
that he wished for, was wont to say, "O soul, take patience, for
I will not accord to thee what thou desirest." He said also (may
God accept of him), "The salvation of the soul lies in resistance
to its desires and its ruin in submission to them." Quoth Mensour
ben Ammar,[FN#84] "I set out one year on the pilgrimage and was
making for Mecca by way of Cufa, when, one overcast night, I
heard a voice crying out from the womb of the night and saying,
'O my God, by Thy power and Thy glory, I meant not by my
disobedience to transgress against Thee, for indeed I am not
ignorant of Thee; but my fault is one Thou didst foreordain to me
from all eternity; so do Thou pardon me my sin, for indeed I
disobeyed Thee of my ignorance!' When he had made an end of his
prayer, he recited aloud the verse, 'O ye who believe, keep
yourselves and your households from the fire whose fuel is men
and stones!"[FN#85] Then I heard a fall, but knew not what it was
and passed on. On the morrow, as we went our way, we fell in with
a funeral train, followed by an old woman, whose strength had
left her. I questioned her of the dead, and she replied, 'This is
the funeral of a man who passed by us yesterday, whilst my son
was standing at prayer. The latter recited a verse from the Book
of God the Most High, when behold the man's gall-bladder burst
and he fell dead.'"

Therewith the fourth damsel retired and the fifth, coming
forward, spoke as follows: 'I also will repeat what occurs to me
in the way of devotional anecdotes. Meslemeh ben Dinar used to
say, "The making sound the secret thoughts covers sins, both
great and small, and when the believer is resolved to leave
sinning, help comes to him." Also, "Every piece of good fortune,
that does not draw one nearer to God, is a calamity, for a little
of this world distracts from a great deal of the world to come
and a great deal of the first makes thee forget the whole of the
latter." It was asked of Abou Hazim,[FN#86] "Who is the most
fortunate of men?" "He who spends his life in the service of
God," replied he. "And who is the most foolish of mankind?" asked
the other. "He who sells his part in the world to come for the
worldly goods of others," answered Abou Hazim. It is reported
that Moses (on whom be peace), when he came to the waters of
Midian, exclaimed, "O my Lord, indeed I am in need of that which
Thou sendest down to me of good!" And he asked of his Lord and
not of his folk. There came two damsels and he drew water for
them and gave not precedence to the shepherds. When they returned
to their father Jethro (on whom be peace!) they told him, and he
said to one of them, "Haply, he is hungry: go back to him and bid
him hither." So she covered her face and returning to Moses, said
to him, "My father bids thee to him, that he may reward thee for
having drawn water for us." Moses was averse to this and
unwilling to follow her. Now she was a woman large in the
buttocks, and the wind blowing upon her gown, discovered this;
which when Moses saw, he lowered his eyes and said to her, "Do
thou walk behind me." So she followed him, till he came to
Jethro's house, where the evening meal was ready. "O Moses," said
Jethro, "I desire to reward thee for having drawn water for
them." But he answered, "I am of a people who sell nothing of the
fashion of the next world for earthly gold and silver." "O
youth," rejoined Jethro, "nevertheless thou art my guest, and it
is my wont and that of my fathers to do honour to the guest by
setting food before him." So Moses sat down and ate. Then Jethro
hired Moses for eight pilgrimages, that is to say, eight years,
and appointed to him for hire the hand of his daughter, and
Moses' service to him was to stand for her dowry. As says the
Holy Writ of him (quoth Jethro), "I am minded to marry thee to
one of these my daughters, on condition that thou serve me eight
years, and if thou serve out the ten, it will be of thine own
will, for I do not wish to press hardly on thee."[FN#87] A
certain man once said to one of his friends, "Thou hast made me
desolate, for that I have not seen thee this long while." Quoth
the other, "I have been distracted from thee by Ibn Shihab; dost
thou know him?" "Yes," replied the first; "he hath been my
neighbour these thirty years, but I have never spoken to him."
"Indeed," rejoined his friend, "thou forgettest God in forgetting
thy neighbour! If thou lovedst God, thou wouldst love thy
neighbour. Knowst thou not that a neighbour has a claim upon his
neighbour, even as the right of kindred?" Quoth Hudheifeh, "We
entered Mecca with Ibrahim ben Adhem,[FN#88] and whilst making
the prescribed circuits about the Kaabeh, we met with Shekic the
Balkhi. Quoth Ibrahim to Shekic, 'What is your fashion in your
country?' 'When we are vouchsafed [food],' replied he, 'we eat,
and when we suffer hunger, we take patience.' 'This is the
fashion of the dogs of Balkh,' rejoined Ibrahim. 'But we, when we
are blest with plenty, we do honour to God, and when we suffer
famine, we praise Him.' And Shekic seated himself before Ibrahim
and said to him, 'Thou art my master.'" Quoth Mohammed ben Amran,
"A man once asked of Hatim el Asemm[FN#89], 'What maketh thee to
trust in God?' 'Two things,' replied he, 'I know that what God
has appointed for my daily bread shall be eaten by none but
myself; so my heart is at rest as to that; and I know that I was
not created without God's knowledge and am abashed before Him.'"

Then the fifth damsel retired and the old woman came forward and
kissing the earth before thy father nine times, spoke as follows:
'Thou hast heard, O King, what these all have said on the subject
of piety; and I will follow their example in relating what I have
heard of the famous men of times past. It is said that the Imam
es Shafi[FN#90] divided the night into three portions, the first
for study, the second for sleep and the third for prayer. The
Imam Abou Henifeh[FN#91] was wont also to pass half the night in
prayer. One day a man pointed him out to another, as he passed,
and said, "Yonder man watches the whole night." Quoth Abou
Henifeh, "When I heard this, I was abashed before God, to hear
myself praised for what was not in me; so, after this, I used to
watch the whole night." Er Rebya relates that Es Shafi used to
recite the whole Koran seventy times over during the month of
Ramazan, and that in prayer. Quoth Es Shafi (may God accept of
him!), "For ten years I never ate my fill of barley-bread, for
satiety hardens the heart and deadens the wit and induces sleep
and enfeebles one from standing up (to pray)." It is reported of
Abdallah ben Mohammed es Sekra that he said, "I was once talking
with Omar, and he said to me, 'Never saw I a more God-fearing or
eloquent man than Mohammed ben Idris es Shafi. I went out one day
with El Harith ben Lebib es Suffar, who was a disciple of El
Muzeni[FN#92] and had a fine voice, and he read the saying or the
Most High, 'On that day, they shall not speak nor shall it be
permitted to them to excuse themselves.'[FN#93] I saw Es Shafi's
colour change; his skin shuddered, and he was violently moved and
fell down senseless. When he revived, he said, 'I seek refuge
with God from the stead of the liars and the fate of the
negligent! O my God, the hearts of the wise abase themselves
before Thee. O my God, of Thy goodness, accord to me the
remission of my sins, adorn me with Thy protection and pardon me
my shortcomings, by the magnanimity of Thine essence!' Then I
rose and went away." Quoth one of the pious, "When I entered
Baghdad, Es Shafi was there. I sat down on the river-bank, to
make the ablution before prayer; and as I was thus occupied,
there came up one who said to me, 'O youth, make thine ablution
well and God will make it well for thee in this world and the
world to come.' I turned and saw a man, with a company of people
after him. So I hastened to finish my ablutions and followed him.
Presently, he turned and said to me, 'Dost thou want aught?'
'Yes,' answered I; 'I desire that thou teach me somewhat of that
which God the Most High hath taught thee.' 'Know, then,' said he,
'that he who believes in God the Most High shall be saved and he
who is jealous of his faith shall be delivered from destruction,
and he who practices abstinence in this world, his eyes shall be
solaced on the morrow (of death). Shall I tell thee any more?'
'Assuredly,' replied I. 'Abstain from the things of this world,'
continued he, 'and be greedy of the good of the world to come. Be
sincere and faithful in all thy dealings, and thou shalt be saved
with the elect.' Then he went on and I asked about him and was
told that he was the Imam es Shafi. Es Shafi was wont to say, "I
would have the folk profit by this wisdom (of mine), on condition
that none of it be attributed to me." Also, "I never disputed
with any one, but I would that God the Most High should give him
the knowledge of the Truth and aid him to expound it; nor did I
ever dispute with any, but for the showing forth of the Truth,
and I recked not whether God should manifest it by my lips or
his." He said also (may God accept of him!), "If thou fear to
grow conceited of thy learning, bethink thee Whose grace thou
seekest and what good it is thou yearnest after and what
punishment thou dreadest." It was told to Abou Henifeh that the
Commander of the Faithful Abou Jaafer el Mensour had named him
Cadi and ordered him a present of ten thousand dirhems; but he
would not accept of this; and when the day came on which the
money was to be paid, he prayed the morning-prayer, then covered
his head with his cloak and spoke not. When the Khalif's
messenger came with the money, he went in to the Imam and
accosted him, but he would not speak to him. Quoth the messenger,
"This money is lawfully thine." "I know that it is lawfully
mine," replied the Imam; "but I abhor that the love of tyrants
should take hold upon my heart." "Canst thou not go in to them
and guard thyself from loving them?" asked the other. "Can I look
to enter the sea, without wetting my clothes?" answered Abou
Henifeh. Another of Es Shafi's sayings is as follows:

O soul, if thou be fain to do as I shall say, Thou shalt be free
from need and great of grace for aye.
Put far away from thee ambitions and desires, For lo, how oft a
wish to death hath led the way!

Among the sayings of Sufyan eth Thauri, with which he admonished
Ali ben el Hassan es Selemi was the following, "Look that thou
practice sincerity and beware of falsehood and treachery and
hypocrisy and presumption for God annuls good works with either
of these things. Borrow not but of Him who is merciful to His
debtors and let thy comrade be one who will cause thee to abstain
from the world. Let the thought of death be ever present with
thee and be constant in asking pardon of God and beseeching of
Him peace for what remains of thy life. Give loyal counsel to
every true-believer, when he asks thee concerning the things of
his faith, and beware of betraying a believer, for he who betrays
a believer betrays God and His apostle. Avoid dissension and
litigation and leave that which awakens doubt in thee, betaking;,
thyself rather to those things that will not disquiet thee; so
shalt thou be at peace. Enjoin that which is just and forbid that
which is evil, so shalt thou be beloved of God. Make fair thine
inner man, and God shall make fair thine outer man. Accept the
excuse of him who excuses himself to thee and hate none of the
true-believers. Draw near unto those that reject thee and forgive
those that oppress thee; so shalt thou be the companion of the
prophets. Commit thine affair to God, both in public and in
private, and fear Him with the fear of one who knows that he must
die and be raised again to stand before the Almighty, remembering
that thou art destined for one of two dwellings, either Paradise
the glorious or the flaming fire."' Having spoken thus, the old
woman sat down beside the damsels.

When the late King thy father heard their discourse, he knew that
they were the most accomplished of the people of their time and
seeing their beauty and grace and the greatness of their
learning, he showed them all favour. Moreover, he turned to the
old woman and entreated her with honour, setting apart for her
and her damsels the palace that had been the lodging of the
princess Abrizeh, to which he let carry all that they needed of
the best. Here they abode ten days, and whenever the King visited
them, he found the old woman absorbed in prayer, watching by
night and fasting by day; wherefore love of her took hold upon
his heart and he said to me, 'O Vizier, verily this old woman is
a pious soul, and reverence for her is strong in my heart.' On
the eleventh day, the King visited her, that he might pay her the
price of the five damsels; but she said to him, 'O King, know
that the price of these passes the competence of men, for I seek
for them neither gold nor silver nor jewels, be it little or
much.' The King wondered at this and said, 'O my lady, what is
their price?' 'I will not sell them to thee,' replied she, 'save
on condition that thou fast a whole month, watching by night and
fasting by day for the love of God the Most High: but if thou
wilt do this, they are thine, to use as thou pleasest.' The King
wondered at the perfectness of her piety and devotion and
abnegation and she was magnified in his eyes, and he said, 'May
God make this pious old woman to profit us!' So he agreed to her
proposal, and she said to him, 'I will help thee with my
prayers.' Then she called for a gugglet of water and muttered
over it words in an unknown language and abode awhile, speaking
over it things that we understood not. Then she covered it with a
cloth and sealing it up, gave it to the King, saying, 'When thou
has fasted ten days, break thy fast on the eleventh night with
what is in this cup, for it will root out the love of the world
from thy heart and fill it with light and faith. As for me, I
purpose to go out to-morrow to visit my brethren of the invisible
world, for I yearn after them, and I will return to thee when the
ten days are past.' So the King took the gugglet and setting it
apart in a closet of his palace, locked the door and put the key
in his pocket. Next day, the old woman departed and the King
entered upon his fast. When he had accomplished the first ten
days thereof, he opened the gugglet and drank what was therein
and found it cordial to his stomach. Within the next ten days,
the old woman returned, bringing sweetmeats wrapped in a green
leaf, like no leaf of a tree. She went in to the King and saluted
him; and when he saw her he rose to meet her, saying, 'Welcome, O
pious lady!' 'O King,' said she, 'the spirits salute thee, for I
told them of thee, and they rejoiced in thee and have sent thee
this cake, which is of the sweetmeats of the other world. Do thou
break thy fast on it at the end of the day.' The King rejoiced
greatly at this and exclaimed, 'Praised be God who hath given me
brethren of the invisible world!' And he thanked the old woman
and kissed her hands and entreated her and the damsels with
exceeding honour. Then he fasted till twenty days were past, at
the end of which time the old woman came to him and said, 'Know,
O King, that I told the spirits of the love that is between thee
and me and how I had left the damsels with thee, and they were
glad that the damsels should belong to a King like thee; for they
were wont, when they saw them, to be strenuous in offering up
effectual prayer on their behalf. So I would fain carry them to
the spirits, that they may benefit by their favours, and they
shall surely not return to thee without some treasure of the
treasures of the earth, that thou, after the completion of thy
fast, mayst occupy thyself with their dress and help thyself to
the fulfilment of thy wishes with that which they shall bring
thee.' The King thanked her and said, 'But that I fear to cross
thee, I would not accept the treasure or aught else: but when
wilt thou set out with them?' 'On the seven-and-twentieth night,'
replied she; 'and I will bring them back to thee at the end of
the month, by which time thou wilt have accomplished thy fast and
they will have had their courses and be free from impurity. Then
they shall become thine and be at thy disposal. By Allah, each
one of them is worth many times thy kingdom!' 'I know it, O pious
lady,' replied the King. Then said the old woman, 'If there be
any one in thy palace who is dear to thee, thou wouldst do well
to send her with me, that she may find solace and seek a blessing
of the spirits.' Quoth the King, 'I have a Greek slave called
Sufiyeh, by whom God hath vouchsafed me two children, a son and a
daughter: but they were lost years ago. Take her with thee, that
she may get the spirits' blessing: it may be they will pray God
for her, that her children may be restored to her.' 'It is well,'
replied the old woman; for indeed this was what she most desired.
The King gave not over fasting till the seven-and-twentieth
night, when the old woman said to him, 'O my son, I am about to
go to the spirits; so bring me Sufiyeh.' Accordingly, he sent for
her and delivered her to the old woman, who placed her with the
other damsels. Then she went in to her chamber and bringing out a
sealed cup, presented it to the King, saying, 'On the thirtieth
day, do thou go to the bath and when thou comest out, enter one
of the closets in thy palace and drink the liquor that is in this
cup. Then sleep, and thou shalt attain what thou seekest, and
peace be on thee!' The King was glad and thanked her and kissed
her hands. Quoth she, 'I commend thee to God;' and he said, 'When
shall I see thee again, O pious lady? Indeed I love not to part
with thee.' Then she called down blessings on him and departed
with the five damsels and the Princess Sufiyeh; whilst the King
fasted other three days, till the end of the month, when he went
to the bath and coming out, shut himself up in a closet,
commanding that none should go in to him. Then he drank what was
in the cup and lay down to sleep. We sat awaiting him till the
end of the day, but he did not come out and we said, 'Belike he
is tired with the bath and with watching by night and fasting by
day, and sleepeth.' So we waited till next day; but still he did
not come out. Then we stood at the closet-door and cried aloud,
so haply he might awake and ask what was the matter. But nothing
came of this: so at last we lifted the door off its hinges and
going in, found the King dead, with his flesh torn into strips
and his bones broken in pieces. When we saw him in this case, it
was grievous to us, and we took up the cup and found in its cover
a piece of paper, on which was written the following, 'He who
does evil leaves no regrets behind him. This is the reward of him
who plays the traitor with kings' daughters and debauches them:
and we make known to all who happen upon this scroll that
Sherkan, when he came to our country, debauched our Princess
Abrizeh; nor did this suffice him, but he must take her from us
and bring her to you. Then he (Omar ben Ennuman) (debauched her
and) sent her away, in company of a black slave, who slew her and
we found her lying dead in the desert. This is none of kings'
fashion, and he who did this is requited with nought but his
deserts. So do ye suspect none of having killed him, for none
slew him but the cunning witch, whose name is Dhat ed Dewahi. And
behold, I have taken the King's wife Sufiyeh and have carried her
to her father King Afridoun of Constantinople. Moreover, we will
assuredly make war upon you and kill you and take your land from
you, and ye shall be cut off even to the last man, nor shall
there be left of you a living soul, no, nor a blower of the fire,
except he serve the Cross and the Girdle.' When we read this, we
knew that the old woman had cheated us and carried out her plot
against us: so we cried out and buffeted our faces and wept sore.
However, weeping availed us nothing and the troops fell out as to
whom they should make Sultan. Some would have thee and others thy
brother Sherkan; and we ceased not to wrangle about this for the
space of a month, at the end of which time certain of us drew
together and agreed to repair to thy brother Sherkan. So we set
out and journeyed on till we fell in with thee: and this is the
manner of the death of King Omar ben Ennuman.'

When the Vizier had made an end of his story, Zoulmekan and his
sister wept, and the Chamberlain wept also. Then said the latter
to Zoulmekan, "O King, weeping will profit thee nothing; nor will
aught avail thee but that thou fortify thy heart and strengthen
thy resolution and stablish thy power; for verily he is not dead
who leaves the like of thee behind him." So Zoulmekan gave over
weeping and causing his throne to be set up without the pavilion,
commanded the army to pass in review before him. Then he sat down
on the throne, with the Chamberlain by his side and all the
arm-bearers behind him, whilst the Vizier Dendan and the rest of
the amirs and grandees stood before him, each in his several
room. Then said Zoulmekan to Dendan, "Acquaint me with the
particulars of my father's treasures." Dendan answered, "I hear
and obey," and gave him to know the amount and nature of the late
King's treasure and what was in the treasury of money and jewels
and other precious things. So Zoulmekan gave largesse to the army
and bestowed a sumptuous dress of honour on the Vizier Dendan,
saying, "I confirm thee in thine office." Whereupon Dendan kissed
the earth before him and wished him long life. Then he bestowed
dresses of honour on the amirs, after which he turned to the
Chamberlain and said, "Bring out before us the tribute of
Damascus, that is with thee." So he laid before him the chests of
money and jewels and rarities, and he took them and divided them
all amongst the troops, till there was nothing left. And the
amirs kissed the ground before him and wished him long life,
saying, "Never saw we a king, who gave the like of these gifts."
Then they all went away to their own tents, and when it was
morning, Zoulmekan gave orders for departure. So they set out and
journeyed for three days, till on the fourth day they drew near
to Baghdad. When they entered the city, they found it decorated,
and King Zoulmekan went up to his father's palace and sat down on
the throne, whilst the amirs of the army and the Vizier Dendan
and the Chamberlain of Damascus stood before him. Then he bade
his private secretary write a letter to his brother Sherkan,
acquainting him with all that had passed and adding, "As soon as
thou hast read this letter, make ready thine affair and join us
with thine army, that we may make war upon the infidels and take
vengeance on them for our father and wipe out the stain upon our
honour." Then he folded the letter and sealed it and said to
Dendan, "None shall carry this letter but thou; and I would have
thee speak my brother fair and say to him, 'If thou have a mind
to thy father's kingdom, it is thine, and thy brother shall be
Viceroy for thee in Damascus; for to this effect am I instructed
by him."' So the Vizier went out from before him and proceeded
to make ready for his journey. Then Zoulmekan set apart a
magnificent house for the stoker and furnished it with sumptuous
furniture and lodged him therein. One day, he went out a-hunting
and as he was returning to Baghdad, one of the amirs presented
him with horses of fine breeds and damsels whose beauty beggars
description. One of the damsels pleased him: so he went in to her
and lay with her, and she conceived by him forthright. After
awhile, the Vizier Dendan returned from Damascus, bringing him
news of his brother Sherkan and that he was then on his way to
him, and said to him, "Thou wouldst do well to go out to meet
him." Zoulmekan replied, "I hear and obey;" and riding forth with
his grandees a day's journey from Baghdad, pitched his tents and
halted to await the coming of his brother. Next morning, the army
of Syria appeared, with King Sherkan in its midst, a bold
cavalier, a fierce lion and a warrior against whom none might
make head. As the squadrons drew nigh and the dust-clouds neared
and the troops came up with banners flying, Zoulmekan and his
attendants rode forward to meet Sherkan; and when the King saw
his brother, he would have dismounted, but Sherkan conjured him
not to do so and himself set foot to the ground and walked
towards him. As soon as he reached Zoulmekan, the latter threw
himself upon him, and they embraced and wept and condoled with
one another. Then they mounted and rode onward, they and their
troops, till they reached Baghdad, where they alighted and went
up to the royal palace and passed the night there. Next morning,
Zoulmekan went forth and bade proclaim a holy war and summon the
troops from all parts. They abode a whole month, awaiting the
coming of the levies, whilst the folk poured in from all parts of
the kingdom, and every one who came they entreated with honour
and munificence and promised him all manner of good. Then Sherkan
said to Zoulmekan, "O my brother, tell me thy history." So he
told him all that had befallen him, first and last, including the
benevolent dealing of the stoker with him. "Hast thou requited
him his kindness to thee?" asked Sherkan. "Not yet," replied
Zoulmekan, "but, God willing, I will surely do so, as soon as I
return from this expedition and am at leisure to attend to him."
Therewith, Sherkan was certified that his sister Nuzhet ez Zeman
had told him the truth; but he concealed what had passed between
them and contented himself with sending his salutation to her by
her husband the Chamberlain. She returned his greeting in the
same fashion, calling down blessings on him and enquiring after
her daughter Kuzia Fekan, to which he replied that the child was
well and in all health and safety. Then he went to his brother to
take counsel with him for departure; and Zoulmekan said, "O my
brother, we will set out as soon as the army is complete and the
Arabs have come in from all parts." So he bade make ready the
wheat and other provisions and munitions of war and went in to
his wife, who was now five months gone with child; and he put
under her hand mathematicians and astrologers, to whom he
appointed stipends and allowances. Then, three months after the
arrival of the army of Syria, as soon as the troops were all
assembled and the Arabs had come in, he set out, at the head of
his troops, with his brother Sherkan on his right and his
brother-in-law the Chamberlain on his left hand. The name of the
general of the army of the Medes was Rustem and that of the
general of the army of the Turks Behram. So the squadrons broke
up and marched forward and the companies and battalions filed
past in battle array, till the whole army was in motion. They
ceased not to fare on for the space of a month; halting three
days a week to rest, by reason of the greatness of the host, till
they came to the country of the Greeks; and as they drew near,
the people of the villages and hamlets took fright at them and
fled to Constantinople.

To return to Dhat ed Dewahi. As soon as she reached her own
country and felt herself in safety, she said to her son, King
Herdoub, "Be consoled; for I have avenged thy daughter Abrizeh
and killed King Omar ben Ennuman and brought back the Princess
Sufiyeh. So now let us go to the King of Constantinople and carry
him back his daughter and tell him what has happened, that he may
be on his guard and prepare his forces and that we may do the
like; for I know that the Muslims will not delay to attack us."
"Let us wait till they draw near our country," replied Herdoub,
"that we may make us ready meantime and assemble our power."
Accordingly they fell to levying their forces and preparing for
war, so that by the time the news of the Muslims' advance reached
them, they were ready for defence. Then King Herdoub and his
mother set out for Constantinople, and King Afridoun, hearing of
the arrival of the King of the Greeks, came forth to meet him and
asked how it was with him and the cause of his visit. So Herdoub
acquainted him with the doing; of his mother Dhat ed Dewahi, how
she had slain the Muslim king and recovered the Princess Sufiyeh
and that the Muslims had assembled their forces and were on their
way to attack them, wherefore it behoved that they two should
join powers and meet them. King Afridoun rejoiced in the recovery
of his daughter and the death of King Omar and sent to all
countries, to seek succour and acquaint the folk with the reason
of the slaying of King Omar. So the Christian troops flocked to
him from all quarters, and before three months were past, the
army of the Greeks was complete, besides which there joined
themselves to him the French and Germans and Ragusans and Genoese
and Venetians and all the hosts of the Pale Faces and warriors
from all the lands of the Franks, and the earth was straitened on
them by reason of their multitude. Then Afridoun the Great King
commanded to depart; so they set out from Constantinople and
ceased not to defile through the city for the space of ten days.
They fared on till they reached a spacious valley, hard by the
salt sea, where they halted three days; and on the fourth day,
they were about to set out again, when news came to them of the
approach of the army of Islam and the defenders of the faith of
the Best of Men.[FN#94] So they halted other three days, and on
the seventh day, they espied a great cloud of dust which spread
till it covered the whole country; nor was an hour of the day
past before the dust lifted and melted away into the air, and its
darkness was pierced and dispersed by the starry sheen of
lance-points and spear-heads and the flashing of sword-blades.
Presently, there appeared the banners of Islam and the Mohammedan
ensigns and the mailed horsemen surged forward, like the letting
loose of the billows of the sea, clad in cuirasses as they were
clouds girdled about moons. Thereupon the Christian horsemen rode
forward and the two hosts met, like two seas clashing together,
and eyes fell upon eyes. The first to spur into the fight was the
Vizier Dendan, with the army of Syria, thirty thousand cavaliers,
followed by Rustem, the general of the Medes, and Behram, the
general of the Turks, with other twenty thousand horse, behind
whom came the men of the sea-coast, sheathed in glittering mail
as they were full moons passing through a night of clouds. Then
the Christian host called upon Jesus and Mary and the defiled
Cross, and fell upon the Vizier Dendan and the army of Syria. Now
this was in pursuance of a stratagem devised by Dhat ed Dewahi;
for, before his departure, King Afridoun had gone in to her and
said, "It is thou hast brought this great stress on us; so do
thou advise me how I shall do and what plan I shall follow." "O
great King and mighty priest," replied she, "I will teach thee a
shift, which would baffle Iblis himself, though he should call to
his aid against it all his grisly hosts. It is that you send
fifty thousand men in ships to the Mountain of Smoke and there
let them land and stir not till the standards of Islam come upon
you, when do you up and at them. Then let the troops from the
seaward sally out upon the Muslims and take them in rear, whilst
you confront them from the landward. So not one of them shall
escape, and our stress shall cease and abiding peace enure to
us." Her counsel commended itself to King Afridoun and he
replied, "It is well; thy counsel shall be followed, O princess
of cunning old women and recourse of kings warring for their
blood-revenge!" So when the army of Islam came upon them in that
valley, of a sudden the flames began to run among the tents and
the swords to play upon men's bodies. Then came up the army of
Baghdad and Khorassan, six score thousand horse, with Zoulmekan
at their head. When the host of the infidels that lay by the sea
saw them, they came out and followed in their steps, and
Zoulmekan, seeing this, cried out to his men, saying, "Turn back
to the infidels, O people of the Chosen Prophet, and fall upon
those who deny and transgress the authority of the Compassionate,
the Merciful!" So they turned and fought with the Christians, and
Sherkan came up with another wing of the Muslim army, near six
score thousand men, whilst the infidels numbered nigh upon
sixteen hundred thousand. When the Muslims mingled in the mellay,
their hearts were strengthened and they cried out, saying, "God
hath promised to succour us and abandon the infidels!" And they
clashed together with swords and spears. As for Sherkan, he made
himself a passage through the ranks and raged among the masses of
the foe, fighting so fierce a battle that it would have made
children grow grey for fear; nor did he leave to tourney among
the infidels and work havoc upon them with the keen-edged
scimitar, shouting, "God is most great!" till he drove them back
to the brink of the sea. Then the strength of the foe failed and
God gave the victory to the faith of Submission,[FN#95] and they
fought, drunken without wine, till they slew of the infidels
forty and five thousand in that encounter, whilst of the Muslims
but three thousand and five hundred fell. Moreover, the Lion of
the Faith, King Sherkan, and his brother Zoulmekan slept not that
night, but occupied themselves with looking to the wounded and
heartening their men with assurance of victory and salvation and
promise of a recompense in the world to come.

Meanwhile King Afridoun assembled the captains of his host and
said to them, "Verily, we had accomplished our intent and had
solaced our hearts, but for our over-confidence in our numbers:
it was that which undid us." But Dhat ed Dewahi said to them,
"Assuredly nought shall profit you, except ye seek the favour of
the Messiah and put your trust in the True Faith; for by the
virtue of the Messiah, the whole strength of the Muslims lies in
that devil, King Sherkan!" "To-morrow," said Afridoun, "I will
draw out in battle array and send out against them the famous
cavalier, Luca ben Shemlout; for if King Sherkan come out to
joust with him, he will slay him and the other champions of the
Muslims, till not one is left; and I purpose this night to sacre
you all by fumigation with the Holy Incense." When the amirs
heard this, they kissed the earth before him. Now the incense in
question was the excrement of the Chief Patriarch, which was
sought for with such instance and so highly valued, that the high
priests of the Greeks used to mix it with musk and ambergris and
send it to all the countries of the Christians in silken sachets;
and kings would pay a thousand dinars for every drachm of it, for
they sought it to perfume brides withal and the chief of them
were wont to use a little of it in ointment for the eyes and as a
remedy in sickness and colic. But the priests used to mix their
own excrement with it, for that the excrement of the Chief
Patriarch could not suffice for half a score countries. So, as
soon as the day broke and the morning appeared with its lights
and shone, the horsemen ran to arms, and King Afridoun summoned
the chief of his knights and nobles and invested them with
dresses of honour. Then he made the sign of the cross on their
foreheads and incensed them with the incense aforesaid; after
which he called for Luca ben Shemlout, surnamed the Sword of the
Messiah, and after incensing him and rubbing his palate with the
holy excrement, daubed and smeared his cheeks and anointed his
moustaches with the remainder. Now there was no stouter champion
in the land of the Greeks than this accursed Luca, nor any
doughtier at bowshot or smiting with swords or thrusting with
spears in the mellay; but he was foul of favour, for his face was
as the face of a jackass, his shape that of an ape and his look
as the look of a malignant serpent, and the being near unto him
was more grievous than parting from the beloved. Moreover, he was
black as night and his breath was fetid as that of the lion; he
was crooked as a bow and grim-visaged as the pard, and he was
branded with the mark of the infidels. He kissed Afridoun's feet
and the King said to him, "It is my wish that thou go out against
Sherkan, King of Damascus, and hasten to deliver us from this
affliction." Quoth Luca, "I hear and obey." And the King made the
sign of the cross on his forehead and felt assured of speedy help
from heaven, whilst Luca went out and mounted a sorrel horse. Now
he was clad in a red tunic and a hauberk of gold set with jewels
and bore a three-barbed spear, as he were Iblis the accursed on
the day of marshalling his hosts to battle. Then he rode forward,
he and his troop of infidels, as they were driving to the Fire,
preceded by a herald, crying aloud in the Arabic tongue and
saying, "Ho, followers of Mohammed, let none of you come out
to-day but your champion Sherkan, the Sword of Islam, lord of
Damascus of Syria!" Hardly had he made an end of speaking, when
there arose a mighty tumult in the plain, all the people heard
its voice, that called to mind the Day of Weeping. The cowards
trembled and all necks turned towards the sound, and behold, it
was King Sherkan. For, when Zoulmekan saw that accursed infidel
spur out into the plain, he turned to Sherkan and said to him,
"Of a surety they seek for thee." "Should it be so," replied
Sherkan, "it were pleasing to me." So when they heard the herald,
they knew Luca to be the champion of the Greeks. Now he was one
of the greatest of villains, one who made hearts to ache, and had
sworn to clear the land of the Muslims; and indeed the Medes and
Turks and Kurds feared his mischief. So Sherkan drove at him like
an angry lion, mounted on a courser like a wild gazelle, and
coming nigh to him, shook his javelin in his hand, as it were a
darting viper, and recited the following verses:

I have a sorrel horse, right swift and eath to guide, Shall give
thee of its might what thou mayst ill abide.
Ay, and a limber spear I have, full keen of point, As 'twere the
dam of deaths upon its shaft did ride;
And eke a trenchant sword of Ind, which when I draw, Thou'dst
deem that levins flashed and darted far and wide,

Luca understood not what he said nor did he apprehend the
vehemence of the verse; but he smote his forehead with his hand,
in honour of the cross drawn thereon, and kissed it, then ran at
Sherkan with lance pointed at him. When he came within spear-
shot, he threw the javelin into the air, till it was lost
to sight, and catching it with the other hand, as do the
jugglers, hurled it at Sherkan. It sped from his hand, like a
shooting star, and the people clamoured and feared for Sherkan:
but as it drew near him, he put out his hand and caught it in
full flight, to the amazement of the beholders. Then he shook it,
till it was well-nigh broken, and hurled it up into the air, till
it disappeared from sight. As it descended, he caught it again,
in less than the twinkling of an eye, and cried out from the
bottom of his heart, saying, "By the virtue of Him who created
the seven heavens, I will make this accursed fellow the byword of
the world!" Then he hurled the javelin at Luca ben Shemlout, who
thought to do as Sherkan had done and catch it in mid-flight; but
Sherkan made haste and sped another dart at him, which smote him
on the forehead amiddleward the sign of the cross, and God
hurried his soul to the Fire and the Ill Stead.[FN#96] When the
infidels saw Luca fall dead, they buffeted their faces, crying,
"Alas!" and "Woe worth the day!" and called for aid upon the
priests of the monasteries, saying, "Where are the crosses?" So
the monks offered up prayers and the Christians all drew together
against Sherkan and brandishing their swords and lances, rushed
forward to the attack. Army met army and men's breasts fell under
the hoofs of the horses, whilst the sword and the spear ruled and
arms and wrists grew weak and it was as if the horses had been
made without legs; nor did the herald of war cease to call to
battle, till all arms were weary and the day departed and the
night came with the darkness. So the two hosts drew apart whilst
every warrior staggered like a drunken man, for stress of war and
much thrusting and smiting, and the ground was hidden with the
slain; sore were the wounds and the hurt knew not by whom he
died. Then Sherkan joined his brother and the Chamberlain and the
Vizier Dendan and said to them, "Verily God hath opened a door
for the destruction of the infidels, praised be the Lord of the
Two Worlds!" "Let us never cease to praise God," replied
Zoulmekan, "for that He hath dispelled trouble from the Arabs and
the Persians. Indeed the folk, generation after generation, shall
tell of thy prowess against the accursed Luca, the falsifier of
the Evangel,[FN#97] of thy catching the javelin in mid-flight and
smiting the enemy of God among men; and thy report shall endure
until the end of time." Then said Sherkan, "Harkye, O grand
Chamberlain and doughty captain!" "At thy service," answered he.
Quoth Sherkan, "Take the Vizier Dendan and twenty thousand men
and lead them, by a forced march, seven parasangs towards the
sea, till ye come near the shore, at two parasangs' distance from
the foe. Then hide in the hollows of the ground, till ye hear the
tumult of the infidels disembarking from the ships; and when the
swords have begun to play between us and them and ye see our
troops falling back, as if defeated, and all the infidels
following them, as well those in front as those from the sea-ward
and the tents, do ye lie in wait for them: and as soon as ye see
the standard with the words, 'There is no god but God, and
Mohammed is His Apostle!' up with the green banner and fall on
their rear, shouting, 'God is most great!' and do your endeavour,
that they may not interpose between the retreating army and the
sea." The Chamberlain agreed to this, and he and the Vizier
Dendan took twenty thousand men and set out at once, even as
Sherkan had commanded. As soon as it was morning the troops
donned their armour and drawing their swords, set their spears in
rest and sprang to horse. Then the Christians drew out in battle
array upon the hills and plains and the priests cried out and all
heads were uncovered. Moreover, those who were in the ships
hoisted the cross at their mast-heads and making from all sides
towards the shore, landed their horses and addressed them to the
fray, whilst the swords glittered and the javelins glanced like
levies against the cuirasses. So they all joined battle and the
mill-wheels of death rushed round over footmen and horsemen:
heads flew from bodies and tongues grew mute and eyes dim;
gall-bladders burst and skulls were cloven in sunder and wrists
shorn in twain; whilst the horses plashed in pools of blood and
men gripped each other by the beards. The host of Islam called
out, "Peace and blessing on the Prince of Mankind and glory and
praise in the highest to the Compassionate One!" whilst the
infidels shouted, "Glory to the Cross and the Girdle and the
Vine-juice and the Presser and the Priests and the Monks and the
Festival of Palms and the Metropolitan!" Presently, Zoulmekan and
Sherkan held back and their troops gave way and feigned to
retreat before the infidels, who pursued them, deeming them
routed, and made ready to cut and thrust. Then the host of the
Muslims began to chant the first verses of the Chapter of the
Cow,[FN#98] whilst the slain were trampled under the hoofs of the
horses and the heralds of the Greeks cried out, "Ho, servants of
the Messiah! Ho, people of the True Faith! Ho, followers of the
Pope! Verily the divine grace shines upon you, for see, the hosts
of Islam incline to tree! So turn ye not your backs to them, but
let your swords bite on their necks and hold not your hands from
them, else are ye outcasts from the Messiah, son of Mary, who
spoke even in the cradle!" Thereupon Afridoun thought that the
infidels were victorious, knowing not that this was but a
stratagem of the Muslims, and sent to King Herdoub, to give him
the glad tidings of success, adding, "It was nought but the
excrement of the Arch-Patriarch that availed us, in that the
fragrance of it exhaled from the beards and moustaches of the
servants of the Cross near and far; and I swear, by the Miracles
of the Messiah and by the Waters of Baptism, that I will not
leave upon the earth a single defender of Islam!"[FN#99] So the
messenger betook himself to King Herdoub whilst the infidels
called to each other saying, "Let us take our wreak for Luca!"
and King Herdoub cried out, "Vengeance for Abrizeh!" With this,
King Zoulmekan cried out to his men, saying, "Ho, servants of the
Requiting King. up and smite the children of blasphemy and
disobedience with the white of the sword and the brown of the
spear!" So the Muslims turned upon the infidels and plied them
with the keen-edged scimitar, whilst their herald cried aloud,
"Up, ye lovers of the chosen prophet and at the enemies of the
Faith! Now is the time for those, who hope for salvation on the
Day of Fear, to win the favour of the Bountiful, the Forgiving
One, for verily Paradise is under the shadow of swords!" So
Sherkan and his men fell upon the infidels and cut off their
retreat and tourneyed among the ranks, when lo, a cavalier of
goodly presence opened a passage through the army of the Greeks
and circled hither and thither amongst them, cutting and
thrusting and covering the ground with heads and bodies, so that
the infidels feared him and their necks bent under his blows. He
was girt with two swords, that of his glances and a scimitar, and
armed with two lances, one of cane and the other the straightness
of his shape; over his shoulders flowed down his hair, whose
beauty might have stood him in stead of many warriors, even as
says the poet:

Flowing hair, as I deem, is not fair to the sight, Except it be
spread, on the day of the fight,
O'er a youth with a spear that he giveth to drink Of the blood of
full many a beard-bearing knight.

Or as says another:

I turned to him, what while he girt his faulchion on, and said,
"Surely, the sabres of thy looks should stand thee in
sword's stead."
Quoth he, "The sabres of my looks I keep for those who love, My
sword for those who have no wit of passion's goodlihead."

When Sherkan. saw him, he said to him, "Ho, champion of the
champions! I conjure thee, by the Koran and the attributes of the
Compassionate One, tell me who thou art: for verily by thy deeds
this day thou hast pleased the Requiting King, whom one thing
distracts not from another, in that thou hast discomfited the
children of impiety and disbelief." Quoth the horseman, "Thou art
he who sworest brotherhood to me but yesterday: how quickly thou
hast forgotten me!" Then he uncovered his face, so that what was
hidden of his beauty was disclosed, and lo, it was none other
than Zoulmekan! When Sherkan knew his brother, he rejoiced in
him, except that he feared for him from the throng of adversaries
and the onslaught of the champions; and this for two reasons, the
first, his tender age and exposure to the evil eye, and the
second, that his life was the mainstay of the empire. So he said
to him, "O King, thou adventurest thy life, and indeed I am in
fear for thee from the foe; so join thy horse to mine, and thou
wouldst do well not to hazard thyself forth of these squadrons,
that we may shoot at the enemy with thine unerring shaft." Quoth
Zoulmekan, "I wish to equal thee in battle and I will not spare
myself before thee in fight." Then the host of Islam rushed upon
the infidels and encompassing them on all sides, waged a right
holy war on them and broke the power of the children of impiety
and pride and corruption. King Herdoub sighed when he saw the
evil case that had fallen on the Greeks, and they turned their
backs and addressed themselves to flight, making for the ships,
when lo, there came out upon them from the sea shore a new army,
led by the Vizier Dendan, him who was wont to make the champions
bite the dust, and the Chamberlain of Syria, with twenty thousand
doughty cavaliers, and fell upon their rear with sword and spear,
whilst the army of Islam pressed them in front and flank. Then
some of the Muslims turned against those that were in the ships
and rained perditions on them, till they threw themselves into
the sea, and they slew of them much people, more than a hundred
thousand knights, nor did one of their champions escape, great or
small. Moreover, they took their ships, with all the baggage and
treasure therein, and the Muslims got that day booty, the like of
which was never gotten of time past; nor did ever ear hear of
such a battle. But twenty of the ships escaped, and amongst the
booty were fifty thousand horses, besides treasure and spoil past
count or reckoning, whereat the Muslims rejoiced with an
exceeding joy and thanked God for the aid and protection He had
vouchsafed them.

Meanwhile, the news reached Constantinople that King Afridoun had
gotten the victory over the Muslims, and Dhat ed Dewahi said, "I
know that my son King Herdoub is no runagate and that he has
nought to fear from the hosts of Islam, but will bring the whole
world to the Nazarene faith." Then she commanded the city to be
decorated, and the people held high festival and drank wines,
knowing not what God had decreed to them. Whilst they were in the
midst of their rejoicings, behold, the raven of affliction
croaked against them and up came the twenty ships of fugitives,
amongst them the King of Caesarea. King Afridoun met them on the
sea-shore, and they told him all that had befallen them, weeping
sore and lamenting, whereupon rejoicing was turned into dismay,
and King Afridoun was filled with consternation and knew that
there was no repairing their mischance. The women gathered
together to make moan and lament: and the city was filled with
mourning; all hearts failed, whilst the hired mourners cried
aloud and weeping and wailing arose on all sides. When King
Herdoub met King Afridoun, he told him the truth of the case and
how the flight of the Muslims was but a stratagem and said to
him, "Look not to see any of the troops, save those that have
already reached thee." When Afridoun heard this, he fell down in
a swoon with his nose under his feet; and as soon as he revived
he exclaimed, "Surely the Messiah was wroth with the army, that
he delivered them thus into the hands of the Muslims!" Then came
the Arch-Patriarch sadly to King Afridoun who said to him, "O our
father, destruction hath overtaken our army and the Messiah hath
punished us." "Grieve not nor be concerned," replied the
Patriarch; "for it cannot be but that one of you has sinned
against the Messiah, and all have been punished for his sin; but
now we will read prayers for you in the churches, that the
Mohammedan hosts may be repelled from you." After this, Dhat ed
Dewahi came to Afridoun and said to him, "O King, verily the
Muslims are many, and we shall never prevail against them, save
by wile: wherefore I purpose to work upon them by stratagem and
repair to the army of Islam; haply I may be able to carry out my
intent against their leader and slay their champion, even as I
slew his father. If I succeed, not one of them shall return to
his native land, for all their strength lies in him; but I wish
to have some Christians of Syria, such as go out from time to
time to sell their goods, to help me in carrying out my plan."
"Be it so, whenas thou wilt," replied the King. So she bade fetch
a hundred men, natives of Nejran in Syria, and said to them, "Ye
have heard what has befallen the Christians with the Muslims?"
"Yes," replied they; and the King said, "This woman has devoted
herself to the Messiah and purposes to go forth with you,
disguised as Mohammedans, to work out a device, which shall
profit us and hinder the Muslim host from us: so if ye also are
willing to devote yourselves to Christ, I will give you a quintal
of gold. Those of you who escape shall have the money, and those
of you who are slain Christ will reward." "O King," replied they,
"we devote ourselves to the Messiah, and we will be thy
sacrifice." Then the old woman took drugs and simples and boiled
them in water, till the black essence of them was extracted. She
waited till it was cold, then dipped the end of a handkerchief
therein and coloured her face therewith.. Moreover she put on,
over her clothes, a long gaberdine with an embroidered border and
taking in her hand a rosary, went in to King Afridoun, who knew
her not nor did any of his companions know her, till she
discovered herself to them, when they all praised her for her
cunning and her son rejoiced and said, "May the Messiah never
fail thee!" Then she took with her the Syrian Christians, and
set out for the army of Baghdad. Now this accursed old woman was
a witch of the witches, past mistress in sorcery and deception,
knavish, crafty, debauched and perfidious, with foul breath, red
eyelids, sallow cheeks, pale face, bleared eyes, mangy body,
grizzled hair, humped back, withered complexion and running
nostrils. She had studied the scriptures of Islam and made the
pilgrimage to the Holy House of God,[FN#100] to come to the
knowledge of the Mohammedan ordinances and the doctrines of the
Koran; and she had professed Judaism in Jerusalem two years'
space, that she might perfect herself in the magical arts of men
and Jinn; so that she was a plague of plagues and a calamity of
calamities, utterly depraved and having no religion. Now the
chief reason of her sojourn with her son, King Herdoub, was on
account of the maidens at his court: for she was given to
tribadism and could not exist without it: so if any damsel
pleased her, she was wont to teach her the art and rub saffron on
her, till she fainted away for excess of pleasure. Whoso obeyed
her, she used to favour and spake interest for her with her son;
and whoso repelled her, she would contrive to destroy. This was
known to Merjaneh and Rihaneh and Utriyeh, the handmaids of
Abrizeh, and the princess loathed the old woman and abhorred to
lie with her because of the ill smell from her armpits and the
stench of her wind, more fetid than carrion, and the roughness of
her body, coarser than palm fibre. She was wont to bribe those
who served her desires with jewels and instruction; but Abrizeh
held aloof from her and sought refuge with the All-Wise, the
Omniscient; for well does the poet say:

O thou that abasest thyself to those that are rich and great And
lordest it with disdain o'er those of low estate,
Thou that thinkest to gild thy baseness by gathering gold, The
scenting of aught that's foul skills not its stench to

To continue. As soon as Dhat ed Dewahi had departed, her son went
in to Afridoun and said to him, "O King, we have no need of the
Chief Patriarch nor of his prayers, but will act according to my
mother's counsel and await what she will do of her craft without
end with the Muslim host, for they are on the march hither with
all their strength and will quickly be with us." When King
Afridoun heard this, terror took hold upon his heart and he wrote
letters forthright to all the countries of the Christians,
saying, "It behoves none of the followers of the Messiah or
soldiers of the Cross to hold back, especially the folk of the
citadels and strong places: but let them all come to us foot and
horse and women and children, for the Muslim hosts already tread
our soil. So hasten, hasten, ere what we fear come to pass."

Now Dhat ed Dewahi had clad her companions in the habit of Muslim
merchants and had provided herself with a hundred mules laden
with stuffs of Antioch, such as gold woven satin and royal
brocade and so forth, and with a letter from King Afridoun to the
following effect: "These are merchants from the land of Syria,
who have been with us: so it behoves none to do them let or
hindrance nor take tithe of them, till they reach their own
country and the place of their security, for by merchants a
country flourishes and grows rich, and these are no men of war
nor evil-doers." So, as soon as she came without the city, she
said to them, "O folk, I wish to work out a plot for the
destruction of the Muslims." "O princess," replied they, "command
us what thou wilt; we are at thy disposal, and may the Messiah
prosper thy dealing!" Then she donned a gown of fine white wool
and rubbing her forehead, till she made a great mark (as of a
scar), anointed it with an ointment of her own fashion, so that
it shone greatly. Now she was lean-bodied and hollow-eyed, and
she bound her legs tightly round with cords just above her feet,
till she drew near the Muslim camp, when she unwound them,
leaving the marks of the cords deeply embedded in the flesh. Then
she anointed the weals with dragon's blood and bade her
companions beat her severely and lay her in a chest. "How can we
beat thee," replied they, "who art our sovereign lady and mother
of the supreme King?" Quoth she, "We blame not nor reproach him
who goeth to the jakes, and in time of necessity, forbidden
things become lawful. When ye have laid me in the chest, set it
on the back of one of the mules and pass on with it and the other
goods through the Muslim camp, crying aloud the profession of the
Faith of Unity.[FN#101] If any hinder you, give up the mules and
their lading and betake yourself to their king Zoulmekan and cast
yourselves on his protection, saying, 'We were in the country of
the infidels and they took nothing from us, but wrote us a
passport, that none should hinder us: so why do ye seize upon our
goods? See, here is the letter of the King of the Greeks,
commanding that none shall do us let or hindrance.' If he say to
you, 'What profit had ye of your commerce in the land of the
Greeks?' answer him, 'We profited in that it was given us to
accomplish the deliverance of a pious man, who had lain nigh
fifteen years in a dungeon under the earth, crying out for help,
yet none helped him. On the contrary, the infidels tortured him
night and day. We knew not of this: but after we had sojourned
awhile in Constantinople, having sold our goods and bought others
in their stead, we made ready to set out and return to our native
land. We spent the night before our departure, conversing about
our journey, and when the day broke, we saw a figure painted upon
the wall; and behold, as we drew nigh it, it moved and said, "O
Muslims, is there amongst you one who is minded to gain the
favour of the Lord of the two worlds?" "How so?" asked we.
"Know," replied the figure, "that God hath made me speak to you,
to the intent that your belief may be fortified and that your
faith may inspire you and that you may go forth of the country of
the infidels and repair to the camp of the Muslims. where ye shall
find the Sword of the Compassionate One, the Champion of the Age,
King Sherkan, him by whom He shall conquer Constantinople and
destroy the followers of the Christian heresy. On the third day
of your journey, you will come to [a town, in which stands] a
hermitage known as the hermitage of Metronhena. Make for it with
a pure intent and do your utmost endeavour to come into the
hermitage, for therein is a true believer from Jerusalem, by name
Abdallah, one of the holiest of men, whom God hath blessed with
supernatural powers, such as dispel doubts and obscurity. Him
certain of the monks seized by fraud and shut in an underground
dungeon, where he has lain many a year. So, if ye desire to gain
the favour of the Lord of the Faithful, ye cannot accomplish a more
acceptable work than the deliverance of this holy man." When we
heard what the figure said, we knew that this holy man was indeed
of the chiefest of the devotees and heart-whole servants of God; so
we set out and after three days' journey, came in sight of the town,
and making for it, passed the day in buying and selling, as is the
wont of merchants. As soon as the day had departed and the night was
come with the darkness, we repaired to the hermitage, wherein was
the dungeon, and presently heard the holy man chant some verses of
the Koran and repeat the following lines:

I strive with my heart, for anguish that's well-nigh cleft in
twain, And there ebbs and flows in my bosom a flooding sea
of pain.
Indeed, there is no deliverance, and death is near at hand; Yet
death than long affliction were kinder and more fain.
O lightning, if thou visit my native land and folk, If for the
fair ones' lustre thine own red brilliance wane
Carry my salutation to those I love and say, I lie in a far Greek
dungeon and cry for help in vain.
How can I win to join them, since that the ways with wars Are
blocked and the gate of succour is barred with many a

When once ye have brought me into the Muslim camp," added the old
woman, "I know how I will make shift to beguile them and slay
them all, even to the last man." When the Christians heard what
she said, they kissed her hands and laid her in a chest, after
they had beaten her grievously, in obedience to her commands,
seeing it to be incumbent on them to do her bidding in this, then
made for the Muslim camp.

Meanwhile, the Muslims sat down to converse with each other,
after they had made an end of the battle and the pillage, and
Zoulmekan said to his brother, "Verily, God hath given us the
victory, because of our just dealing and concord amongst
ourselves; wherefore, O Sherkan, do thou continue to obey my
commandment, in submission to God (to whom belong might and
majesty), for I mean to slay ten kings and fifty thousand of the
Greeks, in revenge for my father, and enter Constantinople." "My
life be thy ransom against death!" replied Sherkan. "Needs must I
follow forth the Holy War, though I tarry many a year in the
infidels' country. But, O my brother, I have in Damascus a
daughter called Kuzia Fekan, who is one of the marvels of the
time, and I love her heartily." "And I also," said Zoulmekan,
"have left my wife with child and near her time, nor do I know
what God will vouchsafe me by her. But, O my brother, promise me
that, if she bring me a son, thou wilt grant me thy daughter for
my son and pledge me thy faith thereon." "With all my heart,"
replied Sherkan and put out his hand to his brother, saying, "If
thou be blessed with a son, I will give him my daughter Kuzia
Fekan to wife." At this Zoulmekan rejoiced, and they fell to
giving each other joy of the victory, whilst the Vizier Dendan
also congratulated them and said to them "Know, O Kings, that God
hath given us the victory, for that we have devoted ourselves to
Him (to whom belong might and majesty) and have left our homes
and families: and it is my counsel that we follow up the foe and
press upon them and harass them; it may be God shall bring us to
our desire and we shall destroy our enemies. If it please you, do
ye embark in the ships and sail upon the sea, whilst we fare
forward by land and bear the brunt of the battle." And he ceased
not to urge them to action, repeating the following verses:

The goodliest of delights it is one's foes to slay And on the
backs of steeds the spoil to bear away.
Oft comes a messenger with promise of a friend, And the friend
comes himself without a trysting-day.

And these also:

As I live, I will make of war my mother and the spear My brother
and the sword my father, and for fere
I will take each shag-haired warrior that meets death with a
smile, As if to die in battle were e'en his wish most dear!

"Glory be to God," continued he, "Who hath vouchsafed us His
almighty aid and hath given us spoil of silver and fine gold!"
Then Zoulmekan commanded to depart; and the army set out and
fared on, by forced marches, toward Constantinople, till they
came to a wide and blooming champaign, full of all things fair,
with wild cattle frisking and gazelles passing to and fro. Now
they had traversed great deserts and had been six days cut off
from water, when they drew near this meadow and saw therein
waters welling and trees laden with ripe fruits and the land as
it were Paradise; it had donned its adornments and decked
itself.[FN#102] The branches of its trees swayed gently to and
fro, drunken with the new wine of the dew, and therein were
conjoined the fresh sweetness of the fountains of Paradise and
the soft breathings of the zephyr. Mind and eye were confounded
with its beauty, even as says the poet:

Look on the verdant smiling mead, with flowers and herbs beseen,
As 'twere the Spring thereon had spread a mantle all of
If thou behold it with the eye of sense alone, thou'lt see Nought
but as 'twere a lake wherein the water waves, I ween:
But with thy mind's eye look; thou'lt see a glory in the trees
And lo' amidst the boughs above, the waving banners' sheen!

Or as another says:

The river's a cheek that the sun has rosy made; For ringlets it
borrows the cassia's creeping shade.
The water makes anklets of silver about the legs Of the boughs,
and the flowers for crowns o'er all are laid.

When Zoulmekan saw this champaign, with its thick-leaved trees
and its blooming flowers and warbling birds, he turned to his
brother Sherkan and said to him, "O my brother, verily Damascus
hath not in it the like of this place. We will abide here three
days, that we may rest ourselves and that the troops may regain
strength and their souls be fortified to encounter the accursed
infidels." So they halted and pitched their camp there.
Presently, they heard a noise of voices afar, and Zoulmekan
enquiring the cause thereof, was told that a caravan of Syrian
merchants had halted there to rest and that the Muslim troops had
come on them and had haply seized some of their goods, that they
had brought from the country of the infidels. After awhile, up
came the merchants, crying out and appealing to the King for
redress. So Zoulmekan bade bring them before him, and they said
to him, "O King, we have been in the country of the infidels and
they spoiled us of nothing: why then do our brothers the Muslims
despoil us of our goods, and that in their own country? When we
saw your troops, we went up to them, thinking no evil, and they
robbed us of what we had with us." Then they brought out to him
the letter of the King of Constantinople, and Sherkan took it and
reading it, said to them, "We will restore you what has been
taken from you; but it behoved you not to carry merchandise to
the country of the infidels." "O our lord," replied they, "of a
truth, God moved us to go thither, that we might win what never
champion won the like of, no, not even thou in ail thy battles."
"What was it that ye won?" asked Sherkan. "O King," replied they,
"we will not tell thee, except in private; for if this thing be
noised among the folk, it may come to the ears of the King of
Constantinople, and this will be the cause of our ruin and of the
ruin of all Muslims that resort to the land of the Greeks." (Now
they had hidden the chest wherein was Dhat ed Dewahi.) So
Zoulmekan and his brother brought them to a private place, where
they repeated to him the story of the devotee, even as the old
woman had lessoned them, and wept till they made the two kings
weep. There withal Sherkan's heart yearned to the devotee and he
was moved to pity for him and zeal for the service of God the
Most High. So he said to the Syrians, "Did ye rescue the holy man
or is he still in the hermitage?" Quoth they, "We delivered him
and slew the hermit, fearing for ourselves; after which we made
haste to fly, for fear of death; but a trusty man told us that in
this hermitage are quintals of gold and silver and jewels." Then
they fetched the chest and brought out the accursed old woman, as
she were a cassia[FN#103] pod, for excess of blackness and
leanness, and laden with fetters and shackles. When Zoulmekan and
the bystanders saw her, they took her for a man of the dower of
God's servants and the most excellent of devotees, more by token
of the shining of her forehead for the ointment with which she
had anointed it. So Zoulmekan and Sherkan wept sore and kissed
her hands and feet, sobbing aloud: but she signed to them and
said, "Give over weeping and hear my words." So they left
weeping, in obedience to her, and she said, "Know that I was
content to accept what my Lord did unto me, knowing that the
affliction that befell me was a trial from Him (to whom belong
might and majesty); since that for him who is not patient under
trial and affliction there is no coming to the delights of
Paradise. I had indeed besought Him that I might return to my
native land, yet not for impatience of the sufferings decreed to
me, but that I might die under the hoofs of the horses of the
warriors of the Faith, who, being slain in battle, live again
without suffering death,"[FN#104]; and she repeated the following

The fortress[FN#105] is Sinai's self and the fire of war burns
free, And thou art Moses and this the time appointed to
Throw down thy rod, for lo, it shall swallow up all they make!
And fear not; I trow the ropes of the folk no serpents
Read thou the lines of the foe for chapters,[FN#107] the day of
the fight, And let thy sword mark on their necks the verses,
what while they flee.

Then her eyes ran over with tears and her forehead shone like
gleaming light, and Sherkan rose and kissed her hand and caused
food to be set before her: but she refused it, saying, "I have
not broken my fast (till sunset) for fifteen years; and how
should I do so now, whenas my Lord hath been bountiful to me in
delivering me from the captivity of the infidels and doing away
from me that which was more grievous than the fiery torment? I
will wait till sun down." So at nightfall Sherkan and Zoulmekan
came to her with food and said, "Eat, O pious man." But she said,
"This is no time for eating; it is the hour for doing my service
to the Requiting King." Then she took up her station in the
prayer-niche and stood praying till the night was spent; and she
ceased not to do thus for three days and nights, sitting not but
at the time of salutation.[FN#108] When Zoulmekan saw this her
behaviour, belief in her took firm hold upon his heart and he
said to Sherkan, "Cause a tent of perfumed leather to be pitched
for this holy man and appoint a servant to wait upon him." On the
fourth day, she called for food; so they brought her all kinds of
meats that could allure the sense or delight the eye; but of all
this she ate but one cake of bread with salt. Then she turned
again to her fast, and when the night came, she rose anew to
pray: and Sherkan said to Zoulmekan, "Verily, this man carries
renunciation of the world to the utmost extreme, and were it not
for this holy war, I would join myself to him and worship God in
his service, till I came before His presence. And now I would
fain enter his tent and talk with him awhile." "And I also," said
Zoulmekan. "To-morrow we sally forth against Constantinople, and
we shall find no time like the present." "And I also," said the
Vizier Dendan, "desire to see this holy man; haply he will pray
for me that I may find my death in this holy war and come to the
presence of my Lord, for I am weary of the world." So as soon as
night had darkened on them, they repaired to the tent of the
witch Dhat et Dewahi and finding her standing praying, fell
a-weeping, for pity of her: but she paid no heed to them till the
night was half spent, when she ended her devotions by pronouncing
the salutation (to the guardian angels). Then she turned to them
and greeted them, saying, "Wherefore come ye?" "O holy man," said
they, "didst thou not hear us weeping round thee?" "To him who
stands before God," replied she, "there remains nor sight nor
hearing for the things of this world." Quoth they, "We would have
thee tell us the manner of thy captivity and offer up prayer for
us this night, for that will profit us more than the possession
of Constantinople." "By Allah," answered she, "were ye not the
leaders of the Muslims, I would not tell you aught of this; for I
complain not but to God alone. However, to you I will relate the
circumstance of my captivity. Know, then, that I was in Jerusalem
with certain saints and ecstatics, and did not magnify myself
among them, for that God had endowed me with humility and
abnegation, till one night I chanced to go down to the lake and
walked upon the water. There withal there entered into me pride,
whence I know not, and I said to myself, 'Who can walk upon the
water, like unto me?' And from that time my heart became hardened
and God afflicted me with the love of travel. So I journeyed to
the land of the Greeks and visited it in every part during a
whole year, leaving no place but I worshipped God therein. When I
came to the place (where the Syrians found me) I ascended the
mountain and saw there a hermitage, inhabited by a monk called
Metrouhena. When he saw me, he came out to me and kissed my hands
and feet, saying, 'Verily, I have seen thee, since thou camest
into the land of the Greeks, and thou hast filled me with longing
for the land of Islam.' Then he took my hand and carrying me into
the hermitage, brought me to a dark place, where he took me
unawares and locking the door on me, left me there forty days,
without meat or drink; for it was his intent to kill me by
starvation. One day it chanced that a knight called Decianus came
to the hermitage, accompanied by ten squires and his daughter
Temathil, a girl of incomparable beauty. The monk told them of
me, and Decianus said, 'Bring him out, for surely there is not a
bird's meal of flesh left on him.' So they opened the door of the
dungeon and found me standing erect in the niche, praying and
reciting the Koran and glorifying God and humbling myself to Him.
When they saw this, the monk exclaimed, 'This man is indeed a
sorcerer of the sorcerers!' Then they all came in on me, and
Decianus and his company beat me grievously, till I desired death
and reproached myself, saying, 'This is the reward of him who
glorifies himself and takes credit for that which God hath
bestowed upon him, beyond his own competence! For, indeed, my
soul, pride and arrogance have crept into thee. Dost thou not
know that pride angers the Lord and hardens the heart and brings
men to the fire?' Then they laid me in fetters and returned me to
my place, which was a dungeon under the earth. Every three days,
they threw me down a cake of barley-bread and a draught of water;
and every month or two, came Decianus to the hermitage, with his
daughter Temathil, who is now grown up, for when I first saw her,
she was nine years old, and I abode fifteen years in the dungeon,
so that she must be now four-and twenty years of age. There is
not in our land nor in the land of the Greeks a fairer than she,
and her father feared lest the King (of Constantinople) should
take her from him; for she had vowed herself to the service of
the Messiah and rode with Decianus in the habit of a cavalier, so
that none who saw her knew her for a woman. In this hermitage her
father had laid up his treasures, for all who had aught of price
were wont to deposit it there, and I saw there all manner of gold
and silver and jewels and precious vessels and rarities, none may
keep count of them save God the Most High. Ye are more worthy of
these riches than the infidels; so do ye lay hands on that which
is in the hermitage and divide it among the Muslims, and
especially among those who wage the holy war. When these
merchants came to Constantinople and sold their merchandise, the
image on the wall spoke to them, by God's special grace to me; so
they made for the hermitage and tortured Metrouhena, after the
most grievous fashion, and dragged him by the beard, till he
showed them where I was, when they took me and fled for fear of
death. To-morrow, Temathil will visit the hermitage as of wont,
and her father and his squires will come after her, to protect
her: so, an ye would be witness of these things, take me with you
and I will deliver to you the treasure and the riches of the
knight Decianus, that are stored up in that mountain; for I saw
them bring out vessels of gold and silver to drink in and heard a
damsel of their company sing to them in Arabic. Alas, that so
sweet a voice should not be busied in reciting the Koran! So, an
ye will, I will bring you to the hermitage and ye shall hide
there, against the coming of Decianus and his daughter. Then take
her, for she is only fit for the king of the age, Sherkan, or for
King Zoulmekan." When they heard her words, they all rejoiced,
with the exception of the Vizier Dendan, who put no faith in her
story, for her words took no hold on his reason and he was
confounded at her discourse and signs of doubt and disbelief
appeared in his face; but he feared to speak with her, for awe of
the King. Then she said, "I fear lest Decianus come and seeing
the troops encamped here, be afraid to enter the hermitage." So
Zoulmekan resolved to despatch the army towards Constantinople
and said, "I mean to take a hundred horse and many mules and make
for the mountain, where we will load the mules with the
treasure." Then he sent for the Chamberlain and for the captains
of the Turks and Medes and said to them, 'As soon as it is day,
do ye strike camp and set out for Constantinople. Thou, O
Chamberlain, shall fill my place in council and command, and
thou, O Rustem, shalt be my brother's deputy in battle. Let none
know that we are not with you, and after three days we will
rejoin you." Then he chose out a hundred of the stoutest
cavaliers, and he and Sherkan and Dendan set out for the
hermitage, with mules and chests for the transport of the
treasure. As soon as it was morning, the Chamberlain gave the
signal for departure, and the troops set out, thinking that the
two Kings and the Vizier were with them. Now the Syrians that
were with Dhat ed Dewahi had taken their departure privily, after
they had gone in to her and kissed her hands and feet and gotten
her leave and taken her orders. Then she waited till it was dark
night and going in to Zoulmekan and his companions, said to them,
"Come, let us set out for the mountain, and take with you a few
men." They obeyed her and left five horsemen at the foot of the
mountain, whilst the rest rode on before Dhat ed Dewahi, to whom
new strength seemed given for excess of joy, so that Zoulmekan
said to his companions, "Glory be to God who sustains this holy
man, whose like we never saw!" Now she had written a letter to
the King of Constantinople and despatched it by a carrier-pigeon,
acquainting him with what had passed and adding, "Do thou send me
ten thousand horsemen of the stoutest of the Greeks and let them
come stealthily along the foot of the mountains, lest the Muslim
host get sight of them, to the hermitage and hide themselves
there, till I come to them with the Muslim King and his brother,
for I have inveigled them and will bring them thither, together
with the Vizier Dendan and a hundred horse, no more, that I may
deliver to them the crosses that are in the hermitage. I am
resolved to slay the monk Metrouhena, since my scheme cannot be
carried out but at the cost of his life. If my plot work well,
not one of the Muslims shall return to his own country, no, not a
living soul nor a blower of the fire; and Metrouhena shall be a
sacrifice for the followers of the Christian faith and the
servants of the Cross, and praise be to the Messiah, first and
last!" When this letter reached Constantinople, the keeper of the
pigeons carried it to King Afridoun, who read it and forthwith
equipped ten thousand cavaliers with horses and dromedaries and
mules and victual and bade them repair to the hermitage and hide
there; and they did as he commanded them. Meanwhile. when
Zoulmekan and his companions reached the hermitage, they entered
and met the monk Metrouhena, who came out to see who they were;
whereupon quoth Dhat ed Dewahi, "Slay this accursed fellow.' So
they fell on him with their swords and made him drink the cup of
death. Then the accursed old woman carried them to the place of
offerings[FN#109] and brought out to them treasures and precious
things, more than she had promised them, which they laid in
chests and loaded the mules therewith. As for Temathil and her
father, they came not, for fear of the Muslims, and Zoulmekan
tarried there, awaiting her, the whole of that day and two more,
till Sherkan said to him, "By Allah, I am troubled at heart for
the army of Islam, for I know not what is come of them." "And I
also am concerned for them," replied Zoulmekan. "We have come by
a great treasure and I do not believe that Temathil or any one
else will come to the hermitage, after that which has befallen
the host of the Christians. So we should do well to content
ourselves with what God has given us and depart; and haply He
will help us break open Constantinople." So they came down from
the mountain, for Dhat ed Dewahi dared not gainsay them, for fear
of betraying herself, and rode on till they reached the head of a
defile, in which the old woman had laid an ambush for them with
the ten thousand horse. As soon as the latter saw them, they made
at them from all sides, couching their lances and baring their
sabres, whilst they shouted the watchword of their infidel faith
and set the arrows of their mischief to the strings.

When Zoulmekan saw them, he was ware that they were a mighty host
and said, "Who can have given these troops advice of us?" "O my
brother," replied Sherkan, "this is no time for talking, but for
smiting with swords and shooting with arrows; so gird up your
courage and strengthen your hearts, for this pass is like a
street with two gates: though, by the virtue of the Lord of the
Arabs and the Persians, were not the place so strait, I would
bring them to nought, though they were a hundred thousand men!"

"Had we known this," said Zoulmekan, "we would have brought with
us five thousand horse." "If we had ten thousand," rejoined the
Vizier, "they would avail ail us nothing in this narrow place:
but God will succour us against them. I know this defile and its
straitness, and there are many places of refuge in it; for I have
been here on an expedition with King Omar ben Ennuman, what while
we laid siege to Constantinople. We camped in this place, and
there is here water colder than snow. So come, let us win? out of
this pass ere the infidels increase on us and get the start of us
to the mountain-top, that they may hurl down rocks upon us and we
be powerless to come at them." So they hurried on, to get out of
the defile: but Dhat ed Dewahi looked at them and said, "What is
it ye fear, ye who have vowed yourselves to God the Most High, to
work His will? By Allah, I was imprisoned underground for fifteen
years, yet never gainsaid I God in aught He did with me! Fight ye
in the way of God; whoso of ye is killed, Paradise shall be his
abode, and whoso kills, his endeavour shall be for his glory."
When they heard her words, their concern and anxiety ceased from
them and they stood firm, awaiting the onset of the infidels, who
fell on them from all sides, whilst the swords played upon their
necks and the cup of death went round amongst them.

The Muslims fought right valiantly for the service of God and
wrought upon His enemies with stroke of sword and push of pike;
whilst Zoulmekan smote upon the men and made the champions bite
the dust and their heads fly from their bodies, five by five and
ten by ten, till he had done to death a number of them past
count. Presently, he looked at the old woman and saw her waving
her sword and heartening them, and all who feared fled to her for
shelter; but (in secret) she was beckoning to the infidels to
kill Sherkan. So troop after troop rushed on him to slay him: but
each troop he charged and drove back, with the sword in their
loins; and indeed he thought it was the holy man's blessing that
gave him the victory over them and said in himself, "Verily God
looks on this holy man with eyes of favour and strengthens my
prowess against the infidels with the purity of his intent: for I
see that they fear me and cannot stand against me, but every one
who attacks me turns tail and flees." So they battled the rest of
the day, and when the night fell, the Muslims took refuge in a
cave, being hard pressed and weary with stress of battle; and
five-and-forty of them were slain that day by rocks that the
infidels rolled down on them. When they were gathered together,
they sought the devotee, but could find no trace of him. This was
grievous to them and they said, "Belike, he hath died a martyr."
Quoth Sherkan "I saw him heartening the men with divine instances
and sacring them with verses of the Koran." Whilst they were
talking, behold, the accursed old woman stood before them, with
the head of the captain of the ten thousand horse, a noble
knight, a fierce champion and an obstinate devil, in her hand.
Now one of the Turks had slain him with an arrow, and God hurried
his soul to the fire: and when the infidels saw what the Muslim
had done with their leader, they all fell on him and hewed him in
pieces with their swords, and God hastened with his soul to
Paradise. Then the old woman cut off the knight's head and
carrying it to Sherkan and Zoulmekan and the Vizier, threw it at
their feet; whereupon Sherkan exclaimed, "Praised be God that we
see thee in safety, O holy man and devout champion of the Faith!"
"O my son," replied she, "I have sought a martyr's death this
day, throwing myself midmost the host of the infidels, but they
feared me. When ye separated, a holy jealousy seized me for you;
so I rushed on the knight their captain, though he was reckoned a
match for a thousand horse, and smote him and severed his head
from his body. Not one of the infidels could come near me, so I
took his head and have brought it to you, that you may be
heartened in the holy strife and work out the will of the Lord of
the Faithful with your swords. And now I will leave you to strive
against the infidels, whilst I go to your army, though they be at
the gates of Constantinople, and return with twenty thousand
horse to destroy these unbelievers." Quoth Sherkan, "How wilt
thou win to them, O holy man, seeing that the valley is blocked
up by the infidels on all sides?" "God will veil me from their
eyes," replied she, "and they shall not see me; nor if any saw
me, would he dare to attack me, for I shall be absorbed in God
and He will fend off His enemies from me." "Thou sayst sooth, O
holy man," rejoined Sherkan, "for indeed I have been witness of
this; so, if thou canst set out at the first of the night, it
will be the better for us." "I will set out forthright," replied
she; "and, an thou wilt, thou shalt go with me, and none shall
see thee. If thy brother also have a mind to go, we will take
him, but none else; for the shadow of a saint can cover but two."
"As for me," said Sherkan, "I will not leave my comrades; but, if
my brother please, he will do well to go with thee and win free
of this strait; for he is the stronghold of the Muslims and the
sword of the Lord of the two worlds; and if it be his pleasure,
let him take with him the Vizier Dendan, or whom else he may
choose, and send us ten thousand horse to succour us against
these villains." So they agreed to this and Dhat ed Dewahi said,
"Wait till I go on before you and look if the infidels be asleep
or awake." Quoth they, "We will go with thee and trust our affair
to God." "If I do your bidding," replied she, "do not blame me,
but blame yourselves; for it is my counsel that you wait till I
have spied you out the state of the case." Then said Sherkan, "Go
and return quickly, for we shall be awaiting thee." So she went
out and Sherkan turned to his brother and said, "Were not this
holy man a miracle-worker, he had never slain yonder doughty
knight. This is a sufficient measure of his power, and indeed the
strength of the infidels is broken by the slaying of their
leader, for he was a fierce warrior and a stubborn devil." Whilst
they were thus devising of the power of the devotee, behold, the
cursed old woman returned and promised them victory over the
unbelievers; whereupon they thanked her, and she said, "Where is
the king of the age Zoulmekan?" "Here am I," replied he. "Take
thy Vizier," said she, "and follow me, that we may win out to
Constantinople." Now she had acquainted the infidels with the
cheat she had put on the Muslims, and they rejoiced mightily and
said, "We shall not be content till we have slain their king in
return for the death of our general; for we had no stouter
cavalier than he; but when thou bringest him to us, we will carry
him to King Afridoun." Then she went out with Zoulmekan and
Dendan and walked on before them, saying, "Fare on with the
blessing of the Most High God!" They did as she bade them, for
the arrow of fate and destiny had fallen on them, and she led
them on, through the midst of the Christian camp, till they came
to the narrow pass aforesaid. Whilst the enemy watched them, but
did them no hindrance; for the old woman had enjoined this on
them. When Zoulmekan and Dendan saw that the infidels did them no
hindrance, the Vizier exclaimed, "By Allah, this is one of the
holy man's miracles! Without doubt he is of the elect." "By
Allah," said Zoulmekan, "I think the infidels must be blind, for
we see them, and they see us not." Whilst they were thus praising
the holy man and recounting his virtues, behold, the infidels
fell upon them from all sides and seized them, saying, "Is there
any one else with you, that we may seize upon him?" Quoth Dendan,
"See ye not yon other man that is before us?" "By the Messiah and
the Monks and the Primate and the Metropolitan," replied they,
"we see none but you!" And Zoulmekan said, "By Allah, this is a
chastisement decreed to us by God!" Then the Christians laid
shackles on their feet and set men to guard them during the
night, whilst Dhat ed Dewahi fared on and disappeared from their
sight. So they fell to lamenting and said, "Verily, the
gainsaying of pious men leads to greater stress than this, and we
are punished by the strait into which we have fallen."

Meanwhile, Sherkan passed the night in the cavern with his
companions, and when the day broke, he arose and prayed the
morning-prayer. Then he and his men made ready to do battle with
the infidels, and he encouraged them and promised them all good.
Then they sallied out against the Christians, who cried out to
them from afar as soon as they saw them, saying, "O Muslims, we
have taken your Sultan and your Vizier that has the ordering of
your affairs; and except ye leave fighting us, we will slay you
to the last man, but if ye yield to us, we will take you to our
king, who will make peace with you, on condition that you leave
our country and return to your own land and do us no harm, and we
will do you no harm. If you accept, it will be well for you; but
if you refuse, you have nothing to hope for but death. So now we
have told you, and this is our last word to you." When Sherkan
heard this and was certified of the captivity of his brother and
the Vizier Dendan, he was greatly troubled and wept; his strength
failed him and he made sure of death, saying inwardly, "I wonder
what was the cause of their capture? Did they fail of respect to
the holy man or disobey him, or what?" Then they rushed upon the
unbelievers and slew great plenty of them. The valiant, that day,
was known from the faint-hearted, and the swords and spears were
dyed with blood; for the infidels flocked on them from all sides,
as flies flock to wine; but Sherkan and his men ceased not to
wage the fight of those who fear not death nor let it hinder them
from the pursuit of victory, till the valley ran with blood and
the earth was full of the slain. So fought they on till
nightfall, when the two parties separated, each to his own place,
and the Muslims returned to the grotto, where both victory and
loss were manifest to them, and there was no dependence for them
but on God and the sword. That day there had been slain of them
five-and-thirty men of the chief amirs, and they had put to the
sword thousands of the infidels, both horse and foot. When
Sherkan saw this, the case was grievous to him, and he said to
his comrades, "What shall we do?" "That which God wills," replied
they. On the morning of the second day, Sherkan said to the
remnant of his troop, "If ye go forth to fight, not one of you
will remain alive and we have but little food and water left; so
meseems ye would do better to draw your swords and stand at the
door of the cavern, to hinder any from entering. Peradventure the
holy man may have traversed the Christian host, without being
seen of the unbelievers, and may win to Constantinople and return
with ten thousand horse, to succour us against the infidels."
"This is the better course," replied they, "and there is no doubt
of its expediency." So they went out and held the opening of the
grotto, standing in its sides; and every one of the infidels who
sought to come in, they slew. Thus did they fend off the enemy
from the door of the cavern and make head against all their
assaults, till the day departed and the night came with the
shadows, by which time King Sherkan had but five-and-twenty men
left. Then said the Christians to each other, "When shall these
battles have an end? We are weary of fighting the Muslims." And
one of them said, "Up and let us fall on them, for there be but
five-and-twenty and of them left. If we cannot prevail on them to
fight, let us light a fire upon them; and if they submit and
yield themselves up, we will take them prisoners: else we will
leave them to serve as fuel to the fire, so that they shall
become a warning to men of understanding. May the Messiah not
have mercy on their fathers and may the sojourn of the Christians
be no abiding-place for them!" So they repaired to the cavern and
heaping up faggots in the door-way, set fire to them. Thereupon,
Sherkan and his companions made sure of death and yielded
themselves up. The unbelievers thought to kill them, but the
knight their captain said to those who counselled this, "It is
for none but King Afridoun to kill them, that he may quench
thereby his thirst for vengeance; wherefore it behoves us to keep
them prisoners till the morrow, when we will journey with them to
Constantinople and deliver them to King Afridoun, who shall deal
with them as he pleases." "This is the right course," replied
they; and he commanded to pinion the prisoners and set guards
over them. Then, as soon as it was dark, the infidels gave
themselves up to feasting and merry-making and called for wine
and drank, till they all fell backward. Presently, Sherkan turned
to his brother Zoulmekan and said to him "My brother, how shall
we get free?" "By Allah," replied Zoulmekan, "I know not; for we
are here like birds in a cage." At this Sherkan was angry and
sighed for excess of wrath and stretched himself, till his bonds
broke; whereupon he went up to the captain of the guard and
taking from his bosom the keys of the fetters, freed Zoulmekan
and Dendan and the rest of the prisoners. Then said he, "Let us
slay three of these infidels and don their clothes, we three; so
shall we be disguised as Greeks and pass through them without
their knowing us, and win out to our army." "This is no safe
counsel," replied Zoulmekan "for if we kill them, I fear some of
their comrades may hear their groans and the enemy he roused upon
us and kill us. It were better to make our way out of the pass."
So they agreed upon this and set out. When they had left the head
of the defile a little way behind, they saw horses picketed and
their riders sleeping by them: and Sherkan said to his brother,
"Let us each take one of these steeds." So they took five-
and-twenty horses, one for each man, and mounted and rode on
till they were out of reach, whilst God sent sleep upon the
infidels for a secret purpose of His own. Meanwhile, Sherkan
gathered as many swords and spears as he could from the sleepers
and faring on after his comrades, found them awaiting him, on
coals of fire on his account, and said to them, "Have no fear,
since God protects us. I have that to propose, which meseems will
advantage us." "What is it?" asked they, and he said, "It is that
we all climb to the mountain-top and cry out with one voice, 'God
is most great! The army of Islam is upon you! God is most great!'
If we do this, their company will surely be dissolved, for they
are too drunken to find out the trick, but will think that the
Muslim troops have encompassed them on all sides and have become
mingled with them; so they will fall on one another with their
swords, in the confusion of drunkenness and sleep, and we will
cleave them asunder with their own brands and the sword will go
round amongst them till the morning." "This plan is not good,"
replied Zoulmekan. "We should do better to make our way to our
army and keep silence; for, if we cry out, 'God is most great!'
they will wake and fall on us, and not one of us will escape."
"By Allah," rejoined Sherkan, "though they be roused on us, I
desire urgently that ye fall in with my plan, for nothing but
good can come of it." So they agreed and ascending the mountain,
shouted out, "God is most great!" And the hills and trees and
stones cried out with them, "God is most great!" for the fear of
the Almighty. When the unbelievers heard this, they started up
from sleep and did on their armour, crying out to one another and
saying, "By the Messiah, the enemy is upon us." Then they fell
on each other and slew of their own men more than any knows save
God the Most High. As soon as it was day, they sought for the
captives, but found them not, and their captains said, "It
was the prisoners who did this; so up and hasten after them,
till ye overtake them, when we will make them quaff the cup of
punishment; and let not trouble nor panic possess you." So they
sprang to horse and rode after the fugitives, nor was it long
before they overtook them and surrounded them. Wheu Zoulmekan saw
this, he was seized with terror and said to his brother, "What I
feared is come upon us, and now it only remains for us to fight
for the faith." But Sherkan held his peace. Then Zoulmekan and
his companions rushed down from the hill-top, crying out, "God is
most great!" and addressed themselves to fight and sell their
lives in the service of the Lord of the Faithful, when, behold,
they heard many voices crying out, "There is no god but God! God
is most great! Peace and salvation upon the Bringer of Glad
Tidings, the Admonisher of Mankind!"[FN#110] So they turned
towards the sound and saw a company of Muslims pricking towards
them, whereupon their courage revived and Sherkan ran at the
Christians, crying out, "There is no god but God! God is most
great!" so that the earth shook as with an earthquake and the
unbelievers broke asunder and fled into the mountains, whither
the Muslims followed them with sword and spear and made their
heads fly from their bodies, till the day departed and the night
came with the darkness. Then the Muslims drew together and passed
the night rejoicing; and when the day broke and the morning arose
with its light and shone, they saw Behram, the captain of the
Medes, and Rustem, the captain of the Turks, advancing to join
them, with twenty thousand cavaliers, as they were fierce lions.
As soon as they saw Zoulmekan, the chiefs dismounted and saluting
him, kissed the earth before him; and he said to them, "Rejoice
ye in the glad news of the victory of the Muslims and the
discomfiture of the unbelievers!" Then they gave each other joy
of their deliverance and of the greatness of the reward that
awaited them in the world to come.

Now the manner of the coming of the succours was as follows.
When Behram and Rustem and the Chamberlain came in sight
of Constantinople, with the Muslim army, they saw that the
Christians had manned the walls and towers and set all their
strengths in order of defence, for that they knew of the approach
of the host of Islam, through the craft and perfidy of the old
woman Dhat ed Dewahi. So, when they heard the clash of arms and
tramp of horse-hoofs and saw the Mohammedan standards and the
ensigns of the Faith of the Unity of God emerging from the
dust-clouds and heard the voices of the Muslims chanting the
Koran aloud and glorifying the Compassionate One, and the army of
Islam drew near, as it were the swollen sea, for the multitude of
footmen and horsemen and women and children, they poured forth
like a flight of locusts or the streaming of water from the
rain-clouds; and the captain of the Turks said to the captain of
the Medes, "O Amir, of a truth, we are in jeopardy from the
multitude of the foe on the walls. Look at yonder forts and at
the folk like the tempestuous sea with its clashing billows.
Indeed the infidels out-number us a hundred times and we cannot
be sure but that some spy may inform them that we are without a
leader. Verily, we are in peril from these enemies, whose number
may not be told and whose extent is limitless, especially in the
absence of King Zoulmekan and his brother Sherkan and the
illustrious Vizier Dendan. If they know of this, they will be
emboldened to attack us in their absence and will cut off us to
the last man; not one of us will escape alive. So it is my
counsel that we each take ten thousand horse and repair to the
hermitage of Metrouhena and the Meadow of Meloukhna in quest of
our brothers and our chiefs. If thou follow my counsel, it may be
we shall be the cause of their deliverance, in case they be hard
pressed by the infidels; and if not, no blame will rest on me.
But, if we go, it were well that we return quickly, for suspicion
is part of prudence." The other fell in with his counsel; so they
chose twenty thousand horse and set out for the hermitage by
cross roads.

To return to Dhat ed Dewahi. As soon as she had delivered
Zoulmekan and his companions into the hands of the infidels, she
mounted a swift horse, saying to the Christians, "I mean to
rejoin the Muslim army before Constantinople and contrive for
their destruction; for I will tell them that their chiefs are
dead, and when they hear this, their alliance will be dissolved
and their confederation broken up and their host dispersed. Then
will I go to King Afridoun and my son King Herdoub, and they will
sally forth on them with their troops and destroy them, nor leave
one of them alive." So she mounted and fared on across country
all that night, and at daybreak, she sighted the army of Behram
and Rustem advancing towards her. So she turned aside into a
wayside copse and alighting there, hid her horse among the trees,
saying to herself, "Belike they are returning, routed, from the
assault of Constantinople." However, as she drew near, she saw
that their standards were not reversed and knew that they were
not retreating because of defeat, but that they feared for their
king and their chiefs. When she was assured of this, she hastened
up to them, running at the top of her speed, like a stubborn
Satan as she was, and cried out, "Hasten, O soldiers of the
Merciful One, hasten to the holy war against the hosts of Satan!"
When Behram saw her, he dismounted and kissing the earth before
her, said, "What is behind thee, O friend of God?"[FN#111] "Do
not ask of evil case and sore disasters," answered she. "Know
that, when our comrades had taken the treasure from the hermitage
and were on their way back to Constantinople, there came out on
them a great host and a fierce of unbelievers." And she repeated
to them the story, in such wise as to fill them with trouble and
terror, and added, "The most of them are dead, and there are but
five-and-twenty left." "O holy man," said Behram, "when didst
thou leave them?" "But last night," replied she. "Glory be to
God," exclaimed he, "Who hath rolled up the distance for thee
like a carpet, so that thou hast sped thus, walking upon thy feet
and leant upon a palm-tree staff! But thou art one of the friends
of God, that fly like birds, when possessed by the stress of His
commandment!" Then he mounted his horse, perplexed and confounded
for that which he had heard from the lying old beldam and saying,
"There is no power and no virtue but in God the Most High! Verily
our labour is lost and our hearts are heavy within us, for our
king is a prisoner and those who are with him!" Then they fared
on in haste and stayed not the whole of that day and night, till
at daybreak they reached the head of the pass and heard Zoulmekan
and Sherkan shouting, "There is no god but God! God is most
great!" Whereupon they drove at the unbelievers and overwhelmed
them, as the torrent overwhelms the plains, shouting out their
war-cries, till the stoutest champions were affrighted and the
mountains were cloven by the noise. On the morrow, they
foregathered with Zoulmekan, and each recognised the other as has
been before set out. Then they kissed the earth before the King
and his brother Sherkan, and the latter told them all that had
befallen him and his men in the grotto, whereat they marvelled
and said, "Hasten back with us to Constantinople, for we left our
companions there, and our hearts are with them." So they made
haste to depart, commending themselves to the Subtle, the
All-wise; and Zoulmekan exhorted the Muslims to steadfastness,
reciting the following verses:

To thee be the praise, O Thou that meritest thanks and praise!
And mayest Thou never cease to succour me all my days!
I grew up in exile, but Thou, my God, wast ever my friend. 'Twas
Thou didst decree me success and broughtest me forth of the
Thou hast given me lordship and wealth and fortune and girded my
midst With the falchion of valour and wreathed my forehead
with victory's bays.
Thou hast shadowed me under Thy wings and made me to prosper
amain And hast graced me with favours untold, of Thy
bounties abounding always:
Thou hast saved me from all that I feared, by the counsel of him
whom I trust, The Vizier and chief of the chiefs, the hero
and pride of our days.
By Thy favour we fell on the Greeks and smote them with sword and
with spear; But again to the fight they returned, in
garments blood-red for affrays.
So I feigned to be routed and flee and give back from the fight;
then I turned On the toe, as the fierce lion turns on the
hunters, that find him at gaze.
I left them laid low on the plain, as 'twere they were drunken
with wine, Not the wine that is pressed from the grape, but
that of death's cup of amaze;
Whilst their ships all fell under our hand and ours was the
empery grown: From the East to the West, sea and shore, we
were lords of the lands and the ways.
Then there came to our camp the recluse, the saint, whose
miraculous power Is blazoned in desert and town, wherever
the sun sheds its rays.
He joined us, his vengeance to wreak on all that believe not in
God. Indeed, it is known to the folk what came of our strife
and our frays.
They slew of us some, but they woke on the morrow in Paradise,
Each lodged in a palace on high, whereunder a river strays.

When Zoulmekan had made an end of reciting these verses, his
brother Sherkan gave him joy of his safety and praise for that he
had done; after which they set out by forced marches to rejoin
their army.

Meanwhile, Dhat ed Dewahi, after she had spoken with Rustem and
Behram, returned to the coppice, where she took her horse and
mounting, sped on, till she drew near the host of the Muslims
that lay leaguer before Constantinople, when she lighted down
from her steed and led it to the Chamberlain's pavilion. When he
saw her, he signed to her with his hand and said, "Welcome, O
pious recluse!" Then he questioned her of what had befallen, and
she repeated to him her disquieting and deluding report, saying,
"Indeed I fear for the Amirs Rustem and Behram, for that I met
them on the way and sent them and their following to the King and
his companions. They are but twenty thousand horse, and the
unbelievers are more in number than they; so I would now have
thee send of the rest of thy troops in haste to their succour,
lest they be slain to the last man." And she said to them
"Hasten! Hasten!" When the Chamberlain and the Muslims heard
these her words, their hearts sank within them and they wept; but
she said to them, "Ask aid of God and be patient under this
affliction, taking example by those that have been before you of
the people of Islam, for God hath prepared Paradise, with its
palaces, for those who die martyrs; and needs must all die, but
death is most praiseworthy, when it comes in fighting for the
Faith." When the Chamberlain heard this speech of the accursed
old woman, he called for the Amir Behram's brother, a cavalier
named Terkash, and choosing out for him ten thousand intrepid
veterans, bade him set out at once. So he departed forthright and
marched all that day and the next night, till he neared the
Muslims. When the day dawned, Sherkan saw the dust of them and
feared for his companions, saying, "If these troops that are
nearing us be Muslims, our victory is assured; but if they be
Christians, there is no gainsaying the decrees of Fate." Then he
turned to his brother Zoulmekan and said to him, "Fear not, for I
will ransom thee with my life from destruction. If these be
Muslim troops then were it an increase of God's favours; but if
they be our foes, there is nothing for it but to fight them. Yet
do I long to see the holy man once again before I die, so he may
pray for me that I may not die except a martyr." Whilst he was
thus speaking, behold, there appeared the banners with the words,
"There is no god but God and Mohammed is His Apostle" inscribed
on them, and he cried out to the new-comers, saying, "How is it
with the Muslims?" "They are in weal and safety," replied they;
"and we come not hither but out of concern for you." Then the
chief of the succours dismounted and kissing the earth before
Sherkan, said, "O my lord, the Sultan and the Vizier Dendan and
Rustem and my brother Behram, are they all in safety?" "They are
all well," answered the prince; "but who brought thee tidings of
us?" "It was the holy man," said Terkash. "He told us that he had
met my brother Behram and Rustem and had sent them to you and
also that the infidels had encompassed you and were more in
number than you; yet meseems the case is the contrary of this and
that you are victorious." "And how did the holy man reach you?"
asked Sherkan. "Walking on his feet," replied the Amir; "and he
had compassed, in the space of a single day and night, ten days'
journey for a diligent horseman." "Verily, he is a friend of
God," said Sherkan; "but where is he now?" Quoth Terkash, "We
left him with our troops, the people of Faith, encouraging them
to do battle with the infidels and rebels." Therewith Sherkan was
glad and thanked God for their own deliverance and that of the
holy man and commended the dead to the mercy of God saying, "This
was written in the Book of Fate." Then they set out for
Constantinople by forced marches, and whilst they were on the
road thither, behold, a cloud of dust arose before them and
spread till the prospect was hidden and the day darkened by it.
Sherkan looked at it and said, "Verily, I fear lest this be the
infidels who have routed the army of Islam, for that this dust
covers the country and blots out the two horizons." Presently
there appeared midmost the dust a pillar of darkness and came
towards them, blacker than the blackness of (evil) fortune and
more dreadful than the terrors of the Day of Judgment.

Horse and foot hastened up to look at it and know its meaning,
when, behold, they saw it to be the recluse aforesaid; so they
crowded round him to kiss his hands, and he cried out, "O people
of the best of men[FN#112], the lamp of the darkness, the
infidels have overcome the Muslims by craft, for they fell upon
them in their tents, whilst they deemed themselves in safety, and
made a sore slaughter of them; so hasten to the aid of the
believers in the unity of God and deliver them from those that
deny Him!" When Sherkan heard this, his heart was sore troubled
and he alighted from his horse, in amazement, and kissed the
recluse's hands and feet. In like wise did his brother Zoulmekan
and the rest of the troops, except the Vizier Dendan, who
dismounted not, but said, "By Allah, my heart revolts from this
devotee, for I never knew aught but evil come of these that make
a show of devotion to religion. Leave him and hasten to rejoin
your comrades for this fellow is of those that are outcast from
the gate of mercy of the Lord of the Two Worlds! How often have I
come out to war with King Omar ben Ennuman and trodden the earth
of these lands!" "Put away from thee this foul thought," said
Sherkan. "Hast thou not seen this holy man excite the faithful to
battle, recking nought of spears and swords? Wherefore, slander
him not, for slander is blameworthy and the flesh of pious folk
is poisoned. Look how he encourages us to battle, and did not God
love him, He had not rolled up the distance for him (like a
carpet), after He had aforetime cast him into grievous torment?"
Then Sherkan let bring a Nubian mule for her riding and said to
her, "Mount, pious man, God-fearing and holy!" But she refused,
feigning self-denial, that she might attain her end: and they
knew not that the pretended devotee was such an one as he of whom
the poet says:

He prayeth and fasteth amain for an end that he hath in view.
When once he has gained his end, fasting and prayer, adieu!

So she walked among the horsemen and the footmen, like a crafty
fox meditating an assault, and began to uplift her voice,
chanting the Koran aloud and celebrating the praises of the
Compassionate One. Then they pressed forward till they reached
the Mohammedan camp, where Sherkan found the Muslims in a state
of confusion and the Chamberlain upon the brink of retreat,
whilst the sword wrought havoc among the faithful, good and bad.
Now the cause of this weakness among the Muslims was that the
accursed old woman Dhat ed Dewahi, when she saw that Behram
and Rustem had set forward with their troops to join Sherkan
and Zoulmekan, repaired to the camp or the Muslims before
Constantinople and wrought upon the Chamberlain to despatch the
Amir Terkash, as hath been before set out, to the further succour
of the princes, purposing in this to divide the Muslim forces and
weaken them. Then she left them and going to the walls of
Constantinople, called with a loud voice on the knights of the
Greeks, saying, "Throw me down a cord that I may tie thereto this
letter, which do ye carry to King Afridoun and my son King
Herdoub, that they may read it and do as is written therein." So
they let down a string and she tied thereto a letter, to the
following purport, "From the chiefest of calamities and the
greatest of afflictions, Dhat ed Dewahi, to King Afridoun. Know
that I have contrived a device for the destruction of the
Muslims, so rest you quiet. I made their Sultan and the Vizier
Dendan prisoners and returned to their camp and acquainted them
therewith, whereupon their power was broken and their strength
weakened. Moreover, I have wrought on them to send ten thousand
men under the Amir Terkash to the succour of the captives, and
there be now but few men left with the besiegers. Wherefore, it
is my counsel that ye sally forth, with all your power, whilst it
is yet day, and fall on them in their tents and slay them to the
last man for the Messiah looks down upon you and the Virgin
favours you; and I hope that the Messiah will not forget this
that I have done." When this letter came to King Afridoun, he
rejoiced greatly and sending at once for King Herdoub, read the
letter to him, whereat he was exceeding glad and said, "See the
craft of my mother; verily it dispenses with swords, and her
aspect stands in stead of the terrors of the Day of Fear." "May
the Messiah not bereave us of her," rejoined Afridoun, "nor
deprive her of her craft and knavery[FN#113]." Then he gave
orders for the sally, and the news was noised abroad in the city.
So the Christian troops and soldiers of the Cross drew their keen
sabres and sallied forth of the city, shouting out their impious
war-cries and blaspheming the Lord of all creatures. When the
Chamberlain saw them, he said, "Behold, the Christians are upon
us, whilst the most part of our troops are gone to the succour of
King Zoulmekan! They surely know of the absence of our Sultan and
most like they will attack us." Therewith he waxed angry and
cried out, "Ho, soldiers of Islam and defenders of the True
Faith, if you flee, you are lost, and if you stand fast, you will
conquer! Know that courage lies in endurance and that no case is
so desperate but that God is able to bring about its relief. May
He bless you and look upon you with eyes of compassion! "Then
the Muslims cried out, "God is most great!" and the believers in
the Divine Unity shouted the profession of the Faith and the two


Back to Full Books